The Ulster Ancestry of President Wilson.

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Document ID 9501153
Date 28-12-1918
Document Type Family Papers
Archive Linenhall Library
Citation The Ulster Ancestry of President Wilson.;The Northern Whig, 28 December 1918, Cutting Book 45, p.171; CMSIED 9501153
               PERSONAL & INCIDENTAL.

Mr J. W. Kernohan, who can speak authoritatively on many matters of
Ulster  family history, writes:- The discussion of what may be
termed the Ulster seat of President Wilson's ancestors was one of
the things that I expected to find in "Personal and Incidental,"
which I am glad to see going strong again. It will recall many
irritating problems of verification to find in the "Lady of the
House" Christmas number that the President's great-grandfather
emigrated from Ulster and had the honour of being the first man who
set up the type of the Declaration of American Independence, 1776
(that's Yankee style, certainly); that in a local contemporary the
old lady of Courtrai, whose only remark on hearing of the departure
of the Germans ("good riddance!") betrayed her Ulster origin, made
it as clear as was possible to the journalistic  interviewer's mind
that the President's ancestor, Malcolm Wilson, of Islandmagee, was
somewhere in her maternal line, but with such an indifference to
chronology on her part and such a dependence on a coincidence of a
Sally and a Nancy in the family tree of certain Ulster relatives
that in spite of a search in an eighteenth century rent roll of an
"Island" estate we seemed all in a fog. The pamphlet you mention,
when it came into my hands, gave me the impression that Harry Wilson
Walker was really writing a skit on the Yankees who visit our shores
in search of our ancestors, and become more interested in the
whereabouts of Patrick, Bridget, and Columbkille. He was certainly
no genealogist when he declined the expert's offer to trace the
Walker line, because "as a boy he had been beaten too often by other
boys who resented the history of Londonderry" (that makes it certain
they were Presbyterian boys who knew their Governor Walker lesson)
and drifted into the Wilson genealogy instead.

  He had seen the President's cousin, however, who takes charge of
all such inquires as to ancestry, and two facts emerge - that it was
his grandfather who was the first of the family to emigrate, and
that he was a printer, which tallies with the "London Magazine"
article of a few years ago, which stated clearly that the
President's grandfather, James Wilson, from County Down, became
editor of a paper in what was then the far West - in Steubenville,
Ohio, as you say. But, as I said, this pamphleteer became convinced,
I think - not merely on the evidence of "hotel porters" - that the
early Wilsons here were as mythical as Professor Bury's St. Patrick.
And so he got mixed with the John Mitchel family at Newry, ancestors
of the Mayor of New York. In America they have a habit of it. We are
told in a life of President Andrew Jackson that inquiries were made
at Belfast in the President's lifetime, just about 90 years ago,
when all dinners included a toast to the famous general, which
inquiries, we are gravely told, were much assisted by Lord Mayor
Edward Harland! - which anachronism in a composite document,
however, is quite clear to the higher critics.
 An American Ewing, certainly descended from the Ewings of Derry and
Burt, of the same stock as gave the University of Pennsylvania its
first Provost and our own Queen's College its second President,
knowing of the first Belfast-built ship, the Eaglewing, of 1636,
which made the attempt to reach America, seriously asked me just two
months ago to consult the passenger list of that locally famous
wooden wall, though he did not suggest it was one of Sir Edward
Harland's liners. And yet he had read Woodburn's "Ulster Scot."
Certainly evidence exists of its having been repaired and
refurbished on its return for trading purposes.
  But to return to Woodrow, the "Times" correspondent seems to have
it from the President himself that somewhere near Derry should have
the honour of his ancestor's birth. And so say the American
journalists who looked us up recently. This brings us nearer another
well-known printing town, which would also claim the credit. But for
this you must refer to friend Campbell, the author of its Annals,
who has, I believe, been in communication with the President's
family on the subject. We must now have almost reached the symbolic
number of the cities that claimed the honour of Homer's birthplace;
or, as a fellow-student firmly insisted at the oral in reply to the
examiner's stock question, "Homer was born in seven places." In time
we may have a similar Homreric problem in regard to James Wilson and
his distinguished grandson, if we judge by the mortal dread in which
he is held by the peoples of Europe. The mythical element may one
day be supported by the number seven. In eighteen hundred and seven
from one of seven Ulster towns James Wilson removed to America. The
son of one of his seven sons is the author of the twice seven
"Points," who entered the Great War in nineteen hundred and
 Really the only clue so far is through the designation "printer,"
and his seven sons were all taught the trade. If James Wilson left
our shores in 1807 we may include in the list of possible towns as
having printing presses before that date - Belfast (1694), Derry
(1724), Newry (1761), Strabane (1771), Downpatrick (1754), Coleraine
(1794), the first four having newspapers also before 1800. For
Carrickfergus there is a very long hiatus, though being the first of
local places to have a printing press the one that accompanied King
William. We may leave it there for the present until one of your
other suggested correspondents gives his version. It is a hopeful
augury to find the editor above-mentioned confounding James Wilson
with the Strabane printer Dunlap, who printed the Declaration of
Independence. Meanwhile I give you another. Who was the original
"Uncle Sam," the Ulsterman, Sam Wilson, who was a contractor's
assistant in the American war before U.S. was familiarised for
United States, or U.S. Grant, or "Unconditional Surrender" Wilson?
 With reference to President Wilson's progenitors, while you are
waiting for light from the sources you mention, the following
exchange of cablegrams at the time of Dr. Wilson's election may
interest you (writes Mr. A. Albert Campbell), and give you an
indication of the proper place to look for information on the
subject:" - "President Wilson, White House, Washington. - Strabane
sends heartiest congratulations, and is justly proud of a descendant
of one of its citizens: - Conroy, Chairman Urban District Council."
To this Mr. Conroy received the following reply: - "Conroy, Chairman
Strabane Urban Council. - The President directs me to express to you
his high personal appreciation of the kind congratulations from
Strabane. Huntington Wilson, Acting Secretary of State."

 Mr. Clarke's note in the "Personal and Incidental" column on his
great-granduncle was very interesting (writes Mr. Henry Ridell). The
best statement as to the tradition regarding the name "Black" is
found in the letter from the head of the Lamont Clan to the John
Black who married Jean Eccles. This is dated 19th August, 1723, and
is found at page 177 of volume 8, new style, of the "Ulster Journal
of Archaeology." I wish you would ask your correspondent Mr. Clarke
if he can settle a matter of great interest to the students of the
wide ramifications of the families of Black, Stewart, Clarke, Reade,
&c., all descended from John Eccles by one side or other of their
houses. It has not been at all apparent whether there was any
connection between the Clarke that married Esther Eccles, the Rev.
John Clarke who married Mary Isabella Stewart, and the E. H. Clarke
who married Ellen Black, the grandniece of Dr. Joseph Black. If he
can settle this point in detail he will confer a very real favour.