Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and hope this blog will help with that. I am not an expert and I consider most of my research as a work in progress. 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 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, John Howland.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Mayflower Ancestors Pt. 5: John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley

Gov. Bradford called John Howland "a lusty younge man." He was one of the hired hands (an indentured servant of John Carver, the first Governor), and thus neither a "Saint" as the Pilgrims were called nor a "Stranger" hired for a specific duty, such as the soldier Myles Standish. He was born about 1592 in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England, not far from Cambridge, the son of Henry and Margaret Howland. 

John’s baptism record has not been found, but his parentage is proven by the probate records of his brother Humphrey Howland, a draper of London. 

John was on the deck of the Mayflower during the voyage severe autumn storm and was washed overboard. Gov Bradford wrote: "It pleased God that he caught hould of ye halliards which hunge over board, and rane out at lenghth; yet he was held up...and then with a boat hooke and other means got into ye ship again. (History of Plimoth Plantation, 1898, p 92-93). It was this tenacity of purpose, perseverance and ability to deal with unexpected emergencies that helped him become a successful leader at Plymouth Colony.

The Carvers survived the first terrible winter, but John died the following spring and his wife during the summer. It is believed since they were childless John inherited their estate and then bought out his indenture. Elizabeth Tilley’s parents died the first winter and she joined the Carver household. In 1623 John and Elizabeth Tilley were married, when Elizabeth was not quite 16 years of age.

In 1626 a group of colonists assumed the debt owed to the Merchant Adventurers of London who had backed the Pilgrims financially. To pay off the loan, a monopoly over the Colony’s trade was given William Bradford, Isaac Allerton and Myles Standish, who chose Howland as one of their partners. Later they established a trading post on the Kennebec River, in what is now Augusta, Maine. John was put in charge of the trading post and a brisk trade developed there with the Indians. John's family may have spent time with him in Maine, and some of his children may have been born there. 
Howland family teapot -- Pilgrim Hall Museum

John served the Colony in a variety of ways, including surveyor of highways, representative to the General Court and assistant to the Governor. He clearly had some formal education as evidenced by his public service and business acumen. His inventory showed he owned a Bible and other books. 

Elizabeth and John had 10 children: Desire, John, Hope, Elizabeth, Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac. The family was of remarkably hardy stock and all 10 children survived childhood, grew up and married. 

Son Jabez’s home still survives in Plymouth and operates as a museum. His parents both visited there and it is the only surviving house that was lived in by the Pilgrims. 
Old Postcard of the Jabez Howland House, Plymouth

John died 23 February 1671/72 in Rocky Nook, then part of Plymouth but now Kingston, about 82 years of age. His widow Elizabeth died in December 1687 at age 80. His will showed he owned the Rocky Nook land as well as parcels in Duxbury, elsewhere in Plymouth, Marshfield and Middleborough. Earlier he had given land in Yarmouth to his children. 

There’s a stone in his honor at Burial Hill, Plymouth which reads:
Here ended the Pilgrimage of
who died February 23, 1673
aged above 80 years.
He married Elizabeth daughter of
who came with him in the
Mayflower Dec. 1620.
From them are descended a
numerous posterity.
John Howland memorial stone erected at Burial Hill in 1897
Famous Descendants of John Howland: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George HW and George W Bush, Alec Baldwin and his brothers, actor Christopher Lloyd, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Palin, Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon Church), and Dr. Benjamin Spock. (Source Notable Kin, Gary Boyd Roberts.)

My line of descent from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley:
1      John Howland                1592 - 1671/72
+Elizabeth Tilley     1604 - 1687
2      Ruth Howland                1646 -
+Thomas Cushman
3      Robert Cushman            
4      Ruth Cushman                1700 -
+Luke Perkins         1695 -
5      Ignatious Perkins            1720 -
+Keziah Davis         1724/25 -
6      Ruth Perkins   1752 - 1799
+Jesse Pierce           1747 – 183
7      David Pierce   1773 - 1820
+Desire Nye             1771 – 185
8      Lucy Nye Pierce              1809 - 1896
+Rowland Sturtevant Bumpus                1804 - 1853
9      Mary Briggs Bumpus      1840 - 1916
+Seth Washburn     1828 - 1921
10    Charles Francis Washburn             1857 - 1941
+Hattie Maria Benson            1861 - 1914
11    Carrie Clyfton Washburn              1896 - 1974
+George Brewster Smith        1895 - 1913
12    Arthur Elmer Washburn Davis      1913 - 1976
+Mildred Louise Booth           1917 - 1999
13    My parents
14  Me

