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  • William B. Taylor

Good & Bad Family History

This past week I spent a few days down in Houston, Texas for business. With my family background, it's hard not to think of my ancestors and distant cousins when I arrive at an airport named after one of them!

This weekend was Family Day in Ontario, and President's Day Weekend in the US so I thought I would spend some time researching my family tree with focus on US President's that I am related to. I already knew of a few, but by the time I finished my research, I discovered that I am directly related to no fewer than 22 of the 45 US Presidents. When I include my cousins who were also First Ladies, that number increases to 28. Not too shabby considering I always thought of myself as a Canadian!

During the course of my research I also made some other interesting familial discoveries, some good, and a few not so good. Rather than ignore some of the bad apples in the family tree, I am whole-heartedly adding them to my family history. As the old saying goes, you can choose your friends and you can choose your enemies, but you can't choose your family!

Some of the "baddies" on the list include:

Frank and Jesse James, infamous robbers and murders who terrorized the West.

Lee Harvey Oswald, who, depending on what you believe, assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

King Henry VII, who had a habit of separating his wives' heads from their bodies rather than go through a messy divorce (3 of his wives were also my cousins).

Lizzie Borden, accused of hacking her father and step-mother to death (although she was acquitted at trial).

The good is much better though, and includes a surprising number of singers:

Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, founders of The Beach Boys and a favorite group of mine.

Mike Love, cousin to the Wilson boys, who's mother was also my cousin.

Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson above, and singers in their own right.

James Taylor and his first wife (who is not my cousin, but still a favorite of mine), Carly Simon.

Mary Chapin Carpenter, a 5 time Grammy award winner and a singer who happens to be on my play list (although, to be completely honest, I had no idea who she was!), is also a cousin of mine.


With family history research, you have to learn how to take the good with the bad. History should not be cleansed or rewritten in order to suit your vision of what it should be, but rather told as it was, and hopefully we all learn from the mistakes that were made. Each family is a mixture of good and bad, ordinary and extraordinary. Embrace each one of your ancestors...they are all a part of what makes you, you.



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