By Jane Keller Gordon, Assistant Editor
Region – Blanca Bruso hit a dead end when researching her own Puerto Rican roots using Ancestry.com. But she hit pay dirt when she turned her attention to her husband Matthew’s lineage. Fully documenting 14 generations, Blanca was able to prove that Matthew is a descendent of Richard Warren, a passenger on the Mayflower. There is more — she discovered that he is also a descendant of eight other Mayflower passengers, including Myles Standish, and two Salem women who were accused of being witches.
The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans (the Pilgrims) in 1620, from Plymouth, England to what is now Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. There were 102 passengers, and an estimated 30 crew members. Only about half of them survived the brutal New England winter and an outbreak of scurvy, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.
Responding to the news that Matthew was a descendant of Mayflower passengers, one of the couple’s four daughters said, “Dad’s always been an expert in American history, so it is rather perfect that his heritage goes back to the very beginning of this country.”
According to Blanca, her journey of discovery began late at night, on November 11, 2014. While looking at Matthew’s mother’s family tree on Ancestry.com, she noticed a relative who claimed to be linked to the Mayflower. Blanca woke up Matthew and said, “Did you know that there is a great possibility that you are a Mayflower Pilgrim descendent?” He responded, “No.” Blanca added, “And so, began many late nights of research.”
Five days later, Blanca and Matthew sent a Preliminary Review Form to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD). About a month went by, and then a research assistant at the GSDM responded. He suggested a different lineage to Richard Warren and directed them to a series of books called, “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations.”
The research assistant told the couple, “The fact that we have no previously approved lineage papers that follow your line any further means that you will need to prove everything beyond what is covered by the Mayflower Families books through the present day.”
The next month, Matthew received a letter and membership application from the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants.
“Neither my husband nor I recall anyone ever requesting connection to the passenger Richard Warren, but this information helped me a great deal… to me this meant that I was on the right track,” she said.
The task was daunting – for every generation going back to the Mayflower, Blanca needed to find birth, marriage and death certificates.
Digging deeper, she used her membership at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) to access the organization’s online resources. She hit a roadblock when looking for records in Maine before 1892, since none are available online.
As a result “… my husband had to make many phone calls to various towns in order to track some of the older records needed,” she said. “At the time, the process seemed like a wild goose chase trying to contact towns and finding out that they no longer exists, THEN being referred to another town to check for records. In the end, it turned out to be a wild goose chase worth the effort.”
Blanca was able to use the Mayflower Families Silver Books to document from Richard Warren, generations one to seven and part of eight and nine. Maine records from various towns provided important documents for generations eight, 10, 11 and 12. Through NEHGS, she found death records for generation nine. Matthew’s parents are generation 13. For their own generation, 14, they had their birth certificates, and ordered a copy of their marriage certificate.
On June 13, 2016, Matthew was accepted as a member of the Mayflower Society. Two months later, he was certified as a descendent of Richard Warren.
The Mayflower Families Silver Books also link Matthew to Mayflower passengers John Alden, William Mullins, Henry Samson, and Myles Standish. Branches from Richard Warren show that Matthew is related to Mayflower passengers John Billington, Peter Brown, Francis Cooke, and George Soule.
Back in 2015, during her journey, Blanca remembers seeing a movie about the Mayflower Pilgrims called “Saints and Strangers.”
“We sat in front of the TV with his, back then, small family tree. At the time, it included Mayflower passenger’s Richard Warren, Myles Standish, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. Each time a character from his Mayflower family tree was shown in the movie, I would yell out, ‘Matthew, there you are!’ The whole movie went on like that. It was awesome!”
Since Blanca’s research, the NEHGS has added a database, Mayflower.AmericanAncestors.org. According to its website, “AmericanAncestors.org provides access to more than 1.4 billion records spanning 22 countries covering the United States, the British Isles, continental Europe, and beyond, including one of the most extensive online collections of early American genealogical records, the largest searchable collection of published genealogical research journals and magazines, and the largest collection of U.S Catholic records online.”
Matthew Bruso – Generations tracing back to Richard Warren
14: Matthew Bruso and Blanca Oliver
13: Barbara Chase and David Bruso
12: Walter Chase and Louise Seigars
11: Charles Walter Chase and Grace Martin
10: Charles F. Chase and Clarissa Godwin
9: Mary Ann Thayer and Nathan Chase
8: Ebenezer Thayer and Mary Faunce
7: Hanna Joyce and Isaac Thayer
6: Ebenezer Joyce and Alithia Fullerton
5: Abigail Ford and John Joyce
4: James Ford and Hannah Dingley
3: Abigail Snow and Michael Ford
2: Abigail Warren and Anthony Snow
1: Richard WARREN, Mayflower Passenger