John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger

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John Howland, Sr.

Also Known As: "Mayflower 1620", "mayflower passenger", "Mayflower Pilgrim", "John Mayflower Howland"
Birthplace: Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire, England (United Kingdom)
Death: February 23, 1673 (73-81)
Plymouth, Plymouth Colony, Colonial America (Cause of Death: Age, other.)
Place of Burial: Rocky Nook, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Howland, of Fenstanton and Margaret Howland
Husband of Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger
Father of Lieutenant John Howland, Jr.; Hope Chipman; Elizabeth Dickinson; Lydia Brown; Hannah Bosworth and 7 others
Brother of Arthur Howland, of Marshfield; Humphrey Howland; Simon Howland; Henry Howland, Jr. of Duxbury; George Howland and 3 others

Occupation: Mayflower Passenger, Managed the fur shop in Maine, other
Immigration: 1620 aboard the Mayflower landed in Cape Cod in Provencetown Harbor
Label: Arrived on Mayflower in 1620. One of the signers of Mayflower Compact
MEMORIAL ID: 6613808 🪦
WikiTree: Howland-21
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger



John Howland, the 1620 Mayflower passenger, was the son of Henry Howland of Fenstanton, England, and Margaret _____. His date of birth is estimated as 1598 based on him being the 4th son, being old enough to sign the Mayflower Compact; being an apprentice in 1620 to John Carver; and marrying about 1623. The 1598 date is used by the renowned Mayflower researcher Caleb Johnson; the commonly found 1592 date comes from a statement that he was above 80 years at his death which is certainly an exaggeration.[1][2] John's brothers, Arthur and Henry, also migrated to Plymouth, where their Quaker leanings were at odds with the established government and religion.[3][4]


He had five brothers, Arthur, Humphrey, George, Henry, and Simon, and one sister, Margaret. His two brothers, Arthur and Henry came to Plymouth Colony after him.


In September 1620, John Howland sailed on the Mayflower at the age of twenty-one, and he was employed as one of two "man-servants" by John Carver, a Puritan minister who joined with William Bradford in bringing his congregation from Leiden, Netherlands to the New World.[5] Howland, while formally a servant, was, in fact, Carver's assistant in managing the migration.

Although Howland had arrived on the Mayflower as a servant to the Carver family, he was a young man determined to make his mark in the new world, arriving as neither a "stranger", nor a "saint" as the Pilgrims termed themselves. The arduous voyage very nearly ended his life as he was thrown overboard due to turbulent seas, but managed to grab a topsail halyard that was trailing in the water and was hauled back aboard safely.

William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony, wrote in the following words:

"In sundry of these storms the winds were so feirce, & ye seas so high, as they could not beare a knote of saile, but were forced to hull for divece days togither. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storme, a lusty young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above ye grattings, was, with a seele of tye shipe, thrown into ye sea; but it pleased God yt he caught hould of ye tope-sail halliards which hunge over board, & rane out at length; yet he held his hould (though he was sundrie fadoms under water) till he was hald up by ye same rope to ye brim of ye water, and then with boat hooke & other means got into the ship againe & his life saved and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and comone wealthe."[6]

After arriving to America, the Carver family, with whom John lived, survived the terrible sickness of the first winter, during which many Pilgrims died, but the following spring, on an unusually hot day in April, Governor Carver, according to William Bradford, came out of his cornfield feeling ill. He passed into a coma and "never spake more." His wife, Kathrine, died soon after her husband. The Carvers had no children. For this reason, Howland is thought to have inherited their estate. It has been said that he immediately "bought his freedom," but no record has survived.


Before 1623 land division, or by about 1624 in Plymouth Colony, John Howland married Elizabeth Tilley (? - 1687), also a Mayflower Passenger, by then a young lady of seventeen, and the daughter of John Tilley (also a Mayflower Passenger) and Joan (Hurst). Her parents had died the first winter, and she had become the foster daughter of Governor Carver and his wife, who were childless. Elizabeth was baptized at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, on 30 August 1607, and she died, at Swansea, 22 December 1687, aged eighty.[1][2]

By then, he had prospered enough to also bring his brothers Arthur and Henry to the colony as well, solidly establishing the Howland family in the New World.


