Bestselling author A.J. Jacobs is building the biggest family tree ever, and he’s inviting all of his newfound relatives – 240 million so far! – to a reunion on June 6, 2015. (Go to globalfamilyreunion.com to join and get tickets.) Each month he interviewed one of his famous cousins for PEOPLE. Below, he sums up the experience as he looks ahead to the event at the New York Hall of Science and its grounds.
Really. They’re all related to me.
Now, I’m not boasting. Because they’re related to you as well.
For the first time ever – thanks to mind-boggling advances in the science of family trees – we can figure out how we’re related to almost any other human on earth. It’s a revolution.
I’m not saying Ludacris and Brooklyn Decker are my first cousins. Or even second or third. But we are linked in the same extended family, even if it’s distant and through marriage. Meryl Streep, for instance, is my aunt’s second cousin seven times removed’s husband’s sixth great niece.
Think of it as six degrees of Kevin Bacon, with you as Kevin Bacon.
You can find the links two different ways:
First, through DNA services such as 23andMe and Family Tree DNA. And second, through websites that host shared mega-family trees. (Think Wikipedia but for family trees – thousands of people are collaborating on the same intertwined trees.) The main services I use are Geni, WikiTree, FamilySearch and Mocavo, which have trees in the millions.
I love meeting my newfound cousins and talking to them their ancestors, like telling Olivia Munn about her sixth great grandfather who was a horse thief (a fact she declared “badass”). None of the celebrities lent me money, but Radcliffe did give me a souvenir pen he got from a steakhouse.
To celebrate the idea of One Big Family, I’m also throwing a huge party in just a few weeks. And you are invited.
The Global Family Reunion will take place June 6 on the grounds of the World’s Fair in New York. There are also satellite parties around the world, including Mexico and New Zealand.
Tickets are $30 (you can purchase them here) and all proceeds go to benefit Alzheimer’s.
If you register for the event, our team of researchers will try to figure out how you’re on the Global Family Tree, allowing you to see how you’re related to both presidents and pop stars.
If we can’t find the connection beforehand, we’ll continue to try at the festival and afterwards.
The reunion itself will be like Burning Man, but for families. We’ll have more than 50 speakers telling funny, inspiring and fascinating stories about family. We’ll have 400 activities, from scavenger hunts to potato sack races.
There will be exhibits and food from all over the world. We ll break world records.
And of course, Sister Sledge will be there singing “We Are Family.” Because that song’s title is now a scientific fact.