Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Fascination of Genealogy: the Bryant Connection

Here are my maternal grandparents, Edward Samuel Uhl, 1869-1928 (son of Joseph Alexander Uhl and Harriett Bryant Uhl) and Minnie Louise Blanchard Uhl, 1889-1978 (daughter of William Blanchard and Sarah Ludy Blanchard).

Once I discovered the family history of my German great-great grandfather John Adam Haag, I was hooked. I constructed a family tree on, and I began to wonder about my other ancestors.

According to one fascinating family legend, my maternal great-grandmother Harriett Bryant Uhl was a descendent of a brother of American poet William Cullen Bryant. I never saw any proof of that, but it was a legend of great interest to my mother and me, both students of English and American literature.

If this legend were true, it would mean that my ancestry could be traced back to the Mayflower: Plymouth Colony residents Stephen Bryant and Abigail Shaw and John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, the latter couple immortalized by Longfellow. Can I prove this? No. Would it make any difference in my life if I could? No. However, I find all of this fascinating!

There are obvious problems. First, according to my Internet research, William Cullen Bryant had four brothers, Austin, Cyrus, Peter (aka Arthur), and John Howard. (He also had two sisters, Sarah Snell and Louisa Charity.) If one of the brothers was an ancestor of mine, which one?

Then, while the Bryant family, minus William Cullen, who remained in the East, and the father of the family, Dr. Peter Bryant, who died in 1820, did move west to Princeton, Illinois, in the 1830's, Harriett Bryant Uhl was born in Pennsylvania and later moved to Iowa with her husband and children. Did Austin, Cyrus, Arthur, or John Howard Bryant or any of their descendents ever live in Pennsaylvania? If not, there goes the story.

Who were Harriett Bryant Uhl's parents and grandparents? Will I ever find out? Stay tuned.

Copyright 2006 by Marlys Marshall Styne


Alice said...

I keep finding you all over the place, Marlys! Except for background, education and such, we have a lot in common. I'm also fascinated by ancestral connections. Like you say, makes no difference to the here and now, but it's very interesting to know nonetheless!

seniorwriter said...

I just don't seem to have time for genealogy these days. The "Bryant connection" is apparently not true, and another dead end is the large number of English ancestors named "John Marshall."

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wondered if you ever got any further in your Bryant research? I am a descendant of William Cullen Bryant's uncle and may be able to help you figure things out (or not). Email me if you'd like at swayball20 at

JanelleGrace said...

I have the same family legend but I having a difficult finding the exact connection. My great-great-grandfather was Abraham Pierce Bryant born abt 1799 in Vermont. He is said to be the cousin or second cousin to Willian Cullen Bryant. His father is James Bryant from Massachusetts.

seniorwriter said...

Janelle: I have given up trying to prove or disprove this legend relating to my family.

david said...

William Cullen Bryany earliest ancestors in America landed in Plymouth, MA in 1630 on the ship "Handmaid". There was the widow Anne Bryant who re-married in England to John Doane. They arrive in America with Anne's three sons, Thomas Bryant, Stephen Bryant and John Bryant. Thomas and Stephen were bonded to Samuel Eddy and John Shaw respectively. I don't know which of the three sons was William Cullen Bryant's direct ancestor.