This is an American centric post. Today is our Thanksgiving, a curious holiday in itself. Apologies to my non American readers ahead of time.
This year is an odd Thanksgiving for me. It is the first year I will be celebrating without my parents. Although we’ve lived apart for decades, and separate coasts for nearly five years, Thanksgiving is one of those occasions you always call your loved ones. Like Christmas, but with more food and less presents.
I have tons of great memories of Thanksgiving growing up. If Halloween is the gateway to the holiday season, Thanksgiving has always been the rising action of the second act. A feast day in itself, it signifies the start of the stretch of holiday events and activities that hallmark the season.
Oddly enough, though, it was only this year I learned the historical relationship my mother’s family had to the day we celebrate as Thanksgiving.
I imagine it’s a common thing to do when you lose older generations. You want to record it somehow, put a context to the tragedy. And so it was that in the months following the loss of my parents, I was updating a genealogy site.
This wasn’t my first foray into family history, but I’d always focused on trying to learn more about my own surname. A mystery, I might add, that continues for now (my great grandfather was an orphan). This was the first time I looked at my Mom’s side of the family.
And to my surprise, thre was a lot there. Because while my maternal grandfather may have been uninterested (a self proclaimed black sheep), the information was there. Generation after generation, going back centuries, documented and verified. And right there near the middle, a note that shocked me.
My grandfather’s family came to America on the Fortune, the second ship sent to Plymouth colony. Where a young member of my family tree grew up in Plymouth, worked for the city (oh, the irony of civil servitude going that far back), and marrying a woman that came over on the first Mayflower. Their children had children, as such things happen, and here I am.
The Mayflower. The Fortune. Boats that as kids we all talked about in November while wearing construction paper hats.
Don’t get me wrong, I know now, as an adult in an age where we have removed the blinders, that all was not roses and communal sing alongs. But as someone that had believed for the first forty years of their life that all of their predecessors had come to America during the immigration flood of the early twentieth century, it has been a shock. I also recognize that given the number of intervening generations, while interesting, it really is just a footnote of interest.
Still, I wish I had looked before. As the descendant of armchair historians and avid readers, I think learning about this might have sparked some interesting discussions. I think my Mom would have been fascinated to learn about her family. Instead, it will be a sidenotetoday while we celebrate all that we are thankful for, and remember all that we have lost.