Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about the American lineage of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.
Today I look at the lineage of British stateman, soldier, and author Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965), born to English nobleman Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill and his American heiress wife Jennie Jerome – noted to be the first of the “Dollar Princesses” from America to marry into the British aristocracy. (See links to my two related stories at the end of this article.)
Churchill’s British Bloodlines
Churchill, aka “The Roaring Lion,” descends from a long line of noble blood which includes Charlemagne, Hugh le Bigod, King Edward I, and Alfred the Great.
His namesake came from his 9th great grandfather Winston Churchill, aka “Cavalier Colonel,” father of Sir John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough.
Churchill’s 12th great grandmother was Lady Mary Boleyn, sister to Queen Anne Boleyn (wife of Henry VIII), who married Sir William Carey.
Their daughter Lady Catherine Carey married Sir Francis Knollys, and their daughter Lettice Knollys married Sir Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. Read more on the family at English Royalty, Boleyn Lineage, and Jamestown Connections.
Their daughter Lady Dorothy Devereaux married Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland.
Their daughter Lady Dorothy Percy married Sir Robert Sydney, and their daughter Lady Dorothy “Sacharissa” Sydney married Sir Henry Spencer.
Their son Charles Spencer, 1st Duke of Sutherland, married Lady Anne Churchill, the daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and his wife Sarah Jennings.
Churchill’s American Bloodlines
With all that said, Churchill also has very impressive American bloodlines which include brave patriots of the Revolution. He was admired and beloved by many Americans who were proud to cite his connection. (See my related article about Churchill’s American Lineage.)
In 1945 Joseph Harvey Schaefer, secretary for the Syracuse Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) in New York, reported to the Schenectady Gazette that he sent a birthday greeting to Churchill, who was turning 70.
In his letter, Shaefer informed Churchill about his American lineage:
“Among the early settlers of Onondaga County in central New York were at least three of your illustrious ancestors (Major Lebbeus Ball, Lt. Reuben Murray, and Sgt. Samuel Jerome) who chose to give service on the side of the colonists in their struggle for freedom and democracy during the war of the American Revolution.”
Schaefer further wrote:
“The realization of these facts arouses in the minds of our membership a profound feeling, bordering on kinship and compatriotism toward you and yours. This feeling prompts the charter to greet you as a brother-in-arms, to extend to you its congratulations on this, the 70th anniversary of your natal day (Nov. 30), and to add to them its best wishes for the continuance of health as well as strength and fortitude to enable you to carry on, as in the past, with your contemporaries, to final and complete victory.”
Churchill openly acknowledged his gratitude to Schaefer and his SAR chapter with a warm reply:
“Thank you so much for your kind remembrance of my birthday.”
In 1947 the Evening Star announced that Churchill accepted an invitation to become a member of the Society of Cincinnati (America’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army who served together in the American Revolution).
This article reported:
Winston Churchill, Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, today became the first Englishman to be voted a membership in the Connecticut Chapter, Society of the Cincinnati. The organization is composed of descendants of officers in the American Army which fought England in the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Churchill, who was elected during the society’s annual meeting here yesterday, said in a letter read at the meeting that he would be happy to accept membership.
Mr. Churchill’s great-great-grandfather on his mother’s side was Lt. Reuben Murray of Guilford, who fought in Col. Charles Burrall’s Connecticut Continental Regiment.
In 1952 Churchill was honored in a ceremony in which he was officially inducted into the Society of Cincinnati. The Evening Star newspaper reported Winston’s admission, which took place in Washington, D. C., and wrote about his genealogy.
This article reported:
Membership in the [Society of Cincinnati] is limited to one male descendant of an officer who served three years in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. Not much is known about Lt. Reuben Murray, whom genealogists found on Churchill’s American family tree – the discovery that qualified the Prime Minister for membership. The lieutenant was 33 in 1776 and started his service in Col. William Bradford Whiting’s regiment, the 17th Connecticut.
There is more on Lt. Murray in the records. He is listed on the payroll for serving in: Lt. Herman Swift’s Company; the 7th Regiment of the Albany County Militia commanded by Col. Abraham J. Van Alstine; and Capt. Daniel Herrick’s Company.
According to the History of Columbia County, New York. With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, Lt. Murray was elected Justice of the Peace (1786 to 1792) and appointed on a committee to prevent election fraud in 1792.
Here is a photo from Churchill’s induction ceremony into the society.
The photo caption read:
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill Wednesday [16 January 1952] received the emblem of the Society of Cincinnati from Maj. Gen. Edgar Hume, president-general of the organization, at an initiation ceremony in Washington. The society is made up of male descendants of American Revolutionary War officers. Churchill qualifies through his maternal ancestors.
Another of Churchill’s ancestors, Major Lebbeus Ball, also made the Prime Minister a candidate for membership in the society. Ball appeared at Concord, Massachusetts, on 19 April 1775 with a company of 60 men, and afterward served as captain of a company in Col. Sheppard’s regiment, and later in Jamison’s regiment. He was severely wounded, captured, and re-captured, and on recovery was promoted to major. (William Martin Beauchamp, Revolutionary Soldiers Resident or Dying in Onondaga County, N. Y.: With Supplementary List of Possible Veterans, Based on a Pension List of Franklin H. Chase, Syracuse, N. Y., p. 166.) Churchill’s great grandson Duncan Sandys is a member of the society under Maj. Ball.
To be continued…
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Note on the header image: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Maj. Gen. Edgar Hume posed for this photograph after the formal induction ceremony for Churchill into the Society of Cincinnati on 16 January 1952. Credit: The Society of the Cincinnati Archives.