• Comment

Seaborn: Mayflowers on my family tree

Posted: November 8, 2017 - 3:10am

"They chose John Carver, a gentleman of singular piety, rare humility ... and well approved amongst them as their Governor for that first year."

- from Mayflower, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Every family has its lore and from the time I knew my maiden name was Carver, I also knew about the most famous person in my ancestral past. We were descendants of John Carver, who not only came to America on the Mayflower in 1620, but also was the first governor of the Pilgrim settlement in Plymouth, Mass.

Every Thanksgiving of my school-age years, I repeated the story of my noble past.

So when I learned about another area resident with a Mayflower connection, I understood her excitement. But before I called to see if there might be connection, I decided to check a few facts.

You see, she had spent years documenting her genealogy and securing the credentials for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, while I had either been too lazy to go the legal route, or too trusting of my family's word to bother. Now it was time to be sure. Thus, with the help of the internet, Nathaniel Philbrick's 2006 book Mayflower and a family tome called, "Carver Genealogy," I went to work.

My pride rose as I read John Carver's resume: wealthy London merchant, chief figure in securing the Mayflower and arranging the migration to America, generous contributor of supplies for the journey, chosen leader while on board the ship, and first governor of the Plymouth Colony in America.

Exact details are sketchy, but it appears John Carver was born in Nottingham, England, in 1576, and married Marie de Lannoy when he was nearly 30 years old. John and Marie had one child, a girl who died either at birth or in infancy. Sadly, either in childbirth or soon afterward, Marie also died. John then moved to Holland and married Katherine, his second wife. In 1617, Katherine gave birth to John's second child, another girl, who also died in infancy.

For the next three years, John and Katherine made preparations for the journey to America and, in September, 1620, boarded the Mayflower for that historic trip.

However, following their arrival in Plymouth, Carver would not survive to the end of his one-year term as Governor. In early 1621, after working in the fields on an unusually hot day, he came home to rest, lapsed into a coma and died a few days later. Five weeks later, a broken-hearted Katherine was laid to rest beside her husband.

I wept, not only for this sad tale, but for my burst ancestral bubble. Retaining a glimmer of hope the sometimes errant internet could be wrong again, I turned to the old family tome to see what cousin Margaret Carver had to say.

She began with "the question common to every Carver we have met: Are we descended from John Carver, the first Governor of Plymouth?" Obviously, as she had learned from her meticulous research, the answer is, "no."

Maybe I just couldn't accept what was obvious to everyone else, but I wasn't done yet. You see, although John's was the first Carver name to be recorded in America, a Robert Carver arrived a few boatloads later, and settled first in Plymouth and then in nearby Bradford, Mass., where members of my documented family live to this day. Quite likely, it was Robert who planted the first seed of our American family tree. Just as likely, considering the timing and circumstances of their arrivals, Robert, John and, by extension, my family could very well be related.

(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer, and author of the book, "As Long as the Rivers Run: Highlights from Columbia County's Past." E-mail comments to seabara@aol.com.)

 

  • Comment