Leiden, Holland, Spring 1617
Isaac Allerton of Scrooby and London had left England behind for Holland by the time he married "Englishwoman Mary Norris of Newbury", in Leiden, on November 4, 1611. He was about 25, she about 23 years old.( It was a double wedding; Isaac's widowed sister Sarah Allerton Vincent also married Degory Priest.) Separatists like Isaac and Mary and their families, forbidden to follow their new religion in Anglican England under the rule of King James I, found tolerant Holland more congenial.
By 1614 records show Isaac had become a full fledged citizen of Holland. Isaac and his growing family were well ensconced in Leiden. By the spring of 1617, , Isaac and Mary already had a son Bartholomew, a daughter Remember, and little baby Mary Allerton, though her exact birthdate is unknown.
Isaac made his living as a tailor, an Allerton family trade for which he had apprenticed in England. As a tailor, he likely worked at home in Leiden. The Allertons lived in a very small house on a pleasant green, near a medieval church, surrounded by other members of their congregation. Mary Norris was surely busy with three young children and all the cooking and maintaining of the household. The house was about 12 by 20 feet, including steep stairs up to a loft where children could sleep, with a bedstead tucked under the stairs and a cradle downstairs for Mary. The rest was mainly hearth with stools and chairs and dining table nearby.
Records show receipts for a beautiful red cloak trimmed with ribbons which Isaac made for a wealthy neighbor, having procured all the materials himself; and document the Allertons' attendance at weddings of English emigrant friends their age, for whom Mary or Isaac often served as witness. Weddings were considered civil, not religious, affairs, and then as now, the occasion for a big party. As a registered burgher in Leiden since 1614, records show Isaac acting as guarantor for citizenship for fellow emigrants from England. All considered themselves dual citizens, both of England and of Holland. Isaac spoke fluent Dutch. He could read and write, so had some degree of education.
Robert Cushman lived not far away, and he and Isaac certainly knew one another. Robert, by now age 40, had emigrated in about 1609, having been a prominent member of the Separatist congregations in England. By 1617 he had one child, Thomas, about 10 years old, by his first wife Sarah Reder. Sadly, Sarah had died in 1616.
By June 1617, Robert was remarried, to a Mary Shingleton, the widow of another English emigrant. He was by now deep in discussions with fellow elders of the Church about a plan to pick up stakes and leave Holland altogether for the New World. Though the Separatists took pride in being English, their children were becoming Dutch, and by Thomas's age often expected to work long, hard hours to make ends meet. Robert was a grocer by trade, but became a woolcomber in Leiden. Like Allerton, Robert was also well educated, and by June 1617 was chosen to accompany Elder John Carver back to England to seek investment in the nascent plan to start a colony in America.