You might remember Lindsay, Family Tree Magazine‘s hard-working summer intern, from last week’s introduction. This week, Lindsay investigates her family’s supposed connection to Uncle Sam:
I now have 133 (verified) people on my MyHeritage family tree! The most exciting part of my research has been tracing my ancestors back to their homelands. I have discovered that these include, on my father’s side: Italy, Canada (Scotland) and Germany, and on my mother’s side: England, Ireland, Germany and France. It definitely feels like I’m making progress, especially since I hit my first “brick wall” this week! Well, sort of…
I remember that, as a child, I used to tell people I was related to Uncle Sam—you know, the guy on the “I want you” posters. Did I think this would make me popular? I don’t know, but with the exception of a couple retaliatory remarks (“well, I’m related to Abraham Lincoln”), people didn’t really care.
But one incident—that I just can’t forget—is a heated argument I had with a (then) boyfriend on a road trip to Chicago. When I informed him that he was practically dating a celebrity, he told me that I was wrong—I couldn’t possibly be related to Uncle Sam. He went so far as to claim that Uncle Sam wasn’t even a real person!
Well, he is in fact a real man by the name of Samuel Wilson, and he was a meatpacker for the US Army during the War of 1812. So, my goal this weekend was to prove, once and for all that he is, in fact, my ancestor. Easy, right?
Let’s start with the facts: Samuel Wilson was born in Arlington, MA in 1766 and lived in Troy, NY during the War of 1812. He passed away in 1854 (see his grave here on Find-a-Grave). From what I discovered online, he married Betsey Mann and had four children, of which only one (Benjamin) reproduced. Benjamin Wilson (1802-1859) married Mary Wood.
How does this relate to me? In addition to a surplus of unrelated articles about the real Uncle Sam, I was able to dig out a couple of articles from my mom’s genealogy folder.
In the one above, dated May 16, 1931, William Rudd (my great-great grandfather) states: ”’Uncle Sam’ Wilson had a daughter, Caroline Wilson, who became Mrs. Pierce. Mrs. Pierce had a daughter, Mary, who became Mrs. Rudd—and she was my mother, and thus ‘Uncle Sam’ Wilson was my great-grandfather.”
Wait a minute: Caroline Wilson? This name was not once mentioned in my Uncle Sam research. Furthermore, I read that it was only Sam’s son, Benjamin, who had children. Does this mean my ancestors fabricated this alleged ancestor and are, thus, fame-mongers?
I have verified that William Rudd’s father was George R. Rudd (b. 1854) and that he married a woman named Mary (b. 1852). All of the information mentioned in the article above is true, except for the father-daughter relationship between Caroline and Sam.
But, wait! I uncovered some very interesting information in the 1880 census from Cincinnati, OH. According to the census, George and Mary Rudd were living with Caroline Pierce (“mother”, b. 1823 in New York), Samuel Wilson (“uncle”, b. 1827, New York), and John Wilson (“uncle”, b. 1838, New York).
From this, I assume that Caroline’s maiden name was Wilson and she is somehow related (maybe the sister of) Samuel and John Wilson. But because the dates are so off (this Sam Wilson wouldn’t have even been alive in 1812), it doesn’t make sense. Maybe Caroline and Sam Wilson’s father was named Sam—but still, it is probably not Uncle Sam.
I daresay my Rudd ancestors were simply confusing two people of the same name, from the same state (in genealogy, it apparently happens all the time). Am I missing something, Genealogy Insiders? Is it possible Sam fathered an illegitimate child somewhere? Perhaps, but for now, I will have to break the sad news to my family that no, we are not actually related to Uncle Sam.