Mysterious Origins

John Bristow

My immigrant ancestor John Bristow is listed in some genealogies as John Newton Bristow, but I have not found any document that included the name “Newton”. The Christ Church Parish records from Middlesex County, Virginia, contain many of the births, deaths, and marriages of John Bristow, his children, and grandchildren, so we know they stayed in one place for several generations. Genealogists working on families from Middlesex County will appreciate the efforts of the vestrymen who, in 1663, initiated the creation of the register and then took care to preserve it.

The church now standing was being built before John died, but there had been another building on the same site since 1666. The photo of Christ Church was originally posted by J. T. Cummings at in the section devoted to Christ Church Cemetery, where John Bristow is buried. I do not know if there is actually a tombstone marking his grave, but his death and burial are included in the church register: “John Bristow dyed October ye 10 & was buried October ye 13, 1716.” There is a Christ Church Cemetery map posted by D. Bevan at, which indicates that plot 107 is where any Bristows are buried.

John’s origins are mysterious, and any effort to determine his ancestry will result in frustration. However, it seems fairly clear that John, was, indeed, an immigrant. The Bristow Association, which I have not yet been able to contact, previously issued a report saying that John Bristow was “found wandering through the Colony of Virginia in 1663”.  This was in Lancaster County, established in 1651. The Lancaster County Order Book mentions him: “John Bristow svnt to John Hughes coming into this country without indenture and appearing to this Cort is ordered to serve seaven years from his arrival.

It has been estimated that John was 14 years old in 1663, which would put his birth in 1649. Why was he in Virginia without “papers”? How did he get there? Where did he come from? Who were his parents? I am still trying to find satisfactory answers to those questions. Middlesex County was formed from part of Lancaster County in 1669, so John Bristow stayed in the same general area from 1663 until his death in 1716. These counties are on either side of the James River where it empties into Chesapeake Bay, and many immigrants entering Virginia from the Atlantic Ocean likely passed through them.

A Robert Bristow had property in Lancaster County at the time John arrived there, but it is not known what their relationship was. (Cavaliers and Pioneers pages 340, 505, 536, and 553 In searching wills, land records, county histories, and parish records for answers, one will find an extraordinary amount of conflicting data.

Here are some examples of the conflicting data: Robert Bristow married Averilla Curtis, and it seems his son Robert married Catherine Woolley in England. This much can be gathered from marriage records and wills. One may be inclined to say that Robert Sr. and Averilla were John’s parents, but one record says Robert Sr. was born in 1625 and another says he was born in 1643. Some records say he immigrated to Virginia in 1660, but he supposedly married Averilla, of Virginia, in 1650. Some records say Averilla was born in 1625, but her sister, Sarah Curtis Perrott, was born in 1657. That seems an unlikely age difference. Sarah Curtis married Richard Perrott, Jr., in 1672, at age 14, but she had already been married to William Halfhide before 1670, which would have made her 11 or 12 at first marriage. The mother of Averilla and Sarah was also named Averilla, so the records are sometimes unclear as to which Averilla is meant. Robert Bristow, the Lancaster County plantation owner, returned to England at some point and remained until his death in 1706/7. His son Robert Jr. apparently lived in England and died just before his father. They both left wills, but they are a little confusing (at least to me). Richard and Sarah Curtis Perrott attended the same church as John Bristow, but it is not known how they were related, if at all. One might guess that Sarah Curtis Perrott was John’s aunt or cousin. However, I have not found any evidence other than proximity that John was the son of Robert Bristow Sr. and his wife Averilla Curtis. I do believe they were related in some way. John did not name any of his children Robert or Averilla, but his son James Bristow did name children Robert and Averilla. James was the only one of John’s children whose birth is not in the parish records, but he was mentioned in John’s will.  Clearly, there are many issues involved in trying to pin down John’s heritage, and I don’t believe anyone has been able to do it at this point.

John’s indentured service ended around 1670. Sometime before 1680, he married Mary Michal Nicholls. In 1687, he served in the Middlesex County militia. The births of these children are in the parish records: Johannah in 1680, William in 1682, Michal in 1684, Thomas in 1687, Elizabeth in 1690, Nicholas in 1694, and Anne in 1701. Almost all of these children’s marriages are also in the parish records, as well as the births and marriages of some of John’s grandchildren. My descent is from the daughter Anne Bristow, who married Anthony Seale and moved to Prince William County. John’s first wife, Mary Michal Nicholls, died before 1711, and John then married Mrs. Mary Goodloe Carter, by whom he had three more children. I found birth records for two of them—Jedediah in 1713 and Mary in 1715.

