December 4, 2020

Ships' Logs from the 1870’s

Three ships' logs for sea voyages made by my great grandfather, Captain David Alba Scribner are held at the Museum of America and the Sea located in Mystic, Connecticut.  The logs are included in the G W Blunt White collection of the library.  I requested a microfilm copy of the logs through the interlibrary loan system, received it, and made copies for my files.  The three logs are for the Ship St Lucie 1870-1872, the Ship St John 1873-1875, and the Ship St John for the later years of 1875-1878.

Deck of a clipper ship with sails up.  Photo taken by H D Scribner, date unknown.

The log entries were recorded daily while ships were at sea.  Captain Scribner’s entries were typically about 4 to 10 lines that noted the weather, and changes in the weather, at least 3 times each 24 hour period.  Winds were also noted by strength and direction, the ship’s course, latitude, longitude, and how the sails were set or changes made to the sails.  Also, he always noted when a ship was sighted, the ship’s direction, and if they were close enough to signal he always identified any ship sighted by name, if possible, and where it was headed or the port it came from last.

One 1873 entry noted a problem with the weather and the sails:

“Fresh gale from the North

Ship on Port Tack

5 PM Furled the Forsail & lowered the Mizzon Topsail

6 PM foot rope of Lower Main parted

Succeeded in saving the sail in a damaged condition.

Parted.  Lower Fore Topsail

Ship laying to under Fore Top”


And another mentioned a stop at the Pitcairn Islands:

“Light breeze from East.  Calm and rain showers

6 PM boarded by some of the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island

Island bearing then South distance 5. Miles

Ends Pleasant.  Wind NE

Course S by W  Dist 100  Latt 28.18   Long 129.43”

In a sobering 1873 entry from the St John logbook, on a trip from San Francisco to Liverpool while near the Cape Horn, Captain Scribner noted that a crewman was lost:

“First part of these 24 hours, fresh gale from NW with a heavy sea

6:30 PM John Kennedy Seaman was washed overboard & drowned

Turned Ship about but could not find him

7:30 Kept Ship on her course

Middle part, heavy squalls

End part, heavy snow and heavy sea

Ship running under whole topsails and foresail

Course E S 3/16 S   List 21   Lat. 55.50   Long 75.39”


And in 1875 on a voyage from New York to San Francisco, one lengthy entry in the logbook told the story of a theft problem among the crew:

“Found the crew has breached the Cargo.  Asked all hands what they would say about it.  One Frank Mopey said he was knowing of it.  All hands called aft.  Said Mopey then related that two nights previous Joe Brown  come to him with several bottles of Beltrop? and asked him to take some of them which he (Mopey) refused to do and urging Brown to put them back.  Again, refusing to do it, the bottles had been all hove overboard.  Brown was then called o and said that he was the Guilty one and knew of no others implicated in it.  I then dismissed them all and ordered Mopey’s trunk or Chest searched.  He saying that Brown had the key.  Brown denying it.  Then Mopey said that he (Mopey) had lost it.  Then the carpenter was called to force open the chest.  When opened there was found seven bottles of Bitters hid under his clothing.  Mopey denying of knowledge of any thing about the affair but he was seen at 2 AM to go below with two bottles and returned with several other lots so I have no faith in Mopey.  Took the chest into the Cabin after giving the Man his clothes.”

Log entries occasionally, when the weather is warm and calm, include notes of having the crew painting the ship, repairing things and sometimes included a comment about stoning the deck.  At the end of the journals, there was also a section of accounting ledgers showing maintenance and expenditures for provisioning the ship when in port.

Below are 1905 photos of the clipper ship, St David, which was a sister ship to the St John and St Lucie along with the St Frances and St Charles, all similar in style, and built by Chapman & Flint in Bath, Maine.  David A Scribner captained all of these ships at some time during his career.  He first sailed the St Charles in 1869 as the Chief Officer, and was named Captain by 1870, sailed the St Lucie and the St John alternately between 1870-1878, the St David from 1878-1884, and the St Francis until 1893.

Below are some photos that I took of the below-decks of the USS Constitution when Guy & I were in Baltimore on vacation in 2019.  The Constitution was, of course, larger than the clipper ships but similarly crowded with crew, cargo, goods and supplies below deck.

