Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.


william hyland
Thomas Jefferson: Family Secrets
This fascinating biography of Thomas Jefferson written by acclaimed Jefferson expert William G. Hyland Jr. presents an entirely new and provocative look at the final years of Jefferson’s life, as seen through the eyes of his most trusted family confidants. Based on fresh research and unknown documents culled from unpublished memoirs and other special collections, Family Secrets is a riveting family account of Jefferson, a conflicted patriarch to an emotionally distressed family. It is also the first biography of Jefferson’s adult grandchildren—Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Coolidge. Most historians have overlooked Jeff and Ellen, and yet they profoundly influenced four seminal events in Jefferson’s long life. This is the first biography that uncovers this dynamic relationship, piercing his private family veil through a first-hand account of the people closest to him in his last years. These little known, poignant glimpses of Jefferson’s inner character provide a powerful psychological profile.
Hyland paints a sympathetic portrait of both the third president’s last years as the patriarch of Monticello and the extended family that carried on his legacy, as well as a spirited defense against accusations of Jefferson’s sexual exploitation of Sally Hemings–Hyland argues that 2021 DNA testing suggests that Jefferson’s brother Randolph or “two wayward nephews, Peter and Samuel Carr as the true candidates for a sexual relationship with [Hemings].” Jefferson’s last years were marked by struggles in his family, as relations faced abusive spouses, financial disaster, and even murder charges against those nephews. There were also triumphs, such as the establishment of the University of Virginia. Hyland particularly focuses on the lives of two of Jefferson’s trusted grandchildren, Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Randolph Coolidge, who sought to rescue their grandfather’s patrimony and secure his legacy.

While telling a mostly chronological biography of Jefferson’s last years, Hyland at times approaches the topic thematically, which might on occasion prove disorienting for readers not already familiar with the basic chronology, though welcome portraits and images help establish personalities and places. Defending Jefferson against the Hemings accusations, Hyland discredits the origin of the story as “invented by the fractured psyche of an alcoholic hack journalist” and appeals to trust in this Founder’s decency, insisting that the “allegation of sexual misconduct is contrary to Jefferson’s refined and reticent nature toward women.”

Hyland ties historians’ acceptance of the Hemings accusations to a broader concern with “critical race theory.” (He acknowledges that his source on the subject of CRT comes from conservative activist Christopher Rufo.) Hyland’s narrative is most compelling when he tells of the love between Jefferson and his grandchildren, from charming correspondence between a president and his granddaughter about sleeping in, to advice for his young grandson about books. The reader can feel the family's care for each other, and Hyland stirs sympathy for their travails, during Jefferson’s life and in the later battles to keep Monticello and protect a legacy.

Takeaway: A study of Thomas Jefferson’s later years, family, and legacy as well as a dismissal of the Sally Hemings accusations.

Great for fans of: Jonathan Sistine’s Thomas Jefferson: The Failures and Greatness Of An Ordinary Man, Fawn M. Brodie’s Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A


Recommend  for the coveted BookViral Crimson Quill. To make your recommendation simply click on the award badge below..…. 

The BookViral Review:

There have been many books written about Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, style of politics and not least his controversial relationship with Sally Hemings. But for all that has been written, it is refreshing to read about the lesser-known and often obscure aspects of his family life, as opposed to the abstract national figure we are more familiar with. The influence he came to exert over following familial generations and the regard with which they held him.

Measured in his prose Hyland JR gives us a dense, intricate volume, and a companion biography to his earlier releases Long journey with Mr. Jefferson and Martha Jefferson: An Intimate Life with Thomas Jefferson. But unlike many historical biographies which are sketchy in the way they deal with the world beyond their principal Hyland JR adds a compelling element of social texture to ensure his characters are vividly and emotionally depicted. 

Intriguing, fascinating or brutal depending on the page Hyland JR writes in novelistic and unsparing detail to make us feel fully present in his narrative. From descriptions of Monticello to the murder and mutilation of a slave by Thomas Jefferson’s nephews. To his revealing and enthralling thoughts on Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Ellen Coolidge, few historians write with such eloquence.

But whilst a great deal of the pleasure of reading this book comes from the vivid character portraits Hyland JR draws it’s his ability to align generations of historical significance with a touching concern for familial factuality as he turns the spotlight on lesser-known family members such as Thomas Jefferson’s intellectually challenged younger brother, Randolph.

In Hyland JR’s prologue, he states – ‘My biography is an entirely new and provocative look at the intimate period of Jefferson’s turbulent later life, through the eyes of his oldest and most trusted relations’ – and he has certainly made good on that promise. 

An exceptional biographical read underpinned by extensive research THOMAS JEFFERSON FAMILY SECRETS is unreservedly recommended


Thomas Jefferson: Family Secrets by William G. Hyland Jr.



An immersive, original account that is both illuminating and thematically rich…

In this meticulously researched and precisely detailed account of the political legend Thomas Jefferson, Hyland Jr. sketches a deeply intimate account of the extraordinary man known to his immediate family, describing the latter’s post presidential years. The book details Jefferson’s turbulent twilight years, beginning from his return to Monticello in 1809 after two terms as president until his excruciating death in 1826, covering the scandals, financial strains, health malaises, family strife, and life-altering tragedies he suffered. Everything that made Thomas Jefferson an irresistible force—the intelligence, the wit, the charisma, the sharp insights, the wry humor, the energy, the passion—we have here, plus the vulnerability, the sensitivity, the emotions that he kept hidden behind a veneer of granite self-control. The book explores Jefferson’s many shifting roles in life, including politician, diplomat, and cosmopolitan among others, but his dynamic relationship with his adult grandchildren, Thomas Jefferson Randolph (Jeff) and Ellen Randolph Coolidge, stays at the center of the narrative, unraveling the tender attachments he shared with his immediate family. This well-rendered, intimate account should easily make it to public library shelves.  


A rarely told chapter in the life of an American legend, Thomas Jefferson: Family Secrets by William G. Hyland Jr. is a revelatory look into post-presidential life – a detailed and enthralling peek at the man and his experiences, but also the ongoing state of the young nation.

Most Americans have some image, opinion, or high-school recollection of Thomas Jefferson, but this biographical tome offers a different glimpse into his life, focusing on a less-discussed era of the 3rd US president. Charming scenes of high-ranking visitors arriving at Monticello to find barefoot children underfoot give the aging president a humanness that could never be shown in a dry textbook, and has not been given such service in other biographies.

Most of the revelations and fresh perspectives on Jefferson’s later years are dutifully referenced, evidence of the author’s deep commitment to this elusive narrative portrait. The plethora of uncovered facts and the glue-like fictions of Hyland’s storytelling blend seamlessly in the prose, with subtle descriptions and subjective scene-building bumping up against an impressive array of quotes, telegrams, letters, and other first-person pieces of record.

An absorbing work of history, this biography presents an ex-president in a decidedly vulnerable space, descended from political legend to a more tucked-away life amongst family, resulting in an intimate and intriguing character portrait that is a must-read for readers of American history to get a fuller portrait of the man, and of the country.

Thomas Jefferson: Family Secrets by William G. Hyland Jr. (