Saturday, September 12, 2020

Mayflower Passenger List - A Challenge with Findmypast

One of the various challenges we sometimes face in our genealogy research is determining the source of the records we come across on the various genealogy sites. Some sites make it almost easy to learn where the records came from. In Ancestry's case, one will often find at the bottom of a record a Source Citation and a Source Information block of text. For FamilySearch it may be included in their ready built citation or on the description page for the collection in question. 

Unfortunately, Findmypast can sometimes make it a bit of a challenge to uncover the source of their transcription or images.

In the above case, the source is from the Manchester Archives. However, there are film numbers provided and a quick check on FamilySearch shows that they reference the "Rusholme Road Cemetery register of interments, 1821-1933". How did I know to check FamilySearch? No great trick just a number of years of experience.

Another example is this text some times found at the bottom of the transcription page of a record on Findmypast:

This indicates to me that I should be able to find the information also on FamilySearch. On FamilySearch I will usually then search for the names recorded in the transcription on Findmypast and will frequently come across the same record on FamilySearch. There might even be an image available for me to view if Findmypast doesn't have it associated with the record .

You might also find the source information in the transcription itself like below:

Here we learn that the information came from the Liverpool Record Office and the reference in that archive is 283-WAL-6-1-2.

This brings us to my challenge this week.

Recently Findmypast released their "Massachusetts, Mayflower Passengers 1620" record set. According to their description of this set "These records provide the names and details of all known 132 passengers and crew of the Mayflower." As a descendant of John Howland and Elizabeth Tillie this was of particular interest to me. Here you can see John Howland included in the household of John Carver as one of his man servants.

Household of John Carver
Household of John Carver

Keep in mind that this record set is not to be confused with Findmypast's already existing "Massachusetts, Mayflower Passengers 1620 (Published 1920)" record set which is from the book "A Record of the Names of the Passengers on the Good Ship "Mayflower" in December 1620: From Whom Descent May Now Be Proved, Together With the Names of Some of the Husbands of Their Married Daughers, Granddaughers and Great-Granddaughters" by Herbert Folger published in 1920.

However, Findmypast didn't specify the source of the images for this new record set. In our research it is often important to know where the documents may be originally found since that may point us to further material that can assist us in documenting our family line.

So off I went to discover the source of this old document.

The first place I went to was Wikipedia. Before you get up in arms in shock with my use of Wikipedia, it can be a very good resource for finding sources of information so follow those references at the bottom of the pages. Findmypast referenced the Mayflower Compact in their description so I checked out that page on Wikipedia. That's where I came across the statement that "The original document has been lost, but three versions exist from the 17th century..." Three sources are mentioned: Mourt's Relation (1622), William Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation (1646), and Nathaniel Morton's New-Englands Memorial (1669). However, in the Wikipedia article they included a page from Bradford's transcription of the Compact and it looked very similar to the pages hosted by Findmypast.

That's when I decided to see if I could find a complete copy of Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation in the hopes of locating the source of the Findmypast images. Turning to Google I used the search 'bradford "of plimoth plantation"'. The double quotes are important here since I'm looking for that specific book. In the first page of the search results I found a transcription of that work at The Project Gutenburg and in the Smithsonian Library. However, a little further down in the Google results I came across the page from the Massachusetts government on Bradford's Manuscript "Of Plimoth Plantation". On that page I found the image of the first page of the passengers and it was identical to what was provided by Findmypast.

With only a few minutes of effort I think I found my source of the "Massachusetts, Mayflower Passengers 1620" record set on Findmypast. I even found additional information to help me learn more about my Mayflower ancestors and their adventures in settling in their new world for that page from the Massachusetts State site provided links to not only the list of passengers created by Bradford but also the complete "Of Plimoth Plantation" that one can download in PDF format. Now I can read what was written in William Bradford's own handwriting his accounts of the colony.

So take the time to find those source records. You never know what else you will discovery!

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