Photo of Taylor Swift by Cosmopolitan UK; photo of Travis Kelce by Erik Drost. Via Wikimedia Commons.
The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl again soon, as they have three times out of the last four years. Their appearances in 2021 and 2023 prompted two articles by myself on the ancestry of their Quarterback Patrick Mahomes , along with an article last year by my colleague Sarah Dery on the ancestry of Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts . However, this year the Chiefs season has seen a lot of attention due to the romance between tight end Travis Kelce and singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.
When I got into genealogy at a young age, I talked about it to my sisters perhaps more than I should, to a point where it could have been a source of annoyance. I have deliberately taken a slower approach with my daughters, only mentioning what I do for work when they ask me about it or something relevant comes up. A few months ago, my nine-year-old daughter Dani mentioned liking Taylor Swift, and I told her that we are distantly related to her. Dani was so excited that she sent messages to several of her friends. She asked me how to spell genealogy and ancestors, and asked if I could make a chart showing how we were related (it didn’t take me very long!).
The common ancestors we have with Taylor Swift are Mayflower passengers Francis Billington and his parents John and Elinor Billington. John is infamously known as the first Englishman executed for murder in New England. This connection makes Swift and my daughters eleventh cousins, twice removed.
The Mayflower descent of Taylor Swift back to the Billington family is included in Gary Boyd Roberts’ The Mayflower 500, also outlining her descents from Mayflower passengers Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins, and Stephen’s daughter Constance. Several famous Mayflower descendants, Swift included, are spotlighted on our website here.
Swift’s descent was first researched by Rich Hall, who maintains the website FamousKin and MayflowerKin , and has authored several articles for us in the Mayflower Descendant . His lengthy list of distant cousins of Taylor Swift includes presidents, actors, entertainers, and a few infamous individuals as well. I definitely recommend checking his site out. However, for this post, I decided to take a look at the ancestry of the man making headlines in Taylor’s life, Travis Kelce. (While I was writing this post, I called Rich to give him the heads up—he told me he had Kelce on his list of individuals to research, but hadn’t yet worked on him).
While Travis’s paternal ancestors originate in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, his maternal ancestors have been in his native Ohio for a few more generations, with earlier ancestors from Germany, Bohemia, and the southern United States. I found that Travis’s great-great-grandmother, Hattie (Lyons) Blalock (1866-1899), was born in Toledo, Ohio, and her parents were born in New York State. Her father, Samuel Carney Lyons (1827-1903), whose parents I have not identified, served for the Union Army from Ohio during the Civil War from 1862-1865 and was a prisoner of war in Lexington, Kentucky . The death certificate of Hattie’s mother Lucinda (Ferris) Lyons (1832-1909) , identified her parents as Joseph Ferris and Rebecca Keeler—I recognized both of those surnames, which can often be traced back to colonial Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Through a series of searches in Ohio, Michigan, and New York, I realized that Lucinda’s father was actually Alexander Ferris—this led me to the 1980 Ferris Genealogy , which noted Alexander’s parents as Seth and Mary (Mosher) Ferris, originally from Dutchess County, New York. Alexander had a brother, Caleb Ferris (1782-1883) of Galway, Saratoga County, New York, whose one hundredth birthday was reported in the New York Evening Post!
Alexander and Caleb’s father, Seth Ferris, served in the Revolutionary War. Seth’s ancestry is treated for several generations in both the previously mentioned Ferris genealogy and our co-publication, Settlers of the Beekman Patent , leading back to Nicholas and Elinor Knapp , early English settlers in Watertown, Massachusetts, and later of Stamford, Connecticut—who are also ancestors of Taylor Swift, making Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce tenth cousins once removed! Noting that Taylor Swift’s favorite number is 13, I'll point out that Travis Kelce is thirteen generations from their common ancestors Nicholas and Elinor.
I really want to stress that a kinship this far back is essentially meaningless. People related this far back would likely have little, if any, DNA in common . (I no longer share DNA with a few of my third and fourth cousins, who I still know through our families staying in touch). I find distant kinships between couples this far back frequently. My own parents have common 17th-century New England ancestors, even though my father was from Florida and my mother was from Kansas. Looking at Rich Hall’s website, celebrity couple Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick , as well as past married couple Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford , also have common ancestors in 17 th century New England. Again, these kinships mean essentially nothing—but it’s a fun anecdote. Would Nicholas and Elinor Knapp have any thoughts about their ninth-great-granddaughter and tenth great-grandson dating each other? I’ll take a nap on that thought, just like them.
Curious about your own early 17th-century ancestors? Get started tracing your ancestry—and find out if you have any links to Taylor or Travis’s family trees—with this free research guide from the experts at American Ancestors .
Roberts, The Mayflower 500, 377-379.
FamousKin descent from Nicholas Knapp to Taylor Swift (and sources cited therein).
Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 1135-1137.
Frank Doherty, Settlers of the Beekman Patent, 5:141-143, 145-146.
James S. Ferris, A Ferris Genealogy, Volume two, sketches 12, 121, 1214, 12141, 121419, 1214192 (which gives Samuel Lyons’s middle name as Carmi).
Jefferson County, New York Deeds, 81:61-63 (noting Rebecca Ferris as widow of Alexander).
1850 U.S. Census, Hounsfield, Jefferson Co., N.Y., John Frazier household, with Rebecca Ferris, aged 58.
Michigan Death Certificate of Lucinda’s sister Sylvia Fraser (noting parents as “Exender Ferres” and “Rebecca Keller”).
Biography of Sylvia’s husband John Fraser , noting her parents.
Civil War Pension of Samuel Lyons, no. 223160, and widow’s pension no. 561,876.
Ohio death certificates of Samuel Carney and Lucinda (Ferris) Lyons.
1870 U.S. Census, Toledo Ward 5, Lucas Co., Ohio, Saml Lyons household.
1900 Census, Toledo War 10, Lucas Co., Ohio, Wm Blalock household.
1914 Ohio Death Certificate of William O. Blalock.
1930 Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Record of Roy P. Blalock and Mrs. Helen(e) (Sadlowski) Gray (she married first in 1917 in Ontario to Marion Purdy Gray); Obituaries of Roy Percy Blalock , Donald Roy Blalock , andIna M. Blalock; Cuyahoga County, Ohio Marriage Record Donald Blalock and Ina Marie Petranek (1951, 419:411).
Ohio Birth Index, Travis Michael Kelse, no. 1989129768 .
Note: I would caution readers about several of the parents asserted in online trees of spouses of the people on Kelce’s line shown on the chart, especially the parents of Mary Mosher and Rebecca Keeler. While I was able to find several sources herein mentioned stating their maiden names, parents asserted for Mary and Rebecca within online trees could not be corroborated, and I found other sources likely showing their asserted parents as not correct (none of this affects the lineage of Travis Kelce back to Nicholas and Elinor Knapp, only other potential ancestry in colonial New England). My thanks to my colleagues Lindsay Fulton for her assistance while researching this lineage, Ellen Maxwell for designing the chart above, and of course, Rich Hall.
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 →