John had a plantation with many slaves that are mentioned in the parish records. He left a will naming some of his children, but  daughters Elizabeth and Michal, and possibly Johannah, preceded him in death. The will of John Bristow was probated Nov. 6, 1716, and is recorded in Will Book “B”, p. 51, Middlesex County, Virginia. It reads

  “In the name of God Amen I John Bristow being sick and week in body but sound in memory do make this my last will and testamt First I bequeath my soule to God that made it; my body to the earth from whence it came; and all my worldly goods as follows:  Item I lend unto my loving wife Mary Bristow one negro woman named Judy during my wifes natural life; then to return to my estate againe Item I give and bequeath unto my son Nicholas Bristow one negro man named Jack to him and his heirs Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Anne Bristow one negro woman named Bess with incres to hur and hur heires forever Item I give and bequeath unto my grandson John Bristow sone of Tho: Bristow one negro  boy named Majgor to him and his heires Item I give and bequeath unto William Owen sone of Michaell Owen one negro garle named Lotty hur and hur incres forever Item I give and bequeath unto my sone William Bristow one negro garle named Rose hur and hur incres forever Item I give and bequeath unto my two sones Nicholas and James Bristow my land to be equally divided betoined them and their heires forever Item I give and bequeath my hole personall estate to be equally divided betoine my wife and children after my debts first paid and Lastly I appoint my sones Nicholas and James Bristow Executures of this my last Will and Testament as witness my hand and seale this 20 Day of Feb 1716.

  (Signed) John Bristow (Seal)

  Will Daniell

  Will Daniell jnr.

Probated November 6, 1716″

Despite his inauspicious arrival in Virginia, John seems to have been successful. I don’t like the fact that he owned slaves, but he was apparently devoted to his family and was a respected resident of Christ Church Parish where he served as lay reader, appraiser, juror, and clerk of the vestry.

Copyright © 2019 K Steele Barrera.   All rights reserved.


Sources for John Bristow

Cavaliers and Pioneers. Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1666, Vol. I. Accessed at on March 15, 2019.

Colonial men and times : containing the journal of Col. Daniel Trabue, some account of his ancestry, life and travels in Virginia., Provo, Utah, 2005. Accessed on March 15, 2019.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Published by, Provo, Utah, 2004. Accessed on March 15, 2019.

The Parish Register of Christ Church, Middlesex County, Virginia, from 1653 to 1812. Printed by W.E. Jones, Richmond, Virginia, 1897. Accessed 15 March 2019 at

U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900. Yates Publishing, 2004. Accessed at on March 15, 2019.

Virginia Colonial Militia, 1651-1776, Vol. II. Accessed at on March 15, 2019.

Virginia Will Records. Accessed at on March 15, 2019

The Palatine Immigrants

Part 1

When one hears the name Alsace, it is often assumed that the region is thoroughly French, but it has not always been under French rule.  For much of its history, it was part of Germany. The Palatines were  emigrants from this middle region of the Rhine River. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the region was repeatedly overrun by French troops, causing armed conflict, destruction, and famine. Even after it became part of France, many of the people spoke Alsatian or a German dialect and had German customs. After the Protestant Reformation, many Alsatians worshipped in Lutheran churches, which put them in conflict with the Catholic French monarchy.  On the map, a small red W marks the approximate location of the village of Waldhambach  in Alsace in the late 17th century.


The Ensminger family lived in that village–Waldenbach–very near the Rhine River. I write about the Ensmingers because I am descended from them several times. Both of my great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Miller’s parents were from the Ensminger line. Her father was the grandson of Nicholas Ensminger, and her mother was the granddaughter of Peter Ensminger. Nicholas, born in 1699, and Peter, born in 1694, were brothers, sons of Philip Ensminger and  Elizabeth Quirin of Alsace. I am descended from three of Elizabeth Miller’s children, (Thomas Skaggs, Susan Skaggs Withrow, and Cynthia Skaggs Vandal), so my Ensminger ancestry is significant.  Additionally, Thomas’s wife, Julia Hunter, was an Ensminger descendant.

