Just over four centuries ago, the ship The Mayflower sailed from Plymouth in the UK to the shores that America, carrying through it a team of visitors who would certainly go down in history. For some, this 17th Century "pilgrim fathers" are additionally real-life ancestors. But for how many?

There room a few estimates out there, every one of them quite high. Follow to the General society of Mayflower Descendants, there space "35 million Mayflower descendants in the world".

And while countless Americans room proud to be recent arrivals or second-generation immigrants, make the nation a unique blend of cultures, because that others there's an incentive to insurance claim ancestry come these at an early stage European arrivals.

Dr Lauren Working, one American chronicler at the university of Oxford, believes there's an almost aristocratic prestige attached come tracing your family earlier to the Mayflower.

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"It proceeds to give human being a sense of the authority of mutual connections through the past. There room so many jokes around America being so young and not really having actually much of a history.

"And so i think that the Mayflower is something that human being can sort of latch on come to provide themselves a sense of grounding rather than everyone seeing themselves as migrants or together refugees, as travellers.'

There to be 102 passengers and around 30 crew that collection sail on the Mayflower in September 1620 - some of them to be fleeing religious persecution in England, yet others to be travelling to America to collection up brand-new commercial ventures.

Many of the travellers were household groups or couples. In fact, three kids were born on the voyage itself. One human was swept overboard.

The trip was exhausting, lasting virtually 10 weeks at sea. When they got to America in November, they founded a swarm called Plymouth - so significant was this minute that Plymouth Rock, the item of rock that the passengers supposedly very first stepped on to, has actually been preserved and also displayed.

But indigenous the moment they an initial stepped top top shore, the passengers confronted terrible conditions, says chronicler Misha Ewen. "The ground was icy and hard, do it difficult for them to plant any kind of of their own food, which meant that they had actually to resort to looking through regional settlements and actually pillaging food from indigenous Americans."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, A statue the Massasoit Sachem, the leader the the Wampanoag, overlooks Plymouth harbor in Massachusetts

The settlers were likewise stricken by illness, and also by the end of that first winter only 53 of castle survived, including just five adult women.

Rob Eastaway is a brothers mathematician and also author v his own link to the Mayflower; his wife is descended from a Mayflower passenger, the merchant Richard Warren.

"Richard Warren had actually seven children, all of whom made it through to adulthood, which to be unusual since of the sickness and illness in the very first winter," he says.

"But he obtained away v this because he left his kids behind. That went ~ above his own and only carried his household over a pair of year later. And all of those children went on come have children themselves. And they developed 57 grandchildren for Richard Warren."

37 were English "pilgrims" that came via the Netherlands, seeking liberty from religious persecution. The other passengers to be seeking brand-new trading and also commercial ventures. They landing in current day Massachusetts, founding a nest that they called Plymouth
In fall 1621, the colonists celebrated the successful harvest by sharing a feast with few of the local aboriginal Americans the they had established relations with. This to be the an initial "Thanksgiving" feast, currently one that the best US nationwide holidays.
But war later followed in the 1660s, together thousands of native Americans were killed or sold right into slavery or indentured servitude by English colonistsThe Mayflower pilgrims weren't the very first English inhabitants - james town in Virginia was established 13 year before

Eastaway claims that also if we variable in high childhood mortality rates of the time, we could expect the latest generation of progeny to be roughly two million - from Richard Warren alone.

And once you think about both that more than one generation is alive at any type of one time and that over there were another 21 family members from the Mayflower with descendants, then probably 35 million seems favor a plausible figure.

But there's a problem with this calculation. Rob claims those initial calculations are based upon one vast assumption - the each marital relationship of a Mayflower descendant was to someone who was not themselves a Mayflower descendant.

Image caption, countless depictions of the an initial Thanksgiving enjoy the meal emphasise the duty of aboriginal Americans

"So if we store the numbers simple, if every Mayflower person marries a non-Mayflower person and also has two children, climate the number of descendants in the next generation has actually doubled and it's walk to save on copy as long as friend marry and also have kids outside the descendant group."

But if a Mayflower person marries one more Mayflower person and has two children, then the 2 descendants are just replacing the 2 parents and also there's no increase at all, he adds. "And that has a dramatic effect."

This phenomenon is recognized as "pedigree collapse", and it to be a large factor in the at an early stage years that Mayflower settlement. The the 27 marriages that produced children in the founding Mayflower generation, 16 of lock were in between Mayflower passenger or their descendants. But an ext ships did come bringing new, non-Mayflower people, an interpretation that the variety of descendants broadened significantly.

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Nevertheless, pedigree collapse was definitely a factor, as Rob Eastaway's household knows well. "My father-in-law discovered that their household is lower from Richard Warren. But not just that, they think that most likely my wife and children are likewise descended from john Howland. For this reason there's even an instance of potential pedigree please in my own family."

Well, these are constantly going to it is in ballpark figures. However using his two million descendant calculation because that Richard Warren, Rob provides a rough estimate the the highest possible number of descendants for every 22 Mayflower households would be around 30 million.

But once you variable in the clear evidence of pedigree collapse, Rob approximates that the the actual number of descendants will certainly be approximately a tenth of that - three million.

But also if the true numbers are significantly lower than those the are regularly quoted, it appears unlikely that it would certainly dent the power of the Mayflower story in American society and society.

As Dr Lauren functioning says, "There's something about Plymouth Rock, the firmness that it, the type of idea that the Protestant belief as the sort of foundation to a culture that's really picked increase on and that endures."