See also the family tree that accompanies this article for a listing of our Mayflower passengers and their descendants to the present day by families: Smith, Whittington and Wetherell. Our Mayflower Connections
Families hoping to connect with the important people and events in history are usually excited when they learn they are descended from one of the passengers who sailed on the Mayflower in the Autumn of 1620. Before there were online services there were professional genealogists who could track down ancestors and impress a family with trees that added to a family’s self esteem. People can actually apply for membership in the Mayflower Society and add a little prestige to their family pedigree. ‘Back in the Day’ one had to be careful when hiring a genealogist. A good con artist could easily create a false pedigree, excite a family and collect the necessary cash to head down the road to the next victim. The victims had few resources with which they could check the validity of records.
Only the wealthy could afford the services of a legitimate, professional genealogist and even then errors were made. The rest of humanity relied on word of mouth handed down through the generations. Word of mouth also creates fiction as I have discovered in tracking my own Smith family history. Fortunately, there have been a lot of honest historians over the years with a sense of integrity and a need to identify the truth. The internet has made it easier to track down the lost lives of previous generations and find documentation. One still has to comb through all the online data to insure legitimate links are made. Fiction is more common online than in any library in America. What I will report here is fairly well documented and if it is not I will throw in a cautionary red flag. I am indebted to the efforts of many historians and geneologists whose efforts I will note along the way. But I am especially grateful to the journals maintained by then Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony and Caleb Johnson, present day Mayflower enthusiast and historian, for providing much of the information I now share.
Finding a great grandfather or mother who came over on the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock is a treat, but not unusual. A lot of present day Americans can legitimately claim a ‘great grandparent’ was on the cruise ship that carried the Pilgrims to Plymouth. There were originally about 120 folks scheduled for the voyage to America. Our families have a variety of ancestors who were on the Mayflower and survived long enough to pass their DNA on to another generation. There are about 13 generations of people who have come and gone in our family tree since the original Pilgrims landed.
Families, ‘back in the day’ tended to be large. Girls were often married by age 16, birth control methods existed but were not dependable. Several sets of our original Mayflower parents created families with ten children who reached adulthood and married. If each of those ten children blessed mom and pop with just six grandchildren who made it to parenthoood, voila! Sixty grand children showed up for Christmas! And if each of those sixty children produced six…etc. etc. etc. Well, you get the picture. A lot of folks in our world can find ancestors who were on the Mayflower. In ten generations at the rate we were going in this model the permutations are staggering: 100,776,960 people could claim one couple from those Mayflower parents as ancestors. So hold off on the bragging rights! Another caution: Don’t always expect to be descended from the angelic side of humanity. Even the Pilgrims had a few troubled souls living in their community! We do have a skeleton or two in the closet or a ‘skunk in the outhouse’ as my grandfather Leb once said.
Our family is unusual in that we descend from a number of passengers on that ship. Keep in mind that not all the people were Pilgrims. There were three categories of passengers: 1) the Leiden Congregation (Separatists/Pilgrims), 2) London Company and Merchant Adventurers employees (ship mates and colony laborers) and 3) a group identified as ‘Strangers.’ We have ancestors that fall into all three categories. When I say ‘we’ I will include references to my Smith relations, my wife’s Whittington family and my ‘brother’ Wetherell’s clan. And while Leiden church members (Pilgrims) were identified by their Governor Bradford as a distinct group, their contract language with the London Company required that they were also employees of the company.  That requirement led to some consternation and strained relationships.
The original cast of characters slated to come to the New World were to travel on two ships: the Mayflower and Speedwell. Only one ship made the trip, the Mayflower. They were supposed to sail in late summer, but ended up leaving in early Autumn. They were supposed to sail from Southampton, but finally departed from Plymouth. They were supposed to settle into Manhattan Island, but landed at Cape Cod instead. They were supposed to have housing built before winter but arrived too late and lived on the crowded Mayflower. They were supposed to live through the winter and enjoy a new life, free to worship God as they desired. But more than half of their population died before the end of that first winter. A lot of things went wrong on this adventure. The fact that they gave thanks for anything at that first and famous Thanksgiving dinner party is a remarkable testimony to their faith in God and will to live with gratitude. And to think that I fretted about the whereabouts of our furniture in a Mayflower moving van, when we moved from the mountains of Montana to the moraine of Wisconsin!
To put things in perspective for family history: We know the Pilgrims were not the first folks from Europe to settle on the shores of the New World. The Spanish were in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565 and the French were settling into The Great White North (snow covered Canada). The British had already been in Jamestown for a decade when the Pilgrims arrived. In fact, our Mayflower ancestors weren’t the first of our family to begin a new life in this new land. Smith ancestors (the Davis men) failed to develop the Popham Colony on the coast of Maine, and a Whittington great grandfather Sir Richard Grenville failed to develop settlements in the area of Roanoke Island, Carolina. Each finally got it right at Jamestown. Evidence also indicates that Croatians , Vikings , Irish and Chinese had established villages that disappeared over the years and faded into history. Pilgrim documentation reveals evidence of a previous European fishing activity and a Wampanoag Native village, Patuxet, where Plymouth would be established. Norse history reveals that Viking ships captained by guys like Leif Erikson would dry dock in the waters of Cape Cod to repair war ships on the Viking’s tenth century tours of the North Atlantic. Whittingtons may claim that a Cherokee ancestor arrived here long before any of these European dudes dropped in on the social scene, changing life for the native population, forever and ever, Amen.
Before we get to the first of our Mayflower contingent I would like to add another word about ’things that go wrong’ and how they change our history of the world as we see it. Pilgrims allegedly planted their butts down on Plymouth Rock and exhaled, giving thanks to God that they survived the rough voyage. Bradford relates that they did give prayer but it wasn’t in Plymouth and no where near the Rock. Not only wasn’t Plymouth the original destination but it wasn’t their first stop in America. That rock has become part of American folklore, a product of patriotism and a tourist attraction that rivals George Washington’s cherry tree and Paul Bunyan’s ox. Great stories, good for tourism. Certainly the rock is not large enough to support more than one person’s arse at a time! Whether the Pilgrims even noticed the rock at Plymouth is subject to debate. Rumors that the women went behind it to relieve themselves are unfounded. It wasn’t large enough to hide more than one’s kneecaps. It was never mentioned in Governor Bradford’s recounting of the voyage and settlement.
Fierce storms prevented the Pilgrims from reaching their destination at Manhattan. They were supposed to be in what we now call New York City (Virginia Colony). In 1620 the British were calling this world ‘Virginia’ after the virgin Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603). How anyone knew she was or wasn’t a virgin is anyone’s guess. But she had been childless and that must have meant something to the Brits at the time.
Three hundred miles from the finish line, the Mayflower crew made several attempts at rounding Cape Cod and heading west into the Long Island Sound but the gale force winds of a nor’easter made it all too risky. They had been fighting the winds across the Atlantic. This was troublesome to a congregation of Christians who had little use for lying, stealing, murder and mayhem. They did not like the idea of trespassing on any property other than the land for which they held the title (patent). British paperwork entitled them to property on Manhattan Island, and nothing else. It turned into a dispute not only among themselves on board the Mayflower, but a century long dispute for my Stille and Van Couwenhoven (Swedish and Dutch) ancestors as they struggled with the British for supremacy in a new world and control of a port (New York) that remains a major trade center of our interdependent world.
Several small excursions took place in search of just the right property. Investors in London would accuse the Pilgrims of dawdling, taking too much time in discussions and brow beating when they should have been hunkering down on land and building a village. With frustration mounting, twenty four of the men and ten of the ship’s crew dropped down into the ocean waters in a small boat known as a shallop. They were going to scout out several locations for a settlement in the vicinity of Cape Cod. In the process of combing the countryside, they disturbed several Indian burial sites and stole corn from those sites. The corn was either food for the spirit of the deceased as they traveled to the spirit world or seed for future use of the Patuxet villagers who were wintering inland, away from the bitter sea.  A little sensitivity training and cultural understanding might have been in order. But, what did the British know about cultural sensitivity at that time? They were engaged in empire building and world domination. The Pilgrims would make amends for the corn crisis six months later when they met the tribal leaders for the first time and paid off the theft. Some of our ancestors were in that small shallop benefitting from the guidance of the ship’s Captain, Christopher Jones. Jones had no obligation to help the settlers find the right spot for their village. But, it becomes clear that his insight and experience is invaluable, as is the experience of a Smith ancestor, Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644).
Hopkins was one of forty one Pilgrims to sign the Mayflower Compact. He would also serve as the Assistant to Governor William Bradford up until the year 1636. Hopkins was the only member of the Mayflower contingent with previous experience in the New World. He had sailed with the Davis brothers and helped established the failed Popham Colony in Maine. You might think that the failure in Maine would disqualify him from a leadership position, but history is littered with failed efforts that are overcome by folks who learn and move into the future with a determination to get it right. Hopkins had also worked in the Jamestown settlement for Captain John Smith (not a grandfather of any kind). Hopkins was a wayfaring man who was given to adventure and the pursuit of a robust life. Having failed, he had a better idea as to what it would take to succeed. Accompanying Hopkins and Jones in the shallop were others of our forefathers: John Howland, Francis Eaton, Edward and Gilbert Winslow, Degory Priest, Edward and John Tilley, William Mullins, Edward Doty and John Billington. Of course there were a few others in that boat who are not related but are notable in history including the long time Governor of Plymouth Colony William Bradford and William Brewster. Much of what we know about the Mayflower and Plymouth experience comes from the extensive journals of Bradford. Rumors that these budding authors were under contract with Rollingstone Magazine are unfounded. The only thing ‘rolling’ at the time were the heads of Christians and occasionally a king or queen, back in England.