The first Ensminger to come to America was Peter. He left Rotterdam aboard the Samuel with his wife, Maria Catherina Trautmann Ensminger, his widowed mother-in-law, Katharina Emmerich Trautmann, and four children, arriving in Pennsylvania in 1733. Peter and Maria Catherina settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County, where two more children were born, and the family attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church. Peter was finally able to get 200 acres along Muddy Creek in 1738, but he died in 1739 at the age of 45. Maria Catherina remarried.

In 1738, right before Peter died, his brother Nicholas and his family arrived in Pennsylvania on the Billender Thistle with another group of Palatines. Nicholas and his wife, Anna Ludwig, also settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County and attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church, where several of his children were baptized.  His daughter Catherine Elizabeth, born in 1742, married Theobalt Mueller (Miller), and they became the parents of Valentine Miller, who later settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia).

Meanwhile, Peter’s son Philip, born in 1727, and his wife, Catherine Margaret Kessinger, had moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland, but they eventually settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Philip supported the American patriots in the Revolutionary War and is described as an “associator” with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which has verified that I am his descendant. Philip lived to the age of 80, and his will was probated in Monroe County. I am a direct descendant of two of his children: Susanna, mother of  Elizabeth Miller, and Mary Elizabeth, the mother of Julia Hunter. In addition, I am a direct descendant of his uncle, Johannes Nicholas Ensminger.

The family relationships are complicated to keep straight unless looking at the pedigree chart. The bottom line is that I am descended from the first Philip Ensminger and his wife Elizabeth Quirin at least four times.  The first Philip and his wife, Elizabeth, died in France, never coming to America, but their sons and grandchildren made a positive contribution toward building this country.

Part 2

Future research on the Palatine immigration will include these surnames: Koontz, Federkeil, Longenecker, Spahr, Baumgardner, Schnaeder.

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


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.


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 Ireland, with his wife, Louise Dessaix. 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 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


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.


[Update 7/7/22: It is now believed that Robert and Benjamin were brothers, not father and son, so my descent is from Benjamin, not Robert.]

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 [was previously believed to be] 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—[now assumed to be brother] 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.


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


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

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

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
Steele Home photo scanned from the History of Bland 
   County, Virginia, copyright 1961.

Huguenot Society
Public domain map

Huguenot Society
Robert Brasseure, the Huguenot


The Immigrant John Basse and the Nansemond Tribe

[Note: Since I wrote this post, I have heard from other researchers on the Nansemond and Bass Facebook pages that some of this information -which has been widely accepted – is actually not as clear as one might wish. Specifically, I have been told that yDNA has proven that my ancestor Richard Basse’s ASSUMED descendants do not match the rest of John Basse’s descendants. Therefore,  I do not plan to continue researching this line.]

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.

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.”

My descent [was originally believed to be] from the immigrant John Basse (b. 1616),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.  [However, I have since learned that Thomas Bass was not a son of Richard, therefore, not a grandson of John the Immigrant. I have been told that Thomas Bass’s mother, Mary Burwell, was Native American.] 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 K Steele Barrera All rights reserved

Confederate Ancestors*

Since the Civil War is in the news, and since I’m interested in genealogy, I thought I should take a look at my ancestors who fought in that conflict. I did have one ancestor who was a “train master” for the Union army, but I don’t know if he actually enlisted or if he just did that as a job. All of my other ancestors living at that time fought for the Confederacy. 

The Confederate States of America (CSA) passed its first conscription act on April 16, 1862. This required all men 18-35 to serve in the military. In September of 1862, the age requirement was raised to 45. In February 1864 the age was raised to 50. There were some exemptions allowed. As a result of these laws, many men served only because they were legally required to do so. “Conscripts accounted for one-fourth to one-third of the Confederate armies east of the Mississippi between April 1864 and early 1865,” according to information provided here. What about the others? Why would they volunteer? A few probably believed in the cause of slavery, but most were simply fighting “northern aggression.” They were defending their homeland. Even so, they did not expect their enlistment to extend beyond a few months. It can be safely assumed that some signed up simply because they needed the money, like many today.  The estimated number of Confederate deaths during the Civil War varies, but conservatively, over 100,000 rebel soldiers died.  It seems highly unlikely that they died just so they could keep their slaves.


