Did I Marry a Relative of Buffalo Bill Cody?

There is a mystery in my husband’s family, and I am on a quest to solve it.

My husband’s paternal grandmother told a story about how they were related to Buffalo Bill Cody through marriage. There was also another story about an ancestor who changed his name during the Civil War with the thought it was possibly Coad to Cody. The soldier’s parents were supposed to be from the South, living in a northern state, his parents were southern sympathizers, and their son was not. He was disowned and told he could not use the family name. The story goes that he took the name of a family he respected, and possibly the one his favorite sister married into. The last clue given was that there was a woman in his family named Sara Jane Machesney; speculation has been that this was his mother or sister. My question… how are these two facts intertwined?

The detail that my father–in-law’s mother had the maiden name of Coad had been left out when I was told the disjointed story originally. I began tracing her family in earnest when I discovered this. Her grandparents were Harry Coad and Nancy Cody… was this the Coad to Cody? No matter where I looked, I could not find Harry G. Coad. Looking at his birth date, I decided he was the right age to have been able to fight for the Civil War.

Low and behold, when I type his name into Fold3 I get a hit. I pulled up his pension card, and across the top it stated:

Coad, Harry M (known as)

Thompson, Henry G (alias)

Yes! It gave me his original name; how could I have been lucky? It also stated that he fought for the 5th Missouri Infantry, the 14th Missouri Infantry, and the 66th Illinois Infantry. His death date was even listed, and matched the date I had. Now, to figure out who Sarah Jane Machesney was.

Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bill part was easy thanks to all of the books published about him, as well as the International Cody Family Association. I lucked out with several genealogies published by this association, which included my husband’s family up to his third-great-grandfather Button Gwinnett Cody. Button was Nancy Cody’s father. In my head I know nothing can really be that easy, so I am going through the process of getting the documents for each generation to actually prove this is a valid assumption on my part. However, as of today I am pretty sure my husband is fifth cousins four times removed from Buffalo Bill Cody.

The family legend is turning out very interesting. Harry Coad is now on my list of people to look up when I take a trip to NARA this year.

Photo by liberalmind1012


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


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7 thoughts on “Did I Marry a Relative of Buffalo Bill Cody?

  1. Hello, Yes i would like to talk with the lady that published the story about Buffalo Bill.. Buffalo Bill is related to Schall Members in my Family Tree.. There is a Small write up about him..

    Please contact me..

    Tom Schall Sr

  2. My husband claims his family tree goes back to wild Bill Cody as well. Our last name is Thompson. His grandmother was native American. I’m trying to find out where the native American fits in the picture. I would love to speak with the woman also who wrote this article!

  3. I wrote you an email a few days ago. Looking forward to conecting with you. I am not aware of any Native American connection on our side of the family, but could be wrong.

  4. My husbands paternal Grandmother was named Mable Cody. Family lore says Buffalo Bill was her Uncle. Her father was the Mayor of a big city out west someplace. She married at the tender age of 14 and was whisked away to Broolyln, N.Y. by her much older groom. I don’t know if Bill Cody even had a brother, but as I said ….family lore says he did. Any info would be appreciated…..

  5. My grandfather told me that we are related to Buffalo Bill. I wanted to know how
    We are connected. What information would you need to find out my family history?

  6. my grandfather also said he was related to buffalo bill. he was edgar carver simpkins and his mother was madora hyatt. she was mentioned a book I read about being buffalo bill’s childhood sweetheart. his father was alvin taylor simpkins. sure would like to find connection.

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