Pedigree and arms of the Washington line
until George Washington
Current regionColony of Virginia
Earlier spellingsde Washington; earlier, de Wessyington
EtymologyDerives from Wessington (Washington) in the County of Durham
Place of originWashington Old Hall, England
Founded12th century
TraditionsAnglicanism / Episcopalian
MottoExitus acta probat (Latin)
(The outcome is the test of the act)
Estate(s)Washington Old Hall, Mount Vernon, Abingdon (plantation), Arlington House, Beall-Air, Blakeley (West Virginia), Blenheim (Wakefield Corner, Virginia), Bushfield (Mount Holly, Virginia), Cedar Lawn, Claymont Court, Germantown White House, Fairfield (Berryville, Virginia), Ferry Farm, Harewood (West Virginia), Kenmore (Fredericksburg, Virginia), River Farm, Sulgrave Manor, Tudor Place, Washington Bottom Farm, George Washington Birthplace, Mary Ball Washington House, White House (plantation), Woodlawn (Alexandria, Virginia)

The Washington family is an American family of English origins that was part of both the British landed gentry and the American gentry. It was prominent in colonial America and rose to great economic and political eminence especially in the Colony of Virginia as part of the planter class, owning several highly valued plantations, mostly making their money in tobacco farming. Members of the family include the first president of the United States, George Washington (1732–1799), and his nephew, Bushrod Washington (1762–1829), who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The family's roots can be traced back to the 12th century in North East England (from an 11th-century progenitor in Scotland), and emigrated to the New World in the 17th century. John Washington, born 1631 in Tring, Hertfordshire, England, arrived in the Colony of Virginia in 1657 after being shipwrecked.[1][2] The ancestral home was Washington Old Hall, located in the town of Washington.

Roots in England

Medieval origins

The Washington dynasty traces its direct firmly confirmed roots ultimately to Crínán "the Thane" of Dunkeld (†1045), lay abbot and son-in-law of Malcolm II of Scotland.[3][4][5] His descendant was Sir William de Hertburn (originally William Bayard),[6] who in 1183 traded his manor of Hertburn (modern-day Hartburn) for that of Wessyington in County Durham near the River Wear. William the Conqueror had awarded estates to many nobles associated with the new Norman regime, and especially in de Hertburn's region after the Harrying of the North suppressed the Northumbrians.[7] According to post-Conquest noble custom (well before surnames became commonplace in English culture), they adopted the name of the estate as an Anglo-Norman surname, "de Wessyington", which later became "Washington".[4][7][8][9][10] The location's etymology derives from Old English and probably literally means "estate of a man named Wassa", a theme of toponymy common throughout England.[11] The Washington family held this manor for hundreds of years as vassals of the Palatine-Bishopric of Durham.[9][12] On this site were relics of Saint Cuthbert, transferred to Durham from its shrine at Lindisfarne, as a saint invoked in combat against the Scots (ironically compare Kirkcudbrightshire), and a symbol of the importance, privileges, and feudal obligations of the illustrious Bishop of Durham and his vassals, including the Washingtons.[7] For the next 500 years or so, the Washington family would continue to be notable members of the County Durham landed gentry.

Old Hall, the Washington ancestral home

The Washington manor onwards

The direct ancestral home of the Washington family from 1180 to 1613 is Washington Old Hall, a manor house located in the centre of the Washington area of Tyne and Wear, England.[1] It is owned by the National Trust.[13] During the early 14th century, Robert de Washington, a descendant of William de Wessyngton, settled in Warton, Lancashire. Lawrence Washington, a descendant of Robert, moved from Warton to Northamptonshire, in 1529, where he became a prosperous wool merchant.[10] In 1539, during the Reformation, Henry VIII enacted the disastrous dissolution of the monasteries in England. Lawrence acquired from the king Sulgrave Manor on the Northampton Priory of St. Andrew.[14] Lawrence began construction of a new manor house on his property. Sulgrave Manor was completed in 1560 and remained in the Washington family until 1610.[10]

