When the Wing family gathered in McLean for a reunion last weekend, no one could boast of a president Wing, although some Wing genealogists claim a Wing connection on Richard Nixon's Milhous side and distant connections to Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Ask the Wings to name some famous kin and about all they can come up with is Cousin Toby Wing, a platinum blond starlet of the 1930s, whose name hasn't exactly remained a household word.
Nor can the Wing family in good conscience take credit for wing chairs or wingdings, although that's what some Wing spouses call the annual reunions.
But the Wing family, 3 million strong by latest estimates, doesn't seem to care.
"The Wing family is a classic example of an early American family," says Roswell B. Wing, president of the local family chapter, one of 10 regional chapters in the country. "We are not particularly distinguished or great, but there was something about us that made the Wings spread around the country.
"We were judges, yeomen and horse thieves. We fought on both sides of the Civil War. We are of all political beliefs -- left wings and right wings -- and all religions -- Quakers, Mormons and Methodists.
"I think we are really a national family."
The saga begins with Deborah Bachiler Wing, widow of the Rev. John Wing of Banbury, England, and her four sons John, Daniel, Stephen and Matthew. The five Wings (along with Deborah's father, the Rev. Stephen Bachiler) arrived on American shores in the spring of 1632, and were soon involved in organizing the country's first Quaker meeting house in Sandwich, Mass.
For the next 350 years, descendants of the original Wings followed the tides of migration across the United States. One Northern Virginia Wing, if only by marriage, was Lucy Madeira Wing, founder of the Madeira School in McLean.
If all the local Wings had shown up for the third annual local reunion last Saturday, they might have needed to move to the Capital Centre, since the local Wings estimate there are at least 1,000 of their own kind in this area. As it was, the 40 Wings who made it to last weekend's fete were able to party comfortably at the home of Lucius and Mary Kingman. (Mary is the Wing, a descendant of Daniel, she believes.)
It was a day to renew the bonds of Wing heritage, swap Wing recipes, buy Wing crests and family cookbooks, and tell some classic Wing family stories.
"We Wings like to talk a lot," said Herbert G. Wing, who is descended from Stephen Wing. "And although there are too many of us to categorize, Wings by and large take after their Yankee forebears in Cape Cod. They are shrewd, frugal, but not stingy, and good solid citizens. . . . These reunions are wonderful because it's all family."
The Wing Family of America, as the national group is called, was formed in 1902 as a nonprofit association dedicated to collecting and publishing the Wing family saga and genealogy and to keeping family ties strong.
Mecca for the Wings is the Wing Fort House in Sandwich, Mass., a museum that also serves as the gathering place for the national annual reunion. The group also publishes an annual publication, the OWL (it stands for Our Wing Lineage), which includes new information uncovered about family ancestors and keeps Wings up-to-date on the doings of their modern-day relatives.
With all these goings on, it is no wonder that nearly every Wing takes pride in his or her particular link to the family. And at last week's reunion, there were Wings from all over.
Steve Wing, 36, a Washingtonian and descendant of Stephen Wing who was attending his first reunion last weekend, grew up in a 150-year-old Wing homestead in upstate New York. Bernice L. Wing, 91, whose late husband was a descendant of Stephen, came from Annandale.
Bernice Wing sat patiently, wrapped in a shawl to ward off the chill of a 55-degree day, as the 40 Wings gathered for the traditional family portrait in the Kingmans' backyard.
"I think it's important to keep up family contacts," said still another Wing, 24-year-old Beatrice of Woodbridge, who counts Stephen as her original connection to the American Wings. "Everyone is moving around so much these days, you lose contact with aunts and uncles. I really enjoy my Wing name and plan to keep it even when I get married. I don't see why I should adopt somebody else's family name and their background."
Like any family, the Wings have their differences of opinion.
A current controversial topic concerns the Wing family charter, which opens membership in the organization to any descendants of either Deborah and John Wing or their ancestors. But some family members say membership should stop at American shores, since the society is the Wing Family of America. Although opinions flew at last weekend's reunion, no consensus was reached.
But for the most part, arguments over such technicalities were kept to a minimum.
Within the first few minutes, everyone was Cousin Virgil or Cousin Mary -- even for Wings who may not be Wings, like Albert G. Wing of McLean.
"I'm the cousin who may not be a cousin," said Albert, who was attending his third reunion.
Albert, whose family comes from New Orleans, said he has been working with church records trying to trace the southern Wings to the main branch in New England.
"So far, I've gotten the family back to Philadelphia," said Albert, who jokingly refers to himself as the would-be cousin. "I keep coming because I love the reunions and I hope that someone can tie my family back to the Wings of Sandwich."
But the other Wings were so confident that Albert was one of their own that they elected him vice president of the local family chapter.
The Wings have been waging a membership drive to locate more their kin, although Roswell Wing, a descendant of Stephen, concedes it's still not easy to get younger people interested in their ancestors.
"But there's a point in your life," Roswell says, "when you begin to ask the question, 'Where am I from?' "
If there's a Wing in your background, and you're interested in learning more about the Wings, contact Herbert G. Wing, 4701 Kenmore Ave., Alexandria, Va. 22304.