MY MAYFLOWER ANCESTORS

The Mayflower II, a replica, in Plymouth Harbour, Mass. (Image: Paul Keleher.)
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mayflower_II.jpg


OCEAN WILD (lyrics)

Four hundred years and more they came,
Father, mother, child,
And good men kissed their wives goodbye
To cross the ocean wild.

Remember them, those brave young men
Who crossed the bitter sea,
Their daring and their courage
Made a place for you and me.

They crossed the deepest ocean wild
To see what they could be,
They crossed the wide Atlantic,
Made a home for you and me.

So pause to praise those men who came,
And wives and children, too.
They made a nation for us all,
The brave, the strong, the few.

David Edwards Hulme.

Identifying my father after so long searching for him was an amazing experience – and still sets me shaking my head in wonder.

But what followed was a surprising discovery about our shared ancestry – and it came about by sheer chance.

I did a tremendous amount of family research on Ancestry, developing family trees on both sides of the Atlantic. I had found my American family and my maternal great grandfather’s relatively early death in a cotton mill fire in my home town of Stockport in 1902. This became a small book - FIRE! The cotton mill disaster that echoed down the generations (Troubador Publishing Ltd.)

So it was time to end my Ancestry membership. I clicked on the button to do exactly that when a dialogue box appeared and offered me a free extension.

I took up the offer and did the obvious thing – I began extending my family trees.

On the American side I took the Edwards male line back into the early 1800s but hit a brick wall with my great great grandfather, John C. Edwards, apparently born in England in 1815. But it could have been Wales. An Edwards family history mentions Flint, in north Wales. But there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding him.

The most fruitful line proved to be the one going through my paternal great grandmother, Alma J. Lowell. She died in Michigan in 1912, and it was mainly through her female line that I was about to find some unusual ancestors.

My great grandmothers five and six times removed were Priscilla Norcott, born in Connecticutt in 1740, and her mother, Priscilla Paine, born in Massachusetts in 1701.

It was in their records that I began to pick up the first references to the Mayflower. That certainly got my attention.

I continued going back, reaching the Snow family, early settlers dating back to 1623. The Paines are connected to the Snows. A woman by the name of Constance Hopkins had married into the Snow family – and Constance was the daughter of Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower.

Like all families, the Paine family line branched off in different directions. And this eventually led me to another Mayflower passenger, Thomas Rogers, who was an actual Pilgrim.

When I contacted the European branch of the Mayflower Society with my findings, their representative, Molly J. Wagner, confirmed that the six generations from and including Stephen Hopkins matched the names in my family tree.

Below is an excerpt from her email dated March 25, 2017:

……..however, given the resources I have myself, I can confirm that your line is accurate at least from William Taylor/Priscilla Loveland back to Stephen Hopkins.

I’ve checked the two further generations connecting to my great grandmother many times, and I am certain they are accurate.

And it is important to say here that I’d no previous knowledge of Hopkins’ descendants until I discovered them via my research on Ancestry.co.uk.

I discovered later that all the Mayflower societies – each one named after a Mayflower passenger – show at least five generations from each passenger. They helped to confirm my Rogers connection.

So who were my Mayflower ancestors, Stephen Hopkins and Thomas Rogers?

Well, Thomas Rogers was a religious separatist who had settled in Leiden in Holland with his family to escape religious persecution in England. Leiden was well-known for taking in religious refugees.

In 1620, Thomas Rogers decided to leave the Netherlands for the New World with his son, Joseph, along with other Pilgrims in Leiden, and that’s how he came to be aboard the Mayflower. But why head off to such an untamed and wild destination? Well, one reason may have been the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) between Spain and the Netherlands. Leiden played a crucial role in the revolt against Catholic Spain – and there was always the possibility of Spanish control once again leading to persecution of Protestants.

Thomas Rogers left his other children and his wife, Alice, behind in Leiden. Poll records later showed they were poor and without means, but why he left them to face a life of poverty is not recorded. A family history of the Rogers family says the children were too young to make the journey to North America.

