Our ancestors had social, economic and cultural events that stood out in their European environments as they migrated to America and established careers in the colonies. Many of our ancestors seem to have immigrated to America with sufficient skills and funds to establish a comfortable life in the colonies whereas quite a number came to America as indentured servants or even as convicts. In the 1800s families from the middle and upper classes indentured and apprenticed younger sons and brothers. Indentured servants contracted to work for a stated number of years in America in return for transportation to the colonies and food, clothing and shelter for the contract's duration. The usual length of service was 4 to 5 years, but in the case of a valuable skilled worker the time could be shortened to encourage the person to sign. The servant may have accompanied the master or signed papers with a sea captain who then sold the contract after landing in the colony. On completion of the servant's term, the master may have promised to furnish clothing, food supplies and the right to 50 acres of land. The most famous of the indentured servants in our maternal family was William Bernard Sears I (1732-1818) who died a renowned carver of furniture and architecture.
Indentured servants were also acquired by emptying British prisons two to three times a year and included thieves, prostitutes and other felons. Convicts' seven or fourteen year contracts could be purchased cheaper than indentured servants or slaves. The convict transportation practice began about 1615 and from 1700 until 1776 about 52,000 convicts had their sentences commuted to be transport to America, with Maryland and Virginia receiving about 80 percent of these people. Thus, many British immigrants to colonial Maryland came either as servants or convicts with Baltimore and Annapolis being the two major ports of arrival for convicts. Maryland received more indentured servants than any other colony, and women as well as convicted children under age 16 were included, putting the statistics at one in ten people in Maryland was a British convict in 1755. Neither men nor women could marry until they completed or purchased their service contracts, thus swelling the ranks of illegitimate children. Some convicts escaped. Our paternal 5th great-grandfather Samuel Winslett and his brothers poached deer on a British lord's estate, and Samuel was convicted to 14 years service and transported to Baltimore in Jul 1766 where he was likely auctioned. Samuel escaped and by 1769 he petitioned the state of Georgia for land in a Quaker farming community. Four years after arriving in America as a convict, Samuel was granted 100 acres and was on the cusp of moving into the elite large landowner class, serving as a military officer and becoming the patriarch of the Georgia and Alabama Winsletts.
Distance and transportation modes were significant factors in America through the nineteenth century. The distances between houses made mere visiting impractical; a visit usually extended to spending the day or days even if at a neighbor's home. Our Martin and Ruff family letters describe arduous travels turned nightmarish by any sudden downturn in the weather. A traveler had to rely upon the inhabitants of whatever home he came to at nightfall or make a decision to stop at friends' homes along the route. In colonial Virginia it was customary for gentlemen of good birth to keep an inn in their home; this occurred in our Bell, Ruff, Southall and Wood lines in that state.
Our family lines generally came to America in the 1700s and moved from northern ports south along the eastern seaboard or through the Appalachian Mountains. After arrival in the Carolinas the families moved to Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, almost always employing a clockwise movement as they followed the availability of land. In the absence of an inheritance causing a return east and north, migrating counter-clockwise was very unlikely and generally disproved any man as being our ancestor if the name was later found where our ancestor had already departed a geographical area.
Blood crossed and recrossed in endless intermarriages as inhabitants did not travel far, few strangers were met and social distinctions were almost iron clad. Demographics was a significant factor in newly settling areas where there were few eligible partners. In Virginia clusters of intermarried cousins were in our ancestral lines in the Shenandoah mountains in Rockbridge and Albemarle counties and on the Eastern Shore in Accomack and Northampton counties as well as in neighboring Somerset County, Maryland. Marital connections became more complex as children married step-siblings' cousins. The social stratum of the Dashiells, Lanphiers, Martins, Mitchells, Satchells, Kendalls, Whittingtons and Woods in our maternal lines found centuries of marriage within certain family circles prevailed.
On a humorous note, unlike the mother, a man could rarely be certain he was in fact the parent of a child, yet much of genealogical research is based on tracing paternal lines because their surname is often known. Longevity in our family appeared typical for the era. Women frequently died in childbirth, sometimes with the first birth especially with 16 to 18-year-old mothers. Childbirth until the mid 1800s was a gamble with infection, and frequent childbirth, for which our family was particularly adept, was often a factor leading to an early death. However, our female ancestors often contributed eight to thirteen children and still survived. In Maryland and Virginia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women sometimes returned to their parents' homes to give birth; such was likely the situation with the Martin - Downes births which were not enumerated in the local parish where the family resided. In our lines children often died young and fortunately only one woman burned to death when her dress caught fire, which often happened in colonial times. Few of our ancestors appeared to succumb to epidemics. Regardless of which spouse died, remarriage was quick because the women needed spouses to provide for them and their children, and the men needed spouses to care for their household and families.
