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  • #36 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Ancestors of Some New England Inventors & Artists

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : September 7, 1999
    Today I wish to return to a survey review of interesting kinships in Notable Kin, Volume Two, and consider the ancestry of some Yankee inventors and artists. The inventors I chose to study (the requirement was considerable New England ancestry, plus major historical importance) were Eli Whitney Jr., of the cotton gin; Samuel Finley Breese Morse, of the telegraph; Charles Goodyear, of vulcanized rubber (and thus tires and automobiles), Thomas Alva Edison, of the electric lamp, phonograph, and improved projector (leading to utilities, records, and movies); Wilbur and Orville Wright, of the airplane; Elisha Graves Otis, of the elevator (which permitted skyscrapers and the modern city); Elias Howe, of the sewing machine (and thus the apparel industry and ready-to-wear clothes); George Eastman, of the camera; Lee deForest, of radio broadcasting and television; Willis Haviland Carrier, of air conditioning; and Robert Hutchings Goddard, of rockets (and thus the space program and satellites). A few other inventors I treat in other chapters of Volume Two – gun manufacturers Samuel Colt, Oliver Fisher Winchester, and Eliphalet and Philo Remington, plus barbed-wire perfecter Joseph Farwell Glidden, in chapter 39, on “Molders and Mythologizers of the American West”; milk evaporator Gail Borden in chapter 38, on “New England in Texas”; and Nancy Maria Fowler, wife of reaper inventor Cyrus Hall McCormick, in chapter 27, on “Tycoons, New England, and Kings.”

    Presidential connections for these inventors abound. Whitney, Morse, deForest and Goddard were all of royal descent – Whitney via Dr. Richard Palgrave, Morse via Grifffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen, deForest via Mrs. Olive Welby Farwell and Edward Raynsford, and Goddard via William Goddard, Mrs. Mary Lawrence Burnham, and Thomas Trowbridge. The Wright brothers shared Thomas and Elizabeth (Charde) (Cooke) Ford with the late Princess of Wales and her sons, and both the Wright brothers and deForest shared Robert and Martha (Chaplin) Parke with the late Princess as well. Among Mayflower connections, the Wright brothers were almost certainly descendants of Richard Warren, also an ancestor of deForest; Eastman was descended from Gov. William Bradford; and Carrier was descended from Edward Fuller.

    Eli Whitney was a first cousin twice removed of “signer” Roger Sherman, and Whitney’s wife was a granddaughter of the famed theologian Jonathan Edwards, and thus a first cousin of Vice President Aaron Burr. Samuel F.B. Morse was a second cousin twice removed of landscape artist Frederick Edwin Church (see below), and a fourth cousin, via Bowens, of diamond tycoon Charles Lewis Tiffany. Goodyear, of largely New Haven ancestry (see Jacobus’s Families of Ancient New Haven), married Clarissa Beecher, a descendant of RD immigrant Mrs. Elizabeth Alsop Baldwin Fowler (for whom a new RD will appear in the forthcoming, probably 2001, second edition of RD500) and an agnate cousin of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Edison’s New England ancestry is derived largely through a great-great-grandmother, Mrs. Phebe Baldwin Ogden of the Newark, N.J. Baldwins, married to an Ogden of Elizabethtown, and descended from Baldwins, Wards, Cranes, Treats, and Tapps, mostly of Milford and New Haven. The Wright brothers were great-grandsons of a third cousin of steamboat and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.

    Elevator inventor Otis was a second cousin twice removed of siblings James Otis Jr., the patriot, and his sister, poet Mercy Otis Warren, and a third cousin of their nephew, Federalist leader Harrison Gray Otis. Another third cousin of the inventor was a second Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times. Sewing-machine inventor Howe was the grandson of an Elijah Howe Jr. and a Fanny, a Sylvester, and a Molly Bemis ,of whom Fanny and Molly were sisters and Sylvester a second cousin (remember that in pre-Industrial Revolution towns and parishes, 40% of marriages were between first, second or rhird cousins).

    Eastman and Carrier were both descendants of Springfield founder William Pynchon, and the wife of a patrilineal ancestor of Carrier was Salem witchcraft victim Martha (Allen) Carrier. DeForest was a third cousin twice removed of abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry; deForest’s second wife, moreover, was noted civil engineer, architect and suffragist Nora Stanton (Blanch) Barney, granddaughter of feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton. David Goddard (b. 1786), of Royalston, Mass., son of two Goddards, father-in-law of another, and great-great-grandfather of the rocket scientist, was a double third cousin of Utah founder Brigham Young. 


