Descendants will gather for a Thanksgiving dinner Nov. 18 in Oaks Corners

GENEVA — Descendants of Mayflower pilgrims will gather for a modern-day Thanksgiving dinner that’s reminiscent of the very first. And genealogy and history-minded enthusiasts are invited to join the fun.

The meal, set for 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Oaks Corners Presbyterian Church near Phelps, is open to all.

Roll call will include names of each of the 102 Mayflower passengers — 25 of whom had children — and members of the Descendants of Plymouth Pilgrims will respond on behalf of their ancestors.

Heading up this year’s banquet is Don Collins, who traces his roots 13 generations back to Plymouth Colony Gov. William Bradford.

Ontario County Historical Museum Educator Preston Pierce will be the featured speaker at the Nov. 18 event.

“I’ll be talking about Thanksgiving in 1917 — a century ago — which was America's only Thanksgiving during World War I,” said Pierce. “I’ll be commenting on what the meal would have been like and what people of that era had to be thankful for. I will also be commenting on how people thought about the holiday back then and what they were doing. Of special interest will be how the troops celebrated this distinctly American holiday in 1917.”

A list of passengers, some period paintings, and a model of the Mayflower will be on display, Collins said.

The informal, unincorporated group has met annually since its launch in 1938 by J. Sheldon Fisher, former Fishers resident and then-curator of the Rochester Historical Society Museum.

Douglas Fisher, son of J. Sheldon, said his late father was able to document many people’s genealogy from the family correspondence that had been saved in the woodhouse chamber of the family homestead.

Thanksgiving was a most natural time to convene history-oriented people with a genealogical connection to the 1620 Mayflower passengers, and so the annual tradition began, Fisher said. It was his mother, the late Lillian Fisher, who always cooked three turkeys for her husband’s event.

“Family members participating today tend to be adults who no longer bring their children, but who were first introduced to the event when they themselves were children,” said Fisher, who has plans to attend on Nov. 18.

Collins said he’s looking for more descendants to come forward, and hopes they’ll see some new faces around the table.

“There’s a lot more that are out there, but we’ve got to get them to look into their history,” said Collins. “I think it’s important for children to know their heritage.”

Ancestry research has several important benefits, Pierce said.

“By tracing your ancestry you get a perspective on your life and the lives of your near relatives,” he said. “You also gain important insights into why your ancestors made the decisions and took the actions they did. It can also be a very satisfying accomplishment. Once you connect to your ancestors, like the Plymouth Pilgrims, you have the satisfaction of knowing that part of you was actually present for historical events.”

And what’s not to love about Thanksgiving dinner?

“The church does an excellent job — it’s a super, super meal,” said Collins.

Tickets are $12, and are available at the door. For more information, call 585-704-9415 or email


If you go

WHAT: Descendants of Plymouth Pilgrims Thanksgiving Dinner

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 18, at 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Oaks Corners Presbyterian Church, 824 Preemption Road, Oaks Corners (between Phelps and Geneva)

COST: $12

INFO: Call 585-704-9415 or email