The Mayflower

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The "Mayflower" set sail from Plymouth, England on 16th September 1620 with 102 souls on board. They faced perilous seas and incredible danger to achieve their goals of religious freedom and economic prosperity in a new and unexplored world. Among the passengers who knelt to pray on her decks that autumn day were fifteen courageous people whose children's children would become my own forebears. Their names were William and Mary Brewster, Stephen Hopkins and children Constance and Giles, John Howland, John and Joan Tilley with daughter Elizabeth, Thomas Rogers and son Joseph, Henry Samson, and Edward and Ann Fuller with son Samuel. This page of my website is dedicated to them.

My Pilgrim Ancestors........

May flowers

Each of my fifteen Mayflower ancestors had mainly religious reasons for joining the Mayflower voyage to America. But before they boarded her to start their great adventure, they each had ordinary (or not so ordinary!) lives in England.

King James I reigned 1603-1625

English Flag after 1602 

Stephen Hopkins- was one of those whose life was anything but ordinary prior to the Mayflower voyage. In fact, he had a life of adventure well before embarking on the one that would define his life and legacy:

Stephen Hopkins was baptized 30 April 1581 in the village of Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England. It was likely at the All Saints Church, where his parents had been married. The fields surrounding Upper Clatford probably look today very much as they did in Stephen's time. Little is known of Stephen's parents or upbringing, but we know that he had moved to Hursley, Hampshire and married a woman named Mary by 1604. Stephen and Mary had three children by about 1608 named Elizabeth, Constance and Giles.

This is where his adventures begin! In the spring of 1609, Stephen signed on to sail to Jamestown, Virginia on board the Sea Venture with a fleet of ships that would carry settlers and supplies to the struggling colony. As he was evidently well schooled in Biblical Scripture, he was selected by Captain Richard Buck to read from the holy book on Sundays to the sailors and assembled company. He was an indentured servant, meaning that he was a laborer who was required to work for an individual who had capital in the venture, although who this was is unclear in Stephen's case. In return for his work, he would receive passage, room and board and a sum of money to send back to his family every three months.

Before the Sea Venture reached the coast of Virginia, a hurricane came up and, after four days of being smashed and inundated by the storm, she was washed up upon a rocky shore on the edges of what is now Bermuda. Stephen swam the distance from the reef to the main island holding on to a barrel of wine. The ship had not entirely broken up, and all her passengers had survived. They spent the next several months repairing the ship to continue their voyage to Jamestown.

Finally, on 21 May of 1610, they arrived at their destination. The conditions at Jamestown were appalling. Many of the settlers had starved over the winter so that only 50 of the original 500 remained. Relations with the native Americans was poor, and morale was at an all time low. With new supplies and additional settlers, they worked to repair the tumbled down structures of the beleaguered town, attempting to revitalize it. Hopkins appears to have spent several years in Jamestown, where he made the effort to learn the language of the local tribe. This would serve him well when he landed at Plymouth, years later.

Stephen finally returned to England some time between 1613 and 1617, and found that his wife had died and his children had been placed in separate homes. By the close of the year 1617, he had collected his children and was living in London, working as a tanner. Early the following year, he married Elizabeth Fisher and they promptly had a child named Damaris.

At that time, a group of religious dissenters called Separatists  who had fled to Leiden, Holland where they could practice their version of Christianity freely, were returning to England for a variety of reasons. But, they were persecuted in England, and wanted to head for the New World where they would be free from the prying eyes and oppressive power of the Church of England. Stephen Hopkins became involved in this movement, and when a deal was at last struck with a group of investors called the "Merchant Adventurers" to send a group of Separatists to the northern part of the Virginia colony, he signed on and boarded the Speedwell in August of 1620 to join the Mayflower, along with his wife and three of his children; Constance, Giles and Damaris - the eldest, Elizibeth, evidently decided to remain behind, as she was nearly of age.

So began Stephen's final cross-ocean voyage and the greatest adventure of his life.

