Monday, April 21, 2014

Am I Really Benjamin Franklin's 5th Cousin 9 Times Removed?

The World Family Tree at says that I am Benjamin Franklin's 5th cousin 9 times removed.  Here's the screen shot that shows it:

My line is researched only back to Mary ??-?? (1625-1699), the wife of Thomas Fish (1619-1687) of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  The chart above says that my ancestor Mary ??-?? is Mary Sherman, whose father was Samuel Sherman, grandfather was Samuel Sherman, great-grandmother was Henry Sherman, married to Susan Lawrence, whose sister was Margaret Lawrence, who was the 3rd great-grandmother of Benjamin Franklin.  On the profile for Mary (Sherman) Fish, there are no discussions and no sources.

It would be nice...but a short review of the information I have says that:

1)  Mary, the wife of Thomas Fish), may or may not have been a Sherman.  Some online trees at give Mary as a Sherman, with the line above back to Henry and Susan Renee (Lawrence) Sherman, and others do not provide a surname for Mary --?--.

2)  One of the better online trees I found was on WikiTree, where there is a Mary Sherman, born 1633 the daughter of Samuel and Esther (Burges) Sherman, but she was married (in the tree) to a Benjamin Clark, not to a Thomas Fish.  That could be wrong.

There are some published Sherman resources - see:

*  Thomas Townsend Sherman, Sherman genealogy, including families of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, England : some descendants of the immigrants Captain John Sherman, Reverend John Sherman, Edmund Sherman and Samuel Sherman, and the descendents of Honorable Roger Sherman and Honorable Charles R. Sherman (typescript accessed on FamilySearch Books).

This work has a short listing for Samuel Sherman, the purported father of Mary Sherman (born 1624), in this book, but only a wife's name and no children listed (see page 16).

*  The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1633, and The Great Migration, 1634-1635 have several sketches for Sherman persons, but not for Samuel Sherman the purported father of Mary Sherman (born about 1625).  I reviewed all of them for possible Mary Shermans born about 1625, and found none that fit or that were married to Thomas Fish.

*  There are other, earlier, books about the Sherman family in New England also on FamilySearch Books, Google Books, and the Internet Archive.

Two probable wrongs don't make a right, so I am not going to claim ancestry to Benjamin Franklin.  But it was a nice contemplation and a semi-fun romp through the online resources to get to this point.

There is still the possibility that I am related to Benjamin Franklin through some other ancestor of mine who is also Benjamin's ancestor.  But I haven't found it yet.

This exercise points out the real problems of interconnect "universal" world trees - almost anyone can make relationship connections based on some or no information.  This is why I like the features on the FamilySearch Family Tree - there can be useful discussions, it's supposed to be source-centric.

Alas, the FSFT has Mary Sherman, the wife of Thomas Fish, as the daughter of Ezekiel and Rachel (Alefounder) Sherman, with three other possible sets of parents, and another 6 husbands, some simultaneous with Thomas Fish.  There are sources - "Legacy NFS Sources," some of which are for another Mary Sherman.  No authoritative sources.  Oh well!

I should raise these issues on about these relationships.  I'm pondering the best way to do this!

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Amanda at Geni said...

Hi Randy,

Thanks for your post. One of the greatest strengths of collaborative genealogy is that everyone can work together to continuously improve information in tree. The more people we have working on our world family tree, the better it gets. We encourage everyone to start a dialog if they have found any information that seems questionable. There are many ways to do this on Geni. You can start a public discussion from the profile, send a message to the managers of the profile or contact a Geni Curator for help. A Curator may also add a Curator note at the top of a profile to bring any important information to the attention of users viewing the profile.

The Geni Team

Cynthia Berryman said...

I use online trees for what they are - first drafts. They give me a starting place. Then I start the long, tedious process of proving/disproving them. Yes, a LOT turns out to be unprovable, but that is more than offset by the amount of information I get that is correct.

I am at the point in my family tree now where it's mostly about proof. I am deleting the "broken" lines and starting over at those points. This is where it gets hard - and frustrating!

I haven't used any of the collaborative trees. Every time I've looked at them I've found big errors. But I'm thinking that it may be like the early days of Wikipedia. There was a time when its information was not trustworthy. However, over the years and the efforts of dedicated contributors, it has become a true encyclopedia. And where the information is in doubt, it tells you so. In time, maybe the collaborative family trees will become genealogical wikipedias. If enough people use them, that's the logical conclusion.

Anne Faulkner said...

I'll bet you'll get nowhere with Geni. One of the most horrible sites on line. I've been told that once info is on their tree it can NEVER be deleted - NEVER, even if it is completely wrong! Even if the ancestor in question never really existed! You also can't delete living people from the tree - I learned this the hard way when I was a newbie, a mistake I will regret for the rest of my life.

Lesley Northup said...

Back to Thomas Fish. I have seen his wife Mary as, variously, Mary Sherman, Mary Ayres, or Mary Soule. I think Soule can be dismissed--she was Thomas grandmother (or possibly g-grandmother). Sherman is supported by the R.I. Genealogical Register, Vol.1, #2, line of descent of Henry Knowles, page 69. Randy's take on the Ayers connection makes the most sense, however.

Lesley Northup