As the country prepares to elect the 44th U.S. president, genealogy experts at Ancestry.com, the world's largest online family history resource, researched answers to some interesting questions surrounding this year's landmark presidential election. From the lineage of the first president, to the family roots of today's presidential and vice presidential candidates, the findings may evoke an interesting debate.
KING OF AMERICA
Many Americans are fascinated by the British royal family -- but what if America had its own Royal family? The experts at Ancestry.com asked, "Who would be sitting on America's throne today if George Washington had become the king instead of the first U.S. president?" After countless hours of research to trace Washington's family lineage, the following facts emerged to determine which of his descendents would likely be King of America today had the U.S. become a monarchy rather than a democracy in 1789:
-- King George? - According to sources, Washington's leadership during and after the Revolutionary War was held in such high esteem, there were those who suggested he become America's first king.
-- Wading Through the Washingtons - George Washington had no children, so researching the descendants through all of his half- and full-siblings meant approximately 8,000 people could factor into the succession equation, with less than 200 of them bearing the Washington surname.
-- Would-be Royal - Since George Washington had an older half brother and a younger full brother, ultimately there were four possible succession paths. Two of the four paths, with male-only heirs, converge into one heir -- Paul Emery Washington, 82, of San Antonio, Texas -- making him the strongest candidate for king today. Paul Emery Washington also has a son, Bill, who he affectionately calls "Prince William."
-- Valley Forge Connection - Paul Emery Washington was a regional manager at Certain-Teed Corp., a manufacturer and distributor of wholesale building materials for 40 years. The company was headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., where coincidentally General Washington and his army camped during the difficult winter of 1778-79.
In every presidential election, certain U.S. states emerge as critical battleground states key to winning the White House. The experts at Ancestry.com researched the family history of the presidential and vice presidential candidates to learn which of the often referred to battleground states could claim the candidates as their own, with some surprising discoveries.
-- Senator John McCain - McCain has North Carolina roots on both sides of his family tree, extending to the mid 1700s. He is also connected to the state of Arkansas through his paternal grandmother, Katherine Vaulx, a teacher who was born in Arkansas. Katherine's parents, James Vaulx and Margaret Garside, were long-time residents of Arkansas where James was a minister. Family members in his tree served in both the military and the financial sector: his father and grandfather both had careers in the U.S. Navy and great grandfather John S. McCain is documented in the 1900 U.S. Census as the treasurer of Carroll County, Mississippi.
-- Senator Barack Obama - Obama has deep roots in the state of Ohio that go back to 1850. Obama's heritage can be traced back to Ireland, to the small towns of Moneygall and Shinrone in County Offaly, Ireland. Obama's third great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney, immigrated to the U.S. at age 19, landing in New York harbor on March 20, 1850 and then settling in Fayette County, Ohio among Irish relatives. In addition, Obama has roots extending into the swing states of Virginia, Indiana and Missouri.
-- Senator Joe Biden - Biden also has a strong Irish heritage; his ancestors arrived in the U.S. within six months of Obama's Irish family. Both Obama's and Biden's Irish relatives were shoemakers by trade. Biden has deep Pennsylvania ties: Patrick and Catherine Blewett, Biden's 2nd great-grandparents, settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, around 1860, where Patrick worked as a surveyor and a civil engineer.
-- Governor Sarah Palin - Palin has roots in several battleground states, including Ohio, Minnesota and Virginia, however, most of her roots are planted in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Palin descends from three consecutive generations of Michael Sheerans, who originate in Ireland; her great-great-grandfather Sheeran ran a firm called Sheeran & Filler Bottling Company, which shipped products across the Northwest. According to published family and local histories -- through a common ancestor, Rev. John Lothrop who arrived in Massachusetts colony in 1634 -- Palin is a distant cousin to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is touted in history as one of the country's most popular presidents. Gov. Palin is also a 10th cousin to Lady Diana Spencer, Britain's beloved Princess Di, through common ancestors John Strong and Abigail Ford.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
According to a recent independent survey from Ancestry.com, Americans would choose to be a member of the Obama family more than any of four other prominent political families.(1) When asked which family they would like to join most, 21 percent chose the Obamas, followed by 15 percent for the Palins and 15 percent for the Clintons, 14 percent for the McCains and 3 percent for the Biden family. Nearly one-third of Americans surveyed (30 percent), however, said they wouldn't want to become a member of any of these political families.
"Most presidential elections bring up issues about where we've come from and where we're headed as a nation, and this election year is no different," said Megan Smolenyak, Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com. "This is an ideal time for our family history experts to play historical what-ifs and conduct research to answer intriguing questions, as well as look into the family trees of our candidates to learn about where they come from and the ties they have in our great country."
To learn more about how to start researching your family history, log on to Ancestry.com and sign up for a free two-week trial. It's possible that a famous ancestor or past presidential or vice presidential candidate is in your family tree and waiting to be discovered.