First Lady Edith Wilson & Her Ancestor Pocahontas

Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this guest blog post—in celebration of November being Native American Heritage Month—Gena searches old newspapers to find stories about First Lady Edith Wilson and her connection to her famous Native American ancestor, Pocahontas.

When we think of great Native American leaders throughout U.S. history, names like Cochise, Geronimo, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull come to mind. But what about Native American women? Most Americans know the names of only two Native American women: Pocahontas and Sacagawea. Pocahontas, whose mythology was immortalized in a song sung by Peggy Lee and a Disney movie, might be the most familiar Native American woman because she left a sizable number of descendants through her son Thomas Rolf.

Who can claim descent from Pocahontas? At least one First Lady, numerous politicians, and even Confederate General Robert E. Lee, to name just a few. It was estimated in the 1980s that Pocahontas’ descendants probably numbered around 250,000. According to genealogist Gary B. Roberts, those who claim this lineage are through the Bolling line, which are the only known descendants traced beyond the early 18th century.*

Mrs. Woodrow Wilson’s Native American Ancestry

One American whose Pocahontas lineage was well reported was Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, the second wife of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. From the time she became engaged to the president, her family history was a frequent topic in the newspapers.

photo of First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, married to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson

Photo: Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. Credit: Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.

This 1915 newspaper article provides some information about Edith’s family history. It reports that ever since the engagement was announced “there has been a live inquiry for the correct data.” The article provides that data by tracing Edith’s direct line to Pocahontas and proclaims Edith Bolling Galt the ninth in descent from Pocahontas. [Note: the article erroneously states that Pocahontas married Thomas Rolfe; her husband’s name was John Rolfe, and their son’s name was Thomas.]

Fiancee of the President Is Undoubtedly a Direct Descendant of Pocahontas, Idaho Statesman newspaper article 14 November 1915

Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho), 14 November 1915, page 5

In writings about Edith’s foremother, emphasis was placed that someone with “Indian blood” would now reside in the White House. This announcement about Edith’s lineage was also the catalyst for impromptu history lessons found in newspapers across the country. The short life of Pocahontas has been retold often, and—as with any well-told story—inaccuracies creep in. This old newspaper article provides readers with information and images reportedly of Pocahontas.

Unhappy Pocahontas, Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper article 24 October 1915

Richmond Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), 24 October 1915, page 43

The widow Edith Bolling Galt married President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915. Undoubtedly, any presidential wedding results in gifts from a diverse range of well-wishers. The Wilson wedding was no different.

According to this 1916 newspaper article, one item that Edith received was a Pocahontas statuette presented by the Pocahontas Memorial Association. The article points out that Edith Bolling Wilson was related to Pocahontas through her paternal line.

Indian Statuette for Mrs. Wilson; Figure of Pocahontas, Her Ancestress, a Bridal Gift, Broad Ax newspaper article 8 January 1916

Broad Ax (Chicago, Illinois), 8 January 1916, page 3

The news article included this picture of the Pocahontas statuette.

photo of a statuette of Pocahontas given to her descendant, First Lady Edith Wilson

The statuette was not the only Pocahontas-related gift that Edith received while in the White House. Other gifts related to her Native American ancestry included dolls and a portrait of her ancestress presented by the heritage membership organization Colonial Dames.

Pocahontas' Picture Gift; Private Copy of Original Portrait to Be Sent Mrs. Wilson, Oregonian newspaper article 3 March 1919

Oregonian (Portland, Oregon), 3 March 1919, page 14

When Edith Wilson visited England in 1918, this Duluth newspaper article heralded the visit of a descendant of Pocahontas—pointing out it was a little over 300 years since her ancestor made a similar trip. The newspaper article claims: “Only one other American woman [Pocahontas] ever has been received in England with the social and official courtesies which will be lavished upon Mrs. Woodrow Wilson.” The news article goes on to trace Edith’s roots to Pocahontas and even to her early Bolling English roots.

