In 1866, the court martial of Captain Richard W. Meade was being held in Philadelphia for the loss of the United States steamer “San Jacinto” January 1, 1865 on the Bahama Banks. He was being defended by John Wayne Ashmead, who as a district attorney 15 years earlier, had been in charge of the case that was referred to as “the opening struggle of the Civil War”.

Within just two pages in a rich 1904 historical and genealogical reference source (Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania) can be found some interesting family ties, through both birth and marriage, of attorney and author John Wayne Ashmead.

They include Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, Major-General Thomas Mifflin (the first governor of Pennsylvania), President William McKinley, and George Graham (the inventor of the chronometer).

The source did not say how the “San Jacinto” was lost, but I wonder if the chronometer could have played a part?

Multiple Births

Having entered so many large families in Family Forests, I was curious to know the largest number of children said to have been born to one woman. You will probably be as surprised as I was when you see the number that is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. The answer can be found by going to the website of the National Organization of the Mother of Twins Clubs, Inc. at and clicking on their “Multiple Multiples” button.

This piqued my interest in the occurrence of multiple births in our Family Forests. A search in “Facts” “Contains” for “twin” in the Founders & Patriots Family Forest locates hundreds of pairs of American twins, mostly from the 1600’s, 1700’s and 1800’s. All of these twins are lineage-linked to their parents, and oftentimes to hundreds or thousands of ancestors, descendants, and other relatives.

The search feature can be more narrowly focused by adding a surname (in “Name” “Contains”) to the above search criteria. Some of the surnames with twins in the Founders & Patriots Family Forest are Alden (2 pairs), Allen (4 pairs), Arnold (2 pairs), Bacon (2 pairs), Barnard, Bartlett (3 pairs), Bascom, Battles (2 pairs), Bigelow, Blodgett, Bow, Bowen, Bradbury, Bridge, Bright, Cadwell, Caldwell, Camp (2 pairs), Capron (5 pairs), Carter, Chase (2 pairs), Child, Clark (2 pairs), Clifford, Coit, Cook (2 pairs), Coolidge (2 pairs), Cunnabell, Cutler (2 pairs), Darrow, Davenport, Delano (2 pairs), Dickinson, Eaton (3 pairs), Emery (5 pairs), Fairbanks (4 pairs), Faxon (3 pairs), Fay (5 pairs), Felton, Foote (9 pairs), French (6 pairs), Gardner, Gilman (2 pairs), Gookin, Gore (2 pairs), Green (12 pairs), Greene, Gregory, Hale (2 pairs), Hart(t) (2 pairs), Hawkins, Hayden (2 pairs), Hill, Hinchliff, Holbrook (2 pairs), Holt, Hotchkiss, Howe (3 pairs), Hurlbut (10 pairs), Isham (4 pairs), Jaquith (2 pairs), James, Jennison, Keith, Kelly, Kendall, Keyes, Kirby, Lane, Latane, Leeds, Linfield, Lithgow, Livermore (4 pairs), Loring, Lovering, Matthews, Meigs, Miller, Mills (3 pairs), Morgan, Morrison, Morse (2 pairs), Munroe, Newcomb (3 pairs), Niles (2 pairs), Parker (3 pairs), Payson, Perry, Pierce (3 pairs), Poor, Porter, Prentice, Prince, Raymond, Redington (4 pairs), Rice (5 pairs), Richardson (3 pairs), Rossiter, Sandford (4 pairs), Savil, Shaw, Skinner, Smith, Stanton, Stearns (3 pairs), Stevens (4 pairs), Stillman, Stoddard, Stone (2 pairs), Thayer (4 pairs), Thorlo (2 pairs), Vinton (4 pairs), Vose (2 pairs), Warner, Welles (2 pairs), White (4 pairs), Whitney, Wood, and Wyncoop.

A search for “triplet” located triplets in the Emerson, Fay, and Tilton families.

Twice In One Day

Occasionally, certain individuals I enter into Family Forests are particularly memorable because they trigger a vivid personal memory, and because they also add value to that memory.

Early this morning, Colonel John Thomas Lewis Preston became one of those individuals.

In January 1995 we spent a few days in Lexington, VA attending the funeral of one of Kristine’s friends. It was a solemn and reflective time, and a couple of things made memorable impressions.

Second in impressiveness only to the genuine warmth and gracious Southern hospitality of its people is the sense of heritage and history that permeates Lexington. The Virginia Military Institute, or V.M.I., is a large part of Lexington’s heritage and history. It was founded in 1839 by Colonel John Thomas Lewis Preston, who in April 1861 marched with the corps of cadets for Richmond.

As I entered information about the Colonel and his relatives from the surrounding area, I lingered on thoughts of cadets marching off to war from Lexington, and of my memories of being there one winter almost a century and a half later.

