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The Pilgrims' 1621 Thanksgiving

The tradition of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving is steeped in myth and legend.  Few people realize that the Pilgrims did not celebrate Thanksgiving the next year, or any year thereafter, though some of their descendants later made a "Forefather's Day" that usually occurred on December 21 or 22.  Several Presidents, including George Washington, made one-time Thanksgiving holidays.  In 1827, Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale began lobbying several Presidents for the instatement of Thanksgiving as a national holiday, but her lobbying was unsuccessful until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln finally made it a national holiday with his 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Today, our Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday of November.  This was set by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 (approved by Congress in 1941), who changed it from Abraham Lincoln's designation as the last Thursday in November (which could occasionally end up being the fifth Thursday and hence too close to Christmas for businesses).  But the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving began at some unknown date between September 21 and November 9, most likely in very early October.  The date of Thanksgiving was probably set by Lincoln to somewhat correlate with the anchoring of the Mayflower at Cape Cod, which occurred on November 21, 1620 (by our modern Gregorian calendar--it was November 11 to the Pilgrims who used the Julian calendar).

There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving:  First is Edward Winslow's account, which he wrote in a letter dated December 12, 1621.  The complete letter was first published in 1622, and is chapter 6 of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth .

Our corn [i.e. wheat]did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown.  They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.  Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The second description was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History Of Plymouth Plantation .  Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War.  Its discovery prompted a greater American interest in the history of the Pilgrims, which eventually led to Lincoln's decision to make Thanksgiving a holiday.  It is also in this account that the Thanksgiving turkey tradition is founded.

They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).  And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.  Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion.  Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.

The following is a fairly complete list of the foods available to the Pilgrims during the three-day Thanksgiving harvest celebration. As can be seen in the above two quotations, the only foods specifically mentioned by the Pilgrims are: "corn" (wheat, by the Pilgrims usage of the word), Indian corn, barley, peas (if any where spared), "fowl" (Bradford says "waterfowl"), five deer, fish (namely bass and cod), and wild turkey.

The Plimoth Plantation Museum has a nice recipe page that includes a number of modernized recipes to closely simulate the actual foods likely eaten by the Pilgrims during this harvest festival.

  Foods Available to the Pilgrims for their 1621 Thanksgiving

FISH:  cod, bass, herring, shad, bluefish, and lots of eel.

SEAFOOD:  clams, lobsters, mussels, and very small quantities of oysters

BIRDS:  wild turkey, goose, duck, crane, swan, partridge, and other miscellaneous waterfowl; they were also known to have occasionally eaten eagles (which "tasted like mutton" according to Winslow in 1623.)

OTHER MEAT:  venison (deer), possibly some salt pork or chicken.

GRAIN:  wheat flour, Indian corn and corn meal; barley (mainly for beer-making).

FRUITS:  raspberries, strawberries, grapes, plums, cherries, blueberries, gooseberries (these would have been dried, as none would have been in season).

VEGETABLES:  small quantity of peas, squashes (including pumpkins), beans

NUTS:  walnuts, chestnuts, acorns, hickory nuts, ground nuts

HERBS and SEASONINGS: onions, leeks, strawberry leaves, currants, sorrel, yarrow, carvel, brooklime, liverwort, watercress, and flax; from England they brought seeds and probably planted radishes, lettuce, carrots, onions, and cabbage.  Olive oil in small quantities may have been brought over, though the Pilgrims had to sell most of their oil and butter before sailing, in order to stay on budget.

OTHER:  maple syrup, honey; small quantities of butter, Holland cheese; and eggs.

Some perhaps startling omissions from the authentic Thanksgiving menu

Ham.  (The Pilgrims most likely did not have pigs with them).

Sweet Potatoes-Potatoes-Yams.  (These had not yet been introduced to New England).

Corn on the cob. (Indian corn was only good for making cornmeal, not eating on the cob).

Popcorn.  (Contrary to popular folklore, popcorn was not introduced at the 1621 Thanksgiving.  Indian corn could only be half-popped, and this wouldn't have tasted very good.)

Cranberry sauce.  (Cranberries were available, but sugar was not.)

Pumpkin Pie:  (They probably made a pumpkin pudding of sorts, sweetened by honey or syrup, which would be like the filling of a pumpkin pie, but there would be no crust or whipped topping.)

