130.1 Dear Friends: OK, so I’m a little behind the times…
130.2 To wit, last fall the movie “Lincoln” came out, with Daniel Day-Lewis’ tour-de-force in the title role. And yes, I missed it when, presumably to snag a little publicity for themselves, Ancestry.com announced that George Clooney was related to Abraham Lincoln…which I guess was their way of saying Day-Lewis wasn’t, nez pah? Now to be honest with you, I have some serious reservations about Ancestry.com’s funky “free trial period” offer…give them your credit card information and Lord knows what kind of “mistakes” can be made…better to locate a library that has the Library Edition for really free.
130.3 But I’ve found their info to be pretty sound, so I would tend to trust this Clooney connection…I took their diagram and modified it as Chart 451…I thought it needed pictures so you’d be absolutely clear who they were talking about… 😉 😉 Now the fact that all the relations down from Mary Ann Sparrow are halfs means she was a half-sister of Lincoln’s mother…and I’ve verified that to be correct. This account employs the proper amount of genealogical specificity as far as I’m concerned, so I’m satisfied with their conclusion, half-1st cousin 5 times removed.
130.4 You should bear in mind that Clooney is not a direct descendant, but a collateral one. After all, there are documented cases of people related to George Washington, but none, zip, zero descended from him, since he and Martha had no children. In fact, assuming the information I found (below) on the internet is correct, the last surviving descendant of Lincoln died almost 30 years ago…and all together he only had 10, of any generation, marked in the yellow boxes.
130.5 All very interesting, and it was there I was ready to lay the matter to rest…when something occurred to me. When you’re dealing with presidential pedigrees, the name Hanks is a definite red flag…it’s something that had been in the back of my mind, under a bunch of magazines, but out it popped. It’s the continuing controversy, alive and well after over 150 years, as to the precise identity and origins of Abraham Lincoln’s maternal grandparents, that is, the parents of his mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln. I can safely say, without fear of contradiction, that this is the #1 all-time genealogical puzzle…I mean, it’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN, right? Professional historians…as well as earnest amateurs, both those who believe themselves to be relatives and simply interested outsiders like me…have churned up an enormous amount of conflicting information, theories, and scenarios.
130.6 Far more than I can cover here, except to give you a introductory taste of it…if you’re looking to shut out the cares of the world, you could do worse than taking up the question of Lincoln’s family tree…more addicting even than Candy Crush! Now there is a consensus, true…but it is not universally accepted. First tho, to get us grounded, a quick look at the Lincoln side of the family, which is pretty much settled…
130.7 Abraham Lincoln’s father Thomas had known Sarah Bush since childhood…they both married the same year, and both lost their spouses relatively soon after….Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks died when he was 9 years old, and his step-mother arrived on the scene a year later, along with 3 step-siblings. Lincoln was very fond of her, and said he believed he got his sense of humor from her. And BTW…looking at his namesake grandfather Abraham, how cool is having a grandmother named Bathsheba?
130.8 On the Hanks side, things are considerable more disheveled. The prevailing opinion is what’s presented in Chart 453. Great grandfather Joseph Hanks had 9 children, and Grandma Lucy Hanks had Lincoln’s mother Nancy out of wedlock when she was still a teenager. Family lore had it that this unknown grandfather was of the gentry class, a wealthy Virginia landowner…the family moved from Virginia to Kentucky right around this time…Lincoln was born in Kentucky, and they moved to Indiana just before his mother died. Lucy Hanks had a second illegitimate daughter, Sarah or Sally Hanks…and was ultimately criminally charged with fornication, a charge withdrawn when she married Henry Sparrow.
130.9 Lincoln himself believed his mother to be a “love child”…altho he famously said: “I don’t know who my grandfather was…I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” Lucy and Henry Sparrow raised 9 children, and by all accounts she was a “good Christian woman,” beloved and respected in the community. But you must understand that while many of the famous founding families were wealthy Virginians, there were many dirt poor ones as well…and these were sometimes a bit, shall we say, “lackadaisical” about officially tying the knot. They even had a way to say it: some of your kith and kin were married regular, others were not…that was life. “Fatherless” children could originate in various ways…a single liaison, a protracted love affair, or what we would call a “common law” marriage. How else could Nancy’s daughter Sally have 6, count ’em 6, in her bastard brood…the oldest of which, Sofia, lived with Abe and his parents for a time.
