The Mayflower came to America in 1620 with 104 passengers. Only 50 of these have proven descendants, representing only 24 family names. Despite a great deal of effort over many years, little was learned of the European roots for these 24 families. That situation changed in 1976, when Robert Leigh Ward published a series of articles which developed the ancestry of Mayflower passenger Henry Sampson. The first of the series was "The English Ancestry of Seven Mayflower Passengers: Tilley, Sampson and Cooper" in The American Genealogist (TAG), Vol. 52, pp. 198-209. In this article, Ward detailed his discovery of the English origins of this family group, showing that Henry was from the parish of Henlow, Bedfordshire. In TAG 56:141-143, " Henry Sampson's Paternal Grandfather," Ward expanded on his earlier work, filling in other members of the Sampson generations before Henry Sampson. Finally, in 1985, he published "The Baronial Ancestry of Henry Sampson, Humility Cooper, and Ann (Cooper) Tilley" in The Genealogist, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 166-186. In the latter paper, Ward traced Henry Sampson's maternal ancestry through the Cooper, Page, and Greene families to the Latimers of Duntish, Dorset. Edith Latimer, daughter of Sir Nicholas Latimer of Duntish then served as a sort of "gateway" ancestor which led back to William I's reign (1066-1087) in several lines.


No connection to royalty is yet fully proven in Henry Sampson's ancestry. However, his lines include that of Alfred of Lincoln, who we now know married a daughter of William Malet (c1030-1071) and his wife Hesilia Crispin (c1025-1072). Hesilia is believed to have been a daughter of Gilbert Crispin, Baron of Bec, Normandy, and his wife Gunnora of Ainou. Both parents have possible royal connections, but these are still not generally accepted.


Henry Sampson was the son of James and Martha (Cooper) Sampson of Henlow, Bedfordshire. He was only 16 when he sailed on the Mayflower, accompanying his aunt Ann (or Agnes) (Cooper) Tilley and her husband Edward Tilley of Henlow. Others in this Henlow group were Edward’s brother John Tilley, John’s wife Joan (Hurst) (Rogers) Tilley, and their daughter Elizabeth, age 13. Joan was the widow of Thomas Rogers and left a married daughter by her first marriage back in Bedfordshire. The seventh person in this family group was Humility Cooper, only about a year old. Humility was born in Leyden, daughter of Ann’s youngest brother Robert Cooper and his wife Joan (Gresham) Cooper. Current belief is that she had been orphaned in Holland and that her aunt assumed responsibility for her.


It is not clear why Henry came on the voyage. The rest of his family stayed in Henlow. Henry was the oldest son of the 10 (perhaps 11) children of James and Martha Sampson. At least three of these had died by 1620. At least three others lived to adulthood and spent their lives at Henlow, where they are buried. Henry’s parents both survived many years after the Mayflower sailed, and also are buried at Henlow. Perhaps Henry went along as an adventure. Alternatively, he could have been a servant to the Tilleys; it would not have been unusual to have a relative come along to help with the settlement process.


It also is not clear who in the Tilley group were the Separatists (Pilgrims). Edward Tilley and wife Ann are known to have been in Leyden in 1616, and they may have been members of the Separatist group there. For many years, John Tilley was thought to also have been a long-time resident of Leyden, but that has now been disproved. He was in Henlow in 1607, and possibly later. It is known that Robert Cooper and his wife Joan were members of the Separatist group in Leyden.


Of this group of seven in the Mayflower Tilley party, only the three children survived the first winter at Plymouth. Humility Cooper later returned to England after being “sent for,” as Governor Bradford expressed it in his 1651 account of the Mayflower passengers. She was baptized as an adult in 1639, but was dead when Bradford wrote.


James Sampson (then also spelled Samson) was baptized June 20, 1574, in Campton, Bedfordshire, a few miles from Henlow. The baptism record shows him only as the son of John Sampson, with no mention of his mother’s name.


The parents of Ann and Martha Cooper were Edmund Cooper, Gentleman, and his wife Mary Wyne, whose marriage of August 14, 1564 is recorded in the adjoining parish of Arlesey, Bedfordshire. Edmund’s parents were Michael Cooper, baptized at Arlesey December 1, 1542, and Elizabeth Page, also of Arlesey.


Over time, I hope to assemble some information on Henry Sampson's English ancestry on these pages, based on available records.












Robert Forrest (

Whidbey Island, Washington
January, 2006