Presidential genealogy

The rest of the story

The recently-concluded U.S. election reinforced for everyone, The Legal Genealogist included, that the absolute best way to get wonderful research done into your personal genealogy is to run for high political office.

A presidential candidate is essentially guaranteed to have everyone and her brother checking out every overlap between his genealogy and that of his opponent,1 all the famous people in the candidate’s family tree2 and any connections to interesting aspects of American history.3

Heck, run for President and folks will even track down your relatives overseas,4 though I suspect you’d still have to ask them to do that DNA test yourself…

It’s enough to turn a brick-walled genealogist green with envy…

So it was with pleasure that I discovered, buried in a footnote in yesterday’s guest blog by Bruce W. Owen,5 one little nugget that was too good to leave in a footnote. It turns out that in at least one case, a President didn’t just accept the gift of genealogical research done on his behalf, he also actively gave back by contributing to preserving and recording records that today’s genealogists can use.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born 30 Jan 1882 at Hyde Park, New York, governor of New York from 1928 to 1932, elected President of the United States in 1932 and re-elected in 1936, 1940 and 1944, died 12 April 1945 at Warm Springs, Georgia, buried in the Rose Garden of his Hyde Park estate.6


Great Depression President.

War-time President.

Historian and patron to genealogy.

Who knew?

In the course of his research, Bruce discovered a volume called Records of Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County, New York, 1738-17617 … and the editor was Franklin D. Roosevelt.

That Franklin D. Roosevelt? Yes.

His interest piqued, Bruce looked into this, and reports on what he found:

I was previously unaware of FDR’s interest in genealogy. Checking online, I found a short tribute to this and related interests: “He was a major patron of the Dutchess County Historical Society. He somehow found time from his presidential schedule in 1939 to edit an entire volume of Records of the Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County.”8

Sarah Malcolm, Archives Specialist at the FDR Library in Hyde Park, recently added the following to the story of FDR’s work in the genealogy field:

FDR was always fond of history and was especially interested in the history of the Hudson River Valley, the United States Navy and other periods of American history. He was a collector of historical documents, manuscripts and books. He considered himself to be an amateur historian and at one point was the historian for the town of Hyde Park. He was especially interested in the history of Dutchess County in which his family had played a prominent role.

In 1914, FDR and Professor Helen Wilkinson Reynolds of Vassar College founded the Dutchess County Historical Society. Among their projects, they sought the publication of historical local documents. One of the volumes published was The Records of Crum Elbow Precinct. Another volume published by the historical society with FDR listed as editor is The Records of the Town of Hyde Park.9

Wow. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Bruce, for letting us all know.


  1. See Tom Kemp, “Obama & Romney Are Related! Genealogy Infographic”), Blog, posted 12 Oct 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  2. See ibid. Also, “ You won’t believe whom Mitt Romney is related to,” Deseret News online edition, Salt Lake City, Utah, posted 24 Oct 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012), and “Barack Obama’s Family Tree,” Time Magazine online ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  3. Krissah Thompson, “Obama’s purported link to early American slave is latest twist in family tree,” Washington Post online edition, posted 30 Jul 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012), and “Romney’s ‘Family Came From a Polygamy Commune,’ says Montana Gov.,” ABC News, posted 20 Apr 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  4. Maria Golovnina, “Romney’s English roots surprise cousins left behind,” Reuters U.S. edition online, posted 8 Oct 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012), or “Obama’s Kenyan relatives react to White House win,” Fox News, posted 7 Nov 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  5. Judy G. Russell, “A pend-ing question,” guest blog by Bruce W. Owen, The Legal Genealogist, posted 12 Nov 2012 ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  6. Biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum ( : accessed 12 Nov 2012).
  7. Franklin D. Roosevelt, ed., Records of Crum Elbow Precinct, Dutchess County, New York, 1738-1761 (Poughkeepsie, NY: Collections of The Dutchess County Historical Society, 1940); digital images, HathiTrust Digital Library ( : accessed 2 Nov 2012).
  8. Andrew Rieser, “Hudson Valley Bookshelf: Roosevelt Country,” AboutTown ( : accessed 29 Oct 2012).
  9. Sarah L. Malcolm, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, e-mail to Bruce W. Owen, sent 9 Nov 2012.
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6 Responses to Presidential genealogy

  1. Wow. Just Wow. FDR and the Dutchess County Historical Society. I consider this “find” as an endorsement of the characters of genealogists and historians. We have FDR in our corner!

  2. Dave says:

    Judy, a book came out several years ago, something like “Presidential Doodles,” or somesuch. Included in the FDR section are some of his notes on Eleanor’s family research. I know he was a member of the G&B–not honorary, either. I also know that retired Justice Souter is an ardent genealogist, as well, and is a member of HistGen. John Tower, late Senator from Texas, was also an ardent amateur genealogist. Dick Lugar, lamented soon-to-be-ex-Senator from Indiana, is also pretty adept with a pedigree chart, too.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      That’s really neat, Dave! Thanks for that info. (Now if we could just enlist the living politico-genealogists to help keep the SSDI open…)

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