About This Website

Last Updated: December 18, 2018

I need to go over a few things so you can get the most out of this website. This will cover how I handle certain situations and various conventions that I use.  I’ll put it all here in one place instead of trying to explain things every time I do something.  For instance, you might have noticed that some names appear in bold and have a number after them.  Let me start there…

Bold Names with Numbers

Most of the time, when I reference someone in my family history files, you will notice that their name is in bold and there is a number after their name, like my grandfather, John Downs (#18).  All that means is that I have data on them and they are placed in my family tree someplace.  The number is a unique ID number for each individual that I assigned as each was entered into my database.  These numbers become critical in some instances like when discussing the eleven family members named “Elizabeth Hopkins.”

Another excellent example of where this is useful is the case of my great-great grandparents, Thomas Higgins (#24) and Susan (Snow) Higgins (#25).  Among their seven children are two named “Cordelia,” Cordelia Higgins (#765) and Cordelia Higgins (#23)Cordelia Higgins (#765) died at one year of age and later they had another daughter, Cordelia Higgins (#23), who became my great grandmother.

The order of the numbers is strictly the order they were entered into my database.  You can tell that I first entered my grandparent, great-grandparents, etc. before coming back and adding their siblings.  This is why three of those are in the 20’s, and the other is “#765.”


Conjecture is a double-edged sword that needs to be wielded with great care when discussing genealogy.  I will share one example with you to demonstrate.

In 1936, Leon Clark Hills published Mayflower Planters and First Comers to Ye Olde Colonie.  In it he shares some conjecture on the possible parentage of Stephen Hopkins(#100). This conjecture, and he was not alone in this possible theory, was that he was the son of Nicholas Hopkins and his wife Mary (Poole) Hopkins and born in Wortley, Wotten-under-Edge, Gloucestshire.  This conjecture was based on nothing more than this Stephen Hopkins was born about the right time and had a Giles in his wife’s family. (Stephen(#100) named his oldest son “Giles.”) It was an extremely flimsy circumstantial case and far from a proven fact.

After the book was published, others began reporting that the father of Stephen Hopkins was Nicholas.  Books were printed with this fact and often cited Hills as their source.  Those of us who would see this would cringe because we knew that it was just a guess and needed much further research.  Conjecture becomes fact, and people want to extend their family tree back one more generation, so it becomes easy to have the possible become probable and then fact.

In the late 1990s, Stephen Hopkins(#100) birth record was found.  He was most likely the Stephen born in Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England in 1581 to John and Elizabeth Hopkyns.  The Hills conjecture commonly portrayed as fact continues to be relied upon, despite it being disproved.  I found a couple of trees on Ancestry.com just now reporting that Stephen’s father was Nicholas.

It once hit close to home.  I had written a piece and laid out a possible solution to who someone’s parents might be, and I warned the readers it was just a possibility, but I shared it in case another researcher could shed further light upon the matter.  A few months later, I came across a website stating my conjecture as fact and listing me as the source.  I contacted them immediately, and I was quite strong in my wording, but they removed the citation and amended their text.  Ever since I’ve been shy and have stayed away from sharing conjecture.

I will be careful to label conjecture as such in bold and in red with something like the following: The following material contains conjecture; please read carefully.  I may in some cases even add: End of conjecture.  Just like you show me something that is idiot proof, I can show you an idiot that can get around that, I’m sure there will be people with such a strong desire to add another name or generation to their family tree that they will add it to their Ancestry.com public tree.  At least I have done all that I could within my power.

A Work in Progress

It is the curse of the genealogist that they will never complete their work and have a finished project.  There will always be one more generation that eludes them, and more research is bound to turn up new information.  So much has been published over the last 200 years on two Mayflower passengers, Thomas Rogers(#322) and Stephen Hopkins(#100).  Yet, in the last 20 years so much more has come to light concerning both of them, shattering old theories and presenting new facts and generations that can be further explored.

I will publish here what I know but check back as I am continually learning more and I will be updating this site frequently.  Subscribe to my blog here on this page.  You can follow it by email and get a message telling you there is a new blog post.  I will use the blog to announce new findings and where you can find updates on the site.

