Master Surname Index

Ancestry of
Robert Townsend

Member of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolution

Who was Robert Townsend?

Robert Townsend was a member of the Culper spy ring during the American Revolutionary War. His involvment in the spy ring was discovered in 1929 by New York historican Morton Pennypacker. Pennypacker was able to use handwriting analysis to reveal that the mysterious spy known as Samuel Culper, Junior, was in fact Robert Townsend.

The Culper Spy ring is said to have been instrumental in the disclosure of the Benedict Arnold and John Andre plot to surrender West Point and the attempted capture of General George Washington in 1780.

Robert Townsend never married, but he did have an illegitimate son with his housekeeper Mary Banvard. His son was named Robert Townsend Jr. There has been some speculation that Mary Banvard wasn't the boy's mother, and that it was the spy known as 355 that was the real mother. But this is not true as it has since been proven that Mary Banvard is his real mother.

Famous Kin

Robert Townsend's ancestry can be traced back to a number of Magna Carta Sureties which includes a connection to today's British royal family including Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana. With his American revolutionary spy credentials, it seems only fitting that he is also related to a number of American patriots from that war. These include a fellow Culper Spy ring member, a number of signers of the Declaration of Independence, and President George Washington. Ironically one of Townsend's stipulations for participating in the spy ring is that even George Washington could not know his name. It is said that even after the war had ended, Washington never learned Townsend's true identity.

Please note: The ancestor reports on this website have been compiled from thousands 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. cannot and does not guarantee the accuracy and reliability of these sources.