Genealogy - Famous Relatives

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 everyone.")

So, here are the famous ones, in order of increasing complexity and distance:

Joseph Spencer Kennard

My great 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.

[no portrait]

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.

Abraham has been long known as our ancestor, and was a captain of Vermont militia in 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.

Mayflower Ancestors



William Brewster

Edward Doty

Edward Fuller

Stephen Hopkins

John Howland

John Tilley, Joan (Hurst) Tilley & Elizabeth Tilley

John Alden

Isaac Allerton

"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 Mayflower Compact.  Our connection to him comes through my mother's 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.

Lyman Cobb

My 3rd great grand uncle.  Ironically (see below) a leading competitor to Noah Webster as an author of spelling books.  Author of numerous books for use in secondary schools, possibly most famously Cobb's speller, A Just Standard for Pronouncing the English Language.

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.

John Locke

The great 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 author of Webster's Dictionary.

Reading 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 Giles.

Benedict Arnold

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 phrase, "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny."

Oliver Wolcott

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

My 4th 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 Adams

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 my genealogy.

Which means his son, John Quincy, 6th U.S. President, is 5th cousin, 5x removed.

Eli Whitney

My 4th cousin 6x removed.

The American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin, one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My 5th cousin 4x removed.

Reknowned 19th century poet, we share the Mayflower ancestor John Howland.

Zachary Taylor

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 Brewster.

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 through Georgia."

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 Edgar 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 York.

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 Howland.

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 side.)

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 in 1983.

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

My 8th cousin, 2x removed.

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.  (Duh!)

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.

Humphrey Bogart

My 8th cousin 2x removed.  Discovered through the MayflowerHistory site.

Bing Crosby

My 8th cousin 2x removed.  Again, discovered through the MayflowerHistory site.  We are both descended from William Brewster.

Katharine Hepburn

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 family tree.

I doubt I'll find anyone more glamorous than her.

Mark Dayton

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 author 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.

"Cokie" Roberts
ée Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs)

My 12th cousin.  Again, discovered through the MayflowerHistory site.  We are both descended from William Brewster.

Kyra Sedgwick

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 first husband.

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 and turns.

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
("Tom Thumb")

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

Needless to 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.

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