In Which My Family Founds New England #1: The Pilgrims
This is the first in a promised series of posts containing details about my ancestry, for those four people who care. The first leg will take place over the next several days and will provide information about my mom’s notable ancestors in colonial New England. Following the present post there will be separate ones on the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and one on the Indian Troubles, especially King Phillip’s War, and the Great Swamp Fight a long-forgotten yet earth-shaking event that took place in my hometown.
For the next series posts (on the Tidewater Region, the Cumberland Gap and beyond, the American Revolution, slavery and the Civil War) I need to await results of my DNA test, which I probably won’t receive until mid to late summer.
A few months ago I was beyond excited to learn that I had TWO ancestors on the actual Mayflower. We learn in school that these are “our” forefathers, but I for one never had anything more than a vague hope that it might be true, and as time went on, even probably came to consider it unlikely. When I was age 12, I even went with my family to visit Plymouth Plantation, never having an inkling that the people who lived in that area were literally my ancestors. (A mere 56 miles from my house, it felt like an epic journey at the time). At any rate, in the last few days I discovered that I had this entire blogposts’s worth of representation among the Pilgrim Founders. Given that about 130 people were on the Mayflower, and that about 30 of those were crew-members who either died or went back to England, and that half of those who stayed DIED the first winter, you will have to admit that this is a large proportion of Pilgrims to have in one’s background.
The boastful title of this series is a joke, of course. I fully realize that MILLIONS of Americans are descended from the people who came on the Mayflower (they weren’t all Pilgrims, by the way). But I vouchsafe to say that very few Americans have THIS MANY Mayflower ancestors. Essentially, I am related to one-third of Mayflower passengers, which amounts to one-half of the Mayflower passengers who survived long enough to produce descendants.
The reason for this is nothing glamorous. In fact it’s quite the opposite. It means that for four centuries NONE of my ancestors along these lineages moved further west than 120 miles from their point of origin. NONE of my ancestors on my mom’s side that I’ll be talking about in this series ventured farther west than Springfield, Mass, and very few got even half that far. Perhaps their siblings did, other branches did. But not my mom’s ancestors. They stayed put. So there was nothing to dilute this original gene pool. (Also think of how limited the gene pool must have been in the earliest years of the colony. They all intermarried. If you’re related to one, odds are good you’re related to several) Anyway mom was the first to marry outside this colonial New England gene pool, when she married a guy from Tennessee. Thus it’s diluted in me. And it’s even less concentrated in my sons, and that process will no doubt continue throughout the generations — in future there will probably some Martian in the family blood. (Also as we said, one line while still English came later, and another line remains a wild card, although I don’t expect any thunderbolts).
Anyway, here’s the full tally. I urge you to click on the links below to learn more.
I’m Directly Descended from:
John Robinson — John Robinson was one of the most important Pilgrims: he was one of the Founders of their religious movement, and was considered their Pastor and their Teacher. When a small party of Pilgrims made their way to America in 1620, Robinson remained behind with the majority of the congregation in Leiden (Netherlands), with the intention of coming later. News of his death in 1625 was considered a terrible blow to the struggling Pilgrims. Robinson’s brother-in-law William White and his family were among the Mayflower passengers however (see below). No less than four lines of my ancestry lead back to John Robinson.
William and Mary Brewster and children — Brewster was perhaps THE key member of the group. He’d been a former assistant to a diplomatic secretary to Queen Elizabeth I, and was thus the only Pilgrim with any real experience in government. When his boss William Davison fell out of favor, Brewster was forced to return to his family home in Scrooby to become postmaster. But it was during his diplomatic years, when he’d spent time in Holland, that he began to get attracted to radical protestant ideas. The Pilgrim congregation often met in his house during their early years, before being exiled to Holland and then Plymouth. In Plymouth, he was the colony’s primary spiritual leader in lieu of John Robinson, and a key advisor to Governor William Bradford. The Brewsters are my (12th) great grandparents (and along other lines, uncles and aunts).
I am descended from William and Mary through their daughter Fear Brewster, who married another Mayflower passenger Isaac Allerton, after his first wife Mary died the first winter. Allerton became assistant to Governor John Carver. He later became involved with the colony’s finances, and was exiled after some irresponsible business dealings and other mishaps. He moved to the New Haven colony, dividing his time between there and New Netherland. I am descended through his son.Isaac Allerton, Jr., who settled in the Virginia Colony around 1660. Thus, I related to the Brewsters through my dad’s side, rather than my mom’s.