As in Europe, in our American family naming patterns followed cultural customs, usually with first borns named after grandparents and second or third borns named after parents after which children were often named after parents siblings and in-laws. A popular custom was using surnames for given names.
Family information was also colored by the times. For example children born out of wedlock were often noted as their grandparents' children thus making research more challenging. Given that seventeen percent of births in the colonial era were illegitimate and that divorce and desertion also occurred, relatively few such issues occurred in our family. Our maternal 4th great-grandfather William Slocomb junior and 6th great-grandfather Ensign Simon Pearson I, both scions of wealthy families, being exceptions provided us two illegitimate direct-line ancestors. Also our paternal 2nd great-grandfather Pvt. Thomas Weathers deserted the military and his spouse. Many of our ancestors during this period married a second and third time following the death of a spouse. Our maternal 5th great-grandmother Susanna Custis married thrice. Seeking a different approach, our maternal 7th great-grandfather James Whaley II begot a family of 14, alternating births between his wife and her sister.
Despite numerous slaves owned by our almost totally Southern, direct-line ancestors and the several evidently philandering males among them, only one ancestor was clearly identified as having a mulatto child. Elizabeth Christian born circa 1710 was acknowledged in her grandfather Hunt's will as being the negro child of our maternal 7th great-grandfather Charles Christian, the younger son with that name and the wealthy owner of extensive lands. Because Union forces destroyed most county records, how Elizabeth was treated in her father's will is unknown. Other ancestors may have had unacknowledged mulatto children.
Marital complexity was reflected in land transactions of the era. Large landowners were termed planters, whereas smaller holders with few if any slaves were considered farmers. Our wealthier ancestors generally had brief ownership of many parcels of land, and close examination revealed few land transactions in which our wealthier Somerset Co, MD or Charles City Co, VA ancestors were involved were with anyone other than their family members -- however distant they might be. A key occupation for more prosperous men was becoming an innkeeper, such as was done by in our maternal lines by our 4th great-grandfather William Bell Wood, our 5th great-grandfathers LTC Samuel Augustus Wallace and Jacob Ruff I, and our 6th great-grandfather Cpt. William Bell I.
Single women possessed many legal rights, such as to enter contracts, administer estates and sell property, but married women lost those privileges, along with their personal property, earnings and legal control over their children, to their husbands or in their absence to a male guardian. Women's occupations were to manage the household and raise children. As widows women did not fare well, being given a portion of the remainder of the estate and sometime only receiving a cow or a best bed. Whenever a husband died, his widow tried to remarry quickly so as to have income, but the heavy burdens of childbearing and housekeeping often brought women to death in middle age; the husband would as often marry again to have someone to care for his household and children, thus beginning a second family frequently with a much younger woman.
Our ancestors had typical settlement patterns in America. Our known immigrant ancestors are are primarily clustered in the era of our 6th through 8th great-grandparents, there being about 25 immigrant ancestors in that era, with lesser numbers after and before that going back to our 11th great-grandfathers. Each of these immigrants is discussed individually in the database on this website.
The Accomack and Northampton County, Virginia - Somerset County, Maryland and the Albemarle and Rockbridge County, Virginia settlements are among the most prevalent and interesting in our family. The exodus to these two regions was rapid. Interestingly, some of the papers I inherited with family traditions and theories and the printed publications I used to further expand information in regard to the Shenandoah Valley and Eastern Shore families has now been proven to provide supporting data in ways that are different from what was originally thought to be correct.
Our 7th to 10th maternal great-grandparents arrived and generally acquired vast land on the the Virginia and Maryland Eastern Shore. Counties' names and boundaries had several changes between Accomack and Northampton counties in Virginia and across the state border in Somerset County, Maryland. Settling on the Virginia Eastern Shore were Col. William Kendall I (~1625-1686) of England, our 8th great-grandfather who arrived before 1651; George Russell (1653-1693) of England, our 8th great grandfather who arrived in Accomack Co, VA before 1672;and Thomas Lanphier II (1699-1741) of Ireland, our 7th grandfather who by 1732 was in Accomack Co, VA and then Port Tobacco, MD.
