William Brewster

William Brewster (abt. 1566 - 1644)

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Elder William Brewster
Born about in Doncaster, Yorkshire, Englandmap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married about 1592 [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Plymouth Colonymap
Profile last modified 15 Oct 2019 | Created 5 Apr 2009 | Last significant change: 15 Oct 2019
15:39: Anonymous Nagel edited the Biography for William Brewster (abt.1566-1644). [Thank Anonymous for this]
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William was born about 1566 in the vicinity of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. He sailed from Leiden, Holland, to Plymouth aboard the Mayflower[1][2]in 1620. [3]

Brewster was an educated man with an inventory of nearly four hundred books. He attended Peterhouse, Cambridge, beginning 3 Dec 1580, but did not complete his studies. [4] [5]

He died on April 10, 1644 at Plymouth, Massachusetts [6]and is buried at Plymouth Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.[7]

The Mayflower and the Beginning of Plymouth Colony

The following is adapted from Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: At story of Courage, Community and War :
William Brewster in his early political career served as an assistant to William Davison, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth. However, William returned to Scrooby after Davison was imprisoned "when the queen had used Davison as her scapegoat for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots." He took over his father's position serving as Postmaster. This experience made Brewster the only Pilgrim with involvement in politics or diplomacy. [8]
The Separatists who gathered under the direction of their minister, John Robinson, met at the old manor house of William Brewster, in Scrooby, where he was postmaster. In 1607, the bishop of York learned of the meetings, and some of the members were thrown into prison.[8]
Their first attempt to leave England ended with their leaders in jail after they were betrayed by the ship captain. Brewster was one of the jailed leaders. [8] There is a plaque by the cell where Brewster and William Bradford were imprisoned reading "IN THESE CELLS WILLIAM BRADFORD [and] WILLIAM BREWSTER and others afterwards known as THE PILGRIM FATHERS WERE IMPRISONED on the 25th September 1607 after attempting to escape to religious freedom" [9]
On the second attempt to leave England, the local militia intervened when they had loaded some of the men and none of the women and children. The Dutch captain sailed for Amsterdam, leaving their wives and children on the pier, weeping. Several months later, the community was reunited in Holland. [8]
In 1618, William Brewster published a religious tract with his printing press in Leyden. It was critical of King James, and resulted in the king sending his agents in Holland to arrest Brewster. However, they did not capture him.[8]
A disease spread among the Pilgrims after they landed at Plymouth. The sick were tended in the common house by the half dozen who remained healthy. Gov. Bradford later wrote of William Brewster and his strength nursing the sick. [8]
Plymouth Colony "was unable to achieve any sort of of long-term financial success." The Merchant Adventurers who underwrote the expenses of the Plymouth settlement disbanded by 1626. Governor Bradford and seven others, including William Brewster, assumed the colony's debt in exchange for a monopoly on the fur trade. [8]

Wife's Surname and Lineage Unknown

(Disputed relationships: When there are two or more theories about who a person's wife or husband could have been, and it's not reasonable to think that one theory is more likely than another, it is best not to add any of them in the spouse fields of the profile. Instead, all theories can be explained in the biography section of the profile.)

The surname of Mary, wife of William Brewster is unknown according to both Anderson in The Great Migration Begins [3] and The Mayflower Five Generation Project [10] as well as Mayflower Families in Progress: William Brewster. [11]Two papers have been published suggesting her origin, but no conclusive evidence has been found.[12]
Mary Smith and Mary Wentworth each have profiles without being tied to William. The children on these profiles have not been documented and will eventually be removed.
Both the Mayflower Society and the Elder William Brewster Society agree that Mary's maiden name is unknown. [13][14]

Recognized Children

Per Bradford's History, William had many children. A Mayflower Society publication and Anderson's Great Migration Begins [3] lists his children as follows:
  1. Jonathan, b. Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, 12 Aug 1593 [15] m. Lucretia Oldam of Darby.
  2. Patience, b. abt 1603; m. Plymouth 5 Aug 1624, Thomas Prence, "ninth marriage at New Plymouth" [16]
  3. Fear, b. abt 1605; m. Plymouth by 1627 Isaac Allerton [17]
  4. Love, b. abt 1607; m. Plymouth 15 May 1634 Sarah Collier [18], daug. of William Collier
  5. Child, buried St. Pancras, Leiden, 20 June 1609 [19]
  6. Wrestling, b. abt 1611; d. unmarried after 1627 and by 1651. [20] [21] [22]

There is primary source iron clad proof of these relationships ONLY for membership in the Mayflower Society. No other children are attached to Elder William Brewster's profile.

Others may be found with their assigned mothers.


  • NOTE: From the WIP Four Generations of Brewster (2000): William B. was probably b. Doncaster, Yorkshire, England.

