No direct descendants of these famous folks

For those into lineage and family trees and geneology, some of these famous folks ’ lineages stopped. Elizabeth I and Marilyn Monroe had no children, so they are a given, but here are others:

There’s no living descendants from Abe Lincoln. His great-grandson was a stepfather; a great-granddaughter had no children of her own. BTW, Tom Hanks is related to Abe, fourth cousins, four generations removed. Abe had a sister and brother.

Laura Ingalls Wilder gave her parents their only grandchild, Rose Wilder Lane. In real life (the tv series Little House from Prairie deviates from this), Laura’s sister Mary did not marry, and sisters Grace and Carrie married with no children. Rose Lane gave birth to a stillborn and divorced, did not remarry and did not have more children. The rights tothe Little House series went to Rose’s friend, Charlie MacBride.

George Washington was a stepdad, no children of his own. In fact, the Founding Fathers were thrilled becuz they were antimonarchial.

Mark Twain’s one surviving child (Mark outlived 3 out of 4 of his children), Clara, had one daughter who died without having children.

James Madison had no biological children. He did have an adopted stepson.

I’ve read that Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, has over five thousand direct living descendants. His daughter Martha had eleven children who survived to adulthood, most of whom had several children of their own.

There are no direct descendants of William Shakespeare (unless he, or one of his grandsons, had an illegitimate child). Of his four grandchildren, one died in infancy, two died as young, unmarried men, and the fourth, his granddaughter Elizabeth, married twice but never had any children of her own.

There are probably no direct descendants of John Milton, but if there are, they are most likely to be somewhere in India; his grandson moved to Madras and had children and a grandchild there, but we know nothing more of what became of them.

Lineages stopping is entirely common. Have a look at all the extinct grants of peerages, where people would have been highly motivated to take all the benefits if there was anyone who legitimately could. Families seem to go through a choke point in the generations immediately after any given individual, and die out a la Mark Twain’s in a generation or two, or get sufficient critical mass as to be essentially unquenchable.

Henry VIII, which is unfortunate given the amount of effort he put into securing a line of descendants.

Maybe. One of his mistresses children had 14 children, and some of those were equally fecund, I’d be surprised if that line has died out.

Whether the original daughter was his or not is apparently debated, but in anycase, one suspects he had at least a few unrecognized bastards who may have had children of their own.


unless …

And, indeed, Alison Weir makes a good case for this in her recent biography of Mary Boleyn.

Marie Antoinette falls into this category. Of her four children, only one survived past age ten, and that child (eldest daughter) never had any children of her own.

Extinction of direct descendants is the rule, survival is the exception. This was investigated mathematically by Sir Francis Galton and others in the 19th century, when the British aristocracy was worried that all the “good” surnames were dying out.

This is also illustrated by the fact that in societies with strict patronymic naming and little influx of new names, the number of names dwindles. Take, for example, Korea where 45% of the population is named Kim, Lee, or Park (or a variant of those names).


In connection to that, Francis Bacon has no legitimate descendants and probably no illegitimate ones either (just the illegitimate literary ones :D).

However, Ma’s brother Henry married Pa’s sister Polly and had 5 children, while Ma’s sister Eliza married Pa’s brother Peter and had 4 children, giving Laura nine double cousins, some of whom have living descendants.

Nice. Thanks for share that.

I forget the name of it, but I remember reading that if you go to a certain period of time (long ago?) that everyone alive at that time period either:

  1. Was the direct ancestor of EVERYONE now living; OR
  2. Current has zero living direct descendants.

Well, there’s Hitler. No direct descendents there. And I saw in a documentary that all of his(known) relatives living now have no children, as they don’t want them growing up with that stigma.


He had at least 1 child, out of wedlock.

Extinction of a peerage does not automatically equate to the end of the lineage though. In the case of many extinct peerages there are plenty of direct descendants of the original grantee. They’re just not entitled to inherit because they don’t meet the requirements of the peerage creation e.g. they’re female heirs.

Huh. The documentary didn’t mention that. To Wikipedia!

I agree. My point was that the peerage thing essentially resets the family line in each new generation. The first Duke of Jowlfat has seven kids, the oldest male of whom becomes the second Duke, and so on. But eventually the process commonly results in extinction. While there may be plenty of direct offspring of the first Duke around, they will only be second or third or fourth cousins of the last Duke, not descendants entitled to take the title. The extinction event is related to the end of the last Duke’s lineage. But since peerages are so well recorded and are perceived as valuable, the rate of extinction represents (to me) an interesting insight into the rate at which people generally have no direct descendants.

And while I accept that the last Duke’s progeny may extinguish the title by virtue of the fact that his progeny are all female, my sense is that it is mostly for want of any progeny at all.

I never even knew they were a couple.