Degory Priest, "Mayflower" Passenger

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Degory Priest

Also Known As: "Digerie Preist"
Birthplace: London, England
Death: Died in Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts
Cause of death: Sickness
Place of Burial: Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Hugh Prust Prust and Agnes Wood
Husband of Sarah Godbertz
Father of Mary Pratt and Sarah Coombs

Occupation: Hatter
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Degory Priest, "Mayflower" Passenger

His name is spelt as Digerie Preist in early Plymouth records.

Degory Priest, also known as Digory” “Gregory”, “Degorie”, or “Digorie” and “Preist”, was born about 1579/80 in England. In a document signed in Leiden, Holland in April 1619 he deposed he was 40 years old. It has been suggested that he may have been the Degorius Prust, baptized 11 Aug 1582 in Hartland, Devon, England, the son of Peter Prust. However, given that the baptism appears to be about 3 years too late, and the fact that none of the Leiden Separatists are known to have come from Devon, it is unlikely this baptism belongs to the Mayflower passenger. Degory Priest was one of the earliest to have arrived in Leiden Holland from England, so it is more reasonable to suspect he is from the regions from where Separatists were known to have been from, which excludes Devon, but includes: the Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire region, the Sandwich/Canterbury region, the Norfolk region and the London/ Middlesex region. All of the early Separatists in Leiden are said to have come from one of these centers. Since Degory was said repeatedly described as a "London Hatter" it is most likely then that he was from the London city area which is in the county called Middlesex. Thus, looking at Middlesex county records may be the best way to uncover his baptism.

A cursory research of marriages in Middlesex (London) in the book entitled London Marriage Licences, 1521-1869 by Joseph Lemuel Chester, in a search for the names of either Priest of Preist reveals only one Preist in the right time frame on page 539: The 1570 marriage of an ale master, a John Priest of St. Margaret (church) and Dionisia Cotton (widow of Mr. Cotton) both of the City of Westminster London. The bond by said John and Richard Priest, his father. Dated 20 May 1570. All of the other Priest or Preist weddings in London or Middlesex county in this historical resource were either too early or too late for a circa 1579 birth of Degory.


'St Margaret Westminster, the church of (is a parish; parish registers begin 1538), is situated at a small distance from the north door of Westminster Abbey. The ancient church was built in 1064, by Edward the Confessor, for the use of the neighbouring inhabitants and dedicated to the before-mentioned St Margaret. It was rebuilt in the reign of Edward I, by the parishioners and merchants of the Staple[Inn], except the chancel which was erected at the charge of the Abbot of Westminster. In 1735, it was repaired and the tower cased... granted by parliament, in consideration of its being the church wherein the House of Commons attend divine service, as the peers do in Westminster Abbey.

In the records of St Margaret Westminster Parish, as of March 1570, a Richard Priest and his wife are permitted a license by "my Lord of Canterbury" to eat meat during Lent. There was an obligation to not eat meat during gLent. However, dispensation were granted in the case of illness and the payment of a fee according to their socials station. Lords of Parliament and their wives paid £1 6s. 8d. Knights and their wives 13s.4d and all other 6s.8d. In 1571, Richard Preist was granted another dispensation to eat meat during Lent by "my Lord of Canterbury."

The 12 June 1623 wedding of a Henry Priest of Stepney Middlesex (London) is listed under London Marriages between 1521-1869. Henry was a haberdasher, which meant he was a seller of hats in London. His bride was a spinster, Margaret Sanekey of St. Botolph Aldergate London. Though Henry is the age to have been a nephew or a cousin of Degorie Priest we do not have a connection yet. It is just research clue.

A John Priest was baptised 18 November 1543 at St Margaret Church Westminster London. A Grace Preist doughtier of Richard, as well as an Agnes Preist appears and also a Nicholas Priest. A Marget or Margery Priest was baptised 7 November 1558, all at St. Margaret Church Westminster London. However, so far, no Digorie, Digory, Degorie or Degory was found at St. Margaret. It is possible however that a baptism for a Digorie Priest took place at another London church.

Historically there were 109 parishes in London, many of which consolidated over time. Some were burned down in the the great London fire of 1666 long after Degorie would have left London. Here is the list of other London Parishes for someone to research a possible baptism of a Digorie Preist:


Degory died 1 Jan 1621 on the Mayflower ship, where all of the passengers spent the winter living aboard, wintering in harbor in Plymouth. Since they arrived too late to build homes on land they had to live on the Mayflower until spring.

Degory Priest, was born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and he was in London as a hatter when Shakespeare's plays were written and performed for the first time, just to give context.

