This Former US President Had The Most Children

It's difficult to imagine the pressure of being the child of a president. Being thrust into the spotlight at such a young age must be incredibly difficult — not to mention having to leave your friends behind in order to begin your new life in the White House. But perhaps the worst part of being a presidential child is having to somehow live up to the legacy of your parents. Of course, two "First Children" have done just that, going on to become presidents themselves: John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, and George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush.

Per, American presidents have had, on average, 4.1 children. That's a good deal higher than today's national average — 1.9 children per family, Statista reports — but is roughly in line with what you'd expect given the birth rates of the past two centuries. Interestingly, there has only been one POTUS who never fathered nor adopted any children: eleventh President James K. Polk, per Statista. (James Buchanan, America's only unmarried president, adopted his orphaned niece, per

On the flip side of James Polk are the presidents who had a lot of kids. This end of the spectrum is a bit hard to keep track of, however, as numerous presidents fathered children whom they refused to acknowledge — including, in a few instances, with their slaves. So, while we may never know the exact number of kids each president had, experts do have some educated guesses.

Thomas Jefferson had 12 children or more, while William Henry Harrison probably had at least 16

Ranking somewhere around third place in the "most children" hierarchy is third president, Thomas Jefferson. Per the Encyclopedia Virginia, Jefferson and his wife Martha had six children together; only two daughters survived to adulthood. However, as reports, it's now widely accepted that Thomas Jefferson had at least six more children with Sally Hemings, a woman whom he enslaved; DNA evidence helps prove this. Hemings was a biracial woman whom Jefferson "inherited" from his father-in-law. Sally Hemings and Martha Jefferson were most likely half-sisters, born of the same father. Jefferson's sexual abuse of Hemings is disturbing; their first child was conceived when Jefferson was 46 and Hemings was just 16.

Yet Jefferson wasn't the only president to have children with enslaved women. Ninth President William Henry Harrison has a similar story. Harrison is known to have had 10 children with his wife Anna — yet only two of them lived past the age of 40, per the University of Virginia. (Of those two, one went on to father 23rd President Benjamin Harrison; he's the only person to be both the son and father of a president.) However, per historian Kenneth Janken, William Henry Harrison probably had (at least) an additional six children with Dilsia, an enslaved woman. Unlike Jefferson — who freed all of the children he had with Hemings — Harrison gave most of his enslaved children to his brother, who sold them away.

President John Tyler had the most (acknowledged and unacknowledged) children

Closing out this disturbing trendline is 10th President John Tyler. John Tyler is certainly the president with the most "legitimate" children; he had eight with his first wife Letitia, and another seven with his second wife Julia, per The majority of these children did survive to adulthood. In fact, although Tyler himself was born in 1790, one of his daughters, Pearl, lived all the way until 1947, per FindAGrave.

Yet Tyler, too, likely fathered children with his slaves. Per historian Edward Crapol, that accusation was first put forward by an abolitionist named Joshua Leavitt. Leavitt published anecdotal evidence that Tyler fathered and sold away at least two enslaved children. Tyler refuted the claims, of course, and Crapol suggests that Leavitt's fierce abolitionism may make him an unreliable source.

However, recent oral history compiled by the Sherwood Forest Plantation Foundation adds weight to Leavitt's claims. Speaking to Black families in the city where Tyler once lived, the Foundation found numerous oral traditions of families who believed to be descended from Tyler. In the most striking claim, one woman recounted that Tyler "supposedly bragged that he had not just 15 white children, but also 52 children by Black women."

Of course, without DNA evidence, it's hard to know the exact number of children John Tyler fathered. Even so, it's safe to assume that Tyler probably had the most children of any U.S. president.