Genealogy in the Days of George Washington

Yvonne Seale has published a bizarre and fanciful piece of genealogical scholarship and what it tells us about identity in late 19th-century America. In the four-hundred-page tome The Pedigree and History of the Washington Family Derived from Odin, the Founder of Scandinavia. B.C. 70, Involving a Period of Eighteen Centuries, and Including Fifty-Five Generations, Down to General George Washington, First President of the United States (1879), Welles created a family tree for Washington of truly mythical proportions, and one which shows just how useful nineteenth-century Americans found the Middle Ages to be when it came to shaping their understandings of their country’s origins.

I’m glad that we have better resources for today’s genealogical studies!

You can read Yvonne Seale’s article at: https://goo.gl/lZB2cC.

My thanks to newsletter reader Kristy L Ostergard for telling me about the article.

4 Comments

I’m glad we have that cleared up; I always thought he was descended from Charlemagne.

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Do we really have better access to records today? A Great Question! The answer, I believe, is not black or white. In some ways we have easier access to records. However, if one wanted to spend the time, travel, and money, one basically had the same access as past generations. On the other pendulum, generations past had more records than we have today. That is because many of the records have been lost or destroyed, such as the majority of the 1890 Census and the Irish Census and Will records destroyed in the 4 Corners Fire.

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The first sentence of this article makes it sound like Yvonne Seale is the author of this work. She isn’t, she’s reporting on it. The book was published in 1879 and is the product of Albert Welles, who describes himself as “president of the American College of Genealogical Registry and Heraldry”. If you are interested to in looking at it, copies are available online at https://familysearch.org/search/catalog/4128 and https://archive.org/details/pedigreehistoryo00well.

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Art Young 54 Devon Road Delmar New York 12054 March 2, 2017 at 8:18 am

Not sure how much of the story is true from a person that prints classified info relating to our United States President’s – also why is this history still found in most genealogy sections of major public libraries? While I never found the descent from Oden to be of great value, I did find the Washington names to be in reasonable order, although there are no foot notes.

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