The Mayflower and Other Ships: Are You Aboard?

  I now understand why genealogical research is so popular…and a bit addictive! It’s like treasure hunting for your family roots! Yesterday’s discovery that I am related to the Puritans was super exciting to me (although you might be glad if you’re not related),  but after poring over my 200+ forebearers who immigrated to this country (about 95% from England during the 16oo’s), I’ve discovered that I’m related to George Washington and Robert E. Lee via Captain Nicolas Mariau (French), who landed at Jamestown in 1620 and became “The Father of Yorktown.”  I’m also related to a lot of people I’d never heard of before, like Captain Gabriel Francis Holland (from England) who came to Jamestown on the ship Supply in 1621 and married Mary Pinke, who was born in James City, Virginia back in 1596 just after her father Henri died. The stories are fascinating! One forebearer, Edward Bosworth, died in 1634 on the voyage over to Boston on the Elizabeth and Dorcas (one of nine ships sailing in that fleet). In 1635, Colonel William Ball immigrated from England to Virginia in the ship Planter. My ancestor John Sutton married Julia Ann Little in England in 1616 but moved to America in 1638 on the ship The Diligent. Captain George Denison I came over to America as a boy but later returned to England, where he married Ann Borodell in 1645 although they both died in America, so they must have returned at some point. My forebearer William Denison came to America on The Lion after his wife, Margaret Chandler died in England in 1645.  But, the most surprising thing to me was the discovery that out of the 101 listed passengers on the Mayflower, I’m related to 11 of them! I was amazed, although I had been told as a little girl that my parents were both from British stock. Just quickly, let me tell you a couple of tales about my relatives on the Mayflower (which might not be too interesting to anybody but my relatives). There were four sets who eventually became intermarried into two related groups. The first group were Francis and John Cooke, a father-son duo who had left the rest of the family behind (although Francis’s wife and the other two younger children did join them in 1623 aboard the ship Anne).  Also aboard was Richard Warren, whose wife Elizabeth, and their five daughters, likewise came over on the supply ship Anne in 1623. In 1634, John Cooke married Richard’s daughter, Sarah, which is good for me, because they are my (many) great grandmother and grandfather.  I’m also descended from John Tilley and Joan (Hurst) Tilley through their daughter Elizabeth, who was about 13 when they climbed aboard the Mayflower with John’s brother Edward, and his wife, Agnes (Cooper) Tilley, who had no children, although they had the care of an infant niece, Humility Cooper, and a young nephew, Henry Samson. Sadly, all four of the parents died shortly after coming ashore in April of 1621, leaving the children as orphans. (Nearly half the pilgrims died during that winter and spring.)  Young Elizabeth married John Howland several years later. John had come as an apprentice to Governor John Carver, but Carver also died during the same epidemic in April 1621. On the way over, John Howland had been swept overboard in a huge storm and only survived by grabbing one of the ship lines so he could be hauled back on board. Lucky for me, or I wouldn’t be here today!   John Howland became an elder in his church and with Elizabeth (Tilley)  raised a large family with ten children, all of whom survived and married, so it’s thought that they have more descendants living today than any other Mayflower passengers.  Some of their descendants include Franklin D. Roosevelt, both President Bush’s, Humphrey Bogart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Doctor Benjamin Spock.  In her will, Elizabeth ended with this counsel to her children (and descendants): “It is my will and charge to all my children that they walk in the fear of the Lord and in love and peace toward each other.” Amen to that! Not only do I ascribe to this counsel of my ancient mother, I pray that for my children as well.  And, for all of us! I was thinking about ships and passages. There is only one sure ship that will give us safe passage to heaven, and that is Jesus, but there are also many “fellow ships” on this earth—numberless groups of believers who have joined together for worship and community. It doesn’t matter if we’re on The Diligent or the Mayflower, but we won’t get to heaven without being aboard some ship that belongs to the King! Are you aboard? Are you enjoying fellowship? So many stories. So many journeys! So worth doing!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

(Only the three genealogical images are mine; the rest are all from Wiki or other sources, but I’ve labeled them as best I could.)

5 responses to “The Mayflower and Other Ships: Are You Aboard?

  1. Charylene Powers

    Kathi, wonderful post.

  2. “John Howland became an elder in his church and with Elizabeth (Warren) raised a large family with ten children, all of whom survived and married, so it’s thought that they have more descendants living today than any other Mayflower passengers. Some of their descendants include Franklin D. Roosevelt, both President Bush’s, Humphrey Bogart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Doctor Benjamin Spock.”

    Here is the Wikipedia information about Howland, my 11th great grandfather (hello, cousin). So if you mean by “Elizabeth (Warren)” that his wife was a Warren, you are at odds with the history I have read and claimed it. Howland took the orphaned Elizabeth Tilley as his ward and married her when she reached a proper age.

    “Elizabeth Tilley (c. Aug 1607 – December 21, 1687) was one of the passengers on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower and a participant in the first Thanksgiving in the New World. She was the daughter of Mayflower passenger John Tilley and his wife Joan Hurst and, although she was their youngest child, appears to be the only one who survived until the voyage. She went on to marry fellow Mayflower passenger John Howland, with whom she had ten children and 88 grandchildren. Because of their great progeny, she and her husband have millions of living descendants today.”

    • Thank you so much! Yes, I made a mistake and have corrected it. I just finished listening to a great audio book by Nathaniel Philbrick called “Mayflower,” and at the end the author says there are thought to be 35 million descendants from the union of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley! So, we are not only cousins, we are just 2 of millions of cousins. If Philbrick is correct, that means about one tenth of our entire population is related through this one godly couple!!

  3. Are we double cousins (or some such) since we also descend from John Tilley and Joan Hurst?

    Also, 3.5 million would be 1% rather than 10%. But did they say over the past 400 years or that are alive today?

    • Sorry! That should have been 35 million, and the way he worded it made it sound like that many living today, because he mentioned that this is about 10% of our present population…which seems almost unbelievably high to me but may be accurate. I’m not sure how he arrived at that figure. But…how fun—we’re double cousins!

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