My Irish Immigrant Ancestors

In County Antrim in (Northern) Ireland, something was happening that prompted many of the Irish to emigrate to the colonies. These are my Irish immigrant ancestors, all of whom arrived between 1740 and 1773, before the beginning of the American Revolution. Two of them, Alexander Dickey and Henry Johnson, fought in the war as patriots and are listed with the DAR.

Much further research is needed on all of these individuals due to the prevalence of conflicting information!  I would welcome learning about any additional sources, either supporting or refuting what I know.

Robert William Withrow,  1722- 1800 (8 generations back)

Robert Withrow was born in Ulster, Ireland, the son of Janet and John. Ulster includes several counties, one of which is County Antrim. Robert arrived in the colonies before his March 13, 1746, marriage to Elizabeth Evans in Wilmington, Delaware. Robert and Samuel Withrow are mentioned in History of Summers County, West Virginia, as being among the first settlers on Lick Creek, Green Sulphur District, Greenbrier County (later Summers County), Virginia, but Robert had been a miller in 1788 in Augusta County.  Robert and Elizabeth had seven children in 29 years. Robert Withrow appears on the 1794-1796 Virginia Personal Property Tax Lists for Greenbrier County.  Sons Samuel and William Withrow also appear on the list. Robert died in 1800 in Virginia.

Sources for Robert Withrow

Fridley, David.
Miller, James H. History of Summers County, W.Va. 
Virginia Property Tax List for Greenbrier Co. 1796.
West Virginia Marriages, Greenbrier County, WV.
Withrow, Robert and Janet. Withrow Family Bible.
  (Repository-Archives of North Carolina.)

Ann Wiseman (8 generations back)

Ann Wiseman was born in 1751. She lived in Cullybacky, County Antrim, northern Ireland, where she attended the Cunningham Memorial Presbyterian Church. In 1757, at the age of six, she emigrated with her family to Charleston, South Carolina, aboard the sailing ship Nancy.  Ann married Alexander Dickey (see below) in 1783, Fairfield County, South Carolina. She and Alexander were the parents of at least five children.

Sources for Ann Wiseman

Dickey, Grover. John and Alexander Dickey, Immigrants,

Henry Johnson (8 generations back)

Henry Johnson was born in 1738, of Scotch-Irish parentage. He arrived in Pennsylvania from County Antrim, Ireland, before 1763.  In March of 1763 he married English immigrant Rachel Holman in Lancaster County, where they were both residents. From Pennsylvania, they went to North Carolina. He enlisted May 29, 1777, in the 10th North Carolina Rgt. and also served in Capt. Ingles Company, 2nd North Carolina Battalion. After the war, they settled near Salisbury, North Carolina, but  moved to Robertson County, Tennessee, about 1796.  Henry and Rachel had four daughters and six sons, one of whom was General Thomas Johnson, father of Postmaster General Cave Johnson (shown at right), who had previously served as a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee. Henry Johnson is listed as a patriot with the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution).

Sources for Henry Johnson

Daughters of the American Revolution Patriot Index
Durrett, Jean, et. al. Robertson County, Tennessee, 
   Cemetery Records.
East Tennessee Historical Society. First Families of 
   Tennessee: A Register of Early Settlers and Their Present-Day Descendants.
Hatcher, Patricia. Abstracts of Graves of Revolution-
   ary Patriots, Vol. 2. Pioneer Heritage Press, 
   Dallas, 1988.
Poole, Gregory. Robertson County, Tennessee 1802-1930 
   Obituaries and Death Records. Land Yacht Press,1999.
Titus, William P.  Picturesque Clarksville, Past and 
   Present. Nabu Press, 2014. (reprint of book 
   published before 1923)

 Samuel McKeown (9 generations back)

Samuel McKeown and his wife (name unknown) were also from County Antrim in Ireland. They arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1767, on the ship Earl of Donegal.  On Little River, Fairfield County, South Carolina, Samuel built and ran a grist mill or corn mill, which was burned by Tories during the war. An alternate account says that the Tories were attempting to rob the mill (see source below). There were at least six children, of whom sons Samuel (Long Sam), Moses,  Robert, and John Jackson and daughter Mary were born in South Carolina.  It is believed son Hugh was born in Ireland. The McKeowns are difficult to research because several McKeown families, all related, lived in the same area, and it was not uncommon for cousins to marry.

Sources for Samuel McKeown

Lombardi, Oreste. Will the Real Hugh McKeown Stand Up?
   Unpublished manuscript. Lukachukai, Arizona.
McKeown, Hugh James. "Letter to Miss Ione Newton of 
   Pine Bluff, Arkansas." 1920. Sender and Receiver 
   not identified. Posted at by Jeanne 

Alexander Dickey (8 generations back)

Alexander Dickey arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, from Larne, County Antrim,  Ireland, in 1772.  The ship had sailed on August 25 and arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, on Oct. 18, 1772. However, the passengers were quarantined on board ship at Sullivan’s Island due to the discovery of smallpox on board. By Jan. 6, 1773, warrants for surveys of land were issued to the passengers of this and another four ships that had arrived from Ireland.  Alexander was granted 100 acres in Laurens, Newberry County.  Alexander served in the American Revolution and married Ann Wiseman in Fairfield County in 1783. He settled there permanently before 1791.  In 1805 he had to petition the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate in an effort to collect for his service in the South Carolina Militia of Newberry County under Colonel Philomon Waters. The petition was approved. He is listed in the DAR Patriot Index.

