George Washington's Childhood

George Washington did not have any biological children of his own, although he adopted the two children of Martha Custis at the time of his marriage to her. Martha Custis had previously been married to Daniel Parke Custis before his untimely death. Together, Martha and Daniel had four children. However, only two of these children survived to adulthood: John (Jacky) Parke Custis and Martha (Patsy) Parke Custis.

According to eyewitness accounts, George Washington was a loving father to both Jack and Patsy. His step-daughter Patsy, however, died an unfortunate death as a teenager due to an epileptic seizure. At this time, Jack (who had been away at college) returned home as the family grieved the loss of their daughter and sister. Jack eventually married and had four children. He served in the American War for Independence alongside his step-father George Washington at the battle of Yorktown. However, Jack also died during the war due to disease (most likely typhus) in one of the Continental Army's camps. Following the death of Martha's last child, George and Martha Washington took in two of Jack's children: Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. They raised their two grandchildren together. The fact that one of John Parke Custis's children was named after George Washington himself perhaps suggests that Washington had a cordial, if not close, relationship with his adopted children.

In addition to raising two of their grandchildren, George and Martha Washington also helped to provide financially for nephews and nieces of their two extended families. The question of why George Washington never had any children of his own with Martha Washington has been raised. In his writings, George spoke of his desire to have a child of his own with Martha and appeared incredulous at why this had not yet happened. Therefore, lack of want or effort on the part of George Washington was not the reason for his childlessness. Additionally, Martha could not have been the problem either, for she had been fertile during her first marriage, and there is no reason to believe that she was not fertile during her second marriage to George. Therefore, the most likely cause of Washington's inability to have any children was that he was sterile. Ironically, George Washington indicates in his writings that he supposed that Martha was infertile. The cause of Washington's proposed sterility is still unknown, although some have linked it to a bout of smallpox that Washington recovered from during his stay in Barbados with his step-brother Lawrence Washington. Other possible theories include other diseases or sexual dysfunctions. Regardless of the the reason for Washington's sterility, the fact that he had no children may have had some historical impact. Some historians have suggested that Washington was more willing to end his run as President after his second term because he lacked an heir. If Washington had had a first-born son, maybe he would have been more likely to have viewed the office of Presidency as more of a monarchical position that would have been passed down to his son. Nonetheless, George Washington, although never a biological father, is still considered to be the Father of America.