Villager traces fascinating lineage

Janet McFadden, left, and genealogist Sam Maner stand with McFadden’s certificate of approval from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants and the book she and Maner put together telling her family’s history.

Tellico Village resident Janet McFadden has spent years working toward her induction into the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.

GSMD is a nonprofit organization founded in 1897 whose membership requires proof of descendance from an original passenger of the Mayflower that sailed to America in 1620.

McFadden was awarded her certificate in 2020 and was No. 600 for descendants found in Tennessee and No. 97,592 for the general society.

She first became interested in tracking her lineage after seeing the passion her mother and grandmother showed for the hobby.

“Well, my mom and my grandmother had it all written out on pages of big paper,” McFadden said. “Nobody in our family, the kids, were interested, so I felt like I had to do it because it would be lost otherwise. I started on my own and screwed up Ancestry.com, and I called Bill Long (former Genealogy Club president), and he said, ‘I don’t know how to fix it, call Sam (Maner).’ Sam fixed it, and I said, ‘Do you tutor?’ And he said, ‘Yeah’.”

Since McFadden first reached out to genealogist Sam Maner, the two have worked diligently for six years to trace her lineage.

Once Maner and McFadden picked up a trail that led back to the Mayflower, they began their own investigative work for verification. The whole process took three years, Maner said.

McFadden almost wasn’t able to prove her lineage due to complications with the burial of one of her ancestors.

“Her line had, if we hadn’t proved it now, it would have never been able to be proved,” Maner said. “There was a gentleman on the internet who had her ancestor, Thomas Woods II, had him being buried in Maine. They had it all over the internet, had the whole line messed up and the Mayflower Society had disallowed users from using it, and we went back through and found the will of Thomas Wood. He actually died in the War of 1812. He is buried in Vermont.”

The two tracked McFadden’s lineage through the Wood family.

“We found all the records where they had passed (McFadden’s) direct ancestor who is Sabrina Wood,” Maner said. “She came from Vermont and went to Will County, Ill. Her oldest uncle, who’s the son of Sabrina, Sabrina had Willard Wood and Charles Wood and had Sabrina again, a daughter Sabrina. She’s off of her daughter Sabrina. … We got it all proved through the line, got it all straightened out.”

McFadden’s lineage traces back to Priscilla Mullins and John Alden, who were both Mayflower passengers. Alden is McFadden’s ninth great-grandfather.

Although McFadden was born in Illinois, Maner said it’s not uncommon to find descendants all over the country due to migration.

McFadden, through her ancestry journey, has found relatives she never knew about who are connected through distant ancestors.

“It took almost two years to get the Mayflower Society to approve her paperwork and get everything done through that,” Maner said. “We found out here in the Village, she didn’t know it, but she’s got relatives all over the place that we’ve ran into, good friends of ours, that are in (Daughters of the American Revolution) with her (who) are related to her.”

McFadden hopes at least one of her children or grandchildren finds an interest in family history. She and Maner wrote a 900-page book about that history and condensed it into a much smaller version with photos. McFadden made enough copies of the book for her immediate family.

She is glad she caught the genealogy bug when she did.

“Just thinking that my mom would be so happy,” McFadden said. “She said we were related to the Mullins. I remember her telling me that, but as a teenager, I didn’t care. … It’s been fun.”