Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on April 10, 2014 in Ask Ancestry Anne

You are probably familiar with one of TV’s most famous blended families, The Brady Bunch.  I bet many of you can sing the theme song. (And sorry if I put it in your head…I didn’t want to be alone!)

And I bet if you’ve been working on your family history for even just a little while you have at least one or two in your tree.  But can you beat more than 20 children in a blended family? Let me tell you about George Gillespie.

image01George Gillespie was born sometime around 1731 most likely in Virginia. He married a woman named Mary.  No one seems to know for sure what her maiden name is, but many believe it to be Moore as two of her 12 children had Moore as a middle name. George and Mary had at least 12 children that lived to adulthood. We know this because all 12 are named in his estate settlement in 1830.

The children were: William, Sherrod Moore, Francis Fanni, Letitia Moore, Lucy, Elizabeth, Alexander, Sarah Sally, George, Dicey, Lewis, and Nancy.

That in itself must have been quite the household. Mary, the mother of this brood, is believed to have died sometime before 1785. George then married Mary Saunders, the widow of Charles Farris (1710-1779). Charles and Mary had at least 10 children: James, Mary, Richard, William, John, Hezekiah, Charles, Nancy, Sarah, and Elizabeth.

Now, no doubt all those children were not living with George and the second Mary between 1785 and 1803.  But we do know that some of them were closer than others.

George Gillespie, the younger, married Mary Faris in 1790; Lewis Gillespie married Elizabeth Betsy Faris in 1800 in Amherst, Virginia.  And when George the elder died in 1803, George and Mary, Lewis and Elizabeth, and the widow Mary moved to Franklin County, Tennessee.  I guess you just never know where you will find the love of your life!

So can you beat more than 20 children in a blended family?

Happy Searching!


Anne Gillespie Mitchell

Anne Gillespie Mitchell is a Senior Product Manager at She is an active blogger on and writes the Ancestry Anne column. She has been chasing her ancestors through Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina for many years. Anne holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook and Finding Forgotten Stories.


  1. Carolyn R. Paulger

    28 children 17 from just one man John Edward Roland 1878-1948
    My grandfather had 14 children(8 males 1 female lived to adulthood) by his 1st wife (census & death cert proven)2nd wife brought 5 children with her then they had 3 more .This in adjoining county to Franklin. Fayetteville, Lincoln, Tn. The 2nd wife’s eldest daughter married the youngest son of the 1st wife. They were my parents. My poor grandmother died 1933 at 53.
    Carolyn R. Paulger

  2. Carrie Portlance

    I have a 4th great-grandfather, Isaac Lockman, that was married 4 times (at least 1 divorce), that fathered 16 children between wives 1, 2, & 4, and had 5 step-kids from wife #2 (my ancestor), 1 step-son from wife #3 & 1 step-daughter from wife #4. For a total of 23 children (that I know of).

  3. Michael D. Brooks

    My ggg grandfather, John Walker, had 20 children, at least 17 of whom lived to maturity. He had 10 by his first wife, Rebecca Kelly, who died in 1824. He then married my ggg grandmother, Elizabeth (Little) Butcher, a recent widow and neighbor, who brought 2 young children to the marriage. John and Elizabeth then had 10 more children, the 5th being my gg grandmother, Susan Tracy Walker. John’s 20 children had at least 99 children, and probably a few more. There would have been even more but one of John’s sons by his first marriage had four sons and a son-in-law who died in the Civil War. The 99 children had at least 360 children of their own (John’s great grand children). I have calculated that the 360+ had at least 1000 to 1200 children and those 1000+ had (have) 3000-4000 children, John’s ggg grandchildren, one of which is me. Many of these ggg grandchildren (and their children and grandchildren) still live within a few miles of where John lived and died in Washington County, Georgia. Many more are in Florida, Alabama, Texas and, of course, many other States.

  4. Lorraine Ellis

    One of my direct ancestors had 23 children by just 2 different wives.

    Joseph Hood, born 1769 in Topsfield, MA, Died 1855 in Amherst, MA.
    His first child was born in 1794, and the last one in 1850, when he was 81! He’d had 12 kids with his first wife, when she died sometime after 1812. He waited a few years, got remarried in 1829, at the age of 60, and 8 months later started popping them out again – 11 more in 21 years. His second wife was only 18 – just a year older than his youngest daughter from his first marriage.

  5. Deb

    My 2nd great-grandfather had 7 children by his first marriage; only 3 living to adulthood. He had 9 children by his second marriage; 6 living to adulthood. His second wife had 2 children from her previous marriage; both living to adulthood. It doesn’t beat your count, but you can’t be the family saying they had:

    “Your kids and my kids are fighting with our kids.”

  6. Karen Cook

    My husband’s maternal third great grandfather, Francis “Frank” Lytle, Jr. (1796-1880) was married seven times. Those wives blest him with 29 children. One wife, the widow of John Benbow, Charity Mendenhall Benbow, was the mother of 16 children and Frank’s fourth wife. Wife # 5 Lucinda/Rosinda Hoggatt Rich had given birth to at least six when they married, while wife # 6 Susanah Said Wright was the mother of four. Charity’s son, Moses Benbow and Frank’s daughter Jane are my husband’s second great grandparents. Frank was the father of 29 and the step-father of at least 26.

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