Thank goodness that I had a whole month to do my 12 Ancestors in 12 Months post because this one took a whole lot longer than I expected.
February’s writing prompt, Branching Out, got me thinking about the limbs and offshoots of our family trees. Although I, like most genealogists, often focus on direct ancestors, as evidenced by this blog, I occasionally scale branches of our indirect relatives, discovering distant cousins amongst the twigs.
Every time I connect these distant cousins to our immediate kin, I am reminded of the Ancestry.com commercial, which featured new subscriber Emily who, after following the “leaves”, made a family connection with a famous founding father: “This is my Cousin George,” she said as she held up his portrait.
Like Emily, I too am adjacently related to George Washington, the 1st U.S. President, who is my 4th cousin, nine times removed through our common ancestors, Lawrence Townley and Jeannette Halstead, my 12th great-grandparents and his 3rd great-grandparents.
So, if George is a distant cousin, could other presidential cousins be hanging out in the offshoots of our family trees? I decided to find out. Since Washington was first, I went through the list chronologically.
The next president with whom there is a kindred connection is John Adams, the 2nd U.S. President. He is my spouse’s 3rd cousin, eight times removed through their shared Mayflower ancestors, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, my spouse’s 10th great-grandparents and Adams’ 2nd great-grandparents.
The third presidential connection was the fourth U.S. president, James Madison. He is my 3rd cousin, seven times removed through Francis Thornton and Alice Savage, my 9th great-grandparents and his 2nd great-grandparents.
John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President, son of the previously mentioned John Adams, is my spouse’s 4th cousin, seven times removed through John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, my spouse’s 10th great-grandparents and John Quincy’s 3rd great-grandparents.
Martin Van Buren, the 8th U.S. president, is my 4th cousin, eight times removed through our common ancestors Cornelis Hendrickse Van Ness and Marijen Van den Burchgraeff, my 11th great-grandparents and his 3rd great-grandparents. Incidentally, I am also a distant cousin of his wife, Hannah Hoes, my 5th cousin, seven times removed through Cornelis Hendrickse Van Ness and Marijen Van den Burchgraeff, my 11th great-grandparents and her 4th great-grandparents. So, in addition to being spouses, the Van Burens were fourth cousins, once removed.
The final presidential connection is with Zachary Taylor, the 12th U.S. President. Even though I have a lot of Taylor ancestors, Zachary Taylor is not related to any of them. Instead, he is linked to my Watts and Stark lines. Through the Starks, he is my 3rd cousin, seven times removed via our shared kin, Francis Thornton and Alice Savage, my 9th great-grandparents and his 2nd great-grandparents. In the Watts line, he is my 4th cousin, six times removed through William Thornton and Elizabeth Rowland, my 9th great-grandparents and his 3rd great-grandparents. Interestedly, his wife Margaret Mackall Smith is my 5th cousin, seven times removed through our mutual kin, Christopher Smith and Elizabeth Towneley, my 11th great-grandparents and her 4th great-grandparents.
Although my spouse and I are very distantly related to at least a dozen other presidents, those relationships are no closer than sixth cousins with lots of “removes“ to boot. So, for now, these six are our most closely related presidential kin… same trunks, different branches.