Tom is an American who has been living in the UK for over 25 years. His family home is in Plymouth, Massachusetts and he is a member of the Pilgrim John Howland Society in the USA.
John was born in Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire probably in the mid to late 1590s (the baptismal records of the Church in Fenstanton date from the early 1600’s) and was one of six brothers and a sister. A number of his brothers were involved in the wool trade and lived in London. John probably worked either with or for them. During his time in London he must have met John Carver, a leader of the Separatists from Leiden in Holland who was visiting England to secure a ship and provisions to take the congregation from Holland to America to settle. It is unclear how or why but John became a man-servant to John Carver and signed the Mayflower Compact while at sea so must have been aged 21 or over at that time.
John Carver, who was made the first Governor of the colony died in Plymouth, New England in April 1621. His wife Katherine died shortly afterwards. They had no heirs but had a number of servants and dependents. John Howland became head of the Carver household and inherited the estate.
In 1623/4 he married Elizabeth Tilley (born 1607 in Henlow, Bedfordshire), a fellow passenger on the Mayflower and member of the John Carver household after her family died during the first winter (1620/21). By 1626 John and seven other freemen had assumed the colony’s debt to the English financiers in exchange for the monopoly of the fur trade.
Within a few years of John arriving on the Mayflower, two of his brothers – Henry and Arthur – had joined him in America. All three were successful but John especially so. He and Elizabeth had a large family of 10 and by the time he died in 1672/3 he had 88 grandchildren. Elizabeth died in 1687.
In this interview we talk to Tom about how he found out that John Howland was an ancestor of his. We also talk about his research into the early life of John in Cambridgeshire and then London and how that may have influenced his decision to emigrate to America and secure a position in John Carvers employment. We also spoke to Tom about his plans to publish details of his research.
You can listen to the interview with Tom below:
As part of our ongoing involvement in the Mayflower400UK project we have agreed to work with Tom researching John Howland’s life in Cambridgeshire, the important roles Cambridge University had in helping shape Protestant thinking and East Anglia played in the Puritan ‘Great Migration‘ from England to New England.