"My mother, who died in my infancy, was of a family of the name of Hanks." 
The ancestry of Abraham Lincoln has been a source of intrigue and dispute ever since Lincoln's death. It will come as no shock to any who have looked into Abraham Lincoln's maternal ancestry that what prompted that remembered quote printed in 1887 was a series of conjectures now known to be inaccurate. The manner in which some of his family lived -- like others in their socioeconomic sphere, sometimes bearing and openly keeping children without a father present, the children taking their mother's surname and being raised by grandparents or married aunts and uncles -- was not the image the family or Lincoln wished to present to the American public-- especially not to the political elite who surrounded Lincoln in his later years-- regardless of the precise circumstances under which Nancy was conceived, born and raised.
The Fall 2016 issue of American Ancestors reports confirmation through mtDNA studies that Nancy Hanks' father remains unknown. In addition:
The study specifically refutes the theory of Hanks' ancestry through the Shipley family: Nancy's mtDNA carries the haplogroup X1c, while the sometimes-assumed Shipley ancestors carry an mtDNA haplogroup of H. 
Nancy Hanks, mother of the 16th president of the United States, was certainly born between 1782 and 1784, possibly on February 5, 1784.  She was the out-of-wedlock first-born child of a teen-age girl, Lucey Hanks, and an unnamed, to this day unknown father.
While it is an accepted fact that Lucey Hanks was Nancy's mother, somewhat less proveable is the assertion that Lucey (her spelling) was a daughter of illiterate North Farnham Parish tenant farmer Joseph Hanks. The doubt arises because Lucey alone of the children of Joseph Hanks was not named in his will. Joseph died not long after Lucey's marriage to the respectable Henry Sparrow. Even though by then it may have been apparent that she would not be prosecuted for fornication, it seems not unlikely in those harsh times that Lucey's indiscretion and the perhaps not coincidental events that followed could have resulted in a permanent rift and disownment by her father.
At the time of Lucey's pregnancy Joseph was employed as the overseer of two neighboring plantations. It has been suspected, but never proven, that one of those rich landowners or another in the area was the father of Nancy Hanks.
Regarding his grandfather, Abraham Lincoln was quoted by William Herndon, his former law partner-cum-biographer, as having said:
Billy, I'll tell you something, but keep it a secret while I live. My mother was a bastard, was the daughter of a nobleman, so-called, of Virginia. My mother's mother was poor and credulous, ... and she was shamefully taken advantage of by the man. My mother inherited his qualities and I hers. All that I am or ever hope to be I get from my mother, God bless her." 
Publication of the statement set off a storm of controversy, not least because Herndon had developed a monomaniacal obsession with preventing the deification of Lincoln.
In contemporary times, if we consider the issue of sex outside of marriage in colonial America at all, we may have a vague notion that the worst that could happen would have been a baby and a scarlet letter-- social ostracization. In fact, in a time and place where absence from church on Sunday was a fineable offense, there were strict laws against fornication and adultery: persons so charged could be tried and publicly, corporally punished.  The birth of an illegitimate child was de facto evidence of the mother's crime. The only reasons to keep the father secret would be to protect both parties from the harsher punishment his identity could bring (were he married or of a different race); to protect her from him (were he in a position of power over her or her family); or to gain more positive inducements (such as payoffs). Consider that not long before the time of Nancy's birth, Lucey's 60 year-old father quit his overseer positions and uprooted the family from their lifelong home in Richmond County, moving them first to Hampshire County, and shortly thereafter to the new frontier of Kentucky. All this while yet awaiting the outcome of a lawsuit against his employer for his last year's pay, as well as awaiting the overdue disbursement of the estate of Catherine Williams Hanks, his mother, which was being held up by court-appointed administrators, one of whom was the very plantation owner withholding his pay.
If Joseph Hanks thought leaving would shield Lucey from prosecution in Virginia, Kentucky offered no protection. On November 24, 1789 Lucey was indicted by a Mercer County grand jury for fornication.  The charge was apparently dropped when she married Henry Sparrow in 1791.  As was common in such marriages, the illegitimate child (Nancy) was given up to relatives to raise.
Nancy Hanks went to live with Lucey's sister, Elizabeth Hanks, and her husband, Thomas Sparrow, brother of Lucey's husband. Elizabeth and Thomas also took in and raised Dennis Hanks, the illegitimate son of Nancy's youngest aunt, also named Nancy Hanks. (And while Dennis was unable to name his grandfather, he did identify several children of Joseph Hanks as brothers and sisters of Lucey. 
