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John Alden Parentage Possibilities

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Englandmap
Surnames/tags: Alden Mayflower
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This page describes the various theories about the parents of John Alden who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620. None of these theories have been proven, and John Alden's actual parents are currently unknown. Alycia Crane Williams analyzed the most popular of these theories in a series of articles for The Mayflower Descendant.[1]

When adding a theory, please add a citation to indicate where the theory came from and, if you can, cite and link to any primary sources related to it.


What we know

The only thing that is known for sure about John Alden's origins is that he was hired at the port of Southampton, England as a cooper (barrel-maker), when the Mayflower was stopped at the port in 1620.[2] His presence in Southampton at the time does not mean he was from Southampton or born there, just that he was working there at that time.

His age at death, and self-reported age in a court record indicates that he was born around 1598.[1]

Two patrilineal (direct paternal) descendants of John Alden have taken the FTDNA Big Y-700 tes. Their results document where Alden belonged to Y-DNA haplogroup R-P312>>U152>L2>DF103>FGC8158>FT21550>Y48952>FTC62332.[3]

John Alden and Elizabeth Daye of Harwich

William Russell mentioned in his 1587 will a grandson named John Alden, son of John Alden, who at the time the will was written, a captive in Spain. This family was related by marriage to Captain Jones of the Mayflower. Alicia Crane Williams covers this theory in depth in The Mayflower Descendant.[1][4]

Quoting the pertinent portion of William Russell's 1587 will:

And whereas John Alden my sonne in Lawe bought halfe a quarter of Robert my sonne - I will he shall have the other halfe quarter yf it please god to deliver him home oute of Spayne - and if the said John Alden be not delivered oute of Spayne out of Captivitye as yet, I hope in god by his providence he shall Then I will the said halfe quarter shall remaine unto John Alden his oldest sone my godsonne And that he shall paye to his sister Josyan within one wholle yeare after five pounds [5]

Captain John Alden who worked between Spain and England is mentioned in the London Port Book, June-August, 1568:

645. [Ship] Christofer of Harwich (30) [Captain] John Alden; Spain [6]

George Alden and Jane of Southampton

George Alden, a fletcher, appears in the Assembly books[7] and Court Leet Books of Southampton from 1587 to 1620 in the parish of All Saints. A widowed Jane Alden appears in the city subsidy tax list for 1628 after George Alden disappears from the records.[8]

Charles Edward Banks, in his book, the English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1929, puts forward a theory that John is the son of George Alden and Jane— and grandson of Richard and Avys (Aoys) Alden of Southampton, England.[8] Since Bradford says John Alden was hired in Southampton, this would be a logical place to start looking for Alden's. No other supporting evidence has been found, and it has been noted by many researchers that the names George, Richard, and Avys do not occur anywhere in John Alden's family. Naming children after parents and grandparents was an extremely common practice in the seventeenth century, and the absence of such a name is nearly enough evidence to disprove this theory.

Jane Fowke has been suggested in unsourced online trees as the wife of George Alden.

Thomas Alden and Isabell of Windsor, Berkshire

John Aulden baptized 6 June 1602 (no parents listed) in the Windsor, Berkshire parish records. Thomas Alden, in his will dated 8 March 1610/11, lists a son under 21 named John Alden. Wife Isabell also mentioned in the will.[9] An uncle of Thomas Alden, Mardocheus Alden, mentions Rachell Alden in his will (will dated 13 Sep 1615), who is also listed as a daughter of Thomas Alden in the 1610/11 will, but Mardocheus does not mention John Alden in his will. Proponents of this theory suggest that John Alden may have been estranged from the family, which is why he sailed for America.

This Thomas Alden may have been a beer brewer, an occupation which would go along well with John Alden's known occupation of barrel-making.[1][10]

John Alden of Hackney, London

A John Alden, son of John Alden, was christened in Hackney, London, 11 July 1600.[11] This is currently the first record to show up when running a search on FamilySearch for a John Alden born around 1600 in England.

