1828: John Quincy Adams's Son Marries First Cousin At The White House

By Jacob Shelton


Daguerrotype of the south front of the White House, 1846. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

When John Adams II married his first cousin in a small White House ceremony, the drama wasn't about how closely related the two were. Mary Catherine Helen had dated both of John's brothers before settling for the president's middle son, creating an incestuous love rectangle that only got worse after the wedding.

Keeping It In The Family

John Quincy Adams was a rarity in his family in that he found love outside of it. His father, President John Adams, married his third cousin, Abigail Smith, as had long been tradition. The political and industrial dynasties of the 19th century were obsessed with keeping bloodlines "pure," so marriages between third, second, or even first cousins were fairly common. Quincy, however, married the London-born Louisa Johnson, with whom he had three sons by the time the family took in Louisa's 11-year-old niece, Mary Catherine Hellen, in 1817 following the death of her father and illness of her stepmother.