FamilySearch and Partners Digitize Mayflower Descendant Records
FamilySearch International, AmericanAncestors.org (New England Historic Genealogical Society) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), in concert with the 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower, announced today that tens of thousands of Mayflower Society member applications (over one million images) and documented descendant family trees of the Mayflower passengers are now freely accessible online. There are an estimated 35 million descendants today of the 26 Mayflower couples that survived the first winter. The deceased generations in the applications are available online. Search the records at FamilySearch.org/Mayflower and AmericanAncestors.org.
In September 1620, 102 wet and weary Mayflower passengers and some 35 crew members departed from England, headed to the New World to establish the first permanent colony in New England. They would arrive in November 1620. Referred to as “Saints” and “Strangers” by some scholars, 52 were Separatists who escaped from England after several were arrested and jailed for their religious beliefs. For the previous decade they had found temporary safety in The Netherlands. They had not lived long there before they embarked for the New World. The rest were adventurers, tradesmen, or servants from England hoping for prosperity. By the end of the first New England winter, half of them had perished.
The descendants of these courageous pilgrims are in the millions today, and most have no idea of their historic roots.
Creating the Mayflower Database Online
The free online collection was created from two data sources—the 30-volume publication “Mayflower Families through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 1620” and the documented applications for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, submitted from 1896 to early 2019.
The data was merged to create a single representation for each pilgrim and their descendants for the time period of the late 1500s to 1910.
Working together since 2017, the collaboration between FamilySearch, American Ancestors, and the GSMD has digitized over 113,000 Mayflower Society member applications and documented family trees for about half of the 26 Mayflower couples with surviving posterity (the remainder should be added by year end). The records were meticulously reviewed for accuracy by using the scholarly standard, “Silver Books" (named after the color of the covers).
It’s never been easier to trace your pilgrim heritage.
"This project will make the Mayflower Society's verification process easier and records more accessible. A great many people are Mayflower descendants who don't know it," said George Garmany, the governor general of the GSMD.
"This is an unprecedented collaboration between 3 of the ‘greats.’ FamilySearch is a giant of the field and brings the best technologies to bear. The Mayflower Society is one of the most esteemed hereditary societies, and it champions the story of the Pilgrims. And American Ancestors is the public face of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the founding genealogical society in the world and best known for maintaining the highest standards in the field of genealogy," said Brenton Simons, president and CEO of AmericanAncestors.org.
Simons says the free online access to the documents and lineages from the verified Mayflower Society member applications sheds new light on one of America's greatest founding legacies.
How to Connect to Your Mayflower Ancestor
Garmany suggests that individuals start by looking at their own family tree, particularly if there's a large element in New England, to see if they might have a potential Pilgrim line. Then search the online database to see if that ancestral line has been previously verified through one of the member applications.
Of course, research is easiest if you know you share a surname with a surviving Mayflower passenger. You just work backwards toward a connection. But most people don’t have such luck, so the next step is to look for ancestors that have New England roots and go as far back as you can. Then go wide by looking at spouse names on every side. If you tie into any of the family trees of verified descendants—you’ve just added some very fun history to your family.
About the New England Historic Genealogical Society
New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)—known to many as American Ancestors—is the world’s largest nonprofit society dedicated to family history, serving more than 260,000 members and millions of online users with 1.4 billion records at AmericanAncestors.org. NEHGS was formally constituted in March of 1845 by an act of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is home to a world-class research library and archive, an expert staff, offers an award-winning genealogical research website, and maintains a publishing division producing original genealogical research, scholarship, and instruction each year.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 5,000 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.