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  • #74 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: The New England Ancestry of Actor Richard [Tiffany] Gere

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : April 18, 2008
    The actor Richard Gere has almost never appeared in a bad movie. I prefer the “edgy” early work—Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977), Days of Heaven (1978), American Gigolo (1980), and the American remake of Breathless (1983). Many members, however, may prefer his more mellow roles in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), The Cotton Club (1984), King David (1985), Pretty Woman (1990), And the Band Played On (1993), Runaway Bride (1999), Autumn in New York (2000), Chicago (2002), Shall We Dance (2004), and I’m Not There (2007). A longtime fan, I was delighted when NEHGS member Chris Robinson of Trenton, Florida, kindly sent me an outline of Gere’s descent from Mayflower passengers Francis Cooke and Stephen Hopkins. After spending several “fun” evenings on Gere’s ancestry, I am happy to report royal descents through Robert Abell and Oliver Manwaring (immigrant ancestors of possible royal descent include John Whitcomb and Josiah Winslow); Mayflower lines from Samuel Fuller, Francis Eaton, the murderer John Billington, George Soule, Richard Warren (twice), Degory Priest, William Brewster, and a sister of Isaac Allerton, as well as Hopkins and Francis Cooke (this last also twice over); a possible kinship to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and Princes William and Harry through John Hawks; and presidential connections via Robert White and Bridget Allgar, Samuel or Joseph Morse, William Hyde, Thomas Lord and Dorothy Bird, the several Fiske immigrants, and the le Mahieu parents-in-law of Francis Cooke. I’m also delighted to report that I share (John) Andrews, Calkins, Gaylord, Hough, Hull, (William) Peck, and (Thomas) Scott lines with probably my favorite actor.

    Richard Tiffany Gere was born in Philadelphia 31 Aug. 1949, and appears on p. G-691 of The Families of George Geer and Thomas Geer: A Supplement to the 1923 Geer Genealogy, Part 2, published by the Geer Family Association in 1991. He is the eldest son and second child of Homer George Gere (b. 1922) and Doris Ann Tiffany (b. 1924), and grandson of Albert William Gere (1889-1967), Hazel Marjorie Snover, William Stanton Tiffany, and Anna Rebecca Stevens. The actor is #1476-4-3-2 and his grandfather is treated on p. G-496 of the same work, where the parents of Hazel Marjorie are given as Franklin Pierce Snover and Helen R. Clark, both of whom I have not further traced. The actor’s great-grandparents, George Lane Gere (1848-1932) and Mary Alworth (1848-1933), are treated on p. G-361 of Part 1 of the 1991 set, and the parents of these last are Albert Rezin Geer (1822-1903; his son changed the spelling), Sarah E. Tewksbury (b. 1825), William Alworth (b. 1813), and Eliza Garnsey/Guernsey (1808-1900). Albert Rezin Geer is #959 on p. G-214 of the same Part 1 and on p. 192 of Walter Geer’s The Geer Genealogy (1923). The actor’s father and grandfather were natives of Brooklyn, Pennsylvania, where Geers/Geres and Tewksburys were pioneer settlers from New England. Eliza Garnsey/Guernsey appears on p. 315 of The Garnsey-Guernsey Genealogy, 2nd ed. (1979), by Eva Garnsey Card, Howard Abram Garnsey, and Judith L. Young-Thayer, and for Sarah E. Tewksbury, daughter of Jonathan Tewksbury (1783-1860) and Lucinda Fuller (1792-1880), see a Tewksbury manuscript (SG TEW 6) given to NEHGS by John L. Tewksbury in 1954, #106 (formerly 97), p. 108 (formerly 99).

    William Stanton Tiffany (b. 1892), also a native of Brooklyn, Penn., the actor’s maternal grandfather, appears as #1770 on p. 116 of The Tiffanys of America (1901) by Nelson Otis Tiffany, and my colleague Christopher C. Child nicely found for me the listing for his family in the 1930 census (T626, roll 2151, ED 6, p. 313), where his wife is confirmed to be Anna S., age 39, and the daughter Doris A. is said to be 5. W. S. Tiffany was the son of Nelson Leroy Tiffany (#1739, b. 1846, m. 1872) and Evaline H. Williams, and the grandson of Elisha Thomas Tiffany (b. Dimock, Penn. 1821, m. there 1843) and Julia Anne Hempstead, this last (according to an IGI patron submission) b. Groton, Conn. 1823, daughter of Gordon/Gurdon D. Hempstead (1799-1866) and Mary L. Newton (1800-1878), for whom see George P. Donehoo, ed., Pennsylvania: A History [Biographical, vol. 9] (1926), p. 243. E. T. Tiffany was the son of Preston Tiffany and Eliza P. Mack, and grandson of Thomas Tiffany, Meletiah Tingley, Elisha Mack, and Lydia Lord, covered respectively in the already-cited Tiffany genealogy and in equivalent works on the Tingleys, Macks, and descendants of Thomas Lord of Hartford.

