POLITICAL GENEALOGY

Biden’s Biden Roots: Westbourne or Huntingdon, England or Maybe Nagpur, India?

Megan Smolenyak
9 min readNov 18, 2020

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Memorial to Christopher Biden in Chennai (then Madras), India

I first researched incoming President Biden’s genealogy about a dozen years ago focusing on his 5/8 Irish heritage. Not surprisingly, there’s been a recent surge of interest in his heritage, particularly from people overseas hoping to claim him as a cousin or at least as having roots in their neck of the woods.

As often happens, more attention has been given to the surname branch of his family tree, so it’s not unexpected that three locations are already calling dibs on his Biden ancestry: Westbourne in Sussex, England, the Houghton-Wyton outskirts of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, England, and Nagpur, India (after a first generation in Chennai, formerly known as Madras).

India?

Yes, India. Back in the 1980s, an Indian gentleman by the name of Leslie Biden wrote to then-Senator Biden about their shared ancestry, citing among other evidence an 1858 memorial to Captain Christopher Biden located in Madras.

I have fond memories of my days working in India, so need to confess to a bias. As soon as I saw Chennai/Nagpur as a contender, I wanted it to be so. The notion of both our President and Vice President having Indian ancestry appealed to me, but as a genealogist, I have to remain open to all possibilities, so decided to investigate. As is my habit, I started from scratch to be sure of each parent-to-child link in the chain. Fortunately, I had the advantage of a running start having already traced this branch back to the immigrant ancestor, William Biden.

Diving in, I quickly discovered that two of the claims converged — those of Huntingdon and Nagpur — as the Christopher Biden who went to India was originally from Huntingdon. This was a swift narrowing from a trio of prospects to a Westbourne vs. Huntingdon/Nagpur quandary.¹

Which William?

I soon learned that the root of the confusion is two William Bidens born in England around the same time in the late 1700s. Biden’s immigrant ancestor who died in Baltimore, Maryland left a tombstone with a date of birth of 20 Dec 1787. It’s worth pointing out that this date should be taken with a grain of salt because birth dates didn’t carry the…

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Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)