jamestown, early virginia immigrants, virginia company

Unprecedented Biographical Dictionary of Early Virginia Immigrants

Martha McCartney uses recent historical scholarship as she sets the stage in her remarkable book, Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary. We’re focusing on this unprecedented trove of information, formatted as an easy to use biographical dictionary of early Virginia immigrants, and sharing an excerpt from the book. 

Soon after the fateful landing of 1607, thousands of immigrants flocked to Jamestown and surrounding areas on both sides of the James and York rivers, where they struggled to maintain a foothold. This book, Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1635: A Biographical Dictionary, brings together a remarkable variety of primary sources concerning every significant detail known about colony’s earliest European inhabitants. Moreover, maps provided here identify the sites at which Virginia’s earliest plantations were located and enable genealogists and students of colonial history to link most of the more than 5,500 people included in this volume to the cultural landscape.

From the earliest records relating to Virginia, we learn the basics about many of these original colonists: their origins, the names of the ships they sailed on, the names of the “hundreds” and “plantations” they inhabited, the names of their spouses and children, their occupations and their position in the colony, their relationships with fellow colonists and Indian neighbors, their living conditions as far as can be ascertained from documentary sources, their ownership of land, the dates and circumstances of their death, and a host of  fascinating details about their personal lives – all gathered together in the handy format of a biographical dictionary. In all, Ms. McCartney’s biographical dictionary provides annotated sketches of more than 5,500 persons linking the majority of them to a specific locality (a “hundred” or plantation) and a precise timeframe between 1607 and 1635. Continue reading…

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400th Anniversary of the Landing at Jamestown 1607-2007

The year 2007 marked the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America. From its tentative start as a small fort on an island in the James River, with barely more than 150 inhabitants, Jamestown became a model for the colonization of the New World. Its founders – planters and indentured servants alike – established a formula for immigration and settlement, and laid the foundation for the leap-frog expansion into the hinterland. Because of its unchallenged position in American history, the 400th anniversary of Jamestown was marked as a milestone in 2007.

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Tidewater Virginia Families, Jamestown

Tidewater Virginia Families

The late Virginia Lee Hutcheson Davis was a leading authority on the earliest inhabitants of Jamestown and the entire Tidewater region of Virginia. Her most famous book on this area of research was the diminutive volume, Jamestowne Ancestors, 1607-1699, a list of approximately 1,200 persons who are known to have landed or resided there between 1607 and 1699. Mrs. Davis was a member of the Order of Descendants of Ancient Planters, Order of First Families of Virginia, The Jamestowne Society, and The James Cittie Company. Jamestowne Ancestors, meanwhile, recounts the establishment of England’s first successful colony in North America, as Mrs. Davis describes it in her Preface:

“King James I in 1606 issued a charter authorizing a group of investors to form the Virginia Company of London and settle colonists in North America. It was thus that his dream was fulfilled and James Towne was born. A council appointed by the king was to direct the enterprise from England, with management of day-to-day affairs in the colony entrusted to a second council of state. The charter provided that these English settlers would enjoy the same legal rights and privileges as those who remained at home.

“On Saturday the twentieth of December 1606 a fleet of three ships left England.   After an arduous ocean voyage, 104 English colonists aboard the ‘Susan Constant,’ ‘Godspeed,’ and ‘Discovery’ reached the Virginia coast at Cape Henry. Sailing west up the river they named for their king, these men and boys stepped ashore on May 14, 1607, at the marshy peninsula now known as Jamestown Island. In time, ‘James Towne’ survived and prospered, but at first the triangular wooden palisade fort held only a tenuous foothold on the vast continent.

Jamestowne Ancestors honors the island’s early settlers and their contributions, to Virginia and the future nation. The volume includes all inhabitants of Jamestown Island–both year-round residents and members of the House of Burgesses or other government officials–who dwelled at Jamestown between 1607 and 1699. The author identifies each individual by name, occupation (burgess, landowner, artisan, etc.), year(s) present in Jamestown, and, in the case of officials, a place of permanent residence. The author includes only those colonists whose presence at Jamestown has been fully documented. Her list can be used as a starting point for achieving membership in a number of hereditary societies that accept descent from Jamestown as a qualification. (A list of 16 such organizations is included in the book.)

Replete with facsimiles of early maps and diagrams and drawing upon recent archaeological research, Jamestowne Ancestors is one of the most comprehensive lists of our oldest Tidewater Virginia Families ever published.

Mrs. Davis authored additional publications that are invaluable resources for those searching for their roots buried within Virginia’s First Families. Covering an incredible 375 years, Tidewater Virginia Families sets forth the genealogical history of some 37 families who have their roots in Tidewater Virginia. Starting with the earliest colonial settler, the origins of the following Tidewater families are presented: Bell, Binford, Bonner, Butler, Campbell, Cheadle, Chiles, Clements, Cotton, Dejarnette(att), Dumas, Ellyson, Fishback, Fleming, Hamlin, Hampton, Harnison, Harris, Haynie, Hurt, Hutcheson, Lee, Mosby, Mundy, Nelson, Peatross, Pettyjohn, Ruffin, Short, Spencer, Tarleton, Tatum, Taylor, Terrill, Watkins, Winston, and Woodson.

Going beyond her work in Tidewater Virginia Families, Mrs. Davis meticulously researched and compiled Tidewater Virginia Families: Generations BeyondIn this supplement, the author added 11 new families to the Tidewater Virginia families treated in the original volume described above: Alsobrook, Bibb, Edwards, Favor, Gray, Hux, Ironmonger, Laker, Southern, Taylor, and Woolfolk. In addition, this supplement includes vignettes and anecdotes of family life, descriptions and locations of family homes and burial sites, extensions of sibling lines, identification of neighbors, county maps, a place-name index, and, where necessary, corrections and updates to the original volume.

If your family ties lead you to Albemarle Parish, The Albemarle Parish Vestry Book 1742-1786 is one of the priceless original public records of the Old Dominion that survived the vicissitudes of time, wars, invasions, fire, and neglect. It is widely available to researchers owing to the transcription efforts of Virginia Lee Hutcheson Davis and Andrew Wilburn Hogwood. The Vestry Book–which includes the proceedings of the vestry as well as many records of the processioners’ returns–begins on November 16, 1742 (with some earlier pages missing), some four years after the parish’s formation, and runs to 1786. Roughly 6,500 Surry/Sussex county inhabitants are identified.

Image Credit: Map of Virginia, discovered and as described by Captain John Smith, 1606; engraved by William Hole. Map created in 1606. Public Domain, Source: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.