Saturday, 5 September 2015

Edward Winslow (1560- c1620) (Week 36) Theme: "Working for a Living"

The suggested theme this week is "Working for a Living". Among my ancestors I can count many preachers, teachers, a glass maker, a tanner or two, a cooper, merchants, carpenters, millers, weavers, fishermen and an abundance of farmers. But there was just one who made a living as a salt extractor. That man was my 9th great grandfather Edward Winslow, father to 5 Winslow men who were early Plymouth Colony settlers. Among them was not one, but two, of my 8th great grandfathers: Kenelm Winslow and John Winslow.

Winslow Family Home in England, "Kerswell"
Photo 1999
Edward Winslow was born 17 October 1560 at Droitwich, Worcestershire, England. In his early 20's he married his first wife Eleanor Pelham and by her had two children, a son Richard and daughter Margaret. After Eleanor died, he married his second wife, Magdalene Ollyver at St. Bride's Church in London, England on 4 November 1594.

Second entry for November 1594 for St Bride's Church is for Edward and Magdalene
From London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812
St. Bride's Church at the time of their marriage was an earlier version of today's wedding-cake spired landmark that was designed by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. The medieval version was much simpler as can be seen from this segment of a copperplate map prepared just a few years before Edward and Magdalene's marriage there.

Copperplate map of London surveyed between 1553 and 1559
Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Edward and Magdalene would go on to have a large family:
  1. Edward (passenger on the Mayflower 1620) 
  2. John (passenger on the Fortune 1621, my 8th great grandfather, married Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton)
  3. Eleanor
  4. Kenelm (also my 8th great grandfather, in Plymouth Colony by 1630 where he married Ellen Newton who had arrived on the Anne 1621)
  5. Gilbert (passenger on the Mayflower 1620 but returned to England)
  6. Elizabeth
  7. Magdalene
  8. Josiah (another early Plymouth settler by 1631)
Droitwich, England, has natural brine springs about ten times saltier than sea water. Archaeological evidence indicates that this natural feature has probably been exploited by humans since at least the Iron Age. Certainly the Romans took advantage of it to pay their soldiers in salt during their 400 year occupation of the area. The Domesday Book indicates the high value afforded to Droitwich because of this feature and records 1000 tons of salt a year being produced here.

By the late 1500's Edward Winslow was one of the men who extracted and sold the famous Droitwich salt. A method of evaporation would have been used to get the salt from the brine and the end product would have been in high demand for preservation of food.  This afforded Edward and Magdalene a comfortable lifestyle for their growing family. The family home was named  "Kerswell" and was a very attractive and comfortable dwelling near the small village of Kempsey, not far from Droitwich. It has continued to be inhabited as a beautiful home into the current century. Although the homeowners no doubt tire of Winslow descendants from North America returning "home" expecting to find a museum or other public place, this is definitely a private residence. It was suggested by them that at some point some of these descendants could consider purchasing the home with that in mind. However, with special prior arrangements having been made by my husband as a surprise for me, the owners very graciously allowed us inside on our visit in 2004 - a special treat indeed!

The author inside Kerswell 2004 - touching the beams that Edward touched
Photo courtesy Graham Barnard
In addition to his salt business, Edward also served as under-sheriff of Worcestershire.

No records have been found for the date of Edward's death, but it is thought to be around 1620. Edward's eldest son Richard from his first marriage was undoubtedly the son who inherited all the father's assets under English primogeniture.

Edward's other sons had all started to make lives of their own. Several seemed to be caught up in varying degrees of Puritan zeal. Son Edward, in particular, was active in illicit printing of Protestant Separatist religious tracts and went to Leiden, Holland, as part of the group that went there seeking religious freedom. He and brother Gilbert joined that group when it headed to America on the Mayflower.  Edward became one of Plymouth's leading men, acting as the colony's Governor for a period of time. He often represented the Colony in its dealings with England and returned to England to serve with Oliver Cromwell. He died of yellow fever near Jamaica in 1654 while acting as commissioner of a British naval mission against the Spanish.

1650 Portrait of Edward Winslow, son of the Edward of this Story
Wikimedia Commons
As for the other sons of Edward and Magdalene, Gilbert soon returned to England after coming on the Mayflower. John (my 8th great grandfather) arrived in Plymouth aboard the Fortune in 1621, the second ship to deliver settlers to Plymouth Colony. He married Mary Chilton who had arrived on the Mayflower. John was a wealthy merchant and shipowner. Josiah and Kenelm (the latter being another of my 8th great grandfathers) are known to have arrived in Plymouth before 1630, but no definitive ship's name has been attached to their travels.

Did some of Edward Winslow's Droitwich salt make its way to America aboard the Mayflower or the Fortune with his sons? Although there is no record of this, it would stand to reason that such a necessary commodity might well indeed have been included in the cargo.


  • Wikipedia article about Edward Winslow (the son) accessed 25 August 2015
  • BBC, "The History of Salt Production at Droitwich Spa" accessed 24 August 2015 at
  • Wikipedia article about John Winslow accessed 1 September 2015
  • Willison, "Saints and Strangers" 1945, pages 450-451
  • Colket, Meredith B, "Founders and Patriots - Founders of Early American Families (Emigrants from Europe 1607 - 1657)", 1975
  • Stratton, "Plymouth Colony: Its History and People 1620 - 1691", page 376

1 comment:

  1. My husband is the great grandson of LoisEleanor Winslow Callender of Astabula,Ohio who is the dau of West Winslow. Great stories on family to follow. He knew little of his family beyond his grandparents. He died in 2005, and would be so flabbergasted. He also has two sets of Kellogg grandparents and I have four,making us cousins. My Dad's mother is a Rockefeller and several Kelloggs in our tree. This article is great and being able to see pictures where they lived is so nice.