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  • Notable Kin: More on the Ancestry of President George Herbert Walker Bush

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : October-November 1989
     In an earlier “Notable Kin” column this year (NEXUS 6[1989]:23-27) I examined the immediate ancestry (for six generations), some earlier forebears, presidential kinships, and royal descents of our new 41st president, George Herbert Walker Bush.  Shortly after that column went to press, Christopher T. Walker, the president’s cousin, put me in contact with Mary Schoedinger, one of the president’s Sheldon kin, and with Meg Scott of Columbus, Ohio, who had earlier prepared a fact sheet and accumulated many local records on the president’s Franklin County, Ohio ancestors.  Mrs. Scott undertook even more Columbus-area research at my request and her findings, plus much readily traceable earlier ancestry of the president through these Ohio forebears, were incorporated into the preliminary edition of Ancestors of American Presidents, published in April.

    In both the NEXUS article and the book I invited additions and corrections, and am glad to report that on the Bush ancestry especially, response has been good. Dr. John Bradley Arthaud checked sources at the State Historical Society of Missouri and contributed the new information for #s 29, 31, and 60 below.  William J. Powers of Acton, Massachusetts, reinvestigated the New York Vanderburgh family and concluded that Bush ancestor #183, Mrs. Susanna Vanderburgh Lewis, was the aunt, not the sister, of Ford ancestor #117, Mrs. Alida Vanderburgh Manney.  Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr., genealogical columnist of the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, mentioned Bush ancestor (and Georgia resident) Clarissa Montfort in his review of my book, and shortly thereafter Helen K. Lyon brought to our attention her Montfort Munford Family of Virginia and Georgia and Allied Families (1978), which outlines much of the president’s early Jamestown ancestry noted below.  Julia Clark of the Oyster Bay Historical Society, several other Long Island scholars, Nixon scholar Raymond Martin Bell, and NEXUS associate editor Julie Helen Otto are interested in the likely Long Island ancestry of Bush ancestor #35, Priscilla Whippo (evidently not Whipple, but patrilineally of Massachusetts origin).  NEHGS volunteer Richard Andrew Pierce found the Jared Bourn genealogy cited below, which covers the parentage and an entire half of the ancestry of Mrs. Anna Fitch Pierce, and called my attention to the birthdate for Nancy R. McCune cited below and on the IGI.  I should like further confirmation of this last fact, and of Nancy R. McCune’s parents as John McCune and Mary Shannon, who are not treated in Thomas F. McCune, McCune Roster (1898).  One final correction to the February NEXUS article is that John Shellman, Jr., #38, was born in Fredericktown, not Frederickstown, Maryland.

    These new additions allow us firstly to identify at least a first name for all 32 of the new president’s great-great-great-grandparents.  They also give the president one, and probably two, Mayflower lines, likely English Leyden ancestors shared with The Princess of Wales and her sons, two more immigrant ancestors of royal descent (for a total of seven), kinships to four additional presidents and somewhat closer kinships to Nixon and Ford, several strands of New York Dutch ancestry, and early Jamestown descents that make Bush “kin-of-kin” to Pocahontas, i.e. a cousin of her Bolling descendants in Virginia.  The proved Mayflower descent (which Caroline Lewis Kardell, Historian General, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and a team of state historians and others have mostly confirmed from local primary sources) is from John Howland, plus Elizabeth Tilley, his wife, and her parents; crucial to it is the burial record, #9600, of “Betsy F. Perce,” at Greenlawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio, which lists her father as Jarvis Wheeler.  The president’s second Mayflower line, probable but unproved from primary sources, is from Francis Cooke.  It depends upon DAR application paper 134906 (a copy of which was kindly sent to me, along with other relevant items and Shellman-Montfort data, from the DAR Library in Washington, D.C., by Eric G. Grundset, its director), wherein Samuel Herrick Butler is said, with dates but without then unrequired places or references, to be the son of Rev. Nathaniel Butler and Sarah Herrick, and the grandson of Samuel Herrick and Silence Kingsley.  This descent appears in several volumes of the Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, but requires further proof.  Both John Howland and Francis Cooke were also ancestors of F. D. Roosevelt; Howland’s younger brother, the Quaker Henry Howland of Duxbury, Massachusetts, is a forebear of Nixon and Ford; and the likely English Leyden ancestors of both Bush and The Princess of Wales are Thomas and Margaret (Williams) Mitchell. This couple’s almost certain son, the immigrant Experience Mitchell of Bridgewater, married firstly Jane Cooke, daughter of Francis, and secondly Mary ___; probably by Mary, not Jane, Mitchell was also a forebear of William Howard Taft.  Via the Howlands Nixon and Bush are ninth cousins four times removed. 

