Like most musical-loving families, my family discovered and became obsessed with Hamilton last year. Not just a “hey, I like that musical” obsession but a “we sing and dance and act out all the songs on Saturday nights” kind of obsession. When we got tickets to see the show in New York, the kids were over the moon! On that trip we not only saw the musical but took a trip out to Trinity Church to see a lot of the graves as well. We weren’t just interested in the musical–we were interested in the whole history.
So once we came home, I thought it would be fun to figure out if we were in any way related to Hamilton. My real hope was that we were related in some way to the Schuyler sisters, because my girls and I always sing their song together. How cool would it be if it turned out that we were their descendants? Even Peggy….I would have been happy even to be related to Peggy, even though she gets short shrift in the musical.
Could We Be Related to the Schuyler Sisters?
I re-established my Ancestry.com account and got to work. (Get it…”Work!”) I knew my best shot (which I wasn’t throwing away) was through my maternal grandmother’s family. (Okay…no more Hamilton puns.) My Ancestry.com research on that side of the family took me back to the 1600s in the Northeast U.S.–specifically, Connecticut and New York.
I started working as many connections as I could and the Ancestry.com resources were AMAZING! I was reading actual birth certificates and looking at pictures of tombstones in old graveyards. Piece by piece, the family tree started growing and branching off until I found something!
We Have a Famous Relative!!
When I got back to 1776, I came across a name that gave me pause. My family were the Sillimans (up through my Aunt Margaret Silliman, whom I knew as a child). You know how often a mother will give her maiden name to her son as a first name? I was only speculating but it was worth pursuing.
Check out the name I came across in my tree:
Burr Silliman. Does this mean what I think it does?
I started frantically researching back the tree. Sure enough, his mother’s name was Elizabeth Burr Silliman. Her father was Seth Samuel Burr. And Seth Samuel Burr’s nephew? Aaron Burr.
All of a sudden this “Twilight” quote came into my head (don’t judge!):
“What if I’m not the hero? What if I’m the bad guy?”
We’re the bad guys!! My family tree led me to the antagonist in the story! Aaron Burr is my 2nd cousin, 8x removed. We aren’t honorary Schuyler Sisters. We’re not related to Alexander Hamilton. We’re related to the damn fool that shot him.
Okay….so maybe I don’t have to worry about his bad genes being a part of my DNA. And actually he may not have been that bad of a guy after all….just a little over-ambitious and prideful.
But it’s all still pretty cool, right? Once I got done looking through all of that part of the family tree, I spent some time taking things the whole way back to Europe. I’ve hit some bumps but all in all have found relations to a number of other famous people that I am still working on documenting (like possibly Princess Diana and Winston Churchill). But those will be posts for another day!
You can try Ancestry.com free for 2 weeks and see how much you can find about your family. Be prepared to be sucked in and astonished by their record collections and how much you can figure out in a short amount of time.