The Craftsmen

Long before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, my ancestors migrated to North America from Europe. It’s hard to imagine how they could support themselves in an unfamiliar and untamed land, but some arrived as experienced craftsmen with skills that were greatly in demand as more and more settlers arrived. Others learned a skill after they got here. For the most part, these trades are very different from work people do today.

Pilgrims in Massachusetts

Francis Eaton, carpenter

Francis Eaton was my only ancestor to come on the Mayflower with the English Separatists who settled in Plymouth (Massachusetts) in 1620. With him on the Mayflower were his wife Sarah and son Samuel. Francis, a carpenter, was born in England, date unknown. His carpentry skills were undoubtedly in demand since the Pilgrims had to build all their homes. Unfortunately, Sarah was one of many who died in 1621, and Francis married a second wife who also died. In 1623, Christian Penn arrived on the Anne. She became his third wife around 1625, and they had three children: Rachel, Benjamin, and Christopher. Francis died on November 4, 1633, and Christian married Mayflower passenger Francis Billington the following year.  My descent is through Benjamin Eaton.

Giles Rickard, Sr., weaver

Giles Rickard Sr., born about 1599 in England, arrived in Plymouth on the Speedwell in 1637 with his wife, Judith Cogan-King, and three children. On December 4, 1637, he was granted seven acres of land in Plymouth, where he served on several grand juries and was chosen to be constable in June 1658. Though he was granted a license to have an ordinary (a tavern), he was also a weaver–one involved in textile production. He died about 1684 in Massachusetts. I am descended from his son Giles Rickard, Jr.

John Barrowe, cooper

Born in Yarmouth, England, in 1609, John Barrow sailed to Massachusetts in 1637, probably on the Mary Ann, with his wife, Anne Thompson Barrowe. Shortly after arriving, they settled in Salem. John had several ways of supporting his family; one of them was working as a cooper. A cooper made barrels, vats, buckets, tubs, troughs, and churns out of wood pieces held together with hoops. John and Anne were the parents of my ancestor Robert Barrowe, born in 1639, but Anne died soon after the birth. By 1665, John had moved to Plymouth, where he died in 1691. 

John Stockbridge, wheelwright

John Stockbridge, born about 1607 in England, was not technically a “Pilgrim,” but his biography is listed in Genealogies of Mayflower Families, Vol. III, available at the Ancestry website. This source discusses at length some of the controversies regarding baptism that divided people in the church. The claim is made that John came to New England for economic, not religious, reasons. There is no evidence he belonged to the church, but his first wife, Ann, is listed as “Goodwife Stockbridge” in the church records of Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1637.  His second wife also accepted the church’s teachings, despite John’s dissatisfaction with the government in Scituate. He was fined more than once for his “contemptuous speeches,” but his “usefulness as a wheelwright” protected him from being punished more severely. In 1646, he is mentioned in land transfers as “John Stockbridge, wheelwright.” Wheelwrights built and repaired wooden wheels, so it may be that most people did not have the knowledge or the means to do this themselves. He was later party to the purchase of a sawmill, which must have been a help to him in his work as a wheelwright.  I am descended from his daughter Mary Stockbridge by his third wife, Mary Broughton. This daughter married Benjamin Singletary in Essex County, Massachusetts, in 1678.

Nathaniel Briscoe, tanner

The maternal grandfather of Mary Broughton Stockbridge (mentioned in the preceding biography) was Nathaniel Briscoe, born in Missenden, England, in 1595. The surname is also sometimes seen as “Biscoe”. In Watertown, Massachusetts, Genealogies and Histories at Ancestry.com, he is described as “the rich tanner”. Tanners were responsible for treating the hides or skins of animals to make leather. Nathaniel had come to Watertown around 1640 and was always politically active. Like John Stockbridge, he was a rather contentious person. For example, he circulated a pamphlet complaining about the way ministers were supported financially. By 1651, he was so fed up with the “religious intolerance” and not being allowed to vote as a “freeman” due to his Baptist beliefs that he returned to England, where it is believed he died. His wife, Elizabeth Honor Briscoe, born in 1600, had passed away before he left, but Nathaniel’s grown children remained in Massachusetts. He later wrote to his son-in-law that he would rather be in Massachusetts if people were allowed freedom of conscience.

Settlers in New Netherland

Philippe Antoni Du Trieux II, worsted dyer

Philippe Du Trieux was born in July of 1586 in Roubaix, France, which is now part of Belgium. In 1615, he married Jacquemine Noirett, and they had four children. After Jacquemine died in 1620, Philippe married Susanna Du Chesne in Leiden, Holland; their families had come to Leiden to escape religious persecution in France. The Netherlands was enriched with the arrival of these new immigrants because they were highly skilled craftsmen and artisans. Philippe was among these skilled workers; he was a worsted dyer–a dyer of wool yarn. In 1623, the Dutch West India Company decided to take settlers to the Delaware Valley near the Connecticut River. Philippe and 29 other families sailed in the spring of 1624 on the ship Nieuw Nederland but ended up going to a different location than planned: New Amsterdam (now New York City). The families settled on Manhattan Island, and Philippe became an employee of the Dutch West India Company. He later served his community in other capacities and had at least nine more children. Sometime before September of 1653, Philippe died, and Susanna died in 1654. I am descended from their daughter Susanna, who married Evert Wendell.

Jochem Wesselse, baker

Jochem Wesselse (1579-1681) was born in Hamburg, Germany. Very little is known about him, but he married Geertruy Hieronimus and had at least one child, Catrina. Though they were among the earliest settlers of Rensselerswyck (now Albany), they later moved to New Amsterdam. Jochem was a baker, and, obviously, his skills were in demand, regardless of where he lived. Everybody eats bread! He made a will around 1680 and died not long after. Geertruy was born in the Netherlands in 1579, but her date of death is unknown. Catrina (1620-1703) married Abraham Staats, a surgeon, fur trader, and community leader in Fort Orange, Rensselaerswyck, now Albany.

Goosen Van Schaick, brewer

Goosen Gerritse Van Schaick was born in Utrecht and came to New Netherland in 1637 under contract to Patroon Killian Van Rensselaer. After seven years of service, he went back to Holland but returned to New Netherland in 1646 on the ship Rensselaerswyck. Goosen was interested in the fur trade and was also involved in the real estate market. In 1664 he and Philip Pieterse Schuyler purchased the “Halve Maan”– land– from the Indians. Within this patent is Van Schaick Island, where the Van Schaick Mansion was built by his son Anthony. In 1675, Goosen and Pieter Lassingh purchased Harmen Rutger’s brewery on the Exchange Block; subsequently, Goosen became a brewer. A brewer, of course, makes beer, which was probably a necessity in that time and place. Goosen’s first wife was Geeritje Brantse Van Nieukerke, mother of my ancestor Sybrant Goosen Van Schaick. After she died, Goosen remarried. Due to his two marriages, he was the patriarch of a large and prominent family in Albany. At his death, sometime before 1679, he left a substantial estate to his second wife and to his ten children living in Albany.

Immigrants to Virginia and South Carolina

Salvator Muscoe, Sr., stone mason

As far as I know, Salvator Muscoe is my only Italian ancestor. According to Doug Garnett of the Garnett Family Registry, Salvator was a stone cutter, or stone mason, born in 1645 in Sicily. He went to London following the Great Fire of 1666 because workers with his skills were in demand to rebuild the city. He worked under the direction of Sir Christopher Wren in the construction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Salvator immigrated to Virginia around 1685 and settled near one of the Garnett families living there. Sometimes there is confusion about the details of his life due to the fact he had a son also named Salvator. Both Salvator Sr. and Salvator Jr. had daughters named Elizabeth who married Garnetts. I am descended from Elizabeth, daughter of the elder Salvator. Elizabeth was born about 1680 and married Thomas Garnett, born about 1675. They lived in St. Anne’s Parish, Essex County, Virginia.

Johann Philip ensminger, blacksmith

Johann Philip Ensminger, born in 1727 in Waldambach, Alsace, France, immigrated to Pennsylvania as a child with his parents, Peter and Mary Catherine Trautmann Ensminger. He was the fourth generation of Ensminger men to be a blacksmith. His great-grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Sr. (1640-1712), age 20, was listed in the 1662 tax records for Grafschaft Lützelstein, which included Waldhambach.  His occupation is listed as schmeidwerks. A schmied is a smith (blacksmith) and werks means works. Johann Philip’s grandfather, Philipp Ensminger, Jr. (1666 – post 1730), worked as a blacksmith who shoed horses in Alsace. Johann Philipp’s father, Peter Ensminger (1694-1739), was a blacksmith, too, and practiced that trade both in Alsace and in Pennsylvania. However, blacksmiths do more than shoe horses. They are really metalsmiths– hammering, bending, and cutting metal to make grills, railings, grates, tools, cooking utensils, weapons, and chains, among other things. After the death of his father, Johann Philip married Catherine Margaret Kissinger, supported the American Revolution, and moved to Virginia, where he worked as a blacksmith, raised at least ten children, and died in Monroe County. This area is now in West Virginia.