To Be Greeted as Was Pocahontas in 1616; England Prepares for President's Wife, Duluth News-Tribune newspaper article 3 December 1918

Duluth News-Tribune (Duluth, Minnesota), 3 December 1918, page 12

Pocahontas Research Resources

Are you a descendent of Pocahontas? You may be interested in the book Pocahontas’ Descendants: A Revision, Enlargement, and Extension of the List as Set Out by Wyndham Robertson in His Book Pocahontas and Her Descendants (1887), by Stuart E. Brown, Jr., Lorraine F. Myers, and Eileen M. Chappel (the Pocahontas Foundation, 1985).

Gary B. Roberts’ article Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy on the American Ancestors website has additional sources you may be interested in.

Whether or not you have Native American ancestry, dig into GenealogyBank’s historical newspaper archives to find out more about your ancestors, discovering the stories that help fill in the details on your family tree.

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*Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy by Gary B. Roberts. American Ancestors. 1986. http://www.americanancestors.org/an-excursion-into-southern-genealogy/ accessed 11 November 2013.

Genealogy Humor: Unusual & Funny Names of People

Introduction: Mary Harrell-Sesniak is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background. In this guest blog post, Mary shares some of the odd and humorous names she’s run across while researching family history in old newspapers.

Like anyone else, genealogists enjoy a good laugh. Sometimes, when searching through old newspapers, we run across an old article or announcement that provides a welcome chuckle. This can be especially true with some of the old names we find while doing our genealogy research, such as those shown in this Blog post.

Some people seem to think that my own last name is “funny”—to be polite, they often comment that my hyphenated name is “unusual.”

If you think about the name “Mary Harrell,” it somewhat rhymes. Some people find that funny—although it’s an honorable name, and one that suits me well! And I’ve always said: if someone can spell my name correctly, he or she would make a wonderful proofreader!

I often wonder how other families select their children’s names, especially when I encounter people’s names that seem more unusual than mine. Certainly the baby name choices affect the children throughout their lives—and when one has to deal with an unusually outrageous name, hopefully the child will grow up with a good sense of humor.

Preserved Fish

Take, for example, the name Preserved Fish.

Throughout history there have been numerous people by this moniker, including the Preserved Fish who married Mary Shepherd in 1840. The writer of their 1840 matrimonial notice reported:

“Not the first time that a Shepherd has hooked a fish. The victim is a great catch, for, though there is nothing scaly about him, he has plenty of shiners; and his nett income is immense.”

marriage announcement for Preserved Fish and Mary Shepherd, New Bedford Register newspaper article 30 July 1840

New Bedford Register (New Bedford, Massachusetts), 30 July 1840, page 1

Harry Bear

Ever met a Harry Bear? In 1913, Mary Myers married Harry Bear in Hagerstown, Maryland. So Mary married Harry, and was therefore in good company. I counted 25 Harry Bears at Find-A-Grave, which makes one wonder what happened when any of these Bear families gives birth to their first child.

Miss Mary Myers and Harry Bear Wed in Md., Patriot newspaper article 28 October 1913

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 28 October 1913, page 3

Were they subjected to this kind of fairy tale banter?

“So Pappa, how are the three bears? Was this morning’s porridge too cold, too warm or just right—or did Goldilocks come by and eat every bite?”

What about Byrds?

I’ve got a close friend whose maiden name is Byrd. Although she has a fairly common given name (Linda), her parents could have had fun with it. Have you ever heard of Earl E. Byrd, Lady Byrd, or Southern Byrd? And to take this further, there are even a few Byrds who were known to marry a Fish or a Bear.

birth announcement for Kenneth Southern Byrd, Patriot newspaper article 20 December 1915

Patriot (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania), 20 December 1915, page 7

Sterling Silver

It can be funny when people with unusual names work in related industries, such as tailors who were Taylors, aviators who were Pilots, funeral directors who were Graves, and Silvers and Sterlings who were jewelers. This report from 1961 notes that Mrs. Sterling Silver was a clerk at C. H. Lee’s Silver and Jewelry Shop, and that her first name was Goldie!

