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Nancy Lincoln (Hanks)

Also Known As: "Nancy Hanks"
Birthplace: Hampshire County, Virginia, now, Mineral County, West Virginia, United States
Death: October 05, 1818 (34)
Lincoln Homestead, Gentryville, Spencer County, Indiana, United States ('milk sickness' now tremetol poisoning from cows eating the white snakeroot plant)
Place of Burial: Lincoln City, Spencer County, Indiana, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of (unknown Virginia farmer, possibly Tanner) and Lucy Hanks
Wife of Thomas Lincoln
Mother of Sarah Grigsby; Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA and Thomas Herring Lincoln, Jr.
Half sister of Sarah Hanks; Mary Ann 'Polly' Whitehouse; Reverend James B. Sparrow; Elizabeth Franklin; George Sparrow and 5 others

Occupation: Homemaker & Mother of a US President, Sister to Grover's grandmother McMichael, Intellectual woman, Mother, Mother of Lincoln
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Nancy Lincoln

Nancy Hanks

  • Born: February 5, 1784 - Hampshire County, Virginia, U.S. (now Mineral County, West Virginia, U.S.)
  • Died: October 5, 1818 (aged 34) - Spencer County, Indiana, U.S.
  • Parent(s): Lucy Hanks (mother), daughter of Ann Lee and Joseph Hanks
  • Spouse: Thomas Lincoln ​(m. 1806)​
  • Children: 1) Sarah (Lincoln) Grigsby 2) Abraham Lincoln 3) Thomas Lincoln Jr. (died young)


Excerpted from the Wikipedia version retrieved 16 May 2023

Nancy Hanks Lincoln (February 5, 1784 – October 5, 1818) was the mother of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Her marriage to Thomas Lincoln also produced a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Thomas Jr. When Nancy and Thomas had been married for just over 10 years, the family moved from Kentucky to western Perry County, Indiana, in 1816. When Spencer County was formed in 1818, the Lincoln Homestead lay within its current boundaries. Nancy Lincoln died from milk sickness or consumption in 1818 at the Little Pigeon Creek Community in Spencer County when Abraham was nine years old.

Nancy Hanks was born to Lucy Hanks in what was at that time part of Hampshire County, Virginia. Today, the same location is in Antioch in Mineral County, West Virginia. She was born in a log cabin on the Doll farm near Mike's Run at the base of Knobly Mountain near Antioch, West Virginia, and baptized in the Broad Run Baptist Church there, which still retains the baptismal record.

Abraham Lincoln's law partner William Herndon reported that Lincoln told him that his maternal grandfather was "a well-bred Virginia farmer or planter." According to William E. Barton in The Life of Abraham Lincoln and Michael Burkhimer in 100 Essential Lincoln Books, Nancy was most likely born illegitimate and her family created stories to lead Abraham to believe he was a legitimate member of the Sparrow family.

It is believed that Nancy Hanks' grandparents were Ann and Joseph Hanks and that they raised her from infancy until her grandfather died when she was about nine years old. At the time of Nancy's birth, Joseph and his wife and children were all living on 108 acres near Patterson Creek in then-Hampshire County, Virginia. In March 1784, Joseph Hanks sold his property via a mortgage and moved his wife, eight children and young granddaughter Nancy to Kentucky.

The family lived on land along Pottinger's Creek, in a settlement called Rolling Fork in Nelson County, Kentucky, until patriarch Joseph's death in 1793. Nancy's grandmother, who was called by the more formal name Ann rather than the common nickname of Nancy, decided to return to her homeland, Farnham parish in Virginia. At that time, Nancy went to live with her mother, now Lucy Hanks Sparrow, having married Henry Sparrow in Harrodsburg, Kentucky two or three years earlier.

After Lucy's sister Elizabeth Hanks married Henry Sparrow's brother Thomas in Mercer County, Kentucky in 1796, Nancy, now about age 12, went to live with the couple, whom she called mother and father. She was known as Nancy Sparrow and was described as "intelligent, deeply religious, kindly and affectionate." Lucy's sister gave birth to an illegitimate son in 1799 named Dennis Friend Hanks, who was also raised by Elizabeth and Thomas Sparrow.