Lawrence Washington's great-grandson, Lawrence Washington (1602–1652), the immigrant's father, was a notable English rector,[10] whose brother Sir William Washington married the half-sister of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham.[1][15] The Washington family, who were loyalists to Charles I, fell out of grace during the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell's victory forced the Washington family to be dispossessed of their lands.[14] The harsh treatment of the Washington family under Cromwellian rule may have forced Lawrence's son, John Washington, to leave England and seek better prospects in America.[14]

History in Virginia

First generation

The Washington family arrived in the Colony of Virginia in 1657,[16] when John Washington was shipwrecked. John sailed on the ship the Seahorse.[17][18] He was a planter, soldier, and politician in colonial Virginia in North America and a lieutenant colonel in the local militia. He settled in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

John Washington married Anne Pope in 1658 and had the following children: Lawrence Washington (the paternal grandfather of President George Washington), John Washington Jr. and Anne Washington.[19] There were two additional children, names unknown, mentioned as deceased when he wrote his will on September 21, 1675.[2][19][20] Anne Pope was the daughter of Englishman Nathaniel Pope and Lucy Fox.[21]

Second generation

The family, especially Lawrence Washington, rose to great economic prominence, especially in regard to real estate, owning several plantations, mostly for tobacco cultivation.[2][19][20] Lawrence married Mildred Warner in 1686 and had three children, John Washington III (1692–1746), Augustine (1694–1743) and Mildred (1698–1747).[22] Mildred Warner (1671–1701) was a daughter of Augustine Warner Jr. and Mildred Reade. Her paternal grandparents were English settlers Augustine Warner Sr. and Mary Towneley.[23]

Lawrence died at age 38 in February 1698 at Warner Hall, Gloucester County, Colony of Virginia, in the same year his daughter was born. Following his death, Mildred Warner Washington married George Gale, who moved the family to Whitehaven, England, where Mildred died in 1701 aged 30 following a difficult childbirth.[24][25]

Third generation

Augustine Washington was born at Bridges Creek plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in 1694, to Capt. Lawrence Washington and Mildred Warner. Augustine married twice; his second marriage in 1730 to Mary Ball produced the following six children: George (eldest and first president of the United States), Elizabeth "Betty", Samuel, John, Charles and Mildred Washington.[26]

Mary Ball (born c. 1707) was raised in the family Epping Forest estate, the only child of Joseph Ball (1649–1711), an English justice, vestryman, lieutenant colonel and burgess in the Colony of Virginia, and Mary Johnson.[27][28]

The Washington family owned land (on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia) since the time of Augustine's grandfather John Washington in 1674. Around 1734, Augustine brought his second wife Mary and children to the plantation called Little Hunting Creek when George was about two years old. Augustine began on an expansion of the family home that continued under their son George, who began leasing the Mount Vernon estate in 1754, becoming its sole owner in 1761.[29]

Fourth generation

The Washington Family (1789–1796) by Edward Savage

George Washington was born on February 22, 1732, at Popes Creek, Virginia, British America and the oldest of six children to Augustine and Mary Washington. He became an American political leader, military general and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington died December 14, 1799, age 67, at Mount Vernon, the family's estate in Virginia.[30] Washington had no biological children. His wife Martha Dandridge had four children from her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis. These stepchildren were Daniel Custis (1751–1754), Frances Custis (1753–1757), John "Jacky" Parke Custis (1754–1781) and Martha "Patsy" Parke Custis (1756–1773).[31]

Fifth generation

Modern era

Some of the closest-living relatives of George Washington are Paul Emery Washington (1926–2014) and his sons Richard Washington, Bill Washington and another unnamed son[34] who lived in San Antonio, Texas.[35] They are among 8,000 other living relatives of George Washington through his younger brothers, Samuel Washington (1734–1781) and John Augustine Washington (1736–1787).[36]


