Pilgrim Ancestry

Religion in Family History

With Thanksgiving time here I am thinking about my Pilgrim ancestry. Does that mean that I had ancestors on the Mayflower? Did they attend the first Thanksgiving feast?Thanksgiving Turkey - Thanksgiving Feast

To be a Pilgrim and to have attended the feast that is considered the first Thanksgiving, you would have had to come on the Mayflower. At this point of my genealogical research I do not have a Mayflower ancestor. I still have branches of the family where I have brick walls and just maybe one of them will lead back to the Mayflower.

I will be looking at two branches of my family in my post today. I will start with where these two branches come together in Rome, Wisconsin with my 3rd Great Grandparents Isaac Braman and Mary Goff.

Isaac Braman is a descendant of Thomas Emerson and Elizabeth Brewster who emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1635. Some genealogists in the past have proposed that Elizabeth is the daughter of Elder William Brewster who came on the Mayflower. However, the latest research tends to disprove this connection. She is most likely related in some way to William Brewster, but is not his daughter. We do however know that the Emersons were also English Separatists just as the Pilgrims.

Thomas and Elizabeth Emerson have some notable descendants which I may cover in future posts. Several presidents, an astronaut, a well known poet, etc.. My descent from Thomas Emerson down to Isaac Braman includes the following surnames: Fuller, Hovey, Remington and Pomeroy.Thanksgiving Pie - Pumpkin Pie - First Thanksgiving

Now we will look at Mary Goff. Mary was the daughter of David Goff and Elizabeth Tubbs. David Goff is one of my brick walls, but I do have a lot of information on the ancestry of Elizabeth. In fact it is straight back on her paternal line where I have another Pilgrim connection. My furthest back Tubbs ancestor is William Tubbs who married Mercy Sprague. The Sprague family came to Plymouth in 1623 on board the Anne which arrived at the same time as  the Little James. These were the third and fourth ships to bring colonists to Plymouth following after the Mayflower and the Fortune.

Mercy was just a small child when she arrived in Plymouth Colony. When she grew up she married William Tubbs. My descent from William and Mercy is through their son Samuel Tubbs who married Mary Willey.

There is an interesting story about Mercy Sprague that I will share in a future post.

By definition the Sprague family would be considered Pilgrims. The most accepted definition I have seen is that Pilgrims are English Separatists who came to America in the 1620’s and settled in the Massachusetts Colony. Wild Turkey Head - Dublin, California - Thanksgiving

But, was the feast in 1621 in Plymouth really the first Thanksgiving? Some will argue for a feast that took place in Jamestown, but historians are even divided as to whether the feast in 1621 should even be considered the first Thanksgiving. They say that it was simply a harvest festival and that it had no religious significance as a Thanksgiving feast. It was only considered the first Thanksgiving much later.

Update: The information directly below is incorrect. First the proclamation below is spurious and was made up at a later date. Also, my Sprague ancestors would have just missed the feast in 1623. I will have more details in my Thanksgiving post for 2013:

The first Thanksgiving that was proclaimed was in 1623.

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.

–William Bradford
Ye Governor of Ye Colony

My Sprague ancestors would have been at this Thanksgiving feast.


I hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving and that they all enjoy a wonderful feast.


This post is part of a series on Religion in Family History. See also:

Religion in Family History

Amish in California?

The Light in the Forest

Stephen Jenks – Singing Master

Amish in Oregon

Amish Origins

Gallup Poll Connection I – Amish

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

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20 Responses to Pilgrim Ancestry

  1. Boomdeeadda says:

    Wow, your family has a rich history to be sure. Pretty amazing that you know they were at the first Thanksgiving. That pie looks plenty yummy, enjoy!

  2. Glenda McDougal says:

    Very interesting!!! Thanks …

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