Friday, February 12, 2016
Close Encounters of a Presidential Kind
Curious about your possible relationship to, say, Abraham Lincoln? Or George Washington? How about any president?
If you have ancestors romping around in the far reaches of your family tree—you know, those wispy twigs spiraling back to the early 1700s or so—you may be in a position to claim a connection to political greatness. Or, at least, almost make the claim.
That's what I discovered while romping around my matrilineal line—that branch that caused me to stumble down the rabbit trail of the John Syme Hogue story. Remember Margaret Watts, my seventh great grandmother? You know: the one who married William Strother back in colonial Virginia, around 1718.
Not only did William and Margaret Strother have their daughter Jane, from whom I descend, and their daughter Margaret, from whom John Syme Hogue descended, but they also had four other daughters. At least, that's as many as I've found, so far.
One of those daughters was named Agatha. And she happened to marry a man by the name of John Madison. Among their many children was a son whom they named James.
James Madison? Hmmm...
Don't get your hopes up, yet. I discovered a few things about this James Madison—like his date of death in 1812. Too soon to be the right James Madison, whose second term of office as President of the United States didn't conclude until 1817.
But this James Madison had a son, whom he also named James. This is beginning to look promising—after all, President James Madison was son of another man named James—until we realize that the dates for this son aren't quite right, either. These hopes of a presidential connection are fading fast.
But let's not give up on this rabbit trail too soon. This James Madison was a president—just not the kind of president we might have had in mind.
Our James Madison, son of John and Agatha, was born August 27, 1749. Educated at his home in Virginia in his younger years, he completed his preliminary education at a private school in Maryland, after which he attended college. Though he was afterwards admitted to the bar, he never practiced law. Instead, after serving as an instructor at his college for a while, he traveled to England, where he was ordained a priest of the Church of England.
Returning to his native land, he arrived in colonial Virginia just as the hostilities broke out in 1776.
By the next year, through a curious turn of events, the head of the college where James Madison had been teaching—a loyalist who had previously had Madison removed from his duties—no longer held his position. It was at that point that James Madison was appointed the eighth president of the College of William and Mary, the first to hold that position after the colony's separation from England. He continued to serve in that position for thirty five years, until his death in 1812.
Consecrated as a bishop in 1790, he from that point concurrently served over the Diocese of Virginia and as president of the college.
As it turns out, it was his cousin—also named James Madison—to whom the honors of the title of United States President belong. While that James Madison had a father named James, there is nothing about the details that could convincingly match the two pairs—our James Madison and his son James with James Madison, son of Ambrose, and his son, James the President.
Oh, well, since it was Agatha Strothers Madison who was related to my line, not her Madison husband himself, I guess I've witnessed another genealogical brush with greatness—a near miss, once again.