A north east historian has uncovered the County Durham roots of one of the world’s most famous women. It seems that the ancestors of America’s first ever female presidential candidate hailed from our part of the world.
Local historian Jack Hair first became curious about Mrs Clinton back in the 1990s when his teenage son told him, “There’s a girl in my class who looks just like Hillary Clinton.”
Mr Hair then spoke to the girl’s father, who confirmed his family had a connection to the Clintons.
Mr Hair began investigating the link and managed to find out that in 1879 a man called Jonathon Rodman was working in a County Durham mine. Mr Rodman, who at that time was a 36-year-old overman, turned out to be Hillary Clinton’s great-grandfather.
Overmen were junior managers responsible for ensuring safety and productivity in the pits. Mr Rodman’s life was probably far from easy. Jack Hair said,
“In the late 19th century, life in this area was very hard. Virtually the only occupation was coal mining.”
“The miners’ cottages were very basic – one big room upstairs, one big room downstairs, outside toilets, with no running water or electricity, and poor sanitation.”
“Jonathon was an intelligent man, an athletic man, an ambitious man and had a reputation as a hard worker.”
According to Mr Hair, Jonathon moved from mine to mine, trying to improve things for his family. Jonathon and his wife Isabella had their seventh child while living in the village of Oxhill, on the outskirts of Stanley. That child, a boy they named Hugh, was Hillary Clinton’s grandfather.
Still in search of a better life, the family emigrated three years later to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Hugh would grow up to work in a lace factory and marry a Welsh woman called Hannah Jones. The couple had a son, also called Hugh, who was born in 1911. This second Hugh – after serving in the Second World War – would go on to have a daughter. Hillary Diane Rodman was born in Chicago in 1947.
Mr Hair lives just a few metres away from the spot in Stanley where Mrs Clinton’s great-grandfather set up home 135 years ago. The Rodman’s cottage has, however, long since been demolished and their old street is just a piece of vacant land.
Hillary Clinton has often referred to her British immigrant roots. Last year she said, “My grandfather went to work in a lace mill in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He started when he was a teenager and worked there until he retired at 65.”
“So I think ‘well, you’re talking about the second, third generation.’ That’s me; that’s you.”
Many Stanley locals seem unaware of their links with Clinton. One resident commented,
“I’m amazed. I’ve never heard this story. She’s lost her accent.”
“People around here are hardworking, good people; they’re fighters. She might have a bit of fight in her with that Geordie blood.”
Some of Hillary Clinton’s relatives still live in County Durham. Mr Hair once organised an event at County Hall, to which he invited all those he believed to be related to Clinton. Around 150 people showed up.
Durham County Council has invited Mrs Clinton to visit, but she has not been able to yet. Jack Hair said,
“If she is ever within our vicinity, she will be made more than welcome in Durham County.”
It turns out that the ancestors of her opponent in the US election, Donald Trump, originated from the German village of Kallstadt. Trump’s grandfather was expelled from Germany for failing to complete his military service and ended up migrating to Alaska, where he ran a restaurant and brothel serving gold miners. Kallstadt has failed to put up any plaque or organise any events to honour its famous descendent.