Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidential Trivia


One of my curious activities a few years ago was writing an article for the Pennington Pedigrees on Presidential genealogy.  I have to say that it was a fun article for me to write.  If you are interested in Presidential genealogy, the first and best resource that you should look at is the work of Gary Boyd Roberts.    I believe that he is the expert on all things genealogy related to our Presidents.

Here are some interesting facts to consider…there are two presidents who share more lines in common than any other with 18 lines.  It is no surprise that it is George Herbert Walker Bush and his son George W. Bush.  They probably share genealogy with a lot of people.  I share several ancestors with the two of them including: John Gallup & Hannah Lake, John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley, Thomas Pope and Sarah Jenney.  When you throw Barbara Pierce Bush into the mix, I also share the ancestors of Fernando Thayer and Huldah Hayward. 

Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Gerald R. Ford share 17 ancestral lines in common.   I share a common line of Edmund Rice and Thomasine Frost with Calvin Coolidge.  It is no surprise that many share lines with Franklin Delano Roosevelt – I have the following: John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  I also share a line with Gerald R. Ford (aka Leslie Lynch King) of William Wilbore and Martha Holmes.
I could go on with several Presidents and common ancestral lines…but you will find if you have New England ancestry then you probably can connect to a President of the United States. Also of interest is that the fact that there are several who share no common lines with any other President.  These Presidents include:
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James Monroe
  • Andrew Jackson
  • James K. Polk 
  • James Buchanan
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Chester Arthur
  • William McKinley
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Dwight David Eisenhower
  • John Fitzgerald Kennedy
  • Ronald Reagan
  • William Jefferson Clinton


You might find it interesting that our current President shares ancestral lines with seven other Presidents including:  James Madison, Harry Truman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Our Presidents have come from a lot of backgrounds and families both wealthy and poor.  They have been lawyers, Police Commissioners, Generals, tailors, and farmers.  You may like some better than others – but they are an interesting lot to look at.  You might find it curious that President Obama is not the first President to have his nation of birth questioned.  Chester Arthur was thought by some to have been born in Canada and not the United States.  Chester Arthur’s father owned a farm 15 miles across the border and some speculated that he was not a natural born citizen.  Chester Arthur went so far as to change his birth year to 1830, since his father was well established in Vermont at that time.  

It is also interesting to note that when Grover Cleveland first became President, he was bachelor.  He married a younger woman named Frances Folsom who was 21 years old and the youngest first lady we have ever had.  They had five children and four lived to be quite old, the last one died in 1995.   We know of the two sets of fathers and sons (Adams & Bushs) but there was also a grandfather and grandson – Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison.  

There was also one President who was administered the oath of office by his own father in a Vermont farmhouse.  Calvin Coolidge’s father was the local notary public and the oath was done early in the morning after hearing of Warren G. Harding’s death.  Everyone knows that John Fitzgerald Kennedy is buried at Arlington Cemetery, but did you know that William Howard Taft was as well.  Taft was also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after his term as President and he himself administered the oath of office to two Presidents.

So as many of us enjoy a day off on President’s day – you might look up one or two on your computer and learn something about them.  You might be surprised at what you find!