For well over a year, I’ve been plodding along, pursuing Howland ancestry and trying to trace each generation, beginning with my father, Verne Howland, and moving backwards.
I know Dad toyed in genealogy during the early years of his retirement. All of his work, of course, was well before ancestry.com was ever imagined. As a result, his documentation was limited to a few generations backwards. He couldn’t be certain of much, but he carried an oral history about his family having been in the whaling business and, perhaps even, coming to America on the Mayflower. I remember hearing: “the Howlands were here a long time, a very long time.” Dad said that his grandmother told him these things — but which grandmother? I don’t know. All of this speculation about Mayflower roots was fueled during the family’s 1966 road-trip vacation to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where we saw the Howland House and John Howland’s name carved in Plymouth Rock or some rock or other. On the same trip, at Mystic Seaport Village in Connecticut, we also toured a whaling vessel that was captained by a man named Howland.
I admit I’ve been pretty outspoken about the drudgery of so many of the family vacations of my youth, one museum and historical site after another, hours upon hours in the back seat of the 1963 Rambler Ambassador. But this trip to Plymouth and Mystic was among my favorites. Although I might have rather spent a week in a cottage on the Cape, I have to admit that climbing around in the galleys of that whaling ship at Mystic left a lasting impression. I even remember the souvenir I bought, a tiny ceramic whale. Today, I wish I knew what became of it.
These days, I’m following my curiosities, but there are many lives lived between 1600 in the Massachusetts Colony and Mt. Hope Cemetery, in Rochester, NY, the final resting place of the more recent generations of Howlands. This is not going to be easy.