In the course of research, I've identified a few famous relatives, some nearer but less famous, others
more famous but distant and sometimes convoluted, and finally some very, very famous
but also very, very distant. (As my cousin Randy put it in an
email, "Go back far enough and eventually you're related to
So, here are the famous ones, in
order of increasing complexity and distance:
Joseph Spencer Kennard
grandfather, on my father's side. A famous and long-time
Baptist preacher in Philadelphia, he was the author of
Psychic Power in Preaching, still in print.
My Grandmother (Kennard) Haynes was justly proud of this man,
her father. In theological circles, he was apparently quite
the man to be reckoned with in his day.
Abraham Jackson I
|My 4th great
grandfather. A pioneer in the wilds of Vermont in the
mid-1700s, he attended and signed the
Dorset Convention, the July 24, 1776, document that was a
declaration of solidarity of colonists in New Hampshire (including
Vermont, which was not yet a separate political entity) in
opposition to the Crown, secondary to the more famous July 4th
Declaration of Independence.
has been long known as our ancestor, and was a captain of Vermont
the Revolutionary War. However, signing the Dorset
Convention, his most famous contribution to Colonial history,
had been mischaracterized by all prior commentators, and I was the
first to uncover its true identity, and thus its true significance.
John Tilley, Joan (Hurst) Tilley & Elizabeth
"Captain" Myles Standish
As I have
extended my family tree by filling in the hundreds of lines that
extend back into the 17th century, I have found an inordinate number
of Mayflower ancestors. Now, for Americans with at least some
degree of English ancestors, it's not all that unusual to find
someone who arrived on the Mayflower. By some estimates, those original Mayflower passengers have twenty
to thirty million descendants today, so we’re nothing very special.
But having seven direct Mayflower ancestors
surely is a cut above the ordinary. Direct ancestors first,
alphabetically, and then those who are less direct:
On my father's side is found
William Brewster, a freeman and #4 on the 1669 list compiled of
Mayflower Compact signers. My 11th great grandfather.
My 8th great
grandfather, Edward Doty was a passenger on the Mayflower, in
Plymouth Colony initially as an indentured servant to Stephen
Hopkins (another ancestor) but nevertheless a signer of the
Compact. Our connection to him comes through my
side of the family.
Edward Doty married Faith Clark, and they
begat Joseph Doty, who married Deborah Ellis, and they begat Ellis
Doty, who married Eleanor ___, and they begat Elijah Doty, who
married Susannah Ferris, and they begat Elijah Doty II, who married
Eve Teachout, and they begat Susannah Doty, who married Joshua
Whitney Cobb, and they begat Sarah Jane Cobb, who married Job Durfee
Sickels, and they begat Hannah Amanda Sickels, who married LaMott
George Bates, and they begat Bion LaMott Bates, who married Wilma
Jackson, and they begat Emily Bates, who married Ellsworth Haynes,
and they begat … ME!
Edward Fuller's is an especially tragic
story. He and his wife (whose name is unknown) came on the
Mayflower and he signed the Compact. They died that first
winter of 1620-21, however. They had left their 15-year old
son behind in England, and he came to Plymouth in approximately 1640
and is my ancestor, on my father's side. Edward is my 10th
great grandfather, on my father's side.
Stephen Hopkins is perhaps the most famous of
my direct ancestors -- for many years he served as assistant
governor of the colony. He is my 10th great grandfather.
John Howland, another Compact signer, was
another indentured servant, to John Carver. His master died
that the spring of 1621, and Howland was a freeman that year.
Howland is my 9th great grandfather.
John Tilley also signed the Mayflower
Compact. His wife accompanied him to Plymouth, as did his
daughter, who married John Howland three
years after arrival in Plymouth. John Tilley is my 10th great
grandfather; his daughter is my 9th great grandmother.
My relation to John Alden is less direct,
although I can trace two paths:
Edward Doty's granddaughter married Alden's grandson, so Alden is
the maternal grandfather of the husband of my 1st cousin 8x removed;
alternately, since President John Adams is related (see below), his
line traces directly back, so I'm also related by that path.
Isaac Allerton is another slightly removed
Mayflower relation. Allerton married Fear Brewster, William's
daughter, and so is the husband of my 10th great grand aunt.
The connection to the most famous of the
Puritans, Myles Standish, is a bit more convoluted, coming about
from a hint dropped on a web page that discussed one direct
ancestor: Benjamin Day. I knew that my great grandmother
Eliza Jackson's cousin, Cora Morgan's husband was a Belden, and the
page said that Beldens were Standish's direct descendants via his
granddaughter. So, Miles Standish is the 7th great grandfather
of the husband of my 1st cousin 3x removed.
|My 3rd great
grand uncle. Ironically (see below) a leading competitor to
Noah Webster as an author of spelling books.
numerous books for use in secondary schools, possibly most famously
Cobb's speller, A Just Standard for Pronouncing the English
The family has long known
of this relative, only slightly removed from one of our direct lines
of ancestors. We have a much-abused copy of the Cobb speller.
