2020 – Going Back 400 Years (Surprise!)

(Ignore April 30, 2017 publish date – this was published on December 10, 2020)


Amongst all the family stuff that I’ve been writing about lately, I found this ugly plastic bag containing an even uglier book (of sorts) inside it:


I had seen it before some years ago and knew that I’d better write about it someday.

Someday has arrived.

The book is not 400 years old, but its story DOES go back to 1620, so it’s appropriate that I get this out this year.

It’s even uglier out of the bag. I’m not sure what the covering is, but it’s falling apart. Little pieces kept falling off whenever I tried to do anything, like open it or turn a page.

Those pieces were all over my desk and the floor. When I tried to pick them up, they colored my fingers (and carpet) a reddish brown. When I finished examining the book and picked it up to return it to the bag, it left the same color outline and smears on my white desk.

This thing is almost sweating blood! There’s no way I can put this on my scanner multiple times…………..or even once. I’ll HAVE to photograph everything.

Here’s the front of this little charmer:


And here’s the back:


I knew I had to take a lot of pictures of the book’s contents, but there was nothing I could put it on without staining it. I finally settled on a paper shopping bag from a supermarket that I could just toss afterward.

Just today, I searched online and found what the original cover looked like. I had seen the name “The Mentor” inside the book (Volume 8, November 1920), so the book/magazine/whatever had just turned 100 years old:


As the cover tells you, it’s all about the Pilgrims: The Mayflower, Miles Standish, John and Priscilla Alden (the only three names most of us barely remember from school).

A quick, worth-your-time refresher: https://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/mayflower-compact

After opening the cover, you can tell that something’s very odd in the binding:


The first image:


Here’s where I found this publication’s name and Volume number:


And here’s a closeup of the opposite page’s image:


The Mayflower:


The closeup (it came out with weird color, so I made it a black-and-white):


Don’t worry – I’m didn’t photograph every page of the whole book/magazine…………it’s not THAT interesting, but the Mayflower Pact signing was important (as you know from the above link):


The closeup:


For all you Miles Standish fans out there……….his house:


I had forgotten about this John and Priscilla story (followed by closeups of both pages):

(Note: The term “Darby and Joan” used to be in common use in the UK to denote a devoted old couple who are living out their retirement years in quiet, if impoverished, contentment.)


After a page about the “Home Life of the Pilgrims”, something unusual shows itself – something that was VERY unique: an after-sale addition to the publication, which may be the reason the original covers are gone.

It’s a TWELVE-generation, hand-typed, genealogical family tree that began with John and Priscilla Alden!

First page – Generations 1 and 2:


Second page – Generations 3 through 6:


Third page – Generations 7 through 12:


I hope you made it to the bottom of that page………….there’s your surprise!

(and NSL Sr. died on August 20, 1947 – not August 19)

Oh yeah………….I forgot to include what came before the first generational page:


…..and its closeup:


My father’s mother (our Nana) was originally named Dorothy Dunbar. She married a gentleman from Derby, England, named Norman S. Leafe and became Dorothy Leafe. They had a son – my father – Norman S. Leafe, Jr.

She divorced NSL, Sr. in 1940 and later married Stanley Kavrik – a police captain in Little Ferry, NJ and became Dorothy Kavrik. All three of her names pop up at various points here, so I thought it might help to explain them all in advance.

So who put this addition together?

The answer’s on the last page, facing the snazzy inside back cover:


The closeup:


An Ohio dentist who was Nana’s uncle by marriage and unrelated by blood created this in 1925.

Oh yeah – one other thing was included between that last page and inside back cover…………this photograph of a photograph of Abraham Lincoln. I don’t know why and there’s no writing on it:


When I was a kid, Nana would always send me certificates showing that I was enrolled in the National Mayflower Society. I didn’t believe her because almost EVERYBODY claims to have had ancestors on the Mayflower and they all say that their ancestors were John and Priscilla Alden – the only names anyone remembered.

I think she was disappointed that I showed no interest whatsoever and she’d be REALLY disappointed if she knew that I have no idea whatever happened to any of those certificates.

