AfriGeneas Genealogy and History Forum
What's In A Name?
Stanford name goes only so far
Billionaire R. Allen Stanford has a lot in common with the founder of Stanford University: a large fortune, some generous gifts to others and, notably, a last name.
The one thing they apparently don't share, despite the Texan's claims to the contrary, is a bloodline.
The touting of tenuous ties to historical figures is nothing new, and that's especially true when it comes to Leland Stanford. That R. Allen Stanford, who donated a couple of million in 2001 to help restore the railroad baron's Sacramento mansion, can cite a vintage genealogy book to cement his claims of kinship hasn't impressed the archivists -- or even his own father.
James Stanford conceded he'd never done more than limited genealogical detective work.
``I haven't spent an arm and a leg on research,'' he said. ``I wouldn't definitely claim'' a connection to Leland Stanford.
His son has, and recently, when asked to look into it, university archivist Maggie Kimball didn't find a connection between Leland Stanford's father of Albany, N.Y. to R. Allen Stanford's great-great-great-grandfather in Georgia. She also checked the Georgia genealogy book that serves as the source of R. Allen Stanford's story -- ``History of Stewart County, Volume II,'' edited by Sara Robertson Dixon -- and found its pages on the Stanford family to have numerous errors.
``I read enough to know this is not a source I would trust,'' she said.
Good genealogists usually spell out precise connections, she said, but the Stewart County history book does not. Virginia Stola, genealogy librarian of the Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library in Georgia, offered this: The book is a popular volume, but information about the Stanford family and others were all contributions from people ``who said, `Here's my history. Put it in the book.' ''
``Nothing has been checked or proven,'' Stola said. ``I caution people when they look at these things.''
The section says the Georgia Stanfords, believed to be the origin of R. Allen Stanford's family, were ``closely related'' not only to Leland Stanford's father, but also to Oliver Hazard Perry, a hero of the War of 1812. No further explanation is given.
``It's fun to think about it,'' James Stanford said. ``I'd like to know myself'' if the story is true,'' he said. ``The life of Leland Stanford is fascinating.''
Just as Leland Stanford amassed a large fortune, so has his proclaimed relative. R. Allen Stanford rose to great wealth by taking over the Depression-era insurance company that his grandfather Lodis B. Stanford founded and that his father helped grow.
R. Allen Stanford, 56, and a graduate of Baylor University, now heads several companies under the umbrella of the Stanford Financial Group. The company's Web site says the group manages or advises on more than $27 billion in deposits and assets for more than 70,000 clients in more than 100 countries.
In recent years, R. Allen Stanford has stepped up his charitable giving, making contributions to the arts, medicine, social services and sporting events.
R. Allen Stanford also has an offshore bank in Antigua, where he also holds citizenship.
So, yes, R. Allen Stanford may have added to the name's fame, but that's the thing -- a lot of Stanfords have had the chance. The name has been spelled several ways over the centuries, and Stanfords have been said to come from England, Switzerland and France.
One thing is certain, however. Leland Stanford's son, Leland Jr., whose name graces the world-class university, died without having had children. He was 15 when he succumbed to typhoid.
Norman Tutorow, a Stanford professor whose book ``The Governor,'' is the seminal work on Stanford's life, said that has done little to quell the age-old urge to be connected to fame.
``There are people all over the country who claim to be related,'' to Leland Stanford, Tutorow said. ``When he was at his peak, there were thousands of babies named Leland Stanford. People entirely outside the family were enthralled by him.''
The attraction to Leland Stanford is ``a lot bigger than this one fellow,'' Tutorow said of R. Allen Stanford. ``I recently came across a group calling themselves Leland Stanford II, III, IV and V.''
Ironically, Tutorow once had called R. Allen Stanford to ask for a donation for the Stanford mansion. He never responded to Tutorow, but, in 2001, he did write a check for $2.5 million touted in an official news release from then-Gov. Gray Davis' office, with the line, ``Stanford traces his family heritage to the family of Leland Stanford.''
Tutorow also is skeptical of the Stewart County history book. Books like that, he said, have mistakes and then the mistakes get spread around.
R. Allen Stanford's company issued a news release saying he had not tried to use a link to Leland Stanford to promote the image of the company.
Any kind of financial gain or disreputable use of the Stanford name is what would concern Susan Weinstein, Stanford University's director of business development and privacy. She protects the name from applications that are clearly untoward -- coffins and firearms and such, she said.
Any object or business that might tarnish the reputation of the Stanford name in its educational and research functions is actively protected, she said.
What the university seeks to do, Weinstein said, is reduce the possibility for confusion, say, for example, between R. Allen Stanford's financial business and one of the world's great universities.
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