Every lineal descendant, over eighteen years of age, of any passenger of the "Mayflower" is eligible to membership. Branch societies have since been organized in several of the states and in the District of Columbia, and a triennial congress is held in Plymouth.
A "General Society of Mayflower Descendants" was organized in 1894 by lineal descendants of passengers of the "Mayflower" to "preserve their memory, their records, their history, and all facts relating to them, their ancestors and their posterity."
Plymouth was the first permanent white settlement in New England, and dates its founding from the landing here from the "Mayflower" shallop of an exploring party of twelve Pilgrims, including William Bradford, on the 21st of December (N.s.) 1620.
See Azel Ames, The May-Flower and Her Log (Boston, 1901); Blanche McManus, The Voyage of the Mayflower (New York, 1897); The General Society of Mayflower: Meetings, Officers and Members, arranged in State Societies, Ancestors and their Descendants (New York, 1901).
Permanency of occupation, however, dates from the voyage of the " Mayflower," which brought about a hundred men, women and children who had mostly belonged to an English sect of Separatists, originating in Yorkshire, but who had passed a period of exile for religion's sake in Holland.
Pilgrim Hall, a large stone building erected by the Pilgrim Society (formed in Plymouth in 1820 as the successor of the Old Colony Club, founded in 1769) in 1824 and remodelled in 1880, is rich in relics of the Pilgrims and of early colonial times, and contains a portrait of Edward Winslow (the only extant portrait of a "Mayflower" passenger), and others of later worthies, and paintings, illustrating the history of the Pilgrims; the hall library contains many old and valuable books and manuscripts - including Governor Bradford's Bible, a copy of Eliot's Indian Bible, and the patent of 1621 from the Council for New England - and Captain Myles Standish's sword.
It was of about 180 tons burden, and in company with the "Speedwell" sailed from Southampton on the 5th of August 1620, the two having on board 120 Pilgrims. After two trials the "Speedwell" was pronounced unseaworthy, and the "Mayflower" sailed alone from Plymouth, England, on the 6th of September with the zoo (or 102) passengers, some 41 of whom on the lzth of November (o.s.) signed the famous "Mayflower Compact" in Provincetown Harbor, and a small party of whom, including William Bradford, sent to choose a place for settlement, landed at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts, on the 11th of December (21st N.s.), an event which is celebrated, as Forefathers' Day, on the 22nd of December.