Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Holland, a leaky ship, and a Seagull

King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife so he could have a new wife that would give him sons to carry on the family name. The Pope wouldn’t go for it and told the King he couldn’t have a divorce. Well, King Henry says “I am the King and if you won’t give me what I want, I’ll just start my own church. So there.”   
So it was that in 1534 the Anglican Church of England was created by breaking away from the Catholic Church. King Henry was excommunicated from the Holy Catholic Church but he got a new title – “The Supreme Head of the Church of England” – and a new wife. Of course that didn’t fix his initial problem but that’s another story that you can read about here: King Henry VIII
The point is that the church was changing, especially after the Reformation and the Bible being translated into the common language. Before the Bible was only printed in Latin and most common folk could not read their own language much less Latin.
Once people started reading and interpreting the Bible for themselves, many people took issue with the established church and some wanted to purify the church (Puritans) and reform the church from within. Others wanted to separate from the church altogether (Seperatists) and start their own church.
The only problem was that The Church of England was the official church of the state and everyone was required to attend church once a week and pay taxes to support the church. If you didn’t go to church or were vocal about disagreeing with the church you became an enemy of the state. You could be in line for all kinds for persecution including jail or even death.
After living under this persecution for several years a few groups did actually leave their homes for the relative safety of Holland. They were free to worship as they saw fit in Holland which was friendly to all strips of the Christian faith including Catholics.
This is how our English ancestors found themselves in Holland in the early 1600’s. But this was not an ideal situation for them. It has hard to find jobs in the overcrowded cities, there was a language barrier and they saw their children becoming more Dutch than English in language and habit. Their culture and faith was being diluted and they saw it slowly slipping away.
The truce between Spain and Holland was growing thin and war looked inevitable. It was at this point in history that the Seperatists' church in (Leiden) Leyden, Holland decided it was time to consider moving to the new world to start over again.
The Pilgrams , as they came to be known, sold their possessions and secured investors for the trip to New England. They purchased the “small sailing ship, Speedwell” and on July 22, 1620, they sailed to Southampton, England to meet up with other pilgrims who were waiting for them on the sister ship, “Mayflower”.
The two ships set out from England on August 15th but it quickly became apparent that the “Speedwell” was leaking. The ships returned to port where it was determined that the leaky ship would require much time and money to repair.
After weeks of delay and frustration the two ships set out again only to find that the “Speedwell” was leaking again and they returned to Plymouth. It was decided that the “Speedwell” was not seaworthy and different arrangements had to be made.
It was agreed the strongest would continue the journey and so passengers, supplies and cargo was transferred to the “Mayflower”. The remaining members would stay behind and follow later.  And so it was that these pilgrams, in a cramped and overcrowded “Mayflower” would sail on alone and become the first colony in the New England area.
I read somewhere that it was later found that the crew had sabotaged the ship because they did not want to serve the 1-year contract that they had signed.
It is known that there were three pregnant women on that initial voyage to the New World and that one of those babies was named “Oceanus”, being born at sea.
Some years later the good ship “Speedwell” was sailing again for the colonies (presumably, after fixing that pesky leaking problem), except on this journey in 1635, my ancestor, Thomas Bruce Green was aboard. During this voyage a son was born to John (b. 1575 Bobbng, Kent, England) and Martha Malone (b.1600, Netherlands).
Their son was named Thomas after a long line of men of the same name, but then and forever after carried the nickname, “The Seagull”. Thomas Seagull Green married Martha Elizabeth Filmer 1680 in Charles City, Virginia. They lived and raised a family in Amelia, Virginia and were my 9th Great Grandparents.


  1. Great information on Thomas "the Seagull". He was my great (10 generations) grandfather.


    Roy Mitchell

  2. Thank you for your blog post. Very well written. Thomas "Seagull" Green was my 8th great grandfather. My mother and I are writing a history of our own family which is being distributed a few pages at a time to branches of our family. I would like to use a paragraph or two from your account on this page featuring Thomas "Seagull". I will of course give thanks and credit to you and your blog when I write the account for our family. -Katy Wolfe Mayeaux from Shreveport, Louisiana

  3. Thank you for this story Thomas was my great (10 generations) grandfather, too.

  4. Thank you for this story Thomas was my great (10 generations) grandfather, too.

  5. My 8th GG, as my grandfather was 48 when my mother was born. :) Thanks!

  6. Thomas was my 8th Great Grandfather. Just found out by resent research. My GG added an e to the end of our name in the late 1800s. William Greene Salisbury NC