Tracing the Origins of the Plimoth Pilgrims: Leyden, The Netherlands — the Pilgrims’ Home for Twelve Years (1608-1620)

Leiden (Netherlands). Archives.: Leyden Documents Relating to the Pilgrim Fathers.  Leyden:  E.J. Brill. 1920.

The Pilgrims, the religious sect known as the Separatists, and who later established the Plimoth colony, sailed from England to the Netherlands in 1608.  They settled in several cities in Dutch cities: Amsterdam, The Hague, Leyden (Leiden) and Antwerp, but Leyden was the major center of aggregation.

Despite the passage of time, it is possible to determine with a high level of certainty the individual Pilgrims, male and female, who emigrated to the Netherlands and their English origins.  The list of the Mayflower passengers exists as do lists of later emigrants, but determining the actual Pilgrims who lived in Leyden (and elsewhere in Holland) during those 12 years, where they came from, how they were related, and what were their occupations is rather limited and difficult to find in the English historical documents. However, such vital documentation pertaining to the members of these Pilgrim communities is available in the Dutch Betrothal Books.

From Leyden documents relating to the Pilgrim fathers (1920). Folio XVII, the marriage of William Bradford (first Governor of the Plymouth Colony, serving intermittently between 1621 and 1657) to Dorothy May, entered Nov. 15, 1613.

The Pilgrims did not believe marriage was a sacrament, and did not marry in front of a clergyman, but instead in front of a local magistrate or bailiff.  Fortunately for the Pilgrims, in Holland, couples also were married in civil ceremonies by either one of these local officials.  And, to these officials, prospective brides and grooms had to provide the following information:  their own baptismal names, the baptismal name of his/her father, their occupations, their places of residences, their home land or origins, consent of the parents, and one or two witnesses.  All of this information was recorded in the Betrothal Records for each town.  Moreover, other Dutch records relating to the Pilgrims such as permission to reside in certain cities can be found in archives in the various cities.

If you are on a genealogical search of your ancestors, interested in learning some Pilgrim trivia for the Thanksgiving dinner table, or just like studying historical documents, this book of facsimiles is for you!  It is available for viewing in the Special Collections and University Archives department which is located on the second floor of the Bartle Library.  The department is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday – Friday.

Leiden (Netherlands). Archives.: Leyden Documents Relating to the Pilgrim Fathers.  Leyden:  E.J. Brill. 1920.

Call Number:  **F68. L68. Rare Book Collection, Double Oversized.

This issue is limited to four hundred copies of which the University Libraries owns an unnumbered copy.


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