Nancy married Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851) (Abraham & Bathsheba Herring) on 12 June 1806 at Beech Creek, Washington County, Kentucky. 
Sarah Lincoln (1807-1828)
Abraham Lincoln (12 Feb 1809-15 Apr 1865)
Thomas Lincoln, Jr. (1812-1812)
Nancy Hanks Lincoln died on 5 October 1818 from milk sickness at the Lincoln's home in Pigeon Creek, (now Spencer County), Indiana, at age 34. Thomas buried her on a hillside just south of the family farm.
↑ Christopher C. Child. "The Hanks DNA Study: I Was Wrong!", American Ancestors, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Vol 17, no. 3, Fall 2016, pp. 55-57.
↑ 3.03.13.23.3 Verduin, Paul H. Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine,
December 1988, Volume XXXVIII NO. 1, pgs. 4354-4389, "New Evidence Suggests Lincoln's Mother Born in Richmond County, Virginia, Giving Credibility to Planter Grandfather Legend." Copyright 1988, Paul H. Verduin. Online at URL http://www.geocities.ws/marianapolis99/verduin.htm
↑A Petition To Clear The Name of Lucey Hanks, filed 6 October 1976, James A. Peterson, petitioner, Mercer County Quarterly Court, Commonwealth of Kentucky, 8 pages; within "Cognate families of Lincoln", Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/cognatefamiliesolinc_20#page/n35/mode/2up : accessed 8 August 2015); citing Lincoln Financial Foundation, "Cognate families of Lincoln. Sparrow Family." Loose papers, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1932-1978.
↑ "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V653-XXG : accessed 3 July 2017), Henry Sparrow and Lucy Hanks, 1791; citing Mercer, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 192,267.
↑ "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QKJS-83GY : accessed 5 June 2017), Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, 10 Jun 1806; citing Washington, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 241,382.
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with Nancy by comparing test results with other carriers of her mitochondrial DNA.
Mitochondrial DNA test-takers in the direct maternal line:
Loretta, you make a very good point. I hope my revision is an improvement. Let me know if you think it works. I read the article you linked to, but honestly can't help but think it's too one-sided. Here's one that basically agrees with what you say and yet comes off with more balance and perspective (or so I think): 
I do think Herndon must be taken with a grain of salt-- but then I think that about most people's stories. Thanks for the comment, and please let me know other areas I can improve.
In taking on the rewrite of this profile, I wanted to preserve and add to the documented facts and remove all traces of undocumented statements, rumors, and implications. A previous writer had opened with a quote from Lincoln, which I removed because the title of the source could be considered prejudicial and was unquestionably offensive. I wanted to replace the quote with one which would make the same point as the original. I found one in Herndon's "Nancy Hanks: Monograph" which suited the purpose. Nothing in the monograph was negative; on the contrary, it seemed positive and uncontroversial. Long-time partners in a small firm would have had a conversation or two about family; I see no reason to doubt the quote. However, if Herndon's name is so prejudicial, I will look for another source.
obviously work on the Hanks family continues and yet there remains much to do... update: currently working to get the mtDNA results into Wikitree attached to sourced profiles of the pedigree people (as may be witnessed by the "DNA Connections" section appearing in the relevant ladies' profiles)
(copied over from a discussion in Hanks-1023 just to make sure everyone's seeing this. Patricia asks that we wait until we know who Nancy's parents are... and my question is when and how can we agree on Nancy Hanks' mother and unknown father?
What direct evidence (not old genealogical publications and family rumors) is there that the mother was anyone other than Lucey Hanks and the father unknown?
Robin authorized me to document this, and I've been doing so... so are you saying that you object to the whole process of correcting the record as per DNA and documentary evidence? Please provide strong reasons not to reflect her mother as Lucey Hanks and father as unknown. Thanks!
I've switched the mom to Lucy Hanks. The mitochondrial DNA results, as referenced in the g2g thread listed above, are confirmatory that Lucy Sparrow was born to Ann Lee, wife of Joseph Hanks of North Farnham Parish... more changes coming, but it seems it was time for this one.
Needless to say some time has passed since Robin left her note here, and it may seem I've done nothing... in fact, I've been laying some groundwork in related Hanks profiles, and ordering/reading/getting copies from microfilms on the subject, etc (this family not deserving yet another misread of the evidence)..... please anticipate a reorg. effort on Nancy's primary relations soon..... in some cases it will be easiest to get the relationships squared away before the bios are fully updated... hopefully everyone involved will be understanding and it won't be too excruciating a process for any of us. :)