‘Urban Myths: Indian Forebears’

Introduced by Richard M. Langworth

Winston Churchill and his family long delighted in extolling the legend of their Native American blood, believed to have been introduced through Jennie Jerome’s maternal grandmother, Clarissa Wilcox. Despite the much-mooted Red Indian features of some of Clarissa’s descendants, there is no genealogical evidence to support Native American ancestry in the Jerome lineage.

In his biography of Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (vol. 1, The Romantic Years) Ralph Martin noted ‘marked Indian features of Clara Jerome and her sisters and their children’, suggesting that Clarissa Wilcox’s mother ‘may have been raped by an Indian’ and that Clarissa may have been a half-caste. This is quite a stretch: there were no Iroquois Indians in Nova Scotia, where Anna spent much of her youth. While there were certainly Iroquois in upper New York, where she moved as a 25-year-old wife and mother, her husband’s will mentions their daughter Clarind [sic] Wilcox and her sisters, which itself seems definitive. Martin’s thesis is harder to believe than the simple, forthright facts as recorded by her colonial family in their probate records. The absence of proof does not make a story untrue; but it does not establish it, either.

Read the full article here: ‘Urban Myths: Indian Forebears’ by Elizabeth Churchill Snell, Finest Hour 104, Autumn 1999.

To read more background to the story that Churchill’s American ancestors included Mayflower passengers, read his grandson’s piece in the Finest Hour, here.

For more on Churchill’s forebears and his early life, see the exhibition, ‘Churchill and the Great Republic’, at the Library of Congress, here.

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