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Thomas Prence Jr. (abt. 1600 - 1673)

Governor Thomas Prence Jr. aka Prince [uncertain]
Born about in Lechdale, Gloucestershire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 5 Aug 1624 (to 12 Dec 1634) in Plymouth Colonymap
Husband of — married 1 Apr 1636 (to about 1644) in Plymouth Colonymap
Husband of — married 1645 (to before 1 Aug 1668) in Plymouth Colonymap
Husband of — married 1 Aug 1668 (to 29 Mar 1673) in Plymouth Colonymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Plymouth Colony, New Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 14 Apr 2010 | Last significant change: 9 Jun 2021
08:21: Joe Farler edited the Biography for Thomas Prence Jr. (abt.1600-1673). (corrected All Hallows to All Saints, Barking as per the will.) [Thank Joe for this]
This page has been accessed 21,716 times.
The Puritan Great Migration.
Thomas Prence Jr. migrated to New England during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640).
Join: Puritan Great Migration Project
Discuss: pgm
Preceded by
3rd Governor
Edward Winslow

7th Governor
William Bradford

11th Governor
William Bradford
Thomas Prence
4th Governor
of Plymouth Colony

1634 —1635
Plymouth Colony Seal
8th Governor
12th Governor
Succeeded by
5th Governor
William Bradford

9th Governor
William Bradford

13th Governor
Josiah Winslow



Notables Project
Thomas Prence Jr. is Notable.

Thomas, the son of Thomas Prence, a carriage maker of All Saints, Barking, London, England [1], and his wife Elizabeth Tolderby, the daughter of Reverend John- was born in Lechlade, a village in Gloucestershire, England, about 1600, during the last years of the reign of Elizabeth Tudor.[2] During the first years of young Thomas's life, the English suffered horrible calamities. The bubonic plague scorched across the country in 1603 and 1604, emptying whole villages. In 1606 and 1607, floods, that like of which the people had never known before, swept the coast and the waters ran to Gloucestershire and Somerset, laying waste to the lands in an unrelenting, unstoppable destruction. Young Thomas and his family survived.

In 1621, during the reign of James, the first Stuart, Thomas, with many adventurous Puritans, left England. With hopes for a wonderful future, they came to America, Thomas aboard the ship Fortune, reaching Plymouth, Massachusetts in November. [3] They hadn't brought enough supplies and as the harsh New England winter continued, the young colonists knew hunger and hardship. Some didn't survive. Thomas did.

On 5 August 1624,[4] Thomas married Patience Brewster, the daughter of William.[5] They had four children- Rebecca, Thomas (who returned to England, married there and died young), Hannah and Mercy. Patience died of a fever in the winter of 1634.[6] The following Spring, Thomas, now governor, wed Mary Collier, the daughter of William.[7]

On August 15, 1635, in the midst of a heatwave that withered the leaves on the trees, the Great Hurricane struck Massachusetts. It twisted and turned around Plymouth for nine days. The colonists had never known such storms and the thing shredded homes, ripped away crops. Many lives were lost. Thomas and his family survived and with their friends and neighbors, began to rebuild, knowing, with the crops gone, the winter would be another of hunger. Thomas left the office of governor before his daughter, Jane was born but gained re-election for the birth of his daughter, Mary, serving another year.

Thomas prospered through the years, fur-trading and buying and selling land. 1644 brought more changes to his life. His wife died. He moved again. With Edward Bangs, John Smalley, John Doane, Nicholas Snow, Richard Higgins and Josiah Cook, he founded the new town of Eastham. Thomas married again. His third wife, Apphia Quick, the daughter of William, is said to have divorced her first husband, Samuel Freeman. Thomas had three more daughters- Judith, Elizabeth, and Sarah. He was re-elected governor in 1657 and remained in office.

Though he was one of the richest and most powerful men in the community of Puritans, these weren't tranquil years for him. Thomas was a dedicated Puritan and intolerant of those who didn't share his religious and political agenda. His third term as governor was a savage and constant battle to suppress the Quaker religion. He fined the members of the sect. He imprisoned them. He exiled them. Thomas, the man who built schools and paid some of the colony's debt to English merchants, out of his own pocket, proudly led the persecution of innocent Quaker families.

