Did Mary Alden exist? (I don't think so)

+10 votes

Mary Alden is said to be a daughter of Joseph Alden and his wife Mary Simmons or Simonson, and she is said to be the second wife of Samuel Allen. However, as discussed in her profile, there is no documentation of Joseph Alden having a daughter Mary, and there is no record of the birth of a Mary Alden in vital records for places in or near the Plymouth Colony anywhere near the time of her supposed birth. Furthermore, there are several lines of evidence indicating that the name of the second wife of Samuel Allen was Mary Pratt (daughter of Matthew Pratt), not Mary Alden. The change log histories for her WikiTree profile and associated profiles show Mayflower project members asserting that Mary Alden (assumed to be the wife of Samuel Allen) wasn't the child of Mayflower descendant Joseph Alden, while descendants of Samuel Allen (a group that includes me) have been saying that second wife of Samuel Allen wasn't Mary Alden (assumed to be a Mayflower descendant), although people have kept on attaching her to Samuel as his wife. I believe that both groups are correct, because I am reaching the conclusion that Mary Alden didn't exist.

The "sources" on Mary Alden's profile include the Ancestral File, Ancestry Family Trees, the Millennium File, and other derivative databases found on Ancestry.com. I've searched Ancestry to try to figure out what these databases might be based on. From my searching, it appears to me that Torrey's New England Marriages is the primary "proof" used there for connecting Mary Alden to Samuel Allen, but it names Samuel Allen's second wife as ""Mary [Alden?] Pratt? (?1667- ), dau Matthew" (hardly a strong endorsement of the theory that she was Mary Alden, daughter of Joseph). Interestingly, Mary Alden's entry in the Edmund West Family Data Collection on Ancestry.com has a user-submitted comment that offers a theory as to how Mary Alden was mistakenly identified as the wife of Samuel Allen. The comment states (emphasis added by me):

It is possible that A Samuel Allen married A Mary Alden although there is no record of a Mary Alden. The birth date in this record [1672] is not correct for Mary Pratt who married Samuel Allen in 1700. her birthdate is 1667. there has long been confusion about this marriage because Mary Pratt lived with the Aldens. It is accepted that this mary is correct by the Alden Society.

As I said, I don't think Mary Alden existed at all.

I am not familiar with the Alden Society's information, I don't have access to Mayflower Families through Five Generations, Vol. 16, and I don't know what evidence there is for Mary Pratt living with an Alden family. But if that is documented, it could complete the story about why Mary Alden didn't exist.

Can someone who has access to those Mayflower and Alden resources fill in the details that I can't see? Does anyone know of evidence I missed that substantiates Mary Alden's existence?

I'd like to mark Alden-92 as "probably didn't exist," but we need to keep the profile so it won't get re-created. The profile is project-protected, so it can't be easily reattached to the Alden parents, but project-protection is also needed for the children of Samuel Allen and his second wife so they won't continue to be reattached to the wrong mother.  Those children are Joseph, Matthew, Seth, and probably also Benjamin, Mary, and Rebecca (I haven't checked the records today to confirm the last three).

ADDED: For the record, there is a death record in Boston for a Mary Alden who died 11 Feb 1727 (likely to be new-style year 1728) at the reported age of 56 (indicating birth in about 1671), but if her last name at death was Alden she wasn't the wife of a man named Allen.

WikiTree profile: Mary Allen
in Genealogy Help by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
edited by Ellen Smith

Some may be basing the connection on this work

 Hallock-Holyoke Pedigree and Collateral Branches in the United States: Being a Revision of the Hallock Ancestry of 1866

Charles Hallock William Allen Hallock


- January 1, 1906

Press of Carpenter & Morehouse

Page 50



The name Allen, same as Alan or Allan, is derived, according to Julian, from Aland, a wolf-hound ; and Chaucer uses Aland in the same sense. Bailey derives it the same from the British. Camden thinks it a corruption from Aliania, which signifies "sunbright." From the same we have Allen, Allin, Alleyne. In the Gaelic Alinna signifies exceedingly fair, handsome, elegant, lovely. Irish, Aline, fair, beautiful.

1. John Alden, born 1599, in 1623 married Priscilla Mullein.

2. Their son, Joseph Alden, born 1626, married Mary Simmons.

3. Isaac Alden, their son, born 1665, married Mehitabel Allen in 1685.

Mary Alden, daughter of Joseph and Mary Simmons Alden, born 1680, in 1700 married 3d Samuel Allen, born 1680.

