There’s no doubt that the landing of the Mayflower in the ‘New World’ in 1620 is one of the most important events in American history. Whether you know all of the facts about this historic voyage or not, discovering a connection to this iconic American event would be truly exciting for any family historian. Yet, most of us have never seriously considered that we may be descended from a Mayflower passenger. After all, what are the chances?
Turns out, they’re pretty darn good. Although there were only about 130 passengers on the Mayflower, and the number of individuals who left descendants is significantly less, it is estimated that more than 35 million individuals living today are direct descendants of those individuals.
The Mayflower Society, an association for those with proven Mayflower descent, lists 51 possible Mayflower ancestors. Although there are only approximately 25 individual male lines of descent from the Mayflower this list includes all passengers with known descendants, even those in the same family.
A proven direct line back to one of these individuals will allow you access to the society.
- John Alden
- Bartholomew Allerton
- Isaac Allerton
- Mary (Norris) Allerton
- Mary Allerton
- Remember Allerton
- Elinor Billington
- Francis Billington
- John Billington
- William Bradford
- Love Brewster
- Mary Brewster
- William Brewster
- Peter Browne
- James Chilton
- Mrs. James Chilton
- Mary Chilton
- Francis Cook
- John Cooke
- Edward Doty
- Francis Eaton
- Samuel Eaton
- Sarah Eaton
- Moses Fletcher
- Edward Fuller
- Mrs. Edward Fuller
- Samuel Fulle
- Samuel Fuller (son of Edward)
- Constance Hopkins
- Elizabeth (Fisher) Hopkins
- Giles Hopkins
- Stephen Hopkin
- John Howland
- Richard More
- Priscilla Mullins
- William Mullins
- Degory Priest
- Joseph Rogers
- Thomas Rogers
- Henry Samson
- George Soule
- Myles Standish
- Elizabeth Tilley
- John Tilley
- Joan (Hurst) Tilley
- Richard Warren
- Peregrine White
- Resolved White
- Susanna White
- William White
- Edward Winslow
These individuals certainly left their imprint on American history, but how do you know if you are descended from one of them?
If you’re lucky enough to share a surname with someone on the list, you could start by carefully researching that line in your tree and seeing if you can make a connection. Of course, having the same surname is no guarantee that it came from a Mayflower passenger, but it’s certainly worth a check.
The vast majority of descendants, however, will not have a surname from this list. Marriage of female descendants means that you could be many, many generations removed from a surname connection.
If you suspect, or know, that you have early American roots you have a good chance of finding a Mayflower ancestor.
If you’re unsure whether or not you have early American lines you will need to go back a few generations on each line of your tree before beginning your Mayflower research. If you get past the major waves of immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on a family line — and your ancestors are still showing birth locations in the US — there is a good chance that at least some of that line continues far enough into the American past to be a candidate.
Don’t assume you do not have early American ancestry just because you have been told you are 100% Irish or that all of your ancestors came through Ellis Island. Family stories are often confused, incorrect or leave out important chunks of lost history — especially when it concerns female lines.
Find Out If You Are a Mayflower Descendant
Sadly, there is no free search online that will tell you if you connect to a Mayflower passenger, but American Ancestors from the NEHGS does offer a wonderful searchable database of more than half a million records of Mayflower descendants if you are a member. Read our article about that here.
There are also several free resources that can help you uncover a connection. Put your research hats on!
The first thing you will want to do is attempt to locate a line in your tree that could be connected. Again, look for suspected old American lines. You’ll want to get back to the early to mid 1800s using your own research, if possible, before beginning your search.
Now look at the sources below to see if you can match one of your ancestors to a known descendants.
Index to Descendants of Mayflower Passengers: This is a surname only index of individuals found in one of the Mayflower Families Through Five Generations volumes (see below for more information about this collection). If you have one of these surnames in your tree you have a better chance of locating a connection.
Compiled Descendant Genealogies: We also located this interesting database on Rootweb. It is a combined database of genealogies with known connections to the Mayflower. We cannot account for its accuracy, but many sources are included and it is worth searching quickly to see if you have any of these names in your tree. If you do, you may be able to find a valid connection.
Check HathiTrust: Hathitrust, a free online research library also offers a wide variety of publications containing descendants. You can view the list here. You can also do a general search for your ancestors with the word “Mayflower” to locate potential connections. For more information on using this huge resource read this article.
Search Google: You can also manually search out each of your suspected Mayflower connected ancestors online in Google. Try typing in an early American name, preferably pre 1850, with the words Mayflower, Mayflower ancestry, Mayflower descendants or other related terms and you may just get lucky and stumble across someone else who has already made the connection. Don’t forget to verify all of your sources and never use someone else’s research inappropriately (such as by copying and pasting into your own tree without permission).
Once you think you have a connection you can do more research on verified lines.
There are several main sources of accurate Mayflower descendant information, but most of them are not easily accessible online.
The most important and respected is the Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, a multi-volume collection also known as the Silver Books, published by The General Society of Mayflower Descendants (which the surname index above pulls its information from).
The original books contained information about the first five generations of descendants from the Mayflower passengers, but new information is being added to this collection all of the time. Look here for all of the published information and ordering details. There is also a good list of all volumes here, with links to ordering information for each volume on Amazon.
If purchasing your needed volume is not possible or desired you may be able to locate it at a local library or research center. Check WorldCat to find a copy in your area or discover how to access the volumes through the Family History Library. You can also request a free lookup of your ancestor in these books and other sources from Ancestral Findings.
Again, you can use Hathitrust as well to access established lines in various publications, or search for your potential connection in Google to locate a location or family based project with published, accurate genealogies.
Once you are sure you have a valid connection to an established line, continue your research until you can create a complete line of descent from the Mayflower passenger to yourself. Include names, dates of birth and death and marriage information. Attach sources such as birth, marriage and death records or published family histories.
Once you have this information collected you can ask the General Society of Mayflower Descendants to prove your ancestry. It will cost you $25 but, if proven, you will have documented lineage to a Mayflower passenger and qualify for membership.
These are only a few of the resources online for researching Mayflower ancestors. There are a huge variety of forum posts, published genealogies, family and surname based research groups, state based resources and more online. Once you make a tentative connection, use the power of Google or your favorite search engine to locate more resources to help you in your research. Find some great tricks and tips for getting the most out of a Google search for genealogy here.
If you are a Mayflower descendant we would love to hear your story of discovery and learn of any resources that helped you. Please post them in the comments.
By: Melanie Mayo | Editor, Family History Daily