When Milford resident Jane Platt was watching a genealogy program on PBS one night, she learned that she and Milford have a connection to actor Ben Affleck.

Affleck, she learned, is descended from Milford’s Richard Platt, who came to America from England in 1638 and was one of Milford’s founders in 1639.

Jane’s husband, former City Historian Richard Platt, is also descended from that Richard Platt who came from England.

“I was very surprised,” Jane said. “It was pretty exciting.”

Her husband came home shortly after the program was over and he found the news interesting, as did relatives across the country, who emailed that they “fell out of their chairs” when they learned they shared ancestors with the famous actor.

The episode

It was an October episode of Finding Your Roots, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr., that keyed the Platts in to their connection to Oscar winnering actor and director Ben Affleck. Finding Your Roots is a program in which Gates, a Harvard scholar, uses genealogists to reconstruct family trees of public officials and famous people.

The host spent considerable time telling Affleck about an ancestor, his third great grandfather, Almon French, who was a spiritual leader in the late 1800s, before mentioning an ancestor that dated farther back and marked the family line’s move from England to America: Richard Platt born in Ware, Hertfordshire in 1604.

Milford’s former city historian said the Richard Platt mentioned on the show is the same man from whom he is descended and who helped found Milford.

“This very definitely is the Richard Platt born in Ware, Hertfordshire, in 1604,” Richard Platt said. “I have a photocopy of his baptismal record from the parish register and all the information agrees with the published genealogies.

“We watched the program on the computer from the PBS website,” Platt added, “so we were able to stop the frames which showed the charts that Henry Louis Gates presented to Affleck. He had the Platt line for six generations before it reached a daughter who married and lost the Platt name.  Everything agreed with our genealogy records.”

Founding Milford

According to “A Special Compilation of the History and Genealogy of Richard Platt,” by Alvin Platt in 2003, Richard Platt was born shortly before May 6, 1604 (the recorded date of his infant baptism), at Ware, County Hertford, England. He married a local woman, Mary Wood, and the couple started having children before leaving for America.

“We believe that Richard sailed for America in the spring of 1637 with the Prudden or ‘Hertfordshire’ group,” the history recounts. “We don't know the name of the ship that the Prudden group sailed on, but we know, from a legal deposition sent back to England later by one of the passengers, that it left on 31 May and arrived in Boston on 31 July.”

The group including Richard Platt and the Rev. Prudden remained in the Boston area for a few months and then traveled to the area then called Quinnipiac on Long Island Sound in the spring of 1638. There they started the New Haven Colony.

Richard Platt was among a group of 54 families that formed a new church headed by Rev. Prudden while still in New Haven with the specific intent of founding a new colony.

This they did, establishing Milford in 1639.

“Richard Platt was assigned one of the lots in the new town on which he built his house, plus he had farmland outside the town from which he earned his livelihood,” the Platt history states.

In addition to the four children Richard and Mary brought to America from England, they had four more children after arriving, three more boys and a daughter.

Richard Platt lived out his life in Milford. He died in 1685, “at a relatively ripe old age of 80-plus years,” the history states.

Some of Richard Platt’s descendants still own one or more parts of Richard’s original landholdings in Milford.

Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck was born Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt on Aug. 15, 1972 in Berkeley, Calif., and was raised in Cambridge, Mass.

According to IMDb.com, Affleck was living in an apartment with his brother Casey and friend Matt Damon, being turned down for big roles in films, when he and Damon decided to write their own script. They wrote and acted in Good Will Hunting in 1997, launching them both to fame.

Since then Affleck has been in such blockbusters as Armageddon, Shakespeare in Love, Pearl Harbor, Argo and Gone Girl.

Roots

Milford’s Richard Platt of today said he would love to invite Ben Affleck to future family reunions, seeing as they may be eighth or ninth cousins. He estimated that Affleck is probably 11th or 12th generation from the Richard Platt that founded Milford.

The family tie piqued Platt’s interest because he said he never would have imagined Affleck had a place on his family tree. And it’s interesting news for Milford,  Platt said, “because his roots do go back here.”