At the home of Elizabeth and Thomas Sparrow, Nancy would have learned the skills and crafts a woman needed on the frontier to cultivate crops and clothe and feed her family. She learned to read the Bible and became an excellent seamstress, working at the Richard Berry home before her marriage.

Lucy's marriage to Henry Sparrow produced eight children, and Lucy had a reputation as a "fine Christian woman." Two sons were loyal to the Union during the Civil War and were preachers.

Marriage and family

On June 12, 1806, Hanks married Thomas Lincoln at Beechland, the home of Richard Berry, by Reverend Jesse Head. Nancy was brought to the home to work as a seamstress by her friend Polly Ewing Berry, the wife of Richard Berry Jr. since October 10, 1794. Polly was a friend of Nancy's from Mercer County, Kentucky, and Richard Berry Jr. was a good friend of Thomas Lincoln. Lincoln proposed to her in his childhood home at what is now Lincoln Homestead State Park or in the Francis Berry house in front of the fireplace.

Nancy's marriage bond was signed by Richard Berry Jr., who identified himself as her guardian. Per Warren, "The title had no legal significance, Berry having never been so appointed, and Nancy Hanks was then of age. But to him to call himself 'guardian' was a courtesy customary under such circumstances [no father able to sign the marriage bond]." A record of their marriage license is held at the county courthouse.

Marriage bond between Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, dated 10 June 1806. Original is in the courthouse in Springfield, Kentucky.

They had three children:

  1. Sarah Lincoln (February 10, 1807 – January 20, 1828)
  2. Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)
  3. Thomas Lincoln Jr. (died in infancy, 1812)

See also: < Thomas Lincoln >

Married life

The young family lived in what was then Hardin County, Kentucky, (now LaRue) on the Knob Creek Farm. Neighbors reported that Nancy Hanks Lincoln was "superior" to her husband, a mild yet strong personality who taught young Abraham his letters as well as the extraordinary sweetness and forbearance for which he was known.

Thomas Lincoln developed a modicum of talent as a carpenter and although called "an uneducated man, a plain unpretending plodding man", he was respected for his civil service, storytelling ability and good-nature. He was also known as a "wandering" laborer, shiftless and uneducated. A rover and drifter, he kept floating about from one place to another, taking any kind of job he could get when hunger drove him to it. Aside from making cabinets and other carpentry work, Lincoln also worked as a manual laborer.

Reluctant to discuss the extreme poverty of his youth, Abraham Lincoln quoted Gray's Elegy in 1860, saying his life could be summed up as "The short and simple annals of the poor." Without the food and clothing that they needed, they were considered among the "very poorest people" while in Kentucky. Abraham recounted years later, in a discussion with homeless boys in New York, that he had been poor and could remember "when my toes stuck out through my broken shoes in the winter; when my arms were out at the elbows; when I shivered with the cold."


In December 1816, the Lincolns settled in the Little Pigeon Creek Community in what was then Perry County and is now Spencer County, Indiana. There Thomas and Abraham set to work carving a home from the Indiana wilderness. Father and son worked side by side to clear the land, plant the crops and build a home. Thomas also found that his skills as a carpenter were in demand as the community grew. Nancy's aunt Elisabeth Sparrow, uncle Thomas Sparrow, and cousin Dennis Hanks settled at Little Pigeon Creek the following fall. While Abraham was ten years younger than his second cousin Dennis, the boys were good friends.

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Abraham Lincoln lived on this southern Indiana farm from 1816 to 1830. During that time, he grew from a 7-year-old boy to a 21-year-old man. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried here.

National Park Service Digital Image Archives -


An artist rendition of Nancy Hanks Lincoln. (Lloyd Ostendorf): “NPS - Abraham Lincoln Birthplace”

William Herndon, author of Life of Lincoln, describes Nancy Hanks Lincoln:

She was above the ordinary height in stature, weighed about 130 pounds, was slenderly built, and had much the appearance of one inclined to consumption. Her skin was dark; hair dark brown; eyes gray and small; forehead prominent; face sharp and angular, with a marked expression for melancholy which fixed itself in the memory of all who ever saw or knew her. Though her life was clouded by a spirit of sadness, she was in disposition amiable and generally cheerful.

