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 Looking for Myles.  


A summary of the ongoing research by the History Society of St. Laurence’s Church, Chorley, into the origins of an early great American, Myles Standish.

Produced for and on behalf of the members of  St. Laurence Historical Society by fellow member  Mr. Bill Walker.


Contents Page


1.      The question-  short statement of the main issues about Myles


2.      So what do we know about Myles?-  Timechart


3.      The problems with evidence;  in particular looking at: a) portrait; b) parish register;  c) will of 1655   d) DNA


4.      Myles the Manxman?            


5.      The Lancashire context-  Places Myles mentions; some maps


6.      Myles  Standish of  Standish?


7.      Myles of Duxbury or Burgh?    …and  looking for new shoots from family trees; The Mason Standishes.


8.      Myles of Anywhere Else?   Summary of work done on the Lincolnshire and Peterborough Standishes.


9.      Conclusions to date


10.  and…..actions to come


11.  Historiographical Note


12.  Bibliography


1. The Question- a short statement concerning the issues about Myles Standish


The Pilgrim Fathers, who founded New Plymouth on the eastern seaboard of what was to become the United States of America, are lauded as some of the most significant travelers in history. From a hundred or so religious refugees came the founders of a nation. Not of their church but very much one of their number, was one Myles Standish- or someone calling himself thus. He was their “captain” or military adviser and played a key role in the critical fledgling years of the new settlement.


Inevitably Myles is something of a hero in America. He is honoured by the second highest monument commemorating an individual in the United States. His statue stands proud on an obelisk of at least 110 feet atop the appropriately named Captain’s Hill at Duxbury, Massachusetts. Duxbury was his own farm and settlement, spawned from the original foothold. Myles himself is a star of several websites and museums preserving the record of the Pilgrim Fathers. ( 1)


In the probable land of his birth, England, Myles enjoys a lower profile. He is listed, along with his fellows of the “Mayflower”, on a plaque at Plymouth harbour in Devon and is also remembered in a stained glass window at St. Wilfrid’s Standish and by an American flag at St. Laurence’s Chorley. He is generally a paragraph or a footnote in the history books.


The truth is that nothing  about Myles was definitely recorded before his journey with the bold Separatists. He is an enigma, a man of mystery and almost a virtual being. The chronic lack of evidence makes it nigh impossible to answer the obvious and interesting questions about Myles:


o       When was he born?


o       What family did he come from?


o       Where was he born?


o       What was he doing before 1620?


o       Why is there so little evidence about him in his pre-New England days?


These issues tend to become distilled into the key question about the family he was born into. A number of communities lay claim to his origin and there have been several theories advanced. Currently the following would seem worthy of mention:


o        He was a Manxman as seemingly indicated by the claim in his will of 1655 which alleges he was deprived of lands in the Isle of Man. This theory was particularly developed by G.V.C Young, writer of Manx parliamentary legislation, publisher and historian. (2).


o        He was a Standish of Duxbury as indicated by him choosing Duxbury as the name of his own settlement in New England. There are three possible Standish of Duxbury families he might descend from. Duxbury Hall is at Chorley, Lancashire. A recent committed case for Myles as a Standish of Duxbury is made by Helen Moorwood. ( 3 )


o        As he says in his will, he was a Standish of Standish, possibly of another forename. For example there is an unfortunate seventeenth century member of this family, one Roger Standish, whose experiences may seem to mirror those of Myles. (4 )


o        He was of yet another Standish family, for example of the Burgh near Duxbury, Lancashire, or of those who had moved to other parts of England. (5 )


o       He was an illegitimate and unrecognised Standish or a member of a very ordinary and unrecorded family named Standish.


o       He was not a Standish at all but someone who adopted a useful name.


It will be evident that even establishing his family of origin may still leave it difficult to fix upon his place of birth. The historian is hamstrung without written primary evidence. As G.F Willison wrote in 1945, “(Myles’ life) is virtually a blank page to the day when he and his wife Rose stepped on the deck of the Mayflower”.( 6 )  However that does not prevent worthwhile or interesting questions being asked, nor the fascinating if seemingly fruitless chase to move a least some distance along the hunt for Myles.


In 2004, conscious that the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Myles’ will and then death were imminent, the St.Laurence’s History Society, Chorley was founded in order to renew this hunt for Myles’ origins. What follows is an honest account of our journey, judgement to date and future lines of enquiry.


Footnotes and References:


1.        Helen Moorwood: “Pilgrim Father Captain Myles Standish of Duxbury, Lancashire and Massachusetts”, Lancashire History Quarterly,vol 3, 1999-2000, part 1, page 1.

2.        G.V.C.Young: “Pilgrim Myles Standish- First Manx American”, Peel, Isle of Man, 1984; also same author: “More About Pilgrim Myles Standish”, Peel, 1987.

3.        Moorwood, op.cit., parts 1-5.

4.        Glynis Greenman: Exhibition for Myles Standish Festival, St.Laurence’s Church, Chorley, Lancashire, March 2005

5.        Standish of Duxbury Family Tree, chapter  7,  page 16.

6.        G.F.Willison: “The Pilgrim Reader”, New York, 1953- quoted in R.Kissack. An American descendant of Myles, also called Myles Standish, wrote to Chorley local historian John Wilson in 1912 explaining that  Myles’ property had been destroyed in a fire of 1866. See J.Wilson: “Chorley Church. The Story of the old Parish Church of Chorley in Lancashire” (Edinburgh, 1914) page 193.


2. So what do we know about Myles?

Although evidence is sparse it is sensible to gather that which we do know of Myles. Only then is it worth hypothesising about his origins. The following table is an attempt to present the historical facts in an easily referenced form.






Possible birth date, likely in Lancashire

Preferred date and place by Myles’ American descendants from 1846


Possible birth date

Indicated by caption on portrait of Myles

By 1601

Drummer/soldier in the Netherlands

New England writers who knew Myles eg Thomas Morton, Nathaniel Morton (1)


Possible wounded Nys Sickem/ Myls Stansen in Leiden hospital (but later recorded as dead!- so was it his relative?)

Leiden hospital records (2)

1601 -

Gains commission as lieutenant

Document extant with his American descendants mid nineteenth century (3)


Becomes friendly with John Robinson and Leiden Separatists

N.Morton, William Bradford (4)


Marries first wife Rose

Rose recorded as his wife on “Mayflower” (5)


Selected as “captain” by Pilgrim Fathers about to sail to America

On Mayflower passenger list (6)


First landfall in America

Mourt’s “Relation” (7)


Commands first exploratory survey

Mourt’s “Relation” (7)


Wife Rose dies

Bradford (8)


Confirmed as Captain

Mourt’s “Relation  (9)

Jan-Feb 1621

Helps nurse settlers through sickness

Governor Bradford’s Journal (10)


Involved in exploratory/punitive missions amidst natives

Mourt, Bradford (11)

July 1623

Marries second wife, Barbara

Mrs Barbara Standish on “Anne” passenger list  (12)


 Spells  as assistant governor

Bradford’s History , N.Morton (13)

By 1625

Elder children –Charles(1), Alexander, Josiah

Land Division List (14)

June 1625

Returns to London

(15) Bradford’s History and Letter bk

April 1626

Back at New Plymouth

(16) Bradford’s History

1627 onwards

Further children born- Lora, Josiah, Charles (2)

Will (17)


Undertaker- helps organise trade and debt repayment

Bradford’s History (18)


Arrests William Morton at Merrymount

Bradford, T.Morton (19)

By 1632

Founds farm and settlement at Duxbury, township 1637

Bradford (20)


Treasurer of Colony

N.Morton (21)


Placed in command in event of Dutch War; retires

N.Morton,  (22)






N. Morton (23)


Will exhibited at New Plymouth Court

Plymouth Court Records


This does not amount to a thorough set of biographical facts. Even these fortunate few can be called into question due to the shaky nature of their provenance. For example it is decidedly unfortunate that Myles’ lieutenant’s commission can not be found today; we have to accept that his family members had it to hand in the mid nineteenth century.


