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John Carver (bef. 1585 - 1621)

Governor John Carver
Born before in Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married before 22 May 1615 [location unknown]
[children unknown]
Died at about age 36 in Plymouth, Plymouth Colonymap
Profile last modified | Created 28 Apr 2011 | Last significant change: 24 Apr 2022
14:07: Bobbie (Madison) Hall edited the marriage between Katherine (White) Carver (abt.1574-1621) and John Carver (bef.1585-1621). (based on witnessing betrothal as Katherine Carver on this date) [Thank Bobbie for this]
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The Mayflower.
John Carver was a passenger on the Mayflower.
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Preceded by
Office Established
John Carver
1st Governor
of Plymouth Colony

1620 —1621
Plymouth Colony Seal
Succeeded by
2nd Governor
William Bradford



Notables Project
John Carver is Notable.

Unknown Origin and Uncertain Marriage

Robert C. Anderson featured John Carver in The Great Migration Begins and reports his "origin" as Leiden, meaning his ship sailed from there, but his birth place and parents are unknown.[1][2][3] John Carver was probably born by about 1585, "based on the date of his first appearance in Leiden."[1] There are other theories about his birth. "The Carver Family of New England" states he was baptized 9 Sep 1565 at Doncaster, Yorkshire, son of James Carver.[4] Anderson discounts this and his alleged relationship to Robert Carver of Marshfield. Charles Banks states he was baptized the same date 9 Sep 1565 at Doncaster, but son of Robert Carver.[5] This would make him 44 at his first appearance in Leiden. There is no other indication he was this old.[1]

Anderson also reports only one marriage, by 1609 to Catherine (White) Leggattt, and even that is based on a circumstantial evidence. Alexander White mentioned his daughters (Catherine, Bridget, Jane, and Francis) in his 1594 will. His wife's will of 1599 mentioned "my son Leggatt and his wife" and "their daughter Marie" along with daughters Bridget, Janie, and Frances. Bridget White married in 1604 to Rev. John Robinson. On 14 June 1620, John Robinson wrote a letter to John Carver as "my dear friend and brother, whom with yours I always remember in my best affection." This is not conclusive, because John Robinson also addressed other members of the church as "brother."[1]

Probable Origin Discovered

An article in the Winter 2020 New England Historical and Genealogical Register concludes that John1 Carver "was most likely the John Carver baptized in Great Bealings, Suffolk, on 12 March 1580/1," the son of John Carver and Margaret (Unknown) Carver.[6]

John Carver is credited with writing the Mayflower Compact, was its first signer, and was the first governor of New Plymouth Colony. Carver was a Leiden Separatist instrumental in organizing the Pilgrim's Mayflower voyage in 1620, on which he was a passenger, and which resulted in the creation of Plymouth Colony in America.[7]
John Carver was a deacon in Leiden about 1609 at about age 25, and is believed to have been born sometime before 1584. Leiden records of St. Pancras Church state that Carver buried a child on July 10, 1609. Sometime shortly after the death of the child, Carver's wife Mary died.[7]
John Carver may have been the actual author of the Mayflower Compact itself, and was also its first signer. Following the Compact signing, Carver was "chosen, or rather confirmed" governor of the new political body that was his creation.[7]

John Carver, a Leiden separatist, is credited with writing the Mayflower Compact, as well as, organizing the voyage. Originally destined for Virginia, the voyagers were blown off course and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. [8]


John may have married twice. Robert Anderson of The Great Migration series and Caleb Johnson in his Mayflower History,com, among others, report only the first marriage.[1][9]

His first wife was Mary de Lannoy, of L’Escluse, France. They were both were members of the French Walloon church in Leiden. Leiden records of St. Pancras Church state that Carver buried a child on July 10, 1609. Sometime shortly after the death of the child, Carver’s wife Mary died.[10]

He next married Katherine White, who was a prominent member of the Leiden English Separatist church.[11]The date of marriage is unknown. On November 11, 1617, at St. Pancras in Leiden, Katherine Carver buried a child, probably an infant.

During this time John Carver was negotiating with the London Company for passage to Virginia for he and the Leiden Church dissenters. John Carver was very wealthy and provided much of his personal fortune to the congregation in Leiden, and investment in the joint-stock company as well as for the Mayflower voyage itself.[12]

Boarding the Mayflower in 1620 with John Carver and his wife Katherine were five servants: Desire Minter; and two manservants, John Howland, Roger Wilder; William Latham, a boy; and a maidservant, and a child that was put to him, called Jasper More.”[13]

"On November 11/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day."[14]

The Carver family with whom John lived, survived the terrible sickness of the first winter, during which many Pilgrims died. But the following spring, on an unusually hot day in April, Governor Carver, according to Bradford, came out of his cornfield feeling ill. He passed into a coma and "never spake more."

