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History of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants: 1980-1989

The Compact , a quarterly newsletter with Society news and events, was inaugurated in 1980 to increase interaction among the Society's Board and officers and the membership. Membership gains, while steady, were not large and attention was turned to recruiting applicants. Each new member was sent a package containing copies of their approved lineage forms and preliminary applications to be used by members and their families. Special pins were awarded to honor fifty year members. Educational material was developed and distributed to schools and significant donations were made to Plimoth Plantation for their publications fund (part of which was used for the transcription and publication of Plymouth Colony Wills), the Pilgrim Society, and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. A scholarship fund for descendants of the Wampanoag Tribe called the Thanksgiving Scholarship was established by Governor John W. Frenning. A Friends of the Pilgrims category was established for family members not genealogically eligible for membership.

Adele Allen retired in 1980 after twenty years of devoted service to the Society. The Society's office has been modernized under several executive secretaries, including Alicia Williams, Shirley Pizziferri, and Audrey Drummond. Electric typewriters, word processors, and eventually computers were added to the office. Microfilm copies of the first two hundred volumes of Plymouth County deeds were acquired and a microfilm reader-printer was donated to the library.

A special Christmas Tea was held at the Mayflower House in Plymouth in 1980. Annual meetings were held at various facilities in the Boston suburbs and speakers included William Martin, author of Back Bay (and later of Cape Cod), and J. Allyn Bradford in costume speaking as his ancestor William Bradford. Compact Day dinners were held at the Weston Golf Club, the Hawthorne Inn in Salem, the Daniel Webster Inn in Sandwich, and facilities as far west as Spencer and Springfield. Small membership teas were held in the homes of members to recruit applicants. The Peregrination to Plymouth was held at Plimoth Plantation's membership house and later at its new facilities inside the Plantation, as well as the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth.

Susan Thrall, the Society's only woman Governor, was elected in 1980. She was also the only child of a former governor to hold that office, her father, D. Stephen Thrall, having been governor in the 1960s. A survey showed that the membership felt the most important purpose of the nearly eighty-year-old Society was historical and genealogical research and to tell the Pilgrim story, but it was also necessary to do something tangible and worthwhile in collecting, preserving, and communicating historical and genealogical information that might be lost to future generations. Asked why they joined the Mayflower Society, members indicated many had joined because of others in their family. Some joined because of their interest in genealogy and history, and many because of their pride in the association with the Pilgrim story:

I have always taken great pride in my heritage and felt it only right that I should support this organization to which I am privileged to belong. I think one should be proud of his ancestors and should act and conduct himself in such a way that those ancestors would be as proud of him as he is of them. I don't mean that one should go about bragging about his forebears. Every person should realize that even though all of his ancestors grew to a height of seven feet, only he and he alone can do his own growing. I don't think we can have a future unless we have a past to look back to, to see where we have come from, and if we have made the most of our opportunities.

Asked what the Society should be doing to further fulfill its purposes, respondents stressed the need to involve younger people:

At the single meeting I attended, about 25 years of more ago, my wife and I remarked that everyone present except us looked old enough to have come over on the Mayflo wer in person.

Another important job was to eliminate any image of elitism:

Though our schools and churches change the People's impression that all Mayflower descendants are snobs to be avoided...Be they rich or poor, newly arrived on these shores or descendants, encourage each human to discover what his family did to help build this country.

In 1983, the New England Historic Genealogical Society invited the Society to return to rooms at their library at 101 Newbury Street. This time the Society occupied the rear half of the second floor at the library.

In 1985, under the editorship of Alicia Crane Williams, volume 35 of The Mayflower Descendant was published after a hiatus of 48 years. Two volumes of Middleborough Vital Records were produced in 1985 and 1990. Revisions of some of Families of the Pilgrims, a series of pamphlets published by the Society in the 1950s, were published, until the General Society began publishing its series of Mayflower Families in Progress, which overlapped with the families series. The Bowman File, a microfiche reproduction of the Mayflower genealogies done by George Ernest Bowman, was produced for sale.