    The president’s sixth immigrant ancestor of royal [157] descent is Robert Livingston the elder of New York, first lord of Livingston Manor, noted landowner, trader and speaker of the New York Assembly, 1718-25.  Livingston was the founder of probably the most historically prominent family in colonial New York, a clan that included “signer” Philip Livingston, Jr., “Chancellor” Robert R. Livingston, Jr., secretaries of state Edward Livingston and Hamilton Fish, the wives of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, DeWitt Clinton, Robert Charles Winthrop and Robert Fulton, and slightly later Elizabeth Cady Stanton and all American and British Astors descended from John Jacob I’s son, William Backhouse, Sr.  Via common descent from Pieter Tjercks and Geertruyt Philips van Schuylder, Netherlandish parents of David and Philip Schuyler, founders of one of the leading families of Dutch New York (Philip Schuyler was Robert Livingston’s father-in-law), Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., and Bush are seventh cousins three times removed.  And through common descent from Henry Vanderburgh and Maria Magdalena Knight of New York City, Brooklyn, and Poughkeepsie, Presidents Ford and Bush are seventh cousins.

    Georgia resident Clarissa Montfort, Bush ancestor #39, was a native of Amelia County, Virginia, belonged to the well-known Munford family of Tidewater planters, and was a great-great-granddaughter of Robert Bolling (1646-1709) of Charles City and Prince George Counties, Virginia, and his second wile, Anne Stith, and of Richard Kennon, d. 1695-96, of Henrico County, Virginia, and Elizabeth Worsham.  Bolling’s first wife was Jane Rolfe, one of two now accepted granddaughters of Pocahontas, and John Bolling, Robert and Jane’s only child and Pocahontas’s only American great-grandchild, married Mary Kennon, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth.  So President Bush, although not descended from Pocahontas, is twice over a cousin of her American progeny and thus a kinsman of all the figures, including First Lady Mrs. Edith Bolling Gait Wilson, whom I treated in the second “Notable Kin” column, on Pocahontas’s kin and kin-of-kin, in NEXUS 3(1986): 74-76.  Another ancestor of Clarissa Montfort was the royally descended immigrant Col. Walter Aston, an early Virginia burgess.

    Via James Wheeler, Jr., b. 1697, and Elizabeth West, his wife, of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, Garfield and Bush are fourth cousins three times removed, and through common descent from James’s great-grandparents, the immigrants John and Agnes (Yeomans) Wheeler of Newbury, Bush and Hoover are tenth cousins.  Via Robert Millard, d. 1699, and Elizabeth Sabin, his wife, also of Rehoboth, Fillmore and Bush are fourth cousins five times removed.  And through the above-mentioned Fitch and Bourn families of Swansea, President Bush is also descended from Philip Sherman, first secretary of the Rhode Island colony and Henry Sherman of Dedham, Essex.  This last was treated in two earlier “Notable Kin” columns (NEXUS 51[1988]1:56, 58-59, 94,96-97), as an ancestor of a Canadian prime minister (Sir Robert Laird Borden) and two British prime ministers (the 5th Earl of Rosebery and Sir Winston Churchill), as well as, we now know, Presidents Taft, Hoover and Bush.

    Another earlier “Notable Kin” column (NEXUS 5[1988]:19-22) leads us to perhaps the new president’s most extraordinary near American kinship.  DAR application paper 134906 gives the birthdate of Rev. Nathaniel Butler, husband of Sarah Herrick, as 14 June 1761, and so he is the Nathaniel born on that date in Cumberland, R.I., son of Benjamin and Susanna (Whiting) Butler. This couple were also great-grandparents of James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, the gunfighter, Union scout, and U.S. marshal, who is thus, if the above identifications are correct, President Bush’s second cousin four times removed.  And Hickok’s distant kinships to “Johnny Appleseed” (via Morses), ‘Tom Thumb” (via Hanfords), and “Mrs. Tom Thumb” (via Mayhews) extend a few degrees more distantly still, to the new president.

