It’s often hard to believe, but my mom’s side of the family has a small measure of commoner royalty in its blood: We’ve officially traced our family lineage to pilgrim John Howland, which means we’re all card-carrying members of the Descendants of the Mayflower Society. I have a certificate that says so. Fittingly, Howland was the only pilgrim to fall overboard during the journey to the New World. The ship’s crew did take the time to fish Great (x10) Grandpa John out of the Atlantic Ocean, which was fortunate not only for the continuation of my family tree, but also countless others: After he arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Howland settled down (so to speak) and fathered 10 children and had 86 grandchildren! Maybe we’re all a little related to John Howland.
Grandma certainly wasn’t a professional writer, but she did manage to be inadvertently creative in her letters. One of her most impressive creative devices was stitching together seemingly unrelated sentences, phrases and thoughts into one magnificent mess. In this excerpt from a 1978 letter, Grandma begins by telling about a family member’s effort to begin putting together the family tree. Where she ends is entirely different. Professional genealogists worldwide are still trying to decipher this:
“Harry Lowry is running down the Lowry generations, and he was trying to get information on how the Prevos were related. I was glad I could remember things Mother told me. I’m sending a couple pictures I had and got some copies made for Harry’s book. The one with Grandma and Grandpa Prevo is from their 50th wedding anniversary. The other one is Mom’s oldest sister named Elizabeth Prevo Brown, and her husband was related to the Lowrys. It was her daughter that Grandma Prevo raised and she was the age of Uncle Arthur so that’s why Mother felt so close to her and she was the one we called Brownie that’s buried in Austin, Minnesota and married Lyman Mott at the same time I was but she was in her 40s and couldn’t have children, so I told her I would give her my next baby, which was Charlotte, but your dad wouldn’t give her up. That’s enough history for now, but if I don’t use what little mind I got left, it’ll soon be too late.”
We’re pretty sure Grandma and Brownie were cousins of some sort … less sure on which side of the family Brownie was from. Who knows? Maybe both sides (insert your own hillbilly joke here).