Dennis Wolfe, a full-blooded Cherokee indian in Cherokee, North Carolina

Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?

When I lived in the Southern US, I didn’t pay much attention to someone claiming Cherokee ancestry. Generally, I brushed off friends’ claims of being some minuscule fraction Cherokee, as when pressed on the source of this information it was always a mix of word-of-mouth, distant relation or family lure with a healthy measure of questionable math.

However, now that I’ve read the following piece, Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood? written by Gregory D. Smithers, associate professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of The Cherokee Diaspora, I am giving these claims some additional thought. I hadn’t thought about the political ramifications, or the air of antebellum legitimacy associated with these claims. I am reposting the Slate article in its entirety as Mr. Smithers provides an interesting and concise explanation of why so many people – of both white and African-American descent – believe they have Cherokee blood.

If you are one of the many who have heard family stories of an “Indian Princess” or a Great-Great-Grandmother who was Cherokee, it may be worth not only reading this article, but doing some further original source material research into your bloodlines.

Continue reading…

Colonial Virginia

Virginia Genealogists Need “SWEM”

The two-volume Virginia Historical Index (a.k.a. “Swem’s Index” or “Swem”), originally published in 1934, encompasses the contents of the following seven serial publications: “The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography” (VMHB), Vols. 1-38; the “William and Mary College Quarterly” (a.k.a. the “William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine” W&MCQ), Series I, Vols. 1-27 and Series II, Vols. 1-10; “Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine” (TQ), Vols. 1-10; the “Virginia Historical Register and Literary Advertiser,” Vols. 1-6; the “Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary,” Vols. 1-5; “Hening’s Statutes at Large,” Vols. 1-13; and the “Calendar of Virginia State Papers,” Vols. 1-11.

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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…

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.