NEHGS Confirms Obama and “Wild Bill” Hickok are Cousins

New England Historic Genealogical Society put out the following press release yesterday:


Obama Family lore talks of distant relationship to “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Boston, MA – July 30, 2008 – New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston has confirmed what Presidential candidate Barack Obama mentioned today in a Springfield Missouri speech.

During the speech, Senator Obama said, “If Senator McCain wants a debate about taxes in this campaign, I’m ready. Wild Bill Hickok had his first duel in the town square here. And the family legend is that he is a distant cousin of mine.”

Obama spoke of a family lore that tells of his being a distant cousin to legendary American west lawman, gambler, and gunfighter “Wild Bill” Hickok. NEHGS Staff genealogist Chris Child was quickly able to track down the information and confirm that it is indeed, true.

Obama and Hickok are sixth cousins, six-times removed. Their common ancestor is Thomas Blossom, who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1629 from Leiden, Holland. Obama’s 4th great-grandfather, Jacob Dunham, was 6th cousins with Wild Bill. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann, is also a Dunham.

“The ancestry of Wild Bill Hickok was published by NEHGS some years back, which showed he descended from the Blossom family of Cape Cod, an early family written up in one of our scholarly publications,” said Child. He added, “Since we had also recently done the ancestry of Senator Obama, finding this connection was a little easier.”

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New at Ancestry

Ancestry____logo1.bmpPosted This Week

Weekly Planner: Shop Back-to-School Sales

It’s like Christmas for genealogists! The flyers are already in mailboxes announcing boxes of pens and pencils for 10 cents, binders and folders on sale at bargain prices. This is a great time to restock your family history office supplies. Take a few minutes to assess your needs and head for the nearest office supply or big box store with fliers in hand. Put the money you save back into the “genealogical piggy-bank” to use towards your other family history needs.

Saving the Stories in Family Albums, by Maureen Taylor

One reader posted a comment to my Between the Covers article about a family album from 1864 that’s survived smoke damage and is now in terrible shape. The acidic paper used in the manufacture of the pages is now brittle and easily falls apart.  She’s wondering what to do with it now. She asked a series of questions about preserving this heirloom. What she’d like to do is remove all the photos, scan them and then preserve them. That’s a good plan, but it doesn’t address all her questions.  I’m going to answer each her questions one at a time.

“Should I just go ahead and remove the photos?”
Each album tells a story and offers clues about who’s who in the collection of images. Before removing the photos from an album it’s a good idea to photograph or scan the page in its entirety so that you have a record of the original order. This also helps preserve any identifying information written on the album page.

The first photo in an album is a key family history document.  The person who laid out the book spent time selecting just the right image for that first spot. It’s usually someone important to them–husband, wife, mother, father or child. I’ve even see albums where the person who’s created the album put a picture of themselves on the opening page. Continue reading

Long Forgotten Inventors and Inventions: Check for the Brains in Your British Family, by Sherry Irvine

Britain has maintained an account of registered inventions from the seventeenth century. Descriptions of patents and names of patentees have been gathered together in an index that covers the first 235 years–more that 14,000 ideas and nearly as many names of people with clever ideas. Some inventors we read about in history class, and others may be among our ancestors. The index is not new, in fact it was the work of one man more than one hundred and fifty years ago who was driven to action by a cumbersome, expensive and frustrating system.

The Old Way
Patents were granted to individuals or companies for new products or processes, or for improvements to existing products and processes. By the 1800s the steps to obtaining a patent had become complicated. Applicants first made a declaration before a commissioner and submitted applications in several places, to the Home Office, the sovereign, the attorney general, and other officials. The fees paid were very high, for every time the patent went into another office and obtained another signature, money was required. A patent lasted for fourteen years during which time the owner had the sole and exclusive right to work or make the patent. Up until 1835 the only way to extend the period was by an act of Parliament, an even more expensive process. A measure of the silliness and unfairness of the situation is reflected in the fact that Charles Dickens chose to write about the topic: A Poor Man’s Tale of a Patent, which appeared in October 1850 in “Household Words.”

