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.

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.

28 thoughts on “The General Society

  1. Hello, Distant Cousin! I too am working on a difficult connection to Stephen and Constance Hopkins. Mine at least is a bit more modern, but in New York state in the late 1790’s and early 1810’s. One day it will all just fall into place for both of us!!

    1. Nancy, Let me know if I can assist. My Stephen and Constance Hopkins line is via the Burgess family who relocated from CT to Cayuga Co. (Sempronius) NY in the 1790’s. My app was approved by GSMD in 2015.

      1. Kurt, I think you could possibly help me. Does your Burgess line connect to Matthews? Relatives and I have many DNA matches to others connected to Asahel Matthews and Anna Harding and therefore to Stephen and Constance Hopkins. I can’t find any documentation for my Matthew which would be a son of Asahel and Anna. Our family connection to CT is strong and I have found many close relationships between these CT family within our own PA familes.

        1. Nancy,

          I ‘ll do some searching via the Burgess line to see if that line might have married into Matthews. It’s been a few years since I looked at the line and where the Hopkins (Snow) line connected with Burgess. I’m sending you my email and think it’s easier if I can see your line back to Stephen Hopkins. I’m a FL Co-Historian for the FL Mayflower Society and help persons verify Mayflower roots. Here’s my email: I think if you would fill out the line form we use for applications, that’s an efficient way to start.


    1. Thanks Ron – I appreciate that. Sometimes you just gotta say, what the heck, and try to have a good laugh at those very same frustrations we all have!

  2. Seems that is where we’ve all landed in a “Levity Collective Frustration,” Thank you all with Vita Brevis for giving us this release into Fun! It helps:)

  3. I’d like to “join” your suggested unproven descendants but from the Winthrop group of colonists. But instead of dwelling on my brick wall, I’ve taken to researching the line of his presumptive mother, going backwards to her ancestors. Fun but just as confusing.
    Thanks for your cheerful post.

  4. Enjoyed your post. Your mention of Hopkins and Howland peaked my interest. I haven’t spent much time pursuing Mayflower lines, but it looks pretty definite that my father’s direct male line goes back to a man who married a daughter of Francis Billington. Pursued a suggested Brewster connection on my mother’s side briefly only to have that quickly shot down by checking the Mayflower 5th Generation database. Recently I was looking at my dad’s paternal grandmother and saw that her father’s direct male line supposedly goes back to a man who married a daughter of Stephen Hopkins. Withstood my basic check against the Mayflower 5th Generation database, so maybe I will check that out further. There may be a Howland connection via that line also. It would be great to have a non-Billington Mayflower connection.

  5. “Howdy, Pilgrim,” as John Wayne would say, perhaps without capitalization. You’ve come up with a society that I could join, except I don’t join groups that would allow someone like me in, to quote Groucho Marx. Now, our family doesn’t descend from Mayflower boat people, well, none closer than a 9th great grandfather who married Love Brewster’s widow. But she didn’t bear his children. If The General Society of Unproven Descents accepts unproven descent from Winthrop boat people, I’m in. Gosh, I could write a book using all the things I know of one sly guy who left the world with one elusive fact missing. Was he the father of the man we know is ours? You know, “Who’s your daddy?” as the young folks say. Please send me the registration papers. Now! My head is bruised from bashing against that brick wall.

  6. When friends express an interest in their genealogy, but not in the work that’s involved, I offer to do a quick search of their direct ancestors. While this can take a week or two of my time, it’s become easier as more people are creating family trees. Of course, I don’t accept other trees as the gospel and make sure there’s documentation that supports each ancestor.

    I was happy to learn that a best friend is also a descendant of a Mayflower passenger. Not my Mayflower descendant, George Soule, but John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. It’s been a fun gift for us.

  7. I could join your “unproven” society through the grandson of Peregrine White. For over 100 years our family celebrated the connection. In school every Thanksgiving my cousins and I told our classes “we were there”. Two of my relatives had on their gravestones “direct descendant of Peregrine White”. Even though I have been doing genealogy for over 50 years, I didn’t work on that line because we already had the facts. After I joined AmericanAncestors I decided to add more sources to my information. I was very surprised to discover in 1952 our line was DISPROVED! I guess we didn’t get the memo. Now I had to inform our extended family we are fakes. As one cousin said, “Bye Bye, Peregrine”.

