We've all heard family tales of a distant relative being the second cousin, twice removed of President "So-and-So." But is it really true? In reality, it's not all that unlikely. More than 100 million Americans, if they go back far enough, can find evidence linking them to one or more of the 42 U.S. presidents. If you have early New England ancestry you stand the greatest chance of finding a presidential connection, followed by those with Quaker and Southern roots. As a bonus, the documented lineages of most U.S. presidents provide links to major royal houses of Europe. Therefore, if you are able to successfully connect yourself to one of these lines, you will have a lot of previous compiled (and proven) research on which to build your family tree.
Proving a family tradition or story of a connection to a U.S. president or other famous figure requires two steps: 1) research your own lineage and 2) research the lineage of the famous individual in question. Then you need to compare the two and look for a connection.
Begin With Your Own Family TreeEven if you've always heard that you're related to a president, you still need to begin by researching your own genealogy. As you take your line back, you'll then -- hopefully -- start to see familiar places and people from the presidential family trees. Your research will also provide you with the opportunity to learn about the history of your family which, in the end, is much more fascinating than being able to say you are related to a President.
When researching your lineage, don't just concentrate on a famous surname. Even if you share a last name with a famous president, the connection may actually be found through a totally unexpected side of the family. Most presidential connections are of the distant cousin type and will require you to trace your own family tree back to the 1700s or earlier before finding the link. If you trace your family tree back to the immigrant ancestor and still haven't found a connection, trace the lines back down through their children and grandchildren. Many people can claim a connection to President George Washington, who had no children of his own, through one of his siblings.
More: How to Get Begin Tracing Your Family Tree
Connect Back to the PresidentThe good news here is that the presidential genealogies have been researched and well-documented by a number of people and the information is easily available from a variety of sources. The family trees of each of the 43 U.S. Presidents have been published in a number of books, and include biographical data, as well as details on both ancestors and descendants. On the Web you can browse through presidential genealogies in a number of online databases - see Genealogies of the U.S. Presidents.
If you have traced your line back and just can't seem to make that final connection to a President, then try searching the Internet for other researchers in the same line. You may find others have found sources to help document the very connection you are looking for. If you feel bogged down in page after page of meaningless search results, then try this introduction to search techniques to learn how to make those searches more fruitful.
More: Family Trees of the US Presidents