by Jeanette K. B. Daniels, AG, CGRS, Marietta Glauser,
Diana Harvey, and Carol Hubbell Ouellette

Co cke was not writing for the public, or with any intention that his words would be published. These entries were in his private diary, for his eyes alone. Why would he bother to use a fact he knew to be untrue?  He was Jefferson’s friend and a frequent visitor at Monticello, and was certainly in a position to know—or guess at—the paternity of persons on the estate. 
    The census taker who took the 1870 census for Huntington Township, Ross County, Ohio, and listed Madison Hemings, son of Sally, wrote, “This man is the son of Thomas Jefferson” after Madison’s entry.(45) Obviously, what was said between these two men will never be known, but it must have been powerful and persuasive. The census taker knew he was creating a federal document that would eventually go to Washington, D.C. To write such a statement was an extraordinary occurrence.
    One could speculate that perhaps Madison, like his brother Eston, bore a resemblance to Jefferson. A story in the Chillicothe Scioto Gazette, on 1 August 1902, comments on the likeness:
So striking was the likeness [to Jefferson] that on one occasion the writer of this sketch in company with [four men, named] while going from Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, came upon the bronze statue of Jefferson, . . . “Gentlemen, who in Chillicothe looks most like that statue?” I asked. “Why, Eston Hemings!”(46)

    The oral histories of Madison Hemings and Edmund Bacon, Jefferson’s overseer, were also examined. Both men were interviewed when they were older, which leaves open the possibility that their memories are not entirely correct. Also, each of them has a point of view or belief to protect, again leading to the shading or distortion of memories. However, parts of each interview are supported by other testimonies or writings that would seem to lend them credence.

Harriet Hemings

The last mention of Harriet Hemings, in Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, is the notation by her name “ran 22,”47 indicating that she “ran away” in 1822. In an interview, Edmund Bacon reports that,
When she was nearly grown, by Mr. Jefferson’s direction, I paid her stage fare to Philadelphia, gave her fifty dollars.(48)

    In Madison Hemings’ 1873 interview in the Pike County Gazette, he says of his sister Harriet that she
. . . married a white man in good standing in Washington City. . . . She raised a family of children, and so far as I know they were never suspected of being tainted with African blood in the community where she lived or lives. I have not heard from her for ten years. . . (49)

    In all the years since those two interviews, only Pearl M. Graham, writing in The Journal of Negro History,50 in 1961, claims to have spoken with Harriet’s descendants.

Cautions, Anomalies, and Conclusions

One of our most referenced books was Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, edited by Betts.(51) The first 178 pages of the book are photocopied pages from Jefferson’s original book. We noted an anomaly that bears mention here. In the ”Register of Births,” on page 31, appears a record of children born to Jefferson’s slaves. Listed under the year 1790, several entries have been erased or scraped away. Of the last several letters, all that remains after the “removal” of the third entry in the males column (entry #85) is one syllable—either an “ly’s” or a “by’s.” On other pages Jefferson has merely drawn a line through mistakes. Why were these entries removed, when, and by whom? Is it significant that this would have been the year that Sally gave birth to a child possibly conceived in France? Is this simply verification of Madison’s statement that Sally “gave birth to a child . . .it lived but a short time,”52 and had the name been removed when the child died? These entries could bear further study, using the original page, so that no questions remain.

    Comparing the times that Thomas Jefferson was at Monticello to the estimated conception date for Sally’s children shows that Thomas Jefferson was in residence at Monticello at the right time to be the father of her children. The conception dates are based on the “average” length of a human pregnancy based on the date of birth. The conception date would be plus or minus a few days.
    Although no absolute evidence that Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston Hemings was found, there was certainly a lack of evidence indicating Eston had been fathered by any other Jefferson in the area. Circumstantial evidence provided by tax and census records, and the lack of mention in Monticello records and family letters, would seem to rule out Randolph’s sons. Those letters that came later from Randolph to his brother seem to indicate that poor health and the business of running his own plantation kept his visits to Monticello infrequent. Other Jeffersons in the area lived a two-day ride away. Family letters do not mention that they visited. We concluded that only Thomas Jefferson was verifiably in constant close contact with Sally Hemings at the appropriate time to father Eston, and, most probably, Sally’s older children, as well. Our conclusion seems obvious, but it is a conclusion that may never be totally proven.

However, the game is still afoot . . .

Sherlock Holmes(53)



1.        The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, Board for Certification of Genealogists (Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 9.

2.        Eugene A. Foster, et al., “Jefferson Fathered Slave’s Last Child,” Nature 396 (November 5, 1998): 27, 28.

3.        E. H. Jefferson listed in the 1855 Madison, Wisconsin directory, and in the Forest Hills Cemetery, online,; Also, Eston’s son, John W. Jefferson, is listed in the 1860 U.S. Census, 2nd Ward, City of Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, Population Schedule, p. 505, dwelling 248, family 256, line 24.

4.        “Reply: The Thomas Jefferson Paternity Case,” Nature 397 (January 7, 1999): 32.

5.        Thomas Jefferson (1677 to 1731) was the grandfather of President Thomas Jefferson. He only had two sons that lived to adulthood and married: Field and Peter. President Thomas Jefferson and his brother, Randolph, were sons of Peter Jefferson.