Privacy Policy

While we all want to know about our ancestors and relatives, I think we must all agree that some constraint must be placed on this information to preserve the privacy of those who are still alive. For this reason, I will adhere to a strict Privacy Policy.

  • There will be no mention or information concerning anyone who is still alive. If I do not possess any death information on an individual, I will withhold their information until 120 years after their birth.
  • No information, such as email addresses, will be sold or made available to the public for anyone in this category.
  • Some information, such as social security numbers, will always be withheld.
  • An individual’s information will be withheld if their spouse is still living.
  • I will withhold any information that I feel could reasonably cause discomfort to anyone living.
  • This site will comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, (COPPA).

If you feel there is information on this site that falls into any of the above categories, or you think should be withheld for other reasons, please email me at bill@downsgenealogy.com.

What should I do if I find a broken link on your site?

While I try to update my links regularly, it is virtually impossible to catch every broken link right away. If you should find one, or any other technical error on this site, please contact me at bill@downsgenealogy.com. For corrections in content, see the Additions and Corrections page of this site.


The following people, institutions, and organizations have my utmost appreciation and praises for all of the help they have given me, the contributions they have made to the information base here, and to genealogy in general.

Giles E. Hopkins (1903-1974): Uncle Giles nurtured my interest in history and genealogy, both while he was alive and after his death. He worked hard recording and researching our history and family tree. He left behind many copies of his writings so that future generations could benefit from reading them. In many ways, without him, this website would not be here.

Ben Marshall (1923-2017): Ben Marshall worked at the Eastham Public Library, in Eastham, Massachusetts. Ben gave me good sage advice several times along my journey. He could often be found in the genealogy and local history stacks of that library. He even took me down to the vault in the basement where the most precious records and relics from previous centuries were kept.

Bonnie Snow: Bonnie is the Historian for the Orleans Historical Society. She has selflessly given of herself to that organization. She has treated me as the warmest of friends by inviting me into her home, photocopying items she thinks would be of interest to me, and even touring the town of Orleans, Massachusetts with me to show me where things were and tell me stories from the past.

Orleans Town Clerk’s Office: Through the years they have been more than tolerant of my requests for information. When I wasn’t even sure of what I was looking for, they were indulgent by providing me a table, chair, access to old record books, and all the time I needed to read through them. Other towns have not been so helpful or accommodating.

Dorothy Downs Kucks (1912-2004): Dorothy compiled a genealogy that recorded all of the descendants of Thomas Downs(#20), the progenitor of our Downs family in the United States. She maintained it and shared it with the various branches of the family. A noble effort and my source for some of the marriage dates and names for in-laws of the Downs family.

Jane Kucks: Cousin Jane has picked up the project that Dorothy started (see above). As time marches on and the family grows, this project can only become more daunting.

Snow Library: Snow Library is the public library in Orleans, Massachusetts. I can remember many a day spent there among the stacks. The staff has always been more than friendly and helpful. They have made special, and sometimes rare, collections available to me. I owe you guys a few of decade’s worth of thanks.

Mayflower Society Library: This gem is located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where else? They too have been more than helpful and indulgent. I’ve spent many a day there also.

Orleans Historical Society: They have allowed me to photograph artifacts and provided me with much information and clarification. Thanks too, for permission to reproduce the photo of Isaac Snow on this website.

Eastham Public Library: They have not only been helpful and friendly, but they have also been a staple of my research. In a way, I feel like a part of the family when I’m there.

Elmer Hopkins (1861-after 1914): Elmer prepared a genealogy of the Hopkins family in 1914, which became the basis for Giles Hopkins’s (see above) continued work.

Sturgis Library: The Sturgis Library is located in Barnstable, Massachusetts. This is another excellent place to go to do Cape Cod family research.

And special thanks to my wife, Valerie Downs, who has always been available to proofread, give opinions, and especially, inspire me. She has been with me at every turn whether it was at some library, hall of records, or traipsing through some old cemetery in the rain. I couldn’t have gotten this far without you.