Polydactyly in the Kendall Family

Back in 2008, I received an email from my cousin Ken Goss introducing himself to me and since then we have collaborated a lot on the Goss family, especially his line.  I will be sharing some of that information on this blog in future posts.

Back then, Ken asked me if “I had extras?”  I said “no I don’t.”  I descend from Solomon Goss a brother of Nathaniel and Ebenezer. My lineage to the Goss family is quite convoluted so the chances that I would have inherited this trait, are in my opinion slim. Ken’s lineage is closer to the Goss family. He also has the surname “Goss.”

Ken became involved with the National Institute of Health (NIH) regarding a study about “Polydactyly” in the Goss and Kendall Family.  Just recently in early June 2017 he contacted me an gave me permission to share his paper about this subject and other research he has done.  Unfortunately, NIH’s research is for medical reasons and not for genealogy and is covered by privacy rules.

A graph on how you inherit this trait of Polydactyly, from *** see blow

When I reconnected with Ken this past April/May of 2017, he told me that about a year ago (2016) they came and tested him again but he has not heard anything about that study. If we hear anything I am sure he will be willing to share.

Here is Ken’s paper about his experience.

“Polydactyly in the Goss and Kendall Family, by Ken Goss, August 20, 2010

A Genetic Anomaly found in the Kendall and Goss Families leads to further testing at the National Institute of Health.

A persistent autosomal dominant gene in the Goss Families, the Kendall Families and the Gibbons Families, particularly the descendants of Philip Goss and Mary Sarah Kendall, led this researcher to participate in a study with the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD.

I and many of my cousins were born with extra fingers and or toes, a genetic quirk that has persisted in our family for generations. This trait intrigued me for years, and was the basis for much of my family research.

Several years ago, while stopping at the LDS library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I found a manuscript which contained considerable research on a branch of the Goss Families. This research was in the form of a manuscript compiled by a Rev. Paul H. Goss from California, during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Paul H. Goss was a descendant of Ebenezer Goss, who was a revolutionary soldier. Mentioned in this manuscript was the fact that Ebenezer and his children and grandchildren were born with the extra fingers and or toes. (1)

The revelation certainly interested me, having the same last name and the fact that I too, as well as several relatives were born with these “extras.”

I was only able to obtain a few pages of this manuscript, but later one of my sons found this same manuscript in a library in Chicago, and was able to copy more of the pages.

This manuscript provided the leads that led us to determine that we shared a common ancestor with Ebenezer Goss. We have since learned that Ebenezer’s father Philip Goss is our common ancestor. This Philip Goss married a Mary Kendall.

Many of the Kendall Family Members of North American were known to have the extras, and there are considerable references to the Kendall’s with the “Extras” dating back to the Early 1600s and possibly into the 15oos in England.

I contacted the National Institute of Health (NIH) about their studies of polydactyly and syndactlyly. There were extremely interested and made arrangements for me to visit their facility. The NIH conducted various tests, including X-rays, DNA, photography, brain scans and other tests.

Two medical doctors and a genetic counselor visited me at my home and we made arrangements for other relatives who were born with the extras to meet them, these relatives agreed to participate in the study. It is my understanding that some descendants of the Kendall families who had the extras will also participate in the studies.

It is our understanding that these tests and test results are for medical purposes and research, and not for the purpose of proving genealogy descendants, but we may find that this Kendall and Goss polydactyl trait is not co-incidental.

Information recently received from descendants of William Davidson Gibbons, who was the son of Mary Goss and Lemuel Gibbons indicate that this polydactyly has continued in the Gibbons Families. Two of the Gibbons descendants have agreed to participate.  This participation only requires a small submission of blood for DNA studies. The NIH, of course must adhere to all HIPPA regulations and other such privacy regulations. 

Mary Goss is my direct ancestor, through her daughter Mary Polly Davidson, who in all probability married her first cousin, John Goss another direct ancestor, and son of Nathaniel Goss and Hannah Scott. Nathaniel being the brother of Ebenezer Goss. 

A physical peculiarity has characterized the Kendall family for many centuries,—that is, an occasional ex-cess in the number of the extremities, hands and feet, an extra finger or an extra toe. An old English medical book says that from “as long as the 14th century this mark has been traced, sometimes almost disappearing, and then coming forth again in full vigor.”

Abigail KENDALL was born on April 6, 1666 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She died on October 12, 1734. ABIGAIL HAD AN UNUSUAL NUMBER OF FINGERS AND TOES: Parents: Francis Kendall and Mary Tidd. 

Spouse: Capt. William REED, Capt. William REED and Abigail KENDALL were married on May 24, 1686 in Woburn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Children were: Abigail READE, William READE (Twin), Mary READE (twin), Benjamin READE, Samuel READE, Joshua READE, Ruth Reed, Hepzitah READE, Elizabeth REED.”(2)

Originally published at: The Kendall Family in New England website http://www.newenglandkendalls.com/index.html. Please be careful with this website.  The information page about Mary Kendall Goss is incorrect.


Some articles of interest on Polydactyly

These links are describing in a medical manner the condition of Polydactyly and a little bit about how it is inherited.

The Free Dictionary – Medical Dictionary


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services – National Institute of Health


This article was also rather interesting from the NIH – Mouse study reveals potential clues to extra fingers and toes.


***BBC – Bitesize had a nice graph about how this trait is passed on. I suggest you go and look and make a printed copy now, this might go away soon. If you print you will get a whole series of articles so scroll to the Polydactyly part.


The Tech Museum of Innovation, Conditions, October 31, 2012 by Alisa Lehman, Stanford University.


If you want to really get into this subject just Google it and have fun.


Kendall DNA Study

Here is the link to the project at Family Tree DNA. There is also a Facebook group link. If you have not taken a DNA test then you need to check this all out.


This is led by Scott Kendall and you will find him advertising it on the web at various locations.  I would contact Scott and then learn how you can get your DNA tested and what tests he wants you to take. Here is a little information:

….you MUST be male; either carry the Kendall surname or a variation of it or be a Y-DNA match to a project member. Ladies are extremely important to our study. They can represent their lineages “indirectly” by locating a male relative to test on their behalf…Scott can probably help you with this.

At Family Tree DNA click on Projects at the top of the page, then select surnames K and scroll to the link. Currently they have about 200 members that have tested, so please consider contributing.  The more the better.  If you have test elsewhere you might be able to download that information and then upload to Family Tree DNA. Just go to their website and read up on what tests they will accept. The cost is not too bad.  This will not negate the test you took elsewhere, just move the data.  I transferred from 23 & Me to Family Tree years ago.  So it is possible.

You might try the Kendall One-Name Study Group on Facebook. I have not tried joining at this time.



A few sources for the above, find the (with a number#)

(1) Go to the PAGE at the top of this blog titled – Paul H. Goss and the Goss Family History….You want the manuscript about Ebenezer Goss stone of help….click the link. The information about extras is on pages 2-4.

(2) Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memories of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Ellery Bicknell Crane, Lewis Publishing Co., 1907,  p. 4:44. There are 4 Volumes to this compilation.  Family Search has these volumes online at their website and they are really easy to search.  For Abigail Kendall see pages 306-307, makes a short comment about extras. This book is online at Internet Archive.

Abigail Kendall Reed at Find A Grave, with links and picture of the tombstone.



If you are a Kendall descendant with “extras” please leave a comment about your story. If you prefer you can contact me a bjmcdonell@gmail.com.