William Bradford



Willliam Bradford was the Governor of Plymouth Colony and presided over the trial of Alice Martin Clark Bishop.

For more on Bradford go to:


William Bradford came on the Mayflower with his wife Dorothy (May), leaving son John behind in Holland.  Dorothy fell off the Mayflower and drowned on 7 December 1620, when it was anchored in Provincetown Harbor.  


This was an accidental drowning.  The story of the suicide, affair with Captain Chrostopher Jones, etc. comes from a fictional "soap opera" story published in a national women's magazine in 1869--a story published as truth by the author, based on "family stories", but which the author later admitted was an invention of her own imagination.  For further information on this, see Mayflower Descendant 29:97-102 , and especially 31:105.  

Notes and Links

William Bradford*; Bap. March 19, 1589/90, Austerfield, Yorkshire, England; d. May 9, 1657, Plymouth MA


m1. Dorothy May; b. c1597, Norfolk, England ; d. Dec. 7, 1620, Cape Cod Harbor, (now Provincetown) MA. A description of her ancestry is given in the Brief Biography text below.

William and Dorothy had one child, a son:


John Bradford; b. c 1615, Leyden, Holland; d. Sep. 7, 1679, Norwich CT. John did not accompany his parents on the Mayflower in 1620, but lived with his grandfather May in Leyden, until 1627 when came to Plymouth and within a few years, found his father's household full. He moved to Duxbury sometime before 1645, and was married in Marshfield in 1653. He finally settled among the earliest proprietors of Norwich CT in about 1652, when he served as Lt. Dep. to the General Court in Norwich CT in that year.

m. Martha Bourne of Marshfield MA in 1653. She is the daughter of Deacon Thomas Bourne (1581-1664), an immigrant from England who was among the first settlers at Marshfield MA, and his wife, Elizabeth ___?. John Bradford and Martha Bourne had no children. After John Bradford died, Martha married 2nd to Lt. Thomas Tracy.


m2. Alice (Carpenter) Southworth* (1590/1-1670), daughter of Alexander Carpenter* and Priscilla Dillen*, and widow of Edward Southworth.

William and Alice had 3 children:


William Bradford* (1624-1704)

m1. Alice Richards* (1627-1671)

m2. Sarah (Tracy) Griswold, a.k.a. "The Widow Wiswall"

m3. Mary (Atwood) Holmes

Mercy Bradford ; b. 1625/6, Plymouth MA; d. before 1657.

m. Benjamin Vermayes on Dec. 21, 1648. Benjamin was born in about 1624, probably in Holland or Flanders. Benjamin died before Nov. 28, 1665 in "Ginne" (probably Dutch Guinea).

Mercy and Benjamin had no known children.

Joseph Bradford ; b. 1630, Plymouth MA; d. July 10, 1715, Rocky Nook, MA.

m. Jael Hobart; b. Dec. 1642; d. 1730. She is the daughter of Rev. Peter Hobart and Rebecca Peck.

Joseph and Jael had 3 sons:

Joseph Bradford; b. Apr. 18, 1665

Elisha Bradford; b. c1669, in Cornwall CT; d. Jun 16, 1745, Kingston MA.

m1. Hannah Cole, daughter of James Cole and Mary Tilson. Hannah died on Aug. 15, 1718 after having 6 children all of whom died young.

m2. Bathsheba LaBroche, daughter of Francis LaBroche and Sarah Hobart, on Sep 2, 1718, at Plymouth MA. Elisha and Bathsheba had 15 children:


Hannah Bradford ; b. Apr 10, 1720, Plymouth; d. May 22, 1758, Friendship ME. m. Joshua Bradford (1710-1758)

Joseph Bradford; b. Dec 7, 1721, Plymouth; d. Sep 4, 1743, Kingston

Slyvanus Bradford; b. Jul 6, 1723, Plymouth; d. Jul 12, 1725.

Nehemiah Bradford; b. Jul 27, 1724, was living in 1729.

Laurana Bradford ; b. Mar 27, 1726; m. Elijah McFarlin (c1722-1777)

Mary Bradford; b. Aug 1, 1727, Kingston; d. before 1730.

Elisha Bradford; b. Oct. 6, 1729; d. Mar 1752.

Lois Bradford; b. Jan 30, 1731; d. Oct 10, 1752.

