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All U.S. Presidents But One Descended From King John Of England?

A 12 year-old girl in California claims she has traced the lineage of all but one American President back to King John, who ruled England from 1199-1216:

What do Barack Obama, Thomas Jefferson, George W. Bush and the other past U.S. presidents have in common? Besides holding the coveted title of commander-in-chief, it appears that all of them but one are cousins.  

The remarkable discovery was made by 12-year-old BridgeAnne d’Avignon, of Salinas, California, who created a ground-breaking family tree that connected 42 of 43 U.S. presidents to one common, and rather unexpected, ancestor: King John of England.

‘They all have the trait of wanting power,’ d’Avignon told the station WFMY.

King John, also known as John ‘Lackland’, is renowned for signing the Magna Carta in 1215, which limited the monarch’s power and helped form the British Parliament.

(…)

D’Avignon, a seventh-grader at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, started the project in hopes of tracing back her own bloodline in France, but somewhere along the way she decided to take her genealogical quest to the highest level.

In order to create the family tree, the 12-year-old spent months scouring through over 500,000 names in search of the ‘presidential Adam.’

Her 80-year-old grandfather, who has been tracing roots for nearly six decades, helped her make the presidential links. 

D’Avignon started with the first U.S. president, George Washington, she traced both the male and female family lines to make the connection.

Prior to d’Avignon’s discovery, genealogists were only able to link 22 families of presidents, likely because they only focused on male bloodlines.

The only former commander-in-chief not linked to King John is the eighth president, Martin Van Buren, who had Dutch roots

Color me skeptical about this one, and not just because it appears in The Daily Mail (the story is also covered by a local California television station). It’s always strange to me when these types of genealogy studies find connections between American Presidents and royalty. Is it possible? Certainly it is, but how exactly is someone like Dwight Eisenhower, whose parents were both of German ancestry, related to a King born in England who reigned some 800 years before Ike was born? The same could be said of the Irish-rooted Jack Kennedy, as well as people like Abraham Lincoln.

I’d have to see actual genealogists verify this before believing it.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. TastyBits says:


    … whose parents were both of German ancestry, related to a King born in England who reigned some 800 years before Ike was born? …

    If I am not mistaken, the House of Hanover is one link, and the Russian Czars were also related.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  2. Murray says:

    Although I am as skeptical as you, your statement that

    “… Dwight Eisenhower, whose parents were both of German ancestry, related to a King born in England who reigned some 800 years before Ike was born”

    makes little sense.

    First because some English blood could perfectly have mixed in the primarily German lineage, the same way the Windsors are … German.

    Second, and most importantly, the fact King John reigned 800 years before Ike was born makes it more probable that they may be related, not less as you suggest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  3. @TastyBits:

    The House Of Hanover didn’t take power until the 18th Century.

    John was part of the House of Plantagenet

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  4. John Burgess says:

    This story was first reported in 2010!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. TastyBits says:

    @Doug Mataconis

    I have no idea of whether the original story is correct or not, and I did not follow the link. Your excerpt says related and cousins. After 800 years, most people in England will be related to King John, and many from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales as well.

    The European Royals are mostly especially the Germanic countries. There are direct England to Germany relations, and there are indirect relations – England to Norway to Germany. I am not going to trace all the royal lineages to prove that Germans are related to English, but it is plausible. Being a direct descendant would be more unlikely, but it would not be impossible.

    From the linked article:

    The only former commander-in-chief not linked to King John is the eighth president, Martin Van Buren, who had Dutch roots

    This seems to be unlikely, but BridgeAnne d’Avignon can trace his roots for next year’s project.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  6. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    I wonder how many American Presidents are related to Adam ???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  7. DRS says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Not sure what you’re saying here Doug, but the House of Hanover is directly descended from King John. Of course by the 18th century, so was most of European royalty.

    Assuming this girl actually did this correctly – and I for one don’t think she did, although she may think she did – once you get away from the father-son descent you’d be amazed who’s related to whom. After all, we have 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, etc. etc. And that’s probably only going back 100 to 150 years for most of us.

    Just out of curiosity: how far back can many of us trace our ancestry? I can go back to one g-g-grandfather, on my father’s side, arriving from Alsace-Lorraine after the Franco-Prussian War (when it was not a good time to be in the neighborhood).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  8. Actually, Doug, it’s more than likely that you and I are both also related to King John.

    Geneticists have identified a marker that appears in descendant of Genghis Khan, who lived about the same time as John. This was in the news awhile back. Research among modern Asian men (the marker does not appears in women’s DNA) leads to an estimated 175 million, presently living men who are descended from the Khan. Presumably, there are as many women.

    However, I agree with you that professional confirmation would be nice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Color me skeptical about this one, and not just because it appears in The Daily Mail (the story is also covered by a local California television station).

    The problem with this claim isn’t that it’s true, but more that it’s probably insginificant. If we average 20 year a generation, we’re talking someone who lived 40 generations ago. 2 ^ 40 is more than one trillion.

    So it could just be that nearly everyone with any english heritage can trace a line to any arbitray englishman in the 1200’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. Michael says:

    It’s a number’s game. Every generation doubles the number of familial connections.

    So 800 years, with an average of 30 years between generations, we get 26 2/3 generations, which is about 67,108,864 connections.

    If we assume only 20 years between generations (40 generations), we get roughly 1,000,000,000,000 connections.

    So it’s not just King John, every US President is probably related to a large percent of the world population from 800 years ago, especially those in Europe and it’s trading partners at the time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  11. jd says:

    Did we just prove evolution?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  12. Rick DeMent says:

    Wouldn’t that mean that that they were also related to Richard the Lion-heart? I mean why stop at John?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2