Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland
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Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland (bef. 1607 - 1687)

Elizabeth Howland formerly Tilley
Born before in Henlow, Bedfordshire, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Wife of — married about 1623 (to 23 Feb 1673) in Plymouth Colonymap
Descendants descendants
Died in Swansea, Bristol, Plymouth Colonymap
Profile last modified | Created 14 Sep 2010 | Last significant change: 14 May 2021
18:22: Tracie Blais answered a question about Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland (bef.1607-1687) [Thank Tracie for this | 1 thank-you received]
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The Mayflower.
Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland was a passenger on the Mayflower.
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Born at Henlow, England - 1607

Elizabeth was born August 1607 at Henlow, Bedfordshire (not Huntingdonshire[1]), England, the daughter of John Tilley and Joan Hurst Tilley, the youngest of their five children. [2] She was baptized on 30 Aug 1607 at Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.[3][4][5]

Driven out of England - 1608

In 1608 a group of religious non-conformists which included the Tilley family, fled from persecution in England to Holland.[6]They stayed in Amsterdam about a year and then moved to Leyden, where they spent 11 or 12 years. They found spiritual freedom in Leyden but their children were being absorbed into the Dutch ways of life. They wanted to maintain their own ways as Englishmen and have their children grow up in their own traditions. After much discussion and planning they decided to go to the coast of North America to settle.[7]

The Ship Speedwell - 1620

The Saints, as they called themselves, bought a small ship, the Speedwell, departing Holland in July for Southampton, England, where they would join the rest of the emigrants to New England.[8] The Speedwell sprang leaks, and between repairs and contrary winds, it was September before the determined remainder sailed from Plymouth, England on the Mayflower, leaving the Speedwell and some erstwhile passengers behind.[8][9]

The ship Mayflower - 1620

Their adventures are dramatically described in Nathaniel Philbrick's blockbuster, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, pages 24 - 29.[8][10]
The determination of the Pilgrims to emigrate to New England can be measured by the desperate risks they took to get there. They sailed on September 6, well into the season of storms in the Atlantic. One of those storms was so severe that "a key structural support beam fractured. This was repaired with the use of a metal mechanical device called a jackscrew, which had been loaded on board to help in the construction of settler homes. It was now used to secure the beam to keep it from cracking further, making the ship seaworthy enough." [10]
Crammed into a ship about 100 feet long were 102 passengers, 25-30 crew, and dogs, sheep, goats and poultry. Add to this tools, food for the journey, seeds, cannons, barrels of water and of beer, and supplies, and it is clear why they each had "slightly less than the size of a standard single bed to move about in the ship".[10]

The Journey: September - November 1620

In 1620, when the Mayflower set sail for the New World, Elizabeth was 13 years old. She accompanied her parents, John and Joan (HURST) TILLEY, her father's brother, Edward and his wife Agnes (COOPER) TILLEY, and their cousins, Humility COOPER and Henry SAMPSON. Elizabeth was one of several young girls on the ship. About her own age were Desire MINTNER, daughter of Thomas MINTNER of Leyden traveling with the CARVERS, Mary CHILTON and Priscilla MULLINS, with their parents.
There were many children on the Mayflower. According to George F. Williston, author of Saints and Strangers,
"There was a simply preposterous number of children on board, more than a third of the company, thirty four in all, down to babes in arms, not to speak of those in embryo, two of whom, Oceanus HOPKINS and Peregrine WHITE, were born at sea."[7]
"In all there were 102 persons, about a third of whom had come from the Leyden group of Separatists, and the others had come from London and southeastern England."[7]
During the voyage they ran into many fierce storms. Sometimes the seas were so high and the wind so strong that they had to haul down the sails and allow the ship to drift. During one such storm an event occurred which would shape the life man who would become her husband.[7]

Man Overboard - Mid-Atalantic - Fall, 1620

"...as they lay at hull in a terrible storm, a strong young man, called John HOWLAND, coming on deck was thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halliards which hung overboard and ran out at length; but he kept his hold though he was several fathoms under water, till he was hauled up by the rope, and though he was some-what ill from it he lived many years and became a profitable member of both the church and commonwealth."[7][6]
"Life on the Mayflower was uncomfortable, to say the least. The ship was small and overcrowded. It was cold and wet from the wind and waves. There was no chance to change clothing. Meal preparation was difficult in the stormy conditions. Cooking was all but impossible. There was little chance for movement, so the people huddled together in their own allotted space to eat, sleep and live."[11]