All information from Jones's The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907 [23] Anderson's The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633. Volume 1.[3]

Wm. Brewster attended Cambridge but did not receive a degree. He worked as an assistant to William Davison, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I. He was appointed post master at Scrooby until September 30, 1607. He spent twelve years in Leyden, Netherlands, where he taught and ran a printing press. He was elected Elder of the Pilgrim church while in Leyden, and as such, was chosen to go to America with the first party.
He and Mary had six known children. He traveled with his wife, Mary, and two youngest sons, Love and Wrestling. His son, Jonathan, arrived in 1621 on the Fortune. A daughter, Patience, came later on the Anne in 1623.
William Brewster was the religious leader on the Mayflower and the fourth Signator of Mayflower Compact. In the Colony, he was Elder in the church. He conducted services for the Pilgrims for many years when no minister was at Plymouth.
Elder William Brewster died at Plymouth, 10 April 1644, without having made a will. He is buried in Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
As Elder Brewster's died intestate, his "onely two sonnes surviveing" Jonathan and Love, were appointed administrators of his estate on 5 June, 1644. There was dissension among his surviving sons, much of which is revealed in Plymouth County records.
Court Orders, II: 101. Under date of 5 June, 1644.
Lres of administracon of all the goods and cattells of mr Willm Brewster deceased are graunted by the Court to Jonathan Brewster and Love Brewster And A true Inventory thereof was exhibited to the Court upon the Oathes of the said Jonathan & Love.
Plymouth Colony Wills, I: 53.
Lres of Administracon of all the goods and cattells of mr Willm Brewster Deceased were graunted to Jonathan Brewster and Love Brewster at the genrall Court holden at Plymouth the fift Day of June in the xxth yeare of his said Mas now Raigne of England &c and a true Inventory thereof was exhibited to the Court upon the Oathes of the said Jonathan and Love the same Court.
The totall is 107 0 8 Myles Standish Tho: Prence. The totall of both latten & English books amounts to the sum of 42 . 19 . 11The totall both of goods & bookes amounts in all to 150 . 00 . 27 Wm Bradford Tho: Prence
Plymouth Colony Deeds, I: 198 Bradford Governor.
"Whereas William Brewster late of Plym gent deceased left onely two sonnes surviveing vizt Jonathan the Eldest and Love the yeonger And whereas the said William dyed intestate for ought can to this day appeare The said Jonathan and Love his sonnes when they returned from the buriall of their father to the house of Mr Willm Bradford of Plymouth in the prsence of mr Raph Partrich Pastor of Duxborrow mr John Reynor Teacher of the Church at Plymouth and mr Edward Buckley Pastor of the Church at Marshfeild and many others being exhorted to honor their Revrend father wth a peaceable pceeding about the division of his estate between them.
"The said Jonathan first answered for his part that although hee were the elder yet was willing to devide lands and goods equally betweene himself and brother. And if in case any differrence should arrise betweene them that it might be soone suppressed said he heere are four of my fathers deere and auncient frends vizt mr Willm Bradford then Govrnor of Plymouth mr Edward Winslow of Marshfeild mr Thomas Prence of Plymouth aforesaid and Captaine Miles Standish of Duxborrow. And if my brother please to accept my motion whereinsoevr we shall differ we will stand to their award wch shalbe as firme as if it had beene done by our father &c
"To all wch the said Love Brewster condiscended to the greate satisfaccon of the whole Assembly the said freinds of his father being there also prsent who willingly engaged themselves therein to the utmost of their power
"And whereas afterward differrence arose betweene the said brethren Jonathan and Love in divers prticulers about the late dwelling house of their said father at Duxborrow wherein the said Love dwelt and had donn from his marriage to that instant also about certaine accompt wherein Jonathan was made debtor to the estate in a large sume &c Hereupon according to prmise they referring themselves to the said speciall and most intimate frends of their said father the said Edward Winslow afterwards Govrnor of Plymouth mr Willm Bradford mr Thomas Prence and Captaine Miles Standish aforesaid haveing heard divers thinges alleadged on Loves behalf to prove that the said House and half the Lands of the said Willm belonging thereunto as well as any other the lands of the said Willm devided or to be devided wth an entire half part of the estate of the said Willm was given to the said Love and Sarah his wyfe upon a Covenant of Contract of marryage to be due at the death of the said Willm Brewster now deceased.
