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Shaking the family tree for nuts

Climbing into the far reaches of one's family tree can be a dicey endeavor. I mention this to the husband, but he has already scrambled past a major fork, scaled 15 branches and is inspecting an obscure limb several hundred years old. I don't think he can hear me.

He is deep into our family tree, a forest really, and we are surrounded by Germans. They're everywhere -- kitchen table, coffee table, an enormous chart resembling a detailed blueprint covers the length of the dining room table.

The entire, and I mean entire, extended family is in the dining room and I don't have to cook a single thing. It's the low-maintenance family get-together I've always dreamed of.

The husband came to bed at 1 a.m. the other night after working on the family tree and said, "Guess what?"

"Hmpf," I said.

He mistakenly took that as encouragement.

"I've made a discovery," he said.

I opened one eye. "You traced us all the way back to Adam?"

"No, but I'm close to Noah."

He said that he actually had traced a line on his father's side all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

"That's nice," I said. "Our side won, now let's go to sleep."

"But wait, there's more!"

His intonation was uncanny. It was just like on television when you think the wonder and the marvel of Magic Slicer and Dicer is over but the announcer keeps adding to the offer: "But wait, there's more! Order today and we'll send you not one, not two -- but three!"

In this case it's not Slicer and Dicers we keep getting more of, but greats. It seems there was a great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather that served in three different lines in the Revolutionary War.

This is exactly the can of worms we don't need to open and here is why: The husband says -- with a definite air of nobility -- that he has descended from a long line of patriots. It is possible. But it is also possible that his great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather served in three different lines because he kept going AWOL, they kept finding him and sending him back. Who can know for sure?

The New England Historic Genealogical Society often researches ancestral lines of presidents. They found that President Obama is a distant cousin to Dick Cheney and Civil War General Robert E. Lee. Interesting, but does that really help the president sleep better at night?

And now the husband's latest discovery -- more greats -- has taken him back to around 1530. I ask if that doesn't take some leaps of faith.

"How do you know all of this is true?" I ask. "How do you know some crank isn't on a computer somewhere making this stuff up, posting it online as fast as she can?"

Did I say "she"?

He ignores the jibe and says our grandchildren will be very excited if we can trace the family line all the way back to 1530.

Presently, our grandchildren are all toddlers and eat paper, but yes, I'm sure they'll be jumping up and down.