Monday 23 March 2020

Out Of His Maternal Tree: Pete Buttigieg Part 1

I had intended to produce this article later this year nearer to the US Presidential elections, but recent events have prompted me to bring it forward.

The subject of today’s genealogical journey is Pete Buttigieg (b.1982), the openly gay presidential nomination candidate who pulled out of the race for the White House three weeks ago.

Pete Buttigieg’s ancestry can be neatly split into two. His paternal ancestry is almost entirely Maltese and Mediterranean, and his maternal ancestry is Euro-American. Today we’ll look at his mother’s ancestry. In May we’ll look at his Maltese ancestry. Almost as soon as Pete Buttigieg entered the race for the White House genealogists began looking into his ancestry.

Pete’s mother is a member of the Montgomery family. Her father was Col. John Willard Montgomery (1919-1973), a doctor in the US Medical Corps who served in Korea. The Montgomerys were originally from Ireland and probably arrived in America in the 1730s.

There are immigrants of several other nationalities in the Montgomery line. Through them Pete has English, German, French and Czech ancestry. One notable Czech immigrant ancestor was Augustine Herman (c.1621-1686). He trained as a surveyor and when he arrived in America he produced some of the most accurate maps of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay areas. Augustine became an influential figure in shaping the map of the states of the USA, literally. He was instrumental in the purchase of Staten Island for the New Amsterdam colony, which is why it’s now in New York state and not New Jersey. He was also involved in the Anglo-Dutch dispute over colonial land ownership which led to the creation of Delaware.

Pete Buttigieg has slave-owning ancestors through Augustine Herman and several others. Millions of people have slave owners as ancestors, and with each new generation that number increases. It’s one of those facts of history that we cannot change and have to live with.

The ancestry of Pete Buttigieg’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Zoe Anne Montgomery, née Neal, (1921-2002), illustrates one of the traps in family history, the misidentification of an ancestor. It’s easily done but a bit of extra research reveals the truth. Mrs. Zoe Montgomery’s maternal grandmother was Anne Elizabeth Wooley. Unfortunately, there was more than one person with that name living at the same time. One Anne Elizabeth Wooley was the daughter of a Choctaw Native American and has been presented as Pete Buttigieg’s ancestor on What I usually do is trace the family line down from each person of the same name until it is obvious that they are not from the same family. In this case I traced Choctaw Anne’s children down through the Penny family (as indicated on her father’s will), and they are not related to Zoe Montgomery or Pete Buttigieg.

Let’s go back to what we know has been proven. Through Zoe Montgomery’s other grandmother, Mrs. Lena Chase Neal (1877-1947), we can trace her ancestry to several significant immigrant ancestors from England. The most significant of these gives Pete some Mayflower Pilgrim ancestry.

Last year a highly respected genealogist, Christopher C. Child, discovered that DNA from Pete’s ancestor John Sprague proved that Sprague was the illegitimate son of Samuel Fuller, the son of Mayflower Pilgrims. What a pity that Pete dropped out of the Presidential race, because it would have been perfect for a Mayflower descendant to be US President in this 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower voyage. George W. Bush was the last Mayflower President. I’ll be listing some lgbt Mayflower descendants in September.

Another colonial settler was Peter Worden (c.1570-before 1639), an “average” colonial settler who arrived in America in the 1630s. Although he came from a family with small estates in Lancashire, England, and held several public and judicial posts in the colony he did not have as much impact on American history as some other colonists. Peter Worden’s significance comes from his position as a “gateway ancestor”. This is an individual whose ancestry is well documented and usually has proven royal or noble blood.

Through his mother, Isabel Worthington, Peter Worden is descended from King William I of Scotland (1142-1214). On the way the line of descent coincides with my own with both Peter Worden (and, therefore, Pete Buttigieg) and myself having Sir Richard Bayley Sherborne (1382-1440) as a common ancestor. Some of Pete Buttigieg’s relatives through Peter Worden include the Fonda acting dynasty, Bing Crosby, President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Calvin Coolidge. Lgbt relatives who are also descended from Sir Richard Bayley Sherborne include Cynthia Nixon, Divine, Rupert Everett, Michael Stipe and Jodie Foster.

I’m always on the lookout for unusual stories in people’s ancestry and the Worthingtons provide one of the more unusual. The Worthington coat of arms features three dung forks! Here’s why. “Worthing” is an old regional dialect word for dung and, as I’ve explained in my heraldry articles, puns on family names have influenced the design of many coats of arms. This stems from the times when few people were literate and needed something visual to help them remember whose arms were whose – a bit like corporate logos.

Pete Buttigieg may have a coat of arms which also illustrates a pun on his family name. Although I’ve not been able to verify that Pete has the right to a coat of arms, there are records of distant members of his family adopting a shield showing a chicken standing on a barrel. The Latin word for barrel is “buttis”, and the Maltese word for chicken is “tigieg”. Put them together and you get “buttis-tigieg”. Buttigieg actually means “owner of chickens” and its ultimate origin is Arabic, which gives a clue to the family’s own origins.

And that’s just a sample of Pete Buttigieg’s maternal ancestry. I’ll look into he father’s ancestry in May when some remarkable surprises will be revealed, including more royal blood, the Emirs of Tunis, and the Borgias.

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