Mayflower trolls

Internet trolls are people who lurk on social media and generally cause trouble for everybody else. I recently found a list of the ten types of internet trolls, and suspect I probably qualify under No. 5, “The Show-Off, Know-it-All Or Blabbermouth Troll.” Or at least that is how I feel whenever I chime in on one of the Mayflower/Alden-related Facebook pages or the like. It becomes my job to deflate the balloons of some of these wonderful newly-found Mayflower descendants, who have, most unfortunately, inadvertently gathered and believed all the dross of Internet information about their ancestors.

I do feel bad about it, which is why I don’t post very often. It is discouraging when one must post the same things over and over and over and over, and it is amazing how many people resist facts once they have found an interesting old story. Even when I steer newbies to a legitimate website, such as Caleb Johnson’s MayflowerHistory.com, I get the feeling not many of them care to make the effort to look at it.

All of this is important now, of course, with the 2020 celebrations of the four hundredth anniversary of the coming of the Mayflower and her Pilgrims. It got me to thinking that what we really need is a Mayflower clearing house website that would post all the correct information in one spot!

Two thousand twenty also marks sixty years since the inception of the Five Generations Project (now the Silver Books project) in 1960.

That would be nice, but right now the Mayflower Society has plenty on its hands with hundreds of new inquiries and applications. Anyway, it is not as though they haven’t been doing anything. Two thousand twenty also marks sixty years since the inception of the Five Generations Project (now the Silver Books project) in 1960. The idea then was to create documented works to help people apply for membership in the lineage society. The estimate for documenting and publishing five generations of Mayflower descendants in “short” little sketches for every family was something like, oh, five years. Yeah, right.

In these sixty years the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has published in one form or another – silver books, pink pamphlets, etc. – what must be close to 100 different editions and revisions, some now extending into the sixth and seventh generations, all with the intention of “getting it right.” If one wishes to make the effort, one should be able to find in a library or buy a book with vetted information about the early generations of every Mayflower family. Even better, now we have access to indexed images of the fifth-generation “Silver Books” on AmericanAncestors.org.

That is all well and good, and we eagerly look forward to the day when online images of the entire series of books are available, but it doesn’t solve my problem today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could direct people to a website where they could find, with one push of a button, the reasons why they should not believe in such things as the imaginary “Molyneaux” ancestry of the Mullins family, or the invented royal ancestry of Richard Warren, or that John and Priscilla Alden had a son named Zachariah?

Maybe I’ll put it on the Christmas 2020 wish list.

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

39 thoughts on “Mayflower trolls

  1. You’re not a troll. You’re doing a favor for everyone who really cares about accuracy. Don’t give up the good fight! And no, I’m not a Mayflower descendant.

  2. Hooray for ”blabbermouth” Alicia! You go girl! I think most people who post stuff never return to see if anyone has offered good information, or if they do, they ignore it. Probably because it is too much work. I see that in the comments field on Ancestry.com. I have provided sources for corrections and asked politely, and sometimes not so politely, for people to remove the offending stuff. But nothing happens, or even a response, so my guess is that they don’t read it. It sometimes works I’d a direct email is sent to them, but not always. I have a similar problem, not a Mayflower one, with Wikitree, which is really a poor place for proper genealogy.

    1. I quoted something with a citation from the NGS Quarterly on Ancestry. In return I received a scathing reply that I was wrong. Go figure.

      1. Ann, Yes, there are at least two worlds out there. Those who know or want to know something about the discipline of genealogy and all of the resources available, and those just swinging through the trees on ropes. Need to cut the ropes and concentrate on the ones who want to know.

  3. Regarding “these wonderful newly-found Mayflower descendants, who have, most unfortunately, inadvertently gathered and believed all the dross of Internet information about their ancestors” — some are not newbies and their error-ridden posts are intentional. I have such a cousin (with different surname), who tells me that “The [insert surname here] Family has never let the truth get in the way of a good story!”

    1. Which is fine around a campfire, or a tall tale contest, but wrong when presented as if it were fact. In my family, there are verbal “cues” that signal when one should take what one hears with a grain of salt, and other cues that identify something that has validity. Some cultures/languages have this kind of thing built in. Sadly, English doesn’t seem to, though, as with my family, many people have retained those cues or developed them anew. I treat them as my cue to ask more questions.