"All wch was offerred to be prooved legally if neede require by solemne prmise though not in writing The said Jonathan also offerring to take off upon oath the greatest prt of the said debts also &c The said Edward Winslow Willm Bradford Thomas Prence & Captaine Miles Standish being well acquainted wth their said case aswell by divers thinges heard from their revrend father in his life as by the evedence now offerred to be prduced on both sides determyned as followeth
"And first of all for the said debts wch were alleadged against the said Jonathan the elder brother by the said Love the yonger as aforesaid we conceive that if their father had not acquitted them before his death yet hee would nevr have charged his Eldest sonn wth them in regard of his greate charge of children and so beleeveing it was donn actually or intensively or both we discharged Jonathan of all the said debt his brother made him debtor to the estate aforesaid except foure pounds sterling wch wee award him to pay his brother Love in consideracon of the wintering of some cattell wch the said Jonathan had the sommering upon the division and for the dyett of Isaack Allerton a grandchild of the said Willm wch he had placed wth his sonn Love to table And because hee was the first borne of his father we gave him his fathers Armes and also a two yeare old heiffer over and above his part of the devideables of the said estate.
"And for the Dwelling house aforesaid of the said Willm wherein the said Love Brewster resided we were so well acquainted wth the purpose of the sd Willm now deceased and the evidence offerred for proofe seemed to us so strong as wee beleeveing the said Willm had actually or intentively or both given the said house to his sonn Love and Sarah his wyfe and their heires &c Wee the Edward William Thomas and Myles awarded the said dwelling house to the said Love and Sarah his wyfe and their heires &c together wth half the said Estate of Lands goods and cattells except before excepted and aswell such other lands as are not yet divided blonging to the said Willm as a Purchaser of the Patent & Plantacon of New Plymouth aforesaid as that at Duxborrow whereon hee lived
"And whereas some differrence might have arrisen about the division of the said Lands at Duxborrow mr Willm Vassell being requested to survey the said Lands he made a division of yt in two parts being an hundred & eleaven acrees of upland or there abouts vizt to Jonathan Brewster an sixtie eight acrees or there abouts wch lay entire together next a dwelling house wch the said Jonathan had built on the said land by the leave of his said father and all the meadow on that side a creeke (wch divided the greatest part of the said land) below a Bridg on the way betweene the houses of Jonathan and Love his brother
"And to Love Brewster fourty three acrees of upland or there abouts adjoyneing to his dwelling house whereof thirty acrees was cleered land and almost all in tillage the other thirteene being woodland as it was devided in the said Plott drawne by the said Surveighor and marked out and allowed by us except a prcell of land about three quarters of an acree prte in the garden of the said Jonathan and prt in a Swamp adjoyneing wherein onely the said Jonathan had Water to his house as it was marked and staked by us
"Also we gave unto Love Brewster all the meadow on that side the Creek adjoyneing to his land where he liveth and also that smale prcell wch lyeth above the Bridg betweene their two houses before expressed
"And the reason wherefore we gave Love the lesse quantitie was and is because the quallity of Loves land in goodnes is equall to the quantitie of Jonathans as we judg And that this is the full determinacon of us the said Edward Willm Thomas and Myles upon the referrence aforesaid of the said Jonathan and Love as wee are prswaded in our consciences to be equall and just haveing to our best abillities faythfully discharged our duties towards God their deceased father our former worthy frend and towards Jonathan and Love his onely children remayneing
"In witnes thereof we have put to our hands and ordered it to be put Upon the Records of the Gover meet. ffinished at Plymouth the xxth August 1645 William Bradford, Edw: Winslow, Tho: Prence Myles Standish"
The son Wrestling was alive in 1627 and died unmarried before 1651.