Notes and References:


1. Thomas Morton: “ New England’s Canaan”, (Amsterdam, 1637); Nathaniel Morton: “New England’s Memorial, p170, (Boston 1669); William Hubbard: “The General History of New England (1650).

2. Leiden hospital records, 1601.

3. J.Wilson, op cit, p39.

4. N.Morton, op. cit., p170; W.Bradford: “History of the Plimoth Plantation”, (Boston, 1898 ed.)- p197:letter from John Robinson to W. Bradford, 19 Dec 1623.

5. Mayflower Passenger List ( available on Caleb Johnson’s

6. ibid

7. G. Mourt’s  Relation or “The Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth in New England in 1620” (London, 1622)………..  (could be George Morton who merely adds preface to journals of Bradford and Winslow before passing for publication). Ed. By  GB. Cheever (New York, 1848), p32; also Bradford op cit, p98.

8. Bradford op cit, p112

9. Mourt op cit, p56

10.Bradford, op cit, p112

11. Mourt op cit, p42,51,61,89; Bradford op cit, p125,134,155,159.

12. Anne Passenger List

13. Bradford, op cit, p187; N.Morton op cit, infers early appointment p115.

14. Division of Lands Document, 1623; referred to in Division of Cattle document, 1627

15. Bradford, op cit., p245

16. Bradford, op cit., p247

17 . Myles Standish’s Will, Plymouth Court Record vol2, pps 37-8.

18. Bradford, op cit, p252,273.

19. Bradford, op cit, p291

20. Bradford, op cit, p362

21. N.Morton op cit; quoted in S.M.Allen: “Myles Standish. Exercises on  Consecration of Monument”, (Boston, 1871)

22. N.Morton op cit; quoted in H.Johnson: “The Exploits of Myles Standish”, (London, 1897), p257.

23. N.Morton, op cit, p170


3. Problems with Evidence


So we have little evidence for the early life of Myles. Furthermore, his assistance in providing geographical locations for his lands indicate several possibilities for his family of origin and birthplace. Again, the evidence we do have needs approaching with great care. A few examples suffice.


a)      The Portrait

This only known portrait of Myles was discovered and bought by a Captain Harrison from a Boston art shop in 1877. ( 1 ) He held the portrait to be authentic, given it had been held by long established American families, the Gilberts of Philadelphia and the Chews of Germantown. The inscription “M.Standish” is helpful and the statement that he was in his thirty eighth year in 1625 is most exciting in positioning his birth date at 1587.


But hold! There are often misgivings about the portrait. Why does a painting effected in 1625 show a gentleman palpably wearing a Tudor ruff? Why did this portrait emanate from Philadelphia and not a Standish descendant? Why did the nineteenth century Standish family declare it a fake? ( Possibly because they felt they had other promising evidence that stipulated a 1584 birth!)


The original portrait was not preserved beyond 1919. At least two engravings were made; a photographic negative from the first was acquired by the Library of Congress and the second, sporting a new set of buttons, is copied to Henry Johnson’s “The Exploits of Myles Standish” ( London, 1897). (2  )

Therefore the portrait is not the trustworthy source we would crave. However the likeness presented does look a little like a “little chimney soon fired” as William Hubbard described Myles (3) and some resemblance to William Brewster Standish, an American descendant who was 37 in 1877 and also to known Standish descendants in modern day England.

b) The Parish Register


The portrait could provide Myles’ birth date. However another piece of  evidence points to the date preferred by his American descendants- 1583/4. This derives from the earnest and diligent search by a nineteenth century representative of the family. This was Mr Bromley who lit upon Chorley, St.Laurence’s Church and most particularly upon the parish registers for 1583/4. Within their authentic manuscript pages he found an almost obliterated passage which would correspond with a likely birth time of Myles- around 1583/4. Bromley’s mind raced on. He was convinced some nefarious person had expunged the record of Myles’ birth- thus suggesting that the lands Myles claimed in the will had indeed been “surreptiously detained”. His suspicions were confirmed when the rector, perturbed by Bromley’s fervent and furtive search of his records, irritably issued a search fee. ( 4)


Lancastrian good nature is legendary and so we may well issue explanation and apology for the allegedly short shrift afforded Mr Bromley. One has to bear in mind that the latest incumbent of the Duxbury estate close to St. Laurence’s had only recently been installed with up to forty rival candidates testing his claim and patience in a variety of ways; very possibly the rector too was heartily sick of the affair.


The parish register itself is authentic and preserved to this day. (5)  However there is no convincing proof that the relevant passages were removed by pumice stone or anything else. Weathering from the elements could equally be to blame and many of the other pages in the book are similarly damaged. Even if the pages were scrubbed clean this may well have been due to innocent purpose or error. All attempt to detect an impression indented in the page hinting at Myles’ name has so far resisted what forensic techniques can be applied and a careful inspection suggests the top of the original page is missing. However much we might like to first find Myles at the church of the Standishes of Duxbury, it would be unsafe to claim evidence of Myles’ baptism- and therefore birthplace and family- from this register.


b)      The Will of 1655


If it is difficult to be certain of  potential evidence for Myles’ birth- what about his last wishes? The will of 1655 is very important in suggesting which estates and family he himself felt he originated from. In fact it would seem to indicate Standish of Standish for his ancestry with the hint of Standish of Ormskirk  and the Isle of Man to boot.

“I give unto my son & heire apparent Allexander Standish all my lands as heire apparent by lawfull Decent in Ormistick Borsconge Wrightington Maudsley Newburrow Crawstin and the Ile of man and given to me as right heire by lawful Decent but Surruptuously Detained from mee my greatG..dfather being a 2cond or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish March the 7th 1655 by mee Myles Standish”. (6)

However, once again not all can be as simple as we would wish. Firstly it’s possible to offer several options for who his Standish great grandfather was. It is equally possible to light upon several exemplars of “surruptuously detained”. Again, the lands listed would seem to place Myles within the Standishes of Ormskirk and the Isle of Man, rather than the main Standish of Standish branch he refers to in the last line. As Canon Porteus reflected, “we must conclude that Myles was not well informed about the matter”. (7)

Much more worrying is the tendency of most commentators to accept that Myles was totally honest and totally aware of the facts of the case. There should be a hint of caution on reading the full text of the will. Myles had already signed and dated his will before the ninth clause claiming his lost English lands which, almost as an afterthought, is appended to the foot of the document  duly signed and dated once more.(8)  Arguably one might suppose that if the good soldier really  burned with indignation at having significant English estates “surruptuously detained” from him, this may well have been the first item he would mention rather than focusing on the disposition of a farm and some livestock in the colonies. There is also the disquieting thought that he may not have any real grasp of whence he came but thought the Standish names he had worth using in an attempt at extending his inheritance.

Also instructive is the will of his son Alexander. In 1702 he is not confused but totally vague, charging a retained attorney to seek out “whatsoever estate in New England or old”. (9) Anywhere will do.

Frustratingly the will can lead in three different directions or no direction al all!

c)      DNA Testing


The possibility of matching the DNA from Myles’ remains or possibly that of his known descendants in America to the DNA of known members of the various branches of the Standish family born in the last half of the sixteenth century should reap much more precise conclusions.

