That’s what gave meaning to the first Thanksgiving. “They’d gone through a rough winter so they were celebrating the first harvest” in the fall of 1621, she said. Those remaining “knew at that point they were going to survive.”
The event probably was much different from today’s holiday, she said. For starters, it’s debatable whether the pilgrims ate turkey. Being on the coast, they were more likely to have had seafood.
It’s more believable that they had cranberries, another Thanksgiving staple, which are abundant in Plymouth, she said.
‘A badge of honor’
Carol Bergemann of Brooklyn Park, who is originally from Milbridge, Maine, joined the Mayflower Society in 2004, and several of her grandchildren are junior members.
She wishes she’d known she was related to the pilgrims when she was younger. “I would love to go back to school with that knowledge. It would be a badge of honor,” she said.
Bergemann is related to pilgrims Stephen Hopkins and Thomas Rogers. She’s found early evidence of other ancestral ties, including William Bradford and Mary Allerton, who was the last Mayflower pilgrim around when she died in 1699.
“I’d like to have all of my lines documented and proven, just to see how many I have,” said Bergemann.
When she toured Plymouth Rock, she was struck by the replica Mayflower, which was crude and small. “All I could think was that those passengers were crazy, destitute and brave,” said Bergemann. “I wouldn’t want to take it across Lake Minnetonka.
“The more you look, the more you find, and the more you want to find. It’s almost like an obsession at times,” she said.
Lino Lakes resident Dolores Shellum can relate. She spent almost a decade chasing after family information. Finally, with the help of a fellow society member, she was able to prove that she’s a descendant of Edward Doty, a servant of Stephen Hopkins.
Doty was a troublemaker who supposedly participated in the country’s first-ever sword fight, she said.
A historic wedding
Dudley and Marti (McClure) Ryan, who live in Mahtomedi, got engaged in Plymouth, Mass., in 2005. They returned several years later for their wedding. “We were moved by the history of our connections,” he said, adding that they met online.
Ryan is related to William Brewster, who was a spiritual leader on the Mayflower, while Marti is connected to John Alden, among other pilgrims.
“Our great-grandfathers 14 generations ago were next-door neighbors and best friends in Plymouth, and here we find each other in different cities on the Internet,” Dudley said.
The society’s get-togethers are sort of like a family reunion, Marti said. “The longer you’re in, you know who’s related to who. It’s just like family — a very extended family.”
Some members even refer to each other as cousins.