Researching my family history has become a supreme passion of mine. It has opened my mind to exploring history to which I never fostered an interest in growing up, and it has shed light onto my being and identity.
Recently, I discovered my 11 X great-grandparents were John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. So what? Unless you know a bit about American History, these are probably just another set of names. They were to me … at first.
As a subscriber to Ancestry.com, I’ve created a family tree by inputting individuals and information. From those entries, connections get made by linking my data to records that Ancestry.com has in its database. As new records are added to the database, “hints” are issued for individuals that I have posted in my family tree who are connected to those records . Because my tree is quite large (from several hours of inputting and exploring) I get many “hints” a day on various ancestors. When I got a hint for Desire Gorham, a 9 X great-grandmother, I reviewed it and added her to my tree without much thought. When one goes that far back in a line, records become rare and many hints are just other genealogy enthusiasts who have your ancestor on their trees also. So, when all of a sudden there were about 16 “hints” for Desire Gorham, I thought I’d better do some investigating because individuals born in 1644 didn’t generate that kind of record data because of the lack good record keeping that far back.
When I went back to have a closer look at Desire Gorham, I noticed her place of birth was listed as Plymouth, Massachusetts. Although American History is not my forte, I do remember learning about the Mayflower coming from England to Plymouth with some of the first colonists to come to the “New World”. I thought it was worth investigating because if I knew if I were to travel there for ancestry research there would be lots to see and do because of the history of the place.
Reviewing more of the hints for Desire, there were connections to her parents who were listed as Desire Howland and Captain John Gorham. With them, pictures were given as “hints”. As a visual learner, I was quick to open them. Low and behold it was a picture of a headstone listing the children of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, Pilgrims of the Mayflower. Desire (Howland) Gorham was one of them. WHAAAA…????
I couldn’t believe it. There in front of me was evidence that I was a descendant of the Pilgrims that came on the Mayflower. Of course, I have started to delve into who John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley were and what their significance was to this prominent point in history. Apparently, John fell overboard during the voyage and was rescued. There is a painting that depicts the dramatic rescue of John Howland. His name is also on the “Mayflower Compact” which served as the first governing document of the pilgrims. It is so exciting to learn that I am a descendant of those who left such a legacy. What would these ancestors say if they could see the world that they helped start? Fascinating.
This now opens up questions for how did a Mayflower descendant end up way over here in Southwestern Ontario when the original landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts? More research to do! More stories to explore! More to come…
“Mayflower.” Wikimedia Commons. Last modified August 20, 2011. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Mayflower#mediaviewer/File:MayflowerHarbor.jpg . (photo: “Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor” by William Halsall, 1882)
“Mayflower.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Last modified October 6, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mayflower .
“Noels-Cornish Family Tree.” Ancestry.com. Last modified October 11, 2014. http://home.ancestry.ca/ .