America: A Nation of Explorers

It’s November. That’s the month I choose to pester my family with Facebook posts about our Mayflower ancestors. It’s been my tradition the last few years to post tidbits once or twice a week to help inform the next generation about the trials and tribulations faced by those who paved the way for us.

I wonder sometimes why we have such a reverence for certain groups of people, such as those who traveled on the ship called Mayflower. What made them more special than those who traveled on the ship called Fortune? Nothing really. Each and every one of them faced the same hardships. Sickness, lack of food, winter. Hardships that I can’t even fathom as I sit here in my warm home typing away on my computer.

Thinking of those who forged the way in America reminded me of a conversation I had with a woman I had just met while I was living in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is a unique place of proud people. Some who still hold tight to the ideas of the Antebellum South. I met this woman one night while I was at work. We chatted for a couple of minutes while she was dropping names right and left. I’m sure you’ve met that type of person before. One who thinks their worth is made from who they know, not who they are?

The conversation was such that I was able to drop a few of my own by first naming my ancestor James Whitecotton who fought in the American Revolution under General George Rogers Clark (Clark is still a big deal in Louisville even today). After that I tossed in a couple of Mayflower ancestors and we turned the conversation towards the settling of America.

This woman made a comment then that struck me and has stayed with me even years later. She said that it was her opinion that the American people as a group are a people who are always striving for the next great thing, be it science or exploration. Always wanting to expand West. Her reasoning was that the earliest settlers were made up of mostly second and third sons who wouldn’t inherit land and so of necessity moved to the New World.

Thus she said, began a mindset that continued for each generation. Exploration. Land.

Looking at my family tree I see the truth of what she said. From those who traveled on the Mayflower and Fortune to America and created a New World, to those who moved from Germany to Russia to America to provide a better life for their families. I see the idea that things are always better over the horizon. I see in my family a single family line in which each generation moves a little further west until they finally end up in California.

So to begin my yearly Mayflower tidbits for my Facebook family I will share a story about a boy named John Billington, Jr. John was a mischievous young man of about 16 years old when he traveled on the Mayflower with his parents John Sr. and Eleanor and his younger brother Francis.

He and his brother were known for their pranks on board ship and once they landed in Plymouth they continued with their trouble-making ways. At some point, young John became lost in the woods outside of town and was found and returned by the local Indians. This was the setting for the book, John Billington: Friend of Squanto. John Billington, Jr became sick soon after this incident and died at a young age. His father John Sr. is another story for another day. All the Billington descendants are through son Francis.

My proven Mayflower ancestors are Allerton, Billington, Brown (2 lines), Cooke, Howland (2 lines), Tilley, and Warren. I’m always happy to meet new cousins so let me know if we share an ancestor.

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