I have two ancestral lines from Stephen Hopkins:
(10th great-grandfather)
 Line #1:

Stephen Hopkins and Mary>>>

Giles Hopkins and Catherine Wheldon>>>

Stephen Hopkins and Mary Merrick>>>

Samuel Hopkins and Lydia Rich>>>

Moses Hopkins and Hannah Berry>>>

Hannah Hopkins and Joseph Howes Sr>>>

Joseph Howes Jr and Jerusha Sears>>>

Jerusha Howes and Stephen Hall>>>

Mary Crocker Hall and Freeman G Hall>>>

Alice Sears Hall and Charles Lincoln Thacher>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


 Line #2:

Stephen Hopkins and Mary>>>

Constance Hopkins and Nicholas Snow>>>

Stephen Snow and Susanna Deane>>>

Micajah Snow and Mercy Young>>>

Mercy Snow and Daniel Sears>>>

Phebe Sears and John Sears III>>>

Jerusha Sears and Joseph Howes>>>

Jerusha Howes and Stephen Hall>>>

Mary Crocker Hall and Freeman G Hall>>>

Alice Sears Hall and Charles Lincoln Thacher>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


All Saints Church, Upper Clatford

Fields Surrounding Upper Clatford, Stephen's Birth Place

(Photo by Peter Jordan)

Thatched Cottage, England

(photo by Simon Barnes)

Mayflower: Arrival at Provincetown, 
Cape Cod
(Stephen was one of the party who went ashore to explore)

Pilgrim Monument - Provincetown, Massachusetts

Elizabeth Tilley- Less is known about Elizabeth Tilley, who would go on to marry another Mayflower passenger:

 Elizabeth was born 30 August 1607 in the town of Henlow in Central Bedfordshire, England. Her father John, born 1571, was from the same area. Her mother's name was Joan Hurst Tilley, and she was born in 1567. Her family had been part of the separatist party who had lived and worshipped in Leiden, Holland. By the time of their voyage to America, Elizabeth was 13 years old. She had several older siblings who did not accompany them on the Mayflower. Her father's brother, Edward, and his wife Ann completed their family group.

One wonders if, while on board the Mayflower, young Elizabeth noticed the handsome older man who would become her husband in just a few short years. Surely she knew John Howland, but whether or not there were any "sparks" between them during the perilous journey will never be known. Howland, at 28 years old, may have taken note of the pretty young pilgrim, who would eventually bear him ten children. 

But before the romance blossomed, Elizabeth was to suffer unimaginable pain. The first winter in America was particularly harsh, and the pilgrims, with few supplies and only time to build inadequate shelters before the weather turned cold, were beset with near starvation and a terrible illness, probably an infectious pneumonia, which ravaged the small group. Half their number perished that winter, and Elizabeth Tilley's mother, father, uncle and aunt were all among them.

She was taken in by the family of John Carver. Carver had encouraged John Howland to join and assist him in shepherding the group of separatists to the New World, so if John had not been well acquainted with Elizabeth on board the Mayflower, he certainly became so once she joined him in the Carver household.

But, tragedy struck again when, in the spring of 1621, both John Carver and his wife Katherine, Elizabeth's benefactors, died. Having joined the Carver household at the outset, John Howland now became head of the household in which Elizabeth was living with a serving girl of the Carvers' named Desire Minter, about 16 years of age, and a young boy servant named William Latham. There are no details as to the family life that evolved among this group, but at some point romance bloomed, and John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley were married on 25 March 1623, about five months short of Elizabeth's 16th birthday. It is apparent that the couple were quite fond of Desire Minter, who eventually returned to England, as they named a daughter after her, the one who would be my great x8 grandmother.


Plaque in St Mary's Church,

Ancestral line from Elizabeth Tilley:
(9th great-grandparents)

Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland>>>

Desire Howland and John Gorham>>>

Lydia Gorham and John Thacher>>>

Judah Thacher and Sarah Crosby>>>

Joseph Thacher and Abigail Hawes>>>

Ebenezer Thacher and Tamsen Taylor>>>

Lothrop Thacher and Thankful Nickerson>>>

George Engs Thacher and Paulina Baker>>>

Charles Lincoln Thacher and Alice Sears Hall>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


Field - Henlow, Bedfordshire, Engl.
(photo by Rodney Burton)

St. Mary's, Henlow, England
(where Elizabeth was baptized)

John Howland- Howland was an important figure, a signer of the Mayflower Compact and significant to the economic survival of the colony:

John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England about 1591. He joined the Mayflower passengers as some sort of assistant to John Carver. He may have been an indentured servant, but more likely he served as a secretary and personal steward of sorts. He had been in Leiden, Holland with the separatist group there, and probably left Holland on board the Speedwell to join the Mayflower in England.

