It is important to note the distinction between Pilgrims and Puritans in American history. Though many Pilgrims were Puritanical, it is not universally true. The first New England Pilgrims are recognized to be a group of English people who came to America seeking religious freedom during the reign of King James I. After two unsuccessful attempts to leave England and move to Holland, a Separatist group was finally relocated to Amsterdam where they stayed for about one year. From there the group moved to the town of Leiden, Holland, where they remained for about ten years, able to worship as they wished under lenient Dutch law.
Fearing their children were losing their English heritage and religious beliefs, a small group from the Leiden churches made plans, initially, to settle in Northern Virginia. In August 1620 the group sailed for Southampton, England, where other English colonists who hoped to make a new life in America met them.
They planned to make the crossing to America in two ships, the Speedwell and Mayflower. However, after many problems the Speedwell was forced to return to England where the group was reorganized. In their second attempt to cross the Atlantic, they boarded the Mayflower in September 1620 bound for the New World. They arrived in New England, as winter was settling in and endured significant hardships as they struggled to establish a successful colony at Plymouth.
As the years passed, more Pilgrims made the journey to the New World in search of a new home and new freedoms. In time their colonies flourished and led the way to establishing religious freedom and creating the foundations of the democracy Americans enjoy today.