  4. I do wish there was a Snopes of genealogy or an easily found list of suspect books/authors. I would like to check my source list for bad /known problems…

  5. That is certainly the yin and yang of internet research. This on my mind at the present time as I am trying to make headway on the very murky origins of one of my ancestors. The internet is full of a theory which is totally inaccurate which means, in the interest of thorough research, I have to spend time disproving this undocumented twaddle. I try to remain positive and remind myself that this helps me make sure I have proven my own theories as thoroughly as possible!

  6. My one pet peeve is that 2 1/2 years ago I was at the triennial meeting at Plymouth Caleb Johnson announced that they (Caleb Johnson, Sue Allen and Simon Neal) had found the ancestors of William White and his wife Susanna Jackson. This information was published in the American Genealogist. Two years ago I was at a meeting where a “genealogist” said that the maiden name of William White’s name wasn’t known. At the break I informed her of the proper information. Over the past year I have corrected various people on different Mayflower Facebook pages that their information isn’t the current information. How long does it take for old incorrect information to disappear?

    1. Dorothy, excellent point. The Mayflower Society does publish periodicals that inform members of such updates and, of course, AmericanAncestors provides access to all of the important periodicals, but again for membership. Modern speakers and writers have to learn that in today’s world there is no excuse for not, at least, starting with a Google search on your subject to see where it can lead.

  7. Well said Alicia, well said. I often think an addendum to the Silver Books is in order – you know one listing all the “impossible, incorrect, or ridicluous descents” – though it begs the question if any those ‘beyond the realm’ would bother to check it at all.
    – I feel your pain girl. Hang in there!

    I think I’ll go document my line from Stephen Hopkins’ daughter Mary now. (YIKES!!!)

    Point … Click…Copy… Paste…..

    Voila! (Ugh!)

    1. Jeff, I had such a list, a partial list of course, back in the day when I was doing Mayflower stuff. It is probably in a box in the cellar now.

  8. Alicia. It would be great to have one site to locate Mayflower Descendants at. I have been working since I 14 on tracking my Ancestry. I have many links to the Archibald and Hilton and Morris Families. I have the info from Hilton Castle and the Heraldic Shields and also from Hylton Head Island. My Hilton Ancestry is based on data from many of Cousins and other relatives. I have links to 20 of the Mayflower Passengers and Crew. I have not seen Zachariah Alden. I study a lot of the data from NEHGS and many families. I really appreciate all the data from you and many other members. I do not accept everything I read. I have worked almost day for the past 20 or so years on my Studies of info. Thanks all of those members who have helped many of us. I have just talked to a Cousin who lost her son on the weekend in an accident. The Doctors are not certain if there was a possible Medical Condition. Love to all our friends and relatives. Paul Morris Hilton.

  9. I too occasionally try to correct the endless unfounded claims one finds . It’s not just about the Mayflower of course. Mistakes made in 19th Century genealogies or even later, long since corrected in modern research, eg the ancestry of William Throop of Bristol Mass, pop up on the on the internet. By keep trying to inject facts online.

    1. Greetings from a Throop descendant! For those of us who want to read said modern research on our ancestor and find our way to this discussion, would you please post a link or location? I’m presuming the regicide theory is bunk. Many thanks!

      Also, kudos to ACW for all the great work. Let me know if you do Westchester Co, NY!

  10. Please keep up the good work. Trust me, there are some of us who do listen and appreciate your efforts. I sometimes feel the same way when I offer corrected information. On a positive note, I met a “cousin” who posted incorrect information, and when I offered the correct information and documentation the door opened to a friendship and yearly meetings to support our genealogical searches.

  11. I would love to purchase the Silver Book for my Mayflower line, but I’m descended from John Howland’s daughter Hope and she’s in “the other” books that are out of print. 🙁

    1. Maria, Hi cousin, I am a Hope also, but I got my copy of the book way back with it was first published by an independent publisher. Mayflower does not have the copyright to reprint. Hopefully, some solution will eventually be found.