His wife, Kathrine, died soon after her husband.

Since the Carvers had no children, John Howland is thought to have inherited their estate. It has been said that he immediately "bought his freedon" but no record has survived.[15]

The following is quoted from William Bradford's Mayflower passenger list.[16]

mr. John Carver, Kathrine his wife, Desire Minter; & 2. Man-servants John Howland Roger Wilder. William Latham, a boy, & a maid servant. & a child yt was put to him called, Jasper More.[16]
These bening aboute a hundred sowls came over in this first ship: and began this worke, which god of his goodnes hathe hithertoo blesed; let his holy name have ye praise.[16]
And seeing it hath please him to give me to see .30. years compleated, since these biginings. And that the great works of his providence are to be observed. I have thought it not unworthy my paines, to take a view of the decreasings, & Increasigs of these persons, and such changs as hath pased over them, & theirs, in this thirty years. It may be of some use to such as come after; but however I shall rest in my owne benefite.[16]
mr. Carver and his wife, dyed the first year, he in ye spring, she in ye somer; also his man Roger, and ye litle boy Jasper, dyed before either of them, of ye commone infection. Desire Minter, returned to her friend & proved not very well, and dyed in England. His servant boy Latham after more than .20. years stay in the country went into England; and from thence to the Bajamy Ilands in ye west Indees; and ther with some others was stavred for want of food. His maid servant maried, & dyed a year or two after her in this place. His servant John Howland maried the doughter of John Tillie, Elizabeth and they are both now living; and have .10. children now all living and their eldest doughter has .4. children and ther .2. doughter, one, all living and other of their children mariagable, so 15. are come of them.[16]
Of these 100 persons which came first over, in this first ship togeth; the greater halfe dyed in the general mortality; and most of them in .2. or .3. monthes time. And for those wich survifed though some were ancient & past procreation; & others left ye place and cuntrie, yet of those few remaining are sprunge up above. 160 persons; in this .30 yeasr. And are now living in this present year. 1650. besids many of their children which are dead and done not within this account.[16]
And of the old stock, (of one, & other) ther are yet living this present year. 1650. nere .30. persons. Let the Lord have ye praise; who is the High preserver of men.[16]

Death and Legacy

John Carver passed away suddenly in April 1621 after working in his fields.

"In this month of April whilst they were busy about their seed, their Governor (Mr. John Carver) came out of the field very sick, it being a hot day, he complained greatly of his head, and lay down, and within a few hours his senses failed, so as he never spoke more till he died, which was within a few days after: whose death was much lamented, and caused great heaviness amongst them, as there was cause. He was buried in the best manner they could, with some volleys of shot by all that bore arms." [17][18]

Research Notes

The Wikipedia article on John Carver reports a first marriage to Mary de Lannoy, citing Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society, "A Genealogical Profile of John Carver."[7] However, this source does not mention any first marriage.[3]

Mayflower, First Sickness and Cole's Hill Burial Ground


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Anderson, Robert C., (1995) "John Carver," featured name. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. NEHGS, (Volumes I-III, Page 320-22).
  2. "Possible English Origin of Degory Priest of the Mayflower." The American Genealogist, Vol 80. NEHGS, (Vol 80, Page 257 fn.)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society, "A Genealogical Profile of John Carver." Archived on 1 Nov 2012, LINK to PDF Retrieved on 7 Sep 2017.
  4. Carver, Clifford N. The Carver family of New England : Robert Carver of Marshfield and his descendants. Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Pub. Co., 1935. p. 18
  5. Banks, Charles Edward, 1854-1931. The English Ancestry And Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers Who Came to Plymouth On the "Mayflower" In 1620, the "Fortune" In 1621, And the "Anne" And the "Little James" In 1623. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1962. p. 44
  6. Sue Allan, Caleb Johnson, and Simon Neal, "The Probable Origin of Mayflower Passenger John Carver and the Minter Family in Suffolk," New England Historical and Genealogical Register', volume 174 (2020), pages 5-20
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Wikipedia contributors, "John Carver (Plymouth Colony governor)." Retrieved on 7 Sep 2017.
  8. Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 259
  9. Johnson, Caleb, (1994-2017) "John Carver." Retrieved on 7 Sep 2017.
  10. Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 18
  11. Charles Edward Banks, The English ancestry and homes of the Pilgrim Fathers who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2006), p. 44
  12. Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A story of Courage, Community and War (New York: Viking, 2006), p. 42
  13. Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 405
  14. Eugene Aubrey Stratton. Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691 (Salt Lake City:Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
  15. Source unknown.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 "Governor Branford's List of the Mayflower Passengers." The Mayflower Descendant. LINK(Vol. 1, Pages 9, 11-12, 16)
  17. Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, Xlibris Corporation: 2006
  18. This is a modern rendition of the account of John Carver's death given in William Bradford's Journal, Published as History of Plymouth Plantation. Boston: Little Brown, 1856.

