Dunham #5124

John Dunham (1589-1669)

Born in England (probably Bedfordshire).  Arrived in Massachusetts about 1630 and

Susan Keno (1586-1621)

Born in England.  Died at Leyden, Netherlands.

Dunham 5124

Map of Plymouth Colony showing town locations

John Dunham was born about 1589 in England, and died in Plymouth, Massachusetts on 2 Mar 1669 at 80 years of age.  He was a Leyden Separatist (those who in later times came to be known as the “Pilgrims”) who came to Plymouth between 1628-1632.  John Dunham was married first in Clophill, Bedfordshire, England on 17 Aug 1612 to Susan Keno, who died in Holland.  He married second in Leyden on 22 Oct 1622, Abigail Barlow (Balliou), daughter of Thomas Balliou.  Early publications contain much erroneous information on the ancestry and immigration details of John Dunham.


The Mayflower hoax and the mysterious “John Goodman”

The name of John Dunham does not appear on any passenger lists of the Mayflower, but this did not prevent one imaginative family historian to make the claim based on speculation concerning a “John Goodman”, who appears on the lists of known Mayflower passengers (he was a signer of the Mayflower Compact), and who is known to have died in the first year at Plymouth.  Did John Dunham arrive on the Mayflower, as speculated by Isaac Watson Dunham in his family genealogy[1] published in 1907?  The short answer is – almost certainly not.

The accounts of Mr. Goodman’s death in Plymouth during the first winter seem to be at odds with land records in subsequent years that show that he was given land adjacent to Elder William Brewster[2].  To explain this apparent discrepancy, Isaac Watson Dunham advanced the theory that John Dunham traveled on the Mayflower under the alias John Goodman to protect the reputation of his family[3] in England, who disagreed with his Puritan beliefs and were ardent supporters of the Church of England.  However, research since 1907 has definitively put to rest the theory that John Dunham arrived on the Mayflower.  From the book The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers by Charles Edward Banks (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1962) comes the following: “John Goodman came from Leyden and died without issue in the first winter.  The statement which appears in the Dunham Genealogy that this was a name assumed by Deacon John Dunham, a later emigrant, as a mask to hide his identity, is an absurd suggestion without the slightest documentary evidence.  In fact, it is completely disproved by the Leyden records.”  I am not aware of what alternative explanation there may be for the posthumous land records of John Goodman.


What is Known of John Dunham

The following are the facts of John Dunham’s life as we know them:

He was from Clophill, Bedfordshire, England or nearby Hertfordshire.  No record of the baptism on John Dunham of Clophill has been found.  The International Genealogical Index reveals Dunham, Donham, and Downham entries in the parish registers of nearby Bedfordshire parishes, and just across the border in Hertfordshire.  He is likely a son of Richard Dunham of Langford, Bedfordshire, England[4].  The probate record of Richard Dunham, the elder, poulter of Langford, some seven miles from Clophill, provides significant support for the conclusion that this is the correct family and that Richard Dunham was John Dunham‘s father.  In his will, dated 5 October 1624, Richard Dunham left his body to be buryed in such a place as my Executores shall think convenient.  He mentioned son William, son William’s son Richard, son John (my best shirte and Twenty shillings in mony to be payd him at his retorne), daughter Anne and her son Richard; daughter Elisabeth; residue to son Richard, who was to be executor. Father Dunham, an old man was buried at Langford on 19 Nov 1624, the only entry for that surname in the published parish register.  The shirt and money to be paid to John Dunham at his retorne shows that the testator’s son was away from home; the phrase probably means no more than that John would receive his legacy if he were to return, not that he was expected to do so.  At the time, John was in Leyden.

He was most likely not born in in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England, as stated in I.W. Dunham’s Genealogy.

John Dunham was married (1st) in Clophill, Bedfordshire, England on 17 Aug 1612 to Susan Keno, who died in Holland.  He married (2nd) in Leyden on 22 Oct 1622, Abigail Barlow (Balliou), daughter of Thomas Balliou.

He is not known to be a descendant of royal ancestors[5].

Susan, daughter of “Thomas Cainehoe“, was baptized in Clophill on 12 Dec 1586, and this appears to be the baptism of John Dunham‘s first wife. Thomas Caynehoe (Kaino, Keno, Keynoe) was buried at Clophill on 15 Apr 1612, and an administration for the estate of Thomas Keynoe of Clophill was granted on 7 May 1612 to his widow Joanne; his inventory totaled £9 10s 8p.  Joanne is apparently the widow Joan Keno buried at Clophill on 7 Feb 1630.  One could speculate that John‘s son Thomas Dunham might have been named for Susan’s father Thomas Caynehoe.

The front of the Saint Peter Church (Pieterskerk) in Leiden in the Netherlands. This is also known as “Pilgrim Fathers’ Church”.