And then a young Quaker came courting his daughter. Thomas fined the boy, threatened him with dire punishments, but the young man persisted and true love won. Elizabeth Prence married Arthur Howland. About the same time, Thomas wed his fourth wife. Mary Burr, the widow of Thomas Howes, was a companion and comfort in his last years.

Throughout his years, public and private, Thomas sought to maintain friendships with the Native Americans living nearby. In time, he earned their trust and respect. They knew that from Governor Prence, they would have just and fair treatment. This agenda, of peaceful coexistence, wasn't emulated by Thomas's successor in office. Thomas died March 29, 1673 and within two years, the horror that would become King Philip's War had begun.

He was particularly remembered for his interest in establishing a public school system of education which resulted in the passage of a law requiring each township of fifty families to maintain a teacher of reading and writing, while each of a hundred families was called upon to establish a grammar school.

Additional Information

The Inventory of Thomas Prence's Estate[8][9]



  • Religion (1600) Separatist (Puritian) England & Maryland
  • Christening (1600) England
  • Occupation (1621) Carriage maker
  • Land (1621) Large land owner Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America
  • Immigration (Nov 1621) on the ship Fortune Plymouth Colony
  • Arrival (November 1621) Ship - Fortune Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • First Marriage (5 August 1624) Patience and Thomas were the ninth marriage recorded at Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • Residence (22 May 1627) Plymouth,Plymouth,Massachusetts
  • Removed (1632) Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
  • Occupation (from 1634 to 1635) Governor Plymouth, British Colonial America
  • Married Second (1 APR 1635) In Plymouth,MA,Mary Collier,b. Feb 18, 1614, Surry, Eng.; d. Bef. Dec 1662, Plymouth, MA.
  • Occupation (1635) Governor Massachusetts
  • Occupation (from 1638 to 1639) Governor Plymouth, British Colonial America
  • Residence (from 1635 to 1644) Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America
  • Residence (Aug 1643) Plymouth,Plymouth,Massachusetts
  • Married Third (about 1644)
  • Religion (1644) Puritan
  • Removed (1644) Eastham, Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • Residence (22 May 1655) Eastham, Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • Removed (1663) Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Occupation (from 1657 to 1673) Governor Plymouth, British Colonial America
  • Will (13 March 1673) Massachusetts Bay Colony, British Colonial America
  • Burial (8 April 1673) Old Burial Ground, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Will proved (5 June 1673)
  • Age at Death 73


  1. The Will of Thomas Prence of All Saints, Barking, Carriage Maker: The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 158 Piece Description: Piece 158: Scroope, Quire Numbers 64-117 (1630)
  2. Anderson, Robert Charles, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Volumes I-III. (Online database:, 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).Vol. 1-3, pages 1518-24: "In his will, dated 31 July 1630 and proved 14 August 1630, Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire, left a legacy to his son Thomas Prence "now remaining in New England in the parts beyond the seas" cites EIHC 17:103-04, citing PCC 70 Scroope." The actual Will says of All Saints, Barking, London, Carriage maker NOT Lechlade.
  4. Citing "Prince, 229," Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, Vols I-III, 3 vols., 1995, v3:1522 for Prence-Brewster marriage; digital images by subscription AmericanAncestors.
  5. [Rev.] Thomas Prince (1687-1758) A Chronological History of New England: In the form of Annals … (Boston: Antiquarian Bookstore, 1852), p. 229, August 5 [1624], "The ninth marriage at New Plymouth is of Mr. Thomas Prince with Mrs. Patience Brewster … "; digital images, InternetArchive.
  6. Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration...," Boston, NEHGS (Year), (which volume? what page numbers?): "she died late in 1634 (in a letter to his son John Winthrop Jr. dated 12 December 1634, John Winthrop reported that 'the pestilent fever hath taken away some at Plimouth, among others Mr. Prence the governor his wife...' [WP 3:177]"
  7. Robert Charles Anderson, Great Migration...," Boston, NEHGS (Year), (which volume? what page numbers?): "2) Plymouth 1 April 1635 Mary Collier [ PCR 1:34], daughter of WILLIAM COLLIER ; she died perhaps by 1644."
  8. William T. Davis, ed., Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation: 1606-1646 (New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1908). ( accessed 2016).
  9. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: accessed Aug 2016). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Historical Archaeology and Public Engagement, Dept. of Anthropology. Last updated: March 28, 2015.

