I consider myself to be an American. But what does that actually mean? I know a few tidbits about my ancestors that are quite interesting. One of my ancestors, a great aunt, was on the Titanic when it sank (like most women and children, she was one of the survivors). I am directly descended from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, who came to America on the Mayflower, in the year 1620. Actually, John Howland fell overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during rough seas, but was saved when he grabbed a rope trailing in the water and was then pulled back aboard! Among John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley’s other direct descendants (and, therefore, my distant relatives) are the U. S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, the renowned poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and the founder of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith. This lineage does not, however, come down through the Kelland name, as the Kellands came to America later. If you add one more generation, John Howland’s brothers include among their descendants U. S. Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The other side of my family was primarily German, and when they first came to America they settled in Kansas and became well-respected wheat farmers.
What do you know about your cultural background? Are you proud of your background in a way that has shaped your life? For example, knowing one of my ancestors was on the Mayflower helped to kindle in me an ongoing interest in history. If you don’t know much about your family’s history, who might you turn to for information? Try it; you may learn something fascinating about yourself.