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(Abt 1566-1644)


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  • Born: Abt 1566, Scrooby, Co. Nottinghamshire, England 1 2
  • Married: 1583, Scrooby, Co. Nottinghamshire, England
  • Died: 10 Apr 1644, Plymouth, Plymouth Co., MA 2 3

   General Notes:

Early Generations of the Brewster Family," by Mrs. Lucy Hall Greenlaw of Boston, Mass., in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. liii. pp. 109-10, contains the following summary of what is now known of the principal events in the life of Elder William Brewster:

"Elder William Brewster . . . was born during the last half of the year 1566 or the first half of 1567. The date of his birth is determined by an affidavit made at Leyden, June 25, 1609, in which he, his wife Mary and son Jonathan declare their ages to be respectively 42, 40 and 16 years. (N. E. Register, xviii, 18-20). Bradford says that he was 'nere fourskore years of age (if not all out) when he dyed.' This statement agrees with the affidavit. The place of his birth is not known, but is supposed to have been Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, England. His father, William Brewster, was appointed by Archbishop Sandys, in January, 1575-76, receiver of Scrooby and bailiff of the manor house in that place belonging to the Archbishop, to have life tenure of both offices. The parish registers of Scrooby do not begin until 1695, and no record of Brewster's birth, baptism, or marriage was discovered by William Paver, a distinguished local antiquary, who held a commission for nearly a quarter of a century to report all items that he found relating to the Pilgrims.

"William Brewster matriculated at Peterhouse,(*) Cambridge, December 3, 1580, but it does not appear that he remained there long enough to take his degree. (Brown's Pilgrim Fathers of New England, 55). He is next found as a 'discreete and faithfull' assistant of William Davison, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, accompanying that gentleman on his embassy to the Netherlands in August, 1585, and serving him at court after his return, until his downfall in 1587. After the retirement of Davison, Brewster returned to Scrooby, where he lived 'in good esteeme amongst his friends, and ye gentlemen of those parts, espetially the godly & religious,' doing much good 'in promoting and furthering Religion.' In 1590 he was appointed administrator of the estate of his father who died in the summer of that year, leaving a widow, Prudence.(*) His father was 'Post' at Scrooby at the time of his death, and it is said that the Elder's grandfather held the same office. (Arber's Story of the Pilgrim Fathers, 50; Brown's Pilgrim Fathers of N. E., 54). Sir John Stanhope, who became Postmaster General in June, 1590, appointed one Samuel Bevercotes to succeed the deceased Brewster. Through the influence of Davison, however, the old post master's son, William, was soon appointed to the office, which he held until September 30, 1607 (O. S.).(+) His residence at Scrooby was the old manor house. (Hunter's Founders of New Plymouth, 1854, 17-18; Raine's History of the Parish of Blyth, 129-30). In this house the members of the Pilgrim Church were accustomed to meet on the Lord's day, where Brewster 'with great loue entertained them when they came, making prouission for them to his great charge.'

"The Pilgrims, attempting to remove to Holland in the latter part of 1607, were imprisoned at Boston through the treachery of the master of the ship that was engaged to transport them. Bradford says that Brewster 'was ye cheefe of those that were taken at Boston, and suffered ye greatest loss; and of ye seuen that were kept longst in prison, and after bound ouer to ye assises.' Through Bradford also, we learn that Brewster, after he reached Holland, suffered many hardships and spent most of his means in providing for his 'many children.' He was not so well fitted as the other Pilgrims for the hard labor which became their common lot, yet he bore his condition cheerfully. During the latter part of the twelve years spent in Holland, he increased his income very much by teaching and by the profits from a printing press which he by the help of some friends, set up at Leyden. At the end of that time, 'for sundrie weightie and solid reasons,' which are duly set forth in Bradford's History, among which '(and which was not least)' was a true missionary spirit, the Church at Leyden resolved to emigrate to Virginia. Brewster, the Elder of the Church, who had been chosen to that office during the Pilgrims' stay at Leyden, was 'desired' by those chosen to go first, 'to goe with them,' while John Robinson, the pastor, stayed with the majority who should follow later. Thus it happened that we find Elder Brewster, his wife Mary and two young sons among the passengers of that now famous vessel, the Mayflower, which dropped anchor in Plymouth harbor, December 16, 1620 (O. S.). At Plymouth Brewster bore an important part in establishing the Pilgrim republic, not shrinking from even the severest manual labor, and 'when the church had no other minister, he taught twise euery saboth, and ye both powerfully and profitably, to ye great contentment of ye hearers.'

"His wife, Mary, whose maiden name has not been discovered, 'dyed at Plymouth in new England the 17th of Aprill, 1627.' (Brewster Book).(*) Bradford says that, though she died 'long before' her husband, 'yet she dyed aged,' but by her affidavit of 1609 she was less than sixty years of age and it is probable that her 'great & continuall labours, with others crosses, and sorrows, hastened it (i. e. old age) before ye time.' Elder Brewster survived his wife many years and 'dyed at Plymouth in New England the 10th of Aprill, 1644.' (Brewster Book).(*) . . . August 20, 1645, a final division of the Elder's estate was made by Bradford, Winslow, Prence, and Standish, between 'Jonathan and Loue his onely children remayneing.'

(*)Peterhouse was "the oldest of the fourteen colleges at that time grouped into the University of Cambridge."--The England and Holland of the Pilgrims, 256.


1. Occupation. 2 Printer

2. Immigration; 1620; Plymouth, Plymouth Co., MA. Arrived on the ship 'Mayflower'

   Marriage Information:

William married Mary in 1583 in Scrooby, Co. Nottinghamshire, England. (Mary was born between 1565-1569 in Scrooby, Co. Nottinghamshire, England and died on 4 Jul 1627 in Plymouth, Plymouth Co., MA 3.)

   Marriage Notes:

William Brewster, the Mayflower Passenger, married Mary ---, who came in The Mayflower, with her husband. [Note that Mary's last name has never been irrevocably proved and often appears incorrectly} Among possible names have been Mary Wentworth, Mary Stubbe (NEHGR 128:289, Supplement to Torrey, Sanborn, p. 24). He is possibly the only noted son of William & his first wife Mary Smythe Brewster (NEHGR 125:150) as suggested by various documents at Doncaster, Yorkshire, England and other research and but a few miles from Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, Brewster's boyhood home.


1 The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907 Volume 1, Emma C. Brewster Jones, The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907 Volume 1, (The Grafton Press. New York, 1908). , Pg. 3.

2 The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Robert Charles Anderson, (Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995).

3 The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907 Volume 1, Emma C. Brewster Jones, The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907 Volume 1, (The Grafton Press. New York, 1908). , Pg. 5.

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