Sunday, November 19, 2006

Are You a Mayflower Descendant?

Preparing for Thanksgiving? Don't forget that today, November 19, 2006 marks the 386th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims. Since we are now in the age of political correctness, you might not hear that fact elsewhere (unless you're watching Desperate Crossing on the History Channel.)

The old saying, "If everyone who says they are descended from Pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower, it must have been a very crowded boat," isn't really true, except that the boat was crowded. While only 102 passengers made it to the New World on the Mayflower, and about half died the first winter, their families were very large. Millions of Americans are Mayflower descendants, and many Europeans, too. If you aren't one, you probably know several. Of course, most Mayflower descendants don't even know about their heritage, so it's a somewhat pointless discussion.

Richard Warren is considered to be the most prolific Pilgrim , and his descendants include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lucille Ball, the Wright Brothers, Richard Gere, and hundreds of thousands of other Americans, including this blog writer, and maybe you, too.

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants have been working for years on a project to try to identity the descendants each Mayflower passenger through the first five generations. Seeing that we are now somewhere between generation 15 or 20, my calculations show that if you go back 15 generations to the Mayflower, you have 16,382 great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents. That is why so many Americans are Mayflower descendants.

Genealogy can be fun, and there are plenty of resources on the Internet. Careful, though, there are a lot of completely wrong genealogies out there. If you're interested in writing down your family tree, all the fill-in-the-blank worksheets that you will ever need are available for free on the Internet by clicking here. With many family members scheduled to show up over the holidays, this can be an easy way for the kids and the older generation to interact.

One of the best library resources for genealogy is the New England Historic Genealogical Society founded in 1845. Its researcher Gary Boyd is meticulous. In 2004 he showed how George Bush and and John Kerry are distant cousins in eight different ways. You can see that by clicking here. You might just open a random chart and find out you are related to both. If you are interested in immigrants who came in ships other than the Mayflower, you can search immigrant passenger lists to America (free through November 30); just click here. Cyndi's List also has links to a number of other resources to get you started.

The more you learn about genealogy the more you will realize you have millions of cousins all over the world. Good to remember at a time when so much of the world fails to get along.

Note: In honor of Thanksgiving, we have several posts on the Pilgrims which you might like. You can view them all at by clicking here.


Blogger fausto said...

Hi, Publia! Thanks for inviting me to post. I like all the Pilgrim-themed blogging you've been doing this week.

I'm not a Mayflower descendent myself, but I do sing in my church's choir with a few of them, and my next-door neighbors until recently were the Aldens, as in John and Priscilla.

Incidentally, the original Mayflower congregation that was originally gathered in England in 1606 still survives, as First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Plymouth, Mass. The triptych above their pulpit features a depiction of the signing of the Mayflower Compact. In 1800, the more conservative Calvinist members of the church withdrew to form the Congregational Church of the Pilgrimage (United Church of Christ), which now stands right next door. The two churches recently celebrated their joint 400th anniversary.

During this Thanksgiving season, Unitarian and Congregational churches all over the country are especially thankful for their shared heritage that contributed so much to the national identity.

Nov 24, 2006, 9:20:00 AM  
Blogger Publia said...

Hi Fausto,
Thanks for stopping by! Your comments and links are particuarly interesting and helpful. I appreciate you sharing them.

I am glad that the Unitarians and the UCC people are remembering that they are both, religiously speaking, direct descendants of the Pilgrims. There are very few NACCC churches,,
the genuine continuing Congregationalist descendants of the Separatist religion of the Mayflower Pilgrims.

I did know that the original Church of the Pilgrims is now a Unitarian Universalist church, although it is my understanding that a good Congregationalist like me would be far more comfortable there than at our local Unitarian-Universalists, who are sincere but more based on good thoughts and good ideas.

Happy to hear that you are singing in the choir! Thanks again for your enlightening comments.

Nov 26, 2006, 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger fausto said...

Yesm the NACCC, UCC, UUA, and CCCC all claim descent in one way or another from the separatist Pilgrims and their non-separating Puritan brethren. The UUA is home to the First Churches of not only Plymouth, but also Salem, Boston, Dorchester, Cambridge, Watertown, and many others. UU churches in New England, especially First Church in Salem, tend to retain more of their Congregational Christian heritage than their sister congregations elsewhere. But the NACCC and CCCC probably still hew closest to the original theology. "The Unitarians kept the property, but the Congregationalists kept the faith", as the old quip goes.

Dec 4, 2006, 6:22:00 PM  
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