Funny Old Town, Seattle Daily Times newspaper article 27 November 1961

Seattle Daily Times (Seattle, Washington), 27 November 1961, page 23

Kitty Graves

Along this line are various kitties, including Kitty Graves of Stephenville, Texas, who gave one of the “swellest dinners of the season” in 1900.

notice about Kitty Graves, Dallas Express newspaper article 13 January 1900

Dallas Express (Dallas, Texas), 13 January 1900, page 7

Nutts

Ever met any real Nutts? If so, it shouldn’t surprise you that W. N. Nutt was elected president of the National Nut Growers Association, or that Mr. Thomas James Nutty of Mamaroneck, New York, petitioned the court to change his surname to Nutley.

job notices, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 11 November 1915

Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 11 November 1915, page 12

Ima Hogg

Here in Texas, we defend the honor of philanthropist Miss Ima Hogg (1882-1975), almost more than we do the Alamo.

She was the famous daughter of Sarah Ann “Sallie” Stimson and Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg, and a beautiful young woman. Her residence, the extraordinary Houston treasure “Bayou Bend,” is part of the Museum of Fine Arts and one of my favorite places to visit. (See www.mfah.org/)

Here is a photo I took last month at the visitor center.

a photo of the Bayou Bend Visitor Center (Houston, Texas)

Photo: Bayou Bend Visitor Center (Houston, Texas). Credit: Mary Harrell-Sesniak.

But let’s dispel the myth that Ima Hogg had a sister named Ura; it certainly isn’t true!

Kahaha Ka

Hawaii, our 50th state, has its share of residents with curious names, including Kahaha Ka. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew J. Bright, she was named in honor of her uncle John E. Maia, who passed away after completing a fast of forty days. According to this newspaper article, her name means “40 days.”

How Hawaiians Get Their Funny Names, Tucson Daily Citizen newspaper article 2 February 1922

Tucson Daily Citizen (Tucson, Arizona), 2 February 1922, page 7

Unusual British Names of People

In 1891, it was reported that the British registry of births has many names of “dull propriety,” but also some that put a smile on the clerk’s face. A few of these were Ether Spray, Foot Bath, River Jordan and Rose Shamrock Anthistle, “whose name must please any patriotic man.”

an article about British names, Jacksonian newspaper article 3 December 1891

Jacksonian (Heber Springs, Arkansas), 3 December 1891, page 3

Weather & Holiday Names for People

There are also amusing weather and holiday people names, such as O. Snow, Mary Christmas and Chris Cringle of Cleveland, Ohio; Slay Bell of Merrysville, Ohio; and even A. S. Kating of Iceland—all distinguished guests of Richard’s Euclid Avenue House in 1878.

The Euclid Avenue House, Plain Dealer newspaper article 19 December 1878

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 19 December 1878, page 4

Genealogical Challenge

Other funny and unusual real people names that I’ve encountered in my genealogical research are B. A. Mann, B. A. Husband, Mother Hubbard, Peter Piper and Rose Bush. Do you suppose there is someone out there stuck with R. U. A. Crook or Justin Case?

It’s possible, but readers—perhaps you have uncovered more humorous name examples!

So here is your genealogical challenge.

Let’s see who can find the most belly busting, giggle producing, ridiculous or funny name ever to be found in newspapers! Share them with us in the comments section. Of course, if the name is too off-color, please check with us first. (No XXX rated examples.)

I’m thinking my Nantucket ancestors, Tristram and Dionis (Stevens) Coffin, had their share of death and dying jokes whenever someone in their family passed away!

