Genealogy Breakthrough!

After 45 years of genealogy work, my dad finally came across some startling news for the Caswell family:

We are related to Joseph Smith, and here’s how:

My name is Robert Michael Caswell and my father’s name is Thomas Hubbard Caswell III. His father is named Marion Francis Caswell Jr. whose father is Marion Francis Sr., son of Judge Thomas Hubbard Caswell. So, Thomas Hubbard Caswell is my great grandfather.

Thomas Hubbard Caswell’s mother is named Asenath Hubbard who is the daughter of Thankful Branard whose mother is Thankful Fuller (Thomas Caswell’s great grandmother).

Thankful Fuller has a sister named Lydia Fuller. Lydia has a daughter named Lydia Gates. Lydia Gates married Solomon Mack. They had a daughter named Lucy Mack who married Joseph Smith Sr. Lucy and Joseph had a son named Joseph Smith Jr.

So, if you were keeping track that makes me Joseph Smith’s third cousin four times removed.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t been much into genealogy, partly because my dad’s always really been into it and partly because I just haven’t grasped the excitement of the whole thing, though experiences like this can get me fired up.

It’s always seemed like one of those not-as-important gospel principles like food storage, though I know that grossly misrepresents it (and food storage). Not to get too stereotypical, but I’ve noticed (in my limited experience) that Mormons who do genealogy, uh, religiously at the same time as having serious food storage seem to be those who’ve taken it to an entirely new level of devoutness (if that didn’t sound good, I promise it was supposed to be a compliment). I always wonder if I’ll get to that level.

So who are the genealogists of the Bloggernacle? Come out of the shadows; this is the thread for you! Please feel free to share your findings, breakthroughs, and experiences.


  1. Sounds like you’re from the bloodline, Bob. You could be called to be an Apostle!

    I’m descended from William Randolph, which means I’m related to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and William the Conqueror. I’m also a descendant of Thomas Savage, who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607/1608; settlers arrived in Jamestown 13 years before Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth (thanks to the Civil War and who writes history, most students aren’t taught that the first permanent English Colony in the Americas was Jamestown). Other family names in my genealogy are along the lines of Hanna, Wickersham, Moore, Jordan, Hammond, Auxier, Cowdery, all of which arrived in North America before 1750.

    I’m also a very, very, very distant cousin of Oliver Cowdery, since I’m also descended from the Cowdery’s who resided of Cowdery Castle in at Midhurst, England in 1304. But the lines diverged at least one hundred years before his forbears came to Lynn, Massachusetts in 1638. My line (through Benjamin Cowdery) came to Northampton, Virginia about the same time.

    Fun stuff, genealogy is.

  2. Bob,
    We’re practically brothers!! My (I don’t know how many)-great aunt is Patty Sessions who was married to Joseph Smith (as was her daughter). I knew I felt kinship with you Bob.

    Can’t most people trace their lineage back to William the Conqueror? I heard that somewhere. Can anyone substantiate that?

  3. No Rusty, I think is was Charlemagne (though it may apply to WtC too). Nate O. and J. Stapley informed me of that fact in the comments of my post a few months ago lamenting the fact that I can’t get no Spirit of Elijah.

    Congrats to you Bob. I’m encouraged to see someone can get the spirit of it all. My claim to Mormon fame is being directly related to General Johnston who was sent out to squash that pesky Mormon uprising in Utah…

  4. Oops. That was me.

  5. I don’t know of any American History textbook that doesn’t discuss Jamestown, to say nothing of Roanoke. If students are unaware of these historical episodes it’s because they don’t bother to read or listen in class, not because of some phantom anti-southern bias.

  6. Rusty, I’ve heard that too about pretty much everyone being related to William the Conqueror.

    Bill, I don’t know about text books, but I’ve known an awful lot of reasonably educated people who think that the pilgrims at Plymouth were the first English settlers. This was true at BYU, where people came from all over, and other places I’ve lived. The pilgrim misconception is particularly prevalent here in New England. If fact, my daughter has been taught that in both the first and second grade. They’ve also taught her two years in a row that Lincoln was an abolitionist. But then I’ve found New Englanders to be generally more stupid than residents of other places I’ve lived. At any rate, many people get downright dismissive when they’re informed that Jamestown had a bustling international tobacco trade and democracy well before the Pilgrims set foot on the continent.

  7. So Bob, you got me wondering at what point on your line did your family join the church? Contemporary to Jos. Smith? You don’t hear much about his cousins etc. embracing the gospel, but maybe your family disproves that.

    My mom has been doing geneology for 40 years and has never found a name for whom she can do the temple work. It has literally all been done. I can’t believe she’s still looking!!!

  8. George A. Smith, the early apostle for whom St. George was named, was a cousin of Joseph. If I remember correctly, Joseph Sr. was his uncle. Therefore, George Albert Smith was also a cousin to Joseph Smith (and apparently, George Albert got the crazy gene).