*  *  *  *  *

Key individuals:

     Captain David Alba Scribner  (1840 – 1911)

For more on Capt Scribner’s voyages, see the August 4, 2020 blog post, “Visits to Pitcairn Island.”

- Jane Scribner McCrary

November 21, 2020

Lamplighter Luke

Luke G Hughes, my great grandfather, was born near Shiloh in Camden County, North Carolina in 1862, during the midst of the Civil War.  He was the son of Joseph Hughes and Mary “Polly” Gibson Hughes.  Luke’s mother died when he was eight years old, and it is said that he was pretty much on his own after her death.  As the oldest of four brothers, Luke started working by the age of 12, and had been a salesman, dry dock worker, farmer, milkman, huckster, and saw mill worker, as well as a lamplighter for the South Norfolk, Virginia community of Berkley for 3 years around 1900.  He and his wife, Jane Roberts Hughes moved their family to Norfolk County, Virginia about 1895. 


In an interview and news story printed in 1949, Luke Hughes, then 87 years old, tells about his lamplighter experience of almost 50 years earlier. 

BERKLEY LAMPLIGHTER BID $75 TO KEEP TOWN LIGHTED – “I bid $75,” said Luke Hughes.  And being low bidder he got the job of being the first lamplighter for Berkley when it was first incorporated way back near the turn of the century.

To know just about what to bid and what it would cost him for oil and globes, Mr. Hughes took a lamp home and burned it all night.  He figured it out and when the bids went in his was the lowest.  “Some bid as high as $150 a month,” he recalls. 

He had to furnish the oil, keep the lamps all 75 of them, lighted all night, and if a globe got broken install a new one.  “But I came out quite a bit ahead,” he says proudly.  “In the Winter it cost me $28 a month but only $22 in the Summer,” he explains.  “That left me good pay because the average wages in those days was 80 cents which was considered good man pay.”

Lamplighter Luke likes to tell how he roamed the streets at dusk with his donkey cart and placed a small ladder against each pole to light the lamps.  Sometimes he took a partner with him.  When he did they made better time for he would drive on and the partner would climb the ladder and then race after the cart.”

Luke was 97 years old when he died in 1959.  He had a long and colorful life, which included a murder trial at 70 years of age.  I can’t say that he was innocent – as Luke’s defense was that he couldn’t remember anything except that they had been drinking and had an argument the evening before.  Both men had been quite drunk, and Luke claimed to have been knocked out or passed out.  He testified that when he woke in the morning, the victim was dead on the floor with a fatal bullet wound.  Luke called the police who arrived and noted that the victim was still warm, and that Luke had scratches and lacerations on his face.  The bullet that killed the man was from Luke’s gun.  At the trial, there was no eyewitness and only circumstantial evidence.  The prosecution was unable to prove to the jury that the gun had been actually fired by Luke Hughes, and Luke was acquitted.

Virginian Pilot and The Norfolk Landmark newpapers; Friday, February 3, 1933; page 8. 

*  *  *  *  *

Key Individuals:

Luke G Hughes (1862 – 1959)

Jane Roberts Hughes (1861 – 1933)


There is confusion regarding Luke's middle name – was it Gibson or Godfrey?  Godfrey is the middle name noted on Luke’s death certificate.  However, delayed birth certification for three of his children – Polly, Florence & Charles – record the father as Luke Gibson Hughes. 

Luke had an uncle, Samuel Godfrey who was married to his father’s sister, Sarah/Sallie.  And Luke’s mother’s maiden name was Gibson.  Thus, it is reasonable that either name could be Luke’s middle name.  I suspect that Gibson is correct, however, as it is found 3 different times and recorded many years earlier than his death certificate.

 - Jane Scribner McCrary

November 6, 2020

Letters Home in 1861

In an earlier blog post on June 11, 2020, I wrote about Henry Philip Hale, an 18 year-old Union soldier, who died only a short time after his enlistment from wounds he received at the First Battle of Bull Run and while in a Confederate prison hospital in Richmond, Virginia.  Henry’s letters were written to his mother and siblings who lived in Brooklyn, New York.  They spanned the time between when Henry’s regiment left New York until after the conflict at the First Battle of Bull Run.