A Brief History of the Mayflower

The Mayflower is first recorded in 1609, at which time it was a merchant ship traveling to Baltic ports, most notably Norway. It was at that time owned by Christopher Nichols, Richard Child, Thomas Short, and Christopher Jones. The ship was about 180 tons, and rested in Harwich. In its early years it was employed in the transportation of tar, lumber, and fish; and possibly did some Greenland whaling. Later on in its life, it became employed in Mediterranean wine and spice trading.

In 1620, Thomas Weston assisted by John Carver and Robert Cushman hired the Mayflower and the Speedwell to undertake the voyage to plant a colony in Northern Virginia. The Speedwell turned out to be a leaky ship, and so was unable to make the famous voyage with the Mayflower .

Christopher Jones was the captain of the Mayflower when it took the Pilgrims to New England in 1620. They anchored off the tip of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.  The Mayflower stayed in America that winter, and its crew suffered the effects of the first winter just as the Pilgrims did, with almost half dying.

The Mayflower set sail for home on April 5, 1621, arriving back May sixth. The ship made a few more trading runs, to Spain, Ireland, and lastly to France.  However, Captain Christopher Jones died shortly thereafter, and was buried 5 March 1621/2 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England.  The ship lay dormant for about two years, at which point it was appraised for probate, and its value was determined to be 128-08-04, an extremely low value (had it been in sailing condition, 700 could be expected).

This probate inventory is the last record of the Mayflower .  The ship was not in very good condition, being called "in ruinis" in a 1624 High Court of Admiralty record (HCA 3/30, folio 227) written in Latin.  Ships in that condition were more valuable as wood (which was in shortage in England at the time), so the Mayflower was most likely broken apart and sold as scrap.  There is no evidence that the Mayflower ended up as the Jordans barn, though it has become a tourist trap anyway.

Mayflower was a very common ship name, and in fact numerous other ships called the Mayflower made trips to New England; but none of them were the same ship that brought the Pilgrims to America.

Visit Squanto's Page

Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation that follows is taken from the collection of Lincoln's papers in the Library of America series, Vol II, pp. 520-521.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

Abraham Lincoln

  Presidents of the United States

with their Mayflower Ancestries

John Adams (John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, JOHN ALDEN )

John Adams (John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, PRISCILLA MULLINS , WILLIAM MULLINS )

John Quincy Adams (John Adams, John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, JOHN ALDEN )

John Quincy Adams (John Adams, John Adams, Hannah Bass, Ruth Alden, PRISCILLA MULLINS , WILLIAM MULLINS )

Zachary Taylor (Richard Taylor, Elizabeth Lee, Sarah Allerton, Isaac Allerton, ISAAC ALLERTON )

Zachary Taylor (Richard Taylor, Elizabeth Lee, Sarah Allerton, Isaac Allerton, Fear Brewster, WILLIAM BREWSTER )

Ulysses S. Grant (Jesse Grant, Noah Grant, Susanna Delano, Jonathan Delano, Mercy Warren, Nathaniel Warren, R ICHARD WARREN )

James A. Garfield (Eliza Ballou, Mehitable Ingalls, Sybil Carpenter, Jotham Carpenter, Desire Martin, Mercy Billington, FRANCIS BILLINGTON , JOHN BILLINGTON )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Ephraim Delano, Thomas Delano, Mercy Warren, Nathaniel Warren, RICHARD WARREN )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Elizabeth Cushman, James Cushman, Eleazer Cushman, MARY ALLERTON , ISAAC ALLERTON )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Warren Delano, Elizabeth Cushman, James Cushman, Elizabeth Coombs, John Coombs, Sarah Priest, DEGORY PRIEST )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Deborah Perry, Samuel Perry, Ebenezer Perry, Esther Taber, Esther Cooke, JOHN COOKE , FRANCIS COOKE )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Deborah Perry, Samuel Perry, Abigail Presbury, Deborah Skiffe, Lydia Snow, Abigail Warren, RICHARD WARREN )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Sara Delano, Warren Delano, Deborah Church, Joseph Church, Caleb Church, Nathaniel Church, Joseph Church, Joseph Church, Elizabeth Warren, RICHARD WARREN )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (James Roosevelt, Mary Aspinwall, Susan Howland, Joseph Howland, Nathanial Howland Jr., Nathanial Howland Sr., Joseph Howland, JOHN HOWLAND )

Franklin D. Roosevelt (James Roosevelt, Mary Aspinwall, Susan Howland, Joseph Howland, Nathanial Howland Jr., Nathanial Howland Sr., Joseph Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY , JOHN TILLEY )

