Reality television meets family history in BYUtv’s competitive, family-finding program, Relative Race. The unscripted series, which recently aired its third season, follows four teams in search of relatives they have never met, but with whom they share DNA.
In 1620, Puritan Separatists desiring to break away from the Church of England embarked on a journey aboard a ship called the Mayflower. According to passenger lists, about one-third of them identified with the religious group’s reason for creating a new society while others were hired hands, indentured servants, or farmers drafted by London merchants who were financing the trip.
102 passengers braved the ocean voyage, along with approximately 30 crew members. Five died at sea, but nearly half perished that first bitter winter.
They called themselves ‘Saints,’ but today we refer to these colonists as Pilgrims. Whatever their purpose in coming, we revere them as brave and adventurous as they settled a new land. Today, it is estimated that up to tens of millions of Americans have at least one ancestor among this group.
Mayflower societies are organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with the primary mission of teaching the early history of the United States and the Pilgrims’ role in it. One of these societies is the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Their website explains their group as “a hereditary organization of individuals who have documented their descent from one or more of the 102 passengers who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.”
The group was established in 1897 to honor Pilgrim ancestors by telling their story. Membership requires proof of lineage from one of the Mayflower passengers.
Organizations, researchers, and online genealogical resources can help individuals search out their Mayflower heritage. MayflowerHistory.com is a site created by Caleb Johnson detailing passenger lists, biographies, and helps for research. A source archive contains original documents.
Other resources include the Leiden archives (Holland) Access2Archives (National Archives, London), New England Historic and Genealogical Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, Massachusetts Vital Records, Connecticut Vital Records Online, FamilySearch.com and Ancestry.com.
The following 31 Mayflower colonists are known to have descendents:
The Passenger List with clickable links to personal information can be found at http://mayflowerhistory.com/mayflower-passenger-list
For more information:
Joan (née Hurst) Tilley
Joan (née Hurst) Tilley