While Henry’s letters to his family only covered a short period, there are several significant occurrences mentioned in his letters including the death of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth who was the first Union officer to die in the Civil War, making camp in the House of Representatives building in Washington D.C. while it was still under construction, and seeing President Abraham Lincoln.  Thus, I thought it would be interesting to make this blog post simply a transcription of young Henry P Hale’s letters home in 1861.

Washington, May 7 ‘61

Dear Sister,

I received your letter of the 2nd this morning through Jim Smallwood and I was much pleased to hear from you.  I have written two letters home, one to you and one to Mother.  I presume that you have received them both.

We were mustered into the U.S. Service this afternoon.  Some fifteen of the men backed out.  They will be sent home in irons, having once been sworn into the State Service.  There are some few men who are a disgrace to the N.Y. Zouaves, four of whom have been found out and will be drummed out of the Regiment tomorrow and sent home in disgrace.  Two more have committed a crime and will be given up to the authorities tomorrow, and I hope hereafter we will go by a good name.  Col. Ellsworth is a trump and wants nothing but honest and respectable men in his regiment.  We pass away our time playing cards.

I have written Dave [brother], but tell him not to forget his soldier brother, if he don’t take the right side with him.  I have enlisted for the War … let it be five days or five years and God protect the right.  We are quartered in the room of Commerce next to the Patent office – best quarters in Washington.  Our Regiment has the honor of being the first regiment that has enlisted for the War – not thirty day men like the Fancy Seventh of N.Y.  They are the troops of B’way but not of Washington.  We are the only, or I am in the only Company at least, that there was not one man backed out.  Write soon.  Give my love to all and kiss the children for me and tell Ella [sister] that I am not sorry that I am here, altho I would like to see you all, hear you all – bid you good night.  God bless you all and believe me.

Your affectionate brother,



P.S. Please send me an old pair of pants with the books if you have not sent them, if you have never mind.  Don’t send my new ones for I hope to have them on in my dress again.


Camp Lincoln, May 17 ‘61

Dear Mother,

I embrace the opportunity to write you a few lines.  We are to pull up stakes this morning and go a mile below here next to the river where we can have plenty of fishing during our spare hours which are very few, as we are drilled hard and long.  I wrote Sis several days ago asking her to send me some collars – but you need not send them as I have no chance to have them cleaned when they are dirty without washing them myself, and rough dried collars would look worse than none.  I am beginning to think that there will be some fuss in the Camp before long as we now not getting half enough to eat.  Last night our tent had one loaf of bread among sixteen.  You may imagine what the boys thought of this kind of treatment – however, we’ll have to put up with this.  You may hear that we have plenty to eat, but don’t believe it.  The ones that get enough grub has money and buys it from the peddlers about here.  I have heretofore always tried to write a cheerful letter home but when things come to such a point as this I intend to let it be known.  If things do not go on better hereafter – as we are promised, I hear the boys saying they will have it published in the New York papers.

Have you sent that package yet?  I have not received it and cannot understand the reason as you intended sending it on the 11th.  I hope it has not been lost as those little presents will not go amiss with me.

As long as I am writing I will give you an account of the way we do – We are woke up at 5 o’clock by the drum, and get our breakfast – or at least our little mouthful and then are called out at 9 o’clock and drilled until 12 o’clock – when we have two hours for dinner.  At 2 o’clock we go on the field and drill until 6 o’clock – get a little something to eat and have to be in our tents at 9 o’clock.  This is our regular way of living from one weeks end to the other.

Give my love to all the family.  Kiss the children for me.  Give my respects to all my friends.  Write soon and believe me.

Your Affect Son



Alexandria, May 25 ‘61

Dear Mother,

I received your kind letter Thursday night and was much pleased to hear from you.  We left our camp yesterday morning for Alexandria – joined rear troops about daylight.  We had taken the City and had little fighting to do but it pains me to say that we have lost our gallant Col.  He was shot at the Marshall House after having pulled down the Secession Flag.  On coming down stairs the proprietor stepped out of his room and shot him in the breast.  He lived but twenty minutes and all he said was “My God”.  How true his words came.  He said as we were leaving the camp to be prudent and not to run into danger, that perhaps he would be the first to fall, and so he did.  No one else received a shot.  One of our men was shot last night by one of his best friends.  It was very dark and the guard asked him to advance and give the countersign.  He kept coming toward him and did not speak and he was shot dead.  The man who shot the Col. was shot dead on the spot and the American Stars and Stripes fly over this town.