Sgt. George C. Kurtz of Mississippi, according to the 1860 census, was a young husband living with his wife and children in a boarding house. His occupation is listed as “clerk”. In the 1860 slave schedule, his name is not included, which indicates he had no slaves. George enlisted in Company F, 35th Reg’t of the Mississippi Volunteers on June 30, 1862, at Crawfordville, Mississippi. He did not have to serve long because he was killed at Hatchie Bridge in the Battle of Corinth on October 5 , 1862, age 39. Left behind were his widow and three daughters under the age of six.  George C. Kurtz was a good husband, a good father, and a good citizen. What kind of legacy does he deserve? Should he be dishonored because he was forced to serve on the wrong side of a war and died before age 40?


Cave Johnson of Beaumont, Texas, was the nephew and namesake of former U.S. Congressman and Postmaster General Cave Johnson of Tennessee.  He was also the son of Dr. Henry M. Johnson, the grandson of General Thomas Johnson, and the great grandson of Revolutionary soldier Henry Johnson, an immigrant.  Though Cave was a hotel keeper, merchant, and riverboat captain, he also served in his community at various times as sheriff, delegate to political conventions, and civil servant. He was married with several children. Despite his work and busy life, the 1860 U.S. Slave Schedule does not include his name; there is no record of his being a slave owner. Nevertheless, he was not a poor man, as one can see by the type of home he had. He served either out of legal requirement or from a sense of civic duty. During the war, Cave Johnson and his friend George O’Brien, a prominent Beaumont public servant, served in Speight’s Battalion.  O’Brien’s diary is accessible online and indicates that Cave was sick for much of the war, as were many other soldiers. After the surrender at Appomattox, Cave Johnson was appointed to make sure that freed slaves in Jefferson County were being treated fairly. He died in 1876, about age 52, but I do not know the cause of his death. It seems likely that he never regained his health after the war. His death left my great-grandmother an orphan at the age of two since her mother had also died. What kind of memorial does Cave Johnson deserve? Did he serve his family and community well?

Wiseman McKeown of Washington County, Texas, served in the Confederate Army as a private in Company B (Kirby’s Btn.) of the Texas Volunteers, CSA.  He later served in Capt. J. G.  Thomas’ Company of Waul’s Legion of Texas Volunteers.  He was legally required to serve since he was already 18.  If he had not volunteered, he could have been drafted.  The Wikipedia article on Texas in the Civil War makes clear that not all Texans were in favor of secession, and that many of those who supported the Union were executed. For this reason, many Union supporters had to flee. Wiseman had no slaves, so why did he serve? Most likely, he simply had nowhere to go since his extended family was living in Alabama. At his age, he probably felt he had no choice but to sign up. The record of his service is indicated on his tombstone. Wiseman signed his amnesty oath in Brenham, Texas on December 11, 1865. He later married and had three children, two of whom were teachers. Does Wiseman deserve to be remembered as an honorable man?

(West) Virginia

Several of my ancestors lived in Fayette County, Virginia, at the beginning of the war. Fayette County was in the region that became West Virginia in 1863, so some people were for the Union and some were for the Confederacy. Others tried to walk a fine line by remaining neutral. The Confederate soldiers seemed to have more influence, probably due to the proximity to Richmond, the Confederate capital. There is clear evidence of Confederate soldiers forcing young men to serve, even to the point of kidnapping them. Here is an example of those events from a letter written in 1862 to Joseph Hopping by Mrs. Nancy Hunt (from Fayette County Footprints at “The Rebs have organized a new company in this county. Young Sam Tyree is Captain and John Halstead is Lieutenant.  They call themselves independent.  They are in here almost constantly and have done us much damage. They cannot conscript because they do not hold the county but they get all they can to join by persuading and scaring. They take boys 14 to 15 years old.  A heap have deserted them, 10 going down to Gauley [Federal headquarters] at one time.  This company took Sam Koonts, Jim Hamilton, Lanta Harrow prisoners and sent them to Richmond where I suppose they are now.”

One of those taken was my great-great grandfather, Anderson McVey. Anderson was the great-grandson of Sgt. John McVey, a Scottish immigrant who was with General Washington at Valley Forge.  Civil War records from Richmond, Virginia, report an Anderson McVey enlisting at Glade Spring (Company F, 37th Infantry Regiment Virginia) on March 5, 1862, but deserting on April 18, 1862.  However, family legend is slightly different; it says that Anderson was captured at age 14, taken away by Confederate troops, and released after several days.  Photos indicate that Anderson was a large man, so it is quite possible that as a teenager he looked older than he actually was.  In any case, his service in the Civil War was brief. Neither he nor his father was a slave owner. Anderson later fathered 12 children, all of whom grew up to serve their community well.

