Actress Sally Field learns she is a descendant of William Bradford on PBS's "Finding Your Roots".

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The episode of "Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr." airing on PBS on 12 November 2014 contained a segment with actress Sally Field learning she was a descendant of Mayflower passenger and Plymouth Colony governor William Bradford.  The full episode can currently be streamed online here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/finding-your-roots/british-invasion-full-episode/12566/ 

The Bradford segment begins at 41:54, if you want to jump right there.  If you freeze the end credits at exactly 52:06, you may notice a familiar name (yours truly).  I supplied the producers with a few of the images from the Bradford manuscript (which I photographed from my own copy of the 1896 facsimile edition) that were used in the segment when they were highlighting words and phrases like "dyed in the first sickness" to illustrate the severity of the first winter.  I also pointed them to some of the historical material used throughout the segment.

The Mayflower lineage presented for Sally Field was as follows:

Sally Field -> Richard Dryden Field -> Fleet Folsom Field -> Charlotte Berry -> Alexander M. Berry -> Jane Augusta Goodrich -> Anne Folsom -> Rev. John Folsom -> Ann Bingham -> Faith Ripley -> Hannah Bradford -> William Bradford [Jr.] -> Gov. William Bradford.

The segment had a few minor "issues" that might be worth nitpicking, as I always like to do when something like this comes out.  

First, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., indicates, "we found a portrait of him [William Bradford]."  Unmentioned, however, was the fact that this portrait was made in the 19th century, so would have no direct resemblance to the actual man.  There are only two Mayflower passenger portraits extant that were made in life, namely Edward Winslow and Myles Standish.

Second, the segment perpetuated the myth that the Mayflower was headed for Virginia but blown "so far off course" they ended up in Massachusetts.  It is well established that the Mayflower was headed for the Hudson River in modern-day New York, which was then considered a part of Virginia. Hitting Cape Cod, all they had to do was turn south and sail for another day.  Given the crude navigational methods of the time, and despite the numerous storms at sea, the ship was quite 'on target'.    

Third it was stated the Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in Plymouth, England.  The Pilgrims actually boarded the ship in Southampton, England.  Plymouth, England, was simply the final departure point after several failed starts that also included a stop in Dartmouth.

Fourth, the segment placed some emphasis on the fact that William Bradford was a Puritan.  While there is some gray area in definitions, it is generally considered more accurate to call the Mayflower Pilgrims "Separatists" rather than "Puritans."  This is because they had given up trying to purify the Church of England (the definition of a Puritan), and had opted instead for the more radical step of rejecting the Church of England and separating entirely from it to form their own Church.  The leadership and settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in 1628 at Boston, are more traditionally classified as Puritans.  

Another Mayflower descent previously aired on the television show Who Do You Think You Are on 8 April 2011 (Season 2, Ashley Judd).  My critique of that episode is found in Mayflower Descendant 60(2011):8-9.  I was somewhat more critical of that episode because the genealogy chart presented to Ashley Judd contained a completely fabricated date of birth for Mayflower passenger William Brewster.  Her lineage presented was Ashley Judd -> Michael Ciminella -> Mary Dalton -> William Dalton -> Thomas Dalton -> Rebecca Brewster -> Ebenezer Brewster -> Comfort Brewster -> Ebenezer Brewster -> William Brewster -> Benjamin Brewster -> Jonathan Brewster -> William Brewster.

Descent from Mayflower passengers is not as unique as you might initially think.  The Pilgrims lived approximately 14 generations back from us today.  Everyone has 16,384 ancestors in that one generation alone, with 8,192 ancestors in the earlier generation, and 32,768 ancestors one generation further back.  That's a lot of chances to find a Mayflower ancestor, especially given that the numbers of ancestors involved are greater than the entire population of New England in 1635!  

Other actors and actresses with known Mayflower ancestry include Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, Alec and Steven Baldwin, Humphrey Bogart, Dick van Dyke, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Gere, and Christopher Reeve.  Sally Field's distant cousins who share Bradford descent include Hugh Hefner, Civil War general George McClellan, George Eastman (of Eastman-Kodak fame), Christopher Reeve, Clint Eastwood, and dictionary author Noah Webster.  

New Mayflower Under Construction at Harwich

Construction has recently (April 2014) begun on a new full-scale Mayflower in the town of Harwich, England, which was the Mayflower's home port until Christopher Jones moved to Rotherhithe, Surrey, and the ship became more commonly designated "of London."  Below are a few photos from the project, but head on over to the photographer's blog here, http://mayflowerprojectharwich.wordpress.com, for more photos and regular project updates.

