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Zooey Deschanel

Soon after Zooey Deschanel’s fifth-great-grandfather Thomas Henderson married Elinor Brinton, Elinor was disowned by the Quaker society she belonged to because Thomas was not a Quaker. To complicate matters, the Quaker families in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, were actively involved in the abolitionist movement, and at the time of his marriage, Thomas was a slave owner. The 1800 Pennsylvania Septennial Census, which was a register of slaves for taxation purposes, lists a 23-year-old enslaved male in Thomas Henderson’s household.

Whether it was Elinor’s influence or a state law that called for a gradual abolition of slavery, tax lists in the following years show that Thomas no longer had any slaves. This may have contributed to his wife being readmitted to the Society of Friends in 1802.

Elinor’s beliefs certainly appear to have influenced her daughter, Sarah Henderson Pownall, who, along with her husband, Levi Pownall, was also a member of the Society of Friends. She actively and publicly supported the abolitionist movement and also famously opposed the Fugitive Slave Act many years later. 

Try searching wills, land records and tax lists at Ancestry.com to get an idea of your ancestors and the times they lived in.  

Research Manager on Project:

Kevan Hansen

Project Hours:

507 Hours

Kevan's first exposure to genealogy was from his grandfather. As a teenager, Kevan made many trips with his grandfather to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. He learned that it wasn't just collecting names, but learning the stories and history surrounding his ancestors, that brought them to life.


Kevan is a former president of the Salt Lake Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists. He specializes in German research, has lived in Germany, and is the author of 54 volumes of the Map Guide to German Parish Registers. Other areas of research expertise include France, Luxemburg, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, the United States (New England and Mid-Atlantic), U.S. colonial, and immigration records.

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