The separatists who traveled on the
Mayflower were headed originally to the northernmost section of the Virginia Colony, for which they had acquired a patent to settle there. When they arrived off-course at the tip of Cape Cod and were unable to continue south toward Virginia, due to bad weather, it was decided that they had no choice but to find a good place to settle in the area where they were. As they sent groups ashore to scout the land and find a suitable site for their settlement (John was one of those who went ashore), tensions were rising between the separatist group and those "non-religious" passengers who had been included in order to help finance the voyage. They were called the "strangers" by the separatists.

With the realization that they would be settling in uncharted environs, they decided that a document of governance must be drawn up to the satisfaction of both parties involved. On 11 November, 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed aboard the
Mayflower. John Howland was one of the 41 men to sign the compact.

When the Carvers died in 1621, Howland probably inherited their estate. At any rate, he was considered a "freeman", and in 1626 he was one of those who banded together to assume the debt of the Mayflower expedition so that the new colony could pursue its own goals rather than being beholden to the investors back in England. He also served in Plymouth as selectman, deputy governor, and surveyor of highways during his years there. He was a member of the fur committee, and was involved in the lucrative fur trade, which enabled him to assist the nascent colony, financially.

In later years, Howland moved to Duxbury and then Kingston, where he died in 1672 at the age of 80. His wife, Elizabeth, then moved in with her son, Jabez, who had a home in Plymouth which still stands today. 

My ancestral line from John Howland is above with his wife, Elizabeth Tilley.
Signing of the Mayflower Compact

Jabez Howland House, Plymouth

William BrewsterAs spiritual leader of the Mayflower separatists, Brewster played and indispensable role in their community:
William Brewster was born in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England about 1566. The St. Wilfred's Church was standing in Scrooby at that time, and he may have been baptized there. Little is known of his childhood in Scrooby, but he eventually attended Cambridge and was the most highly educated of the group who would board the Mayflower for Plymouth.

William lived with his family for a time in Holland with the separatist group, where he taught English and printed religious books for distribution in England, although these books were officially banned there. As a result, King James put out an order for his arrest, and he had to go into hiding while in Holland. When he boarded the Mayflower, as family lore has it, he was hidden in a large trunk under some blankets to avoid arrest. Also on board were his wife Mary and sons Love and Wrestling Brewster. More of his children would join the little colony over the next few years.

William had been an elder in the church while in Holland, and so became religious leader of the small separatist group who embarked on the 
Mayflower for the New World in 1620. He served the group as religious leader until a pastor, Ralph Smith, arrived in 1629, but continued to preach occasionally over the next fifteen years until his death in April of 1644 at the age of about 78 years. 

Governer of Plymouth, William Bradford, wrote of Brewster, "He was tenderhearted and compassionate of such as were in misery, but especially of such as had been of good estate and rank and fallen into want and poverty."

Ancestral line from William Brewster: (11th great-grandparents)

Willam Brewster and Mary >>>

Patience Brewster and Thomas Prence>>>

Mercy Prence and John Freeman>>>

Hannah Freeman and Ananais Wing>>>

Hannah Wing and Robert Asten>>>

Hannah Asten and Nathaniel Lincoln>>>

Mercy Lincoln and Ezra Howes>>>

Mary Howes and Obed Baxter>>>

Elijah Baxter and Keziah Baker>>>

Paulina Baxter and George Engs Thacher>>>

Charles L Thacher and Alice Sears Hall>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


 Thomas Rogers- was a merchant, a member of the Leiden company of separatists and signer of the Mayflower Compact:

Thomas Rogers was born, probably in the village of Watford in Northamptonshire, England about 1572. Little is known of his early life, but he married Alice Cosford in 1597 at Watford parish. Thomas and his wife were believers in the reform of the Church and, at some date after 1613, they took their three children and moved to Leiden Holland to escape persecution for their beliefs, along with a company of like-minded English families.