British political philosopher is my 1st cousin 10x removed.
This relationship was relatively easily traced
once I knew the ancestry of my 4th great grandmother, Nancy Locke,
whose ultimate American forebear, John Locke, came to New England
sometime prior to 1654. John was first cousin of the more
famous John Locke, from whose writings Jefferson drew inspiration
for the Declaration of Independence.
Noah Webster, Jr.
|Nephew of wife
of my 3rd great grandfather. The famous lexicographer and
my great grandfather Chester Jackson's voluminous genealogy
correspondence from 1916-23, I encountered a letter from a distant
cousin mentioning this relationship, which was easily tracked down.
(We are also related to Noah Webster
via the Goodrich line.)
General James Giles
Father-in-law of my half 2d great grand uncle.
Not exactly close, but my father's mother always considered him as
close to really famous as she could find on her side of the family.
James Giles was a General in Washington's
Revolutionary War Army. On General Marquis de Lafayette's return to
our county, he presented his sword as a gift to his friend, General
|My 2d cousin 8x removed. With the good must come some bad, I
suppose. My father's Westcott line links us to some of the
luminaries who shown (brightly or darkly) at the beginning of the
Republic. First found was the Adams père et fils,
below. Soon after, however, I found a website showing the
linkage to Benedict Arnold, the Revolutionary War's great traitor.
Subsequent to the discovery of the link through
my father's line, I found this more direct line through my maternal
4x great grandmother: my 7th great grandmother was Benedict's
1st cousin, once removed.
James Otis, Jr.
My 3d cousin, 6x removed.
James is the only known "famous" descendant
known to me -- among the surely tens or even hundreds of thousands
calling him Nx great grandfather -- of Pilgrim Edward Doty.
Otis was a Revolutionary era attorney,
staunch supporter of the Colonies' rights, and is credited with the
without Representation is Tyranny."
Father-in-law of my 3d cousin 5x removed.
Oliver Wolcott (1726-97) is related through
the Goodrich line. As a representative of Connecticut, he
signed the Declaration of Independence and also the
Articles of Confederation.
He attended Yale College and was a roommate of Noah Webster Sr.
He was a Brigadier General in the Revolutionary War. In 1775,
he was elected to the Congressional Congress, and signed the
Declaration of Independence some time later than July 4, 1776, due
to having been seriously ill.
Benjamin Franklin Goodrich
cousin 3x removed.
Founder of B.F. Goodrich Company,
incorporated 1880, and now a multi-billion dollar manufacturer of
tires and multiple other products.
John Quincy Adams
|My 4th cousin
6x removed. Once I saw an "Adams" in our family tree, pretty
far back (Sarah Adams, my 8th great grandmother, 1637-1674, through
the Cobb-Lawrence line on my mother's side), I had to wonder. Wouldn't you?
Continuing my ancestral tracings, I was
surprised to see that we also had a connection on my father's side,
an even closer one -- reflected in the relationship shown above.
So the 2d President of the United States and
signer of the Declaration of Independence is off there in
Which means his son, John Quincy, 6th U.S.
President, is 5th cousin, 5x removed.
My 4th cousin 6x removed.
The American inventor best known for inventing
the cotton gin, one of the key inventions of the Industrial
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
My 5th cousin 4x removed.
Reknowned 19th century poet, we share the
Mayflower ancestor John Howland.
My 5th cousin 7x removed.
Twelfth President of the United States
(although not for long -- he died after 16 months in office.
Discovered because he and I share a Mayflower ancestor, William
William Tecumseh Sherman
My 6th cousin 2x removed.
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91) is related
through the Goodrich line. He is most famous (or infamous) as
a General in the Union Army during the Civil War, for the "scorched
earth" policies that he implemented during the so-called "march
Edgar Rice Burroughs
|My 6th cousin
3x removed. While researching my relationship to William
"Buffalo Bill" Cody (see below), I chanced upon a reference to
Rice Burroughs's relationship to our Blodgett line. As the
above relationship suggests, it's a fairly clean line.
If Burroughs's name does not immediately ring a
bell, think of his "Barsoom" novels, more commonly known as the
John Carter on Mars series, and most recently from the Disney
movie, John Carter.
Stephen Grover Cleveland
|My 6th cousin
4x removed. This connection came about rather directly after I
started adding some Clevelands related to my Bates forebears.
Cleveland, of course, was the 22nd and 24th
Presidents of the United States, as well as being Governor of New
Ralph Waldo Emerson
|My 6th cousin
4x removed. A web site,
MayflowerHistory, provides the Mayflower pedigree of several
famous Americans, and the famous poet and essayist (and, remembering
back to my college studies, leader of the Transcendentalism
movement). Emerson is my cousin via all three of the Tilleys
and John Howland.