Degory Priest listed as "Hatmaker of London" and sailed on the Mayflower to Plymouth in 1620.

The 17th cent. saw the high-crowned beaver hat of the Puritan and the wide plumed hat of the cavalier. Eventually, by 1660, long after Degorie had died, the brim had become so wide that the corners were turned up forming the classic colonial tricorne.

In Degorie's era in England and colonial early America, nearly everyone wore some kind of head covering, making the hat industry very important. A man’s hat advertised his social status. Hats that were more elaborate represented greater wealth or status. Colonial hats were made of beaver skin, wool, cotton, or straw. Colonial hatters knew how to make many different kinds of hats such as a knitted caps, broad-brimmed beaver "Pilgrim" hats (which was the most popular), or upturned brim-tricorne hats (three-cornered hats). Because beaver furs were so numerous in the New World, the hat industry was one of the first that actually took business away from Great Britain.

In Holland, on April 9, 1619, Degory Priest and Samuel Lee, both hatters, signed a good behavior document on behalf of Nicholas Claverly, a tobacco-pipe maker, who had arrived in Leiden about 1615 and resided in a house owned by Degory Priest. In the document, Priest stated an age of forty years, which indicated he was born about 1579.[1][7]

Degory Priest was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620.[7][10]

Degory Priest was born about 1579 and died at Plymouth, 1 January, 1620/1. He married, at Leiden, 4 November, 1611, Sarah (Allerton) Vincent (the widow of John Vincent). Sarah was sister to Isaac Allerton and arrived in America after the Mayflower with two children Mary, who m. Phineas Pratt and Sarah, who m. John Coombs.

After Degorie died on the Mayflower in the first winter, his wife Sarah married another hatter by the name of Godbertson.

From William Bradford’s later recollection of seven men from the Mayflower who died soon after arrival, “Digerie Preist” among them, with this comment: “All these dyed sone after their arrival in the general sickness that befell.” And with this about Priest’s family: “But Digerie Preist had his wife and children sent hither afterwards, she being Mr. Allertons sister.” Bradford closed his comments in this section with the note: “But the rest left no posteritie here.”[11]

Since he was married in Holland in 1611, it is clear that he was a religious Separatist very early on, and was an early member of the Pilgrims' Leyden congregation.  He came to America on the Mayflower and was the 29th signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Arriving December 21, 1620, with a harsh winter and illnesses' upon them, this note from the Prince, annals p.96 starts out with a sad note:

  "January 1. Monday, the people at Plymouth go betimes to work and the year begins with the death of Degory Priest."

Degory's wife and widow, Sarah, would marry again on November 13, 1621 in Leyden Holland to Godbert Godbertson.  In 1623, Godbertson would bring Sarah and her 2 daughters, Mary and Sarah to Plymouth on the ship ANNE.

Notable descendants actor) Richard Gere → Homer Gere → Albert Gere → George Gere → Sarah Tewksbury → Lucina Fuller → Elkanah Elms → Sarah Bennett → Ruth Coombs → Francis Coombs → Sarah Priest → DEGORY PRIEST

(Pres) Franklin D. Roosevelt → Sara Delano → Warren Delano → Warren Delano → Elizabeth Cushman → James Cushman → Elizabeth Coombs → John Coombs → Sarah Priest → DEGORY PRIEST


  •  It has been suggested that Degory Priest of the Mayflower may have been the Degorius Prust, baptized 11 August 1582 in Hartland, Devon, England, the son of Peter Prust. However, given that the baptism appears to be about 3 years too late, and the fact that none of the Leiden Separatists are known to have come from Devonshire, I doubt this baptism belongs to the Mayflower passenger. Degory Priest was one of the earliest to have arrived in Leiden, so it is more reasonable to suspect he is from the Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire region, the Sandwich/Canterbury region, the London/Middlesex region, or the Norfolk region: all of the early Separatists in Leiden appear to have come from one of these centers.
  • As with all things, caveat emptor! There are conflicting stories about the lineage to his son John. Some sources claim his only two children were his daughters, listed above. Others claim that the John Priest of Woburn was his son, who came on a later ship from Holland to join his father. 


  • NEHGR111:320. 


  1. Savage, Genealogical Dictionary
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Degory Priest, "Mayflower" Passenger's Timeline

London, England
August 11, 1582
Age 3
August 11, 1582
Age 3
Hartland, Devon, England
November 4, 1611
Age 32
Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands
November 14, 1611
Age 32
Leyden, Holland
Age 36
Leiden, Leiden, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands
Age 41
Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Age 41
Age 41
January 1, 1621
Age 42
Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts