The Grim Reaper

Four hundred years after Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, England, in September 1620 with 102 passengers, we cannot pretend to know all that they endured. These souls had stepped onto an over-crowded ship to sail across thousands of miles of ocean and establish a colony from the ground up in what might very well be a hostile land. They were fully aware there was every likelihood they would disappear into the sea or perish on land, never to be heard of again. Many had faith in their Lord, while others did not, but their sacrifices ended up being the same. While we had plans to celebrate their achievements this year, that will wait for another day. In today’s world, though, it seems even more appropriate to remember their sacrifices.

Boarded Mayflower at Plymouth, England

6 September 1620 – 102 passengers. Fifty men, 19 women (three in their third trimester of pregnancy), and 33 children ranging in age from a nursing infant to teenagers.[1]

Died at sea, three days before they anchored at Provincetown Harbor

11 November 1620: William Butten, a youth, servant to the family of Samuel Fuller.

Died on board while in Provincetown Harbor

4 December 1620: Edward Thompson, underage,[2] in care of the William White family.

6 December 1620: Jasper More, 7, in care of the family of John Carver, leaving siblings Ellen, 8, Richard, 6, and Mary 4.

7 December 1620: Dorothy (May) Bradford, 23, wife of William Bradford and niece of William White, leaving her husband, and back in Holland, a three-year-old son.

8 December 1620: James Chilton, about 64, leaving his wife and daughter, Mary, 13.

Died at Plymouth

21 December 1620: Richard Britteridge, adult

1 January 1620/21: Degory Priest, about 41, leaving a wife and two daughters in Holland, who came to New England in 1623.

8 January 1620/21: Christopher Martin, 40, leaving his wife, Mary, and stepson Solomon Prower.

21 February 1620/21: William Mullins, about 48, leaving wife Alice and children Priscilla, about 16, and Joseph, about 15.

25 February 1620/21: Mary (Norris) Allerton, 30, wife of Isaac Allerton, and their stillborn child.

April 1621: John Carver, 40, first elected governor of the colony, of apparent sunstroke. 10 days later: Katherine (White) (Leggett) Carver, about 45, widow of John and sister-in-law of Pilgrim Rev. John Robinson, “of a broken heart,” as Bradford wrote.

Died “in the First Winter”[3]

John Allerton, adult.

Robert Carter, probably a teenager, a servant or apprentice of the William Mullins family.

Mrs. James Chilton, whose husband had died on 8 December, leaving daughter Mary, 13.

Richard Clarke, adult.

John Crackstone, leaving teenaged son John.

Mrs. Sarah Eaton, wife of Francis, leaving husband and nursing child Samuel.

Thomas English, adult.

Moses Fletcher, 55, leaving a wife and children in Holland.

Edward Fuller, 45, and his wife, leaving son Samuel, about 12, to be raised by his uncle, Mayflower passenger Samuel Fuller.

William Holbeck, probably a teen servant or apprentice to the William White family.

John Hooke, 13.

John Langmore, underage manservant to Christopher Martin.

Edward Margeson, adult.

Mary (____) (Prower) Martin, about 40, widow of Christopher Martin who died in January, and her son by her first marriage, Solomon Prower, about 24.

Jasper More’s sisters – Ellen More, 8, in care of the family of Edward Winslow, and her sister Mary More, 4, in care of the family of William Brewster, leaving their brother Richard, 6, also in the care of the Brewsters, the only survivor of these four children, who had been sent away by their mother’s husband because he was not the children’s father.

John Rigsdale and his wife Alice.

Thomas Rogers, about 48, leaving eldest surviving son, Joseph 17, who came with his father, and a son, age 14, and two daughters, ages 11 and 7, in Leiden.

Rose Standish, wife of Capt. Myles Standish.

Elias Story, underage, came in the care of the Edward Winslow family.

Edward Tilley, 32, and his wife Agnes (Cooper) Tilley, 35. Edward was brother of passenger John Tilley and uncle of John’s daughter, Elizabeth Tilley, 13. Agnes was the aunt of Henry Sampson, 6, and Humility Cooper, 1.