“We’re going to need a coffin for Coffin.”

article about the Coffin family in Nantucket, Baltimore Patriot newspaper article 21 July 1826

Baltimore Patriot (Baltimore, Maryland), 21 July 1826, page 2

And certainly anyone by the name of Dunn heard “done” jokes, as was reported when Miss Gertrude Buell Dunn was “done” with her supposed soul mate, Ferdinand Pinney Earle.

The 'Soul Mate' [Gertrude Dunn] Is Coming Home, Grand Forks Daily Herald newspaper article 15 September 1909

Grand Forks Daily Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), 15 September 1909, page 1

Now that I am “done,” it’s your turn to share your funny name finds with us in the comments!

NY Student History Research Contest Deadline Approaching

New York State Archives Sponsors 19th Annual Student Research Contest Albany, NY

This is a terrific opportunity to encourage students to use historical records.
The deadline for the contest is July 1st.
Awards go to individual students and to class projects.

GenealogyBank.com has over 300 New York (1719-Today) newspapers.

Click here to search all New York newspapers.

Use GenealogyBank to win this award.

The New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department, is sponsoring the 19th annual Student Research Awards. The deadline for entry is July 1, 2009 and the contest is open to all New York students in grades 4-12 who use historical records in their research projects.

Three awards are presented each year: grades 4-5, grades 6-8, and grades 9-12. The awards consist of a framed certificate, a check for $100 from an endowment established by Regent Emerita Laura Chodos and her husband Robert Chodos, an invitation to have lunch with the Regents in Albany, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the State Archives.

Eligible projects are computer-based entries, such as websites or PowerPoint presentations; exhibits; documentaries; performances; research for a historical marker, property or district; and traditional research papers.

Student Research Award winners for 2008, Grades 4-5, were: Walden Elementary School (Orange County) students Jenalee Amundsen, Sarah Baker, Brianna Canto, Nicholas Cavallucci, Annalise Cardish, Felix Cepeda, Isaiah Skyler Chapman, Alex Clum, Frank Cook, Jr., Ilyssa Daly, Michael Daly, Brandon DiSimone, Sara Donovan, Abigail Hardy, Antonio Jackson, John lamb, Shiann Malvasi, Joshua Metzger, Jad Moumen, Sammy Moumen, Anthony Newton, Alyssa Rosario, Nyle Rose, Sarah Savasta, Brianna Sheehy, and Mary Sherman for their entry Capron, He’s My Street.

Grade 6-8 winners for 2008 were Persell Middle School (Chautauqua County) students Mark Brombacher, Jennie Gross, Taylor Estrada, Michelle Ferry, Alex Hoagland, Justin Hodges, Holly Johnson, Nick Myers, Jacob Perkins, Marisa Pope, Lucas Raak, Lindsey Rensel, Olivia Sinatra, Johnna Vanstrom, and Ben Whitney for their entry The Lost Neighborhood Project.

The Grade 9-12 Student Research Award winner for 2008 was Alexandra Rheinhardt, a student from Cooperstown Central High School (Otsego County), for the documentary, Sounds of Conflict: A Cultural Divide.

Julie Daniels, coordinator of the awards program, explained that in order for an entry to be competitive, a substantial portion of the research should be based on historical records from archives, historical newspapers, museums, historical societies, libraries, local governments, or other organizations. She offered some examples of historical records: original letters, diaries, and photographs; meeting minutes; police and court records; ledgers, census records; and wills.

For information about this year’s program, click on “Education” at www.archives.nysed.gov, call (518) 474-6926 or email archedu@mail.nysed.gov.

More Florida Resources Go Online – State Census & Newspapers

FamilySearchLabs has put the 1885, 1935 and 1945 Florida State census records online.

These state census records are not indexed – but can be easily searched online geographically.

The process is simple. Click on the year you want to search; then select the county where your ancestor’s lived. Then click through each page of the census as if you were looking at a roll of microfilm.

