English, England, Genealogy, Mary and John Passengers, 1630, Exeter, Devon, Somerset, Devon, Drchester, Dorset, New England, Bridport, Taunton, Crewkerne, Passenger List, Winthrop, Fleet, West Country, Massachusetts


Sailing of the Mary and John 1630
On 20 March 1630, the ship Mary and John sailed from Plymouth, England with 140 passengers aboard. These families and passengers were recruited by the Reverend John White of Dorchester, Dorset. Nearly all of the Mary and John 1630 passengers came from the West Country counties of:

  • Somerset
  • Dorset
  • Devon

And West Country towns of:

  • Dorchester
  • Bridport
  • Crewkerne
  • Exeter

The Mary and John 1630, landed in what is now know as Dorchester, Massachusetts, on 30 May 1630, two weeks before the Winthrop Fleet arrived. The passengers of the Mary and John 1630 founded one of the first towns in New England, Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630 and also founded the town of Windsor, Connecticut five years later in 1635.

The passengers of the ship, Mary and John 1630 were ambitious pilgrims that made significant accomplishments during the 17 century.

  • Mary and John Passengers successfully sailed across the Atlantic ocean in 1630
  • Mary and John Passengers founded Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1630
  • Mary and John Passengers founded the town of Windsor, Connecticut in 1635

The History of The Mary and John Clearing House
Burton W. Spear, from Toledo, Ohio began researching his genealogy in 1975. In searching his ancestry, he found eighteen of his ancestors were aboard the Mary and John 1630 so he began an in-depth study of these West Country families which eventually led to the founding of the Mary and John Clearing House in 1985.

Since no official ships passenger list had ever been found, identifying the passengers became quite an ambitious task. The synthetic passenger lists published in both Maude Pinney Kuhns, "Mary and John" published in 1943 and Charles E. Bank's books, "The Planters of the Commonwealth" for the Boston Tercentenary, 1630-1930 revealed numerous errors. Both authors disagreed on over half of the passengers names.

Burton Spear authored, what would become the first volume in a series of "Search for the Passengers of the Mary and John 1630".

The first task was to develop a new and improved list. In 1985, contact was made between two men in Connecticut, Don Berquist and Jim Bolles, who organized the Family Society Tours. They were planning a Mary and John tour in May of 1985. When they heard of the Mary and John studies, they asked that a small, paperback volume be written to distribute to the 80 descendants who were to accompany the tour. And so, the first of the Mary and John Clearing House volumes would be published.

In 1990 it was decided to expand the Mary and John studies to include the study of all the families from the West Country, to New England, between 1620 and 1644, the period of the "Great Migration." The most interesting thing about this study is that many of these families were related to each other. For instance, many of the families who came in 1630 were followed in the next decade by many relatives and friends. About 300 families have been identified from this region of England during the 1620 to 1644 period, although it is believed that the total number is much higher, because many returned to England without leaving a trace in New England.

Judy Osborn researched many of the Mary and John families.

At the time of the tour to England in 1985, Burton met Judy Osborn (pictured above), and Judy believed in what he was doing and joined him in working on the different families. In 1987, Martha Strong (pictured below) met Burton while she was researching Elder John Strong for the Strong Family Association. Martha also believed in what Burton was trying to do. The Mary and John Clearing House became a valuable resource where ordinary people could get information collected in one place from all the various resources and correcting the mistakes that were found. Burton, Judy and Martha worked together as a team.

Martha Strong and Burton Spear in 1987

Burton didn't hire genealogists. He hired English researchers to go into the original records in England, what is known as primary sources. The most noted of which was Robin Bush (pictured below). Burton published his findings word for word. No one else had ever done such a thing and they are a treasure for researchers.

Genealogist and researcher Robin Bush with Carolyn Spear

Around 1990, the Mary & John Clearing House evolved into much more than one ship. It was decided to include all the families that had come from the West Country of England, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, some in Wiltshire and Cornwall. It has been estimated to be somewhere around 700 families. From volume 14 on, this became the goal.

The most important volumes are the last ones that Burton published, and from time to time others would send Burton information but he never published it without checking with Judy and Martha first. It didn't happen very often and most were not published.

Martha remembers Burton saying, "I am not a genealogist - I am a compiler" and Judy and Martha would laugh and just agree because he wouldn't believe them if they said anything else.

Professional genealogists often criticized Burton for typo's and grammatical errors found in his books. They often said he was too quick to publish. Burton would smile and say, "It's a clearing house, a place where people can find quality resources and leads for them to follow up on." These same professional genealogists were quick to use what was contained in the Mary and John Clearing House books even though they were critical of Burton's work.

Burton was an electrical engineer who never considered himself a great writer. He simply loved genealogy and wanted to share his extensive findings with others.

The ordinary family historians, everyday people love his books because they are easy to understand, give information and pictures of the places in England and maps all in one place.

Sometimes at a genealogy conference someone would approach Burton and angrily ask him, "Why did you take my ancestor off of the boat? I have been researching this person for ten years." Burton with a sharp memory would simply reply, "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, ma'am (or sir), but your ancestor's signature was witnessed on a legal document several days after the sailing of the Mary & John 1630 and could not possibly have been in England and aboard a ship at the same time."

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This site is dedicated to the loving memory of its founder, Burton W. Spear (1924-2002), and his wife, Carolyn (1925-2010).

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