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Diane Happel goes back to the Mayflower Pilgrims

July 3, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer , Messenger News

Diane Happel doesn't look old, but, man, she goes way back. To the May-flower way back.

This is the part I love. When her mother, Helen Magennis, moved from her home to a condo, Happel helped her clean the basement. It was full of stuff. See, I'm not the only one who uses a basement like a basement should be used.

Anyway, Happel said, "I came across a copy of my grandmother's application to the DAR saying she had followed her lineage back to the Mayflower. I thought it was pretty neat."

She followed her lineage back to 4-year-old Mary Allerton, the youngest Pilgrim to set foot on Plymouth Rock.

The Mayflower, you may remember from history class, landed at Plymouth Rock on Dec. 21, 1620. That's a lot of great-great-greats to be following back to your beginnings.

So, Happel said, "I'm the 11th and 12th generation Mayflower descendent because Mary Allerton didn't come over by herself."

It's just that when Happel got to Mary Allerton in her search, she had what she needed and stopped. She really had what she needed at least six generations after Mary Allerton because those first six generations are documented in book form, but she went the distance.

"That was hard work," she said. "Then I just took a sigh of relief and rested for a bit. Maybe I'll do an addendum to go back further."

With proof of her ancestors in hand, Happel was elected to membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in Iowa. She also recently joined the Fort Dodge Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

"Now I'm going to research to see if I have anybody who fought in the War of 1812," she said. "Next year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812."

Now that she knows how to find what she finds, Happel has research in her blood. "Family is important," she said. "Heritage is important. You've got to know where you came from and where you're going."

With Mom in the local DAR, 10-year-old Emily Happel joined the Children of the American Revolution. The nearest chapter is in Boone, but Emily is excited about the group.

"It's fun for her," Happel said. "At Thanksgiving, they learn about Pilgrims in school. Now she can tell everybody she came over on the Mayflower."

Maybe not actually, but in theory.

The search for descendants goes through birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, going back one more generation each time.

"I got very friendly with the ladies down at the courthouse," Happel said. "It's amazing what they store forever in these courthouses."

Her grandmother's application to DAR was a family story, of sorts. "Mom told me about it when I was growing up, but I never had proof of it," Happel said.

She does now. And now all that's left is to get out to Plymouth to see Mary Allerton's grave marker.

"She's the last original Mayflower Pilgrim to die," Happel said. "She has the biggest monument. You can get online and look at it. I've got to get out to see it."

Sounds like a road trip to me.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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