  9. I have ancestors who lived in Palmyra the same time as the Smith family did. That’s about as close as I come. And based on how crazy and sketchy my family is, I’m guessing they weren’t friendly to the Smiths.

  10. My understanding is that I’m a direct descendant of Joseph Knight and other (though not-so-famous) contemporaries of Joseph Smith. I have mixed feelings about naming a famous LDS ancestor though. My wife is a convert to the Church. Her pioneer ancestry goes back to China and not to the trek across the plains. From what we know, many of them were also valiant and faithful people in their own right.

    As John the Baptist stated so bluntly:

    “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

    Sometimes it is as interesting to study the rogues and scoundrels that exist in one’s lines … as well as the luminaries. My grandmother recently passed away and I was re-reading some of the family histories she published. In talking one particluar line she pointed out that anyone descended from them should strictly avoid alcohol because a gene for alcoholism exists in the family.

  11. “Can’t most people trace their lineage back to William the Conqueror?”

    Rusty, I’m reasonably convinced that William the Conqueror is not one of my direct ancestors.

  12. Bryce, you’re just not trying hard enough. Where is your faith?!

  13. Bob Caswell says:


    And here I caught myself believing Arturo again… I thought I was on my way to being an Apostle (ignoring the fact that I’m part of this blog) while you, based on your family line, would be cleaning the toilets in the Church office building, if you were to be so lucky! But your John the Baptist quote made me realize that I should be happy being your equal, not your superior. :-)


    In answer to your question, the Caswell line didn’t have much to do with the Church until very recently (like only two generations ago). From what I understand, the cousin love wasn’t really there (at least the one direction)… And your mom doing genealogy for 40 years and not finding any temple work to be done? That’s crazy! I probably would have gotten discouraged, you know, around maybe 10 years of that happening (probably less)… But good for her to keep looking.

  14. Bob, I shouldn’t have been so serious. I did catch the humor inherent in the “third cousin four times removed” linkage to Joseph Smith — so I probably should have just said something silly. Whoa unto me! :)

    I am not worthy to clean the toilets in the Church Office Building — even less in the General Conference Center — and so I abstained from signing up on the volunteer list yesterday in priesthood meeting. The last time I participated in cleanup there, I was extremely upset that I wasn’t permitted to “try out” the First Presidency seats on the main dais.

  15. In the last few years I’ve really caught on to family history. My mother’s side are not members so there is a lot to do. I haven’t found anyone famous yet, mostly common folks and soldiers/deserters.

    I am curious, just which line would I have to tie into to be able to clean the toilets at the conference center?

  16. Once I was just fiddling around on Family Search and one line of mine just kept going back and back and back until finally stopping at Odin and Frigga, of course. I am indeed divine.

  17. A bit off topic, but maybe some of you can answer: at what point do you start getting interested in genealogy? ‘Cause I just cannot bring myself to be interested. The mere mention bores me to tears.

  18. Rusty,
    We’re cousins, provided that you are descended from Patty Bartlett Sessions. She is a direct ancestor.

  19. Steve, I know what you mean. I am only just barely getting interested in doing genealogy and it is still slow-going. I think part of it had to do with the recent passing of my grandmother. She was an avid genealogist and there is a feeling (in my heart) that with her passing other people are going to need to help pick up the slack. But my mother is a enthusiastic genealogist as well — so that still leaves me with powers of continual rationalization.

    Part of it too is that each time I go to the temple with church friends, they bring cards from their own genealogy to do ordinances for and are competing for ward help in this area … and so I am envious.

    One trick, just download PAF onto your computer. I’m still figuring the program out a little — as I managed to add a bunch of names in the wrong fields and haven’t figured out how to remove them. I figure if I can get my own copy of my genealogy as far back as it goes, maybe I can choose a line to work on. Until then I’ll only be imagining that I might get started.

  20. A bit off topic, but maybe some of you can answer: at what point do you start getting interested in genealogy? ‘Cause I just cannot bring myself to be interested. The mere mention bores me to tears.

    Steve: Not to bring up a touchy subject, but I think having kids has something to do with it. My own relationship with my parents changed in the instant that I became a parent myself.

    Of course, I don’t do very much family history myself — I can’t read the records, and they’re mostly inaccessible electronically anyway. Lame excuses, but hey — I can maintain a family blog and call it family history, so it’s all good.

  21. Bob, I did some quick checking after danithew pointed out the humor in being a third cousin four times removed, just to make sure that this was not a ruse. We can call this The Generations of Bob:

    Shubael Fuller and Hannah Crocker begat Lydia Fuller in 1709 and Thankful Fuller in 1713.

    From Shubael Fuller and Hanah Crocker to Joseph Smith, Junior

    Daniel Gates and Lydia Fuller begat Lydia Gates in 1732.

    Solomon Mack and Lydia Gates begat Lucy Mack in 1775.

