Question of the Week: Have you found any Olympians in your family tree?

+21 votes

The Olympics start this Thursday (2/8)! Is anyone else excited?!

While I'm not aware of any Olympians in my family branches, I did have a brush with Olympic greatness when I worked as a medical secretary in a physical therapy clinic.

One of my favorite patients was a gentleman who had suffered a stroke. He would often come and sit at my desk to chat. This was a bit challenging because he had lost some of his language when he suffered the stroke. One day he kept trying to tell me about something that I was having a hard time understanding, and he just wasn't able to make it clear. He was frustrated that he couldn't get his point across, but he never gave into that frustration. Instead, he looked at me, smiled and held up his index finger and said, "Tomorrow."

The next day when he returned for his appointment, he came straight to my office. As he walked in, I noticed he was carrying a flat black case in his good hand. He sat it down in front of me and motioned for me to open it. As I opened it, I was surprised to see an Olympic silver medal. Through me asking him questions, and him answering as best he could, he described to me his Olympic victory. It was an experience I'll never forget. 

This favorite patient of mine was Olympian Don Laz, and he won a silver medal in Pole Vaulting in the 1952 Olympics. He wasn't a member of my family, but he did make an impact on me, and I was proud to know him. His Olympic spirit shined through every time he came in to work out in the clinic. He was paralyzed on one side, and he had a difficult time speaking, but he never let his frustration get the best of him. 

I'd love to hear about Olympians in your life! Do you have stories to share?

For those who are interested in this year's games: How to Watch the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games

asked in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (254k points)
retagged by Abby Glann
THat is a LOVELY Story, Julie!!  So sweet!!

You link to Don does not work, so I found his Wikipedia page
Thank you, Robynne!

And thank you, especially, for letting me know about the link. It's fixed now. :-)
Avery Brundage is a distant cousin, but none the less, he is connected to the Bath-Brundages.  Brundage qualified for the 1912 U.S. Olympic team in both the decathlon and pentathlon. He finished 5th in the pentathlon at Stockholm but did not finish the decathlon. He was the first IOC President to have actually competed in the Olympic Games. Continuing to compete even after forming his own company, Brundage eventually won three national championships in the all-around – in 1914, 1916, and 1918.
What a great story!!

Thanks for sharing it, Julie.

No Olympians, but  my dad, Douglas Arthur Cox  (Cox-13451) missed out by only a few points of a second in representing NZ in the 1948 Empire Games. He was part of the training team for the games though. 

I have a 2nd cousin 1x removed on my mother's side of the family....   Forrest Grady "Spec" TOWNS (1936 Olympic champion in the 110m hurdles and broke the world record in that event three times).  He was Head Coach of Track and Field at UGA.  They named their stadium after him.

I have a nephew who was an Olympic speedskater for the USA.  He was on the team for 2 Olympics.  The rest of the famiy is not athletically inclined whatsoever, so where he got it from, I don't know!
So who was he B? Dont say he was Eric Heidel? THat would be amazing if he was!!

Actually now that I think about it, Eric only did one Olympics - I think...
Not so much "found" any Olympians in my family tree but Maëlle Ricker is my second cousin. Snowboard gold medalist in the 2010 Winter Olympics, she was the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal on her home soil.
That is a lovely story, thank you for sharing!

30 Answers

+13 votes
I found one in my wife's family tree.....


Dr. Garnet W. Ault who won Bronze in swimming in the 1928 games held in Amsterdam...
answered by Dennis Bartholomew G2G Crew (590 points)
That's great, Dennis! No profile yet??
Good Point....

As Garnet is on a far branch of my wife's family I hadn;t added his info to WikiTree yet.. But after your comment decided to work on it, so have added a skeletal line down to Garnet, who is now AULT-579.....

Most of the info on his line came from his book, The Ault Genealogy by Garnet W. Ault, Library of Congress Card # 80-66934


+10 votes
I have a possible distant connection to an Olympian but this is only family stories and rumour - have been unable to prove anything so far.

MY fathers cousin is Margaret Thompson. I'm adding her link so you know where she fits into the family. Margarets father and Dad's father were brothers.

(Edited - Oops I forgot she was private - have changed the privacy so you can see something!!)

I have not added Margarets siblings because I dont have a lot of details about them. BUT the family story is that 2 of Margarets sisters married a pair of brothers named MacDonald.

These men were said to both be UNCLES to a NZ Olympian named Paul MacDonald who won several medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1988 Seoul Olympics in Canoeing and Kayaking for New Zealand

I have not been able to find out who Pauls parents and grandparents are - he is a rather private person - so I cant make the connection.
answered by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (433k points)
edited by Robynne Lozier
Wow! He was pretty successful!!
You should have seen the ticker tape parades after the 1984 games. Paul and his rowing partner (team mate and friend) Ian Ferguson were both treated like rock stars!!
+10 votes
I don't have any Olympian ancestors (that I know of ... yet, of course) but I tried very hard to become one a few lifetimes ago.

