Membership Document Preparation

Please follow these guidelines for faster preparation of your Mayflower application. If you have a question, please ask; we are here to help!

Failure to follow these directions will result in delaying your application and require rework on your part.

Please be sure to watch our short Genealogy Webinars found at:

Note: If the state in which the birth, death, or marriage took place was known to issue vital records for that event, you must provide the vital record. See the final page of this document to learn what year each state began issuing vital records. This does not have to be a “certified” copy; those issued for “informational” or “genealogical” purposes will suffice.

Note: An index record means a vital record exists – you must obtain the vital record; index records will not be accepted.


  1. Seek long-form (meaning the parents are named, including the woman’s maiden name) vital records, church records, cemetery records, probate records, Bible records that include relationships and the title page and name of the current owner of the Bible, land records and deeds, guardianship and orphan’s court records, family letters and records, tax assessments and military/pension records as these are considered Primary Sources.
  2. If you or family members do not already have long-form vital records for the births, marriages, and deaths of recent generations, please wait until we all feel comfortable that your lineage can be proven before you begin ordering.
  3. Submit a jpg of your documents. (Please see Scanning a Document within these Instructions.)
  4. You may place them in Dropbox or another secure platform or zip them into a single folder attached to an email. If you do not have a subscription to Dropbox or another platform, please let us know, and we will send you a link for you to safely upload your documents.
  5. Please name the jpg documents with the following conventions:
    • Generation # – the number of the generation to which the document belongs (the Mayflower passenger is Generation 1); his/her child and their spouse are Generation 2 (refer to your Synopsis of the Line of Descent to learn which generation the document pertains to), etc.
    • a = a birth record for the line carrier (the person through whom you directly descend)
    • b = a death record for the line carrier
    • c = a marriage record
    • d = a birth record for the spouse
    • e = a death record for the spouse

So, a death certificate for the non-line carrier (the spouse of the person through whom the line runs) in generation 7 would be saved as “7e.jpg”

  • Indicate with a red arrow or asterisk in the margins only where your ancestor is on the document if it is a census record or another type of listing. If you do not know how to add this to the jpg, include a note (i.e., “the Jones Family appears in household number 43 at about the middle of the page of this census record”) in an email, and I will add the arrow. Please do NOT underline, highlight, or markup within the document itself.
  • Include source documentation. It should be clear to anyone reviewing your application exactly where the information came from. If you are using a published book, include the title page (including the year of publication) with the page(s) that reference your ancestor(s).
  • Send just one supporting document for each event. If you have a death certificate, we do not need the Find-a-Grave record, obituary, cemetery record, and will. The vital record is sufficient if it includes the date and location of the death. For cases where you do not have a vital record, work with your Historian to determine which document(s) are sufficient.
  • Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.


  1. Do not submit multiple copies of the same document (such as a published family genealogy or Census record.) We need only one copy of a document even if multiple generations are covered by that document.
  2. Do not correct any information on a document. It is permitted to add a red asterisk or arrow in the margin near your ancestor’s name. If something is in error, please include a separate letter/email detailing the erroneous information.
  3. Do not submit photos of the documents taken with your cell phone unless they are clear enough to be read. Please download the document if found online or scan it with a high-resolution scanner to create the jpg. (Please see Scanning a Document within these Instructions.)

Scanning a Document

The Mayflower Society requires applications and related documents be submitted by Historians electronically. The documents are to be legible, in jpg format only and must be annotated with red arrows and named using their GSMD identification system. (See above section.)

That being said, the Michigan Historian Team members are more than happy to annotate the pages and convert scanned pdf and png files for you. We just ask that the pages be flat as possible when scanned, so that the images are clear and legible. A flatbed scanner is ideal for making copies, but phone apps such as Genius Scan may also be used to capture flattened images.

We realize that not everyone has access to a flatbed scanner and/or a smartphone to perform these tasks. One solution is to take your documents to a printing business such as FedEx or Kinkos, where either they or you can scan everything and save them in a jpg format on a thumb drive or email to you as an electronic file that you can forward to us. We are also willing to accept paper copies and do the scanning for you. We will handle each application on an individual basis based upon your circumstances and capabilities.

General Notes

Complete documentation is required for all persons in the most current three generations: you, your parents, and your grandparents through whom the line runs (we do not need to include details for both sets of grandparents, just the pair through whom your lineage to a Mayflower passenger goes through). This includes all birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates, and death certificates of the applicant, his/her parents, and his/her grandparents.

Regardless of the generation, if a vital record should have been issued for the event (see When a Vital Record Should be Obtained below) based on when each state began issuing such documentation, it will be required by the Mayflower Society. A table of the dates of when each state began issuing birth, marriage, and death certificates is at the end of this document. If a vital record does not exist, you must provide a letter from the official agency stating your request and that no document could be located.

