A story from our childhood, as related by our mother over the years, is that an ancestor of Great Grandmother Elvira Andrews Shute (1865-1951) came to America on the Mayflower. Mother (Alice M. Kedersha Lovell), a first generation American of Armenian/Assyrian heritage, was quite proud of her children's "eligibility" on father's side for the "Daughters of the Mayflower," (as she called it) trusting always that we would never deign to join such an uppity organization.
This tantalizing tidbit of our ancestry led me to become a personal history detective. Could I verify our blue blood ancestry, thereby truly rejecting uppityness by refusing to join, or would I find out that the story was apocryphal, leaving us just motley Americans like the rest?
I spent at least 15 years searching through our Massachusetts roots to flesh out the family tree on our father's (William E. Lovell) side. We are lucky that Massachusetts was his parents' birthplace, because no other state has a vital records system dating back to its beginning. The New England Historical Genealogical Society in Boston is a central repository of records or indexes to them. Nowadays they are online. And, a major work, The Great Migration, covering the period 1620-1635 has been indexed and can be searched on the NEHGS website.
So I did.
Bottom line: it does NOT look good for our direct ancestors arriving on the Mayflower.
Do not despair, though. We are not Johnny Come Latelys! Oh, no. We descend directly from the Reverend Samuel Skelton, pastor of the First Church of Salem, Massachusetts, the first church established by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Massachusetts Bay Company got a charter to establish a colony and arranged for 6 ships (with about 200 passengers in all) to sail from England and Leiden, Holland in 1629: the George Bonaventure, Talbot, Lyon's Whelp, Mayflower, Four Sisters, and Pilgrim. (Pilgrim was captured by the French and never made it to America.) The Reverend Sam was on the Bonaventure, but I bet he waved to the passengers on the deck of the Mayflower as they bobbed the Atlantic together. Is that a close enough connection to the Mayflower?
Our guy Skelton, a Puritan cleric from Linconshire,
educated at Cambridge University, was a man of letters who served as the first Pastor of the First Church of Salem, the very first Puritan church in America.
More important to us, however, is that the historical records of the Massachusetts Bay Colony state that the Reverend Skelton put in a lot of effort to maintain close ties to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Yes, those Pilgrims. Well, he didn't arrive in 1620, and he didn't arrive ON the Mayflower, but he arrived WITH the Mayflower and he knew some of the Pilgrims.
Most important for us, Skelton had four children, so we probably have many many distant cousins with whom we share his Puritan blood. (His youngest, the only one born in America, is our route to Skelton.)
I learned about our Skelton lineage early in 2012, when the NEHGS Great Migration database came on line.
And the Fall 2012 issue of American Ancestors (pp20-24) has a summary of the "Winthrop Fleet" sailings in 1629 and 1630. You can learn more about Samuel Skelton in Wikipedia.
What does it mean to be a Puritan? I never cared about it in my American History classes. I still don't. But it is fun to consider what motivations induced these people to leave England and set up in a cold, hostile and isolated world (sorry, Massachusetts). The King of England was running out of patience with the Puritans, so fear is a great motivator. But Skelton also received a few hundred acres of prime farm land near Salem. Was the Rev. Sam in it at least partly for the wealth? Or was it all Puritanism? (I hope the former...the latter is scary.)