john dickey, Linen draper

One of the strangest professions I’ve ever heard of is linen draper. Basically, this is the job title for someone who sold cloth or linens–a dry goods merchant. According to Grover Dickey’s book John and Alexander Dickey, Immigrants, 1772, this was John Dickey’s job in Larne, County Antrim, Ireland, before he and his son Alexander arrived in South Carolina on the ship James and Mary. They received warrants for land surveys in 1773, and John Dickey’s land was 150 acres in Berkley County. Obviously, they had to do some farming, but I do not know for sure that John continued to work as a linen draper. John died in York County, South Carolina, in 1788. His son Alexander (1746-1832) served in the American Revolution and married Ann Wiseman, also an Irish immigrant. 

John mcvey, millwright

Long-time McVey researcher Vern Taylor believes that John McVey (1737-1823) was probably born in Scotland and came to America as a soldier in the French and Indian War.  He and his (unknown) first wife had four children and lived in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia). I am descended from their son Samuel Lewis McVey. After John’s first wife died, he married Sarah Snedigar and had twelve more children. John was given leave to build a mill on his land in 1787 and then worked as a millwright. A millwright’s responsibilities might have included installing, repairing, dismantling, assembling, or moving machinery, as well as constructing any of a variety of types of mills–flour mills, sawmills, or paper mills. The idyllc scenes of mills that are often seen in artwork might make one think that a millwright’s life was easy. However, looking at a diagram showing how complicated the machinery could be, it becomes clear that a millwright actually had to be very knowledgeable about  many things. John moved to Kentucky later in life, but records are unclear as to whether he died in Kentucky or in Virginia.

These examples give a simple overview of some of the crafts and trades our earliest American ancestors learned. Technical and practical skills are always needed, but not always appreciated.  I am looking forward to finding more information about other ancestors  and the crafts and skills that helped them to support their families and contribute to the welfare of the whole community.

Note: All illustrations are in the public domain.

Copyright © 2019 Kitty Steele Barrera. All rights reserved.

The Huguenot Immigrants

Historical Context

The Protestant Reformation, which started in 1517, resulted in the persecution of Protestants throughout Europe. Some relief came with the Edict of Nantes, signed in 1598 by King Henry IV of France in order to give rights to French Protestants of the Reformed tradition. This was made law despite France being a majority Catholic nation. Even so, the persecution of Protestants continued and then increased after King Henry’s grandson, Louis XIV, revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

These French Protestants, called Huguenots, sought refuge in other countries throughout the  17th century, enriching the populations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland with talented and skilled Frenchmen from all walks of life. The French Protestants who came from the area that is now Belgium were known as Walloons, who were also persecuted. Because of the emigration of Huguenots and Walloons into Britain, more than 28 French churches were established in the city of London alone between 1599 and 1753.

The Huguenot migration from England to Virginia and other colonies began after 1629, when an application to do so was first made to the English government. In 1700-1701, more than 500 Huguenot emigrants landed along the Potomac, Rappahannock, and James Rivers in Virginia, but there were numerous others who arrived in the colonies both before and after that influx.

This excellent map found online in “The Migration to Manakin Town,” an article by Daniel Ludington, had neither copyright notice nor contact information, so if I am informed that a copyright has been violated, I will immediately remove it. However, it is extremely helpful to those doing genealogical research to be able to see the locations where their Huguenot ancestors may have landed.

My Huguenot Ancestors, Part 1

DuTrieux

Philippe DuTrieux, born about 1586, was from Roubaix, an area in northeast France that is now present day Belgium. He was a French speaker who became a Protestant while Robaix was under Spanish rule. Persecution of Protestants was widespread and marked by repression and loss of life, so many in the Du Trieux extended family fled to England or the Netherlands, which had declared independence from Spain. Philippe settled in Amsterdam, employed as a dyer, and married Jacquemine Noiret in 1615. When Jacquemine died in 1620, Philippe was left with three small children: Marie, Philippe Jr., and Madeleine.