While an exact list of who was in that shallop from one outing to the next, and who stayed back in the Mayflower is not available; it is clear that it was a miserable experience and eventually cost some of the men their lives. Fortunately, for those of us walking around today, their children would carry on their family names. The temperatures and winds created a bitter cold for people accustomed to British weather. Climatologists, in the centuries after, would be able to explain that the warm water of the Gulf Stream moved north and easterly out of the Caribbean, moving clockwise up the South Carolina coast and Bahamas, before moving east into the ocean, bringing warm weather to Britain and Ireland before turning north and east into Norway. The New England coast was exposed to the Labrador Current which brought frigid Arctic waters from Greenland and a colder climate. It was great for cod and lobster, not so good for under-dressed Brits.
Bradford noted that the men were not dressed for the cold, nor were they sheltered from the elements when they slept on shore at night. Gore Tex had not yet been invented and longies were still pretty primitive. Whatever became wet would freeze and lay the groundwork for death and destruction. Frostbite and hyperthermia were short term issues. Infections would be one end result of those two ingredients. Colds would lead to bronchitis and pneumonia, and then combined with other diseases. It all proved too much for those who were trying to pick out a nice place to live. One day you are crossing the ocean and the next day, looking for a new home, and then you die… all within two months, for too many. It is a grim reminder of the price our ancestors paid for a better life, in this case a bitter life.
Back on the Mayflower, life was not any better for those who remained, waiting for their explorers to return. This group included many of the women and children among our Mayflower ancestors: Elinor Billington, her children Francis and John; Sarah Eaton and her infant son Samuel, Elizabeth Hopkins and her step children Constance, Giles and Damarious, as well as her new born son Oceanus (born during the voyage), Joan Tilley and daughter Elizabeth, Joan’s sister-in-law Agnes Tilley, Elizabeth Winslow, Alice Mullins and her children: Priscilla and Joseph were all huddled in tight quarters aboard the Mayflower. Tight quarters can be a good thing when huddling together to share body heat on a cold winter day. Tight quarters is disastrous when a virus is rampant and looking to leap from one host to another. We will sort through all of these relatives, survivors and victims, as we proceed. But bare with me. It is important to understand why all of these grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, came here in the first place and to understand the roles they played in making history. For the location of our relatives in our family trees please refer to the attached page: Our Mayflower Connections.
When we studied ‘Thanksgiving’ in elementary school we learned the names of William Bradford and Squanto and we got the impression that Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, and the Pilgrims taught Squanto how to deep fry a Butterball turkey. Up until recent years the remainder of the pioneers were sort of viewed as Cod in a school of Cod, or swallows in a herd of swallows; sheep in a pasture all blending together as nameless faces known collectively as Pilgrims. Historians, with benefit of the printing press and now the internet, have allowed us to take a deeper look into the individual lives of many of the folks who traveled here on the Mayflower. I could have had a blast teaching this page of history when I was a young teacher in Fulton, Illinois. If only I had learned all this stuff back in the 1960’s when I was studying the evolution of rock music and the making of history in Viet Nam. I had no idea we were related to so many of these characters.
Before there was a Plymouth Colony
The Pilgrims weren’t Pilgrims until a guy in 1622 wrote about them and called them ‘pilgrims’. The guy was a Wetherell and Whittington relative named Edward Winslow who co-authored Mourt’s Relation with Bradford. Winslow used a pseudonym because he was a wanted man back in England. He did more than write stuff. His best bud, Governor Bradford, also liked to write and they began using the term ‘pilgrim’ as they journaled and wrote poetry and marketing materials related to life in New England. In England they were known as Separatists and many of them came from an area surrounding Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. Like so many Puritans in England they were tired of prejudice, persecution and the rampages of Kings and Queens who were bent on eliminating any heathen who dared to be anything but Anglican or Catholic depending on the Royal preference. ‘Convert or die!’ seems to be a mantra among many believers in God.
It was illegal to leave England without the King’s permission. But it was equally risky to live in Scrooby and wait for the day when the King’s men would haul a person away for an appearance in court. The Separatists (aka: Brownists) were an off-shoot of the Anglican Church in England. Bradford initially identified the contingent as the Leiden Congregation. They escaped persecution in England and settled in Amsterdam, Netherlands (AKA: Holland) then moved to Leiden (Netherlands) in 1609 where they found the coveted religious freedom they needed and a great beer they could enjoy. Water was usually contaminated and not safe for human consumption. Beer was accepted as a great substitute.
The Dutch were on the cutting edge of cultural diversity in Europe. This lowland region of Europe had been dominated at times by the French, Spanish, Portugese and the Vikings. They were accustomed to ethnic groups and a variety of religions. It was the California of the 17th Century. The nation was a melting pot of people and cultures. An entrepreneurial edge was encouraged in Amsterdam and the surrounding villages. The Dutch were enjoying the Renaissance and on the doorsteps of the industrial revolution. The people were focused less on nobility and entitlements and more on economic success. It was within this culture that a Smith ancestor, Wolfert van Couwenhoven, and his family flourished at the time, down the road from Leiden, in Amersfoot.
The Leiden Parishioners lived for a decade in a peaceful environment but were troubled by the fact that they were becoming assimilated into the population. They were becoming Dutch. Their children were learning Dutch as their primary language, marrying Dutch spouses and enlisting in the Dutch military. Soon, they would begging for silver ice skates for Christmas. Add to these issues one constant and overriding fear: the Separatists fully expected Spain to recapture the Netherlands and use their Spanish Inquistion to inspire folks to reconnect with the Catholic Church or disconnect from their bodies.
The Leiden group was composed of some very educated Cambridge graduates, astute business minds and men with diplomatic skills. William Brewster, spiritual leader of the Separatist was an author and theologian. He loved a good debate and was unafraid of posting his thoughts. Without use of the internet, radio, and television and with zero bars for his cell phone service, the early author had to rely on pamphlets in any effort to draw attention to a cause. Brewster knew how to write a pamphlet but he needed a sharp young man familiar with the print business.
Edward Winslow, was no more than 20 years of age when his travels in Europe took him to Leiden in the Netherlands. He was the oldest of the Winslow brothers and would also become the most famous and active on the international scene throughout his long life. He was a printer and publisher at a young age. He befriended William Brewster and Thomas Brewer in their publication of religious books. Their books were illegal in England and in 1618 when Brewster authored a rave against the King of England and the Anglican church he put himself and his congregation in harm’s way. The King and his court found the diatribe to be well written but inflammatory, insulting and a cause to shout ‘heresy.’ If Brewster thought he was safe in Leiden, he was wrong. King James I ordered his arrest and the King’s agents arrived in Leiden looking for ‘The Brewster.’ 
When the King’s men turned up at the Leiden print shop Brewster was already hiding in the underground network that sheltered dissidents. Winslow was not present at the time. Only Brewer had the misfortune of being captured. He went to trial in England and faced a sentence of fourteen years in the Tower. The printing press was confiscated and the guys careers as antagonists were cut short. Edward Winslow and his brother Gilbert would find their way to the Mayflower and the Plymouth Colony. A younger brother, Kenelm Winslow, would come to the Colony at a later date. Kenelm is a Nth great grandfather in both the Wetherell and Whittington family tree. See Family Trees.
The Leiden folks had dismal alternatives to consider: There was the threat of the Spanish Inquisition from the south and the fear of the London Tower to the north. It seemed like it might be safer to live among the rumored cannibals of the uncivilized New World than remain in civilized Europe. Brewster’s plight sparked the voyage of the Mayflower and flight to Plymouth. Edward Winslow was a rising star in the print business.The Separatists were now motivated to exit Europe, stage left, for the New World. 
One had to have a plan if they were going to flee to the New World. British Airways and KLM Royal Air were on hold waiting for the invention of the airplane. The only cruise ships available tended to transport commodities like fabric, salt, spices, hams, sugar, rum and wine. Other than a number of cod fisherman, the New England coast wasn’t really attracting a lot of traffic just yet. The mass migration of Puritans fleeing the King and Archbishop Laud was still a decade away. The Separatists needed a deed to land in America and a way to get there.