4. Ebenezer, son of Isaac and Mehitabel Alden, born 1693, married Anna Keith in 1717.

5. John Alden.

6. Samuel Alden, born 1807, died May 28, 1903, at Duxbury, Mass., aged 95 years and 5 months.

Sarah Alden, daughter of Isaac and Mehitabel Alden, born 1636, married Seth Brett in 1713.

Matthew Allen, son of 3d Samuel Allen and Mary Alden, born 1708, married in 1736 Sarah Brett, daughter of Seth andSarah Alden.


Samuel Allen page 438 and 439

Not free  The New England Historical and Genealogical Register  

Cost 15 dollars


I'm new to all of this but I'm a member of the NEHGS.  Perhaps I could access that volume through their portal (unless some of you are already members and have already tried)?

Thanks, Kate. I'm also an NEHGS member. Mayflower Families through Five Generations isn't available on their website.

You mentioned that Mary Pratt lived with the Alden Family ..........

In the past, it was a common occurrence  when ORPHANS lived with a family to end up with that name. Not legally, but just by association.  I personally know of at least 3 that I have known in my life who this happened to.  It was just what happened in the 1920 & 30's ..... they stayed so long that they became a part of that family.  It could well be that is what happened to Mary Pratt aka Mary Alden.

Evelyn McKelvey
I don't know whether Mary Pratt lived with the Alden family. That is an unsourced assertion made by an Ancestry.com member on the Ancestry website. Yes, if there's evidence that this is true, it could help explain how the wife of Samuel Allen came to be identified as "Mary Alden." But let's not treat this as a True Fact.

Mayflower Descendant: A Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1899- . (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010)


Well, fooey. I can't figure out how to attach a PDF of JPG of that article, but I might be informative. Help?


4 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer

Esther Littleford Woodworth-Barnes (compiler) and Alicia Crane Williams (editor), Family of John Alden, vol. Volume 16, Part 1, Mayflower Families through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass, December 1620 (Plymouth, MA: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1999), p. 39:

"[A list of the children of Joseph Alden and Mary Simmons, which does NOT include a daughter, Mary]... Note: It has been claimed that Joseph Alden had another daughter, Mary, who married, as his second wife, Samuel Allen, 1 January 1700 or 10 April 1700. No proof has been found; Asa W. Allen in his Genealogy of the Allen and Winter Families (1872), page 97, says that Samuel Allen's second wife was Mary Pratt. For a discussion of this problem, see the Alden Gen, pages 100 and 101."

The cited pages of Alden Genealogy can be viewed at https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89062953088;view=1up;seq=177

by Jim Moore G2G6 Mach 1 (12.7k points)
selected by Edie Kohutek
Great source and free to the public thanks to HathiTrust!

I love how the author, Viola Main Turner,  starts: "Here is presented one of the major problems of genealogical research." It's the same set of questions we face today, but Viola is writing around 1935 and neither commercial DNA testing nor wikitree has been invented yet. Viola leaves us an astonishing 282 pages composed on a typewriter!

Thank you for posting it. I've added it and all these other new (new to me) sources to the profile for Abigail Allen Waldo. Strange as it sounds....that's the place where the secondary sources regarding Mary Alden reside....that's the place where people are encouraged to consider the Mary Alden question as a DNA question.
+5 votes
There is a daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins named Mary I1638-1688).

by Leslie Newell G2G3 (3.3k points)
She's real, but she's in an earlier generation of Aldens. The person I'm asking about is variously reported as having been born somewhere between 1667 and 1680.
It would have been nice to know what dates she was asking about for Mary Alden.  It would have made it easier to look for.

There's a prominent link to the Alden-92 profile in the original question.

Mary Pratt, daughter of Matthew Pratt, Jr is listed in "The Pratt Family" as having been born 27 Nov. 1669 and marrying ___ Allen. This confirms Torrey's suggestion. Born 1667, per Genealogy of the Name and Family of Hunt, pg. 271 and per Weymouth VRs, pg. 235.

Hi, Eddie. I guess your reference to "The Pratt Family" is to this page. Works like that don't "confirm" the more thoroughly documented work of more recent researchers. That genealogy was published in 1890 and it doesn't have much information on its sources. Although some other amateur genealogists have suggested to me that 19th century books like that are better sources for 17th century people than more recent work because they are somewhat closer in time to the actual events, books like that are not primary sources, their authors often weren't careful about documenting the basis for their conclusions (unfortunately, there even were some 19th century genealogists who were out-and-out frauds), and modern researchers often have much better access to good sources than our Victorian-era ancestors did.

I've been hoping that one of the Alden descendants in the Mayflower Project can help answer my questions based on modern research.

