Mothers of Cape Cod

Courtesy of Claire Vail Photography (see link below)

I learned a few years ago that I have Mayflower ancestors along two lines of descent. Not a big surprise, as NEHGS makes it known that “More than 30 million people around the world have Mayflower ancestors.” My Sturgis, Gorham, and Paine ancestors were from Cape Cod and, thanks to my Gorham and Paine connections, I can claim Mayflower ancestors along those lines.

When I hear about Mayflower ancestors, it’s almost always about the male passengers, even though there were eighteen female passengers, eleven of whom were teenagers or younger.[1] My inspirations for this blog post are (1) my 14-year-old granddaughter, Bridget, who is a very bright and capable young woman – and who is probably getting quite tired of my stories about her bright and capable ancestors – and (2) the Hon. Josiah Quincy, Jr., who spoke at the 1854 anniversary meeting of the Cape Cod Association of Boston.  Quincy noted that some speakers “had confessed that they were not descended from the fathers of Cape Cod, [and he] remarked ‘Neither am I; but I am proud to say that I am – what is a good deal better – descended from the Mothers of Cape Cod.’”[2]

"...I am proud to say that I am – what is a good deal better – descended from the Mothers of Cape Cod."

I feel the same way and am happy to note here the Cape Cod connections of my and Bridget’s two Mayflower matriarchs.

The first is Elizabeth Tilley, 13-year-old Mayflower passenger[3] and, later, ward and wife of John Howland. My relationship to her is through Temperance Gorham, my great-great-great-great-grandmother and wife of Jonathan Sturgis, both of whom were from Barnstable and then Gorham, Maine. Temperance’s great-grandmother was Desire Howland, daughter of Elizabeth Tilley and John Howland.[4] Desire Howland and her husband, John Gorham, moved from Plymouth to Marshfield to Yarmouth and then Barnstable. Elizabeth Tilley had been left an orphan when both of her parents – John Tilley and Joan (Hirst) (Rogers) Tilley – and her uncle (Edward Tilley) died in 1620. Elizabeth was made the ward of John Howland, whom she married by 1625.[5]

The second is Constance Hopkins, 14-year-old Mayflower passenger and daughter of Stephen Hopkins.[6] Constance is my ancestor via my great-great-great-grandmother, Betsy Paine, wife of David Sturgis.[7] Betsy descends from Mayflower passenger Constance Hopkins through her great-great-grandmother, Mary Snow, Constance’s daughter[8] with Nicholas Snow, whom she married by 1627. (Betsy also descends from William Brewster through her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Patience Brewster, daughter of William.[9] Patience was not a Mayflower passenger, having “come over afterwards.”) Betsy’s Paine ancestors were among the first settlers of Eastham.

Betsy’s father William and mother Sarah (Mayo) had moved to Gorham, Maine, around 1770, where all their children were born, and where Betsy married David Sturgis, son of Jonathan and Temperance (Gorham) Sturgis.

I’m very proud to be a descendant of all these exceptionally strong women and men who somehow managed to persevere in dire circumstances. As Nathaniel Philbrick says in the introduction to his highly recommended Mayflower, “It ends up being as much a story of survival as it is a story of origins.”[10]


For more information on Claire Vail's photography, please visit her site.


[2] Frederick Freeman, The History of Cape Cod: The Annals of the Thirteen Towns of Barnstable County, Vol. 2 (Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 1862), 233. Online at:


[4] Elizabeth Pearson White, John Howland of the Mayflower, Vol. 1 (Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1990), 322.

[5] Ibid., 1: 1.

[6] John D. Austin, Mayflower families through five generations: descendants of the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620. Volume 6, Third Edition. family of Stephen Hopkins (Plymouth, Mass: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2001), 5.

[7] Hugh D. McLellan, History of Gorham, Maine (Portland, Maine, 1903), 700-3. Online at:

[8] Austin, Mayflower families through five generations, 6: 197-98. Online at:

[9] Barbara Lambert Merrick, William Brewster of the Mayflower and the Fifth Generation Descendants of his daughter Patience2 (Plymouth, Mass: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2001), 174-75. Online at:


Sam Sturgis

About Sam Sturgis

Sam was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Psychology from Eastern Michigan University and worked as a Human Factors researcher in automotive safety for 13 years. He entered the field of commercial software development in 1983 and acted as software developer and development manager at Wang Laboratories and The Foxboro Company. Sam joined the NEHGS staff in 2005. Sam's interest in genealogy began shortly after moving to Massachusetts, when he and his family chanced upon the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, during a vacation on Cape Cod. There he discovered that he is a descendent of the Sturgis family that settled on Cape Cod in the 1630's. Sam and his wife Gail live in Medway, Massachusetts. They have two grown children: Katie, a Registered Nurse in Wrentham, and David, a software developer in Somerville.View all posts by Sam Sturgis