The Mayflower Compact was signed on 11 November 1620. The document with its signatories can be viewed here. Most genealogists note that if someone signed the compact he must have been 21 years old. Thus, this document is used to extrapolate ages on several Mayflower passengers. Is that statement true? Using three known ages, we can say this: Gilbert Winslow was baptized at Droitwich, Worcestershire on 29 October 1600 and he signed the compact. Henry Samson was baptized at Henlow, Bedfordshire on 15 January 1603/4 and he did not sign the compact. Neither did Joseph Rogers, baptized at Watford, Northamptonshire, on 23 January 1602/3. Technically, Winslow was but 20, Rogers was 17 and almost 18, and Samson a year younger still. In each case, these three traveled with family members. Henry's uncles, Edward and John Tilley, signed the compact as did Thomas Rogers, father of Joseph. Gilbert was the younger brother of compact signer Edward Winslow.
This is interesting because I'm trying to determine if any of the signatories were 18-21 years old. The signatories whose ages are not known at all are: John Rigsdale, John Goodman, Thomas Williams, Edmund Margesson, Richard Britteridge, George Soule, Richard Clarke, Richard Gardiner, John Allerton, Thomas English, Edward Doty, and Edward Leister. Of these only two leave known descendants: Soule and Doty.
The list of passengers who didn't sign the compact whose ages are unknown are: Robert Carter, servant of William Mullins; John Crackstone Jr., William Holbeck, servant of William White; John Langemore, servant of Christopher Martin; Joseph Mullins (son of William); Solomon Prower, stepson of Christopher Martin; Elias Story, servant of Edward Winslow; Edward Thomson, servant of William White; William Trevour, and Roger Wilder, servant to John Carver.
Assuming that servant status was instrumental in signing or not signing the compact one should note that among the signers were the following acknowledged servants: Edward Doty and Edward Leister (servants to Stephen Hopkins), John Howland, servant to John Carver, and George Soule, servant to Edward Winslow. Certainly it was age (or at least perceived age) that seemed to be the criterion.
In summary there is only one man proven not to be 21 when he signed the Mayflower Compact: Gilbert Winslow. Therefore, it is unknown whether one needed to be 21 or one needed to be 18 to sign the compact. This directly impacts the search for the English origins of two passengers who left known descendants: George Soule and Edward Doty. A full list of signers and their ages appears below the fold:
Signers of the Mayflower Compact 11 November 1620 and their respective ages at signing with source of age:
John Carver, b. ca. 1585 based on his being married by 1609. Chosen first governor.
William Bradford, baptized 19 March 1589/90, Austerfield, Yorkshire
Edward Winslow, baptized 18 Oct. 1595, Droitwich, Worcestershire
William Brewster, b. ca. 1566, based on marriage and ages of children.
Isaac Allerton, b. ca. 1586, based on 1639 deposition in which he states he is about 53, Lechford, p. 189-90.
Myles Standish, b ca. 1584, based on first marriage ca. 1618 (had already been a soldier in the low countries)
John Alden, b. ca. 1598 based on a 1682 deposition in which he states he is 83 or thereabouts, MD 3:120-21
Samuel Fuller, baptized 20 January 1580, Redenahll, Norfolk
Christopher Martin, b. ca. 1580 based on his marriage of 1606/7.
Williams Mullins, b. ca. 1572-8, Dorking, based on marriage and ages of children.
William White, b. ca. 1587, based on 1612 marriage.
Richard Warren, b. ca. 1585, based on his marriage in 1610.
John Howland, b. ca. 1592, based on age at death (above 80 in 1672) and his marriage c. 1623.
Stephen Hopkins, b. ca. 1579, based on his first marriage ca. 1603.
Edward Tilley, baptized 27 May 1588, Henlow, Bedfordshire
John Tilley, baptized 19 Dec. 1571, Henlow, Bedfordshire
Francis Cooke, b.ca. 1583 or before, based on his marriage in 1603.
Thomas Rogers, b. ca. 1572 based on marriage of 1597.
Thomas Tinker, age unknown, if the same as the Thomas Tinker admitted citizen in Leiden in 1617, then b. before 1596.
John Rigsdale, age unknown
Edward Fuller, baptized 4 Sept. 1575, Redenhall, Norfolk
John Turner, b. bef. 1590, based on the estimated ages of his children.
Francis Eaton, baptized 11 Sept. 1596, Bristol, Gloucestershire
James Chilton, b. ca. 1556, married by 1587/7, birth of first child.
John Crackstone, b. ca. 1573 based on his marriage date and the birth of his first known child.
John Billington, b. ca. 1580 based on projected marriage of 1604, based upon the ages of his known children.
Moses Fletcher, b. ca. 1565, based on first marriage in 1589.
John Goodman, age unknown
Degory Priest, b. a 1579, based on deposition as aged 40 in 1619.
Thomas Williams, baptized 12 August 1582, St. Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, England (MQ 75:290-91)
Gilbert Winslow, baptized 29 Oct 1600, Droitwich, Worcestershire
Edmund Margesson, age unknown
Peter Brown, baptized 26 January 1594/5, Dorking, co. Surrey.
Richard Britteridge, age unknown
George Soule, age unknown
Richard Clarke, age unknown
Richard Gardiner, age unknown
John Allerton, seaman, age unknown
Thomas English, age unknown
Edward Doty, age unknown.
Edward Leister, age unknown
Updated: November 24, 2009