Special Report

A Quick Family History of Every US President

During presidential elections the spotlight often turns to the life and background of candidates who may be the next occupants of the White House. That very often includes an interest in their family history. In 2020, for example, the ancestry of Elizabeth Warren and whether her family had Native American heritage has sparked much debate.

24/7 Tempo reviewed several sources, including academic papers and the White House’s website to find out more about every president’s ancestral background. Our list is composed of all presidents and the heritage line or two that are most verifiable. Some American presidents’ family trees are widely documented, like John F. Kennedy’s Irish roots. Others are lesser known and, in a few cases, hard to prove.

Of the 44 men who have become president of the United States, 17 are generally accepted as being of Ulster-Scots ancestry. Ulster-Scots are people who migrated from the Lowlands of Scotland to Ulster in the northern part of Ireland starting in the early 1600s.

Many of the early U.S. presidents were of English descent, with family roots in Virginia. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the U.S. who served 1837-1841, was the first American head of state with no direct British heritage. Both of his parents were of Dutch descent. Later presidents’ heritage can often be traced to distant relatives from several European countries, including Germany.

Click here to see every president’s heritage.