Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and love that this blog helps with that. I consider much of my research as a work in progress, so please let me know if you have conflicting information. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My male Mayflower ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, and John Howland.
Female Mayflower ancestors: Mary Norris Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Mrs. James Chilton, Sarah Eaton, and Joan Hurst Tilley.
Child Mayflower ancestors: Giles Hopkins, (possibly) Constance Hopkins, Mary Allerton, Francis Billington, Love Brewster, Mary Chilton, Samuel Eaton, and Elizabeth Tilley.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mayflower Ancestors Pt. 4: Stephen Hopkins

If I had to pick a favorite Mayflower ancestor, Stephen Hopkins would be the winner. I relish learning about his interesting life. He was an independent, outspoken man who couldn’t be pigeon holed into pious or trouble maker; he was a bit of each.  He comes across as an intelligent man (he knew the scriptures, signed his will and his inventory included a collection of books) who had an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit, which again contrasts with his work as a minister’s assistant. Not a predictable man. 

There are varying accounts of Stephen’s origins, but The American Genealogist 79:241-249 (Oct 2004) article by Ernest Christensen shows he was baptized the last of April 1581 at Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England, the son of John Hopkins and Elizabeth Williams. 
In 1609, he was on board the Sea Venture, headed to Virginia. He was delegated to read the psalms and scriptures at Sunday services on board. Writer William Strachey was on board and wrote Hopkins was "a fellow who had much knowledge of the Scriptures and could reason well therein." The vessel was shipwrecked at uninhabited Bermuda. Stephen questioned the authority of the group leaders, since their charter was for Virginia and they were in Bermuda and led a mutiny against them. The insurrection was unsuccessful, and he was sentenced to be executed but pleaded his case convincingly and was spared. Perhaps Stephen begged for his life for the sake of his wife and young children. The other rebels, all single men, were executed. The group built a vessel and eventually made it to Virginia, although apparently Stephen did not stay very long, returning to England in two years. When William Shakespeare heard of Strachey's account of the shipwreck he wrote The Tempest, with Stephano as a main character.
The Wreck of the Sea Venture by Christopher M. Grimes
Stephen’s first wife Mary (maiden name unknown) and his daughter Elizabeth had died before he again struck out for Virginia, this time on board the Mayflower. He was married to Elizabeth (Fisher) and they had a two year old daughter, Damaris. His teenage children Constance and Giles were also on board, and Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Oceanus, on the voyage. The family also brought along two servants. Oceanus would die in his infancy and Damaris died as a young child. Stephen and Elizabeth had additional children, Caleb, Deborah, another Damaris, Ruth and Elizabeth, all born at Plymouth. 
Gov. Bradford's comments on the Hopkins family
 Stephen appears to have been a bit of a rebel on board the Mayflower, a dissenter questioning the authority of the leaders (sound familiar?) in New England since they went astray of landing in Virginia. He was likely behind the writing of the Mayflower Compact, a document outlining how their new society would run. 
Copy of the Mayflower Compact

Hopkins had his share of conflicts with the powers that be: he was fined for battery of John Tisdale; fined in 1638 for dealing unfairly with apprentice-girl Dorothy Temple; fined for selling glass at too high a price; fined for selling illegal intoxicants; fined for serving drink on a Sunday at his house. He and friend Myles Standish were ambassadors to the Indians, and he participated in many of the early exploring missions, serving as an interpreter to the Indians (one of the reasons the Separatists likely wanted him on the journey). He was important in the relations between the Pilgrims and the Indians, entertaining Samoset in his home and serving as envoy to Chief Massasoit. He volunteered to fight in the Pequot War of 1637.

Stephen’s family was one of the few that escaped loss of life in the first winter. He was referred to as a tanner or leathermaker at the time of the voyage and a merchant and planter in Plymouth Colony records. He also apparently was a tavern keeper. He kept his home at what is now the corner of Main Street and Leyden Street for his entire life, except a brief time in Yarmouth where he did not stay, giving that land to his son Giles. He built the first wharf on record in Plymouth Harbor. 

