Which signer of the Declaration of Independence are you most closely connected to?

+34 votes

This week we're featuring signers of the US Declaration of Independence in the Connection Finder, starting with John Hancock, the first signer.

Featured alongside him are other signers:

Who are you most closely connected to? If you're one of the 22,900,000 of us who are connected to each other on our big tree you can check with the Connection Finder.

You can check for shared ancestors with the Relationship Finder. Are you a cousin to any of them? Your Relationship Finder Quick Links page (see your profile pull-down menu under "Relationships") has quick links for several notable groups.

Let us know below! If you want to share your connection on social media with cousins and friends, click the "get shareable image" below the results, e.g. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Then just upload it along with the URL of your direct connection. (Please refrain from sharing your connection on the featured profiles, though. It clutters conversations on research and collaboration. Thanks!)

P.S. Help us choose and improve profiles for next week's feature: Inventors!

WikiTree profile: John Hancock
in The Tree House by Abby Glann G2G6 Pilot (534k points)
reshown by Chris Whitten
Thank you Butch. Some individuals will not stop until they see the threads of the flag in tatters and the Country torn asunder. Should we discuss "rich" black African Chiefs aiding and abetting the capture of other tribes for the soul purpose of enslavement? We dare not shatter their illusion of purified hands.
looks like i have 105 common ancestors with John hancock
Do you know how the British ended slavery in the British Empire? They paid the slave OWNERS off to free their slaves and, the taxes for that were finally paid off in 2015.
When someone says: "the American Founding Fathers were hypocrites because the wrote that all men are created equal but most of them owned slaves" are misunderstanding history. First, they were not addressing slavery, they were addressing the divine right of kings, which gave the king and nobles the right to rule because God selected them. Second, Washington, Jefferson and Adams were perhaps the most progressive, liberal thinkers on earth in 1776. They grew up in a world where slavery was common and viewed as necessary. Slavery had existed for thousands of years in nearly every culture in the world, including the native people of Africa and the Americas. The American Founding Fathers were the first people who dared to question the morality of slavery. They were the very people who started us down the path of ending slavery. When we project our modern views onto them, we are ignoring the place where they started. Our type of thinking didn't exist yet....the very concept of a world without slavery was revolutionary and they had to take us to the starting point. Demanding that dead people in the past meet our values today, is as ridiculous as demanding that when the Montgolfier brothers invented the hot air balloon in 1783, that they should have built a 747 passenger jet instead.
Well explained.  Thank you Carolyn.
Frances L. Lee 10th cousin 6x removed/14 degree Conn.
Mary C. Goddard 7 cousin 9x removed/  17 degree Conn.
John Witherspoon 7 cousin 9x/14 degree Conn.
Charles Carroll  6th cousin 8x/  16 degree Connections
Roger Sherman 6 cousin 8x/   15 degree Conn
Thomas Jefferson 8 cousin 7x/ 12 degree Conn
What a thoughtful, intelligent approach to the challenging subject of early America and the attitudes and actions of our "founding fathers." It's not about assessing blame, nor is it about excusing slave ownership. I can't imagine that Washington, Jefferson, Adams did not suffer conflicts of conscience. Nor can I imagine our history without their significant contributions. I only became acutely aware of the racial injustice that existed in my world when the first African-American students arrived at my high school in 1956(?). The young girl who took a seat across from me looked terrified. I remember as if it were yesterday thinking "Is that what all the fuss is about? She is a a young, vulnerable girl who could not possibly cause anyone here any harm." Did I take any steps to make her feel comfortable other than a smile when she finally summoned the courage to look around? No....I did not. Have I made it a life-long struggle to speak out against bigotry and do what little I can to fight prejudice? Yes. A decade later, when teaching in a far-north, far-right, far-white school in Dallas, the first black teachers were hired. I sought out the company of one of these new-comers who told me that she was so terrified to even enter this school that she drove around the block several times before summoning the courage to park and come in. Is there a point I want to make? Only that we each "started" from different places. We can only be grateful that our more "modern views" will lead us to a better world.
Thomas Jefferson:  1st cousin (7x removed), 10 degrees.  During his lifetime, my 6-great grandmother was his aunt.
Very well said, Carolynn.  Some people will say anything to try to make their misguided point when they themselves are misguided.
As a black man, Thomas Sowell was taught to be a Marxist. No doubt a product of his environment. As he researched and learned, under Milton Freidman and others, he grew and came to believe in capitalism as the only path to a stable, growth oriented society. Before America, North America was governed by? I'm guessing native American---men. Not to be sexist it's just a fact  They were willing to fight and die for their people and their land. These men were usually the oldest and wisest. Whether in status or wealth, they were the richest members of their people. This goes for all people of the globe regardless of continent, country or ethnicity. Slavery, organized or otherwise, existed unchallenged for thousands of years if not since to the beginning of time. Shortly - in the context of time/history-immediately thereafter the founding of America, slavery was abolished throughout the free worlds while it lingered in Africa It still thrives in communist countries. If you consider human trafficing as slavery, it is still rampant worldwide today because it is profitable although illegal. It seems wise to move on from that we cannot change to something we can, even though it was made possible by "old, rich white guys" that everyone should be thankful for. For anyone that doesn't feel this way I would think they would be reading this at the airport on their way to a better life in another country. Anti-Americans held in foreign countries are "shocked" when their rights aren't read at the time of arrest. Let me apologize that they were never taught that those rights, like many others, are unique to America. History is like genealogy, the more you study it the clearer it becomes and the more we understand.

