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John Atwood (abt. 1615 - 1675)

John Atwood aka Wood alias Atwood
Born about in Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married after 1637 in Massachusettsmap
Descendants descendants
Died at about age 60 in Plymouth, Plymouth Colonymap
Profile last modified | Created 22 Dec 2009
This page has been accessed 5,725 times.
The Puritan Great Migration.
John Atwood migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1621-1640).
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Name and origins

Name: John Atwood, of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He is also found in the records as John Wood and John Wood alias Atwood.
Not to be confused with the John Atwood who was Ass't. Governor.
Disputed origins: The parents of this John Atwood are unknown. They are not known to be John Atwood and Joan Coleson as sometimes given. There reasons to believe that he was closely related to Stephen Atwood and Henry Atwood, but their relationship is not proven.[1]


Born: About 1615.
Very rough estimate based on the estimated dates of his marriage and birth of children.


Married: Sarah Masterson, after 1637, presumably in Plymouth. She was the daughter of Richard Masterson and Mary Goodall.
Children of John Atwood and Sarah Masterson:[1]
  1. Mary Atwood. Born probably after 1637 and before 1645. Married 1st John Holmes on 11 December 1661 at Plymouth. Married 2nd Majoe William Bradford about 1676. She died 6 January 1714/5 at Plymouth.
  2. Sarah Atwood. Married John Fallowell on 13 February 1666/7 at Plymouth.
  3. John Atwood. Born 4 March 1649 at Plymouth. Died before 7 March 1675/6 (when his father's will was proved).
  4. Nathaniel Atwood born 25 February m Mary (possibly Mary Lucas, daughter of Thomas Lucas) died 17 December 1724.
  5. Isaac Atwood b 27 Feb 1653, living as of March 1675/6
  6. Abigail Atwood b between 1656 and 1660 m before 7 March 1675/6 Samuel Leonard
  7. Mercy Atwood unmarried in June 1685; perhaps died 4 March 1697/8 (Ye Atte Wode Annals 9)
  8. Elizabeth Atwood b before 1669 and perhaps as early as 1665 m before 10 July 1685 (deed) Caleb Nye.
  9. Hannah Atwood b before March 1675/6, d at Plymouth 17 December 1718. m 1 February 1693 Richard Cooper.

Life in Plymouth Colony

In August of 1643, John Atwood was listed among those from Plymouth town (part of the larger Plymouth Colony) able to bear arms.[2]


Died: Between 22 November 1675 and 7 March 1675/6, presumably at Plymouth, Massachusetts
Dates his will was made and proved.[3]
Entire estate to wife Sarah. After her death to children.
Double portion to son John.
All the rest of my sons and daughters (not named).
His inventory was taken on 26 January 1675 in Plymouth.[3]
However, the eldest son John was dead (unmarried and without children) before 7 March 1675/6 when the will was probated. Administration of the estate was granted to the eldest surviving son Nathaniel who received the double portion. The rest of the estate was divided equally between Isaak Wood, Mistris Mary Holmes, widow, Sarah Fallowell, Abigaill Leanard, Mercye, Elizabeth, and Hannah Wood alias Attwood.
When Nathaniel Wood sold his portion of the land in Plymouth, the deed mentioned 'Sarah, my mother, relic widow of my late father John Wood alias Attwood; Mary, Sarah, Abigail, Mercy, Elizabeth, and Hannah my sisters." On the same day, widow Sarah Wood, Mary wife of Major William Bradford, Sarah the relic of John Followay, and Elizabeth wife of Caleb Nye released their interest in the same land.[1]

Common Errors to Avoid

Incorrect parents: The parents of this John Atwood are unknown. They are not known to be John Atwood and Joan Coleson as sometimes given.[1]
Incorrect birth date: He is sometimes said to have been born 14 December 1614 in St. Martin in the Field, London, England. There is no evidence to support this.[1]
Other records have his immigration as 1629 aboard the Mayflower 14th voyage


Footnotes and citations:
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 44 no. 2 (July 1992): 137-142. John Wood alias Atwood of Plymouth, Massachusetts, by Alicia Crane Williams. LINK
  2. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., “List of Those Able to Bear Arms in The Colony of New Plymouth in 1643,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 4 (1850): 255. The name John Atwood was later crossed out.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1633-1967," images, FamilySearch ( : 9 March 2023), Wills 1633-1686 vol 1-4 > image 381 of 616; State Archives, Boston.
Source list:
  • Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, M.D., “List of Those Able to Bear Arms in The Colony of New Plymouth in 1643,” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 4 (1850): 255. Note: Both "Mr. John Atwood" and "John Atwood" appear on this list. "Mr. John Atwood" was later crossed out and would refer to Assistant to the Governor. "John Wood" appears later, followed directly by "Henry Wood" and "Steephen Wood."
  • The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 44 no. 2 (July 1992): 137-142. John Wood alias Atwood of Plymouth, Massachusetts, by Alicia Crane Williams. LINK
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon. Torrey’s New England Marriages Prior to 1700 (Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, 1985). Text: "WOOD, John (alias ATWOOD) (?1610-1675) & Sarah [MASTERSON]; by 1643?; Plymouth {LBDF&P 4:108; NYGBR 60:8; Warner-Harrington 407, 439, 794; MD 16:121, 17:25; Plymouth (Davis) 7, 184; Stone-Evans 69, 94; Morse (,1) 63; Drown (ms) 84}"

See also:
  • The Bromwell genealogy : including descendants of William Bromwell and Beulah Hall, with data relating to others of the Bromwell name in America p. 103. Harrietta E. Bromwell, Denver, Colo. (1910) [1]
  • This person was created on 19 March 2011 through the import of KRH Family Tree_2010-12-30.ged.
  • This person was created through the import of Bwiki.ged on 03 April 2011.
  • This person was created through the import of Travis Family Tree.ged on Jun 22, 2011 by Roger Travis.
  • This person was created through the import of GERBER.GED on 21 September 2010.
  • Thank you to Loren Fay

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Comments: 36

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I've gone through the published Plymouth Colony Records and other than the probate which refers to him as "Wood alias Atwood", I can't find any records where he is called Atwood instead of Wood. There are several records where you can see Mr. John Atwood (i.e. the Asst to Gov) and John Wood in the same document, but always using different names. I found none where both were referred to as Atwood or Wood. Does anyone have an example where this John used Atwood? It would be interesting if there's a pattern to when this John Wood used his "alias."

Edit to add: The Great Migration Directory has him listed as John Wood.

posted by M Cole
edited by M Cole
I'm a direct decedent of Henry Atwood/Wood. I would really like to prove he is the son of John Atwood AKA "The Leather Seller". My father has tested on FamilyTreeDNA and has done a Y-DNA test. All of our matches we can Identify, they point to Henry except one who points to Stephen. According to Elijah Francis John's son's Harmon and John were baptized in St. Martins. He stated there was no doubt that Stephen was their brother and little doubt of Henry. In hopes of one day proving the relation genetically I've created a new project at I would encourage all other descendants with an unbroken line to take a Y-DNA test and join the project.
posted by Sean Wood
Sean, good luck with your DNA project. Have we documented for certain that John the Leather Seller had any children? While there does seem to be agreement that John, Henry and Stephen were somehow related, it's never been proven that a) they were brothers, or b) the parents of any of the three have been confirmed.

Regarding the sons Harmon and John baptized in St. Martin's, which John's sons (i.e., which John is the father)? I don't see that *this* John, profiled here, had sons John and Harmon. And have you found the original baptism records for St. Martins? You might enlist the England project to help you out. Ah, I see the baptisms are referenced (and cited) here: . Note that the names of the parents are not included on the baptism records of John and Harmon. It's implied that the parents are John and Joan because they were married in the same parish, and at least John is named as father (no mother's name listed) on a baptism there of a daughter Joan.

posted by Jillaine Smith
Unfortunately you are correct that there is no clear father son connection in the Baptism records. I've seen some of the digital documents available on Ancestry. All we really have to go on at this point is the published work of Elijah Atwood which in itself has some speculation as he did not provide all of his sources or why he believed as he did. Alicia Crane Williams work in The Mayflower Descendant never disputed what Elijah Francis wrote.

I actually emailed her and she responded "I discussed the possible relationships among John, Henry and Stephen, concluding that old published claims of ancestry were unproved, but that ultimately there were records in New England showing that the three were associated here and that the idea they were brothers was "not unlikely.""

I asked her about her thoughts on DNA and she only said she was "not an expert of DNA".

Lastly she told me that she had done no further work on the family and was not aware of any new publications.

Many genealogists discount DNA but I think this is a mistake. I've had some experience with Autosomal DNA in doing Adoption Angel work. The science is always improving. It is my belief that with enough participants we will be able to triangulate with Y-DNA.

I know that even before the internet genealogists made mistakes what were published and distributed. In some ways I think the internet has made it worse as the errors are so widely repeated in peoples trees. I would almost put more stock in a tree or research done prior to the digital age. I hope some day documents come to light that are the smoking guns we are looking for but, personally I'm going to put my stock in DNA.

I've linked some of the published work I've found below.

Ye Atte Wode Annals, Published 1928, Elijah Francis Atwood.

The ancestry of one Atwood family, Published 1965, Charles Atwood .

posted by Sean Wood
Sean, interesting that you write that Williams "never disputed what Elijah Francis wrote". I read the same article and came away from it with a completely different conclusion. Specifically, Williams wrote: "However, we do not find any evidence in the material published in _Ye Atte Wode Annals_ to prove the claims of parentage for any of the Atwoods or Woods of Plymouth (although that of Harmon Atwood of Boston may be correct, see also Charles H. Pope, _Pioneers of Massachusetts_ [1919], 28."

When I read that, it tells me that Elijah's work is not reliable. We do not find any evidence in the material published... to prove the claims of parentage...

It really looks like Williams did no research in England herself. That's what needs to get done. I just don't think we can rely on Elijah's work.

posted by Jillaine Smith
Finding no evidence is not saying it's untrue. The fact that Mrs Williams emailed me back herself saying that it was "not unlikely" tells me that she wasn't ruling it out. Elijah was a genealogist to the extent of his own tree and did a lot of research to compile his book. I agree we can't rely on Elijah's work wholeheartedly as it is unsourced but I also believe it can't be categorically dismissed. His account was not a work of fiction though he did draw conclusions. At the very least I think it provides us with a framework to build off of.

I think there should be profiles for John the older, and one for John the younger "the Leatherseller" with links to the supposed children and parents listed in the biography with the source reference pointing to the Annals and a disclaimer. That way they are not linked officially as father and children but the bread crumbs are there for discussion and further research. If there needs to be duplicate profiles for John and Joan as there seems to be some discussion if the same couple in England were the same in New England/Massachusetts perhaps they also have links pointing to each other stating further research needed.

My hope is some British Atwood Cousins stumble across my DNA Project and not only tests but helps track down additional documentation from their side of the pond.

Lastly if you or anyone can get me a PDF of Charles H. Pope, _Pioneers of Massachusetts_ [1919], 28. I would love to see it.

posted by Sean Wood
Williams thought it not unlikely that John was sibling to Henry and Stephen. But that doesn't suggest she supported the identification of the parents of the group. And the St Martins baptism records do not include baptisms for Henry and Stephen. So if it's likely that the three were brothers, one would expect to see baptisms for the group of them in the right time frame at the same or nearby parishes.

I'm on the road so can't get you a shot of page 28 of Pope. I'm sure one of our other PGM volunteers has it, though.

posted by Jillaine Smith
The Pope book is online at several free websites. See the WikiTree page Space:The Pioneers of Massachusetts for links to locations where it's available.
posted by Ellen Smith
I think you want p 23. But I think you really want p 511 Wood/Woods
posted by Lois (Hacker) Tilton
For some reason the names didn't make a separate line even though I tried to do that.
posted by Kenneth Atwood
According to family search and rootsweb my ancestors were:

John wood Atwood/Joan Coleson John Wood/Sarah Masterson Nathaniel Atwood Sr./Mary Morey Nathaniel Atwood 2nd/ Mary Adams Francis Atwood/Elizabeth Lucas Isaac T. Atwood/Elizabeth Dodge Leonard Atwood/Hannah Howland Alfred Atwood/Alzira or Elzira Winter Leonard Atwood/Fannie Tuttle Robert Atwood/Elizabeth Wood ( my parents) Kenneth Atwood (me)

posted by Kenneth Atwood
As noted in the biography, the first step is incorrect. There is no evidence that John Wood and Joan Coleson are the parents of this John Atwood.
posted by Joe Cochoit
Do you have proof that they aren't the parents?
posted by Kenneth Atwood
I'm sorry, the question is not to prove they aren't. It's the other way around - prove they are.
posted by Anne B
Kenneth, another way to look at this is that the unsourced genealogy that claimed the parents is like an unsourced family tree. Neither are acceptable as solid sources for especially pre-1700 profiles on wikitree. Add to that an article published in a peer-reviewed journal that found no evidence for the parental claims. This then puts the onus on all of us to find proof FOR the parents, whoever they were.
posted by Jillaine Smith
According to the Mayflower society they are accepted as the parents, at least I was told that by the state historian
posted by Kenneth Atwood
That would probably be Vol. 22, the Bradford "silver book" if anyone has it on their bookshelf.
posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
A query at G2G might be in order, tagged mayflower
posted by Lois (Hacker) Tilton
p. 6 of Vol 22. William Bradford, son of William, m. (3) Mary (Wood) Holmes b. Plymouth c. 1643; d. there 7 Jan 1714/5; d/o John and Mary (Masterson) Wood (or Atwood). She m. (1) John Holmes.

So this generation is good according to printed May.Soc. but they don't say anything about John's parents (ie. Mary's grandparents). They typically don't.

posted by Anne B
It was John Johanes Atwood that was married to Ann Lee and Johanem John Atwood that was married to Joan Coleson
posted by Kenneth Atwood
Joan Coleson and John Atwood may have had a son John Atwood bpt in 1614. But all I see is that bapt. record (no parents listed). There has to be something more to make the connection between their son and this immigrant.
posted by Anne B
"It was John Johanes Atwood that was married to Ann Lee and Johanem John Atwood that was married to Joan Coleson"

Both Johanes and Johanem are simply latinized names for John, as might be found in a parish register. Neither man had a middle name. The name of both men was simply John Atwood.

posted by Joe Cochoit
The head of the Atwood list of rootsweb is curious who started the story about John Atwood not being married to Joan Coleson. He's done more research on it..
posted by Kenneth Atwood
Doubt about the English origins of John Atwood has been in print for decades. Again, it is not for us to disprove a false line. Perhaps the head of the Atwood list on rootsweb can share his research with us to why the identification is correct. Are there any wills, are there any baptisms, are there in land records, are there any court cases, etc. to help prove the English origins of John Atwood? No one is disputing that a John Wood married a Joan Coleson, just there is no reason to think they are the parents of this John Atwood.
posted by Joe Cochoit
Their middle name was John but their first name was different
posted by Kenneth Atwood
No one in this time period had a middle name.
posted by Joe Cochoit
Middle names originated in the middle ages from European countries
posted by Kenneth Atwood
Absolutely incorrect. And we are talking about England in the early 17th century. This should be easy for you to prove. Go to the St.-Martin-in-the-fields parish register and show me even one instance of someone with a middle name. But even better, please show me any primary record where John Atwood used a middle name.

This may help you: and

posted by Joe Cochoit
In 1605 England's upper classmen started using middle names although it was rare in England. I found a few names on page 13 with people who had middle names although the writing is blurry. So I couldn't make out the writing
posted by Kenneth Atwood
No, even among the upper class of England it was exceeding rare to the point where I can't give you an example.

I assume you mean page 13 of the book? Hit the zoom in button in the lower right corner of the page - the text is perfectly clear. There are no middle names. I suspect what you are seeing are entries such as "Guilielmus Rice filius Rich." i.e. "William Rice son of Richard" and "Johan'es Holden filius Jo." meaning "John Holden son of John." I used those two examples from page 13 to show how many entries in the St-Martin-in-the-fields parish register are latinized, even though those are not the proper name of the infants being baptized.

posted by Joe Cochoit
Finding an image of the actual parish register might solve this dispute.
posted by Lois (Hacker) Tilton
Wood-23011 and Atwood-2 appear to represent the same person because: I don't see any conflicting data. The birth in both cases is an estimate. Same wife. The children on both profiles are all children of the same man. The LNAB is different, but no known birth record and Atwood was used by Anderson, hence the ppp.
posted by Anne B
Atwood-2 and Wood-23011 are not ready to be merged because: There is too much conflictory data between these profiles and the data for each profile is nebulous.

It is probably better to leave the individual profiles intact and un-merged, awaiting information which will resolve conflicts and clarify the genealogy.

posted by Chuck Peterson
Atwood-2 and Wood-23011 appear to represent the same person because: Same spouse. Looks like you'll have to decide which is the most proper LNAB in addition to making a decision about his birth.
Torrey NE Marriages to 1700, has 2 entries on marriage of Sarah MASTERSON and John WOOD(1610-1675):

1643: Volume 3 PAGE : 1708 1645: Volume 1 PAGE : 52

posted by Tim Prince
Help! I have John Atwood's daughter Elizabeth (1662-1728) married to Samuel Wheaton 1643-83 and Samuel Bowen, 1659-1728. Is the info on Elizabeth Atwood listed above verified? And if so, any advice about my Elizabeth Atwood/Wood?

This week's featured connections are from the War of the Roses: John is 14 degrees from Margaret England, 13 degrees from Edmund Beaufort, 12 degrees from Margaret Stanley, 14 degrees from John Butler, 13 degrees from Henry VI of England, 14 degrees from Louis XI de France, 12 degrees from Isabel of Clarence, 12 degrees from Edward IV of York, 13 degrees from Thomas Fitzgerald, 13 degrees from Richard III of England, 11 degrees from Henry Stafford and 13 degrees from Perkin Warbeck on our single family tree. Login to see how you relate to 33 million family members.