John and Priscilla and Myles and Rose

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins Alden are my 8th great grandparents.  Lets get this out of the way right at the start.   Plymouth

Does this make any of me better than anybody else? Nope.

So that said, I will share a bit more, my wife is descended from William Brewster; her brother, a Brewster descendant, is married to a descendant of Samuel Fuller.   A niece and nephew are an another Alden-Brewster pairing.

It is an amazing thing but the current estimate is that about 10-12 percent of all Americans are descended from one or more of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower.   Telling folks about this has been a quandary over the years,  lest you think I am bragging, I am not.  We are who we are.

The thing the Pilgrims have going for them, that sets them apart from many other immigrants,  is the mythic status that they have assumed in American life.  This is mainly due to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, himself an Alden descendant, and his poem: “The Courtship of Myles Standish,” which created the romantic triangle of Alden, Mullins, and Standish.  Longfellow had heard this folk tale from a relative, Peleg Wadsworth.  Myles was married to Rose Standish who died in the brutal winter of 1621, as did many others.  He later married a woman named Barbara.  The closest alliance between the Aldens and Standishes occurred  later when their children and grandchildren intermarried in the years after 1630.

Like many other myths surrounding the folks of Plymouth Plantation this romance never occurred. Most are familiar:  “Landing on Plymouth Rock”  – not true, and it isn’t clear when this started to be told, but most likely in the 19th century in the wake of Longfellow. Others think that the Pilgrims were a dour people and no fun.   They drank beer, danced and hunted, and also believed that sex was a natural thing among married adults.  Not too big on adulterers, though.  That they were all Puritans.  Nope – they were separatists who wanted to leave the Church of England not purify it.    In fact half of the folks on the Mayflower weren’t part of the religious group, they were merchants and craftsmen who came to the new land for business purposes.  John Alden was a cooper or barrel maker hired in Plymouth for the voyage to tend to the barrels of beer and spirits in the hold of the Mayflower.   MayflowerRather than return to England, he saw the new world as a place of opportunity and decided to stay here.

Opportunities  not available in Europe drew many in the 19th century.  My son-in-law’s family were hard-working miners in Pennsylvania who came over from Slovakia about 1880.   They faced an entirely different set of challenges than did the Pilgrims of 1620, but not necessarily easier.    The pilgrims at least spoke the same language and shared a common heritage.  The miners were transplanted to a new land and as strangers there faced many more difficulties to make their places.   In this they were  very much like every person who came to this country from 1607 until last week.  The path into America was not easy then and is not easy today.

So at Thanksgiving we should celebrate all who have made this land great, and remember that no matter when you came here you faced challenges and worked hard to overcome them.  And I can honestly say I am sure that all who did this were truly thankful for all the blessings that they received.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Other descendants of John and Priscilla Mullins Alden

John Adams – President
John Quincy Adams – President
Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) – Actress
William Cullen Bryant – Poet
Martha Graham – Dancer
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Poet
James Danforth Quayle – Vice President
Bishop Samuel Seabury, Jr. – Episcopal Clergy
Adlai Ewing Stevenson – Politician
Frederica von Stade – Opera Star
(George) Orson Welles – Actor and director


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in American History, American holidays, Colonial History, Family History, Holidays, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, Longfellow, Pilgrims, Plymouth, Thanksgiving and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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