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Sally Hemings' Children

The birth dates of six children of Sally Hemings were recorded by Thomas Jefferson in his letters and records. Descendants of Madison Hemings and Eston Hemings are known.

Evidence is mixed for a son who may have been born to Hemings when she returned from Paris. Descendents of Thomas Woodson claim that he was that son.

The following chart summarizes their birth dates and the dates of Jefferson's presence at Monticello in Sally's "conception window."

Name Birth Date Jefferson at
Monticello
Death Date
Harriet October 5, 1795 1794 and 1795 -- all year December 1797
Beverly April 1, 1798 July 11 - December 5, 1797 probably after 1873
Thenia? about
December 7, 1799
March 8 - December 21, 1799 soon after birth
Harriet May 1801 May 29 - November 24, 1800 probably after 1863
Madison January (19?), 1805 April 4 - May 11, 1804 November 28, 1877
Eston May 21, 1808 August 4 - September 30, 1807 January 3, 1856

Two of Sally's documented children (a first Harriet and a girl possibly named Thenia) died in infancy (plus, possibly, the child named Tom who was born shortly after the return from Paris). Two others -- Beverly and Harriet -- "ran" in 1822, were never formally freed, but disappeared into white society. Beverly probably died after 1873, and Harriet after 1863. Their descendents are not known, nor do historians know what names they used after their "escape." Jefferson spent minimal effort to track them after their departure, lending credence to the theory that he let them go purposely. Under an 1805 Virginia law, if he'd freed them or any slave, that slave would not be able to remain in Virginia.

Madison and Eston, the youngest of the children, both born after the 1803 Callendar revelations, were freed in Jefferson's will, and were able to remain in Virginia for some time, as Jefferson had requested a special act of the Virginia legislature to permit them to stay contrary to the 1805 law. Both worked as tradesmen and musicians, and ended up in Ohio. Eston's descendents at some point lost their memory of being directly descended from Jefferson and from Sally Hemings, and were unaware of a black heritage. Madison's family includes descendents of three of his daughters. Eston died January 3, 1856 and Madison died November 28, 1877.

Also on this site:

Bibliography

  • Sally Hemings: Redefining History. A video from A&E/Biography: "Here is the complete story of the woman at the center of the first presidential sex scandal." (DVD or VHS)
  • Jefferson's Secrets: Death and Desire in Monticello. Andrew Burstein, 2005. (compare prices)
  • Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy: Annette Gordon-Reed and Midori Takagi, reprint 1998. (compare prices)
  • Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson: History, Memory, and Civic Culture: Jan Lewis, Peter S. Onuf, and Jane E. Lewis, editors, 1999. (compare prices)
  • Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History: Fawn M. Brodie, trade paperback, reprint 1998. (compare prices)
  • A President in the Family: Thomas Jefferson, Sally Hemings, and Thomas Woodson: Byron W. Woodson, 2001.(compare prices)
  • Sally Hemings: An American Scandal: The Struggle to Tell the Controversial True Story. Tina Andrews, 2002.(compare prices)
  • Anatomy of a Scandal: Thomas Jefferson and the Sally Story.  Rebecca L. McMurry, 2002. (compare prices)
  • The Jefferson-Hemings Myth: An American Travesty.  The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society, Eyler Robert Coates Sr., 2001. (compare prices)
  • The Jefferson Scandals: A Rebuttal.  Virginus Dabs, Reprint, 1991. (compare prices)
  • Jefferson's Children: The Story of an American Family. Shannon Lanier, Jane Feldman, 2000.  For young adults. (compare prices)
  • Sally Hemings: Barbara Chase-Riboud, reprint 2000. Historical fiction. (compare prices)
     

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