The Skaggs family lived not far from Anderson McVey. Thomas Skaggs, born in 1808, and his son, Thomas Anderson Skaggs, born in 1842, were both descendants of Revolutionary War patriots. Both enlisted in the Confederate army even though they had no slaves. Thomas was discharged after a year due to his age and disability.  His tombstone shows a Confederate flag, but I have never personally visited his gravesite and have never owned a Confederate flag. The son, Thomas Anderson Skaggs,  enlisted in the 22nd Virginia Infantry at White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, Virginia. He was present on the 10/31/64 roll, but deserted and surrendered to the Union in March 1865. He took an oath of allegiance to the U.S. at Charleston, West Virginia, and was sent north on April 7, 1865, until the war was over. He was 24 years old. Thomas Anderson Skaggs married later that year and eventually had eight children, all of whom were well known and widely respected in Fayette County. How should this father and son be remembered?

Also living in Fayette County, West Virginia, was my great-great grandfather Jeffrey Steele, another soldier in the 22nd Virginia Infantry. That must have been the poor man’s army because he didn’t have any slaves, either. That is obvious after taking a look at his house, below. Jeffrey was the grandson of Revolutionary War soldier Robert Steele, whose immigrant ancestors were from Scotland. Jeffrey had the misfortune of being caught by Union soldiers very near his own home. Notes from 22nd Virginia Infantry, by Terry Lowry, tell how he was arrested and taken prisoner by Union forces on April 24, 1862, in Fayette County. He was sent to Wheeling to Atheneum Prison, and from Wheeling to Camp Chase, Ohio. He was at the Wheeling facility for only four days. On August 25, 1862, he was sent from Camp Chase to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to be exchanged. He was sent on board the steamer Jno. H. Doan on Sept. 11, 1862, with over 1000 other prisoners. He was finally exchanged at Akken’s Landing on November 10, 1862. He had been arrested by the 47th Ohio Regiment and charged with being in arms in U.S. territory and aiding and abetting the enemy, “evidence on hand” (probably food).  Also, the following information is included:  “First settler on Rich Creek (Romont) Fayette County . . . around 1860.  Built first school house at Rich Creek.  Taught school in his house at Romont.” Jeffrey Steele is also mentioned in Panorama of Fayette County, by John Cavalier, in the chapter “Rich Creek,” by A. J. Legg, (p. 385) as a trustee of the Rich Creek School. This is a man who raised six fine sons and a daughter, who also raised fine children, including several school administrators. How should Jeffrey be remembered?

Then, as now, men were often victims of circumstances and of the times in which they lived. Nothing about their lives was unusually commendable or abhorrent. They were just men, living ordinary lives, trying to take care of their families and be responsible citizens in their communities, but they should not be forgotten. Despite being on the wrong side of the war, they deserve to be honored, both for their service and for the lives they lived.

I do not want to give the impression that no one in my family was ever a slave owner. Some were, particularly from 1620 to 1850. However, none of those who were fighting for the Confederacy owned slaves.

Copyright ©2017-2018 K 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 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  

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

Faith of My Fathers*

Part 1    Baptists in the Greenbrier Valley

It boggles my mind that people doubt that this country was established by Christians. Most Christians never intended to impose their faith on others; however, their beliefs were extremely important to them, and they were willing to risk all for freedom of worship.

Having become a Christian at an early age, I treasure every insight into the convictions of those who came before me. Not only did they establish the country, they established me in the faith before I was even born. I am awed by and grateful for what they were able to do.

One of the most significant ancestral accomplishments in my mind is the formation of the Old Greenbrier Baptist Church in Alderson, West Virginia. Strangely, Alderson is in both Monroe County and Greenbrier County.  The photo (left, taken by my son when we were there in 2002) shows the building as it looks today, not the original building. However, as far as I can determine, the church is on the original site, and the cemetery is full of many early church members. (The photo at right was posted by Chris McVey at The church was started by at least three of my direct ancestors: Bailey and Ann “Nancy” Wood and John Skaggs and first wife Katherine Skaggs. Since no one knows the parents of Bailey, Ann, or Katherine, it is possible they were not immigrants at the time but had been living here for several  generations. However, they were new to this part of the country and had hope for a new future with the end of the Revolution in 1781.  “Thirty-six days after the surrender at Yorktown, this church was organized by a company of twelve Baptists who had settled in this almost wilderness.” Their pastor was Rev. John Alderson, Jr.,  a true missionary and visionary in establishing Baptist principles where few had heard of them.  “When this church was organized on November 24, 1781, it was the first church of any denomination in what is now all of southern West Virginia.”  Despite starting with only those 12 Baptists, Baptist numbers have increased to millions who live in that region today. To get a more comprehensive understanding, please read about the church here.  More about the Aldersons can be found here, thanks to the excellent scholarship of David Fridley.

