William Bradford
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William Bradford (1589 - 1657)

Governor William Bradford
Born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 10 Dec 1613 (to 7 Dec 1620) in Amsterdam, Holland, Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlandenmap
Husband of — married 14 Aug 1623 (to 9 May 1657) in Plymouth Colonymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Plymouth, Plymouth Colonymap
Profile last modified | Created 15 Jan 2010 | Last significant change: 4 Dec 2021
21:46: Anne B edited the marriage between Dorothy (May) Bradford (abt.1597-1620) and William Bradford (1589-1657). (correcting place use their conventions) [Thank Anne for this | 1 thank-you received]
This page has been accessed 48,709 times.
The Mayflower.
William Bradford was a passenger on the Mayflower.
Join: Mayflower Project
Discuss: mayflower
Preceded by
1st Governor
John Carver

4th Governor
Thomas Prence

6th Governor
Edward Winslow

8th Governor
Thomas Prence

10th Governor
Edward Winslow
William Bradford
2nd Governor
of Plymouth Colony

1621 —1632
Plymouth Colony Seal
5th Governor
7th Governor
9th Governor
11th Governor
Succeeded by
3rd Governor
Edward Winslow

6th Governor
Edward Winslow

8th Governor
Thomas Prence

10th Governor
Edward Winslow

12th Governor
Thomas Prence

“Thus out of smalle beginnings greater things have been produced by his hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone to many, yea in some sorte to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehova have all the praise.” -William Bradford

Gov. William Bradford was a passenger aboard the Mayflower and 5-time governor of Plymouth Colony.



Notables Project
William Bradford is Notable.

William Bradford was baptized at St. Helena's Church, Austerfield, Yorkshire, England on March 19, 1589/90 (O.S.), the son of William Bradford and his wife Alice Hanson.[1][2][3][4]

William was:

Among the 30 Separatists who, with Henry Ainsworth, seceded from Francis Johnson's Ancient Brethren was Henry May from Wisbech, England. May had a 13-year-old daughter (or perhaps a sister - the records are not clear) named Dorothy. Three years after Ainsworth’s congregation had split with Johnson and the Ancient Brethren, William Bradford - originally a worshipper at Clyfton's church in Babworth, then a member of the Scrooby congregation and a voyager to Amsterdam, and among those who moved to Leiden with John Robinson - briefly returned to Amsterdam to marry Dorothy May.[5]
Int. Marriage William Bradford and Dorothy May, 9 November 1613 Amsterdam [6]
Marriage William Bradford and Dorothea May, Leiden 15 November 1613 [7]

He married twice, first on 15 November 1611 in Leiden to Dorothy May[7] Marriage intentions were recorded on December 10, 1613 at Amsterdam, Holland.[6] William and Dorothy (May) Bradford had one son, John.

On 7 December 1620, Dorothy drowned in Provincetown Harbor after accidentally falling off the Mayflower.[8][9][10]

William's second wife was Alice Carpenter Southworth, a widow. They were married at Plymouth Colony on August 14, 1623. Two sons, William Bradford and Joseph Bradford, and one daughter Mercy Bradford, were born to the second marriage.[1][11] Alice had married first Edward Southworth, a say-weaver of Leyden, on 28 May 1613 in Leyden. Edward was born in 1590, the son of Thomas Southworth and Jane Mynne of Wells in Somersetshire. Edward and Alice had two sons, Constant and Thomas Southworth. The Southworths and William lived in Heneage House on Dukes Place in London for about a year before the Mayflower sailed, so were probably well acquainted. Edward died by 1621, probably in Leyden, after the Mayflower sailed. Two years later Alice left to join William in the new world.

Child by his first wife Dorothy:[12][1]

  1. John Bradford, b. say 1617; m. Martha Bourne by 1650, daughter of Thomas Bourne.

Children by his second wife Alice:[12][1]

  1. William Bradford, b. Plymouth 17 June 1624; m. (1) Alice Richards by 1650; m. (2) probably Sarah (_____) Griswold;[13] m. (3) Mary (Wood) Holmes.
  2. Mercy Bradford, b. by 1627; m Benjamin Vermayes 21 Dec 1648 Plymouth.
  3. Joseph Bradford, b. ca. 1630; m. Jael Hobart 25 May 1664 Hingham.

John Bradford was left behind, but came to New England perhaps 20 years later.[1]

In addition to raising his own children, he also had his stepsons, Thomas Southworth and (Constant) Constance Southworth, growing up in his home. They were the children of Alice Bradford and her first husband, Edward Southworth.

