In the past when I have talked about the Pilgrims of Plymouth, I focused on William Bassett. You can read here about my Pilgrim ancestor who missed the first Thanksgiving. While most of those early Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower, another group left their homes and extended families behind and boarded The Speedwell, sailing at the same time as the Mayflower and destined to land in America at the same time.
But might I be related to Pilgrim leader William Brewster? That would be lovely. He was the Pilgrim father who left an inventory of several hundred books when he died. Not exactly my reading taste, but, still, a lover of books.
The Speedwell/Fortune Passengers
To continue William Bassett’s story, on August 15, 1620, the Speedwell, packed with expectant, excited, and probably fearful passengers set sail from Holland. That ship met the Mayflower at Southampton. After a stop at Plymouth, England, however, it became obvious that the Speedwell would not make it across the ocean. If the captain of the Speedwell had possessed a public address system, he would have announced to his passengers, “Due to mechanical difficulties, we are returning to base.” The Mayflower sailed on to fame and glory. The famous settlers landed in the wrong place–but Virginia, Cape Cod…it is all the same continent, isn’t it?
My 9x great-grandfather, William Bassett had boarded the Speedwell and stoically (or not so stoically, as he was a young man) waited until the financiers of the company substituted the ship The Fortune. Another notable passenger on the Fortune–Jonathan Brewster, son of the Pilgrim’s spiritual father in Plymouth, William Brewster. No doubt the Brewster family felt deep frustration that their eldest son got stranded in England for a year. The Fortune landed in Plymouth Colony in 1621. The survivors of the first terrible winter expressed great joy to see these healthy younger people arrive after so many of the Mayflower passengers had died.
Despite the fact that the passengers on the Fortune had been delayed through none of their own doing–they had meant to arrive in 1620– they are second citizens in the ranks of “American royalty.” The Mayflower Society, an organization open only to descendants of those who arrived on the Mayflower, does not recognize those whose misfortune it was to sail on the Speedwell and arrive on The Fortune.
So William Bassett, an ancestor my mother’s family has always been very proud to claim, does not get us a ticket to the Mayflower descendants. (Since estimates say that 35 million Mayflower descendants live today, you cannot really say it is an exclusive group, can you?)
Connections to William Brewster
I hope this introduction shows you how excited I was to discover the name BREWSTER woven in with the Morgan family I have been exploring. Researching Samuel Morgan, my 5th great-grandfather, yielded at least three connections to Jonathan Brewster, and therefore Mayflower passenger and book-lover, William Brewster.
The connections came to my family tree through Capt. Jonathan Morgan, brother of my 5th great-grandfather, Samuel Morgan.
The Puritans of Connecticut
The Morgans, as we have seen, were Connecticut dwellers for many generations. But weren’t the Pilgrims from Massachusetts? Ahhh, not all. And not forever. The leaders of the Pilgrims realized that they needed to spread out and start new towns to accommodate their expected growth. They had explored the coast of Connecticut as early as 1631 when Governor Winslow personally visited and encouraged the establishment of a trading post at Windsor Connecticut (named for the Indian name Quonehtacut River).
William Brewster’s son, Jonathan Brewster, arriving on the Fortune in 1621, became a leader and one of the first settlers of Connecticut when he established a trading house at Brewster’s Neck, Pequot (later Groton). Other early settlers of the area were James Avery and James Morgan, both founders of families in my descent.
Ruth Morgan Brewster
I first noticed that the niece of my 5th Great grandfather, Samuel Morgan (1669), married a Brewster.
- Ruth Morgan was the daughter of Capt. John Morgan (1667). Capt. John Morgan was the brother of Samuel Morgan (1669).
- Ruth married Jonathan Brewster (1694), great-grandson of Jonathan Brewster, the eldest son of Pilgrim leader William Brewster.
Unfortunately, first cousin six times removed does not get me a ticket on the Mayflower.
Ruth Shapley Morgan
Not only did Capt. John Morgan (1667) have a Brewster son-in-law, he also was married to a descendant of William Brewster. I would not have discovered this except for the many and detailed books that trace the descendants of every single passenger from the Mayflower–some that go on for a dozen generations.