    The ten artists of New England ancestry whom I cover in chapter 29 of Notable Kin, Volume Two, are landcape painter Frederick Edwin Church, lithographer Nathaniel Currier, Jr., sculptor Daniel Chester French, illustrator Charles Dana Gibson II (of the “Gibson Girl”), impressionist Childe Hassam, folk artist Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, magazine illustrator Norman Rockwell, Revolutionary painter John Trumbull, portrait, genre and mural painter John Singer Sargent, much associated with Boston, the “painterly” giants Winslow Homer and Albert Pinkham Ryder, much associated with the sea; and the Wyeth of Chadd’s Ford. In other chapters of Volume Two I treated George Catlin, genre painter of Indian scenes, “cowboy” artist Frederic[k Sackrider] Remington, and “desert” artist Georgia O’Keeffe, wife of photographer Alfred Stieglitz. “Grandma” Moses was three-quarters Irish or Scots, Georgia O’Keeffe was three-quarters Irish or Hungarian, Norman Rockwell was half 19th-century immigrant English, N.C. Wyeth was half Swiss, Frederic[k] Remington was partly German, and Sargent’s mother was a Philadelphian. In American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales, or in Notable Kin, Volume Two, I covered the Thompson/ Freeman line of Gibson; the Hibbard/Luff line of Rockwell; the Charde/Cooke line of Remington; and the Newbold of Burlington Co., N.J., line of Sargent.

    Of royal descent were Church, from Griffith and Margaret (Fleming) Bowen and Mrs. Margaret (Wyatt) Allyn; French, from Mrs. Mary Lawrence Burnham; Gibson, from Mrs. Alice Freeman Thompson Parke, Richard and Muriel (Gurdon) Saltonstall, Robert Gibbs, Thomas Trowbridge, Mrs. Jane Lawrence Giddings, and Mrs. Elizabeth Coytmore Tyng; Rockwell, from Rev. Peter and Grace (Chetwode) Bulkeley, Mrs. Mary Launce Sherman, Mrs. Anne Lloyd Yale Eaton, and Constant Southworth; Sargent, from Christopher and Anne (Bainton) Batt; and the Wyeths, from Thomas Trowbridge. Additionally, George Catlin shares the problematic RD of Gov. William Leete of Conn., and Georgia O’Keeffe was descended from RD Edward FitzRandolph of Mass. and N.J. Mayflower lines or connections can be traced for six of these artists (plus Georgia O’Keeffe, from Edward Fuller) – Church from Gov. William Bradford and Arthur Howland, brother of John; Gibson from Bradford and Richard Warren; “Grandma” Moses from Francis Cooke; Rockwell from Stephen Hopkins and Henry Howland, another brother of John; Ryder from Hopkins, John Howland and Josiah Winslow, brother of Gov. Edward; and John Trumbull from John Alden. Newly treated in chapter 29 are the Strong, Parke and Woodford descents, each also shared with the late Princess of Wales, of Childe Hassam.

    Sargent belonged patrilineally to a major Boston Brahmin clan (at least nine agnate kinsmen, including his father, appear in the Dictionary of American Biography). Gibson was a Brattle, Cotton, Dana and Saltonstall descendant, and a cousin of Henry and Brooks Adams and Francis Parkman, via Cottons; of both Henry Cabot Lodges, via Langdons; and of orator Wendell Phillips, via Walleys. Gibson’s Virginia-born wife, moreover, was a sister of the famed Nancy Astor (later Viscountess Astor), first female British M.P. A first cousin of sculptor Daniel Chester French (of the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard and the monumental Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial on the Washington Mall) was Francis Ormond French, father of Mrs. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt and great-grandfather of Mrs. John Jacob Astor VI. The mother-in-law of artist James Browning (Jamie) Wyeth is a duPont, and two of Jamie’s aunts (sisters of Andrew) also married painters – Peter Hurd and John Willard McCoy Jr. A daughter of this last married artist George Weymouth. Among connections of Revolutionary painter John Trumbull, brothers included patriots Jonathan Jr. and Joseph; a sister was Mary Trumbull, wife of “signer” William Williams; their father was Connecticut (Revolutionary) governor Jonathan Trumbull, a third cousin, nephew by marriage, and great-nephew by marriage was Yale scientist Benjamin Silliman; and a great-niece, Henrietta Frances Silliman, married Yale geologist and zoologist James Dwight Dana. Trumbull the artist was also both a second cousin twice removed and a third cousin twice removed of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (via Wiswalls); and a third cousin once removed (via Aldens) of President John Quincy Adams and (via Drakes) of “signer” Oliver Wolcott.

    Currier, of Currier & Ives, whose parents were Currier cousins but whose mothers’ line is not fully proved, shared Essex County ancestors with Presidents Pierce, Garfield, Arthur, Hoover, Ford and Bush, but was not of royal, Mayflower or witchcraft-victim descent and has no kinship to Princes William and Henry. Winslow Homer likewise had no royal, Mayflower or witchcraft connections but ancient gentry ancestry through Sewalls of Massachusetts, forebears also of Cleveland and Ford.

    In my next column I shall report on the rather startling New England ancestry of a major rock star and icon of the 1960s, who to my surprise shares Root and Stebbing ancestry with yours truly. In future columns or in NEXUS I will also discuss my writing on my own ancestry, and why I have chosen to concentrate on very distant connections to other cultures and centuries rather than my immediate kin or forebears. An ancillary thought will be the lifetime necessary to research the notable progeny and kinsmen – in England and Europe, as well as the United States – of 15th- or 16th-century ancestors. In my case I do indeed have a “gateway forebear of the world” through whom I connect, as if by magic carpet, to many of the figures and cultures that intrigued both my childhood mind and stimulated much of my adult research and scholarship.

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