Except for American Indians, this is a country
where we all have ties to immigrants. For instance,
I am a second generation native American. My grandparents
arrived here in the 1920’s and had only two children.
But from those roots, I can count today about
30 living descendants.
Pete Fisher, who retired a decade ago as Newberry
Park High School’s band director, has his own
roots from immigrants to America as well. Before
moving to Thousand Oaks, California, Fisher’s
family came from Indiana and Illinois, and long,
long before that – twelve generations ago - his
forebears lived in Massachusetts. He can trace
his lineage to an ancestor named Thomas Rogers.
The immigrant ship Mayflower arrived in America
in 1620 carrying the Pilgrims. On December 21st,
102 people stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock. You
may have heard of some of them. There was John
Alden and Myles Standish. And, there was Pete
Fisher’s great-great-great (and so on) grandfather
– Thomas Rogers.
With the assistance of his wife, Mary Pat, Pete
Fisher did years of genealogical research to prove
his descent from Thomas Rogers and was recently
entered as a member of the General Society of
Mayflower Descendants. The society, headquartered
of course in Plymouth, Massachusetts, aims to
perpetuate the memory of the Pilgrim Fathers and
the preservation of American ideals of civil and
religious freedom set forth the Mayflower Compact,
the first agreement for self-government ever put
in force in America.
The Plymouth Colony lost nearly half its members
in its first harsh winter. There are only 28 of
the original 102 member Mayflower party that you
can be descended from today. But in those days,
and through the 1800’s, most families had 8 to
10 children. And, just as interest compounds,
so does progeny. Some authorities of the Mayflower
Society estimate that there are 20 to 30 million
living descendants of the Mayflower passengers.
Roughly one in ten Americans may have Pilgrim
ancestors. The society counts many presidents
as descendants including Franklin Roosevelt, George
Bush, and Richard Nixon.
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants
however has just a few thousand members. To become
a member one has to prove lineage going back nearly
400 years. Search proof is difficult but can include
marriage licenses, cemetery records, probate records,
family letters and diaries, tax lists, military
and pension records, even gravestones.
Pete Fisher spent most of his working life as
a bandleader. He was the first to take a Conejo
Valley band out of the country to perform. The
first to march in the Conejo Valley Days Parade.
Some of his students have gone on to become prominent
musicians. One even became a space shuttle astronaut.
And though Pete Fisher is very proud of his Mayflower
lineage and has the records to prove it, I believe
he is more proud of his twenty years as the Conejo
Valley’s premier high school bandleader.