The group had been planning their journey for three years and negotiating with the London Company seeking land in Virginia, not New England. Any place between Jamestown and the Hudson River would have been amenable. The King was slow to grant permission to a bunch of ingrates who hacked him off. The Virginia Company of London was slow to offer a contract of any kind. John Carver and Robert Cushman were persistent in their efforts to create a land contract. They also sought financial backing for this journey and were negotiating with the Merchant Adventurers of London. Robert Cushman has been identified by many as the father of Sarah Cushman (wife of William Hoskins) and great grandparents in the Smith line. But let me interject: the evidence isn’t clear enough to risk a bar room fight with members of the Mayflower Society. The years and locations indicating a relationship between Robert and Sarah Cushman all add up, but it would really be nice to have the Baptismal paperwork confirming a father/daughter, Robert/Sarah connection. We know Robert had a son named Thomas, and lost two children in Leiden, for sure. And we do know the family tree does extend back to Sarah.
The Dutch government was engaged in strategic planning at the time that Cushman and Carver were haggling with the Virginia Company of London. The Dutch enticed Brewster’s friends in an effort to create a colony in the New World. It was their intent to develop Manhattan Island, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The Dutch claims to the Hudson River were legitimate, based on the discovery and claim staked by Henry Hudson when he sailed into the river valley searching for a passage to China. The Pilgrims turned down the Dutch invitation. They appreciated the Dutch approach to religious freedom, and the land deal but sincerely wanted to separate from the Dutch culture. It must have been a bit like watching Shark Tank: The entrepreneur is offered a nice royalty deal from Mr. Wonderful, but really wants to work with Mark Cuban.
As with many of our early Virginia ancestors the Leiden Congregation was able to benefit from the effort of Sir Edwin Sandys. Sandys was a member of the British Parliament and a founder and CFO of the Virginia Company of London. He knew William Brewster from their days in Scrooby. Sandys father, Archbishop Sandys, was Brewster’s landlord at Scrooby Manor and there was a sense of mutual respect between families. Sandys was willing to back Brewster. It wasn’t that he was necessarily being generous. The man was an empire builder. His strategic plan for Jamestown was taking that colony from total collapse to viable economy.
Sandys was now looking at New England with grand designs. He offered the Pilgrims a patent (deed) to a tract of land that would put them at the mouth of the Hudson River. He did that for a very strategic reason with international implications. Sandys hoped to colonize Manhattan before the Dutch could plant their pioneers on the future home of New York City. The British had rejected Henry Hudson when he asked them to finance his exploration of the New England coast line. They let him get away and he sailed for the Dutch. The British quickly realized their error and saw the value of the Manhattan location. They would ignore the Dutch claims and begin a century long campaign to secure the region for the Queen, or King, whoever happened to be on the throne.  The Pilgrims locked in on the deed Sandys offered. They now needed to lock financial arrangements into place.
Pilgrim efforts to leave England were a bit like trying to catch a Christmas flight at O’Hare airport during a pending blizzard. Things didn’t go well. With Edwin Sandys’ patent in hand the Pilgrims sought financing for their journey from a group of about 200 London investors operating under the name Merchant Adventurers of London. These venture capitalists had been operating with the permission of the monarchy since around 1215 (the year of the Magna Charta). Their intent: turn a profit. The Pilgrims intent: worship freely. The Pilgrims essentially became indentured servants with a debt owed to the Merchant Adventurers.
The Merchants and Pilgrims could not finalize financial arrangements in the timely manner the Pilgrims required. Their bags were packed and they were ready to go, John Denver was singing on the stereo. But they wouldn’t be Leaving on a Jet Plane any time soon. After a month delay, one hundred and twenty people were to sail on two ships: 30 on the Speedwell and 90 on the Mayflower. Shortly after leaving Southampton the Speedwell sprung a leak significant enough to require both ships to return to Dartmouth, England. Repairs were made and they set sail again. Two hundred miles beyond Lands End, the Speedwell developed yet another major leak and they returned to Plymouth, England. It was decided that the Speedwell was not seaworthy and they crammed everyone that they could onto the Mayflower and sailed from Plymouth. The Pilgrims named their new home in the New World, Plymouth, after the last English village they saw in the rear view mirror. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a leaky ship changed the course of history. Had the Speedwell been sea worthy, we could be talking about Dartmouth Rock or a Pilgrim settlement named Southampton. Historians have speculated, and Bradford believed that the crew of the smaller Speedwell sabotaged the ship to avoid the treacherous North Atlantic waters during that fall season, a time of year known for tumultuous storms.
As a side note: Newlyn, England claims that the Mayflower made a last stop in their port. The passengers and crew realized that the drinking water they had on board may have been contaminated and needed to be replaced. It is believed fresh water was taken on board in Newlyn and the ship finally got under sail. The faulty Speedwell robbed Harwich, England of a place in the spotlight. Harwich was the home port of the Mayflower and owner/Capt. Jones. Folks in Harwich believed the unplanned stop in Plymouth robbed them of their legacy as home of the Mayflower. The Chamber of Commerce and Tourism director in Harwich are now busy spending millions of dollars on an ad campaign hoping to lure tourists into Harwich in 2020, the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage.
Once underway, the first month of the two month voyage was fairly calm. The second month of the journey was nasty. North Atlantic storms tossed gale force winds at the Mayflower and threatened to send it to the bottom. Crippled by the winds, the voyage took 4 more weeks than expected. The Speedwell crew may very well have seen this coming. Waves crisscrossed the Mayflower’s deck and at one point, everyone (with the exception of the captain and necessary crew) was ordered below. Whittington ancestor, John Howland, servant and assistant to Governor John Carver, was sent topside by Carver with an emergency message for Captain Jones. As soon as Howland stepped on deck he was immediately washed overboard into the sea. Miraculously, he was able to grab onto the ship’s topsail halyards giving the crew time to rescue him by hauling in the rope and lifting him from the ocean with a boat-hook. The story is found in at least three Pilgrim’s recollections of events, including those of Governor Bradford. It is also the subject of a Mike Haywood painting. One of the crew who may have helped Howland was Wetherell great grandfather, John Alden, also a Harwich man. Find Our Family Ancestors in Our Mayflower Connections.
Alden was hired in Southampton, England, as the ship’s cooper and was responsible for maintaining the ship’s barrels. It was an important task as much of the food and water for the voyage and the colony was packed into those precious barrels. Although not himself a Pilgrim, he was one of those hired to work the ship and prepare the Mayflower while she lay in port at Southampton. John Alden decided to make the journey when the Mayflower finally set sail. Who knows his motivation: the hope of becoming prosperous in the New World, a thirst for adventure, or maybe he just had the hots for Priscilla Mullins (Wetherell great grandmother) and wanted to give love a chance. Crazier decisions have been made. Some historians believe that Alden was an orphan (age 21). He had Harwich roots and family ties to Captain Jones of Harwich. John Alden’s image in history got a boost from William Wadsworth Longfellow when the poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish, was published.  Pretty soon John Alden was trending on the world scene and he was a public relations icon. Harry Styles of One Direction would one day follow the John Alden journey to America and also gain fame, fortune and an attentive teen fan base.
Priscilla Mullins was the daughter of William and Alice Mullins of Surrey, England. They were joined by her brother Joseph for a Mayflower journey that would end in tragedy. The Mullins were surrounded by one of the most interesting shipments any Pilgrim packed on board: 250 shoes and 13 pairs of boots. Dad was a shoemaker. He would never find out if he had the skills to sell a pair of wingtips to a Nauset Native American.
When the Pilgrims finally came within sight of land they were wet, weary, and tired of living in tight quarters and they were no where near their destination. They were ready to end the two month sojourn and plant their feet on the dry ground. But they also understood that they were about to occupy land for which they had no patent (title). Being good Christians they were nervous about violating any law, even in a land which was 90 days and 3,500 miles from civilization as they knew it. Not only were they 300 hundred miles too far to the east of their deeded property (Manhattan) they were not even looking at land for which the Virginina Company of London had authority. They weren’t even looking at Plymouth Rock. They were out on the tip of Cape Cod in what is now known as Provincetown Harbor. Bradford noted the date as November 11, 1620.
That’s when they got out the old parchment and quill and penned the Compact. They didn’t call it a Mayflower Compact. Bradford referred to it as “an association and agreement.” The term Mayflower Compact was the creation of Alden Bradford in 1793 in a description of Duxbury village. The ‘compact’ was the brain child of William Brewster. He fully realized the stress people were feeling after two months of being pinned in together, like cattle in a Monfort feed lot. They had long run out of deodorant, the place reeked of human waste and the nerves were tightly wound around bones and flesh that barely mattered. Humanity was dangling like a participle at the end of a prison sentence. The jabber on board went something like this according to Bradford:
‘We are a long way away from the London Company land so we are no longer obligated to the London Company contract which some of us didn’t like anyway. Therefore, we have no obligation to the fat cats in London. And to tell the truth, I am tired of the present company as well and need to get away from all this…. So, forgive me… But, I am going to bust a move and head out into this New World on my own and enjoy the rest of my life.’
Hearing conversations like that, Brewster may have easily responded with a pint of Belgian lager in hand:
‘I hear what you are saying and fully understand. I think we are all feeling like running as far away as possible from this ship. But bare in mind what you might be running into out there. We have all heard the stories about the man eating cannibals that are living in those woods. We have no idea what is available for food or what winter is going to be like. You are taking your chances if you go it alone. Like it or not… our best chance for survival is to hang in here together, work together and increase our chances of survival.’
