The closest presidential kinships

President James Madison (1751-1836). Courtesy of Wikipedia

Following up on my earlier post on the Roosevelt family, I noted that Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt’s kinship by marriage was the closer way they connected, as their closest kinship by blood was that of fifth cousins. (Their last common Roosevelt ancestors in New York City were in the early eighteenth century.)

While it is common knowledge that the Roosevelts were distant cousins, after the Adams and Bush father and son presidents, and the Harrison grandfather and grandson presidents, there are several sets of presidential kinships that are closer than the fifth cousin kinship of the Roosevelts – most are at a few generations removed, but they begin at a closer “base” level of cousinship. James Madison and Zachary Taylor are first, second cousins through their common Taylor ancestors of Virginia, as well as second cousins twice removed through their Thornton ancestors.

After that, there are several other kinships between American presidents that are closer than fifth cousins, through common American ancestors, all outlined in charts in Ancestors of American Presidents (AAP) (only the closest kinship between two presidents is given below):

Second cousins four times removed: Martin Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt (AAP, p. 514), through Claes Laurenszen Van Schaack and Jannetje Cornelis of Kinderhook, New York.

Second cousins six times removed: Franklin Pierce and George W. Bush (AAP, p. 517), through Thomas and Elizabeth (Cole) Pierce of Woburn, Massachusetts (an ancestor of Barbara [Pierce] Bush).

Third cousins four times removed: Martin Van Buren and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (AAP, p. 570), through Teuwis Abrahamsz van Deursen and Helena Robberts of Albany, New York.

Third cousins five times removed: John Adams and Calvin Coolidge (AAP, p. 465), through Mayflower passengers John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden of Duxbury, Massachusetts.

Third cousins nine times removed: James Madison and Barack Obama (AAP, p. 569), through Edwin and Martha (Eltonhead) Conway of Lancaster County, Virginia.

Fourth cousins once removed: William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (p. 471), through William and Ann (Ellis) Armistead of Elizabeth City County, Virginia; Ulysses Grant and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (AAP, pp. 520-21), through Jonathan and Mercy (Delano) Warren of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Obviously, most of these closer kinships contain at least one earlier president who had fewer ancestral generations in the present-day United States.

Fourth cousins three times removed: Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama (AAP, p. 587), through Philip and Maria Elisabeth (Schmid) Ament of Bourbon County, Kentucky.

Fourth cousins four times removed: John Quincy Adams and Calvin Coolidge (AAP, p. 465), through Mayflower passengers John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden of Duxbury, Massachusetts.; Franklin Pierce and Calvin Coolidge (AAP, p. 478), through John and Dorcas (_____) Pearson of Rowley, Massachusetts; Zachary Taylor and Jimmy Carter (AAP, p. 572), probably, through William and Dorothy (_____) Strother of Richmond County, Virginia.

Fourth cousins five times removed: Millard Fillmore and George H.W. Bush  (AAP, p. 477), through Robert and Elizabeth (Sabin) Millard of Rehoboth, Massachusetts; Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover (AAP, p. 478), through John and Dorcas (_____) Pearson of Rowley, Massachusetts; James Madison and Theodore Roosevelt (AAP, p. 568), probably, through _____ and Margaret (_____) Underwood of Rappahannock Co., Virginia.

Fourth cousins six times removed: Millard Fillmore and George W. Bush (AAP, p. 477), through Robert and Elizabeth (Sabin) Millard of Rehoboth, Massachusetts.

Fourth cousins of the half blood, three times removed: Zachary Taylor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (AAP, p. 571), through Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Obviously, most of these closer kinships contain at least one earlier president who had fewer ancestral  generations in the present-day United States. The same would be for anyone distantly related to a president through colonial American ancestors. My closest kinship is to John Adams at third cousins eight times removed (through Samuel and Anne [Savell] Bass, AAP, pp. 466-67), followed by both John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce at fourth cousins six times removed (for J.Q. Adams through Henry and Anna [Goldstone] Bright, and for Pierce through Henry and Elizabeth [Johnson] Bowen). Your kinships to modern presidents are likely much more distant; my own most distant American kinship to an American president is as a twelfth cousin of the half-blood to Obama through our shared descent from George Allen of Sandwich, Massachusetts. George Allen is also an ancestor of Gerald Ford through George’s same daughter Rose (Allen) Holley, making Ford and Obama eleventh cousins once removed (AAP, p. 588), which I believe is the most distant kinship between two presidents through a shared American ancestor.[1]

Note

[1] Gerald Ford and George W. Bush are also eleventh cousins once removed through their shared descent from Edward Gilman (bp. 1557) and his unknown wife of Hingham, Norfolk, England (AAP, p. 453). However, this descent is through an ancestor who died in England, as his children were the immigrants to America. Also on AAP, 461 is a Stan(d)ley chart showing Ford and G.W. Bush as twelfth cousins, but this again is through ancestors who died in England who were the parents and grandparents of a few American immigrants. There are a few other kinships at this level or more distant in AAP, but all through common ancestors who had died in England.

