A Massachusetts matrilineal line

The death of Alma Wahlberg, aged 78, mother of actors Donnie and Mark Wahlberg (also both known for their earlier musical careers in New Kids on the Block and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, respectively), was announced last month. I had worked on the Wahlbergs’ ancestry several years ago as a surprise for Gary Boyd Roberts, who has been a longtime Mark Wahlberg fan. Years later, when Gary was at Wahlburgers in Boston, noticing numerous pictures of the Wahlberg family as well as those of Mark’s movie career, Gary told his waitress, “This place needs a little less Mark Walhberg and a little more Marky Mark!” To Gary’s amazement, the teenaged waitress said she did not know who “Marky Mark” was!

As the Walhlberg family has been in Boston for several generations, I began with Mark’s birth certificate and those of his parents, which are recent enough that they are only at the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records (for the state copy, while Boston City Hall also has a city copy). As I worked out the ancestry, it went back to four demographic groups – Swedish (1/4, which is where the Wahlberg surname originates), Irish (5/8, just over one half), French-Canadian (1/16), and New England Yankee (1/16).

When I told Gary about my initial findings, he was very excited, and I saw him in in the library early the next morning … on a microfilm machine! (For those who know Gary, he usually keeps something of a night owl schedule; this is one of only a handful of times I have seen him using microfilm.)

...I saw him in in the library early the next morning … on a microfilm machine!

For several years, I had told Gary about a few royal descents for immigrants in colonial Quebec that could be included in his Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants, as they were ancestral to several well-known American figures (Jack Kerouac, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, to name a few). Gary was hesitant to expand the book’s focus (the immigrants he had included came to what is now the present-day United States leaving notable descendants). After working with Diane Wolford Sheppard of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, we discovered, through the Wahlbergs’ French-Canadian ancestors, a line back to Anne (Couvent) Amiot of Quebec, who has a descent from King Henry III of England. This discovery persuaded Gary to include the French-Canadian immigrants of royal descent (via their descendants who came to the United States), and so his last publication – The Royal Descents of 900 Immigrants – includes the Wahlbergs as well other contemporary American and Canadian figures with colonial Quebec ancestry who have royal connections – including Beyoncé, Justin Trudeau, and Justin Bieber!

Floyd McKittrick,” at St. Augustine’s Church in Andover, Massachusetts. Her mother Alma Taylor’s maternal ancestors have been in Massachusetts since at least 1633.
However, through Wahlberg’s one-sixteenth New England Yankee ancestry, he descends from Great Migration colonists William and Ann Hathorn. William Hathorn was born about 1606, probably in Bray, Berkshire, and was in Dorchester, Massachusetts by 1633 (now a section of Boston, where the Wahlberg family originated). William married Ann by 1634 and the couple moved to Salem, Massachusetts by 1637. William had several civil positions in Massachusetts Bay Colony, including deputy to the Massachusetts Bay General Court for both Dorchester and Salem. Further, these were the Wahlberg brothers’ matrilineal ancestors, as the descent was entirely through women.

William and Ann were also the parents of John Hathorne (1641-1717), a leading judge in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. As John was a son of the Wahlbergs’ matrilineal ancestress, this would mean Mark and Donnie Wahlberg share mitochondrial DNA with their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle Judge John Hathorne! The judge was in turn the patrilineal great-great-grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne [meaning the Wahlberg’s matrilineal ancestors – William and Ann Hathorn – were also Nathaniel Hawthorne’s patrilineal ancestors].

So, in remembrance of the Wahlberg family matriarch, and as Mother’s Day posts frequently mention matrilineal lines, the below line summarizes fourteen generations of Massachusetts women over four centuries.[1]

  1. Ann _____ (died after 1681) of Dorchester and Salem m. William Hathorn
  2. Anna Hathorn(e) (born Salem 12 Dec. 1643) m. Joseph Porter
  3. Abigail Porter (born Salem 23 May 1676) m. Samuel Symonds
  4. Abigail Symonds (born Salem 17 May 1699) m. John Killam
  5. Mary Killam (1731-1816) of Boxford and Wilmington m. Benjamin Thompson
  6. Elizabeth Thompson (1763-1836) of Wilmington m. Nathan Buck
  7. Mary Buck (1804-1885) of Wilmington m. Nathan Eames
  8. Mary Ann Eames (1827-1902) of Wilmington and Wakefield m. James Warren Hale
  9. Mary Elizabeth Hale (1847-1876) of Wilmington m. John A. Taylor
  10. Alma E. Taylor (1871-1942) of Wilmington m. George McKittrick
  11. Ellen Floyd McKittrick (1894-1973) of Wilmington and Boston m. Edward Brisbois
  12. Leone Floyd Brisbois (1915-1990) of Boston m. Arthur Ambrose Donnelly
  13. Alma Elaine Donnelly (1942-2021) of Boston and Braintree m. Donald Edward Wahlberg
  14. Arthur Donnelly; Deborah, Michaelle, Paul, James, Tracey, Robert, Donald, and Mark Wahlberg


[1] All dates from Massachusetts Vital Records to 1620-1850 and 1841-1920 (available on AmericanAncestors.org) or from personal examination of twentieth-century vital records. The births of the children of William and Ann Hathorn (born between 1634 and 1649) were written by William Hathorn himself on a blank leaf of a book printed in 1610, transcribed in Essex Institute Historical Collections 1 [1859]: 2. For further details of Mark Wahlberg’s ancestry and distant kinships, see FamousKin.com.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child