Brewster was able to get 41 guys to sign their names to the parchment. No women allowed. John Howland (Whittingtons) and Steve Hopkins (Smiths) were two of the forty one settlers to ink their names. They were joined by other family ancestors, Francis Eaton family (Smiths) , John Billington family (Smiths), John Alden (Wetherells), William Mullins family (Wetherells), Edward Doty (Wetherells) and Gilbert and Edward Winslow (Wetherells and Whittingtons). Find Our Family Ancestors in Our Mayflower Connections.
Within two months many of the travelers would be dead any way. There were no guarantees, no necessarily safe way to do things. In fact, William Bradford’s wife, Dorothy May Bradford, was the first Pilgrim to die in America on December 17. She fell overboard and drown in Plymouth Harbor while William and the men were on shore, looking for a place to live.
Governor William Bradford kept immaculate records of his life in the Plymouth Colony. He also tracked the lives of the citizens and their descendants over the decades. It was as if the man understood the value of a good script or screenplay. And why wouldn’t he understand? Captain John Smith (no relation) was earning a few extra shillings selling copies of his adventures in Jamestown and embellishing his reputation at the same time. William Shakespeare had recently passed away (1616) after making a career for himself as an author, including his tale from the New World events reported in (The Tempest). Bradford not only recorded data but he added insight with his opinions and observations.
When the colonists finally settled into their new found turf they relied heavily on Stephen Hopkins from Hampshire, England. Hopkins was a survivor of the events dramatized in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He married his first wife, Mary, and had resided in the parish of Hursley, Hampshire, England when he wasn’t traveling the world. The Hopkins children (Elizabeth, Constance, and Giles) had all been properly baptized in Hampshire, England.
Hopkins was the only person with prior experience in the New World. He had sailed from England with the flag ship Sea Venture to Jamestown, Virginia in 1609. He served as a minister’s clerk. The ship was one of nine vessels being sent as the Third Supply by the London Company to provide Jamestown with much needed supplies and new settlers. James Davis was sailing the pinnace Virginia in that fleet. The Sea Venture was cutting edge and specifically designed to carry immigrants in something more than a cargo hold to the new land. However, the ship was so new that the caulking had not yet fully set in place between the ship’s siding planks. In simple terms: the glue hadn’t really dried just yet. Hurricane force winds drove the ship off course and threatened to sink it. Caulking fell out of place, boards loosened and the ocean filled the hold with 9 feet of water. Crew and passengers bailed water in a hopeless battle. Miraculously, the ship’s captain spotted land in the distance and drove the ship onto a reef on an uninhabited island in the “Isle of Devils” (Bermuda).
Hopkins, the crew and 100 Sea Venture passengers were stranded on the island for ten months. They survived on turtles, birds, and wild pigs. The wild pigs were evidence that the castaways were not the first to find this island in the deep blue sea. Tensions mounted as two men, Somers and Gates, sought control of the group. Six months into his experience as a castaway, Stephen Hopkins and several others organized a mutiny against their current governor. The mutiny was discovered and Hopkins was sentenced to death. He pleaded his case with sorrow and tears according to one author. “So penitent he was, and made so much moan, alleging the ruin of his wife and children in this his trespass, as it wrought in the hearts of all the better sorts of the company” . Hopkins managed to get his sentence commuted.
Somers and Gates resolved their differences. Two leaders emerged as did two separate work groups. The old ship was stripped down and cedar from the island was also used to create two new ships that departed for Jamestown. How long Stephen Hopkins remained in Jamestown is not known. His wife Mary died while he was gone and she was buried in Hursley, England on May 9, 1613. She left behind a will which mentions her children Elizabeth, Constance and Giles.
Stephen was definitely back in England in 1617 when he married Elizabeth Fisher. Elizabeth joined Stephen on the Mayflower, with three children: Constance, Giles and Damaris. Hopkins participated in the early exploration of the Plymouth Colony and was recognized as an “expert” on Native American culture. He made the first few contacts with the tribes on behalf of the Pilgrims. When Samoset walked into Plymouth and welcomed the English, he slept in Stephen Hopkins’ house for the night. Hopkins also acted as an ambassador and ventured out to meet various Indian tribes in the region. He assisted Governor Bradford through 1636 and offered his services in the Pequot War of 1637, but was never called to duty.
Stephen traveled with an indentured servant, Edward Doty (a Wetherell great grandfather). Doty was about 22 years of age when the Mayflower anchored in the Plymouth Harbor. He shared duties with another indentured servant Edward Leister in the Hopkins household. In June of 1621, Doty engaged in a sword and dagger duel with fellow Hopkins servant Edward Leister; both were wounded before being separated. That had to create quite a stir in the house and neighborhood. The two Eds (Doty and Leister) were punished by having their head and feet bound together for an hour. The punishment was supposed to have been for a whole day, but they were released due to the fact that they seemed to be suffering.  The discussion before the dueling duo were released was a forerunner of a present day debate: Should a criminal have to suffer during a consequence for their crime? Or should we reward them with all the niceties of a good home including good food, a big screen tv, exercise room, recreation program and conjugal visits? But I digress.
Plymouth court records indicate that Edward Doty made regular appearances in Court throughout his life. Judge Judy would have whiplash from seeing this guy too often. Caleb Johnson, in his seminal work, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, identifies twenty two appearances in court between the years 1632 and 1651. Record keeping for the decade from 1620 to 1632 is not available, so we are missing half his rap sheet. It appears he was sued for various misdemeanors and an occasional more serious infraction (assault, theft, and slander). The cases were largely civil cases, not criminal. Here are some of the charges: ‘failure to deliver pigs’ to John Rogers, ‘selling a flitch of bacon for three pounds of beaver’ and it should have been half that cost to William Bennett, calling Bennett ‘a rogue’, failure to pay his apprentice, assaulting George Clarke, failing to keep cows fenced, failure to pay a sawmill for boards, and stealing wood from another man’s forest.
Edward Doty always abided by a court decision, paid his fines and served his time without complaint. Unlike most of the men who arrived on the Mayflower (and lived to tell about it) he never got involved in public service. He raised a large family with his second wife, Faith Clarke, and had no children by his first wife, whose name is not found in the record books.
The Billington family (Smith ancestors) also arrived on the Mayflower and contributed mightily to the scandal sheet, gossip mill and police reports. It was no surprise to anyone when a Billington ran afoul of the law or social mores in the colony. The Billington family was recruited by Thomas Weston of the London Merchant Adventurers. They were not Pilgrims. The family name appears a number of times in the accounts of early Plymouth Colony and they were reportedly the colony‘s troublemakers. They may have hailed from the Cowbit and Spaulding area in Lincolnshire, England. The father (John) and wife (Elinor) were in trouble with the law on several documented occasions. Their children, John and Francis, were chips off the old block and walking time bombs.  Find the Billington family in the Smith Family tree in Our Mayflower Connections
In fact, Francis (age 14) nearly blew the Mayflower out of the water shortly after the ship’s arrival in the Cape Cod harbor. As the crew and passengers prepared for their new life, Francis pulled the trigger on his father’s musket inside the Mayflower’s cabin. Muskets, back in the day, could become flamethrowers if they malfunctioned. The gun sent sparks raining down near an open barrel of gunpowder.  Had one spark reached the gunpowder we would not be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Our conversations about the Mayflower would trend with the Titanic, Columbia Space Shuttle and Chernobyl as mega disasters. Bradford documented the event in his journal and gave thanks that God intervened and no harm came to anyone.
It is written that John Billington was the first white guy to be hanged in the Plymouth Colony for killing another white guy and that has credibility. Billington was tried by a grand and petty jury and hanged for the murder of John Newcomen, whom he saw as an enemy. John Newcomen was a bit of a stranger himself in the Pilgrim community. His surname Newcomen suggests that no one knew his real name and just gave him the handle ‘Newcomen,’ a variation on the term ‘Newcomer.’ We do that some times to people who are new to our school or community.
Billington faced the ‘gallows’ in September, 1630. In all likelihood they wrapped a noose around his neck, threw the rope over the limb of a solid tree, propped him up on a stool and kicked the chair out in a public ceremony befitting a demonstration of the wrath of God and a few frustrated citizens. Bradford states that Billington was approximately forty years of age when he died and that he was “one of the Mayflower” and had been in the colony ten years. His exact burial location is not known. When Bradford asked Billington’s wife if her husband had been hung, Elinor replied that “he was well hung.”
There are two written documentations of the murder recorded in the 17th century. The first is from the prolific Governor William Bradford.
“This year John Billington the elder (one that came over with the first) was arraigned; and both by grand, and petty jury found guilty of willful murder; by plain and notorious evidence. And was for the same accordingly executed. This as it was the first execution amongst them, so was it a matter of great sadness unto them; they used all due means about his trial, and took the advice of Mr. Winthrop, and other the ablest gentlemen in the Bay of Massachusetts, that were then newly come over, who concurred with them that he ought to die, and the land be purged from blood. He and some of his, had been often punished for miscarriages before, being one of the profanest families amongst them; … His fact was, that he waylaid a young man, one John Newcomen (about a former quarrel) and shot him with a gun, whereof he died.”
