Butler County 97-year-old learns she is descendent of Mayflower pilgrim

It was a happy coronavirus quarantine surprise that reached all the way back to one of the ships that brought pilgrim settlers to America.

A 97-year-old resident of a West Chester Twp. recently learned she is a descendent of one of the pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower to North America in the 1600s to settle in the new land.

Chesterwood Village assisted living resident Kay Matson was surprised last week by a teleconference from members of the Mayflower Society and her family with the news.

Matson and other Ohio residents in senior homes are quarantined as part of the safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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It took two years for the Mayflower Society to recognize that Matson is a direct descendant of John Howland, who was not only a passenger on the Mayflower’s maiden voyage to the New World, but he was the Englishman who worked with his family to finance the Mayflower’s expedition.

Howland is Matson’s eighth great-grandfather, according to a statement released by Chesterwood officials.

“We suspected for years there was lineage, but no one ever took the excessive time it takes to track down all the documents,” says Karl Matson, Kay’s son.

“Then my niece, Amy Walts, took it on as a project, pouring tons of energy into it. She had to gather generations of documentation such as marriage and birth certificates. She did it all from her home in New York as a gift to Kay, her grandmother,” he said.

Matson, who is hard of hearing, was assisted by Chesterwood nursing staff during the ceremony and presentation of a certificate marking her inclusion in the rare historical society.

“The staff of Chesterwood Village went through great lengths to ensure that mom had a laptop brought to her apartment, the sound was turned up and, as a special gesture, they presented the official certificate from the Mayflower Society and helped her through the induction ceremony into the Cincinnati Colony of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants,” Karl Matson said.

The staff assisted Matson with hearing the story of Mayflower passenger Howland who somehow fell overboard during the voyage. A rope trailed the vessel for such occasions.

“Howland grabbed the rope and the crew hauled him back on board to safety. During the voyage he eyed a beautiful fellow passenger. Not long after landing at Plymouth Rock in 1620 they married and had 13 children.”

The Matson family was told by the Mayflower Society that there are approximately 26 Americans who are direct descendants.

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