I find it fascinating that even though Hopkins was not part of the Separatist group and defied some of their laws, he must have quickly gained their respect as he served as Assistant to the Governor for 13 years.  Perhaps his early transgressions were primarily because of the distrust the Separatists held for the “strangers.” 

In the summer of 1644, Stephen died in Plymouth at age 63. His wife Elizabeth had already passed. His children Constance, Giles, Deborah, Damaris, Elizabeth and possibly Ruth and Caleb (the latter would die in Barbados) survived him. 
Constance Hopkins' Beaver Hat, Pilgrim Hall Museum

My lines from Stephen Hopkins. The first one would be difficult to prove because Thomas Snow is not given as a son of Joseph Snow in the Stephen Hopkins Mayflower Silver Book.

1      Stephen Hopkins     1581 - 1644
+Mary     - 1613
2      Constance Hopkins 1606 - 1677
+Nicholas Snow       1599/00 - 1676
3      Joseph Snow   1634 - 1722/23
+Mary     - 1722/23
4      Thomas Snow 
+Priscilla Butler      1691 -
5       Thomas Snow 1740 - 1813
+ Elizabeth Nickerson     1730 - 1803
6      Priscilla Snow 1767 - 1849
+Richard Chase      1767 - 1850
7      Priscilla Chase        1796 - 1882
+Oliver Kelley 1795 - 1883
8      Valentine Kelley      1828 - 1882
+ Rosana S. Eldredge      1826 - 1911
9      Mary Ann Kelley    1855 - 1941
+David Howes Kelley      1842 – 1925
10    Ethel Florence Kelley      1890 - 1981
+Wallace Cedric Booth   1887 – 1970
11    Mildred Louise Booth     1917 - 1999
+Arthur Elmer Washburn Davis    1913 – 1976
12 My parents
13 Me
Constance Hopkins Memorial Stone, Cove Burying Ground, Eastham, MA

3      John Snow      1638 - 1692
+Mary Smalley       1647 - 1703
4      Rebecca Snow 1676 - 1753
+Benjamin Small     1665 - 1721
5      Mary Small     1704/05 - 1755
+John Nickerson     1703 - 1768
6       Elizabeth Nickerson       1730 - 1803
+[Thomas Snow      1740 – 1813
Then Priscilla Snow and Richard Chase down to me

        2      Giles Hopkins  1608/09 - 1688/89
+Katharine Whelden       1616/17 - 1688/89
3      Deborah Hopkins    1648 - 1686/87
+Josiah Cooke        1645 - 1731/32
4      Deborah Cooke       1678/79 - 1745
+Moses Godfrey      1667/68 - 1743
5      Desire Godfrey       1712 - 1741/42
+Nathaniel Ryder   1705 - 1749
6      Esther Ryder   1731 - 1802
+Thomas Freeman  1731 - 1800
7      Dorothy Freeman   1752 - 1825
+Elnathan Eldredge        1746/47 - 1837
8      Nehemiah Eldredge 1775 - 1839
+Ruth Harding      
9      James Harding Eldredge        1797 - 1873
        +Rosanna Wixon    1789 - 1868
10     Rosana S. Eldredge        1826 - 1911
+Valentine Kelley    1828 - 1882

Sarah Palin is a descendant of Stephen Hopkins (Source: Notable Kin, Gary Boyd Roberts).

An excellent book on Stephen Hopkins: Here Shall I Die Ashore, by Caleb Johnson. 

For information on the Pilgrim Hopkins Heritage Society: http://www.pilgrimhopkins.com/site1/


  1. Stephen was very lucky to avoid execution as I understand that was not an easy thing to do.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. That is a good point. I've read that he was spared because he had a wife and child, but I wonder if his having a somewhat religious role in the group also helped.

  3. This is great fun to find! Stephen Hopkins was my 11th great grand father.

  4. Stephen Hopkins was my 12th Great Grandfather!! I am a decendent through his daughter Constance and son in law Nicholas Snow!