Thomas Rogers, who had been a camlet merchant in Leiden, camlet being a rare cloth made of camel or goat hair, didn’t survive his first winter in the New World, dying of a plague-type illness in February, 1621. His son Joseph did survive, and it is through him that I am connected to the Mayflower. His siblings later joined him in America. What happened to their mother we don’t know.

Stephen Hopkins was a completely different character. He was part of a seven-strong flotilla of ships heading for Jamestown with a new governor. Hopkins was the chaplain’s clerk on the flotilla’s flagship, the Sea Venture. The ships were hit by a storm, and Hopkins’ vessel was shipwrecked in the Bermuda area. The crew and passengers spent more than nine months on the island. Hopkins made the mistake of arguing that the governor had no jurisdiction over the passengers and crew while they were shipwrecked. For this, he was arrested, placed in shackles, and sentenced to death for mutiny. But he managed to talk his way out of his death sentence, aided by fellow passengers who refused to leave the governor’s side until he reprieved Hopkins.

The shipwrecked seamen eventually built two new boats from island forest wood and shipwreck timbers and sailed to Jamestown, the new British colony whose inhabitants were starving to death and being picked off by hostile Native Americans.

A few side notes here…..

Stephen Hopkins’ fellow passenger was none other than John Rolfe, who would go on to marry Pocahontas, daughter of a Native American leader, Powhatan, in the Jamestown area, and who was instrumental in introducing tobacco to England. Rolfe’s first wife and daughter had died during the sea journey and were buried on Bermuda. (A distant cousin of mine claims descent from John Rolfe and is also a Mayflower descendant.)

Stephen Hopkins is regarded as America’s first Virginian because of his connection to Jamestown – and my American sister, Judy, is also a Virginian, having been born there. A nice co-incidence.

And it is believed that the shipwreck in Bermuda was the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. It was certainly the talk of London at the time – after 1610 – and when Stephen Hopkins eventually returned to England, not only did he find his wife, Mary, had died but that their children had been taken into the care of relatives as orphans because everyone thought their father had also died in the shipwreck.

Shakespeare himself may have added his own insult to Hopkins’ memory. There is a character called Stephano in The Tempest, and this character is defined as a drunken servant plotting to become king of the island. Was it based on Hopkins himself? We can only guess.  But the story of his mutiny gave him a certain notoriety back in England.

Hopkins’ aim had always been to return to Virginia. It is thought he may have lived near to one of the businessmen raising finance for the voyage, which is perhaps how he heard about the planned voyage and eventually boarded the Mayflower with his new wife, Elizabeth, and his children. The Mayflower was part of a business venture, designed to open up new trade links in fish, fur and timber with the New World.

Because of storms the Mayflower eventually dropped anchor two hundred miles further north than the Hudson River estuary – then part of Virginia - where they were heading. The ship arrived in what is now New England in November, 1620, after setting out in September, and the colony of New Plimouth was established on an abandoned Indian settlement following a severe winter. A single communal house was the first building. It was spring, 2021, before houses were built for the suffering passengers at anchor on the Mayflower.

Stephen Hopkins eventually became assistant to the colony’s second governor William Bradford, and lived opposite him in the tiny settlement. As Hopkins had already had contact with First Nation people, he was used as a kind of diplomat in relations with them.

And it is his daughter Constance through whom I am descended.

The Mayflower’s journey to America was perilous. It was a small and ageing cargo ship, 100 feet long by 25 feet wide, and not designed for an ocean crossing. It was late setting sail because its sister ship, the Speedwell, sprung a leak twice and was forced to return. The Speedwell stayed behind while the Mayflower set out alone on September 6, facing Autumnal storms and huge seas as it crossed the Atlantic with 102 passengers and up to 30 crewmen, with animals, provisions and weapons. Fewer than 50 of the passengers were able-bodied adult men, many past their prime.

The living quarters were squalid on the overcrowded Mayflower which had taken more Pilgrims on board from The Speedwell. The passengers were accommodated on the gun deck, a space only 25 by 50 feet. There was ill-feeling, too, between the Pilgrims and the other passengers, known as the Strangers. The Pilgrims were escaping to what they hoped would be a new life free of persecution, while the Strangers were a mix of farmers, craftsmen and soldiers.

