Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are you related to Aaron Burr?

Unless you are a big history buff, Aaron Burr is one of those early American people you know your teacher told you about, but you can't really remember why. And that's because your teacher didn't have time to go into all the details that make Aaron Burr's story a juicy scandal, and you probably didn't wonder if you're related to him. So, like most of us you probably didn't pay all that much attention at the time. But it is a juicy story, and you actually might be related to him.

Third Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr had a distinguished Revolutionary War career which propelled his political success after the war. Some history enthusiasts will recall the 1804 pistol duel in which Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, another prominent figure in Revolutionary history. Ironically, Burr had saved Hamilton's life during the Revolutionary War. But the two did not see eye to eye on politics and during a bitter election campaign Hamilton impugned Burr's honor, and Burr demanded satisfaction. Duels were, by this time, technically illegal so when Hamilton died as a result of the duel, the Vice President found himself avoiding certain states for the remainder of his term in office and for several years thereafter.

Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel after a nasty election campaign during which Hamilton insulted Burr's honor.

It turned out that Hamilton's death was just the beginning of the Vice President's woes. Following the end of his term as Vice President in 1805, Burr went west into the frontier of the recent Louisiana Purchase. There he leased 40,000 acres in Spain's territory which, historians allege, he planned to use as a wedge to split the western frontier away from the newly formed United States. True or not, all he needed was a war, and the recently defeated British just might have been willing to sponsor it. Burr's alleged plans ultimately were undone when his former friend James Wilkinson tattled to President Jefferson. In the end, Burr was arrested and thrown in jail at Fort Stoddert, Alabama on this day, 19 February, 1807.

Burr, however, was never actually convicted of treason. He was taken from Fort Stoddert to Richmond where President Jefferson did everything in his power to have Burr convicted. But the checks and balances of the newly formed judicial system held, and insufficient evidence was found for a conviction. Burr spent several years laying low in Europe, avoiding scandal, before returning to New York where he assumed his mother's maiden name "Edwards." He died in 1836 and was buried in Princeton Cemetery, New Jersey.

Over 200 years later, Aaron Burr made news again when it was reported that Burr's descendants hoped to restore his good name. Burr's only legitimate child, Theodosia, had only one child who died young and left Burr with no legitimate heirs. However, The Aaron Burr Association believes that Burr had at least two illegitimate children: Louisa Charlotte born in 1788; and John Pierre Burr born 1792. As of 2005, The Arron Burr Association had not yet found any direct line male descendants from Aaron Burr to perform y-chromosome DNA tests which would prove at least the John Pierre Burr line to be true descendants. If you, or anyone you know, believe you are a descendant of Aaron Burr, please let us know.

Nasty elections and political scandal. Duels to the death. Illegitimate children and a trial for treason. Burr would have been tabloid fodder in our time. Now don't you wish your history teacher had told you all the details?

For further reading about Aaron Burr:


  1. I have chosen your blog to receive the "One Lovely Blog" award. You may stop by my blog to see the rules that go along with accepting this award. Thanks! Lisa

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I was told I am related to Aaron Burr. my great grandmother did genealogy and traced it back to him. and I dont know if it is a coincidence but mine and my great grandmothers middle name is Louisa

  4. Jehu Burr (1596-1670) is my 12th Great Grandfather making Aaron Burr my 3rd cousin 10 x removed. Unfortunately I do not carry the Y D.N.A for the Burr family.

  5. My family is descended from Jonathan Edwards who was the grandfather of Aaron Burr. I have male cousins. Would they qualify to be tested?

  6. I assume I'm related to Aaron Burr, seeing as how I share his last name but I'm not sure how.

  7. I assume I'm related to Aaron Burr, seeing as how I share his last name but I'm not sure how.