Elizabeth Tilley

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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Elizabeth Tilley (c. Aug 1607 - December 21, 1687) Elizabeth Tilley was one of the passengers on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower. She was the daughter of Mayflower passenger John Tilley and his wife Joan Hurst. and, although she was their youngest child, appears to be the only one who survived until the voyage. She went on to marry fellow Mayflower passenger John Howland, with whom she had ten children. Because of their great progeny, she and her husband have millions of living descendants today.

Early life[edit]

Elizabeth Tilley was born in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England where she was baptized in August, 1607. According to parish records, she was the youngest of five children born to her parents. She also had an older step-sister, Joan, from her mother's first marriage to Thomas Rogers (no relation to the Mayflower passenger of the same name).

It is likely that when she was a small girl, she moved with her parents to the Netherlands, where her parents are documented as a member of the Leiden Separatist congregation as well as her uncle Edward. Edward’s ward Henry Samson may also have been a member.

On the Mayflower and in the New World[edit]

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

William Bradford, in his memoirs, later listed the Tilley family on the Mayflower as: “John Tillie, and his wife; and Elizabeth, their daughter.”[1]

The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.[2]

On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. After several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day. John Tilley was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact, signing as “John Tilly.”[2][3]

In the New World[edit]

Upon arriving in the New World, Elizabeth's father, John took part in early expeditions of exploration around their new home and was present at the first meeting between the Pilgrims and Native Americans, later known as the First Encounter.[4][5]

John Tilley and his wife Joan both died the first winter as did his brother Edward Tilley and wife Ann. This left Elizabeth an orphan and so she was taken in by the Carver family. The Carvers died about a year later, and part of their estate was inherited by their servant, John Howland, and Elizabeth became his ward.[6][7][8]

Family and children[edit]

Although the date of their marriage is not recorded, a few years after their arrival in the New World, Elizabeth married John Howland c. 1623/4. She and John would go on to have ten children, all of whom would live to adulthood, and well over seventy grandchildren. Elizabeth herself outlived her husband by fifteen years, being one of the few original Pilgrims to live to see King Philip's War.


1) Desire was born about 1624 and died in Barnstable October 13, 1683. She married John Gorham in Plymouth by 1644 and had eleven children. She was buried at Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Mass.

2) John was born in Plymouth on February 24, 1626/7 and died in Barnstable after June 18, 1699. He married Mary Lee in Plymouth on October 26, 1651 and had ten children.

3) Hope was born in Plymouth about 1629 and died in Barnstable on January 8, 1683. She married John Chipman about 1647 and had twelve children. She was buried at Lothrop Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Mass.

4) Elizabeth was born about 1631 and died in Oyster Bay, New York in October 1683.

Elizabeth married:
Ephraim Hicks on September 13, 1649. He died on December 12, 1649.
John Dickerson in Plymouth on July 10, 1651 and had nine children.

5) Lydia was born about 1633 and died in Swansea January, 1710/11. She married James Brown(e) about 1655 and had four children.

6) Hannah was born about 1637. She married Jonathan Bosworth in Swansea on July 6, 1661 and had nine children.

7) Joseph was born about 1640 and died in Plymouth in January 1703/04. He married Elizabeth Southworth in Plymouth on December 7, 1664 and had nine children.

8) Jabez was born about 1644 and died before February 21, 1711/12. He married Bethiah Thatcher by 1669 and had eleven children.

9) Ruth was born about 1646 and died before October 1679. She married Thomas Cushman in Plymouth on November 17, 1664 and had three children.

10) Isaac was born in Plymouth on November 15, 1649 and died in Middleboro on March 9, 1723/4. He married Elizabeth Vaughn by 1677 and had eight children. He was buried at Cemetery At The Green, Middleboro, Mass.[8][9]

Notable descendants[edit]

Howland and wife, fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley and ten children and 88 grandchildren. The couple founded one of the three largest Mayflower progenies and their descendants have been "associated largely with both the 'Boston Brahmins' and Harvard's 'intellectual aristocracy' of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."[10]

John and Elizabeth Howland's direct descendants include notable figures such as:



  1. ^ Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 406
  2. ^ a b Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
  3. ^ George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers, (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920), Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document, pp. 7-19.
  4. ^ Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., 2006), p. 235
  5. ^ Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War, (New York: Viking 2006), pp. 70-73
  6. ^ Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., 2006), pp. 237-238
  7. ^ Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), p. 87
  8. ^ a b A genealogical profile of John Howland, (a collaboration of Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society accessed 2013) /
  9. ^ Robert Anderson, Pilgrim Village Families Sketch: John Howland (a collaboration between American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society)/
  10. ^ a b Roberts, Gary Boyd. "#55 Royal Descents, Notable Kin, and Printed Sources: Notable Descendants of Henry and Margaret (----) Howland of Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, Parents of John Howland of the Mayflower". New England Historic Genealogical Society. Retrieved October 3, 2010. 
  11. ^ Register of Members: Philadelphia Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1996, p. 57.
  12. ^ William Stocking and Gordon K. Miller. The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 5, pg 562-563. Google Books. 
  13. ^ a b http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=glencoe&id=I607
  14. ^ Descendant of Hope Howland Chipman, daughter of John and Elizabeth:born 1880, Montreal, Quebec. Lawyer, Judge, Canadian Ambassador to Chile, 1944-45; Senior Delegate to the Premier, United Nations Conference in San Francisco, CA in 1945; Past President of The League of Nations, Geneva, Switzerland (disbanded, 1946); Canadian Ambassador to Argentina, 1946-49; High Commissioner to India, 1949-52.
  15. ^ The Pilgrim John Howland Society: Famous Descendents