But what I find amazingly coincidental, and the catalyst for this log entry, was what happened just a couple of hours later. Here on an island in the middle of the Pacific, a half a world away from Lexington, VA, in a conversation with some new friends, they mentioned that they are about to go visit the Virginia Military Institute for an alumni event.

What a surprising and interconnected world we live in!

Pathways To The Past

I read a thought provoking article recently in Missing Links: RootsWeb’s Genealogy Journal. It was about “pedigree collapse”, called “implexion”, and connections to Charlemagne. As fun as it is to speculate and theorize, it is even more fun to try out speculations and theories in real life.

The sum total of all the connections in the Presidential Family Forest produces some amazing maps of generation-by-generation pathways to the past, and some lead from recent times to the beginning of the previous millennium. So I decided to find out how many different pathways might lead from a real girl, Kathleen Staige Davis who was born November 17, 1909 in Baltimore, MD, back to Emperor Charlemagne who was said to be born April 02, 742.

Although Progeny’s Family Explorer seems capable of producing, from the Presidential database, a single pedigree chart (without using the space saving feature “Cousin Smart”) leading from this century back to Charlemagne, we will have to wait for some quantum hardware advances to complete the task. It takes approximately 40 generations for people living today to reach back to Charlemagne, which means more than one trillion boxes to fill in on an individual’s full pedigree chart. Having the connections in place to fill in just 1/1,000 of 1% of a person’s 40 generation pedigree chart means the computer would need to fill in names in ten million boxes on the same chart.

So I had to divide the task into three stages. First, I did a ten generation ancestor view of King Edward I “Longshanks” of England (who lived 1239 to 1307, and was one of the main figures in the movie “Braveheart”) which filled in over 572 boxes. Then I did 14-18 generation ancestor views of 66 of Longshanks’ ancestors (according to recorded history) to see which ones led back to Charlemagne, and of those who did, how many different times they lead to Charlemagne (they ranged from 1 to 10 times each).

When I totaled the results, I found that within this database there are at least 154 different paths leading from Longshanks to Charlemagne. Next I did a 28 generation ancestor view of Kathleen Staige Davis (without “Cousin Smart”) and counted how many times King Edward I “Longshanks” of England appeared on her pedigree chart within the 11,402 boxes that had names filled in. It took more than an hour to look through the chart, and I found that Longshanks appeared at least 24 times.

This means that within this database, Kathleen Staige Davis has at least 3,696 different paths leading back to Emperor Charlemagne IF only the paths that pass through King Edward I “Longshanks” of England are counted.

If all of the other different paths that lead through Longshanks’ siblings and contemporaries are counted, there could easily be an additional 15,000 paths between Kathleen Staige Davis and Emperor Charlemagne.

Seeing so many of these digital pathways to the past visually displayed can alter perceptions and conceptions about how each of us is descended, and how connected we actually are to so much of what has gone before.

Could It Ever Happen Again?

If this story is really true, the odds of it ever happening again are probably about as good as winning the lottery three weeks in a row.

According to a great genealogy book from 1858 (one that appears to have been well-researched and a real labor of love), there was a fellow in New England who married and had a family of eight children. After being married for more than forty years, his wife died.

He then married a second time, at the age of 64, and had another family of eight children.

Having “eight children born after the father had passed his sixty-fifth year” or “the youngest born in his 79th year” or having “twelve or more great-grandchildren who were older than some of his children” is certainly unusual, but more unlikely things have happened and will happen again.

However, what is said to have happened on April 27, 1806 seems impossible to ever have happen again.

According to this 1858 book, on that day his daughter Susanna (fourth child by his second wife) was born. Also, his granddaughter Paulina (daughter of Mary, youngest child by his first wife) was born. Also, an unnamed great-grandchild was born. The same Dr. Hart and his women assistants were said to have attended all three births.

What would the odds actually be of someone having a daughter, a granddaughter, and a great-grandchild all born on the same day?

Some of the surnames of descendants of this statistically unique person in the Founders & Patriots Family Forest include: Brown, Bucknam, Call, Cummings, Day, Green, Larabee, Oakes, Richardson, Rogers, Tuck, Vinton, White, and Williams.

How Many Patriot Ancestors?

Many people think there are only two possibilities concerning ancestors who played a part in the American Revolution. Either you had one, or you had none. And the odds of having one are not very good.

Fortunately, that is not the case. There is a very colorful past behind each of us, and it is full of numerous exciting possibilities when looking back more than two hundred years.

