This story originally appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
Annita Dial’s Thanksgiving celebrations are probably a little different than what most people have around Columbia. Sure, there is always a big turkey, there are mashed potatoes, green beans, dressing and even several desserts. She says everyone always eats too much.
However, what makes Dial’s annual dinner a little different is after the meal, she reads, “The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower,” the story of John Howland by P.J. Lynch. Howland is Dial’s ancestor and he sailed to America on the Mayflower. The reading closes out the evening festivities each year.
“The tradition of reading the book with the grandkids has been something we’ve done probably the last four or five years. We include everyone in the group most of the time,” Dial said. “Everybody that’s blood related has a shirt listing all of our descendants dating back to John Howland. We wear those that day. The kids are probably over the traditions, I think, by now. But now they know it is important to me and it is mom being mom.”
Dial was born and raised in Columbia. She graduated Adair County High School in 1989 and is the single mom to eight children. Dial developed a love of history and genealogy as a child. Now, researching her family is a passion.
“I started by filling out a five-generation chart on my family. When I did that, then you have to link onto new charts,” Dial said. “After so long, you get to where you can connect to people. You have to take the info and then search for yourself.”
That’s how Dial found out she was an ancestor to Howland and his connection to the Mayflower.
“It wasn’t really surprising,” Dial said. “I was very happy when we found out because I wanted that piece of history. I also have an ancestor that was at Valley Forge with George Washington. I even have other family members that fought in the Revolutionary War.”
She said the process was tedious. With family members spread liter- ally across the country, tracking down the information has been a lot of work. She received a lot of help from the John Howland Society, a group designed to track descendants of the infamous Mayflower passenger.
“I have always liked history and I think the neat thing is to be able to place my ancestors where history was taking place,” Dial said. “Knowing all of this kind of helps me place myself where they were.”
Dial hopes her children and grandchildren will feel the same way. That, in a nutshell, is why she reads the story to her family each Thanksgiving.
“I love Thanksgiving, and nothing has changed about that over the years,” she said. “I am hoping this tradition continues in the family. I would like to be reading the book with my great, great, great grandchildren, and I hope when I am not around, my children will carry on the tradition. I hope they always remember family is important.”
By Scott Wilson