Origins of Mayflower passengers are revealed by experts

Jul 10, 2019

New research has revealed the origins of several Mayflower passengers ahead of the 400th anniversary of the ship’s historic sailing.

The Mayflower Pilgrims made their final stop at Plymouth, UK, in September 1620 before their pioneering voyage to America.

Their story begins long before that though, with the passengers hailing from towns, villages and cities across England.

Many travelled to Leiden, in Holland, to live for over a decade before planning the epic journey across the Atlantic. That journey took in stops at Southampton, Dartmouth and finally Plymouth.

Now, researchers have discovered the original places several of the passengers came from before their dream of a new life in the New World.

The team of experts are Sue Allan, Caleb Johnson and Simon Neal, and their findings have been published in The American Genealogist and New England Historic Genealogical Society Register. Last year, Sue Allan's research showed Pilgrim Susanna White-Winslow had lived at Scrooby Manor, home to Mayflower leader William Brewster.

The new findings include:

Dorothy May Bradford

Long suspected to have been from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, this has now been confirmed. She is believed to have been born in 1597 and aged 16 married William Bradford, one of the Pilgrims’ leaders.

Research shows her uncle was William White, also from Wisbech, who sailed on the Mayflower but did not live beyond the first harsh winter that greeted the Pilgrims in America.

Dorothy lived in Leiden with the Separatist congregation before travelling on the Speedwell to Southampton and transferring to the Mayflower at Plymouth. She had a son in Leiden called John, who was left in Holland - presumably to travel at a later date when the new colony was better established.

Tragically, she fell from the Mayflower into the freezing waters of Provincetown Harbour, on December 7 1620, having never made it ashore. Her son John came to America later, married Martha Bourne, took up residence in Duxbury and later moved to Norwich, Connecticut where he died about 1676, having had no children.

Elizabeth Barker

Elizabeth was first wife of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, an influential Pilgrim whose diplomatic skills and friendship with the Wampanoag were key to the group’s survival and the road to the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and the Native American community.

She was once thought to have been from Chattisham, Suffolk, but research shows that she may have been born in East Bergholt, a small village in Suffolk. This is where her father, Samuel, and natural mother, once resided. After the death of her father, Elizabeth Barker did indeed live at Chattisham with her stepmother until leaving for Holland.

She was among the ‘refugees’ who lived in Leiden where she married Edward Winslow in May 1618. They had no known children and despite surviving the first winter in the New World, Elizabeth died from a “terrible illness” that struck the Pilgrims.

Two months later, Edward went on to marry Susanna White - the first wife of William White.

John Hooke

The team has discovered John Hooke, a young apprentice who travelled on the Mayflower, came from Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. He was an apprentice to Isaac Allerton but died in the first winter.

The team have also identified  the family origins one other Mayflower Pilgrim and put forward a very strong probability for two others rooted in Suffolk. The team have also confirmed Leiden Separatist William Buckram, and his wife, Judith,  as having once been residents of Woodbridge, Suffolk.

  • Sue Allan is an Author, Official Historian at Scrooby Manor, Chair  of the Pilgrim Fathers UK Origins Association, Historian Austerfield Field Project, Official Mayflower400 Tour Guide. She is also the owner of Mayflower Pilgrim Tours. Visit 
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