Hillary Clinton is of entirely Northwestern European ancestry, almost entirely British Protestant, but lacks Colonial American ancestry. She was raised a Methodist. She describes her parents and immediate family as “middle class [and] Midwestern” in her autobiography (p.2). She says this of her parents: “They believed in hard work, not entitlement; self-reliance not self-indulgence” (p.2). (The relevant parts of Hillary’s autobiography are included as an appendix below, in which all quotations from it which will be made below can be found).
It seems Hillary identifies personally more with her mother than father (for instance, in her autobiographical breakdown of her personal ancestry, Hillary talks about her mother’s side first, contrary to standard practice; she has much praise for her mother throughout). However, there is some evidence that in terms of abstract, distant ancestry she identifies most strongly with her Welsh ancestors, almost all of which are on her father’s side.
Below are detailed profiles of Hillary Clinton’s eight great-grandparents, with a biographical outline of each person, with a breakdown of his/her personal ancestry. This was partly inspired by Racehist’s recent evaluation of George W. Bush’s (which reveals only 31% New England ancestry).
(A note on the importance of ancestry. I believe that we can gain a special and important insight into a person’s worldview, politics, or motivations, by knowing two related but not identical things: (1) his or her full ancestry and (2) How they see their own ancestry [e.g., which parts they most identify with]. This knowledge can be more highly valuable than volumes of writings, which are subject to social pressures of a given time or place. Most Americans are aware of their own ancestries, and most remain quite “loyal to their ancestry”, all things considered. See also Racehist’s “The 25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media by Ancestry“.)
Ethnic Breakdown of Hillary Clinton’s Ancestry
— 43.8% England (of which most comes from Northeast England)
— 31.3% Wales
— 13.3% Scotland
— 6.3% France (emigration in the 1830s)
— 5.5% French North American Colonial (Quebec, etc.)
— 0% English-speaking American Colonial
- Hillary Clinton has no “Colonial American” ancestry at all; that is to say, no English-speaking ancestors in North America prior to the 1830s.
- Seven of Hillary Clinton’s eight ancestral branches originate in Britain.
- The eighth ancestral branch is ultimately from France, and half of that branch (i.e., 1/16th of Hillary’s personal ancestry) is of French North American Colonial origin.
- Her ancestors’ time of entrance into the USA is mostly post-Civil War and Pre-Ellis Island. The seven “British” lines enter Canada or the USA between the 1830s and 1880s, mostly in the latter decades of that range. Every great-grandparent of Hillary Clinton’s was probably in the USA by 1890, and in the 1890s was living in either Pennsylvania or Chicago.
- Only two of the eight branches of Hillary Clinton’s ancestry were in North America during the U.S. Civil War (i.e., #6 and #8 below). One other line was in Canada during the war, #7. All other lines were still in Britain at that time. At least one great-great grandfather of Hillary Clinton’s fought in the Union Army (see #6) in a New York regiment.
- Hillary Clinton has no Amerindian ancestry. Although she has apparently made the claim that she has distant American Indian ancestry through line #8 below, this is demonstrably false. Below is an investigation into Hillary’s possible distant Amerindian ancestry.
Profiles of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Great-Grandparents [With the ethnic/national personal ancestry of each individual]
1. Jonathan Rodham [100% England]
Birth and Death: Born 1843 in County Durham, Northeast England. Died in September 1917 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, four months to the day after his wife’s death.
Personal ancestry: All his ancestors were apparently living in County Durham in England back to the mid-1700s at least. Hillary writes that the Rodhams were “hard workers and strict Methodists” (p.4).
Marriage: 1860s in Durham, England.
Occupations: In England, he was a coal miner. In the USA, a policeman and in older age a florist.
Immigration: Moved from England to Scranton, PA in 1881 or 1882. His wife and children joined him shortly thereafter (1882).
Descendants: He had eleven children, three of whom were born in the USA. One of these was son Hugh Rodham Sr. [1879-1965], Hillary’s grandfather, whom Hillary describes as a “gentle, soft-spoken man”. She says Hugh Rodham Sr. worked for five decades at a lace mill in Scranton, rising to become supervisor by the end of his career (p.4), and U.S. censuses confirm this. One of Hugh Rodham Sr.’s sons was Hugh Rodham Jr. [1911-1993], Hillary’s father (he has a Wikipedia entry here). Hugh Jr. was a lifelong Goldwater Republican. Hillary describes her father as “hardheaded and often gruff” but at times jovial with a distinctive, deep laugh which Hillary says she inherited (p.4). The Rodhams would remain in Scranton for decades after the original 1881-2 immigration of individuals #1 and #2 in this listing and their children. Hugh Rodham Jr. moved to Chicago probably in the late 1930s. In 1942 in Chicago, Hugh Jr. marries Dorothy [1919-2011] (i.e., the granddaughter of individuals #5, #6, #7, and #8 below, about whom much more is said below, mostly from Hillary’s own account). Hillary herself is born in Chicago in 1947. In her autobiography, she states that Hugh Jr. was a WWII veteran (p.1).
2. Isabella Simpson Bell [100% England]
Birth and Death: Born 1849 in County Durham, Northeast England. Died in May 1917 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Personal ancestry: Her ancestors lived in County Northumberland, Northeast England, going back at least to the early 1800s.
Marriage: 1860s in Durham, England.
Occupations: Her father was a coal miner, as was her husband (#1 above). She had eleven children.
Immigration: She immigrated to the USA with eight children in 1882 (three more were born in the USA).
Descendants: Same as #1.
3. John Jones [100% Wales]
Birth and Death: Born in 1836 in Wales.
Personal ancestry: Presumably all Welsh. A further note on Clinton’s Welsh ancestry: Although fewer than one-third of her overall ancestry is traceable back to Wales, she seems to identify quite strongly with it, frequently mentioning her Welsh connection in her autobiography, for example. “As an American of Welsh descent, I have always had a special place in my heart for Wales; both the beauty of its land and the determination of its people,” Hillary said in 2010. Speaking about her father Hugh Ellsworth Rodham (1911-1993), Hillary writes that “he got his looks from a line of black-haired Welsh coal miners on his mother’s side”, the mother’s side being individuals #3 and #4 in this listing. Hillary writes that the Joneses were “hard workers and strict Methodists,” the same as the Rodhams (p.4).
Occupations: Worked as a miner in Scranton, Pennsylvania; later a teamster.
Immigration: From Wales to the USA in 1879.
Descendants: This man’s daughter, Hannah Jones (1882-1952), seems to have been a lifelong Scranton, Pennsylvania resident. Hannah married a Scranton resident of very recent English ancestry, Hugh Rodham Sr. [1879-1965] (the son of #1 and #2). Hillary describes Hannah as “formidable” and in the following unflattering terms: “[She] insisted on using all three of her names [i.e., Hannah Jones Rodham]. Hannah collected rent from the houses she owned and ruled her family and anyone else within her reach. My father [i.e., Hannah’s son Hugh Rodham Jr. (1911-1993)] worshiped her and often told the story of how she saved his feet” (p.4). “Hannah strikes me as a determined woman whose energies and intelligence had little outlet, which led her to meddling in everyone else’s business.” (p.5).
4. Mary [Probably 100% Wales]
Birth and Death: Born in Wales, 1839. Died 1900s.
Personal ancestry: Presumably Wales (no further info.)
Occupations: Her husband was a coal miner and later a teamster. Hillary Clinton says Mary’s family was full of coal miners.
Immigration: From Wales to the USA in 1879 with her husband.
Descendants: Same as #3 above.
5. Edwin John Howell Sr. [50% England; 50% Wales]
Birth and Death: Born in Bristol, County Gloucester, Southwest England in 1867. Died in 1941 in California.
Personal ancestry: This man’s parents were both born in County Gloucester, England in the 1840s; two grandparents were born in Wales and two were born in Southwest England (County Somerset).
Marriage: 1894 near Chicago, Illinois
Occupations: Hillary Clinton says he is “a former British sailor”(p.2). U.S. censuses list him as a machinist at a watch factory in the Chicago area in 1900; by the late 1910s he is a foreman at an automobile factory; later in California he works as an auto mechanic.
Immigration: From England to Chicagoland, sometime in the 1880s or early 1890s. He later moved to Southern California (1920s).