The New World - November 1620

Arrived on the ship Mayflower at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts: Age at landing: 13 years[12]
After the landing on Cape Cod, some of the men found clams on the shore... and
"the unfortunate Pilgrims, who had never seen them before and did not know how to eat them, were so delighted to find the first fresh food they had tasted for over nine weeks that they made themselves sick." [13]
"Their food was good. They had learned to use corn from the Indians. They used fowl from the shore and game from the woods. They were especially fond of venison, which in England had been available only to the rich. Even though they did not use much shellfish, they did catch other fish, which they smoked, and eels which they enjoyed, fried, boiled or pickled. After 1624, when Edward WINSLOW brought cattle from England they had milk and dairy products as well as beef. They used wild plants as well as garden produce. They brewed a kind of beer which they drank in preference to water."[7]
"Cooking was done in the fireplace. Meals were eaten standing up, since they had few chairs. Eating was with the fingers since there were few forks."[7]
"Their clothes were colorful. With the natural dyes they found in the woods in plants and lichens, they were able to obtain maroons, browns, yellows and blues.18"[7]

Death of Half the Colony 1620 -1621

To understand the experiences of Elizabeth Tilley as a Mayflower passenger and Pilgrim, we need to view her in the midst of her family and life-long friends.
Elizabeth Tilley came from Leiden with her parents and her father's brother and wife, Edward and Agnes (Cooper) Tilley. When about one hundred Pilgrims left Holland on the Speedwell, they left most of their tight-knit English community behind. Fifty of those one hundred Leiden Pilgrims stayed in England, when the Speedwell sprang her leaks, and there was not enough room on the Mayflower for all of them.
Her mother, father, aunt and uncle all died the first winter at Plymouth, leaving her orphaned at the age of 13 in the New World. It is believed that Elizabeth then lived in the Carver household. John Carver died in the spring of 1621 and his wife Katherine died that summer. After the death of the Carvers, a part of their estate was inherited by their servant, John Howland, and Elizabeth became his ward. In 1623 she became his wife.[14]

Elizabeth was one of three thirteen year old girls on the Mayflower. Mary Chilton must have known Elizabeth all their lives, growing up in the same Leiden community, both families originally from Henlow. Mary's mother, father - all her family in the New World, also died that first winter. The third girl, Priscilla Mullins, and her family were among those who joined the Mayflower in England. Her parents and teenage brother Joseph all died the first winter, but she had an older married sister among the survivors. From these small details we can deduce the larger picture, when half of the men died the first year, and only four women, plus the teenagers and children, survived. Simply put, they were a community of bereaved, comforting the bereaved. The illness that took away half the new colony was a disaster of unimaginable magnitude for the survivors.[15][16]

Marriage and Children - 1623

Elizabeth Tilley married John Howland on 25 March, 1623 (Old Style), Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts[17]
John and Elizabeth Howland had 10 children who survived infancy:[7]
John born 1626, married Mary Lee
Desire, born before 22 May 1627, married John Gorham
Jabez, born about 1644, married Bethia Thatcher
Joseph, born (?), married Elizabeth Southworth
Isaac, born about 1649, married Elizabeth Vaughn
Hope, born (?), married John Chipman
Elizabeth, born (?), married Ephraim Hicks and (2nd) John Dickenson
Lydia, born (?), married James Brown
Hannah, born (?), married Jonathan Bosworth
Ruth, born (?), married Thomas Cushman

Plymouth Town: 1623 - 1629

In the land division which took place in 1623, John HOWLAND received a large tract of meadows and farmlands along the Jones River near what is now KINGSTON about 5 miles from Plymouth. Elizabeth and John lived in Plymouth until about 1629, when they removed to the trading post on the Kennebec River. Their first two children, John, named for his father, and Desire, named for Elizabeth's childhood friend, Desire MINTNER, were born there.[7]

The Trading Post: 1629 - 1639

The London Merchant Adventurers had helped to finance the voyage of the May-flower and until 1625 the Colony had been unable to do anything about paying off their debt which had been increasing due to the high interest rates. The Colony sent Isaac ALLERTON to London in 1626 to renegotiate the debt. He returned with a settlement of 1800 pounds in yearly installments. A group of eight of the Pilgrim Fathers, called Undertakers, agreed to guarantee the payment on behalf of the rest. John HOWLAND was one of this group. They had set up a trading post on the Kennebec River and it was from their trade there with the Indians, that they found the resources to pay their debt, although it took over 25 years for them to do it.[7]
John HOWLAND was placed in command of the trading post and served there for about ten years, starting about 1629. Some of the children of John and Elizabeth were probably born there, since they are not recorded in the Plymouth records. 14[7]

