Are You Related to John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed?

Introduction: In this article, to celebrate today being National Arbor Day, Mary Harrell-Sesniak explores the family tree—and some of the stories—of the legendary Johnny Appleseed. Mary is a genealogist, author and editor with a strong technology background.

In honor of today being National Arbor Day, let’s explore the life, legacy and ancestry of John Chapman, who is more widely known by his nickname “Johnny Appleseed” (26 September 1774 – 18 March 1845). Although the famous American arborist never had children of his own, his New England ancestry has several items of interest.

drawing of Johnny Appleseed
Illustration: Johnny Appleseed, from H. S. Knapp’s 1862 book “A History of the Pioneer and Modern Times of Ashland County.” Source: Wikipedia.

Johnny Appleseed’s Family

Born as John Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts, Johnny was the son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Simonds) Chapman, who married on 8 February 1770. (See

He had one older sister, Elizabeth, and a younger brother named Nathaniel (or Nathanael), both named after their parents. Johnny shares a name with his grandfather John Chapman (1714 – 1761), who passed away about 13 years prior to his birth.

Johnny’s life with his mother was short-lived. She died in 1776 shortly after giving birth to his brother Nathaniel. has several references to Johnny Appleseed’s family tree in their databases:

Within the context of history, several events framed the circumstances in the family’s life—most notably the American Revolution and the settling of Ohio.

Johnny’s father Nathaniel was a Minuteman who fought at the Battle of Concord on 19 April 1775, and later served in a more official capacity.

Four years after his mother died, Johnny’s father remarried. On 24 July 1780 Nathaniel Chapman married his second wife: Lucy Cooley, daughter of George and Martha (Hancock) Cooley. Lucy became the maternal figure in Johnny’s life, but since she bore an additional 10 children, her focus may not have been on Johnny. (See

Johnny’s Younger Life & First Plantings

No documents chronicle the facts of Johnny’s younger life, despite much having been written speculating about his passion for apple trees. Some theories are that his father, a farmer, instilled a love of trees in his son—resulting in Johnny becoming the nation’s premier nurseryman/arborist on the frontier.

Johnny lived a life of devout faith and considered himself a missionary of Swedish native Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772). (See

Some accounts report that Johnny used apple seeds from Potomac cider mills for his first plantings, located in the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania. He may have lived in Pittsburgh around 1794 during the time of the Whiskey Rebellion—a farmers’ uprising against paying taxes on the whiskey they made from grain and corn.

As land opened up the family ventured west to the frontier of Ohio, settling in Monroe Township. Johnny is thought to have joined them by 1805, although he may have gone there earlier, planting apple trees. Some trees he gave away, or bartered to pioneer settlers for useful implements. When he sold trees, it was reportedly for the sum of a “fippenny” or “fip-penny-bit,” the equivalent of about six cents a tree—as explained in this newspaper article.

Money of the Past, Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper article 27 April 1898
Kalamazoo Gazette (Kalamazoo, Michigan), 27 April 1898, page 8

Fact or Fiction: Was Johnny Appleseed Truly an Eccentric?

After his death, newspapers described Johnny as an eccentric with shabby dress. Some accounts report that he used a tin pot as a hat, and these descriptions are colorful, if somewhat exaggerated. For example, this 1891 newspaper article states:

One of the quaintest, queerest and most original characters that ever trod the trackless wastes of the western wilderness was Jonathan Chapman, known as old Johnny Appleseed…His pinched and grizzled features were covered by a growth of very shaggy beard. His hair was quite long and very much faded by constant exposure to wind and weather…But old Johnny’s crowning glory was an old tin mush pot that had a long handle. This battered old culinary utensil he wore for a hat.

article about Johnny Appleseed, People newspaper article 23 August 1891
People (New York, New York), 23 August 1891, page 6

This 1857 newspaper article describes how Johnny purchased his seeds in large quantities from nurseries near the Ohio River.

article about Johnny Appleseed, Sandusky Register newspaper article 17 September 1857
Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio), 17 September 1857, page 1

Johnny’s Death

Johnny Appleseed died on 18 March 1845, at the age of 70. A transcription of his obituary from the Fort Wayne Sentinel of 22 March 1845 was located at the Obit of the day website. It seems to confirm that the old adage from Benjamin Franklin was really true: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

Appleseed’s obituary states:

In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing. Notwithstanding the privations and exposure he endured, he lived to an extreme old age, not less than 80 [70] years at the time of his death—though no person would have judged from his appearance that he was 60.

