Admiral John Benbow

Admiral John Benbow

Male 1650 - 1653 - 1702

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  • Title  Admiral 
    Born  1650 - 1653  England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Died  04 Nov 1702  Port Royal, Jamaica Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Notes 
    • He was born c.1653, in England (either in Rotherhithe, a London village that was once in County Kent, or in or near Shrewsbury, County Shropshire). He died 4 November 1702, in Port Royal, Jamaica.

      There is debate as to Admiral Benbow's exact origins and parentage.

      Admiral Benbow served in the navy and merchant marine before becoming captain of a naval vessel in 1689. As master of the fleet under Admiral Edward Russell, he helped destroy the French fleet in the Battle of La Hougue, in May 1692, and in November 1693 he bombarded the French port of Saint-Malo. After serving as commander of the English fleet in the West Indies from 1698 to 1700, he returned there as vice admiral in 1701. On 19 August 1702, his seven ships sighted nine French vessels off Santa Marta (now in Colombia). He gave chase for five days, but the captains of four of his vessels lagged behind, refusing to engage the enemy. On 24 August, the Admiral's right leg was shattered by French fire. He remained on deck until his captains compelled him to return to Jamaica. There he had two of the captains court-martialled for insubordination and shot. Admiral Benbow died of his wounds.

      Many Benbow families carry stories of being descended from or related to the Admiral, but family stories must be viewed with caution and ideally must be supported by proof. Family traditions change as they are passed down the generations by word of mouth, often varying in details between different branches of the family. The parlor game of "Gossip" easily illustrates why and how this happens. Also, some people like to speculate or guess at family origins, sometimes to impress or entertain others at a given moment in time, and those stories can be handed down in families as certain truth. No one has produced sufficient documentation to date, and so -- as far as is known -- there are no legitimate Benbow-surname descendants of the Admiral.

      As for people who might be descended from collateral lines, the problem lies in proving or disproving who were the parents of the Admiral. DNA testing shows that most male Benbows of European male-line ancestry belong to the I-2a haplogroup. There are smaller groups of R and G haplogroup members. Benbow is an occupational surname, so it is probable that other men from the same profession adopted the same surname independently of each other. It is likely that there were a number of Benbow family groups originally, but that number was reduced to the number we have now because some of the other male lines were extinguished over time.

      We do not know which haplogroup is the same as the Admiral's family, because we have no proven male-line descendant to test. The weight of the evidence is towards the I-2a group, but that is not the same as having proof. Perhaps the I-2a haplogroup simply had better luck with producing male descendant lines who are still living today. Y-DNA does not survive in the body after death. Only the mother's mt-DNA can be tested posthumously, and that won't help in this situation.

      So there is no way to answer the questions, "Are our Benbow ancestors descended from the Admiral?" or "Are our Benbow ancestors related to the Admiral?" unless some reliable documentation is found. And family traditions and compiled genealogies are not original sources of documentation, nor are they sufficient proof. In genealogy research, one must learn to be comfortable with unanswered questions and brick walls which may never come down. At some point, there are no surviving records which will support any certain conclusions.
    Person ID  I1227  Benbow Family and Allied Lines
    Last Modified  7 May 2012 

    Father  ? Benbow 
    Family ID  F502  Group Sheet

    Family  Martha,   d. 14 Dec 1722, Deptford, County Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Martha Benbow,   b. 1679,   d. Before 14 Jul 1719, Frilsham, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. Richard Benbow,   b. 1680,   d. Before 1693
     3. John Benbow,   b. 1681,   d. 17 Nov 1708, Deptford, County Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location
     4. William Benbow,   b. Before 2 Dec 1690,   d. Apr 1729, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location
     5. Solomon Benbow,   b. Before 22 Jun 1686,   d. Before 1690
     6. Richard Benbow,   b. Before 7 Nov 1693, Deptford, County Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Jan 1694, Deptford, County Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location
     7. Katherine Benbow,   b. 1687 - 1694,   d. 1744, Milton, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location
     8. Richard Benbow,   b. Before 19 Aug 1696, Deptford, County Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1708 - 1722
    Last Modified  13 Jul 2008 
    Family ID  F477  Group Sheet

  • Photos
    Admiral John Benbow (center) with Thomas Phillips on the left, and Sir Ralph Delavalle on the right
    Admiral John Benbow (center) with Thomas Phillips on the left, and Sir Ralph Delavalle on the right
    National Maritime Museum, attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller. It was thought that this may have been painted during actions against the French in 1692-93, when the three officers were closely associated. Phillips (c.1635-1693) was Second Engineer of England. He died on Benbow's ship, the Norwich, during an explosion during the bombardment of St. Malo.
    John Benbow, Esq., Admiral of the Blue
    John Benbow, Esq., Admiral of the Blue
    The original of this was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), who painted Benbow more than once during his career. An engraving of it was made in 1869, and presented to Greenwich Hospital by King George the Fourth.
    Admiral John Benbow, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller
    Admiral John Benbow, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller
    Admiral John Benbow -- head from larger portrait
    Admiral John Benbow -- head from larger portrait


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