Indeed some testing has already occurred. Documented American descendants of Myles show a type of y chromosome in their genetic make-up which is very common in males in Lancashire. Comparisons of the DNA of a known English Standish descendant Fr. Benjamin Standish, matches in 23 out of a possible 25 characteristics with that of the American descendants of Myles (10).

However the scientific approach involved does not lead us, once more, to a clear indication of Myles’ family. Lancashire is a large county and the folk living there in the sixteenth century as now had frequent communications with the Isle of Man. There are also many branches of the Standish family. As yet Benjamin Standish’s family tree is documented until the early eighteenth century in Wigan and will soon possibly be clear into the seventeenth century (11). However it is not yet known whether his forebears are Standish of Duxbury, Standish, Ormskirk, Burgh or…. If there is indeed a close match between Myles’ known descendants and a contemporary Lancastrian, it is still necessary to determine how closely they might be related. The proximity of DNAs suggests a common ancestor, but what if that ancestor lived before-or after- Myles day? They might be simply distant cousins. (12)

The truly exciting and useful DNA test would be to match samples from Myles’ own body and potential sixteenth century relatives whose bodies are entombed in the relevant areas. There are numerous legal and logistic hurdles to surmount in effecting this. There would also be a wide number of potential candidates to test, given the varied branches of Standish that Myles has been ascribed to.

Bearing all these cautionary words about evidence strongly in mind, it might be still be interesting  to explore the main theories about Myles’ origins.

Footnotes and References:


1. Moorwood, op.cit, part 3, p.17.

2. H.Johnson, op cit, frontispiece.

3. Hubbard op cit

4. S.M.Allen, op cit, p5.

5. Chorley St.Laurence Parish Registers, 1583-4, Lancashire Record Office.

6. Will, op cit

7. Porteus, op cit, p. 50

8. Will, op cit

9. Will of Alexander Standish, 21/2/1702; proved 10/8/02; Plymouth Court Records.

10. DNA Family Tree, Houston Laboratory, 1/7/2004.

11. Anthony Christopher and Lancashire Family History Society; unpublished research on Benjamin Standish family tree-


Henry Standish  (son of Thomas Standish of Duxbury and Margaret) or Jonathan Standish of Wigan, born 1653 (son of John Standish of London).

William Standish of Wigan  -alive 1683

Henry Standish, born 1743, Ince

Henry Standish, born 1791

Thomas Standish, born 1816, Wigan

Henry Withnell Standish, born 1853, West Derby

John Standish, born 1890, Liverpool

Anthony Wilfred Standish, born 1924, Liverpool

Benjamin Standish, born 1958, Liverpool


12. R.Thomso, E.Nelson: “Hunt for the Birthplace of a Plymouth Rock Star”, article in .., 2004


4. Myles the Manxman?

I give unto my son and heire apparent Alexander Standish all my lands as heire apparent by lawful decent in Ormistick Bursconge Wrightington Maudsley Newburrow Craston and the Ile of Man and given to mee as right heire by lawful Decent but Surruptuously Detained from mee my great G…father being a 2econd or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish.”

The claim in the 1655 will to land in the “Isle of Man” eventually led some historians to look for Myles’ birthplace ( or at least one of his claimed estates) in the Manx island itself. The most dogged champion has been the island’s legal draftsman, GVC Young. (1)

He claims a long oral tradition in the Isle of Man, referring to a “young Myles” (2). He can quote Chorley’s own local historian starting the search for Manx origins in 1912 (3). Like Porteus he can trace a likely pedigree matching Myles’ family details in the will.

Robert Standish of Standish married Margaret Croft; three sons- Thomas, John, Huan who held lands in Ormskirk Lancashire and Ellanbane in the Isle of Man.

Thomas(died 1560) married Joan Stanley; children Anne and Hugh

Robert’s third son Huan had three sons- John, Huan and Gilbert

John had several children- John, William, Joan, Katherine, Margaret

The first son, John “the younger”, married Christian Lace, and had allegedly an eldest son who died young (John?) and sons alive in 1602, one of whom was William. The middle son, with no recorded name, was possibly Myles.

Thus the contention would be that Huan Standish was Myles’ greatgrandfather mentioned in the 1655 will. There is also the point that the lands Myles mentions match Standish of Ormskirk lands listed in rent roll of 1529. (4)  Huan was a Standish of Ormskirk, the branch who came to the Isle of Man and established the family at Ellanbane, which is later claimed as Myles’ likely birthplace. It is also possible to explain the “surruptuously detained” claim that Myles makes. In the case of the Isle of Man lands, Myles would be away soldiering in the Low Countries when his father and grandfather died. Not knowing his fate or believing him to be the Myls Stansen dying in Leiden hospital in 1601, his younger brother William inherited. In respect of the English mainland estates, they could have been wrongly sold by Thomas Standish’s widow Jane Stanley, who was also divorced from Thomas, or by  her son. Young claimed the name “Myles” came from an old Celtic name “Maolmhoire” which appears in early Manx registers. ( 5).

The Manx case is fairly convincing in relating well to the places named in the will. However subsequent to the detailed examination by Kissack and then Moorwood, there are now sufficient doubts to allow the theory of the island of Man being Myles’ birthplace being laid quietly to rest. Firstly, in order to accept Huan as the greatgrandfather of the will we would need to read the key words to mean “second or even younger, possibly third brother from the house of Standish” for Huan was third of three brothers. Arguably the normal and correct usage would be to see “second” or “younger” to be synonyms.

Secondly the Young’s case major weakness centres around a fundamental gap in the written record. There is no “Myles” named as the son of John; there is indeed a son elder to William but his name is not indicated. Looking at the family’s past traditions it is possible this son was a John; there is no way he can be definitely identified as Myles. If the elder son was John, why should he change his name to Myles or never mention he did so when it would suit his interests?  As a very painstaking Manx historian Rev. R. Kissack noted, “Having come to the point in Standish history and Manx history when we should find the name of Myles in our archives, it is just not there.” ( 6).  Standishes of the Isle of Man used names such as Edward, Reginald, Peter, Huan, John, William and Gilbert but never Myles. Indeed the only record Kissack knew of was a Myles Standish in London in 1438.( 7)  Admittedly there were no Manx baptismal registers until 1596 but other Standish names are found easily in land grants and other legal documents.

There are further relevant points, particularly regarding the supposition that Standish of Ormskirk Lancashire lands were “surruptuously detained” due to the wrongdoing of Huan’s family. Jane Stanley, a child bride of Thomas, was indeed involved in divorce proceedings in 1538-9 but the judgement was that no divorce could be granted as the marriage had not yet been consummated.( 8). Curiously there is another twice dated Standish paper referring to a divorce much later in 1558-9 ( 9); however Porteus’ and others exhaustive search for the divorce documents in the ecclesiastical records reveal nothing proved in the case. Indeed the curious change of date on the one relevant document suggests fraud by a hand other than Jane’s.  Jane Standish’s and her son’s sales were all legally conducted and struck with an eminently respectable William Stopford amidst no complaints at the time.(10) Thus the estates Myles claimed in his will were legally in others hands before he was born!  Fundamentally, if Myles was at pains to claim the Ormskirk lands one wonders if they amounted to much; the 1529 rental records just £3 12s 0d accruing. (11)  These hardly amount to the great estates that Myles’ New England contemporaries believed were his due and the conclusion should be that we should be looking elsewhere. As regards the Isle of Man estate, if Myles felt deprived, why did he not say so during the 21 years of grace the law then allowed?

