Frankly Speaking

By Crystal Conde Premium

After Benjamin Franklin’s death in 1790, rumors surfaced that he fathered children out of wedlock. This speculation has amateur genealogist L. David Roper determined to find Franklin’s relatives. The retired physics professor from Blacksburg, Va., plans to conduct DNA testing on men who think they may be related to the famous inventor. Short of exhuming Franklin’s body or examining one of his teeth, DNA testing is the best option for determining a genetic relationship. “I got a call from a guy who thinks he is descended from an illegitimate son of Benjamin’s,” Roper says. “Who knows? Maybe it’s true. This would tell us.” Male participants simply swab cells from inside their cheeks; the test examines the Y chromosome, which changes infrequently through generations. (Women can’t take part in this test because the X chromosome changes more frequently.) Roper has already received several DNA samples from Franklin’s possible male relatives. You can read about the project and find out how to participate at <>. (For more on genetic testing, see page 66.)

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From the August 2003 Family Tree Magazine