  5. I am counting as I type, Cuz!

  6. Thanks so much for this! I am hoping I'm a relative but I'm the lazy ancestry.com "let's see what other people put in their trees" sort of researcher. I just did a long rambling blog post over at my fitness blog ( Cranky Fitness genealogy post) and your research was very helpful. Really appreciate it!

  7. Just found this -- I'm also related! Looking at your line of descendancy, we have multiple cousinships, as I descend not only from Stephen Hopkins but from the Chase family originally from Hundridge, Chesham, England. I know I'm cousins to the Snow family and I also have Eldredge, Godfrey and Harding in my lineage. If I was better at genealogy (still fairly new at this), I might know better! CMCLaura@aol.com

    1. Hi Laura: It's impressive you are fairly new to genealogy and already know you descend from Stephen Hopkins! Good luck with your research. It's fun and addictive! Chris

    2. I'm also a decedent' of the Chase family, my grand mother was a decent of William chase, her name was Evangeline Booth Chase, who was also a decent of the Booth family. .

  8. He is my favorite ancestor as well, through Nicholas Snow as well. Many of the names are familiar. You mention he lived in Plymouth the whole time- there is a shop in Brewster called The Hopkins house which is rumored to have been brought back from Nantucket. and is supposedly his house.

  9. Hello cousins! I am a descendant of Stephen and Giles, also William Brewster and Edward Winslow.......

  10. Hello, I'm a 13th direct descendant of Steven Hopkins, son Giles Hopkins. Since my brother recently confirmed lineage, i feel adeep sense of connection to my past. Jan Knouse

    1. That's awesome, Jan. I find the Hopkins family fascinating to research. We're fortunate they made it into so many records. Chris

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  12. I am also really into genealogy. I search daily for new stories from my line. Stephen Hopkins is my 10th great grandfather. I come from Nicholas Snow and Constance Hopkins, and straight down the Snow side.

  13. My grandmother says hes my 16th great grandfather.

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  15. My grandma was Mary Jane Snow....Directly from Nicholas Snow and Constance Hopkins. I have recently discovered the Mayflower AND Cherokee sides of my family. This is so awesome! I love to get DETAILS about the past, and now I have FAMILY that was important lol. So cool! Stephen Hopkins was my 9th great grandfather

    1. Hi Lauren, That's great you had the Snow name in your family for so many generations! Chris

    2. Hello, cousin! Direct line from Stephen through Constance/Constanta (Hopkins) Snow

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  17. Hello, cousin! Direct line from Stephen through Constance/Constanta (Hopkins) Snow

  18. I am a descendent of Stephen Hopkins through sherry Williams my name is David Ezekiel Pearson Hopkins

  19. The picture of a house on Ferry St. West Dennis, MA looks like the house I grew up in. If possible can you tell me where I can get a copy of the picture?

    1. Hello, I could email you a jpeg of the photo. My email address is on the upper left side of the screen. It is no. 50 Ferry Street, if that helps determine whether it's your childhood home. Chris

  20. Hey cuz! Awesome blog! My people are Katherine Wheldon, Hopkins, Cooke, Godfrey, Bearse, Eldredge, Burgess, Ames (Eames), Sadler. Also from Mary Wheldon, Taylor, Cobb, Bearse, Eldredge, Burgess, Ames (Eames), Sadler. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Jojo for your positive comment. We share many common surnames! Chris

  21. My name is Jojo-just wrote the "Hey cuz!" remark.

  22. Dear Cousin, I trust you've read the recently release book on our grandfather Stephen Hopkins by Jonathan Mack? https://www.amazon.com/Stranger-Among-Saints-Survived-Jamestown/dp/164160090X (this is Katharine, your Cape Cod cousin with many shared ancestors!)

    1. Nice to hear from you Katharine! I haven't read that new book yet, but it's on my list! Thanks for commenting about it; it's a good reminder. We're so fortunate so much has been written about Stephen Hopkins! Take care, Chris


I'm now moderating comments on this blog. My apologies for any ensuing delays, but the large number of "spam" comments have made this necessary. ~Chris