top of page

About Us

WHO WE ARE

The Oklahoma Society of Mayflower Descendants is a charitable and educational organization formed in 1947 to preserve the memory of our Pilgrim ancestors. We distribute historical and genealogical books to state libraries, present educational material and programs to schools, and sponsor Pilgrim heritage programs for the public. We are funded by tax-deductible contributions and governed by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

We meet twice per year. Our fall Compact Luncheon commemorates the Mayflower Compact signing, and our spring Anniversary Luncheon honors our founding. We have approximately 250 active members and have inducted over one thousand members since 1947. Our goal is to meet new generations who will keep the memory of our Mayflower ancestors alive.

HOW WE BEGAN

1620  One hundred two passengers sailed on the Mayflower from England to America and established Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. Pilgrim William Bradford wanted future generations to know the passengers' names, understand their hardships, and see how God had sustained them, so he kept a journal of their journey and the colony's early years.

 

Bradford's manuscript remained in his family for several generations until they entrusted it to the New England Library in Boston. The library was housed in the steeple chamber of Old South Church, the largest building in New England. New Englanders treasured the manuscript, known as Of Plymouth Plantation, as the first American history book.

 

1775  During the Revolutionary War, the British army took over Old South Church and gutted it in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party. They burned the pews, spread gravel inside, installed a jump bar, and used the church for horse riding practice. After the soldiers evacuated, Bostonians found the library in disarray and books missing. Sadly, Bradford's treasured manuscript had vanished.

1855  After almost a century, no one expected to see the manuscript again until an American historian learned by chance that it was in England, in the Bishop of London's library. It was a thrilling discovery for many Americans who anticipated its immediate return, as it was clearly labeled "property of the New England Library." Yet, the Bishop of London sent a copy and kept the original in England. For the next 40 years, the U.S. petitioned, appealed, and negotiated for the manuscript's return in vain.

1894  Inspired by efforts to reclaim the manuscript, Mayflower descendants in New York formed a society.

 

1896  Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania descendants formed similar societies.

 

1897  These four state societies met in Plymouth to create the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. That same year, England finally returned the Bradford manuscript to Boston with great fanfare.

 

For the first time, many Americans learned details about the men, women, and children who sailed on the Mayflower. Thus, they began to appreciate the significance of the voyage. They also became interested in knowing if they descended from any passengers. Soon, other states started organizing descendant societies.

1907  Oklahoma became the 46th state in the United States of America.

1947  The Oklahoma Society of Mayflower Descendants received its charter on January 11, 1947. As the Pennsylvania Society celebrated its 50th anniversary at Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Lewis E. Neff of Tulsa presented a petition signed by 30 Oklahoma descendants to the General Society board members. On May 29, 1947, the Oklahoma Society held its first meeting at the Mayo Hotel in Tulsa and elected Neff as the first governor.

 

Mr. Neff had extensive genealogy experience. As an attorney, he traced Native American ancestry to determine ownership of valuable Oklahoma land and oil titles. As a Mayflower Society volunteer, he established numerous Mayflower ancestral lines. Indeed, many descendants owe their proof of lineage to his research. Neff also organized societies in Arkansas, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, South Dakota, Nevada, Hawaii, and Delaware.

TODAY  There are fifty-four Member (formerly "State") Societies, including the fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada, and Europe. The General Society, headquartered at the Mayflower Society House in Plymouth, Massachusetts, approves all member applications, while each Member Society manages its local affairs. A General Congress of all societies meets every three years in Plymouth. While elected officers and delegates conduct governance, any society member may attend the programs and activities.

bottom of page