Romney, Huntsman, Perry all kin to past presidents

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 20, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry already sport the presidential look: perfectly coiffed hair, a touch of gray, a firm jaw line. Now there's word that it may be inherited.

The online genealogy service Ancestry.com reports that Romney, Huntsman and Perry all have ties to former presidents, topped by Romney, who has six former commanders in chief in his family tree, including Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush.

Huntsman, too, is related to those three presidents and is a seventh cousin to President Calvin Coolidge.

Texas Gov. Perry can claim ties to President Harry Truman and, being a Texan, legendary Texas Gov. Sam Houston. The familial trees of other GOP candidates, including Newt Gingrich, also are being examined.

"We found it pretty remarkable that a number of people seeking to become president are coming from families with links to the presidents," said Anastasia Harman, lead family historian for Ancestry.com. "It makes the primary somewhat of a family affair."

The links come as little surprise to genealogists, who note that Americans are a lot more related to one another than they might think.

"People generally underestimate the extent to which we are all related to one another," said Robert Charles Anderson, the director of the Great Migration Study Project at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. "As we move along in society, there are more people and you get more connections, not just because of the number of people, but every marriage gives hooks into more families."

Harman said researchers found that a number of the presidential hopefuls had ties to early American pioneers, settlers and others who came to the U.S. in the 1600s: Romney, who's also connected to Herbert Hoover, Coolidge and Franklin Pierce, is connected to the Bushes and FDR through Anne Marbury Hutchinson, a key figure in the development of religious freedom in America and an early settler of Rhode Island and New York.

Huntsman and Coolidge are related through William Goddard, who escaped London's plague in 1665 and arrived in Massachusetts. Goddard himself appears to have had a political slant, serving in the government of Watertown, Mass.

Anderson said the New England connections between the Mormon politicians — Romney and Huntsman — were to be expected. Many Mormons are descendants of the church's founders, who came from upstate New York and had large extended families.

And he noted that New England is a genealogist's dream because careful record-keeping in states there makes it easier to trace ancestry.

Ancestry.com found plenty of contacts for Perry in the Lone Star State. He's first cousins, six times removed, with Houston, the former president of the Republic of Texas, Texas governor and state senator. They're connected through John Paxton, a Revolutionary War patriot.

Though Houston resigned as governor rather than swear allegiance to the Confederacy, the site found that Perry has other ancestors who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The site bills itself as the largest online family-history resource, with 1.7 million subscribers. It says it's added more than 7 billion records in the past 15 years.

In 2007, the site publicized its findings that then-candidate Barack Obama had Irish roots, tracing his ancestry to a great-great-great-grandfather who escaped the Irish Potato Famine and settled in Ohio in 1850.

The site connected Obama last year to former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

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