We are Related to….

Have you ever heard family stories about being related to somebody famous? Maybe you have heard stories about how your branch of the family missed out on a fortune. Or, maybe you were related to someone notorious.

Did the stories turn out to be true, or were they just family legends?

Better Known as Johnny Appleseed, Mabel Leigh Hunt, Newbery Honor Book, Newbery, Fronteir LIfe, IndianaOne of the stories that we grew up with was that we were related to Johnny Appleseed. Of course Johnny’s real name was John Chapman.

George Shafer and Maria ChapmanMy third great grandmother was Maria Betsy Chapman the wife of George Shafer. My Grandma always said that Maria was a cousin of Johnny Appleseed.

However, I was not able to find a close connection between them. I did find that John Chapman is a descendant of an Edward Chapman who was born in England in the early 1600’s. Maria is a descendant of a William Chapman who was born in England in the mid 1600’s. So, no close Chapman connection if any at all.

In my post Johnny Appleseed I mentioned that I had not found any relationship between them, but since that time I have found a distant connection. Maria and John are 5th cousins twice removed through Thomas French and Susan Riddlesdale  who were both born in England in 1584 and immigrated to the Americas in 1637.

Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, T. J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize, BiographyAnother family story was that we were related to George Armstrong Custer. This was a case where my uncle said that his great grandmother always said that they were related. Although not blood related, I have found the source of the story and there is a family connection. Someday I will write a post about the connection complete with diagrams to show how the story came about.

LL White, Great Texas Train Robbery, Agent, Wells Fargo ExpressThe man in this picture is my 2nd great grandmother’s brother-in-law. His name is Leslie Lee White and while working for Wells Fargo Express he foiled a train robbery in Texas. See my post The Great Mid-Texas Train Robbery.

On the other side of train robberies there have also been family stories that we were related to Jesse James or someone in his gang. Again I have found an interesting connection, but not a blood relationship. However, it is a close cousin of a cousin connection that would easily translate into a family story of being related. I am doing some more research on the connection and plan a post someday filled with diagrams of how I am connected to two notorious gangs of outlaws.

There are other family stories that I have disproved like how my Sears family was related to the founder of Sears and how my third great grandmother Eliza Reynolds was disowned by R. J. Reynolds and we lost the tobacco fortune.

Other family stories tell how an ancestor was disowned from a family fortune by marrying a maid or housekeeper and how a bible that would have been the key to a great fortune was burned in a mysterious hotel fire. I am sure that many families have similar stories.

One thing to remember though is that some family stories have a grain of truth and finding how they started can be quite interesting.

Do you have any family stories of connections to famous or infamous people?


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3 Responses to We are Related to….

  1. carel chapman says:

    Steven, I had heard, and also disproved, the Sears story. My dear aunts were such romantics and left behind so many ‘what if’s’ Carel

  2. amusingword says:

    I LOVE our family stories! I am also a Chapman descendant, through Lydia Chapman of Colchester, Conn. who married Richard Gardner of the colonial Gardner family of R. I. , Mass. and Conn. my branch settled in Ransom Twp, PA. I wondered if Johnny Appleseed Chapman was also related? LOL I’m also trying to find if Lydia is a descendant of Sarah Carrier Chapman, who moved to Colchester, Conn around the time of her marriage. She the daughter of a woman hung for being a witch at the witch trails in Mass. I’m also the descendant of Frances Congdon another woman who married into the Gardner family, she is reported to be the descendant of old British monarchy.

  3. Pingback: Outlaw Reading | Braman's Wanderings

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