As Kissack concluded “ So in the present state of knowledge, the answer to ‘Was Myles Standish a Manxman?’ must be not proven, hardly probable but conceivably possible” (12).  As Jeremy Bangs, Curator of Leiden American Pilgrims Museum points out, reasonably complete baptismal records on the mainland tend to lessen the chance of  Myles’ record being found there. The incomplete nature of such documentation on the Isle of Man does not prove that no such record existed” (13).

Footnotes and References:

1. Young, op cit. Also supported by Lawrence Hill, “Gentleman of Courage Forward” (1987)

2. ibid, p17. The earliest written reference, from 1897, might appear in H.Johnson’s “Exploits..”, op cit, p33, alleging that Myles may have returned to Isle of Man shortly before 1619 in order to court Lora. Johnson’s foreword does admit “the licence of probability” regarding Myles’ early life.

3. ibid, p10

4. Piccope MSS vol 3, p42, no. 114.

5. Young, op cit,  p17

6. Rev. R.Kissack: “Was Myles Standish a Manxman?”, Proceedings of Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1984; published, 2002

7. Kissack, op cit, part 2

8. Young himself confirms no divorce decree was issued; Young, op cit, p10.

9. Lancashire Record Office, DDHE 28/13, dated 20 November, 1558.  Porteus, op cit, p34.

10.  Jane’s son Hugh may have been under age when first selling to William Stopford. The latter secured several documents confirming his title. LRO: DDHE 59/26, 23 June 1569; DDHE 59/33, dated 2 May 1572; DDHE 59/46 dated 3 May 1576. Anthony Christopher, has recently conducted a painstaking examination of the “divorce” story-

11. Piccope MSS, op cit

12. Kissack, op cit, part 3.

13. J. D. Bangs “Myles Standish. Born Where? …..”, Mayflower Quarterly 72, Sect 2 (September 2006), available on Sections 1-3 form a recent balanced  survey of what is becoming a renewed debate on Myles’ origins. The point is also made that possibly too much focus is placed on Myles’ birth and that there are other questions to resolve, for example the precise nature of his churchmanship.


5. The Lancashire Context: Places Myles Mentions- Maps

If Myles is not be found on the island of Man in the Irish Sea, then could he be a mainland Lancastrian? There are several possible families and birthplaces for him. It may be useful to provide a geographical context for this current study. The lands mentioned in Myles’ will could all be very relevant. It may also be that the Isle of Man mentioned in his will is the Isle of Man farm at the edge of Croston in Lancashire.

Map A  Lands listed in the 1655 Will

More specifically, it could also be that the ancient burgh, manor and township of  Duxbury, now part of Chorley in Lancashire, is a vital focal point of the search. It is contiguous to Standish and Burgh, whence Myles could have come from, in addition to itself offering at least two Standish families which are candidates. The lords of the manor from the fourteenth century were the Standishes of Duxbury; the last important Duxbury of Duxbury holding was sold in 1524.


Map B  Duxbury in the late Sixteenth Century

Base map from 1757 Estate Survey (DDRf/11/1). Field names clarified by Helen Moorwood and Jim Heyes. !584 information added by Bill Walker and Tony Christopher from fieldwork, 1582  Tenant List re Building Standish Church (PR3134/4/2), 1577 Duxbury Sketch Map (DP397/8/46) and later estate records. Map drawn by Brian Clarke of Gilling Dod Architects, Duxbury Hall Barn.


6. Myles Standish of Standish?


“My great G….dfather being a 2cond or younger brother from the House of Standish of Standish….”


Myles will claimed that he was descended from the house of Standish of Standish. When looking on the Lancashire mainland for Myles’ family it may be logical to start with the fount of all the Standish families- Standish of Standish.


Who could the great grandfather be? A study of the family tree would suggest that the marriage in 1498 of Thomas Standish of Duxbury to Katherine Standish of Standish may be significant. They had four children, the eldest of whom is known to be Alexander. Could Myles be descended from one of the other three? Is it from this family line that his son’s name Alexander comes from? (1 ) However if this were so, it would place Myles in the male Duxbury line rather than primarily that of Standish of Standish.


A Standish of Standish Family Tree ( from time of Henry VII- 1485)


Sir Alexander Standish of Standish had son Ralph and daughter Katherine ( who married Thomas Standish of Duxbury)


Ralph Standish of Standish’s heir was Alexander Standish


Alexander’s heir was Edward Standish, his  s econd son


A further Alexander succeeded Edward and had sons Ralph, Thomas and Roger


Ralph’s son Edward followed him and was 47 years old in 1664 when Dugdale’s visitation took note of the Standish of Standish pedigree.


As with “Myles the Manxman” we see no Myles in the Standish of Standish family tree and we are invited to fill a gap. There is a “Myles-sized gap” in Standish history.  Edward Standish died in 1610 and was a “second or younger son”. His son was also Alexander who married Elizabeth Hawarden. They had three sons: Ralph, Thomas and Roger. Ralph fell under heavy financial penalty and Thomas died in 1638. At this stage Roger could be said to be the heir. However in 1640 there is a record of his elder brother Ralph settling lands on Thomas Hesketh and his heirs. Significantly the lands  are in Croston, Mawdsley, Wrightington, Wigan, Ormskirk, Eccleston and Newburgh- thus forming something of a match with the lands mentioned in Myles will.(2) Was Myles in fact Roger? Did elder brother Ralph wrongly dispose of lands he was excluded from? Roger was certainly born at the right time-1584. There is a record of him as an apprentice dyer in London 1606/7 which would be the “missing years” in our knowledge of Myles’ early life. Then he disappears? To New England?


However, the previous question asked of the “Manx Myles theory” presents itself. If Myles was really Roger why did he not say so, especially at the end of his life when he had nothing to fear and might hope to provide rewards for his family? Again Roger’s grandfather may have been a second son but his great grandfather, another Alexander, was the first son of his father. One is also bound to wonder why a military Myles might be tempted to become an apprentice dyer.


It is quite possible that Myles was descended from a Standish of Standish younger son or might have been born out of wedlock. However to date there is no positive factual evidence to place him in Standish. His will may indicate that we are looking in the wrong place. As Porteus pointed out the Standish of Standish family of the early seventeenth century only owned one building in Ormskirk and a few acres in Wrightington. ( 3 )  Myles was either mistaken or was referring to another branch of the family.


Footnotes and References:


1.        E. Johnson: “The Standish Family”, Part 1 (Standish, Lancashire, 1972), p44.

2.        Glynis Greenman, op cit.; “surruptuously detained” in the will might be referring to Ralph Standish’s settlement of lands on Thomas Hesketh and heirs. LRO: DP 397/21/1, 1640-1.

3.        Porteus, op cit, p15,16.


7. Myles of Duxbury?


The great inescapable fact is that Myles called his new settlement in New England- Duxbury. Why so? He must have known of the Duxbury in Lancashire. He may even have been born there or lived nearby as a young man. Was he indeed a Standish of Duxbury?


Many Chorley folk have held it so. Mr I.W.R. Bromley who came to seek Myles’ origins in 1846 was certain Duxbury was the place and Myles’ American descendants at the time held it to be so; as did a twentieth century Myles Standish who visited in 1907. (1)


Standish of Duxbury Family Tree (2)


Sir Christopher Standish of Duxbury married Alice Poole, having 3 sons- Thomas, James and Hugh-


Duxbury Lords of the Manor; resident at the Pele ( until 1623-31 or later)until building a new Duxbury Hall

Also holding land in Duxbury and living at the old Duxbury Hall at the end of Grundy’s Lane, Duxbury

Thomas married Katherine Standish of Standish, 1497

James was Sir Christopher’s second son

Son James succeeded and married Elizabeth Butler,1536

His son was also James

Son Thomas succeeded and married Margaret Houghton (3)

James son was also a Thomas Standish of Duxbury. He lived at “the mansion house” (4)

Son Alexander succeeded (1599) and had married Margaret Ashetton

This Thomas’ line died out

Son Thomas succeeded 1622 and married first Anne of Wingfield; he died 1642


His son Thomas predeceased him in 1642. Younger son Alexander died by 1647. Alexander’s widow Margaret handed Duxbury estates to a cousin Richard.