He was one of the religious refugees (later known as “The Pilgrims”, although that name was not used until about 200 years later) who fled from England to Holland in 1608[6] to avoid persecution from King James I.  He lived as a member of this community for many years, but remained in Leyden, Netherlands after some of their community left for Virgina[7] on the Mayflower and the Speedwell in 1620.  Possibly the reason John Dunham was not a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620 was the illness or death of his wife, Susan.  It would make no sense for a single father to take small children on a dangerous ocean voyage to then face the hardships of the American wilderness.  John‘s second marriage to Abigail Balliou occurred 22 Oct 1622 in Leyden, two years after the departure of the Mayflower.  Abigail was a witness to the marriage of her sister Anne to Nathaniel Walker in Leyden on 15 Jun 1624.

He came to Plymouth between 1628 and 1631 with Abigail, his second wife.  We do not know which ship he arrived on.  After the Mayflower of 1620, more Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621, the Anne and the Little James in 1623 and on a different Mayflower in 1629.   The fact that he did not share in the division of cattle in Plymouth Colony in 1627 is evidence that as of that date he had not yet joined the colony.  He received a grant of land to pasture his cattle in 1632.  The latest date of his arrival is probably 1630, when the Hand Maiden dropped anchor at Plymouth with 60 on board.  This was the last of the “Pilgrim” ships to land at Plymouth, although a few more brethren strayed in from time to time as independent travelers.  After this, organized efforts to colonize Plymouth came to an end due to lack of funding.  Emphasis shifted to the well-financed Puritan migration farther up the coast at Massachusetts Bay (Boston).

In 1633, John was chosen a deacon of the Church of Plymouth under Elder William Brewster.  He is frequently referred to as Deacon John Dunham.

In 1638 a representative system was first adopted among the Pilgrims in place of “the mass meeting government” as heretofore.  John Dunham was one of the four deputies elected to represent the Plymouth settlement.  For each successive council during the next twenty years, he was chosen to this responsible duty in the Legislative Assembly.

He was a weaver by trade. He had land for grazing cattle and sheep. The inventory recorded at his death included a loom and weaving equipment was listed, as well as cotton, sheep wool and linen yarn.  He was granted land on several occasions by the town of Plymouth for the grazing of sheep.  He was deputy from Plymouth for many years and served on law making committees. This indicates that he was a least moderately educated. Although he signed documents with a mark, books (all of a religious nature) were listed in his inventory after he died.

Some interesting details are preserved in the town records of Plymouth, Massachusetts:

  • 1633.  He is included on the list of freemen in Plymouth (meaning that he was a church member in good standing).
  • 1636.  He was granted land: … for the sheepe the watering place & the skirt of upland at Goose Point & about the first & second brooke.
  • 1636-1659.  Served on numerous juries and inquests considering a variety of civil and criminal matters.  For example:
    • 5 Jun 1638.  At a Grand Enquest, he was on the jury.  At this trial Web Adey was found guilty of working on the Sabbath and sentenced to sit in the stocks.  John Stockbridge was fined for making disgraceful speeches in contempt of the government.  William Renolds was fined for drunkenness.
    • 7 Jun 1636.  He served on a jury that found Helin Bellington guilty of slander and determined that she should be whipped in the stocks.  Stephen Hopkins found guilty of battery of John Tisdale and was fined.
    • 4 Oct 1648.  He was on a coroners jury for the execution of Allice Bishope, who was found guilty of killing her daughter Martha.  She was true hanged.
    • 2 Mar 1658.  He was a jury member for a court with many interesting cases.  Arthur Howland[8] was fined for holding Quaker meetings in his house.  John Barnes was fined for drunkenness.  Zoe Howland[9] was sentenced to sit in the stocks for an hour for speaking opprobriously of the ministers of Gods word. Captain James Cudworth was discharged for being a Quaker.
    • 1 Jun 1658.  Appointed by the court to set range between Nathaniel Warren and Robert Bartlett on the lands on which they live.
    • 2 Aug 1659.  Appointed to settle controversy on boundary of land between Thomas Pope and William Shirtlife.  John Howland[10] and Francis Cooke were also on this committee.
  • 1639.  …the townsmen of Plymouth mett, & according to the order & act of the Court, elected foure comittees to bee added to the Gor & Counsell to make lawes, & c’, vizt, Mr John Done, Manasseth Kempton, John Dhname, & John Cooke, Jun (this is when he was first made deputy).
  • 4 Jan 1642.  He was appointed, with William Paddy, Mr, Atwood, Nathan Souther, Mr. John Jenney, Thomas Willett, John Barnes and Josuah Pratt to survey the land so that paths into the woods can be constructed for cattle and other purposes.
  • 27 Sep 1642.  He represented Plymouth as Deputy at a council that discussed the war with the Indians.  He continued to serve as a Deputy through 1664.

