A Family Tree With Way Too Many Tangled Branches!

Life is all about relationships—some of which can get awfully complicated! Here’s a little piece I wrote back in 1992 that was printed in CIty Pages and the San Francisco Chronicle.


Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith

If Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, 56, and ex-wife Mandy Smith, 22, decide to reconcile, genealogists could celebrate. Here’s why: Wyman’s 30-year-old son, Stephen, just announced his engagement to Patsy Smith, 46, who is none other than Mandy’s mother!

If both romantic partnerships succeed, Bill Wyman would become his son’s son-in-law, because he would be married to his son’s stepdaughter. Mandy Smith would become Stephen Wyman’s mother because she would be his father’s wife. By virtue of his marriage to Mandy’s mother, then Stephen Wyman would be both Mandy’s son and father. Likewise, Patsy Smith would be Mandy’s daughter as well as her mother.

Of course, things get real interesting if both couples decide to have children.

If Patsy Smith has a son, the child would be Bill Wyman’s brother-in-law and Stephen Wyman’s uncle because he would be the brother of this stepmother, Mandy Smith. If Mandy has a son, the child would be Stephen Wyman’s brother as well as his grandchild because the baby would be the son of his daughter.

It then follows that Patsy Smith would be her husband’s grandmother because she was his mother’s mother. Stephen Wyman would be both his wife’s husband and grandchild. And since the husband of a person’s grandmother is his grandfather, Stephen Wyman would be his own grandfather!



Mark Twain

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because I based it on this old chestnut from Mark Twain. It was one of my favorites; I just never thought it would come close to happening in real life!

A Philadelphian committed suicide and left the following note:

I married a widow with a grown daughter. My father fell in love with my step-daughter and married her—thus becoming my son-in-law, and my step-daughter became my mother because she was my father’s wife.

My wife gave birth to a son who was, of course, my father’s brother-in-law, and also my uncle for he was the brother of my step-mother.

My father’s wife became the mother of a son, who was, of course, my brother, and also my grandchild for he was the son of my daughter.

Accordingly, my wife was my grandmother because she was my mother’s mother. I was my wife’s husband and grandchild at the same time—and, as the husband of a person’s grandmother is his grandfather—I am my own grandfather!

As a fun bonus, here’s a song based on Twain’s essay called I’m My Own Grandpaw, written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe for a group called The Jesters back in 1947. Check out Paul Stoneburner’s site for the history and lyrics, complete with geneological diagrams!


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2 Responses to “A Family Tree With Way Too Many Tangled Branches!”

  1. Teraisa@gmail.com Says:

    Great title and wonderful education. All in all, an entertaining piece. Thank you. ~Teraisa

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    You’re very welcome, Teraisa!

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