George H.W. Bush (Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, JOHN HOWLAND )

George H.W. Bush (Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY , JOHN TILLEY )

George H.W. Bush (Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Courtland Butler, Samuel Butler, Sarah Herrick, Silence Kingsley, Samuel Kingsley, Mary Washburn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jane Cooke, FRANCIS COOKE )

George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, JOHN HOWLAND )

George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Elizabeth Pierce, Betsy Wheeler, Sarah Horton, Joanna Wood, Jabez Wood, Hannah Nelson, Hope Huckins, Hope Chipman, Hope Howland, ELIZABETH TILLEY , JOHN TILLEY )

George W. Bush (George H.W. Bush, Prescott Bush, Flora Sheldon, Mary Butler, Courtland Butler, Samuel Butler, Sarah Herrick, Silence Kingsley, Samuel Kingsley, Mary Washburn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jane Cooke, FRANCIS COOKE )

George W. Bush (Barbara Pierce, Marvin Pierce, Jonas Pierce, Chloe Holbrook, John Holbrook, John Holbrook, Zilpha Thayer, Mary Samson, Stephen Samson, HENRY SAMSON )

  First Ladies with Mayflower ancestry:

Barbara (Pierce) Bush:  (Marvin Pierce, Jonas Pierce, Chloe Holbrook, John Holbrook, John Holbrook, Zilpha Thayer, Mary Samson, Stephen Samson, HENRY SAMSON)

Lucretia (Rudolph) Garfield:  (Arabella Mason, Lucretia Greene, John Green, Elizabeth Taylor, Anne Winslow, Edward Winslow, MARY CHILTON, JAMES CHILTON)

Edith (Carrow) Roosevelt [Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt]:  (Gertrude Tyler, Emily Lee, Elizabeth Gorham, Stephen Gorham, Desire Howland, JOHN HOWLAND)

  Vice Presidents with Mayflower ancestry (excluding those who later became President):

Dan Quayle (James Quayle, Marie Cline, Delia Burras, Oscar Burras, Sally Standish, Peleg Standish, Zachariah Standish, Zachariah Standish, Ebenezer Standish, Alexander Standish, MYLES STANDISH)

Dan Quayle (James Quayle, Marie Cline, Delia Burras, Oscar Burras, Sally Standish, Peleg Standish, Zachariah Standish, Zachariah Standish, Ebenezer Standish, Sarah Alden, JOHN ALDEN)

Additional Notes :  William Howard Taft's alleged Mayflower line has been subsequently disproven.  Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford are both descendants of Henry Howland, brother of Mayflower passenger John Howland.  Vice President Dan Quayle has a possible James Chilton line, but it has not been fully documentable.


1.  Gary Boyd Roberts.  Ancestors of American Presidents , 1995.

2.  Gary Boyd Roberts.  "The Mayflower Descents of President George Herbert Walker Bush, First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush, and Vice President James Danforth Quayle." The Mayflower Descendant , 41:1-7.

3.  George Bowman.  "Presidential Mayflower Descendants", The Mayflower Descendant , 31:53

4.  Mayflower Families in Progress: Isaac Allerton for Four Generations , by Robert S. Wakefield, 1992.

  Mourt's Relation (1622)

Mourt's Relation was written primarily by Edward Winslow, although William Bradford appears to have written most of the first section.  Written between November 1620 and November 1621, it describes in detail what happened from the landing of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod, though their exploring and eventual settling at Plymouth, to their relations with the surrounding Indians, up to the First Thanksgiving and the arrival of the ship Fortune .  Mourt's Relation was first published in London in 1622, presumably by George Morton (hence the title, Mourt's Relation ).  It is divided into six distinct sections, the full text of which may be obtained by following the appropriate link below.  Mourt's Relation is much easier to read in book form than on a web page, so consider ordering a copy from the Mayflower Web Page Bookstore.

This version of Mourt's Relation is based on a University Microfilm (Ann Arbor, Michigan) facimilie edition of the original 1622 edition, to which I have updated the spelling to modern American-English standards.  Then I adapted the general paragraphing scheme from the 1969 Dwight Heath version, which is clearly more appropriate for web page presentation.

Books written by the Pilgrims themselves:

Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth .  Written by the Pilgrims themselves, during their first year at Plymouth, Mourt's Relation is an excellent, easy-reading book that describes the many adventures and explorations made by the Pilgrims from November, 1620 until December, 1621, spanning the time from their arrival until the First Thanksgiving.  This is a book every Mayflower descendant should own.

