William Ward has researched Vice President George Bush's family background more than the average Utah voter. In fact, he and a fellow professional genealogist teamed up to trace it back to the 15th century.
And Ward's extensive experience with celebrities' family trees makes him expect Bush to act like his ancestors - who include heroes, royalty and even a clergyman imprisoned for refusing to alter religious beliefs."In my research on celebrities, I find they often act like their ancestors. For example, I found that John Wayne's ancestors were Indian fighters and Irish rebels. Jimmy Stewart's were reluctant hero types, like the roles he played. And Henry Fonda once played in a movie called `Guns Along the Mohawk,' and he had ancestors who were there (in Indian uprisings in upstate New York)."
Bush's ancestors were upstanding enough that Ward, a political independent, said he feels comfortable supporting him for president.
"His ancestors are solid people. They include prominent physicians, politicians, royalty and military officers. George Bush (who was a decorated pilot in World War II) was not the first war hero in his family," Ward said.
Bush's ancestors were so prominent in early American histories that it took Ward just two days to trace Bush's direct paternal line back to the 1600s when the Bushes arrived in America from England. Ward said it took him 20 years to do similar research on his own family.
Once Bush's family was traced to England, British genealogist Roger Power continued tracing it back and made numerous connections to royalty. Power and Ward performed their research for genealogy specialists Burke's Peerage last spring.
Ward has worked as an independent genealogist in Utah for 15 years and was recently hired by the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Burke's Peerage in England noted that Bush has more connections to royalty than any U.S. president ever has, and that the presidential candidate with the most ties to royalty usually win elections.
It reported that Bush is a 13th cousin twice removed of England's Queen Elizabeth II, a 13th cousin four times removed of Princess Diana and is a direct descendant of King Henry III.
Ward said, "While many comments have been made about Bush's ties to royalty, he has a lot of other interesting relatives too.
"His father (Prescott Sheldon Bush) was a U.S. senator. When he was an older man, he was asked what he considered to be his most distinguished accomplishment. He said it was that he could still shoot a round of golf with a score in the 70s."
Bush's grandfather was a prominent industrialist, and his great-grandfather (James Smith Bush) was a prominent Episcopalian minister.
Bush is also related to another prominent English minister named John Lathrop - a non-conformist preacher who went to a prison named "the Clink" for his beliefs, and later came to America for religious freedom.
"Lathrop is like the Grand Central Station of genealogy because so many prominent people have descended from him - including virtually every president of the LDS Church and many U.S. presidents. A lot of people feel there is something special about that lineage."
Because of such non-royal ancestors, Bush is also related distantly to Walt Disney, cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney and former LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball.
Does Bush's family have any skeletons in the closet?
"Well, the family is full of Hoares and Crookes (which sounds worse when spoken than when it is read)," Ward said. "Those are the surnames of some of his ancestors. He is also a shirttail relative of Benedict Arnold, but the relationship is quite distant."
That is a fairly clean record, considering Ward also did research on former President Jimmy Carter's family and found an ancestor who died in a brawl and one who tried to collect Revolutionary War pensions from two different states.
Ward and co-workers at the LDS Church's Family History Department are already beginning some groundwork to be able to quickly check the genealogical background of whomever Bush names as his running mate.
"We're just checking out who their parents and grandparents are, that sort of thing. Once someone is named, we will proceed with more in-depth work. We've been looking mainly at Jack Kemp and Robert and Elizabeth Dole so far; Bush will probably surprise us and name someone we've never heard of."
But whatever is found about the vice presidential nominee will be relayed to one of Ward's co-workers, Nancy P. NeSmith, who happens to be an alternate delegate from Utah to the Republican convention.
"Our research on Kemp and the Doles is still in the early stages, but so far it looks like they come from good families. And people seem to act like their ancestors," Ward said.