I have been working with FamilySearch.org Family Tree since it was introduced. It has the promise of being a unified family tree program with great potential to quell rumors, gossip, lies and undesirable communication involving genealogy. But the task of retrieving all those "feathers" is almost overwhelming. I mentioned in my other blog, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad..., that I had been looking at my Mayflower passengers lines. Here are the basics about the Mayflower passengers.
One of the older lineage organizations in the United States, The General Society of Mayflower Descendants, usually called "The Mayflowers Society," was founded in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1897. Membership in the Society is open to the following:
Anyone who arrived in Plymouth as a passenger on the Mayflower is considered a Pilgrim, with no distinction being made on the basis of their original purposes for making the voyage. Proven lineage from a passenger, approved by a Historian General, qualifies one to be a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.Technically, the "Pilgrims" were not all religiously motivated. The Society describes the group as follows:
The group of 102 passengers who crowded aboard Mayflower for the crossing was not homogenous. Many of the passengers were members of the Leiden congregation, but they were joined by a number of English families or individuals who were hoping to better their life situations, or were seeking financial gain. These two general groups have sometimes been referred to as the "saints" and "strangers".
Although the Leiden congregation had sent its strongest members with various skills for establishing the new colony, nearly half of the passengers died the first winter of the "great sickness."All of the survivors have been extremely well documented. I would guess that there has been a huge investment in time and money in the research of this relatively small group of survivors. The information available about the surviving families is very specific and extensively documented. For a list of the passengers who died see Wikipedia:List of Mayflower passengers who died in the winter of 1620-21. Only 57 Pilgrims survived the first winter.
I have visited the Mayflower Society Library in Plymouth, Massachusetts and I am reasonably well acquainted with the extensive research on these families. If you are interested see The Plymouth Colony Archive Project.
The Mayflower Society has compiled a set of books documenting the descendancy of each of the surviving passengers for five generations. We refer to this set of books as the "Silver Books" because of their silver colored binding. Unfortunately, these books were published at different times and different editions and it is difficult to get a complete citation for the entire set. Here are citations to the books about one of my ancestors for an example:
Wakefield, Robert S., and Ralph V. Wood. Francis Cooke of the Mayflower and His Descendants for Four Generations. Plymouth, MA (4 Winslow St., Plymouth 02361): General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1987.
Now, contrary to most "surname books" these particular books are extensively documented and sourced. Any changes to the research because of "new discoveries" is generally reported in the American Genealogist or the Mayflower Society publications. There are other societies and organizations involved in this particular area of research.
Now, here is the point. FamilySearch.org Family Tree shows the chaotic mess that the thousands of unexperienced, careless, and I must say perverse researchers have made of the rather simple task of ascertaining the identity and lineage of the Mayflower passengers and descendants. One example is Philip Taber who married Mary Cooke, the daughter of Mayflower passenger John Cooke and his wife Sarah Warren, the daughter of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. Presently, Family Tree shows 21 duplicates and separate "marriages" for Philip Taber. The program refuses to show the correct information, even if I mark it preferred. There are a multitude of duplicates for Mary Cooke and at least five duplicates showing for her grandfather Francis Cooke. In fact, John Cooke is shown as his own father. Remember, this is all documented extensively in the Silver Books and elsewhere.
Is there really anyway to reconcile and untangle this mess? As I have indicated, there is no controversy about the facts. All of these differing "opinions" in Family Tree are entirely lacking sources. No one thought to look at the Silver Books and obtain documented information. As yet, I cannot reconcile this mess because the program will not recognize merges and people keep changing the information faster than I can put it into the program.
There may come a day when we can see our way to gathering the feathers, but is still a long way off.