1st President of the United States
11th Paternal Cousin, 9x removed
Much like the lady on the Ancestry.com commercial, I was surprised to discover that I was related to the 1st President of the United States, General George Washington. Even more surprising, I had no idea that George Washington was descended from royalty as everything I have heard about him was about his dislike for the English. Yet it's true, George Washington had royal genes and he and I are both descendants of King Edward I.
King Edward was George's 13th Great-Grandfather, and my 22nd Great-Grandfather. Even more interesting, President Washington and I share more than one familial link aside from our common grandparents.
As I have been researching my family ancestry over the past 2 decades, I have come across a number of relatives who not only served in the Continental forces that was lead by then General Washington, but also a number of them that served directly under his command, and several more who met him (including other paternal relatives in the UK). I was impressed by these stories that had been passed down through the last 2 centuries, but to find out that one of my distant relatives was actually the commander of the Patriots is stunning.
Although I am Canadian by birth, Canada and the United States are closely intertwined (except for that little incident back in 1812) and share a very similar set of cultures. Growing up in Canada, the influence of American culture is significant, and as such Canadians tend to learn a lot about American history (think of the Peanuts holiday specials!). Learning about America's fight against the unfair British rule is common place here in Canada, even though Canada's ties to England remained strong well into the 20th century (we are still part of the Commonwealth, and the Queen appears on our currency, yet we remain independent of British rule).
I remember the stories of George Washington and how he lead the Patriots to victory over the well trained, oppressive British forces. We learned about his wife, Martha, and of course, we all heard the story about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree when he was a child (I cannot tell a lie...) and the story about his wooden teeth (false, by the way!).
Aside from the legend that has grown around this cousin, there are still facts that remain little known. George was born in 1732 in Pope's Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia. His father was Augustine Washington (my 10th cousin, 10x removed) and his mother was Augustine's second wife, Mary Ball. George had 2 half-brothers, Lawrence and Augustine, from his father's first marriage. George also had 5 other siblings: Elizabeth, Samuel, John, Augustine, Charles and Mildred.
In 1734, when George was 2 years old, his father moved the family up the Potomac to the home which would eventually become Mount Vernon. This was not the only home that the Washingtons would know.
George's father died when he was only 11, and the bulk of his father's estate went to his elder half-brothers, Lawrence and Augustine. The remainder of his father's estate earned enough income for George's mother to raise the children, but not for luxuries like formal schooling.
George Washington never had the benefit of a college education, but he was a determined young man and he taught himself through reading and experimentation. According to historians, Washington had a zest for learning and never ceased to continue to increase his knowledge.
George Washington worked hard, saved the money that he earned, and with it purchased land. While not wealthy, George managed to gain entry in the gentry class. On January 6th, 1759, George married the wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis (another distant cousin of mine). Along with the marriage came 2 young children, Jacky and Patsy, from Martha's first marriage.
Washington love the children as his own according to accounts of his family life. Tragically, Patsy died as a teenager after suffering an epileptic seizure, and Jacky died at age 27 from "camp fever". George and Martha never had children together.
During the Revolutionary War, Martha was at George's side each year during winter quarters. After the death of Martha's son Jacky, Jacky's children came to live with the Washington's and George treated his step-grandchildren as his own.
Leading the Continental forces to victory over the British and helping to establish the United States of America is a big part of Washington's legacy, but it is not the only thing we know about this man, and many books have been written about him (some true, some embellished).
A good source for unbiased information about George Washington can be found at the following website:
In the end, George Washington left his mark on the world, and helped to found a country that was based on freedom and democracy: The United States of America. Although not perfect, the establishment of a democratically run country was long overdue, and today serves as a beacon to the rest of the world. I cannot imagine life without freedom and democracy, and without the brave actions of men like George Washington, the world may have been a very different place than what we know today.
How could you not be proud to say that man was your cousin?