    The formats below parallel those in the earlier column on Bush’s ancestry: six-generation ancestor table (covering largely the newly explored forebears of the president’s paternal grandmother, Flora Sheldon, Mrs. Samuel Prescott Bush, mother of U.S. Senator Preston Sheldon Bush); multi-line ancestor extensions, from numbers 39 and 44-47 to each of the earlier Bush forebears discussed above (minus the early Shermans and ancestors shared by “Wild Bill” Hickok covered in earlier columns); and sources.  Full dates and places, when known, are given for every vital event covered in the table.  For the father of any person listed, double the number; for the mother, double it and add one; for a child, divide the number by two and drop halves.  Places precede dates, and b., d., m. and ca. are abbreviations for born, died, married, and about.  The ancestor extensions cover all generations between Bush ancestors 39 or 44-47 and earlier mentioned forebears, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., backwards in time to the italicized subjects of interest, with semi-colons separating generations and commas separating couples in the same generation.  As in the last “Notable Kin” column, RD indicates an ancestor of royal descent, MP a Mayflower passenger, PW a forebear shared by The Princess of Wales and her sons, TP an ancestor of two or three presidents, as charted in Ancestors of American Presidents, and FP, an ancestor of four or five presidents.  For further notable Livingston, Aston, Mitchell, Howland and Dwight/Whiting descendants see my life’s work, "The Mowbray Connection” (Livingston, Aston), American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales (Mitchell), pamphlets I compiled (and addenda to them, all at NEHGS), on the notable progeny of the Howland brothers of the Plymouth Colony and of John Dwight of Dedham Massachusetts, and various earlier “Notable Kin” columns, several cited above.

    5. FLORA SHELDON (Mrs. Samuel Prescott Bush), b.     Franklin Co., Ohio 17 March 1872, d. “Watch Hill,” R.I. 4 Sept. 1920
    10. ROBERT EMMET SHELDON, b. Tiffin, Ohio I June 1845, d. Columbus, Ohio 21 Jan. 1917, m. Columbus 24 Feb. 1869
    11. MARY ELIZABETH BUTLER, b. Columbus 15 July 1850, d. there 16 Jan. 1897


    20. THOMAS H. SHELDON, b. Providence, R.I. 12 May 1818, d. Franklin Co., Ohio 22 Nov. 1854, m. Franklin Co. 21 Jan. 1844
    21. MARTHA UNCLES, b. Columbus 7 Jan. 1824, d. there 9 July 1912, m. (2) William Merion, Jr.
    22. COURTLAND PHILIP LIVINGSTON BUTLER, b. Clinton, N.Y. 8 March 1813, d. Columbus 9 Aug. 1891, m. Buffalo, N.Y. 16 Dec. 1840
    23. ELIZABETH SLADE PIERCE, b. Providence, R.I. 22 March 1822, d. Columbus 1 March 1901
    29. SARAH AMANDA YANCEY (Mrs. William Gault Wear), b. Glasgow, Ky. 11 June 1819, d. Cooper Co., Mo. 4 Dec. 1879
    31. LUCRETIA GREEN FOREE (Mrs. John Janies HoIliday), m. Randolph [not Monroe] Co., Mo., b. Ky. ca. 1824
    39. CLARISSA MONTFORT (Mrs. John Shellman, Jr.), b. Amelia Co., Va., later of Savannah, Ga., d. 1845
    40. MICHAEL SHELDON (according to Thomas H. Sheldon’s burial record)
    41. MARY --- (according to Thomas H. Sheldon’s burial record)
    42. JAMES UNCLES, b. Bradford, England 5 Aug. 1794, d. Columbus, Ohio 25 Jan. 1835, m. Franklinton, Ohio 26 Sept. 1816
    43. ELIZABETH (BETSEY) CRISWELL or KISWELL, b. Lancaster, Pa.
    44. SAMUEL HERRICK BUTLER, b. Bennington, Vt. 12 Feb. 1785, d. Columbus 13 Dec. 1851, m. Waterford, N.Y. 26 June 1806
    45. JUDITH LIVINGSTON, b. Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 4 Sept. 1785, d. Columbus 28 Feb. 1858
    46. LEVI PIERCE, b. Rehoboth, Mass. 8 June 1797, d. 1838, m. Rehoboth 9 March 1818
    47. BETSEY S(LADE?) WHEELER, b. Rehoboth 30 May 1800, d. Columbus 23 Feb. 1881
    60. JOSEPH HOLLIDAY, b. Ky. 15 Sept. 1789, d. Monroe Co., Mo. 17 Dec. 1870, m. Bourbon Co., Ky. 18 March 1816
    61. NANCY R. McCUNE, b. Bourbon Co. 16 June 1799, d. Mo. 1834


