Monday, November 6, 2017

Along the Pilgrim Trail ~ The Tilley and Samson Families of Henlow, Bedfordshire, England

Along the Pilgrim Trail, Part 10

St. Mary the Virgin Church, Henlow, Bedfordshire

Vincent and I recently took the General Society of Mayflower Descendants Historic Sites Tour of England, Wales and The Netherlands along with 41 other enthusiast participants (known as "The 43").  We traced the footsteps of the Separatists and the Mayflower passengers and crew all around these countries with some amazing tour directors, guides, historians and authors.  We were given access to places off the usual tourist trails, and behind the scenes.  We had a wonderful time, and I will be blogging about it over the next few weeks.

St. Mary's Church in Henlow was the home parish of two Mayflower families - the Tilleys and the Sampsons.  It was not far from Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire, where John Howland's parents lived, but I don't think the two families knew each other.  The church has parts built in the 1200s, and it was under scaffolding undergoing restoration when we visited with the Mayflower Historic Sites Tour.

This is the only church we visited that was the parish for two Mayflower families.  The church members met us at the door with tea and cakes, and the church historian, Jackie Painter, gave a talk about the history.  The Sampson Kindred presented Jackie with an honorary membership for her assistance, and a check for $365.   She posed with her certificate with descendants from Henry Sampson, and also with the Elizabeth Tilley descendants.  She was a sweet lady!

Tilley descendants inside St. Mary's church

Elizabeth Tilley was the daughter of John Tilley and Joan Hurst, who were married in this church in 1596.  Elizabeth was baptized here on 30 August 1607.  John and Joan, and a brother Edward Tilley and his wife Ann Cooper, all died that first winter in New England, leaving 15 year old Elizabeth an orphan.  Governor John Carver was named her guardian.  She later married Carver's manservant, John Howland.

Samson descendants

Henry Samson was baptized in this church on 15 January 1604, the son of James Samson and Martha Cooper.   Martha was the sister of Edward Tilley's wife, Ann, making Henry Elizabeth Tilley's cousin. He as only 16 years old when he arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts aboard the Mayflower. Possibly he was apprenticed to his uncle, because Henry's parents and siblings stayed in Henlow.  When his aunt and uncle died, he became part of the Winslow family.   Henry Samson later married Anne Plummer and had nine children.

In memory of                                  In memory of
JOHN and JOAN                        HENRY SAMSON
TILLEY                                   of this parish
           of this parish                         baptized 15 January 1604
married 20 September 1596               a pilgrim to America
   and of their daughter                       on "The Mayflower"
ELIZABETH                                       in 1620
baptized 30 August 1607                                             
wife of                                             
JOHN HOWLAND                                    Erected in 2007 by
all pilgrims to America                                 The Pilgrim
on "The Mayflower"                                 Henry Samson
in 1620                                                   Kindred
Erected in 1989 by the                                           
Pilgrim John Howland Society                                                  
Tea and cakes for everyone!

Exploring the churchyard in Henlow

St. Mary's, Henlow website

Pilgrim Henry Sampson Kindred: 

My own TILLEY lineage: 

Part 1 of this series "Babworth, Nottinghamshire":

Part 2 of this series "Scrooby Manor"   

Part 3 of this series "Gainsborough, Lincolnshire"

Part 4 of this series "Harwich, Essex, home of the Mayflower"

Part 5 this series "Stephen Hopkins of Upper Clatford, Hampshire"   

Part 6 of this series "William Mullins of Dorking, Surrey"  

Part 7 of this series "Edward Winslow of Droitwich, Worcestershire"    

Part 8 of this series "The Fullers of Reddenhall, Norfolk"   

Part 9 of this series "The Howlands of Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire"    


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Along the Pilgrim Trail ~ The Tilley and Samson Families of Henlow, Bedfordshire, England", Nutfield Genealogy, posted November 6, 2017, ( accessed [access date]).


  1. If anyone wants me to arrange a family history tour in the UK, I'm your man. Check out my website: for tailored tours and family history research trips.

  2. What a wonderful experience Heather. I’m still hoping to find that Mayflower connection in my family.