In September 1620, 102 passengers and some 30 crew members boarded the Mayflower and departed from England to the New World. They arrived in Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts 66 days later and established the first permanent colony in New England.
Several of the men drafted and signed the Mayflower Compact — a document that provided a government in Plymouth with just and equal laws and set the stage for democracy in the United States.
Today, there are an estimated 35 million descendants of the 53 passengers that survived the first winter.
In conjunction with the 400th anniversary of this historical event, FamilySearch, AmericanAncestors.org (New England Historic Genealogical Society) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (the Mayflower Society) announced on Sept. 16 that more than 113,000 Mayflower Society member applications and documented descendant family trees of passengers are now freely accessible online.
The Mayflower Database contains more than one million images and more descendant trees will be added by the end of the year.
The coordinated project between the three organizations was announced earlier this year at RootsTech on Feb. 28. Following the keynote address, Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO, along with George Garmany, governor general of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and Brenton Simons, president and CEO of AmericanAncestors.org, stood together on stage and announced the partnership to make more records available.
“This is an unprecedented collaboration between three of the ‘greats,’” said Simons in a Sept. 16 FamilySearch press release. “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.”
Garmany added, “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.”
Creating the online Mayflower Database
FamilySearch, American Ancestors and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants began digitizing Mayflower Society member applications in September 2017. The application process includes documenting a line of descent from a Mayflower passenger with historical records. Applications have been submitted since 1896.
Data in the new online database also comes from a 30-volume publication, “Mayflower Families through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts, December 1620.” The information was merged to create a single representation for each pilgrim and their descendants for the time period of the late 1500s to 1910.
Using the database
One way for someone to find out if they are a descendant of a Mayflower passenger is to look through one’s family tree and see if there is a large element in New England and a potential pilgrim line. Then search the new Mayflower Database to see if that ancestral line has been previously verified through one of the member applications.
To use the database, type the name of an ancestor who was born on or before 1910. If one of the results matches your ancestors’ information, click on the name to go to the authenticated genealogy chart that stretches back to the Mayflower ancestor.
Another way to find out a relation to a Mayflower passenger is to go to RelativeFinder.org, sign in, and select the “Mayflower” group. Potential relationships will be displayed. This service is free.
“The story of the pilgrims is really the story of the founding of America,” said Ryan Woods, executive vice president and chief operating officer of AmericanAncestors.org during RootsTech in February. “To connect with them through your own personal story will be very powerful for this anniversary year and moving forward.”