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James Chilton, Mayflower passenger & my 12 great grandfather

It is said that the number of Mayflower descendants living today is 35 million. I don't know if that number includes known descendants or all descendants, because I had no idea I was a Mayflower descendant and if any of my relatives did know and didn't tell me, I'll be upset! So are those of us who had no idea included in that number? And what about those who descend from more than one of the Mayflower couples? Are they counted multiple times in the number of Mayflower descendants?

To join The Mayflower Society, you must prove your relationship by providing birth records for every ancestor all the way back to the Mayflower passenger (or passengers) you descend from. In my case, I'm still working on a missing link (see my previous blog about Solomon Leonard), so I won't be joining the society anytime soon but that hasn't stopped me from learning about my Mayflower ancestor, James Chilton and his wife.

James Chilton was among the passengers from the Leiden Congregation. They were devout followers of Jesus Christ who had fled England in order to achieve religious freedom, perhaps upon the threat of execution for their refusal to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England. The pilgrims' successful escape in 1609 was nothing short of a miracle. After two failed attempts to flee, the males planned to depart for Leiden first with the goal of returning to get their wives later, one by one. During the men's voyage to Holland, a deadly storm raged overhead. Even the ship's crew had abandoned control of the vessel and retreated below into the ship's cargo hold with the passengers. With the ship being tossed about violently, they taunted and mocked the pilgrims, saying their loving God was going to let them all die at sea. Then, the pilgrims prayed and called out to God and finally the storm subsided. Hundreds of ships were destroyed in that storm, yet the prayer of the pilgrims was heard and mercy was granted. They landed safely in Holland with a miraculous tale to tell and later returned to retrieve their wives and children.

The group remained in Leiden, Holland, for a decade, until their opportunity to form their own colony in the New World came in 1620. (See my previous blog, Pilgrims and Strangers at Plymouth, for more details about their escape and voyage).

James Chilton, born abt. 1555, was the oldest passenger on the Mayflower, being about 65 years old at the time. He was born in Canterbury, Kent, England. He and his wife had several children, but only 13-year old Mary came on the Mayflower with them. Sadly, James died aboard the ship while it was anchored off Cape Cod in early December, 1620. His wife also died on the ship, on January 11, 1621. Only their daughter, Mary, survived. She married John Winslow and died in 1679. Mary was laid to rest in King's Chapel Burying Ground, where her parents and sibling had been buried years before. Paul Revere was later buried beside her.

James Chilton's other daughter who came later was Isabella Chilton. She was baptized on Jan. 15, 1587, in St. Paul's Parish in Canterbury, England. She was about 22-years old when she fled with her family to Holland in 1609. There she was married at Leiden on July 21, 1615, to Roger Chandler, a "cloth-worker from Colchester". Isabella and Roger Chandler had at least four daughters and one son. They sailed from Leiden to Plymouth before 1632, as Roger's name appears on a Plymouth Colony tax list dated Jan. 2, 1632. With them came Solomon Leonard, who married their daughter, Sarah Chandler, about 1640, in Duxbury, Plymouth Colony.

From "Signers of the Mayflower Compact", by Annie Arnoux Haxtun, 1896.


  1. The descendants of Roger Chandler of Concord, Mass., 1658, compiled by Charles H. Chandler, 1949, p.6-7. [Link]

  2. Signers of the Mayflower Compact, by Annie Arnoux Haxtun, 1896, p.24. [Link]


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