For information on the Pilgrim John Howland Society see: http://www.pilgrimjohnhowlandsociety.org/

The General Society of Mayflower Descendants has published two volumes on John Howland’s descendants:
John Howland - The First Four Generations of his Children Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac, c
ompiled by Ann Smith Lainhart and Robert S. Wakefield.
The second volume covers the fifth generation through Lydia2 and Hannah2, compiled by Ann Smith Lainhart and Jane Fletcher Fisk.
Elizabeth Pearson White has also published multiple volumes on John Howland's descendants. 


  1. I see we share a bunch of Mayflower ancestors (Howland, Tilley, Allerton, Soule, Chilton) so I'll be following to see what other common ancestors we have. Welcome to the world of GeneaBlogging! You're off to a terrific start!

  2. Heather: Thanks for the welcome! I'll be reading your blog later today. Chris

  3. Looks like we are cousins both through Elizabeth Tilley n Howland
    And I saw in another post, you are also related to Richard warren.
    I am related to Elizabeth Tilley via my moms side, she is my 11th grt
    Grandmother. I am related to Richard Warren via my fathers line. He is my 11th grt grandfather. I also noted that we r both related to Brewster.
    I have really been enjoying your blog entries. Trying to read all of them!

    1. Hello: Thanks for your note. That's neat both your parents are Mayflower descendants. I found the same thing with my grandparents. Chris

    2. I just recently found that my fathers parents shared a common 8th grt grandparent...Edmund Freeman. His son John married mercy prence and led to my grandfather's line and his daughter Elizabeth married Lt john Ellis which led to my grandmothers line

    3. Isn't it crazy how interconnected the early Cape families were? Makes it interesting! Chris

  4. I am trying to prove that Cyrus Mathews born 1813 in New Haven, Vermont is actually the son of James Mathews 1786 in Bennington Co, VT & Elizabeth Sumner 1784 in Wells, Rutland Co, VT.
    1.John Howland, 2.Desire Howland, 3.Temperance Gorham, 4.James Sturgis, 5.Hannah Sturgis, 6.Deacon Isaac Matthews, 7.Capt Isaac Mathews, 8.James Mathews, 9.Cyrus Mathews, 10.Louisa Mathews, 11.Elsie Hart
    Thank you

    1. Hi Harold: Have you contacted the Mayflower Society to see if anyone has had that same line approved? Or maybe someone from the Howland Society could help.

    2. I have contacted the GSMD & NEHGS. I will try the John Howland Society. I do have some info but trying to get the proof.

  5. Henry Howland, John's brother, was my 10th great grandfather, through his son, Zoeth. I see many ancestry.com trees showing ancestry for generations in England, and wonder whether these have been authenticated, or are simply leaps of faith?
    I have encountered a similar situation with regard to my mother's Eastern Shore ancestors, where a cousin of my mother's spent thousands of dollars in the 70's and 80's with research through the York Herald in London, trying to authenticate the crest on his mother's silver. Genealogy was all the rage in the late 1800's, and I'm sure that "researchers" were quick to promote their ability to provide links to nobility. While the Internet has made many new resources available, it has also seemed to facilitate the spread of unproven links.


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  7. A quick editing suggestion (from this humble John Howland descendant) -- "ye halliards" and "ye ship" should simply be copied as "the halliards and "the ship". What is interpreted as a "y" in writings of the 16th and 17th century is actually a use of the now defunct "thorn", representing the "th" sound. It is frequently found in the word "the". In fact, in the written form, this word is marked by a raised "e" after it, distinguishing it from the subject pronoun form "ye" (for "you"). People reading it now without knowing this -- that is, most folks -- invariably mispronounce the word.

    1. Thanks for the interesting information, Bruce. I was quoting a transcription, so will leave it as it is but good to know for future reference. Chris

  8. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I descend from John and Elizabeth's daughter Hannah and am considering working on the paperwork to join the Mayflower society.

    1. Best of luck, Pat, if you decide to take the plunge and apply to the Mayflower Society! Chris

  9. Its crazy I'm a descendent of John and Elizabeth howland

  10. I recently found out that John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley are my 10th Great Grandparents...I descend from their first daughter, Desire.

    1. Congratulations on your discovery Diana! 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