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Tim McGraw

Researching Tim McGraw’s ancestry was fascinating work and a rewarding experience for all those involved, including Ancestry.com and ShedMedia. There were a lot of interesting twists and turns in this research. As shown on the TV series, Tim McGraw did not know he was the son of Frank Edwin Jr. “Tug” McGraw until he was 11 years old, when he came across his birth certificate and saw that the McGraw surname was crossed out and Smith was written above it. This was an important discovery for Tim because Tug McGraw was one of his favorite baseball players and learning about his birth father gave him courage to move forward in difficult times as a child.

The goal of this production was to help Tim McGraw learn more about his father’s family. As shown in the production, Tim’s uncle Henry “Hank” McGraw was a valuable family resource in learning about the McGraw family.

Research started with Tug McGraw and went quickly backwards in time to Andrew McGraw and Ella May Nave, people Hank remembered. Census records at Ancestry.com and online newspaper articles helped identify information on the McGraw family. Andrew McGraw was in the butcher industry where he won awards for quickly dressing sheep. Ella May Nave was the daughter of David Robert Nave and Amelia Chrisman who lived in the vicinity of Kansas City, Missouri. The Chrisman family was among the pioneer stock of Jackson County, Missouri. Amelia died when Ella May was barely five years old. It was with Amelia’s family that Tim McGraw’s interesting and distinctive American heritage evolved.

Chrisman Family

Amelia was the descendant of three generations of Chrismans who lived in Jackson County, Missouri. Her great-grandfather was Gabriel E. Chrisman who moved to Missouri in the early 1800s along with her grandfather, Gabriel Scott Chrisman’s family. Her father was James Monroe Chrisman. Land and probate records, along with census records at Ancestry.com, helped to tie these generations together.  The marriage record of Amelia “Melia” Chrisman to David Nave was found at Ancestry.com.

Gabriel E. Chrisman was the son of Isaac Chrisman and Jane Scott, an early Southwest Virginia frontier family. He and his young family founded Rye Cove Fort in what is now Scott County, Virginia in about 1772. As noted in the “Who Do You Think You Are” show, Isaac was living in dangerous territory just before the Revolutionary War began. He had crossed the British Proclamation Line if 1763 into Indian Territory. He and his family paid a high price for this choice because he lost his life due to an Indian attack. Gabriel was only eight years old when his father died but when he became of age, he helped with the settlement of his father’s estate.

The Indian uprisings at Rye Cove were recorded in the Revolutionary War pension of Charles Bickley, which was found at Footnote.com. John Redd’s handwritten reminiscences of Virginia talked about Isaac Chrisman’s death.

Hite Family

Tim McGraw’s incredible family story did not end here. Isaac Chrisman was the son of Jacob Chrisman and Mary Magdalena Hite. She was the daughter of Hans Jost Heydt. Jost Hite, the name he went by the majority of the time in America, was among a group of German settlers who immigrated to America to realize their dream of a promised land, only to find they were brought there to work in the tar camps of New York to pay back the cost of their passage to the British Crown. With his ingenuity Jost was able to pull away from this menial labor and work for farmers. When he had established himself enough, he moved to Pennsylvania where he owned and developed land that is currently known as the Pennypacker Mills. He then sold his investment to move on to the golden land of Virginia, along with several other families. 

Jost Hite and his son-in-law Jacob Chrisman were pioneers and frontiersmen for their times. They and many other families who came with them settled a vast territory in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the early 1730s, encompassing 140,000 acres, which was an initial 40,000 grant and later a 100,000 grant. This land was not fully Jost Hite’s. He was required to bring in 100 families to settle the territory. By 1735 Jost had brought over 50 families to the Shenandoah and had received extensions from the Virginia government to complete the settlement. Jost became a land baron and was wise in how he managed his business affairs. Lord Fairfax tried to obtain some of Jost Hite’s land through a court preceding, claiming he was the person who had rights to the land. The battle over land was settled 76 years after Jost Hite’s death in Jost’s favor.

George Washington was a 16 year old surveyor for Lord Fairfax and stayed in the Hite’s home at that time. This was recorded in his journal.  In a letter from George Washington’s papers kept at the Library of Congress it was stated that the Hites were respectable persons who handled their affairs well.

Of interest, Elvis Presley’s ancestors, the Preslars, traveled on the same boat to America with Jost Hite. It is fascinating to know that two famous music legends in Nashville, Tennessee, descended from early German immigrants who initially settled in New York about 1710 with a desire to build their American dream.  Though Tim did not know who he descended from on his McGraw line before the “Who Do You Think You Are” show, he has exhibited some of the very same tenacity and strength his ancestors used to build his own American dream.

Research Manager on Project:

Lorraine Bourne

Project Hours:

674 Hours

Lorraine has been enthusiastically involved in genealogy and family history work for over 18 years. She has conducted professional genealogy research since 2002 and joined ProGen in 2009, working on client research and the Who Do You Think You Are? TV series, researching celebrities such as Tim McGraw, Reba McEntyre, Kelly Clarkson, Chris O'Donnell, Angie Harman, Melissa Etheridge, Lauren Graham, and others. She also worked with episodes of My Family Secrets Revealed a UK television series.


She obtained a bachelor's degree from BYU in 2005 with a major in family history and  business management. She continues to attend college courses, institutes, seminars, and conferences with in-depth training on research in several areas of the United States and the British Isles. Her areas of research expertise include the United States (Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic, New England, West, Midwest, colonial), Canada (English), England, African-American, Native American, lineage society applications, immigration and naturalization, and military records.