Belfast Telegraph

Elvis, his Ulster ancestor, and a princess of the Cherokee tribe


Elvis Presley's family tree has been all shook up after a historian found one of his Ulster-born ancestors married a Cherokee princess – and suggested that might be the secret behind the king of rock 'n' roll's chiselled jawline.

In his new book about famous Ulster Scots, Alister McReynolds reveals that Walter Mansell – a relative of Elvis' adored mother Gladys Mansell – married Morning White Dove in the early 1700s.

Mansell had emigrated to North America a few years beforehand.

Co Antrim historian Mr McReynolds has devoted a chapter to the snake-hipped singer's Ulster roots in his book Kith and Kin: The Continuing Legacy Of The Scots-Irish in America.

"Looking into his Scots-Irish heritage, I decided to look through his mother's line, as there is some doubt about his father's line," he said.

"The Presley name is really Priestly, and the first Presley is actually German. Elvis' mother was Gladys Mansell, which is a Norman French name, and the Mansells came into Ulster from Scotland.

"Then what would have been his great grandfather, six or seven times over, married a full-blooded Cherokee woman. It's believed his clean, strong jawline came from that heritage.

"And maybe more surprisingly, considering him being a redneck, Elvis had also Jewish antecedents."

Mr McReynolds added that it was not unusual at this time for settlers to have married Native Americans and that Elvis's ancestors were involved in two of America's most historic events, the Revolution and the Civil War.

In his book, he also reveals the Ulster Scots inventor of chocolate, Sir Hans Sloane, profited from slavery.

Born in Killyleagh, Co Down, in 1660, Sloane was an eminent physician and philanthropist who is credited for inventing the hot chocolate drink. He discovered it on his travels to Jamaica, where the natives mixed cocoa power with water, which he found unpalatable. However, when he returned he mixed it with milk to create a health drink initially, but went on to patent a recipe for chocolate that was bought by the Cadbury Brothers.

"Sir Hans Sloane, alone with Francis Hutchinson, were meant to be anti-slavery," Mr McReynolds said.

"I found that Hans Sloane married the widow of a plantation owner and inherited his wealth from slavery proceeds.

"He imported huge quantities of sugar in a ship which also carried slaves."

Mr McReynolds added that he gave a talk on this in Killyleagh last week and explained: "I'm not here to rain on your chocolate parade. I try and tell the truth, not to glamorise it, and to challenge the stereotypes of the Scots-Irish."


Elvis is just one of the high-profile stars that the Ulster Scots community – or Scots-Irish as they are known in the US – claim as one of their own. Others include stars such as John Wayne (top), Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton (right) and Kevin Costner.

Belfast Telegraph


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