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  • Notable Kin: Nantucket Soup

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : February 1986
    This article, if well received by NEXUS readers, will be the first of a series of columns that explore interesting, amusing, and sometimes surprising genealogical connections between notable Americans. Some columns may simply report new discoveries or the traceable ancestry of currently newsworthy figures.  Others will be organized topically, and given my own personal interests readers may expect considerable coverage of presidential, Princess of Wales, royal descent, English origin, Mayflower, Connecticut or Connecticut Valley and some southern genealogical subjects.  Salem witches, Indian princesses, western outlaws and Hollywood “personalities” may be treated as well.

    I should like to begin this new column by noting some samples of the most highly concentrated endogamy, or cousin intermarriage, that I have found in the ancestry of notable New Englanders.  Such intermarriage occurred on Nantucket, which given its long whaling hegemony is unquestionably the most historically important island in our region.  As all anthropologists will readily tell you, islands, particularly small islands, produce highly tribal societies, Nantucket, however, is unique.  Not only American, a part of New England and Massachttsetts, and before its eclipse by New Bedford the principal single center of the world-wide whaling industry, it was also, from the early eighteenth century onwards, largely Quaker, both a magnet for Cape Cod Quakers often of Mayflower ancestry and a springboard for much migration south, especially to North Carolina (and often thence to Ohio and Indiana).  A few Nantucketers figure as well in the ancestry of some major “Boston Brahmin” families, and various Connecticut and New York connections can be traced also.

    In his 1924 History of Nantucket, County, Island and Town, Alexander Starbuck traced, four, five or six generations of male-line descendants of Nathaniel Barnard, George Bunker, Tristram Coffin, Thomas Coleman, Peter Folger, Richard Gardner, Stephen Hussey, Thomas Macy, Edward Starbuck, Richard Swain and William Worth.  Most of these 11 Nantucket sires —  Bunker, Coffin, Folger, Gardner, Hussey, Macy and Starbuck especially figure repeatedly in the ancestry of much of Nantucket’s native population after 1750.  Two  Coffin and Starbuck  are forebears of all 10 notables treated below and probably of almost all noted Americans except Benjamin Franklin (whose mother was a daughter of Peter Folger) who have any Nantucket ancestry.  By the heyday of the whaling period, when many young Nantucketers had over a half-dozen or even 10 or more Coffin and Starbuck lines, their community had indeed become a genealogical “soup.”

    Listed below are ten major figures in American history, or their wives, who had some Nantucket ancestry, together with some notes on the extent of these connections (i.e. their own or a forebear’s immersion in this “Nantucket soup”).  Included are three descendants of Nantucket migrants to North Carolina (Beard, Ervin, and O. Henry,. of whom Beard was born in Indiana); three “Boston Brahmins" (the two Adamses and Brooks); Mrs. Lindbergh and Mrs. Roosevelt among Connecticut-derived and New York descendants of Nantucketers; one native of the island (Lucretia Coffin Molt); and one daughter of nineteenth century Quaker migrants to Ohio and Arkansas (Mrs. Hunt).  I have noted Mayflower (mostly Howland) descents for the first seven and listed connections also to the single Nantucket settler, William Gayer (brother of Sir John Gayer, Governor of Bombay, and son-in-law of Edward Starbuck), who was once thought to be of royal descent.  For an amusing disproof of this alleged line see the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine 28 (1973):14-29.

    For reasons of space the connections stated below cannot be fully charted or documented.  A few sources, however, can lead readers to most of the information from which, if you also have Nantucket ancestry, you can chart your own kinship to the figures below.  For Phillips Brooks see a chart of his full known American ancestry (TP Bro 2034) in the tabular pedigree section of the NEHGS library; for the connection to the Adamses see Leverett Saltonstall, Ancestry and Descendants of Richard Saltonstall (1897), pp.132, 135-36; and for the Gorham descent of Mrs. Roosevelt see Henry S. Gorham, “The Gorham Family” (typescript at NEHGS), Vol. 5 (1932), pp. 208-208A.  For C.A. Beard see Ruth Lindenberger, Beard Family History and Genealogy (1939); Samuel James Ervin, Jr., is #12574 in The Mayflower Index and for O. Henry see the chart outlining the bulk of his father’s known American ancestry in Ethel S. Arnett, From England to North Carolina: Two Special Gifts (1964), pp. 84-85.