See also:

  • "Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Thomas Prence in entry for Thomas Prence, 24 Dec 1650; citing GLOUCESTER,ESSEX,MASSACHUSETTS, ; FHL microfilm 823,641, 823,642.
  • "Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Thomas Prence in entry for Mark Snow and Jane Prince, 09 Jan 1666; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 778,357, 905,406.
  • "Massachusetts Marriages, 1695-1910," database, FamilySearch ( : 4 December 2014), Thomas Prence in entry for Mark Snow and Jane Prince, 09 Jan 1666; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 778,357, 905,406.
  • "Connecticut Deaths and Burials, 1772-1934," database, FamilySearch ( : 3 December 2014), Thomas Prince in entry for Mercy Prince, 28 Sep 1711; citing , reference 20; FHL microfilm 3,319.

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Comments: 40

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Hello Profile Managers, I have been working on the profile of Thomas's father on behalf of the England Project and we have not discovered any evidence that this family was connected to Lechlade in Gloucestershire. Are you OK with me changing birthplace to England in the absence of any other evidence?
Fine with me. Historical accuracy is key.
posted by Michael Warner
Anderson gives his birth as about 1600 based on age at death, son of Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale, Gloucestershire. In his will, dated 31 July 1630 and proved 14 August 1630, Thomas Prence, carriage-maker, of Lechdale Gloucestershire, left a legacy to his son Thomas Prence "now remaining in New England in the part beyond the seas." The source for this will is here: EIHC 17:103-04, citing PCC 70 Scroope.

[Edited to add:] agreed that it does not mention Lechdale in the will as Anderson suggests. I would keep a statement in the biography that disputes what Anderson gives as his place of birth.

posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
edited by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
There is also a long list of references in Dawes-Gates, Vol. 2:683-694 whom Anderson also mentions. I don't currently have time to investigate them, but there may be more indication of how they determined that Lechdale was the origin of the family.
posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
Thanks Bobbie, for your response. As you say, there is no mention of Lechlade or Gloucestershire in the will. I have gone back to the actual original will document which I have been able to view on Ancestry to see if there is something that has been missed there; but no mention of any other place in England other than All Saints Barking.
The evidence for Lechlade is apparently in the letters between Thomas Prence and his relatives. The original source for the claim is here:

Kingsbury, Anna. A Historical Sketch of Thomas Prence. (1924): pages 20-24, see page 22.

posted by Joe Cochoit
Well done. The letters do indeed specify Lechlade.
posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
Fantastic! So glad someone has been able to pin down the source of that part of the story. Thanks for everyone's help.
Hi Elizabeth,

Thank you for keeping a watchful eye on Prence's profile.

Seems my take on this might be a little different.

Is there a reason we wouldn't leave the place of birth as it is, and comment about the uncertainty in the narrative, including a footnote in which we identify the sources examined in which no evidence was found?

That his father was at one time "of Lechlade" is just about everywhere--it is almost an identifier for Thomas, Sr. (and Thomas, Jr.). That the son was born there is even included in the British History Online narrative about the place! See "Lechlade," Gloucestershire; British History Online for "Natives of the town have included Thomas Prence ..."

Mary Walton Ferris' work (Dawes-Gates) is, I'm sure, not without fault, but she didn't tend towards the speculative.

Mary Walton Ferris, Dawes-Gates Ancestral lines .., 2 vols., 1931-1943, 2(1931):683-694, esp. 683n for Thomas Prence, Sr.; digital images, Hathi Trust.

The footnote reads, "Thomas Prence, senior, removed from Lechlade at an unknown date to All Saints, Barking, London, where he carried on the trade of carriage-maker ... "

The association with Lechlade--even if in error/mispelled or misspoken, originated somewhere.

I see that WikiTree has Sr.'s in-laws as born and married at Lechlade. Those profiles seem mostly unsourced. Do you know if any of those surnames or facts show up in the research about the area?

If I come across any better information, will advise. --Gene

posted by GeneJ X
Hi Gene, thanks for taking the time to reply. The connection with Lechlade is certainly all over the internet, but with no actual sourcing that I have been able to find; either for the Prince family or the Tolderby family. Goodness knows where it originated but I haven't been able to find anything to verify it at all - not in parish records, land transactions, court cases or the other usual sources that we rely on for early profiles. The original trail of profiles leading down to Thomas had conflated at least two families - the earliest from Shropshire who are well documented in the records and then a second family from Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire who I have been able to verify through a couple of wills; but there is no record I can find of similar veracity to link them to Lechlade. There were some Prince families in Gloucestershire, at North Nibley, but they are 35 miles apart. I certainly think we should note in the profile that Lechlade has been linked as the place of origin for this family but that rigorous sources have not yet been found; but I do wonder that given what we do have, the place of birth in the data field should just be England, which is the one thing we are certain of!
Hi there and thank you again.

