Are you my cousin? You may be – and let me tell you how that just might be possible…
I was in Mannheim, Germany in September for an event at which Rene Auberjonois, Robin Curtis, Andrew Robinson, Casey Biggs, Chris Doohan, Ernst Meincke and I were guests, and we all went to historic Heidelberg on a tour the day before the event. We visited Heidelberg Castle ruin, ate lunch at a charming sidewalk cafe in the middle of a cobblestone plaza surrounded by romantic baroque-style buildings, and afterwards took a boat tour on the Neckar river through the picturesque countryside. Later, we all had dinner in an Italian restaurant that was open just for us. We had a wonderful time together.
While visiting the Heidelberg Castle ruins, our tour guide told us the story of the Winter King & Queen; Frederick V King of Bohemia and Elizabeth Stuart, his Queen. I suddenly said out loud, “Elizabeth! She's my cousin!” Everyone turned and looked at me for a moment, including Rene, Robin, Andrew and Casey… all a little stunned. In unison, they said "Really?" I said “Yes! I was just researching her last week and realized now that that's who the tour guide is talking about. She's my second cousin 11 times removed.” “And I'm related to Napoleon,” Rene cracked, sarcastically.
The rest of the tour, I was walking around in wonder, trying to take it all in. Conversations throughout the weekend became quite entertaining whenever I started talking about my research. I´ve been looking up my family tree. It´s taken me 15 years to get to where I am now with it and it’s still a work in progress. There are numerous branches that still need further documentation and sources, but that being said, it´s my favorite hobby and one day a book.
Last week, I was chatting with Ian Spelling at StarTrek.com about all the cousins I've found and how that relates to Star Trek. He seemed surprised and also in disbelief when I told him I'm related to DeForest Kelley. So, let me explain the connection. Stephen Hopkins, my 11th great-grandfather, was a passenger along with his family aboard the Mayflower in 1620 that landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts and is the only Mayflower passenger known to have prior experience in the New World. Constance Hopkins, my 10th great-grandmother, is the daughter of Stephen Hopkins. Constance married Nicholas Snow III, a man who in 1623 sailed aboard a ship called the Ann to the Plymouth Massachusetts bay colony.
Nicholas Snow III is my 10th great-grandfather and his father Nicholas Snow II is my 11th great-grandfather and a common ancestor I share with DeForest Kelley, with whom I now realize I have several common ancestors, including King Henry VII Tudor and James V Stuart. And, while the Winter Queen Elizabeth Stuart is my cousin... DeForest Kelley is a direct descendant of the Winter King and Queen. So, DeForest Kelley is my 11th cousin once removed and cousins with Queen Elizabeth II, as well as many if not all the royal houses of Europe.
At first, I thought that Kelley and I might share an ancestral connection with Stephen Hopkins too, which really had me excited because Stephen Hopkins sailed to the New World first in 1609 aboard the Sea Venture, a ship headed to Jamestown colony, Virginia, and in a great storm was blown off course and became shipwrecked off the coast of Bermuda. Luckily, everyone survived, even the ship’s dog. Hopkins later survived a mutiny and a death sentence, and sailed onto Jamestown in a boat more like a raft constructed from the salvage of the Sea Venture.
Upon arriving at Jamestown, Hopkins found the conditions worse, but he survived and eventually sailed back to England. There, he found that his wife had died and that his three children had become wards of the church. He got his children back, eventually remarried, and sailed back to America aboard the Mayflower. The story of the events of the Sea Venture and its passengers and crew got back to England, and it is said that William Shakespeare heard about it and based his play The Tempest upon it. Apparently, the character of Stephano is based on Stephen Hopkins. There are some that say Star Trek is based on or inspired by The Tempest as well, which is why I find my Stephen Hopkins connection significant enough to shed light on at least some details of Hopkins’ amazing adventures.
But the connections – including Trek connections – don’t end there. Gene Roddenberry and I have at least four common ancestors: one family through his grandmother on his father's side and another through his grandfather on his mother’s side. We also have several famous cousins in common, including Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams, Robert Treat Paine, Henry Fonda, John Steinbeck, Norman Rockwell, Edgar Rice Burroughs and many others.
Jane Wyatt, the actress who played Spock's mother in Star Trek: The Original Series, and I have at least four common ancestors. She is my 10th cousin 3 times removed with respect to one family and my 11th cousin twice removed regarding the other family. Although I have yet to find other relatives directly related to Star Trek, I recently saw an interview with Tom Hanks in which he talked about his relationship to Abraham Lincoln through Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks. Now, I´ve found that I too am related to Abraham Lincoln through Nancy Hanks. So, I assume that Tom Hanks is my distant cousin as well.
The funny thing about all this is that when I was playing Morn on Deep Space Nine, on at least one occasion I told a group of DS9 writers the story about Charles Alexander Shepherd, my second great-grandfather, who had 18 children. Rosa Shepherd, his firstborn child, is my great grand-aunt and the mother of James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, an aviation legend. Rosa Shepherd, Doolittle's mother, had 17 brothers and sisters. Jimmy Doolittle is my first cousin 2 times removed is credited as being the first man in human history to fly an airplane, including takeoff and landing, solely by instrument panel with navigational instruments like the artificial horizon that he helped invent. He was also a legend in Hollywood, as he flew an airplane and performed death-defying stunts on camera for another Hollywood legend, Cecil B. DeMille, my 8th half cousin 3 times removed.
My guess is that the DS9 writers really were paying attention to my story. That’s because, in "Starship Down," Dr. Bashir finishes a conversation with Morn by mentioning Morn's 17 brothers and sisters. And, in "Little Green Men," Morn gets Quark's Bar to look after while Quark and Rom take Nog to Starfleet Academy in a spaceship Quark received from… his cousin.
Oh, and I just thought of another distant cousin with a Star Trek connection: Denise Crosby. We share at least two ancestors: Kenelm Winslow and Eleanor Worden of Plymouth Colony, mid-1600s, my 11th great-grandparents. Denise and I actually have many famous distant cousins in common, including George Washington, John Quincy Adams, James Madison, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Darwin, Robert Frost, Olivia De Haviland, Barack Obama, Sally Ride, Walt Disney, Steve McQueen, Amelia Earhart, Lucille Ball (without whom there’d be no Star Trek), Judy Garland, Georgia O'Keefe, Jack London, Elizabeth Montgomery, David Carradine, Alan Shepard, Vincent Price, Taylor Swift, Janis Joplin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Carson, Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright, Jane Fonda, Calvin Coolidge and Thomas Jefferson.
You know, if you were to look far enough back, we’d find that we are all related. I've read that when you have ancestry that can be traced back to Western Europe even four or five generations, there’s a high probability that you are a descendant of Charlemagne, my 35th great-grandfather, in which case you and I really might well be cousins, too.