Could one of your ancestors be amongst the 100+ people onboard the Mayflower who were on the harrowing 66-day trip that helped build the foundation for the United States of America? With a ship packed full of Pilgrims, crew members, servants, children, and animals, the Mayflower was quite the circus when it took off in 1620.
With all its promise and its fascinating history, you may wonder if you are related to anyone onboard that famous ship. Sometimes, tracing these connections can be tricky. With a lack of documentation for some of the passengers, parts of this history seem tenuous at best.
But all is not lost!
Luckily, with the help of the billions of articles in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives as well as other online records, we have many answers and then some.
Read on to find out how many people were on the Mayflower, some fun stories, and more!
Do We Know Exactly How Many People Were Onboard the Mayflower?
The Mayflower had 102 passengers in total. Here we break down these numbers to shed some light on the stories and demographics of the brave people who made it to Plymouth Colony.
- Pilgrims: Why did the Pilgrims come to America? The Pilgrims, also known as the English Separatists, were members of a Puritan congregation seeking religious freedom in this new territory. Of the 102 passengers on board, 37 of them were a part of the famous Pilgrims.
- Non-Pilgrims: Although the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony are frequently associated with the Pilgrims, those were not the only passengers that arrived to the New World on the famed ship. About 32 of the passengers were recruited by Thomas Weston of the London Merchant Adventurers.
- Women: There were only 18 adult women on the Mayflower. Unfortunately, 13 of them died in that grueling first winter of 1620-1621, mostly from illness and exposure.
- Children: There were approximately 10 girls and 34 boys on that tumultuous journey. The last surviving Mayflower passenger was one of these children, a three-year-old at the time of the journey: Mary Allerton, who died in 1699.
- Crew Members: Headed by Master Christopher Jones, the Mayflower crew was composed of about 44 men total, with around 30 crewmates and 14 officers, which included the following:
- Four quartermasters
- Four mates
- A surgeon
- A cooper
- A cook
- A carpenter
- A gunner
- A boatswain
Servants: There were about 13 servants under the charge of the Pilgrims, while about 6 were working for Merchant Adventurers’ passengers. The first passenger to pass away once the Mayflower landed in Cape Cod was amongst these numbers: a young servant named Thompson Edward, only 21 at the time of his death.
Animals: It is difficult to tell exactly how many animals were aboard the Mayflower. However, two dogs were documented in the settling of Plymouth by Edward Winslow in his book, Mourt’s Relation. An English Springer Spaniel and an English Mastiff were the two pups that joined the ranks of a host of small domestic animals including:
- Later, larger animals like sheep and cows would join their group
But How Exact Is That Number, Really?
Whether every single passenger of the Mayflower can be documented in historical newspaper archives and other records is another question, entirely.
For one, there is a chance that some crewmembers and servants went undocumented. On top of that, almost half of the Mayflower passengers – about 45 of the original 102 – died in their first winter in their new colony, affecting documentation.
However, with the help of billions of newspaper archives and interconnected genealogies, these estimates are becoming more accurate each day. As the search for ancestors on the Mayflower continues, your own family history will only become easier.
Stories of the Journey
Knowing how many people came over on the Mayflower is incredible, but their stories are just as compelling. To inspire you to dig even deeper into your own history, here are some of the incredible stories from the Mayflower journey:
- A Leaky Companion: Many people don’t know this, but the Mayflower initially had a buddy, the ill-fated Speedwell. Both ships set sail in July 1620, but they had to turn back not once, but twice, due to the Speedwell’s leaky tendencies. They finally decided to leave the Speedwell behind, setting sail on the now famous journey on 6 September 1620.
- The Great Iron Screw: Did you know that the Mayflower passengers almost didn’t make it? During one devastating storm, a huge supportive beam cracked under the pressure. Thanks to some quick thinking and good preparation, the crafty passengers helped put the beam back by lifting it with a “great iron screw.”
- Lucky John Howland: During another ship-tossing, sea-turning storm, a young man named John Howland was swept right off the boat, straight into the ocean. Luckily, John was able to save himself by grabbing onto the line of the ship and was eventually pulled to the deck.
- It’s a Boy! A baby boy was born to Elizabeth Hopkins while on the harrowing journey. He was aptly named Oceanus.
How to Find Your Own Mayflower Story
What about your connection to the brave passengers of the Mayflower? With so many available newspapers and records in the GenealogyBank archives, filling your Mayflower family tree might not be so hard!
Here are some newspaper article types that can help in this process:
- Death notices
- Advertisements for funeral sermons
- Marriage announcements
- Birth announcements
- Biographical memorials (typically from professional and alumni associations)
The beauty of GenealogyBank is that you are never working alone. The more people who are adding to every vibrant string of history by placing their family tree and associated stories online, the stronger those histories become as more and more people have access to them. With every Mayflower ancestor you find, you are helping someone else discover more about their own history, and vice versa.
Are You a Mayflower Descendant?
If you are curious whether your ancestors were amongst the people who came over on the Mayflower, you are not alone. As you document your own findings, you help others improve their searches too. As you expand on your ancestral branches, so are your fellow curious genealogists.
And who knows?
Perhaps soon, your two branches will connect to reveal a larger family tree.
- Plimoth Plantation: Mayflower and Mayflower Compact