Colonial Virginia, Order of the First Families of Virginia

The Cutting Edge of Colonial Virginia Genealogy – Adventurers of Purse and Person

Adventurers of Purse and Person – In Three Volumes

Membership in the Order of First Families of Virginia is limited to lineal descendants of someone who aided in the establishment of the first permanent English colony – Virginia, 1607-1624/5. Membership goes beyond exclusive and is actually by invitation only. All such members are in the direct line of either:

  1. Stockholders in the Virginia Company who came to Virginia between 1607 and 1625 and had progeny, or did not come to Virginia but had grandchildren who did; or
  2. Immigrants to Virginia between the years in question who left descendants. The first group is referred to as “Adventurers of Purse;” the second, “Adventurers of Person.” A grand total of 109 individuals have been authenticated in both categories.

Since its establishment in 1912, the Order of First Families of Virginia has striven “to promote historical, biographical, and genealogical researches concerning Virginia history during the period when she was the only one of the thirteen original colonies.” The Order has collected genealogical information on an ongoing basis; however, its principal mechanism for disseminating this early 17th-century Virginia genealogical scholarship has been through its book, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 1607-1624/5. First issued in 1956, this work had gone through three editions by 1987. To mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of colonial Jamestown, the Order asked John Frederick Dorman, its official genealogist and the leading authority on colonial Virginia ancestry, to prepare a fourth edition.

While the first three editions covered four generations of Virginia founding families, the fourth edition expands the coverage to six – a monumental achievement. The sheer scope of the new edition required that it be published in three large, indexed volumes.

The foundation of Adventurers of Purse and Person is the famous “Muster” of January-February 1624/25 – essentially a census taken by the Royal Commission, which succeeded the Virginia Company, to determine the extent and composition of the Jamestown settlements. The Muster, which is reproduced in entirety in Volume One, names about 1,200 persons, of whom approximately 150 are shown in this work to have left descendants to the sixth generation. In addition to the Muster, this work builds on the investigations of dozens of scholars, correcting, revising, and supplementing the best genealogical scholarship of the past half century. New discoveries, newly available information, and a further reevaluation of evidence concerning previously accepted relationships have led, in some instances, to wholesale changes in the accepted genealogies.

Whereas Volume One concerned 52 families from A through F, Volume Two covers 51 families, beginning with letters G through P, that were established either by settlers of Virginia prior to 1625 or by members of the Virginia Company whose descendants came to Virginia later. Volume Two identifies 7,684 individual descendants resident in Virginia (or subsequently in other states), and its index contains 20,000 name, place, and subject entries. Volume Three focuses (G-Z) concentrates on 46 main families possessing about 6,500 individual descendants, and boasts an index of 20,000 names:

  • Volume One, Families A-F: The first volume covers founding families alphabetically from A-F and includes the following: Andrews, Bagwell, Baley-Cocke, Barkham-Jenings, Barne, Bates, Bayly, Beheathland, Bennett (Edward), Bennett (Samuel), Bennett-Chapman, Bernard, Bibby, Bickley, Bland, Boyce, Boyle-Mountney, Branch, Buck, Burwell, Bush, Calthorpe, Calvert, Carsley, Carter, Chaplaine, Chew, Chisman, Claiborne, Clay, Clements, Cobb, Codrington, Cole, Cope, Cox, Crew, Croshaw, Crump, Curtis, Davis, Dawson, Delk, Digges, Edloe, Epes, Evelyn, Farrar, Fisher, Fleet, Flood, and Freeman.
  • Volume Two, Families G-P: Gaither, Gaskins, Gilbert, Gookin, Gosnold, Granger, Graves, Gray Grendon, Gundry, Hallom, Hampton, Hansford, Harris (John), Harris (Thomas), Harwood, Holt, Hooe, Hopkins, Johnson-Travis, Jordan (Samuel), Jordan (Thomas), Kent, Kingsmill, Knott, Laydon, Lloyd, Lovelace-Gorsuch, Lukin, Lupo, Macock, Martiau, Mason, Mathews, Menefie, Montague, Moone, Moore, Offley, O’Neil-Robins, Osborne, Pace, Parramore, Pead, Peirce, Peirsey, Perry, Pierce-Bennett, Price, Price-Llewellyn, and Purifoy.
  • Volume Three, Families R-Z: Reynolds, Robins, Rolfe, Rookings, Royall, St. Leger, Salter-Weld, Savage, Scarburgh, Sharp, Sharp-Baugh, Sheppey, Slaughter, Smith (Arthur), Smith (Richard), Smith (Roger), Southey-Harmar-Littleton, Spencer, Stephens, Strachey, Swann, Tatum, Taylor-Cary, Thorowgood, Tooke, Townshend, Trussell, Utie, Utie-Bennett, Vassall, Waters, West, West (Anthony), Whiting, Wilkins, Williams, Willoughby, Wood, Woodhouse, Woodliffe, Woodson, Woodward, Wroughton, Wyatt, Yeardley, and Zouche.

If you are into 17th-century Virginia ancestry, it doesn’t get any better than Adventurers of Purse and Person. Genealogical Publishing Company, the parent company of this blog, is honored to be the publisher of this fourth edition of a work that is nothing less than the bedrock of colonial Virginia genealogy.

Image credit: Map of land granted to the Virginia Company by the charter of 1609, according to the terms of the charter and current geographical knowledge. By Anonymous cartographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Colonial Virginia

Virginia Historical Index – A Major Source for Colonial Virginia Research

Editor’s Note: The following is a lightly updated article by the late Carolyn L. Barkley. As she mentions, many of us tracing our roots here in America will find the path leads back, through, or is otherwise tied to Colonial Virginia. While there are resources available for specific periods dealing with Colonial Virginia, such as Early Virginia Immigrants 1623-1666, or those that address not just a time period but specific family names, like Adventurers of Purse and Person Virginia 1607-1624/5. Fourth Edition. Volume One, Families A-FThe publication Virginia Historical Index is considered one of the most important resources for Virginia research. Ms. Barkley explains why in the post below. 

Despite your ancestors’ more recent geographical locations, for many of you, the research trail leads back to Virginia. One of the most important sources for Virginia research is Earl Gregg Swem’s Virginia Historical Index, often simply referred to as “Swem.” Worldcat, the international cooperative cataloging database, includes entries for several editions held by numerous libraries worldwide. One edition is held by 246 libraries representing forty states, the District of Columbia, Australia, Canada and Germany.

Dr. Earl Gregg Swem (1870-1965) began his bibliographic career in Chicago after graduation from Lafayette College in 1893. Between 1903 and 1919, he worked first at the Library of Congress and later at the Virginia State Library where he served as Assistant State Librarian. In 1920, he became librarian at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is noted for the significant growth in the college library’s book and manuscript collections during his tenure, but in particular, for his completion of the Virginia Historical Index. Dr. Swem died in 1965, the year before the completion of the college’s new Swem Library, named in his honor.

The Library of Virginia calls Swem’s index “one of the most important research guides for Virginia historical and genealogical researchers.” Sixteen members of the Virginia Historical Society established a fund that enabled Dr. Swem to begin his indexing project. These funds were supplemented by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Continue reading…