One  of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen is a copy of the original church minutes, included below.  Minutes 1.jpg The first entry is from January 1782.  Many of the names mentioned are part of the Skaggs and  Wood extended families. Minutes 2.jpg My direct ancestors, William and Susannah Withrow and William and Elizabeth Johnston and possibly John and Mary Ellis, became members shortly after the church was formed. Minutes3It is difficult to decipher everything,  but their sincerity is clear.  They were committed to prayer, to receiving members upon profession of faith, to missionary work, to working with other churches, and to teaching the word of God.  Minutes 4.jpgJohn and his second wife Catherine (“Kitty”) are buried in the Greenbrier Baptist Church Cemetery, though Catherine’s death date is incorrect. John’s father, Thomas Skaggs, is also buried there, but the grave is not marked. Thomas became a member eventually, but he was not a charter member. Evidence in Prince George County, Maryland, vital records suggests that he was the son of Richard Skaggs, Jr.,  and Mary Brashier and was baptized in this church.

Copyright ©2017-2018 K Steele Barrera   All rights reserved

Part 2     Bailey Wood

Around 1792, Bailey moved 55 miles away from Greenbrier Church. This was not far in today’s terms, but, at that time, it must have seemed quite far.  Bailey’s property was within the Monroe County boundary when it was created in 1799. He moved one more time–to Nicholas County before 1820, but this property was in Fayette County when it was created in 1831.

A History of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, by Otis K. Rice, states that Bailey Wood was instrumental in organizing the first Baptist church in the area of Woodville, now known as Ansted (Fayette County, West Virginia). At that time it was still in Greenbrier County, Virginia. The church was called Hopewell Baptist Church. Shirley Donnelly, in an article he wrote for the Fayette Tribune, unknown date, stated, “The first Baptist church at Ansted was formed in 1796. It was composed of members of [several] families, a group of squatters . . . About the year 1800, they built a log building and occupied it as their house of worship.”

Mr. Donnelly also wrote, in Historical Notes on Fayette County, West Virginia: “Those ‘squatters’ built homes at Ansted about the year 1790, exact year being unknown. Among them were the families of James Lykens, Willliam Parrish, James Taylor, Bailey Wood, and others. These were religious people of Baptist persuasion and built at Ansted the first meeting house in the county. That log church stood across the road from the later day historic Tyree Tavern [left, built in 1810] and a hundred yards or so to the east of it. They called it the Hopewell Baptist Church. Early records, if kept, have been lost. Hopewell Baptist Church, some miles west of the town of Ansted is the outgrowth of that early organization.”  Wikipedia also has a page about the first settlers of Ansted.




Part 3    Meanwhile, Back in Alderson

Despite the fact that Bailey Wood and others moved away from the Alderson area, Greenbrier Baptist Church continued to grow, even after the death of Rev. John Alderson in 1821. The family of John Skaggs apparently played a major role in the church until at least 1833 when this list of members was compiled.Membership, 1833

Below are the members listed on that document. Next to some of the names, I have added information in parentheses to give the reader a better idea of who they were.

