By Neil O'Callaghan
You know you've really hit on something when you find a name in your family tree and your 14-year-old daughter says excitedly: "Dad! He was in Scoobydoo!"
I couldn't believe my eyes and had to do a double take over his profile on the genealogy website Geni.com.
Geni.com is a free website that allows you and your relatives to build your common family tree, no matter where you are in the world or even if you don't know each other exist. Bit by bit the tree fills up.
But a cousin in Kiss? Come on! The idea that I, a stressed-out languages teacher in an Irish secondary school was a cousin of this rock icon, who wrote 'I was made for loving you' (featured in the movie 'Moulin Rouge', my daughter helpfully added) with his black and white 'starchild' make up, his bondage boots and leather trousers held up by multi-coloured braces that stretch over a naked hairy chest -- well, I really had to laugh!
Of course following on from this discovery I've seen Kiss everywhere -- most impressive was a Kiss merchandise shop on TV that sells a Kiss version of Mr Potatohead!
It was a lot to take on but Geni.com helpfully provides the user with the 'trail' from your common ancestor that leads to the particular relation you're reading about. Once I got my breath back I saw that it turns out that Paul Stanley, rock megastar, is my third cousin once removed.
The "once removed" thing, if you are wondering, means that he was my mother's third cousin (one generation removed from me), that they both shared the same great-great grandparents, Julius and Anna Jontof-Hutter, a German-speaking couple who lived in Prague in the 1800s. This all make sense as my late mother, a native of Vienna, Austria, like a lot of Viennese, knew that she had Czech grandparents.
The Kiss megastar's real name is Stanley Eisen and as most of my relatives on my mother's side have German family names, it was the fact that he came up as Paul Stanley, not exactly German-sounding, that aroused my curiosity and led me to read the profile provided by Geni.com.
A year or so before that, through the same website, I had read a few of the messages calling for support in Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 posted online by a certain Julia Eisen.
Not yet aware that she had a seriously famous brother, I had responded with words of encouragement to this distantly related cousin.
It turns out that Julia is a very pleasant New Yorker and before long we were exchanging a few friendly emails.
She had had no idea that she had relations in Ireland and of course was thrilled, and although I am more of a Led Zeppelin nut, I told her a white lie -- that I have always loved Kiss. At the time I could only have named two of their hits but she said she would pass on my best wishes to her brother. It then became urgent that I immediately splash out on a Kiss Greatest Hits CD, so I could hold forth on the band knowledgably to my nephews and nieces and my astonished friends on my superstar cousin; and then last May Kiss played the O2 and of course I wasn't going to miss out on that.
It was a brilliant concert and my cousin played Led Zep's 'Whole lotta love' which I loved.
No, I didn't get to meet him. He's a very busy man, with all that make up to take off!
It's only fair to say that nobody in my family would ever have become aware of the Kiss connection if it hadn't been for the initial research done by another distant relative in the USA -- the man who found all the records and inputted them into Geni.com in the first place -- Randol Schoenberg, attorney at law in Los Angeles.
If you're good at crosswords, you'll have noticed that 'Randol' is an anagram of Arnold and maybe you already know that Arnold Schoenberg was a hugely influential Austrian composer of the twentieth century. Randol Schoenberg is his grandson and yes I am related to him too!
This fact was already a long established fact on my mother's side of the family, long before the internet. They had simply kept in touch down through the long years.
But it was only by putting the whole picture together that I realised the greatest and most innovative modern classical composer, he of 'Transfigured Night' and 'Pierrot Lunaire', and the glam rocker composer of the rock classics 'Love Gun' and 'Lick it up' are distant cousins. All I have to do is look at my family tree on Geni.com and it becomes crystal clear how I am related to both of them.
It's a strange story. Not even Scooby and Shaggy could have made this one up!