Sunday, August 20, 2017

Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?

"Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?"

I often wonder how my ancestors made the decision to step aboard a 17th century sailing ship and cross the Atlantic ocean.  When I see refugees fleeing the Middle East or North Africa by boat I often wonder how desperate they must have been to leave the known world for the New World. Especially my Mayflower ancestors, who had only a few reports from Jamestown to help them make up their minds.  I even asked my mother-in-law this question, although she didn't board a ship to come to the USA, but she boarded a Lockheed Constellation and landed at LaGuardia airport in 1960 from Spain. 

Today, when you visit Plymouth, Massachusetts, the first thing that is noticeable is the missing Mayflower II.  I've grown so accustomed to seeing this ship in her home berth, that the sight of her gone is rather startling.  But, don't worry!  The folks at Plimoth Plantation have developed a fun new interactive display for the pavilion on State Pier that used to house the Mayflower exhibits.  

The new exhibit "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?" opened earlier this summer, and has been refined to the interactive game I experienced last week as part of a members only party held by Plimoth Plantation staff.  Upon entering the exhibit, visitors choose the identity of an un-named Mayflower passenger or crew member.  I chose a 50 year old woman who was part of the Leiden congregation.  You can also choose a man or woman from England (Pilgrims or Strangers), a child, or one of the Mayflower mariners. They all had different experiences, views, and reasons for being on board the Mayflower in 1620. 

These exhibits show what life was like aboard the Mayflower. Visitors read color coded signs to follow their chosen "passenger" through the exhibit. You are free to repeat the tour and read all the signs to see how other passengers and crew experienced their passage to New England and life during the first year in Plymouth. The exhibits are interactive. You can hoist supplies aboard, raise flags, experience your sea legs, or climb into this tiny cubby that housed an entire family for the 66 days it took to cross the Atlantic ocean. 

If your chosen Mayflower character was male, and "of age", and not a crew member, he might have signed the Mayflower compact.  In this photo below was pointing to my ancestor's (Isaac Allerton) signature.  I was wearing my identity card around my neck as I perused the exhibit.  It was color coded so I could read my character's story as I passed through. 

My favorite part of this member event was signing a trunnel with my name with a permanent marker. A trunnel ( "tree nail" ) is the wooden peg used in post and beam construction, and for the 17th century ship building techniques being used to renovate the Mayflower II in the Mystic Seaport shipyard.  These trunnels will be used on the Mayflower II, and will become part of her structure.  How cool is that! 

This exhibit takes a visitor from England, across the Atlantic, to Cape Cod, to Plymouth and the first encounters with the Native Wampanoag people.  There are lots of hands on things for the kids, and great signs and explanations along the way for the older folks. I would have liked to have seen more displays on the ultimate destinies of those people represent by our chosen "character" tags around our necks during the visit.  Did they survive? Did they perish that first winter? Did they return to England? Did they flourish in the New World? Or was life a struggle?

What is missing from the photo below?

Mayflower II is missing... but we enjoyed the new exhibit! You can enjoy it, too, until the Mayflower returns to Plymouth harbor (probably sometime in late 2019). 

Plimoth Plantation official website:  

The Waterfront Experience "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?"


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?", Nutfield Genealogy, posted August 19, 2017, ( accessed [access date])


  1. Hubby and I will have to check out this new exhibit, since he (like you) has Mayflower ancestors. Looks like a great place to bring the grandkids!

  2. Plymouth is such a cool place. The rock is so tiny compared with expectation. Went there for a reunion. A recreation dinner at Plimouth Plantation (meager) was excellent