Presidential and Famous Cousins
Who are Cousins?
Cousins are people who share a common ancestor. This whole concept would be clear if we called our brothers and sisters our "zeroth" cousin. The common ancestor is a parent. First cousins have a common grandparent. Second cousins have a common great-grand parent and so on. The "removed" term measures the difference in the number of generations to the common ancestor. Thus the children of your second cousin are your second cousins, one time removed. A person may have millions of cousins, but he generally lacks the documentation to identify them.
New England Connections
The early immigrants to New England were self-chosen people. Most of them could read and write. They had very strong and advanced religious and political views. They kept very good records of births, deaths, marriages, land ownership, wills, town council meetings, etc. There few places in the world as well documented for genealogical purposes for the past four centuries as New England. It is a treasure trove of information.
The total immigration to New England between 1620 and 1640 was just 22,000. These early immigrants had large families. Thus there is a reasonable probability for people who have 17th century New England ancestors being cousins and having the documentation to prove these connections. This is the case in the Parrish branch of my family tree.
How Many Distant Famous Cousins Do I have?
I don’t know. I have documented over 300 so far. Here is some background info to help evaluate the situation.
These 22,000 immigrants to New England before 1640, are estimated to have over one hundred million descendants. My family tree research has yielded over 600 great grandparents in America. Of these about 250 are immigrants and 200 of them immigrated to New England before 1640.
I have 5 ancestors on the Mayflower in 1620. The descendants from the Mayflower total over 20 million. I have ancestors on the first Dutch ships to New Amsterdam in 1624. Thus I have roots in the bedrock of early New England.
The limiting factors in finding notable distant cousins are obvious: not all famous people have well researched genealogies up on the Internet. And there is no systematic discovery process to find ancestors common to my tree and their tree. This is just a minor hobby to find and document some of these connections. And it is fun to discover the interconnections between famous people.
U.S. Presidents Who Are My Cousins
For example, 11 U.S. Presidents are my distant cousins. Here are my ancestors common with at least two Presidents. Three Mayflower ancestors are bolded. The genealogy of the Presidents is documented in the authoritative reference "Ancestors of American Presidents" by Gary Boyd Roberts, 2009 edition. Reference pages are given in the tables.
Trace the common ancestor down to my Grandfather, Timothy Maltby Parrish, by clicking on the child in each family.
Famous Cousins aka Notable Kin
While spending many hundreds of hours in libraries in the 1980s researching, documenting and footnoting my family tree, I would sometimes come across famous cousins who, although distant, were famous enough that I enjoyed discovering the connection. Genealogists refer to them as “notable kin”. To demonstrate the connection, I have supplied the common ancestors in the table below.
By clicking on the name of the common ancestor(s) and then the child in each page you can trace down to my grandfather, Timothy Maltby Parrish. This is proof they are my ancestors. You can click on the famous person’s name to get their family tree. Then locate the common ancesor. This demonstrates the famous person is my cousin.
When I first created this page early in the 21th century, it was a challenge to find credible Internet evidence. From necessity, I had to use a variety of sources. And I noticed that in August 2020, that most of the links to genealogical evidence for my notable kin no longer worked or were no longer free. It was time for a reboot of this page.
In August 2020, I fixed or updated my existing links to my famous kin's genealogy. When possible I replaced them with FamousKin.com links. I used the ahnentafel format. (See short video explanation.) This allows the user an easy, standardized way to verify my work - simply find the common ancestors from my tree in the ahnentafel of the notable person. In other cases for my cousins, I have supplied a link to the best available family tree like the comprehensive WikiTree.com, which will require more effort than the ahnentafel format to verify the common ancestor. My goal is to provide sufficient evidence to prove their connection to the common ancestor. A few times I had to get creative.
Another nice aspect of the ahnentafel format is that one can sometimes discover multiple common ancestors with the same notable kin. And one can also see that the same ancestors may appear multiple times in one person's family tree. The power of two does not always apply tracing back to early New England roots as I discovered 40 years ago.
Click on the descriptive phrase for the Wikipedia article of the notable person to read about their accomplishments.
The cumulative effect of seeing 300 famous or notable cousins is astonishing and worth the effort to create this page! And it is a kind of dividend from all of the effort invested to create my family tree back in the 1980s.
Cousins are sorted into 20 categories with a (count). Their names appear only once & in the highest category.
Interested in more info?
Click "Family Tree" to see my known ancestors in all four branches of my family tree.
Interested in more details?
This section is written for people who want to get into the details to understand what care has been taken to correctly identify common ancestors. Perhaps you have taken the fun step of verifying my work by matching the name of the notable person's common ancestor with the corresponding one in my tree, and have some questions. Let's get into the details of the matching process and answer some of your questions.