Hi Miss Ellen

I don't add or subtract from profiles unless I have a document but for G2G discussions, I provide every thing I locate online so folks can study/discuss the maybe yes maybe no.

(My hobby is engendering chaos LOL)

+2 votes

When Primary sources are not discoverable for a person, does that prove a person did not exist? 

(I think not)

I see an ongoing problem regarding Mary Alden if we insist upon the same standard of proof that the Mayflower Society and the Alden Kindred hold for admission to their ranks, the standard of bomb-proof primary sources.  While it makes sense to dig for primary sources, and check in with such societies for the existence of primary sources, it fails to make sense to conclude that a person lacking primary sources never existed and to entirely discount the preponderance of evidence suggested by non-primary sources. 

Mary Alden suffers what I call the curse of the Mayflower, a disease characterized by heightened scrutiny that few other wikiprofiles will ever experience.  Despite her profile's rigorous research, tragically it fails to account for Mary's children; it seems to discourage open-minded inquiry and it lacks forward thinking openness to the most modern of genealogical methods. You will never see any DNA test results posted on her profile they way it is disconnected from all family.  

Coincidentally, I was a surprise that when I inquired at the Alden Kindred Society a year or two ago, they said they had no DNA projects going. None, and no plans for it.  Not to disparage all they do accomplish, but the most genuinely modern of methods is not what they do. 

Segmentology anyone? Is DNA the new primary?  https://dna-explained.com/2019/05/16/mitochondrial-dna-part-1-overview/

We are in a time of transition. In ten or twenty years I hope to see Mary (Simmons) Alden or Priscilla (Mullin) Alden's mitochondrial DNA signatures and compare them to that of Abigail Allen Waldo's who is thought to be Mary Alden's daughter and granddaughter to Mary (Simmons) Alden. 

Until then I am neither leaping to judgement, nor closing doors, just building the tree downward toward the living carriers of Abigail Allen Waldo's DNA. I do not care if we have a Mayflower connection, but I do care that Abigail Allen Waldo's mother to be known and connected. 

There are some lingering questions. The fact that a Mary Alden who married Samuel Allen is written about in so many secondary sources penned by so many serious 19th Century Genealogists should give one pause before consigning what may have been a genuine person to the dust bin of non-existence. We should be asking why are the family members closer to her time recounting to these genealogists an antecedent named Mary Alden who married Samuel Allen? Bradford Kingman in the "History of North Bridgewater" even gives their marriage year and the fact that her brother Isaac married his sister Mehitable. 


Waldo Lincoln in The Genealogy of the Waldo Family refers to her as Mary (Alden) Allen and describes her likely status as Samuel Allen's wife. 


This Mary Allen had 14 Waldo grandchildren who survived to adulthood and are the progenitors of countless living persons. Some of them carry the pure female lineage. Perhaps Mary Alden's profile could invite those women to post GedMatched mitochondrial test results. If Mary (Simmons) Alden or Priscilla (Mullin) Alden's profiles also solicited such results then......What?

Then maybe someday there will be a cure for this Mayflower curse!  

by R Adams G2G6 Mach 2 (20.7k points)
Interesting suggestion about using mitochondrial DNA to evaluate this situation.

You cite a couple of books I hadn't seen before. I'm using my phone at the moment, and I haven't been able to open your Waldo reference. However, I note that Kingman gives Mary Alden a birth date of 1700, which makes it vanishingly unlikely that she's the Mary who had children with Samuel Allen between 1701 and 1710. Also I think the father (Joseph Alden) is supposed to have died in 1697.

You offer up living proof that a smart phone is definitely not the tool to use to read secondary sources!

Bradford Kingman, historian of North Bridgewater, did NOT write that Mary Alden was born in 1700. Your phone is deceiving you. 

He wrote Mary Alden married Samuel Allen in 1700. And he agrees that her father Joseph Alden had passed away in 1679.


+5 votes

The following is copied from Abigail Allen Waldo's profile where the DNA angle has been suggested long ago and recently updated...

DNA can crack this case and we are half way there!

There really is a way to prove whether or not Mary Alden is in genetic line with her purported grandmother Priscilla Mullins Alden, and we are half way there. What  we need to do is compare the mtDNA test results (the mitochondrial haplogroup)  from Priscilla with someone in Abigail's female lineage. 

It turns out that the Mayflower FTDNA study already has verified the mitochondrial Haplogroup for Priscilla Mullins Alden! This is the genetic fingerprint which passes from mother to daughter to granddaughter unchanged.

Priscilla's haplogroup is H6a1a9 . It has been verified by three well sourced test subjects who are proven descendants of her.

