The Capen Family
Building America since 1630

The first recorded Capen to come to America was Susanna Capen. She was married to William Rockwell and arrived in America in 1630 aboard the sailing ship Mary & John. Later a large group, including Bernard Capen, arrived aboard Discovery of London in 1633, under the leadership of Thomas Swift (who was married to Elizabeth Capen, Bernard’s fifth child)
There is mounting evidence that this was not the first time Bernard tried to come to America. As I research the Capen family in England it appears that Bernard Capen was a Separatist. The Separatist group moved to Amsterdam in 1607/1608 and the next year moved to Lyden (also spelled Leiden), Gelderland, Netherlands. In the Morman Genealogical Index, the birth of John Capen-Bernard’s youngest child-is recorded in the year of 1613, in the city of Lyden, Netherlands.
Later in 1620 the group decided to move to America and obtained two ships, the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The group loaded aboard the two ships and sailed to Plymouth, England.  After two tries the Speedwell gave up. It appears it was a leaky old tub and was not sea worthy for such a long voyage. Both ships returned to Plymouth, England and some of the passengers loaded onto the Mayflower. The Mayflower sailed for America and the rest is history.

However, whatever happen to the passengers that were left in England? Well, it appears that Bernard Capen returned to Dorchester, England. Several recordings of marriages of Bernard’s daughters are in the Holy Trinity Church records in the year of 1629 and Bernard Capen is mention in Dr. Underdown’s book "Fire From Heaven".
During this time an export tax was charged on goods leaving the ports of England. However, to encourage the settlement of America all goods of emigrants to America was exempted. In these records it is recorded that a group of emigrants under the leadership of Thomas Swift sailed from the port of Wymounth, England in March of 1633, the same year that Bernard Capen’s family arrived in America. Thomas Swift was married to Elizabeth Capen, Bernard’s fifth child.
It has been written that Bernard Capen was the patriarch of the Capen Family. This statement I have always doubted. In 1633 Bernard Capen would have been 71 years old, a very old age for a man in 1633. The average life expectancy of a male person at that time was 46 years. It appears that Bernard Capen was not the leader of the group, but instead his son-in-law Thomas Swift who was in his prime of life. It is Thomas Swift’s name that is listed as the leader of the group, in the export records.
Clayton C. Capen
The Capen Family Historian.
Copyrighted 2001

About the author

The Capen family's patriarch was Clayton C. Capen.  Statewide Security, Capen Enterprises and Capen Electric Company were started by Clayton over the course of his life.  He passed away in March 2014, leaving these to his children and grandchildren.  On this website you will find information about our family and genealogy, which was another of Clayton's hobbies.