The following history is based on the thesis written by Alicia Crane Williams in 1982, published with additions for the Society's Centennial in 1996.
The renewed interest in American history brought about by the celebration of the centennial of the United States in 1876 spawned the formation of dozens of hereditary and patriotic organizations. By the mid 1890s organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution were attracting members interested in perpetuating the memory of their ancestors who had helped to found this country. Genealogy became a popular hobby and these organizations gave people the opportunity to socialize with others in their genealogical families. The idea of a society for descendants of the Mayflower passengers was realized first in the state of New York on December 22, 1894. Three more states followed in 1896: Connecticut on March 7, Massachusetts on March 28, and Pennsylvania on July 1. In 1897 these four state societies joined to form the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, which has since chartered state societies in all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the Dominion of Canada.
The Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants was founded by George Ernest Bowman who gathered twenty-two men and eight women, many of them his relatives, to sign the papers of incorporation in Boston stating the purposes of the society were patriotic, antiquarian, and historical. To view these documents and the name change in 1924, click here.