It is estimated that there are more than 35 million living descendants of the Pilgrims around the world. Proving family connections to this group used to be a daunting task, but no longer. American Ancestors and its partners—the General Society Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) and FamilySearch International—have introduced an online resource that makes the question “Am I descended from a Pilgrim?” easier to answer than ever before, a timely offering in this 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower’s arrival in America.
Today, American Ancestors|New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) announced the release of a new online database on its website at AmericanAncestors.org/Mayflower- Family that contains authenticated lineages of passengers on the Mayflower who left descendants. These family histories are compiled from names and dates of approved membership applications to the Mayflower Society (GSMD). The earliest application dates to 1895. The searchable database is available to members of American Ancestors|NEHGS, a non- profit organization dedicated to supporting family history. In coming weeks, the database will be available to all active members of the Mayflower Society.
“Descendants of famous Pilgrims such as William Bradford, John and Priscilla Alden, and others, can now easily search for and find family histories spanning as many as 13 generations,” said Brenton Simons, President and CEO of American Ancestors|NEHGS. “It’s a huge step forward for Mayflower family historians, and a useful research tool for anyone interested in family history and genealogy.”
According to Don LeClair, Associate Director, Database Search & Systems at American Ancestors, “Linking your name to someone on a tree in this database may more quickly identify a Mayflower line, and aid in your application process to the Mayflower Society.” American Ancestors assists hundreds of its members each year with making a formal application to the Mayflower Society for membership.
In addition to the searchable database of more than 4.5 million names, family trees—built on the application known as American AncesTREES, a proprietary program of American Ancestors— will display valuable information for any individual interested in researching a possible ancestral connection to a passenger on the Mayflower. A complete tree has been created of the 24 Mayflower Pilgrim families who are known to have left descendants, a complete tree has been created. Where previous online Mayflower databases offered information on generations one through five of a Pilgrim, this new database now expands the online resource to include up to the 11th, 12th, or possibly the 13th generation descending from a Pilgrim family—through the year 1919. Due to privacy restrictions, no name or data has been included of any individual on a GSMD membership application who was born after December 31, 1919.
“The General Society of Mayflower Descendants is honored to once again partner with NEHGS,” said Jane Hurt, Governor General of GSMD. “As the custodian of family lines going back fifteen generations or more from founding families in America, being able to share our information with American Ancestors will help us identify additional descendants, find undiscovered lines, and welcome new members to our society.”
A partnership makes challenging research easier
The new database is the result of a three-year collaboration between American Ancestors| NEHGS, the General Society Mayflower Descendants (GSMD), and FamilySearch International, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints. The historic membership applications from the archives of GSMD were digitized by FamilySearch International to create a storehouse of images of each page of an application. Names were meticulously indexed for search functions online. American Ancestors then created a searchable family tree for each Pilgrim on its American AncesTREES platform, using the new indexed data and merging it with data from an earlier project done with GSMD for its renowned Silver Books collection.
American Ancestors CEO Simons stated, “This is an unprecedented collaboration between three of the ‘greats.’ FamilySearch is a giant of the field and brings the best technologies to bear. The Mayflower Society (GSMD) 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.”
Simons emphasized that free online access to the documents and lineages from the verified GSMD member applications sheds new light on one of America’s founding legacies. In the year commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing, many of the planned events marking its significance have been postponed. But investigating one’s possible ancestral connection to the iconic Pilgrim family may take place comfortably at home and at any time through the use of new resources such as the database announced today.
The Mayflower Society (GSMD), one of the leading lineage societies
General Society Mayflower Descendants (GSMD) started taking applications for membership in 1895. It currently has more than 30,000 active members. This year, with attention being given to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage in 1620, more individuals have sought recognition of their ancestry by submitting an application for membership to be verified by GSMD.
Scholarship undertaken by the GSMD over the years has resulted in publication of 30 volumes of the Silver Books, known as such for the color of the covers. The books incorporate genealogical data covering generations one through five of a Pilgrim. That data was indexed by American Ancestors from 2017 to 2018 to create an initial online database called “The Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants.” That has now been merged with the information contained in the more than 100,000 Mayflower Society applications utilized in this project, respecting the privacy of data of anyone born after December 31, 1919.
To view the new database, “General Society of Mayflower Descendants Membership Applications, 1620-1920,” and explore its content, visit AmericanAncestors.org/Mayflower- Family. Many other resources pertaining to Mayflower research may also be viewed at Mayflower.AmericanAncestors.org.