I never intended to become a writer, let alone a recognized Mayflower Pilgrim researcher. It all came about after my marriage broke down. As an increasingly arthritic housewife living in rural Lincolnshire with my two youngest sons, one of whom is autistic, I desperately needed some sort of outlet. However, already in my late forties, I had the overwhelming feeling that life had already passed me by, and that this was it - things were unlikely to get much better.
As the daughter of a fireman, my early life began on a council estate in South London. I loved school and learning, but my education reluctantly ended at fifteen when, despite my art teacher’s aspirations for me to go on to study at art college, I was herded out to work by my divorced mother and into a mind-numbing job as a bank junior.
Eighteen months later, I had left home to make my own way in the world and embarked upon a new career, and an extended course of distance learning in retail management. It was a happy time in my life, but a career I had to give up in my late twenties when I married and began my own family.
Having moved to Lincolnshire, I soon became fascinated by Gainsborough Old Hall and its connection to the story of the Mayflower. It was a fascination that would save my sanity and give me a new purpose in life when I became a lone mother and facing difficult times. It was then that I had the notion to write a novel, primarily for my own amusement, set around Gainsborough Old Hall and a maidservant who, after many adventures, ends up as a passenger on the Mayflower. Against all odds, my novel The Mayflower Maid was published in July 2005, just a few weeks after my fiftieth birthday. The following December, The Mayflower Maid was voted among the Best Reads of 2005 by listeners of BBC Radio 4’s Open Book.
My new career as a published author had begun and I was suddenly embarking on an exciting new life!
Although more novels followed on unrelated subjects, I could not shake off my deep fascination with the story of the Mayflower and her passengers. As my knowledge grew, I began going out and about as a speaker sharing my new found interest with local history societies, history groups and U3A’s. I also started my own little business giving tours of my local Pilgrim sites of Scrooby, Austerfield, Babworth and, of course, Gainsborough Old Hall, to both American tourists and home grown visitors.
In my role as a Pilgrim guide, I was approached by American Kirk Cameron to show him and his film crew around the local sites, and ended up camera-side in his Pilgrim-related film Monumental. After appearing in Monumental, I soon became head-hunted to make appearances in other Pilgrim-related films and documentaries.
However, the more I had learned about the subject of the Pilgrims, the more I had begun to realize that there were yawning gaps in our knowledge about the background and genealogical roots of individual Mayflower passengers, especially the women. This is where the next unexpected twist and turn to my life came about. Again, quite unexpectedly, I was drawn towards trying my hand at doing my own serious research into the Mayflower Pilgrims and was surprised to find that I was not bad at it.
Since 2016, it has been my profound privilege to be working alongside American Mayflower historian, Caleb Johnson and our shared document wizard, Simon Neal. I had occasion to tour both Caleb and Simon around my local Pilgrim haunts a couple of years before and so, when I first realized that I had almost certainly unearthed the genealogical roots of Mayflower Pilgrim William White, I turned to Caleb to help me to expand upon that research in order to meet the very strict standards of verification needed to formally publish. This we did in The American Genealogist in April 2017, and following up that October with the discovery of the previously unknown genealogical roots of our second Mayflower Pilgrim, Susanna (Jackson) White Winslow. Since that time, we have continued our joint research with the discovery of the roots of Pilgrims Elizabeth (Barker) Winslow, Isaac Allerton, John Carver, and a substantial expansion of our knowledge regarding the family background of Dorothy (May) Bradford. This later research was published in the New England Genealogical Society Register.
I have also followed up on this research with the publication of my own series of In Search of... books, available both in the UK from Domtom Publishing and in the USA from NEHGS Online Bookstore.
Our research continues...
The Mayflower Maid is available for shipping world-wide from www.domtom.co.uk.