We know there is an unproven claim  that Abigail Allen Waldo is daughter of Samuel Allen and his spouse the purported Mayflower descendant Mary Alden thought to be grand daughter of Priscilla Mullins.  Now we just need to find somebody with mtDNA results who is in Abigail Allen Waldo's maternal  line. 

Abigail had four daughters who lived long enough to marry and have children. So the odds are pretty good that Abigail's mtDNA haplogroup will someday be known. If Abigail really  is genetically in line with Priscilla Mullins, Abigail would have inherited the H6a1a9 haplogroup from her, that would be a convincing corroboration of the Mary Alden claim for which there is no existing primary source like a birth record. If Abigail does not have Priscilla's Haplogroup then we know the secondary sources have gone off-rail somewhere, possibly in the confused abundance of Samuel Allens of whom there are four in a row, possibly in a misunderstanding of some sort. The names Alden and Allen not only sound alike, but they look alike in record, and it is not impossible that an old misunderstanding drives "one of the 'major problems' of genealogical research" as researcher Viola Main Turner described this dilemma in 1935. 

The Mayflower Society's mtDNA study

The way The Mayflower Society explains the mtDNA part of their study speaks to the Mary Alden situation. They say:

"The  MtDNA Project is an all female lineage of one of the daughters of a proven male or female Mayflower descendant. This project hopes to identify the MtDNA Haplogroup of the mothers of these descendants.  This may help to establish parentage & place of origin in some lineages of women in these lines who have no paper records connecting their birth family with their marriage and children. "

The accumulating data in their study is open to the public and includes this amazing mtDNA chart for a number of Mayflower women: 


Perhaps the key to unraveling this is in Abigail (Allen) Waldo's 15 Children, 14 of whom survived childhood. Thanks to them there is an awful lot of Waldo DNA walking around, just as there are said to be now  millions of Alden descendants. 

If a descendant of Abigail Allen Waldo has mtDNA results, they can help by posting them on Abigail's wikiprofile in GEDmatch form (or any form that specifies the haplogroup). To have Abigail's exact same mtDNA one must be a female in 100% female descent from her OR be the male child of a mother who is in 100% direct female descent from her. Put another way, you may be male or female, but there can be no males in direct line between you and Abigail Allen Waldo. 

In time the genetic fingerprint of our grandmothers may get us past the speculation!

by R Adams G2G6 Mach 2 (20.7k points)
If Mary was an Alden then the mtDna match should be to direct female line descendants of Mary (Simmons) Alden, or her assumed mother, Sarah (Chandler) Simmons/Symondes/Simonson. If she was a Pratt, the match would be to Sarah (Hunt) Pratt, or her mother Dorothy (Bainbridge) Barker Hunt King. The challenge would be to find persons with direct line female lineage to these persons.

My interest is via my maternal great5 grandfather, Benjamin Allen. Y-DNA signature of his many direct line male descendants leads to Samuel Allen of Braintree who was a near relative of George Allen of Sandwich. Benjamin appears to have been the grandson of Samuel Allen of East Bridgewater and his second wife, Mary (Alden? Pratt?) Allen.

The Allen's came from Braintree to Bridgewater. Samuel's mother was a Partridge from Duxbury. The family was settled at Bridgewater at this time which was in Plymouth Colony while Braintree and Weymouth, though nearby, were in Mass Bay Colony. It seems more likely that Samuel Allen's spouse Mary would have been from Bridgewater or Duxbury than Weymouth where the Pratt and Hunt families were from, but anything is possible. DNA shows that Macuth Pratt, the progenitor of the Weymouth family of that name was a close relative to Phineas Pratt of Plymouth. Plus some of my ancestors from Weymouth on an entirely different line later settled in Taunton which is in Plymouth Colony.
Tracking mtDNA is really a challenge nowadays due to lack of people posting their results and lack of well documented pedigree charts to follow the genetic trace backward. But in 20 years or so there may be a lot more data to work will...especially given that Shubael (Shuball) Waldo and Abigail Allen had so many female descendants with what looks like some pure female lines.

But y-DNA is another matter, with so many more results posted and so many better documented charts running up those male lines because the name does not change generally. It sounds like you might either have the y-DNA test results that match your Benjamin Allen, or know somehow know what his results are by some other person's results. I wonder if you might consider somehow posting what that y-DNA haplogroup is thought to be on the profiles to which you think it can be reliably posted on? Possible you have sources that could help wikitree back through your Allen line.

The Samuel Allens, of which there seem to be at least four in a row, are related to a lot of living people and if there is a reliable y-DNA signature for them, it would be a real plus for their profiles.

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