Edward Tilley was born 27 May 1588 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom to Robert Tilley (1540-1612) and Elizabeth Ellbourne (1544-1614) and died 1621 Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Ann Cooper (c1584-1621) 20 June 1614 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.


Edward Tilley and his wife were Passenger on the Mayflower and settler who died the first year at Plymouth Colony.

Early Life in England

Edward Tilley was baptized in Henlow, co. Bedford, England on May 27, 1588. He was the son Robert and Elizabeth Tilley.

Scrooby Separatists


Scrooby Separatists were a mixed congregation of early English Protestants / non-conformists founding living in the border region of of South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. They were called "Separatists" because of their rebellion against the religious authority of the Church of England, the official state religion. In 1607/8 the Congregation emigrated to Netherlands in search of the freedom to worship as they chose. Shortly after that they were the basis of the group to sail in the Mayflower to the New World.

Life in Leiden

Shortly after their marriage Edward and his wife went to live in Leiden, Holland. They appeared in a 1616 Leiden record where he was reported to be a weaver as with a number of other Leiden Separatists, and future Mayflower passengers. There is an indication that Edward’s brother John Tilley was also in Leiden along with Edward’s ward Henry Samson.

Mayflower Voyage

Both Edward and his wife died shortly after arrival in Plymouth Colony, but her niece and nephew survived. His brother John Tilley (1571-1621) also traveled with them.

Mayflower at Provincetown Harbor

The Mayflower, originating from London with a group of Adventurers bound for the New World rendezvoused on 22 July with the Speedwell just arriving from Holland with a group of religious refugees from Leiden. Originally intended to sail jointly to the English Colony in Virginia it soon became evident that Speedwell was not seaworthy. Passengers and cargo were combined onto Mayflower (with many left behind) for the journey, finally departing on September 9.

During the voyage fierce storms blew the ship off course, arriving at Cape Cod on the Eastern Massachusetts coastline on November 9th. For two days they attempted to sail south to Virginia but exhausting supplies and fierce storms caused them to abort this effort and drop anchor at what is now Provincetown Harbor. On November 11th, the group decided to settle here and start their own colony. They wrote a governmental contract called the Mayflower Compact, Edward was the 15th of the 41 signers on this document.

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

About the middle of December 1620, the ship moved and dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. All the while the pilgrims were conducting several exploring missions of the area and negotiations with the local natives. Almost half of the passengers died, suffering from an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower into their new settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Plymouth Colony

Edward Tilley was a signer of the Mayflower Compact and participated in several early exploring expeditions.

Exploring ill-clad in constant freezing weather with often wet clothing would take its toll on Edward Tilley who never did recover from the illness that he contracted just prior to the beginning of the third expedition. The exploring often involved wading from boat to shore through icy ocean water in freezing temperatures. Edward Tilley likely died in January, probably as a result of an initial cold which became pneumonia as time went along.

Marriage & Family

Edward Tilley and Ann (or Agnes) Cooper married on June 20, 1614 in Henlow, co. Bedford, she having been baptized there on November 7, 1585. As with his brother John, Edward married a woman a few years his senior, which was unusual for the time. Their pastor in Leiden, John Robinson, spoke against such marriages, stating it was best for men not to marry older women.[1] Edward Tilley and his wife likely resided in Henlow, Bedfordshire until they emigrated to Holland a few years after their marriage.[2]

Edward’s wife Ann met her demise sometime following his death, but the two relatives of Ann in their care, Humility Cooper and Henry Samson, survived. The Tilleys had no recorded children of their own.


Offspring of Robert Tilley (1540-1612) and Elizabeth Ellbourne (1544-1614)
Name Birth Death Joined with
John Tilley (1571-1621) 19 December 1571 Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom 1621 Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States Joan Hurst (1568-1621)
Edward Tilley (c1588-1621) 27 May 1588 Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom 1621 Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States Ann Cooper (c1584-1621)

Other Children with John and Anna

Edward and Ann Tilley came aboard the Mayflower without any children but oddly in company with two young relatives of Ann’s – her sixteen-year-old nephew Henry Samson and her one-year-old niece Humility Cooper. The reason those two children were with them has not been fully explained.

  • Henry Samson (c1603-1684) (Cousin) - Listed in Bradford's 1651 journal as a cousin that arrived with the family in 1620.
  • Humility Cooper (1619-1638) (Cousin) - Listed in Bradford's 1651 journal as a cousin, but most likely a niece, she arrived in Plymouth Colony with the family in 1620, but was sent back to England about 1638.

Vital Records

Bradfords Journal

Record made in 1651 about original Mayflower settlers:

"Edward Tilley, and Ann his wife; and 2 children that were their cousins; Henry Sampson and Humility Cooper."

"Edward Tillie, and his wife both dyed soon after their arrivall; and the girle Humility their cousen, was sent for unto England, and dyed there. But the youth Henry Sampson, is still liveing, and is married, & hath .7. children. John Tilley and his wife both dyed, a litle after they came ashore."

Cole's Hill Memorial


A large monument was erected in 1921 on Cole's Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts to honor the many pilgrims who came to Plymouth Colony in the Mayflower but died during the first terrible winter and were buried here. This person is one of those person's listed thereon.

Pilgrim Monument


National Monument to the Forefathers, commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims, (including this person) who came to Plymouth Colony in 1620 on the Mayflower. Dedicated on August 1, 1889, it is thought to be the world's largest solid granite monument. Located on an 11 acre hilltop site on Allerton Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.



Footnotes (including sources)