Four Presidents and a First Lady

1792

Virginia

We are related to one First Lady and three American presidents, plus a fourth president, Thomas Jefferson, by marriage.

Our first Presidential relation was the nation's first president:

  • President George Washington (1732-1799) 3rd cousin of James Philomene Holcombe Common ancestor: Augustine Warner (1610-1674)

The Warner family is discussed in the Virginia story, "Augustine Warner and Cousin George Washington."

The first lady in our family tree is:

  • Dorothea "Dolley" Payne Madison (1768-1849) 3rd cousin of Martha Venable (1751-1826), daughter of Abraham Venable II, one of our ancestors in the Society of Colonial Wars.

Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison, was the First Lady from 1809-1817. Earlier, she often served as a stand-in First Lady during the administration of Thomas Jefferson, who was a close friend and relative by marriage. Jefferson's wife, Jane Randolph Jefferson, had died in 1776. Dolley was known for her social gifts; her talent as a hostess helped define the role of the First Lady.

Our relationship to Thomas Jefferson is through marriage: Dolley Madison was related to Jefferson through her (and our) cousin John Woodson, who married Thomas Jefferson's maternal aunt, Dorothea Randolph:

Dorothea Randolph (1732-1794)

  • Sister of Thomas Jefferson's mother, Jane Isham Randolph (1720-1776)
  • Wife of John Woodson (1730-1798), 2nd cousin of Elizabeth Michaux (1731-1801)

Elizabeth Michaux was the daughter of Abraham Michaux, our ancestor in the Huguenot Society.

Our third Presidential relation, John Tyler, was responsible for the annexation of Texas as the 28th state.

  • President John Tyler (1790-1862) 4th cousin of Martin Luther Hawkins (1788-1840) Common ancestor: Walter Chiles II (1608-1671)

John Tyler was elected vice president in 1840 on the Whig ticket with President William Henry Harrison. Their campaign slogan, based on Harrison's 1811 military victory over Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, was one of the most famous in American political history: "Tippecanoe and Tyler too." It is striking that a military victory over Indians was a major campaign bragging point in 1840.

Tyler became the first vice president to take over after the death of a president when Harrison contracted pneumonia and died one month after taking office. Tyler's one term Presidency was politically tumultuous for many reasons, and in 1844 he agreed to step aside and support James Polk's successful candidacy.

Tyler is best remembered for bringing Texas into the Union. Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836, founding the Republic of Texas, though Mexico never accepted the declaration. Tyler spent four years trying to convince both Texans and members of Congress that the independent territory should become a state. He finally succeeded just before the end of his term in 1845, and Texas joined the Union as the 28th state.

Read more about Tyler's cousin, Martin Luther Hawkins, in the Kentucky story, "A Panther Attacks Dr. Hawkins, Loses." Our common ancestor with President Tyler is Walter Chiles II, one of our ancestors in both the Jamestowne Society and the Society of Colonial Wars.

Our final Presidential relation is through the McKinlay's of Callander, Scotland:

  • President William McKinley (1843-1901) 5th cousin (once removed) of Robert John Bonner (1900-1951) Common ancestor: John McKinlay (1645-?) of Callander, Scotland

McKinley was the last President to have served in the Union Army in the Civil War. He led the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War and maintained the gold standard. He was assassinated by an anarchist on September 6, 1901, at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

Elisha Wilson believed that his family was related to President Woodrow Wilson, but so far our research has not uncovered any connection between the two Wilson families. The author leaves to the next generation the question of which Vice-Presidents we are related to!