John Alden and Priscilla Mullins (and the Mullins family, i.e. her parents and brother) — These are among the most famous of the Mayflower folks from whom I am directly descended because they are the subjects of the famous poem The Courtship of Miles Standish by Longfellow, who is also descended from them. They have been depicted in many movies, but why don’t you just read the poem? It is here. Neither Alden nor the Mullins were Pilgrims. Alden was the ship’s carpenter, and William Mullins was an “Adventurer”, i.e. an investor in the company that was bankrolling the enterprise. I also think it likely (though unproven and unproveable) that I am related to the third character in the famous love triangle Myles Standish. (see below)
William White and family — White was one of the many who died during the first winter at Plymouth. (The fact that his son Peregrine was the first Pilgrim born in America balanced the scales somewhat). White’s widow Susannah then married Edward Winslow (see below). Their son Josiah Winslow would later become Governor of the colony himself, serving during one of its worst trials: King Phillip’s War. William White’s granddaughter Elizabeth married Benjamin Harrington, the first of my mother’s patrilineal line to come to America.
The Chiltons and their daughter Mary — Pilgrims from the Leiden congregation. James Chilton was the oldest member of the voyage (63 years old). His daughter Mary was 13 when they arrived. And she is my ancestor. She married John Winslow (see below). I am also directly descended from Mary’s older sister Isabella, who arrived later with her husband Roger Chandler.
John Turner — a Pilgrim from the Leiden congregation who came with his two young sons. All three of them died the first winter. Some years later his grown daughter Elizabeth came to live at Salem, and she is my ancestor.
Richard Warren — Warren came alone on the Mayflower, sending for his wife and children in 1623. Amazingly, I am descended from him on BOTH sides. I am descended from his daughter Ann on my mother’s side, and from his daughter Elizabeth on my father’s side. Warren himself died in 1628.
Edward Fuller and Mrs. Fuller (her name is unknown) — They died during the first winter, leaving their 12 year old son Samuel in the care of Edward’s brother Dr. Samuel Fuller, another Mayflower Passenger. I am descended from Edward’s son Mathew, who arrived in Plymouth around 1640.
I’m Also Related to (but not directly descended from):
William, Dorothy and Alice Bradford — Bradford, of course, is one of the best known Pilgrims, Governor of the Colony for most of the time between 1621 and 1657, and author of Of Plymouth Plantation, one of the few contemporary published accounts of the Pilgrims travails. (The first Governor John Carver and his wife died in 1621, leaving no descendants). Bradford’s grandfather (also named William Bradford) is my (12th) great grandfather (through a cousin of the Governor’s). I also have blood relation through his two wives. His first wife Dorothy May, is the aunt of my (9th) great grandfather. She is also famous — but for tragedy. When the Mayflower was still anchored at Provincetown (before even arriving at Plymouth) and William and several of the other men were exploring the surrounding territory, Dorothy fell into the water and drowned. She is played in a Hollywood movie by Gene Tierney, which goes with the popular lore that it may have been a suicide, though there has never been any proof of that. His second wife Alice Carpenter is my (10th) great grandmother; her first husband Edward Southworth is my (10th) great grandfather.
Edward Winslow and Gilbert Winslow — These two brothers came over together on the Mayflower. Gilbert passes out of history right away but Edward was to be one of the colony’s most important citizens (he had also been one of the leaders in England and Holland). He eventually became the Governor of the colony. His son Josiah was also to be Governor. My direct ancestor is Edward and Gilbert’s brother John Winslow, who arrived at Plymouth in 1621 on the ship Fortune (see below). John also married Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton (see above).
John Howland — Howland was servant and personal assistant to John Carver, the colony’s first governor. Carver died during the first winter and Howland subsequently became a freeman. His brother Henry Howland was my ancestor. Interestingly, Henry practiced a different renegade faith — he was a Quaker.
Myles Standish: Another of the more famous and prominent of the Pilgrims’ company, Standish was the military leader at Plymouth and by all accounts a bit of a bellicose jerk. Standish’s background is a bit vague but most believe he came from Lancashire. My (19th) great grandmother Clemence Standish is of the Lancashire branch of that family and thus a likely relative, though due to lack of documentation, unproveable.
Related By Marriage to:
Christopher Martin, his wife Mary, and step-son Solomon Prower — Christopher & Mary’s grand-daughter Abigail (whose mother Susannah was executed in the Salem Witch Trials) was the 2nd wife of my (9th) great grandfather James Hadlock. Christopher Martin (representing the investors, as opposed to the Pilgrims), was the titular Governor of the Mayflower during its journey.