- Ruth Shapley married Capt. John Morgan (1667).
- Her mother was Mary Picket Shapley, married to Benjamin Shapley.
- Mary Pickett’s mother was Ruth Brewster Pickett, married first to Jon Pickett, who “dyed at sea on a voyage to Bermuda.”
- Ruth Brewster was the daughter of Jonathan Brewster (1593), and
- Ruth Brewster (Pickett) was Grand daughter to William Brewster, which means Ruth Shapley (Morgan) was 2 x great-grand daughter to Jonathan Brewster.
Ruth Shapley does not get me a ticket on the Mayflower, either, although she is a 3rd great-grand-daughter to William Brewster. Despite the fact that she is a wife of my 6th great-uncle, our relationship is marital, not blood.
Hannah Brewster Morgan
Then I moved on to another Morgan tied to a Brewster.
Hannah Brewster (1641) married Capt. James Morgan (1643) the brother of my 6th great-grandfather, Capt. John Morgan (1645).
But Who is Hannah _______??
Most of the standard sources, like The Descendants of James Morgan of Groton, and the Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907, as well as all the various Mayflower descendant books, list only Hannah _________ as Capt. James Morgan’s second wife. James and his first wife, Mary Vine, had six children. When Mary died and he remarried, both James and Hannah_____ would have been fifty years old. James and Hannah had no children. They died within days of each other when they were in their mid 60s. The details proving that the Hannah_____referred to in most books is actually Hannah Brewster Starr (Morgan) comes in a painstakingly researched piece published in The Genealogist, 14 (2000): 118-28. We have David L. Greene to thank for digging out the truth.
- Hannah Brewster Starr (1641) married Capt. James Morgan (1643) after her first husband, Samuel Starr, and James’ first wife, Mary Vine, died.
- Hannah Brewster Starr Morgan was the daughter of Jonathan Brewster (1593) and
- Hannah was the Grand daughter to William Brewster.
- Notice that she was a sister to Ruth Brewster Pickett mentioned in the line of Ruth Shapley.
Obviously, if Ruth Shapley Morgan did not get me a ticket on the Mayflower, Hannah Brewster Starr Morgan also did not get me a ticket.
I would be remiss not to at least mention my previously discovered tie to a Mayflower ancestor. Peregrine White, first child born to the Pilgrims after they reached America, married a daughter of William Bassett. But there we have it again–a marital relationship rather than a direct descent. No ticket.
I am not going to prove eligibility for the Mayflower Society by tracing a connection to the William Brewster family.
But in the process of searching, I greatly expanded my understanding of the Morgan line and their various branches. I also learned a great deal about the early history of Connecticut, as well as about the history of one of the most important Pilgrim settlers, William Brewster.
Some Sources for Pilgrim Research:
The Brewster Genealogy 1566-1907, Vol. I, and Vol II Pts 1 & 2, Emma C. Brewster Jones, New York: Grafton Press, 1854. Available at http://archives.org.
Mayflower Descendents and Their Marriages for Two Generations After the Landing, Including a Short History of the Church of the Pilgrim Founders of New England, Washington D.C.: Bureau of Military and Civic Achievement. John D. Landis, 1922. Available on line through the Hathi Trust.
History and Genealogy of the Mayflower planters and first Comers to ye old Colonies, Vol II, Leon Clark Hills, Washington D.C.: Hills Publishing Co. 1936-1941. Ancestry.com (membership). Also available free on line if your local library card admits you to the website Open Library. Also available for purchase in print or e-copies.
New London County Connecticut with Biographical Sketches of Many of its Pioneer and Prominent Men, Compiled by Hamilton Hurd, Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Co. 1882. Available on line at archive.org
Mayflower Births and Deaths from the files of George Ernest Bowman, ed. by Susan E. Roser. 2 Volumes, Baltimore MD: Genealogical Publishing Co. Available at Ancestry.com (membership) and by search only (not entire text) at Hathi Trust.
A catalogue of the Names of First Puritan Settlement of the Colony of Connecticut, Royal R. Hineman, Hartford: Tiffany & Co.1846 Available on line at Hathi Trust.https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.l0072881345;view=1up;seq=11