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In Search of Religious Freedom

In Search of Religious Freedom

August 17, 2022

After more than two months at sea, the Pilgrims landed in Cape Cod on November 11, 1620. After exploring the coast, they arrived in Plymouth on December 26, 1620. The Mayflower departed with 102 passengers, but only 53 would survive the first winter. What drove the Pilgrims to leave their homes and embark on a dangerous journey to the New World? The promise of religious freedom.

Many think that the Pilgrims hopped on a ship from England and sailed straight to Plymouth, but in reality, the journey to the New World was more complicated. The Pilgrims, also known as the Separatists, first settled in Amsterdam hoping to freely practice their religion. After only one year in Amsterdam, the Separatists moved 25 miles to Leyden, Holland, where they stayed for just over 10 years. Archival documents from their time in Leyden can be found right here at the Midwest Genealogy Center! The Separatists had actually hoped to return to a more tolerant England, but as that dream died, they made plans to travel to the New World.

A survey was once done by The New York Times showing that 25 percent of Americans believe that they have a Mayflower ancestor. That number is actually much lower, likely around three percent. I am still searching, quite unsuccessfully, for my own Mayflower ancestor. In September of 2020, that search became easier for me and for everyone. FamilySearch, American Ancestors, and The General Society of Mayflower Descendants announced that Mayflower Society Membership applications and documented family trees are now freely available online!

You can search Mayflower family trees through FamilySearch here. Be sure that the person you are searching for was born on or before 1910 (the earlier the better)! Use the American Ancestors database (available at MGC) to view the Mayflower Society membership applications

Here at MGC, we have a set of books nicknamed the Silver Books. This 25-volume book set documents Mayflower Pilgrims with known descendants through the first five generations. These silver books are the…gold standard…of Mayflower research. Come check them out!

Emily T.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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