Dear Mark Twain:

“Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.” — Mark Twain

Well, I don’tTwain have time to enter politics, sir. I had to do this on my own, and look who I found.

It turns out that you and I are 4th cousins, 4 x removed, whatever that means. I do know that my 4th great-grandfather, Elijah Caleb Bernard Garrett, married Mary Ann Polly Casey, a member of your family, and by that connection, we share my 7th great-grandfather (your 3rd great-grandfather) Abner Brooks Casey. Among his many children, Abner had two sons, John and Jesse. I am descended from Jesse, you from John.

It’s nice to meet you in a different context, one other than among rows of desks in stifling classrooms on bright spring days ….

There is something moving about remembering sitting in lit class at Ball State University reading Twain, never dreaming I was even distantly related, of course.

But I was.

From Ireland (Abner) to Baltimore, MD, to South Carolina (Jesse) to Roanoke River Valley, VA, to Roan, TN (Aaron) to Pickett, TN (Elijah Garrett and Mary Ann Polly Casey Garrett) — comes one group of my ancestors. Looking at this little branch, immigration doesn’t seem so long ago, and I have one more connection to Ireland and a connection to one of America’s best known and beloved writers. Some say Huckleberry Finn is the best book every written by an American writer.

What does this distant connection mean? It doesn’t mean anything at all, really, in a practical sense–but it is a pleasant little novelty in my life now. And maybe my great-grandchildren x 7 will find this amusing and interesting. I hope so.