Claim: Joe Biden's great-grandfather owned slaves and fought for the Confederacy
Protests nationwide are calling for America to reckon with its racist history. Amid that, as the 2020 election approaches, misinformation about Joe Biden's family history is spreading online.
A meme shared June 17 on Facebook claims that Biden's great-grandfather, named Joseph J. Biden in the post, was a slave owner and fought for the Confederate States of America. The text is displayed below a monochrome photo that allegedly depicts great-grandpa Biden toting a gun.
The meme appears to have originated from a blog post made in Aug. 27, 2008, four days after former President Barack Obama picked Biden as his running mate. The post offers no evidence regarding the claim.
The person who shared the meme on Facebook did not respond to a request for comment and clarification from USA TODAY.
The former vice president's paternal great-grandfather was named George T. Biden, not Joseph J. Biden, as the claim suggests. George Biden was born in Maryland in 1867, two years after the Civil War ended. He died in 1933.
George's father - former VP Biden's paternal great-great-grandfather - was named Joseph H. Biden. On some genealogy sites, his name is listed as Joseph J. H. Biden, which may be where the name in the claim came from. Joseph H. Biden was born in 1828, as the claim suggests of former VP Biden's great-grandfather.
Candidate Biden's maternal great-grandfather was named Edward F. Blewitt. He was born in 1859, making him 6 years old when the Civil War ended. The Blewitt family immigrated to America from County Mayo, Ireland, in 1851.
Biden's ancestry is easily traceable online through multiple genealogy websites. USA TODAY primarily used Geni.com.
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Archives provide no evidence Biden's ancestors owned slaves, fought for Confederacy
There are a number of federal records that can be used to help identify former slave owners.
In the 1850 U.S. Census (Slave Schedule), no Bidens were listed as slave owners. A more specific search of Maryland's "Legacy of Slavery in Maryland" database found that no Bidens in the state of Maryland - where Biden's paternal great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather resided - owned slaves, either.
USA TODAY also found no evidence that anyone in former Biden's direct lineage fought for the Confederate Army.
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A search through the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers database found that there were five people with "Biden" as a surname and one with "Biden" as a first name who participated in the Civil War. None of them appear to be connected to the former vice president's family lineage.
The only Biden who participated on the Confederate States' side was a man named Biden Owen; he belonged to the 2nd Regiment of the Texas Calvary.
Man in photo is not related to Biden
The man depicted in the meme's photo is Richard Young Bennett. He was born in 1836 and enlisted as a private in the Confederate army's 2nd Mississippi Infantry on March 1, 1862.
Throughout his three years of service, he was on the Roll of Honor for his actions at the Battle of the Wilderness and spent several months as a prisoner of war in 1865. Bennett remained an active member or the Confederate army until June 1865, when he was released from prison on an Oath of Allegiance to the Union. Confederate records show him as "deserting to the enemy" on Jan. 7, 1865.
Bennett died in March of 1901 and is buried in Ebenezer Methodist Church Cemetery in Chalybeate, Mississippi.
Our rating: False
We rate this claim as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. Biden's paternal great-grandfather was named George T. Biden - not Joseph J. Biden - and no databases found the Biden surname to have owned slaves or fought for the Confederacy. The man in the meme's picture is not one of Biden's relatives; it is Richard Young Bennett, who was a member of the Confederate army.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Joe Biden's great-grandfather did not own slaves