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John Hancock (Signer of the DOI) – Likely not Related

Author: Jerry Bowen

Joseph Hancock Of Revolutionary War Fame



This book would not be complete until I comment on John Hancock.  Folks in Hancock, Maryland, individuals in my family and my Hancock cousins all would like to know what kind of a relationship exists between John Hancock, the signer, and Joseph Hancock, the Revolutionary War soldier.  This chapter intends to shed some light on that subject.  Were Joseph and John Hancock (the signer) brothers?  Or is Joseph Hancock related to John Hancock at all?  My Hancock cousins say they are brothers.  I haven’t found the evidence.  Let me explain.

When I started the Hancock side of our family tree, I was given a letter written by a Florence (Hancock) Malone, written Aug 23, 1981 to my aunt Robin, Donald’s (Bowen) sister.  In that letter, Florence claimed that Joseph Hancock was John Hancock’s brother.

Another reference in this:  Holt County, Nebraska is where Jonathan Hancock (Joseph’s grandson) obtained a homestead in 1884.  In 1976, that county put together a history book called “Before Today”, and they gathered family biographies from the current residents.  To muddy the water even further, the Hancock family put into print the thought contained in the previous paragraph.  On page 294 of this book this says, Jonathan P. Hancock “is a direct descendant of Joseph Hancock, brother of John who signed the Declaration of Independence”.

A third reference is from a newspaper article about John Hancock of Casper, Wyoming.  This John Hancock, of more recent times, permitted this article:

“Wednesday, he disclosed he is a direct descendent of Joseph Hancock, brother of the famed John, and said he could trace the blood line thru generations up to the Revolutionary War period.  The line, he said, is lost at Joseph’s father because of (the) lack of records, but that it is reasonable to assume that Joseph and John were brothers”.

So I have three references in my possession that claim that Joseph and John Hancock are brothers.  This is something the Hancock family believes, however, after closer research in some newer sources, I don’t.  I decided that I needed to check out the story for “facts”.  I read a very good, relatively new, biography on the life of John Hancock.  Specifically identified, it is,


The Baron of Beacon Hill

A biography of John Hancock

By William M. Fowler, Jr.

Houghton Mifflin Company

Boston, Mass. (1980)


I read this book from cover to cover, and found NO reference to a brother “Joseph”.  The only brother of the famous John was named Ebenezer b Nov 1741.  John Hancock’s ancestry is taken from the biography of that book and is shown printed in Appendix A of this work.


The family groups on the next page were compiled by this researcher from eight or more sources.  Each source verified established information, and contributed something new.  It may be the most complete list of its kind available.

Compare Appendix A, the family groups and may notes on the following pages, and the reader will agree that there is not yet, enough evidence to connect Joseph and John (the signer) as brothers.

Keep in mind that all you have read up until now, is John Hancock’s family information.  A statement of the problem I will address is this.  Folks in our family ask me, “Are we related to John  Hancock, the signer?”.  To be related to this family, we must connect our Joseph Hancock (Sr) to John Hancock’s.  (Joseph Sr. is expected to be born about 1695-1720).  Working backwards, or from the bottom of the family group page, upwards, I will reveal the children of each of the “likely parents” of Joseph.  Examining the family groups and dates closely, we find that John Hancock (the signer) had no children that survived to adulthood.  Lydia was one year old at death.  John G.W. Hancock the 4th, fell through the ice and was nine years old at death.  No possibilities exist here.

It is to late for (9) Ebenezer b 1741, (John Hancock’s brother), to be the father of our Joseph Hancock.  But to satisfy the curious, his children are:  John, Thomas b 27 Nov 1769, John b 22 Feb 1774, and George W.  His posterity can be traced four generations away from him, into the 1850’s.  No Joseph was mentioned in those generations.

(8)  Ebenezer was a student at Harvard College in 1728.  He died without children.

(7)  John the second.  His children are found in the next family group on page 48.

(6)  Thomas married Susanna Fothergill on 30 Oct 1711.  Only one child is recorded.  Susanna b 21 May 1716.

(5) Ebenezer married Susanna Clark and had the following children:  Ebenezer bapt 10 Sep 1704 and Susanna bapt 6 Jul 1707.

