By GREGORY B. SMITH
In my 2014 book about Winston Churchill’s American ancestry, I recounted how modern genealogists have discredited the Churchill family’s assertion that Churchill was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. Although it had been established that Churchill was directly descended from Arthur Howland, whose older brother John was a Mayflower passenger, no evidence existed at the time I wrote my book to prove that any of Churchill’s direct ancestors were among the Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic in 1620. This has now changed.
One connection I was able to show in my book was that Churchill was a descendent of a man named John Sprague. Last year, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society’s Christopher Challender Child published an article in the Summer 2019 edition of The Mayflower Descendant that used DNA evidence to show that John Sprague’s supposed father, also named John Sprague, was not his biological father. The younger Sprague was in fact the son of a man named Samuel Fuller (c.1629–1695). Fuller in turn was the son of a Mayflower passenger also named Samuel Fuller.
Any descendant of John Sprague the younger, therefore, including Winston Churchill and his descendants, can now legitimately claim descent from a Mayflower passenger. This DNA connection has been accepted as valid by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants.
In an interesting side note to the case, which gives credence to the DNA evidence, John Sprague the elder and his wife Ruth Basset were brought to court and fined for fornication because it turned out that she was already pregnant at the time of their marriage. It had been presumed that Sprague the elder was the natural father. It now turns out that poor Sprague the elder was fined for a crime committed by his wife with another man!
Perhaps in this 400th anniversary year of the arrival of the Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, one of Churchill’s descendants will honor the occasion by becoming a member of The Mayflower Society.
Gregory B. Smith is author of The American Ancestry of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill and president of Churchillian-by-the-Bay.