And as a side note, it’s worth mentioning here that the religious passengers on board referred to themselves as Saints. The Pilgrim description came centuries later – it was a retrospective name.

There were at least 30 children and 18 women on board, three of whom were pregnant. One of them was Stephen Hopkins’ wife Elizabeth, who gave birth to a boy during the voyage, and he was called Oceanus. He died within his first year.

The ship was damaged by huge waves, and was leaking. A crew member and a boy died in the two months it took for them to make landfall in North America. Dysentry, pneumonia and scurvy took their toll among passengers and crew.

And when they arrived, winter was beginning, a winter unlike anything they had seen back in England. There was heavy snow and biting cold, with the new arrivals having been weakened by their arduous sea crossing. Around half the settlers died during the first winter, including Thomas Rogers. They faced malnutrition, disease, and exposure to cold. Of those 18 women who made the crossing, only four were still alive a year after arriving.

But enough settlers survived to begin a new nation – now the most powerful on the planet. And it is also worth mentioning that their contact with local Native Americans was generally peaceful and productive, as it was in Jamestown at first. It is thought that without this contact, the New Plimouth colony wouldn’t have survived. Both the Wampanoag tribe and the settlers agreed to help and support each other…thought to be the best example of co-operation between settlers and Native Americans in North America.

It is tragic that this could not continue elsewhere in the Americas. The slow genocide of an entire original people is a stain that can never be erased from history. And another of my ancestors was one of the first to begin this process of annihilation.

He was an English soldier, Captain John Mason, who arrived in the New World in 1630 and knew Stephen Hopkins. Mason is remembered for almost wiping out the Pequot tribe as a reprisal for attacking and killing settlers. It was among the first massacres of Native Americans. Hopkins was recruited by Mason but never took part in the incident.

Today the descendants of those few Pequot survivors now own and operate one of North America’s largest and most successful casinos…the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. In the first revenue sharing arrangement of its kind, the casino has contributed more than $3 billion to state coffers.

So that’s my story….and I tell it with a sense of disbelief and wonder. I never thought I would ever identify my American soldier father.

But here I was, entering my eighth decade and going on to find that my ancestors were among the people now regarded as the founding families of what became the most powerful nation on earth – the USA.

David Edwards Hulme.

My Mayflower Lines of Descent

STEPHEN HOPKINS (Born Hampshire, England, 1581, died Plymouth 1644. (Mayflower passenger and assistant governor to William Bradford in Plymouth.)

Constance Hopkins (his daughter) (1606-1677) m. Nicholas Snow (1600-1676)

Mary Snow (1630-1704) m. Thomas Paine (1613-1706)

Nicholas Paine (1665-1733) m. Hannah Higgins (1672-1732) (*Hopkins and Rogers lines merge here – see below).

Priscilla Paine (1701-1752) m. William Norcott (1690-1752) Note: Priscilla was a popular name.

Priscilla Norcott (1740-1836) m. Malichi Loveland (1736-1799)

Priscilla Loveland (1760-1839) m. William Taylor (1753-1827) Note: Line of descent confirmed to here by European Mayflower Society.

Asa Taylor (1797-1847) m. Lovisa Hoskins (1799-1881)

*Harriet Taylor (1827-1889) m. Smith Lowell (1825-1864) Note: This is where the move to Michigan happened, to Mt Morris, Genesee.

Alma J Lowell (1853-1912) m. John A. Edwards (1841-1895) (paternal great grandparents).

Arthur Smith Edwards (1880-1952) m. Hazel F Ostler (1882-1972) (paternal grandparents).

Allan Russell Edwards (1920-1964) (my father) Irene Peet (1926-1997) (my mother).

Rogers line of descent….

THOMAS ROGERS (1571-1621) m. Alice Cosford (--------)

Joseph Rogers (1607-1678) m. Hannah (---------)

Elizabeth Rogers (1639-1678) m. Jonathan Higgins (1637-1711)

Hannah Higgins (1672-1732) m. Nicholas Paine (1665-1733)

*The Hopkins and Rogers lines of descent merge here. See above.

Source: Ancestry.co.uk.