Louise Beal has lived in Windham for a long time, but her New England roots run much deeper – by almost 400 years. In her Tandberg Trail home, Beal prominently displays a framed family tree on her living room wall. Next to it, at eye level, is her most precious and glorious prize: The official certificate naming Beal a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.
Nearly eight years of genealogical research enabled Beal to present to the Society absolute and unqualified evidence that she is the 12th direct descendant of one the most significant pioneers of the New World, Elder William Brewster. His likeness, highly familiar to generations of schoolchildren in numerous American history textbooks, was immortalized in the famous portrait by American painter Ferris which shows Brewster, clad in black and seated, preparing to sign the Mayflower Compact. Brewster was a political advisor to Governor William Bradford and the spiritual leader of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.
Beal said her interest in family lineage began during a casual conversation back in 1982 when her aunt told her, with some degree of certainty, that the family was descended from William Brewster of Plymouth Colony, a tantalizing historical tid-bit that had been passed down through generations, without documentation. Beal promised herself that one day she would research the accuracy of the oral tradition.
Twenty-three years later, when her last grown son had left the household, Beal entered her maiden name into a search engine on her computer. From there, an eight year journey of research began. The investigation through genealogical records, marriage, divorce, birth and death records revealed the lives of long ago family members that now bring pride and admiration to Beal’s modern day family. “There are no horse thieves,” Beal boasted. “They were landowners, politicians, constables, church-goers and fishermen – lots of fishermen, and all captains of their own vessels.” One was a Capt. Doggett who died as he “stuck to his post” when his ship, the Olympian, sank after being broadsided by a steamer in heavy fog in 1913.
Has Beal finished her research? “No,” she replied, “this is a passion that’s turned into an obsession. There’s more to learn.”
“A lot of people don’t know who they are, but I do. And I can prove it. Now I can pass this on to my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.” Beal turned to a picture of great granddaughter Scarlet (shown here), who is the 15th direct descendant of Elder William Brewster of Plymouth Colony.