Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Interesting Phenomena in our Family Trees–in Our Lives — Coincidence? Happenstance? Serendipity? Reincarnation? Six Degrees of Separation?


Now that my family tree entries have grown past 20,000, interesting facts have begun to emerge. I have found that the ancestors of some of my current neighbors, some extended family I’d only met through my research, and another blogger whom I only know through blogging —- our ancestors probably knew each other because they went to the same church, lived on the same street, were even married, or were in some way connected–as much as 150 years ago, some 200 years ago, and some as much as 400 years ago! How do we explain that we now know each other in 2015–that we never knew each other before recently, but there are these connections!?
I have been amazed, and as I’ve looked at the facts, and discussed it with folks… some say it just proves we are all related. Some think it is reincarnation. Some look at it with curiosity like I do…how can we explain it? If it were just one neighbor, we could chalk it up to serendipity, but five neighbors?!
I thought maybe I’d blog about it a bit, maybe discuss some of the examples, and see what you all think. I’d really like to know! Respectfully of course! LOL
Let me tell you why I thought of some of these concepts to possibly explain what I have found. In Wikipedia we find this statement: “Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929” We have this image from Wikipedia, an original work by Dannie Walker, that beautifully illustrates this concept and it sticks in my mind!

Six Degrees of Separation visualization by Dannie Walker featured in Wikipedia article about this subject. see link in accompanying post

Six Degrees of Separation visualization by Dannie Walker featured in Wikipedia article about this subject. see link in accompanying post


Also from Wikipedia, an article on Reincarnation states: “Reincarnation is the religious or philosophical concept that the soul or spirit, after biological death, can begin a new life in a new body. This doctrine is a central tenet of the Indian religions. It is also a common belief of various ancient and modern religions such as Spiritism, Theosophy, and Eckankar and is found in many tribal societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia.”

The concept of having had a past life enters into reincarnation of course. I have read in many places that people often, or usually “travel” lifetimes with the same people important to them, their tribe so to say. I once met a psychic and researcher, the Assistant Director of the Rhine Parapsychology Research Center at Duke University. Even though that was over thirty years ago, and she is deceased now, I have audio tapes from our encounter. She said I had lived several past lives and told me that my immediate family had always been with me, although in different roles and sexes. She said Max (my husband) and I were brother and sister in ancient Tibet–that we worked in a monastery. She said Max was the cook…and he is the cook now in our own family! Wow–no wonder he’s so good at it! LOL

Now I am 65, almost 66 years old. Ten years ago we moved into a brand new neighborhood, where everyone was new, not just us. We did not know anyone here, nor had we ever lived in this county, although we had earlier lived about 30 miles away from here before moving to the coast of North Carolina  for a while. When we moved here, I was not doing genealogical research. I had been an active professional psychologist and avid volunteer until age 50 when I was stopped in my tracks by heart disease. At that point I was just coping with my illness, in and out of the hospital, expecting truly to die at any moment. Meeting my new neighbors, who became close friends, made a huge difference in my life, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Did we come to this neighborhood by coincidence? One of my neighbors, Linda Voorhees McLaughlin, reminded me of this definition of coincidence: “a miracle where God’s presence is invisible!” Isn’t that wonderful, it gives me chills, and makes me wonder about God’s hand in bringing this particular group of people together as neighbors.

It was about 2011, almost four years ago that I started doing genealogical research, starting as a way to create a gift for my last living Aunt– a family tree. The initial effort got me hooked! I was amazed, intrigued, and highly entertained by all the things I began to discover!

Before long I ran into the name of one of my neighbors in my family tree! The McLaughlin family lived across the street from us, and now I began to see that name in our family tree! Both of those intersecting lines were Scottish, my Hogues and McLaughlin. In that very same Hogue line, within the first year of my research, I began to see the names Burgess, McKay, (pronounced McCoy) Pryor, and Hamilton names associated with my Hogue family and my next door neighbors, Dora McKay Burgess and her husband John Hamilton Pryor! I kept digging. I even offered to trace the family trees of my neighbors in hopes of discovering the kinship or connection! They were kind enough to let me!

As I worked on their trees, I was surprised to learn that Jerry McLaughlin’s wife Linda had been a Voorhees by birth, because having never heard that name before moving here and becoming neighbors and friends, well yes, I found Voorhees all over my family tree! What was going on?!
Then there was my friend Lynn! We were neighbors also, friends over gardening hobbies! We were “daylily buddies”. I didn’t even know her maiden name until last year! By the time I discovered her maiden name, I was kin to her as well! Pierces, we shared a tenth great-grandfather! I shared her Baird line as well! She had moved here from Pennsylvania. While I had been in North Carolina for a while, I had grown up in Virginia, and knew no Pierces, Voorhees, Burgesses, or Pryors that I knew of! There’s more! It turns out I am kin to, or have found my ancestors working with, or going to church with at least five of my neighbors! That is NOT coincidence, but what is it?

These mysteries and others are the ones I am going to write about for the next four or more blog posts anyway. I hope that you will enjoy the exploration of all of this with me, and join in a discussion so that I can know what you think.

Author: Helen Holshouser

Old enough to enjoy life, I am a Red Hatter, grandmother, gardener, and amateur genealogist. I am a retired clinical psychologist, master's level, who is disabled with heart disease, but having fun with family and friends. Married over 40 years, I have two grown daughters and three grandchildren. I have learned that grandchildren provide a joy one never knew existed---writing feeds my soul, gardening is therapy, and genealogy research makes me feel like a detective!

12 thoughts on “Interesting Phenomena in our Family Trees–in Our Lives — Coincidence? Happenstance? Serendipity? Reincarnation? Six Degrees of Separation?

  1. Sorry, my mouth is still open. WOW…. I love it and can’t wait to hear more. It’s definitely movie and book material. Who will play Helen??? And who will play Max???

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This exploration should prove interesting and fruitful. Good luck. Anne P


  3. Helen – I enjoyed reading a few of your posts and find we have some things in common:
    1) I grew up in Richmond Va
    2) I now live in North Carolina (Greensboro)
    3) My undergraduate degree was in Psychology
    4) I recently discovered genealogy and spent lots and lots of time researching and writing about my husband’s and my family mysteries (check out my blog http://www.trovandofamiglia.wordpress.com
    5) I also believe that many coincidences are part of God’s plan for our lives
    6) I love to write
    7)I participated in (but did not complete) NaNoWriMo last year – so congrats to you on that accomplishment.
    I look forward to reading more of your posts.


  4. Darling Anne P, from your lips to God’s ears! Thank you for all your help! support! and encouragement!


  5. Dear Jeanne Bryan Insalaco, you just don’t know how great that comment is…music to anyone’s soul! love you for the enthusiasm!


  6. Hello kkingsbury! thank you so much for reading and sharing! So, your coming from Richmond makes us connected at one degree! LOL Then we have all the others!Are we twins! I look forward to exploring your blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Facinating friends and family, dear cousin, Helen!!


  8. And you are one of the most facinating my Carol! Thanks for taking time to read and share! Love you!


  9. Helen,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/01/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-january-9.html

    Have a great weekend!


  10. Thank you so much Jana Last! I appreciate it so very much! I can hardly wait to see! I am working on the next post, and hope to have it up soon! thanks again Jana. Helen


  11. Pingback: Interesting Phenomena in Our Family Trees–Traveling Through Time Together? Coincidence? Six Degrees of Separation? Part 3—The Burgesses and Pryors | Heart of a Southern Woman

  12. Pingback: “G” is for Genealogy, One of My Passions | Heart of a Southern Woman

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