Around this time, the Dutch West India Company tried to develop international commerce by capitalizing on the fur trade that had developed in the Hudson Valley. In 1623 the company got rights to land in the Delaware Valley near the Connecticut River so they could start settlements there. Philippe and his family were among 29 other families who entered into a contract with the company to emigrate to America. Meanwhile, he had married Susanna DuChesne; she was also a French Protestant and had been born in England after her parents sought refuge. With Philippe’s two surviving children, Philippe and Susanna left the Netherlands in early April 1624 on the ship “Nieuw Nederland” (New Netherland), arriving at what is now New York City in mid-May. All of the immigrants came as free people and had freedom to worship as they pleased. They settled in what is now Manhattan instead of the Delaware valley as the company had intended.

Philippe and Susanna eventually had at least four daughters and three sons. He was employed by the West India Company and served as the Court Messenger in 1638. In 1640, he got a  patent for land in an area called Smits Valley. He already had a home on Beaver Street, but he sold it in 1643 so he could move to his farm in Smits Valley, near the fort (pictured) on the tip of southern Manhattan.

Today, in Battery Park, there is a monument honoring the settlers who came on the “Nieuw Nederland”. Philippe Du Trieux is in many records of early Manhattan, which was governed by the Dutch. He died about 1652, killed by Indians. A more detailed biography is available here. Even though Philippe did not live in Virginia, he has been verified as a Huguenot immigrant by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin of the Colony of Virginia.

Crockett

Though there is no documentary evidence, the tradition is that Antoine Desasurre de Croquetaine (1643-1735) converted to Protestantism in France and subsequently had to flee (according to tradition) to Kenmore Parish, Ireland, with his wife, Louise Dessaix. However, no one has been able to identify “Kenmore Parish”, and it’s quite possible that Kenmare was the true destination. Kenmare is in County Kerry, not far from County Cork where the Watkins family lived. In Ireland, the family changed their name to Crockett. One son, Robert Watkins Crockett, married his cousin, Rachel Watkins, and they had several children who went to the American colonies in the 1700s. Among those who emigrated was their daughter, Hannah Watkins Crockett, who had married Reuben Steele of Argylshire, Scotland. My ancestor Robert Steele, born about 1750 in Montgomery County, Virginia, was one of their seven children. Robert Steele would later marry Mary Keeling, serve in the Virginia militia during the American Revolution, and build a home for his many children in Wythe County.  The Crockett lineage has been accepted by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia.

My Huguenot Ancestors, Part 2

Shumate

The progenitor of the Shumates in West Virginia was Jean de la Chaumette, born to attorney Daniel de la Chaumette and Marie Au Courturier, about 1664, in Rochechouart, Poitiers, France.  His family was among those being watched by the government because they were Protestant. After the Edict of Nantes was revoked on October 20, 1684, Jean fled France with his two brothers, Josue and Antione, and Clovis Palazy, the pastor of the Reformed Church at Rochechouart. They found refuge in England, but no records have been located to indicate what his life was like between 1684 and 1687. Some speculate that he served in the English army.

One record that does exist is dated September 8, 1687, and can be found in the Huguenot Library in London, England. It shows his name Anglicized to John (hereafter so called) and that his passage to Virginia was to be paid by an English citizen, Nicholas Hayward. Since no wife is mentioned, he was single at the time the document was written. A translation of the document is below.

To severall ye intended for ye West Indies . . . To Lewis Reynaud   of Angoumois, his  wife and eight children for tools and others necessaries things to go to Virginia granted  8 pounds; and To Nichlos Hayward notary for ye passage to Virginia of Lewis Reynaud,  Anne his wife, Francis, Lewis, Mary and Sara Reynaud their children, and Benjamin  Reynaud, Mary his wife, Marianne and Mary their children, and John de la Chaumette  granted 33 pounds.

However, John did not leave England at that time. It appears he changed his mind and got married instead. He was later widowed, but the wife’s name is not known. There were no known children.

What is known is that, on September 29, 1695, John, a widower, married a widow, Elizabeth Bouvet Bourgeois, in the French Church in London, but it wasn’t until 1708 that John and other wealthy French Huguenots set sail for the West Indies. They were there for several years, but after Elizabeth died in an epidemic, John left the West Indies and headed for Virginia. With him were his three youngest sons: John, Samuel, and Daniel.  His oldest son, Antoine, stayed in Martinique (lower right-hand corner on map) at the homestead John had purchased.  At some point, his name was further Anglicized to John de la Shumate.

