The group now known as the Pilgrims originated as a small congregation of Separating Congregationalists, one of many that opposed the Elizabethan church settlement, in the village of Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England. They were led by William Brewster, who had become a Puritan while attending Cambridge.
By 1607, the group was feeling persecuted as a minority in the village of Scrooby and determined to emigrated to Holland, where they could exercise their religion freely. They voyaged to Amsterdam in 1608 and thence to Leyden (or Leiden) in May, 1609.
After several years, some of the congregation began to feel that Holland was not the ideal permanent solution and looked towards America. Their first objective was Virginia, and the Virginia Company welcomed them and granted a charter on June 9, 1619. In 1620, they formed a joint-stock company to operate a trading post, for which they received another charter from the Virginia Company on February 2, 1620.
Not all of the congregation, however, wanted to leave Leyden. A minority, led by Brewster, prepared to depart in the spring of 1620. A sixty-ton vessel, the Speedwell was prepared and provisioned in London. Another ship, the Mayflower was hired for the voyage. When the Speedwell proved unseaworthy, the decision was made to proceed with the Mayflower alone with as many as could be accommodated on board. It sailed from Plymouth on September 6, 1620, with 87 passengers, 14 servants and workmen, and a crew of 48. Only two of this number came from the original Scrooby Congregation, William Brewster and William Bradford.
Sighting land, which proved to be Cape Cod, on November 9, 1620, they decided to settle in present-day Massachusetts rather than proceeding to the mouth of the Hudson River, which was the terms under which their charter had been given. Before landing on November 11 in the harbor of Provincetown, 41 adult men of the group signed the Mayflower Compact, setting out their governance.
After considerable time exploring, the harbor at Plymouth was located on December 8 and the Mayflower landed their on December 16. After an arduous winter, they elected a governor and other officers in March 1621, but it was not until November did they receive a new charter, giving legal status to Plymouth Plantation.