Thomas Jefferson Kids


Michael Benton, Contributor

| updated

Copy Link Code

thomas jefferson kidsWith all the great accomplishments of his public life, for Thomas Jefferson, family life may have held great pain and suffering never witnessed in the halls of power. Was Thomas Jefferson married? Yes, on New Year's Day of 1772, Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton. They were both popular elites in the Virginia hierarchy and found mutual interest in classical music. For Thomas Jefferson, marriage also included a new financial situation. When Martha's father died in 1773, the couple inherited over a hundred slaves and thousands of acres as well as the debt accrued on his estate. This debt would plague Thomas Jefferson even after his wife's death. Did Thomas Jefferson have kids? Yes, six in all, but only two would survive into adulthood. The Thomas Jefferson family tree began with Martha, or Patsy, born in 1772, followed by Jane, born in 1774 and died in 1775; an unnamed son stillborn in 1777; Mary, known as Polly, born in 1778; Lucy Elizabeth, born in 1780 and died 1781; and another Lucy Elizabeth, born in 1782 and died in 1785. Of the Thomas Jefferson kids, only Patsy would outlive her father.

For Thomas Jefferson, ancestry was never a topic of much curiosity as he had few records to which he could refer. In the young Thomas Jefferson's family, parents were Peter Jefferson, a surveyor and planter, and Jane Randolph, daughter of a ship's captain who was also an occasional planter. Other Thomas Jefferson ancestors have been lost to the records of history but he is considered to be of Welsh and English descent. Thomas Jefferson family history includes inheritances and networking that is typical of upper class Virginia estates; his own rise to the office of the Presidency would assure the legacy of his name, if only more of his children had survived to carry it on. In a surprising twist in the branches of Thomas Jefferson's family tree, another woman may have bore him sons who lived on to father their own children under a different name.

In a scandal that reverberates to this day as an ongoing struggle for the truth, it is apparent that Thomas Jefferson may have had multiple children with a slave named Sally Hemings. The battle rages most fiercely among descendants of Thomas Jefferson, including African Americans who trace their family line back to the third President of the United States. For historians studying Thomas Jefferson genealogy, the addition of a Hemings branch seemed to be confirmed by a DNA test that showed a match between Sally Heming's youngest son and Thomas Jefferson himself. This test validates the claims of many African Americans who wish to be included among Thomas Jefferson family tree descendants. Sally Hemings, whose mother was a mulatto slave, was the half-sister of Thomas Jefferson's wife, Martha, but over twenty years younger. The first claims of an affair to go public were before Jefferson's campaign for re-election in 1804; while they failed to derail his bid for re-election, the truth will taint Jefferson's legacy perpetually.