  1. David ——-
  2. Peter Jones
  3. Thos. Alderson (brother of Rev. John Alderson)
  4. Sally Alderson (wife of Thos. Alderson)
  5. Susan Jarrett (sister of Catherine Hicks Skaggs and widow of David Jarrett)
  6. Jno. Skaggs, Sen. (John Skaggs)
  7. Cath: Skaggs, sn. (Catherine Hicks Skaggs, wife of John Skaggs)
  8. Sally Ellis (Sarah, daughter of John and Catherine Skaggs, wife of James Ellis)
  9. Cath: Skaggs, jun. (Catherine Skaggs, daughter of John and Catherine Skaggs)
  10. Jas: Ellis. (husband of Sarah “Sally” Skaggs Ellis and son-in-law of John and Catherine Skaggs)
  11. Thos: Jones
  12. Polly Charlton
  13. Jane Jones
  14. Polly Foster (Mary, daughter of John and Catherine Skaggs and wife of John Foster)
  15. Susan Ellis (daughter of John and Catherine Skaggs and wife of Joshua Ellis)
  16. Polly Skaggs (Mary, sister of Joshua Ellis, wife of Oliver Skaggs and daughter-in-law of John and Catherine Skaggs)
  17. Nancy Hill
  18. Winney Dempsey (possibly Winifred Athol, wife of William S. Dempsey)
  19. Sally Taylor
  20. Jos: Alderson (Joseph Alderson, son of Rev. John Alderson and Mary Alderson)
  21. Polly Alderson (Mary Newman Alderson, wife of Joseph Alderson)
  22. Geo: Sidenstricker
  23. —- Sidenstricker (possibly Rachel)

Out of the 23 members, nine were relatives of John and Catherine Hicks Skaggs, and four were relatives of the Rev. John Alderson, who had died 12 years earlier. The list includes some dates of death and dates of dismissal (when members moved away or left the church).  Thomas Alderson and his wife died in 1837 and 1835, respectively. John Skaggs died in 1839. John’s wife, Catherine (Kitty), did not die before 1851, according to 1850 census records. From the supplemental information shown, it appears that her daughters Catherine, Mary (Polly), Susan, and Sarah (Sally) all left the church within a couple of years of their mother’s death.

Copyright ©2017-2018 K Steele Barrera   All rights reserved

Part 4     The Legacy of Bailey Wood Continues

As mentioned in Part 1, Bailey Wood and his wife Ann (also called Nancy) were founding members of Greenbrier Baptist Church in 1781, formed right after the surrender at Yorktown that ended the Revolutionary War.  About ten years later, Bailey moved away to an area now in Fayette County, West Virginia, along with a few other families who became “squatters”.  As discussed in Part 2, Bailey was one of the founding members of a new church called Hopewell Baptist Church.

Bailey and Ann had at least seven children, the second-oldest of whom was William, born in 1777. William was a teenager when the family moved away from the Alderson area, but he had probably already met Mary Anne McGraw, whom he married in 1800. Rev. John Alderson McGraw permissionperformed the wedding in Monroe County. Her parents, Martin and Margaret McGraw gave permission, and the marriage bond was signed by John and William Wood. William Wood marriage bond John Wood was probably related in some way.

It is not known to what extent William Wood was involved in church activities. He and Mary Anne raised at least six children in the Ansted area. Like many of his contemporaries, William was able to profit from the increased travel through the area. He ran a stage stop at Dogwood Gap along the James River and Kanawha Turnpike, according to History of Fayette County, West Virginia, by J. T. Peters and H.B. Carden. Wm. Wood is shown on the Fayette County Tax Lists dated June 5 , 1831, but he died in 1835. Two of his sons, Amos and Elijah, were administrators of his estate, and William’s widow, Mary Anne, was also actively involved. Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 11.46.44 AM

One of William’s sons, Allen, is not mentioned in the estate sale. Allen, born between 1809 and 1813, married Elizabeth Johns(t)on in 1832. Elizabeth was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Hicks Johnston, former members of Greenbrier Baptist Church. 7625874b-2c74-4047-9a7e-d3803d2bdf08 The relationship with Charles Johnson is not known, but it seems reasonable to surmise that he was a brother of Elizabeth.

Allen’s role in the spiritual development of the Ansted community was significant. He was a Baptist preacher who traveled about the countryside, and he also preached in the Ansted area. The Virginia Baptist Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia, verifies that Allen Wood was a missionary serving in the territory of the Western Virginia Baptist Association as early as 1846, with his address as Mountain Cove (later Ansted), Fayette County, Virginia.  Fayette County, Virginia (now WV), court records show that Allen Wood, a minister of the Baptist church, presented his credentials of ordination, took the oath of allegiance, and was granted a testimonial before the Fayette County Court in January 1850. Subsequently, Allen Wood performed many marriages between 1850 and 1861 in Fayette County.

Mr. Shirley Donnelly, in an article in the Fayette Tribune, date unknown, stated: “Jeanette Missionary Baptist Church was formed in 1853 with 14 members. The first house of worship was built by Col. Geo. Alderson, who gave it the name of Jeanette in honor of his first wife. Its first pastor was Rev. Allen Wood.”  The name is sometimes spelled “Jennette”.

