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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cowboys and Indians!

COWBOYS AND INDIANS! (And much, much more).

By – The English Rose. (Jill McDonald-Constable.)

Hello all! Remember last month, I touched on some of the famous relatives we had found in my late husband’s Family Tree? Well this time I'm going to tell you a little more about them. Some are British, many of course, are American. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes when I read some of them!
 A quick run down for those of you who didn't see my other post, I mentioned in it that not many years ago we put a DNA test result on to the Ancestry website for my late husband, Chris. He’d never been told who his real father was, his mother had married and her husband legally adopted Chris, so he was the only father he knew.

Although knew that man wasn’t his biological father, if he did ever ask about his real father, the subject was changed. It was his life-long wish to find out who his real Dad was, so I bought him the DNA test for his birthday. It was a long shot, but hey, you don’t try you’ll never find out. When the results came back, we posted them onto Ancestry straight away and prepared for either a long wait or even more disappointment. However, within a matter of just a few weeks we received a mail from a man in America saying the match was interesting and asking for more information.
 We emailed back and forth for a couple of weeks and Stuart was saying he thought Chris might just be a very distant relation. Then I remembered that we had some photos his mother had kept; after she had passed away, Chris’s sister had hung on to them for some unknown reason. I asked if we could sent them to Stuart, which we did. The following day, the first mail that came back simply said ‘WE HAVE A MATCH!’

Mel. Chris's real Dad.

 The second mail told us that the man in the photos was Stuart’s uncle, and Stuart’s Dad was his cousin! Therefore, Stuart and Chris are second cousins. Stuart and his siblings had known Chris’s Dad well and even stayed at his house at times. They were able to fill in a lot of information for us. Unfortunately, Chris’s Dad had passed away some years before, without fathering any more children. After the excitement of us finding his real family at last, that was a sad revelation, but one we had thought might happen.
Stuart (who lives in California) has been researching his Family Tree for many years, and has gone right back to ancestors from England in 1503. Almost all of the information that follows is from a booklet created by Stuart and given to Chris, when he and his partner came over here for a visit, just the year before Chris passed away. So if there are any mistakes here, blame him!
I like researching my Family Tree, but don't go as deeply into it all as Stuart has, so I am not really clear about all this 'X times removed' business, sorry, I'm just telling it as he gave it to us!

That first distant English relative was named William Dormer, and he was the 7 times Great Grandfather of Jane Austin, making him the 11 times Great Grandfather of Chris!

In 1595 in the county of Worcestershire, a boy was born called Edward Winslow, who eventually became one of the Pilgrim Fathers and made the colonists first treaty with the Indians in 1621. He is the only Pilgrim of whom a portrait is known,  it was painted in London in 1651 during one of his many trips back to his home country. Winslow was Chris’s 9th Great Grand Uncle.

 In 1731, Chris’s 4th cousin 5 times removed was born in Connecticut. His name was William Williams, and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Robert Treat Paine (1731 – 1814) was Chris’s 4th cousin, 7 times removed.

John Ledyard (1751 – 1789) who sailed with Captain Cooke during the fateful voyage when Cooke was killed in the Hawaiian Islands; was a 5th cousin, 5 times removed.

President Millard Fillmore (1800 – 1874) the 13th President of the USA was Chris’s 4th cousin, 5 times removed.

 In 1809 (d1892) his 9th cousin, 3 times removed, was born. Alfred Tennyson, no less!

Another President now! President Rutherford. B. Hayes, (1822 – 1893) was his 7th cousin, 2 times removed.

Now, here’s a goody for us Western writers, Daniel Wesson, (1825 – 1906) of the famous Smith and Wesson name, was his 5th cousin, 6 times removed.


And another gun man, the William Winchester (1837 – 1881) was his 7th cousin, 4 times removed!

In 1850 (d1876), a certain young man named James Hickock was born. Yep, Wild Bill was my husband’s 6th cousin, 4 times removed.  (I love this game!)


Also in 1850 (d1882), John Peters Ringo was born, later to be known as Johnny Ringo, friend of the Clanton gang, he was Chris’s 5th cousin 6 times removed. 

Chris’s 9th cousin was Alfred Deakin (1856 – 1919), one of the Australian Prime Ministers.
In 1867 and 1871, two brothers were born who would have a huge effect on world travel and more. They were Orville and Wilbur Wright. His 7th cousins, 2 times removed.


In 1896 (d1983) the actor Raymond Massey, Chris’s 9th cousin was born.

In 1901 (d1966) another 9th cousin Walt Disney came along. He was followed in 1907 (d1996) by a 9th cousin, 1 time removed, Mr Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine.

In 1907 (d1989) his 10th cousin, I time removed, was born in Surrey England, his name was Laurence Olivier. (SIR Olivier!)


Since he found out all this information, Stuart has also discovered a family connection to Lucille Ball of ‘I Love Lucy’ fame, although we still don’t have many details for that relationship as yet.

So, there you have it. Whew! What a lot of scoundrels and rogues – erm – no - I mean -  what a lot of famous and important folk my old man was distantly related to!  Shame none of that fame passed far enough down the tree to enable us to live the high life eh! Never mind. Of course, I think I did mention it to you before, Chris and Stuart’s Great Grandfather was a Chippewa chief.


Chris was totally thrilled to be able to read about all those people who were even distantly related to him, and to be able to shake hands at last with his real blood family gave him a deep sense of ‘belonging’. I am so pleased we were able to find all this, just two short years before he passed away, and am very grateful to Stuart for all his hard work and research and for welcoming us into the family with open arms.