Deborah Bradford ; b. Nov 18, 1732, Kingston; d. after Mar 11, 1811; m. Jonathan Sampson, son of Jonathan Samson (Sr.) and Joanna Lucas.

Alice Bradford ; b. Nov. 3, 1734, Kingston; d. Jul 6, 1795, Stoughton, Norfolk Co. MA; m. Zebulon Waters (1734/5-1790), son of Samuel Waters and Bethia Thayer.

Asenath Bradford ; b. Sep 15, 1736, Kingston; d. Nov 15, 1818, Stoughton MA; m1. Nathan Estey (b. 1727-d. Nova Scotia), son of Benjamin Estey and Sarah Chandler; m2. Daniel Waters (d. before Sep 14, 1764), son of Samuel Waters and Bethia Thayer (Zebulon's brother), and had 3 children; m3. Benjamin Packard (1743-1825), son of Joseph Packard and Hannah Manley, and had 4 children.

Carpenter Bradford ; b. Feb 7, 1738/9, Kingston; d. Jan 27, 1823, Friendship, ME; m1. Mary Gay, daughter of David Gay and Hannah Tabor, and had 6 children, 5 of whom were born in Nova Scotia; m2. Mary Steele of Friendship ME on Jun 9, 1815.

Abigail Bradford; b. Jun 20, 1741; Kingston; d. Dec 16, 1760

Chloe Bradford; b. Apr 6, 1743, Kingston; d. Feb 21, 1747/8

Content Bradford; b. May 21, 1745, Kingston; d. May 22, 1745.


Peter Bradford; b. Mar 1, 1676/7; in Hingham MA.


Brief Biography:

William Bradford (1589/90-1657) was the well-known Seperatist who was an organizer of the "Pilgrims" who sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620. After Governor Carver died during the first winter, William Bradford (1587-1657) was elected Governor of the Plymouth Colony and was re-elected annually for 31 years (except for 5 years in which declined to serve).


A Biography of Gov. William Bradford may be found on the link: Virtual American Biographies/William Bradford-Governor . This biography provides an excellent biography of Gov. William Bradford, a drawing of his home in the Plymouth Colony, and an account and history of Gov. Bradford's written works.


Governor William Bradford was the author of Of Plimoth Plantation , a major work of early American History, and other writings. He knew many languages, including English, Dutch, French, Latin and Hebrew as well as local Indian speech. Born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, he was baptised there on Mar. 19, 1589. He became an orphan after his father died in 1591 and his mother died in 1597. He was brought up by an uncle, Robert Bradford (1591-1637) and a great uncle, Thomas Bradford (d. 1605).


No relationship has yet been found linking his family to the famous Protestant Martyr, John Bradford (c1510-1555), who was burned at the stake in 1555. Although, from certain religious leanings, it would seem as if Gov. Bradford had been influenced somehow by the Martyr's cause. It is known that the young William had somehow managed to obtain (or obtain access to) a copy of The Book of Martyrs by John Foxe (1517-1587), which contained a history of John Bradford (c1510-1555). This may have been an important book providing early influence upon, and shaping the young mind of, the man who was later to become Governor Bradford of Plymouth.


Until he was about 18 years old, William lived among his community of sheep herders and woolen workers in and around Austerfield, often helping out with farm chores and listening carefully to his uncles, who were somewhat wise to the ways of the world and saw that young William and his older sister, Alice Bradford (1587-1607), might have a sense of family and might so require some special attention since they had become orphaned. William was provided the education offered by a local "Dame School", which was a kind of local school run by women teachers, mainly concerned with domestic skills, such as cooking and weaving. William had little idea at the time how much these skills would later be needed in the New World, or indeed to make a living in Holland during his sojourn there.


William was not so poor as he may have felt, for his father was one of the richest Yeomen in Austerfield and left him and his sister a reasonable estate, including a small farm in Bentley handed down through generations by his great-great grandfather, Peter Bradforth (1460-1542) (as the surname was spelled then). The estate was managed for him by his uncle Robert Bradford (1561-1609) which could afford such niceties as a Dame School for William. Later, this estate helped William secure an investment in the Mayflower .


