Tuesday, March 05, 2024

Taylor Swift and Emily Dickinson: Sixth cousins thrice removed

As Michael Sainato reported in The Guardian yesterday, Taylor Swift (b. 1989) and Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) are apparently sixth cousins thrice removed: “Swift and Dickinson both descend from a 17th-century English immigrant (Swift’s ninth great-grandfather and Dickinson’s sixth great-grandfather who was an early settler of Windsor, Connecticut)”. I wondered again about how related distant cousins are. According to a table in a 1983 study by Kevin P. Donnelly, sixth cousins once removed have a 94.40% chance of having "no detectable DNA relationship," so while there might be a genealogical link, any literary relationship between the two is more likely to be due to Swift reading Dickinson rather than any shared genes. (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 5 March 2024)


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