Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Finding my Pilgrim Ancestors-John and Priscilla Alden

Growing up we knew nothing about our Alden connection.  There were no precious hand me down items and no stories of ancestors past that would have connected us to the Pilgrims. 

Back in the late 1980s while visiting my maternal Grandmother, Edna Cornell Hammond, with my son and mother in upstate NY I was asking about where the older cemeteries were located for different ancestors.  After replying “Oh, you’re interested in ….that (genealogy)” Grandma pointed out a large envelope on the counter that someone had sent her that contained some family information.  She told me that a year or so before a Minister had stopped by and asked her a lot of questions about her family.  Then he sent her this packet of information.  I asked to borrow the envelop for the evening and was told to take it because she had no interest in it.  That night at the motel I was amazed at the treasure trove of information that was in the envelope!  It lead me back to my Pilgrim Ancestors- John and Priscilla Alden.  HOW EXCITING!!!!

Over the years I have done a little research here and there to try and verify the information in the envelope.  Recently I decided to make the commitment and seriously work on confirming this line so I can join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the Alden Kindred of America.  (See blog post entitled Which Historical Societies Will You Join?)

When I was researching John & Pricilla’s great-great-great grandson Timothy Alden (see blog post entitled Using County Histories to Find Information-Timothy Alden) I came across the following information from a booklet HISTORY OF BRADFORD COUNTY (PA) by H.C. Bradsby published in 1892.

“HON. JOHN ALDEN, ancestor of most persons bearing the name of Alden in this country, was one of the Plymouth Pilgrims, and the last male survivor of those who came in the " May Flower," and signed the compact in her cabin in 1620. He was not of the Leyden Church, but as Bradford in his " History of Plymouth Plantation informs us, was hired for a cooper at Southampton, where the ship victualed, and being a hopeful young man, was much desired, but was left to his own liking to go or stay when he came here, so stayed and married here. He was distinguished for practical wisdom, integrity and decision, and early acquired, and retained during his long life, a commanding influence over his associates. He was much employed in public business, was an assistant to the governor many years, and, in every position he occupied, fulfilled his duties promptly and to the satisfaction of his employers. So far as is known his ancestry in England has not been traced. He was born in 1599, and died at Duxbury, September 12, 1687, in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people, and his sons buried him. He married, in 1621, Priscilla, daughter of Mr. Molines or Mullens, who with his family came also in the " May Flower," and both died in the February succeeding their landing. Tradition represents Priscilla to have been very beautiful in her youth, and John also was a comely person, and considering his other accomplishments, it is not surprising that when he was sent by Capt. Standish, after the death of his wife, to solicit her hand in marriage, she preferred the messenger to the message:
      But as, he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language, Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
      Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
      Said, in a tremulous voice, why don't you speak for yourself, John?
      Their residence, after a few years, was in Duxbury, on the north side of the village, on a farm which is still in possession of their descendants of the seventh generation, having never been alienated. It was supposed, until recently, that John and Priscilla Alden had but eight children. Bradford, however, states in his history, that, at the time of his writing, they were both living and had eleven children : John (born about 1622), Joseph (born 1624), John, Elizabeth (born 1625), Jonathan, S'arah, Ruth, Mary, David and two whose names are unknown.”

      Thanksgiving now holds a new meaning for me.  Among the list of things I am thankful for this year I also want to take the time to be thankful for John & Priscilla.

      I will continue to research John & Priscilla and their heirs.  As I learn more about the Pilgrims and the lives they led I can’t begin to imagine what it was like for them.  Priscilla was a young woman of 17 traveling with her parents and brother to this new, unknown world so far away, hoping for a place to practice their religion without problems, only to have her parents die during the winter.  John taking this wild adventure as a ‘cooper’ (barrel maker) on the ship and then deciding to stay in this new world so far from home.  I know their lives were beyond hard and so much like food, shelter and the Native Americans were such unknowns in this new world.  But they survived and prospered despite all the odds against them.  I am grateful they persevered in this great new land!
            Happy Thanksgiving!
            If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
            Enjoy the journey,

        1 comment:

        1. Wonderful telling of the story Debby. So exciting that you have this link to the Mayflower. That envelope of treasures you received reminds me of my cousin in Michigan giving me an envelope that was "junk that grandma left." Thankfully my cousin kept it because the treasures inside were priceless. Aren't we lucky?