William's Ancestry

Discovery of Elder Brewster's maternal ancestry came about after noting, on the one hand, that in 1609, while at Leyden, he gave to Thomas Simkinson of Hull, Yorkshire, power to receive money that Anne Peck (Brewster's ward) had left in England (1); and, on the other hand, finding the record of a chancery proceeding several decades earlier than 1609, linking the surnames of Brewster and Simkinson at Doncaster, Yorkshire (seven miles north of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, boyhood home of Elder William Brewster).(2)
Led on by this coincidence, a study was made of the will of Thomas Simkinson, alderman of Doncaster, dated 29, Jan. 1558/9, proved 2 May 1560 (York P & E court, vol. 16, f. 46). Therein he left his estate to his daughter Jenet Fenton; should she die without issue, it was to pass to young Thomas Simkinson, who in any event was to get a silver cup, while the lad's sister Dorothy was to have twenty shillings; these two were children of John Simkinson to whom the testator left "my best gown". He also left money to Thomas Smythe, Edward Stere, John Wormeley, John Grene of Barnby, John Parke of Stainforth, John Smythe of Hull, William Trymingham, Alice (widow of Christopher Man), and William Smythe (who was a witness to the will).
In the light of this testament, and the power of attorney cited above, it seemed appropriate to study the wills of persons named John Smythe of Hull; that of John Smythe, alderman of Hull, dated 8 aug. 1592, proved in October following, was most illuminating.(3) From it and wills of kinfolk, it became plain that Thomas Simkinson and Elder William Brewster were uterine brothers. The wills of other legatees named in the will of Thomas Simkinson, above, proved enlightening. (4) The will of Christopher Man of Scrooby added other data of value.(5)
On the basis of these documents and other facts about the family already known, the pedigree of Brewster of Scrooby shapes up thus:
1. William Brewster, taxed in 1524 at Bently cum Arksey(6) (next Doncaster), Yorkshire, seems to have married long before 1558 Maude, sister of Christopher Man of Scrooby.(5) Their sons seemingly were:
2.i.William (II) b. ?1535.
ii.Henry, b. ?1537, d. ?1600, vicar at Sutton on Lound, co. Notts., 1565-1594; his wife Agnes was buried there 15 March 1597/8. No children are known.
2. William Brewster (II), b. ?1535, d. 1590, is likely that William Bruister (!) who in 1558 witnessed the will of his supposed uncle, Christopher Man, at Scrooby, the other witnesses being Mr. Thomas Simkinson and John Simkinson, both of whom were of Doncaster.
He was probably that William Brewster who in 1564 was "dwelling in Scrooby" when he was mentioned in the will of Bartholomew Bryan of Scrooby, dated May 6, 1564 (York P & E, 17:389). It is clear that he had at least two wives: the earlier was Mary, daughter of William Smythe of Stainforth, parish of Hatfield, next Doncaster(4), and sister of John Smythe, alderman of Hull.(8) She was the widow of John Simkinson of Doncaster.
William II Brewster by his first wife, Mary, had issue:
3.i.William (III), b. about 1565, d. 20 April 1644, named with Thomas Simkinson as an executor in the lengthy will of their uncle, John Smythe of Hull, 1592(3), in which he mentions practically every one of his nieces and nephews. The fact that no Brewsters figure therein leads one to suppose that Mary had no other children by Brewster; if this is true, she must have died soon after 1566.
Apparently William Brewster (II) had a second or later wife, Prudence (perhaps born Perkins or a widow of that name) who survived him(10) By her he may have had further issue:
ii.James, b. ?1568, d. 1613, who matriculated at Cambridge in 1582(11), succeeded Henry Brewster (?his uncle) as vicar at Sutton on Lound in 1594(7); he is known to have been brother to William Brewster (III)(12). Details of James' marriage and issue are known.(13)
iii.Prudence (? married Robert Peck of Everton, Notts.; they had Robert and Anne, both wards of their supposed uncle William Brewster at Leyden(14)).
3. William Brewster III, b. about 1565, died at Plymouth, Mass., 20 April 1644, was to become the ruling elder on the Mayflower and at Plymouth in New England. In 1580 he matriculated at Peterhouse College in Cambridge, at which University, in St. John's College, his uncle Francis Smythe, ?1540 - ?1604, vicar of Crowle, co. Lincoln, had been schooled, and two of his first cousins, Edward Smythe ?1553-1585,(16) Bachelor of Divinity, and John Grene "of Barnby upon Don", ?1555- after 1591, were likewise students.(11) Is it not likely that one or more of these kinfolk had influence in aiding Brewster to get employment in the service of William Davison? The latter was friend of Thomas Cartwright,(17) eminent puritan, also identified prominently with St. John's College, and author of the book Brewster printed at Leyden, a copy of which is now in the headquarters building in Plymouth, Mass.
As to the identity of the wife (or wives) of Elder William Brewster, proof has been wanting; if he had a daughter Elizabeth (perhaps the child buried in Leyden 20 June 1609), the will of Robert Hartley of Austerfield, dated 11 April1 606(18), leaving a small legacy to Elizabeth Brewster, may prove to be clue to her mother's maiden name.
1.Walter H. Burgess, John Robinson, the Pastor of the Pilgrims, London, 1920, p. 102; cf. The Register, vol. 111, p. 319-320, Oct. 1957; The American Genealogist, 41: 1-2, Jan. 1965.
2.Gt. Brit. Public Record Office, ref. C 2 Eliz. B 31/1, an undated proceeding addressed to Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (1558-1579): "Bill of Complaint by William Bruester (!) and Mary his wife, the late wife of John Symkinson late of Doncaster, Yorks. The said John was seized of lands in Doncaster and in his lifetime did convey them to the said Mary then his wife for the term of her life and afterwards he died at Doncaster."

The press founded by William Brewster to publish religious tracts came to Plymouth with him. It still survives as North America's oldest publishing company. It is Pilgrim Press, a part of the United Church of Christ. Andrew White, Sept 2013

OCCUPATION: Sec Of State To Queen Elizabeth,Master Of Mayflower Compact[24] Printer; Elder for the Pilgrim Church; Chaplain on Mayflower, Undertaker; bailiff and postmaster in Scrooby, of the Mayflower 1620, A Leader of Plymouth Colony, Pilgrim colonist, leader and preacher of Mayflower Compact, Postmaster, Bailiff [25]

Wise, Discreet, and well spoken--qualified above many. Attended Peterhouse College, Cambridge 1580-1583. Employee of Sir Wm Davison c1583-89, postmater, bailiff, receiver, operated choir alley press 1616, flight to hiding in England 1619, purchaser 1626, undertaker 1627-41; argued against Roger Williams retention as a teacher in 1623.[24]