(4)  Samuel married Dorothy and had the following children:  Dorothy b 21 Mar 1697 d 18 Mar 1776 and m Caleb Sampson, John b 10 Sep 1699 d 18 Mar 1776 and m Susanna Chickering, Mary b 19 Apr 1702 and m (1) John Pain (2) Malachi Salter, Solomon b 18 Jun 1704 d 20 Sep 1756 and m Hanna Tufts, Samuel b 21 Jul 1706 d 14 Jun 1716, Hanna b 27 Feb 1709 and m John Townsend, Sarah b 17 Feb 1712 and m (1) Peter Townsend (2) (     ) Forsythe (3) Richard Smith, and lastly, Nathan b 12 Jul 1716 and m Prudence White.  The birthdays are falling around when Joseph Hancock was expected to be born, but his name is not mentioned.

(3)  John the first.  His children are found in the next family group on page 48.

(2)  Nathaniel married Prudence Russell and had the following children:  Mary, Prudence bapt 27 Dec 1696 d 16 Jan 1775, Martha bapt 21 Feb 1697 D 20 Oct 1712, Tabitha bapt 23 Apr 1699, Nathaniel b 14 Jan 1701 d Sept 1774, Elizabeth b 16 Nov 1704, Solomon bapt 10 Nov 1706, Belcher b 24 Apr 1709 d 8 Nov 1771 and Martha bapt 18 Apr 1714 d about 12 Dec 1781.  Here again, Joseph is not mentioned around his expected birth date.

(1)  Solomon married Mary (    ) and their only child on record is another Nathaniel b 1 Aug 1731.

So, based on evidence gleaned from this book, and about then others, this is the sum total of my research to date, trying to link Joseph and John to the same family.  I am closing in on proving that Joseph Hancock (Sr) IS NOT related to John Hancock, the signer.

In addition to that, I never found any reference in the biography stated that John Hancock, the signer, had any connection with Hancock, MD, even to visit.  He was the governor of Mass. And spend a good portion of his life conducting business there.

From other sources, some Joseph’s have appeared however, and they can’t be discounted as possibilities.  So any researcher who might perchance be studying this letter, I will briefly show what I have found.  POSSIBILITY #1:  In Wrentham, Mass. Anthony Hancock, (who I think is a brother of the first Nathanial Hancock on the family group page 48), m Sarah Wilson.  One child was Anthony J r. b 26 Dec 1684.  Anthony Jr. m Elizabeth Goddard 25 Feb 1707, and had Joseph Hancock b 27 Apr 1717 in Wrentham, MA.  No evidence to show that Joseph married Mary Wallace.  POSSIBILITY #2:  In New Jersey.  A different John Hancock married Mary Champnes and bore Joseph Hancock b 3 Dec 1704.  No evidence to show that Joseph Married Mary Wallace.

This researcher was not able to find the evidence that would connect Joseph Hancock to John Hancock.  I am convinced that they are not brothers, however I will allow for a connection further back in their ancestry.  I looked for that connection too, and as yet, have not found it.  Perhaps at some future date, it will come to me.  If anything new comes up, I will update this manuscript.






7 Responses to John Hancock (Signer of the DOI) – Likely not Related


    I am descended from the HANCOCK family of Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire, England. I can trace my ancestry back to JAMES HANCOCK born 1654 in Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, England and who married Grace Joslyn 1686 in the city of Cambridge.

    At the time of the bi-centenary – 1976 – I attended an exhibition in London which gave a presentation regarding John Hancock’s life and ancestry and no-one, not even you in your paper, can give any further back than NATHANIAL HANCOCK receiving land in Pensilvania in 1635.

    Can anyone get any further back to see if that Nathanial was related in any way to my family in Cambridgeshire?

    I await your reply


    Margaret Andersen Nee Goodwin/hancock/adams

  2. Rebecca Palen

    Hello, I believe I am a relative of your possiblity #1. My family as well has been told that we are related to John Hancock the signer and that the family tree dead ends in Europe due to an ancestor being an oprhan. There is all a letter in my family that sounds like yours. I was about to believe that there was no possiblity of a connection but now I have a little hope. I would like to share information with you.

  3. Rebecca Palen

    I am a descendent of your possiblity #1. There is a letter and similar story that you have said that has been passed down in my family as well. I would like to learn more.

  4. Rhonda Weiss

    Hello Bruce,

    I was looking up some family history and came across your page. My history is with the Hancocks of Bath New Hampshire who originally came from Somerset, England. I’d love to compare a few histories since I’m not finding any Joseph in any of our Hancock family as well. I was told that our family is tied to John Hancock but I haven’t made the connection however the family names are flowing from one generation to the next.

    Rhonda Weiss

    I would have to know more to be of much help. We are not related to John Hancock. Our tree goes back to the 1730’s.

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