Apparently Thomas Rogers was a camlet merchant by profession. Camlet was a rather expensive Asian fabric made by the weaving of silk and camel hair together. We do know that he continued to pursue this career in Leiden, as it is recorded as such when he became a citizen of Leiden in 1618. 

The rest of Thomas' life in Leiden is a bit murky. It seems that at some point his wife Alice died and he may have remarried a Dutch woman by the name of Elsgen. He did own a home in Lieden which he sold in April of 1620 in preparation for his trip to America. Thomas took his eldest son Joseph, about 17 years, with him on the voyage and left his three other children, John, Elizabeth and Margaret, in Leiden. They would emigrate to America after 1627.

When the little band o
f travelers failed to reach the Virginia colony as planned, due to harsh wind conditions, they anchored in what is now Provincetown Harbor on Cape Cod. It was there that the Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed as a means of initial governance of the new and unanticipated colony. Thomas Rogers was a signer of the Compact. Thereafter, they sailed along the hook of the Cape and decided on the sheltered natural harbor near the head of the peninsula and named their new settlement Plymouth.

As it was already mid-November, the colonists only had time to erect a few drafty structures to get them through the winter. Sadly, the harsh winter that met the pilgrims in Plymouth took its toll. An infectious disease, probably a bacterial pneumonia, ravaged the little group, killing nearly half their number by the time spring finally arrived in a winter-weary Plymouth. Thomas Rogers was one of the dead. 

His son Joseph survived, however, and went on to become an important figure in the development of the Colony. He was involved in the founding of both Duxbury and Eastham on Cape Cod where he eventually settled and died. He left eight children, one of whom was my 9th great-grandmother.

Ancestral Line from Thomas Rogers: (10th great-grandfather)

Thomas Rogers and Alice Cosford>>>

Joseph Rogers and Hannah ?>>>

Elisabeth Rogers and Jonathan Higgins>>>

Hannah Higgins and Ebenezer Baxter>>>

Lydia Baker and John Crowell>>>

Experience Crowell and Isaiah Baker>>>

Crowell Baker and Reliance Chase>>>

Keziah Baker and Elijah Baxter>>>

Paulina Baxter and George Engs Thacher>>>

Charles L Thacher and Alice Sears Hall>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


The Fuller Family-

Not much is known about Edward Fuller and his family. Edward was baptized 4 September 1575 at Redenhall, County Norfolk, England. His parents were Robert and Sarah (Dunkhorn) Fuller, but all that can be ascertained about this couple is that Robert was a butcher. Among his siblings, Edward had a brother Samuel, a name that he would use for one of his sons. This brother would also make the journey to the new world, and would serve as Plymouth's first physician and surgeon.

Edward's wife is even more of a mystery. Some sources say she was named Ann, but there is no concrete corroboration of this to be found. She did, however, join the separatists, along with her husband and his brother Samuel, in the move to Leiden, Holland. It is possible that one or both of her children, Matthew and Samuel, were born there, but there is no record.

What is known for sure about this shadowy family is that they were aboard the Mayflower when she set sail for Virginia in 1620, except for Matthew who must have been older than Samuel who was  11 or 12. He stayed behind in England but did make the trip to Plymouth on a subsequent voyage.

Edward Fuller and his wife were not to realize their dreams in the new world. Tragically they both died during that first horrible winter, leaving their young son Samuel an orphan. Samuel was raised by his uncle Samuel who did survive that first sickness. He became a freeman of Plymouth in 1634, meaning he could own land and participate in the colony's civil affairs. He would marry in 1635 to Jane Lothrop, daughter of the Rev. John Lothrop who would be one of the founders of the town of Barnstable where Samuel lived to see many children and grandchildren.