Descendants: His son, Edwin John Howell Jr. (1897-1946), was married by a Baptist minister in Chicago in 1918 to a girl aged 16, Della Murray (1902-1960), the daughter of #7 and #8 below. The next year, this marriage produced a daughter, Hillary’s mother Dorothy (1919-2011). Hillary has harsh words for Dorothy’s mother (see #7 below); slightly better words about father: “Edwin [Jr.] paid sporadic attention to her [Dorothy, Hillary’s mother], better at bringing the occasional gift, like a large doll won at a carnival, than at providing any kind of home life.” Dorothy was sent to live with her father’s parents (i.e., individuals #5 and #6 here) in 1927 as part of her parent’s divorce agreement, after years of unstable life in the Chicago area. This was also a time during which some Chicago neighborhoods were beginning to flip into Black areas, a process that began in the late 1910s with the first migrations of Blacks. Chicago that was 8% Black by 1940, 24% Black by 1960, 33% Black by 1970, and 39% Black by 1990. The small girl Dorothy had been drifting around from place to place in 1920s Chicago, staying with one group of relatives or another and rarely, it seems, with her parents. This may have put her into occasional contact with Blacks recently coming up from the Deep South. The decision by the parents to send Dorothy to California in 1927 may be an early example White Flight to avoid exposing the girl to that. Hillary Clinton says her mother lived in California for ten years. She moved back to Chicago after high school and married in 1942. Hillary was born in Chicago in 1947.
6. Emma Josephine Monk [100% England; all ancestors in the USA by the U.S. Civil War]
Birth and Death: Born in 1874 in Canada. Died in 1940 in California.
Personal ancestry: Her father John Monk (1838-1916) was born in New York to then-recent immigrants from England (County Warwick, West Midlands); John Monk fought in the U.S. Civil War in the 117th New York Infantry Regiment in 1862-1863 (also called the 10th New York National Guard, raised from a few New York counties). The regiment was in the Mississippi theater of operations, coordinating with General Grant’s Vicksburg campaign. The 117th took part in the siege of Port Hudson. Three of John Monk’s brothers also fought for New York regiments in the war. John Monk was working before army service as a cigar maker, a profession he would continue for for many decades in Elgin, Illinois near Chicago. He married an English-born woman (Sarah Abbs, b.1841) in 1867 and winds up living in Canada a while, before returning to the USA in the 1870s, and then to Elgin in the 1880s. The personal ancestry of John Monk (father of #6) is entirely in County Warwick, in England’s West Midlands region, back deep into the 1700s.
Marriage: 1894 near Chicago, Illinois.
Immigration: Emma Monk emigrated from Canada to Detroit, USA as a girl sometime in the 1870s. She moved again in 1880s to Chicago. This line ultimately entered the USA in the 1830s (paternal grandparents) and 1840s or 1850s (mother).
Other: Hillary Clinton describes Emma Josephine Monk as “a severe woman who wore black Victorian dresses and resented and ignored my mother [i.e., Dorothy Emma Howell (1919-2011). Emma was taking care of Dorothy after Dorothy’s parents sent her to live with her grandparents, individuals #5 and #6 here, in California in 1927] except when enforcing her rigid house rules. Emma discouraged visitors and rarely allowed my mother to attend parties or other functions. One Halloween, when she caught my mother trick-or-treating with school friends, Emma decided to confine her to her room for an entire year, except for the hours she was in school.” (p.2-3). Hillary goes on to write that her mother left home at age fourteen, working as a nanny for room and board and three dollars a week, and graduated high school in California.
Descendants: Same as #5.
7. Daniel Murray [100% Scotland]
Birth and Death: Born in 1859 in Ontario, Canada. Year of death unknown.
Personal ancestry: Parents both born in Scotland.
Marriage: 1882 in Detroit.
Occupations: Jobs listed as polisher (1900), harness maker (1910), and watchman (1920).
Immigration: From Canada to the USA in 1880. Naturalized U.S. citizen in 1885. He initially moved to Detroit at age 20, and moved back and forth between Detroit and the Chicago region.
