Mayflower History

Was your ancestor one of the pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower? Are you one of the 70 million Americans who believe that they are descendants of those who did? According to an article published in Family Tree Magazine on September 28, 2009, fewer than half of those who think they are descendants of the original pilgrims can possibly be right. The best estimate by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants is that more than 35 million people worldwide can count at least one of the 51 Pilgrims who left descendants as an ancestor. If you think you are a descendant and want to learn more, read on, and review other pages on this website for information on how to take your first step to membership.

The Mayflower voyage began in 1620 with what must have been an atmosphere of expectation as well as fear. The backgrounds of those we today call the Mayflower Pilgrims were varied. They included entrepreneurs as well as evangelicals, political radicals as well as Christian idealists. It would take a decade before they had built a thriving settlement at New Plymouth based on beaver fur, corn, and cattle. In doing so, they laid the foundations for Massachusetts, New England and the new nation.

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of the Plymouth Colony. Signing the covenant were 41 of the ship’s 102 passengers while the Mayflower was anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor within the hook at the northern tip of Cape Cod. It was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620 by most of the adult men. The women, children under 18, the crew and adult male servants were not invited to sign the document. Although the original Compact is lost, perhaps falling victim to Revolutionary War looting by the British, a copy of William Bradford’s handwritten manuscript, Of Plymouth Plantation, which includes a copy of the compact, is kept in a vault at the State Library of Massachusetts. For additional information on the Mayflower Compact go to Caleb Johnson’s Mayflower History website at The text for the Mayflower Compact is also on this website.

Several books written over the last decade provide rich narratives for those interested in the Pilgrims and the journey they took on the now famous Mayflower. We recommend two as credible accounts of what transpired those many years ago. The first recommendation is Making Haste from Babylon, The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World, A New History, by Nick Bunker (2010). A resident of England, Bunker provides us with a most rewarding and surprising view of the journey. The second recommendation is Mayflower, a story of courage, community and war, by Nathaniel Philbrick (2006). In his book, Philbrick evokes the drama of the voyage, the eerie emptiness of coastal New England in the fall of 1620. Both books offer readers new insights and are among the best fully researched written accounts of the journey.

Mayflower History Resources

Genealogical and Historical Societies and Museums:

New England Historic Genealogical Society

The Great Migration Study Project

Plymouth Plantation

Plymouth Hall Museum

Massachusetts Historical Society

Genealogical Research and Resources
Please note. The quality of the information on these links varies from excellent to poor. The Mayflower Society accepts copies of original documents only, and no transcripts, unless they contain citations. For additional discussions about ‘sources,’ please see the membership section of this website and read Alicia Cranes Williams’ article for the New England Historic and Genealogical Society on American

Roots Web

US Gen Web (subscription required)

Family Search (LDS)

Fold3 (subscription required-owned by Learning Center

Cyndi’s List Tutorials & Guides

Find A Grave (the Society accepts readable gravestone photos)

Google Books

Heritage Quest (subscription required – powered by

The National Archives

Library of Congress Digital Collections

WorldConnect databases

Internet Archive search page

David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Gravestone Inscription Birthdate Calculator

Learning, Tutorials and Guides

The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony

Mayflower Families – Searchable databases and the newsletter Colonial Gazette

Mayflower Steps – A United Kingdom site all about the Mayflower

Mayflower History – The Internet’s most complete and accurate web site focused on the Mayflower and the Pilgrims, and the early Plymouth Colony Learning Center

Cyndi’s List Tutorials and Guides

Hiring a Professional Genealogist

Video Links

The Mayflower Video – Get the facts about the Mayflower in this informative video

The History of Thanksgiving

The Story of the Mayflower – Creative drawings depict the crossing of the Atlantic. Kids will love it

Books and web sites about the Mayflower

The founding of a nation; the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, By Frank Moody Gregg (1915)

A Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, By Albert Christopher Addison (1910)

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants: Meetings Officers and Members arranged by State Societies ancestors and their descendants, By The General Congress, Plymouth MA (1901)

The Story of the Pilgrims, By Morton Dexter (1894)

California Mayflower Descendents, The Mayflower Voyage, and Plymouth Colony
Register of the Society of Mayflower descendants in the state of California
, By Herbert Folger, Historian (1916)

The Women Who Came in the Mayflower, By Annie Russell Marble (1920)

Governor William Bradford’s Letter Book, By William Bradford (1906)

Elder William Brewster, of the Mayflower, By Justin Winsor (1887)

The Signers of the Mayflower Compact and Their Descendants, By Henry Whittemore (1899)

The May-flower and her log: July 15, 1620-May 6, 1621, Plymouth and the Pilgrims, or, Incidents of adventure in the history of the first settlers, By Joseph Banvard (1886)

Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England: Laws, 1623-1682, By New Plymouth Colony, Nathaniel Bradstreet ( 1861)

The Pilgrims in their three homes, By William Elliot Griffis (1899)

Old books and primary sources found through include:

  • Books written by Mayflower passengers
  • Books written by Pilgrim associates
  • Plymouth records
  • Plymouth Colony and Mayflower-related documents
  • Letters written by Pilgrims, other associates, and visitors to early Plymouth Colony

The Mayflower Education Gazette updates its lists of books about the Mayflower more often than other web sites.