Our maternal Michael, Dashiell, Downes, Bosman and Mitchell families lived first on the Virginia Eastern Shore and then moved into the Somerset Co, MD area when it opened for settlement. Becoming some of the first Somerset County settlers were: John Michael (~1630-1679) of the Netherlands, our 10th great-grandfather; James Dashiell (~1634-1697) from Scotland, our 9th great-grandfather, arriving in 1653 in Northumberland Co, VA and Somerset in 1663; and George Downes (~1645-1737), our 8th great-grandfather, first noted as living in the region in 1666 and who married the daughter of William Bosman I from Northampton Co, VA who was in the Somerset area in 1663; and then Downes married the daughter of George Mitchell (born ~1636) of England, our 9th great-grandfather, who was in the region by 1661.
Similarly in the Tidewater Virginia region our Allen, Atkinson, Hollyman, Tucker, Williamson, Whitehead ancestors of our paternal Merritt line arrived and settled in the 1600s. Among the more interesting were our 10th great-grandfather Col. Arthur Allen (1608-1669), the wealthiest the man of his time in Surry County, VA and noted for building the two most prominent homes in the county, including what is now known as Bacon's Castle. Our Whitehead family also initially settled in the Tidewater and then our 7th great-grandfather Col. William Whitehead (died 1750) moved to Edgecombe Co, NC where he became a major land speculator acquiring over 10,000 acres.
Later immigrant ancestors entered America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or close by and remained in that general area until the Virginia Shenandoah Valley opened up as an opportunity to acquire land. Coming from Ireland and intermarrying among themselves were five of our 6th and 7th great-grandparents in the lines of Anderson, Woods and Wallace who settled in the Shenandoah Valley. John Anderson I (born est 1691), our 6th great-grandfather, immigrated to Pennsylvania and moved to Spotsylvania Co, VA; Ensign William Anderson I (~1722-1794), another 6th great-grandfather, immigrated to Pennsylvania and came to Virginia as early as 1738; Elizabeth Woods (est 1685-1745), our 7th great-grandmother, emigrated in 1724 to Delaware, ultimately settling in Rockbridge Co, VA in 1734; on another line Martha Woods (~1718-1790), a 6th great-grandmother, immigrated to Philadelphia and settled in Rockbridge Co, VA; and Peter Wallace (~1717-1786), a 6th great-grandfather emigrated in 1724 and then moved to Augusta Co, VA about 1734.
Among our Virginia and Pennsylvania immigrants were our maternal 9th great-grandfather William Hunt I active in Charles City, Charles City Co, VA by 1656; our maternal 10th great-grandfather Jacques Remy who fled from France to England and then in 1654 came to Virginia under the indenture system; our paternal 7th great-grandfather John Strong who probably immigrated before 1682 and resided between 1698 and 1703 in New Kent Co, VA; and our maternal 5th great-grandfather Jacob Ruff who left Germany in 1771, moving by 1782 into Frederick Co, VA and then to Lexington, VA in 1785. In Pennsylvania there was our paternal 7th great-grandfather Thomas Stubbs I who emigrated from England about 1712 or 1713 to Chester Co, PA and our maternal 6th great-grandfather Johann Andreas Muehlschlaegel who left Germany in 1750 and lived in Berks Co, PA.
With the innumerable male progenitors we had in America in 1775, 1812 and 1861 many of our ancestors were in the military during the wars. That does not mean all our ancestors of able body and appropriate age served in the military, even if they received war payments or bounty land. Some of the men served by providing critical goods and services, such as food and hauling equipment. Generally only land owners served in positions other than that of private. Some who saw action during a war did not live long enough to apply for a pension nor did their widows. Our only known direct-line ancestor killed in action was our maternal 3rd great-grandfather Maj, Albert Nicholas August (1816-1864.)
Charles City County, Virginia is an interesting example of where a number of our ancestors resided during colonial times. The county is known as a burned county -- a county where most of the records were burned during the Civil War. The surviving documents are non-indexed, requiring every record to be read to find ones key to our family lines. Because of the incredible amount of time spent reading these burned county records an interesting picture of rural life at that time unfolded and is recounted herein.
The Charles City County, VA court orders provided a typical picture of life from 1672 through 1695. During 1672 through 1690 the court sat almost every day and dealt primarily with debts, suits, deeds, insolvencies, crimes, minors' guardianships and estate settlements. The court requested records of tithables; collection of taxes; and appointed tax collectors, ferrymen, sheriffs and their deputies, road surveyors, road repairmen, and tobacco inspectors at Kennon's and Swineherd's warehouses. The court also established tax rates, paid headrights in acreage, paid two to three hundred pound tobacco wolves' bounties, established ages of servants and slaves, fined the few illegitimate children's mothers, and set liquor prices. The 1677 James City Virginia Grand Assembly restricted ordinaries and tippling houses to one or two per county near the courthouses because of problems in such establishments and required licensing; by 1693 there were no ordinaries in Charles City County, although some were established again by the 1730s.
