Tuesday, August 8, 2017
What the Silver Books Tell Me
It all comes down to what is in the Silver Books. If you want to start on the journey to discover whether you descend from any of the passengers on the Mayflower, you have to start by demonstrating a direct line connection to one of the people listed in those books.
That's what the two members manning the GSMD exhibit at a recent genealogical conference assured me: it all has to check out with the Silver Books. And, of course, you have to present a credible paper trail between your line and those documented in the Mayflower Society's Silver Books.
Since my alleged Mayflower ancestors were supposed to be John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, I thought it would be a wise step to see where I could access those Silver Books. While I certainly am eager to attain membership status in the Society, I'm not sure I'm as eager to part with my hard-earned money in springing for purchase of those books. In my mind, they are hardcover tomes exacting a respectable purchase price.
My go-to response: look it up online. Yes, I know I can drive ninety miles to the Oakland office of the California Mayflower Society—and I will likely do that, before this project is over. But I could just as easily check it out by searching through the main website of the General Society.
When I did, though, it was cause for a slight adrenaline rush: many of the volumes were listed as "out of stock"—whether "temporarily" or "indefinitely" or, more ominously, "out of stock" with no qualifying explanation whatsoever. What was that supposed to mean?
Fortunately, my search style involves clicking on links and wandering around until I find an answer I like. Somehow, I found my way to a file entitled "Guide to the Multi-Part Volumes of the GSMD Silver Book Series." There, thankfully starting alphabetically with the very entry I was seeking, was an explanation of the five part series devoted specifically—and solely—to the descendants of John and Priscilla Alden.
Part One, itself, covered the first four generations. Considering John and Priscilla had nine children who had descendants, there was a lot of material to cover, and the continuation of that file outlined which volumes covered which descendants' lines. I've already seen, from other genealogies, that my line descended from John and Priscilla's daughter Elizabeth, so I already know I would also need to see Part Two of the Alden set.
Of course, there are other resources detailing the generations following John and Priscilla Alden. For instance, the Wikipedia entry for Priscilla Alden includes a listing of their children. The Wikipedia article also links to an article about their daughter Elizabeth, where a footnote mentions the 1897 volume by Mrs. Charles L. Alden, Elizabeth (Alden) Pabodie and Descendants.
The question, though, is whether they are as "impeccably" reliable as the Silver Books are said to be. For now, I'm happy to use the less-than-perfect as my thumbnail sketch of Elizabeth Alden's descendants on the route to Mayflower Society membership. In good time, those researchers' work will be tested by the genealogists who thoroughly examine such claims in membership applications to their Society.
Above: "The Bridal Procession" of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, illustration from the 1886 publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.