Friday, November 22, 2013

A Slightly Whimsical Look at My Pilgrim Ancestors

Posted by: Veronica Scott
Note: I originally published this post in November 2011 as a guest on my friend Shawna Thomas's blog, but I thought perhaps the audience at Here Be Magic might enjoy the tale:

As one of the themes of Thanksgiving here in  the United States, we have the quintessential romance story, with a chaste, inspirational love triangle, all centering around the folks who arrived on these shores on the Mayflower in 1620. Poor orphaned Priscilla Mullins (my ancestress, thank you but we’ll get to that in a minute), sought after by gruff old Captain Miles Standish, a well-to-do recent widower. Miles is not a dab hand at coming up with woman-attracting prose so he enlists his friend John Alden, he of the silver tongue. Ah but guess who John loves? The young Mr. John Alden,  my other ancestor, dutifully went and began reciting the beautiful speech he’d written to Priscilla, ostensibly for his friend Miles. (My guess is John poured his own heart out in the speech and that’s what made it so compelling).

Mistress Mullins stopped him and said in her best Pilgrim demure fashion, “Prithee, John, speak for yourself.”  Really, what self respecting heroine of a modern day romance novel wouldn’t have done the same? And John didn’t have to be asked twice apparently. HEA ensued, complete with ten – maybe eleven – children.

Everyone knows the story, right?  

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I’ve always taken a special interest in the whole Miles Standish – John Alden- Priscilla Mullins love story because (a) I like romance and love stories and (b) I’m descended from them.  (My mother and her entire side of the family were die hard genealogists before it was popular – don’t ask!)  The relationship was a special point of pride for me as a child. I even got to play Priscilla in the third grade Thanksgiving pageant, with a robin's egg blue bonnet that was amazing in its historical inaccuracy.  I remember nothing else of the costume so the dress was probably a lot more authentically Pilgrimlike and boring. But that hat! I can still see it in my mind's eye some unspecified number of years later.

Clarence Somebody played my John Alden but I had a crush on Henry S., who played Miles. Clearly I wanted to rewrite history in our little school pageant and end up holding hands with Henry S, as well as wearing that to-die-for-bonnet. Unfortunately my third grade teacher was a hard liner and we went with the original, historically accurate plot. Clarence and I presided over the feast (chocolate milk and cookies) as the happily "married" couple, while the rakish Henry was off teasing Debbie B, my playground rival. 

Priscilla didn’t have these problems! She appears to have been a woman of unusual gumption for the 1600’s and probably would have ended up with Henry, were she in my sneakers, if she'd wanted him.

OK, flash forward to me in adulthood. I now know there are approximately 1,000,000 descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Alden living today. (One of their daughters married one of Captain Standish’s sons – sequel  material there!) There are actually 10,000,000 living descendants of the entire Mayflower passenger list.  So you and you and you may be just as descended from them as I am.  I clearly wasn’t as cool and unique as I thought in third grade. In fact, I recently found out one of my co-workers and I are cousins, about thirteen times removed.


The idea of taking a day to stop and give thanks for what we have remains a happy thing, even 380+ years later, in my case, or whenever Thanksgiving or its equivalent holiday falls on the calendar in your part of the world! Best wishes to you and yours in November!

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