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Saturday
Feb192011

* celebrating presidential ancestry: Martin Van Buren

In honor of President's Day, I'm gonna brag about Jalena's Presidential ancestry. President Martin Van Buren is her GGGGG Grandfather!

President Van BurenI've known Jalena forever. It all started in 7th grade science class with my purple plastic shirt and Jalena's plastic leopard bag. We've been best friends ever since.

Jalena's family has many famous ancestors and we started researching her family hisotory to find out more! I was very interested to learn that her family was somehow related to President Martin Van Buren. Jalena's dad is Stuyvesant Fish Morris V, with a name like that there is obviously a story. There were 3 prominent families; the Stuyvesant's, the Fish's, and the Morris's, all wanted their names passed down to future generations. The name Stuyvesant Fish Morris was born to the son of Dr. Lewis Richard Morris and Elizabeth Stuyvesant Fish (Granddaughter of Peter Stuyvesant) in 1843.

It was Dr. Stuyvesant Fish Morris who married into the Van Buren Family. He married Ellen James Van Buren, a granddaughter of President Martin Van Buren through his son Smith Thompson Van Buren and Ellen King James Van Buren. Smith moved his 3 young children to the Van Buren estate of Lindenwald after the sudden death of his wife Ellen. From what I've read, Martin Van Buren was very close to his grandchildren and was heavily involved in their upbringing.

Hanna Hoes Van Buren, wife of Pres. Van Buren

Martin Van Buren was born in 1782, the son of a Dutch Tavern keeper in Kinderhook, NY. A very determined young man, he studied law and made his way from the country to the main political stage. In 1807 he married his sweetheart, Hannah Hoes and they had 4 sons Abraham, John, Martin Jr, and Smith Thompson Van Buren. They also suffered the loss of 2 children, a boy and a girl in infancy. Hannah Hoes Van Buren died from tuberculosis in 1819 at the age of 35.

His political career:  New York State Senator 1813-15, New York Attorney General 1815-19, United States Senator 1821-29, Governor of New York 1829, Secretary of State (under Jackson) 1829-1831, Vice President (under Jackson) 1833-1837, and the 8th President of the United States 1837-1841. He lost his reelection in 1840 to William Henry Harrison and left the political world behind. He retired to his beloved Lindenwald, a 200+ acre farm outside of Kinderhook, NY where he spent the remaining years of his life. He died in 1862 of Bronchial Asthma and is buried in the Kinderhook Reformed Cemetery along with his parents and wife Hannah. Each year on December 5th, a graveside ceremony honoring his legacy. The Lindenwald Estate has since been restored, preserved and documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. You can visit the estate in person or take a virtual tour.

A few interesting facts about our 8th President (1837-1841), Martin Van Buren:

  • First President born an American Citizen
  • First bilingual President, speaking Dutch and English
  • The term "O.K" is said to have started with Van Buren's nickname "Old Kinderhook" (crazy right?)
  • Nicknamed the "Little Magician" by Andrew Jackson "It is said that he is a great magician," wrote Andrew Jackson. "I believe it, but his only wand is good common sense which he uses for the benefit of the country."
  • He was the 3rd (out of 8) president to serve only 1 term.
  • Since his only wife Hannah died 17 years before his Presidency, his daughter in law Angelica Singleton Van Buren (wife of Van Buren's first son Abraham Van Buren) held the position of First Lady.
  • He was seen as a radical by the farmers of Kinderhook in 1849 when he installed an indoor toilet at Lindenwald, it was VERY uncommon for anyone north of the city to have such luxuries. There was even a ceremony celebrating it's unveiling.

We have Dr. Stuyvesant Fish Morris to thank for the preservation of many personal papers of President Van Buren. He and Smith Thompson Van Buren's 2nd wife donated a large amount of President Van Buren's personal papers to the Library of Congress in 1904-1905. These and other papers have been compiled by the Library of Congress, in 1910 a "Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren" was published outlining the chronological order of his correspondences.

Check out some Presidential Trivia from the National Parks Service to learn some interesting facts about our past leaders. The Whitehouse has an excellent website for researching our Presidents.

What famous ancestors have you found in your family tree? Any other Presidential descendants out there? Does the prospect of finding famous relatives inspire you to research your family history?

Please share your stories and comments!

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Reader Comments (2)

He was not the first American born President. None of our presidents were born in England or anywhere else other than what would become the U.S. He was the first President born an American Citizen, as all the previous ones were born prior to the Revolution and born subjects of England. The closest was Andrew Jackson, whose parents immigrated from Ireland 2 years prior to his birth, and who had 2 older siblings that were born in Ireland.

Oct 13, 2013 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterTJ

Thank you @TJ for the correction and clarification!

Oct 29, 2013 at 9:56 PM | Registered Commenterabbyb

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