Death and Legacy

The death of William Bradford occurred on May 9, 1657,[14] and he was buried in Burial Hill, Plymouth.[15]

His nuncupative will, named his wife Alice as executrix.[16] The Last Will & Testament was exhibited to the court at Plymouth on 3 June 1657.[17][18][19]

"The last Will and Testament Nunckupative of Mr William Bradford senir: Deceased May the Ninth 1657 and exhibited to the court held att Plymouth June 3d 1657"
"Mr William Bradford senir: being weake in body but in prfect memory ... spake as followeth ... I have Desposed to John and William alreddy theire proportions of land which they are possessed of;
"My Will is that my son Josepth bee made in some sort equall to his brethern out of my estate;
"My further Will is that my Deare & loveing wife Allice Bradford shalbee the sole Exequitrix of my estate; and for her future maintainance my Will is that my Stocke in the Kennebecke Trad be reserved for her Comfortable Subsistence ..."

He appointed friends Mr Thomas Prence, Captaine Thomas Willett and Lieftenant Thomas Southworth to be Supervisors. The will was spoken by "William Bradford Govr the 9th of May 1657 in the prsence of us Thomas Cushman Thomas Southworth Nathaniell Morton" and presented in court 3 June 1657.

An inventory was taken 22 May 1657.[17]


He was author of The History of Plimouth Plantation (Lost diary recovered 1846) Extensive diary helped historians interpret early Plymouth history. The original was found in the Bishop of London's library. Upon petition of the US Ambassador, the Consistory Court of the Diocese of London ordered on March 25, 1897 that the manuscript be delivered to the Ambassador for transmission to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ambassador Bayard brought it to Boston and formally delivered it to the Governor on May 26, 1897.[20]

Time Line

  • March 1589/90 William was born at his Austerfield, England. He was baptized on 19 March 1589/90 by Rev. Henry Fletcher at St. Helens Church in Austerfield.[16]
  • 1590 - 1606 Deaths of many of his primary relatives.[21]
  • 1606 Became acquainted with William Brewster and started to attended alternate worship services at Rev. Richard Clifton's church which the authorities were trying to shut down.
  • 1608 By this time Bradford was a regular attendee Joined the "Separatists" [22] or Brownist [23]This group decided to emigrate to Holland in 1608. in which he became an influential leader during his long association with the "Pilgrims".
  • 1609 Part of the group fled to Holland in 1609 to escape imprisonment by the religious authorities.[21]
  • 15 November 1613 married Dorothy May at Leiden [7]. Intentions 9 November 1613 in Amsterdam[6]
  • 1619 Most of the English religious dissenters have relocated to Leiden, Holland. They are planning to start an English-speaking colony in the new world.
  • July 1620: Boarded the Speedwell, which embarked from Delft Haven, Holland and joined other Pilgrims on the Mayflower at Southampton, England.[24]
  • 5 August 1620 The Mayflower and the Speedwell set sail for Virginia. The Speedwell proved to be unseaworthy, the company returned to England to repair the Speedwell. They sailed again, but the Speedwell continued to leak, and once again they returned to England, where they left the Speedwell. The Mayflower set sail once again 6 Sep 1620.[24]
  • 20 November 1620: Arrived at Cape Cod, at the start of the winter storms.[24]
  • 7 December 1620, wife Dorothy drowned in Provincetown Harbor after accidentally falling off the Mayflower.[8][26]
  • 21 December 1620: The exiles of the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, (now Massachusetts) and decided to remain there.[24]
  • 21 April 21 1621 to death: Governor of Plymouth Colony: 1621-1633, 1635, 1637, 1639-43 and 1645-56.[16] William was elected governor of the Colony in 1621, following the death of Governor Carver. William was reelected governor annually in the periods 1621-33, 1635-37, 1639-44 and 1645-57. In between he was elected Assistant Governor. He lived in his house at the bottom of Burial Hill in Plymouth and kept a farm in Kingston. He authored many books on history, the best known and one of the few not lost being, History of Plymouth Plantations.
  • 1623 Division of Land. William Bradford received three acres of land.[27]
  • 10 July 1623, (approx.) Alice arrived in Plymouth on the Anne (which had sailed with the Little James but arrived a week earlier) accompanied by Thomas Morton II, the likely son of the Thomas Morton I of the Fortune. Less than a month later she married William. Robert Cushman sent a letter to William with the Anne in which he said: "Some few of your friends are come, as &c. So they come droping to you." William and Alice's marriage was the fourth to take place in the new Colony, and Alice brought her own property into the marriage. Alice and Edward's son Thomas came over with his mother and Constant came over in 1628 and they were brought up in William's household.
  • 14 Aug 1623. Plymouth. Bradford married Alice (Carpenter) Bradford.[28] Alice was baptized on 3 August 1590 in Wrington, Somersetshire, daughter of Alexander Carpenter. Unlike Dorothy, Alice was not able to write.
  • 1627 Cattle Division: The eleventh lott fell to the Governor, Mr. William Bradford and those with him: his wife Alles Bradford, William Bradford Junior and Mercy Bradford, and nine others. The lot consisted of a heifer of the last year, progeny of the "Great white back cow" that came in the Ann, and two female goats.[27]
  • 9 May 1657 William died and was buried at Burial Hill, Plymouth.
  • 3 June 1657 Executor of Will: wife Alice.[16]William died on Saturday, 9 May 1657 in Plymouth, the richest man in the Colony. He left property worth £400 and a library of 275 volumes. He was buried on Burial Hill. His will exhibited, mentions wife Alice; Lt. Thomas Southworth; and sons John, William and Joseph Bradford.[citation needed]
  • Alice had a sister Mary Carpenter and another sister Juliana Carpenter (bp. 17 March 1584 St. James Church, Bath, Somersetshire–?) who married George Morton on 23 July 1612 in Leyden. George and Juliana arrived at Plymouth on 17/20 July 1623 aboard the Little James. George's brother Thomas Morton I (bp. 1 March 1589?) arrived earlier in Plymouth, aboard the Fortune on 9 November 1621.
  • 26 March 1670, Alice died on Saturday, 26 March 1670, in Plymouth[29] and was buried there the next Tuesday near her husband. Her will dated 29 December 1669 and exhibited 7 June 1670 names her sister Mary Carpenter and sons Constant Southworth, Thomas Southworth (deceased), Joseph Bradford and Capt. William Bradford.

