What family doesn’t have its problems?
This week I am going to jump several centuries and talk about famous and infamous descendants of the Pilgrims. I have mentioned famous descendants of the Howlands and several others, but perusing Gary Boyd Roberts’ The Mayflower 500: Five Hundred Notable Descendants of the Founding Families of the Mayflower (Boston: NEHGS, 2020) had me alternately giggling and gasping, so perhaps I can look at the descendants this week, grouped in different categories.
The first chuckle is that there are 585 descents in the book, not 500.
Howland and Alden have probably the two largest sets of Pilgrim descendants, and they have, not surprisingly, the largest number of American presidents linked to them: Alden has the Adamses (John and John Quincy) and Calvin Coolidge; Howland has Franklin Roosevelt and the Bushes (George H. W. and George W.). Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford both (!) descend from John Howland’s brother Henry. The runner up is Isaac Allerton, who counts Zachary Taylor, Franklin Roosevelt, and Jefferson Davis’ first wife (so that may count as two and a half).
Not surprisingly, Franklin Roosevelt has the most Pilgrim ancestors: the Tilleys, John and Elizabeth Howland, Isaac and Mary Allerton, Degory Priest, Richard Warren, and Francis and John Cooke (total of 10). The surprise here is that there does not appear to be any descent from John and Priscilla Alden -- the Delanos and the Aldens were next door neighbours in Duxbury for quite some time, and intermarried quite frequently, but not in the case of the line of Sara Delano, Franklin’s mother (perhaps because Philip Delano [Philippe de la Noye]’s son Jonathan moved early on and became one of the original proprietors of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, while the Aldens tended to move to other places). Philip Delano was a passenger on the Fortune, which arrived in November of 1621 (the ship next after the Mayflower), although he was an original passenger on the Mayflower but got bumped when the Speedwell sprang a leak.
The Bushes come second (the Tilleys, John and Elizabeth Howland, and Francis Cooke, for a total of 5), and if you add in Barbara Bush (a descendant of Henry Sampson), then George W. beats out his father.
John Billington, executed for murder, was an ancestor of the assassinated James A. Garfield, whose wife was a descendant of Mary Chilton.
Not to ignore those who steadfastly remained loyal to their allegiance to the Crown, Richard Warren’s descendants include both a Canadian Prime Minister (Sir Charles Tupper) and the wife of a Canadian Prime Minister (Olive Evangeline Freeman, second wife of John Diefenbaker).
Almost half of the Supreme Court was connected to the Mayflower in the early 1990s -- William Rehnquist (William Bradford, natch), Byron White (Brewster, Allerton), Harry Blackmun (Standish), and the quintessential New Englander David Souter (Hopkins, Rogers, Brewster).