We'll be on the road this Thanksgiving weekend, steering our four-wheeled "Mayflower" to upstate New York to visit my wife's family. Hopefully our trip will be much more routine than that of the original Mayflower, a journey that included, among other things, two shipboard births. If any births occur on our trip, somebody'll have some splainin' to do. After they revive me.

Again this Thanksgiving, I won't be consuming vast amounts of food and football with anyone related to a Mayflower passenger. Someday I hope to find myself jostling with a Mayflower descendant for the last slice of pumpkin pie; I'd hardly know what to ask first! Probably something like "Wow! You're from a Mayflower family? Tell me, are you gonna finish that drumstick?"

Historians who know a lot about history say the Mayflower carried 102 passengers. However, none of them were Pilgrims. That is, they didn't call themselves "Pilgrims." Pilgrim became shorthand for the Mayflowerians 200 years after their voyage. They preferred to call themselves "The Rat Pack."

Like me, you probably grew up believing that the Mayflower passengers were all seekers of religious freedom. Actually, quite a few of them were planters (or farmers), sponsored by London merchants. And in-depth research that I've conducted over the last two or three minutes proves irrevocafiably that several Mayflowerers were just sick of living in places with goofy names, such as William Brewster of Scrooby, and William Mullins of Dorking.

There were no Stuarts aboard the Mayflower. It was, after all, 1620, and they were much too busy ruling England (and later had some serious splainin' to do for it).

There were, however, people named Giles, which is my mother's maiden name. Unfortunately, they were guys with the first name of Giles.

One of them was the ship's surgeon, a fellow with the wonderfully fitting name of, really, Giles Heale.

Heale surely helped deliver the two babies born on the boat. He sailed back to England on the Mayflower in May of 1621, never to return. This enabled the parents of those babies to blame Heale for giving them the, ahem, distinctive names that they always hated: Oceanus and Peregrine.

But they weren't the only Pilgrims with unusual names. There were Peregrine's sister Resolved, and Remember Allerton, and Desire Minter, and the Brewster boys, Love and—once again, really—Wrestling.

(By the way, whaddya think of this: I've started a NaNoWriMo book: a Pilgrim romance triangle between Love, Desire and Wrestling.)

Now it's entirely possible that you may owe your existence to Love or Desire. That is, you may be related to them. A page on the Wikipedia Website says, "Many Americans can trace their ancestry back to one or more" of the Mayflower passengers.

Perhaps, though, the words "or more" are just a smokescreen. That is, maybe all Mayflower families were started by one guy, John Howland. He was described by the Plymouth colony's governor as "a lusty young man," and he proved it, by fathering 10 children. That we know of.

Howland was aboard the Mayflower as a manservant to another passenger. I don't know how hard the work was, but my research suggests that all the servants and Mayflower crew greatly envied the shipboard life of a seaman named Thomas English.

English was hired to, and I quote from Mayflowerfamilies.com, "go master of a shallop." It seems that after a couple days at sea, he realized that no one on board, including the captain, knew what the heck a shallop was, much less how to "go master" of one. So English spent most of his time sunbathing on the lido deck and occasionally wrestling with Love.

As for the lusty young Howland, he left the manservant business shortly after coming to the New World and concentrated on establishing his sizable bloodline, one that traces all the way to (Warning: BIG name about to be dropped) the current POTUS, George Bush.

In fact, Dubya's roots also connect to another Mayflower passenger, a guy named Francis Cooke.

All this Pilgrim influence probably explains some of the, ahem, distinctive—and truly actual—names in George's family bush (make that, tree): Experience Mitchell, Silence Kingsley, Comfort Horton.

And then there's the Prez' own middle name: the "W" (updated a bit to suit a Texas boy) stands for Wrasslin'.



Watch for Don Stuart’s column Mondays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at www.rushvillerepublican.com.

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