Category Archives: Mayflower 2020

Music of the Pilgrims

The first book published in North America was a book of hymns. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since music has been a connecting force (not only for religious reasons) that has a way of spreading joy and sorrow. It is universal. 

One of the best ways to learn and understand a culture is through its music. So for me, when deciding what to write about for this post, a big question that popped into my head was: What did the Pilgrims sing?  Continue reading Music of the Pilgrims

The first execution

President Garfield’s assassination

While William Bradford himself never delved into the life of my ancestor (and Mayflower passenger) Francis Billington, the same is not true for Francis’s father John Billington. He appears in several items in his ten years in Plymouth, nearly all in a negative light. He was brought before the Plymouth Company in March 1621 and charged with “contempt of the Captain [Myles Standish]’s lawful command with opprobrious speeches: for which he was adjudged to have his Neck and Heels tied together: but upon humbling himself and craving pardon, and it being the first Offence, He is forgiven.” In 1624, he was an outspoken supporter for Rev. John Lyford and John Oldham in their revolt against William Bradford and the rest of the Leiden contingent and the authority of the Plymouth church, but denied any involvement when brought up on examination.[1] Continue reading The first execution

Mayflower family traditions

Following the author’s wedding to Ian Holland at Old South Church in Boston in 1991.

With all the excitement about the four hundredth anniversary of the Mayflower sailing, I’ve been looking for my own Pilgrim ancestors. While my maternal side is mostly nineteenth-century German and English immigrants, my paternal side does have deep New England roots. So far, I haven’t found anyone who came over on the Mayflower in my family tree. Yet, I still feel a connection to those feisty Pilgrims. Their religious beliefs have rippled down through the centuries, with a few embellishments and changes, but are still flowing strongly in me and my family today.

The Pilgrims were a radical group of Puritans labeled as Separatists. While the Puritans wanted to purify the Church of England, the Pilgrims wanted to take it a step further and separate themselves into their own congregations. They wanted no church hierarchy and no one telling them what their congregation could or could not do. Plymouth Colony was founded on these principles in 1620. Continue reading Mayflower family traditions

Low ceilings

Mayflower II. Courtesy of Plimoth Plantation

I’ve always had a fascination with tall ships and antique sailing vessels. I like to think my interest is ingrained, coming genetically from my Norwegian seafaring ancestors. And I don’t mean Vikings, though it’s fun to think about those. I mean my oceanographer grandfather, Navy Lieutenant Commander great-grandfather, and sailor-turned-Coast Guard captain great-great-grandfather. Continue reading Low ceilings

Mayflower trolls

Internet trolls are people who lurk on social media and generally cause trouble for everybody else. I recently found a list of the ten types of internet trolls, and suspect I probably qualify under No. 5, “The Show-Off, Know-it-All Or Blabbermouth Troll.” Or at least that is how I feel whenever I chime in on one of the Mayflower/Alden-related Facebook pages or the like. It becomes my job to deflate the balloons of some of these wonderful newly-found Mayflower descendants, who have, most unfortunately, inadvertently gathered and believed all the dross of Internet information about their ancestors. Continue reading Mayflower trolls

A foolish boy

Last month I shared the story of my ancestor Francis Billington “discovering” the Billington Sea. This story is relayed in the 1622 publication known as Mourt’s Relation. The second story on Francis Billington from this work could have had very dire consequences for the new settlement. This event occurred on 5 December 1620, a few weeks before his “discovery” of the Billington Sea: Continue reading A foolish boy

Four hundred years local

Plymouth Harbor at dusk.

For whatever reason, my grandmother’s ancestors stayed put. They ignored the call to go west (“young man!”) or to secure the nation’s manifest destiny. Maybe they had political objections and instead manifested disdain for American imperialism and conquest. Maybe they felt comfortable where they were, and bred wanderlust right out of the gene pool. Wasn’t it enough that many of their ancestors had traveled thousands of miles to get to Plymouth in the first place? Plympton is west; Marshfield and Kingston are north; and that is just about as far as they went.

And here is the humble brag: because my grandmother’s ancestors stayed put, and let’s face it, married their extended relatives (folding the family tree in on itself numerous times), I can prove descent from many Mayflower passengers, many times over. Continue reading Four hundred years local

The great “Billington Sea”

My ancestor Francis Billington is never mentioned by name in William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation. Francis’s first name is given in Bradford’s list of the Mayflower passengers, and in Bradford’s subsequent notes on passengers’ fates written in 1650, Francis is only referred is as John’s second son.

I am reading the 1952 edition of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, with notes and an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. On page 79, concerning early relations with Native Americans, Morison notes that Mourt’s Relation provides more details, along with Morison’s own description of Francis Billington as Mayflower’s “bad boy.” Continue reading The great “Billington Sea”

Mayflower kin

As we head into 2020 with the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, I’ll likely be posting more and more on various figures with Mayflower heritage, as I have already this year with Denise Nickerson and Terry Kiser. As is most often the case (except in my own), usually one Mayflower line leads to another, then another, etc., since members of these families often married one another.

After watching the Netflix original movie El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, which focuses on the character Jesse Pinkman, I took a look on the ancestry of actor Aaron Paul, who portrays Jesse. Continue reading Mayflower kin

The first Thanksgiving

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914).

With each holiday and celebration, it is the menu that most piques my interest. Food brings people together; on the best day it can break down cultural barriers, and it often provides a mode for keeping family traditions and history alive. It is no wonder that as Thanksgiving approaches, my mind turns to the history of this national holiday and the food that we now hold dear. Exactly how far have we strayed from that first Thanksgiving meal of the Pilgrims and Wamponoag? Would we find familiarity in dishes of stuffing, cranberry sauce, or sweet potato casserole? I’m here to find out. Continue reading The first Thanksgiving