Of Plymouth Plantation , by William Bradford, also in paperback  Written by Plymouth Colony governor William Bradford from about 1630 until 1654, Of Plymouth Plantation is a history of the Pilgrims in England, Holland, and America.  This is a very important book to American history and is required reading in many high school and college American Literature courses.

Three Visitors to Early Plymouth .  A collection of letters written by John Pory (1622), Emmanuel Althem (1624), and Isaack de Rasieres (1628), talking about their visits to early Plymouth.  These are some of the only descriptions of early Plymouth made by individuals who were not themselves Pilgrims.  This work includes several letters not yet included on this web page.

Good Newes from New England, by Edward Winslow.  Written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow and published in 1624, it describes the events at Plymouth in 1622 and 1623, especially focusing on Indian relations.  It essentially continues the narrative begun in Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth for an additional two years.

  Books about the Pilgrims:

Plymouth Colony: Its History and Its People, 1620-1691 , by Eugene Aubrey Stratton.  Simply the best book available on Plymouth Colony--perfect for genealogists and historians alike.  Contains a solid, well researched history, as well as extremely well documented genealogical information about most all early Plymouth emigrants.

The Times of their Lives: Life, Love, and Death in the Plymouth Colony , by James and Patricia Scott Deetz.  Newly-published (November 2000).  A good book that combines both archaeological and ethnographic information with court records to piece together information on what life, love and death in the Plymouth Colony was like.

In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life , by James Deetz.  A study of early American life based on archaeological evidence.  Very interesting information about the material culture and everyday objects that were integral parts of the Pilgrims' lives.

Land Ho!-1620.  A Seaman's Story of the Mayflower, Her Construction, Her Navigation and Her First Landfall , by W. Sears Nickerson.  This book, written by an expert in sailing and navigation, accurately traces the Mayflower's route in the New World using tide and sunrise tables, and discusses how the Mayflower was constructed and what it looked like.  Measurements are given in enough detail that a model of the Mayflower could be reconstructed.

Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men And Women c1560-1620 , by Janet Arnold.  About 80 illustrations and 300 photographs showing the clothing styles worn by English men and women during the Pilgrims time period, with about 50 graph paper scale-drawings for use in designing patterns.

A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony , by John Demos.  This book describes housing, furnishings, clothing, family relationships (husband-wife, parents-children), how children were raised from childhood to adolescence, and more.

Pilgrim: A Biography of William Brewster , by Mary B. Sherwood.  The best biography of William Brewster that has been written.  Covers his life from youth at Scrooby Manor, attendence at Cambridge, employement by William Davison a diplomat for Queen Elizabeth, employment as postmaster of Scrooby, flight to Amsterdam and then to Leiden, and his life in Plymouth Colony.

Geneva Bible: New Testament, 1602 Edition .  This is a facimilie reprint of the annotated New Testament of the 1602 Geneva Bible--the version of the Bible used by most of the Pilgrims and early Puritans.  The annotations and commentary of the 1602 edition also gives a good insight into how certain Bible passages were interpreted by the Puritans.

The Courtship of Miles Standish .  FICTION .  This is the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It is a work of fiction, but descendants of Myles Standish or John Alden-Priscilla Mullins will enjoy having a copy of this literary classic in their library.

  Mayflower Genealogies:

The Mayflower Families series of genealogy books is published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and genealogically traces the first five generations (male and female lines both) of the Mayflower passenger, providing all known birth, death, and marriage dates and places, as well as discussing wills, property transactions, and other pieces of information about each individual.  Complete source citations are provided.  These are the most accurate genealogy books on Mayflower passengers ever published, and are researched by some of the best professional genealogists in the nation.
  • Volumes 1 and 2 have been replaced by later volumes.  Volume 3 is out of print.
  • Volume 4:  Edward Fuller
  • Volume 5:  Edward Winslow and John Billington
  • Volume 6:  Stephen Hopkins
  • Volume 7: Peter Brown
  • Volume 8: Degory Priest
  • Volume 9: Francis Eaton
  • Volume 10: Samuel Fuller
  • Volume 11, part 1:  Edward Doty through sons children Edward and John
  • Volume 11, part 2:  Edward Doty through children Thomas, Samuel, Desire and Elizabeth
  • Volume 12: Francis Cooke
  • Volume 13: William White
  • Volume 14: Myles Standish
  • Volume 15: James Chilton and Richard More
  • Volume 16: John Alden (first 4 generations only)
  • Volume 17: Isaac Allerton
  • Volume 18, Part 1: Richard Warren (first 4 generations only)
  • Volume 18, Part 2: Richard Warren (5th Generation for children Mary, Anna and Elizabeth only)
  • Volume 19: Thomas Rogers
  • Volume 20: Henry Samson
  • John Howland, Vol. 1:  Through daughter Desire for Five Generations
  • John Howland, Vol. 2:  Through son John for Five Generations

