Friday, November 18, 2011

Mayflower Research

Copy of Mayflower Compact as written by Wm. Bradford
in History of Plymouth Plantation; Original of Bradford's text is believed
 to be held at State Library of Massachusetts
What Happened in 1620?
Funny how easy some dates are so easy to remember: 1492? I know you are thinking “Columbus sailed the ocean blue!” What if I ask about the year 1620? Does that ring a bell?  It was 11 Nov 1620 that the passengers of the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Colony, Provincetown Harbor (now known as Massachusetts.)

Was My Ancestor on the Mayflower?
It is quite possible that you are one of the estimated 30 million descendants of the Mayflower.  (The General Society of Mayflower Descendants gives a more conservative figure of 10 million descendants.) The Mayflower interest is not a privilege restricted to New Englanders. You may be a descendent and live in North Carolina, or California, or Alaska. Listing and contact information of Mayflower State Societies can be found at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants website. 

Of course some have bragging rights of carrying the same surname as one of the original progenitors.  Oh we know a few names by heart: Alden, Bradford, Brewster, Cooke. But surname alone does not prove lineage, you still must have papers to prove it. (Ask the Mayflower Society!)

Where to Begin Your Research?
I suggest looking at the Society of Mayflower Descendants websites for General Application Instructions.The rules are simple: document your descent from one or more passengers on the Mayflower voyage of 1620.  A good bit of information to know is that some of the passengers left “proven descendants.” 

Family researchers would be remiss if they did not visit The Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants Library's online inventory and holdings.

Who Were the Passengers?
Copy of Mayflower Compact with Signers [1]
The Mayflower Compact - the first governing document of Plymouth colony was signed as an agreement by all of the 41 adult male members /passengers. Salvaged copies of this document provides the researcher with the names of these passengers.

However, not all have proven lines of descent, and many that are spouted about on the internet are incorrect. A good article to review is “Researching Your Mayflower Ancestors: Part IV: Internet Research: Sorting the Good from the Bad by Alicia Crane Williams on the American Ancestors (NEHGS) website. Actually this is a good 5 part series to read if you are attempting to do this lineage society research on your own.

Many contemporary celebrities, US Presidents, and notables are proven descendants of Mayflower passengers. Perhaps you have already traced your lineage to one of these distant cousins. See Notable Descendantsbut be sure to do your homework. 

5 Valuable References
  1. The Mayflower Descendant Volumes; Mayflower Society Silver book is also known as The Five Generations Project books that are final volumes of completed works by the Mayflower Society.
  2. Mayflower Families in Progress (also known as the Pink books) are “Silver books in the making.” Not yet completed volumes these works in progress are soft bound and available for the researcher.  
  3. Silver and Pink books may be purchased at various websites, such as Pilgrim Hall Museum's as well as at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants website.
  4. Mayflower History.com. A website penned by Caleb Johnson is a great one-stop must have for any Mayflower researcher.  Great links and information are in one place. 
  5. The Women of the Mayflower Project, according to Heather Wilkinson Rojo, is a General Society of the Mayflower Descendant project with the goal of identifying the maiden names and families of the wives on the Mayflower. To learn more, visit Nutfield Genealogy, Women of the Mayflower Project written by Heather Wilkinson Rojo  (19 Sept. 2011).
[1] The Mayflower Compact And Its Signers with Facsimiles And a List of The Mayflower Passengers 1620-1920 by George Ernest Bowman, Editor of The Mayflower Descendant, Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Boston MA, 1920; pg. 19-20 holds a copy of the original "entire fifteenth and sixteenth pages of Morton's New Englands memoriall"; online access 19 Nov 2011 http://www.archive.org/stream/mayflowercompact00bow#page/n3/mode/2up
However, the origin of this photo/poster has not been identified. A copy is held in author's file, but may very well be a poster as that sold on the Plimouth Plantation website: http://www.archive.org/stream/mayflowercompact00bow#page/n3/mode/2up.
Note:  a3Genealogy's family tree and document research for clients may be used for lineage society applications. 

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate Accessible Answers

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