Process to identify a Cousin
I scan the list of ancestors of the famous person's ahnentafel starting at Generation 1 and scan back in time. (See short video explanation of ahnentafel.) I'm looking for names that I recognize from my work in the 1980s! And I have the list of Parrish surnames to consult to refresh my memory. Clicking on a surname gives a list of the individuals with that surname on my website.
Clearly the more I do this matching work the easier it gets. I can find Mayflower passengers John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, her parents, or Richard Warren or not in less than a minute in a scan of a famous person's ahnentafel. Then it is fun to check for other common ancestors. There are 20 or 30 surnames where most of the matches occur. You can scan the surnames in the "Our Common Ancestors" column above to see these surnames.
Once I locate a possible common ancestor I have to determine if it is a match, I check the dates and the name of the wife to help confirm the match or not. Dates are often flagged different ways to indicated they are approximate. And there are a number of other factors to consider which I discuss in the next 4 sections which help to determine if there is a common ancestor or not. My goal is to do careful work and only accept matches that are genuine.
Spelling of Surnames may have variations
A good way to demonstrate this is to scroll thru the generations in Lee Marvin's ahnentafel. Notice that the first line of each generation is spelled Marvin until generation 13. There both the historic spelling of Mervyn and the modern spelling of Marvin is shown. At generation 14 it is Mervyn. Also Reinhold Mervin or Mervyn with a date of c1512 or c1514 is the same person.
Rev. John Lathrop is the modern spelling, but when he lived he was Rev. John Lothrop or other variations. He and his wife Hannah House (Howse) have many descendants in America. You will see their names many times as the common ancestors on this page. I have visited the cemetery where he is buried and saw this historical plaque.
Another common example is "Wilcoxson" became "Wilcox". Ralph Hemmenway is the immigrant, but his descendants are "Hemingway" -- e.g., Ernest Hemingway. I have ensured that regardless of spelling differences, it is the same person being referred to as the common ancestor.
Names are Repeated Generation to Generation
Care must be excercised when matching names. For example, in my tree there are men 5 generations in a row named "John Meigs". Try it: click here and click on the child in each generation named John Meigs. To make a match between the notable person ahnentafel and my family tree, I check the dates of the person and the name of the wife to ensure that, for example, "John Meigs" is the correct "John Meigs". Remember many dates are approximate and marked with "c" or "abt".
Surname of Wife is Missing or Different
In England in the 1500s the maiden name of the wife was not recorded in some cases. For example, a woman named "Mary" with an unknown surname I refer to as "Mary X". Genealogists over time have figured out the name of Mary X in some cases. For example, the maiden name of the wife of famous Mayflower passenger Richard Warren was not known for sure until 2002. Read the explanation.
There is often a circumstantial case for picking/matching a surname for the wife in the cases of partial information. These surnames are usually described as "probable", and have been done in old histories.
In the few cases where the name of the wife is different between my tree and the notable person's tree, the reason is typically due to remarriage. If I am convinced the husband is a correct match, then I have a common ancestor.
Common Ancestor Maybe in England
When I worked on my family tree in the 1980s, I started tracing my tree back to the immigrant ancestors and generally stopped there or perhaps one generation back in England or Holland. I had already identified over 600 ancestors and this was a practical point to stop. Also I was tracing the direct ancestral lines back and did not record all of the children in the family at each generation, only my direct ancestors. Otherwise, I would have had several thousand names.
However, FamousKin.com goes back 16 or more generations. So if I fail to prove in some notable people as distant cousins because I need another few generations to find the common ancestor, I use WikiTree.com. This is a very detailed website with geographical locations, lists of the the brothers and sisters, etc.
In one common case I demonstrate that Reinhold Mervyn is the grandfather of Reinhold Marvin. I use this line of text:
"Grandfather of Namesake Reinhold Marvin".
The organization of this webpage allows every visitor to check my work on every famous cousin. My goal is to prove each of these famous cousins is in fact a famous cousin. And everything is transparent and my information can be verified other places.
There is often more than one couple in common between the ahnenetafel of the famous person and my family tree. For example, former Governor Weld, and I share at least a dozen couples who are common ancestors. He, like me, has deep family roots in New England. It was a coincidence that I spoke to him twice in 2016 before knowing our connection.
Final observation: using FamousKin.com is a very convenient way to find famous or notable cousins, but many of their trees are flagged as "in progress". So using Famouskin.com understates the actual number of famous/notable ancestors because it is missing many of their ancestors at this point in time. I use WikiTree.com to find common ancestors to some famous people, who I know from reading Gary Boyd Robert's authoritative books, are in fact cousins. One example, is First Lady Beth Truman. Since her common ancestors are missing on FamousKin.com, I cannot use it yet.