The great "Billington Sea"

My ancestor Francis Billington is never mentioned by name in William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation. Francis’s first name is given in Bradford’s list of the Mayflower passengers, and in Bradford’s subsequent notes on passengers’ fates written in 1650, Francis is only referred is as John’s second son.

I am reading the 1952 edition of William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, with notes and an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. On page 79, concerning early relations with Native Americans, Morison notes that Mourt’s Relation provides more details, along with Morison’s own description of Francis Billington as Mayflower’s “bad boy.”

Mourt’s Relation (or A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimoth in New England), written primarily by Edward Winslow, was first published and sold in London in 1622.[1] One of two interesting details regarding my ancestor Francis Billington is given below on 8 January 1621:

Still known as the Billington Sea today (even though it’s really a pond), I took my younger daughter there this summer to see the “great sea” so named for her forebear.

The second story of the “Mayflower bad boy” is a bit more amusing, which I’ll share next month.


[1] The book has been erroneously cited as “by George Morton, sometimes called George Mourt,” resulting in the title Mourt’s Relation. George Morton arrived in Plymouth from Leiden on the Anne in 1623. George’s wife Juliana Carpenter was a sister of William Bradford’s second wife Alice. George and Juliana’s son, Nathaniel Morton (say 1613-1685), served as Plymouth’s secretary under his uncle William Bradford and wrote an account of the settlement of Plymouth Colony, which was the first to publish a list of signers of the Mayflower Compact.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child