At his death in 1668-69 it was publicly stated on the town records that John Dunham was an approved servant of God, and a useful man in his place.   In the rather lengthy entry he is also referred to as a deacon of the church of Christ att Plymouth.  The statement was much longer than the statements that usually accompanied the lists of deaths in this book, suggesting that he was in some way more significant than average.  He made his last will 25 Jan 1669, which was witnessed by two staunch Pilgrims, John Cotton[11] and Thomas Cushman[12].  His death is recorded in the spring of the same year.  His wife, Abigail, was appointed to administer his estate, an inventory of which was made by Thomas Southworth.  Of his children, seven sons and three daughters survived him, all of whom lived to mature years and became founders of large families. Of this large family, all of the children settled at first in the New England colonies, except Benajah, who removed to New Jersey about 1671.

Children of John Dunham and Susan Keno (1st wife):

  1. John Dunham (Jr.), see below.
  2. Humility, born about 1617 probably at Leyden, Netherlands; living at Leyden in 1622; no further record.
  3. Thomas, born about 1619 in Leyden and died by 1677.  He apparently never married.

Children of John Dunham and Abigail Barlow (2nd wife):

  1. Samuel, born about 1623 in Leyden and died in Plymouth, Massachusetts on 20 Jan 1711/12 in his 89 years of age.  On 29 Jun 1649 he married in Plymouth Martha (Beals) Falloway, daughter of John Beals and widow of William Falloway.
  2. Jonathan[13], born about 1625 in Leyden.  On 29 Nov 1655 he married (1st) Mary Delano, and on 15 Oct 1657 he married (2nd) Mary Cobb.
  3. Abigail, born about 1627 in Leyden.  On 6 Nov 1644 at Plymouth she married Stephen Wood (or Atwood).
  4. Joseph, born about 1631 probably in Plymouth.  On 18 Nov 1657 at Plymouth he married (1st) Mercy Morton , who died 19 Feb 1666, and on 20 Aug 1669 at Plymouth he married (2nd) Esther Wormall, daughter of Joseph and Miriam Wormall.
  5. Hannah, born about 1634 at Plymouth and died 1 Apr 1708 in her 74th year.  On 31 Oct 1651 at Plymouth she married Giles Rickard.
  6. Persis, born about 1635 at Plymouth.  On 29 Nov 1655 she married (1st) at Plymouth Benajah Pratt, and in August 1683 she married Jonathan Shaw.
  7. Benajah, born about 1637 at Plymouth.  On 25 Oct 1660 he married Elizabeth Tilson.  He died in Piscataway, New Jersey, before 12 Aug 1680.
  8. Daniel, born about 1639.

John Dunham (Jr.) was born about 19 Feb 1614 (date of baptism) in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.  He died 6 Apr 1692 in his 77th year.  Before 1642[14] he married Mary [surname unknown], and they had seven children.  There is no record of his marriage, and there is no indication that he had more than one wife, the Mary named in his will.  Her identity is not known to us[15]Mary died on 20 Mar 1698 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

John Dunham (Jr.) was granted six acres of land by his father, Deacon John Dunham, when John (Jr.) was sixteen years old.  The land of father and son adjoined.  When John (Jr.) was twenty-one years old, he was given a meadow and 20 acres of land northeast of Josiah Cook’s property.  He was admitted a freeman on 7 Mar 1643 and  received grants of land by the General Court.  In 1659, he was permitted by the court to select land for himself.  In 1661, he and four others were allotted land at Sconset.  In 1662, he was granted land by an act of the General Court, to give to the first born of the Early Comers.  He was  probably also the John Dunham on the Able To Bear Arms list of 19 May 1643 in Plymouth.  John Dunham, the father, was still living, but at age about 54 years he may have been excused.

In the will of Deacon John Dunham dated 25 Jan 1668, his father states, As for my son John Dunham whoe is my eldest sonne I have given him his portion alreddy both in land and other things to what I was able and beyond my abilitie.

The children of John Dunham (Jr.) and Mary are listed as follows: Mary Dunham (about 1642-1715), John (about 1647-1696), Jonathan (born 12 Aug 1650 and died 26 Aug 1650; <1 year old),  Samuel (died[16] in Plymouth, Massachusetts on 24 Jan 1687), Susannah (about 1654-1704), Lydia (born 1656-8) and Mercy[17] (born 1660-70 and died 15 Jan 1719).

