The Search for the Mayflower

The Ancestral line of Martha Beulah Duguid Straw Harris goes back to the Mayflower through her mother, Eliza (Lida) Handy. We can follow the path via family spoken/written history and a few documents and that will be acceptable by most family members. It gets rather complicated, though, when trying to join the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

The Mayflower Society requires that the line be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. They want DOCUMENTATION. Ideally, they want birth, marriage, and death records of each descendant and their spouse(s). It is fairly easy to obtain those documents from the last three generations, but not always. Recording of births was not compulsory until the latter 1800’s, and even then, many births were simply not recorded. This was especially true in rural areas and home births.*

The more DOCUMENTATION to prove the existence of an Ancestor, the better the chances of the Mayflower Society accepting them. This requires some intense research to find DOCUMENTATION. It can take years before the Society is happy and accepts the line.

Knowing this, I started doing some preliminary work on the Handy lineage back to John Howland while waiting for progress on my own Mayflower lineage. Proving this Handy line also adds the Mayflower Ancestors of John’s wife, Elizabeth Tilley and her parents. What I have found so far has been surprising.

~ The most exciting find was Hiram Handy‘s Last Will and Testament. In it, he names his two sons, Cyrus and George. He also specifically names his grandchildren by his [deceased] daughter. Those children were Lester Rosecrants and [what looks like] Amy Lorissa Merrill. Hiram’s daughter, Mary Mahaly, married Charles Merrill in December 1858. It is not known if Mary was previously married to a Rosecrants or if the child was born out of marriage. I find no evidence (yet) of Mary using the last name of Rosecrants.

~ George Handy‘s first wife was Eliza Hathaway. I found her on an 1850 census living with her parents in Steuben County, Indiana. The names of her parents were David P Hathaway (MD) and Elizabeth (Bennett). The census also gives her place of birth as Pennsylvania and approximate year of birth as 1831. The Handy family had close ties with the Hathaway family through the years.

~ According to many lineages and a publication by Lee S. Duguid, Eliza (Lida) Handy married James Renwick Wilson Duguid. Except when searching for DOCUMENTATION, Lida’s husband is always named ‘Wilson’ … or in later years, ‘Wilson J’. I have not found any document with ‘James Renwick Wilson’. (I am still searching for the elusive birth record). An extremely popular habit among those during this time period, especially in Indiana, was calling a child by their middle name rather than their first name. This led to many switching the order of the names in their adult years. In this case, J____ Wilson became Wilson J. I hypothosize that the J stood for James. So his given name would have been James Wilson. Where did the Renwick come from?

James’ father, John Warren Duguid, had a brother James. This brother had a son, James Renwick, who went by ‘Renwick’ in his later years. It is my belief that the names of the two cousins were blended into one by mistake of later generations. has 614 listings for Wilson Duguid between the years of 1850-1940, most of them for the Wilson Duguid living in Steuben County. There is only one listing for James Renwick Wilson Duguid… his obituary. It would seem that someone gave Wilson that moniker in death. As such, unless a birth record is found with the name ‘James Renwick Wilson Duguid’, the Mayflower Society is not going to accept that as his name.

The Mayflower Society has an approved line from John Howland to Jemima Daggett/Malachi Butler. I can find documentation for their daughter’s marriage to Barzillai Handee and Barzillai Handee, Jr to Mary Clemmons. Of course, there is always that one troublesome child in a family… Cyrenius/Sarenas Handy/Hendee seemes to be problematic, and not just his lineage… but I will persevere.

August 9, 1777 Woodbury, Connecticut Advertisement in The Connecticut Journal, Issue 512

* In our current generation, it is fairly easy to register a birth. One goes into the government facilty, fills out the paperwork, and leaves with a certificate. They don’t even want to see evidence of a child. I had considered registering the two children that seemed to take up residence in our home… ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Not me’. With all the trouble they caused, at least we would have had a tax deduction.
On the other hand, to obtain a death certificate, there has to be evidence of a body or a court declaration of death. It seems to me that a death certificate is more proof of the existence of a person than a birth certificate, at least in Genealogy.