The Mayflower was first recorded in 1609, at which time it was a merchant ship traveling to Baltic ports, most notably Norway1. At that time, it was owned by Christopher Nichols, Richard Child, Thomas Short, and Christopher Jones. The ship was about 180 tons and rested in Harwich.
In its early years the Mayflower was employed in the transportation of tar, lumber, and fish; and possibly did some Greenland whaling. Later, it became employed in Mediterranean wine and spice trading.
In 1620, Thomas Weston assisted by John Carver and Robert Cushman hired the Mayflower and the Speedwell to undertake the voyage to plant a colony in Northern Virginia. The Speedwell turned out to be a leaky ship and was unable to make the famous voyage with the Mayflower.
Christopher Jones was the captain of the Mayflower when it took the Pilgrims to New England in 1620. They anchored off the tip of Cape Cod on 11 November 1620. The Mayflower stayed in America that winter while its crew suffered the effects of the first winter just as the Pilgrims did, with almost half dying.
The Mayflower set sail for home on April 5, 1621, arriving May 6, 1621. The ship made a few more trading runs, to Spain, Ireland, and lastly to France. However, Captain Christopher Jones died shortly thereafter and was buried 5 March 1621/2 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England. The ship lay dormant for about two years, at which point it was appraised for probate, and its value was determined to be £128-08-04, an extremely low value (had it been in sailing condition, £700 could be expected at that time). This probate inventory is the last record of the Mayflower. The ship was not in very good condition, being called “in ruinis” in a 1624 High Court of Admiralty record (HCA 3/30, folio 227) written in Latin. Ships in that condition were more valuable as wood (which was in shortage in England at the time), so the Mayflower was most likely broken apart and sold as scrap. There is no evidence that the Mayflower ended up as the Jordan’s barn, though that has become a place tourists flock to.
Mayflower was a very common ship name, and in fact numerous other ships named Mayflower made trips to New England; but none were the same ship that brought the Pilgrims to America.