Mayflower Increasings , by Susan Roser.  This book genealogically traces the first three generations of the descendants of all Mayflower passengers that have descendants.  Reliable, and cites sources.

Also available by Susan Roser are source records on Mayflower descendants:  Mayflower Births and Deaths (2 volumes) and Mayflower Deeds and Probates .

  Pilgrim Books for Children:

Samuel Eaton's Day , (also in hardback) by Russ Kendel and Kate Waters.  Age 4-8 .  Samuel Eaton came on the Mayflower as a "sucking child", and his mother Sarah died the first winter.

Sarah Morton's Day , (also in hardback) by Russ Kendel and Kate Waters.  Age 4-8 .  Similar to the book above, but from a girl's perspective.  Sarah Morton came on the ship Anne in 1623.

Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times , by Kate Waters.  Age 9-12 .  Akin to the "Samuel Eaton's Day", and "Sarah Morton's Day", this time from the Native American perspective in 1627. The book is supplimented with pictures from the Plimoth Plantation museum.

The First Thanksgiving , (also in hardback) by Jean Craighead George.  Age 5+ .

Three Young Pilgrims , by Cheryl Harness.  Age 6-9 .  Follows the life of Isaac and Mary Allerton's children Bartholomew, Remember and Mary.

If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 , by Ann McGovern.  Age 4-8 .  Answers a variety of questions relating to the Pilgrims and their voyage on the Mayflower .

The Wampanoag , by Laurie Weinstein-Farson.  Age 9-12 .

  Books about the Wampanoags:

Indian New England Before the Mayflower , by Howard S. Russell.  A reference work on New England Indians covering all aspects of their lifeways.

New England Indians , by C. Keith Wilbur.  Heavily illustrated and covering New England Indians for the past 10,000 years, primarily focusing on material culture such as clothing, tools, food, and housing.

The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity , by Jill Lepore.  Covers the history of King Philip's War of 1675-1676.

Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition , by Russell M. Peters.  Part of the We are Still Here: Native Americans Today series.  "Steven Peters, a twelve-year-old Wampanoag Indian in Massachusetts, learns from his grandfather how to prepare a clambake in the tradition of his people."

Indian Handcrafts , by C. Keith Wilbur.  Illustrates and describes numerous Indian handicrafts and their construction using traditional techniques.

  "How-To" Genealogy Books:

Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide to Family History and Genealogy, by Jim Willard.  Published by Houghton-Mifflin in March 1997, a "how-to" guide for those interested in family history and genealogy.

The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, by Loretto Dennis Szucs.

A Student's Guide to Native American Genealogy, by E. Barrie Kavasch.  An excellent source for those interested in tracing their Native American ancestors.  Includes color photographs and tribal maps, and a thorough discussions of Native-American related genealogy issues.

Do People Grow on Family Trees?  Genealogy for Kids, by Ira Wolfman.

For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing your Family History, by Charlie Kempthorne.

Family Pride: The Complete Guide to Tracing African-American Genealogy, by Donna Beasley.

  Miscellaneous Pilgrim-related and Early New England History Books:

New English Cannan , by Thomas Morton.  First published in 1637, this quite amusing work was written by Thomas Morton, the ultimate thorn-in-the-side of the Plymouth Colony.  His "wild" antics get him regularly in trouble with the Plymouth authorities, whom Morton believes have no authority over him.  Anyone looking for negative and humorous opinions about Plymouth will find this book quite interesting.

The English Housewife , by Gervase Markham.  This book was published many times between the years 1630 and 1755, and was meant to be a guide for English women on proper household maintanence.  The book covers everything from "the inward virtues which ought to be in every housewife", to "the housewife's skill in cookery", to the secrets of distilling beer and dying cloth.

Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of his Writings .  This book contains selections of the writings of Captain John Smith, who was one of the first English captains to map the New England coastline (in 1614).  He also was involved in the Virginia colonies, and is famous for having been saved by Pocahontas.

