What You Didn't Know About Aaron Burr's Secret Second Family

Lawyer, politician, and Revolutionary War hero Aaron Burr, aka the guy who killed everyone's favorite rapping Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, had a difficult family life. According to Britannica, pretty much everyone in his family died just after his was born. He found himself an orphan at just 2 years old, and he and his sister were forced to live with their puritanical and abusive uncle. Burr had two daughters with his wife Theodosia, but the second one died when she was just three years old, according to Notable American Women. He also lost Theodosia to stomach cancer. His first daughter, also Theodosia, grew up to be the apple of Burr's eye. He lavished her with affection and provided her with an education considered to be quite progressive for women at the time.

Unfortunately, Theodosia would meet the same tragic fate as so many of Burr's relations. Atlas Obscura notes that she was absolutely devastated by the loss of her only child to malaria in 1812. She needed to get away from South Carolina, so she boarded a ship bound for New York to see her father. But the boat never arrived. Several theories try to explain what happened to Theodosia out on the sea (the War of 1812 may have had something to do with it), but the truth has never come to light. It would seem that all of his family members were doomed to die tragically young, but Burr actually had a secret second family all along.

Aaron Burr had at least two children in his second family

After years of scholarship, University of New Mexico professor Sherri Burr discovered that she was a descendant of the famous dueler (who also served as vice president, by the way). But as you might guess, she didn't come from the family Burr had with Theodosia. According to The Washington Post, her investigation strongly suggests that Burr actually had a secret second family with a woman of color who worked in his home for years. Mary Emmons was from Kolkata, India, and had been a servant in Theodosia's household from her previous marriage. She stayed on with the family after Theodosia and Aaron were married.

Although there is no smoking gun proving that Burr and Emmons had children together, Sherri Burr found compelling evidence to strongly suggest that their likely union produced two: Louisa Charlotte and John Pierre (pictured above). But details of how he treated them do appear to support the claim. He let Mary and the kids live at his house in Philadelphia while he was in New York with Theodosia. He also bought a plot of land for John Pierre so that he could build a house on it. Sherri Burr's genetic tests also strongly support the notion that Aaron Burr had a secret second family that he took care of while those in his other family dropped like flies around him.