The Mayflower landed in America on November 21, 1620—or did it? If you could ask William Bradford when the Mayflower landed, he would say November 11, 1620—the date he recorded in his journal.
Similarly, accounts differ about when the Mayflower began its journey. Some say it departed England on September 16, 1620, but others claim the ship left on September 6. Which of these dates is accurate?
Well, actually, all the dates are right—sort of. Here’s why.
A Tale of Two Calendars
Simply put, the Mayflower passengers used a different calendar than we do now. According to their old-style Julian calendar, the Mayflower departed England on September 6, 1620. However, the actual anniversary of their departure, according to the Gregorian calendar we use today, was September 16, 1620.
Interestingly, at the time, many parts of the world already used the Gregorian calendar, which had been created nearly 40 years before the Mayflower set sail. Why did Mayflower passengers continue to use the Julian calendar?
For one, the new Gregorian calendar was proposed by and named after Pope Gregory XIII. Puritan Separatists such as William Bradford would have avoided something so closely associated with Catholicism.
In 1620, England itself was not using the Gregorian calendar. With England having broken from the Catholic Church in 1534, there was much opposition to following a Catholic pope’s decree. Though many Catholic countries had already made the switch, England didn’t use the new calendar until around 1750.
Why the Actual Date of the Mayflower’s Landing is Important
Now, back to our original question: When did the Mayflower land in America? In terms of today’s Gregorian calendar, the Mayflower landed in America on November 21, 1620. Although you can argue that both Mayflower landing dates—November 11 and November 21—are accurate, recognizing the dates by our current calendar can put the Mayflower time line into perspective.
For example, the departure of the Mayflower on September 16 was an especially frightening prospect when considering that the Atlantic’s storm season was just around the corner. The November 21 landing date also puts the landing of the Mayflower that much closer to December, showing just how little time the pilgrims and passengers had to prepare for the chilling winter.
Discover How You Are Tied to Historical Dates
Now that you know some important dates in history, try learning about the important dates that directly relate to you! The FamilySearch time-line tool can help you explore and view major world and life events that occurred in your ancestors’ lives.
To use the time-line tool, just go to the Activities tab at the top of the FamilySearch home page, and select Where Am I From? from the drop-down menu. From that page, sign in to your FamilySearch account (or create a free account!), and then click the Time Line tab at the top of the activity page.
Tip: You might need to add some people to your family tree to get the most out of the experience. Here’s an easy guide for starting your family tree.
From there, just click the ancestor you want to learn more about, and you’ll be taken to a personalized time line!
For more ways to explore the Where Am I From? activity, check out this article.
Source: Family Search