    39. Clarissa Montfort: Robert Munford/Montfort & Anne Brodnax; James Munford & Elizabeth Bolling; Robert Munford & Martha Kennon, Robert Bolling, Jr. & Anne Cocke; Richard Kennon & Elizabeth Worshamn, Robert Bolling & Anne Stith, Richard Cocke the Younger & Elizabeth (Littleberry?); Richard Cocke & Mary Aston; Walter Aston (RD) & Hannah Jordan.
    44. Samuel Herrick Butler: (alleged) Nathaniel Butler & Sarah Herrick; Benjamin Butler & Susanna Whiting, Samuel Herrick & Silence Kingsley; Samuel Kingsley (III) & Mary ___; Samuel Kingsley, Jr. & Mary Washburn; John Washburn, Jr. & Elizabeth Mitchell; Experience Mitchell & Jane Cooke; (almost certainly) Thomas Mitchell (PW, TP) & Margaret Williams (PW, TP), Francis Cooke (ME, TP) & Hester le Mahieu (TP).
    45. Judith Livingston: Gilbert James Livingston & Susannah Lewis; James Livingston & Judith Newcomb, Richard Lewis & Susannah Vanderburgh; Gilbert Livingston & Cornelia Beekman, Henry Vanderburgh (Hendrick van der Burgh) (TP) & Maria Magdalena Knight (TP); Robert Livingston (RD) & Alida Schuyler; Philip Pieterse Schuyler & Margareta van Slichtenhorst; Pieter Tjercks (TP) & Geertruyt Philips van Schuylder (TP).
    46. Levi Pierce: Isaac Pierce & Anna Fitch; William Fitch & Hannah Bourn; William Bourn, Jr. & Mary Sheffield; William Bourn & Hannah Sherman; John Sherman & Sarah Spooner; Philip Sherman & Sarah Odding.
    47. Betsey S(lade?) Wheeler: Jarvis Wheeler & Sarah Horton; Jeremiah Wheeler & Submit Horton, Comfort Horton & Joanna Wood; James Wheeler, Jr. & Elizabeth West (TP), Jonathan Horton & Ann Millard (parents of Comfort), Jabez Wood, Jr. & Joanna Short; James Wheeler (TP) & Grizzell Squire (TP), Nathaniel Millard & Susanna Gladding, Jabez Wood & Hannah Nelson; Henry Wheeler (TP) & Abigail Allen (TP), Robert Millard (TP) & Elizabeth Sabin (TP), Thomas Nelson & Hope Huckins; John Wheeler (FP) & Agnes Yeomans (FP), John Huckins & Hope Chipman; John Chipman & Hope Howland; John Howland (MP, TP) & Elizabeth Tilley (MP, TP); Henry Howland (FP) & Margaret ___ (FP).


