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Six degrees of separation? How about sixty

Website offers seasonal advice on how to cope with newly found extended family

Forget Kevin Bacon and his six degrees of separation, amateur genealogists are finding eight, nine, even ten degrees as the booming popularity of family history research sees relative after relative being added to the family tree.

Members of the UK"s largest genealogy and ancestry website, Genes Reunited, are not just adding ancestors from centuries past to their trees, but are discovering branches that expand across to include second, third, even fourth cousins, sometimes several times removed.

With over 100 million names listed on the site it"s little wonder Christmas card lists are running out of control and with the possibility of actually meeting extended family, how do you greet them: a peck on the cheek, a firm handshake, or a bear hug? Faced with these dilemmas, Genes Reunited has created a guide to 'Extended Family Etiquette" to help families through the festive season and beyond.

Martine Parnell, Head of Genes Reunited, said, "It"s exciting, fun and emotional meeting new relatives so we"ve created this fun and easy-to-use guide to help you through the experience."

"How to meet and greet the extended family is a challenge facing thousands of our members everyday and it"s especially tricky around Christmas time when you don"t want to offend anyone.

"It"s easy to rush into things and be overcome by the emotion of it all so we"re encouraging members to take it slowly, test the water and try not to overwhelm your new found relatives."

For Kathleen Walton, 66, of Peterborough, being 'found" on Genes Reunited by two first cousins, once removed, Patrick and John led to an exciting reunion at her grandmother"s 90th birthday. There, Patrick and John were greeted by 40 or more cousins, second cousins and cousins once and twice removed. Kathleen"s mother is the second youngest of 15 siblings.

She said, "Hugs seemed natural to greet my new family members, although I think the experience of meeting so many new relatives at once was overwhelming for Patrick. We"re definitely staying in contact, exchanging emails, photos and we"re arranging a second meeting. Patrick is also on my Christmas card list!"

Sometimes finding extended family leads to an extended social life, as in the case of Diane Allen, 56, from Ashton under Lyne. She has been invited to lunch and family events by her newly-found first cousin, once removed, the daughter of her first cousin, Joan.

Diane said, "My new family are definitely on the Christmas card list and I would invite them to any family occasion. It was really exciting meeting them for the first time and we greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek. By the end of the evening it felt as though we had known each other forever."

Awkwardness may rear it"s head, but this is easily and quickly overcome, as 20-year-old Sian Smith from Pontypridd, South Wales found out when she met her 'half" family of uncles and aunts.

She said, "It was awkward at first because you"re related but strangers and the coincidences of personality traits, names and dates that come out when you start chatting is very odd at first. We did settle into things fairly quickly and I have to admit, it"s great discovering where the family talents come from!"

Similarly, for 68-year-old Margaret Robertson, from Scotland, greeting her newly-found fourth and fifth cousins was made easy after hours of phone conversation before meeting up.

She said, "There were no awkward moments because we had been speaking on the phone regularly and exchanging plenty of emails. They came up to Scotland at East to see me and we greeted each other with hugs and kisses. By the end we really did feel as if we"d known each other for ages."

Martine Parnell, of Genes Reunited, said, "Ultimately, the experience should be positive, rewarding and enlightening for everyone involved and by the end you should hopefully be firm friends and stay in touch for the rest of your lives."

Media Enquiries

Press Team : e. press@genesreunited.co.uk; t. +44 (0)207 845 7800 or +44 (0)207 994 0149

In Australia, Vicki Dawson : e. press@genesreunited.com.au; t. +61 (02) 9836-3587

Jenni Hayward (Mission PR) : e. jenni@thisismission.com; t. +44 (20) 7845-7800

Notes to the Editor - About Genes Reunited

Genes Reunited was launched in 2002 as a sister-site to the Internet phenomenon Friends Reunited. Since then it has grown to become the UK's largest genealogy website.

It marked a revolution in genealogy and ancestry by combining them with Internet social-networking. Members are able to build their family tree by posting it on the site and investigating which ancestors they share with other members. They can also search historical records such as census, birth, death, marriage and military records.

It currently has over 11 million members and over 750 million names listed. One new name is added to the site every single second.