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#BravoGenealogy: Karen Huger's Family History Part One

I've received several requests for Real Housewife of Potomac (#RHOP) Karen Huger's family tree, but when I saw the trailer for Karen's Grande Dame Reunion, I knew I had to dive in, and I wish I had sooner!

With Wooden Farm in existence since 1887, there's a lot of history there. Unfortunately, many of the records for Surry County, Virginia, aren't readily available online; I would need to visit a Family History Center to access things like land records for the area, which I hope to do in the future. However, when I watched the trailer and Aunt Val whipped out the family tree and exclaimed, "Granddaddy was biracial," I decided this was the first research avenue that needed to be pursued.

This is potentially a 1959 freshman high school photo of Karen Huger's father, Benjamin Wooden Jr..

Fortunately, Virginia has many vital records available online, which helped me construct Karen's family tree. Karen's father is the late Benjamin Wooden Jr. (1944-2018) who is the brother of Aunt Val and who also stars on the new show. I built the tree back to Benjamin and Aunt Val's paternal grandfather and Karen's great-grandfather, John Mallory (also seen other spelling variants) Wooden (1867-1964). As you can see, the death certificate records his father as "Unknown," so I knew this seemed like a good place to start.

Located this death certificate through the "Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014" database at

Although Solon Wooden, John Mallory's son, didn't know or just didn't want to share his grandfather's identity, John Mallory Wooden knew it since it was recorded in the database, "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007" as Wilson Ruffin.

This is part of an index, so ideally, I would order the actual record.

Of course, when I rewatched the trailer, I took a screenshot of the family tree, and look who was there!

It was nice to have confirmation that I got the tree right!

So who was Wilson Ruffin? I wasn't able to learn too much about him beyond he was born around 1846 in Virginia and was a farmer and, at one point, a school trustee and on the District Working Committee. His father, Francis Ruffin (c.1787-1860) had a farm worth $5500 in the 1850 census, equivalent to about $200,000 today. The family were enslavers, with Wilson's father Francis holding 22 enslaved people according to the 1860 Slave Census.

Excerpt from the 1860 Slave Census for Francis Ruffin of Surry County, Va. Located on

My guess is land and probate records would provide more insight into Wilson Ruffin; however, I found that in the 1880 Federal Census, Wilson was actually living next door to John Mallory, Anna, Anna's father, and the rest of the family. (They seem to have been in different places during the 1870 census).

It's faint, but if you zoom in, you can see the household of Maclin Wooden, including "Malry." Wilson Ruffin is on the last line in the image.

Going back a bit deeper into this Ruffin line, you can see Karen's 4th great-grandfather (as recorded in the screenshot above) was another Francis Ruffin (1750-1803), who was a member of the Revolutionary Committee of Safety. This should qualify all his descendants to be members of the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, which would include Karen and her family (only if they're interested, of course).

A screenshot of Francis Ruffin's service in the SAR database at Ancestry. It's important to know that these need to regularly be verified, but seems the documentation has been submitted to SAR and DAR for other lines that are more recent.

I'm really looking forward to adding more context to my finds by learning more about Karen's family history in Karen's Grande Dame Reunion.


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