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.

11 thoughts on “The closest presidential kinships

  1. This week I discovered my connection to Pres. James Madison, 2C6x. The CA being his grt GF John Madison 1660-1728 and Isabella Minor. So your post is very timely for me…

  2. Chris, you have noted that Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were 5th cousins once removed. I know that George and Barbara (Pierce) Bush were 11th cousins, from Thomas and Jane (Powys) Holbrook of Scituate and Weymouth (who are also my ancestors).

    Are there any other Presidents who were related to their wives?

    1. The closest kinship was Martin Van Buren and his wife Hannah Hoes who were first cousins once removed (Martin’s mother was a sister of Hannah’s paternal grandfather). John and Abigail Adams were third cousins through the Boylston family of Massachusetts, and Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha Wayles were third cousins through the Isham family of Virginia. After that, several presidents were related to their wives through common colonial American ancestors, much like the way these presidents are related to one another.

  3. Chris, You may have covered this before – but I’m curious…with all the interconnections between the presidential ancestries are there any presidents that stand out as having no connection to another president (or any) at all? I hope I’m phrasing this correctly – for lack of a better term, is there a lone wolf?

    1. Jeff, yes, there are presidents that we generally say are probably not going to be related to any other presidents through common American ancestors, and then there are presidents that could be related to future presidents as they have colonial American ancestors that left a number of later descendants. Lyndon Johnson’s kinship to Obama was certainly one of the more surprising ones as it went through common German ancestors in Kentucky in the early 19th century. For LBJ that became his first kinship to another president. Obama’s election also gave the first kinship to Harry S. Truman via the Duvall family of Maryland (also in the ancestry of Robert Duvall, Dick Cheney, and Warren Buffett).

      Anyways, thirty presidents are related to at least one other president, so for the remaining fifteen, I have three lists (and this refers to kinships via common American ancestors, not through royal descents):

      Presidents that could be related to another future president: Washington, Jefferson, Polk, Arthur

      Presidents that have a small chance of being related to another future president: Monroe, Eisenhower, Clinton, Biden

      Presidents that have very little chance of being related to another future president: Jackson, Buchanan, A. Johnson, McKinley, Kennedy, Reagan, Trump

      This essentially relates to how many generations these presidents’ ancestors were in the present day United States and the likelihood (based on numbers) that a random descendant of an earlier ancestor may rise to the presidency. And there is always the exciting possibility that a “brick wall” portion of a president’s ancestry might be discovered leading to a kinship that was there all along!

  4. James Garfield’s grandmother ( Asenath Hill) was a sister of my 4th great grandfather (Josiah Hill). Not sure what our relationship is. Also I am related to Warren Harding through the Tripp family, not sure of this relationship yet either.

  5. Hello Chris! I always enjoy your posts! Do you know when we’ll see a new edition of Ancestors of American Presidents? There hasn’t been an edition since 2009.

    1. Hi James, thank you. Hard to say when another edition will be, the 2009 edition was double the previous edition from 1995. Our last two presidents do not affect the charts in the book. We did publish ancestor tables in American Ancestors magazine, links below.

      Trump: https://www.americanancestors.org/DB405/i/53691/50/72531045

      Biden: https://www.americanancestors.org/DB405/i/60828/28/10001246574

      The other author of both articles besides Gary, Alexander Bannerman, is the editor of Executive Papers, a publication relating to the genealogy of presidents and first ladies, you can see more information on this series here – http://www.presidentsandfirstladies.org/

      1. Hi Chris. Thanks for the shout-out!

        Augmenting your response to one of your followers about Presidents and their wives being related to one another, there are a total of 11 couples for whom this is an interesting genealogical topic. As noted in Executive Papers, vol. 18, John & Abigail Adams, Thomas & Martha Jefferson, Martin & Hannah Van Buren (as you indicated), the Hayeses, Garfields, Tafts, Coolidges, Hoovers, Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt, the Fords, and George H.W. and Barbara Bush. Alex B.

  6. Thank you for listing the common ancestors. I’m been researching the connections, but without a common ancestor it’s hard and timely to do. I have relationships with a few US Presidents and finding more all the time with the relationships between Presidents. Again, thank you for listing the CA, as it will make making the connection a little easier. Anne Honey Richmond.

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