He lived at great manor house owned by the Archbishopric of Yorke (Doomesday Book, 1066) from 1588-1608, where he organized the Pilgrim Church of which he was a ruling elder, and which he removed to Amsterdam in 1608 , to Leyden at Green Gate in 1609, and to Plymouth in 1620.[24]

The manor, located beside Ryton in the northern tip of Nottinghamshire, halfway between London and the Scottish border on the River Ryton. He left London in 1589, following his many years in the Court of Elizabeth, as Secretary of State, charged with the conduct of foreighn Affiars. After leaving London, Brewster settled down in Scrooby where in 1591, he married Marry. He escaped to Amsterdam in 1608.[24] He and his wife, Mary, sailed aboard the Speedwell, then transferred to the Mayflower, after the Speedwell's ill-fated return to England. His 3 children: Jonathan, Patience & Fear were left at Scrooby with a relative when Brewster joined the Mayflower Compact. They came later on other ships. Another son, Wrestling Brewster was born at sea or shortly after arr. at Plymouth. He was accompanied by one servant - Richard More (ca.1613-1648) of London, on the Mayflower. When he died in 1643 at Plymouth, Ma, his wife, Mary and daus Fear & Patience and son, Wrestling had prececeased him.[24]

William Brewster, b. 1567, d. Apr. 10, 1644, was a leader of the PILGRIMS, who established Plymouth Colony. In England he studied briefly at Cambridge, the only Pilgrim Father to have some university training. A member of the local gentry in Scrooby, Yorkshire, he helped organize a separatist religious congregation in 1606 and financed it's move to Holland in 1608. His influence was instrumental in winning the approval of the Virginia Company for the proposal to resettle the congregation in America, and he was one of the few original Scrooby separatists who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. As the church's ruling elder in Leyden and then in Plymouth, Brewster shared with William Bradford and Edward Winslow in the leadership of the Pilgrim enterprise.[26]

[ClorindaFOSDICK.ged] Mayflower BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: William Brewster was the Reverend Elder of the Pilgrim's church at Plymouth, since their pastor John Robinson remained behind in Leyden, Holland with the majority of the congregation which planned to come to America at a later time. Brewster was a fugitive from the King of England, because he had published a number of religious pamphlets while in Leyden which were critical or opposed the tenets of the Church of England. He had been a member of the Separatist church movement from its very beginning, and was the oldest Mayflower passenger to have participated at the First Thanksgiving, in his early fifties.

William Bradford wrote a lot about William Brewster in Of Plymouth Plantation, some of which follows: "After he had attained some learning, viz. the knowledge of Latin tongue, and some insight in the Greek, and spent some small time at Cambridge, and then being first seasoned with the seeds of grace and virtue, he went to the court, and served that religious and godly gentleman, Mr. Davison, divers years, when he was Secretary of State; who found him so discreet and faithful as he trusted him above all other that were about him, and only employed him in all matters of greatest trust and secrecy . . . he attended his mr. when he was sent in ambassage by the Queen into the Low Countries . . . And, at his return, the States honored him with a gold chain, and his master committed it to him, and commanded him to wear it when they arrived in England, as they rid through the country, till they came to the court . . . Afterwards he went and lived in the country, in good esteem amongst his friends and the gentlemen of those parts, especially the Godly and religious. He did much good in the country where he lived, in promoting and furthering religion not only by his practice and example, and provocating and encouraging of others, but by procuring of good preachers to the places thereabouts, and drawing on of others to assist and help forward in such work; he himself most commonly deepest in the charge, and sometimes above his ability ...

They ordinarily met at this house on the Lord's day, (which was a manor of the bishops) and with great love he entertained them when they came, making provision for them to his great charge. He was the chief of those that were taken at Boston, and suffered the greatest loss; and of the seven that were kept longest in prison, and after bound over . . . After he came into Holland he suffered much hardship, after he had spent the most of his means, having a great charge, and many children; and, in regard of his former breeding and course of life, not so fit for many employments as others were, especially as were toilsome and laborious. But yet he ever bore his condition with much cheerfulness and contention. Towards the later part of those 12 years spent in Holland, his outward condition was mended, and he lived well and plentifully; for he fell into a way to teach many students, who had a desire to learn the English tongue, to teach them English; . . .