John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley had ten children as follows:

  1. Desire Howland, b. say 1624; m. by 1644 John Gorham (eldest child b. Plymouth 2 April 1644 [MD 5:72]).
  2. John Howland, b. Plymouth 24 April 1627; m. Plymouth 26 October 1651 Mary Lee [PCR 8:13].
  3. Hope Howland, b. say 1629; m. by about 1646 John Chipman.
  4. Elizabeth Howland, b. say 1631; m. (1) Plymouth 13 September 1649 Ephraim Hicks [PCR 8:8]; m. (2) Plymouth 10 July 1651 John Dickerson [PCR 8:13].
  5. Lydia Howland, b. say 1633; m. by about 1655 James Brown.
  6. Hannah Howland, b. say 1637; m. Swansea 6 July 1661 Jonathan Bosworth [SwVR 23].
  7. Joseph Howland, b. say 1640; m. Plymouth 7 December 1664 Elizabeth Southworth [PCR 8:25], daughter of Thomas Southworth.
  8. Jabez Howland, b. about 1644 (deposed on 19 July 1680 aged 36 years [SJC#1915]); m. by 1669 Bethiah Thatcher, daughter of Anthony Thatcher (eldest child b. Plymouth 15 November 1669 [PVR 668; NYGBR 42:154-57]).
  9. Ruth Howland b. say 1646; m. Plymouth 17 November 1664 Thomas Cushman [PCR 8:25], son of Thomas Cushman.Isaac Howland, b. Plymouth 15 November 1649; m. by 1677 Elizabeth Vaughn, daughter of George Vaughn [TAG 23:24-26].

Their four sons were officers of the Plymouth Colony Militia, and served in other capacities.

Life in Plymouth Colony

1620: On 11 November, John Howland signed the Mayflower Compact.[7]

1621 Winter: Death of about half the passengers on the Mayflower, including Gov. Carver and the entire Tilley family except Elizabeth. John Howland was "man-servant" to Govenor Carver and was part of his household family. The Governor and his wife were among the fifty Pilgrims who died during the first year at Plymouth. It is believed that John Howland inherited John Carver's estate as the Carvers had no children of their own.[8]

1623: John Howland received 4 acres in the 1623 Land Division.[9]

1626, 1627: The governor, William Bradford, selected John Howland to lead a team building a trading station on the Kennebec River. John Howland joined with Edward Winslow, exploring the Kennebec River, looking for possible trading sites and natural resources that the colony could exploit. The year after that he was asked to participate in buying out the businessmen who had bankrolled the settlement of Plymouth ("Merchant Adventurers" was the term used at the time) so the colony could pursue its own goals without the pressure to remit profits back to England. The expedition to Plymouth was funded by about 70 men, known as "Adventurers." After several years, for various reasons, it was decided to purchase the shares in the colony from these Adventurers. John Howland became one of the group (eight men from Plymouth and four in England) known as "undertakers" who purchased the shares for £1800.[10]

1627: The Plymouth cattle division of 1627 listed John as the head of the fourth lot. His wife, Elizabeth, and children John, Jr. and Desire were also listed. Their share was one of the four heifers that came in the Jacob.[9]

1628: John Howland was elevated to the post of Assistant Governor.

1633: The first list of Plymouth freeman in 1633, contains the name of John Howland, then thirty-four, placed as part of the Council.[11] He and Elizabeth had by then acquired significant landholdings around Plymouth, and after his being declared a freeman, they diligently acquired more. His name was on subsequent lists of freeman dated 6 Mar 1636/7 and the Plymouth sections in 1639, 1658, and 1670.[12]

