General Notes: From Mayflower Web Page:There is conflicting evidence about the birth of Francis Cooke. A note scribbled in Bradford's Journal says Francis Cooke died above the age of 80, meaning he was born before 1583. However in August 1643, he was in a list of men of Plymouth between the age of 16 and 60 allowed to bear arms. This means he was born after 1583. Also, he was married in Leyden in 1603, so he probably would have been at least 21 at the time. This means a birth before 1583. The fact that all these records seem to conflict suggests that Francis Cooke was probably born in 1583.
Charles Banks mentions a Francis Cooke babtized on 6 April 1572, in Biddenden, Kent, England, son of Thomas. However, this person is about 10 years too old for the Francis of the Mayflower. Cooke had been living in Holland about eight years before the arrival of John Robinson and the rest of the Pilgrims. His wife Hester was from Canterbury, England, so perhaps that is where he is from as well.
William Bradford recorded his list of passengers that came over in the Mayflower. "Francis Cooke and his son John, but his wife and other children came afterwards". Later in 1651, he writes "Francis Cooke is still living, a very old man, and hath seen his children's children have children. After his wife came over with other of his children; he hath three still living by her, all married and have five children, so their increase is eight. And his son John which came over with him is married, and hath four children living."
Francis and Hester (Mahieu) Cooke had lived in Leyden as early as 1603, about five years before the Pilgrims fled there from England. In 1606, they left Leyden to live at Norwich, England where they joined a French Walloon church; however, they did not stay long in England--Probably because of religious persecution--and by 1607 were back in Leyden as members of the French Walloon church there.
Sources:Mayflower Families in Progress: Francis Cooke for Four Generations, by Robert S. Wakefield, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 3rd edition, 1994
Mayflower Descendants, 8:48-50, "The Mayflower Marriage Records at Leyden and Amsterdam:Francis Cooke".
New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 107:61, 143:195-199 (records of the Cooke and Mahieu families in Holland and England).
Francis married Hester Mahieu, daughter of Jennie le Mahieu and Jeanne, on 4 Jul 1603 in Leyden, Holland.1 Hester was born about 1585 in Canterbury, Kent, England and died after 8 Jun 1666 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA.1
General Notes: From Genealogies of Mayflower Families; Hester Le Mahieu, Wife of Francis Cooke
It has long been known that Hester Le Mahieu of Francis Cooke of the Mayflower, was a Walloon from Canterbury, where the Walloon Church was established in 1547, in the crypt of the Cathedral, by refugees fleeing from persecution in Brabant.
On 5 July 1603 Francis Cooke, woolcarder, from England, was betrothed to Hester le Mahieu, singlewoman, accompanied by her mother and sister, both named Jennie le Mahieu from Canterbury (Mayflower Descendant, vol. 27 p. 145 sq.).
The records of the Walloon-French Church in Canterbury contain a number of references to the le Mahieus.
On 27 March 1582 Jonas, son of Hercules Landsheare and Clarette Mahieu, was baptized.
On 11 November 1604 Anthony, son of Jean le Mahieu, native of Coulon, near Calais, married Martha Cornart, daughter of the late Noe Carnart, native of Canterbury.
Babtized 29 Sept. 1605 Marye, daughter of Antoine Mahieu
(Registers of the Walloon and Huguenot Church Canterbury, vol. 1, p. 4.)
It may be suggested that Hester or Esther was probably a sister of Antoine and daughter of Jean le Mahieu from Coulon.