The Practical Idealist

Who were the Founders?

Author taking questions at presentation do DSDI on 21 September 2013Who were the Founders?

by Neil C. Olsen.

On September 21,2013, at the New Haven Museum, New Haven, Connecticut, I gave a presentation to The Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of ndependence on Who are the Founders?, a presentation based on the book: Pursuing Happiness:  The Organizational Culture of the Continental Congress,  by Neil C. Olsen.


While it was titled “Who were the Founders”, I actually covered 106 men who contributed to the Declaration between September 5, 1774 and July 4, 1776.  Present at the group’s meeting in New Haven were descendents of a number of the signers, whose name I added to the presentation.

I also found the next day when I mentioned my lecture that several friends were related to  Josiah Bartlett, and I suspect there are many more people who are descendents. How many?  It is impossible to tell.  But to put an upper estimate on the number we can guess.  Of the 56 founders seven died without children who survived to become adults: Hancock, Hewes, Huntington, F.L. Lee, Lynch Jr., Whipple, and Wythe. This leaves 49 with children.  As a rough calculation, there are 11 generations.  If you assume a low end model with only four children per founder and for each of their descendents, and no intermarrying generations down the line – the “pedigree collapse” issue – then there are potentially (49*4)11 descendents.  This is an impossibly high number as it is larger than the number of people in the United States. If you assume a worst case that in each generation two descendants each married their cousins, you still get an also impossible (49*2)11 descendents.  This is of course only a model.  Some descendants never marry; others have fewer than four children, and pedigree collapse goes across the generations.

Still, the total number of living descendents it must be millions.  It is quite an addressable market.


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