The First First Family

by | May 17, 2023 | Author | 0 comments

I was born and bred in London, as were my parents and their parents before them. When I recently began researching my family tree, I sort of assumed that would be the case for generations, as people didn’t really tend to travel around an awful lot in the ‘old days’. Of course, the hope was that there would be some big swashbuckling adventure to unearth, but you never really actually expect anything to come to light, do you?

There was a story circulating – when I say “circulating”, what I mean is that my Grandpa used to tell us – that there was a town in the American Wild West named after him, or, rather, his family. Considering that he and his brothers were brought up in North London and were as poor as church mice, nobody really gave the story any credence but, of course, I always wanted it to be true.

When I was in Arizona during a trip along the fabled Route 66 a few years ago, I noticed on a map that not too far away from where we were staying was a city by the name of Prescott, my mother’s maiden name and therefore my Grandpa’s surname. A detour from the Mother Road took me to Prescott where a bit of research in the city library told me that Prescott was actually named after William Hickling Prescott, the famous American historian. Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?

Fast forward a couple of years and the COVID pandemic – remember that? – shuts the world and locks everyone in. A bit of spare time on my hands leads to researching the family tree. Back through the Prescott generations I go, back, back, back and we arrive in 1604 and the birth of one John Prescott. The time of his birth coincides with a time of religious reformation and, sadly, persecution. The Mayflower takes the Pilgrims over to the New World and, not long after, John Prescott and his family follow them. In 1640 they arrived in Boston and an amazing story begins.

To my joy, amazement, shock, astonishment, and any other appropriate synonym you may wish to add, I found that progeny of John Prescott down the years and through the generations include Colonel William Prescott, commander of the troops at Bunker Hill and friend of George Washington; William Hickling Prescott (remember him from Arizona?) the famous historian and writer; Benjamin Franklin Prescott, the former Governor of New Hampshire; Charles Henry Prescott, pioneer of the horsecar railroad; and many more.

There are also incredible non-Prescott relations through marriage (I myself am actually a Brown, after all) including infamous wild west personalities, pop stars, actors, and even Presidents! There’s not a huge amount that we can thank the pandemic for, but if it wasn’t for the lockdown then I probably would never have found any of this out.

I recently went on a trip around New England – not just because of the Prescott connection, it had actually been in planning before I found any of this out! – but, of course, a few extra stops were added to the itinerary. To actually see John Prescott’s original millstone and walk around William Hickling Prescott’s house and stop at Governor Benjamin Franklin Prescott’s residence and visit the statue of Colonel William Prescott at Bunker Bill was quite amazing. These people are my family. Yes, it is fairly distant, but they are still my family.

Considering all those who have come through the line and all that they have achieved, the Prescotts of New England certainly can claim to be America’s first First Family.


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