Nancy was also described as "a bold, reckless, daredevil kind of woman, stepping on to the very verge of propriety."

Abraham Lincoln inherited his mother's appearance and manner. She was "mild, tender, and intellectually inclined."

  • 1. William Herndon's accounts of Nancy Hanks Lincoln are based upon interviews with Dennis Hanks, who lived near and with the Lincolns in his childhood, John Hanks and Sara Bush Johnson Lincoln.


On October 5, 1818, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died of "milk sickness", a disease contracted from drinking the milk of a cow that has eaten the poisonous white snakeroot. In the same year, several other people also died of "milk sickness" in the small town of Little Pigeon Creek in Spencer County, Indiana, where the Lincolns lived. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was only thirty-four years old when she died, and her son Abraham was only nine.

Abraham and Sarah Lincoln, as well as Sophie and Dennis Hanks (whose guardians had also died of milk sickness), lived alone for six months when Lincoln went back to Kentucky to seek a bride and courted Sarah Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. On December 2, 1819, he married her and she brought her three children, Elizabeth, Matilda, and John, to join Abe, Sarah, and Dennis Hanks to make a new family of eight. Lincoln assisted in building the Little Pigeon Baptist Church, became a member of the church, and served as church trustee. By 1827, Lincoln had become the proud owner of 100 acres of Indiana land.

Nancy Hanks Lincoln's grave is located in Nancy Hanks Lincoln Cemetery, on the grounds of Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana.

Photo of her grave and headstone is located at:


Abraham Lincoln's Parents

This entry is from Wikipedia, the leading user-contributed encyclopedia. It may not have been reviewed by professional editors (see full disclaimer)

Thomas Lincoln, Augusta (now Rockingham) Co., Virginia 6 Jan. 1778-near Farmington, Ill. 17 Jan. 1851, Beech Creek, Washington Co., Ky. 12 June 1806

3. Nancy Hanks, Campbell Co., Va. 5 Feb. 1784 or Richmond Co., Va. 5 Feb. 1783 (according to Paul H. Verduin)-near Gentryville, Indiana 5 Oct. 1818

"Nancy was left an orphan at her parents death in 1793.She was adopted by her Aunt Lucy (Shipley) Berry, whose husband Richard Berry became her legal guardian, and at whose house in Beechland,Washington County, KY she married June 12, 1806,Thomas Lincoln. Her uncle,Richard Berry was the surety on the marriage bond.

The mother of Abraham Lincon, 2 Oct 1818.

"All that I am or hope to be owe to my angel mother. Blessings on her memory"

Thomas Lincoln of Kentucky married Nancy Hank for his first wife. Her family was from Virginia. She was a tall woman, above middle height, with black hair, little educated, but of marked character, and a mind naturally intelligent and vigorous. Her experience in the rude frontier life was hard. The glimpses we get of her in the biography of her great son are somber, and probably to her the President owed that underlying element of sad thoughtfulness in his nature, always so apparent, and so in contrast with the humorous surface traits that perhaps came from his father. Nancy Hanks, I have little doubt, was a descendant of that John who was in Rockingham county, Virginia, in 1787. Her family name was English, but her black hair we may believe she had from the Welsh blood of her ancestress Sarah Evans, of Gwynedd.

When Thomas and Nancy Lincoln moved to Nolin Creek, Thomas and Elizabeth Sparrow lived near them. Elizabeth, who was like a mother to Nancy, after having her in the home for most of her life, was present at the birth of Abraham. The Sparrows also followed the Lincolns to Indiana and arrived in time to be stricken with the same sickness as Nancy Hanks Lincoln. They died within a few days of each other.

Nancy Hanks was tall and slender, dark complexion. She and her husband were members of the Little Mount Baptist Church in Kentucky. After the death of Nancy, Thomas Lincoln took his letter to the Little Pigeon Church which was formed in Indiana. Both the Lincolns and Hankses were Primitive Baptists. Everything known of Abraham Lincoln's mother indicates she was a "noble woman, worthy to have been, as she was, the mother of a truly great man."