Something I DID find recently were all these issues of The Mayflower Quarterly from May 1976 to August 1978, addressed to her at my parents’ house in Teaneck. She had spent the last few years of her life there, but died in December, 1975. I guess no one told MQ:


I found this article and “comic” in one of the MQs:

I’m guessing that the “Five Generations Project” it mentions is related to the above 12 generations addition for our family because it states that the fifth generation would have been around the time of the Revolutionary War. Our fifth-generation entry contains someone from that time period.



So……….although I don’t have my Mayflower Society certificates, I DO have Nana’s 1974 one, proving that her lineage goes back 400 years to our ancestors, John and Priscilla Alden:


One last pic I have to leave you with is what that paper bag looked like after I finished photographing the book on it. This was done with no book motion on the bag – it just laid there and then went into the trash:


No muss, no fuss and no cleanup.

It died a hero.



Note to siblings: The last typed information in the addition must have been done by H.O.V. in 1925. Nana’s handwritten entries since then brought things up-to-date with our births. She must have made her last entry regarding our 12th generation in the 1960s.

Nothing’s been added in about 60 years. Obviously, you guys have produced a 13th generation since then. It’s important that I add your offspring to this book, so please send me all pertinent information (names, middle initials, spouses, birth dates, etc.) to keep this going.

One day, this book will be going to one of your kids, who hopefully will be adding to it.

Not every family gets to have one of these centuries-long records that goes back so far to such an historical couple, so let’s not be the ones to end it.





There was one other item I found – 1865 discharge papers from the Civil War – that I could not connect to either side of my family. I had no idea who Joseph Brennan was, though I thought I had seen that surname somewhere, so I started to go through everything again.

Then I noticed in the 9th generation of the Alden family tree that Nana’s mother’s maiden name was Agnes Brennan. Could she be the connection?

Let’s see………….Joseph belonged to the 90th Illinois Volunteers and was discharged in 1865. Agnes was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1868.

I think we have a match.

These papers belonged to Nana’s maternal grandfather – my great-great-grandfather (who I never heard of before today):






  1. Vanessa December 10, 2020

    Super interesting! You might want to take the book out of the plastic bag and wrap it in acid free tissue. The bag might be causing or aiding the book to disintegrate. You have some amazing things. I haven’t detected any Mayflower lineage, but have found one line that landed in Plymouth a few years later. My supposed relationship to George Washington was a dead end and die to an early gemological mistake, I ended up being related to Merriweather Lewis instead. Hahaha. I love your stories – keep them coming.

  2. Annemarie December 10, 2020

    My husband Rex wanted me to get dual citizenship and I finally got around to it in early 2000. My dad died in ’99. Both of his parents emigrated from County Clare in Ireland and met in NY. With the help of a distant cousin’s research I was able to begin to trace myself to my grandfather Thomas and was given both Irish citizenship and their foreign birth certificate. I spent a week in downtown Manhattan going over records and getting official copies to provide all the info needed to the Consulate. It was fascinating. I’m not sure if it’s still as easy to do, but I’m really glad I did it. Once travel is allowed again, I will have all of the EU available, if I choose to stay! Your book is a great find!

  3. Bob Leafe December 11, 2020

    From my good friend and former president of the Bergen County Historical Society, Bob Griffin (someone who’s worked extensively with old books): “Terrific discovery for your family and fun to share with siblings and relatives. After using old books in my genealogy research, I was often covered in red dust that was really hard to wash off. It’s called “red rot.” As a chemist, you may find the explanation in Wikipedia of interest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_rot#:~:text=Red%20rot%20is%20also%20caused,used%20when%20coloring%20the%20leather.

    Counter-intuitively, pre-19th century books are usually in much better condition because they used better materials.”

  4. Vanessa December 11, 2020

    Red Rot – yuck! I suspected it was some type of mold. The wiki story was a fascinating read. Plastic bags hold in moisture. A lot of people store in areas of their homes that don’t have air conditioning or heat.
    I’ve taken to saving anything old in an acid free box, separated by layers of acid free tissue. It’s expensive though.

  5. E December 18, 2020

    Fascinating read!

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