top of page

Mayflower Passenger




James Chilton (1556-1620)


James Chilton is my 12th great grandfather by this path: RWA → Fred Pemberton Abbott → Mary Emma Knowles Abbott → Mary West Knowles → James West → Relief Kingman West → James Kingman → Susanna Copeland Kingman → Mary Kingman Copeland → Desire Harris Kingman → Mercy Latham Harris → Susannah Winslow Latham → Mary Chilton Winslow → James Chilton




Signature of James Chilton



James Chilton was born about 1556 to Lyonell and Edith Chilton in Canterbury, Kent, England. He has the unfortunate distinction of being my first ancestor to die in the New World. He was perhaps the oldest passenger on the Mayflower and was a signer of the Mayflower Compact. However, he became ill and died on the Mayflower while it was in the bay at what is now Provincetown. Four other passengers died either during the crossing or while the ship was off Cape Cod.


James was a tailor in Canterbury. He married probably Susanna Furner (her identity is not certain and several sources dispute this) around 1587. They had a total of 10 children, but only the youngest, daughter Mary age 13, traveled with them on the Mayflower. The oldest daughter and her husband came to the colonies later.


About 1600, the Chilton family moved from Canterbury to Sandwich and there became involved in the Separatist movement. In 1609, Mrs. Chilton participated in the burial of a child without the rites of the Church of England and this was a big no-no. The family was excommunicated sometime between 1609 and 1615 and left for Leiden, Holland and became part of John Robinson’s congregation. Life was hard in the Netherlands, and a plan developed to seek a land patent from an English company in order to settle in America. Eventually a patent was obtained from the London Company to form a settlement in Virginia.


The Mayflower left Plymouth, England in June, 1620. The ship was cramped, the seas were rough, there were not adequate provisions, and conditions were unsanitary. Land was spotted in November, 1620 off Cape Cod, but they were planning to go to Virginia and spent several days trying to do that; however, due to weather and the condition of the ship, they turned back to Cape Cod. It was then that the Mayflower Compact was drawn up. Although most of the passengers were Pilgrims, some were non-Pilgrims (tradesmen and laborers who intended to work in the Virginia colony and some children who were servants) and there was some discontent among the non-Pilgrims. As the group did not get to Virginia, they were outside the area of their patent, so were essentially lawless and some of those pesky non-Pilgrims were suggesting they were free to do as they pleased. This was part of the reason the Compact was drawn up: to ensure that there would be a set of rules that applied to all the members of the group.


By the middle of December, nearly everyone on the ship was ill. Small parties were sent out to scout for a suitable location to settle, eventually landing at Plymouth December 21, 1620. However, James Chilton died on December 18, 1620. His wife died soon after arriving in Plymouth on January 21, 1621.





General Society of Mayflower Descendants. (2013). Mayflower families through five generations: Volume 15: James Chilton and Richard More. Plymouth, MA: Author.



Search By Tags
bottom of page