January 03, 2010

Tallying my Pilgrim ancestors

I listed my newly discovered Pilgrim ancestors in these postings:

My Mayflower ancestors
My Fortune and Anne ancestors

Now let's sum it up and see what it tells us:

  • I had 30 ancestors on the Mayflower, Fortune, and Anne.

  • 17 of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower were my ancestors. That includes four 9/great-grandparents (great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, 10 10/great-grandparents, one (Mary Allerton) who was both, and two 11/great-grandparents.

  • Five of 33 passengers on the Fortune were my ancestors: one 9/great-grandparents and four 10/great-grandparents.

  • Eight of 83 (or so) passengers on the Anne were my ancestors: one 9/great-grandparents and seven 10/great-grandparents.

  • These 30 ancestors comprised six 9/great-grandparents, 21 10/great-grandparents, one who was both, and two 11/great-grandparents. To put that in perspective, everybody has 2,048 9/great-grandparents and 4,096 10/great-grandparents, so we're not talking about a huge percentage of my ancestors.

  • 13 of my 17 Mayflower ancestors lived through the first winter. These 13 constituted more than 25% of the 51 Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Source for the Thanksgiving numbers:

  • The Answer is '141'A precise census of the Pilgrims who survived the first year is provided by the Mayflower Hall Museum. There were 51 Pilgrims on hand. That included 21 men, 4 married women, 13 adolescents (8 boys and 5 girls) and 13 children.

    The staff at the Plimoth Plantation historic site (they use the archaic spelling) puts the number of Indian participants at 90.

    Ninety Indians plus 51 Pilgrims adds us to 141 participants.
    Putting it in perspective

    41 Pilgrims Left 35 Million Direct DescendantsYou may be a Pilgrim Father's son or daughter and not know it.

    An estimated 35 million people are direct descendants of the 41 Mayflower Pilgrims who signed that famous compact in 1620 to form a "civil body politick for our better ordering and preservation" just before anchoring at Plymouth Harbor.

    Once considered political and social outcasts, they have left a vast progeny who inhabit all 50 states, Canada, Australia and at least a dozen other nations. The Pilgrim's offspring may be the bluest of America's blue bloods, but they are hardly exclusive.
    Okay, so almost 12% of Americans are descended from Mayflower passengers. Definitely not an exclusive club.

    And note that more than 250 English ships and 7,100 English families arrived in America in the early 1600s. Although the Mayflower was the first to stop permanently in New England, it was only the 54th English ship to reach America. A veritable armada of ships arrived between 1602 and 1639.

    Many people could trace their ancestry to any of the 7,100 families and say their ancestors were here before or soon after the Mayflower passengers. Basically, anyone whose family has been here a long time and is part English probably had ancestors on these ships. Their family has been here as long as mine has.

    On the other hand...

    The tally above includes only some ancestors from my mother's mother's line. It's possible the Pilgrims and their descendants married into the lines of my other three grandparents. This is especially true of my mother's father's line, another old New England family descended from William Palmer of Connecticut in 1636. Palmer's descendants probably intermarried with the descendants of the first Pilgrims.

    And although I can't prove it, the number of Mayflower ancestors may correlate with the number of ancestors on the other English ships. That is, the greater the number of Mayflower ancestors, the greater the number of early English ancestors. In other words, the number of Mayflower ancestors may be a good proxy for how old and established one's family is. Therefore, I presume that looking at one's Mayflower ancestry is significant.

    Sure, a lot of people have one or two ancestors from the Mayflower, but how many have 17? Not many, it seems. Here's someone who claims to have the most Mayflower ancestors:

    Thomas Knowlton Gibson, "The Mayflower Man," Most Mayflower Ancestors and Plymouth Plantation FoundersThere are very few people in this world that can accurately claim more than twelve Mayflower Ancestors.

    With thirty-one direct Mayflower ancestors, some multiple, ten more by marriage, and more than thirty additional blood lines to the founders of the Plymouth Plantation, our immediate family is extremely unique in our multiple descent from all Compact signers with colonial ancestry, and a direct descent from most of the "first comers" of the Plymouth Colony.
    Gibson's 31 Mayflower ancestors beats my 17. But judging by his comments, having 17 Mayflower ancestors is rare. My family may be in the top 1-5% in terms of Mayflower ancestry.

    For even more perspective, consider some of the most aristocratic families in US presidential history. According to Famous Descendants of Mayflower Passengers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had 11 Mayflower ancestors. George W. Bush had six. John Adams had four. Not too impressive when you've got 17 Mayflower ancestors like me.

    What it means

    So I have 13 ancestors who sat down with the 90 Wampanoag Indians at the first Thanksgiving. That's cool. And two or more ancestors who participated in the Pequot War against the Indians. That's not cool. But both facts are interesting to me.

    The relevance of these facts is this: We hear frequently from conservative pundits like Pat Buchanan who say their (white) ancestors built America. Looking at Buchanan's family tree, he has a few ancestors who were born in Connecticut in the late 1630s and 1640s. That's nice, but I don't see any Mayflower ancestors on his tree. I'm guessing many of Buchanan's ancestors emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century.

    Judging by the evidence, my family did more to "build America" than Buchanan's family did. Having lived here longer than almost anyone except the Indians, I'd say my family is especially qualified to judge the matter. And I say America was a mix of Indian, European, and African influences from the beginning. Our roots are multiracial and multicultural, not white and Christian.

    If you disagree, find someone who has more "first English" ancestors than I do (30 of 218 on the first three ships). Because who knows better than those of us who have been here the longest? No one, I'd say.

    Fact is, without the immeasurable help and influence of Indians, my Pilgrim ancestors would be dead and there'd be no America. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Buchanan.

    For more on the subject, see Indians Gave Us Enlightenment and America's Cultural Roots.


    Anonymous said...

    Hi cousin. Just doing the click-click-click of ancestry.com I came up with 23 Mayflower direct ancestors and direct line to one of the Indian chiefs at the first Thanksgiving.

    Yeah, I don't appreciate Tom Tancredo whose family has been in America like an hour and a half compared to mine, lecturing me on who should and should not be qualified to vote or become a citizen.

    Wordcrafter said...

    You know what Rob. You and Thomas Kowlaton Gibson are what's wrong with genealogy nowadays. You brag about how many great men were in your family tree as if quantity is important. And who gives a rat's ass who was on the Mayflower. What did your anestors do to change our nation. Where there any shakere and movers. And if so, can you prove it. All your quantitative statistics are not only boring ad irrelevant, they're probably greatly inflated. We don't need genealogy geeks like you, who beat their chests and say "look at me!" We need more serious qualitative genealogy.

    Rob said...

    It would be ridiculous to "inflate" my totals when anyone could trace my ancestry. In fact, the numbers are as I stated them.

    You think I'm beating my chest about my ancestors, yet you criticize me for not identifying "shakers and movers"? Your position is contradictory and therefore illogical.

    You were right the second time. I didn't identify movers and shakers because it was not my purpose to tout my ancestors.

    I explained how this posting is relevant. Here, read my explanation again:

    Judging by the evidence, my family did more to "build America" than Buchanan's family did. Having lived here longer than almost anyone except the Indians, I'd say my family is especially qualified to judge the matter. And I say America was a mix of Indian, European, and African influences from the beginning. Our roots are multiracial and multicultural, not white and Christian.

    As for your alleged boredom, who cares? I didn't write this posting for you or anyone else. If you don't like it, just skip it. There's no need to inform us of your limited attention span.