He also had means to set up printing, by the help of some friends . . . and by reason of many books which would not be allowed to be printed in England, they might have had more then they could do. . . . And besides that, he would labor with his hands in the fields as long as he was able; yet when the church had no other minister, he taught twice every Sabbath . . . For his personal abilities, he was qualified above many; he was wise and discreet and well spoken, having a grave and deliberate utterance, of a very cheerful spirit, very sociable and pleasant amongst his friends, of an humble and modest mind, of a peaceable disposition, undervaluing himself and his own abilities . . .inoffensive and innocent in his life and conversation . . . he was tender-hearted, and compassionate of such as were in misery, but especially of such as had been of good estate and rank, and were fallen into want and poverty either for goodness and religions sake, or by the injury and oppression of others; . . . " [27]

New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 18; Rev. Henry M. Dexter; 1864; pp.18-20. 'It is somewhat remarkable that a great degree of uncertainty should have so long rested upon the two dates of most importance in the life of so prominent a man as Elder William Brewster, of the Plymouth Colony. If the exact time of his birth had been soley in the keeping of tradition, one would think the era of his disappearance from the Plymouth Company must have left ann exact and ineffaceable trace. In point of fact, however, two different years have been heretofore assigned as those of his death, and four as those of his birth. 'Gov. Bradford, in his History, [p.408] records his death as occurring 'about' the 18th of April, 1643. Morton, in his Memorial, expressly copies Bradford, and gives the same date [1st ed'n, p.117]. These are followed by Hubbard, [p.663], and Hutchinson, [vol.ii: p. 411]; and lately by the editor of Bradford's Manuscript, in a note to that work [p.408]; by Savage, [Gen. Dict'y of New Eng., vol.1, p.246] who, however, changes the day to the 16th of April; by Palfrey [Hist. New Eng., i: 598]; and by Freeman, [Hist'y Cape Cod, i: 169]. 'On the other hand, Morton, in copying from Bradford's Manuscript History upon the Plymouth Church Records, [Bk. i. fol. 38] dates Brewster's death as 'about the 16th of April, 1644.' In this he has been followed by Belknap, [v.ii:p. 163]; Eliot, [p.87]; Cotton, in his History of the Plymouth Church; [Mass. Hist., coll. iv: 113]; Baylies, [v.ii: p.4]; Holmes [Annals, i:276]; Winsor,

Last Will & Testament

'Administration on the estate of William Brewster was granted on 5 June 1644:

To Jonathan Brewster and Love Brewster

The inventory of the estate of William Brewster, taken 18 May 1644, totalled £150 7d., with no real estate included "Whereas William Brewster late of Plymouth, gent., deceased left only two sons surviving vizt. Jonathan the eldest and Love the younger and whereas the said William died intestate for ought can to this day appear," the two sons requested William Bradford, Edward Winslow, Thomas Prence and Myles Standish to assist them in coming to an agreement, and on 20 August 1645 a division was made.

Jonathan Brewster was excused the debt he had owed to his father, except £4 "in consideration of the wintering of some cattle which the said Jonathan had the summering upon the division and for the diet of Isaack Allerton a grandchild of the said Will[ia]m which he had placed with his son Love to table and because he was the first born of his father we gave him his father's arms and also a two year old heifer over and above his part of the dividables of the said estate," and Love received his father's dwelling house.

The lands were divided equally, except for a dispute over the lands at Duxbury, of which sixty-eight acres went to Jonathan (along with a "dwelling house which the said Jonathan had built on the said land by leave of his said father") and forty-three acres went to Love "and the reason wherefore we gave Love the less quantity was and is because the quality of Love's land in goodness is equal to the quantity of Jonathan's as we judge" [28]

Research Notes

Where and When was William Brewster Born?

Barbara Lambert Merrick in Mayflower families through five generations, under imprint of the Gen. Soc. of Mayflower Desc. Vol 24 Prt 1, Elder William Brewster, pub. 2014.

"between June 1566 and June 1567", p. 1
"born probably in or near Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England" p. 1

Robert Charles Anderson in The Great Migration Begins, Vol 1-3, pub. 1995, 2010

"about 1566, probably at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire", p. 228

Caleb Johnson, MayflowerHistory.com, c. 1997-2014

"about 1566 in the vicinity of Scrooby..."

Eugene Aubrey Stratton, in Plymouth Colony, pub. 1986. [citing NEHGR 18:18],

"1566 or 1567, of Scrooby", p. 251

2020 American Ancestors: William Brewster

"About 1566, probably at Scrooby"

Where Did William Brewster Die?

William Brewster died in Duxbury, where his property was located, as shown in the inventory of his estate.
William Brewster's body was interred in Burial Hill Cemetery, in Plymouth, where most of the Mayflower passengers were buried.
William Brewster did not die in Barkhamsted, Connecticut, where a large monument in the Riverside Cemetery proclaims his name, title, birth and death. Barkhamsted was not founded until 1779. The Charles R. Hale Collection of Connecticut Cemetery Inscriptions, at Hartford, Connecticut in the Connecticut State Library, has a copy of the inscription in Vol # 1, page 19. It does not mean he was buried there.