Descendants: Daughter Della Murray (1902-1960) was born in Chicagoland, and at age 16 in 1918 married Edwin John Howell Jr. (1897-1946). Edwin John Howell Jr. was the son of of #5 and #6 above. They had two daughters, the first of whom was Hillary’s mother Dorothy (1919-2011). Hillary Clinton does not have kind words for Della in her autobiography: “Della essentially abandoned my mother when she was only three or four, leaving her all alone for days on end with meal tickets to use at a restaurant near their five-story walk-up apartment on Chicago’s South Side” (p.2); she also writes “I knew my grandmother, Della, as a weak and self-indulgent woman wrapped up in television soap operas and disengaged from reality” but “she loved to sing and play cards” and often took her grandchildren to the amusement park or to the movies (p.4). Hillary concludes her account of Della with these words: “She died in 1960, an unhappy woman and a mystery, still” (p.4). Hillary’s memories of her are from the1950s. Decades earlier, Della and husband Edwin Howell Jr. were in an unhappy marriage that finally ended in divorce by 1927. At this time they sent their daughter Dorothy to California to be raised by her father’s parents, i.e. individuals #5 and #6, above. In 1933, Della remarried a Max Rosenberg (1901-1984), a Jew from Russia. Dorothy reportedly developed anti-Jewish views from experiences with this Rosenberg[Daily Mail]. Her experiences with him came starting in 1937, when now-remarried Della suddenly contacted Dorothy and asked her to come back to Chicago. This was, according to Hillary, “the first time in ten years” that Dorothy had heard from her mother Della (p.3). Hillary reports that Della and her new husband said they would pay for a college education for Dorothy, who was a star student in high school out in California and wanted to go to college but lacked money. “When my mother arrived in Chicago, however, she found that Della wanted her only as a housekeeper and that she would get no financial help for college.” (p.3) Hillary says that, decades later, her mother explained why she moved back to Chicago in 1937: “I hoped so hard that my mother would love me that I had to take the chance to find out. When she didn’t, I had nowhere else to go.”
8. Delia Martin [50% France, 43.8% French North American Colonial, 6.3% Scotland)
Birth and Death: Born in Michigan in 1861. Year of death unknown.
Personal ancestry: Delia’s father, Antoine Martin, born in France circa 1816, emigrated to Canada as a young man, probably in the 1830s (he marries in Canada in 1841). His ancestors were all French going back to the mid-1700s. As for Delia’s mother (Mary Anne Frances McDougall, 1823-1898), she has the longest personal history in North America of anyone profiled in Hillary Clinton’s ancestral tree. She was of fully Colonial frontier stock. All four of her grandparents were born in Detroit in the 1750s and 1760s, when it was a French frontier fort town, a large village of a few hundred people having grown up around it. Detroit was captured by the British in 1760 and by the 1790s was absorbed into the USA. As for Anne Frances McDougall’s personal ancestry, three of her eight great-grandparents were born in early Detroit in the 1730s, four others were born in French Quebec, and one was born in Scotland (from which the McDougall surname originates). Based on the surnames of the other seven, it appears Anne Frances McDougall (1823-1898), #8’s mother, was herself 7/8ths French by ancestry and 1/8th Scottish.
Marriage: 1882 in Detroit.
Immigration: Delia Martin was native to North America going back very far, but there is no evidence of any American Indian ancestry at all. Her father (ca.1816-ca.1872) immigrated from France to Ontario, Canada probably in the 1830s. Her parents immigrated to the USA sometimes between their marriage in 1841 and the 1861 birth of Delia (i.e., #8 here).
Descendants: Same as #7.
American Indian Ancestry: Some may speculate, as Hillary herself seems to have done in her autobiography (page 2, below, calling her mother’s mother “of French Canadian, Scottish, and Native American ancestry”) that this line may have had Amerindian admixture during its long years in Colonial North America. On first thought this seems possible, but a thorough investigation reveals it is false. All ancestral lines for #8 are documented all the way back to Europe. There is no possibility of Amerindian ancestry in this line. Hillary has no Amerindian ancestry. (See analysis below).
The core facts and information here are primarily based on work by William Addams Reitwiesner. Any information not attributed above is from his work. available here. Other sources used are noted individually.
Hillary Clinton’s 2003 autobiography, Living History, opens with a discussion of her parents and grandparents, and a little about great-grandparents. It can be seen as her understanding of her own personal ancestry. I have included the first five pages of the book here.
Appendix: Excerpt from Hillary Clinton’s autobiography