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Date of birth: unknown
Baptized: 19 March 1589/90, Austerfield, Yorkshire, England
Marriage 1: Dorothy May, 10 December 1613, Amsterdam
Children: One (1)
1. John, b circa 1618 Leyden, Holland. Married Martha Bourne.
Marriage 2: Alice (Carpenter) Southworth, 14 August 1623, Plymouth
Children: Three (3)
1. William b. 17 Jun 1624. Married (1) Alice Richards, (2) Sarah (_____) Griswold, (3) Mary (Wood) Holmes
2. Mercy b. before May 1627. Married Benjamine Vermayes
3. Joseph b circa 1630. Married Jael Hobart
Death: 9 May 1657, Plymouth
Burial Site: Old Burial Ground, Plymouth, MA

 

Governor William Bradford statue. Plymouth Rock State Park

  • William Bradford was born in 1589/90, son of William and Alice Bradford. His father died when he was only one. He lived with his grandfather until he died when William was six and then his mother died when he was seven. For several years he was shuttled between relatives.
  • by the age of twelve, Bradford had taken to reading the Bible, later becoming acquainted with the Separatist churches of the region. By 1607 the Church of England tried to silence these groups and at the age of 18, for fear of persecution, he joined wit the group of Separatists who fled from England to Amsterdam. A year later he and the rest of the church moved to the town of Leiden, Holland remaining there for eleven years.
  • Bradford did return to Amsterdam in 1613, to marry Dorothy May, she was 16 and he was 23. They had a son, John, who was born in Leiden. By 1620, a segment of the church decided to set off on the Mayflower, Bradford sold his house in Leiden and then he and his wife Dorothy joined the others in boarding the ship. their son John, who was four, was left behind, but some years later, would sail to Plymouth and settle in the area. While the ship was anchored off Provincetown Harbor, Dorothy Bradford accidentally fell overboard, and drowned. William Bradford's second wife was the widow, Alice Carpenter Southworth. She and her first husband had been members of the Separatist community in Leiden. Alice arrived on the Anne in 1623 and a short time later married William Bradford.
  • Bradford, before they sailed had taken on may responsibilities, including, record keeping, finding financial backers and the negotiation for a patent to give legal permission for a settlement. The congregation had decided to make a new home overseas, the location chosen was north of the Virginia Colony, "some place about Hudson's river." There, they could be loyal subjects of King James, live by English law and not worry about interference in the way they worshiped. However, after 66 days at sea, being tired and sick from the trip and in sight of land, and with winter upon them decided they could go no further. They knew they had not reached their legal destination of North Virginia but had instead arrived in New England.
  • During the first winter many Pilgrims became ill including Bradford. Within five months nearly half of the passengers were dead, including John Carver, who was elected as the first governor of Plymouth. William Bradford would succeed Carver and except for 5 years would remain governor almost till his death in 1657 with 36 years of public service.
  • Perhaps the best insight of the Mayflower, Pilgrims and Plymouth can be found in William Bradford's book, Of Plimoth Plantation. It is his journal written between 1630 and 1647, describing the story of the Pilgrims from 1607, through the 1620 voyage of the Mayflower and until the year 1647. Bradford's journal ends with a list, written in 1650 of the Mayflower passengers. his journal records events during the first 30 years and includes reactions of the colonists.
  • The journal is regarded by historians as the preeminent work of America's 17th century. It is the most important source of information about Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims.
  • William Bradford was the 2nd signer of the Mayflower Compact.

First page of William Bradford's manuscript

 

REFERENCES
General Society of Mayflower Descendants
Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (Silver Books)
Pilgrim Hall Museum
Of Plymouth Plantation 1627-1647, William Bradford
Caleb Johnson's MayflowerHistory.com
Plymouth Colony Records