Mayflower passenger

Buried: in or around Burial Hill, Mass


  1. Halsall, William, 1882, black & white photo of painting of the Mayflower
  2. Mayflower, Halsall, William, 1882 color painting: Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, Public Domain, from WikiMedia.org; original at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Begins: 1620-1633, Vol 1, A-F. (1995) pp 227-30
  4. Venn 1:213
  5. Morison 368
  6. The Mayflower Descendent 1:7
  7. Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 24 Aug 2016), memorial page for Elder William Brewster (1566–1644), Find A Grave Memorial no. 16,195,888, citing Burial Hill, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts; the accompanying photographs by William DeCoursey provide image of a plaque on the exterior wall of [William Brewster's home at Scrooby Manor, England. There are no images of a stone or inscribed data.[ William Brewster at Find a Grave]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Nathaniel Philbrick. Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War Penguin Group, New York, New York, 2006. p13, 21, 25-26, 85-86, 90, 98, 103, 125, 161, 168, 184-185
  9. Who Do You Think You Are (US) Season 2, Episode 8. "Ashely Judd" Note: They visit the cells mentioned in the basement of the Boston, Lincolnshire Guild Hall in Boston, England.
  10. Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Vol. 24. Elder William Brewster, 1st edition. 2015. AmericanAncestors.org
  11. Mayflower Families in Progress: William Brewster, Revised 3rd edition, 2000.
  12. Bangs, Jeremy Dupertius (2012). The Mayflower Quarterly, vol. 78, no. 2 (June), p. 145.
  13. Mayflower Society Books and Articles
  14. Elder William Brewster Society Website
  15. The Mayflower Descendent 1:7
  16. Prince 299
  17. Bradford 218, 242
  18. Plymouth Colony Records 1:30
  19. Dexter 605
  20. Bradford 444
  21. GDMNH 109
  22. The Mayflower Descendent 43:13
  23. Emma C. Brewster Jones. The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Ruth H. McConathy. "The House of Cravens" publ. privately Charlottesville, VA.
  25. Elder William Brewster - Mayflower Passenger
  26. Descendants of Brewster [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mcstayfamily/brewster.htm Rootsweb.Ancestry.com
  27. "Of Plymouth Plantation"~William Bradford
  28. "MD 3:27-30, citing PCLR 1:198-99; PCR 12:115-1"
  • Mayflower descendant #4871
  • The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2010), (Originally Published as: New England Historic Genealogical Society. Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III, 3 vols., 1995). William Brewster, pp 227-230
  • Merrick, Barbara. Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Vol. 24, Part 1, The Descendants of Elder William Brewster, Generations 1 through 4, (Plymouth, MA, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2014)

See also:

  • Official Mayflower Passenger Manifest. Pilgrim Hall Museum
  • "New England Historical & Genealogical Register" vol. 124 pp250-1.
  • "A notebook on the Descendants of William Brewster", Terry & Harding, 1955 p. 1.
  • Emma C. Brewster Jones, "The Brewster Genealogy 1566 - 1907", database online, Internet Archive Vol I, Internet Archive, (New York, The Grafton Press, 1908), Vol II; 1415 pages.
  • Wetmore, James Carnahan, The Wetmore family of America, and its collateral branches with genealogical, biographical, and historical notices, database online, Internet Archive, (Albany, New York, Munsell & Rowland, 1861), Appendix E: page 552 - 568.
  • Steele, Rev. Ashbel, Chief of the Pilgrims or, The life and time of William Brewster, ruling elder of the Pilgrim company that founded New Plymouth, the parent colony of New England, in 1620, database online, Internet Archive, (Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1857) 416 pages.
  • Roser, Susan E., Early Descendants of Henry Cobb of Barnstable MA, Stewart Publishing and Printing, Canada, 2008
  • Harrison Genealogy Repository (Rootsweb.Ancestry.com : accessed 24 Aug 2016)
  • The Mayflower Descendant</i> (Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants) Vol. 1, Page 7
  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register, V18:20, clarified birth and death dates.
  • Wikipedia for William Brewster
  • William_Brewster_%281%29
  • [This is Caleb Johnson's Mayflower History website]
  • Archive.org(and other places); his extensive discussion of William Brewster begins on page 342 at the time that Brewster died.
  • Roser, Susan E., Mayflower Increasings From the Files of George Ernest Bowman, Second Edition, Fourth Printing, Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc., Baltimore, Md., 2001
  • Bangs, Jeremy Dupertus, Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Plymouth, Massachusetts, 2009 On Line: [[1]] Description: Pilgrim Archive from Leiden, Netherlands
  • Willison, George F., Saints and Strangers, The Cornwall Press, Cornwall, NY, 1943, Third Printing
  • Banks, Charles Edward, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers Who Came to Plymouth, Genelogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, 1976
  • Bowman, George Ernest, The Mayflower Reader, Baltimore, Genelogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978
  • Peterhouse College website.
  • Benton: Benton, Charles Edward, Ezra Reed and Esther Edgerton: Their Life and Ancestry, A.V. Haight Company, 1912 On Archive.org
  • Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1795) Vol. 4, Page 113-7
  • Halsall, William F., The pilgrim town of Duxbury, (Plymouth, Mass., A. S. Burbank, 1900), page 7 - illustration of a ship like the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, created by William F. Halsall, 1882. Original is hanging at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • Jordan, John W. Genealogical and Personal History of Western Pennsylvania (Lewis Historical Pub. Co., New York, 1915, Vol. 3, p. 1309-1310)

