This is a repost from 2012 in honor of the Thanksgiving season:
Did you have an ancestor on the Mayflower? Chances are better than you might think, since “tens of millions” of Pilgrim progeny have resulted from the original 102 passengers who set sail from Plymouth, England in September 1620, despite the fact that half of them perished the first winter. One child was born en route—Oceanus Hopkins, and one passenger died en route—poor William Button, so 102 passengers were on the Mayflower when it entered Cape Cod on November 11th. They anchored at what is now known as Provincetown Harbor, and for the next six weeks sent exploring parties out from the Mayflower to scout the area. Did you know they originally had planned to settle in Northern Virginia?
Researching ten generations back to a Mayflower ancestor may sound daunting, but fortunately for us Pilgrim-wannabees, research on the first five generations has been underway since 1960. Although the ambitious project by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or Mayflower Society) is incomplete, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations and Mayflower Families in Progress are considered the authoritative sources for documenting descendancy. If you know who your Mayflower ancestor is, check this list to see if the Mayflower Society has published a book about him or her, and see links below to obtain the book.
There are plenty of good resources online to help you learn about the Pilgrims. I enjoyed exploring Caleb Johnson’s MayflowerHistory.com, and also discovered a guide for teachers and students created by Duane Cline and hosted on Rootsweb.com. They both have lots of links to images, maps, and source lists. Of course, you should visit the General Society of Mayflower Descendants webpage—especially their “Books and Publications” area.
For an organized approach to genealogical research I recommend the Research Wiki on FamilySearch. Typing “Pilgrims” in the search box will bring up a list of results which includes a link to “Plymouth Colony.” (Of course, you could type that in directly if you were smart enough to know that is what it was called, which I did not remember.) This brings up a page with loads of information and links to Colony records, including the American Ancestors website, Mayflower Genealogies, Plymouth County records, and other NEHGS records. Continue reading “Pilgrims Rock: Researching Your Plymouth Colony Ancestors”