The most recent strong supporter of the Duxbury case is Helen Moorwood. ( 5) She picks out a gap in the Standish of Duxbury family tree after Sir Christopher Standish’s marriage to his third wife Alice Standish. Their son was Alexander. He was born at the appropriate time to be the great grandfather of a Myles. His descendants are unknown. If Myles was of Duxbury he could well have been like so many of his Standish ( and Stanley) relatives who were military men. He could have been baptized in a private chapel, the Standishes of Duxbury going puritan at the time. He could have attended Rivington Grammar School as the Duxbury Standishes did. He could have attended St. Laurence’s Church in Chorley where the Duxbury Standishes worshipped and lay after death. He could have gone with his father to the Low Countries to fight for Protestantism. The Myls Stansen dying in Leiden in 1601 could be a relative. His wife Barbara could be a Sumner and Rose a Legh- local families in Lancashire. He could have named Duxbury in New England after that of the old. As for the estates surreptiously detained, this could well refer to the powerful Colonel Richard Standish in 1647  receiving the Duxbury estate from the widow of the last of the main line.(6)  If Myles was truly the great grandson of Alexander son of Sir Christopher he might be the genuine candidate by 1655. (7). One Alexander is taking action against  Richard regarding the Duxbury estate. Is this just possibly Myles’ son?


Again we have a Myles sized gap. We also have a very plausible life history for Myles if only we could attach his name to it!. However there is one key question staying the historian’s hand in definitely attaching Myles to Duxbury.  If he came from Duxbury or was the genuine heir by 1647, why did he not claim it?  This puzzled Porteus. He suggested, “Duxbury may have been Myles’ birthplace though his inheritance lay elsewhere”. ( 8)  What if Huan of the Ormskirk/Isle of Man connection had returned at some stage to Lancashire and Myles was born there?( 9 ); this would allow him to claim the lands mentioned in the will. His mention of the Standish of Standish family might be indicating his branch was founded by a younger son of that line.(10) Already we are drifting from a categorical identification of Duxbury as been Myles’ birthplace or family’s home.


In addition, the current researchers have realised the complexity of Standish family history in Duxbury alone. There were Standishes ( of Gathurst and Shevington) at Burgh in Duxbury manor. They had a Lawrence Standish father to Thurstan and Alexander before Thurstan’s son Lawrence. Given that these Standishes showed descent from the same Alexander Standish (c.1500) in the main Standish of Duxbury lines, Thurstan’s family would seem a possible provider of a “Myles”. However the late sixteenth century Chorley Parish Records record Thurstan’s family baptisms with no hint of such a son. (11) At neighbouring Rivington at the end of the fourteenth century we have Sir Roger de Pilkington father to a daughter Lora- this an interesting name and spelling when one considers the daughter of  Myles- who marries Lawrence of Standish.. A later family member, Barberie, born 1643, has a name similar to that of Myles’ second wife. (12)  No one named Myles has yet emerged from this plethora of  Standishes. However there is a sense of getting nearer to Myles just by knowing where he is not.



The Duxbury Standishes do present surprises. They provided lords of the manor who were not really Standishes at all. This dates from Hugh de Haydock the Duxbury pele builder who only took the Standish name on making a lucrative marriage to Alice of Standish. The big advantage of this distinction is that it should provide a different DNA from other Standishes should the vital tests be done.


A recent development came during the St. Laurence’s History Society Exhibition in March 2005. Visitors included Margaret Lewis from Ireland descendent of the Standish - Mason family. Their family tree is traced to the sixteenth century Standishes of Duxbury. In the seventeenth century James Standish was vice treasurer for the Cromwellian regime in Ireland and even used the Standish of Duxbury seal. The fascinating point is that this powerful family never claimed the Duxbury estate, even though there was the case at Lancaster in 1655 and they had a better claim than anyone at the time. (13)  Perhaps Myles’ behaviour in failing to claim his birthright was not all that unusual.


It will be evident that, in considering the range of places Myles could have emerged from, we have had the most to say about Duxbury. Despite the lack of the name “Myles” in any written record, the present writers consider Myles’ origins cannot be too far away. He deliberately chooses Duxbury for the name of his new settlement in New England. Contemporaries considered he was heir to a great estate and seventeenth century Duxbury fits this description far better than nay other Standish holding. DNA tests we discuss later suggest a close match between Myles’ descendants in America and a modern English Standish family living close to Chorley.


Notes and references


1. He was an American descendant of Myles Standish, also called Myles. See J.Wilson, op cit, p46.

2. The family tree information is from detailed recent work by Helen Moorwood and also Tony Christopher of the  St.Laurence’s  History Society.

3. This Thomas is identified as of the “Pyle” in a document of 1577; LRO, DP397/4/25, 27 March.

4. “Cousin Thomas” is identified as of the “mansion house..called Duxbury Hall” in 1571. LRO, DP397/4/22, 15 May 1571.

5. Moorwood, op cit

6. LRO, DP397/21/14,16.  Alexander Standish’s widow Margaret might be keen for protection and the document claims Richard is to pay off her father in law’s debts.

7.  The Alexander at Lancaster assizes was unlikely to be Alexander son of Myles. Myles himself was not yet dead and would have to sue in his own name to have any chance of winning his case. The Alexander mentioned could be the last son of Alexander Standish of Duxbury who died 1622. Although he was a royalist and unlikely to be in much favour in 1655 it’s possible that he avoided implication in the second civil war ( the one that involved abetting the invading Scots) and that he had remained sufficiently quiet to win some support from neighbours. In all it is remarkable how much threatened and sequestred land found itself in the hands of the old families once the dust of the Civil War had settled. This Alexander could also be Alexander Standish of the Burgh, knowing two lines of the Duxbury family of Standish had died out in the last century and hopeful of presenting a better claim than the incumbent Colonel Richard. There is also an Alexander Standish of “Leverpool” mentioned as a good friend to Richard Standish in his will of 1657/61 (Manchester John Rylands Library, Ry.Ch.4644)



What is really interesting is that the documents outlining the early history of the case show Richard accepting  this Alexander’s case in return for a payment of £600. Clearly the decision was reversed as the later Standishes of Duxbury descended from Colonel Richard. LRO DP397/21/17, 24 March 1654

8. Porteus, op cit, p50

9. ibid, p51

10. ibid, p51

11. Chorley St. Laurence Parish Records, 1557ff, Lancashire Record Office

12. Standish of Standish family tree appended in E.Johnson, op cit

13. The Mason Standish family tree goes back to sixteenth century Standishes. Rev. W.P.Wright of Dublin suggests a link of the London/ Dublin Mason Standishes to John Standish of London, whose son, Jonathan Standish, was born in Wigan in Feb. 1651. However their use of the Duxbury seal and their family records suggests a line to Christopher Standish, younger son of Thomas and Katherine Standish of Duxbury. Christopher would be a possible grandfather to James the vice-treasurer of Ireland.


8. Myles of Anywhere Else?


The spotlight has fallen closely on Lancashire. However it is obvious that Standish families will have moved far and wide. Is it possible that Myles could have been descended from a lesser branch, established in some other county, but preferring to mysteriously claim that he came from the very fount of the name- and that with the most land and status?