He was also quite attached to his elderly great-uncle Thomas Bradford (d. 1605) who was interested in expanding his intellectual horizons and filled him with adventure stories and created an air of wonderlust. Thomas told him of the wisdom of the "Gray Friars" at their local Church of All Hallows in Austerfield. They must have been a little spooky because they held on to some very old pagan traditions that may have pre-dated Christianity. They, and his great-uncle Thomas, were somewhat suspicious of Church authority, and told little William about Foxe's book, The Book of Martyrs , and helped him find the Friars that could teach him a little Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, so he could read the word of GOD as it was first handed down, and not as it was interpreted by local Ecclesiastical Law.


Thomas also had a circle of elderly friends, probably meeting regularly at the local pub, who were gossiping about the adventures of one of their friends and neighbor, Sir Martin Frobisher (c1539-1594), a beknighted World-class seafaring explorer and adventurer, whose every story was a life-risking, hair-raising tale of desperation and exploitation. Certain members of Frobisher's family appear as witnesses to Bradford wills and official documents of the time. Young William must have had his head filled with adventure and wonder about distant places, especially the New World.


In his teenage years, William must have met Alice Carpenter in Yorkshire but he did not marry her until 1623 (in Plymouth MA) after his first wife died in 1620, and after Alice's first husband, Edward Southworth, died in 1621. According to a recent finding, Williams's second cousin, George Morton, who married Alice Carpenter's sister, Julianna Carpenter, so that William and George were also to become brothers-in-law.


In about 1606, William became involved with a group of religious dissidents who were experimenting with alternative religious beliefs. The attraction to this group, calling themselves "Seperatists", for young William was wide-ranging and included everything from philosophy to adventure to romance. The latter, since it is avoided in most biographies, merits a sentence or two of elaboration. Some of the Separatists and similar organizations believed that young girls should be exposed to sexual stimulation, as soon as they are capable of being seduced, because it is GOD's way. On this and other matters, the Seperatists brushed against the law, and put themselves into a situation where they chose to emigrate to Holland where they could pursue their beliefs without the harrassment of the established Church of England. It is quite possible that William was first attracted to Dorothy May in England when she was at the tender age of 11 in about 1607, shortly before he arrived in Holland, but was not married to her until Nov. 9, 1613, in Holland, when she was 16. She was born in 1596 in Wisbeach, Cambridgeshire, England.


Dorothy May's family has been recently found by Charles. H. Townshend of New Haven CT in Dorothy May and her Relations on page 754 in a Gary Boyd Roberts publication. Her parents were John May of Shouldham Abbey, Norfolk, England; and Cordelia Bowes. Dorothy had siblings, Francis May, Farnneru (Jacomye?) May, Henry May, John May, and Stephen May. John May of Shouldham Abbey was the son of John May, Bishop of Carlisle, Doctor of Divinity and Master of Catherine's Hall, Cambridge, who died in Apr. 1598. Cordelia Bowes was the daughter of Martyn Bowes, who was the son of Sir Martyn Bowes, knight, goldsmith and Lord Mayor of London in 1545. Sir Martyn Bowes was married to Frances Clopton, daughter of William Clopton of Groton, who was the son of Richard Clopton of Melford and Groton, Suffolk, England. Dorothy was described in a "Heresiography" by Ephraim Paget, minister of St. Edmund's, Lombard Street, London as follows: "Mistress May, who used to in her house sing psalms being more fit for a common brawl ... by reason of such uncouth and strange translations and the meeter [meter] used in them the Congregation was made a laughing stock unto strangers".



The first five generations of descendants of Gov. William Bradford

Virtual American Biographies/William Bradford-Governor

The Mayflower Web Pages

Dorothy May and her Relations , page 754, by Charles. H. Townshend, pub. by Gary Boyd Roberts.

English Origins of New England Families , 2nd Ser. Vol. 1. p. 243 Ancestry of the Bradfords of Austerfield, Co. York by William Bradford Browne. Ed. by Gary Boyd Roberts, pub. by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1985.

Descendants of Gov. William Bradford .

Descendants of Governor William Bradford , by Ruth Gardiner Hall, under auspices of the Bradford Family Compact. This shows the first 7 generations of descendants of Gov. William Bradford.

Bradford Genealogy by Faith Bradford

A Line of Bradfords 1460-1988 by Bradford Stone


Go to the Index of ancestral surnames

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Go to the How to use this genealogy page.

Contact the author: e-mail link: Phillips Verner Bradford

Note: Ancestors of Phillips Verner Bradford are denoted in the text lists with an asterisk (*) following the names.