121 Answers

+14 votes
Roger Sherman (18 Degrees).  Closer than Henry VIII (22 degrees) and even Jason Grant (23 degrees.)
by Doug Laidlaw G2G6 Mach 2 (27.7k points)
+13 votes
Benjamin Franklin (16 degrees). Miss being a blood relation by one marriage.

Actually I'm 15 degrees from Roger Sherman.
by Bill Feidt G2G6 Mach 3 (35.5k points)
+10 votes

I am most closely connected to Thomas Jefferson at 16 degrees of separation.

by Tommy Buch G2G6 Pilot (922k points)
edited by Tommy Buch
+12 votes
I am most closely connected to Roger Sherman at 19 degrees.
by Samantha Thomson G2G6 Pilot (156k points)
+11 votes
I am most closely connected to Ben Franklin & Roger Sherman.

Robynne is

18 degrees from Ben Franklin,
18 degrees from Roger Sherman,
19 degrees from John Hancock,
19 degrees from John Witherspoon
19 degrees from Mary Goddard,
20 degrees from Francis Lee,
20 degrees from Thomas Jefferson,
20 degrees from Matthew Thornton,
21 degrees from Charles Carroll,
21 degrees from Francis Lewis,
21 degrees from Thomas McKean,

I am related to pretty much all of them - going back between 10 and 12 generations however many times removed. - except for Benjamin Franklin. The RF says I am not related to him at all.

My French Canadian spouse OTOH is 4th cousins with the Member OTW - Jason Grant.

My connection with Jason is only through my spouse and I dont like to count those...
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
+11 votes

14 degrees from Roger Sherman (4th cousins,  10x removed)
15 degrees from Francis Lee (8th cousins, 10x removed)
16 degrees from John Hancock (10th cousins, 10x removed)
16 degrees from Ben Franklin
16 degrees from Thomas Jefferson (12th cousins, 8x removed)
17 degrees from Charles Carroll (10th cousins, 7x removed)
17 degrees from Mary Goddard (7th cousins, 12x removed)
17 degrees from Francis Lewis
17 degrees from John Witherspoon (12th cousins, 11x removed)
18 degrees from Thomas McKean
19 degrees from Matthew Thornton

by Mike Wells G2G6 Mach 7 (73.4k points)
+11 votes
14 degrees from Thomas Jefferson and 12th cousins 5 times removed.

13 degrees from Roger Sherman and 10th cousins 9 times removed.

I am connected to all within 18 degrees and  have 6 cousinships!
by Kristina Adams G2G6 Pilot (247k points)
+12 votes
I'm most closely connected by blood to a signer not mentioned. 12 degrees from John Edmund Penn. 2nd cousin 7 times removed. MRCA Phillip Pendleton (abt 1654 - 1721.)

As for the others, remember some of the relationship info is doubtful, but here goes....

16 degrees from John Hancock. 10th cousin 9 times removed. MRCA Margery (Venables) Bulkeley (abt 1369 - 1459.)