See also:

  • Bangs, (1989) "The Pilgrims and Other English in Leiden Records: Some New Pilgrim Documents." The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. (Vol 143, Pages 195-99).
  • Moore, Jacob Bailey, (1851) Lives of the Governors of New Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. Boston: C. D. Strong, LINK (Pages 11-48, citing p 46) died "on the 6th of April, 1621."
  • The Pilgrim Archives John Carver, in Dutch named Jan Kerver, mentioned in different records, scans of records also here and with Dutch transcripts of the records, the records are translated in English as well
  • Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856) p. 447 "8 [persons] M. John Carver; Kathrine, his wife; Desire Minter; & . 2. man-servants, John Howland, Roger Wilder; William Latham, a boy; & a maid servant, & a child yt was put to him, called Jasper More." p. 450. "M. Carver and his wife dyed the first year; he in ye spring, she in ye somer; also, his man Roger and ye litle boy Jasper dyed before either of them, of ye commone infection. Desire Minter returned to her freinds, & proved not very well, and dyed in England. His servant boy Latham, after more then 20 years stay in the country, went into England, and from thence to the Bahamy Ilands in ye West Indies, and ther, with some others, was starved for want of food. His maid servant maried, & dyed a year or tow after, here in this place." "15. [persons]His servant, John Howland, maried the doughter of John Tillie, Elizabeth, and they are both now living, and have 10. children, now all living; and their eldest daughter hath 4. children. And ther 2. daughter, 1. all living; and other of their children mariagable. So 15. are come of them."
  • Bradford, William, 1590-1657. Of Plimoth Plantation: manuscript, 1630-1650. State Library of Massachusetts "List of Mayflower Passengers." In Bradford's Hand.
  • Pope, Charles H., (1900) The Pioneers of Massachusetts a Descriptive List, Drawn From Records of the Colonies, Towns and Churches and Other Contemporaneous Documents. Boston: C.H. Pope, (Pages 90-91).
  • Mayflower Society - Passengers Who Died With No Known Descent

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Comments: 11

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Saints and Strangers was written in 1945. A lot of research especially in Holland has happened since 1945.
posted by Anne B
George Wilson in Saints and Strangers, pg 106 says Carver was born in Doncaster, Yorkshire and was not in the group from Scrooby. Only Katherine White is mentioned as wife. He also says they were in Leyden in 1609.
posted by Ellen Gustafson
The birth and birth place listed in the data are not supported and should probably be changed. About 1587 England sounds good.
posted by Anne B
Carver estimated as abt. 30 years of age in 1617, but no place of birth given, pages 290-1 of the new book "New World Inc., the Making of America by England's Merchant Adventurers" by John Butman and Simon Targett. Little Brown & Co, NY. 2018. Call #970.107 BUT
posted by Beryl Meehan
Rachelle, what is the connection between John Carver and Doncaster, and why do you claim it is 'probable', when our trusted sources do not?
posted by Weldon Smith
It is well documented that John Carver of the Mayflower did not have children. His probable brother came from the same original parish in Doncaster with Isaac Carver mentioned in the records as being the father of John and Robert.
posted by [Living McClendon]
Profile Managers: Please consider my request to remove Robert as son of John Carver. This bad link apparently reappeared during a recent merge. Both PGM and Mayflower Projects state unequivocally that Robert Carver is not son of John Carver. See G2G discussion: If you would rather, I am happy to remove this bad link from our tree for you. If you object, please show cause. If Robert link still present on 15th September, absent cause, I will remove. Thanks.
posted by Weldon Smith
Do we have evidence for: this birth place? first wife? Also, please see G2G question re detaching profile for Robert Carver as son. Thanks!
posted by Cynthia (Billups) B
Carver-538 and Carver-254 appear to represent the same person because: Clear Duplicate
posted by Andrea (Stawski) Pack
He and Katherine White Leggatt were married in Leiden, Holland.
posted by Tanya Kasim