By Della Gray Barthelmas
None of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 could have imagined a few years earlier that they would be part of such an event. All had been loyal British subjects earlier in their lives, and several had held British government posts in their home colonies. In 1743, Samuel Adams became one of the first to advocate for independence and he was gradually joined by others as English control became increasingly oppressive. A biography and genealogical history of the 56 signers, and of Secretary Charles Thomson who attended all meetings and witnessed the original broadside with John Hancock but did not actually sign it, are presented in this unique reference work. Each of the 57 entries open with a biography of the man, focusing on his education, political career and the events that led him to advocate for independence, based in large part on contemporary sources. This is followed by a narrative genealogical history, providing names, birth and death dates, marriages, children and other details of the signer's ancestors. Photographs of the men are included.