Signer of the Declaration of Independence
Who was John Hancock?
John Hancock was an American patriot during the Revolutionary War. He is probably best known as the first signer of the Declaration of Independence where his large, iconic signature became the American synonym for the word signature. Very few Americans wouldn't know what to do if asked to put their John Hancock on a document.
John Hancock was a wealthy merchant prior to the revolution and he used that wealth to help support the American cause. He was also Boston's most well known smuggler. In 1775 he was elected President of the Continental Congress. After his stint in the Continental Congress, he returned home to Massachusetts where we became the first Governor of Massachusetts. The John Hancock Center in Chicago, the fourth tallest building in Chicago and the seventh tallest in the United States, currently bears his name.
As a well known patriot of the American Revolution, it seems only fitting that John Hancock has kinship to a number of other prominent patriots including Samuel Prescott, the man who actually completed Paul Revere's midnight ride, Amos Lincoln, a Boston Tea Party participant, and Nicholas Gilman, a signer of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. Presidents with family connections to John Hancock include, but are not limited to, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Gerald Ford, Rutherford B. Hayes, and both Presidents Bush. Celebrity cousins include movie actor Matt Damon, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Sally Field. Other notable kin are astronaut Alan Shepard, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, artist Norman Rockwell, and aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Richard Charlton, who died in 1522, is the 7th great-grandfather of John Hancock. He lived at Apley in the town of Wellington in Shropshire, England. Richard Charlton is one of those ancestors that can cause trouble for genealogists. In the case of Richard Charlton, it is the fact that he has two daughters named Anne. First, there is daughter Anne who married Randall Grosvenor. She is the 6th great-grandmother of John Hancock. Second, there is daughter Anne who married Francis Yonge. Douglas Richardson in his Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families (2013, Vol. V, p. 480) gives the following source as the evidence for the two daughters named Anne: Currier-Briggs, English Wills of Col. Fams. (1972), pp. 3-8.
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