After The Way of Improvement Leads Home appeared in 2008, I began to receive invitations to speak at ancestral societies connected with the American Revolution. I usually accept the invitations. Philip Vickers Fithian is a character of special interest to groups like the Sons of the American Revolution and the Society of the Cincinnati.
Today I spent the afternoon speaking about Fithian to the First Colony (south Jersey) chapter of The Society of Mayflower Descendants of the State of New Jersey. Thanks to Jane Engleman for inviting me to speak.
A few observations:
1). With the exception of two young boys who came with their mother (a new inductee to the society) and their father, I believe I was the youngest person in the room.
2). I learned about the strict membership requirements of this society. Each local chapter has a “historian” who goes over an applicant’s family tree with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that he or she is indeed a descendant of one of the 104 Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620.
3). All the members of the society call themselves “cousins.” At one point a member asked all of the “Bradford cousins” to stand up and greet one another. (I am assuming that this was a reference to the members related to Plymouth governor William Bradford).
4). There is a clear “God and Country” mentality among this group. The meeting starts with the ushering in of a U.S. flag and a Mayflower flag, followed by a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Mayflower flag is then “dipped” to commemorate those members who had died since the previous meeting. This is followed by a Christian prayer offered in the name of Jesus Christ.
The group made me feel very welcomed and I feasted on a chicken dinner with an apple pie ala-mode desert. But I could not help but wonder how a guy with Italian and Slovakian ancestry who had no ancestors in the United States prior to the twentieth century ended up speaking to this group!