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William Bradford (March 19, 1590 – May 9, 1657) was an English leader of the settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and was elected thirty times to be the Governor after John Carver died. His journal (1620–1647) was published as Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford is credited as the first civil authority to designate what popular American culture now views as Thanksgiving in the United States.

William Bradford was born to William and Alice Bradford in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England in 1590. Austerfield was a small town of approximately 200, most of them farmers of modest means. The Bradford family, owning a large farm, was considered comparatively wealthy and influential among the citizens of Austerfield.

As a child, Bradford experienced the loss of numerous family members. Some historians, such as Nathaniel Philbrick, noted that Bradford’s lack of family bonds was a significant factor in his joining the dissident religious congregation that would one day be known as the Pilgrims. When Bradford was just over a year old, his father died. He was raised by his mother until the age of four when his mother re-married and Bradford was sent to live with his grandfather. Two years later, his grandfather died and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. A year later, in 1597, Bradford became an orphan at age 7 when his mother died. He was sent to live with two uncles.

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