Malcolm Gladwell Family History


Malcolm Timothy Gladwell was born on September 3rd, 1963 to Graham and Joyce Gladwell in Fareham, Hampshire.  Malcolm was born to a white father from England and a mixed race mother from Jamaica.

In 1969. when Malcolm was six, Graham took an academic job in Canada and the family moved to a rural Mennonite community near Elmira in SW Ontario.  Malcolm found there a warm and protective environment.  At school, he excelled in athletics, being one of Canada’s fastest teenagers at 1,500 meters (he could still run 4:54 for the mile at the age of fifty-one).  But academically he was not outstanding and his grades at college were not good enough to go to graduate school.

Instead he went into journalism, moved to America, and was a reporter at the Washington Post where he worked for ten years and learned his craft.  The next stop in 1996 was the New Yorker where he said he wanted to “mine current academic research for insights, theories, direction, or inspiration.”  One piece written at the New Yorker became the basis of his book The Tipping Point which became a huge success on its publication in 2000.  Other best-sellers followed.

Malcolm’s English Forebears

Gladwell is an English surname, but not a common one.  There are an estimated 1,100 Gladwells in England and a further 850 elsewhere.  The name derives from a now lost medieval hamlet, probably in East Anglia, whose translation was “the clear (glaed) stream (waella).”  Two counties – Suffolk and Essex – accounted for almost half of all the Gladwells in the 1891 UK census.  Malcolm’s own paternal ancestry suggests that he can be traced back to a Joseph Gladwell who was born in Suffolk around 1660.

Malcolm’s Gladwells seem to have remained at various places in Suffolk until the mid 19th century.  They then drifted southward to Essex, London and to Kent where Malcolm’s grandparents, Basil and Doris, spent most of their lives and where Malcolm’s father Graham was born in 1934.

When Graham died in Canada in 2017, it was said that he was an expert in three things – the Bible (which he read every morning), mathematics, and gardening.  He loved to take long walks and saw in nature a reflection of God’s glory.

His Jamaican Line

Malcolm’s maternal line goes back to a Ford family in Jamaica as follows:

  • from Joyce Gladwell nee Nation (b. 1931)
  • to Daisy Nation nee Ford (b. 1899)

According to family lore, Daisy Ford’s great grandfather William Ford was Irish and her great grandmother a black slave and Ford’s mistress.

“Daisy was from the northwestern end of Jamaica. Her great grandfather was William Ford. He was from Ireland and he arrived in Jamaica in 1784 having bought a coffee plantation. Not long after his arrival, he bought a slave woman and took her as his concubine. He noticed her on the docks at Alligator Pond, a fishing village on the south coast. She was an Igbo tribeswoman from West Africa. They had a son whom they named John. He was, in the language of the day, a “mulatto.” He was colored – and all of the Fords from that point on fell into Jamaica’s colored class.”

Their son John was a free black, which put him higher on the social ladder in colonial Jamaica.  A lay preacher and a businessman, he had many more opportunities than darker Jamaicans and is reported to have owned land all over SW Jamaica,  He and his class were more likely to have been slave-owners than slaves.  Lighter skin counted for much in those color-conscious times.

Daisy was born in 1899 and she married Donald Nation in the 1920’s.  In her early married life Daisy and her husband were schoolteachers in a tiny village named Harewood in central Jamaica.  Donald, despite his modest surroundings, was an imposing man, quiet and dignified and a great lover of literature.  Every day he would read the newspaper closely, following the course of the events around the world.  Later he would be elected to the Jamaican House of Representatives.  Daisy meanwhile would be the family driving force, pushing her twin daughters – Faith and Joyce – to get a good education.

Thanks to Daisy, they got scholarships to a local boarding school and later, with money borrowed from a local shopkeeper, were able to attend University College in London.  Not long afterward, Joyce went to a twenty-first-birthday party for a young English mathematician named Graham Gladwell.  Joyce and Graham fell in love and they got married.  She stayed in England and later moved with him to Canada.

Malcolm Gladwell’s Family Tree

  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Paternal Line in England
  • Morris Gladwell (1840-1914) from Suffolk m. Hephzibar Cracknell (1837-1931) from Essex
  • – Basil Gladwell (1873-1944)
  • Basil Arthur Gladwell from London m. Mary Wells (1875-1929)
  • – Basil Gladwell (1901-1993)
  • Basil Morris Gladwell from London m. Doris New in Kent
  • – Graham Gladwell (1934-2017)
  • Graham Gladwell from Kent m. Joyce Nation (b. 1931)
  • – Graham Gladwell
  • – Geoffrey Gladwell
  • – Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963)
  • Malcolm Gladwell’s Maternal Line in Jamaica
  • John Ford (b. 1819) m. Mary Lawrence (b. 1819) in Jamaica
  • – Oscar Ford (1848-1913)
  • – Jane Ford (b. 1850)
  • – Henry Ford (b. 1853)
  • – John Ford (b. 1858)
  • – Jacob Ford (b. 1861)
  • Oscar Ford m. Ann Forrester (1859-1931) in Jamaica
  • – Septimus Ford (1889-1972)
  • – Reginia Ford (b. 1890)
  • – Daisy Ford (b. 1899)
  • – Rufus Ford (b. 1900)
  • Donald Nation (b. 1902) m. Daisy Ford in Jamaica
  • – Joyce Nation (b. 1931)
  • – Faith Nation (b. 1931) m. Ivan Linton
  • Joyce Nation m. Graham Gladwell (1934-2017)
  • – Graham Gladwell
  • – Geoffrey Gladwell
  • – Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963)



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Written by Colin Shelley

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