A TikToker who picked up an old photo album at a flea market and decided to trace the previous owner’s descendants was astounded to find that they’re her distant relatives.
Chelsey Brown, 28, from New York City, bought the photo album featuring summer holiday snaps from 1927 at a flea market in the city.
After struggling to find any family ties to the quaint-looking photo album, which only contained first names, the interior designer enlisted her genealogist dad’s help.
Together, the pair found the family in a 1930s census and uncovered an incredible coincidence: The people pictured in the photos were their distant relatives.
Goal: Chelsey Brown, 28, found an old photo album from 1927 at a flea market in New York City earlier this year and tried to track down the family’s descendants
Struggle: The album featuring pictures from Asbury Park, New Jersey, only contained first names, making it difficult to find the family
Sweet memories: The black and white photos show the family enjoying a trip to the beach
Chelsey later learned that the man who made the album was the son of one of the couples pictured inside, but, unfortunately, he had died in 2003.
However, she was able to connect with a descendent of the family – who was somewhere between her fourth and sixth cousin – and send the album to her in the mail.
‘I traced the album back a few weeks ago using census records and I saw that the family member I was returning the album to had similar DNA in common with,’ Chelsey told Jam Press.
‘It’s a very distant relation, but still cool, and now we stay in touch over email.’
‘Sixth cousins share great-great-great-great-great grandparents, and are descended from different children of those ancestors,’ according to Who Are You Made Of.
Going pro: The interior designer enlisted her genealogist dad’s help after struggling to find any family connections to the album
Process: Together, the pair analyzed the snapshots before going through hundreds of family trees
Success! They eventually found the family in a 1930s census and uncovered an incredible coincidence: The people pictured in the photos were their distant relatives
Shared DNA: Chelsey learned that the woman she planned on returning the album to was her fourth to sixth cousin
All smiles: Chelsey’s distant relative posed for a photo with the album after the interior designer tracked her down
They are considered distant relatives because people have 128 great-great-great-great-great grandparents, making sixth cousins far less notable in a family tree.
Chelsey shared the incredible story on TikTok, where she earned praise from fans of her genealogy work.
She noted in the comments that while she shares genes with the family, they are not connected on a family tree and are ‘very, very, very distant’ relatives.
‘So crazy!!! So cool to find out you’re actually related!!!’ one person wrote. ‘That will be amazing to meet some distant relatives.’
Another user added: ‘I love this! I saved an old album with hundreds of beautiful photos from the trash 20 years ago and always wanted to find the family.’
Chelsey, originally from Washington D.C., has made returning heirlooms from flea markets a hobby. So far, she has sent back around 200 antiques to the closest family member alive.
More often than not, she is able to reunite objects with their owners’ descendants after scrolling through public family trees on Ancestry.com.
Amazing: Chelsey, originally from Washington D.C., has made returning heirlooms from flea markets a hobby
Giving back: She has sent back around 200 antiques to the closest family member alive, so far
Dedicated: More often than not, she is able to reunite objects with their owners’ descendants after scrolling through public family trees on Ancestry.com
Selfless: Chelsey never asks for a cent from the family members she returns the items to, even though some of the heirlooms cost hundreds of dollars to buy and post
‘My dad is a genealogist and growing up I saw him help families from around the world for free, not only help them with finding heritage but also help them fill in the missing pieces of their family history,’ she said.
‘Because I am an interior decorator, I thrift often and it always broke my heart seeing a family heirloom in some box at the flea market instead of with its rightful family.
‘One day I just decided to use what I know of genealogy, what my dad taught me, and to use it to trace the items that I find at thrifts and flea markets back. Once I started I never stopped.
‘I try and stay in contact with as many people who I’ve returned heirlooms to as possible!’
Despite some of the heirlooms costing hundreds to buy and post, Chelsey never asks for a cent from the family members she returns the items to.
‘I spend my own money on this and postage and never ask for repayment from families,’ she said.
‘I have spent well over $1,000 as New York City flea markets are a bit expensive. I’ve also spent hundreds on postage.’