Notice that the Pilgrims consulted with John Winthrop in the neighboring Bay Colony. Communication was picking up between the Pilgrims of Plymouth and Puritans of Massachusetts. The legal advice offered by Winthrop was adopted by Bradford’s court: Blood for blood. Purge it! Bradford also references the fact Billington and his family “had been often punished for miscarriages before.” He goes on to point out that the Billingtons are “one of the profanest families.”
The second account of the murder and trial comes from historian William Hubbard:
“So when this wilderness began first to be peopled by the English where there was but one poor town, another Cain was found therein, who maliciously slew his neighbor in the field, as he accidentally met him, as he himself was going to shoot deer. The poor fellow perceiving the intent of this Billington, his mortal enemy, sheltered himself behind trees as well as he could for a while; but the other, not being so ill a marksman as to miss his aim, made a shot at them, and struck him on the shoulder, with which he died soon after. The murtherer expected that either for want of power to execute for capital offenses, or for want of people to increase the plantation, he should have his life spared; but justice otherwise determined.”
John Sr.’ path to the hanging tree was littered with evidence that he was a cantankerous old fart. He was not a Pilgrim and he did not ride herd on his personality as Pilgrims were prone to do. The Merchant Adventurers recruited folks to fill seats on the bus so to speak. The more people that could fit into the Mayflower the greater their profits.
- In March, 1621 John Sr challenged Myles Standish’s orders for “contempt of the Captain’s lawful command with several speeches” and was punished for it. He would do this many times more.
- In 1624 John Billington was implicated in the Oldham-Lyford scandal (a revolt against the rule of the Plymouth church), but insisted he was innocent and was never officially punished. (Oldham is another Smith grandfather.)
- In 1625 Governor Bradford wrote a letter to Robert Cushman saying “Billington still rails against you…he is a knave, and so will live and died.” 
Elinor was one of only four women to survive the terrible first winter in Plymouth and make it to the First Thanksgiving in the autumn of 1621. Rumors that she brought Pop Tarts and Hot Pockets to the dinner celebration have not been verified. Her family had a reputation of being ill-mannered. They did not adhere to the rules of decorum required by the Pilgrim population. They, and others recruited by Thomas Weston for the Mayflower voyage, were actually identified as ‘Strangers,’ meaning they were not part of the Leiden congregation from Netherlands. Perhaps the Billingtons felt like outcasts in a closed and very tight community that was well on its way to becoming a theocracy (religious state). Interesting point: ‘Strangers’ and crew outnumbered the ’Separatists’ on the Mayflower.
The ‘Strangers’ were folks who were chosen to be the workhorses, gophers and laborers employed by the investors as a hedge against failure. The two hundred fat cats who had pooled their money to make money on the Plymouth project had witnessed enough failed enterprises in the New World to know success was enhanced by following a few simple rules:
- The more people you send over the better chance you have to outnumber the indigenous (native) population
- and increase the odds that disease, climate, and natives will not decimate your population as happened in Roanoke, Jamestown and Popham.
- There is a need to have laborers at the front end of a settlement effort. Captain John Smith lectured the investors on this need during the early Jamestown experience.
Speaking of Jamestown, a trend occurring in Virginia was also happening in Plymouth: the controlling population (Aristocrats in Virginia and Pilgrims in Plymouth) was challenged by the blue collar work horses. In other words, the worker bees were challenging the queen bee. We see the same thing happening in America today as the wealthy one percent are challenged by the rest of the country for control of Washington D.C. and Wall Street. In present day America however, the wealthy have figured out how to seduce the rest of us and keep us in line. The Virginians and Pilgrims were just beginning to learn how to exercise power and control.
The Billingtons were ruffling some feathers and were not going to be throttled by the establishment. Ironically, it was an attitude the Pilgrims had thrown in the face of the church in England. They just didn’t like seeing it on the face of someone in their neighborhood. They wanted to be tolerated but found it difficult to tolerate others. It conflicted with their view of a utopian society. I wonder some times if the Billingtons were acting on a religious perspective in their conflict with Pilgrim society. So often, religion had been at the root of countless conflicts in world history. Perhaps in this case it was simply a matter of a cultural and lifestyle conflict. Perhaps the Billingtons were just rough hewn characters with an axe to grind.
Six years after her husband was executed for murder, Elinor was sentenced to sit in the stock and be whipped for a slander against John Doane. The only other record of her presence indicates that she married Gregory Armstrong in September, 1638, but had no additional children with him. It is believed she died somewhere around March, 1642/3. Estimates are based on the fact that her name no longer shows up in the police reports. So, we assume she died.
John Billington, Jr died a year or two before his father. A Bradford anecdote about Junior provides an example of the up side of maintaining a positive relationship with the native population: In May, 1621, John Billington (the younger) became lost in some woods for several days, eventually being returned home by natives from Nauset on Cape Cod. I suspect this case was very similar to that in O’Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief: Give Dennis the Menace back to his parents before he destroys our village. The Pilgrim community recognized that John and Elinor were unable to effectively raise two boys. It was not uncommon for a village to remove children from a parent’s custody for a variety of reasons: poverty would be one and unfit to be a parent would be another. We do not have the record of the court to indicate the reason but documents do reveal that John was placed in the care of another family. It was also not uncommon for a family to simply apprentice the children out to other families at an early age so that the kids could survive, learn a skill and earn a living.
John Carver and Katherine White Carver (Whittingtons)
While many think of William Bradford as the first Governor of the Plymouth Colony, he was not. He certainly was the long term Governor and a major reason for success. But, he was not the first man to serve in that office. John Carver boarded the Mayflower in England as the Governor of the colony that would become known as Plymouth Plantation (Colony). While Captain Jones was responsible for the ship, Carver was responsible for the passengers. It was Carver who ordered Howland to go topside with a message for Jones during the crisis at sea.
And it was John Carver (in his brief term as the first Governor of Plymouth) and John Howland who forged a treaty with the great Indian Sachem Massosoit. They addressed the Pilgrim concern: they needed to own the land they were occupying and they owned it. Carver and his wife survived the first and deadly winter (1621) when half the Pilgrim community died. The Carvers came to the New World childless, having lost their children in Leiden. They quickly ‘adopted’ Elizabeth Tilley (Whittington great grandmother), in Plymouth. Tilley was a young teenager when her parents, John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley died in the harsh winter of 1621. Tilley’s aunt and uncle (Edward Tilley and wife Ann) also died that winter leaving Elizabeth without a family.
The Carvers took Elizabeth into their home for less than 3 months and they too passed from this Earth. Bradford notes that on an unusually hot day in April, Governor Carver came out of his cornfield feeling ill. He passed into a coma and “never spake more.” It is thought that he died of a heat stroke. His wife died several weeks later ‘of a broken heart’. After Carver’s death, John Howland became a freeman and Colony records indicate that he was now considered the head of the Carver household including Elizabeth Tilley, Desire Minter, and a boy named William Latham. He may have inherited Carver’s estate. In a land distribution he was apportioned one acre for each member of his household (4 acres). He would take Elizabeth Tilley under his wing and eventually marry her.
Historians note that John Howland was born about 1591, probably in Fenstanton, Huntington, England. He was the son of Margaret and Henry Howland, and the brother of Henry and Arthur Howland, settlers in Marshfield, Massachusetts. His salvation from his fall into the ocean was lucky, not only for him, but for his countless descendants including Presidents George Bush, George W. Bush and Theodore Roosevelt. It conjures up images from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart. What would have happened had the halyard rope not been within reach of John Howland as he thrashed about in the ocean?
When Bradford described Howland as a “lusty young man,” he was referring to Howland’s vigor and passion for life, not his libido and eye for a woman. Over the next several years, Howland served at various times as selectman, assistant and deputy governor, surveyor of highways, and as member of the fur committee. It was in this capacity, Howland got involved in the fur trade and his life became another adventure. In 1626, he and a group of Plymouth investors called the “Undertakers” helped the colony pay down their debt to the Merchant Adventurers. The colonists paid the investors £1,800 to relinquish their claims on the land, and £2,400 for other debt. The London investors allowed the colonists, including Howland, a monopoly on the colony’s fur trade for six years.
Howland and Edward Winslow (Wetherell and Whittington ancestor) traveled north along the New England shoreline and explored the Kennebec River (in Maine). They were looking for fur trading sites and any natural resources the colony could exploit. Howland was responsible for the construction and supervision of a trading post in the Kennebec basin. They were joined by John Alden (Wetherell ancestor). Edward Winslow was the same man responsible for Brewster’s printing press in old Leiden, Netherlands. He was now out in the middle of no where, a far cry from the bustling city streets of Amsterdam and London.
