John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger

Is your surname Howland?

Research the Howland family

John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

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 Desire Gorham; Lieutenant John Howland, Jr.; Hope Chipman; Elizabeth Dickinson; Lydia Brown and 6 others
Brother of Margaret Phillips; Humphrey Howland; Arthur Howland, I, of Marshfield; Simon Howland; Henry Howland, Jr. of Duxbury and 3 others

Occupation: Mayflower Passenger, Managed the fur shop in Maine, other
Label: Arrived on Mayflower in 1620. One of the signers of Mayflower Compact
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Howland, "Mayflower" Passenger

John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England between 1592/3-1599. He died at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, February 23, 1672/3 and "with honour interred" on Burial Hill , Rocky Nook (in Plymouth Colony), Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was a passenger on the Mayflower, 1620.


Parents: Henry and Margaret ______ Howland.

He was baptized at Holy Trinity.


  1. by about 1624 in Plymouth to Elizabeth Tilley, (? - 1687) also a Mayflower Passenger, daughter of John Tilley (also a Mayflower Passenger) and Joan (Hurst) Rogers.

Children of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley:

  1. Desire, m. John Gorham
  2. John, m. Mary Lee
  3. Hope, m. John Chipman
  4. Elizabeth, m. 1st Ephraim Hicks, 2nd, John Dickerson
  5. Lydia, m. James Brown
  6. Hannah, m. Jonathan Bosworth
  7. Joseph, m. Elizabeth Southworth
  8. Jabez, m. Bethiah Thatcher
  9. Ruth, m. Thomas Cushman
  10. Isaac, m. Elizabeth Vaughn


From a display piece belonging to an unidentified educational kit about American pilgrims: "Did You Know?...A young servant named John Howland climbed up the gratings during a storm to see if the fittings were loose. As a wave hit the ship, he was thrown into the raging water but caught a thin rope hanging over the side. He was quickly pulled aboard."


An American history legend from the voyage of the Mayflower and founding of Plymouth Rock in 1620. American children discover John Howland when they learn of the Pilgrims, Plymouth Rock, and the first Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims' leader Governor William Bradford wrote a first hand account of the Pilgrim history from 1620 to 1647. This account was first published in 1952, and is considered one of the best first hand accounts of any kind on American history. In Bradford's account of the voyage over on the Mayflower, he tells of how John Howland washed overboard in violent storm. Howland was 29 years of age at the time. Howland was able to grab some ropes from the sails and gradually pull himself back on board the ship. This event and Bradford's account of it made John Howland a legend. Howland's name and account has been published in hundreds of publications and in school history books. As myths can grow, the story had changed that he had died and was the first pilgrim to die, thus the oldest burial in the Plymouth cemetery, Burial Hill. In fact, he survived, married and had a number of children with Elizabeth Tilley Howland, and lived to 80 plus, according to his grave stone. His grave stone also states from Plymouth records that he was the last male to die from the original pilgrims of the Mayflower


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

Brief Biography

Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England around 1599. At the age of twenty-one, he was employed by John Carver, a Puritan minister who joined with William Bradford in bringing his congregation from Leiden, Netherlands to the New World. Howland, while formally a servant, was in fact Carver's assistant in managing the migration.

Although he had arrived on the Mayflower as a servant to the Carver family, Howland 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.

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.

In 1623/24, Howland married Elizabeth Tilley, by then a young lady of seventeen and the daughter of John Tilley and his wife Joan (Hurst) Rogers. Her parents had died the first winter and she had become the foster daughter of Governor Carver and his wife who were childless. 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.

The following year 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.

Then in 1626 the governor, William Bradford selected him to lead a team building a trading station on the Kennebec river and in 1628, Howland was elevated to the post of Assistant Governor.

Finally, in 1633 Howland, then thirty-four, was admitted as a freeman of Plymouth. He and Elizabeth had by then acquired significant landholdings around Plymouth and after his being declared a freeman they diligently acquired more. Howland served at various times as Assistant Governor, Deputy to the General Court, Selectman, Surveyor of Highways and member of the Fur Committee.

John and his wife Elizabeth had ten children, all of whom lived and had descendants. Their four sons were officers of the Plymouth Colony Militia, and served in other capacities.

Howland died on 23 February 1673, and was "with honour interred" on Burial Hill. 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."


view all 74

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)