#170: Will Rogers Meets Buck Brown

170.1  Dear Stolf: Will Rogers is one of my favorites…just heard for the first time that he was of Cherokee descent. Is this true?  …Society Slim, Rope City OK

will inset 1170.2  Dear Sosh: I’m with you on both counts…he’s one of my favorites too, and I too had never heard that…altho I see where he did once remark: “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they were there to meet the boat.” The figure I see quoted again and again on the net is 9/32, slightly more than 1/4.

170.3  Is 9/32 even possible?…absolutely…just work your powers of 2. You have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 2G grandparents, and 32 3G grandparents. If 9 of those 32 are Cherokee and 23 are something else, then you are 9/32 Cherokee and 23/32 something else…just that simple. There are endless ways to work it…if none of your 3G grandparents are full blood, then 2 4G’s  are the equivalent…1/64 + 1/64 = 1/32, like that. Or going in the other direction, a full blood 2G grandparent will account for 2 3G’s…a great grandparent, 4 3G’s…just have enough to add up to 9.

603170.4  After a lot of digging, I come up with Chart 603. And the numbers check out as you can see below, right back to the requisite 9 3G grandparents.

604Now I should point out that there are 2 areas of controversy…who exactly were Will’s grandfather Robert Rogers’ parents, and who exactly where his great grandfather Avery Vann’s parents. Plug in the alternate candidates, and the fractions are all off. But what you see in Chart 603 appears to be the consensus…trouble is, there were an awful lot of Vanns and Rogers along the Trail of Tears from Georgia to Oklahoma, some with Cherokee blood and some without, and many with the same given name.

170.5  On the other hand, neither Chart 603 nor the opposing theories jibe with what Will Rogers himself once said: “My father was one-eighth Cherokee and my mother was a quarter-blood Cherokee. I never got far enough in arithmetic to figure out how much injun that made me, but there’s nothing of which I am prouder than my Cherokee blood.” He agrees on his mother’s side, it’s the father’s side where there’s a question. One thing you learn in the study of genealogy is that while you’d expect people, especially famous people, to have the correct information about their own family, sometimes they don’t…strange but true.

inset v170.6  I should also mention that with Vanns in his pedigree, it is often said that Will Rogers was related to the famous half-blood chief James Vann. That hinges on whether James and Avery Vann were half-brothers or step-brothers…if they were any sort of brothers at all. We know that James’ mother was Wa-Wli Otterlifter…I’ve also seen that as Wah-Li and Waw-Wle…when baptized as a Christian she became Mary Christianna, nicknamed Polly or Molly. She was apparently married to another Vann before Clement…he did raise James as his own, but it is not known whether he was James’ biological father. You might wonder how a half-blood could be a Chief…the Cherokee in those days reckoned kinship only thru the mother’s line…if your mother was, so were you, regardless of your father…and if she wasn’t, you weren’t either, even if your father was, get it?

170.7  But I said “in those days” because today membership in most tribes is based on “blood quantum,” which is simply the fraction you get from your ancestors….anywhere from ½ to 1/32. Two of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes do it that way, but the largest, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, requires no set amount, only proven lineal descent. The Cherokee as a whole were very keen to adopt white men’s customs, and in 1825 they decided that Cherokee status would be extended to the children of Cherokee men who married non-Cherokee women, which as I said had not been the traditional way.

170.8  Dear Stolf: Following up on your columns about the “Dick Van Dyke Show”… after it ended, wasn’t it revealed that Richie grew up to be gay? …from Harding Deifenthaler, New New Rochelle, TX

inset 2170.9  Dear Harding: Yes and no, but mostly no. In an episode of the 1979 series “The Mary Tyler Moore Hour,” guest star Dick Van Dyke fantasizes about what happened to the characters…Alan Brady’s show has been off the air for 5 years and he is dead…Buddy and Sally are in Hollywood writing movies…Laura runs a boutique and is in group therapy…and Rob himself is writing for a show called “Navy Chimps” and has a gut. And yes, he imagines that Richie is in a punk rock group called the Festering Sores and is living with his boyfriend Harold.

170.10  Mind you, this is all in Rob’s imagination…why inset 3he would think his son would turn out gay is anyone’s guess. In 158 episodes over 5 seasons, I believe they only did one gay gag. That was the 4th season episode “Baby Fat,” where Rob is working on a broadway show and has a run-in with the costume designer Buck Brown, played by Richard Erdman in typically “exaggerated” fashion…“Sorry I flared”…that sort of thing. Later he mentions Buck Brown to Laura and she asks: “The cowboy star?” And Rob replies: “Hardly.”

170.11  But the real story is in the 2004 TV special “The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.” You might want to watch it, so I won’t reveal any spoilers…except to say that Alan isn’t dead and Rich is married with children. And Larry Matthews is also a married hetero…did you know both he and Rose Marie are Italian, and share a birthday, August 15th?

170.12  Dear Stolf: I came across this in a discussion on cousins and I’m confused. I thought having double cousins meant on both sides of the family, but here it’s only on one side, the fathers’ sides. What gives?  …from Smitty Jones, Ingenzothen, Guam

inset 4171.13   Dear Smitty: You’re right as far as double 1st cousins go. If you and Zack have fathers who are brothers and mothers who are sisters, you and Zack are 1st cousins on both sides, as you said. But to be 2nd cousins, you need to have grandparents who are siblings, and you have 4 grandparents, compared to only 2 parents…so to double up on 2nd cousins, the grandparents could be on the same side or on different sides…all you need among your grandparents is 2 pairs of siblings.

605171.14   That’s what’s happening here…except instead of double any one kind of cousins, we have both 2nd and 3rd cousins. The fathers X and Y are irregular double cousins…they are 2nd cousins because X‘s father A and Y‘s mother B are 1st cousins…and they are 1st cousins because X‘s mother C and Y‘s father D are siblings. What makes it slightly tricky is that the parents are not brother/brother and sister/sister but 2 mixed pairs. Since X and Y are both 1st and 2nd cousins, their offspring are both 2nd and 3rd cousins…check.


171.15  Beel-za-whatever is also correct about his second claim…his mother’s 1st cousin E marrying his paternal grandmother C‘s brother F…aka his father’s uncle and his grand uncle…makes his 1st cousin once removed ascending also his grand aunt thru marriage. All in all, I’d say he’s got a pretty good handle on a complicated family…and kudos, sez me. But suppose E and F have offspring G…how is G related to Beel and to the trio of girl cousins? Answers after wicked ballsy below.

wicked ballsy

wicked ball

I always liked that line, altho I’d assumed it was from a modern comedian…jokes about death are fine, but this seemed a bit explicit, or as they say today “edgy.” Surprised it goes back to ole Will Rogers…and for the record, both his grandfathers died decades before the invention of the horseless carriage, which does make me a little suspicious of the attribution, but for now I’ll accept it. Perhaps it was simply too good a line for him to pass up…

Quiz Answers…Taking the trio of sisters first, they are related to G in only one way, thru their paternal grandfather D. Since D and F are brothers, G is 1st cousin to the trio’s father Y, and thus 1st cousin once removed to them. As for Beel, he is related to G in 2 ways, thru both of G‘s parents. Beel’s mother and G‘s mother are 1st cousins, so Beel and G are 2nd cousins…and since F is the uncle of Beel’s father X, G and X are 1st cousins, making Beel and G 1st cousins once removed.


 Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



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