  12. Alicia, I’ve often thought that making the GSMD descendant database available on the internet would be so helpful to people trying to establish their descent. Of course, they would have to protect privacy by allowing living descendants to mask their names, but I bet most of us us would be happy to have our information available to others. In establishing my own lines of descent with the help of the MSMD and Carolyn Travers at the Mayflower library, I’m now aware of dozens of relatively modern descendants with whom many other people might be able to connect in order to establish their Mayflower descent.
    Steve McLane

    1. Steve, I’ve tried promoting this idea for 20 years, but the logistics and cost are far beyond the Society’s resources. That is where their collaboration with NEHGS will have the best chance of paying off — I trust.

  13. I wish the Mayflower society would put a site on that would show how the members have gone in on their Mayflower ancestors like the DAR society has provided. I am having trouble proving Matilda Porter (married 1 to Commodore Bainbridge Billings & then 2cd mar to Garbit Outhet) her parents – William Porter & Lucy Thompson/Thomson of Warren, Vermont. Any suggestion would be appreciated. Thanks for all your information. William Porter is a descendant of John Alden & Pricilla Mullins.

  14. You are my go to person. I think I might be a groupie. I accidentally found my line to Alden, when I found the maiden name of my 3rd great grandmother, Harlow, I found my way back eventually to Alden, However, I asked on the Facebook Mayflower site about Rebecca Alden, and was told there was no Alden daughter name Rebecca. But I kept on working, and found the line back to my family had not been proven before, I got my certificate two years ago. Not too long ago I was told on the Mayflower FB site that Edward Doty did not have a granddaughter named Mary. Yet I think he did. I know better how to research now and of course, love American Ancestors. Thank you a million times for all your research and encouragement. Alden cousin Judy in Minneapolis

  15. Lynnda, Unless someone has filed with the Mayflower Society on this line, they would not have anything to help, so you are left with the difficult, but interesting, job of compiling a circumstantial case. This involves gathering all information on William and Lucy (Thompson) Porter, their children, and even their grandchildren– land records, probate, church records, obituaries, census records. As you reconstruct the family, you may come across some record in which, say, the obituary of a grandchild mentions a grandparent, aunt or uncle, etc. Or you may be able to show that William and Lucy are the only Porters in town who could have been Matilda’s parents. Vermont is a difficult place to research, so be sure to check out Scott Andrew Bartley’s webinar on his Vermont Families study — free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvKwVcHgNok&feature=youtu.be
    he gives a lot of advice about doing research in Vermont.

  16. So much easier when you’re first generation (Canadian) on one side of the bed and second generation (English) on the other. Avoids Mayflower discussions. And yes, I have run into several who insist lineage with no proof except, “Grandma said”.

  17. Alicia, we here know full well that you are a gem of a genealogist with a great sense of humor, to boot, writing about careless family genealogists, i.e.,”those just swinging through the trees on ropes. Need to cut the ropes and concentrate on the ones who want to know.” Thank you for any clarifications and corrections you have time to make online in what is truly an uphill battle.

  18. When I sent in my husband’s descent from the White family, the local Mayflower checker who tidied and checked before sening it to Plymouth did not list Susannah Jackson as William White’s wife because “it isn’t in the Silver Books.” I fought for this, with citation and scan, and she gave in. Geez, the trip was at least as hard on a a pregnant women as it was on William!

  19. My elusive great grandparent’s marriage has been found. Unfortunately my great grandmother, Harriet Newell Cooke, is in the generation after her father, Manassah Cooke, is identified. I wish there was a next book after his where my new information could be included. I did a happy dance when I got that because our family had been looking for it for over 100 years. I don’t plan to join any of the societies but those past relatives really wanted to. Maybe someone in the future would need that information and unless they find it on my tree at ancestry.com or a tree that has been copied from mine, they won’t have the proof they need.

  20. Alicia, you have nothing to apologize for or be embarrassed about. It is wonderful for people to enjoy telling tall tales – everyone loves a raconteur – but it is also incumbent upon any self-respecting raconteur to know when it’s a tall tale. It is an eternal mystery to me why someone would consider history important enough to go about collecting it, and then willfully dismiss or even disdain hard historical evidence when it’s found. Carry on!

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