The applicant first fills out a synopsis form (preliminary application). This form lists only the names of each generation from the applicant back to the Mayflower passenger--no dates or places. The Historian reviews that and sends back a worksheet, annotated with proofs already on file in the Mayflower office. This normally means that the first five generations from the passenger are finished, and no further proof will be required. The applicant is reponsible for proving and documenting all other events on the worksheet. The "documentation" for an application consists of copies of source material used to support the facts (birth, marriage, and death).
Ideally, each generation is supported by the birth, marriage, and death records for the line carrier and their spouse. This is rarely the case, but it should be the goal wherever possible. The last three generations (the applicant, parents, and grandparents) are required to have submitted two copies of each birth, marriage, and death (when applicable) when they are available. That means the only time that these copies are not required is when a person (usually a grandparent) was born in an area that had not yet set up vital registration. In these cases, substitute records must be found.
The first attempt to document a lineage should use primary records. These are records that have recorded the fact in question at or near the time it occurred. For example, a modern death record will commonly list a date and place of birth. Since this is only a primary source for the death and happened many years after the birth occurred, other supporting documents are needed to document this birth.
The most commonly used records after vital records are church, cemetery, census, probate, and land records. Occasionally these records are missing or do not fully support (i.e. part of the date or perhaps a place is missing) the fact. In these situations, you can use a combination of documents and also support the details with a secondary source such as a family genealogy or local history. These secondary sources can never be used as the sole support for a fact. The key minimum documentation needed is to connect the parents to the child in each generation. If you are stuck and have most, but not all the documentation you need, submit what you have to the Historian to evaluate what you have. The Historian will contact you if further documentation is needed along with what to look for and where. It is normal for this type of exchange between the applicant and the Historian before the documentation process is completed.
If you are using published sources, we request copies of all the relevant pages plus the title page. If you are using the Massachusetts vital records series to 1850, the "Barbour" collection for Connecticut to 1850, or any of the Picton Press vital records to 1892 for a Maine town, all you need to do is reference it on the worksheet. Copies are not needed as we already have these books in the office.
Two photocopies are required for each document because one set is submitted to the General Society as they proof the work. The second set is saved at the state office and used to help document future applications. In some cases, you are not allowed to get a "copy" of a governmental record and must buy a certified copy. These tend to be for modern (i.e. post-1900) vital records. If you are required to buy a certified copy, we only need two photocopies of that certified copy, so do not buy two certified copies. Remember to make sure the "long form" of these certified copies is obtained when the agency certifies a form they fill out instead of certifying a photocopy of the original document.