Autumn 2013 Mayflower Descendant shipped

The autumn 2013 issue of the Mayflower Descendant shipped a few weeks ago, but due to travel schedule I am just getting around to noting it here.  The issue cover is artwork by noted maritime artist Mike Haywood, whose paintings are available for sale on this site and who also did the cover artwork for three of my books.  The issue includes many new record transcriptions, including additions and corrections to the published Duxbury Town Records, a continuation of the unpublished Marshfield Town Records, and some previously unpublished 17th century Quaker records from Plymouth Colony (mostly Marshfield, Duxbury, Scituate, Hull, and Pembroke).  Also continued are transcriptions of the "Brewster Book" manuscript (more alchemy notes from Jonathan Brewster), a reexamination of a Wrestling Brewster hoax, a Scrooby Manor inventory from 1534, a genealogical article on Jabez and Zilpah (Hooper) Warren, and we complete the occasional Leiden church-member Sabine Staresmore's 1619 book The Lawfulness of Reading in Prayer

Spring 2013 Mayflower Descendant sent to printer

The Spring 2013 issue of Mayflower Descendant, delayed a couple months for a myriad of reasons, has finally been sent to the printer.  The issue includes a wide range of articles, including one that reveals the name of James Chilton's mother; a possible origin for Fortune passenger William Palmer; and a disproof of Nicholas Snow's most commonly-assumed origin.  Also included: the Mayflower descent of Ellen Borden wife of Adlai Ewing Stevenson; Maternity of the children of Edward May of Plymouth; family bible records of Edward Bartlett; a transcription of James Chilton's father Lyonel's will; information on Reuben(4) Paddock's descendants; genealogical material on Samuel(6) Warren; and an archaeological report on William Mullins' house in Dorking.   If you are interested in subscribing, you can get the Subscription Form on the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants website.

Cover of the spring 2013 issue of the Mayflower Descendant.  The photo is the beach in Bermuda where the Sea Venture castaways (including future Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins) came ashore in 1609.

Cover of the spring 2013 issue of the Mayflower Descendant.  The photo is the beach in Bermuda where the Sea Venture castaways (including future Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins) came ashore in 1609.

MayflowerHistory.com ChangeLog for 17 August 2013

  • Added a new Sources/Bibliography page for James Chilton (here). 
  • Updated the James Chilton page itself to link to the above Sources/Bibliography page, and fixed two issues.   First, the marriage date for James Chilton was given as "about 1585-1586."  This was actually corrected by Michael Paulick in an article in 2007 to "about 1583" based on the discovery of an additional baptism record for the couple.  Second, I added the said missing child (Joel) to the list of children. Also added the name of James Chilton's mother, Edith, based on the 2013 discovery published by Jon Wardlow in Mayflower Descendant vol. 62.
  • Added a blog-post about the Spring 2013 issue of Mayflower Descendant
  • Fixed a typo on the "Voyage" page (Delfthaven -> Delfshaven)
  • Fixed a typo on the Samuel(2) Fuller page (Tothrop -> Lothrop) 

"Harwich Rock"?

In an article by Peter Evans appearing today in a wide range of newspapers including page A1 of the Wall Street Journal as well as Barrons , and commented on in USA Today , a "disagreement" between the English towns of Plymouth and Harwich is brewing.  The premise of the article seems to be that Harwich believes it deserves more attention as the home of the Mayflower and her master, while the city of Plymouth in England is miffed at the additional competition to its claim-to-fame as the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage quickly approaches. 

To engage the controversy, the reporter states "The Mayflower was built and originally set sail from here [Harwich] before making an unscheduled stop at Plymouth [England]."   This is factually incorrect.  The place the Mayflower was built is entirely unknown (it could have been anywhere that built ships).  And Harwich was never on the 1620 "itinerary" of stops: the Mayflower left London, went to Southampton to get provisions, then to Dartmouth (where the Speedwell was forced in for repairs), and finally to Plymouth, England (where they gave up on the Speedwell and moved everyone over to the Mayflower and sent others home).  Harwich was in no way involved in the 1620 voyage from a physical stopover perspective. 

