Thursday, August 10, 2017

Googling for Colonial Significance

It is certainly a different world, plying my genealogical research craft to the world of colonial ancestors instead of scouring passenger lists for American immigrants of the late 1800s. Still, that doesn't necessarily mean I must resign myself solely to dusty archives or crumbling documents. As I traced one of my lines to the granddaughter of Mayflower passengers John and Priscilla Alden, I couldn't help but notice how many results came up when I took those colonial names and plugged them into the search bar at Google. Old World meets New.

It seems incredible that names like Richard Warren (Mayflower passenger) or Love Brewster (son of William Brewster) would be on the tip of the tongue of twenty first century Americans. And, in case you missed my tongue firmly planted in cheek, those names aren't. Yet, a quick search revealed that each of them has a Wikipedia entry. Somebody knew about them. And thought somebody else might be interested.

Perhaps arrival on the Mayflower conferred a sort of "street cred" among colonials. Names of those early arrivals were noted by someone, obviously, but I wondered how my luck would hold out if I tried searching for the next generation.

Using the 1897 publication by Mrs. Charles L. Alden, Elizabeth (Alden) Pabodie and Descendants, as our unofficial guide (for my final bid to become a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, of course I'll need to align with what has been verified in the "Silver Books"), we left off yesterday with John and Priscilla's granddaughter, Ruth Pabodie Bartlett.

She and her husband, Benjamin Bartlett, likely had nine children. This, though, may be difficult to verify as a complete list, for apparently there have been issues in which listings of Benjamin Bartlett's children may have been confused with those of Samuel Bartlett. The Elizabeth Pabodie author limits her list to those children gleaned solely from mention in Benjamin's will.

In particular, for our purposes, we are interested in Ruth and Benjamin's daughter Ruth. Born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, where the Alden and associated families moved after adhering to their seven-year obligation to the Plymouth colony, the younger Ruth eventually married John Murdock, son of the elder John Murdock and his wife Lydia Young.

While the earlier Mayflower generations provided me with names easily found on sites like Wikipedia, subsequent generations didn't carry as much historical gravitas, apparently, for while I can locate several ancestral names from this portion of my lineage, they are more likely to be found on genealogy websites than general interest pages.

Still, I can find information, thanks to Google—requiring further independent verification, of course—everywhere from the "Memories" section of to the online database listing the descendants of John and Priscilla Alden, provided by the Alden Kindred of America. That organization, interestingly enough, claims as one of its founding members—and treasurer—a gentleman by the name of Charles L. Alden, a name which we've seen affixed to a particular genealogy book of Alden descendants.

None of this I would have known if I hadn't decided to try my hand at Googling some of my ancestors' names. Granted, if there wasn't the cachet of being people associated—even several generations removed—with the landing of the Mayflower, perhaps these names wouldn't have been as ardently sought after. It's the demand that created the supply in this case. But I'm glad for access to that supply thanks to Google, nonetheless.

Above: The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, by British-born American marine painter William Formby Halsall in 1882; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Wow those are some great resources! :)

    1. Google has always been my go-to site for finding new research resources. And there have been so many old books digitized on various sites. We have so many resources at our fingertips now that used to take long journeys to special libraries. Makes researching such a fascinating process now.


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