130.10 But there was certainly some stigma attached, which is why such a child often went to live with other relatives…thus, Nancy was first raised by her grandparents Joseph and “Nanny” Hanks. When Joseph died in 1793, Nanny left Kentucky to go back to Virginia…and Nancy then went to live with her mother’s sister Elizabeth, who happened to be married to Lucy’s brother-in-law Thomas Sparrow. She called them mother and father, and for a time was known as Nancy Sparrow. In fact, as a child, Lincoln knew Elizabeth as his “granny,” his mother’s mother, when she was really his mother’s aunt. Likewise, to him it was Aunt Lucy and Uncle Henry…it wasn’t until much later that he learned they were actually his grandmother and step-grandfather. Not for nothing, but another bastard, Dennis Hanks, was also raised by Elizabeth Hanks Sparrow, and in adult life he appears to have been the most vociferous in trying to establish an honorable reputation for all concerned.
130.11 At any rate, that is the way the story is told by most of the leading experts and biographers today. The opposing point of view, a minority opinion to be sure but still one with many adherents, is that Lucy Hanks was not a Hanks by birth but instead by marriage…said marriage rendering daughter Nancy legitimate after all. Thus student and teacher alike have a right to be puzzled when they read the information put forth by the National Parks Service and the Kentucky State Parks Department regarding Lincoln’s birthplace…both state unequivocally that Lucy was born Lucy Shipley, and that she was married to Nancy’s father James, a son of Joseph Hanks.
130.12 This is the saga of the Five Shipley Sisters, as outlined in Chart 454. In 1938 Louis Warren wrote a book…mainstream mind you, published by Doubleday…called “The Lincoln Kinsmen” in which he aimed to refute the “lies” so long accepted as fact concerning Lincoln’s origins. As to this James Hanks, you will notice he does not appear on Chart 453…indeed, he is supposed to have been born around the time Lucy was, except of course by this account she wasn’t, at least not into the Hanks family, but the Shipleys. Many historians feel this version has been successfully debunked, but obviously not officially, as the tourist brochures I mentioned in 130.11 testify.
130.13 And while Chart 454 sums up the standard Lucy-Was-Married-to-Nancy’s-Father scenario…it is what you will find at Uncle Wiki for instance, altho they don’t mention sisters Ann or Margaret…it is no by means the only one…gosh, I could probably have charted out a dozen more if I had a mind to…but one will do…
130.14 Chart 455 is the story told in the 1899 book “The Shipley Ancestry of Lincoln’s Mother,” written by Catherine Hanks Hitchcock…yes, she’s a relative, clearly with an axe to grind. And an astonishingly different version it is…only one of the 5 Shipley sisters even has the same name…that of Lucy…yet it is not Lucy Shipley who is Nancy Hanks’ mother, but her sister Nancy Shipley, who didn’t marry a son of Joseph Hanks…but Joseph Hanks himself! The other way, Joseph Hanks’ wife is one Ann Lee, also known as Nancy or Nanny. But there’s more…Elizabeth Sparrow is now a Shipley, not a Hanks…and to top it all, the oldest sister Mary Shipley is the first wife of Abe Lincoln’s grandfather Abraham, and the mother of his first 3 children, who are now Thomas’ half-siblings!
130.15 So by this account, did Thomas Lincoln marry a relative? No…the most you can say is his wife’s aunt was his father’s first wife, and mother of his half-siblings…which is to say, his half-siblings’ aunt, but not his aunt, was his mother-in-law…pretty sure that’s it. Still, if these are the crazy kind of twists and turns you relish, I heartily advice you to take up Nancy Hanks Lincoln as a hobby…and to that end…
130.16 …other clues to peruse: Nancy Hank’s parents were William Hanks and Keziah Wright….or her parents were Abraham Hanks and Sarah Harper, Abraham being James Hanks’ father’s 1st cousin…and while you’re at it, consider the possibility that Lincoln’s biological father was not Thomas Lincoln but Abraham Enlow or Enloe…and that Lincoln might have had black and Indian forebears, thru the tri-racial Melungeons…or that he was Jewish, Lucy Hanks’ mystery paramour being a Rothschild, an American offshoot line whose surname was Springs.
130.17 But if it were me, the first thing I’d check towards untangling this mess would be the possibility that at that time and place there were as any as 3 different Joseph Hanks…yes, yet another case of the name’s-the-same, the ultimate bugaboo of genealogical research. Anyway, good luck!…and watch out for eye strain…
Another one I missed, from earlier this year, was a documentary on the National Geographic Channel based on Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Lincoln.” Tom Hanks was the narrator, and evidence was proffered that he too was related to Lincoln, as 3rd cousin 4 times removed…something along the lines of Chart 456.
Now you might wonder, if the “minority report” were true, that Nancy Hanks was not illegitimate…or at least the principle version of it, Chart 454…how would this effect Clooney and Tom Hanks? Barely…because they’d both remain related to Lincoln. In Clooney’s case, it would then be thru the Shipleys, not thru the Hanks, since his 4G grandmother Mary Ann Sparrow would no longer be a Hanks at all. As for Tom, he’d still be related to Lincoln thru the Hanks, only now thru Nancy’s father James Hanks and not thru her mother Lucy Shipley…get it…got it…good.
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