For instance, one of the people I recently entered into the Founders & Patriots Family Forest is now lineage-linked to twelve S.A.R.-qualified Patriot ancestors (6 from NY and 6 from MA). He was born in the middle of the last century. If he (or any of his siblings, children, or grandchildren) married someone with a similar amount of Patriot ancestry, it means there can be people today with dozens of Patriot ancestors (even without counting the spouses, who also played an important part in the birth of our nation).

I can’t help but wonder how many of his Patriot ancestors might have known one or more of the other eleven Patriot forefathers. Might some of them have sat around the same campfires? What if one of those soldiers could have known then that a century into the future, one of his great-granddaughters was going to marry the great-grandson of the guy sitting next to him on the log by the campfire (or crouched next to him behind the log, dodging musket balls)?

“You Know My Name”

Last night Kristine and I watched the new movie on TNT called “You Know My Name”. It was set in the 1920’s in Oklahoma and starred Sam Elliott as the legendary lawman Bill Tilghman (William Matthew Tilghman).

I knew the Tilghman family was prominent on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, because I had entered many of them in the Delaware Family Forest. When I checked the database, I found William Matthew Tilghman (b. July 12, 1820) who had moved West, married a woman from Keokuk, Iowa, and had at least four sons. One of those sons was William Matthew Tilghman, Jr., presumably the legendary Oklahoma lawman.

William Matthew Tilghman is lineage-linked to many prominent early American ancestors from the Delmarva Peninsula in the Delaware Family Forest. They include, in addition to Tilghman, surnames such as Bowers, Boynton, Carvill, Gill, Grundy, Harris, Hyson, Lloyd, Neale, Osborne, Phillips, Tilden, and Wilmer.

Bill Tilghman’s Colonial Maryland ancestry leaps across the Atlantic in the Presidential Family Forest. One connecting point is Alice Berkeley (pin# 26668). A 40 generation ancestor view of her fills in 5,969 boxes. They include a large number of nobility, royalty, and historically notable figures.

Many of these same ancestors have descendants who will also be featured in an another new program from TNT. It is about Princess Diana, and it was advertised during the “You Know My Name” movie. Who would have guessed that that crusty old lawman Sam Elliott portrayed is connected to Princess Diana?

Kristine and I both find that it enhances our enjoyment of movies such as “You Know My Name” when we use Family Forests to see just where the characters fit within the actually unfolding of history. It puts their lives in meaningful and helpful context and perspective.

Could He Be One Of Yours

A teenager is abruptly and unexpectedly startled from a peaceful sleep in the middle of the night.

Before dawn, he will leave on an adventure that is certain to be filled with danger and life-threatening hazards. Although he has no way to know, he will not return for four or five years.

It is 1756, and the location is New England. Benjamin is only sixteen. Now, before the sun rises, he finds himself among a company of men heading off on an expedition. They are marching off through the wilderness to Canada in the French and Indian War.

Benjamin is the second child, and the oldest son, in a large family. Some of his ancestors came to America more than a century earlier. Others of his ancestors have lived their entire lives in New England. A number of his ancestors have lived into their seventies and eighties.

But at this moment in time, the odds of Benjamin living a long life are not very promising. Even less so, if the crystal ball could reveal that after surviving his brutal initiation into manhood, he would go on to be a soldier in the American Revolution and participate in the battles of Bunker Hill, Long Island, White Plains, Trenton, Monmouth, and others.

But he did beat the odds. Not only did he survive the expedition and the Revolutionary War, he lived a long and prosperous life. He became a successful farmer, married twice, and fathered thirteen children. All of his children married. They gave him at least 87 grandchildren, and maybe more.

Before the end of the nineteenth century, his descendants had spread into a great number of families. In addition to being profusely scattered throughout New England, some were in the Mid-Atlantic states, some in Mid-West states from Kansas to Wisconsin, and some had even reached California.

How many little (or large and dramatic) twists of fate during Benjamin’s life had impacted the lives of all those families?

Five of his children were born before the Revolutionary War, three were born during the war, and five were born after. How many times could part or all of the subsequent chain of events of the unfolding of family history been eliminated by an arrow, a musket ball, disease, accidents, or nature’s wrath?

What I wonder is, how many of his own descendants know that Benjamin even existed?

By now, his genes could be shared by many thousands of families, most of which, because of marriages of so many female descendants, have surnames very different than Benjamin’s. Some of the ones I have entered in the database (as of more than a century ago, 1885) are Ames, Avery, Batchelder, Boardman, Bowers, Chamberlain, Clark, Cotlee, Culver, Dorchin, Fessenden, Hillyer, Hobart, Hodge, Howell, Kendrick, Lyon, Martin, Miller, Mower, Perry, Phillips, Pratt, Raymond, Richards, Robinson, Ryder, Twitchell, Wadsworth, Waite, and Willson.

Could Benjamin be one of your great-great-great-great-grandfathers?