I'm still pulling references, perhaps will learn an early if not the earliest published mention of Lechlade.

The footnote in Dawes-Gates suggests to my total nerd side that we aren't looking for a parish record. (It doesn't say, sometime after XXXX, he left Lechlade.) Again, from the nerd--more of the information style that might come from a deposition or business related document.

As to parish records, I don't have the kind of ready access to the early records about Gloucestershire--I am definitely not knowledgable enough to know which records are extant vs those that are not.

It's clear that you, and perhaps others, are doing valuable work on this topic, and that this work relates to several WikiTree profiles.

What do you think of creating a free space page, onto which we can capture the different sources examined (whether positive search or negative) and a wish list of those we'd like to see? This could be linked to the various profiles that cover different names (Govs parents, his grandparents, etc.)

You wrote, "I certainly think we should note in the profile that Lechlade has been linked as the place of origin for this family but that rigorous sources have not yet been found ..."

Yes, although I remain hopeful that the list of rigorous sources might be listed somehow.

As earlier, I don't see the benefit of changing the data field to "England," but do see the need to make it clear that the good folks on WikiTree and those with the England Project are unable to verify that location.

Will post the information from my digging as that work proceeds.

Thank you again--Gene

posted by GeneJ X
The computer just ate my response. I try again.

More to post (later), but wondering if anyone has seen the "Interesting contemporary letters concerning the father and grandfather of Governor Prence [that are] in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society."

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 Co., 1962), 125; digital images, Hathi Trust.

For the elder's will, Banks cites (see note) "P. C. C. 70, Scrope."

Note: Lordy, Lordy, show me the way. I have not yet identified that underlying reference. It is presumed the same source referred to in Anderson's article by "EIHC [1]7:103-04, citing PCC 70, Scroope," and in EIHC 17:103-4 as "Scroop, L. 70." For the latter, see Hathi Trust.

posted by GeneJ X
edited by GeneJ X
Prerogative Court of Canterbury Register "Scroope" (1630) Abstracts and Index?
posted by M Cole
M. Cole, Bless you, twice. --Gene
posted by GeneJ X
Regarding the "interesting letters" see:

Kingsbury, Anna. A Historical Sketch of Thomas Prence. (1924): pages 20-24.

Anna Kingsbury said the originals were found in the papers of Edward Winslow, probably here / Winslow family papers II, 1638-1760; bulk: 1638-1680.

"He refers to the grandfather and grandmother of the Governor and himself in such manner that it is evident their home was in Lechlade or Leachlade."

posted by Joe Cochoit
edited by Joe Cochoit
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant you are! --Gene
posted by GeneJ X
And the quotes of the letters she includes also clarify the names of some of the early generation family members that the EP had no sources for. Fantastic!
Prince-1582 and Prence-1 appear to represent the same person because: apparentlly same spouse (checking for merge proposal), birth date unsourced, spelling variation is a common one.
posted by Tim Prince
Sorry to hear that, Michael... probably a lot of physical therapy which can be painful. Take care and get back into the swing of things when you are able.
I've been recovering from bilateral knee replacements, so have not been doing much in monitoring things here.
posted by Michael Warner
Very few of the current profile managers have been active on wikitree the last six months. :-(
posted by Jillaine Smith
There’s a powerful lot of PMs for this profile, maybe one or more of you could pitch in and give this biography some help...
I agree and done
posted by Anne B
I believe the recently added portrait is of a different Thomas Prince, b. 1687. See New England Historical Society. The image should be attached to the other profile.
posted by Bobbie (Madison) Hall
The see also section needs cleanup. Still many dupes. Ideally these are converted to inline citations and placed appropriately in the narrative.
posted by Jillaine Smith
I removed the extra Bio and Sources headings. There is a lot of 'additional info' that came from the second bio that needs to be incorporated into the biography, or removed if already there.
posted by Mindy Silva
It's because there are still two sets of Bio and Sources headings
posted by Jillaine Smith