Research Notes


Y-DNA results I-Y21372[30] Previous Y-DNA testing Previous Y-STR testing through the Mayflower Society DNA Project and the Bradford surname DNA project Group 3[31] has indicated that the Bradford lineage belongs to the Y haplogroup I-M253, which is quite common in Northern Europe and Northwestern Europe. Plugging in the modal 111 STR values for the family into the Nevgen Haplogroup Predictor tool gives a prediction the family falls under: I-M253>DF29>Z63>BY151>BY351 with a 95.6% probability. NGS/WGS testing NGS/WGS testing of patrilineal (all male line) Bradford descendant(s) furthers refine the clade and can potentially differentiate between the branches of descendants. As of May 21, 2021 one Big Y-700 test result has been posted to the Mayflower DNA Project website. The haplogroup beyond BY351 to >BY3407>CTS2910>Y10994>Y21374>Y21371>Y21370>Y21372.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-33, Edition: [database online], New England Historical Genealogical Society, Boston, 1995 Vol 1 p 207-209 (Link by $ubscription.)
  2. Bowman, George Ernest. '"The Record of Governor Bradford's Baptism, on the Parish Register at Austerfield." The Mayflower Descendant Volume 7:65
    "William Sone of Willia Bradfourth baptized the xixth day of March Anno dm . 1589." (1905)
  3. England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, database, FamilySearch (17 March 2020), William Bradfourth, 1590.
  4. Browne, William Bradford. Ancestry of the Bradfords of Austerfield, Co. York. Records Extending the Ancestral Line of Gov. William Bradford". New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. 83:439-464 (1929) and Vol 84: 5-17 (1930). Vol 84 p. 10, 11
  5. Peggy M. Baker, Searching for the Promised Land: The Travels and Travails of Richard Clyfton page 7.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Source: Amsterdam archief Int Marriage 9 November 1613 - Bradford, William - Maij, Dorethea - Maijer, Dorethea right page, last entry- DTB 667, p.101 - Huwelijksintekeningen van de PUI. - OTR00191000054
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Marriage Leiden 15 November 1611
    Bruidegom William Kadfort geboren te Oosterfeldt Engeland
    Bruid Dorethea May geboren te Witzbuts in Engelant
    • Source: Erfgoed Leiden en omstreken Marriage 15 November 1611 Leiden Bronvermelding Trouwen Gerecht B. juli 1611 - april 1633., archiefnummer 1004, Schepenhuwelijken (1592-1795), inventarisnummer 198, blad B - 025 Gemeente: Leiden Periode: 1611-1633
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thomas Prince, A Chronological HIstory of New England..., (Boston, 1852), p. 165.
  9. Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History & People, 1620-1691 (Salt lake City, 1986), pages 324-26.
  10. 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). George Ernest Bowman, "Governor William Bradford's First Wife Dorothy (May) Bradford Did Not Commit Suicide," Mayflower Descendant Volume 29(1931):99. (Link by $ubscription.)
  11. Fessenden, G. M., "A Genealogy of the Bradford Family" NEHGR Vol. 4(1850):41.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Anderson, Robert Charles. The Pilgrim Migration: Immigrants to Plymouth Colony 1620-1633. (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004). p. 65
  13. Webber, David Jay. "Major William Bradford's Second Wife: Was she the Widow of Francis Griswold?" New England Historical and Genealogical Register Vol. 155(2001):247.
  14. "Diary of John Hull," Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society, (Worcester, 1857) Volume 3:180.
  15. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 23 November 2020), memorial page for William Bradford (19 Mar 1590–8 May 1657), Find A Grave: Memorial #124, citing Burial Hill, Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Lainhart, Ann Smith and Robert S. Wakefield, compilers. Mayflower Families Through Five Generations. Volume Twenty-Two Family of William Bradford. (General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2004), Volume 22, page 1.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Records, 1633-1967," images, FamilySearch (20 May 2014), Wills 1633-1686 vol 1-4 > image 179 of 616; State Archives, Boston. followed by his inventory (next 3 images)
  18. Transcript of Will
  19. Download PDF at Pilgrim Hall Museum
  20. “Bradford’s Manuscript ‘Of Plimoth Plantation’ | Mass.Gov,” accessed November 23, 2020.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Willison, George F., Saints and Strangers, The Cornwall Press, Cornwall, NY, 1943, Third Printing
  22. Puritans believed in reforming the Church of England. Separatists wanted to separate from the "corrupt" Church of England.
  23. This group of religious dissenters was named for its founder who believed that each congregation should be independent.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856)
  25. Morton, Nathaniel. New England's memorial. (Boston: Congregational board of publication, 1855) Originally published 1669.p. 26 Note: The original compact is gone. Morton furnished the earliest known list 1669 facsimile
  26. *Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856) p 448 "William Bradford, and Dorothy, his wife; having but one child, a sone, left behind, who came afterward." p. 451 ""William Bradford his wife dyed soone after their arivall; and he maried againe; and hath 4. children, 3. wherof are maried."
  27. 27.0 27.1 Pulsifer, David (editor). Records of the colony of New Plymouth, in New England; printed by order of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by New Plymouth Colony. Vol. 12 (1861) Deeds, &c. Vol. 1 1620-1651 & Book of Indian Records for their lands. (Boston: Press of William White 1861) 1623 p. 4; 1627 p. 12
  28. Prince, Thomas. A Chronological History of New England (Cummings, Hilliard and Co., 1826) p. 221
  29. Elijah Hayward, "Plymouth Colony Records," NEHGR Vol. 9(1855):317.
  30. MayflowerDNA.org wiki on Bradford family
  31. At the bottom of this group are individuals who are NOT descended from Gov. William Bradford and fall under a different Haplogroup of I-M253.
See also:
  • The American Genealogist Whole No. 354 Vol. 89, No. 2 April 2017 p. 94
  • Bradford, William, 1590-1657. Of Plimoth Plantation: manuscript, 1630-1650. State Library of Massachusetts "List of Mayflower Passengers." In Bradford's Hand.
  • Beem Genealogy, Publication: family tree done by professional genealogist Howard French in 1936 for Mrs. Berton Beem of Reading, Michigan. Note: Material known to be unique to this source has been removed due to copy write concerns, as discussed in g2g.

