#BravoGenealogy: Kathryn Calhoun Dennis and the Tale of 2 John C. Calhouns

When I started #BravoGenealogy, Southern Charm was definitely the catalyst. As a history buff, I was fascinated by the deep genealogies of the show's cast. Bravo and Bravo fan blogs definitely played up the stars' pedigrees. Craig Conover was my inaugural post because compared to his castmates, he was seriously lacking in history (although my research proves his genealogy rivals, if not surpasses, those of his co-stars).


Regularly, Kathryn Calhoun Dennis has topped those lists of American connections due to her paternal grandfather, Rembert C. Dennis, and her mother's Calhoun family. According to an article in the Bravo Daily Dish, "It's easy to see Kathryn Calhoun Dennis' famous lineage since it's right in her name. She is a direct descendant of John C. Calhoun [1782-1850] on her mother's side, the seventh vice president of the United States under Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He would go on to serve as secretary of state and spend the rest of his life representing South Carolina in the United States Senate." The complete article can be seen here: https://www.bravotv.com/the-daily-dish/southern-charm-cast-family-history-full-of-famous-faces.



But something I took for granted was that everything Bravo was offering was verified and correct. A recent tip, however, sent me deeper into Kathryn's tree, where I quickly identified her 4th great-grandfather, John C. Calhoun (c. 1804-1865). Only problem is that this John C. Calhoun is not the same as the former vice-president. Kathryn descends from a different John C. Calhoun!


1850 census for Kathryn's 4th great-grandfather, John C. Calhoun, in Marlboro County, SC.

And before you say, "Oh, maybe you just need to go another generation back," this John's father and Kathryn's 5th great-grandfather was Archibald Colquhoun (c. 1753-1828). Unverified sources say Archibald was born in Scotland and eventually settled in Marlboro County, SC, while the John C. Calhoun of history had Scots-Irish roots with the family ultimately settling in Abbeville, SC. I found no relation to the John C. Calhoun of his history's known family to Kathryn's. Although Kathryn very well could be related to the James C. Calhoun of history, it's not as a direct ancestor along this line as claimed and not more than a distant relation.


Excerpt from the will of Archibald Colquhoun, which include John Calhoun as an heir. Dated in 1828.

Interestingly, I found no record of Kathryn's actual direct ancestor with the middle initial C., except on his first wife's grave. Although his middle name really may have started with a C or have been Caldwell (like the famous Calhoun), or even they share a common ancestor (though I didn't identify it), I wonder if the famous John C. Calhoun inspired the addition. Kathryn's great-uncle was named John Caldwell Calhoun, so clearly this became a family name and central to the family's lore.


Mythology can pervade family lore, so it's important to VERIFY EVERYTHING. And to be clear, family lore isn't always intentional. Kathryn may have very well been told a story, and her great-uncle's name, for example, might lead to the proof James Caldwell was a "family name." So lesson learned. Be even more skeptical of reality TV (insert irony here) and your family trees if you weren't already!

Please contact me at adina@myfamilygenie.com if you're interesting in exploring your family history. Free initial consultations.


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