On November 24, 2015 I watched in total fascination the PBS program "The Pilgrims". This program is destined to be yet another of the captivating programs by Ken Burns. I first watched a program by Mr. Burns titled "The Civil War", and it captured my curiosty. I have not quit learning about the Civil War yet, so many years later.
When I saw that "The Pilgrims" was scheduled, I jumped to the conclusion it would be the usual first Thanksgiving story with a lot of the familiar images we have seen all of our lives. What a wonderful surprise it was. The story started in England, just as the Pilgrims did, then forced to flee England to Holland and eventually to The New World. The distant and unknown New World.
Thanks to this program I can see the story of my four Mayflower ancestors. John Tilley and his wife, Joan Hurst were among the 102 passengers of the Mayflower. With them was their thirteen year old daughter, Elizabeth Tilley. Elizabeth is my 11th Great Grandmother, making the elder Tilley's my 12th Great Grandparents. Also on the Mayflower was a young man in the household of John Carver named, John Howland. It is not known if he was related to the Carvers or simply an employee of Mr Carver. John Carver was the very first Governor of Plymouth Plantation. Yes, William Bradford is the best known Governor of Plymouth Plantation, but he was the second Governor.
The elder Tilleys died in that first horrible winter in New England. The program illustrated how terrible that first winter was that left only half of the 102 passengers alive, barely alive, but alive none the less. Among those survivors are my ancestors, John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. I can now imagine more clearly the terrible experience these young people endured. I can only imagine the heartache and fear Elizabeth felt as her parents died and left her alone in a strange and dangerous land.
John and Elizabeth married about 1623/24. They both lived a long and full life full of further experiences that would do most of us in. They had ten children, and they ALL lived to adulthood and had big families. To have all ten children survive in that day is an amazing feat. It is estimated that John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley have somewhere around 1,000,000 descendants.
Elizabeth Tilley Howland was one of the last of the 102 Mayflower passengers to live. She had seventy two grandchildren when she died. She was a strong lady. I am so proud to be her descendant, even if I am only one in a 1,000,000.
The program on PBS, last evening captivated me and thanks to Ken Burns for showing the true story, or at least as close to the true story as possible.
The main character in the program was William Bradford. I learned the interesting story of his writing, "Of Plimith Plantation". How it was lost to history for over 100 years and finally discovered in Europe in the 1850's. After much negotiating it was returned to its native soil around 1890, and is now housed in honor in the Capitol of Massachusetts.
In closing, I want to say, I needed to hear a great survival story at this time in my life, and I certainly received it in this program. This is the lure and the goal of genealogy. Learning what stuff we are made of. Little wonder we love it so much. Patj