Monday, January 12, 2015

Why are there Blue “Silver” Books?

If you are researching a Mayflower passenger, or if you are applying for membership in the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, you have probably used a “Silver Book”.  The GSMD investigates each application submitted, and these all become part of what was first known as The Five Generations Project.   There was a goal of publishing in book form the first five generations of each Mayflower passenger, and the Mayflower families in progress  (MFIP) booklets were known as “Pink Books”, and the finished products were bound in silver hardcovers and known informally as the “Silver Books”. 
You can order these books from the GSMD at his link:  The books are also available for sale at other book sellers such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society or even on Amazon.  Most good genealogy libraries have a set of these books.  The good news is that most of these books have been completed, and there is already progress on the sixth and seventh generation books, as well as books on some allied families that arrived after the Mayflower in 1620.  Some of the families are quite large, such as the descendants of Edward Doty, which are Volume 11, in parts 1, 2 and 3.

I’ve been collecting some of these books as I work out my Mayflower lineages.  I have two lines of descent from passenger John Howland, through his daughters Hope and Desire.  For Christmas I was asked which Silver Books I would like to see under the Christmas tree, and I told Santa that I’d love to have the Silver books for Hope and Desire Howland.  There was some confusion because on the GSMD website the Howland volumes were numbered 23 with several parts available (they had ten children, so the descendants in the first five generations couldn’t fit into one book), but I wasn’t sure which volumes were for which daughters.  The NEHGS catalog listed the Howland books as Volume 23, parts 1, 2, and 3 with no fine print describing which book was for which Howland line. Santa made two phone calls to Plymouth and to NEHGS and asked specifically for the Silver Books for Hope and Desire Howland.   

This is the confusing page from the NEHGS catalog
(You can see where I made notes for Santa - this is my favorite Christmas catalog!)

The books were delivered by the elves from NEHGS and I opened them on Christmas Day.  I was very excited and opened them right away and found my lineages and read them to the family.  It wasn’t until a day or two later when I re-opened the books at my leisure that I noticed the book covers were blue and not silver.  I had never seen a blue silver book.  Then I realized that they weren’t published by GSMD, but were published by Picton Press. Huh?

It was a weekend night, and I felt like I couldn’t wait until Monday to call NEHGS, so I did the next best thing… I got on Facebook.  Fortunately, I’m Facebook friends with some genealogists who knew what they were talking about.  I had an answer within five minutes of my original post.

From a Mayflower Facebook group on Dec. 27th  my first reply was from Paul S. Bumpus.   (Paul is the former Historian General for GSMD.  There is probably only a handful of people who know as much about the Silver Books as Paul – and those people don’t hang out on Facebook)    I asked the group if anyone knew why I was sent the blue books instead of silver ones.  Were they the same books?  Here is Paul’s reply:

“Not exactly Heather, but they do "stand in" for Silver and are published "under the auspices" of the Mayflower Society as such, so they are THE recognized source for Howland Mayflower genealogy. What happened was that, in the beginnings of the Mayflower Families Through Five Generations project (i.e. the Silver Book project), in the 1960's,, the Howlands insisted that THEY would do Howland; it was envisioned as a 10 volume set, to be published by Picton Press (another example of bad planning by the GSMD.) Elizabeth Pearson White, compiler, got the first two books: DESIRE and JOHN, done, fairly well, but then she produced NOTHING more for years. In the early 2000's the GSMD informed the Howlands that since they had not produced any more volumes, the GSMD would have to take Howland over. At that point Ms. White said she had HOPE and ELIZABETH close to being done, and it was agreed that she would finish those (though they are not up to the standards met in Desire and John) She is now in her 90's I believe. And these later two books have many more mistakes in them than the first two books. The GSMD have gone forth with Howland Volumes 23: 1-3, with more coming, covering the six youngest Howland children.”

An email dated Dec. 27th to the GSMD in Plymouth was answered right away by Carolyn M. Doyle, Publications and Sales Manager of the Mayflower Society:
 “You have the correct books; Santa was correct as always!”

And my phone call to Rick Park,  New England Historic Genealogical Society Sales Staff confirmed that there are volumes 23, parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Howland Family in the Five Generation (Silver Books) series, but they don’t contain the descendants of the daughters Hope and Desire Howland.  The only books that contain these descendants are the blue books by Picton Press written by Elizabeth Pearson White (which Paul Bumpus confirmed above).

There you have it.  All the MFIP books are not silver. And now you know why….

My shelf of Mayflower books.
Silver, Pink and Blue

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Copyright © 2015, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Very interesting and informative Heather! Thank you for posting about this.

  2. I love my Silver books! The Alden ones just keep getting fatter. :-)

  3. Good information, Heather... I'm a shameless book addict, and have resolved to stop buying books. This is doing nothing to improve my resolve. :-)

  4. Thank you for sharing, Heather!

  5. I descend from Elder William Brewster through his son Love. I didn't know about these books. Thanks for the info. Heather!

  6. Fascinating - who knew Silver books could be pink or blue! Glad you shared the explanation with us.

  7. Heather,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a wonderful weekend!