[MR] BBC: Mayflower Descendants

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Mon Aug 9 04:10:32 PDT 2021

Noble Friends,

Today the BBC is offering an interesting piece speculating about how many
people are actually descended from passengers on the Mayflower. Now this is
a bit outside our SCA period of interest, but wait, there's a possible

Of the 105 passengers who survived the voyage, only 53 were still alive
after the first year in America. There were 21 or 22 families of settlers
who had children that survived to adulthood (both numbers are quoted in the
article). Complicating this is that there were actually 27 marriages, as
some widows or widowers remarried other settlers, or married later arrivals
to the colony. Assuming an average of two surviving children per marriage,
and an average of two children for the marriage of each descendant, the
total today comes out to some 35 million, a staggering 10% or so of the US
population. Wow! That's a lot of potential people for what is usually
thought of as a pretty exclusive club.

Ah, but here's the problem. If one Mayflower settler or later descendant
marries another settler or descendant, the two children don't count toward
the twice, since they are only replacing their parents. This factor is
known as  "pedigree collapse". Factoring this into the equation, the total
is estimated to drop to something like *just* 3 million. That's still a lot
of members in the club.

Now the medieval connection. The Mayflower settlers arrived in 1620 and we
see how many people with that cachet are potentially around 400
years later. What if we push back into the middle ages, say the 1400s? For
argument's sake, let us say that adds five generations per century. This
would cause an explosion of descendants for knights who fought at
Agincourt, for example. Of course surviving genealogies usually only cover
noble families, and often they are woefully incomplete.

Consider for a moment, the descendants of Richard III, the "Car Park King".
He didn't have any legitimate children. There were two known . . . uh . . .
love children, but they appear to have died without issue. So when modern
researchers needed a DNA match to identify his supposed skeleton found in
2012, they turned to descendants of his sister, Anne of York. After a lot
of genealogical research, a match was found in a  nephew 16 times-removed,
a Canadian-born London cabinet maker. A handful of other possible
descendants have since been identified. Pretty slim pickings compared with
the possible 35 million, or even only 3 million, Mayflower descendants.

Of course all this is fun to speculate upon, and also possibly of interest
to Scadians who might be curious about their real medieval ancestors. With
appropriate modesty, I cite the line of my real Napier ancestors which has
been traced back to the 1290s (the males were considered "gentlemen" and
many were land-owners and burgesses in Scotland, but were not nobles). In
my own branch, there was a break in the early 18th century as records from
the colonial frontier (usually just baptismal, marriage and death records
for women) are often sparse or have been lost. This gap has since been
filled in. Rather disappointingly there are no known royals in my family
tree. The closest to royalty my line came was the throat of Charles I of
England: one of my ancestors was his barber-surgeon. Well, it's something

Here is the BBC story: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57698818 .

Yours Aye,

Lord Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆

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