Stephen Hopkins and family — Also not a Pilgrim, Hopkins had previously been to the New World, having spent time in both the Bermuda and Virginia colonies. He was to operate an inn and tavern in Plymouth for 20 years. Hopkins was one of the castaways in the shipwreck that inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest! I bet he had some stories to tell in that bar of his.
Edward Doty — Doty came over as Stephen Hopkins’ indentured servant and later became a wealthy landowner himself. He was known for his quick temper and frequent run-ins with fellow colonists and the law.
Francis Cooke — a Pilgrim from the Leiden congregation who made the voyage with his 13 year old son John. The rest of his family arrived three years later. Cooke appears not to have been a leader in any sense, just a low-key, dutiful member of the community.
Other Early Plymouth Ancestors and relatives:
Passengers on the Fortune (1621):
John Winslow — My (10th) great grandfather, brother of Edward and Gilbert (see above)
John Adams — My (10th) great uncle. He is the brother Henry Adams, my (10th) great grandfather and great grand father of President John Adams (see next post). When the Plymouth John Adams died, his wife Ellen married Kenelem Winslow, brother of John, Edward and Gilbert.
William Bassett — My (12th) great uncle.
Stephen Deane — (10th) great uncle.
William Palmer — (9th) great uncle
William Wright — related by marriage. His wife Priscilla Carpenter was the sister of Alice, second wife of William Bradford (above)
Thomas Morton — Distantly related by marriage via a Doty (see above). Brother of George Morton (see below)
Passengers on the Anne and Little James (1623):
Ralph Wallen — (9th) great grandfather
Francis Sprague — his grandson William would marry my (6th) great grandmother Mercy Walling, granddaughter of Ralph Wallen (above)
Hester (Mayhieu) Cooke — (13th) great grandmother, wife of Francis Cooke (above). She interests me a great deal for being of Walloon stock.
Robert Bartlett and Mary Warren – -daughter of Richard Warren (above)
Fear and Patience Brewster — children of William and Mary Brewster (above). What names!
George Morton and lots of other Mortons — like Thomas (above), we are related through marriage to the Dotys (farther above). He is significant chiefly for having been erroneously thought for many many years to have written Mourt’s Relation (hence the name) — but it turns to have been written by William Bradford and Edward Winslow.
Elizabeth Warren — wife of Richard Warren (above)
Stephen Tracy and family — (9th) great grandfather
Timothy Hatherly — (10th) great uncle.
John Oldham and family — related by marriage (his sister Lucretia was married to Jonathan Brewster). Oldham was to be banished from Plymouth after a run-in with Miles Standish. He then grew rich in trade as a merchant sea captain in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His murder by Indians at Block Island was one of the precipitating causes of the Pequot War.
Alice Carpenter — married William Bradford, sister of William Wright’s wife Priscilla — above
Arrived on later ships:
William Collier — (10th) great grandfather. One of the original Merchant Adventurers or investors in the Plymouth colony, and one of the few to actually settle there, arriving in 1633. He served as assistant governor of the colony several times over a 30 year period.
Samuel Nash — (10th great grandfather, arrived ca. 1632
Richard Sears — (9th) great grandfather, arrived 1633 or before
Rev. Ralph Partridge — (9th) great grandfather, arrived Plymouth 1636 and became the first pastor at Duxbury
Walter Deane –(9th) great grandfather, arrived in Plymouth 1637 and became one of the founders of Taunton.
Edward Gray — arrived 1642 and married Mary Winslow, daughter of my ancestor John (see above). He was to become one of the wealthiest merchants in Plymouth. He is one of my (9th) great grandfathers.
Plymouth was merged into the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691. Massachusetts Bay had been launched in 1628, and by virtue of its better location (i.e., a better harbor) fared better financially and grew rapidly in the ensuing decades, far outstripping the earlier Plymouth experiment. Also Plymouth was geographically hemmed in by Rhode Island. The natural place for the Plymouth Colony to expand would have been westward. Too late! If they’d allowed more religious freedom in their colony, if they hadn’t erected physical barriers to match their philosophical ones, they would have had room to grow. Instead they were cut off at the pass. The result? The map looks exceedingly stupid. Essentially Rhode Island consists of the shores of Narragansett Bay, just as Connecticut consists essentially of Long island sound with a little inland buffer, both of them carved out of what — to the eyeball — should be “Plymouth West” in any rational world. But I rant. See you in Massachusetts in a couple of days! (For Part Two: The Puritans go here).