Jesse James

Ancestry of
Jesse James

Outlaw, Bank Robber, Murderer




Who was Jesse James?

Jesse James and his brother Frank were notorous outlaws during the heyday of the American West.

The James brothers were both born in Missouri, the sons of Robert and Zerelda (Cole) James. James was born on September 5, 1847 and his brother Alexander Franklin "Frank" James was born January 10, 1843. There father died while the boys were young and their mother was married a couple of more times after his death.

Quantrill's Raiders and Bloody Bill Anderson

During the Civil War the James brothers were Confederate guerrillas in Missouri. Frank joined Quantrill's Raiders and eventually followed Quantrill to Texas. When Frank returned to Missouri with a group of the raiders, Jesse joined the group.

After the leader of their group was severely wounded, the brothers joined up with Bloody Bill Anderson's group. The brothers were accused of committing atrocities against Union troops when they reportedly participated in the Centralia Massacre where Anderson's bushwackers killed or wounded 22 unarmed Union soldiers.

The James-Younger Gang

After the Civil War, the James brothers took up crime as the more famous members of the James-Younger gang. The gang committed train robberies, bank robberies, and murder from 1866 until 1876 when an attempted robbery of the Northfield, Minnesota bank resulted in the deaths and capture of some of the gang. While Frank retired from crime after that attempt, Jesse returned to crime by forming a new gang in 1879.

The end came for Jesse James on April 3, 1882 when a member of the gang, Robert Ford, shot Jesse in the back of the head in an attempt to collect a $10,000 reward. Jesse had by then become America's most wanted criminal.

Jesse James's Shared Royal Ancestry with Abraham Lincoln

One of the more interesting family relationships of the outlaw Jesse James is that with President Abraham Lincoln. Although there is some controversy as to the ancestry of Lincoln's mother Nancy Hanks (see The Lincoln-Hanks Debate), Jesse James and Abraham Lincoln are 6th cousins through their common ancestor Susanna Norwood.

Susanna is also the key to their shared royal ancestry through her father Capt. John Norwood who came to Virginia from England about 1650.

Harry Newman in his "To Maryland from Overseas" states the following about Capt. John Norwood:

“John Norwood who emigrated to Anne Arundel Co. 1650 from Virginia was born 1605 at Wykeham Abby, Lincolnshire, and was the son of Tyringham Norwood (1576-1625) at Wykeham, Spaulding, Linc. - REF: Professional English research commissioned in 1961 by Norwood descendant.”

This reference to “professional" research is what links Capt. John Norwood of Virginia to Tyringham Norwood of England. Harry Newman died shortly after publishing this account and the details regarding this 1961 research apparently has not been published. So without further research, any royal cousins or famous kin through Capt. John Norwood should be prefixed with the adjective ”probable."

Famous Kin of Jesse James


Please note: The ancestor reports on this website have been compiled from hundreds of different sources, many over 100 years old. These sources are attached to each ancestor so that you can personally judge their reliability. As with any good genealogical research, if you discover a link to your own family tree, consider it a starting point for further research. It is always preferable to locate primary records where possible. FamousKin.com cannot and does not guarantee the accuracy and reliability of these sources.