Sunday, April 18, 2010

Meet Cousin Arthur

Astonishingly, I have found a connection, albeit a very distant and tenuous one, between my family and that of one of my cultural heroes: Arthur Adolph Marx, known professionally and with great affection by millions as "Harpo."

As I'm sure I have mentioned in the past, I use geni.com to manage my genealogical research. Geni allows users to create databases of their family trees and is set up to allow linking of trees that have common members. In that way, family trees grow via crowd-sourced genealogy.

And Geni posts daily featured profiles of popular figures from history or popular culture. Users can check to see if there's any connection between the family trees of those personalities and their own.

This weekend, they posted the profiles of four of the five Marx Brothers. Since I am a huge fan, I clicked-through to check. I was shocked to find a connection.

I discovered that Harpo Marx is my first cousin nine times removed's husband's seventh great niece's husband's ex-wife's ex-husband's ex-wife's ex-husband's ex-wife's sister's ex-husband's brother.

As I said,"very distant and tenuous."

The connection goes back to my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother on my father's side, Wibroe Griggs, who was born in 1593 in Buckinghamshire, in England. Wibroe's  niece, Sarah Pierson, was my first cousin, nine times removed. Sarah's husband's seventh great niece was Frances Seymour, a New York City socialite and the second wife of the movie star Henry Fonda. She was mother, by the way, to Peter and Jane Fonda.

This is where the connection depends on the serial marriages of Hollywood folks. Henry Fonda was also married to the actress Margaret Sullavan (Later married to a Kenneth Wagg) who was also married to the agent and producer Leland Heyward who was also married to the socialite Nancy "Slim" Gross who was also married to the Director Howard Hawks who was also married to the actress Dee Hartford whose sister the actress Eden Hartford was once married to Harpo's brother Groucho Marx.

I realize how absurd this "connection" really is, but I have to say I have always felt an affinity for the Marx brothers.

1 comment:

Stewart said...

I connect to Howard Hawks' son-in-law through cousins of cousins of cousins, meaning that we are ridiculously tenuously related. Also a long-standing Marx Bros fan. Once you get that far, you're related, at least by marriage, to most of Hollywood, past and present.

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