Alycia Crane Williams points out that another John Aulden, son of John Aulden, was christened 5 Sep 1607, at the same church in Hackney, London. This suggests the John Alden christened in 1600 may have passed away and another son was named for him. The 1607 John is likely too young to be the Mayflower Alden.[1][12]

John Alden of the Middle Temple (Coat of Arms)

A John Alden of the Middle Temple was awarded a Patent of Arms on 8 Sep 1607. He was married to a Maria Fowks and had a son, John Alden, born 14 March 1611. Many have associated his patent of arms with the Mayflower John Alden, but there is no evidence they are related. [1][13]

Middle Temple John Alden was a lawyer by profession, the son of John Alden, gentleman who was living in Swanscomb, Kent, near London in 1598. He had attended Clifford's Inn, and was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1598, "bound with Messrs. John Roope and Robert Fage."[14]

John Alden, Grocer of London, and his son, John Alden of The Middle Temple

(From WikiTree member Joel Lefever's research and genealogy.)

John Alden (abt. 1535 - bef. 1609) was a grocer in London as well as a shipping merchant between Antwerp and London. He likely was retired by 1598 and was living the life of a gentleman in Swanscomb, Kent, near London. His Flemish-born wife, Jonkvrouw Barbara du Prieur and two daughters Susan and Sarah were naturalized in England in 1576.[15] He probably was the grandson or great-grandson of the medieval London grocer and merchant John Walden/Waldern, who also was a London alderman and sheriff, as well as a denizen merchant and merchant of the Staple of Calais.[16] [17] In 1443, John Reynewell, merchant granted to John Walden grocer, William Abraham vintner, William Stafford vintner, Thomas Crofton chaplain, and John Bydeford clerk and their heirs, a house (domus) located on Botolph Wharf, south of the church of St. Botolph. A century and a half later, in 1591, John Alden grocer was documented living at or near the same location on Botolph Lane, Billingsgate.[18]

Grocer John Alden's son John Alden (1578-abt. 1656) was baptized at St. Margaret Lothbury, London in 1578. [19] The younger John Alden is the same man who was admitted to The Middle Temple in 1598, and whose coat-of-ams was recorded in 1607. Several details of the younger John Alden's 1656 will[20] in Curborough, Staffordshire (that he owned a substantial library of books; daughter named Barbara after his mother; owned hereditary property in Botolph, Billingsgate, London that had descended in the family; bequeathed silver cups to grandchildren engraved with a "crest as I have it in my coate of armes"), indicate his connection to the family of grocer John Alden and The Middle Temple.

This John Alden family may be related to the Alden family of Harwich. Both families were involved in shipping in the late 16th century and had the tradition of naming sons "John". Additionally, Captain Christopher Jones Sr. (?-1578), father of Captain Christopher Jones of the Mayflower, left to his son an interest in the ship Marie Fortune in 1578. [21] A decade earlier, in 1568, Grocer John Alden and Edmund Pigot exported spices to London on a ship called Mary Fortune of Lee from the port of Antwerp:

433. [Ship] Mary Fortune of Lee (70) [Captain] John Morce; Antwerp: John Alden and Edmund Pigot: 3 qrs 8 lbs mace, 175 lbs ginger, 45 lbs wormseed, 14 cwt aniseed, 9½ cwt bay berries £75. [22]

This Alden family has a significant family connection to the New World. Barbara du Prieur was the aunt of Catherine Charles Pyne (abt. 1552-aft. 1597) wife of Henry Pyne (abt. 1550-bef. 1627), business partner of Sir Walter Raleigh (abt. 1554-1618). Catherine Charles and Henry Pyne lived in Gravesend, England from c. 1577 after which Pyne was appointed to the position of Searcher of Customs at Gravesend around 1580. In 1589 Henry Pyne entered into partnership with Sir Walter Raleigh in Ireland and exported timber from Raleigh's estates in southeastern, Ireland. Irish white oak from the estate was used to fashion staves for wine barrels which were exported to the Canary Islands. Henry Pyne in 1592 obtained the lease of timbered lands at Mogeely, County Cork, set up a sawmill, brought in workers, and manufactured barrel staves.[23]

Huguenot Alden

Discussed in The Huguenots and Their Emigrations by Delore L. Dupuis.[1] Also mentioned in "The Huguenots of Old Boston," Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of America, 1899:

"The Alden genealogies ... mention a certain Mr. Alden of St. John's College, who is referred to as 'one who suffered by the tyrannical Bartholomew act' --which statement suggests that it was a French Refugee of 1572 who is the ancestor of the family.'"[24]

None of the above

There are many gaps in the records of England in the 1500s-1600s. It is possible that none of these theories are correct. It is possible that information on John Alden and his parents was never recorded, or that anything that was recorded has since been destroyed.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Alicia Crane Williams, "John Alden: Theories on English Ancestry," The Mayflower Descendant 39: 111-22 (1989), 40: 133-26 (1990), 41: 201 (1991). Available on americanancestors.org with a paid subscription here.
  2. William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation, digital images of handwritten manuscript, State Library of Massachusetts (http://archives.lib.state.ma.us/2452/208249 : accessed 9 April 2019), digital page 531; original held at State Library of Massachusetts.
  3. "Mayflower DNA Project - Y-DNA Colorized Chart", FamilyTreeDNA,([1] : accessed 19 Jan 2023)
  4. Esther Littleford Woodworth-Barnes, comp., and Alicia Crane Williams, ed. Mayflower Families through Five Generations. Vol. 16, part 1 of 3. General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1999, pages 1-22: John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.
  5. Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 for William Russell, PROB 11: Will Registers, 1567-1598, Piece 70: Spencer, Quire Numbers 1-40 (1587). [2]
  6. British History Online: London Port Book, 1567-8: Nos. 600-699 (June - Aug, 1568). [3]
  7. J. W. Horrocks, editor, The Assembly Books of Southampton, Volume 1 (Southampton: Cox and Sharland, 1917), digitized copy, Google Books ([4] : accessed 9 Sep 2019), page 17.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Charles Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers, (1929), page 27. Available free at the Internet Archive here.
  9. "England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858," Ancestry (Image : accessed 7 Sep 2019), Thomas Alden; citing The National Archives; Kew, England; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 117.
  10. Harry Hollingsworth, "John Alden-Beer Brewer of Windsor?" The American Genealogist, 53:235-240. Available with paid subscription at americanancestors.org here.
  11. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ([5] : 11 February 2018, John Alden, 11 Jul 1600); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 569,924.
  12. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ([6] : 11 February 2018, John Aulden, 05 Sep 1607); citing , index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 569,924.
  13. Viola Main Turner, editor, Alden genealogy (1935 : The Alden Kindred of New York City and Vicinity); digitized book, Hathitrust (https://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89062953088 : accessed 9 Sep 2019), p. 1
  14. Charles Trice Martin, Ed., Vol. 1, 1503-1603, Minutes of Parliament of the Middle Temple, London: Masters of the Bench, 1904, p. 387.[7]
  15. William Page, ed., Huguenot Society of London, Letters of Denization and Acts of Naturalization for Aliens in England, 1509-1603, The Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, Volume 8, Lymington: The Huguenot Society of London, 1893, p. 3, Parl. Roll, 18 Eliz., No. 32. [8]
  16. Sylvia L. Thrupp, The Merchant Class of Medievel London, 1300-1500, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989, p. 371.[9]
  17. Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, Edward IV., A.D. 1461-1467, London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1897, pp. 275-276.[10]
  18. John Schofield et. al., London's Waterfront 1100-1666: excavations in Thames Street, London, 1974-84, Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd, 2018, p. 188.[11]
  19. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch (4 February 2023), John Alden, 1578. [12].
  20. Ancestry.com, England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858, PROB 11: Will Registers, 1655-1659, Piece 259: Berkeley, Quire Numbers 363-412 (1656). John Alden, Probate Date 6 November 1656, Curborough, Staffordshire, England.[13]
  21. Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 for William Russell, PROB 11: Will Registers, 1567-1598, Piece 70: Spencer, Quire Numbers 1-40 (1587). [14]
  22. British History Online: London Port Book, 1567-8: Nos. 400-499 (Mar - May, 1568). [15]
  23. Niall C.E.J O'Brien, Sheanmore Castle and Manor: a brief history, Medieval News, 12 April 2021 (online). [16]
  24. Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of America, (Knickerbocker Press, New York : 1899), Google Books [17]

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