1634: The Plymouth colonists began trading with the natives of the Kennebec area about 1626. In 1629, they secured legal rights to this trade known as the Kennebec or Plymouth Patent. In April of 1634, when John Howland was in charge of the trading, John Hocking challenged those exclusive rights to trade. John Howland told Hocking to weigh anchor. Hocking replied with angry words, and Howland ordered three of his men to cut the anchor. Unfortunately, the current was strong, so they added a fourth man, Moses Talbott. When they reached the ship, Talbott was shot and killed by Hocking, despite Howland's protests that Talbott was only doing as ordered, and that Hocking should shoot himself (Howland) instead. Before any more people could be shot by Hocking, he was shot and killed by someone on Hocking's boat.[13]

1633-5: Plymouth Colony Assistant.[14]

1635/6: On March 14th, John represented the "Duxborrow side" in a meeting.[15] He was one of the early settlers in the area known as Duxborrow (Duxbury). He sold his property in Duxbury 2 April 1640,[16] but had previously purchased land in Plymouth 2 Feb 1638/9.[17] This property was in the area known as Rocky Nook.[18]

1641: Plymouth Deputy to the Plymouth General Court for about 30 years between 1641 and 1667.[19]
1641-1665: As early as 1641, Mr. John Howland was active in the affairs of the town of Plymouth. He served on committees, as a "rater" (assessor), as surveyor of highways (1649), selectman (1665).[20] About 1665, John faded from the town records and his sons Joseph and Jabez become active. John would have been in his 70s.

1643: John Howland, Sr. was on the 1643 list of men in Plymouth and was "able to bear arms."[21]

1656: In his years in Plymouth Colony, John acquired many parcels of land for himself and to see that his children were well settled. Many of these can be found in the Plymouth Colony Records especially in Vol. 12. There were sometimes disagreements.
For example, in 1656, A writing apointed to bee Recorded... Wheras there was a diference fell out betwixt John howland senir Thomas Bourne and John Dingley about the Range of a pcell of marsh meddow lying in Marshfeild and not eazye to be knowne;... These are therefore to put an end to the aforsaid Diference; It is agreed by and between the said John Howland senir Thomas Bourne and John Dingley senir: that the line or Range shall begin att the beach next the sea upon a west line sett by a compas to a homacke in the marsh whre there lyes an old Ceader tree there being noe other nor no more trees neare next to the great Iland but that onely And from the aforsaid homacke and tree to Run upon the aforsaid west line to the Basse creeke To which agreement all the aforsaid pties have freely assented unto as abovesaid; alsoe that this agreement bee put upon Record both att Marshfeild and the court booke att Plymouth to avoid all further Diference for time to Come about the prmises; in witnesse wherof wee the said John howland senir: Thomas Bourne and John Dingley have put to our hands this fourth of May 1655. It was signed in the presence of Myles Standish by John howland, Thomas Bourne and John Dingley.[22]

1659: John Howland served on the committee for fur trade.[23]


John Howland died on 23 February 1672/3 at Plymouth, Plymouth Colony.[24]

"The 23th of February, 1672, Mr. John Howland, Senir, of the towne of Plymouth, deceased. Hee was a godly man and an ancient professor in the wayes of Christ; hee lived untill hee attained above eighty yeares in the world. Hee was one of the first comers into this land, and proved a usefull instrument of good in his place, & was the last man that was left of those that came over in the shipp called the May flower, that lived in Plymouth; hee was with honor Intered att the towne of Plymouth on the 25 of February, 1672."[25]


John Howland was with honor interred at Burial Hill in the town of Plymouth on 25 February 1672/3. This was accorded only to the leaders of the Colony, and meant that a squad of soldiers fired a volley over his grave. He is described in the records as a "godly man and an ardent professor in the ways of Christ."

