Thursday, December 18, 2014

Royal Relatives


James Madison
For many genealogy researchers the goal is finding the connection to royalty. Although I haven't found any crowns in the closet, I have stumbled upon the American equivalent: a relationship to not one but two Presidents.
       My mother was a Coleman.  Last year I found a document that filled in a lot of blanks in the history of the Colemans. I discovered my earliest Coleman ancestor shows up in Virginia in 1638.
         I also discovered that the Colemans were neighbors of John Madison II, great-grandfather of President James Madison. My ancestor, Robert Coleman Jr., and John Madison attended St. Stephens Parish in New Kent County, VA. They were both listed in a petition in 1688 to replace the vestrymen at the church. In 1714, Robert's brother Daniel Coleman and John Madison were granted 2,000 acres as co-tenants in King William County.
        Robert's grandson, my ancestor James Coleman, married one of John Madison's daughters, Eleanor. Her brother, Ambrose Madison, was the grandfather of the future president. Ambrose had a plantation called Mount Pleasant on the property that would eventually become Montpelier, President Madison's home. In 1755, when the future president was just a toddler, James Coleman was godfather to his baby brother, also named Ambrose Madison.  In 1764, when the future president was just a boy of 13, his father James Madison was a witness for James Coleman's will.
       This week, as I was digging a little deeper into the documentation and deeds involved, I discovered that the 2,000-acre property that became Montpelier was a gift to the wife of Ambrose Madison, Frances Taylor, from her daddy, Col. James Taylor Jr.
        Now here's the genealogy jackpot of the day: Frances had a brother named Zachary. He wasn't the Zachary Taylor who would become president in 1849. Nope. That was Zachary's  grandson Zachary.
Zachary Taylor
        In other words, Col. James Taylor Jr. was the great grandfather of two presidents: James Madison in 1809 and Zachary Taylor in 1849! I'm sure this relationship has been well noted in presidential genealogy circles, but I never knew it. Obviously  the Bushes were related,  and the Roosevelts and the Harrisons. But I never guessed Madison and Taylor. The presidency really is a family dynasty.
          Through  gggggggreat grandma Eleanor, I have a blood relationship to the Madisons. But my relationship to Zachary Taylor is strictly "in-law." He's one of the relations that shows up at the Thanksgiving dinner table and you call him cousin Zach but you don't share any DNA.

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