Trading posts were established with the natives on navigable rivers and streams. Rendezvous points were established and trappers brought their pelts to a station often located on a floating barge, and exchanged fur for items the trappers desired. An event at that trading post on the Kennebec was described by Bradford as “one of the saddest things.” A group of traders from Piscataqua (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) led by John Hocking, trespassed on the Plymouth Colony trade zone. Rule #1 in the wilderness: you don’t mess with another man’s traps, nets or trade. Hocking and his crew sailed their bark (boat) up the river beyond Howland’s post with the intent to intercept and trade with trappers. Howland warned Hocking to get his tail end out of the Plymouth zone. But Hocking waved his pistol in the air, shouted a few obscenities and refused to retreat. Howland ordered his men to launch a canoe and chase Hocking out of there. As the Plymouth men approached Hocking, he put his pistol to the head of Moses Talbot, one of Howland’s men, and shot him dead. One of Howland’s men reacted quickly and shot Hocking to death in the same manner, a shot to the head.
Plymouth records indicate that the Howlands lived on the north side of Leyden Street. They later lived for a short time in Duxbury before moving to Kingston where they had a farm at Rocky Nook. The farm burned down in 1675 during King Philip’s War, but John didn’t live to see it burn. He passed away on February 23, 1672/3 at the age of 80. He was buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth .
Howland’s son, Jabez, owned a home in Plymouth at 33 Sandwich Street. The house was built by Jacob Mitchell about 1667 and was sold to Jabez. John Howland and Elizabeth wintered in the home and Elizabeth lived there from 1675, after the Rocky Nook farm house was scorched. Jabez sold the home in 1680. It is the only house standing in Plymouth in which Mayflower passengers lived. Elizabeth Tilley Howland outlived her husband by 15 years. She died December 21, 1687, in the home of her daughter, Lydia Browne, in Swansea, Massachusetts. Elizabeth was buried at Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, E. Providence, RI. 
Stephen Hopkins: See Our Mayflower Connections
In the late 1630s Stephen Hopkins‘ career choices befuddled Plymouth authorities. He opened a tavern and served alcohol. Running a bar and policing the patrons was no easy task and it is not a surprise to learn that in 1636, Howland got into a fight with John Tisdale and seriously wounded the man. In 1637, Hopkins was fined for allowing drinking and shuffleboard playing on Sunday. Early the next year he was fined for allowing people to drink excessively in his house: guest William Reynolds was fined, but the others were acquitted. Apparently the tavern was part of his home. Not unusual. In 1638 he was twice fined for selling beer at twice the actual value, and in 1639 he was fined for selling a looking glass for twice what it would cost if bought in the Bay Colony. Beer wasn’t the issue. The Pilgrims consumed beer often in lieu of water as it was often safer to drink. Drinking on the Sabbath, drinking to excess and charging inflated prices were issues that were policed.
In 1638, Stephen Hopkins’ indentured maidservant, Dorothy, ‘got pregnant from Arthur Peach’, who was subsequently executed for murdering an Indian. The Plymouth Court ruled that Hopkins was financially responsible for Dorothy and her child for the next two years (the amount of time remaining on her term of indentured service). Stephen, in contempt of court, threw Dorothy out of his house and refused to provide for her. The court ordered the sheriff to take Hopkins into custody. John Holmes stepped in and purchased Dorothy’s remaining two years of service, agreeing to support her and her child. Hopkins was released from custody.
Stephen died in 1644. In his will he asked to be buried near his wife, and he identified his surviving children. He is the only human known to have lived at three of the early British settlements in America: Popham (Maine), Jamestown (Virginia) and Plymouth Colony. He had been a company man responsible for community development, a forerunner of urban planners.
Francis Eaton (1596-1633) See Our Mayflower Connections
Francis Eaton was baptized on September 11, 1596 at St. Thomas Church in Bristol, England. He was a son of John Eaton and wife Dorothy (Smith). He had younger siblings: Jane, Samuel and Welthian who died of an illness that swept through the family in March, 1603. He was the only child of this family to make it to adulthood although some suggest Samuel may have also survived.
Eaton was a house carpenter in a Bristol tenement in 1615. The parish records of St. Phillips drop his name after 1615 suggesting that he may have left England for Holland. Governor Bradford’s list pins him on the Mayflower roster as a member of the Leiden congregation.
In 1618/19 Francis married a woman named Sarah and they had a son Samuel who was born prior to boarding the Mayflower. Bradford identifies Samuel as a “suckling child” on the Mayflower roster. Bradford also notes that Sarah died in that first winter.  Francis then married Dorothy, the maidservant of John Carver, shortly after Carver and his wife died (see previous info regarding John Howland). Identifying Dorothy as Eaton’s second wife required some surgical skills among historians. It is fun to reveal their detective work:
William Bradford, in his passenger list of the Mayflower, simply enumerated that John Carver’s household included a “maidservant,” but her name was not stated. Bradford later commented that Carver’s maidservant “married, and died a year or two after here in this place.” Whom she had married was not stated by Bradford either.
Identifying anything further about John Carver’s maidservant has required piecing together a complex puzzle. The first piece of the puzzle is the 1623 Division of Land, in which Francis Eaton received four acres, when he should have only been entitled to three acres (one for himself, one for his wife Sarah, and one for his son Samuel.) Looking at William Bradford’s commentary on Francis Eaton, he states that “Francis Eaton his first wife died in the general sickness; and he married again, and his 2 wife died, and he married the 3 and had by her 3 children.” His third wife was Christian Penn, whom he married about 1626. In order for Francis Eaton to have been entitled to four acres of land, his second wife had to have been a Mayflower passenger. And the only known woman on the Mayflower whose marriage cannot be accounted for is John Carver’s maidservant. Therefore, Francis Eaton must have married John Carver’s maidservant. The final piece of the puzzle comes from a 1626 apprenticeship record from Bristol, England, which mentions Francis Eaton, carpenter in New England, and his wife Dorothy. Since his first wife’s name was Sarah, and his third wife’s name was Christian, this record provides the name of his second wife, and thus the name of John Carver’s maidservant.
The Carvers’ death freed up two women for marriage: maidservant Catherine (Eaton) and the orphan Elizabeth Tilley (Hopkins). Women were a scarce commodity in the early history of Plymouth and procreation was important. Communities died if they did not replenish and attract newcomers. These were important marriages. Procreation was so important that John Billington used the argument at his sentence hearing when he was found guilty of murder: You need to keep all the stallions you can to populate the pasture. Clearly, his argument did not trump the ‘Blood for Blood’ mantra that day. The Francis Eaton/Catherine marriage did not produce any known offspring. Catherine died prior to 1626 leaving Francis in search of his third wife: Christiana Penn.
Christiana Penn adds a whole new wrinkle to this family saga. Penn was not on the Mayflower. Investors knew they had to create a stream of traffic to Plymouth. New blood had to be added. New settlers saved Jamestown from collapsing into oblivion. Plymouth would also rely on new settlers. Penn arrived with her parents, George and Elizabeth Penn (Birdham, Sussex, England) on board a ship named Anne in 1623. In 1626, at the age of 20 she catches the eye of widower Francis Eaton. They are married and have three children of their own: Rachel, Benjamin and a child that Governor Bradford identifies as ‘Ideote.’  That is correct. The true name of the child is not known. Bradford names the child ‘Ideote.’ The child suffered from a mental disability and the Governor’s language reflects the culture of the day. In fact, many men of the cloth in that era, would argue that the child’s condition was a sign from God that the parents had sinned and this child was the consequence. William Bradford’s summation of the Eaton family:
“his first wife (Sarah) dyed in the general sickness, and he maried againe, and his 2 wife dyed, and he maried the 3 and had by her 3 children. One of them is maried and hath a child; the other are living, but one of them is an ideote. He dyed about 16 years agoe. His son Samuell, who came over a sucking child, is also maried, and hath a child.”
In 1626, Eaton joined with John Howland and twenty-six other investors known as the Undertakers focused on the need to pay down their debt and control their economic livelihood. The group included William Bradford, Myles Standish and Isaac Allerton and later: Edward Winslow, William Brewster, John Howland, John Alden, Thomas Prence and others from London, all former Merchant Adventurers. His name appears as “Franc Eaton” on the agreement dated October 26, 1626.
From time to time the colony granted land and provided livestock for colonists. In the 1627 Division of Cattle, Francis and Christiana Eaton, with children Samuel and Rachel, received several animals – a cow and two goats. 
In 1631, apparently due to some severe financial problems, Eaton began selling off much of his landholdings:
- four acres of land north of town “between the land of Capt. Myles Standish on the south side
- and one acre due unto Henry Sampson on the north side.”
- On 25 June 1631 records state he sold a cow calf to Edward Winslow and noted terms of interest on the sale.
- On 30 December 1631 Francis Eaton sold twenty acres of land to William Brewster and
- then sold another ten acre parcel to Brewster in the same area.
- About a week later, on 8 January 1631/2, he sold his home to Winslow relatives of Edward Winslow – Kenelm, a brother (and Wetherell/Whittington great grandfather), and Josiah, possibly his son.
On the tax rolls of 1633, Francis Eaton was taxed at the lowest tax rate, indicating a very low personal income. On that list, his name appears as “France Eaton.”
Francis Eaton died in 1633 of a disease that spread through Plymouth that autumn and claimed the lives of fellow Mayflower passengers Peter Browne and Samuel Fuller. 