I enclose a few threads of the Secession Flag – I could not get any more.  Sew it into a piece of cloth and keep it.  I hope I may soon return to see it.  I certainly will if the Secession runs as they did here.  You could see nothing but their coat tails.

We have taken 37 horsemen prisoners.  They surrendered without firing a shot.  I have been amusing myself today hunting and searching around for things belonging to the Secessionists.  All we have found was powder and ball.  Write soon and direct as before,

Your Affect Son



Camp Ellsworth, ? 1861

Dear Mother and Sister,

We expect to have a little flight before long.  Two of our men belonging to our Co. was shot at Clouds Mills on Friday morning.  One killed and the other was wounded in the hop.  Young Cornell was buried on Sunday morning.  Yesterday his brother came on with an order from General Sanford for the body.  It was taken up and delivered up to him.

It is now raining in torrents and we are all getting on well passing the time away smoking, singing, and playing cards.  We now have plenty of grub since we have been here such as it is – hard bread, salt lunch Pork – and fresh beef once a week.

I wrote you while quartered at the Orange & Alexandria R.R. Depot and sent you a piece or at least a few threads of the Secession Flag that caused the death of the Col.  I am anxious to hear from you …….

Good bye.  God Bless you all

            Your Affect Son and Brother

            Henry P Hale


P.S.  Please send me a comb in a newspaper.  I have lost mine and my hair is getting quite long.

Washington, June 2 ‘61

Dear Mother and others,

I arrived here last night after quite a nice voyage [the troops were transported part way by ship].  We anchored off Annapolis day before yesterday.  We came on shore about 10 o’clock yesterday morning.  There is two men stationed at each rail from here to Washington.  We have fared quite well – had plenty to eat since we left N.Y. and it’s all in your eye about the men not having enough.  The President [Lincoln] received us last night.  He is about 7 foot, he looked like a fool standing with his hat off –

We are quartered in the House of Representatives – that is, the one they are just building.  I am writing on the floor and sitting on my knapsack and my back is nearly broken bending over – and you must excuse my miserable writing.

Hoping to hear from you soon, I remain your

Affect Son

Henry P Hale


Camp Ellsworth, July 10 ‘61

Dear Mother,

I send you my likeness by today’s mail.  It is not very good nor is it very well got up.  It has no case, I was down to Alexandria yesterday on french leave and thought I would have it take as promised to send it to you from Washington, but was short and could not.  I would have got a case with it but they charged $1.50 and I had not enough.  I expect you will think it looks rather rough, but you know a soldier with nothing but a Regiment shirt and blue pants on cannot look dressed.

I wish when you have the time and money to spare you would have Sis, Birdie & Ella [3 sisters] taken in one case and send them on to me as I would like very much to have them with me as the Lord only knows when I will be home, as it begins to look like War.  Some 5 or 6 regiments have come out here encamped within a mile of us.  There are the Michigan 1 & 2 regiments, the Maine 3, 4 & 5 regiments and an Ohio regiment.  Scott Life Guards Second Artillery Company and three horse company all within a mile of us.

We have not as yet received any pay, more have I any idea when we will.  We have been promised over and over again.  It seems our Regiment will be humbugged out of our money as well as clothes – if I am not paid shortly I will up stakes and join some other Regiment and if I possibly can I will be transferred to Ellsworths Avengers.

My draws [drawers] are worn out and I have none as well as my stockings.  We have a ____ in our Regiment and he is getting all of the boys pay.  I do not intend running up any bill with him.

Did Dave [brother] attend to having that I enclosed to you sent to the Mercury Office [New York Sunday Mercury newspaper]?   If not tell him to attend to it immediately, if not sooner.

