Mary Kent Hopkins was born circa 1580 in Stockport, Cheshire, England to Robert Kent (1542-1615) and Joan Machell (1548-1611) and died 9 May 1613 Winchester, Hampshire, England of unspecified causes. She married Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644) 1605 in England.

Research Notes

Mary Kent is believed to be the first wife of Mayflower pilgrim Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644), born in Ratlake, Hampshire in about 1580, the daughter of Robert and Joan Kent. Robert’s father may have been named Andrew Kent. Joan’s maiden name was probably Machill, or a variation thereof such as Machell, based on documents of the time. Research indicates Joan’s parent’s names were sometimes given as Robert and Joan Machell and that she (Joan the younger) had a brother Giles and sister Elizabeth. Giles and Elizabeth also appear as the names of two of Mary’s children.

Per Neal, the Machell and Kent families may have been able to trace their ancestries back to ancient times when they first appeared at the manor (then castle) of Merdon in Hursley parish, which could have been as early as the 13th century.[24]On 20 November 1558, per the bequests of the will of Thomas Backe of the parish of Hursley, Robert Machyll (Machill) is cited as being an Overseer, Witness and one of those who had taken his estate inventory on 2 December 1558.

Robert Machill was the father of Joan Kent, and grandfather of Mary Kent, wife of Stephen Hopkins.[25]Robert Machell, father of Joan Kent, appears in court records for the manor of Merdon, Hursley, Hants.,on 26 October 1559.[26]On 28 April 1560 Robert Machyll (Machill) is recorded in the Hampshire Record Office as being involved, with two others, in the estate inventory of Margaret Backe, late the wife of Andrew Backe of the parish of Hursley.[27]The will of Robert Machell of Hursley, Hants., per the Hampshire Record Office. Will date: 24 January 1575, proved 25 April 1575. Persons mentioned in the will were Joan (wife), Giles (son) and Elizabeth and Joan (the younger) (daughters). Joan (the younger) would later be the mother of Mary Kent.[22]Documents for the 1588 rental of the manor of Merdon at Hursley, Hants. lists Robert Kent, father of Mary Kent, renting at Ratlake for 5s a sum total of 46 acres consisting of house, orchard, garden yard, etc.[28]

Mary’s father, Robert Kent, died when she was young, leaving her mother Joan a widow. Mary’s ancestry is difficult to research, but author Simon Neal determined that she had originally come from the Hursley area. No marriage record has been found for Mary and Stephen who had three children together between probably 1603 and 1608 – Elizabeth, the eldest, Constance, and Giles. The baptism records for the three children have been located in the parish registers of Hursley, Hampshire.

It is known that after their marriage around 1602 or before, Mary and Stephen resided with her mother Joan where they ran a small alehouse. Stephen departed for America in 1609, with his children being left in the care of his wife Mary and her mother Joan. In 1620 Stephen, his second wife Elizabeth and children Giles and Constance were Mayflower passengers.[29]Manorial court documents relating to the manor of Merdon list the following court date and charge: 3 Sept. 3 James I (1605): Alehouse keepers – Joan Kent (and two others named) are charged with being common tipplers and have broken the assize of bread and ale. Therefore each of them is in mercy (fined) 4 pence. Joan Kent was the mother of Mary Kent, wife of Stephen Hopkins.[30]

Joan Machill’s brother Giles was named in the manorial court for the manor of Merdon, Hursley, Hampshire, for a minor offense with a date of 3 October 1611. At the time Giles Machill was recorded as innkeeper of the Star and his sister Joan Kent was the alehouse keeper.[31]In 1611 Joan died at about age 50, leaving the three Hopkins children in Mary’s care which may have been too much for her.

Mary died in 1613, at about age 33 or so, with her burial entry appearing in parish registers on 9 May 1613 where she is described as the wife of Stephen Hopkins. Her inventory and administration were held on 12 May 1613 where it was noted she was the mother of Elizabeth, Giles and Constance and that she was a widow although at the time Stephen Hopkins was very much alive in Virginia. This may have been an error since apparently some monies from his employment at Jamestown did reach his wife and she may have known he was alive.

In 1614 Hopkins received a letter at Jamestown informing him of his wife’s death and shortly thereafter came back to England to care for his orphaned children.[32][33]Per author Neal, the Kent family continued its line through Giles Kent, Mary’s probable brother and continued to flourish in Hursley throughout the 17th century. And there may likely be descendants of this family alive there today.

His children Giles and Constance, referred to by Bradford as being children of a former wife who may have been Hopkins first wife, although this also is not clear. This wife was also probably the mother of an older daughter Elizabeth who may have been deceased prior to the Mayflower departure.


Offspring of Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644) and Mary Kent Hopkins
Name Birth Death Joined with
Elizabeth Hopkins (1604-1615) 13 March 1604 Hursley, Hampshire, England 12 May 1615 Hursley, Hampshire, England
Constance Hopkins (1605-1677) 11 May 1605 Hampshire, England, United Kingdom 25 November 1677 Eastham, Massachusetts, United States Nicholas Snow (1599-1676)
Giles Hopkins (1607-1690) 1607 Hursley, Hampshire, England 26 April 1689 Eastham, Barnstable County, Massachusetts Catherine Whelden (1617-1689)




Footnotes (including sources)