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Cache of Benjamin Franklin Letters Discovered

 

Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and a noted politician, political theorist, author, scientist and diplomat. His writings are valued for their clear, concise style. Recently, a very large and previously unknown cache of his letters (47 in all) was discovered in the British Museum.

The remarkable discovery was made by University of California, San Diego professor Alan Houston who happened upon the amazing find while doing research at the British Museum. The letters had not been seen for some 250 years. All 47 letters were written in the spring and summer of 1755 and concern the first phase of the French and Indian War in what latter became know as the ‘wagon affair’. Franklin himself mentions these letters in his own autobiography. Historians had always assumed the letters had become lost over time.

The letters in the British Museum were copies made by Thomas Birch, a contemporary of Benjamin Franklin and a noted British historian. The Franklin letters were anonymously catalogued as “Copies of Letters relating to the March of General Braddock”. Braddock was the British commander-in-chief in America who is best remembered for his disastrous military foray into French Canada, where he lost his life. Franklin attempted to help General Braddock garner supplies for his troops before heading north into Canada.

Franklin took many trips to London over the years and spent a total of 18 years or about 20% of his life in the United Kingdom. A noted author, Franklin was a prodigious and keen letter writer. This raises an interesting question: How many other Franklin treasures are buried in the British Museum and other London archives waiting to be found? It also gives hope for genealogists researching their own family history who feel they may have hit a roadblock. If a large cache of letters from someone as famous as Benjamin Franklin can be overlooked for such a long period of time, then what does this say about the possibility of discovering old letters and artifacts of our own ancestors even after such a long period of time?

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