The Mayflower Descendant was created by George Ernest Bowman, the founder of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants and the father of Mayflower genealogy. The first issue appeared in 1899 and stopped with Volume 34 in 1937, four years before Bowman died. The journal was a quarterly published annually. It was not published in 1926 to 1929, and 1936. The Depression forced the Society to cease the journal that it had been sending free to all its members. Bowman also edited Pilgrim Notes and Queries from 1913 to 1917 as an adjunct to the journal that was published eight times a year and included much of the same material as the journal (some journal serialized articles were carried here).
The focus of the journal was the transcription or abstractions of original records that were not available to the general public. Many important documents have been preserved in text and photographs within the pages of the journal. Some of the first critical analyses of genealogical problems were discussed and some of them solved.
Alicia Crane Williams revived the journal in 1985. The new journal was published in an 8-1/2" by 11" format. Williams continued abstracting a wide variety of important documents to help researchers of Mayflower lineages. She also added compiled genealogies for families in southern New England. She edited the journal as two 96-page issues until Volume 48 (1998).
Scott Andrew Bartley took over as editor of the prestigious journal with Volume 49 (2000). Bartley resumed the standard journal size of 6" by 9" format. Bartley has continued the fine work of Williams which maintains the highest quality of genealogical scholarship. New features include "Seen Elsewhere" that notes Mayflower noteworthy articles in other journals and an extensive book review section that highlights works covering New England - Maritimes - New York resources, colonial subjects, and indexes-guides-abstracts of statewide records. Also, many corrections and additions to the Mayflower Families series, the "Silver Books," are found here. He edited the journal through Volume 59 (2010).
Caleb H. Johnson was editor from Volume 60 (2011) to 2014. He was long active in historical and genealogical research that focused on Plymouth Colony. With that expertise, the journal will focused on these areas on new research, corrections to the Mayflower Families series, and "Seen Elsewhere." He created a team of contributing editors (Jeremy Dupertius Bangs and Simon Neal) and assistant editors (James W. Baker, Scott Andrew Bartley, and Alicia Crane Williams) to help create the best journal possible.
In 2015, the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants formed a partnership with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society who from 2015 onward have published the Mayflower Descendant.
Comments by other editors ...
"The Mayflower Descendant is essential for New England research. Its subject matter is far
broader than the title might suggest ... It's a 'must-read' when tackling a genealogical problem
in New England or with New England roots."
-- Henry B. Hoff, CG, FASG, editor of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register
"[A]n essential journal for Plymouth Colony, Cape Cod, and Mayflower families,
including primary sources and excellent compiled genealogies and problem-solving articles."
-- David L. Greene, PhD, CG, FASG, editor of The American Genealogist
"Begun in 1899 ... this venerable journal is published twice a year and focuses
on the areas where the Pilgrims settled and the records they left behind."
-- Myra Vanderpool Gormley, Tribune Media Services