Additional Notes

  • glassgems.net

William Brewster and Prudence Peck (Perkins) had the following children: WILLIAM3 BREWSTER was born on 24 Jan 1560 in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. He died on 10 Apr 1644 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts. He married Mary Wentworth, [This fact is disputed strongly, Wm's wife's maiden name is unknown!] daughter of Unnamed in 1583 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, England. She was born in 1569 in probably Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. She died on 17 Apr 1627 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Disputed Origins

A number of unsourced genealogies have been created linking William Brewster, William Brewster, William Brewster, Robert Brewster and Humphrey Brewster, Galfridus Brewster b: 1380, John Brewster, John Brewster b: c.1325 and John Brewster b: c.1299 to create an ancestry for Elder William Brewster. Although no sources are offered to support this descent line, we find many unsubstantiated genealogies with a claim for descendants of Elder William Brewster to trace their genealogy from "John I in 1279, who lived in Rushmere, Suffolk, England followed by John II and III; then Galfridus, John IV" etc. for example The Brewster Bunch Family Story by Judy Brewster pub: Amazon in a Kindle Edition.

  • family tree
  • Head stone, Burial Hill cemetery, Plymouth Massachusets

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DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with William by comparing test results with other carriers of his Y-chromosome or his mother's mitochondrial DNA. Y-chromosome DNA test-takers in his direct paternal line on WikiTree:

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On 11 Feb 2019 at 05:46 GMT L. Ray Sears III, P.E. wrote:

Brewster-4 and Brewster-3312 appear to represent the same person because: Hi- it looks like these are the same Elder William Brewster. Same thing for his daughter Patience Brewster-98 and Patience-3313


On 26 Jan 2019 at 09:53 GMT Steve Hunt wrote:

Cheryl, Is this the same person?


On 1 Dec 2018 at 07:35 GMT Shirley York wrote:

William is the 13th great grandfather of Shirley :)

On 22 Nov 2018 at 02:12 GMT Margaret (Sheldon) Kleimola wrote:

I was told 55 years ago, when I was 13, at a family reunion of the Card Family, held in Ripley, NY at the Gilbert’s residence, that we were Mayflower descendants. William Brewster is my 12th Great-Grandfather. I am thankful for the Pilgrims who survived! Margaret Sheldon Kleimola. Sheldon-2961

On 21 Nov 2018 at 19:37 GMT Malcolm Hutton wrote:

I see no mention of Babworth Church in this page - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints%27_Church,_Babworth This is where William Brewster once worshipped. The little lane to one side of the Church is known as the Pilgrim's Way.

My great grandparents Charles and Elizabeth Grant are buried here - though their grandparents only arrived in Babworth around 1793, long after Brewster turned to Scrooby.

On 21 Nov 2018 at 15:59 GMT Jo Gill wrote:

Wonderful profile, but it's soooo long. I suggest putting the "Plymouth Colony Deeds" in a scrolling text box.

On 30 Aug 2018 at 04:26 GMT Tamara Flora wrote:

Brewster-3133 and Brewster-4 appear to represent the same person because: When I was creating this, NO close matches showed up although an old line of mine showed he was part of this family. Following up on my profiles, this showed that indeed, there is a profile for him already.

On 15 Aug 2018 at 18:31 GMT April (Dellinger) Dauenhauer wrote:

On a map, Doncaster, although in a different county, is only ten miles north of Scrooby. Austerfield, where Gov. William Bradford was born and raised, is only 2.5 miles from Scrooby.

I would go with the 2014 book by Barbara Lambert, published by the Mayflower Society. Anderson in GMB and other 'heavy-weights' on Mayflower research agree. Most of them qualify it with: "in or near" Scrooby.

There isn't a way to say "in or near", in the Vitals section at the top of the profile, so my thinking is to say Scrooby, and let the bio text show the details.

I'll ask on the Mayflower project page, so whatever the change is it will have consensus.

Thank you Anne for helping.

On 15 Aug 2018 at 11:42 GMT Anne B wrote:

If Doncaster and Scrooby were in the same County, I would suggest that we change the birth place to the county. But not so. Having read April's notes, I think that Doncaster should be removed, but just putting in Scrooby isn't quite accurate either.

On 14 Aug 2018 at 14:07 GMT Martha Garrett wrote:

more comments

William is 17 degrees from Cari Starosta, 15 degrees from Marie-Antoinette d'Autriche and 12 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.