When it comes to running for President of the United States, it never hurts to be able to claim Mayflower ancestry. Several presidents could trace their lineage to one or more of the 102 passengers who sailed on the famous ship that drifted across the Atlantic Ocean for over two months in the fall of 1620 before landing at Plymouth Rock.
John Adams and John Quincy Adams
Only four generations separated the second president from his Mayflower forebears. Those Mayflower passengers were John Alden, Priscilla Mullins and her parents William and Alice Mullins. John Quincy Adams, sixth president and son of John Adams, obviously shared the same ancestors.
The 12th president was also the second cousin of James Madison, the fourth president. As for his Mayflower ancestry, Taylor is descended from one of the more illustrious Mayflower passengers, William Brewster and his wife Mary. Also in his Mayflower line is Isaac Allerton.
Ulysses S. Grant
Of all the Mayflower passengers, Richard Warren may have the most living descendants. The first president who could trace his ancestry to Warren was U.S. Grant, the 18th president who also was the victorious Union general during the Civil War.
Sometimes it is better not to know your ancestry, especially if you find out there was an axe murderer or rapist in your direct line. Garfield’s Mayflower ancestor, John Billington, was convicted of murder and hung. It was the first execution in the Plymouth colony. Billington was a signer of the Mayflower Compact but later became a troublemaker and shot and killed a fellow colonist. Garfield’s other Mayflower ancestors were Elinor Billington, John’s wife, and their son Francis.
John Calvin Coolidge
Recent research credits “Silent Cal” with Mayflower ancestry through Pilgrims William and Alice Mullins, John Alden and wife Priscilla Mullins, and Edward Doty. This of course makes Coolidge a cousin of the Adamses.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Many sources only cite FDR’s Dutch ancestry through the Roosevelt (derived from van Rosenvelt) line, and his French Huguenot heritage through the Philip de Lannoy (changed to Delano) line. Despite his Dutch surname, FDR has more Mayflower ancestry than any other president. Both his parents, who were distant cousins, had Mayflower lines. Roosevelt’s Mayflower ancestors include John Tilley, Joan Hurst, Elizabeth Tilley, John Howland, Isaac Allerton, Mary Norris, Degory Priest, Mary Allerton, Richard Warren, Francis Cooke and John Cooke. Through Warren FDR was more closely related to U.S. Grant than to Teddy Roosevelt, who shared FDR’s last name but was only a fifth cousin.
George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush
The Bush family has been able to transform its image and present itself as a Texas clan. But over the generations they were actually New England Yankees with quite a bit of Mayflower ancestry. The Bush Mayflower ancestry comes from John Tilley, Joan Hurst, Elizabeth Tilley, John Howland and Francis Cooke. Henry Sampson, a forebear of Barbara Bush, is an ancestor of G.W. Bush but not his father. An interesting note on Howland is that he was washed overboard in a storm during the Mayflower journey but was miraculously rescued. By surviving he became an ancestor to two Bush presidents and FDR.
Several First Ladies also had Mayflower ancestry, including Lucretia Garfield, Frances Cleveland, Edith Roosevelt, Mamie Eisenhower and Barbara Bush.
Almost half of the 102 passengers and 30-40 crew members aboard the Mayflower perished before the brutal first winter was done. Cold, disease and malnutrition all played prominent roles in reducing their numbers. But those who survived were progenitors of generations of Americans who have always had a built-in advantage in America, including an unobstructed path to the presidency.
“Ancestors of American Presidents, 2009 Edition,” Gary Boyd Roberts, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009
“The Complete Books of U.S. Presidents,” William A. DeGregorio, Barnes and Noble, 2004