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Who were the Pilgrims?

Detail of Edgar Parker's Embarkation of the Pilgrims

"They knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things,
but lifted up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country."

- William Bradford

The Pilgrim saga began with a group of religious dissidents who believed it was necessary to separate from the Church of England. Persecuted in England, these "Separatists" moved to Holland in 1607/1608.

The group, joined by other colonists recruited by the venture's financial backers, began the move to America in 1620.

Bacon's Landing of the Pilgrims

Early Plymouth records refer to all passengers from the first four ships as "First Comers." These ships were the Mayflower (1620), the Fortune (1621), the Anne and the Little James (1623). The term "Pilgrim" was not generally used until the early 1800s.

There is no single definition of "Pilgrim." Many families, Separatists and non-Separatists and Separatist sympathizers alike, traveled to America in several ships in the 1620s.

However defined, the story of these Pilgrims has provided inspiration for centuries.

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Pilgrim Hall Museum
75 Court St, Plymouth, MA 02360 | Phone (508) 746-1620