A Presidential link
It is also through the Pratt line that David’s wife and children are related to one of the greatest American presidents. In the 1630s, numerous ships crossed the Atlantic carrying English settlers. “One of these in 1637 was The John and Dorothy out of Ipswich, bound for Boston,” says David. “Among its passengers was the family of Frances Lawes including, as a servant and an apprentice weaver, a 15-year-old boy, named Samuel Lincoln, born in Hingham, Norfolk.
“Sometime before 1650, this young man married Martha Lyford, who was probably from Ireland. This couple had 11 children. One of them was Mordecai and another was Thomas. Abraham Lincoln was directly descended from Mordecai, while my children are descended from his brother Thomas. The line goes through Thomas’s daughter Sarah who married another Phineas Pratt, the grandson of the man who trudged through the snow and saved Plymouth. As descendants of Phineas and Sarah, my children, Alice and John, share common ancestors with Abraham Lincoln in Samuel Lincoln and Martha Lyford.
“While Alice and John cannot claim to be directly descended from the greatest of American presidents, he is certainly a blood relation. In fact, they are fifth cousins four times removed.
“Of course, I know everyone who’s gone into this kind of thing thinks that their own family history is fascinating, but I do believe that my wife’s family is quite unusually interesting,” says David. “Particularly the fact it hooks in with my professional work as well – the Lincoln connection was amazing.
“No-one in my wife’s family had any idea about that. There was nothing in the ‘ family legend’. It gave me great satisfaction to reveal all this stuff to the family and they were understandably quite excited by those revelations. My children were also very interested; my son, John, in particular, because he did American Studies at university and wrote a master’s thesis on Abraham Lincoln – and this was before he knew of the connection. For Christmas one year, I gave him a family tree that showed exactly how he was connected to Abraham Lincoln. He rather enjoyed seeing it all laid out for him.”
A selection of David’s historic books, which have been essential to his genealogy research