I have seen some of my friends from New York who have joined other Regiments.  The reason letter does not reach me in time, you direct it to Washington instead of Alexandria.  Give my love to all.  Goodby

Your Affect Son,



Richmond, August 2 ‘61

Dear Mother,

I write this to inform you of my whereabouts.  I am still among the living although I was wounded in the Battle of Bull Run, and, I presume, named among the dead in the papers.  It was God’s Will that I only got a slight wound in the thigh.  I am recovering fast.  We are treated here with the utmost kindness.  Everything is done for us that one could wish.

I hope that War will soon end and we will all soon return home.  I hope Dave is successful in finding employment and is doing well. 

I have nothing to write about.  I am in a hospital in Maine Street.  Give my love to Grandmother, Sis, Dave and the children.  Goodbye.  God bless you all –

Your Affectionate Son,

Henry P Hale


NOTE:  Private Henry P Hale, 11th New York Volunteers, 1st Fire Zouaves, Company G, died on August 7, 1861, five days after writing the above letter from Prison Hospital No. 1, Main Street, Richmond, Virginia.

*  *  *  *  *


Key Individuals:

     Philip Moore Hale  (1807 – 1870)

     Mary Ann Brown Dickinson Hale  (1816 – 1880)

          Henry Philip Hale  (1843 - 1861)


- Jane Scribner McCrary

October 17, 2020

A Career Aboard the Midas of Baltimore

My lineage has its share of sea captains including my 3rd great grandfather, David Bill Dickinson.  Born in New London, Connecticut in 1787, David was the son of  Nathaniel Dickinson, another seaman and mariner, though David’s father died when he was only 10 years old.  

By 1801, David Bill Dickinson was only 13 and already listed in the Seamen’s Protection Certificate Register for the port of New London.  He was working aboard sloops and ships that sailed out of the New London port from a young age, likely to help support his widowed mother and sisters.

Not long after the Revolution, the War of 1812 found the United States once again in conflict with the English.  Congress authorized letters of marque which commissioned private vessels, known as privateers, to attack and seize enemy vessels including British merchant ships.  The privateers were required to keep journals of their encounters, and to keep logs of any cargo that was seized.  Captured seamen were either put ashore in port or put aboard a vessel that was released.  When possible, the privateers were to deliver the captured cargo, including the actual ships seized, to naval authorities in various ports.  The privateer ship’s owners and crew would subsequently receive a percentage of the seized goods when sold.

David’s father, Nathaniel, had sailed with privateers during the Revolution, and David himself was aboard several United States commissioned privateer vessels from the early years of the War of 1812 including the Sloop Juno of New London.  In July 1812, the privateer letter of marque for the Sloop Juno records David as a Lieutenant under Captain John Howard.  And later in 1814, he was aboard the Row Galley that was part of the Torpedo Expedition off the harbor of New London.

The Midas of Baltimore was a schooner built in Baltimore in 1813.   The ship began sailing as an American merchant vessel and also a privateer during the War years often on a route between the Chesapeake, the West Indies and France.  The Midas was armed with four six-pound cannons, four six-pound carronades and 35 crewmembers.  The captain was Commander Alexander Thompson who was also a partial owner of the ship.   David joined the Midas in 1814 as the 2nd Officer; and by June that year, David was noted in the ship’s journal as the 1st Officer.

After a successful trading and privateering voyage from Chesapeake to Havana, France and Spain, the Midas returned and sailed the Atlantic seaboard where they added four more six-pound carronades and additional crew.  At that time, the British were blockading American ports to hamper American merchant business.  In 1814, the Midas had many successful encounters with British vessels in the waters of the eastern coast and the West Indies.  The Midas captured over a dozen British ships that year.

By August of 1814, the British had attacked and burned Washington, and turned north towards Baltimore.  The Midas of Baltimore was in The Bahamas where on September 13th Captain Thompson authorized a raid – led by David – on Harbour Island in retaliation for the British burning of Washington.

With the raid on Harbour Island in The Bahamas, the Midas had violated the rules of conduct for privateers issued by the State Department.  President James Madison ordered a commission to look into the incident.  Captain Thompson took full responsibility for the action, even noting in his journal that David was involved under his direct orders.  As a result, the privateer ship’s letter of marque was revoked.