Sources for Alexander Dickey

Daughters of the American Revolution Patriot Index.
Dickey, Gerald Wayne. Dickey Encyclopedia.
Dickey, Grover. John and Alexander Dickey, Immigrants,

Copyright ©2017-2018 K 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
“Genealogies of Virginia Families.” William and Mary 
   College Quarterly, Vol. III, Heale-Muscoe.
Historical Southern Families, Vol. 1.  Accessed at
Hoff, Henry. English Origins of American Colonists. 
   Accessed at
Hopkins, Garland Evans. The Story of Cumberland 
   County, Virginia. Privately published, 1942.
The National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons. 
   Accessed at
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 K Steele Barrera  All rights reserved

The Dutch Immigrant Ancestors of Abraham Vandal

Revolutionary War veteran Abraham Vandal was a Dutchman from New York who fought in both the Battle of White Plains and the Battle of Long Island. He later settled in the region that became Fayette County, West Virginia.  Abraham pronounced his surname, Wendell, with a “V” sound, so the Continental Army spelled it with a “V”. His descent was from the first settlers of New Netherland, who had immigrated to the New World a century before he was born. Some had lived in New Amsterdam (New York City), and others had settled at Fort Orange (Albany).  To learn more about life in 17th century New Netherland, please see the historically accurate L. F. Tantillo paintings.

One of the earliest and best known immigrants was Evert Jansen Wendell. Evert was born at Emden, a town situated at the mouth of the River Ems, which had been part of Hanover and Prussia at various times. His family had lived in Rynland, where they fled to escape persecution by the Duke of Alva. Sometimes his name is shown as Evert Janzen/Jansen. He served with the Dutch West India Company 1640 to 1642, came to New Amsterdam, and then married Susanna Du Truiex. He lived in New Amsterdam for about five years before moving to Fort Orange (Albany). On Feb. 8, 1647, he bought a lot in Fort Orange, where he was a ruling elder of the Dutch Church (1656), Orphan Master (1657), and magistrate (1660-1661). In these capacities, among others, he appears in several court cases listed in Fort Orange and Beverwyck Court Minutes 1648-1652.  Evert was buried under the old church then standing at the corner of Yonker and Handelser (State and Broadway) in Albany. In some records he is listed as a cooper. Because of the prominence of Evert and his descendants, much was written about them in the early history of New York, and it is not difficult to construct an almost complete family history.

Two of his immigrant ancestors were Major Abraham Staats and his wife. He was listed on the ship Den Houttuyn, which sailed June 1642 from Holland to New Netherland.  Only Abraham’s name is shown–Abraham Staes, surgeon–but he paid for two people and ended up in Ft. Orange. Later, he began trading with the Indians for beaver pelts. The Abraham Staats house is said to be the oldest house in Rensselaer County, standing where the Kinderhood Creek flows into the Hudson River. The house had been built in 1640, before he arrived, but he made an additional land purchase from the Mohicans.  He has been classified as a non-resident proprietor although he lived and practiced medicine in Fort Orange and served on the council as president. The Court Minutes for 1648-1652 of the Colony of Rensselaerswyck indicate that he held the office of raetspersoon from Feb. 5, 1643 to Apr. 10, 1644, and from that time was Presideerende, or presiding officer. Around 1648, he was also a skipper on the North River, commanding the sloop Claverack, plying the waters between New York and Albany. He married Catrina Jochemse (daughter of Jochem Wesselse.) Some have reported that Abraham had two wives – Tryntje Jochems and Katrina Wessels. However, it is possible they are the same person since Tryntje is a nickname for Katrina. His will states: “In the name of god, Amen. Appeared before me, Robert Livingston, of Albany, on the 21 day of April, 1683, Major Abraham Staats, who leaves his estate to his wife, Tryntjie Joachims, during her life, and then to his children, Sarah, Isaac, Joachim, Samuel, Elizabeth, and Abraham Staats, Jr. and to Bruyne, son of Catharine Staats, deceased.”

Jacob Theunizen De Kay married Hellegonde Quick, who was born in New Amsterdam (New York) in 1640. Jacob, however, was born in Thuyl, Netherlands, in 1633.  He married Hellegonde in the New Amsterdam Dutch Church in 1658, and they eventually had seven children.