Farm at Rocky Nook: 1639 - 1673

John Howland purchased from John Jenny, in 1639, land with a dwelling at Rocky Nook, (now in Kingston but then part of Plymouth).[18] This was their home for the rest of John's life, except for when they wintered in town with their son Jacob (after 1667).[19]
John and Elizabeth lived at Rocky Nook for many years while they were raising their family. John served as a member or assistant of the Governor's Council and was frequently a deputy or representative of the General Court.[7]

The Widow Howland: 1673 - 1686

Elizabeth's husband John Howland died in Rocky Nook 23 February 1672/3.[18] Elizabeth went to live in Plymouth with her son Jabez. The Jabez house was sold in 1680, and Elizabeth went to live with her daughter Lydia (married to James Brown), in Swansea (now a section of East Providence, Rhode Island). She died there on December 21, 1687. [7]

Will 1686

In her will written December 17, 1686, Elizabeth Howland says she is seventy-nine years of age which places her birth date about 1607.[20][21]

Death and Burial - 1687

Death: 21 Dec 1687, Swansea, Plymouth, Massachusetts[22][23][24]
Her body was buried at Little Neck Cemetery, East Providence, Rhode Island.[25]

Research Notes

As Betty M. Styer wrote in Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower[7], the Henlow Parish Records are now accepted by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants as the ancestry of Elizabeth Tilley.
Robert Leigh Ward discovered the TILLEY records in the Henlow Parish Records, and published them in The American Genealogist.[4]


  1. In Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to N.E. 1620-1633, Vols. I-III, page 1022, Robert Charles Anderson writes the baptismal place for Elizabeth Tilley was in "Henlow, Huntingdonshire". He corrects that to be "Henlow, Bedfordshire" in Great Migration Newsletter, Vol 6, page 26
  2. The Pilgrim Migration by Robert Charles Anderson, Publisher: New England Historic Genealogical Society; (2004) p 462-3
  3. "The Parish Register of Henlow, 1558-1812" transcribed and published by Bedfordshire County Record Office
  4. 4.0 4.1 English Ancestry of Seven Mayflower passengers: Tilley, Sampson and Cooper, by Robert Leigh Ward, The American Genealogist Vol 52 (October 1976), pages 198-205
  5. Eugene Aubrey Stratton, FASG, Co-Author: Robert S. Wakefield, FASG, Plymouth Colony Its History & People 1620-1691, (Salt Lake city, Utah, Ancestry Publishing, 1986), pg 362
  6. 6.0 6.1 William Bradford (Plymouth Colony Governor), database online at Wikipedia.org, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower, The Essex Genealogist, Vol 2, pages 161-165, Researched, compiled and written by Betty M. Styer, for the Elizabeth Tilley Colony; Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Florida, at Sarasota. Submitted to "TEG" by Paul A. Hillman)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick
  9. History of Plymouth Plantation, database online at Google Books, Volume 33 of Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Author: William Bradford, Editor: Charles Deane, (1856), Chapter Eight
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Mayflower, database online at Wikipedia.org, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  11. Betty M. Styer citing Cyril Leek Marshall, The Mayflower Destiny, (1975), page 44
  12. The Pilgrim republic; an historical review of the colony of New Plymouth, with sketches of the rise of other New England settlements, the history of Congregationalism, and the creeds of the period, John Goodwin, 1888, Publisher Boston, Ticknor and company. At InternetArchive.org, (NOTE: this source replaces Ancestry's U.S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s referencing Elizabeth Tilley, which is derived from the source by Goodman), page 182
  13. Betty M. Styer citing citing Kate Caffrey, The Mayflower (1974), page 116
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Tilley
  15. The Plymouth Colony Archives, Patricia Scott Deetz, Christopher Fennell and J. Eric Deetz, Editors, Database online at the University of Illinois, Fully searchable texts
  16. Pilgrim History, database online at Caleb Johnson's MayflowerHistory.com
  17. Elizabeth Pearson White, John Howland of the Mayflower: The First Five Generations Documented Descendants Through his first child Desire Howland and her husband John Gorham, (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 1990 - 7th printing 2014), Vol 1, page 2
  18. 18.0 18.1 John Howland of the Mayflower: Volume 1, The First Five Generations. Documented Descendants Through his first child Desire Howland and her husband Captain John Gorham, by Elizabeth Pearson White, (1990), page 5
  19. John Howland, database online at Wikipedia.org, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  20. Will of Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland - transcribed copy online at Caleb Johnson's MayflowerHistory.com
  21. "The Will of Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland." The Howland Homestead. Full will from Bristol Co. Mass Probate Vol 1 pp 13, 14 p. 2 Issue 1 #3
  22. Hunter, Mardenna (Johnson) The Family of John Howland- Mayflower Passenger, 1970, pg 1
  23. Ann Smith Lainhart & Robert S. Wakefield, FASG, compiler, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2006) Page: 1, Note: This source says died 22 December
  24. Elizabeth Pearson White, John Howland of the Mayflower: The First Five Generations Documented Descendants Through his first child Desire Howland and her husband John Gorham, (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 1990 - 7th printing 2014), Vol 1, page 6. Note: This source puts Elizabeth Tilley's death between December 21 and December 31, 1687.
  25. Find A Grave: Memorial #21561583

