Where there’s a will, there are Mayflower ancestors!

Much of genealogy research rides on the work done by those back in our family tree who took the time to search numerous archives, court houses, libraries and cemeteries, and then  gather all the material together to write the lines of descendancy. These compilations are sometimes re-examined in later years, together with newly discovered material, resulting in corrections to set the record straight.

Then, too, some genealogical breakthroughs come about by sheer chance. This happened to me this week when, in an online discussion group, I was given a tip which quickly led to the discovery that I have 4 ancestors who came to the New World aboard the Mayflower!

“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA – via Wikipedia

Here’s how things happened …

In an online discussion group for family researchers, participants were musing over interesting first names given to our ancestors. Many names once in vogue are unheard of these days, many being Biblical in origin, like: Azubah, Jerusha, Mehitabel, Shubael and Tryphena. Or, names conveyed Christian virtue, such as: Grace, Deliverance, Increase, Submit and Temperance. (All of the names mentioned are in my family tree!)

What had me stumped was a name passed on to three men in my family tree: Sluman Wattles Harris. I posted the name to the discussion group and within minutes I was informed of a Sluman Wattles (1752-1837) from Lebanon, New London County, CT. He was a land surveyor and later a judge and, I quickly learned, the husband of my 5th great grand-aunt, Mercy McCall. So, that settled the origin of the name. Clearly, Judge Wattles was much respected by his relations, so they named a child after him and the name got passed on.

AmGen magazine cover

Click on the image to read the article in PDF format

Before I learned the above, I had not researched the family of my 5th great-grandmother, Faith McCall (1737-1785). All I had on her was her marriage to revolutionary war veteran, Asa Harris (1737-1817) and their children. Once I had the name of Faith McCall’s sister (Mercy), I proceeded to find her parents and siblings. My subscription to AmericanAncestors.org quickly allowed me to locate the article: “A New Daughter for Benajah Mackall of Lebanon, Conn.” by Elizabeth P. White and others (The American Genealogist, Vol. 65, Oct. 1990, pgs. 214-218).

The research of Ms. White and her colleagues achieved what I described above: they reviewed existing material about the McCall family and combined it with newly discovered material to confirm that Mercy McCall was a previously unidentified daughter of Benajah McCall. The researchers had to piece together and connect the dots between the 1753 will left by James McCall (Benajah’s father), a probate document from 1758, and a later property settlement document from 1765. It was only careful scrutiny of all three of these records combined which led to the revelation that Mercy McCall was a member of the family.

So, where’s the Mayflower connection?

Well, it happens that the above named article mentions that Benajah McCall’s wife, Hannah Otis, was a descendant of Mayflower passengers John Howland and his wife Elizabeth Tilley, daughter of John Tilley and Joan Hurst Tilley. All four of these people came over on the Mayflower.

John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley Howland were my 10th great-grandparents. John and Joan Hurst Tilley were my 11th great grandparents. Both John Howland and John Tilley signed the Mayflower Compact.

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899 via Wikipedia

This is the path from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley to me:

    • 10th great-grandparents: John Howland (1591-1673) m. Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687)
    • 9th great-grandparents: Desire Howland (1623-1683) m. John Goreham (1621-1675)
    • 8th great-grandparents: Lydia Goreham (1661-1744) m. John Thacher (1639-1713)
    • 7th great-grandparents: Hannah Thacher (1690-1780) m. Nathaniel Otis (1782-1771)
    • 6th great-grandparents: Hannah Otis (1718-1782) m. Benajah Mackall/McCall (1712-1753)
    • 5th great-grandparents: Faith McCall (1737-1785) m. Asa Harris (1737-1817)
    • 4th great-grandparents: Daniel Harris (1771-1853) m. Amanda Miller (1778-1862)
    • 3rd great-grandparents: Sluman Wattles Harris (1800-1874) m. Mary Histed (1804-1860)
    • 2nd great-grandparents: Wilna C. Harris (1826-1914) m. Harriet L. Farnham (1832-1915)
    • Great-grandparents: Virginia L. Harris (1861-1948) m. George B. Garrison (1860-1943)
    • Paternal grandparents: Florence M. Garrison (1895-1950) m. Merle L. Marsh (1894-1970)
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