Research into the Mayflower’s famous voyage to America discovers that two of the ship’s passengers were from Wisbech
PUBLISHED: 10:04 22 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:41 25 September 2017
2020 will mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower from Plymouth to the New World – and this month, research into the famous voyage has discovered that two of its passengers were from Wisbech.
The Mayflower set sail for a new life on the other side of the Atlantic in September 1620 with just 102 passengers on board – including uncle and niece William White and Dorothy May Bradford, both of whom were born in Wisbech.
William White was baptized in Fenland in January 1586 and later married Susanna Jackson in Amsterdam. Jackson gave birth to a son, Peregrine, after their arrival off Provincetown Harbour, Massachusetts, in November 1620, but William died the following winter along with three more of the ship’s passengers.
Susanna remarried a few months later, becoming the first marriage to occur at Plymouth.
Dorothy Bradford was born in Wisbech in 1597 and married William Bradford in December 1613 in Amsterdam.
They had a son, John, but left him behind in the Netherlands to embark on the Mayflower’s now famous voyage.
Dorothy met an unfortunate end in December 1620, falling off the ship into freezing waters off Provincetown Harbour. Her death featured in a story published in Harper’s Weekly, where she was said to have committed suicide after having an affair.
The fascinating discoveries were made thanks to a collaborative research project by Caleb Johnson, researcher Simon Neil and Lincolnshire-based historian, Sue Allan.
Sue said: “I had been working into the origins of Dorothy Bradford’s family when I sensed I had possible stumbled upon something big.
“I so shared my findings with my American friend and colleague, Mayflower historian Caleb Johnson. As a result we decided to continue the research together as a team with Simon.
“We still do not know much about the roots of many of the passengers and to discover the origins of one of these is a very rare event.”
Their find was unveiled at the Triennial Congress of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants held in Plymouth on September 11.
Once the passengers arrived in Massachusetts, they faced a fight for survival, battling against a harsh first winter.
More than half the Plymouth colonists succumbed to the conditions but the area’s native people taught the survivors how to hunt animals and harvest local fruits and vegetables.
The colonists celebrated their first successful harvest with a three-day festival of thanksgiving, which is still celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November.