By TIME Staff
November 27, 2015

Some two million Americans owe their existence to a little-known passenger on the Mayflower that arrived in Massachusetts in 1620: John Howland.

According to the Associated Press, Howland boarded the ship as a servant of John Carver, the first governor of the New Plymouth Colony. Howland fell overboard in the Atlantic but was luckily hauled back on board by sailors; he went on to father 10 children with his wife Elizabeth Tilley, also a passenger on the Mayflower. They had over 80 grandchildren.

Three presidents – Franklin Roosevelt, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush – can trace their ancestry to him, as can vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Other descendents include poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, founder of the Mormon church Joseph Smith, famous pediatrician Dr Benjamin Spock and actors Alec Baldwin, Humphrey Bogart and Christopher Lloyd.

There’s even a club, The Pilgrim John Howland Society, whose 1,200 members are related to Howland.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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