See also:

  • History of Plymouth Plantation, database online at Google Books, Volume 33 of Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, William Bradford, Editor: Charles Deane, Publisher: Published for the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856. The journal of the 2nd Governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford (1590-1657)
  • The Plymouth Colony Archives, Patricia Scott Deetz, Christopher Fennell and J. Eric Deetz, Editors, Database online at the University of Illinois, Fully searchable texts, including: court records, colony laws, seventeenth century journals and memoirs, probate inventories, wills, town plans, maps, and fort plans; research and seminar analyses of numerous topics; biographical profiles of selected colonists; and architectural, archaeological and material culture studies.
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Publication: (New York, Viking Penguin, 2006), 461 pages, maps, photographs, index. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. Read an excerpt from the First Chapter at Nathaniel Philbrick.com
  • Eugene Aubrey Stratton, FASG, Co-Author: Robert s. Wakefield, FASG, Plymouth Colony Its History & People 1620-1691, (Salt Lake city, Utah, Ancestry Publishing, 1986) Repository: #R13
NOTE: Eugene Stratton, Former Historian General of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, with co-author Robert S. Wakefield, a foremost Plymouth Colony scholar, combines social history with genealogy: "how the courts worked", "how land was apportioned", etc. Foreword by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG (The Great Migration series). Photographs, maps, transcripts, etc.
  • Ann Smith Lainhart & Robert S. Wakefield, FASG, compiler, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2006) Repository: #R12 Call Number: 974.4 M45 V23 rt1
  • White, Elizabeth Pearson. John Howland of the Mayflower: Volume 1, The First Five Generations. Documented Descendants Through his first child Desire Howland and her husband Captain John Gorham (Picton Press, Camden, Maine, 1990 - 7th printing 2014) Vol. 1, pages 1 - 7
  • The Essex Genealogist. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.) Elizabeth Tilley of the Mayflower, by Betty M. Styer, TEG Vol 2, pages 161-165 (see footnote #4)
  • The Family of John Howland- Mayflower Passenger, Mardenna (Johnson) Hunter, 1970. May be borrowed online from InternetArchive.
  • Robert Charles Anderson, "The Great Migration Begins, Immigrants to New England 1620-1633," Published 1995 by The New England Historic Genealogical Society, Volume 3, Page 1822.
  • Abstracts of Bristol County, MA Probate Records. Bristol Co., MA Probate, H. L. Peter Rounds Publication: Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, 1987.
  • John Howland, database online at Wikipedia.org. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
  • The Snow-Estes Ancestry, Volume One: The Snow Family, by Nora E. Snow, compiled by Myrtle M. Jillson, Hillburn, New York, 1939.
  • James Savage, Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (Originally published Boston 1860-62, reprinted April 1873 and 1884. Reproduced by Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore 1981.)
  • Gary Boyd Roberts. Notable Kin, Volume One. Carl Boyer, 3rd; Location: Santa Clarita, California; Date: 1998. Published in cooperation with the New England Historic genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation (Massachusetts Historical Society, 1856) p. 449 "John Tillie, and his wife; and Eelizabeth, their doughter." p. 453 "John Tillie and his wife both dyed a litle after they came ashore; and their daughter Elizabeth maried with John Howland, and hath issue as is before noted."
  • Bradford, William, 1590-1657. Of Plimoth Plantation: manuscript, 1630-1650. State Library of Massachusetts "List of Mayflower Passengers." In Bradford's Hand.
  • Bowman, George Ernest. Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland's Will, The Mayflower Descendant (Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Boston, 1901) Vol. 3, Page 54-7
  • "... died at Swansea on Wednesday, 21/31 December, 1687, at the house of her daughter Lydia, the wife of James Brown. Her will is recorded in the Bristol County, Mass., Probate Records, Volume I, pages 13 and 14. No inventory is on record and the original will has disappeared from the files."
  • Register of the Society of Mayflower descendants in the District of Columbia, 1970 : in commemoration of the 350th anniversary. Ancestry.com. Online publication - Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. Original data - Register of the Society of Mayflower descendants in the District of Columbia, 1970 : in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. "Edited by Frederick Ira Ordway, Jr."--T.p. verso.|||Includes bibliographical references (p. 554) and index. Limited search available at HathiTrust.org

