Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Family Life

Jackson craved the comfort and security of a family circle as a refuge from his turbulent military and political career. His close blood relations all died before he turned fifteen, but his marriage to Rachel gave him a surrogate family in the huge Donelson clan. Jackson looked out for his many nephews, stood surety for them, gave them advice, and furthered their careers. One of these young men, Andrew Jackson Donelson, went to West Point and became Jackson's military aide and later presidential private secretary, while his wife and first cousin, Emily Tennessee Donelson, served as Jackson's White House hostess.

Jackson's home life with Rachel at The Hermitage had been happy and utterly conventional. Her death just after the 1828 election staggered Jackson. He entered the White House as a bereaved widower and continued to grieve for Rachel throughout the remainder of his life. The one great disappointment in their marriage had been that it was childless. In 1809, they had adopted at birth a son of Rachel's brother Severn Donelson, whom they named Andrew Jackson Jr. and raised as their son. Jackson also brought home an Indian child who was orphaned in 1813. They named him Lyncoya and raised him with Andrew Jackson Jr. He died in 1828. Andrew Jackson Jr., his wife Sarah Yorke Jackson, and their children kept Jackson company at The Hermitage in his declining years.