Are You Related to Johnny Appleseed?

If you’re a plant lover or self-described arborist, I’d like to plant some seeds about kinship to Johnny Appleseed. He has ancestral connections to many early American settlers of the Northeast. According to numerous online family trees, the surnames in Johnny’s extended family include:

  • Barker
  • Blodgett
  • Carter
  • Chandler
  • Chapman
  • Davis
  • Dresser
  • Eggleton
  • Fowle
  • Green
  • Jasper
  • King
  • Lawrence
  • Morse
  • Perley
  • Phippen or Phipping
  • Richardson
  • Simonds or Symonds
  • Smith
  • Stearns
  • Stone
  • Tarbell
  • Thorley
  • Trumbull
  • Walter

And if you explore reports of his famous cousins, Johnny Appleseed is connected to many former residents of our nation’s White House, including: First Lady Abigail (Smith) Adams, John Quincy Adams, Barbara (Pierce) Bush, George H. W. Bush, George Bush, Calvin Coolidge, Lucretia (Randolph) Garfield, Richard Nixon and William Howard Taft.

In addition, reports a kinship relationship with suffragette Susan B. Anthony, nurse Clara Barton, Wild Bill Hickok, actress Raquel Welch, and Walt Disney, among others.

For more information on John Chapman’s life, see:

Johnny Appleseed’s Last Surviving Tree

Since Johnny had no progeny of his own, it seems appropriate to commemorate his last surviving tree. This 1961 newspaper article has a long feature on Johnny which I recommend reading, including a picture of “the last surviving apple tree planted by Johnny Appleseed.”

a photo of the last surviving apple tree planted by Johnny Appleseed, Plain Dealer newspaper article 30 May 1961
Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 30 May 1961, page 1

I hope you’ll celebrate National Arbor Day by eating an apple or drinking cider. Who knows—the fruit may be a descendant from one of Johnny Appleseed’s famous trees!

If you’re related to John Chapman, please tell us how your family is connected in the comments section.

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54 thoughts on “Are You Related to John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed?

  1. I am a 6th cousin 4x removed to Johnny Appleseed. My 8th great grandfather Thomas Richardson was a brother to John Chapman’s ancestor, Samuel Richardson.

  2. Johnny Appleseed is listed in a sketch of his father’s family in WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS FAMILIES OF 1790 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012), pp. 74-80.

  3. My grandmother was a Chapman, and the family alway claimed some relation to Johnny. There are many John and Nathaniel Chapmans in the family tree, going all the way back to Sir Robert Chapman b 1615. Still trying to make the connection! ha ha

    1. Jeanie,

      Very interesting and thank you for sharing. Sounds like a lot of research has been done on your family tree. Hope you establish your connection to Johnny Appleseed.


  4. It’s says that John did not have any kids? My genealogy says He had a son name Benjamin. Please could you confirm it. Thank You.

    1. Hi Maeva,

      Thank you for writing. I don’t have information on Benjamin Chapman, but if you have documentation supporting his birth, I would love to read it.


  5. I was born in Fort Wayne, IN, in 1953. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Ella Chapman. She always told us that we were related to Johnny Appleseed. My Great Aunt Virginia, who had been married to my Great Uncle Clyde, told us the same. She found a large cache of a small book called “Genealogy of the Chapman Family, Relatives of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)” in her attic after Uncle Clyde’s death, and my brothers and sisters and I all received a copy. This book was compiled by Lizzie Roebuck (Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Roebuck) and published in 1947. The cabin that Johnny Appleseed was living in when he died, as well as his grave, were, apparently on the property which later became the Roebuck farm of Lizzie Roebuck’s husband’s family. My grandmother’s name, along with the names of her siblings are listed in this book. However, some of the information contained therein is at odds with what I am finding on the internet. I do remember that my Aunt Virginia had a long-standing disagreement with the Fort Wayne Historical Society over the location of Johnny Appleseed’s grave. It is purported to be in Archer Park, near the Coliseum, but she insisted that it was on the grounds of what is now the Canterbury Green apartment complex. She tried to prevent the developers from building the apartment complex on that site. They resolved the matter back then by placing a marker in the apartment complex and putting quotation marks around the word gravesite on the headstone in Archer Park. However, the quotation marks are not there anymore. Perhaps they removed them after my Aunt Virginia passed away. I am interested in learning more. Anything I can learn from you would be much appreciated.

