Generations of Johns

Alicia Crane WilliamsThe name of “John” Alden was passed down for five consecutive generations.

John1 Alden, of course, was the passenger on Mayflower with his soon-to-be bride, Priscilla Mullins.

John2 Alden, their first son and second child, was born about 1626. He went to the big city, Boston, where he became a very successful ship captain and merchant. His wife, Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill, was the daughter of William Phillips, a large land owner, and widow of Abiel Everill.

John3 Alden, their second son and fourth child, was born in Boston in 1663 (he had an older brother named John born three years earlier, who died). He, like his father, was a ship captain and merchant who did very well for his family, leaving, among other things, a house on Milk Street in Boston valued at £1,000 in 1730. John first married Elizabeth Gwinn about 1687; they had twelve children before her death in 1719. His second wife was Susanna Winslow, descendant of Mayflower passengers James Chilton and his daughter Mary Chilton, who married John Winslow, brother of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow.

He, too, became a mariner, but his fate was to die at Jamaica in the West Indies…

John4 Alden, the third child and oldest son of John3 and Elizabeth, was born in Boston in 1690. He, too, became a mariner, but his fate was to die at Jamaica in the West Indies at the age of 37 leaving a widow, Anna (Brame) Alden, with three surviving children under the age of 15. Anna remarried to Dr. Henry Burchstead.

There were actually two John5 Aldens, sons of John4 and Anna. The first was born in 1719, but died before the second John, the last of four children, was born in 1726. His fate is unknown, except that he died sometime between 1742 and 1786! He may be the John Alden buried at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1748. He had one other brother, Benjamin, who probably died in 1749, unmarried.

In the fifth generation of descendants through John2 Alden, there were only seven men born with the Alden surname, none of whom left surviving male issue:

John5 and Benjamin5, as noted above in the line John4, John3, John2, John1, who both died unmarried.

Nathaniel5, Nathaniel4, John3, John2, John1, who died at the age of 15.

Thomas5, William5, and John5, sons of Thomas4, John3, John2, John1, who with two sisters all died, probably before 1747. This John5 was another mariner who enlisted in the expedition against Canada and Annapolis Royal.

Zachariah5, son of Zachariah4, Zachariah3, John2, John1, was born in 1731. There is no other record for him other than that he was deceased by 1786, when there was a distribution among all the heirs of John2 Alden.

Thus ended the Alden surname line through John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden’s oldest son, John2 Alden. All of his descendants beyond the fifth generation are through female lines.

Thankfully for the Alden name, there were three more Alden sons – the most prolific of whom was Joseph2 Alden, who left 34 male Alden descendants in the fifth generation. They in turn had about 112 sons between them!

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

18 thoughts on “Generations of Johns

  1. Very cool! My patrilineal immigrant ancestor Benjamin Child was the son of a Benjamin that died in England, and then there werefour Benjamin’s in New England, so five all together as well. The last one Benjamin4, Benjamin3, Benjamin2, Benjamin1, BenjaminA, married and had five sons but did not name any Benjamin!

  2. I have Haldemans from the Emmenthal distict of Canton Bern, Switzerland in my family line.They settled in Pennsylvania and they frequently use the same given name from generation to generation for males and females, so it is challenging to consistently determine which Nicholas, Christian, John, Jacob, Barbara and Catherine were related and how they fit in a lineage chart.

  3. I have two lines with repeat names: Jireh Swift for 7 consecutive generations (1665 – 1965) and Loum Snow (7 generations with the fifth opting out for Russell and then returning to Loum for 6 and 7) – dating from 1779-1990, although the widow of #6 lived until 2004. So three hundred years for the Jireh Swifts and the Loum Snows running from Revolutionary war to the 21st c., if the widow in included.

  4. My husbands family has been traced back to the John Alden of the mayflower.We have all the paper work but I haven’t had the chance to look at it all We just inherited it from his sister who passed away

    1. Start with the article by Hal Bradley in The American Genealogist, Vol. 86, 296-301 titled “The English origin of William1 Phillips of Charlestown and Boston, Massachusetts, and Saco, Maine.” It is not on the americanancestors database yet because it was just published in 2014. If you do not have access to it through your library, check their websiste at

  5. Also, I am a descendent of John and Priscilla through their daughter, Sarah. You would have loved the looks on my grandkids when I shared that info with them on Thanksgiving Day.

  6. Ah, that’s nothin’ — you should see the 22 Johns and 17 Francises who stem from the first Whitmore to arrive in Massachusetts in the 1630s. And those just count the John and Francis Whitmores. Many of the daughters gave their sons those first names too. Plus, there are a few Franceses thrown in, just for good measure.

    1. Linda, I think you’re talking about aggregate names — there are hundreds of John Alden-named descendants, but the example was sticking to consecutive Johns from John1 Alden. How long did the name John, son of John, son of John, etc. and Francis son of Francis, son of Francis, etc. continue consecutively through one family line?

    2. Is my Florence Caroline Whitmore Sherwood, b. Ohio 1841, kin? Last heard of in Boston teaching harp and playing in a touring orchestra…

  7. I am trying to find the significance of the name ‘Arthur’ in my Doyle family line. The first Arthur Doyle in my line died before arrival in Ontario, Canada. He may have died in Nova Scotia as there a lot of Doyle from Kilkenney there. All of his sons and daughters named their first born male Arthur, and the tradition continued for at least 4 Generations. Trying to put all the Arthurs with the correct parents has been a Challenge!!

  8. We also have generations of Johns in our family dating back from the 1740’s to my oldest brother. It was a tradition to name the oldest son John. My brother broke the tradition in naming his son Joshua. So now we have the tradition of the first name starts with a J.

  9. This is interesting. I am 10 th generation of John Priscilla Alden. My grandmother was Violet Jenny Alden( on my moms side) and my grandfathers mother name Lenora Alden who married Leon Franklin Doolittle

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