Who’s Your Grandaddy?

On a whim, I signed up for a free, fourteen-day trial at Ancestry.com yesterday. I was doing on-line research for a writing project, I wondered about personal connections with historic events, one thing lead to another. . . .  The advertisements don’t lie. With a few keystrokes, I was able to see images of actual, hand-written census records—even one that listed my dad at age two. My initial, unspecified curiosity soon changed to focused, in-depth search. A couple of hours passed before I came up for air.

When I was growing up, it was occasionally mentioned that we were related to Abraham Lincoln through the Hanks branch of my family. Yes, that Abraham Lincoln. I called a distant relative in the early 90s and uncovered enough evidence to create a family tree for Daniel’s class assignment that illustrated our sixteenth president and Daniel as first cousins, seven times removed. Daniel’s desk-top display included original artwork (a sturdy tree decorated with the appropriate names linking us with the President) and a Lincoln Log cabin. The tree poster got lost somewhere along the way, but that claim-to-fame did not. This new access to virtually unlimited documentation via Ancestry.com provided me the means to recreate that family tree, this time backed up by Carbonite.

There is some mystery surrounding the parentage of Nancy Hanks, Lincoln’s mother. She may have been born out of wedlock and adopted by James Hanks, my multi-great grandfather. Regardless, the names and dates on the census reports, marriage records, and complementing family trees line up to confirm our family lore. Abraham Lincoln’s status in American history cannot be denied even though both current representations of him, the Oscar-winner Lincoln and the campy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, have taken several liberties with the facts. I am very happy to have defined our connection with him.

My favorite quote from this famous cousin is below. Once upon a time, I gave my mom a music box with this quote written across the top.


“All I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”  ~Abraham Lincoln

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