Tag Archives: Christian missionaries

Pilgrims: are they my people?

Pilgrims: n. early settlers of the Plymouth Colony on the coast of Massachusetts.

People: n. human beings making up a group or assembly or linked by a common interest, the members of a family or kinship

The pilgrims left England via the Netherlands on the Mayflower in 1620 as part of a Separatist movement, seeking to separate from the Church of England. According to Wikipedia, they wanted to organize their worship independent of the trappings, traditions and organization of a central state church.

William Bradford, who later became Governor of the Plymouth Colony, kept a detailed journal, noting that in the Netherlands the children of the group were being “drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses”. The group not only wanted to pursue their own kind of worship, they also held the “great hope, for the propagating and advancing the gospell of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.”  Missionaries, in other words.

I, an agnostic Buddhist Unitarian Universalist, am a descendent of Christian missionaries! Whodathunkit?

You see, Governor Bradford was my great great great great great etc etc etc grandfather.

It’s not quite as special as you might think: there are something like a million of us who share this lineage. (Aren’t we all related to Genghis Kahn???)  I mentioned my ancestor at book group Sunday night and another member, Glenn, announced that he too was a Bradford descendent. This makes us distant cousins, eligible for membership in the excloosive Mayflower Society, as well as good friends.

Among Glenn’s and my other “cousins” (again citing Wikipedia) are Julia Child (yes!), Noah Webster, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Ambrose Bierce, the late actor and fellow UU Christopher Reeve, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, George Eastman (of Kodak fame), actors Alec Baldwin and Clint Eastwood….

Evidently Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner tried to get into the Mayflower Society, claiming genetic ties to Governor Bradford.  Hell no! said those uptight keepers of the puritan flame, and they went to great lengths to prove he did not have Bradford blood.

Darn. That would have made my family tree ever so much more intriguing.