Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Churchill Series – Aug. 30, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Yesterday's post dealt with questions of whether Churchill ancestors included an American Indian on his mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill’s side; and if that were the case, how did Churchill treat the matter?

I quoted Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, whose opinion on the ancestory question as expressed in In Search of Churchill: An Historian’s Journey was “a qualified ‘yes.’”

As to the second question of how Churchill treated the possibility, I said I’d do further research before I offered you an answer.

I also cautioned that genealogical study can be complex and uncertain; leading sometimes to strong differences among people researching the same family.

So it is with Churchill’s possible American Indian ancestry. Here’s part of what Churchill Centre Associate Elizabeth Snell had to say on the question in an article which appeared in the Centre’s quarterly Finest Hour. You’ll see she doesn’t agree at all with Gilbert:

Long before the age of political correctness, some Churchills delighted in extolling the legend of their Native American blood, believed to have been introduced through Jennie Jerome's maternal grandmother, Clarissa Willcox.

Despite the much-mooted Indian features of some of Clarissa's descendants, there is no genealogical evidence to support Indian ancestry in the Jerome lineage.

In Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, Vol. 1, Ralph G. Martin wrote that Randolph S. Churchill in his biography of his father noted that the mother of Jennie's grandmother Clarissa was one Anna Baker whose "mother's maiden name is not recorded in the genealogies" and "is believed to have been an Iriquois [sic] Indian."

Although Randolph did write something like this it is ironic that any Churchills or Churchillians give credence to Jennie, which was withdrawn in Britain over its false allegation that Sir Winston's brother Jack was not Lord Randolph's son.

In any case, the fact is that we now know not only Anna Baker's mother's name but something of her background - thanks to an unearthed 1951 typescript on the descendants of the Baker family.
Well, what do you think?

I’m not ready to bet yet. Are you?

As for how the Great Man himself treated the matter, Snell notes:
In the absence of any real proof [what] we are left with are the stories passed on through the Jerome family over the years, of some ancestor's supposed Indian blood. . . .

Sir Winston, to whose romantic nature the story appealed, was known to believe it, as did some members of his family.
I want to go to the library later today to do some more research before giving my final answer on how Churchill treated the matter.

Snell’s entire article is here courtesy of the Churchill Centre.