The General Society

“Howland Overboard,” courtesy of

Well, there’s one thing this pandemic isn’t going to do, and that’s dampen my (well-quarantined) spirits for the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflower. From perusing the pages of a Silver Book[1] to taking advantage of new on-line resources (at NEHGS and elsewhere), well, let’s just say it’s a really cool time to be a Hopkins or a Howland. There are so many advances being made to the study of Mayflower ancestry that, heck, for me it’s a lot like Must See TV.[2] Though I’ve got to tell you, the best part about “Mayflower 2020” – and I do mean the very best part – is in teaching my granddaughters about our pilgrim ancestors, and the reasons behind that voyage of so long ago.

However, in light of 2020, and this damn virus, I’d like to do something just a little bit different. What I mean is: I think I might just change it up! The truth is I’m tired of pursuing the same old ‘dead end’ Mayflower lines that I’ve (regrettably) been looking at for years. You know the ones that always leave you feeling like you’re Waiting for Godot?[3] And while this change means that I might be trading in some of my time with the new Mayflower 500 to read Goodnight Boston to my granddaughters, believe me when I say that I have no plans for swapping out my genealogical pursuits to search for Pikachu instead.[4] Rather, I’d like to “change it up” in, I hope, a new direction. Please allow me to explain…

I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can stare at another bad Peter Browne line a moment longer, or hope for proof that Stephen Hopkins actually did have a daughter named Mary.

Now never let it be said that I do not enjoy researching my Mayflower ancestry. But as the kids say, “I’m a bit over it.” I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I can stare at another bad Peter Browne line a moment longer, or hope for proof that Stephen Hopkins actually did have a daughter named Mary. It makes me think that, with so many of these “false starts,” or worse, “near miss” Mayflower lines, I should form a new lineage society – and call it “The General Society of Unproven Descents.” Membership would of course require that one provide evidence of descent from a false Mayflower line (seems like Thomas Rogers has a few…) or “proof that you couldn’t prove” the line at all. (Remember, my mother raised me on Through the Looking Glass.) I dare say, though, that such a new lineage society would be quite popular, and very exclusive, as we would surely never want to accept anyone into it with any actual verifiable ancestry!

All kidding aside, and in keeping with the celebratory theme for Mayflower 2020, I’ve decided to try researching outside of my many usual comfort zones. (And yes, I promise to become more familiar with tax and land records.) At least for now, my plan for 2020 is to completely ignore some of my own ever-unproven and sooooo deceptive Mayflower lines. Rather, I’m going to “look over the fence,” if you will, to see if the grass isn’t just a wee bit greener on the other side. With all this researching of my own Mayflower lines, I’ve managed to forget about some pretty marvelous people that I might have otherwise been researching along the way. “They” being my in-laws and out-laws, nieces, nephews, and cousins at-large, and those sundry lines that married into my very own. Through them, I’ve found an untapped wealth of new and possible Mayflower lines that, while not agnate to me, relate to (who else?) my very own.

So while many of you will presume that I am off my Pilgrim rocker (and, yes, you are correct…), the truth is that in celebration of 2020, and in the spirit of my own pilgrim ancestors, I’m going to renew my subscription to Mayflower Descendant and take a shot at proving someone else’s lines back to George Soule or “Bill” Brewster. I know you are thinking that all of this seems like the obvious choice while we shelter in place, and perhaps you are right. However, I urge you to take a look at your own brick walls, your own dead ends and false starts, and consider this: How best can I honor my pilgrim ancestor’s memory? How best can I avail myself of all the great new research being done out there by my pilgrim cousins?

“Maybe, just maybe,” it isn’t in the telling of your own Mayflower story (grandkids excluded), but in the telling of your niece’s lines to John Alden, or your daughter-in law’s family lines to Henry Samson, or in discovering that your next door neighbor is a descendant of John Howland – as you are. In doing so you just might succeed in preserving someone else’s Mayflower ancestry, piquing their interest, and preserving our entire Mayflower heritage. And if none of this works, if no one has any interest in or care for your research or discoveries, or if you only run into new and uncompromising “1620”-type brick walls as you did before – well, take heed, my friends! The General Society of Unproven Descents will always welcome you with open arms!


[1] The series in progress of five-generation accounts of descendants of the Mayflower passengers.

[2] Per Wikipedia: “Must See TV” was an advertising slogan used by the NBC to brand its primetime [programming] blocks in the 1990s.

[3] Waiting for Godot, a 1948 play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for someone named Godot … who never arrives.

[4] “Pikachu” are fictional creatures that appear in an assortment of Japanese video games.

Jeff Record

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.View all posts by Jeff Record