Monday, July 22, 2013

A Few Scoundrels in the Family Tree

The other day my father and I were watching a program about Facts and Fiction about American History. The first two stories that they highlighted were very familiar to me....and I didn't even need to hear the stories to tell Dad jokingly...that they were about to air some of the family's dirty linen!

The point of the piece was about some of the misconceptions about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower.  They talked about the near death of one of the passengers when he got knocked off the ship during a storm.  He was fortunate that they had put the sails down to protect them from the storm.  John Howland was one of the two bachelors who was on board the Mayflower.  The program pointed out that if he had been killed there may never have been a Franklin Delano Roosevelt or George H. W. Bush or George W. Bush....and there never would have been my father which I obviously find a little more personally significant.

John Howland was born about 1599 in Fenstanton, Huntindon England...and died on 23 Feb 1673 at Rocky Nook, Kingston, Plymouth Co., MA.  A photo of his grave can been found at Findagrave.com - John Howland.  He was married to another Mayflower Passenger, Elizabeth Tilley who lost her parents during the first harsh winter in Plymouth.  Elizabeth was born 30 Aug 1607 at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England and died on 31 Dec 1686 at Swansea, Bristol Co., MA.  Her grave can also be found at FindaGrave.com - Elizabeth Tilley.  I am descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley through their daughter Desire Howland Gorham.

Desire Howland m. John Gorham
Elizabeth Gorham m. Joseph Hallett
Lois Hallett m. Henry Cobb
Eunice Cobb m. Benadam Gallup, Jr.
Nathan Gallup m. Sarah Giddings
Sarah Gallup m. Silas Gallup
Ebenezer Gallup m. Susan Harden
Silas Gallup m Phebe Montanye
Edith Gallup m. Orlando Gage
Ora Silas Gage m. Florence Christine Shawver
Helen Marian Gage m. Frank Stewart Johnson - my grandparents!

Now the other line that the program highlighted didn't really even tell the whole story.  During the voyage over,  the fourteen old Francis Billington caused some trouble.  He was shooting a musket off in the hold of the ship among barrels of gunpowder...in one spark, he could have set the entire ship on fire and the Mayflower descendants might never have happened.  Once they had landed in Plymouth, Francis and his brother went missing for several days and were brought back to the settlers by the Indians.  However, their exploits can be explained as teenage boys and everyone can understand that.  However their father was known as a "knave" and "foul mouthed miscreant" and within 10 years, his temper got the best of him.  He shot a fellow colonist and killed him and became the first man hung for murder in the New England...not quite what you want to be known for.  I am descended from John Billing through his son, Francis.

Francis Billington m. Christian Penn
Mary Billington m. Samuel Sabin
Mercy Sabin m. James Welch
Mercy Welch m. Thomas Spalding
Eunice Spalding m. John Baldwin
Elizabeth Baldwin m. Jesse Swan
Nathaniel Swan m. Harriet Shutter
Cynthia Swan m. Gilbert Gage
Orlando Gage m. Edith Gallup
Ora Silas Gage m. Florence Christine Shawver
Helen Marian Gage m. Frank Stewart Johnson - my grandparents!

I enjoy the scoundrels in my ancestry.  I find them interesting to research and fun to find new details.  My father enjoys a good story and always pokes a bit of fun at people who are inordinately of their ancestry. We have our share of famous and impressive antecedents, but we also have a few scoundrels in family tree that show themselves every once in a while.  So while I can admire what John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley personify as Mayflower ancestors...I still enjoy the good story of a problematic teenager and his criminal father!