At his death Eaton’s estate did not have enough value to cover the debt he left behind. The Plymouth Court proclaimed “…Francis Eaton, carpenter, late of Plymouth, deceased, died indebted far more than the estate…” Thomas Prence and John Doane were involved in the estate process with the probate inventory being drawn up the same day by James Hurst, Francis Cooke and Phineas Pratt, revealing the meager nature of his estate: one cow and a calf, two hogs, fifty bushels of corn, a black suit, a white hat and a black hat, boots, saws, hammers, an adze, square, augers, a chisel, boards, fishing lead, and some kitchen items.  The value of which only made up 1/3 of the value of his total debts. But Christiana, his widow, was not held liable for his debts by the Court decision: “… the widow be freed and acquitted from any claim or demand of all or any his creditors whatsoever.” By the time of his death Francis Eaton was a freeman.
Records do not reveal the reason for Eaton’s purge of property and plummet into debt. It would be interesting to see how deeply he got wrapped up in the investments of the Undertakers. It is conceivable that he got in over his head working in the company of men with greater wealth and skills than he may have possessed. Was he a victim of an early Ponzi scheme? We may never know.
Francis Eaton was buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony. The burial place of his first wife Sarah is unknown, but may be on Coles Hill. Fatalities of that first harsh winter were buried in unmarked graves on Coles Hill. The Pilgrims did not want to advertise to the native Americans how badly their population had been decimated. Sarah Eaton is memorialized on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb on Coles Hill in Plymouth with: “Sarah, first wife of Francis Eaton.” The burial places of his second and third wives, Dorothy and Christiana, are unknown.
Christiana Penn Eaton Billington
With the death of Francis, Christiana now had several children under the age of 14, no home, no property on which to reside, no source of income, and no dowry to attract a suitor. In July 1634, Christiana Penn Eaton married Francis Billington, who as a 14 year old child had come close to destroying the Mayflower and everyone on it. This was the same Francis Billington, whose father had been executed several years earlier for murder and the Francis Billington who was a member of what Governor Bradford referred to as the “most profanest families” in town.
And who was Christiana Penn? We have identified her parents as George and Elizabeth Penn (Birdham, Sussex, England). George descended from a line of Penns who were well established in their church and recognized as icons and memorialized with statues in their hometowns. The pedigree was established as solid and, of course, you know where this story is headed: George’s son (Christiana’s brother) becomes the father of the world famous William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Small world. One ancestor would meet another when William Penn entertained Matthias Slaymaker and discussed property values for Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
We have all watched in wonder as the so called “good girl” in town runs off with the local “hell raiser.” It happens. It can end well. They produced nine kids and one of them (Benjamin Billington) grew to adulthood and met one of my great grandmothers (Mary Coombs).Francis and Christiana then produced nine of their own youngsters. They raised their family at Plymouth and moved in their later years to Middleboro, where they both died in 1684.
John Tilley and Joan (Hurst Rogers) Tilley See Our Mayflower Connections
It was mentioned previously that all Tilleys (Whittington ancestors), with the exception of Elizabeth died in the first winter (1621) in Plymouth. John had been baptized December 2, 1571 at Henlow, Bedford, England. He was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Tilley. He married Joan (Hurst) Rogers, on September 20,1596 at Henlow. She was the daughter of William and Rose Hurst and the widow of Thomas Rogers whom she had married in 1593. He was not related to Thomas Rogers, the Mayflower passenger. Joan Hurst and Thomas Rogers had a daughter Joan (1594) born in Henlow, England. Daughter Joan may have died young. She was not listed as a Mayflower passenger. If she was alive in 1620 she was an adult of 25 years of age and may have already been out on her own for as much as ten years with ten kids of her own! 
Our Joan Hurst Rogers remarried when she found John Tilly and they had 5 youngsters: Rose (died young), John, Rose, Robert, and Elizabeth. Note: It was not unusual for parents to use the name of a previously deceased child, especially when that name was grandma’s name (Rose). John and Joan Tilley came on the Mayflower with their youngest child, Elizabeth, then about thirteen years old. 
John’s Brother Edward Tilley and wife Agnes (Cooper) Tilley (along with children Humility Cooper and Henry Samson) also arrived on the Mayflower. Governor Bradford’s records reveal that Edward had lived in Leiden. John Tilley’s name does not show up in the Dutch files. He may have lived there, but did not leave a footprint. Humility and Henry are identified as ‘cousins.’
John and Elizabeth Tilley Howland raised a large family with ten children, all of whom lived to adulthood and married: Desire, John, Hope, Elizabeth, Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac. As a result of this effort, they likely have more descendants living today than any other Mayflower passengers. although John Alden may be giving them a run for their money.
William Mullins was born about 1572 to John and Joan (Bridger) Mullins of Dorking, Surrey, England. He married a gal named Alice in Surrey. Her maiden name has not been identified. Recent research in Dorking seems to suggest that Alice may have come from the Browne, Gardinar, Dendy, Hammon or Wood families, perhaps even related to Mayflower passenger Peter Browne who also came from Dorking. William and Alice had the following children: William, Sarah, Priscilla, and Joseph.
Like so many others, William died during the first winter at Plymouth, as did his wife Alice and son Joseph. He died on the same day as William White: February 21,1621. His original will survived, recorded by John Carver the day of Mullins’ death. In it Mullins mentions his wife Alice, children Priscilla and Joseph, and his children back in Dorking: William Mullins and Sarah Mullins Blunden. He also mentions a Goodman Woods (likely a reference to the Woods family in Dorking), and a Master Williamson. Mullins’ relationship with the Woods and Williamson family has not yet been defined. The will of Willliam Mullins was witnessed by the Mayflower’s captain Christopher Jones, the ship’s surgeon Giles Heale, and Plymouth’s governor John Carver.
Priscilla Mullins was probably born near Guildford or Dorking in County Surrey, England. Shortly after her family had been wiped out Priscilla married John Alden, the Mayflower‘s cooper, who had decided to remain at Plymouth rather than return to England that Spring of 1621 when the Mayflower departed. John and Priscilla lived in Plymouth until the late 1630s, when they moved north to found the neighboring town of Duxbury. John and Priscilla would go on to have ten or eleven children, most of whom lived to adulthood and married. They have an enormous number of descendants living today.
John Alden See Our Mayflower Ancestors
John Alden (c.1599—1687) was one of the forty one to sign the Mayflower Compact. He married fellow Mayflower passenger Priscilla Mullins, whose entire family was wiped out in the first winter. He served in a number of important government positions such as Assistant Governor, Duxbury Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth, Captain Myles Standish’s Duxbury militia company, a member of the Council of War, Treasurer of Plymouth Colony, and Commissioner to Yarmouth.
His origins are anybody’s guess; possibly the Alden family of Harwich in Essex, England. Harwich was the homeport of the Mayflower and its captain, Christopher Jones. The Alden family of Harwich had distant connections to Jones, possibly by marriage. Bradford gives Alden this brief thumbnail sketch:
“He was hired for a cooper, (barrel maker) at Southampton, where the ship victuled; and being a hopeful young man, was much desired, but left to his owne liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed, and maryed here.” 
Author Charles Banks notes a young John Alden about the same age as the Mayflower passenger was a seafarer in Harwich in the early 17th century. Banks doesn’t let the employment of Alden “at Southhampton” throw him off his hypothesis. Alden may have only been in Southampton on a job assignment when the Mayflower arrived and adventure called.
Banks creates an almost mythical character as he develops his notion of Alden. John “may have been the son of George Alden the fletcher (arrow maker), who disappeared – probably dying in that year – leaving John, an orphan, free to take overseas employment. Jane, the widow, may have been his mother and Richard and Avys his grandparents. Records providing information from the tax list of Holyrood Ward in 1602 list the names of George Alden and John’s future father-in-law William Mullins.”  That is a good bit of detective work. It has credibility when researchers can find the names of family, friends and neighbors on common documents from a same time and location.
For forty two years, (1633-1675), John Alden was assistant to Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony, frequently serving as acting governor. He also served on many juries and while that may have been a tribute to his intellect and skills, it had to be a pain in the posterior (literally and physically).
John Alden was there in 1634, in Kennebec, Maine, when John Howland, Ed Winslow and the trading post crew took on Ed Hocking and the Piscataqua Squatters in a no holds barred downybrook that ended up in a one-one tie with two victims dead from gunshot wounds: Hocking and Talbot.
Alden was jailed, in Boston, for the fight and while he was not directly involved he was the highest-ranking member from Plymouth that the Massachusetts Bay colonists could get their hands on and arrest. Governor Bradford pulled a few strings and secured his release.
John Alden married Priscilla Mullins on May 12, 1622. She was the only survivor of the Mayflower Mullins family. They had ten children who survived to adulthood: Elizabeth, John (accused during the Salem witch trials), Joseph, Priscilla, Robert, Jonathan, Sarah, Ruth, Mary, Rebecca, and David.
