John Tilley, Sr. was born 19 December 1571 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom to Robert Tilley (1540-1612) and Elizabeth Ellbourne (1544-1614) and died 1621 Plymouth, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Joan Hurst (1568-1621) 20 September 1596 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, United Kingdom.

One of the settlers who traveled from England to North America on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. Tilley died shortly after arrival at Plymouth_Colony.

But his daughter Elizabeth survived and married John Howland (1592-1672) who have the largest posterity of any of the original settlers.

Vital Statistics

  • Eldest child of Robert and Elizabeth Tilley
  • 1571-Dec-19 : Birth / Christened in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.
  • 1596-Sep-20 : Marriage to Joan Hurst Rogers in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.
  • 1620 Trip to America
  • 1621 Death at Plymouth Colony.


Tilley was christened in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England on 19 December 1571. He was the eldest child of Robert and Elizabeth Tilley. He had four sisters (Rose, Agnes, Elizabeth, and Alice) and three brothers (George, William, and Edward or Edmund). Research done by Robert Ward Leigh, using probate records, show that Tilley's paternal grandparents were William and Agnes Tylle, his great-grandparents were Thomas and Margaret Tylle, and great-great-grandparents were Henry and Johann[a]? Tilly, all of Henlow.

On 20 September 1596 in Henlow, John married Joan Hurst Rogers, the daughter of William and Rose Hurst and the widow of Thomas Rogers of Henlow. Joan had had one daughter from her previous marriage. John and Joan had five children between 1597 and 1607. At least one child died young. Research by George Ernest Bowman shows that John was not the Jan Tellij that married Prijntgen Van den Velde in Leyden.

In September 1620, John and Joan embarked on the Mayflower along with their teenage daughter Elizabeth and John's brother Edward Tilley and his wife Ann or Agnes (Cooper) Tilley. Edward and Ann brought along Ann's relatives Henry Samson (c1603-1684 and Humility Cooper. They left behind their older children, who were married by this time. They arrived at what would become Plymouth in November. John and brother Edward were amongst the men who signed the Mayflower Compact.

Unfortunately, the first winter after their arrival was extremely difficult and a number of the settlers died. Amongst these were John, wife Joan, brother Edward, and sister-in-law Ann. This left daughter Elizabeth the only surviving member of the Tilley family in America. The orphan was taken in by John Carver but he and his wife both died that spring. Elizabeth later married John Howland, Carver's former servant, and left a numerous posterity.

Mayflower Voyage

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, John was the 16th 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.

Marriage & Family

On 20 September 1596 in Henlow, John married Joan Hurst Rogers, the daughter of William and Rose Hurst and the widow of Thomas Rogers of Henlow. Joan had had one daughter from her previous marriage. John and Joan had five children between 1597 and 1607. At least one child died young. Only the youngest daughter, came to America.

  • Rose Tilley, baptized 23 October 1597 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, died young
  • John Tilley, baptized 26 August 1599 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England
  • Rose Tilley, baptized 28 February 1602 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England
  • Robert Tilley, baptized 25 November 1604 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, served as an apprentice to a tailor, married Mary Hawkins on 1 November 1632 at St Paul’s Church, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England.
  • Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687), baptized 30 August 1607 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England, sailed on the Mayflower in 1621, married John Howland presumably in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, died 21/31 December 1687 in Swansea, Bristol, Massachusetts, will written 17 December 1686 and proved 10 January 1687/8.

In addition, Joan Hurst Rogers Tilley had a daughter, Joan Rogers, from her first marriage. She was christened on 26 May 1594 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England and married Edward Hawkins on 27 June 1620 at St. Paul’s Church, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England.


Offspring of John Tilley, Sr. and Joan Hurst (1568-1621)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Rose Tilley (1597-1597)
John Tilley (1599-1636)
Robert Tilley (1604-1687)
Elizabeth Tilley (1607-1687) 30 August 1607 Henlow, Bedfordshire, England 21 December 1687 Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts John Howland (1592-1672)



Footnotes (including sources)


Vital Records

Bradfords Journal

Record made in 1651 about original Mayflower settlers:

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

His servant, John Howland, maried the doughter of John Tillie, Elizabeth, and they are both now living, and have 10 children, now all living; and their oldest daughter hath 4 children. And ther 2nd daughter, one, all living; and other of their children mariagable. So 15 are come of them.

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)