Franklin Surname Genealogy

name Franklin derives from feudal times and the Middle English frankelin, meaning a “freeman” or a
“landowner of free but noble birth.” He would rank above the main
body of minor freeholders, but below a knight or a member of the
nobility. He appears in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as the narrator of
the Franklin’s Tale.The root of the word was the Anglo-Norman franc, meaning “free,” and the
Germanic suffix -ling.
Its first record as a surname was when Luke le Franckeleyn was
registered in the Cambridgeshire Feet of Fines in 1234.Franklin can also be the anglicized form of the Germanic Frankel or
Franckel, a
name often brought by Jewish immigrants.

Resources on

Franklin Ancestry

The earliest sightings of the Franklin name were in Bedfordshire and

  • Bedfordshire.
    William Franklin was recorded in the village of Thurleigh north of
    Bedford during the 1470’s; George Franklin held the Bolnhurst estate in
    the late 1500’s (his granddaughter Margaret married a Bacon and is
    commemorated in a plaque in the church at Burton Latimer); and another
    George Franklin took title to a farm in Ravensden in 1618 (a Franklin
    still farms there today).
  • Oxfordshire.
    John Franklin was recorded in the village of Horspath in south
    Oxfordshire in 1524; and Henry Franklin, “a gentleman of some culture,”
    owned Adwell manor house in the 1600’s. William Franklin was
    appointed carpenter in Oxford in 1588. His son Jeremy inherited
    the position and was elected mayor in 1728.

Another early Franklin family came from Kent, starting with John
Frankelyn of Chart Sutton who died in 1500. These Franklins later
resided in Wye. Charles Franklyn, a descendant, published a
genealogy of the family in 1932. Sir John Franklin, the famous
Arctic explorer, was born in Spilsby, Lincolnshire in 1786.

Franklins in the 1851 census
were in
Gloucestershire. Later the distribution of the name looked more
like an arc, starting low in the east with Kent and London, then
rising to Oxfordshire and Warwickshire in the middle of England, and
falling away in the west to Gloucestershire. The largest number
today are in Kent.

Franklins could be immigrants. Benjamin Wolf Franckel had
come to London around 1763 from the Jewish community of Breslau in
present-day Poland. On settling there, he anglicized his name to
Franklin. Perhaps this was suggested by the fact that, in
accordance with local custom back home, his mother as a widow had been
called in official documents “die Fraenckelin.”

He was the forebear of a very prominent Anglo-Jewish family of merchant
bankers (as described in Arthur Frankin’s 1935 book Records of the Franklin Family).
But perhaps the best known of these Franklins was Rosalind Franklin who
as a research chemist was instrumental in the discovery of the
structure of DNA in 1951.

America. Jonathan
Franklin was an early settler in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was
scalped and killed by Indians there in 1692 and his son David, a sea
captain, drowned in Boston harbor in 1739. However, the family
survived and John Franklin distinguished himself in the Revolutionary
War. A descendant was the automobile pioneer Herbert
. He built his Franklin cars in Syracuse, New
York from
1902 to 1934 when the Great Depression bankrupted him.

Benjamin Franklin’s father Josiah came from Northamptonshire and
had emigrated to Boston with his first wife in 1683. Benjamin
was born in 1705, the youngest son of Josiah’s second marriage, and he
made his mark in Philadelphia, then the largest of the American
cities. He left no line of direct male descendants. It has
only been through his daughter Sarah that there were direct descendants.

Franklins in America outnumber Franklins in England by roughly two to
one. Its popularity in America owed much to Benjamin
Franklin. Franklin county is the name of 24 counties in America,
all but one of them being named after Benjamin Franklin. It would
appear that many Franklins in America got their name by changing theirs
to Franklin on arrival or soon thereafter. The Jewish
, coming either from Germany or from Russia, would
be a prime example here.

Most Franklins were to be found in the southern states by the mid-19th
century. Generally, as the records of Franklin families from the 18th century
reveal, Franklins moved inland from Virginia and the Carolinas to
Kentucky and Tennessee, and then south into Georgia and Alabama.
A prominent Franklin in the antebellum South was the slave trader Isaac
Franklin. He made his home at his Fairvue plantation in
Tennessee. By the late 19th century the largest number of
Franklins were in Texas. Notable African American Franklins
include the soul singer Aretha Franklin, born in Tennessee, and Shirley
Franklin who served as mayor of Atlanta from 2002.

Genealogical material on the Franklins in America are to be found in The Franklin Fireplace, a quarterly
publication compiled by Betty Harvey Williams from 1969 to 1983.

and New Zealand.
Joseph Franklin was a poor farm laborer
from Limerick in Ireland who had come to Australia in 1839 with his
family in search of a better life. By 1848 Joseph had acquired a
small herd of cattle and decided to find land of his own by following
the Goodradigbee river upstream to the district now known as
Brindabella, NSW.

“The usual hazards of pioneering
confronted him. Cattle strayed or were speared and eaten by
Aborigines. Tribal fights were common and, during one of Joseph’s
absences, their hut was burnt down from a kitchen fire while his wife
and children were out looking for a lost cow.”

His granddaughter who grew up in this remote outback settlement was the
writer Miles Franklin. Her best-known novel My Brilliant Career, published in
1901, tells the story of an irrepressible teenage feminist growing to
womanhood in rural New South Wales. Its heroine is one of the
most endearing characters in Australian literature and obviously has
much in common with Franklin herself who wrote the novel while still a

Early Franklin immigrants to New Zealand were:

  • Robert Franklin from London. He had arrived in New Zealand
    sometime in the 1840’s, married, and raised a family in Nelson.
  • Lawrence Franklin from Oxfordshire. He had come out with
    his family on the Halcione in
    1874 under the Vogel assistance scheme for farm laborers. They
    settled in Hawkes Bay.

Franklin Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Franklin Names

was one of the founding fathers of the United
States. He was also a noted writer and printer, scientist,
inventor, statesman, and diplomat. The Franklin stove was his
invention and it is named after him.
Sir John Franklin
was the 19th century British naval officer
and Arctic explorer who mapped almost two thirds of the northern
coastline of North America. He died in 1848 in a fruitless
venture to discover the Northwest Passage.
Rosalind Franklin, born into a
prominent Anglo-Jewish family, was a physical chemist who, together
with Francis Crick and James Watson, discovered the structure of DNA in
Aretha Franklin is the soul
and R&B singer known as “the Queen of Soul.”

Select Franklins

  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 40,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).





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