    I have not traced the actor’s ancestry via William Alworth, F. P. Snover, Ellen R. Clark, Anna Rebecca Stevens, or Evaline H. Williams. But some or most of the ancestry of Albert Rezin Geer (son of Stephen Geer, 1772-1847, of Waterford, Penn., and Abigail Olney, not treated in the 1889 Olney genealogy), Jonathan Tewksbury, Lucinda Fuller, Eliza Garnsey/Guernsey, Thomas Tiffany, Meletiah Tingley, Elisha Mack, Lydia Lord, Gordon/Gurdon D. Hempstead, and Mary L. Newton is readily traceable from printed sources. Descents from the various families listed above can be outlined as follows, in the usual format for this column and in order of the actor’s just-listed early nineteenth-century ancestors, mostly Massachusetts or Connecticut migrants to Brooklyn or Dimock, Susquehanna Co., Penn., or Scranton in Lackwanna County.
    1. Lucinda Fuller (wife of Jonathan Tewksbury): Consider Fuller & Ruth Elms; Archippus Fuller & Maria Rider, Elkanah Elms & Sarah Lazell; Seth Fuller & Sarah Wright, Samuel Rider & Mary Silvester, Ignatius Elms & Sarah Bennett, Simon Lazell & Margaret Cooke; Samuel Fuller (III) & Mercy Eaton, Adam Wright & Sarah Soule, John Rider & Hannah Barnes; Joseph Silvester, Jr. & Hannah Bartlett, Rodolphus Elms, Jr. & Bethiah Dodson, Ebenezer Bennett & Ruth Combs, Jacob Cooke, Jr. & Lydia Miller; Samuel Fuller, Jr. & ____, Samuel Eaton & Martha Billington, Richard Wright & Hester Cooke, John Soule & Rebecca Simmons, Samuel Rider, Jr. & Sarah Bartlett, Joseph Bartlett & Hannah Pope, Rodolphus Elms & Catherine Whitcomb, Francis Combs & Mary Barker, Jacob Cooke & Damaris Hopkins, John Miller & Margaret Winslow; Samuel Fuller (MP) & Bridget Lee, Francis Eaton (MP) & Sarah ____, Francis Billington & Christian Penn, Francis Cooke (MP) & Hester le Mahieu (parents of Hester and Jacob), George Soule (MP) & Mary Buckett/Becket, Robert Bartlett & Mary Warren (parents of Sarah and Joseph), John Whitcomb (poss. RD) & Frances Cogan, John Combs & Sarah Priest, Stephen Hopkins (MP) & Elizabeth ____, Josiah Winslow (poss. RD) & Margaret Bourne; John Billington (MP), murderer, & Elinor ____, (Jacques?) le Mahieu & Jeanne ____ (FP), Richard Warren (MP, TP) & Elizabeth Walker (TP), Degory Priest (MP) & Sarah Allerton (sister of Isaac Allerton [MP]). I have not indicated above which wives or children of Mayflower passengers accompanied their husbands or parents on that ship.

    2. Eliza Garnsey/Guernsey (wife of William Alworth): Joseph Garnsey & Sarah Rexford, the latter of whom I cannot readily trace; John Garnsey, Jr. & Azubah Buell; John Garnsey & Anna Peck, Ebenezer Buell & Dorothy Gillette; Jeremiah Peck, Jr. & Rachel Richards, John Buell & Mary Loomis, Joseph Gillette, Jr. & Mary Griswold; Jeremiah Peck & Joanna Kitchell, Obadiah Richards & Hannah Andrews, John Loomis, Jr. & ____, Joseph Gillette & Elizabeth Hawks, Joseph Griswold & Mary Gaylord; William Peck & Elizabeth ____ (my ancestors, hereafter GBR, for whom see column #58 in this series), John Andrews & Mary ____ (GBR), John Loomis & Elizabeth Scott, John Hawks (poss. brother of Adam Hawkes of Saugus, Mass. [PW]) & Elizabeth Browne, Samuel Gaylord & Elizabeth Hull; Joseph Loomis & Mary White, Thomas Scott & Anne ____ (GBR), William Gaylord & ____ (GBR), George Hull & Tamsen Michell; Robert White (FP) & Bridget Allgar (FP), Thomas Hull & Joan Pyssing (GBR).