Secondary Source Records

Secondary source records may be used to supplement primary source materials when needed (i.e., when maiden names are not included in the primary source document). These may include:

  • Federal and State Census Records. Note: Federal Census Records prior to 1880 do not include family relationships.
  • Newspaper marriage accounts and obituaries. Be sure to identify the source (the name, date, and page of the newspaper).
  • Published Genealogical articles. Again, identify the source and the page number.
  • Well-documented published family genealogies. Include a copy of the title page. Family genealogies are accepted on a case-by-case basis.
  • County, Town, and Community Histories. These, too, are accepted on a case-by-case basis.
  • Photos of Gravestones. Include the name of the cemetery and its location. If the stone says only, “Father,” or “Mother,” it cannot be accepted because there is no indication of the person’s name. If the stone is illegible, it cannot be used.

Unacceptable Sources

  • Family group sheets and pedigree charts
  • Records (such as genealogical narratives or charts) that relate to numerous generations that occurred prior to the lifetime of the parents or grandparents of the preparer. They are not acceptable because this is ‘hearsay’ evidence that could not be personally known.
  • Information from family web pages on the Internet. If a family web page has sources, verify and use that source – not the web page – as your reference.
  • Copies of lineage papers from other lineage societies (DAR, SAR, etc.)
  • IGI (International Genealogical Index) from, Pedigree Resources Files, or Ancestral Files.
  • Social Security Death Indexes (SSDI) may be submitted ONLY if you have a letter from a county or state Stating the death certificate cannot be obtained.

About Using Find-A-Grave

While Find-a-Grave appears to offer a wealth of information to the genealogist, be forewarned that most lineage societies, including Mayflower, will not accept the biographical information input by others. The only acceptable data is that which can be read directly from the headstone image.

Headstones that are decayed to the point of illegibility cannot be used, nor can photos that are of such poor quality that no date or name can be read. Relationships cannot be inferred by placement of the grave. However, the location of the cemetery can be used as a burial location. Please submit enough of the data from Find-a-Grave to include the memorial number.

About Marriage Records

The marriage record should not be the version created by the church or person who officiated the ceremony. It should be a government (state or county, usually) issued version and it should name parents. Many states, though, do not include parents’ names on the marriage license or marriage certificate.

In such instances, we must prove a “one and the same” issue. In other words, is the person named John Smith born to James Smith and Mary Doe the very same John Smith who marries Elizabeth Jones? When this is not resolved with a marriage document, other documentation can be used to resolve the issue. These include:

  • A will, obituary, or land deed from parents naming enough family members to confirm the one and the same issue
  • A wedding invitation or newspaper announcement naming parents
  • An anniversary announcement naming parents
  • An acceptable published family genealogy that conclusively links parents and spouse
  • A death certificate that names a married daughter (with her married name) as the informant
  • Anything that states conclusively the person born to the parents you claim is the same one who married the spouse you claim

Please note, this is not to say that parents must have been married. That is not a requirement. This is only to prove an issue with “one and the same” – that the person you claim was born to two parents is the person of the same name who has children with whom you say they did.

Family Data Collections, Family Trees, etc.

There is a lot of very useful information to be found on sources like and However, not all of it is accurate or acceptable. Information found in “Family Data Collections” is not sourced and not acceptable. Proof of names, dates, and locations should come from primary sources (vital records) first, and acceptable secondary sources (census records, obits, etc.) second.

Published Genealogies/Biographies/History Books

Published books referencing your ancestors may be used depending on how well they are sourced. When submitting, please include the title page and, if not included on the title page, the page that includes the year of publication plus any pages that reference how the author sourced his/her data.

Census Records

A Census record can be used to support a birth or death entry, and those records from 1850 and later may be used to support familial relationships.

Please send the copy of the actual Census page (including the location and date – the full page) with a small red arrow in the margin to indicate your ancestor(s).

Family Member Applications

You may have a family member who had previously been granted membership into the Mayflower Society. This is not a guarantee, however, of your own verification. Documentation requirements have become much more rigorous in the past few years. In the past, for example, some applications were approved using scant evidence or only a single source. Today, it is no longer acceptable to have one source for an event unless it is a government-issued vital record documenting the birth, marriage or death. Mayflower Society is considered the “gold standard” in lineage societies and there is nothing your State Historian can do to bend the rules.


Documentation Checklist for Applicants

The following checklist is meant to assist you in ensuring you have gathered the documents required to complete your application. The Society Historian and staff genealogists at Plymouth reserve the right to request additional documentation, depending on the data included in what you have provided.

Your Generation
# Included? Criteria
1 Birth certificate showing the date and place of your birth, your parents’ names, including your mother’s maiden name (this should be a government-issued document, not the version issued by the hospital in which you were born)
2 If you are married, include your marriage certificate showing your parents’ names, including your mother’s maiden name (this should be a government-issued document, not a version from the church or officiant of the wedding).
2a If the marriage document does not include parents’ names, additional documentation is required. See About Marriage Records within this document.
3 If you are married, your spouse’s birth certificate (same criteria as for your birth certificate).
4 If your spouse has died or you have divorced, include their death certificate or page 1 of your divorce decree.
5 Add the birth, marriage, death and/or divorce documents for any additional spouses you have had.