The current gravestone on Burial Hill was erected in 1897 with funds raised by Mrs. Joseph Howland. It replaced a stone erected about 1836 by John and Henry Howland of Providence, Rhode Island. The older stone was buried under the new one. It stated that Howland's wife was a daughter of Governor Carver. The 1856 discovery of Governor William Bradford's manuscript "Of Plimoth Plantation." proved this to be wrong. Instead he married Elizabeth, daughter of John and Joan Tilley.[26] The Plymouth Church record gives this date as the 24th stating: "he was a good old disciple, & had bin sometime a magistrate here, a plaine-hearted christian."[27]

Will & Inventory

John Howland's will was made on 29 May 1672 and was presented at court on 5 Mar 1672 {1672/3]. "Now Grown aged; haveing many Infeirmities of body," he made bequests to eldest son, John howland, son, Jabez, youngest son, Isaac Howland, wife, Elizabeth Howland (also named executrix), son, Joseph, daughters, Desire Gorum, Hope Chipman, Elizabeth Dickenson, Lydia Browne, Hannah Bosworth, and Ruth Cushman, grandchild, Elizabeth Howland, tge daughter of son, John.[13][28]

John had an extensive inventory, which not including land, and after debts and charges was appraised at £157 8s 8d. He had his dwelling house at Rocky Nook in Plymouth, land at Jones River, 1/2 a house and land at Colchester in Plymouth, land in Duxburrow, house and land in Middleberry, and shares of land called "Majors Purchase." His house was three rooms, a front and back room and an upstairs chamber. Besides his Bible, he had other books.[13][28]


Confirmed DNA results through the Big Y-500 (original Big Y) test, Big Y-700 test, and Y Elite test reveal that Henry Howland of Fenstanton's Y-DNA haplogroup and SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) is R-A9708. His haplotree line is R-M269 >> R-U106 >> R-Z8 > R-Z1 > R-Z344 > R-Z6 > R-A96 > R-S10415 > R-A9701 > R-A9703 > R-A9708.[29][30]

Eight Howland men share one Y-DNA SNP which is identified as A9708 on the R-A9708 block level in the Y haplotree.

This Y-DNA SNP, A9708 occurs sometime before the birth of Henry Howland of Fenstanton, and they are genetically passed to all his sons and their male descendants; however, there are more unique private variants that have occurred in the Y-DNA of their paternal line descendants sometime after the births of Arthur, John, and Henry Howland individually.

For example, two private variants belong to one male descendant of Pilgrim John Howland's son, John Howland, Jr., and four private variants belong to one male descendant of Pilgrim John Howland's son, Jabez Howland, but none of these two private variants are identical to the four private variants. It means Pilgrim John Howland did not have any more novel variants from his father to pass on to his sons, but he only did inherit just one SNP, A9708 in his Y-DNA chromosome from his father at that time when he was born, and later he did pass it on to his sons.

Furthermore, either of those two or four private variants are not identical to any of those private variants or SNPs in the Y-DNA results of Arthur Howland and Henry Howland, Jr's male descendants.

If another patrilineal descendant of Pilgrim John Howland takes the Big Y-700 test and his results reveal a match to any of those private variants, it will create two new separate haplogroup subclades of R-A9708 in the future for Lt. John Howland, Jr's line and Jabez Howland's line.

The parentage of Arthur Howland, John Howland, and Henry Howland, Jr. has been confirmed by Y-DNA SNP results of eight male testers, and the results show that they share one unique SNP, A9708 and are therefore all-male descendants of Henry Howland, Sr.

More DNA testings can discover other SNPs that are unique to the descendants to trace the Y-DNA to one of three Howland sons in America. We hope to recruit additional Howlands for further SNP testing. Anyone interested in submitting their Y-DNA should review the information at Howland (Y-DNA) under the Mayflower DNA project and Howland DNA project under Family Tree DNA.


As of 18 May 2019, John Howland has 144,757 descendants on Geni.