I had been a serious swimmer in high school but in college the coach took one look at all four feet, nine inches of me and laughed.  She wouldn't even let me try out for the team, but said "Let me introduce you to the diving coach - small is good for diving".  So, I had a very late start as a diver but 3 years later I missed making the Olympic trials for 30 foot platform (now it's 10 meters) by .13 points.  Of course, that was still a long ways from winning any medals - first I would have had to compete at the trials for a place on the team.

In addition to NCAA diving, I also competed in NCAA synchronized swimming in college for a couple of years before giving up my eligibility to take a job in a professional water ballet troupe during the summer - college students do need to support themselves!
answered by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (512k points)
Good for you Gaile!!

Maybe Greg Louganis could have given you some pointers..

Or did you give Greg some coaching which is why he won his medals? LOL
+9 votes
I have an Olympic gold medalist in my family. I still can't prove it with documents cause he's in my balcanian family, which is why I still didn't put him in my tree here, but he is the husband of my second cousin once removed. He won gold in handball in Athens 2004.
answered by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Mach 5 (50.4k points)
+7 votes

So far only six olympians in the category


I have a couple in my family  that are cousins or related by marriage. I will add them in, though I won’t add  living people.

answered by Anne Young G2G5 (5.2k points)
Actually Anne, There are TONS of Olympians already on Wikitree.

For the categories, you need to drill down to the speciic sport or to actual games they competed in.

Such as my favourite sport - Gymnastics - which is under Sports

And the Specific Games they were in

So the olympians category which I found by looking at Don Laz should not exist but Laz should be categorised differently, eg under 1952 Olympics or

THat top Olympians category is probably for someone for whom you dont know when they competed. But that is what Google is for.

Technically it's either an old category or its a top level category and probablly should not be used.

You might want to talk to someone in the categorization project. I'm just a newbie in that project!! LOL

Amd also its not uncommon for some atheletes to have more than 1 category - especially if they competed in more than one games or sport!
Thanks for pointing out the categories, Robynne. :-) I didn't have a lot of time to dig around on Friday and didn't see the sub-cats for the different games. Don's in the right one now. :-)
The Olympics categories are being discussed by the Cat. Project as we speak! There will be updating.
Let me know what you decide about the Olympic categories.  I created a lot of them since I am working on profiles for Olympians.  There are less descriptive ones that need to be deleted.
+6 votes
My husband's great-uncle Leroy Perry Samse was also a pole vaulter who won the silver medal in the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

Leroy died while my husband was a young child, so he does not remember him.  But I was able to find the following biography online:

LeRoy Samse was a graduate of Indiana, where he competed in track & field and gymnastics, mostly tumbling and the horizontal bar, and took the silver medal in the 1904 Olympic pole vault after a jump-off with his teammate from the Chicago AA, [Louis Wilkins]. Samse's career best came in 1906 when he set a world record of 12 ft., 4 in. (3.78) to win the Western AAU title. He was also AAU Champion that year after a jump-off with H. L. Moore of the New York AC. He had numerous offers from circuses to perform as an acrobat but rejected them all. He taught high school, briefly coached at Indiana University, but he and his wife later moved to the Los Angeles area, where he taught and also dabbled in vaudeville. Samse's achievements are made more remarkable by the fact that he lost the use of one eye in a childhood accident.  []
answered by Robin Shaules G2G6 Mach 5 (50.7k points)
That's a great story, Robin!
+9 votes
I'm actually a member of the Olympic Games family!

I was a United States Olympic Committee delegate to the 1988 summer Olympic games in Seoul, Korea. Such an amazing experience living and participating in the Games.
answered by Russ Gunther G2G6 Mach 6 (60.9k points)

Here's my ID:

Wow, Russ! What an honor!
+7 votes
I have 2 in my family tree. One is a cousins husband who competed in the Maccabee games. The games are know as the "Jewish Olympics".
The other is a cousin of my kids and my ex who was an alternate on the U.S. gymnastics team, I believe in 1972.
I'll more info when I get home.
answered by Brian Myron G2G Crew (410 points)
+7 votes

No Olympians, but  my dad, Douglas Arthur Cox  (Cox-13451) missed out by only a few points of a second in representing NZ in the 1948 Empire Games. He was part of the training team for the games though. 