John Alden was the last male survivor of the signers of the Mayflower Compact. He died at Duxbury on September 12, 1687. He made no will, having distributed the greater part of his estate among his children during his lifetime. Priscilla died in Duxbury. Both were buried in the Myles Standish Burial Ground in Duxbury, Massachusetts. If you go looking for the Alden residence in Duxbury, it is located on the north side of the village, on a farm which is still in possession of their descendants. John Alden’s House, built in 1653, is now a National Historic Landmark open to the public as a museum.
Gilbert was baptized October 29, 1600 at St. Peters Parish, Droitwich, Worchester, England. He was the son of Edward and Magdelene (Oliver) Winslow. He did not marry. He was however the brother of a Wetherell and Whittington great grandfather, Kenelm Winslow and so we will claim him as a great uncle.
Gilbert was twenty years old when he came on the Mayflower with his older brother Edward Winslow and Ed’s wife, Elizabeth. Other brothers Kenelm, John, and Josiah, would all arrive in New England at later dates. Gilbert signed the Mayflower Compact in November 1620. William Bradford recorded that Gilbert Winslow lived in Plymouth for “divers years, before he returned into England and died there.” 
Gilbert’s burial and probate administration were only recently discovered at Ludlow, Shropshire, England, where his estate was valued at just over £30. The estate was administered by brother Edward. Gilbert was buried October 11, 1631 at Ludlow. Thirty some years later, in 1663, the Plymouth Court acknowledged Gilbert Winslow, deceased, was a Mayflower passenger and his heirs could be granted a plot of land as his heirs. The estate inventory of Kenelm Winslow mentions that Kenelm and brother John Winslow were granted Gilbert Winslow’s land. 
Edward Doty came over on the Mayflower in 1620 as a servant to Stephen Hopkins, and was apparently still a servant in 1623 when the Division of Land was held. This would indicate he was still under the age of 25 at that time. He signed the Mayflower Compact in November 1620, so he was likely over 18 or 21 at the time. This narrows his likely birth year to somewhere between 1597 and 1602.
Bradford notes that Doty married twice. He lost his first wife (name unknown) and then married Faith Clarke, the daughter of Thurston Clarke, on January 6, 1635 in Plymouth. Their childeren included: Edward, John, Thomas, Samuel, Desire, Elizabeth, Isaac, Joseph, and Mary. Edward died August 23, 1655 at Plymouth.  A diligent effort by a genealogist suggests that Doty may have been baptized November 3, 1600 at East Halton, co. Lincoln, England, the son of Thomas Doty. Historians note that the Doty families of East Halton regularly used the names Thomas, Edward, and John. Because Edward Doty assigned these names to his first three children, it is hypothetical, but believed that a link has been made to Ed’s ancestors in good old Lincoln, England.
When I look at the records, the patterns of behavior and consider their personalities, it is easy for me to visualize Doty hunkered down over a pint with the Billingtons. They each seemed to relish their reputation as a troublemaker throughout life in the Plymouth Plantation. I can hear them growling about the politicians, the rules, the establishment. They were not alone in their mindset. They may have been the characters whose rants drove William Brewster to design the Compact. Then again, who knows? It’s fun to speculate.
Born in 1595 he was the first Plymouth resident to operate on the world stage with home offices in the New World. While in Leiden he married Elizabeth Barker in 1618. Elizabeth died in that first tragic winter in Plymouth, along with half the population, sequestered in the tight confines of the Mayflower throughout the Winter.  The Pilgrims had arrived too late at Cape Cod to build appropriate housing and the few hovels they did dig into the earth did not offer the necessary shelter from the climate.
Edward then married Susanna White who lost her husband, William, that first winter. She was left with their two children, Resolved (age 5) and a new born, Peregrin. She married Winslow in May of 1621 two months after her husband’s death.  One could not waste time on a long courtship when survival was at stake. Edward and Susanna supported each other unto death. Together they had four children: Edward, John, Josiah, and Elizabeth.
Edward Winslow wore many hats in addition to husband, father and printer. He explored Cape Cod, initiated trade agreements with the native tribes, authored books, journaled daily life in New England, represented Massachusetts and Plymouth in English courts when their adversaries were attacking their interests. He was elected Governor of Plymouth on three occasions, served Governor Bradford during his terms in office, and served on Parliamentary Committees in London. He finally died on a ship in the Caribbean off the coast of Jamaica. It wasn’t a well deserved Carnival Cruise Line vacation. He was on a military expedition, working on behalf of the Puritan Roundhead, Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell had ousted (beheaded) King Charles I and taken control of the English government. He was seeking to reestablish British control of the West Indies in 1655.
Stephen Hopkins carved out a living as a tanner and merchant and served Bradford well as an assistant in their new endeavors. Hopkins was recruited for the Mayflower voyage by Thomas Weston of the London Merchant Adventurers, the investment group that financed the voyage. Hopkins brought along his new wife, children and servants, all identified on Bradford’s list of passengers. His young daughter Constance Hopkins (a Smith great grandmother) was identified as a Separatist (Pilgrim).
Constance Hopkins was baptized on May 11, 1606 in Hursley, Hampshire, England. She was age 14 when she boarded the Mayflower in 1620 and probably felt like age 30 when she stepped off the ship. Constance’s future husband, Nicholas Snow, arrived in Plymouth aboard the ship Anne in 1623. Nicholas and Constance Snow were married shortly before the 1627 Division of Cattle, and lived in Plymouth for a couple decades. They moved to Eastham about 1645.
William Bradford noted in 1651 that Constance Hopkins had 12 children “all of them living”.  Nine have been documented with existing records. The children of Snow include: Mark, Mary, Sarah, Joseph, Stephen, John, Elizabeth, Jabez, Ruth, and three other children whose names have not been conclusively documented. Some believe one of the three was the wife of Daniel Doane. Constance dies in Mid-October 1677 at Eastham.
We have spent a good deal of time reviewing this first generation of Plymouth pioneers: ‘Separatists’ and ‘Strangers.’ We have also witnessed the introduction of a second wave of immigrants including the Penn family. The flow of traffic over the decade would bring a slow and gradual increase in population. We have more ancestors to meet, those coming into Plymouth and those settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The population would begin to move out into the countryside and the great expansion into the American continent would begin. From Jamestown into Virginia, St Augustine into Florida, Baltimore into Maryland, Philadelphia into Penn Colony, and New Amsterdam into the Hudson Valley and Jersey coast line. On the west coast of the continent the Spanish would develop San Diego and move inland to establish Santa Fe. Even the Russians would enter late in the game through Alaska. The Pilgrims would soon witness a wave of Puritan immigrants in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that would alter the face of the countryside that had once been the home of a native population decimated by the diseases brought to their lands by the white man.
Offspring from the Pilgrim ancestors include people like us. There are one hundred million folks who evolved over the years from this original group. We include in our numbers the names of presidents and prime ministers, paupers and preachers, pragmatists and proctologists…. Okay, I’ll stop there!
See Our Family Mayflower Connections family tree data
 Manuscript of Gov. William Bradford, abt. 1651 (file link is to the State Library of Massachusetts)
 Philbrick, Nathaniel, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Penguin Group (2006).
 Eterovich, Adam S.: Croatia and Croatians at the Lost Colony, 1585-1590. San Carlos: Ragusan Press. (2003)
 H. Ingstad and A. Stine Ingstad, The Viking Discovery of America (2000)
 Shorto,Russell, The Island at the Center of the World, (New York: Vintage Books, 2004)
 Johnson, Caleb, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, (Xlibris 2006)
 Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War (New York: Viking, 2006), p. 16-18
 Shorto,Russell, The Island at the Center of the World, (New York: Vintage Books, 2004)
 Johnson, Caleb
 Johnson, Caleb
 Johnson, Caleb
 Bradford, William (1898). “Book 2, Anno 1620”. In Hildebrandt, Ted. Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”
 I made this conversation up based on Bradford’s description of the arguments at Provincetown Bay.
 Johnson, Caleb
 citing William Strachey’s account
 Johnson, Caleb
 Eugene Aubrey Stratton. Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620–1691 (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986).
 Eugene Aubrey Stratton.
 William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth, (Boston: 1856
 William Hubbard (1680). A general history of New England : from the discovery to MDCLXXX (Various). Boston: Charles C Little and James Brown
 Johnson, Caleb
 Johnson, Caleb
 Johnson, Caleb
 Marble, Anne Russell (1920). The women who came in the Mayflower. Pilgrim Press
 Roser, Susan E. (1997). Mayflower Increasing. Genealogical Publishing Company.
 Bradford, William (1898). “Book 2, Anno 1620”. In Hildebrandt, Ted. Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”
 Jabez Howland House
 The Mayflower Quarterly, “Suitably Provided and Accommodated:” Plymouth Area Taverns, by Stephen C. O’Neill, (Plymouth, MA.: The General Society of Mayflower Descendants), December 2011, vol. 77, no. 4.
 Bradford, William (1898). “Book 2, Anno 1620”. In Hildebrandt, Ted. Bradford’s History “Of Plimoth Plantation”
 Johnson, Caleb
 Charles Edward Bank, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers: who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623 (Baltimore, MD.:Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006)
 Alden, Ebenezer. “Memorial of the Descendants of the Hon. John Alden”. S.P. Brown, 1867