Observations on several of the 2008 US Presidential candidates
from a genealogical perspective

by William Addams Reitwiesner

The opinions expressed below are solely mine, and cannot be blamed on anyone else.

William Addams Reitwiesner


Click here to see some of the genealogical relationships between Barack Obama and John McCain.

If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes President of the United States, she'll be the first US President with any French-Canadian ancestry.

She wouldn't be the first US President with any Canadian ancestry: Arthur, Hoover, and Bush (both pere and fils) have some ancestors who were New England Yankees who wandered across the border and then wandered back, Franklin Roosevelt has some ancestors who were Scots who emigrated to Canada then went to North Carolina and finally to Massachusetts, and Ford and Reagan are both descended from Scots who emigrated to Canada and then ended up in the US mid-west (Ford also has a United Empire Loyalist ancestor). But so far no US President has had French-Canadian ancestors.

In her autobiography, Hillary Rodham Clinton says that her maternal grandmother, Della Murray, was "from a family of French-Canadian, Scottish and Native American ancestry." No records have been found to support this claimed Native American ancestry.

To date, no US President has had any documentable Native American ancestry. Native American ancestry has been asserted for several US Presidents, but none of these assertions can withstand scrutiny. Examples of these assertions include the claim that Calvin Coolidge's great-great-grandmother Dorcas Eaton was a Native American (she was in fact of entirely European Colonial ancestry), Bill Clinton's claim that his grandmother was one-quarter Cherokee, the claim that George W. Bush's ancestor Mary Carlile Haines was a Lenni Lenape, and the claim that Austin Bearse, an ancestor of both Presidents Bush, married a daughter of a Sachem of the Wampanoags. To reiterate, none of these assertions can withstand scrutiny.

Only one US Vice President has had documented Native American ancestry. Charles Curtis, Vice President from 1929 to 1933 (under Hoover) was born in Topeka in 1860, a son of Orren Arms Curtis by his wife Ellen Pappan. Ellen was born in 1840 in the Kaw Nation, in what is now Kansas, and her ancestry is at least part-Kaw.

Col. Robert Bolling (1646-1709) married first Jane Rolfe, a granddaughter of Pocahontas. They had one son, John Bolling (1676-1729), and Jane died shortly after John was born. Robert Bolling then married second Anne Stith, and they had half a dozen (or so) children, one of whom was another Robert Bolling (1682-c1728). This younger Robert Bolling is an ancestor of President George H. W. Bush. This means that all of Pocahontas's descendants through John Bolling are related to both Presidents Bush, but neither President Bush is descended from Pocahontas.

Other declared or plausible candidates for President in 2008 with unverified claims of Native American ancestry include:

If Barack Obama becomes President of the United States, he would not be the first US President with African-born ancestors.

Tangier (or Tangiers) is a city in what is now northern Morocco, on the North African coast, on the western side of the Strait of Gibraltar. From 1471 Tangier was held by the Portugese, who gave it to England in 1661 as part of the dowry (believe it or not) of Catherine de Braganza. A number of English persons then moved to Tangier, including William Staines, one of the first Aldermen of Tangier and later its Mayor. One of Staines's nephews, William Smith, joined him there, and in 1675 William Smith married, in Tangier, Martha Tunstall, who was also from England. The first six children of William and Martha were born in Tangier.

In 1679, the Moroccan Sultan instituted a blockade of Tangier, which eventually led to the English leaving. William Smith, by now a Colonel, was the last Mayor of Tangier, from 1682 to the departure in October 1683.

Col. Smith and his family returned to London, and then sailed to Long Island, New York, where his land holdings (still [2006] owned by his descendants) were erected into the Manor of St. George. Because of his tenure in Tangier, Col. Smith was called "Tangier Smith", and his descendants were (and still are) called the "Tangier Smiths".

Henry Smith, son of Col. William and Martha (Tunstall) Smith and born at Tangier on 19 Jan. 1678/9, succeeded his father as Lord of the Manor of St. George. His granddaughter Rebecca Smith married John Aspinwall, their granddaughter Mary Rebecca Aspinwall married Isaac Roosevelt, and their grandson was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In other words, FDR had an African-born great-great-great-great-grandfather. See Smith and Hoff, The Tangier Smith Family [1978] for further details.

If Barack Obama becomes President, he would be the first US President with documented Negro ancestry.

Negro ancestry has been asserted for various past US Presidents and Vice Presidents (see, for example, Joel A. Rogers, Five Negro Presidents, and Auset BaKhufu, Six Black Presidents), but none of these assertions can withstand scrutiny.

Stanley Crouch, writing in the New York Daily News on Thursday, November 2nd, 2006, discusses Barack Obama in the context of understanding the difference between color and ethnic identity. Crouch points out that "the majority of black Americans ... are descendants of plantation slaves", and that Sen. Obama, whose "mother is of white U.S. stock [and whose] father is a black Kenyan", does not share this heritage.