answered by Susan Scarcella G2G6 Mach 6 (66.4k points)
Empire Games, is that that which is called now Commonwealth Games?
It is. We still  have the certificate dad was given for being part of the cycling training team.
+6 votes
I have one in my tree, although it was not hard to find. My Dad Knowles McGill was on the 1968 Canadian Olympic biathlon team.
answered by Aaron McGill G2G Crew (800 points)
+4 votes
I'm very proud about one of the Olympians in my tree:

Shannon Miller the most decorated female gymnast of all time. :) And she's my 7th cousin through my Shockey family. :)
answered by Charlotte Shockey G2G6 Pilot (917k points)
+5 votes

While going through my grandmother's letters about her family, I found a newspaper clipping of her 2nd cousin, Kit Klein. Kit Klein was in the 1932 Winter Olympics. She won a gold medal in 1500 metres and bronze in the 500 metres. In those Olympics, women's speed skating was just a demonstration sport. While researching a little about her, it is said she threw her skates overboard while sailing back to the United States to mark her retirement from skating. In 1936, she married and moved to Pennsylvania. After her husband retired, they moved to Florida. 

answered by Leigh Mitchell G2G1 (1.3k points)
Cool! My great-uncle competed in the same Olympic games—Winter of 1932, 4-man bobsled : )
+4 votes
Yes, I do! My paternal grandfather's brother, Henry Homburger, was a silver medalist in the 4-man bobsled in the 1932 Lake Placid olympics. Interestingly, he was also an engineer, and he helped to design and build the bobsled run that was used in those olympics. He lived in the nearby town of Saranac Lake, NY.

Henry died when my father was a toddler, but he appears from time to time in our family stories.

I have always wondered if Henry's intimate knowledge of that bobsled run gave him an advantage, and whether this type of thing would be allowed today.

I'll need to figure out how to add this information to his profile!
answered by Sheila Homburger G2G Crew (350 points)
+4 votes
Not an Olympic competitor, but Gerhard Heiberg is an IOC member

I don't know (yet) where my branch of the family meets his, but he bears a remarkable resemblance to my father, excepting that my father had jet-black hair.
answered by Gunnar Heiberg G2G Crew (790 points)
edited by Gunnar Heiberg
+5 votes
My mom's second cousin Ralph Scull qualified for the US weightlifting team for the 1940 Olympics which would have been held in Helsinki. Ralph's father and my mom's father were cousins. There's a picture of them together.  I'm friends on facebook with his daughters and we have traded pictures and genealogy info with each other.
answered by Michael Guenther G2G2 (2.8k points)
+4 votes

No medals, but three of my grandmother's uncles were at Olympic games. I had some hunch in the back of my head, but when I read this question of the week, I made a check-up.

Nils Fjaestad, Stockholm 1912 olympics.  athletics

Åke Fjaestad, London 1908 olympics, football/soccer.

Per Fjaestad, Stockholm 1912 olympics, swimming

(hopefully I got it all correct)

See also

answered by Maria Lundholm G2G6 Mach 3 (39.2k points)
+7 votes

Do in-laws count? My great-aunt's husband, Harry Smyth, was on the 1932 Canadian Olympic team as a speedskater. I recently came upon this picture in a box of family pictures. Harry is the 3rd from the left.

answered by Leanne Cooper G2G6 Mach 3 (33.4k points)
+4 votes

A second cousin once removed, David Cameron, represented Australia in 1996 in single skulls rowing whilst his then wife Zigi Steggall won a bronze medal in slalom at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, and a World Championship gold medal in 1999. She is Australia's first and so far only medalist in alpine skiing, first individual medalist for Australia and Australia's first female medalist

answered by Gail Edwards G2G Crew (320 points)
+4 votes
My grandfather, Vernon Morgan, represented Great Britain in the 1938 Amsterdam Olympic Games. He was selected for the 1924 games in Paris but chose to travel around the USA with his soccer team Fromm oxford University as it was more adventurous than crossing the channel. What was particularly interesting about my grandfather was the fact that when he retired as an athlete, he became a Sports Journalist for Reuters of whom he worked for close to 40 years and covered all the winter and summer Olympic Games during that time. Although he didn’t win an Olympic medal in his sport, he was awarded the Olympic diploma of merit for his efforts towards the Olympics in support and journalism and an OBE. Proud of my grandfather and his efforts towards the Olympics as an athlete and reporter.
answered by Sophie Morgan G2G Crew (320 points)
+3 votes

That is such a powerful story Julie. What an amazingly tenacious man! I don't have any Olympians in my family that I know of, but we do have a gold post box in my local town of Watford, Hertfordshire, in honour of boxer, Anthony Joshua. It was a fun idea after the 2012 London Olympics to paint the iconic red post boxes gold in the towns and villages connected to the winners.

answered by Susie MacLeod G2G6 Pilot (138k points)

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