Main article: Coat of arms of the Washington family

Coat of arms of the Washington family
The design (three red stars over two horizontal red bars on a white field) has been used since 1938 as the basis for the coat of arms and flag of the District of Columbia. It is also found on the Purple Heart.
by 14th century, by the Washington who had possession of Washington Old Hall, County Durham, England.
From a crest coronet, a raven rising wings elevated and addorsed proper.
Argent two bars Gules, in chief three mullets of the second.[37]
Exitus acta probat (The outcome is the test of the act)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Washington Old Hall". Newcastle Gateshead. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Whipple, Wayne (1911). The story-life of Washington; a life-history in five hundred true stories. University of Michigan. Philadelphia, The John C. Winston company. Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  3. ^ Washington, George Sydney Horace Lee (1964). The Earliest Washingtons and Their Anglo-Scottish Connections. privatley [sic] printed for the author.
  4. ^ a b Miller, Gustavus Hindman (1923). The Millers of Millersburg and Their Descendants: With Kindred Families of Miller, McGee, Jameson, Read, Scott, Wyatt, Donnelly, White, Washington... Brandon [P]rinting Company.
  5. ^ Montgomery-Massingberd, Hugh (1975). Burke's Presidential Families of the United States of America. Burke's Peerage. ISBN 978-0-85011-017-3.
  6. ^ Wells, William C. (1913). "A Washington Token" (PDF). British Numismatic Journal. 2. 10. British Numismatic Society: 326.
  7. ^ a b c Irving, Washington (1859). Oliver Goldsmith. Henry G. Bohn. pp. 1–5.
  8. ^ Irving, Washington (January 8, 2015). The Student's Life of Washington; Con: For Young Persons and for the Use of Schools. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-63355-477-1.
  9. ^ a b The English Illustrated Magazine. Macmillan and Company. 1891.
  10. ^ a b c d Hardy, Rob, Ph.D. "Ancestry". mountvernon.org. Carleton College.((cite web)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). "Washington etymology". etymonline.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  12. ^ Collins, Holdridge Ozro (1900). Genealogy of the Washington Family. Sons of the Rev. Calif.
  13. ^ "Washington Old Hall". National Trust. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Balter, Michael (February 26, 1995). "George Washington's British Roots". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 2, 2024.
  15. ^ Sorley, Merrow Egerton, ed. (1935). Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family, Including the Genealogy of Descendants in Both the Male and Female Lines, Biographical Sketches of Its Members, and Their Descent from Other Early Virginia Families. Genealogical Publishing Co. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-8063-0831-9. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  16. ^ "George Washington Birthplace". nps.gov. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  17. ^ White, Jim (March 14, 2013). Washington. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781257244782. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  18. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. (2002). George Washington: A Biographical Companion. ABC-CLIO. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-57607-082-6.
  19. ^ a b c "John Washington and His Descendants". kenmore.org. Archived from the original on November 12, 2018. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  20. ^ a b "Washington Genealogy - President George Washington Family History". www.archives.com. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  21. ^ Higginbotham, Don (2001). George Washington reconsidered. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 9780813920061. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  22. ^ Collier, Kim S. (1998). George Washington and the American Revolution. Genealogical Publishing Com. ISBN 9780806347752. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  23. ^ Dorman, John Frederick (2004). Adventurers of Purse and Person, Virginia, 1607-1624/5. Genealogical Publishing Com. ISBN 9780806317632. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  24. ^ ""Washingtons" Genealogy". The George Washington Foundation. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  25. ^ ""Washington Family: Third Generation"". Genealogy.com. Archived from the original on January 4, 2009.
  26. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. (2002). George Washington: A Biographical Companion. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781576070826. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  27. ^ "Ball Family". Mount Vernon. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  28. ^ "Mary Ball ancestry related to Joseph Ball Estate Johnson Gilbert Bird Day". Evening Star. July 19, 1908. p. 22. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  29. ^ "Expansion of Mount Vernon's Mansion". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  30. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. (2002). George Washington: A Biographical Companion. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 9781576070826. Retrieved August 8, 2020.
  31. ^ "Washington family". Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  32. ^ Wayland, John Walter (1944). The Washingtons and Their Homes. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield. p. 125. ISBN 0806347759. OCLC 39055916 – via Google Books.
  33. ^ "Hannah Bushrod". Ancestry.com. Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  34. ^ "Texan is George Washington's closest kin". NBC News. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2023-12-26.
  35. ^ "Obituary information for Paul Emery Washington".
  36. ^ "Texan is George Washington's closest kin". NBC News. 2008-10-08. Retrieved 2023-07-10.
  37. ^ Bolton's American Armory. Boston: F. W. Faxon Co, 1927