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Out on a Limb: Is That a Fact?
2/1/2001
Separating family history from family story.
My Uncle Burt once told me that our family was related to a former president of the United States — Andrew Johnson, the first president to be impeached and tried in the Senate. I later realized my uncle was also a big kidder. His side of my family, after all, didn't even arrive in America until after Johnson's ignominious presidency. 

Some 100 million Americans, however, do have genealogical links to one or more US presidents. Associate editor Susan Warner's article in this issue (page 36) tells how to discover if you have "Hail to the Chief" in your family's past — just in time for the inauguration of our 43rd president. Pedigree was of course important in the recent presidential election, with George W. Bush seeking to become only the second presidential son to also be elected to the nation's top office (after John Quincy Adams) and Al Gore being the son of a senator.

My supposed relationship to Andrew Johnson also illustrates the importance of another genealogical theme running through this issue: Check your facts before setting your family tree in stone. (Or on paper, as in published family histories, or in bits and bytes, as in the uploaded GEDCOM files found all over the Internet.)

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