13 degrees from Benjamin Franklin.

11 degrees from Thomas Jefferson. 9th cousin 9 times removed. MRCA Ricard Corbet (abt 1451 - 1499.)

16 degrees from Charles Carroll. 9th cousin 7 times removed. MRCA Elizabeth (Sulyard) Garneys (1456 - 1539.)

18 degrees from Mary Katherine Goddard. 11th cousin 8 times removed. MRCA Margaret (Walsh) Gresley (1369 - 1456,)

13 degrees from Francis Lightfoot Lee. 9th cousin 8 times removed. MRCA  Anne (Stanley) Gresley (b. abt 1421.)

17 degrees from Francis Lewis.

14 degrees from Thomas McKean.

15 degrees from Roger Sherman. 10th cousin 7 times removed. MRCA Elizabeth (FitzAlan) Usflete (abt 1371 - 1425.)

18 degrees from Matthew Thornton.

16 degrees from John Witherspoon. 7th cousin 10 times removed. MRCA James Hamilton (abt 1475 - 1529.)
by Frank Blankenship G2G6 Mach 5 (55.7k points)
+11 votes
14 degrees from both Frank Lee and Roger Sherman. The route to Roger Sherman is via my Norwegian tree branch, that rarely shows up on these weekly connections.
by Patricia Roche G2G6 Pilot (536k points)
+11 votes

Normally I like not to respond with just a long list, but there are so many cousins this time...

Person Degrees Cousin Removed
Jefferson 14 10 5
Sherman 14 12 7
Franklin 15 - -
McKean 15 - -
Hancock II 16 5 7
Goddard 16 15 7
Carroll 17 8 9
Witherspoon 17 10 8
Lee 17 11 9

Jefferson has become famous for his descendants from more than one woman, so I half expected the connection to be there, but it's through his sister Mary instead.

by Steve Ryan G2G6 Mach 3 (37.4k points)
+11 votes

John Witherspoon is my 5th cousin 9 times removed 

John Witherspoon (1723-1794) and Laurie (Cable) Olsson are both descendants of Agnes (Cunningham) Stewart (abt.1516-aft.1556).

by Laurie Olsson G2G4 (4.0k points)
+11 votes
This was an interesting one!  My closest connection is 12 degrees (my closest connection so far, I believe, in all of the "Who is Your Closest Connection? questions) with Francis Lightfoot Lee.  My 7th great-grandfather's brother is the grandfather of Francis.  We are 2nd Cousins, 7 times removed.  I had no idea about him until now!

I am 13 degrees from Thomas Jefferson, who is also a cousin -- 10th Cousins, 5 times removed

More cousins:

Mary Katharine Goddard -- 6th Cousins, 9 times removed

Charles Carroll -- 9th Cousins, 9 times removed

John Witherspoon and Roger Sherman are both my 12th Cousin, 7 times removed
by Cheryl Cruise G2G6 Pilot (105k points)
+12 votes
I am 15 degrees from John Hancock. He is my closest.
by Kathy Nava G2G6 Mach 3 (35.4k points)
+12 votes
Thomas Jefferson: 14 degrees.
by J. Mancha G2G4 (4.6k points)
+12 votes
14 degrees from Thomas McKean.
by Roger Stong G2G6 Pilot (546k points)
+12 votes
Very surprised to learn that my 4th great-grandfather's sister married a nephew of Thomas Jefferson! I've been researching my family tree for 40+ years, yet had never uncovered that little tidbit.
by David Randall G2G6 Mach 8 (88.3k points)
+13 votes
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (249k points)
+10 votes

  In order of closeness:

  • 13 degrees from Francis Lightfoot Lee
  • 14 degrees from Thomas Jefferson
  • 14 degrees from Charles Carroll
  • 14 degrees from Roger Sherman
  • 15 degrees from Benjamin Franklin
  • 15 degrees from John Witherspoon
  • 16 degrees from Francis Lewis
  • 16 degrees from Mary Goddard
  • 17 degrees from John Hancock
  • 18 degrees from Thomas McKean
  • 19 degrees from Matthew Thornton
by C Handy G2G6 Pilot (181k points)
+10 votes

This was fun. Didn't know about Mary Goddard!

by Chase Clift G2G6 (7.5k points)

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