Reinventing the Family Tree: A.J. Jacobs Stages a Global Family Reunion

Watson Adventures AJ Jacobs John Legend Cousins

Are you related to John Legend? Or Harry Potter? Or Abraham Lincoln? There’s one way to know for sure: join the Global Family Reunion, a movement that is reimagining the concept of the family tree and uncovering the countless ways in which we’re all related.

Spearheaded by A.J. Jacobs, author of four New York Times bestsellers, including The Year of Living Biblically, the Global Family Reunion is already 240 million strong. And on June 6 in New York City, the group is throwing a world-record-shattering get-together for the entire family, starring comedians, celebrities, academics, food, fun, and games—including a special Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunt. Read on to learn more about the Global Family Reunion from the mastermind himself.

WA: How did the Global Family Reunion come about? What got you interested?

A.J.: I got an email from a stranger, and he said, “You don’t know me, but I am your 12th cousin.” Of course, I figured he was going to ask me to wire $10,000 to a Nigerian bank. But it turns out he’s part of a group of researchers building the biggest family tree ever.

It’s not even a tree. It’s a forest. It’s up to 240 million people all on a single tree. Seriously. I’m on it. Obama’s on it. Lady Gaga’s on it. Anyone can get on it.

So to celebrate this idea that we’re all one big family, I figure, why not throw a festival? So that’s how the Global Family Reunion came about. It’s the ultimate celebration for the entire human family. I want it to be like Burning Man, but with families and better bathroom facilities.

Watson Adventures Christina Hendricks Cousin

Christina Hendricks of Mad Men is part of the worldwide family tree.

WA: What surprise “cousins” have you discovered and talked to as part of this project?

A.J.: I’ve found a ridiculous number of cousins. Or at least cousins-in-law. For instance, there’s Barack Obama, who is my aunt’s fifth great aunt’s husband’s brother’s wife’s seventh great nephew. Really. Practically my older brother!

I’ve found it’s a great ice-breaker. I’ve been able to meet distant cousins like Daniel Radcliffe, George H.W. Bush, and Ludacris. I loved telling Ludacris that his great great grandfather was Jewish—he had no idea.

Watson Adventures Daniel Radcliffe Cousin

Daniel Radcliffe is a cousin, too.

WA: What will be the climax of the event for you? What are you hoping to be able to put in your next book?

A.J.: I’m hoping it’s all peaks and no valleys. Of course, the Watson Adventures Scavenger Hunt will be a big highlight. But we also have a trivia game, potato sack races, food from around the globe, oversized origami, you name it.

We have over 50 entertainers, including Henry Louis Gates, comedian Nick Kroll, and magician David Blaine. And what would a reunion be without the song “We Are Family?” So we’re bringing in Sister Sledge to sing it live.

We’ll be trying to break all sorts of world records, including biggest reunion. And we’ll be trying to figure out how everyone who comes is related to each other. If you’re not on the World Tree, we want to connect you at the reunion.

Watson Adventures Global Family Reunion Festival

To help celebrate A.J.’s work, we’re offering a special ticket discount to the Global Family Reunion Festival. Save 25% off tickets with the code WATSON at checkout—admission is now only $22.50!

To learn more about the Global Family Reunion, and to join us at the party June 6, visit And to satisfy your scavenger hunt fix until then, check out our public hunts calendar and get in the game! 

(Images courtesy of A.J. Jacobs)