The Standishes of the East Midlands were definitely worth inspecting, for was it not from Scrooby that the Pilgrim Fathers hailed before heading for Leiden and then America?

The Royalist Composition papers for Lancashire included the names of  Alexander Standish, Ralph Standish of Standish, Richard Standish and Edward Standish of  Woolston; the transcript for the last named began with the phrase,


“ on 20 June 1646 Edward Standish of Newark, Notts,…”


Was this really  meant to imply that Edward Standish of Woolston was the same man as the individual fined as a royalist in Newark ?  Edward Standish of Newark was one member of a Standish family or families living entirely separate from any possible Lancashire links.


The archive collections of the counties of Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire must hold further documents than have become evident so far and yet to be examined, which points to this being a report of work still in progress rather than a completed search exercise.(1)


There are records of several Standish families living in the East Midlands from the fifteenth century onwards. One of these families believed themselves to be descendants of the Standishes of Standish, from Roger, younger son of Alexander Standish of Standish.(2) They had settled in Peterborough, Northamptonshire apparently before 1600 and in the next  hundred years contributed many sons and grandsons to the church and often to the Cathedral in Peterborough itself. By this career path some of these clergymen took up posts elsewhere, at Wells in Somerset, in Hampshire and Etton in Northamptonshire. One of them, John Standish, became President of Peterhouse, Cambridge and chaplain in ordinary to Charles II.


Like their cousins in Lancashire certain Christian names were favoured, for example, Ralph, Alexander, Thomas and Roger; at the Visitation of Northamptonshire in 1681 the Standish family recorded a pedigree, which appears in the published form together with a drawing of the Standish of Standish arms. Were they aware of the image of the arms themselves or is this no more than a helpful editorial addition to the pedigree? The pedigree underlines the contribution made to the church by so many of the members of the family, in particular to Peterborough Cathedral, and  there may be scope for more research on this family.          


Their pedigree shows the name of Francis Standish, a clergyman in Wells, where it seems another unrelated Standish family were living in the seventeenth century. This last named claimed descent from Symon Standish of Torrington in Devon, whose son, John, gentleman, of London married Ann, daughter of John Bradshaw of Worcester. At the Visitation of Somerset in 1672 their son, John, of Wells recorded his pedigree. (3)  Nowhere in the brief pedigree does John claim any relationship to Standishes of Lancashire- perhaps his line had taken their surname from the Gloucestershire village of Standish and not from an earlier offshoot from this county.


The second notable family in the East Midlands again recorded pedigrees at the visitation of their county, but one individual especially takes prominence in the records of his time. Edward Standish of Newark on Trent, or Dorrington and Ruskington, was a contemporary of Myles Standish. The date of his birth is not known but he died in 1656 and left a widow and several children. His grandfather, Thomas Standish of Dorrington, held lands in Lincolnshire, close to the border of the neighbouring county of Nottingham. Grandfather, father and sons kept their links to their home villages and the land, but Edward also branched out into trade -he is best known as a mercer in Newark on Trent, where Standishes were prominent in local affairs from at least 1500. At an inquisition taken on 4th August 1506, for example, into the discovery of 200 pounds found hidden in a font, Roger Standisshe was present to swear on oath what he knew of the find. In 1591 Richard Standyshe was one of the citizens able to provide his own armour at a muster and William Standish’s name appears in a record of the town’s school in 1596. Edward and John Standish are mentioned frequently in the Corporation minutes from the 1620s, both served as aldermen and John was mayor of Newark in 1626 and 1640 while Edward was mayor in 1632 and 1645.


During the Civil Wars Newark’s position in the East Midlands made it a prize for both sides, but the town was chiefly a royalist stronghold and was besieged on three separate occasions by parliamentary armies; Edward Standish seems to have been heavily involved in the resistance, lending large sums of money to the king’s commissioners, he was later condemned for handing over (silver?) plate to aid the king and had a role in the fortifications of the town. In time he was listed as an active royalist; “ the most malignant townsmen, were the Mayor of Newark  ( William Baker ),  Ald Atkinson, Ald Standish and others…”


In 1648 Parliament’s committee for levying fines upon delinquents accepted a sum of £497.16.8 from Edward Standish for assisting the forces raised against the parliament.

The setback to his fortunes must have been temporary, however, as his will of 1656 shows him to have considerable wealth by then; each of his three sons gained large tracts of land, his widow Elizabeth was well provided for and his two daughters were each bequeathed one thousand pounds.


By 1687 James II took steps to reform the corporation of Newark replacing former aldermen with new men, among them Edward’s son, Gilbert.


In the printed Lincolnshire pedigrees two Standish families are recorded, one, of Dorrington, including Edward Standish, etc, while the second is that of James Standish of Billingay; the editor noted that he could not establish a connection between the two families but felt confident that there should be a link. If either of these Standish families had any knowledge of  having roots in Lancashire they failed to record it at the time of the visitation. Edward Standish’s will refers to his seal being affixed along with his signature though the National Archives website displays only a transcript of the will and no image of any seal.


The parish register entries and legal documents of these counties  tend to place the Standishes in the rural villages of Lincolnshire south of Lincoln and reaching across to Newark on Trent.


In 1482 Stephen Gryngham, a cooper of Newark, died and left 2s in his will, asking that prayers for the repose of his soul be said by the chaplain of the parish church, Miles Standen”.


“Two miles outside Newark is the village of Hawton, which was the home for several hundred years of a branch of the Molyneux family of Sefton. The printed Standish deeds and charters reference  number 201, dated 1518, records an indenture between Ralph Standish and William Molyneux by which Alexander Standish is to marry Anne, daughter of Sir William Molyneux; one of the witnesses to this document is Robert Molyneux of Hawton in Nottinghamshire.”


This search of Standish families in the East Midlands came about by accident and by following various clues but this research area has a long way to go before a comprehensive picture can be made of them in the region. Isolated examples of Standishes turn up in the neighbouring counties for instance , and like those of Notts, etc a link to Standish families in Lancashire must be left open at present. The Dept of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham is known to have considerable numbers of documents for these families dating back to at least the Tudor period, the calendar moreover shows one, perhaps two genealogies of Standish families which may be worth investigation.


The coincidental nature of this avenue of research has always seemed to be that this cluster of settlements of Standish families in the East Midlands lies very close to Scrooby and the origins of the Pilgrim Fathers in England. To date however Myles Standish remains as remote from these Standish families as he seems to be from  Lancashire documentary records.


Another line of the present writers current enquiries is in following the group of settlers who by 1632 had migrated from the original landfall of the Pilgrim Fathers to the bay where New England’s Duxbury lies. Might elder Brewster, Moses Simmons, Peter Browne, George Soule, George Partridge, John Alden, Nicholas Byrom, Francis Eaton and Myles Standish have anything in common, possibly roots, apart from initiative? To date, there is little found to suggest any marked common characteristic, although a few are Essex men. (4)  Possibly there is a link with an Alexander Standish who reputedly died in London in 1586. (5)


Notes and References:

1.        All this research has been undertaken by Mr. J. Heyes of Chorley; member  St.Laurence’s History Society

2.        The Standish of Peterborough family tree, taken from The Visitation of Northamptonshire, 1681   ( Harleian Society), p206-8


Alexander Standish of Standish in com. Lanc. is seen as head of family

His son was Roger “a younger son”

Roger’s son was Ralph, a vicar choral of Lincoln cathedral

Ralph had sons David Standish of Peterborough (1588-1676) and Francis Standish of Wells (1580-1670)

David had children :David( born 1640), Alexander (1648-9) and Elizabeth(1630-    ).

