Who were the Separatist Mayflower Pilgrims?
Only about half of all of those who sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 were Separatists. The Separatists were a group of religious dissenters, many of whom came from Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. To put it simply, the Separatists were unhappy with the established Church of England and decided instead to meet together in private to worship according to their own religious beliefs. However, in 17th century England, this was a highly illegal and dangerous undertaking which eventually led to them to flee England in favour of Holland where the sort of religious freedom they sought could to be found.
After living in Leiden for almost 12 years, the Separatists, by this time joined by many from other parts of England, made the decision to leave Holland in favour of traveling together to build a new life in Virginia, America – a land where they could still be English but practice their religion freely.
So the Separatists sold their possessions to buy a ship, called the Speedwell, and in the company of a hired a ship, called the Mayflower, they set off on September 6th, 1620 for the New World.
The individual stories of the Separatist Mayflower Pilgrims, as well as those of the remainder of the passengers ( also known as 'Strangers') can be found at Caleb Johnson's excellent Mayfllower History website.