Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Elvis Presley's Jewish Connection Through Mothers

Nadene Goldfoot
On Thursday, the 16th of August will be the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.  I just found out that he had a Jewish maternal connection through direct descent from his great great grandmother who was Jewish, Martha Tacket who was born in 1852 and died in 1887 in Mississippi.  Martha was married to A. White Mansell, b: 1849 d: 1925.

Actually, the Jewish connection started with Nancy J. Burdine  b: 1825 in Tennessee who had married Abner Tacket. She was one of his many wives.  She would be Martha's mother, so would be Elvis's gggrandmother.   Abner was born February 6, 1803 in Knox, Kentucky and died in 1889 in Fayette, Alabama at age 86.  His parents were Lancaster Tacket and Elender Hampton, but I can't find the parents of Nancy to see where her parents came from.  I feel it must have been Germany.  It is said that Elvis was German, Scottish, French and Jewish.  This Jewish connection would have been enough for the Nazis in Germany to classify him as a Jew had he been there because by 1939 things were very bad for Jews, and they were in concentration camps in the 1940's.

The family tree goes from Nancy J. Burdine b: 1825 Tennessee through the women:
Martha Tacket b: 1852-d: 1887  (married A. White Mansell)  Jerome Tacket, and Sidney Tacket were her brothers.
Octavia (Doll) Mansell 1876-1935 Mississippi married Robert Lee Smith d: 1932
Gladys Love Smith  B: 1912 Mississippi-d: 1958 Tennessee, married Vernon Elvis Presley 1916-1979
                 Elvis Aron Presley b: January 8, 1935 d: August 16, 1977

According to Jewish law, one is Jewish if their mother was Jewish or if they converted. reform law recognizes a person to be Jewish if their father was Jewish.  It's even possible that the family had a Reform connection if they came from Germany.   Elvis certainly has a Jewish connection but was not practicing Judaism. He was a Christian.  The family said not to mention their Jewish connection as Jews were not liked.  However, he was proud of this.  He even wanted to change his middle name's spelling to Aaron, which is more Jewish, but his family had spelled it Aron because he had had a twin brother named Garon and it matched.

After his mother, Gladys Love Smith died in 1958, Elvis designed his mother's grave site with a Star of David on the tombstone to honor his Jewish heritage.  His mother was proud of it and told Elvis about it when he was young.

Later on, he discovered the teachings of Judaism as well as Zen Buddhism and occult teachings from his hairdresser, Larry Geller.  He learned the Hebrew alphabet.  During most of 1977 Elvis wore a "Chai" necklace, made of the letters of Chet which also is the number 8 and Yud which is also number 10, adding up to 18, a special number which also means "long life."  Shelly Winters wore a chai in the movie about a ship sinking.  Shelly was Jewish.  It is sad that the year 1977 was the year when Elvis died.  When Charlie Hodge asked Elvis why the chai was so important to him, he replied, "I don't want to miss out on goin' to heaven on a technicality."

It should be noted that Elvis even had a Cherokee connection  in that William Mansell b: 1795, grandfather of A White Mansell, was married to Morning Dove White who died in 1835.  William is buried in Hamilton, Marion County, Alabama.  I imagine that Morning Dove is also.

Whoever knew that Elvis Presley had a Jewish connection?  I'm glad he was interested in his heritage enough to do a little investigating , though his hairdresser wasn't the best resource, and to wear a chai.  He was proud of his family line and very attached to his mother.  He was one of a kind.

Update:  By Jewish law, he is considered Jewish.  I just checked with an orthodox Rabbi.

Resource:  book:  Elvis and Gladys by Elaine Dundy.  Glady Love was the 5th  daughter of Doll (Octavia Mansell) and Robert, and Elvis's mother. genealogy and history stories


  1. I love Elvis. I saw a picture of his grandson online wearing the Star of David.

  2. Great! Elvis was a great entertainer, loved by all the ladies. He started singing on TV in about 1954 or 55, somewhere in there and changed a lot of lives.