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Comments: 21

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I'll be doing a quick check of sources and a few edits on this profile. If anyone has any sources to add please leave me a comment.
posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
Hi there profile managers!

We plan on featuring William in the Connection Finder alongside Massasoit, the Example Profile of the Week, on November 25th. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. We know it's short notice, so don't fret too much. Just do what you can. A Team member will check on the profile Tuesday and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann
One source for the yDNA Haplogroup: 1-M253 is mayflowerhistory.com/bradford-william (which is copyrighted) - this site also contains some nice pictures
posted by Patricia (Long) Kent
Another source for the Y-DNA Haplogroup of Gov. William Bradford (and his Y-DNA descendants) is at: https://mayflowerdna.org/wiki/index.php/Bradford_(Y-DNA) (also copyrighted).

This family falls under: I-M253>DF29>Z63>BY151>BY351>BY3407>CTS2910>Y10994>Y21374>Y21371>Y21370>Y21372.

posted by Raymond Wing
This page: http://mayflowerhistory.com/bradford-william/ states his Y-DNA as I-M253. WikiTree doesn't list any mtDNA or Y-DNA for him. Does anyone know where this source of his Y-DNA come from?

Also, has anyone identified him as him common ancestor in a triangulated group yet?

posted by Andreas (Basso) West
*The Granberry Family & Allied Families (1945), p. 355 qualifying ancestor for Society of Colonial Dames of America
posted by Lydia Vierson
I edited to include a source/link to his Last Will & Testament and inventory of estate from PilgrimHall Musuem.org.
posted by Elizabeth (Hart) Hyatt
Are we already working towards merging these biography headings? Clean up of source format and inline citations is needed. noticed a ibid in there as well. Would you post feedback to discuss current state of the profile progression or who is working on what? Thanks!
posted by Elizabeth (Hart) Hyatt