November 22, 2006
When Diane Hopkins Ash was growing up she treated Thanksgiving like most other kids. She dressed as a pilgrim at school, studied the Mayflower a bit, mowed down turkey and forgot about it all after the long weekend.That’s changed over the years for the Basalt resident.Ash’s uncle undertook extensive research on the Hopkins’ family genealogy and discovered they descended from a passenger on the Mayflower’s voyage in 1620. His discovery came in 1970 when Ash was just 7, so it didn’t make much of an impression, she admitted. But as time went on she grew to appreciate the significance and became motivated to learn more about the 102 people who sailed to what became Plymouth, Mass.Her family descended from Stephen Hopkins, a man of some distinction. He had already been to America once before the trip on the Mayflower. He sailed from England to Jamestown, Va., as a 31-year-old in 1609, according to the website mayflowerhistory.com. The Sea Venture didn’t make its destination. Instead it was ship wrecked on the Isle of Devils on the Bermudas, according to the website.Hopkins led a mutiny, which was squashed, and he was sentenced to death. The governor pardoned him, apparently after he pleaded for his life as head of a family back in England, Ash said.His life was spared and some in his party made it to Jamestown on smaller craft. Nothing is known about his stay in Jamestown, but he was back in England by 1617. By then his wife Mary had died. He remarried and made the trip on the Mayflower with his new wife, Elizabeth, and three kids from his previous marriage, according to the historic website.Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Oceanus, the only child born on the voyage.Ash said her bloodline came from Giles, the oldest son from the first marriage. The story became more important to Ash, a native of Plymouth, Maine, as she grew older and especially after she had kids of her own. She’s studied all she can about the Mayflower trip and the early settlers of the United States. She laments there isn’t more.The problems they faced on the tiny ship and in the first years in a colony make today’s challenges almost laughable in comparison, she said. Diane, 43, and her husband P.D. Ash take pride in teaching their two young daughters, Hunter and Morgan, about their ancestors.Ten of millions of people descended from the 102 passengers of the Mayflower, even though half of them were dead by the end of their first winter, according to the Mayflower Society, an organization for descendants. There are Mayflower Societies in every state, including one in Glenwood Springs. But millions of people don’t know their roots stretch back that far.Ash is grateful for her uncle’s genealogy work. “The great thing that he did is he recorded it with the Mayflower Society,” she said.It doesn’t mean much except it provides documentation of a family’s roots, according to Ash. Her family has a family tree that starts with a picture of the Mayflower and branches down through the ages. In a family ritual, that family tree is passed on to the next youngest person each year at a family reunion in Maine. It will finally make its way down to Ash next year.Ash realizes some people don’t give a hoot about genealogy. She thought that sharing her story might inspire others to trace their roots. A person never knows what they might find. Stephen Hopkins has interesting tales beyond his voyage on the Mayflower, she chuckled.Mayflowerhistory.com says Hopkins “began to occasionally run afoul of the Plymouth authorities” after opening a tavern in the 1630s. “In 1637, he was fined for allowing drinking and shuffleboard playing on Sunday,” the website’s research showed. Several other petty offenses were cited.Hopkins made out a will in 1644. It was witnessed by Miles Standish, probably the most well-known of the Mayflower passengers. Hopkins died that year.Ash is part of the 11th generation of the Hopkins family to follow.Considerably more information is available on Stephen Hopkins and the other Mayflower passengers at a variety of websites, including mayflowerhistory.com and mayflower.org.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.