The true 'claim to fame' for the town of Harwich, is as the undisputed hometown of the Mayflower's master, Christopher Jones, some of the crew (probably including cooper John Alden) and as the home port of the Mayflower from 1607 to 1611.  Unmentioned by the article, or by the surrounding "controversy" is the fact that Master Jones, and the Mayflower, actually left Harwich in 1611 and took up residence in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England: a town which apparently has not managed to work itself into the controversy even though it was the true "home" of the Mayflower from late 1611 through 1620, and even through the burial of Christopher Jones there in March 1622.

I am quite happy that "Destination Plymouth" is organizing a 2020 celebration in England with invitations to former and current U.S. Presidents and the Royal Family.  And that Harwich is building a $3.3 million replica of the Mayflower to sail as part of the celebration.  There's enough room for everyone to celebrate.  Let's not forget some of the other important places in England with ties to the Pilgrims:  Scrooby, Droitwich, Henlow, Austerfield, Boston, Dartmouth, Southampton, Dorking, Great Yarmouth, Norwich, London, Hursley, Upper Clatford, ... the list goes on.

One other correction to an implication in the article.  The headline, "Maybe it Should be Called Harwich Rock," implies that the reason the Pilgrims named Plymouth was in honor of the city they embarked from in England.  Actually Plymouth was named by Captain John Smith (of Pocahontas fame) in 1614 during a mapping expedition in which he applied English place names to coastal areas in New England.  The Pilgrims were using his maps, made six years earlier, when they arrived in 1620.  They settled at a spot labeled Plymouth on his map. 

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

I will be speaking at the annual meeting of the Michigan Mayflower Society on Saturday, May 10, at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Michigan.  And I will also be speaking at the Linn Genealogical Society in Albany, Oregon, on June 1.

Unfortunately this year's "Bermuda Cruise" fell a couple of cabins short of the necessary minimum, so we'll probably try again in another year or two.  If you wish to remain on the "mailing list" for a future cruise possibility, please email sonnydenham@sbcglobal.net.

New issue of "Mayflower Descendant" sent to the printer

The Autumn 2012 issue (December 19 is the last day of autumn) of the Mayflower Descendant (of which I am the editor), was transmitted to the printer today.  Subscribers should see it in their mailbox sometime in January.  If you want to subscribe, here is the Subscription Form.  The new issue has a number of great articles:

  • Transcription of the "Brewster Book" continues with some fascinating provision lists, instructions on caring for cattle at sea, some alchemaic notes, receipts from selling off some of William Brewster's books, and more.
  • Conclusion of Simon Neal's investigation into the origins of Mary, wife of Stephen Hopkins, this time focusing on the Machell family.
  • Continuation of the 17th Century town records of Marshfield.
  • Wine import records, 1610-1615, for Christopher Jones' Mayflower.
  • Genealogical articles on John Freeman of Cape Cod and Seth C. Billington of Bennington, Vermont.
  • Part One of a republication of Sabine Staresmore's Unlawfulness of Reading in Prayer (1619).
  • Transcrpition of a deed signed by Josiah Winslow.

Significant issue with Ancestry.com's Massachusetts Vital Records

Ancestry.com has been rolling out an enormously valuable resource: the original vital records of many Massachusetts towns.  Searchable, no less!  What a great tool for genealogists, I have already located and attached hundreds of entries to my tree and read the originals.  Unfortunately, having used the feature for a little bit now, I have discovered an unfortunate issue that will undoubtedly cause thousands of incorrect dates to be posted into people's family trees, which will then live on indefinitely as people pass around and share the wrong date.  

The problem is simple:  the transcribers for these records were apparently not aware of the calendar change that happened in 1752, and as a result they are misreading the "month" value in thousands and thousands of vital records entries, which many are adding to their family trees and sharing with others online.  You see, in America, prior to September 1752, the first month of the year was March, not January.  The second month was April.  The third was May.  The fourth was June.  And so on, through the 12th month, which was February.  Incidentally, that's why the "Oct" in October means 8th (like Octopus, Octogon): because prior to 1752, October was the 8th month, not the 10th month.  And the "Dec" in December means 10 (like decimal, decagon, decathlon).

Take a look at this example below, snipped off the Ancestry.com website.  The death record of John Farrington at Dedham (first entry on the page) is recorded as "27:4:76".  This translates to "27th day of the 4th month of [16]76."  Which the Ancestry.com transcriber dutifully transcribed as "April", when actually the 4th month is June.  (We can ignore the transcriber's other mistake, "24" when it is actually "27", for the sake of this discussion, since that is a human error and not a calendar misunderstanding).  

