Have you ever heard the expression, “If you want your genealogy traced for free, run for public office”? All presidents’ family histories have been traced by a variety of researchers, and much of this research is accessible to you. On the Web, the place to start digging is Roberts’ US Presidential Ancestor Tables at www.rootsweb.com/~rwguide/presidents/. Pick a president, any president, and you’ll instantly find a list of surnames in his pedigree. The site shows numbered pedigree charts that trace backward (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.), so while you may be able to determine if you share any of the presidents’ ancestors, it won’t tell you if you’re among their descendants. Online, Roberts omits the last two generations of most presidents’ trees; these can be found in his book, Ancestors of American Presidents (Boyer, $37.50).
Other books of presidential genealogies you may find useful include:
- American Presidential Families by Hugh Brogan, Charles Mosley and David Prebenna (MacMillan Library Reference, $154.25), which offers biographical details, descendant charts, male line ancestry and collateral descendant charts for each president.
- Burke’s Presidential Families of the United States of America by Marcus Cunliffe, Lesley Hume Cunliffe and David Williamson (Burke’s Peerage, $69.95), a guide to the first families of America, covering the character, career, writings, ancestry, wives, siblings and descendants of 39 US presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan.
- The Descendants of the Presidents of the United States of America, 2nd revised edition, by Walter L. Zorn (W. L. Zorn, out of print).
An online alternative to Roberts’ site is Genealogy of the US Presidents at www.dcs.hull.ac.uk/public/genealogy/presidents/, the University of Hull’s searchable database of presidential GEDCOMs based on Funk & Wagnalls’ The Presidents. Search the presidential index (ordered by president) or scan the master index of surnames linked to presidential family trees. For example, when I scanned the index for surnames in my family tree, I came across the name “Nan Britton” (Britton being one of my family surnames). I clicked on her name and found her birth date, her spouse (Warren G. Harding) and their child’s name. Alas, she was not my ancestor, but at least I ruled her out! Another way to search the database is by a string, name or date. If you want a president’s entire GEDCOM, you can download the compressed file here and “unzip” it on your own computer.
McClure suggests checking out presidential ancestries included in other online databases, such as World Family Tree at www.familytreemaker.com/wftonline/ (access by subscription only), Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File at www.familysearch.org, and WorldConnect at worldconnect.rootsweb.com. Another site, Presidential Genealogies on the Web at homepages.rootsweb.com/~godwin/reference/prez.html, will help you find more genealogical information on individual presidents.
If you want to use software for your search, there’s even Presidential Family Forest, a database that digitally maps out and connects known family ties of US presidents, vice presidents and their wives. The database is part of the American & European Family Forest Millennium Edition CD-ROM (Millisecond Publishing, $49). See www.familyforest.com for more information.
Susan Wenner is associate editor of Family Tree Magazine.