Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Britney Spears? Really?

My dear, sweet, Cousin Mary told me a couple of years back that she had heard a rumor that we were related to Britney Spears. I of course ignored this because that wasn't something I was overly eager to prove. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to take a look. I did know that Britney was born in McComb, Mississippi which happens to be the very town where Cousin Mary lives so I was already scared.

The first thing I did was take a look on the internet to see if anyone had done Britney's tree. I found several websites with her family tree. I am only listing the one that doesn't have the compilers' names on it (the one listed below is a wiki type collaborative genealogy). None of the ones I saw had any sources listed so I didn't want to embarrass the compilers by pointing out that they have no evidence for their findings. I will also say that the ones I saw were verbatim identical to the one listed below so I am thinking there is some copying and pasting going on:

Familypedia - Britney Spears

Unfortunately, I saw a name in Britney's direct line that is very familiar to me, Jesse Lee, Sr. (#332 on her pedigree chart). This would be Britney's 6th great-grandfather. Jesse is also my 6th great-grandfather which would make Britney and I 7th cousins. Ouch!

I emailed everyone that I found on the internet that had Britney's tree with Jesse Lee, Sr. included. Not one could tell me where they got their info other than to say they copied it off of the internet.

What I would need to do now is research Britney's direct line from scratch so that I could source it correctly. Then I could add her to my tree and say that we are cousins. Researching nine generations is a lot of work and there is no guarantee that it would work out the way the unsourced tree says it does. Do I really care if I am related to Britney Spears? Not really so it just isn't worth my while. So why did I go through all of this then? I did it to show you two important points:

1) If there are no sources then it is fiction
Even though I looked at all of this unsourced information, I could never use it. The very most I can do with it is to use it as a clue to actually do the proper research.

2) You should always research from what you know backwards in time to what you don't know, one generation at a time and then let the chips fall where they may
A big mistake that beginning researchers make is to find a famous person that happens to have their surname, or the surname of one of their known ancestors, and try to connect them up. People love to do that with the passengers of the Mayflower because if you happen to be a descendant of one of the Mayflower passengers you are eligible for membership in the prestigious Mayflower Society. I have six surnames in common with the Mayflower and I don't even have lines up in New England! It would be foolish for me to try and work my way downward from those people hoping that I will find a connection. I used Britney Spears as an example just because I think it is funny.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I had to laugh when I saw this because many many years ago I too came across a tree online saying Britney was also a relation of mine. I have not taken the time to actually sit down and pick through her tree to see for myself if this is accurate. If it were accurate she and I would be 5th cousins once removed through her Conerly line.

  2. Ha! You are more closely related to her than I! I think I would rather prove that I was related to George Washington or Abe Lincoln than Britney :)

  3. Haha! Me too! Are your Graham relations from the Marion County, Ms area? I am from the Hugh Graham line.

  4. GASP! Really? Uh YEAH! My 3rd great grandfather is Archibald G. Graham [abt. 1799-aft. 09 Aug 1860]. He married Sarah Brown in Lawrence County, MS on 07 Apr 1825. They migrated first to Simpson County and then Perry and then Marion. Many people have my Archibald as son of Hugh Graham but that just isn't supported by the meager evidence there is. There were two Hughs and two Archibalds in the same area in the same time which makes it tough.

  5. Wow! I have seen the name Archibald before in my research. Yes, all the Hugh Grahams can be so confusing! My line is from Hugh from Ireland to North Carolina, his son John who came to Miss. and then his son the Rev. Hugh Graham, his son Francis Marion Graham, then his daughter Nancy, then my grandmother Nettie Anderson.

    1. Hi Michelle, My great grandfather was Frances Marion Graham as well. My grandfather was Sam Wesley, and my dad Robert Sylvester, also from Sumrall. I used to hear stories about Marion and Eliza from my grandmother growing up. My father owned their old farm until he passed away in 2007. I have not been able to trace the lineage above Hugh Graham, who you have as from Ireland. That may be true, as at least one branch of the three Graham clans made their way through Ireland, but most assuredly the roots go back to Scotland. You may know more about this than I do though. Interesting for me to see someone talk about their family that I grew up hearing stories about (at least Marion and Eliza).

      Take care,

      Robert Graham

    2. Still working on trying to separate the two Hughs so that line is not 100% yet.

  6. I haven't worked on this line in quite a while. Maybe I need to take a look at it again :)