Francis had children: Thomas (1626-1669), Francis (1628-1669(, Elizabeth (1625-1660)


3.        Harleian Society Pedigrees, vol 11.

4.        Names derived from W.Bradford’s History, op cit.

5.        M.T.Goodrich: “The Children and Grandchildren of Captain Myles Standish”, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol 87, (Boston, 1933), p151.


9. Conclusions to date………


Current research has not provided the solution in the search for Myles’ origins. Nevertheless, we can be fairly certain about what is known:


o       Myles was a soldier in the Low Countries who became important as the military adviser to the Pilgrim Fathers


o       He claimed to be Standish of Standish, believed he should have had Standish of Ormskirk lands and yet named his new settlement after Standish of Duxbury. Was he thinking he may be descended from all or any of the Standishes? Was he “covering all the angles”? Did he believe different things at different times? Was he impressed by the new Duxbury Hall of 1623, heard about during a visit to England in 1625? (1) Might the presence of a Miles Nightingale amongst Duxbury tenants in 1582 be significant?


o       There is no record discovered of Myles in the Manx Isle of Man ( or anywhere.)


o       All his contemporaries who wrote about him recognised his military service and that he was from Lancashire, most saying from a landed/ gentleman’s family. (Of course he could have told them that but folk like John Robinson were no fools!)


o       DNA tests to date suggest he is from the Lancashire area and related in some way to one of the Standish of Lancashire families. This confirms he was not a complete “chancer” and rogue from outside the family. His military and financial aptitude also seems to be well recognised by contemporaries who put trust in him. He was given or gave himself an education; the almost eclectic set of books he left reveal an enquiring, balanced outlook.


The prevalent conclusion might be that he was a younger son, possibly in the female line, who was simply not recorded. It may be that he was in the Low Countries at a very early age and in the haps of military life may have little certain idea of his precise origins. However he did improve his life ( considerably!) and had some inkling of his heritage. The research described in these chapters hopefully shows an open-minded, thorough and ongoing search for Myles’ origins.


Notes and References:

(1)     Bradford’s History would suggest that Myles may well have been in London pre-occupied with Plymouth business with their backers- although he did allegedly use a substantial amount of “expenses”. (Bradford’s History,op cit, April 1626)  We also know that the new Duxbury Hall was very unlikely to be completed by 1625-6. The entrance hall does contain a stone dated 1623 but Thomas Standish of Duxbury was still conducting business from the pele in 1631. LRO, DP502/6/3/3 4 August 1631. If Myles visited the hall, why did he not know to claim estates in and around Duxbury?



                                        10. And……………Actions to Come


The paucity of hard fact about Myles and the reluctance of much painstaking family tree research to afford the missing definitive evidence do not preclude hope. Work is currently moving forward on two fronts. On the one hand is the more assiduous family research, closing down possible lines for Myles and in particular stretching Benjamin Standish’s tree back into the seventeenth century. He is important as the first likely descendant of the family of Myles to come forward. The strong physical resemblance between Benjamin, the Mason Standishes- and even the Thomas Morton description of Myles himself- is stirring.   


  Secondly, the possibility of a major breakthrough through DNA testing is very exciting.

Such a project needs a logical and possibly costly methodology. We are counseled to:


o       Establish co-operation between two scientific laboratories with experience of ancient DNA; one in the U.S.A and one in U.K would be appropriate. All tests could then be done twice to obviatedistortion of results through contamination.

   A testing of  a random set of living Standishs from both USA and UK would exclude the possibility that all male Standishs are descended from one man who first took the name Standish.  If this testing shows significant diversity (as would be expected) then it should be possible to identify descendents of the Lancashire family.


o       Secure co-operation of male descendants of Myles in America and known Standish descendants in U.K. Match their DNA. If their DNA haplotypes are identical it would be reasonable to conclude they are descended from the same family. (We would of course have to be clear which branch of the Standish family our UK descendants are from. The foregoing pages provide a reasonably select list of candidates).


o        If necessary, establish whereabouts and gain access to remains of male members of main Standish families at time of Myles’ birth. There are obviously great ethical, practical and legal issues in accessing the tombs. The haplotypes identified would then have to be matched against those of Myles Standish himself.


This is obviously costly, time-consuming and diplomatic work. However it does hold out the opportunity of very definitive and decisive information.


The following table suggests lines of prioritised enquiry, always allowing that access and testing could be secured. (1)



Possible Relationship



Myles Standish


Duxbury, USA


Sir Thomas Standish of Duxbury




Alexander Standish of Duxbury


St Laurence’s


Mr Thomas Standish of Duxbury


St. Laurence’s


Thurstan Standish of Burgh at Duxbury


St. Laurence’s


Modern day Standish descendants in USA and UK e.g. Benjamin Standish




The strategy is obviously to test the Duxbury connection first before moving towards Standish and Ormskirk or wider.




1. St. Laurence’s History Society is indebted to the advice afforded and interest shown by Professor David McConnell of Trinity College, Dublin.


                                                 11. Historiographical Note


Myles may have created his own history. The first assessments of him come from his contemporaries- William Bradford, William Hubbard and Nathaniel Morton. They accepted Myles’ account of his origins and of course some would know him from at least 1609. It’s obvious he was trusted and could become a friend of John Robinson. So they knew what he wrought in Massachusetts and believed he was a soldier of a gentleman’s family in Lancashire.


As early as 22 December 1769 an Old Colony Club event in Massacusetts had drunk a toast to Myles and presumably other New Englanders habitually did. (1)  There was little mention of Myles by historians until the mid nineteenth century, although it is interesting to note reference to him in works by Bellknap(1797) and Alexander Young (1824,1841. (2)  Myles was thrust to the fore by the death, without issue of Frank Hall Standish of Duxbury in 1840. There were many claimants to his estate, some more legal and serious than others, although the estate soon rested on a cousin from Durham, William Carr of Cocken Hall. Probably the relative furore over some 6000 acres attracted the interest of Myles’ descendants and friends in America. By 1846 their agent Mr Bromley was investigating the “Case of the Pumiced Page”, claiming Myles’ birth ( and therefore right to Duxbury) had been struck from the Chorley parish registers and allowed the surreptitious detention of his birthright, which should now be theirs. This would trigger J.Winsor’s “History of Duxbury” (1849) or at least the references to the activities of the association of Myles’ descendants. It would partly explain H.W.Longfellow’s decision to make Myles the subject of his poem “The Courtship of Myles Standish” (1858), although the story he told of Myles’ pursuit of Priscilla Mullins was apocryphal.


A burgeoning sense of the past in America, possibly following the Civil War and the feeling of history and a nation being made as the United States reached out across the West to the “manifest destiny” of the Pacific, may be an additional reason why Myles’ memorial was erected on Captain’s Hill in 1871 and interest in him was never henceforth to die. There was a local sense of pride as shown in the carefully organized 250th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Duxbury township. There were many Americans who were keen to trace their origins to the first settlers. The discovery of Myles’ alleged portrait in 1877 would be a timely stimulus. The importance of Myles’ memory for a wider America is seen in the courteous letters sent by President Grant and Generals Sherman and Sheridan to the memorial committee in 1871. (3)  Unsurprisingly Myles memory was used for contemporary political purposes. General Horace Binney, president of the Standish descendants’ association, was keen to portray Myles as a “skilled military force in loyal subordination to the civil authorities”.(4)  The 1887 celebration of  New England’s Duxbury’s birth, also celebrated all “little democracies”. (5)  Whatever the various motives for a continuing “Myles Standish industry”  his status in America is clear from the inclusion of an engraving of the portrait in the Library of Congress (1904) as indeed from works such as F.M.Gregg’s on the “Founding of a Nation” (1915) and M.T.Goodrich “The Children and Grandchildren of Captain Myles Standish” (1933).



