For five Cache Valley residents, discovering family ties to the original Pilgrims on the Mayflower has been an exciting process — and their research revealed they are descendants of not just one, but several of the settlers as a result of marital relationships begun on the ship.
Moreover, the five locals interviewed for this article would be interested to know they are all related to each other through genealogical ties to the 102 original passengers.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Nov. 21, 1620. A group of English families known today as the Pilgrims left England on Sept. 6 that year and reached America after 10 weeks at sea with a crew of 30 men and 102 passengers — 74 male and 28 female adults and children.
DeAnn Chambers of Providence has eight Mayflower ancestors, June Brough of Clarkston has two, Helen Anderson of Paradise has four, her husband, Farley Anderson, has five, and Nancy McNeal of Nibley is related to eight.
DeAnn said her Mayflower ancestors come from the line of her mother, Trilva Peck.
“I feel so proud and so blessed to have ancestors who braved the unknown and sailed to this new America aboard the Mayflower to find religious freedom, a new life full of hope and optimism,” she said. “What an exciting experience for us to research these findings! Because of them and their posterity, many others of the Peck family later came forward and also sailed to this new exciting land, and eventually several families settled in this area. I send my sincere thanks and love to each and all of them.”
DeAnn lists the following families and individuals as her Mayflower ancestors: Isaac Allerton, 32, a merchant and a tailor, his wife and their daughter, Remember, 6; William Bradford, 30; Francis Cooke, 37; John Cooke, 13, who later married Sarah Warren, daughter of Richard Warren and Elizabeth who were also on the ship; Edward Fuller, 45, and wife, 43, their son, Samuel, 12; Richard Warren, 40, wife Elizabeth and five daughters; Edward Winslow, 25, wife Elizabeth Barker, who sailed on the Mayflower with two servants; and John Howland, 21.
“John was a single man during the voyage and was on deck during a terrible storm, swept overboard, but grabbed onto a rope and was saved. He later married fellow passenger Elizabeth Tilley. They had 10 children,” DeAnn noted.
June Tippetts Brough said that before reading the stories of the lives of her Mayflower ancestors, she wondered what kind of people they were.
“Will I be proud or ashamed of my ancestors? Although I found nothing but good written about the William Brewster and John Tilley families, I realized whatever accomplishments or failures they had couldn’t define me as a person. I still had to do my part here and now to ensure my posterity can enjoy this country in years to come,“ June said.
William Brewster is June’s 13th great-grandfather on her mother’s side. William, in his early 50s and the oldest one at the first Thanksgiving dinner, brought his wife, Mary, and two sons. William was the spiritual leader of the Plymouth Colony and died at age 80.
John Tilley is June’s 11th great-grandfather on her dad’s side. John was 49 years old on the Mayflower. He and his wife both died the following spring during the first illness to hit the Pilgrims, which left their 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Tilley, alone. She later married another passenger’s servant, overboard rescuee John Howland.
“I had no idea that I was a direct descendant of Mayflower Pilgrims. I’m not sure how common that is, but it intrigued me nonetheless,” June said. “Reading about their struggles and suffering to attain the privileges I enjoy every day really put this past year into prospective. The minor inconveniences imposed on me this year in comparison to the Pilgrims makes 2020 look like nothing.”
Nancy McNeal's uncle was an avid genealogist who kept meticulous hand-written family records.
“I grew up always being told I had ancestors who came over on the Mayflower, but I never knew much about them,” she recalled. “I was familiar with the story of John Howland, my 8th great-grandfather, who fell overboard but survived and later married Elizabeth Tilley.”
Another of Nancy’s ancestors, Priscilla Mullins, 18, daughter of William Mullins, 52, and sister of Joseph Mullins, 14, lost her parents the first winter.
Priscilla became famous in Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Courtship of Myles Standish” as “the independent minded woman” who uttered the famous retort to John Alden, “Why don’t you speak for yourself John?” (Pricilla married Alden, a 21-year-old crew member on the Mayflower.)
Other Mayflower ancestors of Nancy’s are: James Chilton, 64, Mary Chilton, 13, and Lyonell Chilton; John Coleman Fuller, a doctor, Edward Fuller, 40, son Samuel Fuller, 12; John Tilley, 49, wife Joan Hurst, 53, and daughter Elizabeth, 13.
“How do I feel about being related to these ancestors?” Nancy pondered when asked about her Mayflower roots. “John Howland survived falling overboard and later married young orphan Elizabeth Tilley. John Alden also married orphan Priscilla Mullins. Both couples were strong and had many children which eventually resulted in my being born.”
Edward Fuller was a cousin to a direct ancestor on Helen Anderson’s father's side. Edward and his wife crossed the ocean on the Mayflower with their 12-year-old son, Samuel. They left Matthew, their 17-year-old son, in England, but he came over later to join his brother when both Edward and his wife died soon after they arrived. Their sons, Samuel and Matthew, lived on to get married and raised families.
“I really admire the courage the Fullers and others had in braving the ocean and a new, unknown future in an unfamiliar land because of their desire to have freedom to worship God as they believed,” Helen said. “They gave up everything, including their lives, for this cause, as neither of the adults lived to see the new town emerge. Matthew never saw his parents after they left him in England, and Samuel was left as an orphan as a young boy.”
Helen is also related to William Brewster, Henry Sampson, and Agnes Tilley. ”I'm grateful for the sacrifice that they made to help start a new nation that would become a light for the whole world,” she added.
Although Helen and her husband, Farley, both have several Mayflower ancestors, their research turned up no common ancestors. Farley Anderson’s most direct link to the Pilgrims is John Billington, his 10th great-grandfather.
“John had debts in England and came on the Mayflower as an indentured servant. It is interesting that 200 years later, I had ancestors who were driven from the United States because of their religion in a similar fashion to the way the Pilgrims were driven from Europe,” Farley said. “John was the first convicted murderer in America after he got in a feud with another Pilgrim. John saw him in the field a few days later and shot him. John was convicted, hung, and buried in an unmarked grave. In spite of this one dark spot, I am very honored to be descended from Pilgrim stock.”
The son of John and Eleanor Billington, Francis, was 14 when they arrived. Shortly after their arrival, he was the first white man to discover a 269-acre, warm-water pond near Plymouth that is named Billington Sea after him. He later married Christian Eaton and they had nine children.
Other Mayflower ancestors of Farley’s are Francis Cooke, John Cooke, William, Jackson, Resolved White, Richard Warren and Thomas Williams. An agreement that the Pilgrims wrote and called the Mayflower Compact, to establish a government where each member would contribute to the safety and welfare of the planned settlement, was signed before they disembarked the Mayflower. Compact signers were Isaac Allerton, William Bradford, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Edward Fuller, John Tilley, Richard Warren and Edward Winslow.
Do you have Mayflower ancestors? If so, look up their history and share it with your family to learn what it was like sailing on the ship, arriving and living in Plymouth in the early 1600s. You may also learn you have a Mayflower connection with other residents in Cache Valley.