Mayflower descendents find their way to Chester

By Marcie Klomp

Tom Cray and family can wear Pilgrim garb at Thanksgiving with authority! They are descendents of individuals who actually participated in the first Thanksgiving in 1621! His ancestors landed in America aboard the Mayflower.

It may have taken those original settlers around two months to sail from England to America, but it took Cray over eight years of research to become a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. The GSMD was founded at Plymouth, Mass. 1897.

Cray started his journey around 2005, which took him to Cresco, Decorah, Osage, Preston and even Boston and Plymouth, Mass. A distant cousin had got in touch with him asking for information on the Cray family and that sparked the desire to learn more.

Since then he has become online friends with cousins he never knew or met.

He has spent countless hours on Ancestry.com and other Internet sites to trace his ancestry. He has connected with several Mayflower historian. “Each state has its own Mayflower historian,” Cray explained.

In his research through the Cray side of his family, he found not just one, but two lines that went all the way to original passengers on the Mayflower.

“It’s fun when you can find stuff, but then you run into a brick wall . . .” he commented.

He was able to trace a line from Francis Cooke and Mr. and Mrs. James Chilton and daughter Mary down to the eighth generation of Sarah “Sally” Parish. He also traced the 14th generation (himself) to Parish, who is the “brick wall.” Two documents cannot be found for her. “A lot of times they recorded information on boys. The girls weren’t as important.” Many times, they would just say a girl was born or died and not give a name.

So Cray came to a standstill.

But wait. There are always two sides to a story . . . and a family. With the help of cousins Carmen Reed and Bill Reed, he traced a line from Grandma Kathleen Elizabeth Reed (wife of Winfield Cray) to the second governor of the Plymouth Colony, William Bradford!

Off and on, Bradford served as governor about 30 years between 1621-1657.

Research can be very tedious. A person looks and searches and searches and looks. And then a piece of information comes up, and you do the happy dance. Then you look and search and search and look some more.

Imagine the euphoria when you hit a line and up pops the GSMD logo confirming a Mayflower line! Cray has found that. Now he continues to look for another line on the Cray side.

General Society of Mayflower Descendants

To be members of GSMD, there has to be at least two documents confirming the identity of each person in the lineage. Most generally those are birth, death or marriage certificates, Bible and church records and census information.

In most cases the hardest documents to find are the oldest ones. But when it comes to Mayflower descendents, those are the easiest! Cray said the first five or six generations on each of the passengers and crew has already been established.

After getting his own lineage verified, he immediately signed up his three children and three grandchildren into GSMD as well.

Even though the research on the Reed side of the family was pretty solid, the society still had four or five questions for the family before they would give out the coveted admission into the organization.

Bradford Connection

1. William Bradford

2. William Bradford II

3. Hannah Bradford Ripley

4. Faith Ripley Bingham

5. Abisha Bingham

6. Martha Bingham Gee

7. Luman/Lewman/Laman Gee

8. Mary/Molly/Molley Gee Reed

9. Ezra Reed

10. William Cross Reed

11. Jesse Byron Reed (first to live at Chester)

12. Kathleen Elizabeth Reed Cray

13. Richard Cray

14. Thomas Richard Cray

Cooke Connection

1. Francis Cooke

2. Jane Cooke Mitchell

3. Elizabeth Mitchell Washburn

4. John Washburn

5. Ebenezer Washburn

6. Stephen Washburn

7. Patience Washburn Parish/Parrish

8. Sarah “Sally” Parish Bullis

9. John Quincy Adams Bullis (first to live at Chester)

10. Sarah Elizabeth Bullis Cray

11. Winfield Cray

12. Richard Cray

13. Thomas Cray

Chilton Connection

1. James and Susanna Furner Chilton

2. Mary Chilton Winslow

3. Susannah Winslow Latham

4. Hannah Latham Washburn

5. Ebenezer Washburn

6. Stephen Washburn

7. Patience Washburn Parish/Parrish

8. Sarah “Sally” Parish Bullis

9. John Quincy Adams Bullis (first to live at Chester)

10. Sarah Elizabeth Bullis Cray

11. Winfield Cray

12. Richard Cray

13. Thomas Cray

The Mayflower

The Mayflower started out its journey in August, 1620 with another ship, the Speedwell, which ran into some leaking problems, and the two ships had to return to port. Many from the Speedwell then boarded the Mayflower to resume their trip to the new World.

One hundred two passengers, 35 seeking religious freedom and the rest seeking riches, and the crew of about 50 departed on Sept. 6, 1620. Their destination was the Colony of Virginia.

Land was spotted Nov. 9 (present day Cape Cod, Mass.) The ship tried to sail south to Virginia but winter seas denied them, so they landed at Plymouth, Mass.

On Nov. 11, the male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact, an agreement to stay loyal to King James.

The first winter was tough on the Pilgrims. Nearly half the Mayflower passengers perished. Those who survived were named Pilgrims. Those individuals established religious freedom and created foundations for the democracy Americans enjoy today. They worked hard and celebrated with the first Thanksgiving, which has grown to become a festive national holiday.

Now what

Cray will continue to see if he can verify a Cray line. In the meantime, he has other work to do. “I’ve got stuff everywhere. Stuff at my office. Stuff at home. And nothing is neat and tidy. Eventually I’ll put some family history together for my kids.”

Others may be envious of Cray’s lineage going back to1621, but it is actually not that uncommon. “They estimate that 10-12 percent of the United States population has ancestry back to the Mayflower. I don’t know the number who have proven their line, though,” Cray said.

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