Johannes Pieterszen Van Brugh and his wife, Catrina Raeleffse, were both born in the Netherlands. Some information about them can be gleaned from Johannes’s will of 1696: “Johannes Van Brugh, Sr., New York, December 22, 1696, merchant, ‘being weake in body,’ calling to mind that all Flesh must yield unto Death.  Leaves all estate to wife Catrina during her life or widowhood. Whereas our daughter Elizabeth Rodenbergh, now wife of John Donaldson, of New Castle in Delaware, has due unto her the like proportion as her sister Lucretia Rodenbergh, as by her . . . marriage with said John Donaldson dated March 29, 1691, the same is to be paid.”  The will also leaves to son Peter Van Brugh a tract of land he had purchased for him on the Delaware River, next to John Donaldson’s . The rest of the estate went to children, Elizabeth Donaldson [his wife’s child by first husband], Helena, wife of Teunis De Kay, Catrina, wife of Henry Renssellaer, Anna, wife of Andrew Gravenoet, Johanes, and Mary, wife of Stephen Richards.

Teunis (Anthony) Van der Poel was born in the Netherlands, but it is not known if his wife was born there. Teunis (Anthony) was in Beverwyk (Albany) from 1660 to 1687. He was a magistrate in 1671 and owned one-half of Constapel’s Island in the Hudson River. At the time he died, he still owned a home in Amsterdam. The will of Anthony Cornelis Van Der Poel follows: “In the name of god, Amen. The 17 June, 1687, in the 3rd year of our Gracious Sovereign, James the Second. I, Anthony Cornelis Van der Poel, dwelling at Watervliet in the manor of Rensselaerwyck, in the County of Albany, yeoman, being in health. I make void all former wills, and especially that will made by me and my wife, dated May 12, 1669. My will is that my wife, Catrina Janse Croon, shall remain in full possession of all my estate, for life. After her decease all estate, real and personal, to my three daughters Elizabeth, wife of Benony Van Corlaer; Mary, wife of Anthony Van Schaick; and Johana Anthonesse, wife of Barent Lewis. I appoint my son-in-law Anthony Van Schaick, Levinus Van Schaick, one of the aldermen of Albany, and John Lansing, tutors of my children.” The records of the Dutch Church in Albany show membership in 1683 of Teunis Van der Poel and Catryn Van der Poel. However, Catharina Jans Croon was a member of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam (New York City) between 1649 and 1659.

Capt. Goosen Gerritt Van Schaik came to New Netherland about 1636 and was employed by Patroon Killian Rensselaer in 1637 to work for six years. Goosen went back to the Netherlands, but returned to New Netherland in 1646 on the Rensselaerwick. In 1648, Goosen was asked to accept the position of magistrate, which he agreed to do. He took the oath of office as a member of the court of Albany and was a deacon in the First Dutch Reformed Church.  Before he married his second wife, about 1657, he made a contract in which he reserved 6000 guilders from his estate for his four eldest children by his first wife.  In 1675 he and Pieter Lassingh purchased Harmen Rutger’s brewery. He died sometime before 1679.

Theunis Thomaszen Quick (1600-1666) arrived in New Amsterdam before 1636 from Naarden, Holland, but the name of the ship is unknown. Theunis was a mason and sometimes signed his name “de Matzelaer van Naarden” (the mason from Naarden). The spelling of the last name is sometimes “Cuyck” or “Kwik”. The records of the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City show church membership during the years 1649 to 1659 of Theunis de Metselaer (the mason) and Belitje Jacobs, his wife. It is not known if his wife was also an immigrant.

Joachim Wesselse and his wife, Geertruy Hieronimus, were both born in the Netherlands. Geertruy had been married before. Joachim was a baker whose name often appears in court records involving various suits. He made a will sometime between 1679 and 1681 and died shortly after.

Finally, the last of these immigrant ancestors of Abraham Vandal is Brandt Van Neukirke, born in the Netherlands about 1593. All that is known about him is that he was a magistrate. He died in New Netherland in 1644.

Several of these immigrants lived long enough to see New Netherland become New York, after the British took over in 1664.

Because the Dutch kept meticulous records of births, baptisms, weddings, and wills, it is not difficult to stitch together a detailed and accurate history. These people were literate, industrious, religious, and responsible.

Clayton Library in Houston has a wealth of materials for researching the history of New Netherland, and most of it has been translated into English.

*Ship photo courtesy of Charles Hield.

Copyright ©2017-2018 K Steele Barrera    All rights reserved


Colonial Families in the U.S.  Accessed at

Evans, Thomas Grier, ed.  Records of the Reformed Dutch Church in New Amsterdam and New York. Gregg Press, 1968.

Gene Pool Individual Records. Accessed at

Pearson, Jonathan. Contributions for the Genealogies of the First Settlers of the Ancient County of Albany [NY], from 1630 to 1800. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1872.

Quick, Arthur C.  Genealogy of the Quick Family in America. 1942.

Records of the First Dutch Church in Albany. Genealogical Publishing Company, 1978.

Reynolds, Cuyler.  Genealogical and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley. Clearfield Company, 1992.

Scandinavian Immigrants in New York 1630-1674. Accessed at

Van Laer, A. J.  Minutes of the Court of the Colony of Rensselaerswyck 1648-1652.

Van Scoyoc, Melwood. Descendants of Cornelis Aertsen Van Schaick. 1982.

Venema, Janny. Deacons’ Accounts, 1652-1674, First Dutch Reformed Church of Beverwyck/Albany/ New York. Picton Press.