Here’s the historical evidence of a possible link between Joe Biden and the tiny English village of Houghton
- Credit: Archant
There would be a warm welcome in Houghton for Joe Biden if the US president-elect decides to visit the village - which could be the birthplace of his English ancestors.
Bidens certainly lived in Houghton, but researchers have been unable to find a guaranteed link between them and Mr Biden’s forefathers in the United States.
Cllr Ray Baxendale, chairman of Houghton and Wyton Parish Council, said: “Of course we would welcome the president of the US and I am sure we would put out the flags for him.”
There has been speculation that if Houghton proves to be the birthplace of part of the president-elect’s family, it could trigger a visit from Mr Biden, who takes over as president in January, and could help boost tourism in the area.
Mr Biden has regularly expressed pride in the Irish side of his family but there is evidence of an English background, including the discovery of a mystery gravestone in the name of John Biden under the font at St Mary’s Church in Houghton.
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Records show that John Biden was the father of William Henry Biden who could be the link between Bidens in England and America.
The Rev Geoff Boucher, of St Mary’s, said: “It has been very fascinating about the possible connection.”
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He said the John Biden gravestone had been discovered under a plinth on the font when safety work was carried out in 2010,
“I think it would be extremely interesting if Joe Biden did make a visit and that we would welcome him,” Mr Boucher said. “I think there would be a mixed reaction because it would lead to a big security operation but it is all just speculation at this stage.”
Mauice Hanslow, chairman of Houghton and Wyton Local History Society said: “Whilst Joe Biden’s maternal Irish ancestry is well known, his paternal ancestry is less clear.
“We know that a John Biden is buried under the font in St Mary’s church Houghton and that his gravestone records his death as 28 July 1796. John Biden was a tenant of Houghton Mill for four years immediately prior to William Brown, Potto Brown’s father. John Biden married Ann Beaumont and the parish register shows the baptism of a son William Henry Biden on 6 February 1791.”
Mr Hanslow said some geneaology sites identified John as having a son William who went to America after 1812.
“The church records identify a baptism of William Henry Biden on 6 February 1791. Therefore, could the John Biden in our church be an ancestor of the president-elect of the United States?” he said.
But Mr Hanslow said there was a question-mark over whether the William Henry Biden buried in the Loudon cemetery in Baltimore was the same man.
“Until we can establish what happened to John Biden’s son, William Henry, we cannot be sure of his link to the William Biden in Loudon Cemetery and hence to a probable future incumbent of the White House,” he said.
Retired arhivist Alexandra Saunders said records showed that a William Henry Biden was baptised at St Mary’s, Houghton, on February 6, 1791, the son of John and Ann (or Anna) Biden, who had married at the parish church in 1781.
She said a William Henry Biden was admitted to the Greenwich Hospital School in London with the same date of birth as the local man and the correct names for his parents and the correct date for their marriage.
“This would indicate he had been intended for a career in the navy and would probably have been about 12 or so at admission,” she said.
Dr Richard Wormald believes the William Henry Biden from Houghton and the man buried in America are the same person, even though there are some discrepancies.
“I have searched everyhere and I have not found another William Henry Biden,” he said.
Dr Wormald said he started researching the Biden family around six months ago because of rising interest caused by the election.
“Joe Biden talks about his Irish ancestry but the Biden family definitely comes from England,” he said.
Houghton is not alone, with other communities claiming links to the Biden family.