Giving Thanks for Genealogy

Mayflower Compact

The pilgrims signing the compact, on board the May Flower, Nov. 11th, 1620. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

I’m suffering from a severe case of déjà vu.

Once again I find myself helping my oldest child create a family tree for his social studies class.  In Fall 2010 I helped him draw a family tree back to his 2nd great-grandparents for a unit on family history.  Now I am helping him document and create a chart tracing his Mayflower ancestors for extra credit on his English Colonization unit.  I have the coolest kid ever: This was his idea, not mine.

First we plotted the game plan.  He wants to create a pedigree chart ala “Who Do You Think You Are?” all rolled up and covered in calligraphy with a bright red ribbon, showing each generation from our Mayflower ancestors down to him.  Of course, I’m sure in his mind it looks far grander than we’ll be able to put together, but regardless, this is going to be a lot of fun.  Mommy can only work so many miracles you know, and the poster has to fit on a school bus.

My plan is to sit down with him and go through my database generation-by-generation, showing him how each one is connected to the next. He has a genuine love of history and tells us he wants to become a Colonial American Historian when he grows up. Looking at online documents and research may have him glued to his seat for a few hours.  Is Middle School too young to start teaching proper research techniques?

This endeavor is timely for yet another reason.  I’m waiting for the last two documents to arrive that will prove my Mayflower lineage.  Once that is done, I will type it all up with the copies of the documents and it will be mailed off.  Then the waiting will begin again, in which I will begin on my husband’s two lines.  However, seeing as I did all this work, I am also applying to the DAR with the same lineage.  Might as well make it easy, right?

The Revolutionary War Soldier that I am submitting is William Hayden, private in the Virginia Militia and the Great-grandson of John Alden and Pricilla Mullins.  As far as I can tell, no one in my family has as of yet submitted an application for this line to the DAR or the SAR.  I was always told that we could, but it seems that I’m the only one to actually decide to do it.  One person has submitted an application through William’s son Noah, my ancestor, but the application goes through a different child of his from there.  The son I am descended through is Noah Gilpin Hayden. This has been a year in the making, and while I have taken breaks, it has been a research goal of mine from the very beginning.  That goal has pushed my skills and, I hope, has made me a better researcher as well.

Two years ago my son started me down the path of genealogy research.  Well, that and the fact that my husband couldn’t tell me, for sure, who his great-grandparents were.  That small homework assignment has bloomed into a near obsession and quite possibly a future career.  I think I can safely say there will be many more instances of déjà vu in my future.


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


Learn more about your own early-American family with the OnDemand video class Top 25 Tips for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors.

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