In December of 1814, the owners of the Midas proceeded to remove Captain Thompson from command, loaded the ship with a cargo of flour for the West Indies, and placed the ship under the command of David whom it was noted was a “prudent man”.  The owners applied for a new privateer commission, though the War of 1812 was soon over.  And with the end of the conflict, the Midas of Baltimore was once again a merchant vessel.

Captain David Bill Dickinson sailed as the commander of the Midas of Baltimore for the next several decades until the late 1830’s.   The ship’s voyages were typically routes through the Atlantic or the Caribbean to ports in the West Indies, St Bart and Havana, Havre and Marseilles in France, Gibraltar south of Spain, and often to Smyrna, now known as Turkey. 

David was married to Mary Rogers of New London, Connecticut in 1812, and they had one daughter, Mary Ann Brown Dickinson born in 1816.  Baltimore was always the home port for the Midas, however I believe that David’s family remained in New London, Connecticut until around 1819 and the death of David’s mother.  After that time, the Dickinson family made their home in Baltimore, Maryland.  David died in 1846 in Baltimore at 58 years of age.  His widow, Mary, lived many more years after his death.

"New London County, Mystic, CT.  Mrs. Mary Dickinson, whose death we chronicle at the ripe age of 84 years, at her daughter's Mrs. Hale, was one of our most aged citizens.  Her husband, Capt David B Dickinson, was a native of New London, and a shipmaster.  He was a bold privateersman during the war of 1812, having been one of those daring young men that was constantly organizing and successfully executing plans to annoy, elude, and drive the British fleet from our waters.  Later in life he removed to Baltimore and was a well known master of that port.  He died about eighteen years ago [sic].  His widow, whose decease we notice, was also a native of New London where her remains have just been interred, and by whose side her husband's remains are to repose, as they are soon to be removed from Baltimore to rest with his relatives and early companions of the sec. in Cedar Grove Cemetery.  Mrs. Dickinson's maiden name was Rogers, an elder sister of Mrs. Charles Mallory, and Capt Henry Rogers of Mystic Bridge." – June 1875

*  *  *  *  * 

Key individuals:

     Nathaniel Dickinson  (1749 – 1797)

     David Bill Dickinson  (1787 – 1846)

     Mary B Rogers  (1790 – 1875)

     Mary Ann Brown Rogers Dickinson  (1816 – 1880)


David Bill Dickinson appears in the London, England Grand Lodge Freemason membership registers in 1811.  He was a member of the London Naval Tavern Mason’s Lodge and is noted as a “Captain” in the log.  It appears that in 1816, David transferred his Freemason membership to Baltimore where he became a member of the Washington Lodge of Freemasons until 1828.  This Mason lodge was mostly made up of individuals involved in building and sailing ships and was located near the Baltimore dockyards.

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

October 3, 2020

A Mayflower Connection, or not …

For many years, I was fairly certain that we had a Mayflower ancestor in the family, actually two of them – John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley who both arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 as young adults, and then later married.  My 2nd great grandparents, Islethera Howland & David Scribner were married in 1821 in Topsham, Maine.  And I felt certain that Islethera Howland’s family, an old New England line, was our Mayflower connection. 

When I originally researched Islethera Howland’s family, I found that her line appeared to go back to Henry Howland who arrived in the Plymouth Colony just a few years after the Mayflower arrived.  Henry wasn’t a Mayflower passenger, however, his older brother, John Howland, was aboard the Mayflower in 1620 – a close relationship, but not a direct descendant line to a Mayflower passenger. 

   Henry Howland (1604-1671) [bro. of John Howland of the Mayflower]

      Samuel Howland (~1648-1716) m. Mary Sampson

         Abraham Howland (1675-1747) m. Ann Rouse

            Benjamin Howland (1724-1755) m. Experience Edgerton

               Abraham Howland (1762-1853) m. Anna Staples

                  Islethera Howland (1802-1843) m. David Scribner

Later in my research, I found an alternate path that took me back directly to John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  There were a lot of intermarriages, and also large families in those times, so a number of links are always a possibility.  This Howland line seemed pretty strong to me as I found documentation in several early published family genealogies.  And interestingly, it once again connects to my 2nd great grandmother, Islethera Howland Scribner. 