    3. Meletiah Tingley (wife of Thomas Tiffany): Thomas Tingley & Martha Day; Timothy Tingley & Ruth Partridge, Benjamin Day (whose sister Dorcas married John Fillmore, Jr., and was a great-grandmother of Millard Fillmore) & Margaret Robinson; Nathaniel Partridge & Lydia Wight; Ephraim Wight & Lydia Morse; Daniel Morse & Lydia Fisher; Samuel Morse (FP, probable first cousin of Joseph Morse of Ipswich [TP]) & Elizabeth Jasper (FP), Anthony Fisher [Jr.] & Mary Fiske; Nicholas Fiske & ____; Richard Fiske (TP) & ____ (TP).

    4. Lydia Lord (wife of Elisha Mack): Joseph Lord, Jr. & Sarah Wade; Joseph Lord & Abigail Comstock; Thomas Lord & Marah/Mary ____; William Lord & ____; Thomas Lord (TP) & Dorothy Bird (TP).

    5. Gordon/Gurdon D. Hempstead: Stephen Hempstead & Martha Tinker; William Hempstead & Lydia Hempstead, cousins, Joseph Tinker & Margaret Douglas; Stephen Hempstead & Sarah Holt (parents of William), Joshua Hempstead & Lydia Burch, John Tinker, Jr. & Elizabeth Daniels, William Douglas, Jr. & Mary Lucas; Joshua Hempstead, Jr., noted diarist, & Abigail Bayley (parents of Stephen and Nathaniel), Nathaniel Hempstead & Mary Hallam, John Tinker & Hannah Harris, William Douglas & Sarah Denison; (prob.) John Harris & Hannah Manwaring, Richard Douglas & Margaret Abell, George Denison & Mary Wetherell; Oliver Manwaring (RD) & Hannah Raymond, William Douglas, Jr. & Abiah Hough, Caleb Abell & Margaret Post, Daniel Wetherell & Grace Brewster; William Hough & Sarah Calkins (GBR), Robert Abell (RD) & Joanna ____, John Post & Hester Hyde, Jonathan Brewster & Lucretia Oldham; William Hyde (TP) & ____ (TP), William Brewster (MP) & Mary ____ (MP). The Mayflower lines above are largely derived from the various five-generation volumes, plus the four-generation pamphlets for Soule and Brewster and, for Consider Fuller, V.D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, vol. 2 (F-M) (1990), pp. 1284-85. The ancestry of Eliza Garnsey/Guernsey is contained largely in the above-cited Garnsey/Guernsey genealogy, plus volume 2 of The History of Windsor, Connecticut (1891) by Henry Reed Stiles, and 1908 Loomis, 1989 John Hawks, 1990 Griswold, 1872 John Andrews, and 1994 George Hull genealogies. I also made some use of Buell and Gillette articles in The American Genealogist and the William Peck section in Families of Ancient New Haven by D.L. Jacobus. For the ancestry of Meletiah Tingley I used the multi-volume Tingley genealogy and the flawed but still useful Tingley-Meyers multi-ancestor compendium (which also has Elmes and Whitcomb chapters), Wight and Morse genealogies, and Morse, Fisher, and Fiske English-origins articles in the Register. Gere’s Lord descent is well covered in the above-mentioned 1946 Thomas Lord of Hartford genealogy by Kenneth Lord. For the ancestry of Gordon/Gurdon Hempstead I used, in addition to the mugbook cited above, the manuscript compilation by Charles Dyer Parkhurst on New London families (for Hempstead and Tinker especially), a 1929 Stephen Hempstead genealogy by George Collier Hempstead and William Hempstead Stahl, Register 156 (2002): 273-74 (for Tinker, Harris, and Manwaring), the 1879 Douglas, 1940 Abell, 1963 Denison, and 1864 Hyde genealogies, plus, of course, two of the several William Brewster four-generation pamphlets.

    Thus one of America’s great actors is descended, via New England migrants to the Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania, from a plethora of Mayflower passengers, two immigrants of royal descent to southeastern Connecticut (Norwich and New London), a dozen or more Connecticut families in my own ancestry, a variety of presidential forebears, and two further immigrants of possible royal descent. In addition, I feel sure that the late Princess Diana would have been delighted to claim Gere as a possible American cousin. I wish again to thank Chris Robinson; my correspondents, to whom I am very grateful indeed, often send me remarkable items. In my next column I shall treat the New England ancestry of rock singer Grace Slick, plus an addendum to the New England ancestry of the Beach Boys.
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