January 20th, 2010

The Myths and Mysteries of Tiger WOODS’ Ancestry: Part I

Tiger WOODS claims to be Cablinasian: Ca for Caucasian, Bl for Black, In for (American) Indian and the rest for Asian. His father is said to be one-quarter Native American, one-quarter Chinese and half black. Claims are that Tiger’s mother is half Thai, a quarter Chinese and a quarter Dutch. This [if true] makes WOODS himself half Asian (one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Thai), one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American and one-eighth Dutch. (“Earning his stripes.” AsianWeek. 1996-10-11. Retrieved 2010-01-15.)

These claims might be intriguing and even give him an air of mystery, but are they true? One would hate to doubt what a person claims as ethnic make-up, but I have not found any proof to substantiate some of these claims and, in fact, evidence seems to refute some.

We all know by now through the media that Tiger WOODS was born Eldrick Tont WOODS (in case you hadn’t heard, yes, Tiger is only a nickname) on December 30, 1975, although the location varies from Cypress to Long Beach, California. The California Birth Index, 1905-1995 gives the birth county only and that is Los Angeles County.

His father is well-known to be Earl Dennison WOODS and his mother Kultida (Tida) PUNSAWAD. Earl WOODS quite openly names his parents as Miles WOODS and Maude CARTER. Mrs. WOODS nee PUNSAWAD is not so open about her parents’ names. According to some, her parents “disowned her” when she married an African American Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Special Forces, which Earl WOODS was when he met her, during the Vietnam War.

WOODS was stationed in Bangkok when he met Miss PUNSAWAD. The information on her parentage comes mainly from Tiger Woods: A biography by Lawrence J. Londino (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2005) who writes that Mr. PUNSAWAD was the owner of a tin mine in Thailand and the family owned a fleet of buses in Bangkok.

Tiger’s mother is stated to be of Thai, Chinese and Dutch ancestry. Certainly the surname is a common one in Thailand, according to my Thai source. The Dutch ancestry is supposedly from one of her grandfathers. I would guess it would be her mother’s father, since the name PUNSAWAD is not Dutch. There is no proof of her ancestral ethnicities, but it is easy to believe them given the part of the world from which she came.

It is the claims of his father as one-quarter Native American and one-quarter Chinese that I question.

Certainly the African American is easy enough to establish. The Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925 (census dates March 1, 1905 and 1915), the United States Federal Censuses of 1910, 1920 and 1930, as well as the Riley County Kansas 1925 Decennial Agricultural State Census, all list the ethnic origin of Earl WOODS’ father as “black.” In addition to listing his racial origins as black, the World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, give Miles WOODS’ skin color as “dark brown.”

Another interesting gap between hearsay and documented fact is that Earl’s father, Miles, was said to be a bricklayer (Londino). The above census and military records give his occupation as the following: Laborer at Hammond Lumber Co., delivery man for lumber co., labourer (on more than one census record) and Hauler – General Trash (1930). If one would embellish the occupation of his father, would he also embellish his ethnicity?

Further anomalies in Earl’s supposed ancestry is that about 15 websites state he was “the youngest and the only male of four siblings.” According to the Londino book listed above, he was the “youngest in a family of six children. An older brother was Miles…”

Through the census records it appears that Miles had a family with a wife named Viola in 1905 (Kansas State Census Collection, 1905 March 1), but he is widowed by 1910. On the State census document, he is listed with two sons and two daughters. On his World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, he lists his next-of-kin as his daughter Ella Elizabeth Davis.

On the 1920 federal census, Miles WOODS has a new wife, Maude, and only one child, son Burnard age 16, remains at home. On the Kansas State Census Collection, 1925, they have Miles E WOODS age 4, Hattie Bell WOODS age 3 and Freda Ethen WOODS 16 months. On the 1930 Federal Census, a daughter Lillian E WOODS, then age 4, has been added. For Earl born in 1932 to be the youngest of six, another child must have been born later in 1930 or in 1931. Certainly Earl is not the only male child and there are more than four siblings, even without a child being born between Lillian and Earl.

Back to the ethnic question: To be one-quarter native North American “Indian,” Earl would have to descend from an ancestor who is half “Indian” or from two parents who are each one-quarter “Indian.” Ditto for the half Chinese. Yet no such designation is found on any census records for Miles WOODS and Maude CARTER. On all the above census records they and their children are listed as black.

According to A. Reddicks of REDDICKS Family Tree, available as a public member’s tree on Ancestry.com, Miles WOODS, who was born July 27, 1873 in Louisiana (confirmed from his World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918) and died in Manhattan, Riley, Kansas on August 28, 1943, was the son of John WOODS and Henrietta PETERS. This means Miles should have appeared as a child of theirs on the 1880 and perhaps even the 1890 census, if he was still at home at age 17.

Instead the only matching record of a John and Hetty WOODS on the 1880 Federal Census shows two daughters, Frances 9 and Bellefelia 8, followed by sons, Stephen W. age 5 and Gilbert age 4. Two more daughters, Maria age 1 and Anna age 3 months, complete the family picture. If Miles was in fact their child, he should be included and shown as age 7.

I do find a Miles WOODS on the 1880 US Census age 8 with parents Jonas and Philis WOODS and several younger siblings, one of which is Bell (a name used in combination with Hattie as a name for one of Earl’s sisters). Although this looks like a good match, the problem is the father’s birthplace is listed as Georgia, the mother’s as Mississippi and Miles as Mississippi also. The Miles WOODS married to Maude CARTER lists both his parents and his birthplace as Louisianna, which matches John and Henrietta.

It wouldn’t matter to which of the two families above Miles belonged. All of them are listed as black. So this one is a complete mystery, but there is no indication of any “Indian” or Chinese ancestry on that side of the family. If you know or find anything to shed light on this mystery, please email me.

Perhaps we’ll have better luck finding a non-black ancestry in Earl’s mother’s family, if we believe the following statement, “Miles’s children by his second wife, Maude CARTER, were all of different colours. Miles himself was black, clearly of African ancestry. Maude, however, was lighter-skinned, and Grandmother CARTER ‘the prettiest blonde you ever saw.’ The shape and setting of Earl’s eyes seemed to bear out the family joke that they had had a Chinese ancestor who “didn’t stay on his railroad job” (Source: telegraph.co.uk, 05 May 2006).

The last sentence is probably more joke than truth since Nelson Mandela has eyes that are even more slanted than Earl’s. That statement aside, let’s see if there is any non-black ancestry to lead credence to Earl’s blonde Grandmother. Also, is there a half-Indian, half-Chinese in the CARTER line to make Earl one quarter of each?

Part II to follow.

Xenia Stanford of Write On! XPRESS and A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises