Washington's Genealogy

Knowing one’s lineage was very important for decades. First the royal families Europe and then for the wealthy of Colonial America. A good example is America’s own George Washington, first US President. By the time he was 18, George Washington was a competent genealogist — and he had to be. In Washington’s Virginia colony, family was a crucial determinant of social and economic status, and freedom.

He had between the late 1740s and early 1750s had written about his family relationship (relatives and ancestors) as well on the lives of the slaves of the family. Remember slaves were a valuable property including in the Washington estate.

He started about age 19 to construct his family tree just like many other people had done in the colonies. Not only did the wealthy need records of their property who was who in the family. He started with his great grandparents, John and Ann (Pope) Washington and included his great grand uncle, Lawrence Washington – all who had come from England to Virginia in the mid-1600s.. Washington did have all of his direct lineage through John and Ann Washington. Especially written were the male line – father to father’s father, etc. since the law of inheritance flowed from to men to men.

John Washington, the first name on George Washington’s family tree, first held title to the land that would become the Mount Vernon estate in 1674.
Then inherited by George Washington’s paternal grandfather, Lawrence Washington. But then, it went to George’s aunt, Mildred Washington Gregory and her husband. They sold it to her brother and George’s father, Augustine Washington, who left it to his eldest son, Lawrence Washington born 1718, George Washington’s half-brother.
Lawrence and his wife Anne Washington had children but they all died young. The youngest child – Sarah Washington was born in November of 1750. And it was to her that Lawrence Washington, already ill, left his estate with his death of tuberculosis in July 1752.
Widow Anne remarried to George Lee. But two years after Lawrence’s death, daughter, Sarah died as a child in 1754. Young twenty-year-old George Washington lived at, and managed, the Mount Vernon plantation for Anne. Upon the death of Lawrence’s widow Anne in March 1761, George Washington inherited the estate at Mount Vernon. George Washington inherited also all the slaves.

Things changed by George’s death in 1799. In his Will he wanted the emancipation (freedom) of the enslaved people of Mount Vernon. The only ones he could not free were those slaves owned by Martha from her first marriage to Daniel P. Custis. Martha lived to May 1802.

So genealogy has been always important, do your best to make your ancestors known.

Photos: Mount Vernon, Washington’s Genealogy and George Washington in 1758.

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