6.        “The Possible Paternity of Other Jeffersons,” Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, online,, downloaded 8 April 2002.

7.        Edwin Morris Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, With Commentary and Relevant Extracts from Other Writings (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1953).

8.        Several sources have listed the birth dates of Randolph’s children as being much earlier. Randolph had a daughter born about 1782/83. The boys appear to have been born after her.

9.        Virginia Research Outline, (Salt Lake City: Family History Library).

10.      N. R. Murray, Albemarle County, VA Marriages (Hammond, LA, 1986), 145.

11.      1830 to 1860 U.S. Censuses of Albemarle County, Virginia were searched to determine the birth dates of Randolph’s children.

12.      John Vogt, Fluvanna County Marriages 1781 to 1849 (Athens, GA: Iberian Press, 1984), 29.

13.      N. R. Murray, op cit, 145.

14.      Tax list, Albemarle Co., Virginia, 1801to 1813, film 202444 (Salt Lake City: Family History Library).

15.      Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Randolph Jefferson, 11 January 1789; in Thomas Jefferson and his Unknown Brother Randolph, Tracy J. McGregor Library (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1942) 13.

16.      Isham R. Jefferson household, 1830 U.S. Census, Fluvanna Co., Virginia, p. 353, line 19; National Archives Microfilm Publication M19, roll 195.

17.      John Vogt, op cit, 29.

18.      Robert L. Jefferson household, 1850 U.S. Census, Albemarle Co., Virginia, Population Schedule, p. 283, dwelling 1853, family 1853; National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, roll 932.

19.      N. R. Murray, op cit, 145.

20.      Tax List, Nelson Co., Virginia, 1809 to 1845, film 1870172, (Salt Lake City: Family History Library).

21.      Randolph Jefferson household, 1810 U.S. Census, Buckingham Co., Virginia, p. 785; National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, roll 66.

22.      There are no records indicating that Sally Hemings ever traveled to Randolph Jefferson’s plantation, with or without Thomas Jefferson.

23.      Letter, Randolph Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 8 June 1810; in Thomas Jefferson and his Unknown Brother Randolph, Tracy J. McGregor Library (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1942) 17.

24.      Letter, Randolph Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 6 Oct. 1811; ibid, 20.

25.      Letter, Randolph Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 8 Feb. 1812; ibid, 22.

26.      Letter, Randolph Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 24 Feb. 1813; ibid, 24.

27.      Letter, Randolph Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson, 6 Oct. 1811; ibid, 20.

28.      Letter, Thomas Jefferson to Randolph Jefferson, 12 Aug. 1807; ibid, 14.

29.      J. H. Battle, ed., A History of Todd County Kentucky (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1979), 296.

30.      Monticello was renovated while Thomas Jefferson was in Washington as the President, 1801 to 1809. According to census and tax records, Randolph Jefferson was living at his plantation and not away requiring his children to be raised by someone else. The 1810 Census shows Randolph’s children at home with him.

31.      Thomas Jefferson Jr., a small baby at the time, was mentioned briefly in his Uncle Thomas Jefferson’s letter of January 11, 1789 to his brother, Randolph Jefferson.

32.      Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Randolph Jefferson, 25 May 1813; ibid, 26.

33.      Edwin Morris Betts and James Adam Bear, Jr., eds., The Family Letters of Thomas Jefferson, (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986; original, 1966 University of Missouri Press).

34.      Ibid, 232.

35.      Richmond Recorder, Dec. 1802; printed in Durey, With the Hammer of Truth, 159.

36.      Boston Repertory, 31 May 1805; printed in Woodson, op cit, 73.

37.      Thomas Turner was a close acquaintance of David Meade Randolph, whose wife was a sister of Jefferson’s son in law, Thomas Mann Randolph. “Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings” (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Jan. 2000).

38.      Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1971) 4:222.

39.      Letter, Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 20 June 1816; quoted in Richard E. Dixon, “The Case Against Thomas Jefferson: A Trial Analysis of the Evidence on Paternity,” in Robert Eyler Coates, ed., The Jefferson and Hemings Myth (Jefferson Editions, 2001) 140.

40.      Andrew Lipscomb and Albert Bergh, eds., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D.C.: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903) 14:267; in Woodson, op cit, 70.

41.      Frances Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans (London: Whittaker, Treacher and Co., 1832) 97 to 98; in Woodson, op cit, 110.

42.      Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Liancourt, Travels through the United States of North America (London, 1799) 2:69, 77; in Merrill D. Peterson, ed., Visitors to Monticello (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989) 30.

43.      Original images,

44.      Ibid.

45.      Madison Hemings household, 1870 U.S. Census, Ross County, Ohio, Population Schedule, Huntington Twp., Chilicothe post office; p. 699, dwelling 49, family 49; National Archives Microfilm Publication M593, roll 1262.

46.      “Jefferson’s Blood,”

47.      Betts, op cit, 130.

48.      James A. Bear, ed., Jefferson at Monticello (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981) 102.

49.      Pike County Republican, 1873.

50.      Pearl M. Graham, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings,” Journal of Negro History, 46, no. 2 (April 1961): 89, 103.

51.      Betts, op cit, 30, 31.

52.      1873, op cit.

53.      Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear, from /valley_fear/valley_of_fear.txt.

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