The will of John Dunham (Jr.) was dated 2 Feb 1691/2 and proved 16 April 1692.  He left most of his property to his wife, Mary.  He also left to my son James Hamlin, one shilling, and to my daughter Mary his wife, one shilling, along with specific bequests to his other children (the largest of which was 30 acres of land to his daughter Lydia and her husband).  There are no land records that show that John Dunham (Jr.) ever lived or owned property in Barnstable, Massachusetts, but there must have been some close association with the people who lived there.   His oldest daughter, Mary, was married on 20 Nov 1662 to James Hamlin (Jr.), and his next daughter, Susanna was married on 20 Jan 1673 to Bartholomew Hamlin.  These marriages were recorded in Barnstable, and both James Hamlin (Jr.) and Bartholomew were sons of James Hamlin (Hamblen), one of the earliest settlers of Barnstable.

The lineage of Mary Dunham and James Hamlin (Jr.) is continued under the heading of James Hamlin (Hamblen) (1606-1690).


[1] Dunham, Isaac Watson. Dunham genealogy. Deacon John Dunham of Plymouth, Massachusetts. 1589-1669, and his Descendants (Norwich, Connecticut, 1907) – not in copyright.  The author died before completing his genealogical work, and his heirs were not careful in assembling his research into a book. There is information and speculation in the book that has no supporting documentation and other errors even concerning the people living at the time the book was compiled.

[2] He is the g-grandfather of the husband (Benjamin Bartlett, 1658-1724) of my 8th g-grand aunt (Ruth Pabodie, 1658-1740). Ruth is the sister of my 8th g-grandmother, Martha Pabodie (1651-1712).

[3] According to the Dunham Genealogy John related to the royalist Zouche family. William Zouche had been appointed to arrest the pilgrim separatists, and Sir Edward Zouche was chairman of the commission engaged in settling New England. It was proposed that Dunham felt the need to continue using the alias until after the death of King James.

[4] Refer to “The English Origin and First marriage of Deacon John Dunham of Plymouth, Massachusetts” by Robert Leigh Ward, published in July 1996 in TAG 71:130-133.

[5] Refer to “The Fraudulent Ancestry of Deacon John Dunham of Plymouth” by Paul C. Reed, published in April 1998 in TAG 73:101-104. This article disproves the purported descent from royal ancestors that was reported in earlier published works.

[6] This does not mean that John was in Holland as early as 1608. He may have joined the community at a later date.

[7] They missed their intended destination and landed unexpected on the coast of Massachusetts.

[8] My 10th g-grandfather, discussed under his won heading.

[9] Zoe Howland (1636-1676) eventually removed to Rhode Island.  He is the son of Arthur Howland’s brother, Henry Howland (1564-1635).  Zoe is also the father-in-law of my 8th g-grand aunt, Rose Allen (1665-1724).  Both Arthur and Henry are brothers of Mayflower passenger John Howland (1602-1673), my 10th g-grand uncle.

[10] Mayflower passenger John Howland (1602-1673) is my 10th g-grand uncle. He is the brother of Arthur Howland (1590-1675), my 10th g-grandfather.

[11]  Rev. John Cotton (1585-1652) is my 11th g-grand uncle. He was a principal figure among the New England Puritan ministers, who also included Thomas Hooker, Increase Mather (who became his son-in-law), John Davenport, and Thomas Shepard and John Norton, who wrote his first biography.  Cotton was the grandfather of Cotton Mather, who was named after him.

[12]  Thomas Cushman is the son of Robert Cushman (1578-1625), who served as the Chief Agent for the Separatist Leiden contingent and that of Plymouth Colony from 1617 until his death in the spring of 1625. Thomas was born in 1608. He died at Plymouth, Massachusetts, 11 Dec 1691. He married Mary, daughter of Isaac Allerton about 1636 in Plymouth. They had eight children. Mary died at Plymouth on 28 Nov 1699, the last of the Mayflower passengers.

[13]  See TAG 36:243-49 for further detail on this man, his wives and children.

[14] Their eldest child was born about 1642.

[15] Some sources indicate a wife for John Dunham named Dorothy.  This is not correct.  New England Marriages Prior to 1700  by Clarence Almon Torrey (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.) 1985, lists John Downham & 1st wife Dorothe –?–, and a child b. 14 March 1643 in Braintree, Massachusetts. This John Downham is a separate family, and in fact John and Dorothy Downham had children recorded in Braintree at the same time that John and Mary Dunham were having children in Plymouth.

[16] He was burned to death in his house. The report of inquest into his death states: We repairing to Winnitusett where his house was, do find his body partly consumed by fire, and having viewed that part of his body which we found we saw no wound about it, but do judge that he was burned to death in his house… Sworn 28 Jan 1688. (13 witnesses are listed).

[17] She was still unmarried when her mother died 20 March 1698/99.  She is probably the “Marsey” Dunham who on  in November 1701 married Joseph King in in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  He was her first cousin once removed, the son of Deacon John’s son Samuel and Sarah3 (Dunham) King, Jr. (Samuel 2, John 1 Dunham).


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