Thomas Blossom

Thomas Blossom

Male 1580 - Bef 1633  (< 53 years)


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The Speedwell and Thomas Blossom's immigration to Plymouth Colony

The various problems with the Speedwell (originally a companion to the Mayflower), its failure to make the voyage, and the grim consequences. Thomas Blossom was apparently a major player in the purchase and management of the Speedwell.
- By Robin Richmond, with sources

Thomas Blossom (1580 Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire, England - 1633 Plymouth Colony)
& Ann Heldsen (Abt 1590 England - ?? Plymouth Colony)

The Speedwell and Their Difficult Emmigration to America

Robin Richmond, May 2018

It was a long, difficult journey from Cambridge, England to America for Pilgrim Thomas Blossom and his wife Ann, who were married in St. Clement Church in Cambridge on Nov 10, 1605. They were members of a Puritan congregation that was organized by William Brewster, and that met in his manor home in Scroovy, Nottinhamshire. Rev. John Robinson was the pastor of Brewster's congregation. His Puritan congregation was Puritan, and thus more stern and conservative than mainstream members of the Church of England.

Rev. Robinson's flock (along with at least a couple of other congregations within a few miles) went a step further than most Puritans, and formally rejected the authority of the Church of England. As a result, they were considered heretical, and subject to imprisonment. So, starting in 1607, about 100 congregants began a pilgrimage to the New World (hence the name "Pilgrims") moving in waves to Amsterdam and then Leiden, Holland.

In Leiden, Rev. Robinson's congregation met in the lovely gothic church building known as Peterskirk (which I visited in 2018), and began the process of raising enough money to acquire ships that would carry them to the New World. Thomas Blossom evidently chaired a group that purchased a 60-foot "full rigged pinnace" which they renamed Speedwell (Wikipedia), and outfitted it for a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

In July of 1620, Thomas boarded the Speedwell with a young son, leaving his wife and at least two children, including their infant daughter Elizabeth, 0to make the voyage later. The Speedwell sailed to Southampton, England to join the larger Mayflower for the voyage to America. The Mayflower had been hired in London by other separatist Pilgrims and by merchants who hoped to profit from a settlement in the New World.

However, the Speedwell was leaking, and required repairs before they embarked on the long voyage. The two ships left Southampton on August 5, but had to put in at Dartmouth for additional repairs to the Speedwell. Some of the passengers had to sell foodstores and belongings to pay for the repairs. They set sail again on August 20, and were 300 miles out to sea when they realized that the Speedwell would not be able to make the voyage.

Both ships returned to England, where many of the Speedwell's passengers were squeezed onto the Mayflower. At least 20 of the Pilgrims, including Thomas Blossom and his son, had to stay behind. The Speedwell was then sold, and Thomas returned to his family in Leiden.

Though it has been ignored in most recountings of the voyage of the Mayflower and the settling of Plymouth, the un-seaworthiness of the Speedwell was the fundamental cause of the deprivations of the Pilgrims' first winter in the New World, as it caused their late summer arrival and the shortage of supplies. The settlers and crewmen had to spend much of that first winter aboard the crowded ship, and over half of them died.

Some Pilgrims sailed to New England on the Fortune a year later, and the Ann and Little James in 1623, but the Blossom family (and Rev Robinson) stayed in Leiden. Rev Robinson died in 1625, as did the son of Thomas Blossom who had been on the Speedwell in 1620.

The Blossoms finally sailed to Plymouth in 1629 on a second Mayflower, in a fleet of six ships that brought the size of Plymouth Colony to about 300. Thomas was (or some say was not) named a Deacon in the Plymouth Church, which he attended for less than 4 years. He died in Plymouth during a flu epidemic in the summer of 1633. Later that year, Ann married Henry Rowley, a planter. (I guess that "planter" just meant a prosperous farmer.) The Rowleys joined the congregation with which Thomas Blossom had been associated, and they moved with its new pastor, Rev John Lothrop, to Scituate (just north of Plymouth), and then to Barnstable (to the south, on Cape Cod).

Thomas and Ann Blossom's daughter, Elizabeth Blossom, married Edward FitzRandolph, who arrived in New England in 1630 in the great "Winthrop Fleet". Edward was a Quaker, not a Puritan. He and Elizabeth migrated to Piscataway, New Jersey in 1669 to escape harassment by the Puritans. In the 1740's, their grandson Nathaniel FitzRandolph raised funds to establish the first college in New Jersey and donated land in the town of Princeton to house the new college, which became Princeton University.

Quoting From The American Genealogist, Vol 42 p 196,197 (available through The New England Historical and Genealogical Society)

"...The Speedwell, the leaky little ship which started to accompany the Mayflower in 1620, but which was forced to turn back to Plymouth in England because of its un-seaworthy condition. Many of the Speedwell's passengers were transferred to the Mayflower, while others, including Robert Cushman and Thomas Blossom, decided to return to Leyden and await a later opportunity to migrate to the New World.

"Blossom and his family were in Leiden by 1609 as members of Mr. John Robinson's congregation; he was a passenger on the Speedwell in 1620; returned to Leyden after the failure of that ship, and came to New England on the second Mayflower in 1629"

Thomas Blossom clearly had a leadership role in his congregation in Leiden, and is often identified as "Deacon Thomas Blossom" or "Elder Thomas Blossom". But the in "The Great Migration Begins...", Robert Anderson argues that he was probably not named a deacon or elder in the New England congregation that he attended for no more than four years.


  1. Thomas Blossom, from the Little Shelford History website, (undated). Retrieved 5 Aug 2018. (Contains an extensive bibliography)
  2. The American Genealogist, Vol 42 p 196,197
  3. Thomas Blossom, from Miner Descent,, Retrieved 5 Aug 2018.
  4. Church documents Obama-Mayflower link", by Steve Haycox, in the Anchorage Daily News, 22 Mar 2012; Updated 29 Sep 2016; Retrieved 5 Aug 2018.
  5. Not Coming Over on the Mayflower by Gerard H Cox on his "Hits and Misses" blog, May 20, 2016. Retrieved 5 Aug 2018.
  6. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, Vol 1, by Robert Charles Anderson, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, 1995. (Google books online)
  7. The May-flower and Her Log, July 15, 1620-May 6, 1621 ( by Azel Ames, Houghton Mifflin, The Riverside Press, Boston, 1901. (Google books online)
  8. "Early Scituate Families on the Situate Historical Society website
  9. The Pilgrims: The First Winter, a short video, with transcript, adapted from the PBS film AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Pilgrims, 2015.
© 2018, Robin Richmond, Cleveland, Ohio (conditions)

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