Click here to search the 1885 Florida State Census

Click here to search the 1935 Florida State Census

Click here to search the 1945 Florida State Census

GenealogyBank has also announced that it is adding:
Pensacola Gazette and West Florida Advertiser. Pensacola, FL. 1824 to 1856

GenealogyBank already has the following Florida newspapers online:
Banner. (Bonita Springs, FL). 1/27/1996-Current
Biscayne Boulevard Times (Miami, FL). 8/1/2005-Current
Boca Raton News (FL). 3/2/2006-Current
Bonita Daily News (FL). 5/23/2006-Current
Bradenton Herald (FL). 1/19/1991-Current
Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL). 8/3/1996-Current
Collier Citizen (FL). 7/6/2007-Current
Daily Commercial (Leesburg, FL). 12/1/2000-Current
Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL). 3/27/1996-Current
DeLand-Deltona Beacon (FL). 11/17/2000-Current
DeSoto Sun (Arcadia, FL). 4/14/1996-Current
Diario de Tampa (Ybor City, FL). 6/6/1908 – 7/14/1911
East County Observer (Sarasota, FL). 8/17/2006-Current
Ecos (Tampa, FL). 7/21/1959 – 7/21/1959
El Nuevo Herald (Miami, FL). 1/1/1983-Current
Englewood Sun (FL). 3/5/1996-Current
Florida Herald and Southern Democrat (St. Augustine, FL). 1/4/1823 – 9/13/1828
Variant titles: East Florida Herald
Florida Keys Keynoter (Marathon, FL). 11/6/2002-Current
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL). 1/12/1996-Current
Florida Today (Melbourne, FL). 1/1/1999-Current
Floridian & Advocate (Tallahassee, FL). 10/24/1831 – 4/2/1842
Floridian and Journal (Tallahassee, FL). 1/6/1849 – 12/22/1860
Variant titles: Floridian; Floridian and Advocate; Weekly Floridian
Fort Pierce News (FL). 5/2/1997-6/16/2000
Fort Pierce Tribune (FL). 8/13/2002-Current
Jupiter Courier (FL). 9/3/2000-Current
Key West Citizen (FL). 10/31/1999-Current
Longboat Observer (Longboat Key, FL). 11/2/2006-Current
Manatee River Journal (Manatee, FL). 9/5/1889 – 12/31/1922
Variant titles: Manatee River Journal and Bradenton Herald; Manatee River Journal-Herald
Marco Island Eagle
(FL). 6/7/2006-Current
Miami Herald Record (Miami, FL). 1/1/1911 – 12/31/1922
Miami Herald (FL). 1/1/1983-Current
Naples Daily News (FL). 1/3/1998-Current
News-Press (Fort Myers, FL). 5/2/1999-Current
News-Sun (Sebring, FL). 4/14/2005-Current
North Port Sun (FL). 5/3/1996-Current
Ocala Star-Banner (FL). 1/1/1991-Current
Orlando Sentinel (FL). 4/1/1985-Current
Orlando Weekly (FL). 1/5/2006-Current
Palm Beach Daily News (FL). 1/2/2000-Current
Palm Beach Post (FL). 1/1/1989-Current
Pensacola News Journal (FL). 1/1/1999-Current
Reporter (Tavernier, FL). 2/27/2004-Current
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL). 1/1/1996-Current
Sebastian Sun (FL). 3/19/1999-Current
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale, FL). 1/1/1986-Current
South Lake Press (Clermont, FL). 7/13/2005-Current
St. Augustine Record (FL). 9/25/2006-Current
St. Petersburg Times (FL). 1/1/1987-Current
Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News (FL). 9/2/2000-Current
Tallahassee Democrat (FL). 1/1/1994-Current
Tampa Tribune (FL). 8/13/1990-Current
Venice Gondolier Sun (FL). 7/1/1996-Current
Vero Beach Press Journal (FL). 12/2/1997-Current

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