With the holidays fast approaching, I’m sure many of you have thought long and hard about how and with who you’ll be celebrating this year.
Will you stay at home? Or, will you travel? Will you welcome family and friends at your dinner table, or share meals over Facetime, Zoom and Skype? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer in this time of prolonged uncertainty, so I wish you the safest possible solution to spending the holidays with family.
The holidays always make me contemplate the meaning of family, those we choose to spend our lives with. Our families are made up of the people we choose, not necessarily the families we’re born into. Sometimes, those two groups overlap. Sometimes, they exist separately, and you get to celebrate Thanksgiving twice or three times, depending on how many Friendsgivings you celebrate.
And for many of us, the food on the table — with its familial and religious traditions and significances — is just as important as the people around it. (Check out Warm your heart with olive oil this Hanukkah to learn more about specific foods associated with Hanukkah and a few recipes too!)
Knowing where my ancestors come from has always piqued my interest. And up until a few years ago, I was under the impression that the vast majority, if not all of my relatives immigrated into this country in the early 1900s, either arriving at Ellis Island from Ireland, Germany and Austria or crossing the border from points north into Maine.
After taking an Ancestry.com DNA test and really digging into my family tree, I learned differently, tracing a line of my paternal grandmother, originally a Prindall from Maine, back to the Rev. William Worcester, first pastor and founder of Salisbury, Mass. Then, last year, after speaking at the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I learned from a newly met cousin (third cousin, twice removed) on my maternal grandfather’s side, that I have family that fought in the Revolutionary War. And still further back, through that same lineage are relatives that arrived aboard the Mayflower in 1620.
This year, 2020, marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower arriving in Cape Cod Bay with its cargo of weary travelers – Pilgrims and families indentured to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I am among the 10 million Americans who can claim at least one ancestor arrived on the Mayflower. My family descends from two Mayflower families — the Billingtons and the Whites.
Family research can be such fun. In my case, I find the Billingtons more interesting to research because John Billington, my 12th great-grandfather, was the first man in the Plymouth colony tried by jury and hanged for murder. His sons, John Jr. and Francis (my 11th great-grandfather), were so ill-behaved they are the subject of a children’s book, “Two Bad Pilgrims.”
For those of you who will be with family and friends this holiday season, remember to cherish those moments, because if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to appreciate the time we can spend with each other.
Jennifer Huberdeau, Editor