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Thomas Sparrow was born circa 1765 in Mecklenburg, Virginia to James Wright Sparrow (1739-1789) and Mary White (1743-) and died 1818 in Spencer County, Indiana of milk sickness. He married Elizabeth Hanks (1776-1818) circa 1785 in Kentucky.

Marriage & Family

Thomas and Betsy Sparrow are notable in history as "surrogate" grandparents to future US President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). They had no children of their own, but became very noteworthy for raising a niece and nephew.

Adopted Child #1: Nancy Hanks

Nancy Hanks (1784-1818), Abe's mother, was the daughter of Lucy Hanks (1765-) but was born prior to her marriage to Thomas' brother Henry Sparrow (1765-1840). For a few years they raised Nancy as their own child. This couple would visit Nancy's home frequently and thus a very young child, Abe Lincoln, came to picture this couple as his grandparents.

Adopted Child #2: Sarah Hanks

Lucy then gave birth to Sarah Hanks (1788-1854) and later married Henry Sparrow in 1791. Sarah Hanks gave birth to 6 illegitimate children, the eldest, Sophia Hanks was born in 1809, lived with her aunt Elizabeth and uncle Thomas Sparrow, and after their death in 1818 lived with the Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851) family.

Adopted Child #3: Dennis Hanks

At about this time, Thomas and Betsy adopted another nephew Dennis Friend Hanks (1799-1892), illegitimate son of Betsy's younger sister, Nancy Hanks (1780-1829). After the death of Thomas and Betsy, young Dennis would be adopted by Abe Lincolns family and become a step-brother to him throughout his life.

Death: Milk Sickness

In 1817, Nancy Hanks (1784-1818) and her husband Thomas Lincoln (1778-1851), moved their family to Spencer County, Indiana and lived in a small lean-to while they built their cabin (which is now a National Landmark). Thomas and Betsy and Dennis then move into the lean-to. Shortly after their arrival they both contracted "milk sickness", and Nancy came to care for them until they died. Shortly afterwards, Nancy also contracted the same illness and died which became a famous turning point in the life of the future US President.


Offspring of James Wright Sparrow and Mary White (1743-)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Ferdinand Sparrow (1762-1852)
Henry Sparrow (1765-1840) 9 October 1765 Mecklenburg County, Virginia 17 September 1840 Loudoun County, Virginia Lucy Hanks (1765-)

Thomas Sparrow (1765-1817) 1765 Mecklenburg, Virginia 1818 Spencer County, Indiana Elizabeth Hanks (1776-1818)

James Sparrow (1769-)
Dennis Sparrow (1771-)
Peter Sparrow (1777-1860)
Elizabeth Sparrow (c1780-)


Footnotes (including sources)