Your Parents
6 Birth certificates of each of your biological parents showing the dates and places of their births and their parents’ names, including their mothers’ maiden names (government-issued, not hospital version)
7 Your parents’ marriage license, application or certificate, showing their parents’ names
7a If the marriage document does not include parents’ names, additional documentation is required. See About Marriage Records within this document.
8 If either of your parents have been married more than once, the divorce decrees (page 1) and marriage certificates for additional marriages
9 If either of your parents have passed, add their death certificate.
  Your Grandparents Through Whom the Line Runs  
10 Birth certificates of each of your biological grandparents showing the dates and places of their births and their parents’ names, including their mothers’ maiden names (government-issued, not hospital version). If your grandparents were born before such a document was created, you will need to provide documentation of their birth (date and location). This could be a census record, bible record, published genealogy, etc.
11 The marriage certificate, license or application for your grandparents’ marriage.
11a If the marriage document does not include parents’ names, additional documentation is required. See About Marriage Records within this document.
12 If either of your grandparents have been married more than once, the divorce decrees (page 1) and marriage certificates for additional marriages
13 If either of your grandparents have passed, their death certificate
  Additional Generations  
Depending on when your great-grandparents and generations beyond them were born, you may or may not be able to acquire vital records. Remember, vital records (birth, marriage and death certificates) that should have been issued based on the by-state table that follows, will be required for membership.

When a Vital Record Should be Obtained

A vital record – birth, marriage or death certificate – is a primary source document created at the time of the event. Therefore, it is the best source of information, from a genealogical perspective. Every effort must be made to include vital records, when possible. If you receive a letter from the county or state in which the event occurred saying no vital record was found, please submit a copy of that letter.

On the following pages are the dates for which each state began issuing vital records, indicating that a birth, marriage or death certificate should be available if it happened after this date:

State Birth Death Marriage
Alabama 1 Jan 1908 1 Jan 1908 1 Jan 1908
Alaska 1 Jan 1913 1 Jan 1913 1 Aug 1936
Arizona Jul 1903 Jul 1903 Jul 1903
Arkansas 1 Feb 1914 1 Feb 1914 1 Jan 1917
California 1 Jul 1905 1 Jul 1905 1 Jul 1905
Colorado 1910 1900 Kept at County Only
Connecticut 1 Jan 1897 1 Jan 1897 1 Jan 1897
Delaware Only supplies records less than 75 years old
District of Columbia 1 Jan 1874 1855 Superior Court
Florida Apr 1865 Aug 1877 6 Jun 1927
Georgia 1 Jan 1919 1 Jan 1919 9 Jun 1952
Hawaii 1853 1853 1853
Idaho 1 Jul 1911 1 Jul 1911 1 May 1947
Illinois 1 Jan 1916 1 Jan 1916 Kept at County Only
Indiana Jan 1900 Jan 1900 Kept at County Only
Iowa 1 Jul 1880 1 Jul 1880 1 Jul 1880
Kansas 1 Jul 1911 1 Jul 1911 1 May 1913
Kentucky 1 Jan 1911 1 Jan 1911 1 Jun 1958
Louisiana Past 100 years Past 50 years Orleans Par, past 50 yrs
Maine 1 Jan 1923 1 Jan 1923 1 Jan 1923
Maryland 1 Aug 1898 1 Aug 1898 1 Jun 1951
Massachusetts 1 Jan 1911 1 Jan 1911 1 Jan 1911
Michigan 1867 1867 1867
Minnesota 1 Jan 1900 1 Jan 1900  Kept at County Only
Mississippi 1 Nov 1912 1 Nov 1912 1 Jan 1926
Missouri 1 Jan 1910 1 Jan 1910 1 Jul 1948
Montana 1907 1907 1 Jan 1943
Nebraska 1904 1904 1 Jan 1909
Nevada 1 Jul 1911 1 Jul 1911 Kept at County Only
New Hampshire 1640 1640 1640
New Jersey Jun 1878 Jun 1878 Jun 1878
New Mexico 1920 1920 Kept at County Only
New York 1881 1880 1881
New York City only 1910 1949 1930
North Carolina 1913 1930 1962
Ohio 20 Dec 1908 1908 7 Sep 1949
Oklahoma Oct 1908 Oct 1908 Kept at County Only
Oregon Jul 1903 Jul 1903 1906
Pennsylvania Jan 1906 Jan 1906 Kept at County Only
Rhode Island 1899 1899 1949
South Carolina 1 Jan 1915 1 Jan 1915 1 Jul 1950
South Dakota Jul 1905 Jul 1905 Jul 1905
Tennessee 1 Jan 1914 Past 50 years Past 50 years
Texas 1 Jan 1903 1 Jan 1903 Kept at County Only
Utah 1 Jan 1905 1 Jan 1905 Kept at County Only
Vermont 1760 1760 1760
Virginia 1853 – 1896 and 1912 – present 1853
Washington 1 Jul 1907 1 Jul 1907 1 Jan 1968
West Virginia 1 Jan 1917 1 Jan 1917 1 Jan 1921
Wisconsin 1 Jan 1907 1 Jan 1907 1 Jan 1907
Wyoming Jul 1909 Jul 1909 May 1941