Peculiar Pittsburgh

6 degrees of separation in Pittsburgh: 5 of the craziest connections that could only happen in Pittsburgh

We asked. You answered.

RJ Schmidt / Flickr
MJ Slaby

It’s one of those Pittsburgh things that doesn’t take very long to figure out. Sooner or later, you’ll meet a Pittsburgher who is actually a distant cousin, old friend or even your half brother. (Yes, really.)

Find it hard to believe? Take it from our readers.

Back in June, The Incline tried to figure out why it seems like everyone in Pittsburgh knows everyone else here. The answer has to do with social networks, location and something network scientists call “high betweenness.”

We asked for your wildest Pittsburgh connections, and you emailed us some amazing tales. Here are a few of the most unbelievable six (or fewer) degrees of separation in the ‘Burgh, edited for length and clarity.

Pittsburgh in Texas

In the 1990s, Carey Monis, was working for “Good Day Pittsburgh.” When it was canceled, Monis got a job as a flight attendant and went to Houston for training.

One day, I was on a shuttle with my new friends going into town, and I was telling them that everyone from Pittsburgh either knows each other or they are somehow related. Our shuttle stops and a youngish guy gets on. … We were all being very chatty and so he tells us he’s from Cleveland. I said, “Cleveland — I’m from Pittsburgh, we’re neighbors!!!” He said, “What part of Pittsburgh are you from?” I told him South Hills. He said, “Oh, one of my best friends is from South Hills.” I said, “What’s his name?” He said, “John Joyce.” I said, “John Joyce from Pleasant Hills?” He said, “YES!” I said, “My best friend from college is his sister — Laura Joyce!!!”

‘Most tentacles’

Suzie Hauptman said she had a lot of connections she could share, but she gave us “the one with the most tentacles.”

Here’s a recap of how it goes: A friend of Hauptman named “A” was dating a man named “Mike.” (Synonyms she gave them in her retelling of the story to us.) Hauptman said she was at the synagogue in Squirrel Hill and started talking to a couple. It turned out that the woman was Mike’s ex-wife.

You say … interesting … well … there’s more.

Hauptman found out that a co-worker was the ex-wife of Mike’s ex-wife’s new husband.

Bonus! Mike and his first wife had a daughter who babysat Hauptman’s son.

A brotherly game of darts

Michael Pilarski shared this story of a connection he found through playing darts. Pilarski said he was on a dart league, and the team was short a player, so a teammate brought a friend, who was nicknamed “Pilo.” Then Pilo started playing with them every week.

After about 3-4 weeks of us bullshitting, the one night he says “Hey Mike, do you have a uncle named Artie?” I said, “yea.” He said, “Do you have an aunt named Patty?” I said “Ummm,yea!” Then he says, “And your mom is Lorraine?” I said, “YEA, how the hell?” Finally he goes, “And you dad is Leonard?” I said “Yea Pilo, WTF bro, how the hell are you naming off my family members?!” He said “Leonard is my dad, too.”

(Drops the mic lol)

I was in disbelief! I’m like wait wtf how is this possible?! He says, “You know your dad was married before your mom?” I said yea. “Well, he had me in that marriage.” He said, “I used to play with you, and dunk you down at Leslie pool when you were little.” (My dad took me there all summer long, every summer.) I was in shock. After 23 years I meet my half brother in a bar, and he happens to be on my dart team.

A long list

Pittsburgh blogger Sue Kerr gave us a long list of connections about family and friends. A few of her discoveries:

  • A friend named Dave is actually her sixth cousin, on both sides of the family.
  • Rachel Carson is her second cousin three times removed.
  • Kerr met a fourth cousin who works on the site where his great-great uncle died in an industrial accident in 1880.

A ‘true burgh story’

Ben Schmitt shared this “small town” story:

I was granted access to report on a hip replacement surgery at West Penn Hospital in June 2016. The hospital outfitted me in the proper medical gear pretty much from head to toe. The surgical team was similarly completely covered in scrubs, masks, caps, etc. Early into the procedure, I had to give my name for the record they were keeping. When I said my name, an OR nurse stopped, turned and said: “Ben Schmitt? Did you go to Liberty Elementary School?” Turns out it was Jonathan Branch. I had not seen him since middle school in the 80s.