The following is excerpted from the National Park Service retrieved October 31, 2007 from

“Nancy Hanks Lincoln was born in Virginia in 1784. Her family later moved to Kentucky where, on June 12, 1806, she married Thomas Lincoln. She gave birth to three children: Sarah (February 10, 1807), Abraham (February 12, 1809), and Thomas (1812), who died in infancy.

“In 1816, the Lincoln family migrated to what is today Spencer County, Indiana. Two years later, on October 5, 1818, she died of ‘milk sickness,’ an illness contracted by drinking milk from a cow that had consumed the poisonous white snakeroot. She was buried in a hill-top, pioneer cemetery near the Lincoln farm.

“Lincoln probably knew little of her background, since she died when he was nine, and his father quickly remarried. In later years, he referred to her as his "Angel Mother," that is, his deceased mother.

Memorial to Nancy Hanks in Mineral County, West Virginia, at the site of her birth.

Notable relatives

  • Nancy Hanks is a third cousin four times removed of actor, producer, writer and director Tom Hanks.
  • Through his mother's Hanks bloodline, George Clooney is related to Nancy Hanks through Lucy Hanks Sparrow and Henry Sparrow's daughter, Mary Ann Sparrow, a half-sister to Nancy Hanks. Mary Ann Sparrow was Clooney's fourth great-grandmother.
  • Camille Cosby, wife of Bill Cosby, was born Camille Olivia Hanks, a distant cousin of Nancy Hanks.


  • page 57-59 of American Ancestors Magazine, Vol. 17, Number 3, Fall 2016. Genetics & Genealogy - The Hanks DNA Study: I Was Wrong! Christopher C. Child
  • Update 10/21/2015: The Hanks DNA Project at Family Tree DNA just announced the results of their Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln mtDNA Study. The results appear to be conclusive that Nancy Hanks's mother Lucy was indeed a daughter of Ann "Nancy" (Lee) Hanks, wife of Joseph Hanks. It appears that this issue has finally been put to rest and Abraham Lincoln's ancestry on this site will be changed to reflect this latest news. You can read more about this at Suzanne Hallstrom's
  • "Lincoln". The Reporter. November 2, 2015. pp. A4. < > Retrieved 2023-05-22.
  • Christopher Challender Child, "The Maternal Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln, The Origins of Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln, A Study in Appalachian Genealogy", New England Ancestors vol. 4 (Winter 2003): 28-29.
  • Adin Baber, Nancy Hanks, of Undistinguished Families; a genealogical, biographical, and historical study of the ancestry of the mother of Abraham Lincoln. (Kansas, Illinois: Adin Baber, 1960).
  • “Sources: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, (1982) by Mark Neely and Lincoln's Youth (1959) by Louis A. Warren.
  • Coleman, Charles H. “Lincoln’s Lincoln Grandmother.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 52, no. 1 (1959): 59–90.
  • The Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln ( Find more information at Wikipedia.
  • The definitive biography of Abraham Lincoln's mother, ‘Nancy Hanks Lincoln: A Frontier Portrait’ by Harold and Ernestine Briggs, is now back in print.”
  • Source of information: The Lineage of Lincoln by Barton, 1929
  • “The Lincoln Boyhood National Park is located in Lincoln City (Spencer County), Indiana. It is Indiana's memorial & tribute to President Abraham Lincoln. It is the site where he grew up and where his mother died and is buried. The museum has an artist's rendering of how she might have looked. …”
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Nancy Lincoln's Timeline

February 5, 1784
Hampshire County, Virginia, now, Mineral County, West Virginia, United States
February 10, 1807
Elizabethtown, Hardin County, Kentucky, United States
October 8, 1808
Age 24
Brock's Gap, Fulks Run, Rockingham County, Virginia, United States
February 12, 1809
Sinking Spring Farm, Hodgenville, Hardin County, Kentucky, United States
February 19, 1811
Knob Creek Farm, Larue County, Kentucky, United States
October 5, 1818
Age 34
Lincoln Homestead, Gentryville, Spencer County, Indiana, United States
October 7, 1818
Age 34
Nancy Hanks Lincoln Cemetery, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln City, Spencer County, Indiana, United States