Old England’s interest in Myles has generally been slighter and more fitful. It’s interesting if hardly surprising that nineteenth century English claimants to the disputed Duxbury estate choose other Standish forebears as originators of their putative and wishful family trees. Nationally there was, naturally, some non-comformist interest. W.H.Bartlett wrote of “The Pilgrim Fathers” (1866) and J.Brown of “The Pilgrim Fathers of New England and Their Puritan Successors” (1897).


However from the end of the nineteenth century there was an interest in all things imperial in Britain; by now the empire was seen as a “good” thing with a patent civilizing mission. Myles could be seen as a founder of the United States- possibly!- but also as a hero of the colonisation of the First British Empire. Inevitably standard biographical studies would want to identify Myles’ birthplace. (6)  Myles tends to become absorbed into general Pilgrim Father history but publications gathering around significant anniversaries do pay him at least a passing nod. Locally he can be the subject of copious and keen debate.


The first written reference to be found to a “Manx tradition” is in A.W.Moore “Manx Worthies (Douglas, 1901) which suggests Myles’ wives Barbara and Rose might be from the Isle of Man. The unsupported assertion that they were cousins or sisters appears throughout the twentieth century. The main focus on the Manx island as Myles’ own birthplace resulted  from the questioning mind of  Canon Porteus of Chorley, Lancashire. He had discovered a Standish of Ormskirk rent roll from 1529 which seemed to explain how Myles might have been linked to Lancashire and Isle of Man lands mentioned in his will. He enquired in the island for Standish connections and was rewarded by the strong interest of William Cubbon who claimed the island as Myles birthplace in a letter to The Isle of Man Examiner (27/6/1914). Cubbon also positioned Myles’ birth implausibly in 1865. An Ormskirk/Manx family tree was offered in a paper of 1919 to the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society. The most ardent case came with the publications, from 1984, of GVC Young, himself a committed and involved Manx resident, historian and servant. Apart from seizing the opportunity afforded in retirement from his official post, Young may have been mindful of the four hundredth anniversary of Myles’ possible birth and the impact upon the Manx tourist industry. The Young thesis seems to have gained acceptance in New England although it was not without challenge in his own island. Rev. R. Kissack presented a very thoughtful and measured paper to the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society in the very same year entitled “Was Myles Standish a Manxman?” concluding that the case must be “not proven”, very largely because of the total lack of any evidence using the name Myles about the unknown son of John of Ellanbane whom Young picked upon as the only candidate. To their great credit the Isle of Man government’s official website has carried Kissack’s paper since 2002.

The Lancashire mainland has not been inactive. Indeed Porteus, from 1920, had pointed out the paradox of Myles few references linking himself to three different Standish families. This always allowed Chorley folk to remind the world that it is an inescapable fact that the good Captain chose “Duxbury” as the name for his own settlement. Most recently, in 1999/2000 the Lancashire History Quarterly carried a series of articles by Helen Moorwood who had come across the Myles mystery in researching her own family’s history in Duxbury. Exhaustive reconstruction of the Standish of Duxbury family trees revealed the complexity and numerous branches of that supposed one Standish family and indicated that Myles’ origins might be close to Chorley, for example the Isle of Man land in the will being the farm at Croston. The articles also painted a plausible picture of what Myles life before 1620 might have been like- if indeed he was born near Chorley. Moorwood’s case has provoked a strong critique from Jeremy Bangs who also provides a survey of the issues around Myles. (7)


The St. Laurence’s History Society of Chorley continues in an honest quest to determine Myles’ family, birthplace and lost inheritance. (8) The historians working with the Society are conscious of the rewards for Chorley in terms of community interest and tourism should the young Myles be laid by their door.  However they are primarily aware that historians have a duty to be honest, cautious and substantiated in all they do. Fundamentally they simply want to know- or at least know as far as possible. The identification of a Lancashire Standish descendant in England willing to undergo DNA tests might just be the additional technique which moved the search forward.


Notes and References:


1.        The Boston Newsletter, 22 Jan 1770

2.        “Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers”

3.        S.W.Allen, op. cit., p16

4.        H.Johnson, op.cit., p270; E.McKnight “Myles Standish, The Captain of Plymouth”, p12

5.        Justin Winsor Jr’s address at 250 Anniversary of Duxbury Celebrations (Avery and Doten, 1887)

6.        For example: H.Johnson, op. cit.; J.A.Doyle:”The English in America” (1882)”; G.C.Blaxland: “Mayflower” (1896).

7.        Bangs, “Maylower Quarterly” 72, op cit.

8.        Anthony Christopher’s website will publish the ongoing researches of the St. Laurence History Society and also include other authors’ work on Myles.


12. Bibiography


1.   S.M.Allen: “Myles Standish; Exercises of Consecration of the Monument Ground, 1871 (Boston, 1871)

2.   Avery and Doten (publ.): “The Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Duxbury, June 17th, 1887” (Plymouth, 1887)

3.   J.D.Bangs: “Myles Standish. Born Where?...”, (Mayflower Quarterly, 72, September 2006)

4.  W. Bradford :”History of the Plimoth Plantation”,  (Boston,1856,1898,1912,1952)

5.  W. Cubbon: Paper on Myles Standish (Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, vol ii, p287, 1919)

6.   M.T.Goodrich: “The Children and Grandchildren of Captain Myles Standish”, (New England Historical and Genealogical Register 1933, vol 87, p149-153)

7.   L.Hill: “Gentlemen of Courage -Forward” (Magnolia Press, 1987)

8.   Rev.W.Hubbard: “The General History of New England”(Boston,1650)

9.   C.Johnson: “

10.  E.Johnson: “The History of Standish-Part 1:The Standish Family”, (Standish, 1972)

11. H.Johnson:” The Exploits of Myles Standish” (London,1897)

12. Rev R.Kissack: “Was Myles Standish a Manxman?” (Paper to I of Man NH&AS,1984)

13. G.D.Langdon Jr: “Pilgrim Colony:A History of New Plymouth, 1620-91” (Boston, 1966)

14. E.McKnight:”Myles Standish, The Captain of Plymouth” (Chorley, 1901)

15.  A.W.Moore: “Manx Worthies” (Douglas, 1901)

16. H.Moorwood: “Myles Standish” (Lancashire History Quarterly, vol 3,1999-2000)

17. N.Morton: “New England;s Memoriall” (Boston, 1669)

18. T.Morton: “New England’s Canaan” (Boston, 1637)

19. Mourt: “Relation” or “ Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plymouth”, (London, 1622)

20. Canon TC Porteus: “Captain Myles Standish: His Lost Lands and the Lancashire Connection” (Manchester University Press, 1920)

21. Proceedings of the Massachusetts History Society, 1876-77, p324

22. R.S.Wakefield: “Mayflower Families for Five Generations”, vol 14, Dec. 1994 (Plymouth; Geneaology Society of Mayflower)

23. GF Willison: “Saints and Strangers”(1945); Pilgrim Reader, (New York, 1953)

24. J.Wilson: “Chorley Church: The Story of the Old Parish Church of Chorley in Lancashire”, (Edinburgh, 1914)

25. E.Winslow: “Good News from New England”, (London, 1624)

26. J.Winsor: “History of Duxbury” (Boston, 1849)

27. GVC Young: Pilgrim Myles Stanish:First Manx American” (Peel, 1984) and: “More About Pilgrim Myles Standish..” (Peel, 1987)