Congressional legacies

Ranking America’s political dynasties

By Laurie Bennett

September 14, 2009 at 5:48am

A study published Sunday in the Washington Post ranks America’s top political families.

At the top of his list, not surprisingly, is the Kennedy family. The Roosevelts are a close runner-up.

The research was done by Stephen Hess, a senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution and author of America’s Political Dynasties.

Hess used a point system based on political office (president or chief justice equals 10 points, senator or governor equals 3 points, etc.) to assign scores to families. He then multiplied points by the number of times a family member was elected or appointed to a position. Additional points were awarded for the number of generations spanned by related politicians.

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

In addition to the Kennedy and the Roosevelt clans, top-scoring families on his list were:

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  • #1.   William Nash 08.22.2010

    How can you omit Prescott Bush, George H.W.’s father, George W.’s grandfather & 3 term US Senator from Connecticut while including Senator’s Robert & Ted Kennedy. Is it because if you included him you could not conclude that the Kennedy’s ( of which John is among my top most favored presidents, so it’s not some anti-Dem, pro-Rep thing I have. It’s complete & truthful representations is what you highly educated individuals should be all about regardless of where the chips fall ) are America’s top political family ??

  • #2.   Laurie Bennett 08.23.2010

    Not at all clear on what your complaint is. The Bushes are in the map and on the list. If you expand them in the map (or click on the Bush listing), you’ll see Prescott Bush.

  • #3.   John Breckinridge 12.09.2011

    Why didn’t you include the Confederate cabinet and congress? If you do it will greatly change the ratings. As it is there is only one family included in the top ten. Political leadership in the South during the Civil War should not be subordinated to such leadership in the North.

  • #4.   John Breckinridge 12.09.2011

    The list should include the Confederate Cabinet and Congress. Their political leadership during the Civil war should not be ignored as an intricate part of U.S.History.

  • #5.   William Muhlenberg Wagner Jr. 06.30.2013

    Hi Dr. Hess, I remember my grandmother Augusta (Muhlenberg) Wagner. (Mrs. Jesse L. Wagner) in Reading, PA talking about helping you with your “America’s Political Dynasties” book in 1966, when I was working on her farm in Sinking Spring, Reading, PA. I know you listed her in the credits, however my copy of “America’s Political Dynasties” is in storage with the rest of my belongings. I am in a personal care home way before my time. I am only 63 and worked for the local government for 20 years. I was in the Navy from April 1969 to Jan. 1972 as a Communication Yeoman on the U. S. Forrestal. My grandmother passed away in Sept 1971. You were probably in your mid twenties then, as I remember your picture on your book from 1966. You had black hair. You must have done exhaustive research to include all those families. As you may have guessed, my family, is the Muhlenberg family, but is slowly fading away, although David Muhlenberg of Vienna, Virginia is still around and has four sons. Also, I still have four Wagner cousins. Caroline (Muhlenberg) Hufford Anderson is in Arlington, Virginia. Their father was The fourth Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg who died in 1981 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetary with full military honors. He served in both WWI & WWII, was an architect by profession and was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Pa from 1947-1949. I only have a nephew who has spent 10 years in the army and two nieces of my immediate family, and that is it. I wrote a Muhlenberg Family book entitled, “The Muhlenberg Family; Their Significance in Colonial America” by Masthof Press. I currently have some Jan. 2013 reprints and revised of the original from 2006 left and am working on a larger one, that is more complete with more pictures and text.. The Library of Congress No. is 2006939931, and it can be purchase through me for $35.00 plus $3.00 mailing. It is over 70 pages with full color illustrations and is completely documented and referenced. I could send it to you on line to look at it. However, I do try to make a little money on it as I cannot afford to lose any. Thanks for your wonderful book “America’s Political Dynasties.” I read it when it first came out and used it later for reference. I have two of Governor Hiester’s desks that were documented. Also, I was VP of the Gov. Joseph Hiester Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, by descent of General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg and Sabastian Levan on my grandfather Dr. Jesse Levan Wagner’s side. My book can be purchased by e-mailing me at or calling 610-678-1893. Thanks for your time.
    Bill Wagner

  • #6.   William Muhlenberg Wagner Jr. 06.30.2013

    Hi Dr. Hess, I hope you got my last comment.
    William Muhlenberg Wagner Jr. member of the Muhlenberg Dynasty

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