By Daniel Hubbard | November 24, 2013
It is that time of year when children’s thoughts veer from pumpkins to Pilgrims to prancing hooves in rapid succession. Genealogical research won’t put a jack-o-lantern or a flying reindeer into their family trees but what about a Pilgrim? Through a child’s eyes, the level of reality is about the same and, even to many adults, the passengers on the Mayflower are just some half-remembered residents of that foggy place known as grade school history class.
Perhaps the most profound part of family history is the discovery of our own personal links to the past—pulling at least some of the sweep of the human experience out of the history books and claiming it for one’s own. Those links might be to nearly nameless men and women or to the famous and infamous. The point is that the links are there waiting to be found. They might be links to people very similar to ourselves or people so alien that it is almost hard to realize that we have just laid claim them.
…What do Mayflowers Bring?
As part of a large project, I’ve been researching a colonial family from Connecticut. A few weeks ago, I traced the family back to Plymouth County, Massachusetts in the late 1690s. A decade earlier that county and all the rest of New England had been put together into the “Dominion of New England.” The Dominion was unpopular and when the the English overthrew James II in the Glorious Revolution, the Dominion government was quickly overthrown as well. Massachusetts Bay Colony reverted to its previous colonial charter but Plymouth Colony had never had a charter. In London, the new monarchs, William and Mary, decided to merge the two into a single colony and the colony of the Pilgrims ceased to exist as a separate political entity and Plymouth County joined Massachusetts.
As I worked back to those earlier times, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, became Plymouth Colony and the population dwindled until only a few people from a few ships were living there. I’ve researched in Plymouth Colony’s records before but never ended with a Mayflower passenger. Now Halloween had passed and so had the first week of November. If you are a little kid, pumpkin season was over and Pilgrim season was beginning. And this time there are some little kids in the family who might turn out to be “part Pilgrim.” Once reindeer season begins, that news wouldn’t be nearly as exciting.
So I decided that I had to try to find if the trail ended with a Pilgrim before the magic moment had passed. Luckily George Soule was kind to me. He deeded land to his children and listed them in his will even if their births were not recorded. When the colony’s land was divided among the colonists for the first time in 1623, the receivers of the land were listed according to the ship upon which they had arrived and George Soule is listed under the Mayflower. The original Mayflower Compact no longer exists and none of the the early transcriptions includes the list of signatories but the list was copied and published in 1669. On that list is the name George Soule. I got the privilege of sending a quick email with the findings before Thanksgiving, before the climax of “Pilgrim Season,” when it might make it a little bit more exciting to be a little kid eating turkey on a Thursday in November. Sometimes it is cool to be a genealogist.Twitter It!