Category Archives: Gifford

Thriller Thursday – Winston Churchill

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There is always a thrill in discovering a famous relative. In this case, the relative in question is Winston Churchill – can’t you see the eerie resemblance?! Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, born November 30, 1874 at Blenheim Palace, was my half eighth cousin three times removed. I even visited Blenheim in 1994 while on a semester abroad program during my junior year at Sewanee (The University of the South). This was long before I discovered my familial connection to the Prime Minister through his American mother, Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome. Jeanette’s 6G-grandparents were William Gifford and Elizabeth Grant. William and his wife Patience Russell were my 10G-grandparents (William – Hananiah – William – Joshua – Ann – Joseph Davis – Cornelius – John – Lucinda Blanche – Carl Ozro Wilson – Blanche – Theodore Montgomery – me). Interestingly this means that Winston Churchill was also 6th cousin twice removed to another of my famous relatives: Lizzie Borden.

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Surname Saturday – Congdons

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Genealogical statistics are interesting:  How many records are currently in your genealogical database? (103,036). Which individual lived the longest, assuming the birth and death dates are correct?  (Elizabeth Waters, age 113). What is the highest number of children in any one family?  (20). What are some of the strangest family names found?  (Preserved Fish and Grizzel Spratt). And finally, which surname appears most often in your family tree? (Congdon).

The Congdon surname appears 2142 times; of these individuals, 1132 are male and 1009 female.  The earliest appearance was in 1610 and the most recent in 1992. Interestingly, the closest relationship between me and any of these 2142 individuals is third cousin 8 times removed; no direct ancestors are named Congdon.

Our Congdon connection begins with Ann Gifford, my 2nd cousin 9 times removed (her great-grandfather was my 10G-grandfather), who was born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, on June 5, 1715.  At age 16 she married William Congdon, then twenty years old, and the couple had fourteen children between 1733 and 1755. In October 1755 William died, leaving Ann to raise their children on her own.  She lived another 40 years, dying February 3, 1795 in North Kingstown.

Somewhat unusually, it appears that most of the 14 3rd cousins 8 times removed lived to adulthood. The next to youngest, Yelverton, lived only 8 months, but a number of others lived into their 80s and 90s. For a few, images of their headstones can be found on the Find-a-Grave website, and traces of their history can be found in Rhode Island and elsewhere.

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Cousin Lizzie Took an Axe

In Fall River, Massachusetts, 115 years ago today, Andrew J. Borden and his second wife, Abby, were found murdered in their own home in broad daylight.  Andrew’s daughter, Lizzie, discovered the bodies.  Lizzie, of course, would eventually be tried and acquitted for the murders, though she was alone in the house for much of the two hours during which her stepmother’s dead body lay in the upstairs guest room.

Like most children, I felt I had known the “Lizzie Borden took an axe” rhyme forever, but I was further fascinated by a disturbing movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie Borden that played on TV in 1984.  I think it was the idea of nice Samantha from Bewitched traipsing around murdering people while undressed that terrified me the most.  In later years, Mom and I began reading books about the Lizzie Borden case, and even stayed all night at 92 Second Street in Fall River–now a bed and breakfast–which turned out to be much creepier than I expected, though Mom thought the decor was too pretty to be frightening!

I’m not sure, now, when I first discovered the genealogical connection between my Wilson/Davis ancestors and the Borden family.  Thankfully, enough time had passed since first seeing that creepy TV movie that I was more fascinated than frightened at learning I was actually a (distant) cousin of Lizzie’s.  It certainly provides an added element of intrigue when reading books about the case.  To be precise, Lizzie and I are sixth cousins five times removed.  Our shared ancestor was William Gifford, my tenth-great-grandfather, and Lizzie’s fifth-great-grandfather.  Let us hope that those common ancestors are all that Lizzie and I share!