What Is the Real Story Behind Hillary Clinton’s Ancestry?

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[Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons]
Hillary Rodham Clinton has been First Lady, Senator from New York, and Secretary of State. Next year, she hopes to add another title to her resume: President of the United States of America.

Clinton is the early front-runner to win the Democratic Party’s nomination in the 2016 presidential race, and if she makes it to the White House, she would become the first woman to hold the office. She would also create a new dynasty as the second President Clinton, joining the likes of the Adamses, Roosevelts, and Bushes.

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So how did this formidable woman get to be here, on the cusp of making history? Her background has been the subject of some controversy, as Clinton herself has misspoken about her ancestors.

While speaking in Iowa about immigration policy in April 2015, Clinton claimed that all of her grandparents were immigrants. “All my grandparents, you know, came over here and … my grandfather went to work in a lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and worked there until he retired at 65,” she said. However, only one of her grandparents — Hugh Rodham Sr. , that lace factory worker — immigrated to the U.S. as a child. The rest were born in this country.

However, seven of Clinton’s eight great-grandparents were immigrants, primarily from Northern England and Wales. Her lineage includes English, Welsh, Scottish, French, and French Canadian ancestry.


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This makes her family tree a relatively young one in the U.S. Compare that to her husband, Bill, whose eight great-grandparents were all born in this country.

Through her French Canadian branch, Clinton is distantly related to both Angelina Jolie and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Jolie is her ninth cousin twice removed and the Duchess her ninth cousin once removed, through Clinton’s great-grandmother Delia Martin, who was half French, half French Canadian. Delia’s grandmother’s French Canadian ancestors have links to many celebs — Clinton is also related through them to Madonna!

Two sets of her great-grandparents settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Though Clinton is a proponent of clean energy, coal mining runs in her family. Her English and Welsh ancestors worked at that occupation, and in her autobiography, she calls them “black-haired Welsh coal miners.” Once they came to America, they worked in factories, as mechanics, and as policemen.

So perhaps Clinton neglected to add the word “great” in her speech, but what she said of her ancestors’ grit was true: “They worked hard, they kept the faith, they lifted themselves up into the middle class, they brought property.” And now, their descendant just might become the next POTUS.

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— Kelly Woo