As a genealogist, I’m always curious about the background of Bravolebrities. What paths did they and their families take that ultimately led them to reality TV? So, I decided to do something about it and begin researching our favorite Bravo stars. Choosing the first show to focus on was easy because genealogy and Southern Charm fit together naturally. But who first?
Lots of information already existed online about many of the Southern Charm stars. Kathryn Dennis’s grandfather was long-time South Carolina State Senator Rembert C. Dennis, and she is a direct descendent of 7th Vice-President John C. Calhoun; Shep Rose is a member of the Boykin family that founded an SC community and bred the state dog, the Boykin spaniel, as well as had a great-aunt who was the basis of a The Great Gatsby character; and of course, Thomas Ravenel’s father, Arthur Ravenel Jr., served in the South Carolina Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives and has an iconic bridge named after him.
But what about our other cast favorites? After much thought, it only seemed right that I research the ancestry of our favorite lawyer and seamster, Craig Conover.
What We Know
Little information on Craig’s family was readily available online, but a Google search provided a good starting point. Born on February 9, 1989, Craig is the son of Craig Sr. and Martha “Marty” (Foster) Conover from Fenwick Island, Delaware. He also has a brother named Christopher. Using this information, I was able to find documents and build a tree for several lines of his family, some well into the 17th century and even further. Here are some highlights.
He has British, Irish, German, and Dutch heritage.
Craig’s ancestors range from those who arrived in the United States during colonial times to German and Irish immigrants arriving in the 19th century. His last name, Conover, has Dutch roots and evolved from van Couwenhoven in the centuries after settling in New Amsterdam (New York City today).
He’s related to Daniel Boone.
That’s right, Daniel Boone, the American frontiersman, happens to be Craig’s 8th great-uncle on his father’s side. Craig’s 7th great-grandmother, Sarah (Boone) Wilcoxen and Daniel shared parents Squire and Sarah (Morgan) Boone.
His ancestor was President McKinley’s bodyguard.
Craig’s 2nd great-grandfather was George F. Foster who was a Secret Service agent to 25th President William McKinley and present when he was mortally wounded on September 6, 1901, having just traveled from his daughter's wedding to meet the president in Buffalo.
He has southern roots, likely including Charleston.
Although Craig is seen as the resident “yankee” of the group, he actually has deep roots in the South. Many of Craig’s ancestors lived throughout the region, including Virginia and North Carolina, for hundreds of years.
Not only that, it’s also very likely that Craig actually has ancestors connected to Charleston. I found evidence that Craig’s 5th great-grandparents were William Norris and Hannah (Case) Norris who lived in North Carolina. Although I cannot find the primary documents to verify it 100%, several preexisting trees and histories point to William Norris’s father as John Norris III (b. 1750). John III’s father and grandfather, also both Johns, were among the first settlers in Charleston. John Norris I (b. 1672) either arrived or returned to the city in the late 17th century, while his son, John Norris II, was born in Charleston around 1710.
Kathryn's and Craig’s families were probably connected way back.
Seems only fitting that good friends Kathryn and Craig had ancestors who lived in the same small community. Let's hope Craig and Kathryn have much better luck, because unfortunately, their ancestors had quite a tragic ending. In 1760, Calhouns and Norrises were living in Abbeville District, South Carolina, when a Cherokee attack known as the Long Cane Massacre occurred. Among the casualties were Craig’s possible 8th great-grandmother, Mary Winifred (Patrick) Norris who moved to the area where her son Robert (Craig’s possible 8th great-uncle) lived when her husband John I died. Catherine (Montgomery) Calhoun, grandmother of VP John C. Calhoun who also died in the massacre, is a direct ancestor of Kathryn’s.
There was some sewing and law skills in the family tree.
Much of Craig’s storyline this season has centered around his sewing, but looks like he wasn’t the first in his family. Although not related by blood, his paternal grandmother considered her step-father, Charles Littleton Mills, her father in all records. Clearly, he left a lasting impression and was her family.
The 1860 U.S. census shows Craig’s step-4th great-grandparents, Walter Mundell Mills and Parmelia (Perry) Mills, as a master tailor and seamstress. Their son, Littleton Morgan (also seen as L. Morgan or L.M.) Mills was Craig’s step-3rd great-grandfather. He was listed as a clerk, which likely would have been for the family business.
Although I was unable to find an original record, the U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865, through Ancestry.com listed Littleton Morgan Mills as a tailor, citing The Virginia Regimental History Series as a source. Even if this happens to be incorrect, it shouldn’t be surprising if the son of a tailor and seamstress had some sewing skills of his own.
However, by the 1870 census, L.M. Mills had a new profession—lawyer! An 1871 city directory has him working in clothing, so perhaps Craig is just following in the footsteps of his step-4th great-grandfather and combining both his passions. There's still hope yet!
Craig clearly has quite the distinguished pedigree, on par with many of his Southern Charm castmates, and one to be quite proud to call his own.
Enjoy learning about Craig Conover's family history? Genealogy is not just for Bravolebrities! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I can do the same for you!
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