resident has a story
to tell about his ancestors
was Edward Doten
(August 2009) While scanning the signatures
subscribed below the text of the Mayflower Compact, it is easy to skip
over the name Edward Doten without appropriate appreciation. It is slightly
below the more recognized names of Pilgrim Fathers, such as William
Bradford, Myles Standish and John Alden.
by Tara Gentile
Ken Robertson is a
of one of the Pilgrims
who traveled from
England on the
Plymouth Rock in
1620 and signed the
Compact. He has
compiled a family
history book to
document his lineage.
Unlike Doten, they were the more eminent passengers of
the Mayflower that landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They are the ones
most often remembered as the founders of Plymouth, Mass., and the first
permanent Puritan settlement. But through the meticulous accounts of
Gov. Bradford, Madison, Ind., resident Kenneth Doten Robertson II has
pieced together the colorful history of his ancestor, Doten, who was
his seventh great-grandfather, documenting a story rich in both lawlessness
Robertson is originally from Boston but moved to Fort Wayne, Ind., in
the early 1990s. He came to Madison in 1999. Robertson, now 77, lost
his wife not long after moving to the area and currently lives just
down the road from several of his children. Though he remembers learning
about the Mayflower and the early Plymouth settlers as a boy, he says
his genealogical research didnt actually begin until his later
years around 2002.
I remember my father telling me briefly about the Mayflower ancestors,
but he never told me how we were related, says Robertson. It
lay dormant in my mind for a while, and then I decided to do more research
and eventually start the (genealogy) book.
The Robertsons genealogy book is more like a large binder and
its three rings contain an almost four-inch stack of papers. There is
sufficient amount of pedigree charts, family tree charts and genealogy
reports on both his fathers heritage and his mothers. Its
through his fathers ancestors, the Robertson side, that he traced
The story he uncovered begins in August 1620 when the Mayflower left
its English harbor with 102 passengers. The voyage lasted 66 days before
the sighting of land off what is now Cape Cod. Soon-to- be-governor
Bradford kept a passengers list in which he wrote a thorough description
of each passenger and their family during their journey.
In the list, Bradford identifies Doten and Dotens cousin, Edward
Liester, as servants to the Hopkins family. The Hopkins were wealthy
English Separatist Purists. Doten and Liester had little political or
religious affiliation and were more interested in prospective adventures
in the New World.
Before the ship dropped anchor, it was Doten who took some of the first
steps onto Plymouth Rock with a small scouting party of about 10 others.
It was shortly after that he added his signature to the 41 others below
the text of the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Puritan
settlers in America. Interestingly, this is the first record of Doten
changing the spelling of his surname from Doty to Doten.
But most of the awaiting experiences were more grim than the cousins
expected. By the end of the first year at Plymouth, the 102 passengers
had dwindled to fewer than half that number.
A year after arrival, Bradford documented the first duel ever fought
in an English settlement. According to criminal records, Doten and Liester
dueled with swords and knives before being separated and sentenced.
Their punishment; Twenty-four hours of head tied to neck.
Reportedly, the two protested with such vehemence that they were released
within an hour.
He was a very colorful character, but he was also a dignified
character, according to historical accounts, Robertson says. He
was one of the 21 survivors who raised their families at Plymouth Colony.
He led a very upstanding life and raised seven children with his wife.
He died at 55 and buried right there in Plymouth.
Despite the years of work and pages of documentation that have already
gone into the compilation of Robertsons genealogy book, he doesnt
consider the project finished. He is currently in the process of applying
to the Mayflower Society, made up of only those who can document their
descent from one of the 21 settlers who survived the first year. Each
applicant must supply appropriate documentation to gain admittance into
We still need a birth certificate for Edward Louis Doten, which
would be my great-grandfather, to complete the process of supplying
all necessary documentation, he explains. There are so many
little towns around Plymouth that might have it. But Im sure well
find it eventually.
When one of Robertsons sons, Brian, is asked if he has an interest
in continuing the project, he is quick to assure.
Documenting and familiarizing yourself with the stories of your
predecessors gives you a sense of belonging, he says. And
it keeps it alive. If you talk about Edward Doten and his life and the
things he did, its as if hes in the room with you; as if
he never died.
Robertson tells a story about his childhood in which he recounts how
he and his young friends would ride their bikes along the side of the
road, scanning the ditches for pieces of scrap and discarded trinkets
that they could turn into toys.
You know things that other people werent interested
in anymore, things they had thrown out. I think this project is a little
like that. he says.
Today, we get in the car and zoom down the street. We dont
take the time to look at anything around us, to study what other people
have left behind.
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