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This is not just a one-off situation, it appears the entire Dedham records were done incorrectly, so practically every date in the entire VRs is wrong.  The entire Springfield VRs appear to have been done incorrectly.  The records of Cambridge are likewise all messed up.

Moral of the story:  Primary source records are great, but only if you can read them correctly!  If you get a vital records date off an Ancestry.com's Massachusetts Vital Record collection, you should read the original record yourself, and see if they made this mistake with your ancestor too.

Plimoth Plantation opens new Grist Mill exhibit

Reproduction of the Plymouth Grist Mill, originally set up by John Jenny in 1636.  The original structure burned in 1837 and was rebuilt in 1970.

Reproduction of the Plymouth Grist Mill, originally set up by John Jenny in 1636.  The original structure burned in 1837 and was rebuilt in 1970.

The Plimoth Plantation Museum, which operates the Mayflower II, as well as a recreation of the 1627 Plimoth Plantation and a Wampanoag homesite, has announced it is opening another exhibit in Plymouth at the recreation of the 1636 Grist Mill, located on Town Brook.  

Visitors will see the operational water wheel, and watch a miller grinding corn (which can be purchased).

For more information on the grist mill and the new exhibit, visit the Plantation's webpage on the new exhibit, or watch their introductory video below.

MayflowerHistory.com Change-Log for the Week of 4 December 2012

This is the first "Change Log" for the new MayflowerHistory.com, which went live the day after Thanksgiving.  The Change-Log is intended to let you know which pages I have created or updated during the current week.

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  • I added three new pages for the "History" section, namely the Provisions Lists (covering the items the Pilgrims brought on the Mayflower); the Cross-Section of the Mayflower (showing what the interior looked like); and the End of the Mayflower (covering the last years of the ship before it was scrapped).  These were left off the original update to the site due to time constraints but I managed to get them finished this week.
  • I have added "Sources and Bibliography" pages to John AldenIsaac Allerton, and Bartholomew Allerton.  I plan to slowly add these for each Mayflower passenger over time.  The intent of these pages is to provide the primary source citations, and links to the said material, for all the critical facts related to each passenger, including their birth, marriage, death, and probate.
  • I added new "autographs" to the Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland and William Mullins pages.  In both cases they signed with a "mark", indicating they were not able to write their names.  Many people in the 17th century never learned to write.

"Hopkins" Cruise to Bermuda Planned for June 2013

Caleb Johnson, author of Here Shall I Die Ashore: Stephen Hopkins, Bermuda Castaway, Jamestown Survivor and Mayflower Pilgrim, will be giving several presentations on Stephen Hopkins, the Sea Venture, and the Pilgrims, and signing books, on a cruise from Boston to Bermuda, and back, on June 14-21.  Also tentatively scheduled to present is Simon Neal, the English records researcher who has worked with Caleb researching many of the Hopkins family lines in Hampshire.  This is the second "Hopkins cruise" (the first cruise in June 2012 was a great success).  The cruise is being organized by Rick Denham of the Pilgrim Hopkins Heritage Society and also the West Texas Colony of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.  For more information and to sign up for the cruise, please visit Caribbean Sunset Cruises, or contact Rick Denham (rick@caribbeansunsetcruises.com).

The beach in Bermuda where Stephen Hopkins and the other Sea Venture castaways first came ashore after their 1609 shipwreck.
The beach in Bermuda where Stephen Hopkins and the other Sea Venture castaways first came ashore after their 1609 shipwreck.

Welcome to the new MayflowerHistory.com Website

The old MayflowerHistory.com website, 2002-2012.  R.I.P.

The old MayflowerHistory.com website, 2002-2012.  R.I.P.

In 1994, I published the first-ever complete Mayflowerpassenger list on the web.  Back then, most people visited the site with the text-only Lynx web browser!  I redesigned the site in 1998 once graphics came in to more common usage; and again in 2002 when I first purchased the MayflowerHistory.com domain.  Now, more than a decade later, I have finally gotten around to completely revamping the site once again.  Everyone's links to my website (except for the home page itself) will probably be broken thanks to this complete redesign.  Oh well, that's how progress is made!  The primary reason I redesigned the site was to make it easier to update and maintain going forward.  The old site was so cumbersome to maintain that I never did.  This new site is far easier to maintain, which hopefully means it will stay current and start to expand once again.