    Joseph Smith and Lucy Mack begat the renowned Freemason Joseph Smith, Junior in 1805.

    From Shubael Fuller and Hannah Crocker to Bob Caswell

    Abijah Brainard and Thankful Fuller begat Thankful Brainard in 1754.

    Seth Hubbard and Thankful Brainard begat Asenath Hubbard after 1780.

    Levi Caswell and Asenath Hubbard begat the renowned Freemason (and first Judge of Nevada County, CA) Thomas Hubbard Caswell in 1825.

    We can take the rest of it from there.

  22. I think some people will just always be more into the nitty-gritty of family history than others. Maybe it’s a spiritual gift or something. I think I like it because I like repetition and order; it just jibes with my personality.

    Also, reading the 128th section helps me get excited about it. JS declaring that the whole earth should rejoice because we can baptize for the dead maybe makes me want to be more involved in work that make it possible.

    Even with all that, though, I rarely do family history. It’s hard to find the time and in Manhattan here they shut down the FH Center, so it makes it even more difficult.

    I would say figure out something that fits with your personality and go with it. It will be an important contribution somehow.

  23. “My name is Robert Michael Caswell and my father’s name is Thomas Hubbard Caswell III. His father is named Marion Francis Caswell Jr. whose father is Marion Francis Sr., son of Judge Thomas Hubbard Caswell. So, Thomas Hubbard Caswell is my great grandfather.”

    Bob, just curious, How can your father be a “III”, but not have his father’s name?

  24. Bob Caswell says:


    Well done! And thanks for pointing out some more facts about good ol’ Thomas Hubbard Caswell (I didn’t want to point all that out, as I was already running thick with pride for other reasons). It’s true, he was a pretty renowned freemason (though he had nothing to do with the Church), and he was the first Judge of Nevada County, CA.


    People just do it. If you get into genealogy, it’s all over the place. You can be a second, third, or fourth (my brother) without being a direct son (although, my brother is a direct son). If you’re related and no one has taken the name, you can be named (as my father was after his grandfather). Also, it’s not mentioned here, but Thomas Hubbard Caswell II died at an early age and had no children (hence, my dad was the III because the II was already another person).

  25. Steve Evans: …I just cannot bring myself to be interested [in genealogy]. The mere mention bores me to tears.

    Every family has lots of dead people in it. If it weren’t for genealogy, we’d hardly know anything at all about them.

  26. You gain a testimony of genealogy work the same way you gain a testimony of anything else–by doing it.

    It’s really amazing to me that something like looking up a bunch of names and dates in old records, which should bore my pants off, is really, really interesting. It totally sucks you in. It ends up being like a puzzle, trying to fit all the pieces in.

    I’m a convert, yet my lines have pretty much been very well documented–I tie in to some royal lines on both sides of my family, and once you do that, you go way, way back. There’s still work that needs to be done, mostly just sealings here and there.

    It makes me laugh to find stories of my ancestors, because it just goes to show that families are the same generation to generation. In my case, that means completely insane.

  27. Susan, I look to you to teach me — I do like personal histories and the like, but the puzzle element and the filling out of charts has yet to really suck me in. I love it though that you have found the spirit behind it. I look forward to the time when I too can feel that way… *sighs wistfully*

  28. The more I think about it, Bob, the more awesome I think it is that you’re related to Joseph Smith. I’ll bet you just can’t wait to do his temple work.

  29. LOL! man, you crack me up sometimes, AT. I’m glad, on these occasions, that we didn’t ban you after all. Good times.

  30. Come now, Steve. You never really considered banning me, did you? I thought you had a stiffer backbone than that.

  31. I’m related to Porter Rockwell. (That’s even better than being related to Joseph Smith IMNSHO.) I’m not a direct descendant, but my ggg-grandfather was a cousin of Porter’s mother.

    I think that qualifies me to work for Church security. I’ll be the one trying to figure out which end of the gun is the business end while the rest of you are cleaning toilets.

  32. Thomas Hubbard Caswell III says:

    Thought I might add a humble contribution in response to Minerva’s question. I’m Bob’s Dad, and I can understand the confusion on how I can be Thomas Hubbard Caswell III and yet my father didn’t have the same name.

    My great-grandfather, Judge Thomas Hubbard Caswell (the original) had a son named THC Jr., who died when he was only five years old.

    The Judge and his wife had another son named Marion Francis Caswell, who later had MFC Jr. (my father).

    When I came along, my parents decided to revive the THC name in honor of my ggfather. Since there had already been a “Junior” I couldn’t be the “Second,” so that made me the “Third.”

    Hope that clears things up.

  33. Eushikka Caswell says:

    I am looking through for my family line.
    I just so happen to be an curious 19 year old black female in college down in Florida.
    My family, from what i was told came from the carolinas and met up with some Indians. Do you know of any caswells that were in the Carolinas. No pressure on answering me back but it would be of help. Thank you in Advance.

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