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 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 relatives 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  

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