Six Degrees of Separation from Walt Disney to ME!


By now, nearly everyone has heard of the concept, six degrees of separation. According to this theory, each of us is on average, six steps away from any other person on Earth…via a friend of a friend of a friend, etc.

Most hard-core Disney fans would likely choose Walter Elias Disney to connect to, so you can imagine how I lit up when I received information that makes my association to Walt a distinct possibility.

While watching the documentary “Frank and Ollie” my aunt was surprised to hear Ollie mention our tiny hometown. I became fascinated when she told me so I bought myself a copy of the DVD. I couldn’t wait to watch and hear it for myself.

The story of these immensely talented men is as captivating to me as the history of Walt, himself…but I was especially interested in the link to my birthplace. I watched intently to this engaging bit of Disney history and waited to hear them bring up Tuscola, Illinois.

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At thirty-two minutes and thirty-seven seconds into the movie, a section titled “Before They Met” begins. Frank and Ollie discuss commonalities between them, that they discovered after knowing each other for some time.

Ollie speaks about a “Strange coincidence… Frank’s mother was born in Tuscola, Illinois the same town that my mother was born in…A little dinky place not far from Champaign-Urbana.”

No way! This is where I was born. My family has been here more than 150 years. It’s where I live today. I was in awe.

That would be enough…but it wasn’t long after, that my aunt informed me about her research on ancestry.com. She discovered that we share with Ollie, a branch in our family tree. The Nelson branch.

I couldn’t wait to see for myself…to find out who, what and where. But time and financial constraints put a hold on my quest. Several months passed before I got around to checking, but I did it.

Turns out…my great, great, great, great grandparents, Benjamin B. Nelson and Delphena S. Miller-Nelson are Oliver Johnston’s great, great grandparents. An actual, historic Disney connection all my own.

Now I’m not really sure how to go about with the separation game…but the associations I’m going to use must have actually met or at least had the opportunity according to time-frame and geography. Maybe it would go something like this:

1st degree – Walter to Oliver

2nd degree – Oliver to his mother (Florence Arclessa Boggs-Johnston)

3rd degree – Mother to her father, Ollie’s grandfather (Benjamin Franklin Boggs)

4th degree – Grandpa to his mother, Ollie’s Great Grandma (Mahala Nelson)

5th degree – Great Grandma to her sister, Ollie’s Great Great Aunt (Eliza Jane Nelson, my great great great grandmother)

6th degree
– Great Aunt to her granddaughter, Ollie’s cousin of some sort (Harriett Catherine Wood, my great grandmother)

7th degree – Great Grandma Hattie to her son (Alfred, my grandpa)

8th degree – Grandpa Alfred to ME!

Well…I didn’t make it in 6 degrees…but I did successfully form a connection to Walt Disney in eight degrees and to Ollie in seven. While most people won’t understand the significance…I know that my fellow Disney fans will get it. Isn’t this cool? Can you connect? What’s your story?

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12 Responses to “Six Degrees of Separation from Walt Disney to ME!”

  1. That is so cool! How interesting!! I’m going to have to find a copy of the movie now. I’m not connected but so happy you made a connection!!!!

  2. That makes Ollie your third cousin twice removed.

    You may have a closer “separation” connection to either Frank or Ollie if any of their relatives lived in Tuscola when your grandparents worked in the grocery store.

    • Thanks Tom! I don’t have a clue about the cousin-ordering.
      It would be interesting to find out if there are more connections. So easy to get lost in genealogy.

  3. That is really just too cool! What are the odds of that? You might have to make that your next quest…

  4. AAGGGHHHH!! That is so cool… how exciting. Yoiu have a real life connection to Walt Disney. Boy I wish I did. :(
    I live closer to Mickey Mouse than you do though…. NaNaNaNaNa!
    You know I love ya, girlfriend.

  5. Very cool! And great movie- great pair of men- but that was Walt’s strong point- finding- and inspiring- great talent!

  6. […] museum’s display of Frank and Ollie info (not my stuff). If you read my previous post, “Six Degrees of Separation from Walt Disney to ME” you already know about my relationship to Ollie Johnston and his and Frank’s […]

  7. […] My Walt Disney Connection. Perhaps my most favorite of all posts…the one that explains how I’m actually related […]

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