Well, I hope you found this post interesting, if a little ‘dry’, I am just really amazed at all the ‘Western’ connections in there! Gun makers and gun-slingers alike. Cowboys as well as Indians!
 Just another set of spooky coincidences that helped lead me into writing Westerns. I will now go and write down all of those things that have happened in the last few years to lead me into the world of the Wild West. 
Every time I think about it, I remember something else odd or ‘spooky’! Fate, Luck, Spooky, Strange, Coincidence, whatever you want to call it. I guess really need to get them all down, there are way too many for it to simply be chance. 
Oooh, here's another quick spooky one for you. Our daughter named our grandaughter, Melanie, often shortened to Mel! Melanie was born about 6 years before we found the other Mel, Chris's Dad!

Thank you for having the patience to read this post folks, I do look forward to reading your comments. 


  1. I have always been fascinated with ancestry and the stories associated with how they came to be. Of course, as I research the women doctors, the Ancestry site along with Newspaper Archive, have become my new best friends.

    For myself, family stories have us connected to Varina Davis (Jeff Davis' wife), the two Harrisons who were president, and the Brownings (of rifle fame). I've not had the chance to follow up on all, but still they are great stories to dig into. And on a side note, Tennyson, if I were the jealous type, for I love Tennyson.

    Thank you for sharing this history. I for one, enjoyed it a lot. Doris

  2. Thanks for coming today Doris. Tennyson for you too! Wow! I find it so interesting all this family research, you never quite know who you are going to uncover do you. Ancestry is a good site I found a lot on it, and Stuart who did Chris's Tree goes very deeply into it on there. Glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for dropping by.

  3. Jill,

    Your family's history is so interesting in how you have so many ties to America. Thank you for sharing.

    Ancestry research is on my 'to-do list', but since I've only dabbled a little, I'm always envious of people who have taken the time and interest to search into their family's history.

    I do know that on my mom's side, we had a cousin who was hanged as a horse thief in Virginia and we're distantly related to U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

    1. Hello Kaye, thanks for dropping by. Fancy! A horse thief in the family! Bet the President in the family wouldn't like that!! I don't have anyone exciting on my side, just farmers, carters, weavers and glovemakers. And a guy who was a drunkard and died working in the stables he used to own! Thanks for the comments

  4. I don't think family history is ever "dry." It is really interesting how many famous connections there were in the family tree. However, I have heard that once you connect to a prominent American, particularly one in politics, you'll find other well-known connections. They were a relatively small group and tended to intermarry -- kind of like European royalty.

    Thank you for sharing. Robyn Echols writing historical novels as Zina Abbott

    1. Thank you Robyn. I'd never heard that one before about the political connections, but I suppose it makes sense, that 'class' of person in those days, tended to stick to their own kind, it must have been inevitable that there was a fair bit of intermarrying. I was just fascinated that there were both Presidents and outlaws in there! I just had a thought, I guess creating a sort of Family Tree for the characters in our books, might help 'round them' a bit too? Might try that. Thanks for the comment Robyn, nice to meet you.

  5. Such a fantastic blog Jill. I am late coming to read it. I love researching family ancestry. I can spend hours on the computer following little threads of information that lead you here and there. You mentioned that your daughter named her daughter Melanie and you called her Mel, like your husbands father's name. That is one thing I found interesting in my search was how the same names came through each generation. Mainly Emma and Alexander. I am so happy you found your husbands real father. Such a bittersweet story and your search gave your husband such a wonderful gift.

    1. Hello Barbara, thanks for coming, it doesn't matter at all that you are later! Like you, it's those tiny threads that I get caught up in (so to speak!) And the name s coming down generations is interesting, my Mum's side have the name Gilbert, going back for many generations, (that's where my author name comes from!) And sometimes, like with Mel, you don't even know it was a family name. Strangely, we called our daughter Sara, and it was only a few years ago that I learned I had an ancestor who worked in the Lancashire weaving sheds, named Sara! (Quite an unusual name at that time!) Thank you for your lovely final comments too, (wiping my eyes now) That was sweet of you. Thank you for dropping by today.

  6. Got to this post a little late, too, but loved it! I am deeply entrenched in rediscovering family history and we have a connection!!! William Williams!! I would love to know more about him and his links.....we are somewhat stuck between the generations before and after him as there are a number of William Williams. My gmother's maiden name was Williams and she always said we were direct descendants and we have gone back almost to William Williams, but are hung up just before him??? We have some 'links' but we need more specifics so to verify those links.....can you help!? On the other side of that family, we have some historic ties, too --- to Richard Johnson who became VP under Millard Filmore; to John Smith (yes, of Pocahontas fame); to Mayflower Pact; and more. The McKay strand of my mother's people include -- ahem -- Princess Fiona from Scotland!!! Oh my :-) My grandkids were thrilled with that because of "Shrek!".....

    Family trees are such an important aspect of history and can bring history to life for kids....we truly are the result of generations of survivors!!

    On my father's side, we are only 2nd generation Italian-Americans, but our family in Florence & Pistoia, Italy have a lot of info. Except for mia nonna, who was from Naples and came as a Mail Order Bride and revealed very little of herself.... :-(

    1. Hi Gail, nice to see you here (so to speak). It can be really fascinating can't it, I imagine it must be a real thrill to find famous people in your own family, (these are all on my late husbands side). I love that you are related to Princess Fiona! Hope you don't look like her!! Ooh don't you hate those secretive Mail order brides!! Okay, Mr Williams, the information I have from Stuart takes us back to 1587. I'll send you an email with the details. Thanks for dropping by.