According to the Minutes of the Western Virginia Baptist Association of 1860, “A. Wood – preached 220 sermons, travelled 1,185 miles, visited 350 families, baptized 16 persons, organized 2 Sunday Schools, and delivered several S.S. and Temperance lectures. Brother Wood writes: ‘I have lately held a two days’ meeting in a section of the country where not a single sermon from a Baptist minister up to that time had been preached. So strong was the prejudice against the denomination, that it was supposed not more than ten persons would attend the meetings, but contrary to our expectation, a large congregation was in attendance. And under the power of divine truth, many wept like children. At the close of the meetings, several persons came forward and urged me to come back again and preach for them. There are many such sections in this and the adjoining counties, where the people are, to a great extent, ignorant of Baptists and Baptist principles. Should I be permitted to continue in the employment of the Board, I want to devote much of my time to such places.'”

The diary of James B. Hamilton, begun on January 1, 1858, has been preserved in the History of Fayette County, West Virginia.  In this diary, Hamilton reports on many of the events leading up to and involving the Civil War. He also reveals his own spiritual inclinations by reporting on church services and expressing his disappointment when there were no services on a given “sabbath.” If there was no sermon, he would stay home and read the Bible or the writings of Charles Spurgeon. He mentions going to Woodville to attend singing, debates, and prayer meetings.

On April 17, 1858, Hamilton mentions preaching for the first time.  The diary entry reads, ” Very good sermon by Amos Wood” (Allen’s brother).  Hamilton was apparently well-acquainted with the Wood family because he also mentions helping Eli Wood (Allen’s first cousin) in his store.  On June 20, his diary entry says, “Went to Church. Allen preached a very good sermon.” On July 3, Hamilton reports going to Gauley Bridge to a celebration at which he hears several people speak.

A few months later, on September 19, Hamilton reports, “Attended church. Rev. Allen Wood preached a good sermon.” In October, he reported helping Eli Wood to make a school. On Oct. 16:  “Went to church. Good sermon by Rev. Allen Wood.” On Oct. 20: “Went to church today. Rev. Allen Wood delivered the best sermon that I have ever heard him preach. Nancy Wood baptized today.”  He also went to church for the next four days, when he reported on the preaching of several individuals and the baptism of four.

Nov. 7: “At church. Allen preached a good sermon. Six baptized.” Dec. 18: “Went to church. Heard an excellent sermon by Uncle Allen.”

By the end of the year, Hamilton had completed the building of a school in which 29 pupils were enrolled. He was the teacher.

On January 14, he reported: “James Wood, Sr. died last night.”  It seems likely he  was related to Rev. Allen Wood.

Though Hamilton mentions hearing others preach, Allen Wood is the only one he mentions repeatedly. On Feb. 19, 1859:  “Rev. Allen Wood preached on Matthew 18. Very good turn out at Temperance meeting.” On March 28, he reported on the marriage of William Johnson Wood and Mary Ann Vandal. (Wm.) Johnson Wood (right) was the son of Allen and Elizabeth and would later become well known as an excellent teacher and mathematician.

April 16, 1859:  “At church. Heard Allen Wood on Hebrews 12:10.”  In June, he reported hearing the preaching of Martin Bibb, Eli Wood, and others. At least 12 joined the church. Not much is written over the next couple of years except Hamilton’s reflections on his spiritual growth and the activities building up to the Civil War.

Overall, Hamilton’s diary reveals the character of an entire community, its citizens striving for high standards of personal morality and a commitment to pleasing God. The Wood family, among many others, played a major role in spiritual affairs of the Ansted/Woodville/Mountain Cove area.

The Jennette Baptist Church, of which Rev. Allen Wood was pastor, was burned by Union troops during the war. It was not rebuilt until quite a few years later and eventually relocated to the Edmond area.

Copyright ©2017-2018 K Steele Barrera    All rights reserved

My Irish Immigrant Ancestors

In County Antrim in (Northern) Ireland, societal and religious upheaval 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 about age 22.  Christopher was part of a prominent family descended from several signers of the Magna Carta. He and his wife arrived on the ship London Merchant. By 1625, they were settled in Henrico County, Virginia, where they eventually had three 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 , 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.  His wife, Ann Rogers Clark, was also an immigrant.

Both the President and his cousin John had other immigrant ancestors, but the ones listed above are the only ones they shared as far as I know.  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