"Say, are you related to [this somewhat esoterically notable person]?"

This happened to me twice, in prior work situations. The more recent one, when I was working in the RMA department of a digital television manufacturer, had a customer bringing in a 32" flat screen TV. The gentleman’s last name was Miró.

“Any relation to Joan Miró, the artist?” I asked, remembering the sculpture I used to see on the ten o’clock news every night when I was in Great Lakes.

“Yes, he was my great-grandfather,” came the reply. He seemed a little surprised that I knew of his forebear, and I got a little zing of satisfaction at successfully recalling an image and name I hadn’t thought about in over twenty years.

The year before, at a different job, I was speaking on the phone with a man named Iwerks, who wanted to have his wireless router replaced.

“Iwerks?” said I, "As in Ub Iwerks?"

The man was delighted. “That’s my granddad! Nobody ever recognizes that name!”

Those are my stories. Anybody else have a brush with greatness three-or-four-times-removed and successfully connect them with their celebrated relative?

One of my former coworkers was the great nephew of Harold Pinter. Like your stories, no one really ever connects it.

I had a coffee date with a guy surnamed Noyes, who was surprised when I asked “Any relation to John Humphrey?” He was a grandson or great grandson, I don’t recall the specifics.

I met someone name Parkman and asked (a real long-shot) if she was related to Francis Parkman, author of “The Oregon Trail.” She said “yes” but had never read the book, or any of his other works.

I was at a client site and was working with a guy who answered his phone by saying, “This is Tom Goring”. (I don’t remember his actual first name.) I happened to see his nameplate and saw that his last name was spelled, “Goering”. I said, "Typically, I’ve usually heard that name pronounced ‘Gehring’. Any relation to Hermann Goering?

He laughed and said that Hermann Goering was his great-great-uncle or something like that, but he pronounced his name “Goring” because many of the people he called on didn’t want to talk to him if he pronounced it like it is typically pronounced.

One of my customers at Valentine’s Day had the same name as one of our more obscure and overlooked Presidents, and I hesitated asking if he was any relation…but I gave in and did, and yes, he was! I’m not going to mention which president, because this guy shares the exact name, but it was kind of cool to have this pierced and tattooed guy be all kind of bashfully proud of his ancestral heritage.

The other way around, I often get asked whether I’m related to someone who shares my extremely unusual lastname. The poet? My uncle. The mountain climber? My eldest cousin. I don’t think “locals” asking about relatives count, but I’ve had people asking about those two in quite distant locations.

Another one with a “famous” relative. A great uncle in my case, sharing a rather unusual last name. People do ask. I never know what to say, I’ve never met the man.

I try to change the subject to my imfamous relative who was hung for a horse thief. He must have not been a very good one if he got caught and hanged.

I would have thought immediately of Alfred, especially since “The Highwayman” has been running through my mind on occasion the last week or so.

My brother Mark once met a man named Emanuel Swedenborg who professed no knowledge of this guy. Not a name the average “person on the street” would know, but you’d think enough people would have asked the latter-day Emanuel that he would have learned something about his namesake before reaching adulthood.

I have met the daughters of:

Art Buchwald
Carla Bley
Richard Burton
Maynard Ferguson

And on learning one woman’s name, told her that there was a symphony named after her. She said “Yeah, I know. My great great great grandparents were friends with the Mozarts.”

Does it count that all my life I have been bemused by the “Hyman Ruben Interchange”, which is an interstate exit near my parents’ house. I applied for a job several years ago at a local college and got an interview, whereupon I met a guy who introduced himself as Hyman Ruben III. I was SO excited.

I work with a distant relation ofNathan Bedford Forrest. Unfortunately it is a point of pride with him.

I met a Miss Kierkegaard once. I can’t recall the relationship, something like great-great-grandniece.

Aw man. I wanted to know who the President was.

Oooh. :wink: Nice.

I once met a guy whose last name was Guppy. He was descended from a Robert Guppy, who discovered the fish. Kind of a mixed blessing there.

I was in school with “Arnie” Schoenberg, grandson of Arnold Schoenberg.

“Gehring” is an anglicized pronunciation of Göring or Goering, which are pronounced the same in German. In German, the vowel sound is much like that in oeuvre as the French pronounce it.

I learned from a genealogical site that I’m a fifth cousin to Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist who worked on the Mark I and also was a major contributor to the initial development of third generation computer languages. I don’t share her name, though.

Waaay back when I worked in an airline reservation calls center I spoke to an elderly gentlemen with the last name of “Bagdasarian.” I asked if he was related to The Chipmunks (Alvin, Simon, Theodore) and he was surprised that I’d picked up on his name. I got some fun stories about his “Uncle Ross.”

When I was 16 I was at a summer college program for high school students. One of the other students had a last name that was familiar to me from the high school psychology class I had just taken. I said that was the same last name as a psychologist who had done studies about “Learned Helplessness”. She said yeah that’s my dad.

When on the phone with her dad she mentioned that one of the other students had actually heard of him and he was so tickled that a high school kid was familiar with his work that he sent me a copy of his book “Learned Helplessness” with a personal inscription.

I was pleased to get it, but I always hated looking at my bookshelf and seeing “HELPLESSNESS” jump out at me. Eventually I turned it so the pages faced out and the spine was hidden.

I was so glad to see in later years that he turned his interests to “Learned Optimism”

I’ve mentioned this before but what the heck.

I worked with a guy named Robert Heinlein. So I once asked him the obvious question: was he related to the other Robert Heinlein?

And his response was “who?” He claimed he was unaware that there was a fairly well-known author who has the exact same uncommon name as his own. Either he was messing with me (and doing it very well because he appeared to be sincere) or he was incredibly oblivious.

I’m a VERY minor videogame celebrity. I probably have about a dozen fans.

Last year one of my wife’s students noticed her last name and asked her if she was related to me. He was surprised and thrilled to discover that she was.