    1. Carole, my family carried the same supposed connection for a long time – my father repeatedly passed on the family lore that my g-g-g-grandmother, Ruth Brown (1791-1887), was a Mayflower descendant. I have hunted up and down to try to find the connection, to no avail (although I am a pretty amateur genealogist, so perhaps something has eluded me). However, I did stumble across the fact that she is a descendant of Olive Welby, one of the gateway ancestors. So that was pretty rewarding and interesting.

    2. Oh my word Carole – that is one story!! – I’m thinking I will need your expertise (and that amazing tale…) to help me get this “new” society of into high gear. I love your cousin’s expression of “Bye, Bye Peregrine!” That statement needs to be the new motto – as it embodies the whole spirit behind the so called “facts!”

      Many thanks for this Carole. Sure appreciate it.

  8. Don’t forget this line for your new society. Many still try using Browne to get to Cooke because of a note written by T.S. Lazell to George Ernest Bowman in 1902 suggesting the possibility Hezekiah Tinkham’s wife might be Ruth Cooke. Nothing to support the suggestion has been found in research on Peter Brown and Francis Cooke for the Five Generations Projects.
    Deeds for Helkiah Tinkham and the Cooke family do not shed any light on Ruth’s parentage. Torrey’s does not call her Cook. see MD 36:189; MF 7:12

  9. Excellent ideas. I feel same way, but can’t seem to force my research away from the same areas either. It was nice to see you are a Mother Lode member. Keep up the good work.

    From immediate past state governor the CA Mayflower Society.

    Marcia Loring Huntley Maloney

  10. Jeff, Good idea, but you’ve got a hard row to hoe from my experience. The lifelong pursuit of a Mayflower connection is a “ fight till I die” situation. I’ve been on the other side too many times.

    1. Alicia wait! Don’t abandon ship! – I’m hoping to recruit you to review the “new” society’s applications … You know, to help me make sure that no one goes and provides any silly old irrefutable proofs. Darn irrefutable proofs anyway – 🙂

      (ACW) – I am always humbled and so very honored by your comments!)

  11. A descendant of John Howland, Elizabeth Tilley and the Tilleys. A possible descendant of the Rev. John Robinson … who did not come on the Mayflower but who was leader of Pilgrims. I have the line to possible/alleged son Abraham (disproved?). Can I join an “unproven descent” line too? 😉 Thanks for injecting humor in your post – love it!

  12. Sounds like a good plan. I am pretty sure I’m a descendant of Richard Warren, but have not pursued the hard proof to request membership in the Mayflower society. I am still after 30 years! trying hard to prove the parents of my 3G Grandfather, Clement Drew, who was born in Barnstead, NH on 6 September 1775. I have solved the problems of other Drew missing links, but not mine, yet. What about another society perhaps called “the Solid Brick Wall Society” (SBWS).

    1. Carole – no doubt, no doubt. Please grab me a membership card for that society too!

      (But don’t give up on Richard Warren – you’ll be glad you didn’t I swear!)

  13. Sign me up. My disproven line is Ruth, the wife of Job2 (Kenelm1) Winslow, who was not a daughter of Stephen Hopkins, as some have asserted.

    My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Winslow, and I grew up being told we were connected to the Mayflower Winslows, though she was adopted and not the daughter her father Max Winslow. Given that Max came from a UEL community in Ontario, the assumption was that he came from the loyalist branch that went to New Brunswick. My research, however, showed he descended from Kenelm, with successive generations moving to Hampshire County, Mass and then western New York, before crossing over to the Niagara region of Ontario and marrying into the UEL community there.

    But on my father’s side, I do have a blood descent from Kenelm, through the aforementioned Job and Ruth, by way of Maine and New Hampshire.

    1. Oh James, I do feel your pain here. I think I have traveled that road from “Ruth” once before myself. I will put your pre-approved application in the mail today. Thanks for this!

  14. My ancestor Josiah Hull is always quoted as a direct descendant of Stephen Hopkins, but I have been searching up and down for months to find the connection. Any clues you might be able to give me??

  15. Hi Melissa – Even as much as I have cursed them, let the Silver Books be your starting point. Check Mayflower Descendant too for ancestral updates. And be of good cheer my friend as you are so very much not alone!!

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