  1. Anderson, Robert C., The Pilgrim Migration, "John Howland" Boston: Great Migration Study Project, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2006, pp. 279-284. Free link at
  2. Lainhart, Ann Smith. Mayflower Families through Five Generations, Volume 23, Part 1, Family of John Howland, General Society of Mayflower Descendents, Plymouth, MA., 2006.
  3. Johnson, Caleb H. Henry Howland of Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire: Father of Mayflower Passenger John Howland. Available at The Pilgrim John Howland Society website (2015). Link to online PDF.
  4. Arnold, James N. Vital record of Rhode Island : 1636-1850 : First Series : Births, Marriages and Deaths : A Family Register for the People. "Volume 2. Providence County." (Providence, R.I. : Narragansett Historical Pub. Co., 1892), p. 229. Text: about 1590. This wasn't a contemporary record, but it was provided by a later descendant.
  5. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856) pp. 447, 450.
  6. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856), p. 76.
  7. Morton, Nathaniel. New England's memorial. (Boston: Congregational board of publication, 1855) Originally published 1669, p. 26. Note: The original compact is gone. Morton furnished the earliest known list. 1669 facsimile.
  8. B. Clay Shannon. Still Casting Shadows: A Shared Mosaic of U.S. History. (2006), p. 18.
  9. Records of the colony of New Plymouth, in New England, Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer, eds., 12 volumes in 10 (Boston 1855-1861), Vol. 12 of Series. Deeds, &c. Vol. 1, p. 1620-1651 and others.1623, p. 4]; 1627, p. 10.
  10. Stratton, Eugene Aubrey, FASG. Plymouth Colony Its History & People. The Generations Network, Inc., Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 1986, pp. 19-29.
  11. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 1:3.
  12. Plymouth Colony Records. Vol. 1:52, 5:274, 8:173 and 8:197.
  13. Bowman, George Ernest. "John Howland's Will and Inventory." The Mayflower Descendant. Vol. 2: Will p. 170, Inventory p. 173, 1634 shooting pp. 10, 11.
  14. Shurtleff, Nathaniel B. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, printed by order of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "Court Orders," Vol. 1. 1633-1640. (Boston : Press of W. White, 1855) Vol. 1: p. 5, p. 21, p. 32.
  15. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 1, p. 41.
  16. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 12, p. 56.
  17. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 12, p. 41.
  18. Wakefield, Robert S. "John Howland in Maine." The Mayflower Descendant, 42:15 (1992). Link at AmericanAncestors ($).
  19. Plymouth Colony Records. Vol. 2: pp. 16, 94, 117, 123, 144, 154, 167, Vol. 3: pp. 8, 31, 44, 49, 63, 79, 99, 135, 214, Vol. 4: pp. 37, 122, 148.
  20. Records of the Town of Plymouth. Vol. 1, 1636 to 1705. (Plymouth : Avery & Doten, 1889) suveyor p. 28, Howland selectman p. 82.
  21. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 8: 187.
  22. Mayflower Descendant, Vol. 10; April 1908; pp. 72 - 73. Cites Plymouth Colony Deeds, p. 169.
  23. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. 3, p. 170.
  24. MF 5 Gen by Lainhart & Wakefield.
  25. Shurtleff, Nathaniel B. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England, Vol. 8, "Miscellaneous Records 1633-1689" (New York : AMS Press, 1968 reprint.) (Original 1857.) Vol 8. p. 34.
  26. The Pilgrim John Howland Society.
  27. Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts Volume XXII : Plymouth Church Records 1620-1859, Part I, (Boston: by the Society, 1920), p. 147; digital images, Google Books, ( : accessed April 2023).
  28. "Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1633-1967," images, FamilySearch ( : 9 March 2023), Wills 1633-1686 vol 1-4 > image 331 of 616; State Archives, Boston.
  29. General Society of Mayflower Descendants. “Mayflower: Official Project of General Society of Mayflower Descendants (GSMD).” FamilyTreeDNA,, 2019, Mayflower DNA Project - Y-DNA Colorized Chart.
  30. Howland DNA Project. Family TreeDNA., 2020,
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John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger's Timeline

February 23, 1592
Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire, England (United Kingdom)

Who is this John Howland and where did you dig them up? Jess

January 16, 1602
Age 9
Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridgeshire, England
January 16, 1602
Age 9
Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridge, England
January 16, 1602
Age 9
Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridge, England
January 16, 1603
Age 10
Holy Trinity, Ely, Cambridge, England
January 16, 1603
Age 10
Holy Trinity,Ely,Cambridge,England
August 30, 1607
Age 15
Henlow, Bedfordshire, England (United Kingdom)