    1. I.m curious. I’m from Ft, Wayne, IN. I was always told that we were related to Johnny Appleseed thru the Chapman’s I wondered if you would share any of your information.

      1. Hi Laura,

        Thank you for commenting about your possible connection to Johnny Appleseed.

        I can’t tell whether or not you are related, as the GenealogyBank bloggers aren’t equipped to work on personal lineages. However, there is a network of family history consultants which can be reached at 1-866-641-3297, Mon–Fri 10am–7pm ET. Try working with them or visiting the wonderful genealogy library for assistance.

        Good luck with your research and please let me know if you make the connection.

        Mary Harrell-Sesniak

    2. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for writing.

      Your aunt apparently believed that a ‘grave mistake’ had been made in regards to Johnny Appleseed /John Chapman’s burial site. I searched for clues, but didn’t find anything concrete.

      To resolve this controvery, try researching her efforts. Did she file court documents? Are there minutes from the Historical Society or family correspondence? Were there any local articles published?

      If you find clues, please share them. They would make for interesting reading, no matter what conclusions our readers make!

      Mary Harrell-Sesniak

  6. I am a Chapman family descendent. Henry Charles Chapman born January 11, 1825 in Upham, Cambridgeshire, England. Died in North English, Iowa, May 29th, 1894.

  7. Hello. Yes. I am also a blood relative of John Chapman, Johnny Appleseed. It is interesting to trace this family branch to the family of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), and through that, to the family tree of Diana Spencer (Princess Diana), and through that, to the modern and ancient kings and queens of Europe, and through that, all the way back to King David of Israel, and then of course it is easy to trace that in the Bible back to Adam and Eve. I suppose our family tree goes back to as far as it is possible to go. We still love to go for a hike. We still do well with animals. We still have gardens. One would be hard pressed to find one of us that is not intelligent. We still love Jesus our maker and stake our lives on Him. He has blessed us and are nurtured by His love.

      1. Holly,

        Thank you for your comments. It is always exciting to make connections to interesting people.


  8. I am related to John Chapman through his father’s second marriage. My 4x’s great grandfather, Perley Chapman, was John Chapman’s half brother, so John Chapman is my 5x’s great uncle.

  9. I married a Chapman whose family resided, and perhaps established, Chapmanville, West Virginia. Do you have any information as to wether or not any Chapmans kin to Johnny Appleseed settled there? Interesting reading to be sure!

  10. Hi Stephanie,

    I haven’t followed these Chapmans, but what an interesting challenge.

    Sounds like your spouse might be related to Ned Chapman who founded the town around 1800. Reconfirm the link generation by generation, starting with the current generation and working backwards. You might contact various historical societies and genealogy libraries to see what research has already been done and if they have connected him to Johnny Appleseed.

    Good luck with your research.


  11. Nathaniel Chapman is buried in Mound Cemetery in Marietta , Ohio. The extended family lived near Duck Creek in Washington County Ohio. A good source for tracing relationships to John Chapman are is

  12. I am looking for the Chapman family in Michigan. I have a very old photo collection in a leather bound book that I got at a photography store in the 1970’s. It has tin types and other very old photos going back to the 1800’s. Some of the Photo’s have the names of Chapman hand written on the back. The photo’s were taken by professional photographers in several cities in Michigan. Kalamazoo, Detroit, Romeo, Three Rivers, Ypsilanti, Pontiac, Flint. There is a Memoriam paper for William Chapman. Born October 1, 1848 – Died June 1, 1926. A couple photo’s with handwritten notes on the back from 1906. There are photo’s of Mrs. Lincoln, General George Custer, Major General Kilpatrick (sp) Hard to read the writing on that one. A bunch of very old tintypes are in this collection. Please contact me if this may be of interest to you.

  13. I am married to a Chapman and he was always told he was related to Johnny Appleseed. The Chapman names from his father’s genealogy are;
    Nathaniel, John, Thomas, Benjamin, Welcome and Samuel Welcome.
    Do any of these names ring a bell with realatives of Johnny Appleseed?
    Some lived and died in Vermont, but Welcome Chapman follow and joined the Mormon church to Utah.