    The ancestry of H.L. and Lyda (Bunker) Hunt is the subject of Hunt-Bunker and Allied Families (1946), [27] compiled for Mrs. Hunt by the American Historical Company, Inc., of New York.  For Mrs. Lindbergh see, besides the various Lindbergh and Morrow biographies, Gertrude Van Rensselaer Wickham. The Pioneer Families of Cleveland, 1796-1840, Vol. 2 (1914), pp.439-41 (Cutter, Spencer), The American Genealogist 28 (1952):114  (Spencer, Phelps), Lucius Barnes Barbour, Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut (1977), pp. 452, 232 (Phelps, Edwards), and the Register 81 (1927):82-83 (Edwards, Coffin).  For the ancestry and descendants of Mrs. Lucretia Coffin Mott see Thomas C. Connell, Adam and Ann Mott: Their Ancestors and Their Descendants (1890), pp. 321-27.  And for the Nantucket families themselves see, in addition to Starbuck’s history, the five volumes of printed Nantucket vital records (which incorporate the generally superb but occasionally erroneous William G. Folger genealogical records in the possession of the Nantucket Historical Association) and the 1965 Bunker (Vol. 2), 1962 Coffin, 1907 Thomas Gardner, 1868 Macy, and 1984 Starbuck genealogies by Edward C. Moran, Jr., Louis Coffin, Frank A. Gardner, Silvanus S. Macy and James Canton Starbuck, respectively.  For the Folgers, moreover, and the descendants of Benjamin Franklin and his siblings, see Leonard W. Labaree, editor, The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1 (1959), LIII-LVI, LVIII-LXVI and charts B, Cb and D.

    The ten notable Americans and their connections to the “Nantucket Soup”:

    1-4.  HENRY (BROOKS) ADAMS and BROOKS ADAMS, the historians, brothers, and their second cousin, PHILLIPS BROOKS, Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, great-grandsons matrilineally of Nathaniel Gorham, Jr., President of the Continental Congress in 1786, and brother of Elizabeth Gorham, wife of John Leighton and matrilineal great-great grandmother of First Lady MRS. EDITH KERMIT CAROW ROOSEVELT, second wife of U.S. President THEODORE ROOSEVELT, JR.  Nathaniel Gorham and Mary Soley, Charlestown residents and parents of Nathaniel, Jr., and Elizabeth, both had Nantucket born mothers, Elizabeth Gardner and Dorcas Coffin, respectively.  These last were the grand-children themselves of a Gardner, two Starbucks, two Coffins and a Gayer. Elizabeth Gardner’s husband, Stephen Gorham, was a great-grandson of John Howland of the Mayflower. 

    5.  CHARLES AUSTIN BEARD, the historian, a great-great-great-grandson of Richard Beard, Jr., early settler of New Garden, North Carolina, and Eunice Macy of Nantucket.  The great-grandparents of this last included a Macy, a Gardner, two Starbucks, a Coffin and a Gayer.  Levina Gifford, wife of William Beard and great-great-grandmother of the historian, was a descendant of both Francis Cooke and George Soule of the Mayflower.

    6-7.  SAMUEL JAMES ERVIN, JR., U.S. Senator from North Carolina, a great-great-great-great-grandson of Nantucket-to-North Carolina migrants Joseph Worth, Jr., and Judith Starbuck, and his fourth cousin twice removed, WILLIAM SYDNEY PORTER, known as O. HENRY, the short story writer, whose paternal grand-mother, Ruth Coffin Worth, was of completely Nantucket ancestry, the great-niece of Joseph, Jr.  The 16 great-great-grandparents of Joseph Worth, Jr., and Judith Starbuck included a Worth, a Macy, two Gardners, a Hussey, a Bunker, two Starbucks, two Coffins, a Gayer, a Folger and a daughter of John Howland of the Mayflower.  The 32 great-great-great-grandparents of Ruth Coffin Worth included two Worths, two Macys, six Gardners, two Husseys, four Bunkers, two Starbucks, two Coffins, a Folger and a daughter and grand-son of John Howland.

    8.  MRS. H(AROLDSON) L(AFAYETTE) HUNT, JR., born Lyda Bunker, wife of the Texas oil billionaire, mother of oilmen Nelson Bunker Hunt, William Herbert Hunt, and Lamar Hunt, and of “Forbes 400” members Mrs. Margaret Hunt Hill and Mrs. Caroline Hunt Sands Schoellkopf, and granddaughter of Charles Waldo Bunker and Lydia Starbuck.  The 16 great-grandparents of Charles Waldo Bunker included two Bunkers, four Gardners and two Coffins.  Over half of Lydia Starbuck’s forebears were non-Nantucketers; her 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents, however, included two Starbucks, two Coffins, a Gayer, a Bunker, two Folgers, a Gardner and a Hussey.

    9.  MRS. ANNE SPENCER MORROW LINDBERGH, authoress and wife of CHARLES AUGUSTUS LINDBERGH, JR., the aviator.  Mrs. Lindbergh was eighth in descent, via the Cutter, Spencer, Phelps and Edwards families, from Christian Coffin, died 1760, the Nantucket wife of Timothy Williamson and John Edwards, this last of Hartford. Christian’s grandparents included a Coffin, a Gayer and a Starbuck.

    10.  MRS. LUCRETIA COFFIN MOTT, the Nantucket-born Quaker preacher, reformist and feminist, whose 16 great-great-grandparents included four Coffins, a Gayer, a Starbuck, a Macy, two Gardners, a Folger and a Bunker.


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