I was recently interviewed for an article in the Boston Globe on the ancestry of Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson, husband of Ketanji Brown Jackson, the newest associate justice on the Supreme Court. My colleague Sarah Dery has been working on Justice Jackson’s ancestry for some time, and the Globe article discussed both of their ancestries.
Sarah recently wrote a post about Justice Jackson’s ancestry, and a longer article she wrote will be published in our next issue of American Ancestors magazine. The main reason I was first asked about Dr. Jackson’s ancestry is that Patrick Jackson (along with Ketanji and their two daughters) appears in a 2011 genealogy that Scott Steward and I co-authored – The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts – where the family is covered on page 411 in the thirteenth generation (from immigrant Percival; seven generations from Judge John Lowell). Our sources for their family sketch were the Harvard class reports of both Patrick and Ketanji, as well as a completed questionnaire from Patrick’s mother.
In the course of my interview with the Globe reporter, she mentioned that Patrick Graves Jackson has been described as a “sixth-generation Harvard graduate,” something that Justice Jackson mentioned in her Supreme Court nomination hearing, although I knew there were many more generations than that. Harvard class reports, as well as the earlier series of Sibley’s Harvard Graduates (for graduates 1642-1774), are some of the best genealogical sources that Scott and I have relied upon when researching families that have had produced many Harvard graduates, and NEHGS probably has one of the best and most accessible collections after Harvard itself.
So how many Harvard graduates are in Patrick’s ancestry? The claim of “six generations” may be referring to the Jackson surname, beginning with Patrick’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Edward Jackson (1708-1757), Harvard Class of 1726, whose son Jonathan Jackson (Harvard 1761), was a delegate from Massachusetts in the Continental Congress in 1782. There were two generations of Jackson men who did not attend Harvard from Edward to Patrick, making it six Harvard graduates over eight generations. However, once we include all of Patrick’s direct ancestors regardless of surname, the number of graduates and generations increase considerably (and I probably missed a few!).
[Once] we include all of Patrick’s direct ancestors regardless of surname, the number of graduates and generations increase considerably...
On the chart I created below, there are twenty-nine Harvard graduates over twelve generations – anywhere from one to five graduates per each generation of ancestry. Twenty-eight of these (graduating from 1651 to 1996, from the college, law, or medical schools) are direct ancestors of Patrick and Ketanji’s daughters. I also included Dr. Henry Saltonstall (Harvard 1642), who was a brother of an ancestor, to show someone in Harvard’s first graduating class. If I were to include siblings of all ancestors, the chart below would be “off the charts!” Patrick’s great-great-great-grandfather Gorham Brooks (Harvard 1814) was an early member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, elected in 1854.
Most of the early graduates were ministers, as were most Harvard graduates in the colonial period. Others were doctors, merchants, or lawyers, with three ancestors serving as state or federal judges in Massachusetts – John Lowell (1760), Edmund Quincy (1699), and Nathaniel Saltonstall (1659), who served during the Salem witch trials of 1692. Edmund Quincy (1699), son of Col. Edmund and Elizabeth (Gookin) (Eliot) Quincy, was the younger half-brother of my ancestor John Eliot (III) (Harvard 1685) – Edmund and John were also nephews of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin (Harvard 1675) on the chart. John’s father John Eliot, Jr. (Harvard 1656, son of the Puritan missionary John Eliot) was my earliest known Harvard graduate ancestor. John Eliot III’s daughter Sarah married Rev. Joshua Eaton (Harvard 1735), and their son Dr. John Eliot Eaton (Harvard 1777), was my last Harvard graduate ancestor. These Gookin-derived kinships make Dr. Patrick Graves Jackson both my ninth cousin of the half-blood and tenth cousin.
Another topic in my conversation with the Globe reporter was Patrick’s earliest ancestors in the present-day United States, and here I mentioned that he had four different descents from Mayflower passengers John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland and Elizabeth’s parents John and Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley. These descents were partially covered in Gary Boyd Roberts’ The Mayflower 500 – as they are also in the ancestry of Massachusetts Governor and U.S. Senator Leverett Saltonstall (Patrick’s third cousin once removed), with one of the lines going though Patrick’s ancestor Nathaniel Gorham, Jr. (1738-1796), president of the Continental Congress and signer of the U.S. Constitution. A more detailed summary of these four Mayflower descents will appear in the Summer 2022 issue of the Mayflower Descendant.
Note: All of these Harvard graduates are covered in either Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636-1930, Harvard class reports, or later alumni directories, with the exception of George Gardner (1829), who is listed as a Harvard graduate here and in the Catalogue of the Porcellian Club. More information on the earliest graduates can also be found in our database Colonial Collegians, 1642-1774.
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 →