President's Day 2021: Is Our New Commander-in-Chief a Mayflower Descendant?

This President's Day, we're taking a look at which U.S. Presidents can also trace their roots to Mayflower passengers. Which ones are on your family tree?

Monday, Feb. 15, 2021 is President’s Day, the national celebration of both President Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays which also honors all U.S. presidents. This national day of patriotism is an opportunity to celebrate our country’s rich heritage and history. For GSMD members, these commemorations are especially poignant, as we go from celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing in Plymouth last year (during a global pandemic, no less) and look forward to celebrating the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving this fall. Of course, in 2020 we also elected a brand new President, former vice president Joe Biden. Is our new Commander-in-Chief among those who count Mayflower passengers as ancestors? Read on to find out!

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Would it surprise you to learn that neither Lincoln nor Washington descended from Mayflower passengers? As you’re celebrating and commemorating our nation’s leaders today, let’s take a look at which U.S. presidents are Mayflower cousins!

The U.S. presidents that can trace their roots to passengers on the Mayflower’s historic voyage include:

  • President John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd President of the United States, descendant of John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden, and William Mullins;
  • President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), 6th President, descendant of John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden, and William Mullins;
  • President George H. W. Bush (1924-2018), 41st President, descendant of John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, Francis Cooke, and John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley;
  • President George W. Bush (1946- ), 43rd President, descendant of John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, Francis Cooke, John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley, and Henry Samson;
  • Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th President, descendant of Edward Doty;
  • President James A. Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President, descendant of John and Elinor Billington, and Francis Billington;
  • President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th President, descendant of Richard and Elizabeth (Walker) Warren;
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd President, descendant of Issac Allerton, Francis Cooke, John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, Degory Priest, John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley, and Richard and Elizabeth (Walker) Warren.
  • President Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), 12th President, descendant of Isaac Allerton, and William and Mary Brewster.

Now onto our most recent presidents...

Barack Obama, 44th President, deserves an honorable mention for having Pilgrim roots; however, he is not a direct descendant of a Mayflower passenger. His ancestor, Thomas Blossom, had his sights set on the New World and boarded the Speedwell, sister ship of the Mayflower; however, a leak forced the ship to turn around. Blossom and his wife left Leiden for Plymouth nine years after the initial settlement arrived, on a ship also called the Mayflower.

And while President Donald Trump, no. 45, does have some British heritage, he traces most of his ancestry to Scotland and Germany and is not known to have descended from any Mayflower passengers.

Our 46th President – born Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. – is best known for his Irish ancestry, but he also has English roots. Any ties he has to the Mayflower Pilgrims, however, are not yet known. President Biden identifies as Irish-American more than anything, it seems; he even has his own mural in Ballina, County Mayo, the root of his maternal ancestral line. Biden visited his ancestral hometown back in 2016, when he was then vice president. On his father's side, the Biden surname goes back to Westbourne, Sussex.

Due to President Biden's upbringing, however, he is probably in no hurry to research his English lineage. According to Megan Smolyenak, a genealogist who has researched the Biden family tree, "Joe Biden's heritage is five-eighths Irish and he was raised by a 100 percent Irish-Catholic mother, which means he was seeped in this tradition."

Still, perhaps the President might be curious about his English side, particularly with another Pilgrim anniversary on the horizon? 

"I imagine he will be interested to learn the truth" of his heritage, Smolyenak said in a UK news article dated January 14, 2021. "But for the moment," she added, "he's got a few more pressing matters on his mind." 

Perhaps some influential Mayflower genealogists can encourage our President to explore his ancestry in more depth one day? Maybe when he has a little more free time on his hands... Genealogy is one of the top hobbies in America, after all! 

While we may not be able to count our last three Presidents as GSMD members (yet!), there are a number of vice presidents, statesmen and women, and celebrities that are known Mayflower descendants. Read through our list of notable descendants and see who’s part of your family tree!

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