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In like Ben? August 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Since our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, acknowledges the great Benjamin Franklin as our hero and blog mentor, our blog contributor Richard Saunders is a Franklin historian, and our friend Ben not only shares Dr. F.’s first name but has famously had several visits from the great Doctor Franklin himself, you may be excused if, like our friend Amy, you think there’s some direct genealogical connection between at least one of us and Benjamin Franklin.

We were alerted to this misapprehension when Amy asked OFB if he was descended from Dr. Franklin. “No,” the bemused Ben responded, “I’m related to Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Martha Custis Washington, but not to Benjamin Franklin, more’s the pity.” “Oh. I was sure you were,” Amy announced. “After all, our [mutual] friend Sandra Franklin is a direct descendent of Benjamin Franklin.”

Well, no. Ben Franklin did and does have direct descendents, through his daughter Sarah (Sally) Franklin Bache. But as for the surname Franklin, Ben had only one son (William Franklin) who lived to father a son, and that son, Temple Franklin, had no sons. (Ben’s beloved younger son Francis Folger “Frankie” Franklin died of smallpox at age two.)

Okay, so no Franklins descended from Ben himself. But if your last name is Franklin, couldn’t you be descended from one of Ben’s many brothers, so Ben is a great-uncle of sorts? A little research shows that most people named Franklin who claim descent from a Ben Franklin family member believe that their ancestor is Ben’s brother, John. Unfortunately, this too is an error. John Franklin had one son, who was lost at sea before he could father offspring.

Ben had two other older brothers who lived to childbearing age, James (to whom he apprenticed to learn the printer’s trade), who appeared to have at least one son (also named James) who reached adulthood, and Peter, as well as older half-brothers Samuel and Josiah Jr.

Given all this, why do most Franklins claim descent from John, who could not have been their progenitor? Did James’s son(s) die before fathering sons? What of Peter and the half-brothers?

“Franklin” has never been a common name in the U.S. Today, fewer than 3,000 souls can claim descent from Ben Franklin’s daughter Sally Franklin Bache. I wish I could give you a solid number of how many U.S. citizens today bear the surname Franklin, but sadly, Google has failed me on this. If your last name is Franklin, or you’re descended from Ben Franklin, whatever your last name is, speak up! What an honor to have even one drop of old Ben’s blood flowing through your veins.

             ‘Til next time,

                              Silence

* Note: For us Southerners, “In like Ben” rhymes just like the famous line it’s punning on, “In like Flynn.”

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Comments»

1. Gail - August 25, 2009

Absolutely no relation to the great man. I had always thought it was In Like Flint…but our friend google explains that very nicely along with what In Like Flynn supposedly refers to…I always did like a good Errol Flynn movie! gail

Yes, er, there’s a very colorful story from Errol’s good friend David Niven that brings the expression “In like Flynn” (perhaps too) vividly to life!

2. Becca - August 25, 2009

haha! I was going to comment about “In Like Flynn.” Much to my chagrin, I was once educated as to its meaning–in mixed company. I’m sure I turned fifteen shades of red!

Thank heavens I learned the meaning from David Niven’s autobiography, “The Moon’s a Balloon,” rather than finding it out in mixed company! But my own brother had to tell me to stop using the then-ubiquitous expression “brown-nosing,” since I’d obviously failed to understand its literal meaning. Talk about humiliating!


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