The largest influx of Huguenots to the Colonies, as noted previously, was in 1700. This was at a settlement known as Manakin Town in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. John arrived by 1722, presumably thinking he would join his brother Arnoul; however, he found that Arnoul had died 20 years before. Apparently, that was one factor in John’s decision not to stay in Isle of Wight County, but to head west, where land was more plentiful. He eventually bought 200 acres in Stafford County, where the deed is recorded. In 1724, John was included in the tobacco list of Overton Parish with his sons John, over 16, Samuel, 14, and Daniel, 12.  He died about 1734 in what was then known as Prince William County, Virginia. He was murdered at a tavern by a highwayman.

John de la Shumate is recognized as a Huguenot immigrant by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia.

Brasseur-Brashear

There are many spellings of this name: Brasseure, Brashear(s), Brasseur, Brashier, Brushier, and more, which makes it difficult to keep track of the descendants. However, the Brasseurs were French Protestants and left France to avoid persecution. They went to the Netherlands or England before coming to the English Colonies and settling in Maryland and Virginia.

My descent is from the immigrant Robert Brasseur, born about 1597, in Provence, France. His wife’s name was Florence, but her last name has been disputed. Robert fled France with his family to Kent County, England, around 1628, but, by 1635, had settled in Nansemond County, Virginia, where there were other French-speaking Huguenots. There, he patented 600 acres. The deed to that land, dated February 1638, is said to be the earliest land record of a Brashear in America.

To all to whom these present shall come: I, Sr John Harvey, Kt [knight], Governor, &c, send &c. whereas, &c. Now know yee that I, the said Sr John Harvey, Kt. doe with the consent of the Councell of State accordingly give and grannt unto Robert Brassure and Peter Rey six hundred acres of land seituate, lying and being in the upper Countie of New Norfolke lying north east and south west along the south side of a Creeke upon the head of the said Creeke and butting upon Nansemund river, alias Matrebers River. The said six hundred acres of land being due unto them, the said Robert Brassure and Peter Rey, by assignment from Peter Johnson to have and to hold, &c. dated the 24th of February 1638. (Va. Land Patents, Book 1, p.622. NOTE: this land now in Nansemond County, Virginia)

 Robert also received a grant of 1200 acres in Nansemond County in 1653:

“at the head of the southerne branch of Nanzemond Riv., 600 acres lying on the S. side of the branch & the other 600 on the N. side. Beg. on the No. side etc. Joining land of Adrian Buny. On the S. side being an Indian Towne, beg. at a marked pine standing on a bancke by the branch side joining land of Wm. Haines, etc. Transporting 24 persons: Marg. Stockwell, Geo. Ivory, Robt. Brasseur, Florence, his wife, Mary Brasseur, Persid Brasseur, Kathe. Brasseur, Bennet Brasseur, Wm. Wotton, Tho. Parker, Jno. Sutton, Jno. Stephens, Step. Dordon, Jon. Loyd, Jon. Bott, Symon Iron, Jon Barefield, Eliz. Pateman, Geo. Doldye, Wm. Ball, Nicho. Moroise, Tho. Pursell, Ra. Ellis, Jon. Abby.” (Va. Land Patents, Book 3, p.33.)

Robert’s property in Nansemond County went to his son John in 1667, so Robert had died by then. His oldest son, Benoit—or Benjamin—had relocated to Calvert County, Maryland, well before then, but died around 1662. Documentary evidence of his residence in Maryland includes probate records and his citizenship application.

Both Robert and Benjamin are listed as Huguenot ancestors by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin of the Colony of Virginia, even though they arrived over 50 years before Manakin was founded.

Noell

The Noell family, French-speaking and Protestant, lived in Sedan, France, near the border of Belgium, in the early 1500s. Pieter Noell (Anglicized spelling) and his wife, Jeanne Vintier, were born there. Seeking safety from those targeting Protestants, their son Jacob, born about 1599, left France and went to Leiden, in the Netherlands, where he married Treintje Cornelis on January 13, 1620. Treintje’s family had also come from France.

Jacob and Treintje had a son named Cornelius, who was born October 1623 in Leiden. Cornelius is the immigrant ancestor. He married Elizabeth Page in the Netherlands and had at least six children. Exactly when they came to Virginia is not known, but there are land records in Essex County with his name on them in 1670, if not earlier. Cornelius died in Essex County, Virginia, in 1699. His will mentions his wife and children.  Cornelius Noell has been verified by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia.