One odd footnote to the Fuller family is that Samuel has the dubious distinction of being the only Mayflower passenger known to have (later) owned a slave. In his will he left a native American by the name of Joel to his son John, so there is no doubt that Joel was indeed a slave owned by Samuel Fuller. Fortunately, this practice was not a common one among the Plymouth settlers.

Henry Samson- was a youth of about seventeen years who later became a valuable citizen of Plymouth.

Henry Samson was baptized in January of 1603 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England. His parents were James Samson and Martha Cooper. By 1616, Henry's uncle Edward Tilley (husband of his mother's sister Ann) had obtained custody of the boy and he was living with Uncle Edward in Leiden, Holland along with others who had fled England's persecution of separatists. Most likely, since Henry's parents were still living, he was apprenticed to Uncle Edward, a weaver, to learn the trade. Edward took Henry with himself, his wife, and Henry's cousin, (child of another of his mother's sisters who had probably died) Humility Cooper, who was a year old. Edward and family was accompanied by his brother John Tilley, his wife and his daughter Elizabeth, also ancestors of mine.

Colonial Weaver
As it happened, Henry's two uncles and their wives all died that first terrible winter in Plymouth, when half the company perished from a terrible illness in the colder than normal season. Henry and Humility were likely "farmed out" to several families in succession, as was custom at the time, spending a year or more with one family before moving on to another. They are both recorded as having been living with the Edward Winslow family in 1623 and later with the William Brewster family in 1627. 

Henry grew to be a useful man to the growing colony. He married Ann Plummer in 1625, and in 1626 he signed on with a group of purchasers from Plymouth to dissolve the colony's ties with the Merchant Adventurers of London who had financed the trip on the Mayflower. He had, by that time, achieved freeman status, and been granted some land. The following year, he was granted land in what became Duxbury, adjacent to the Henry Howland plot.

Over the years, Henry contributed much to Plymouth colony. He was on many juries throughout his years there, and served as arbiter, surveyor, and constable in his new home at Duxbury. Henry and Ann became the parents of nine children, many of whom became landholders in Duxbury on reaching adulthood. His wife predeceased him, but it is not clear by how many years. Henry himself lived to the old age of 81 years, dying on Christmas Eve of 1684.


St Wilfred's Church, Scrooby

Poppy Field near Scrooby, Nottinghamshire

Plymouth Plantation, The Settlement at Plymouth

Native American Home,  Called a Wigwam

Settler's Garden Behind the Home

Inside Settler's Home

Cape Cod Bluff  (wikimedia)

They found an abandoned wilderness. The natives who had populated this area had been decimated by a contagious illness two years earlier, introduced to their settlements by European fisherman who had arrived to harvest the rich fishing shoals off the Cape. Many villages had been completely wiped out, and the Pilgrims found abandoned settlements and sun-bleached bones of those who had died when none remained to bury them.

Winter Landscape on Cape Cod 
(wikimedia commons)

Ancestral Line from Edward Fuller: (10th great-grandparents) 

Edward Fuller and Anne (?)>>>

Samuel Fuller and Jane Lothrop>>>

John Fuller and Mehitable Rowley>>>

Thankful Fuller and Jabez Crippen>>>

Jabez Crippen Jr and Lydia Chamberlain>>>

Thankful Crippen and Captain Edward Wheeler>>>

Daniel Wheeler and Amanda Pease>>>

Sylvester Wheeler and Anna Pierce>>>

Wakeman S Wheeler and Charlotte Irene Bonney>>>

Mary Irene Wheeler and Arthur Baker>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


Native American Slave
Ancestral Line from Henry Samson: (10th great-grandfather)

Henry Samson and Ann Plummer>>>

Elizabeth Samson and Robert Sprout>>>

Mercy Sprout and Thomas Oldham>>>

Mary Oldham and John Bisbee>>>

Ruth Bisbee and Job Bonney>>>

Jethro Bonney and Rachel Bailey>>>

Levi Bonney and Rhoda Pratt>>>

Orrin Bonney and Irene Warren>>>

Charlotte Irene Bonney and Wakeman Wheeler>>>

Mary Irene Wheeler and Arthur Baker>>>

My Grandparents>>>

My Parents>>>


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