"My last name doesn’t match any of the passengers on the Mayflower."
"I think my ancestors moved from place to place. I’m not sure there would be any records on them."
"My grandfather was pretty adamant about the fact that we were “Americans” and that’s all that mattered."
"I am sure my parents would have told me if we were descendants of a Mayflower passenger."
"I don’t think there was anyone famous in my family. I think they were just farmers."
"My parents lost contact with their families. I wouldn’t know where to start."
"There was always this story circulating in our family that we were descendants of a Mayflower passenger, but I guess no one ever had the time or energy to check it out."
The assumption that everyone must know if he or she is a Mayflower descendant is a myth.
Each year many people across the country learn for the first time that they are descendants of one or more Mayflower Passengers.
This includes many people in Illinois who have recently learned of their ancestry and have become members of the Mayflower Society.
Genealogical research is easier than ever with the use of computers. In addition to subscriber sites there are literally hundreds of free sites from which you can collect genealogical information.
In recent years, genealogists, government agencies and private companies have created thousands of web sites and indexes, abstracts and transcriptions of genealogical records.
Most states and counties have become much more user-friendly to genealogy researchers.
Many public libraries subscribe to genealogical services which you can use free of charge and even from your home computer.
Interest in genealogy is not only an American phenomenon but an international one as well. Countries around the world are making their vital records and census reports publicly available.
Genealogical and historical societies are great ways to share your interest in genealogy and history with others.
You should always try to obtain primary source evidence. If you have made a reasonable but unsuccessful search for primary source documentation you may then resort to use of secondary source evidence.
PRIMARY SOURCE EVIDENCE: (examples)
Vital records of birth, marriage and death
Marriage bonds and licenses
Guardianships or orphan’s court records
Military and pension records
Cemetery and morticians records
Contemporary family letters and diaries
SECONDARY SOURCE EVIDENCE: (examples)
County and town histories
Family genealogies (published only)
Federal and state census records
Newspaper marriage accounts
Gravestone inscriptions (photos or photocopies)
You may wish to seek assistance in your genealogical research from any of the following fine libraries in Illinois:
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
Antioch Public Library
Arlington Heights Memorial Library
Decatur Genealogical Library
Dixon Public Library
Gail Borden Public Library (Elgin)
Galesburg Public Library
Genealogical Library of Southern Illinois (c/o John A. Logan College in Carterville)
Lake County Genealogical Library
The Newberry Library (Chicago)
Peoria Public Library
Quincy Public Library
Rockford Public Library
Rock Island Historical Society
South Suburban General & Historical Society (South Holland)
Urbana Free Library
Wheaton Public Library
Any of these resources would be a good place to start your Mayflower ancestry search. If you do not live near any of these libraries, check with your local library. They may be able to help with genealogical resources of their own, or through inter-library loans.
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants will only accept applicants for membership who prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that they are direct, lineal descendants of Mayflower passengers.
In order to establish this proof, you will be expected to submit acceptable documentation in the form of primary or secondary source evidence to substantiate:
1) the date and place of the birth, marriage and death of each of your ancestors (line carriers and spouses) in the Mayflower line and
2) the parent-child relationship between each of the successive line carriers in the Mayflower line.
Do I need to submit original vital records? No. You should keep your original records in your own possession. You should only submit copies of the original documents to the state historian working on your file.
Should I transcribe deeds or other legal documents which are hand-written? Yes. Hand-written documents can sometimes be difficult to decipher for historians. You should make an effort to transcribe as much of the hand-written document as you are able to transcribe. It is also helpful if you would underline the relevant portions of the hand-written document in a red ink or pencil. Never use highlighters.
Are there special rules concerning bibles? Yes. Submit photocopies or photographs of relevant pages and the title page. The current owner of the Bible should be identified by name and address. If a transcription is submitted, the transcriber must identify himself/herself, attest to the accuracy of the transcription and identify the present location and/or owner of the Bible.
Are photographs acceptable? Yes. Copy the photograph you have taken of the subject gravestone onto an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper. On the same paper write the name of the ancestor(s), the name of the cemetery and the location of the cemetery.
Must family genealogies be formally published? Generally, yes. Family genealogies are always evaluated on an individual basis. Consideration will be given to whether sources are cited, how much of the data is substantiated by other evidence, how comprehensive is the information contained in the genealogy and whether the compiler had any self-interest in proving a heredity. Submit photocopies of relevant pages and the title page. Family genealogies which are only in manuscript form (unpublished) will generally not be accepted.
Federal Census Reports:
Are they acceptable? Yes, but remember that the 1880 census report was the first to show familial relationships. The 1850, 1860 and 1870 census reports showed names of individuals in the same household but their relationships were circumstantial. Census reports prior to 1850 only identified by name the head of the household. In any event, copies of census reports obtained from Ancestry.com are acceptable.
Are copies of original documents obtained from the internet acceptable? Copies obtained from the internet will be judged on an individual basis. However, material on the internet that has been abstracted or transcribed from various sources is not likely to be accepted.
Why must I obtain information on multiple marriages of an ancestor even when not in my line? It is important to include all marriages to properly ascertain the parentage of line carriers as well as to explain the name changes for women at the time of death.
Other Heritage or Genealogical Societies:
Is proof accepted by another society such as the DAR or SAR automatically acceptable to the Mayflower Society? No.
Will it be necessary to prove my line all the way back to the Mayflower passenger? No. Citations from the Mayflower Families volumes (also known as the “silver book series”) are accepted by the General Society for the first five generations and the birth of the sixth generation.
Last Approved Application:
Will it always be necessary to prove my line back to the birth of the sixth generation in the Mayflower Families volumes? Generally, no. In many but not all cases an individual previously seeking membership may have successfully proven a line which may include part of the same line you propose. The existence of a previously approved line or “last approved application” may reduce the necessity of your reproving that same line. (However, see next question.)
Past Member in Family:
If my great-great uncle was a member, will I be able to rely upon his application? Maybe not. Since 1984 the application standards of the General Society have been continually upgraded. Applications with a general number of less than 50,000 and a state number of less than 2,000 may be deficient by today’s standards.