Abraham Lincoln: His Ancestors, Origin, and Early Years

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s family came from England. The first of the Lincoln family to arrive in America was his grandfather, Samuel Lincoln, who settled in Massachusetts.

Samuel Lincoln

The ancestors of Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of the United States, came from England. The first of the Lincoln family to come to America was Samuel Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather. Samuel had been a weaver’ apprentice at Hingham, England. After arriving in America, he settled in Hingham, Massachusetts, in 1637. From Massachusetts, the Lincoln family migrated southward to Virginia.

Thomas Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln, was born in 1778, in Virginia. When Thomas was four years old, the Lincolns moved on. This time Kentucky became the home of the Lincoln family. It was in Kentucky that Thomas’ father, Samuel, who was a farmer, was killed by Indians.

Young Thomas grew up in Kentucky. Although he never went to school, he learned the carpenter trade. He grew into a “strong, heavy-built man.” At times he spoke sharply. At other times he would entertain his friends with jokes and stories.

Thomas Lincoln has, by some historians, been referred to as “shiftless.” He often moved to different locations during his adult life. However, he worked hard enough at his carpentry business to purchase farms. But he never made much of a living due to the fact that most of the land he bought and cleared was far too poor of a quality to grow good crops.

Thomas Lincoln married Nancy Hanks in 1806.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln

Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln, was born in Virginia but little more is known of her family prior to marrying into the Lincoln family.

Nancy had been only a baby when her mother Lucy brought her to Kentucky. At the age of twenty-two years, Nancy married Thomas Lincoln. She was a tall and slender young woman who could, by some accounts, neither read or write. Other accounts of her life say that she “read the Bible daily.”

Family of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln

Thomas and Nancy Lincoln settled in Elizabethtown in Kentucky where their first child, Sarah, was born.

In 1808 the Lincolns moved to a “half-cleared” farm at Sinking Springs that Thomas had bought on the Nolin River near Hodgenville. It was there that Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin on February 12, 1809.

Lincoln’s Old Kentucky Home

The Kentucky cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born consisted of one room, built of logs that were chinked with clay, and measuring 16 feet long by 18 feet wide. The cabin possessed one window that allowed dim light into the interior. The floor where the future president crawled and learned to toddle was nature’s own hard-packed earth.

The bed where Abraham slept with his parents was made of poles and had a mattress filled with dry cornhusks. A fire in the hearth kept the cold at bay through a night snuggled beneath bearskin blankets.

On the Road Again

In the spring of 1811 Thomas Lincoln moved his family to a farm he had bought on Knob Creek, about ten miles northeast of Sinking Spring. Years later, Abraham Lincoln noted that the Knob Creek farm was the first home he remembered and that he loved it.

It was on this farm that young Abe learned and performed the chores that all farm boys of the time, and many years since then, have done. Abraham planted crops, hoed weeds, and husked corn. He learned to build hearth fires, and chopped wood to keep those fires fed.


  1. Angle, Paul M., Editor. The Lincoln Reader. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1947.
  2. Freedman, Russell. Lincoln: A Photobiography. Scholastic, Inc., New York, 1987.