Imagine that you were born in a rural area to poor parents in the back room of your rented house. Your parents moved a lot, and they never told the county officials that you were born. So no birth certificate was ever registered. And then your dad leaves your family when you’re five years old, leaving your mom alone with you and two younger siblings. You’re upset about that and change your last name to that of the kind man who married your mother and stepped into the father role in your family. But for whatever reason, you and your family don’t make the adoption legal, nor do they inform the county or state officials of the name change. And then for unknown reasons, you decide to change your middle name, too, from the traditional Dutch Cornelius to the hip, modern “Curtis.” And again, no government agencies are informed. We’ve all been there, right?
This presents no problems for you for most of your life. You get your Social Security card, you enlist in the Army and serve in World War II, you pay your taxes, you work until your early 60s and you’re beginning to think about your retirement. And then you apply for your Social Security retirement benefits and discover that—poof—you have no proof that you are who you say you are.
Today’s post will be a short one to update you on my quest to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (or “Mayflower Society). In part two of this series, I mailed off my Preliminary Review Form for the California Mayflower Society and sent off requests for four certified birth certificates. I got a phone call on Tuesday from Thurston County, Washington, saying that two of those birth certificates were on their way, but I haven’t received them yet.
What I did receive just yesterday was the oldest of the four birth certificates that I’ve so far requested—from 1860. I thought this would be the hardest of the four to secure, yet I received it first. Without further ado, here it is: Continue reading →
It seems odd to me that while I’m able to trace my family back on dozens of lines more than 400 years, my own patrilineal great-grandfather—my father’s father’s father—is nearly a complete mystery to me. I would normally begin an exploration of his life by saying that his name was Ray Shearer, but even that is a bit of a mystery. While many people called him Ray, more often than not, he referred to himself as Zyionyi Ray Shearer. As with many of my difficult-to-research ancestors, I keep setting aside his information, waiting for some hint or help to emerge, as they so often do.
And so it was with Ray. Just this past week I got an unexpected letter from my cousin Peggy, who’s a cousin on my Shearer side. Her great-grandmother was Ray Shearer’s mother—Mary Belle (Coddington) Shearer Stokes. Peggy’s grandmother was Ray’s younger half-sister, Zealia Faye Stokes, and Zealia apparently was very interested in preserving family stories and history, and she passed much of this on to Peggy.
Today’s post could not have been written without Peggy’s help. Thank you, Peggy! Continue reading →
If your experience is anything like mine, it can be frustratingly hard to get your family members to start sharing personal details about themselves, their parents, or their grandparents. Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to talk about themselves, or perhaps they figure you’ve already heard and know the stories and they don’t want to bore you by repeating something you may have last heard decades ago.
I’m starting to think that more often, it’s because I’m not asking the right questions—that I’m not asking questions that are specific enough to trigger old memories. So in this series of posts, I’ll be bringing together some ideas for lines of questioning when interviewing relatives.
In the following examples, I’ll be pretending to ask an older relative about their deceased parent. While I use the pronoun “he” in the following questions, they apply equally well to both parents. I’m figuring there will be several lines of questioning (on leisure, religion, politics, personality, family, religion/spirituality, work, education, childhood, young adulthood, dating and marriage, the military, and so on), with the questions for any one of these lines being covered in one or more sessions of an hour or more each. Continue reading →
Contacting the state society of your choice as to full requirements in proceeding to membership would be the potential applicant’s next best step. The historian of the Mayflower Society in the state where you reside will also receive a copy of this lineage review so that they will also be aware of your interest.
I’ve just filled out the Preliminary Review Form for the California Mayflower Society and put it in an envelope along with the requested self-addressed stamped envelope, so I figure I’ll get a head start on gathering and organizing the required documentation. What exactly constitutes “required documentation” is left intentionally vague in the response I received from the genealogist at the National headquarters of the Mayflower Society: Continue reading →
I find myself languishing in the genealogical doldrums after a few months of inactivity, and I need a project to put some wind back in my sails. As it so happens, I finally heard back from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD or just “Mayflower Society”) about their preliminary review of my application, which was based on my pedigree showing descent from Mayflower passenger John Alden, as well as his wife Priscilla Mullins, and her parents William Mullins and Alice Atwood.
The genealogist performing the preliminary review stated that the first six generations of my submitted pedigree—from John Alden (ca. 1599–1688) to Seth Vinton (1756–1853)—had been conclusively proven by earlier genealogists, so I would not have to re-establish those facts. What I would have to do, however, is conclusively establish my direct descent from Seth Vinton in order to qualify for membership in the Mayflower Society.
My goal is to join well in advance of the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s sailing from the Old World to the New World in Fall, 1620. I would like to celebrate the 400th anniversary of that voyage knowing that I’ve proven my descent from passengers on the Mayflower.
So six generations have been taken care of for me by others, but I have to document the last eight generations to a standard of proof acceptable by the Mayflower Society. Let’s go! Continue reading →