Do you have an ancestor who sailed on the Mayflower?

9 years ago

Most people think of Thanksgiving in terms of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, football, and family gatherings.  Those of us who qualify as seniors remember learning about the Pilgrims in school.  Stories of the first Thanksgiving and the bravery of the men and women who came on the Mayflower in 1620 were commonplace.  And, I know from personal experience that there are many genealogists who would love to belong to the Mayflower Society.  “How do I join?” is one of the most persistent questions I’m asked.

From the 102 passengers who braved the North Atlantic to reach these shores, there are now estimated to be over 30 million Americans who have Mayflower ancestry.  A good many people have no idea they have this ancestry.  The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, GSMD for short, is located appropriately enough in Plymouth, Massachusetts and there are state societies in all 50 states.  When you join the GSMD you will join through one of the State Societies.

 So how do you find out if your ancestor was among those who came on the Mayflower?  A great place to start is the GSMD’s official website at

 This site is all things Mayflower.  You can find the history of the Pilgrims, suggested resources for researchers, learn about the Society’s headquarters, museum, and research library as well as read a list of all those passengers who came on the Mayflower.  There are listings for reunions, specific Pilgrim descendant societies, activities, and links to all the state societies including Maine’s.

 There’s a worksheet you can use to determine if you have a Pilgrim in your background or to use as a working copy when you begin your research.  Unless you have your direct line to a Pilgrim completely documented you won’t start with the formal application.  I note there is now a $25 fee to have your worksheet reviewed when you have it completed and this will save you in the long run.

 One great thing about the Mayflower Society is that it has fostered research on the Pilgrims since its inception.  Even though the Mayflower landed almost 400 years ago there is still new material being discovered about the families of the Pilgrims. The GSMD publishes a journal and the Silver Books.  The Silver Books, named for the color of their hard covers, present the best available research for the first five generations of a Mayflower Pilgrim through one of his children and the birth of the sixth generation.  They are a tremendous help for researchers.  Work on various lines is ongoing and new ones are literally opening up each year.

Silver books are available in major libraries where you can check to see if the names appear to be your ancestors and move on from there in your research.  And, if you do have a Pilgrim in your tree and haven’t yet visited Plymouth I urge you to find time for a visit of a couple of days.  There’s a very special connection you’ll experience when you stand where your ancestors once stood, walk the burial ground, or gaze at artifacts in the museum. I found my 13th great-grandfather’s mended stockings and my 12th great-grandmother’s hat among other family items.

 I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and whether you have a Pilgrim ancestor or not, I wish you luck with your genealogical researching.

 Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years and is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society. Reader emails are welcome at Her semimonthly column is sponsored by the Aroostook County Genealogical Society which meets the fourth Monday of the month except in July and December at the Caribou Library at 6:30 p.m. Guests are always welcome. FMI contact Edwin “J” Bullard at 492-5501.