    1. Ancestor table additions: Fact sheet and further research on the president’s Columbus-area ancestry, compiled by Meg Scott (Mrs. Ivan R. Scott) of the Franklin County Genealogical Society, largely on file with the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and partly published in The Report (Journal of the Ohio Genealogical Society) 26(1986): 125, a page kindly sent to me by The Report’s editor, Carol Willsey Bell, author of Ohio Guide to Genealogical Sources (1988); burial records of the Greenlawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio, microfilmed by the Franklin County Genealogical Society (Sheldon, Uncles, Butler, Pierce); Ohio Cemetery Records Extracted from the “Old Northwest” Genealogical Society Quarterly (1984), p. 253 (Samuel H. and Courtland P.L. Butler and their wives); Lineage Book, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, vols. 8 (1899), p. 249, 135 (1933), p. 287, 143 (1935), pp. 154-55, and DAR application paper 134906 (Butler, Herrick); F.C. Pierce, Pierce Genealogy, No. IV, Being the Record of the Posterity of Captain Michael, John and Captain William Pierce (1889), pp. 156-59, 255-58 (Pierce, Butler, Sheldon); Elizabeth Prather Ellsberry, Cemetery Records of Cooper County, Missouri, vol. 9 (1982?), p. 87, and Cemetery Records of Monroe County, Missouri, vol. 2 (nd.), p. 43 (epitaphs for #s 29 and 60 above); 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Randolph Co., Mo., p. -269, family 985 (birthplace and age in 1850 of Mrs. Lucretia Green Foree Holliday).
    2. The C. Montfort extension: Helen Kilpatrick Lyon & Mary Harding Vesely, Montfort-Munfard Family of Virginia and Georgia and Allied Families (1978), pp. 1-25; Zelma Wells Price, Of Whom I Came -- Wells- Wise, Rish- Wise, [159] and Otherwise, vol. 6(1963), part I, pp. 3-6 (Bolling), part II, pp. 146-152, 161 (Cocke), part III, pp. 319-20 (Kennon); NEXUS 3(1986): 74-76, and sources cited therein, and V.M. Meyer & J.F. Dorman, Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia 1607-1624/5 (1987), pp. 507-13 (on Pocahontas and her “kin-of-kin”); and for the royal descent of Col. Walter Aston, F.L. Weis & W.L. Sheppard, Jr., Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists, 6th ed. (1988), lines 216, 122A & 30, and (with Arthur Adams), Magna Charta Sureties, 1215,3rd ed. (1979), Line 101 (but ignore the Edward L. Botetourt and Grey-Burley links), Genealogists’ Magazine 21(1983-85): 185-91 (Freville), and Sir Thomas Clifford, 1st Baronet, and Arthur Clifford, A Topographical and Historical Description of the Parish of Tixall in the County of Stafford (1817), pp. 146-49 (Aston).
    3. The S.H. Butler extension: James N. Arnold, Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, vol. 3, part 5 (1892), pp. 18, 87 (birth of Nathaniel Butler and marriage of Benjamin Butler and Susannah Whiting); NEXUS 5(1988):21-22 and sources listed under J.B. Hickok (Butler, etc.); L.C. Herrick, Herrick Genealogy (1885), p. 104; WA. Kingsley, Kingsley Family of America (1980), pp. 422-23 (but the mother of Silence Kingsley was Mary ___, not Mary Packard); Ralph Van Wood, Jr., Francis Cooke of the Mayflower: Four Generations (1986), pp. 1-3, 6-7,20-21,84 and Mr. Wood’s draft page for Samuel Kingsley III, a fifth-generation Cooke descendant; The American Genealogist 56(1980):97-98, 59(1983):28-31 (Mitchell); and G.B. Roberts and W.A. Reitwiesner, American Ancestors and Cousins of The Princess of Wales (1984), pp. 21-30, 61 (Mitchell to Prince William of Wales).
    4. The J. Livingston extension: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (NYGBR) 84(1953):4-6, 12; 85(1954):25-26; 89(1958):240 (Livingston); G.B. Roberts, Ancestors of American Presidents, preliminary edition (1989), p. 164 and sources cited therein, for the royal descent of Robert Livingston the elder of New York; Montgomery Schuyler, The Schuyler Family (1926), p. 11 esp., and NYGBR 69(1938):19-24 (Schuyler Dutch origins); Wallace McLeod, The Family of Richard Vanderburgh of Richmond Hill (1797-1869) (1962), pp. 2-9, corrected by “The Vanderburgh Ancestry of Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jr., and George H.W. Bush” (1989), an unpublished typescript and work-in-progress by William J. Powers, Jr., of Acton, Massachusetts.
    5. The L. Pierce extension: Sherrill R. Bourn, Jared Bourn: A Family History of One Line for Ten Generations (1987), pp. 21-27,93-94 (Bourne, Sherman), and Bertha L. Stratton, Transatlantic Shermans (1969).
    6. The U.S. Wheeler extension: A.G. Wheeler, The Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America. vol. 1(1914), pp. 394-96,429-32,434, H.S. Cole, Hayden Samuel Cole and His Ancestry (1935), pp. 60-62 (Wheeler), and M.L. Holman, Ancestry of Charles Stinson Pillsbury and John Sargent Pillsbury, vol.2 (1938), pp. 1107-1109 (Wheeler); Margaret R. Jenks and Frank C. Seymour, Thomas Horton of Milton and Rehoboth, Massachusetts, vol. 1(1984), pp. 8-9, 27-28; Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine 23(1959-60):57-58, 97-100 (Millard); J.S. Wood, Sr., The Wood Family Index (1966), pp. 231,256 (jabez Wood, Sr. and Jr., and Mrs. Joanna Wood Horton); W. Ripley Nelson, “The Nelson Family of Plymouth, Middleboro, and Lakeville, Massachusetts” (typescript, 1963), pp. 37-44,46; and M.A.S. Anderson, Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale (1929), pp. 449-50,453-57,461-68 (Huckins, Chipman, Howland). Another noted descendant of Jabez Wood and Hannah Nelson was the second Mrs. John George Diefenbaker, wife of the Canadian prime minister; see NEXUS 5(1988):57-59.

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