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Through the Goodnight line, my family is distantly related to the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama Jr. We share the common ancestor of Christian Gutknecht (1722-1795), who was the original immigrant from that line to arrive in America. While we were descended from Christian's son John Christopher (1769-1842), the president was descended from another son, Samuel. This makes him the fifth cousin, twice removed, of my father and the fifth cousin, one time removed, for myself and my siblings. My son and my nieces and nephew would be seventh cousins. Confusing as this may be, it simply has to do with the number of generations between each individual and the common ancestor. I used the online Cousin Calculator to figure these results out (Cousin Calculator).



President Obama's line is as follows:

Christian Gutknecht (1722-1795) m. Maria Magdalena Grunholtz (1723-1790)
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Samuel Goodnight (1761-1823) m. Magdalena Berkheimer (1745-1830)
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Catherine Goodnight (1794-1870) m. Jacob Dunham (1794-1865)
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Jacob Mackay Dunham (1824-1907) m. Louisa Eliza Stroup (1837-1901)
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Jacob William Dunham (1863-1936) m. Mary Ann Kearney (1869-1936)
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Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham (1894-1970) m. Ruth Lucille Armour (1900-1926)
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Stanley Armour Dunham (1918-1992) m. Madelyn Lee Payne (1922-2008)
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Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995) m. Barack Hussein Obama Sr. (1934-1982)
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Barack Hussein Obama Jr. (1961)



Harry S. Truman

Through the Goodnight family, we are also distantly related to the 33rd president of the United States, President Harry S. Truman. Our connection with him is a little further back, as he is descended from Christian's brother, Hans Michael, making our first shared ancestor Hans Johannes Gutknecht (1679-1762). This makes him my father's fourth cousin, two times removed, and the fourth cousin, three times removed of myself and my siblings. Each subsequent generation would add another degree of removal (i.e. my son, nieces and nephew would be fourth cousins, four times removed).

Here is Harry S. Truman's Goodnight line:

Hans Johannes Gutknecht (1679-1762) m. Anna Barbara Kieffer (1688-1726)
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Hans Michael Gutknecht/Goodnight (1708-1781) m. Mary Landers (1743-1795)
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Rachel Goodnight (1771-1828) m. Jacob Young (1764-1836)
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Solomon Young (1815-1892) m. Harriet Louisa Gregg (1818-1909)
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Martha Ellen Young (1852-1947) m. John Anderson Truman (1851-1914)
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Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)


It appears the Goodnights must have had some presidential qualities!




Here's more about my Goodnight line:

The Goodnight (Gutknecht) Family

The origin of the Gutknecht family (Anglicized as Goodnight by those who came to the U.S.) is the border area between France, Germany and Switzerland. Interestingly, the German words "gut" and "knecht" are more literally translated as "good servant."

Hans Heinrich Gutknecht (1609-1668) m. Barbara Fritschi (1618-1683)

Hans Heinrich, who may have gone by his middle name, Heinrich, was born in Zurich, Switzerland, and died in Eppingen, Germany. He married Barbara Fritschi in 1618 and had seven children with her: Abraham, Anna, Barbara, Magdalena, Hans Jacob, Hans and Anna Elizabeth. It was common for German families to give the same first name to multiple children, with different middle names.

Hans Gutknecht (1645-1690) m. Margaretha Schaldecker (1649-1690)

Hans and Margaretha married in 1674 and lived in Eppingen, Germany. They had four children: Hans Johannes, Veronika, Anna Barbara and Anna Maria, who only lived one day. Margaretha died on March 15, 1690, and Hans died two weeks later.

Hans Johannes Gutknecht (1679-1762) m. Anna Barbara Kieffer (1688-1726)

Hans Johannes Gutknecht, sometimes referred to as Johannes Hans, is said by some sources to have been born in Alsace, France, by others to have been born in the Palatinate in Germany, and by still others to have been born in Switzerland. Of course, all of those places are very close to each other on a map, so it's probably a good triangulation of his birthplace. He and his wife had only three known children, all sons, Hans Michael, Christian and Gerik (known by anglicized version of George), all of whom moved to America in the 1740s and 1750s. (Please note that some sources believe Christian was a cousin and not actually a brother.) Hans Michael, Christian and George originated the Goodnight name in America.

Christian Gutknecht/Goodnight (1722-1795) m. Maria Magdalena Grunholtz (1723-1790)


Born in Bischwiller, Germany, Christian became a tobacco planter, which was a key business in Bischwiller. After the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) left the region in ruins, Christian and his family decided to emigrate to America, embarking on the ship The Christian, landing in Philadelphia in 1749. The family settled initially in Germantown in the Philadelphia area, where Christopher stayed and fathered nine children: Maria Magdalena, Maria Elisabetha, Elizabeth, Samuel, Christian, Christopher, Catherine, John Christopher, and Michael. His two brothers, Hans Michael and George, also came to America in 1752, initially living in Philadelphia, then moving first to North Carolina and finally becoming early settlers in Kentucky. Sadly, Michael was killed in Kentucky by Native Americans, and his brother George was killed a few years later in 1780, by joint British and Native American forces in the massacre at Ruddell's Station, Kentucky, during the American Revolution.

John Christopher Goodnight (1769-1842) m. Gertraut "Charity" Freimauer (1763-1800)

As expected, John Christopher went by "Christopher." His wife, whose anglicized name was "Gertrude," however, went by "Charity." This was probably, therefore, her middle name, according to German custom.

Sarah "Sally" Goodnight (1789-1840) m. Christian "Crisley/Christy" Weaver (1777-1838)

Sarah "Sally" Goodnight married Christian Weaver and had at least 10 children, according to the 1830 census, which showed Christian as the head of the family living with a woman the right age to be Sally and with eight girls and two boys. The 1830 census, unfortunately, only listed the head of household and gave demographic information about the rest. Of these children, the names I first identified are: our ancestor John William Weaver, his brother Jacob, and his sisters Susan, Betsy and Rebecca. These were all based on birth records clearly naming the parents. From the 1850 census, after his parents died. I believe I identified some more siblings: Elizabeth, Octavia and Alfred. Elizabeth fits the right age range to be the oldest and Octavia to be the eighth daughter. Alfred would have been born after the 1830 census. The siblings were also living with two young girls, who may have been cousins or daughters of Jacob.

John William and his wife, Sarah Catherine Montgomery Buchanan, gave birth to Susan Frances "Fannie" Virginia Weaver, who was the mother of John Omer Wilson, my paternal grandfather.

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