Bennet Woodcroft
Bennet Woodcroft was the man behind the reforms. He was an inventor as well as a businessman. He had more than one invention to his credit and first-hand experience left him completely frustrated with the slow process involved in checking for earlier, related inventions, and in obtaining patents for his own.

Woodcroft became the driving force behind the complete overhaul of the patents system in the United Kingdom. He complained to the government and eventually his, and the complaints of others, produced a reaction – a commission to investigate the problem. Woodcroft appeared before this group and so impressed them with his ideas that they adopted many, and appointed him commissioner of patents, a post he held until his retirement 21 years later.

Woodcroft somehow found the time to help the system, by creating three indexes to all patents granted by the Crown from 1617 to 1852: alphabetical by surnames of inventors, chronological, and according to subjects. It is his index to inventors by name that is of interest to genealogists. He was also keenly interested in the history of machinery and under his leadership the Patent Office had its own museum. This eventually became part of the Science Museum in London. Some of its finest exhibits are the result of Woodcroft’s early collecting. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Check Local Historical Societies for Family Photos, from George G. Morgan

If you’ve been unsuccessful locating photographs of your family members, or if you have old photos and cannot identify the people, make contact with the local, county, or state historical society where they lived. Their archives may contain just the information you need to make the connection in identifying photographs of your family members. They may also have city directories, telephone directories, school yearbooks, letters, diaries, and newspaper clippings unavailable anywhere else. Older members also may have recollections of your family members.

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Your Quick Tips, 28 July 2008

Buried Tombstones
My step son’s family comes from rural Missouri. He and his mother went to find the old family cemetery and after “beating the bushes” and hiking through tall grass could find very little other than a few fence posts and depressions. An old local farmer watched for a while and queried them on their purpose there. Once he was convinced they were, indeed, the family members of those buried on the property he explained why they could not find the gravestones. It seems that years ago the family members who visited the burial ground noticed how faded and worn the markers were. So they laid them down and buried them under four to six inches of soil. The farmer showed my step-son and his mother where to look and they spent the rest of the day uncovering markers and recording their information.

Kathleen Libbey
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Continue reading

The Year Was 1838

budapest-resize.bmpThe year was 1838, and in the Hungarian city of Pest and Obuda–“Old Buda”–(which would both form part of Budapest in 1873) the month of March brought devastating flooding of the Danube. Churches and synagogues gave shelter and aid to the flood victims, and Franz Liszt the famous composer and pianist returned to Hungary to give concerts to raise money for the victims.

In the U.K. Chartism was born with the publication of the People’s Charter, drawn up to give the working class better representation in government. It asked for universal suffrage for males, secret ballots, general elections to be held annually, and reorganized electoral districts to be of equal size. It also asked for the removal of the requirement for members of Parliament to own property and asked for them to be paid a salary. Although the Chartist movement eventually failed, many of the reforms in the People’s Charter eventually came to pass through later legislation.

Across the ocean, the northern border of Maine was under dispute and the “Aroostook War” (which was more of a stand-off than a war) began in 1838. Canadian loggers from New Brunswick ventured into the disputed land along the Aroostook River and Canadians captured a Maine expedition sent to remove the loggers. Militias from both sides were sent to the border, but it’s rumored that only the only casualty was a pig that wandered into the area from Canada, and a cow that found itself in a similar circumstance. A temporary truce was reached in 1839 and the matter was settled for good in 1842 with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. Continue reading

Photo Corner, 28 July 2008

Omer and Myrtle (Moon) Noble and my Dad, Lloyd Noble and his sister Helen taken circa 1912 in Kansas City, MOSubmitted by Jane Slaughter
They are my Grandparents Omer and Myrtle (Moon) Noble and my Dad, Lloyd Noble and his sister Helen taken circa 1912 in Kansas City, MO. 

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Homer Clarence Pitcock, and his sister, Bertie MayContributed by Bernice Pitcock Tipton, Spring, Texas
This is a picture of my father, Homer Clarence Pitcock, and his sister, Bertie May. Homer was born 09 Sept. 1913, and his sister was about two years old in this picture. Their parents were Greenberry Henry Pitcock and Della Mae Barber Pitcock.