Copyright ©2018 Kitty Steele Barrera All rights reserved

Sources

Historical Background:
R. A. Brock, Documents . . . Relating to the Huguenot 
   Emigration to Virginia, edited and compiled for the
   Virginia Historical Society,Genealogical Publishing
   Co., Baltimore, 1962. v-ix., accessed at 
   https://archive.org/details/documentschiefly05broc

Du Trieux:
Huguenot Society
Philippe Du Trieux, Findagrave.com
Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Non-Conformist and 
   Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970 [on-line].  

Crockett:
Huguenot Society
Janie French and Zella Armstrong, “The Crockett 
   Family and Connecting Lines,” in Notable Southern 
   Families, Vol. V, The King Printing Company,Bristol. 
Carl Edmond Steele, Jr., Steele, A Gathering of the 
   Clan, 1981, accessible at 
   https://archive.org/details/steelegatheringo00stee
Steele Home photo scanned from the History of Bland 
   County, Virginia, copyright 1961.

Shumate:
Huguenot Society
My Heritage.com 
Shumake.org
Ancestors.chashartley.com
Public domain map

Brasseur:
Huguenot Society
Robert Brasseure, the Huguenot

 

The Immigrant John Basse and the Nansemond Tribe

Having traced my mother’s ancestral line back to John Basse’s wife, of the Nansemond Indian tribe, I was certainly curious as to whether this would show up in my DNA.  When I got the report, there was no Native American DNA identified, but I know this happens often to people of Native American descent. The reason for this is that less and less of a specific ancestor’s DNA is passed on over time, so you may very well end up with none of it. There is a very tiny “unassigned” portion of my DNA (0.1%) that cannot be identified. I guess that is the Nansemond Indian portion, but I don’t know for sure and probably never will. The Native American ancestry did show up in my brother’s DNA.

The English immigrant John Basse, born in 1616, was brought to the New World as  a child by his father, Nathaniel.  John later married a Nansemond Indian chief’s daughter, Elizabeth, and kept a record in his prayer book that proves family relationships and provides insight into their sincere Christian faith. It’s a fascinating story that would make a great television show or movie and has been told quite well by Billy Pittard on his blog.  I can’t tell it any better than he did, so do check it out.

This is the family record that John kept in his prayer book:  “John Basse was born ye 7 day of September in ye year of our Lord 1616 ye son of Nathll Basse and Mary his wife … he married Elizabeth dafter of Robin the Elder, King of ye Nansimuns kingdom, a Baptized xtian, in Holy Matrimonie accdg to ye Canons of ye Church of England, ye 14th day of August in the Year of our Blessed Lord 1638.”

For a more indepth understanding of the Nansemond tribe and the Basse family, see this scholarly article that Lars Adams has written as part of his research on Nansemond history. He mentions a later John Basse, born 1674, so keep in mind that he’s not talking about the immigrant.

My descent from the immigrant John Basse (b. 1616) is Richard Basse (b 1658), Thomas Bass (b 1719), Lucy Bass (b 1742), Joshua Nettles (b 1770), James Nettles (b 1796), Margaret E. Nettles (b 1831), Margaret Johnson (b 1871), and then my maternal grandfather. The colorized photo is Margaret E. Nettles. With every generation, it seems they moved farther west until they ended up in Texas.  As you can see, I am many generations removed from the Native American ancestor. Even if I don’t have Native American DNA, I’m proud they are part of my family.

Copyright ©2018 Kitty Steele Barrera All rights reserved

More About John Robertson Jefferson

As mentioned in my earlier post about the immigrant ancestry of President Thomas Jefferson, I am a descendant of his cousin, John Robertson Jefferson. The common immigrant ancestors of their fathers, brothers Field and Peter Jefferson, were discussed in that post.

