Press Release – Free DNA Test For Leiden Pilgrim Descendants

The following announcement was written by Tamura Jones:

LEIDEN – 19 April 2019
On Thursday 25 April (DNA Day), genealogy expert Tamura Jones will organise a large-scale DNA Test of Pilgrim descendants in Leiden, the Netherlands. Such investigation has not been done before, not even in America. The goal is to try and discover something interesting about the group and their ancestors.

Mayflower Pilgrims

The Mayflower departed from Plymouth, but the Pilgrims came from Leiden, a city they called home for more than a decade. When they left for the New World, they took Dutch ideas such as religious tolerance and civil marriage with them. Thanksgiving even has roots in Leiden’s 3 October Celebrations, the annual commemoration of the Relief of Leiden in 1574.

Nowadays, Leiden does not only celebrate 3 October, but has an annual Thanksgiving Service as well. This Thanksgiving Service is held in the late-Gothic Pieterskerk (Peter’s Church), where the Pilgrim’s pastor, John Robinson, was buried. Two Mayflower descendants speak during this service, an American descendant and a Dutch descendant.

Searching for Descendants in Leiden

It is still a little known fact that the Pilgrims did not only have descendants in America, but in Leiden as well. Moses Fletcher is one of the Pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower in 1620. He had children, but they did not travel with him, he travelled alone. The plan was to build a house and then invite the family over. However, the Pilgrims were ill-prepared for their first Winter in the New World and half of them perished, including Moses Fletcher. His children stayed in Leiden, had children of their own, had grandchildren, and so on. Today, there are literally hundreds of Leidenaren who descend from Moses Fletcher, but only a few are aware of this historic connection.

Modern Pilgrim

The internationally respected genealogist Tamura Jones jokes that he’s a modern pilgrim, as he’s an Englishman living in Leiden, just like the Pilgrims were. He’s been working on the Leiden Pilgrims project, research into the descendants of Moses Fletcher, for more than ten years already. That research has progressed far enough, that he’s able to identify living descendants. When American Overseas Remember, the organisers of the annual Thanksgiving Service in the Pieterskerk in Leiden requested, he brought them into contact with some of these descendants.


Thursday April 25 is international DNA Day. Tamura Jones has found MyHeritage willing to sponsor the Leiden Pilgrims project with fifty DNA Kits. MyHeritage is an international platform for family trees and DNA test, which provides millions of these DNA Kits to consumers. The results include a world map that shows where you ancestors come from.

A typical DNA ancestry map

Place and Time

Thursday the 25th of April, between 12:00 and 18:00, descendants are welcome in De Waag (The Weigh House) in the centre of Leiden to participate in the Leiden Pilgrims project. This is the first time in history that descendants of anyone are being offered a free DNA test, and the first time that a large group of Pilgrim descendants are being tested. Hope is to be able to tell something interesting about the group or their ancestors.

De Waag (The Weigh House) is a national monument in the centre of Leiden. Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Are you a Descendant?

Some Americans named Fletcher claim to be descendants of Moses Fletcher. Tamura Jones curtly dismisses those claims: “Just having the same family name doesn’t make you a descendant. It has in fact been centuries since any of the descendants bore the name Fletcher.”

Tamura Jones explains that one family name features centrally in the research: “Three children of Moses Fletcher had children themselves, grandchildren and more, but only his daughter Priscilla Fletcher and her husband Thomas Koet are known to have living descendants. The vast majority of their descendants still live in Leiden and surroundings. Almost everyone named Koet is a descendant, but after some sixteen generations, descendants bear many other family names associated with Leiden, such as Blansjaar, Nagtegaal, Stikkelorum, Terdu and Verwer.”

If your family name is Koet, you are almost certainly a descendant, and qualify for the free test, but it is not necessary bear that name. If your mother or grandmother’s maiden name is Koet, you’re welcome too. Everyone, whatever their family name, who descends from Moses Fletcher is welcome, even if the name Koet occurs only ten or twelve generations ago. If you know yourself to be a descendant of Moses Fletcher, or suspect that to be the case, you;’re invited to stop by. Your information will be compared to the genealogy.

Keep informed by following @LeidenPilgrims on Twitter.

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The DNA Test

The DNA test is a so-called autosomal DNA test for genetic genealogy. This is the most comprehensive type of consumer DNA Test.

A cotton swab is used to collect some cheek mucosa, which is sent to a CLIA-certified laboratory. The laboratory tests for hundreds of thousands of so-called markers. The result of that test can be compared with family trees and other tests, and that’s the basis for an ancestral map that shows what regions your ancestors come from. It can also be used to find family through DNA matching.

Leiden has been a city of immigrants for centuries. Many Leidenaren whose families have been living in Leiden for generations have ancestors in Belgium, France, Germany or England. Leidenaren who descend from Moses Fletcher include English ancestry.

De Waag

De Waag (The Weigh House) is a national monument in the centre of Leiden. The stone building from 1658 replaced the wooden building that stood there since 1455, at the place where the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine), Nieuwe Rijn (New Rhine) en Mare came together. This is where, back in 1609, the Pilgrims arrived in Leiden. They stepped onto the Waaghoofd (Weigh House Quay), the quay in front of De Waag, where ships moored to be unloaded.

De Waag served as a weighing house for centuries. Today, it houses a bar and restaurant, with the Waaghoofd as a terrace, but it still the place where, every year, on October 3rd, the City of Leiden hands out the traditional herring and white bread.


Given that the connections with these pilgrims dates back 10 or 12 generations, an autosomal DNA test from MyHeritage is not going to provide any information of value. We only inherit DNA from a small subset of our ancestors back in the 1600s. Most of the pilgrim descendants will not have any DNA from these ancestors, See:
It would have been far more informative to conduct Y-DNA and mtDNA testing on people with direct male- and female-line descent from the pilgrims or Y-DNA testing on males with the surnames of interest.


Katherine Anne Larkin April 20, 2019 at 3:19 pm

I believe that I am a descendant of Alexander Carpenter b.1546 Eng. d. 1613 Leiden, Zuid, Netherlands. His daughter Pricilla Carpenter Cooper, Wright b. 1598 – 1689
AND George Morton b.1581 Austerfield, Eng. d. 1624 Plymouth. He married in Leiden where he was carefully named as “an unmarried man” (suspect this was because he had a young son with him also named George) but no wife.


Is there any plan to extend this to the US? I believe I have two ancestors who came on the Mayflower.


    I would also like to see this done in the USA. I am a direct descendant of Moyses (Moses) Fletcher. Many of my relatives still live in Leiden, and many are in the USA.


There were others also from Leiden who did NOT go to Massachusetts but went to what was Niew Amsterdam (now Manhattan, New York City), pre-dating the Pilgrims by 10 years. I got one foot in the French Protestants aka Huguenots or Wallonians and other foot in Pilgrims, eh?!


I am a descendant of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley. Does that count. They were on the Mayflower.


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