Monday, November 28, 2011

Cousin President Andrew "Andy" Johnson

Cousin President Andrew "Andy" Johnson
President Andrew Johnson
From a young age, I was told I was related to President Johnson and a famous actor - perhaps that's why I sometimes get the urge to Act like a Politician?   Growing up, I felt a sense of pride as I often wondered about this unique connection to history, after all, I thought, how many people can say they are related to a President of the United States?

My search for the connections to President Johnson started in earnest around 2001.   The challenge was the limited access to sources of reliable information. I kept pushing on.  “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth", as Sir Conan Doyle would state in the Holmes stories.  This line of thought applies to fictional thriller mystery cases in 19th century England as well as stories about your cousin President Andrew "Andy" Johnson.


Just the Facts, Ma'am
Alfred "Wiley" & Martha Johnson
My grandmother's maiden name was Johnson and her grandfather (my great-great) was Alfred "Wiley" Johnson, born in Greene county, Tennessee, in 1831.   In 1862, Alfred "Wiley" Johnson married Martha (Maloney) Johnson, who was a born in Missouri. 

Federal census records show President Andrew Johnson as a "Congressman" living in Greene county, Tennessee in 1850 and the Johnson and Maloney families are in the "county" (not exactly next door neighbors).
1850 Federal Census

Adding to the story, an unpublished autobiography written by a cousin, Faith Weston Todd, called "Through the Years" tells how she heard of the family connection.   Faith was born on a farm in Missouri in 1892 and was the grandaughter of Martha and Alfred "Wiley" Johnson.

Faith recalls as a young girl, hearing her grandfather Alfred Wiley Johnson talking about "cousin Andy" or President Andrew Johnson. She states in her autobiography that later she found out that Alfred's father, John Johnson, was a brother of Andrew Johnson's father, Jacob Johnson, thus making "cousin Andy" a formal blood cousin.

The story thus far seems very credible and without doubt could be true.


The Realization
By 2004, the family connections were looking less likely.   A book about President Johnson, called "The First President Johnson" (1968), written by Lately Thomas helped me prove our connection.  Thomas spent weeks reviewing the Johnson papers at the Library of Congress and found that President Johnson learned very late in life, long after it was not of much interest to either him or the Tennessee electorate, that his father Jacob Johnson was born in England and had sailed from Newcastle for America about 1795.  Therefore, his family 'history' in some books is incorrect.   Taking this detail into account is what rules out my connection to this family.    Other facts didn't add up, such as the birth of the parents and possible siblings.

After all those years of thinking there is a family connection (~150 years), it turns out that I/we was/are NOT related to President Andrew Johnson. 

One redeeming part of this story isn't told by my family (at least in the near vicinity).  I discovered in my research that in 1824, at the age of 15, President Andrew Johnson apprenticed under Robert Maloney, a tailor.  Robert was Martha (Maloney) Johnson's uncle and my 4x great uncle.

It is undeniable that the families knew each other, in one fashion or another.  So in the end, one could say my family helped "tailor" a President for the United States (if you laughed a little, good for you - its healthy).

As much as I would like to believe I am related to any President Johnson, I must concede that the facts don't prove this out. If you have information to the contrary, please leave a comment or contact me.

Your cousin-not related to President Johnson,
Brian

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