Taking another look at John Robertson Jefferson’s immigrant ancestry, there is only one additional immigrant ancestor who can be identified. That individual is John Robertson Jefferson’s assumed maternal grandfather, Rev. George Robertson, born in Scotland. John’s mother, Mary Frances, is believed by many to be the daughter of Rev. Robertson.  John’s father, Field, wrote in his Bible at the time Mary Frances died: “The soul of my Dear Wife Frances Jefferson departed This Life Febry the 26/1750 It Being Tusday About half an hour After 4 O Clock In The Afternoon.   Field Jefferson ” Field Jefferson Bible note

Mary Frances Robertson was born in Virginia in 1706. However, there is, even now, tremendous doubt about who her parents were. Despite the fact that Rev. Robertson was a minister in Bristol Parish for over 40 years, generations of genealogists have been befuddled about his wife and children. It is known that he had several sons, but it is not known if they all had the same mother.  Traditionally, Rev. George Robertson has been listed as the father of Mary Frances, but no one can find the proof. The following paragraphs relate to the history of Virginia, regardless of whether or not I can prove the connection between Mary Frances Robertson and Rev. George Robertson.

Rev. George Robertson came from Scotland to Virginia as a missionary in 1692. He had also served as a ship’s chaplain with the Scottish navy. His ministry in Bristol Parish of Virginia  (not in Bristol, Virginia) at Old Blandford Church is well-documented from 1693-1739.  While he was still minister, a new church was erected in 1735, but it was abandoned in 1806, only to be restored later by the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg, Virginia, with memorial windows honoring Confederate soldiers. While I hold no sympathies with the Confederate cause, I do hope no one takes it upon themselves to destroy these memorials. There is quite a bit of information about these buildings to be found at the links provided.

Numerous sources regarding Rev. Robertson’s ministry in Virginia are widely available and free on the Internet. Both his family and his ministry are discussed at length in this source, which includes the early history of the parish. However, I do believe there are some significant errors in regard to the family history.

Rev. Robertson’s family origins are confusing due to conflicting information found even in ancient sources. It has been said that George’s father, William, was a minister at Greyfriar’s church in Edinburgh, which my friend Nancy Wright was kind enough to photograph for me on her recent trip to Scotland. However, the information I’ve seen indicates a later William Robertson also served there, so these individuals are sometimes confused.  There is certainly much more research that needs to be done, but I believe that this portion of an entry on Findagrave.com is probably correct:

“William Robertson was born in 1624 in Kindeace Ross and Cromarty Scotland. He was the son of William II Robertson (1571-1629) and Anna Marie Mitchell Robertson (1575-1624).

William married Eleanor Dreghorn Pitcairn (1634-1708) in 1652 in Aryshire, Scotland. Eleanor was the daughter of David Pitcairn (1610-1709) and Mary Ann Anderson Pitcairn (1613-).

Rev. William and Eleanor Pitcairn Robertson were the parents of the following 14 known children: John Rev. Robertson 1653 – 1691; Jeffrey Robertson 1654; James Robertson 1655 – 1705; Thomas Robertson 1658 – 1692; Rev. George Robertson 1662 – 1739; Nicholas Robertson 1665 – 1718; William “Royal Historiographer” Robertson 1675 – 1793; Jean Robertson 1684 – 1735; Nathaniel Robertson 1688; Anne, Catherine, Elizabeth, Isabella and Mary.”

This family is of particular interest because my daughter-in-law is descended from George’s brother, Jeffrey, who also came to America.  Though there is no information that Jeffrey himself was a pastor, he and his wife, Elizabeth Bowman, also lived in Henrico County, Virginia, and at least one of their great grandsons, Norvel Robertson, was a minister and a Revolutionary soldier.

Rev. George Robertson died before the American Revolution began, but he most certainly would have been a patriot as his descendants John Robertson Jefferson and Norvel Robertson were.

It will be a major task to untangle all the facts from the misinformation on the Robertson family. I will start with some of the sources listed below. If you also are a Robertson descendant, I invite you to participate and let me know what you find.

Old Churches, Families, and Ministers of Virginia
Blandford Church, Bristol Parish, Virginia
The Vestry Book and Register of Bristol Parish, Virginia
Births from the Bristol Parish Register
The Reverend George Robertson, Rector, Bristol Parish,VA  

Copyright ©2017-2018 by Kitty Steele Barrera    All rights reserved

The British Immigrant Ancestors of President Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson was the namesake of his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather. In other words, they were also named Thomas Jefferson. I, too, am a direct descendant of these two men since my ancestor John Robertson Jefferson was the President’s first cousin.  The President’s father was Peter Jefferson, and John’s father was Field Jefferson, Peter’s brother. I’ve always had two predominant feelings about being related to Thomas Jefferson. First, I’m proud of his brilliant leadership in the founding of our country. Second, I’m thrilled about being related to a President because someone else has already done most of the hard research!