John Tilley, 49, and his wife Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley, 52, leaving their daughter Elizabeth, 13.

Thomas and Mrs. Tinker and their son.

William Trevore, laborer/seaman hired by the Pilgrims for a year.

John Turner, merchant of Leiden, and two sons, leaving a daughter in Holland, who came to Salem by 1651, was “well married and approved of” according to Bradford, but has not been unidentified.

William White, 33, uncle of Dorothy (May) Bradford, leaving wife Susanna (Jackson) White, about 28, and sons Resolved, about 5, and new-born Peregrine, the first English child born in New England, onboard Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor in November 1620. Susanna remarried to passenger Edward Winslow, 12 May 1621, in the first marriage in the new Colony.

Roger Wilder, underage, came in care of the John Carver family.

Thomas Williams, 38.

Last person to die in the First Winter

24 March 1620/21: Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow, about 27, leaving her husband Edward Winslow.

Died after 2 April 1621[4]

Mrs. Alice Mullins, widow of William Mullins who died in February, and her son or stepson Joseph Mullins, about 15, leaving her daughter or stepdaughter Priscilla Mullins, about 16.

Survivors: 52


[1] Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers (2006); Caleb Johnson’s Mayflower History, Because the exact age of all the passengers is not known, many of the above figures are estimates.

[2] The passengers labeled as “underage” were males who did not sign the Mayflower Compact, indicating they were under the age of 21 or of 18.

[3] The “First Winter” is roughly between January and March 1621; exact dates of these deaths not known.

[4] When a copy of her husband’s will naming her, Joseph, and Priscilla as heirs, was made to be sent back to England on Mayflower’s return trip.

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.

12 thoughts on “The Grim Reaper

  1. Thank you very much for this reminder and stark portrayal. We know the number who died that first winter but to see their names and find two of my ancestors among them is as difficult as seeing the 1000 (of almost 100,000) named dead of the coronavirus on the New York Times front page yesterday.

  2. I’ve been aware for many years of the astonishing losses of the voyage and the first winter, but this presentation does the amazing feat of bringing life to a death toll. I suppose it’s “natural” for those with Mayflower descent to focus on their “survivor” ancestor(s), but henceforth I trust that we will remember the survivors’ losses as much as we remember them. And I very much hope that this remarkable synthesis of information becomes an essential document in in any future “Mayflower dossier,” Thanks you so much, and I also note its publication on Memorial Day.

  3. Thank you for compiling and sharing. James Chilton, Degory Priest, William Mullins, Mary (Norris) Allerton, Mrs. James Chilton, John Tilley, and Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley are my known and confirmed direct ancestors. I often think of my many ancestors who survived and thrived, I don’t often consider those who made the great journey across the Atlantic and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for reminding me and for helping me to pause in gratitude.

  4. Thank you, Alicia, for this moving tribute to our Mayflower ancestors who so bravely dared to board that little crowded ship and endured such a difficult crossing, only to have perished so soon after finally arriving here.

  5. Thank you for this meaningful post… I am a John Tilley, Howland and Edward Fuller descendant. When I joined the Mayflower Society I did so under John Tilley to honor him for the sacrifice he made bringing his wife and daughter to America…his family has thrived!

  6. Thank you so much, this is clarifying info. Since on my mother’s side I have so many great grandparents on the Mayflower I now understand that since they had no one else to marry when a widow or a widower , they married each other!

  7. Is it true that after the deaths of her parents, Elizabeth Tilley went to live with John Carver ?

  8. Thank you for the connection to these people and their names. My mother, a White, was adopted by Irvine/Snow family. We traced her adoptive family back to the ancestors on the Mayflower. Now I am making progress to trace her blood family back also. In the late 1800’s Snow (mother’s adoptive aunt) married White mother’s natural uncle. So I also have a marriage connection to these families. Thank you again for your information!

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