Updated: Aug 20, 2018
Last week, I shared my research on Charleston’s favorite seamster/attorney, Craig Conover, in the inaugural post of my Bravolebrity blog series.
This week, I decided to move north of the Mason-Dixon line to focus on one of the strong and outspoken ladies from the Real Housewives of New York City. During the last episode, Dorinda Medley did not "make it nice" when she went all in on Sonja Morgan for using the Morgan family crest, despite no longer being married to a Morgan. “You don’t get a bloodline by injection,” Dorinda quipped in her confessional interview, while reminding Sonja that she was in fact a Tremont from Albany to her face.
Now it all makes sense why Sonja’s tagline for this season is "I'm not just a last name. I'm a legacy.” Clearly, I had my subject for this week’s Bravolebrity—Sonja Tremont Morgan.
What We Know
Sonja Marie Tremont was born on November 25, 1963, in Albany, NY (or within the area). She married John Adams Morgan, great-grandson of the banking and financial giant, J.P. Morgan, and a direct descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, in 1998, but divorced in 2006. Together, they have one daughter, Quincy Adams Morgan.
Despite being a very public figure, Sonja is quite private about her family life. Putting together various biographies from around the web, I found that Sonja was raised by a single mother of four children. Little else is in the direct public eye, but I was able to uncover some tidbits from her life through some genealogy sleuthing.
She has German, English, and Irish ancestry as well as possible French and Scottish roots.
Sonja’s heritage extends from across Europe at different points in American history on both sides of her family. She has colonial ancestors that hailed from England and the German Palatinate. The British paid for the so-called German Palatines’ passage to New York in the early 18th century, where they worked off their debt along the Hudson Valley. Through her 3rd great-grandmother Elizabeth Catherine (Boice/Buys) Richards, her 8th great-grandfather, Johannes Roschmann, was one such ancestor.
Immigration information for Sonja's 8th great-grandfather.
The Tremont family came from Luxembourg, when Sonja’s 2nd great-grandfather, Christopher Tremont, immigrated in the 1870s. His parents and Sonja’s 3rd great-grandparents, Nicholas and Mary (Wiltzen), also came around that time. On various records, the Tremonts stated they were from Germany and spoke German. Although the origin of the last name Tremont may be German, it could also be French. Based on Luxembourg’s history of changing hands, it is possible that the Tremonts were originally French.
1920 census where her 2nd great-grandfather listed Luxembourg as his place of birth.
She comes from hardworking stock.
Sonja is known for her hustle. Whether it be designing clothes, branding toaster ovens, or supporting various charities, Sonja is constantly on the move to promote her luxury brands and image. However, despite having married into a well-to-do family, her family actually descends from mostly modest roots. Several ancestors were farmers or performed other forms of manual labor—carpenters, shoemakers, a butcher, plumber, auto repair shop owner, and servant, to name a few. She also had ancestors with military service, including the American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, American Indian Wars, and World War II. Her maternal grandmother even volunteered as the local fire warden and ambulance chief, proving that Sonja’s philanthropy was inherited. Hard work and giving back clearly run in her DNA.
One example has Sonja's 3rd great-grandfather Abram Parslow listed as a day laborer in the 1870 census..
She had family traveling on the Lusitania.
Fortunately for Sonja, her ancestors sailed on the Lusitania four years before it was torpedoed by a German submarine. Presumably to visit her great-grandmother’s family in England, her great-grandparents and infant grandmother traveled on the Lusitania from Liverpool back to New York in 1911.
Although it's very faint, you can just make out where it says S.S. Lusitania at the top.
Her ancestors could have starred on the Real Housewives of New York…State.
Besides Sonja herself who hails from the Troy, NY area, I found that several branches of her tree made their home in upstate New York for over 300 years. Many relatives are also still tied to the area, and Sonja seems to be the only one who left for the big city.
Birth register from a church records in upstate New York of Sonja's 5th great-grandfather, Nicholas Jacobi, in 1765.,
Sorry, no known family crests, but she may be from “noble” lineage.
Although RHONY makes family crests seem like an everyday thing, there are a lot of myths surrounding them and coats of arms. There are websites out there that will sell them, including a Tremont crest, but many are just for fun, and I couldn't confirm how authentic any of them really are. I found various crests connected to trees at Ancestry.com through her paternal grandmother, Dorothy (Richards) Tremont, and a maternal great-grandmother, Maude (Hanby) Landfear, but unfortunately, many of them seem to be questionable. Of course, Sonja could create her own crest, which I think would be pretty cool.
However, that doesn’t mean Sonja didn’t have significant ancestors. Although I can’t 100% verify it, several preexisting trees have her 4th great-grandfather, Philo Richards (c.1819-1909), as the son of Pelatiah (1759-1827) and his second wife, Annie Hervey (1785-1845). If this is the case, she descends from Thomas Richards, her 10th great-grandfather, who was an original proprietor of Hartford, CT. A biography of a distant cousin lists this line as “noble lineage,” but no further information is provided.
An excerpt from a biography of Sonja's likely distant cousin found in "Commemorative Biographical Record of Hartford County, Connecticut, Volume 1." Dr. Samuel might be her 6th great-grandfather.
Although my research into Sonja's family did not confirm aristocratic or noble roots, hard work clearly runs in her family. Not to mention, she is a New Yorker through and through.
Enjoy learning about Sonja Morgan'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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