New England's Prospect , by William Wood.  This book was first published in 1630, and describes everything about New England, from the land, animals, and plants, to Native Americans and Indian languages.

New England's Rarities Discovered , by John Josselyn.  This book was written in 1663 and first published in 1672.  It describes the animal and plant life, medicine, Native Americans, and other descriptions and observations made by John Josselyn of early New England.

Institutes of Christian Religion , by John Calvin (1509-1564).  Primarily of interest to those studying the Protestant Reformation and the religious origins of Calvinism, Separatism, Puritanism, and Presbyterianism.  Required reading for many college courses on the Protestant Reformation.  This book was very popular with Puritans, and frequently read and referred to by the Pilgrims.  Myles Standish owned this book--it is listed in his estate inventory taken 2 December 1656.

A Delusion of Satan:  The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials , by Frances Hill.

Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England , by John Demos.

The Unredeemed Captive : A Family Story from Early America , by John Demos.  This history recounts a 1704 incident in which Indians captured a Puritan minister and his family, and the aftermath when his daughter refuses to leave her Mohawk captors.  This history was nominated for a National Book Award.

Paul Revere and the World He Lived In , by Esther Forbes.  An excellent biography of Paul Revere.

  Miscellaneous books I happen to like:

Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America , by Alvar Nuez Cabeza de Vaca.  In 1528, Alvar Nuez Cabesa de Vaca became the first European to explore the interior of the American Southwest, "courtesy" of a shipwreck along the Texas coast.  Taken captive by Indians, he and three companions (including Esteban, who would be the first person of African origin to see the interior of America) escaped and walked back to Mexico City, visiting Indian tribes and having adventures all the way home.  This is his written account of what he and his companions saw and did on their journey, translated into English.

The Conquest of New Spain , by Bernal Diaz.  This is the best first-hand account of the famous 1519 expedition of Hernan Cortes, when he conquered the Aztecs and Montezuma.  It was written by Bernal Diaz, one of the higher-ranking soldiers who participated.  It is very descriptive of the numerous native cultures they encountered on their way to Tenochtitlan, as well as of the landscape and natural environment.

Cavalier in Buckskin: A Biography of George Armstrong Custer , by Robert Utley.  Probably the best, most neutral biography of one of the most controversial American figures, immortalized at "Custer's Last Stand".

Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life , by Robert Utley.  This is by far the best, most accurate biography of one of the most famous gunfighters of the American West.  It starts with Billy's birth as Henry McCarty in New York City, and follows him as Henry Atrim and William Bonney into Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas in the 1870s and 1880s.  It describes in excellent detail his involvement in the Jesse Evans gang, his cattle rustling, the Lincoln County War between the Dolans and McSweens, his several escapes from jail, up through his final shootout with Pat Garrett.

Vinland Sagas:  The Norse Discovery of America , translated and edited by Magnus Magnusson.  These are the 12th and 13th century Icelandic sagas describing Eric the Red's discovery and colonizing of Greenland, and of the explorations of the North American coastline, led by Leif Ericsson his son, Freydia his daughter, and Thorvald Korsefni a merchant friend--nearly 500 years before Columbus.

The Epic of Gilgamesh , Penguin Books Classics.  A Babylonian Epic from about 3000 BC, it is even older than the Old Testament.  It was made famous by one of its chapters, which contains a story nearly identical to the Biblical story of Noah found in Genesis.

Popal Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life , translated by Dennis Tedlock.  This is the Maya book of creation, as written down in Maya hieroglypics and later translated into Spanish by the Maya themselves shortly after the 16th century conquest.  It is undoubtedly the greatest surviving work of Native American literature from pre-European times.

The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America , by Samuel Morison.  Biographical information and voyage descriptions of all the significant European explorers including Columbus, Cabot, Verrazzano, Cartier, Magellan, Drake, and others.

Our sincere thanks to Caleb Johnson at Mayflower Web Pages

Continental Congress
Thanksgiving Proclamation

Native Americans - First Thanksgiving Proclamation

EXETER, November 1, 1782.

ORDERED, THAT the following Proclamation for a general THANKSGIVING on the twenty-eighth day of November instant, received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed, and sent to the several worshipping Assemblies in this State, to whom it is recommended religiously to observe said day, and to abstain from all servile labour thereon.

M. WEARE, President.

By the United States in Congress assembled.


IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.

JOHN HANSON, President.
Charles Thomson, Secretary.