Are You Related to a Signer of the Declaration of Independence? – “Signing Their Lives Away” – July Book Club Selection
How much do you know about the signers of the Declaration of Independence? We are all familiar with John Hancock, the first signer. But what about “William Williams: The Signer Who Was Certain He Would Hang,” or “Robert Morris: The Signer Who Financed The War – And Ended Up In Debtor’s Prison?” Fifty-six men put everything on the line to sign a document knowing they would be hunted by the British for perhaps the rest of their lives. Could you be related to one of them?
Signing Their Lives Away by Denise Kiernan and Josephe d’Agnese tells the story of the men who risked all to sign a document in defiance of mighty England and King George. The authors have carefully crafted an enlightening vignette about each signer. This book will give you a taste of the time period upon which our country’s future hinged, not to mention a greater appreciation for the sacrifices made. What Makes Signing Their Lives Away even more engaging is discovering if you are related to any of the signers.
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I found that I am related to twenty-seven of the signers! Granted, they are distant cousins, many times removed, but a connection is a connection. My closest signer is “William Whipple Jr. : The Signer Who Fought For Freedom – With His Slave.” William is my 5th cousin 9 times removed. My most famous related signer is John Adams: The Signer Everyone Loved to Hate.” This paragraph from the book sums up Adam’s personality remarkably well:
Adams seemed blessed with enlightened arrogance. People who think they’re always right are typically blind to their own faults. Adams was self-aware enough to know that he rubbed many people the wrong way and that this character flaw might be a political obstacle. Despite his vanity, he had the brains to step aside and let others take the credit in order to reach his ultimate goal.
Could you be related to any of these rebels? If you have a FamilySearch account, you can find out through Relative Finder, a fun Family Tree app that shows how you are related to a wide variety of famous people. When you go to Relative Finder, you will be prompted to sign in with your FamilySearch account. If you haven’t created an account yet, it takes only minutes and is completely free. The Family Tree on FamilySearch is collaborative with all working together to find, connect, and verify our families. You will need to add living parents and grandparents to connect back to your deceased ancestors. (Only you will be able to view your living relatives.) Once you are connected to the tree, you can try Relative Finder. When I clicked the box for “Declaration Signers,” my list quickly generated.
I could view a relationship chart to each signer, print charts, and have lots of fun exploring. I clicked the blue “view” tab to see the common ancestor between myself and William Whipple Jr. The blacks lines show the connecting links. Only the direct ancestor and spouse is shown.
If you’re looking for a new way to engage family members in their family history, this website is a sure thing. For a fun Independence Day activity, give Relative Finder a try and see if you’re related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence!
Watch an interview of the authors discussing the fifty-six signers and their stories.
Learn about the signers on The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence website.