Although much has been written about the Mayflower's passengers
and crew, little is actually known about the origins of William
White and his wife Susanna. Modern research methods
and the discovery of correspondence between Edward Winslow and
Robert Jackson in 1623 have disproved the old theory that
Susanna's maiden name was Fuller. Her true maiden name
Although it is not clear exactly where the White
family--William, Susanna, son Resolved
and two servants--boarded the Mayflower, William Bradford later
described White as a London merchant.
The Mayflower was a Dutch cargo fluyt which usually transported wine and dry goods. However, in September 1620, it set out to cross the North Atlantic with 102 passengers plus anywhere from 30 to 50 crew members. An account of the voyage describes the cramped conditions aboard ship.
stormy crossing which lasted more than two months, the Mayflower
reached the New World--but far north of its intended
destination, the Jamestown Colony in Virginia.
When winter winds prevented the ship from sailing south, the
Mayflower passengers decided to found their own colony and drew
up a governing agreement which became known as the Mayflower
Compact. Forty-one adult men signed the Compact on
November 11, 1620, William White among them.
The Pilgrims were able to build only one structure on shore before winter settled over the land. The passengers were thus forced to spend the next several months aboard the Mayflower. In late November 1620 (the actual date is not known but is thought to be November 20th), Susanna White gave birth to a son whom she and William named Peregrine.
Roughly half of the company succumbed to illness during that
first winter in New England. William White is known to
have died on February 21, 1621. He was most likely buried
in an unmarked grave on Cole's Hill in Plymouth, as were most of
the Mayflower passengers who died that winter. His name
appears on the Pilgrim
Memorial Sarcophagus that was erected in 1920-1921.
On 12 May 1621, Susanna White, left a widow with two small sons, married Edward Winslow, whose wife Elizabeth had likewise died. Edward Winslow eventually became a prominent member of the Plymouth Colony, being elected governor three times. He and Susanna had five more children together, although only two lived to adulthood. Susanna was known to have been living in 1654, when Winslow went back to England, but the exact date of her death is unknown. Her grave is in the Winslow Cemetery in Marshfield, Massachusetts.
© Copyright 2015, The Pilgrim William White Society. Last revised 11 August 2015.