Lucius Morris Beebe
|My 7th cousin.
The New York Times Dining Section for May 9, 2012, had a long
article about Craig Claiborne's long role and pervasive influence as
a food and restaurant critic. In the article a name caught my
eye: Lucius Beebe. "I wonder, ...." thought I.
Off to Ancestry.com I went, and with a few more
facts (his birth and death years from
Wikipedia), I found that, indeed, we were related. He may
not be world famous, or that significant in the overall scheme of
things, but I have a special affinity for food, cooking and
restaurant dining, so it's nice to see that Cousin Lucius made a
career out of it.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
|My 7th cousin,
3x removed. The
MayflowerHistory site provides the Mayflower pedigree of several
U.S. Presidents. I was able
to use those lineages to establish this relationship to one of our
greatest Presidents, with our common ancestor being the Pilgrim John
I'm also related to George
Herbert Walker Bush, George W. Bush and (ugh!) Sarah Palin using the same ancestor,
but the linkages are much longer so I'll not show it here (besides
which, I'm much more happy to be related to FDR than GHWB, "W" or that
killer of moose). Also, from Howland's brother Arthur, Richard
Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Whitney North Seymour, Sr.
Whitney North Seymour, Jr.
Senior is my 8th cousin. Junior is my 8th
cousin 1x removed. These may seem to be odd additions to my
Famous Relatives list, but they hold a special place in my personal
history, in addition to having a modest fame (and considerable
accomplishments) in any case.
Whitney Sr. was President of the American Bar
Association. Whitney Jr. ("Mike" to me, his friends and
family), was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and
argued the "Pentagon Papers" case on behalf of the U.S. Government
(reluctantly, I've always thought).
Most importantly, proving that it is indeed a
small world, I have been intrigued by their first names ever since
learning that the Whitneys (on my mother's side) are a major name in
my own genealogy. The search was ridiculously easy, finding
that we shared a great grandfather in common from Colonial times
-- John Whitney (1621-92) was the original Whitney emigrant from
England. (Subsequently, I shortened the relationship by
finding another path, through the Westcott line on my father's
So what, you may well ask? At that
distance I probably share kinship with over 200,000 individuals.
Well, the "small world" part of the story is that Mike Seymour was
my mentor at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett when I worked there in NYC,
1975-1981, before I had any inkling of the possible relationship;
his father was the firm's pre-eminent senior partner until his death
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
|My 8th cousin,
Originally, I had found
that Churchill was my 16th cousin,
2x removed, thanks to a common Spencer ancestor way back in 14th century England. (This means, of course, that Churchill was also
a cousin to William, Duke of Cambridge, below.) Then, a
reference elsewhere noted that Churchill's American-born mother had
been a lineal descendant of Arthur Howland, brother of the
Mayflower's John Howland (see above), which led to the "promotion"
of Winnie's status among my relatives. Finally, another web
reference said he was a descendant of another ancestor, John Borden,
which permitted another promotion, to 8th cousin. So exciting.
Harry Payne Whitney
|My 8th cousin
2x removed. I shouldn't be surprised if Harry Payne Whitney
elicited a "Who?" from you. I've included him for two reasons:
first, he is a member of the Whitney family branch that became very
rich and very politically connected (his father was U.S. Secretary
of the Navy); second, he married Gertrude Vanderbilt, and that
family was even richer, but more importantly Gertrude founded the
Whitney Museum of American Art.
|My 8th cousin
2x removed. Discovered through the
|My 8th cousin
2x removed. Again, discovered through the
MayflowerHistory site. We are both descended from William
|My half 8th cousin
2x removed. I discovered this by accident, as I tried to trace
an error someone else had introduced into the Spaulding branch of my
I doubt I'll find anyone more glamorous than her.
|My 9th cousin.
Minnesota's Governor, who coincidentally lived for a time only
one-half block from us.
Working on my father's ancestry, there was
an Ellen Dayton, whose father, Ralph Dayton, was the first of that
family to arrive in the Colonies (probably between 1635 and 1639).
The possibility of a relationship naturally occurred to me, and very
little research showed that he is a 10th cousin. But another
ancestor (one of his n-times great grandmothers) was a "Foote," and
she easily provided a link to the Footes, on my mother's side,
bringing him one generation closer -- 9th cousin.
Laura (Ingalls) Wilder
|My 9th cousin
3x removed. The justly famous
of the Little House books recalling her childhood pioneering
on the American frontier in the late 1800s.
After I posted my "I'm related to Kyra Sedgwick"
piece on Henry Louis Gates's "Finding
Your Roots" site, a fellow contacted me to say he also was
related to Sedgwick, and passed along the by-the-way that we were
both related to Laura Ingalls Wilder. He provided some of the
connection, and I traced the rest.
Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs)
|My 12th cousin.
Again, discovered through the
MayflowerHistory site. We are both descended from William
|The 5th great
grand niece of husband of my 7th great grandmother.
Watching the Henry Louis Gates "Roots"
program, one of his guests was actress Kyra Sedgwick. "Wait a
moment," says I, "there's a Sedgwick on our family tree. Maybe ..."
I had Kyra's father's name from the Web, and her 4th great
grandfather's (Theodore Sedgwick, a prominent lawyer and participant
in the Revolution in 18th century Massachusetts) from the show, so
the rest was filling in the gaps between us and Theodore (via his
grandfather) and between Theodore and Kyra (not all resources on the
web were accurate in this aspect).
And all this because my 7th great grandfather David Whitney's wife
was recorded in our family tree as "Prudence Merrill Sedgwick,"
erroneously it turns out, because Ebenezer Sedgwick was Prudence's
William "Buffalo Bill" Cody
|3rd cousin 3x
removed of wife of my 1st cousin 9x removed. If that seems
convoluted, just imagine the challenge of finding the links!
My cousin Randy had long reminded me of our
relationship to Buffalo Bill, but he did not have documentation,
only knowing that it came through the "Blodgett line." As may
be seen from the description above, it's a path with several twists
It was only because someone else had set out
the relationship from the Blodgetts, back to the Ingersolls, and
then down to the Emersons and finally the Codys that I was able to
fill in the gaps with a couple generations extension of our Blodgett
line (and discovery that one of my forebears had mischaracterized
"Amy Blodgett" as "Ann Blodgett").
Charles Sherwood Stratton
The half 5th great grand nephew of husband of
my 1st cousin 7x removed.
This is really tenuous, but like "Buffalo
Bill" above, was the result of a relative's challenge. Richard
Bates, my uncle, asked in an email, "Did you know we are related to
Tom Thumb?" I didn't, but it made sense, since his last name
was Stratton, which is a prominent family branch for us.
Charles's Stratton line, however, proved a
dead end, with a
John Stratton born before 1682. I could not trace down
from our Strattons to find a John, either. "But wait," says I,
"there's a Sherwood in our family tree -- the husband of
Elizabeth Jackson, granddaughter of the American originator of our
Jackson line, Henry."
I built up from Tom Thumb and down from Isaac
Sherwood Sr. It's a long and twisty route, but I was able to
join the trees -- you can see it
here if you wish (the path shown is from my mother).
Salmon Portland Chase
The 5th cousin 1x removed of the husband of the
sister-in-law of the niece of the wife of my 2nd great grand uncle.
I hadn't thought I'd find anyone related who
would exceed the lateral distance of Tom Thumb. Then I found
another relative in Elsie, Michigan (which town turns out to be
hot-bed of intermarriage for my family): Dr. Samuel Gillam.
Gillam's wife's sister married an Ichabod Chase. I had another
Chase (Elizabeth Chase) who married my 6th great grandfather's
brother, so built back both lines to see if I could find a common
ancestor. That search was unavailing within immigrants to
Colonial America (I later found a common ancestor born in early 16th
century England, which did not improve upon the above relationship).
Then I remembered Doris Kearns Goodwin's
Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet, and
Salmon Portland Chase. Chase was a U.S. Senator, Governor
of Ohio, Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, and finally the sixth
Chief Justice of the United States.
His relationship is so distant as to be
nearly meaningless, but it's a testament to finding a relationship
when all you have in common is a last name.
William, Duke of Cambridge
|My 18th cousin,
again thanks to that same common Spencer ancestor way back in 14th century England.
The relationship, of course, comes through Diana
Spencer, the late Princess of Wales, which also means I'm related by
marriage to Queen Elizabeth.
Henry I Beauclerc
|My 27th great
grandfather. When you get this far back, it's all a bit iffy.
I think the linkages are sound, however, albeit that we're descended
from one of Henry's bastard sons, Rainald De Dunstanville, the 1st
Earl of Cornwall.
William the Conqueror
say, therefore (unless you are ignorant of English history), my 28th
great grandfather was William the Conqueror, and all my intervening
line exists because he won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 C.E.,
making his son especially attractive to various high-born women in
England, one of whom (Sybil Sybilla Adela Mistress Lady Corbet) was
my 27th great grandmother!
|My 38th great
grandfather. The same cautions mentioned just above apply
here, too. Someone once commented that being able to trace
one's heritage back to royalty, and especially to Charlemagne (from
whom the line stretches back to within a few hundred years of
Christ, although in Northern Europe and not the Middle East), is
rather the Holy Grail (so to speak) of genealogy. For me, it
simply tickled my funny bone.