My Ancestral Connection to Benjamin Franklin

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

On January 17, 1706, three hundred and seven years ago today, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), noted polymath and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout his life, Benjamin Franklin was an author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, and statesman. He was the 6th President of Pennsylvania (1785-1788), United States Minister to France (1778-1785), United States Minister to Sweden (1782-1783), and 1st United States Postmaster General (1775-1776). He is the only Founding Father who signed all four of the major documents of the founding of the United States, which include the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the United States Constitution. His early involvement in the call for American independence and unity earned him the title of “The First American.” Additionally, his contributions to science and his inventions, which include the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and a carriage odometer, made him a major figure in the American Enlightenment.

While researching my family history, I discovered that I have a probable ancestral connection to this historical figure in American history. When I began researching the ancestry of my paternal grandfather, William Kernan (LIVING), I researched a family that married into my Kernan branch, the Stearns family. As I dug deeper into this branch and its related branches, I found publications that noted a probable connection to Benjamin Franklin through the Lawrence family (an early New England family), which married into my Stearns branch. According to these publications, Benjamin Franklin’s maternal grandfather, Peter Folger (ca. 1617-1690) was the son of John Folger (ca. 1590-1660) and Meribah Gibbs (ca. 1595-1635). These articles state that Meribah Gibbs was most likely the daughter John Gibbs (ca. 1565-1608) and Alice Elmy (ca. 1571-1658). Alice Elmy was the daughter of Richard Elmy (ca. 1548-?) and Margaret Lawrance (1555-1621). This Margaret Lawrance was the daughter of John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583), who were my 13th great grandparents.

The following is a chart that shows the probable descent of Benjamin Franklin and the decent of my paternal grandfather, William Kernan, from John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and his wife Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583):

Benjamin Franklin’s Line: My Grandfather’s Line:
1 John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) m. Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583) 1 John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) m. Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583)
2 Margaret Lawrence (1555-1621) m. Richard Elmy (1548-?) 2 John Lawrence (ca. 1545-1607) m. Joan Frustenden (ca. 1549-1606)
3 Alice Elmy (ca. 1571-1658) m. John Gibbs (ca. 1565-1608) 3 Henry Lawrence (1586-?) m. Mary West (ca. 1579-1648)
4 Meribah Gibbs (ca. 1595-1635) m. John Folger (ca. 1590-1660) 4 John Lawrence (ca. 1609-1667) m. Elizabeth UNKNOWN (1611-1663)
5 Peter Folger (ca. 1617-1690) m. Mary Morrill (1620-1704) 5 George Lawrence (ca. 1637-1709) m. Elizabeth Crispe (1636-1691)
6 Abiah Folger (1667-1752) m. Josiah Franklin (1657-1745) 6 Judith Lawrence (1660-Bef. 1713) m. John Stearns (1656-1722)
7 Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) m. Deborah Reed (1708-1774) 7 John Stearns (ca. 1692-1765) m. Deliverance Bigelow (1695-1762)
8 Samuel Stearns (1720-1776) m. Jemima Hoyt (1729-ca. 1792)
9 Samuel Stearns (ca. 1754-1840) m. Thankful Raymond (ca. 1756-1817)
10 Lyman Stearns (1803-1879) m. Rebecca Hines (1816-1875)
11 Theodore Frelinghuysen Stearns (1844-1930) m. Anna Eliza Backer (1854-1919)
12 Maudena Elizabeth Stearns (1885-1936) m. George Edward Kernan (1884-1960)
13 Delmar Clair Kernan (1908-1979) m. Maxine Elizabeth Davis (1912-1992)
14 William Kernan (LIVING) m. Margaret Ann Lapham (1936-2004)

Based on the generations of descent from John Lawrence (ca. 1519-1590) and his wife Agnes Holmes (ca. 1523-1583) listed above, my paternal grandfather, William Kernan, and Benjamin Franklin are 5th cousins, 7x removed. This makes Benjamin Franklin my 5th cousin, 9x removed.

Note: At present, I have not been able to establish myself nor find any source that establishes without a doubt the probable relationship between Meribah Gibbs and her supposed parents, John Gibbs and Alice Elmy. Every instance I have found states that this relationship is “probable,” “likely” or “believed to be.” Thus, this is only a probable connection to Benjamin Franklin.

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4 thoughts on “My Ancestral Connection to Benjamin Franklin

  1. I think the information / dates on this page need more research. The most obvious is that if Meribah Gibbs was born about 1571 then her mother, Alice Elmy, can’t be born about 1571 nor her father in 1565. (Also other dates should be checked as Margaret Elmy nee Lawrence would have been 16 when Alice Elmy was born and Meribah would have been 46 when Peter Folger was born – both are possible but should possibly be checked)

    • Indeed there is a need for more research, particularly on Franklin’s ancestry–hence my use of the word “probable.” Thank you, however, for pointing out a typo I made in the paragraph part compared to the table below it. Meribah should not have had those dates, but the ones shown in the table.

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