Presidential Paternity Case: Warren G. Harding DNA Results

Diahan Southard

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DNA and genealogy evidence show that U.S. President Warren G. Harding did father a child with Nan Britton, Here’s the scoop.

New evidence in a 90 year-old paternity case came to light in the form of a DNA test. While most cases of unknown paternity include an unwed woman and a child, this one had the unique distinction of also involving the President of the United States.

In 2015 the New York Times named former president Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) as the father of Elizabeth Ann Blaesing after her son, James Blaesing, and two individuals related to the Hardings, were found to have shared DNA.

DNA points to Warren G. Harding as father

Just to be clear, the DNA test results don’t and can’t name a specific relative as the shared source of any two individuals’ DNA. Though we would like it to be, it is not DNA in an ancestor’s name and birth certificate. The actual report from the testing company was that James Blaesing and Peter and Abigail Harding were second cousins. This means that the shared ancestral couple for these three has to be among their 4 sets of great grandparents. The DNA alone cannot tell us which set. It was a combination of the DNA and the known genealogy that provided such a high level of confidence in this case.

In 2020, other descendants of the Harding family questioned James Blaesing’s connection to the former president. Blaesing filed a lawsuit to request an exhumation of Harding’s body to conduct further DNA testing, but a judge ruled that unnecessary as another living Harding descendant provided DNA to confirm Blaesing’s lineage as a direct descendant of the 29th president.

While there are certainly mixed feelings among members of the Harding family about this new evidence, this is clearly a win for DNA. A man who was thought to have never had children did in fact have one child, and now a grandchild. This preserves a genetic legacy for his family line that might have otherwise been lost. (Oh, and the test results also refute his political opponents’ claim that he had African heritage.)

This is also a clear win for the power of curious descendants and the healing balm of time. It was actually Harding’s grand niece and grand nephew who instigated the testing out of a pure desire to know the truth. Time has allowed them this curiosity without threat of scandal, and technology has provided the necessary tools to once and for all more fully understand their ancestor and the life he lived.

AncestryDNA declared after this story broke that DNA testing can rewrite history, which may be true. However, I prefer to think of DNA testing not as white-out that can erase false accusations, but rather as a filter that allows you to separate fact from fiction so that history can reflect lives rather than lies.

Find answers about your own family tree

Discoveries like these aren’t just limited to previous presidents and their families, with DNA testing you, too, can learn more about where you came from! Get started with our free guide, Birth Roots and DNA.

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<a href="" target="_self">Diahan Southard</a>

Diahan Southard

As founder and CEO of Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard has been teaching people how to find family history answers in their DNA for several years, and she's been in the genetic genealogy field since its infancy. Diahan teaches internationally, writes for popular magazines, consults with leading testing companies, is author of Your DNA Guide–The Book, and producer of Your DNA Guide–the Academy, an online learning experience.


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