   John Howland (1592-1672) m. Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687) 

      John Howland (1627-1702) m. Mary Lee

         Experience Howland (1668-1728) m. James Bearse/Bierse

            Experience Bearse (1692-1735) m. Dennis Edgerton

               Experience Edgerton (1725-?) m. Benjamin Howland

                  Abraham Howland (1762-1853) m. Anna Staples

                     Islethera Howland (1802-1843) m. David Scribner

For decades I believed that we were connected to the Plymouth colonists as descendants of John Howland & Elizabeth Tilley.  In more recent years, there has been extensive research done on the Mayflower passengers and their descendants. And presently, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants lineage group seems to be regarded as the best authority on the descendant lines.

Now I have never been interested in joining a Mayflower descendant’s lineage society, or any other lineage society.  For that matter, joining groups in general has never really been my thing.  But, I did feel confident that if I wanted to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, that I could probably do so. 

The application process requires a lot of paperwork and documentation proving direct ancestry; so you have to get together a lot of birth, marriage and death certificates for many generations along with relevant research.  An applicant submits their case along with supporting documentation, and it is reviewed for acceptance or declination which includes a process of comparing the earlier generations to known lines that the Society accepts as “proven”.  The earliest generations have already been reviewed in historical documents and early lineage books which have been determined as either good or questionable sources.

That takes me to a posting that I found online that was added to an tree in 2008.  It is a response that was posted regarding someone’s application to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.  It reads:

31 Aug 2007 - We are delighted to learn of your interest in the Mayflower Society. We have received your Preliminary Review Form and have attempted to determine a best approved lineage paper that we might have which follows your stated lineage. Unfortunately, it has never been proved that John and Mary (Lee) Howland's daughter/son Experience married James Bearce, and the Mayflower Society does not accept this line as a Mayflower lineage. As found in "John Howland of the Mayflower" Volume 2, on the Descendants of John2 Howland: "There is no proof that Experience married James Bearce of Barnstable, who moved to Halifax, Mass. Experience was considered a man until 1930 when the Bearse Genealogy suggested that this Experience might have been a woman who could then have married James Bearse. No proof has been found for such a marriage." So, I'm sorry, but you have no accepted Mayflower lineage here.

   Regards, Paul S Bumpus Librarian, General Society of Mayflower Descendants GSMD.

Well, this shoots down what I thought was the link that I had to a Mayflower line of descent.  I had connected our line with Experience Bearse, the daughter of Experience Howland & James Bearse in my chain of descent. 

Oh, but wait!  In writing this story, I thought I might check and see if any more research had turned up, and it has.  Only a few months ago in April 2020, it was posted that the General Society of Mayflower Descendants now accepts that James Bearse/Bierce did marry Experience Howland.  I found the following online:

“The Mayflower Society did recently discover evidence that proves that Experience Howland (granddaughter of Mayflower passenger John Howland) married James Bierce. We are currently accepting applications that go through this couple. Currently we have approved applications going through these 4 different children of Experience Howland and James Bierce: 1) James, 2) Priscilla, 3) Rebecca, and 4) Shubael.” – Mayflower Lineage Match, April 30, 2020, Erin Gillett, Research Assistant, General Society of Mayflower Descendants GSMD.

I’m getting closer now with “official acceptance” that Experience Howland (a Mayflower descendant) married James Bearse.  That helps – except that my family line is through a daughter, Experience Bearse, and she isn’t listed as one of the 4 children noted above for which they have already approved applications.  My research sources indicate that James & Experience had at least 8 children, so it might be just a matter of time before the Society receives an application descending through Experience Bearse, daughter of James Bearse & Experience Howland, and expands their acceptance criteria.

However, if you are connected to my family line, and want to apply to a Mayflower lineage society, be prepared for the possibility of this hang-up.

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Key individuals:

   Henry Howland  (1604 – 1671)

   John (the Mayflower) Howland  (1592 – 1672)

   Elizabeth Tilley Howland  (1607 – 1687)

   Abraham Howland  (1762 – 1853)

   Islethera Howland Scribner  (1802 – 1843)

 – Jane Scribner McCrary

John Howland overboard on the Mayflower

In October 2020, my blog post was about our family Mayflower connection and my research that connects our family back to the Mayflower voyag...