The Irish Origins of the Mary Todd Lincoln Family and Related Families
May 2010, revised November 2010, rev March 2012; March 2013
Contrary to what Emilie Todd Helm, half-sister of Mary Todd Lincoln, wrote in the 1880s and contrary to what Emilie’s publisher George Seilhammer wrote in 1905, the ancestors of Mary Todd Lincoln were not descended from the Co Down James Todd d 1704 and probably not descended from the Co Armagh John Todd d 1719. The limited DNA evidence we have points to the origins of Mary Todd’s family in Co Antrim, in the vicinity of the townlands of Ballyalbanagh and Coggrey in the Ballyeaston/Ballyclare area of Co Antrim.
The Previous Theories
Emilie Helm wrote in the 1880s that her ancestor Robert Todd 1697-1775 was the grandson of John Todd of Co Down and son of James Todd b 1704; George Seilhammer when he published the manuscript, disagreed with Emilie and claimed that Emilie’s ancestor and brothers were sons of a John Todd d 1719 in Co. Armagh.
Seilhamer apparently had access to copies or abstracts of numerous Todd wills of the 1700s. He claimed that the Todds that Emilie claimed as ancestors, namely, the James Todd who died in Co. Down in 1704 could not be the ancestor of Emilie’s ancestor Robert Todd 1697-1775. He pointed out that James d 1704 had a son James 1693-1757 and sons Robert and Andrew, but did not have sons William and Samuel that corresponded to Emilie’s family. More importantly, what Seilhamer didn’t know is that Co Down records showed that James’ sons Robert and Andrew did not leave Ireland.
Another conclusive reason for doubting the James Todd d 1704 as the ancestor of Robert Todd 1697-1775 is that DNA from a descendant of the James Todd d 1704 Co Down did not match the DNA of the Mary Todd Lincoln group of Todds (MTL Todds).
Seilhamer found a John Todd of Co. Armagh who died in 1719 who had children James, Robert, Andrew, William and Samuel which he said “met the conditions” of Emilie’s family.
There are several reasons for disagreeing with George Seilhammer about John Todd d 1719 in Co Armagh being the ancestor of the MTL Todds.
- No evidence of a brother Samuel: Though there is evidence for Mary Todd’s ancestor Robert Todd 1697-1775 having a brother Andrew and a brother William, there is no credible evidence for Robert having a brother Samuel. Seilhammer noticed that there was a William Todd who had children baptized at Abingdon Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia County in 1736 and 1738 and hypothesized that this might be a brother to Robert 1697-1775 whose son David was married at Abingdon Presbyterian Church. Subsequent DNA testing confirms this William could have been a brother to Robert 1697-1775. However, it is not clear where Seilhammer got the idea that Samuel Todd was a brother to William Todd, Robert Todd and Andrew Todd. Dr. Simeon Seymour Todd had hired a genealogist to inspect the records of the Todds and the McMurtrys in Augusta County, Virginia where William Todd had settled in 1750. Either Dr. Todd or the person who inspected the records managed to totally scramble the family relationships between the McMurtrys; so he may have scrambled the family relationships of the Todds as well. Later family historians became convinced that there was a Samuel Todd who died in 1754 who was the brother of William Todd living in Augusta County. They thought this invented Samuel Todd was the father of Samuel Todd d 1813. However, a careful reading of the Augusta County records shows that Samuel Todd d 1813 was the son of William Todd, not his brother and that he was the only Samuel Todd in the Augusta Co VA records.
- Wrong church affiliation: Futhermore, as Seilhamer pointed out, John Todd d 1719 was a member of the Anglican Church, not the Presbyterian Church which the Todds were associated with in America. So that fact alone makes it doubtful that the Armagh Todds were the ancestors of Robert Todd 1697-1775.
We once thought that the family of five Todd brothers (Robert, John, William, James and Andrew) and a sister that appeared in the 1730s and 1740s in the Janeway Store account records in Bound Brook New Jersey was the family of Mary Todd Lincoln. However, closer inspection showed that these Todds were the Todds some of whom remained in Somerset County and others who migrated to New York.
Nevertheless, it does appear that Mary Todd’s ancestors were in New Jersey before coming to Pennsylvania. There are New Jersey Supreme Court records that show that Robert, William and John Todd appeared on court cases in Hunterdon County in the 1730s and 1740s. Also, there are DNA samples from Todds who lived in Hunterdon County that matched the Mary Todd group of Todds DNA pattern. After this period, Robert moved to Chester County by 1750 and then Philadelphia County; William moved to Augusta Co by 1750; John moved to Mecklenburg County NC by 1767. This evidence suggests that the family consisted of half-brothers, Robert Todd b 1697 and Andrew Todd b abt 1715, a brother or cousin William Todd b abt 1700, a ousin John Todd born about 1701 and a fifth Todd, possibly a brother, who was father of the Hunterdon County Todds.
Also, DNA evidence points to where in Ireland the family came from. There was a family of Nathaniel Todd b 1746 living in Ballyalbanagh area of Co Antrim whose descendants came to Dearborn County Indiana about 1829 whose DNA matches the Mary Todd Lincoln group of Todds. There is also a family living with matching DNA in Carnlea a few miles from Ballyalbanagh. Further, a family descended from a Nathaniel Todd that came to Canada between 1820 and 1850 matches the DNA for the Mary Todd Lincoln family. The area where the name Nathan or Nathaniel Todd appears almost exclusively in Irish records is the same Ballyeaston/Ballyclare area of Co Antrim. Though we can’t be sure there weren’t migrations within Ireland prior to the 1800s, this area seems to be the likely origin of the MTL and related families or at least this is where their kin settled by the early 1800s.
The other families that share this DNA pattern:
- Andrew and Patrick Todd (probably born in the 1750s) who were in York Co PA near the Maryland border in 1779 and 1781, with Patrick moving across the border to Harford co MD and Andrew marrying in Maryland, moving to Rockingham Co VA about 1787, then moving to the part of Russell Co Virginia that became Tazewell Co, and dying there in 1801.
- James Todd born in the 1750s who settled in Washington Co PA by the 1790s and then Warren Co Ohio around 1802.
- James Todd who lived in Rockingham Co at the same time that Andrew did and then moved across the boundary to Augusta Co where he died in 1799. (James d 1799 had a son George and Nathan which are names common to the Ballyalbanagh and Coggry area.)
- Nathan/Nathaniel Todd b 1751 came from Co Antrim to South Carolina about 1794 and died in Laurens Co 1820-30. A tradition in this family was that the family lived in the Loch Lomond area of Scotland before coming to Ireland.
- Patrick Todd born about 1768 came to Laurens Co about 1798.
- James Todd and his wife Jane Erskine came to Anderson Co about 1802.
- Nathaniel Todd and James Todd came to Dearborn Co IN about 1829.
- James Todd 1774-1839 who lived in Quebec and whose sons James and John went to Vermont by 1850.
- Nathaniel Todd b 1820 and William Todd b 1821 (son of Nathan Todd) who came to Ontario b about 1847.
- Adam Todd 1782-1851 who came from Ireland to New Brunswick about 1847.
Recently, we discovered a family living in Co Antrim that traces their lineage back to William Todd born 1800 Carnlea, a townland just to the west of Ballyalbanagh and to the north west of Coggrey that matches the Mary Todd Lincoln Todd DNA. Also found was a William Todd b 1821 Ireland, son of Nathaniel Todd married 1856 Haldimand Co Ontario with the same DNA.