A discussion on Thanksgiving Day convinced me to make John Tilley my VIP for this week. My son and I were discussing our ancestry, and he began to read about John Tilley on the Internet. I decided then and there to write about him because he is my direct ancestor.
John Tilley was baptized on December 19, 1571, in Henlow, Bedford, England, and was the first child of Robert Tilley and his wife Elizabeth. Another son was born to the couple, Edward. On September 20, 1596, John married Joan (Hurst) Rogers at Henlow in Bedfordshire. She was the youngest daughter of William Hurst and the widow of Thomas Rogers. She was baptized on March 13, 1567/8 at Henlow and may have been older than John. She brought one daughter named Joan from her first marriage. (She married Thomas Rogers on married June 18, 1593, and he seems to have died soon after their daughter was baptized on May 26, 1594.) Joan may have died soon after her mother married John Tilley.
John and Joan (Hurst) Tilley became the parents of five children; all of the children were baptized in the parish of Henlow between 1597 and 1607: (1) Rose Tilley was baptized on October 23, 1597, and may have died young; (2) John Tilley was baptized on August 26, 1599, and may have died young; (3) Rose Tilley was baptized on February 28, 1601/2, and may have died young; (4) Robert Tilley was baptized on November 25, 1604, and may have died young; (5) Elizabeth Tilley was baptized on August 30, 1607.
John, Edward, their wives, and Elizabeth “were passengers on the historic 1620 voyage of the Mayflower. “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.
“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.” Both John Tilley and his brother Edward signed the Mayflower Compact.”
John and Edward Tilley did some exploring in the New World but may have still been living on the Mayflower. The two Tilley brothers and their wives “all perished that first winter in the New World.” “In the later recollection of William Bradford: `John Tillie and his wife both dyed a little after they came ashore; ….’ John and Joan “were buried in Coles Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth, most likely in unmarked graves as with so many who died that first winter. Their names, along with many others who died that winter, are memorialized on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb on Coles Hill as ‘John Tilley and his wife.’”
Elizabeth married John Howland in Plymouth Colony about 1624 and had ten children. She died in Swansea on December 22, 1687. Since Elizabeth is the only child of record on the Mayflower and apparently the only surviving child of John and Joan, I assume that she is my ancestor and my connection to John Tilley.