There was a lot of intermarriage in these early Virginia families. For example, the President’s wife, Martha Wayles, (pictured) is also descended from some of my ancestors, the Eppes and Isham families, about whom I will write at another time.

My ancestor, John Robertson Jefferson, was also a patriot and is listed with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). His recognition came about because he was prosecuted in August 1777 for not paying his assessed levy to the local parish. His reason for not paying was that the minister, Rev. Christopher McRae, was a Loyalist.  Many of John’s Cumberland County neighbors who wanted independence also refused to pay.  All of the President’s immigrant ancestors mentioned below were also the forebears of John Robertson Jefferson.

It is believed that the President’s great-grandfather Thomas Jefferson immigrated to Virginia via the West Indies, but he was originally from either England or Wales.  There is some evidence for both origins, but it is generally accepted that this family is not connected to the Jefferson who was at Jamestown.  Great-grandfather Thomas was living at Osbornes, Henrico County, Virginia, in 1677, when his first son, Thomas, was born. He had married Mary Branch, a native-born Virginian, and was a planter and surveyor.  In 1682 he purchased 157 acres in Henrico County from William Byrd, and in 1692 he purchased a town lot.  By 1697, he was living near the James River below present day Richmond. Genealogists have determined that the family had a respectable standing and comfortable estate but they were not part of the wealthiest class of plantation owners.  An inventory of Thomas’s estate was entered into public record in 1698, and his heirs were son Thomas and daughter Martha. There was no mention of daughter Mary.

As previously stated, Mary Branch was born in Virginia; however, her grandfather, Christopher Branch, and grandmother, Mary Addie Branch, were immigrants from England.  They had married in London in 1619 at the age of 17.  Christopher was part of a prominent family descended from several signers of the Magna Carta. He and his wife and small son arrived on the ship London Merchant. By 1625, they were settled in Henrico County, Virginia, where they eventually had six sons. Unfortunately, Mary Addie Branch passed away in 1630.  In 1639, Thomas served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.  His will is dated June 20, 1678, and was proved in February 1681/82. In the will he makes a bequest to his granddaughter, Mary Branch Jefferson.  Several of his sons had preceded him in death.

The paternal grandmother of both President Thomas Jefferson and John Robertson Jefferson was Mary Virginia Field Jefferson (left), wife of their grandfather, Capt. Thomas Jefferson. She was born in Virginia, but her mother and paternal grandfather were born in England. Her mother, Judith Soane, was born in Sussex County, England, in 1646, and immigrated to James City County, Virginia, in 1651. She was the widow of Henry Randolph when she married Peter Field in 1678, in Henrico County. At the time of her death, her name was Judith Soane Randolph Field. The paternal grandfather of Mary Virginia Field Jefferson–father-in-law of Judith Soane–was the English immigrant James Field. He arrived in 1624 on the ship Swan and settled in Elizabeth City, where he was listed with the militia. It is unknown if his wife, Ann Rogers Clark, was an immigrant.

Both the President and his cousin John had other immigrant ancestors, but the ones listed above are the only ones they shared unless there is an as yet unknown connection.  I’ve always wondered how close John (b. 1742) was to his cousin Thomas (b. 1743) since they were almost the same age. I have a feeling that is one question that will never be answered.

Sources for Pres. Thomas Jefferson and John Robertson Jefferson

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997.
The Colonial Virginia Register. Accessed at  
   www.newrivernotes.com.
Findagrave.com
“Genealogies of Virginia Families.” William and Mary 
   College Quarterly, Vol. III, Heale-Muscoe.
Historical Southern Families, Vol. 1.  Accessed at 
   Ancestry.com
Hoff, Henry. English Origins of American Colonists. 
   Accessed at Ancestry.com.
Hopkins, Garland Evans. The Story of Cumberland 
   County, Virginia. Privately published, 1942.
The National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons. 
   Accessed at www.magnacharta.org.
Roberts, Gary Boyd. The Royal Descents of 500 
   Immigrants. Genealogical Publishing Company, 2002.
Weisiger, Benjamin B. III. Henrico County, Virginia, 
   Deeds, 1706-1737. Privately published, 1985-6. Richmond, Virginia.
Wimberly, Vera Meek. The Branch Family. 
   Self-published, 1990.

Copyright ©2017-2018 Kitty Steele Barrera  All rights reserved