  14. My grandfather, Percy Chapman, wrote my son a letter in 1980, stating that yes we are related to Johnny Appleseed. As it happens, my brother’s named John Chapman Dixon. We’re all gardeners. I grow apple trees from seeds.

  15. I was always told my family was related to Johnny Appleseed Chapman. My paternal grandmother was Dorothy Chapman and her father was Henry Shuler Chapman. I can’t find a connection anywhere that proves I am related. Can you help?

    1. Hi Jane,

      Thank you for writing.

      GenealogyBank blog articles are designed to help researchers learn how to improve research skills, so I am not able to assist directly unless you wish professional services. However, I do have some suggestions. Try connecting with other interested Chapman researchers and also consider participating in a DNA study.


  16. My uncle Martin Frederick Chapman told me time and again that I was related to “Johnny Appleseed” and I have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to confirm a blood line, but will continue trying to unravel the family fable. I am a Son of the American Revolution (SAR) by way of my direct blood relationship with Uriah Chapman, Sr. of New London, Connecticut (born 01 June 1731 and died 22 April 1816). Those who came before Uriah Sr., arrived on the shore of the “New World” with the early Puritans (not the Mayflower Pilgrims). In the years after arriving, the Chapman family migrated from Connecticut to Ohio, to Illinois to Kansas. The mystery as yet remains unsolved.

    1. Edwin,

      Although you haven’t been able to connect to Johnny Appleseed, it sounds like you have an exciting lineage.


  17. My father has an extensive family tree including John Chapman, Charles Lucius Chapman and a lot of the other extended families mention here. He’s worked on it for 20 years

  18. My grandmother Edna Chapman would tell us stories how Johnny Appleseed was my cousin. She married Roy Davis and both passed in the 80s; I would love to see if this is true. Help point me in the right direction, thanks.

  19. Not sure if all of this is accurate, but according to my elder family, I am John Chapman’s 13x great-granddaughter. And other ties to John Chapman are the Schwitzer, Brown, Roediger, Havner, Luthi, and many others.

  20. I am trying to figure out more on it, but my great grandfather was Charlie Chapman! My aunt just told me tonight that he’s on the family tree another aunt made before she passed! I’m waiting for her to send it to me! How exciting! My great grandma was a Chapman: Eleanora Chapman.

  21. My grandmother told me 63 years ago that we are related to Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) and I think she said that we’re first cousins five times removed. I have letters that I have kept all these years and they’re all addressed to Precinda Chapman. (I just re-read one of the letters to Pricinda Chapman. This letter Is from her brother, Dr. Byron Chapman, from the Cleveland Medical School.) I’m not sure how she’s related to John Chapman. I know I love nature and spend as much time outdoors as possible. I also never killed anything not even an insect. I would appreciate knowing for sure how my sister and I are related to this wonderful man who was such a blessing to so many people during the years he was alive, as well as his legacy of values and apple orchards. My grandmother’s maiden name I’m pretty sure is Mary Mitchel, and I believe she was from Mansfield. She ended up in Akron until she died about 1959. If anyone could shed some light on this quest to know, I truly would appreciate it. My email address is
    Thank you so much for all your work and effort to connect us all!

    1. Hi Patricia,

      Thank you for contacting me in regards to your Chapman connections.

      How wonderful for you to have family letters. Unfortunately, I am not equipped to address individual questions on this forum, but can provide some direction. A brief search of GenealogyBank uncovered some references to a Dr. Byron Chapman from Akron including an obituary from 1902. It unfortunately doesn’t name his parents but there are references to children.

      After Genealogybank, I would also consult, (WorldConnect trees), and The first three are free and you can usually go to a library to access Ancestry. If these do not help, please write back and we can discuss details of doing a professional search.

      Please vary the spelling of Pricinda in your queries. There is a Precinda Chapman born in Mansfield around 1802.

      Good luck with your search.


  22. I am related to Johnathan Chapman by this line: Ronald Alan Chapman (Me), Ronald Arlen Chapman, (My Father), Richard Ambrose Chapman (GF), Andrew Jackson Chapman (GGF), Timothy Chapman (GGGF), Daniel Abner Chapman (GGGGF), Nathaniel Chapman (GGGGGF), whose wife was Lucy Cooley. So I am a direct descendant of his father’s son Daniel, his half brother.

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