Mr. Crouch does not mention the following in his article, but several of Barack Obama's ancestors among his mother's white U.S. stock owned slaves. Sen. Obama's slave-owning ancestors include George Washington Overall and Mrs. Mary Grable Duvall, both of whom were enumerated in the 1850 Federal Census of Nelson County, Kentucky, as slave owners, each owning two slaves. George Washington Overall is also enumerated in the 1860 Federal Census of Nelson County as owning one slave. The number of slaves owned by these ancestors of Sen. Obama implies that they had small farms, and not plantations. Another slave-owning ancestor of Sen. Obama was John Childers (or Childress), who was enumerated in the 1860 Federal Census of Pendleton County, Kentucky, as owning ten slaves.

Barack Obama is not the only declared or plausible candidate for President in 2008 whose ancestors owned slaves. Others include:

Several of the declared or plausible candidates for President in 2008 are descended from colonial immigrant ancestors with documented descents from one or more European monarchs. These immigrants, and their 2008 candidate descendants, include:

Colonial immigrant Royal ancestor RD 600 2008 candidate
Margaret Wyatt Allyn Henry I, King of England (d. 1135) 489-492 Mike Huckabee
Mitt Romney
Dorothy Beresford Brodnax Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 856-857, 282 Jeb Bush
Obadiah Bruen Henry II, King of England (d. 1189) 455-456 Jeb Bush
Jane Allen Bulkeley William I, King of Scots (d. 1214) 416-421 Jeb Bush
Peter Bulkeley Henry II, King of England (d. 1189) 442-444 Jeb Bush
Elizabeth Bullock Clements Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 835-837, 296 Jeb Bush
Martha Eltonhead Conway Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 825-826, 314, 361 Barack Obama
George Elkington Henry II, King of England (d. 1189) 457-458 Jeb Bush
Olive Welby Farwell Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 338 Bill Richardson
Ann Coddington Fenner Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 856, 270 John McCain
Edward FitzRandolph William I, King of Scots (d. 1214) 431-432 Barack Obama
Ann Marbury Hutchinson Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 278-281 Jeb Bush
Mitt Romney
Catherine Hamby Hutchinson William I, King of Scots (d. 1214) 433-434 Jeb Bush
Robert Livingston Robert II, King of Scots (d. 1390) 129-130 Jeb Bush
Richard Palgrave Edward I, King of England (d. 1307) 333-334 Jeb Bush
Thomas Trowbridge Hugues Capet, King of France (d. 996) 551-552 Bill Richardson

"RD 600" refers to the page numbers in Gary Boyd Roberts, The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants [Baltimore: Genealogical, 2008] in which details of, and sources for, the descent of the immigrant from the monarch can be found.

In the current popular imagining, during the Salem witchcraft hysteria of 1692, hundreds of women were falsely accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake. In fact, only twenty (6 men and 14 women) died. None were burned at the stake.

One of those convicted of witchcraft and hanged at Salem in 1692 was Mrs. Rebecca Towne Nurse, an ancestor of Mitt Romney.

If he becomes President, Gov. Romney would not be the first US president descended from a Salem witch -- Arthur was a descendant of Susanna North Martin and Taft was a descendant of George Jacobs.

Almost all of the ancestry of almost all of the declared or plausible candidates for President in 2008 is European-derived. The only notable exception is Barack Obama, whose ancestry is half-African.

For several of the 2008 candidates, their ethnic/national ancestry can be described as follows:

Jeb Bush:

        64.685 058 593 75   %      English
        16.796 875          %      German
         3.906 25           %      Unknown
         3.747 558 593 75   %      Welsh
         3.173 828 125      %      Irish
         2.441 406 25       %      Scottish
         2.075 195 312 5    %      French
         1.562 5            %      Italian
         0.732 421 875      %      Dutch
         0.439 453 125      %      Swedish
         0.390 625          %      Moravian
         0.048 828 125      %      Belgian

Hillary Rodham Clinton:

        43.75               %      English
        31.25               %      Welsh
        13.281 25           %      Scottish
        11.621 093 75       %      French
         0.097 656 25       %      Dutch

Chris Dodd:

       100.0                %      Irish

John Edwards:

       100.0                %      North American Colonial

Rudy Giuliani:

       100.0                %      Italian

Mike Gravel:

       100.0                %      French-Canadian

Barack Obama:

        50.0                %      Luo
        37.255 859 375      %      English
         4.687 5            %      German
         3.125              %      Irish
         3.125              %      Scottish
         1.562 5            %      Welsh
         0.195 312 5        %      French
         0.048 828 125      %      Dutch

George Pataki:

        50.0                %      Hungarian
        25.0                %      Irish
        25.0                %      Italian

Ron Paul:

        87.5                %      German
        12.5                %      Irish

Bill Richardson:

        75.0                %      Mexican
        25.0                %      New England (Massachusetts and Maine) Yankee

Mitt Romney:

        40.625              %      English
        28.125              %      North American Colonial
        18.75               %      Scottish
        12.5                %      German

William Addams Reitwiesner