The Thomas Jefferson Family Tree is probably the most controversial family tree of any founder and possibly in American History. This is due to the inclusion of Sally Hemings, Jefferson's slave with whom he had multiple children.
Thomas Jefferson is known for being the author of the Declaration of Independence and an ardent patriot during the Revolutionary War. It is said that he was the pen, and John Adams was the voice of the American Revolution.
Thomas Jefferson went on to become the first Secretary of State and then the 3rd President of the United States. Under the Jefferson Presidency, the United States doubled in size due to the Louisiana Purchase.
After his two terms as president, he would return to Monticello and retire to his books and writings. It was during this time that Dr. Benjamin Rush helped reunite old friends when he encouraged John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to begin writing to each other.
On July 4, 1826, John Adams breathed his last and said his famous last words, "Jefferson Lives".
Ironically, Jefferson did not live. He had died earlier that day.
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the pen and voice of the American Revolution, had died on the country's 50th anniversary.
Thomas Jefferson Family Tree Overview
Thomas Jefferson was born to Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph. Thomas was named after his paternal grandfather, who he never met.
His father, Peter, was a colonel and an influential planter in the region.
His mother, Jane Randolph, was the daughter of Isham Randolph. The Randolph family had migrated from England with much fortune and remained influential within the colony of Virginia.
Young Thomas would have nine other siblings, with six of them surviving into adulthood.
Jefferson would grow up and marry Martha Wayles.
Who Was Martha Jefferson?
No contemporaneous portraits of Martha Jefferson survive, but she has been described by family members and Isaac Granger Jefferson as small, graceful, and pretty, like her daughter, Mary Jefferson Eppes.
She was described by Robert Skipwith, her sister's husband, as having possessed "... the greatest fund of good nature ... that sprightliness and sensibility which promises to ensure you the greatest happiness mortals are capable of enjoying."
As Thomas was having Monticello built, he obtained a pianoforte from England for Martha as a wedding present.
She played the harpsichord pianoforte, while Thomas Jefferson played violins.
Martha reportedly played the harpsichord "very skillfully and who, is in all respects, a very agreeable sensible and accomplished lady," according to a Hessian officer, Jacob Rubsamen, who visited Monticello in 1780.
Managing the Jefferson household became increasingly difficult for Martha Jefferson, who had endured at least one case of smallpox, may have had diabetes, and was weakened by her numerous pregnancies, which would ultimately kill her.
She bore the stress of having to flee a British invasion of Richmond in early January 1781 and a raid on Monticello in June of that year, during which she had to travel with infant children, many of whom died. She was aware that the British were interested in capturing her or her husband.
Thomas limited his political service due to her health. Jefferson, in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress of 1776, which drafted the Declaration of Independence, wished to return to her as soon as possible.
Thomas served as governor and in the House of Delegates in Virginia. He declined the offer to serve as the commissioner to France made by the Continental Congress while she was alive.
The birth of their youngest child in May 1782 was reportedly the most difficult pregnancy for Mrs. Jefferson, having carried a very large baby.
Edmond Randolph wrote in the month of her death that Thomas was "inconsolable" about Martha's declining health and pain."
Mrs. Jefferson's health worsened, and she died on September 6, 1782, four months after the birth of her last child.
She was buried at Monticello, and her tombstone included the words from Thomas's perspective: "Torn from him by death" and "This monument of his love is inscribed."
For many years, folks were unsure if they believed that Thomas Jefferson fathered the children of Sally Hemings, but over the years and looking at the situation logically, there is very little doubt that Jefferson did have children with his slave.
While Jefferson was in France in 1790, he learned that one of his surviving daughters, Lucy, had died. He then sent for Mary to come to him in France. Mary was to be accompanied by an older black slave, but the slave became pregnant and could not make the journey. Sally would take her place.
Mary and Sally first arrived in England, where they stayed with John and Abigail Adams.
Jefferson's associate, Mr. Petit, arranged transportation and escorted the girls to Paris. In a letter to Jefferson on June 27, 1787, Abigail wrote:
The Girl who is with [Polly] is quite a child, and Captain Ramsey is of opinion will be of so little Service that he had better carry her back with him. But of this you will be a judge. She seems fond of the child and appears good naturd." On July 6, Abigail wrote to Jefferson, "The Girl she has with her, wants more care than the child, and is wholy incapable of looking properly after her, without some superiour to direct her.
Sally would stay in France for a little over 2 years. When Thomas Jefferson was preparing to return to America, Sally hesitated and wished to stay in France since slavery had been outlawed. Jefferson pleaded with her to return and said if she did, she would enjoy special privileges and that her children would be freed at the age of 21.
She agreed and returned to Monticello.
It was common for slave owners to have relations with their female slaves. However, it was to be discreet.
Hemings had six children, with four surviving to adulthood and living full lives. They were freed at the age of 21, just as Jefferson had promised.
Thomas Jefferson Family Chart
- Peter Jefferson (1708 - 1757)
- Jane Randolph Jefferson (1720 - 1776)
Spouse: Martha Wayles Jefferson (1748 - 1782)
- Martha Jefferson Randolph (1772 - 1836) - Martha would be the oldest surviving child from the marriage of her parents. She married Thomas Mann Randolph Jr., who was a politician at the federal and state levels and was elected as governor of Virginia (1819–1822), which made her the first lady of Virginia. They had twelve children together. When her widowed father was US president, she sometimes lived with him at the White House, serving as his hostess and informal First Lady.
- Jane Randolph Jefferson (1774 - 1775)
- Unnamed Infant Jefferson (1777)
- Mary Jefferson Eppes (1778 - 1804)
- Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson (1780 - 1781)
- Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson (1782 - 1784)
Mistress: Sally Hemings (1773 - 1835)
- Beverly William Hemings (1798 - 1873)
- Harriet Hemings Coles (1801 - 1863)
- James Madison Hemings (1805 - 1877)
- Eston Hemings Jefferson (1808 - 1856)
- Jane Jefferson (1740- 1765)
- Mary Jefferson Bolling (1741 - 1804)
- Elizabeth Jefferson (1744 - 1774)
- Martha Jefferson Carr (1746 - 1811)
- Peter Field Jefferson (1748)
- Unnamed Infant Jefferson (1750)
- Lucy Jefferson Lewis (1752 - 1811)
- Anna Scott Jefferson (1755 - 1828)
- Randolph Jefferson (1755 - 1815)