Ancestry Sources

  • American Marriages Before 1699. Ancestry.com. Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1997. Original data - Clemens, William Montgomery. American Marriage Records Before 1699. Pompton Lakes, NJ, USA: Biblio Co., 1926.
  • The Genealogy of Edward Norris Wentworth Junior, Edward Norris Wentworth, Jr. Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA; June 1928. Special Project Submitted in Courses in Community Life and Advance Biology at the University High School, University of Chicago. Database online at Ancestry.com, Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
  • Mayflower Births and Deaths, Vol. 1 and 2 Publication: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.; Location: Provo, UT, USA; Date: 2013; NOTE: Roser, Susan E. "Mayflower Births and Deaths: From the Files of George Ernest Bowman at the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants". Volumes 1 & 2. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1992.

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Comments: 21

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Wikipedia states that Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland had "ten children, all of whom would live to adulthood, and 86 grandchildren". Elsewhere on that page it states 88 grandchildren. REF: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Tilley

I was curious how may of her descendants were known to be alive at the time of her death (21 Dec 1687). From the information available here I came up with a count of 172 persons (including many great-grandchildren and more than several great-great-grandchildren).

posted by Craig Chaddock
Hi there profile managers!

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

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann
Elizabeth and john are my 10x Great Grandparents and I am researching Elizabeth and several other women in the family tree for a book I am writing for my mother. This is a lovely biography! Thank you for putting so much work into it!
Do female descendants of Elizabeth Wright (who married Joseph Coles), and Penelope Wright (who married David Reynolds), have the same mtDNA as the other female descendants of Elizabeth Tilley?

In March, 2009, I had a fit of "rabbit-hole" genealogy crazyness and used Elizabeth Pearson White and Silver Book #23, for descendants of John and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland to produce a list of female descendents. I always felt sorry that the documentation for Elizabeth Dickinson (who married Caleb Wright), was too poor to qualify for Mayflower.

Looking for daughters of daughters who descend from: Penelope Coles & Thomas Thorne, Elizabeth Thorne & Zeno Carpenter, Anne Coles & George Frost. Elizabeth Frost & Benjamin Townsend, Phebe Townsend & Samuel Talman.

White's vol. #4, pg. 65, gives David Reynolds as Penelope Wright's husband. No further info.

posted by Joan (Dickinson) Soo
David Reynolds and Penelope Wright had only two children, David Jr. and Penelope Reynolds. (See information and sources quoted and cited here: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~fesschequy/genealogy/WrightOysterBay.html and here http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~fesschequy/genealogy/Reynolds.html)

Penelope Reynolds married Reuben Pennoyer Sr. and had children named Elizabeth, Thomas, David, Penelope (md. Cornelius Turner), Zipporah, Reuben Jr, William, Lydia (twice married), Wright, Isaac, and Jacob. My wife is a descendant of Jacob, so I've focused my attention on Jacob's line. I know nothing of the descendants of Jacob's sisters Elizabeth, Penelope, Zipporah, and Lydia, but at least we know that's where to look for living female line descendants to see if they belong to Elizabeth Tilley's mtDNA haplogroup.

posted by Jared Olar
edited by Jared Olar
What's the evidence that the Chilton family was originally from Henlow? There are no Chilton entries in Henlow parish register.
posted by David Cooper
The parish records of the Tilley family were discovered in the Henlow Parish Records, which are now accepted by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants as the ancestry of Elizabeth Tilley.

They are published in: English Ancestry of Seven Mayflower passengers: Tilley, Sampson and Cooper, by Robert Leigh Ward, TAG Vol 52 (October 1976), pages 198-205.

Elizabeth Tilley was baptized 30 Aug 1607.

Please approve and/or merge Tilley-1403 into Tilley-73.

thank you:)