Mills were so critical to the economy that the two people applying for mill permits were allowed to appropriate their neighbors' lands to absorb the resultant flooding caused by their construction and damming. Beginning in 1694 the court also began assigning creek surveyors to ensure waters flowed freely. Trials were held regularly with almost everyone found guilty who went to trial. Only landholders sat on juries and our Christian and Southall family members frequently served from 1737 through 1757. By this latter time the court also set inns' food, lodging, and pasturage rates; appointed coroners; decided on road signs at county crossroads; designated bridge construction and maintenance; appointed militia officers; removed children from parents for cause; and brokered considerable church business including non-attendance fines, binding children for servitude and illegitimacy fines.
The court met at Westover Parish in Charles City until construction of a new courthouse in Charles Town costing 30,000 pounds tobacco was completed during 1687. Half-acre Charles Town lots went on sale for 100 pounds in 1692 -- and were promptly purchased by the court justices!
In 1690 the court decided to meet monthly only from October through April leaving primary farming time free. The forum also resolved to prevent debtor court delays, thus freeing the docket tremendously, although the court seemed to lose control of the schedule again in the 1740s and 1750s. The court justices appeared well paid, and in fact were involved as plaintiff, debtor, witness and administrator in a disproportionately large number of court cases. The justices seemed to litigate more than anyone in the county, a phenomena seen in other more cosmopolitan areas as well, such as in Alexandria, VA in our family lines.
Public, county and parish taxes were levied according to how many tithables were in the county, which was divided into parishes for collecting taxes. Some court business concerned trying to conceal tithables for whom people owed tax. Elderly and ill people could request release from paying taxes, but people were not released for poverty. Indigents' names were posted on the courthouse door. Taxing homemade leather goods began in 1691, quickly impacting shoe making and resulting in county tax protests the following year. Tithables more than doubled from 687 people in 1677 to 1488 people in 1748 with 970 tithes in 1690 paying 17 pounds tobacco each and five years later to 1130 tithes levied 44 pounds each.
Immigrants or residents who could afford the cost, imported other people -- both white and black -- for which they received 50 acres land per person brought into the county. White people commonly indentured themselves to earn money if they were young or parents indentured their young teenage male and female children, especially if only the mother was alive. The indenture period varied, appearing to be generally five years if immigrating into America and longer if already a young county resident. The 1670s saw white servants, generally young teenagers, brought to court to establish their age and sold for a term of service; some had just arrived from Europe. Servants' indentures were often subsequently sold. Runaways began to occur and the court paid anyone capturing a runaway -- white, black or Native American Indian. Beginning in 1678 Indian children, generally about age seven, were brought to court to establish their age and sold as slaves. Beginning in 1689, young black children were also brought to court to establish their age prior to sale. By the 1730s binding children for servitude or apprenticeship was the church wardens' duty and was managed by the court.
From 1672 until 1695 illegitimate children were not the court issue they became in later years, unless the child belonged to a servant woman. In such a case the woman had to serve an additional two years for the inconvenience she had caused, including if it were her master's child! Illegitimate children were the woman's problem; only twice was a man made to pay upkeep for his own illegitimate child and in the second case the child was awarded to the father by the court. By 1689 each month a new bastard child's mother -- usually a servant -- was being brought into court for an additional two-year period of servitude or a 50 shilling or 500 pound tobacco fine. If she could not pay the fine, the mother received the same 25 to 29 bare-back lashes for which stealing was a punishment in the county. White female servants had mulatto children four times during 1678 through 1690, the last such incident receiving a doubled fine. Interestingly, in 1689 the court decided an Indian servant woman was not subject to the court when she had an illegitimate child, perhaps because she was not baptized. During 1737 to 1757 three women received lashings because they had no security for their fines. During this period illegitimacies were big church business with an average 24 to 36 such births annually; the fines were levied by the court but went to the church. Whether the church ran an orphanage or helped with feeding these families is unclear.
Certain court seatings were designated orphans' courts for ensuring the minors' economic affairs were being fairly handled. Court-appointed guardianships of minors were common because many fathers did not live long. Only one mother served as guardian of her children between 1672 and 1757.
Little violent crime occurred in the county and few prisoners were taken. The first prisoner noted had killed an Indian man. From 1737 to 1757 there were only two stabbings. The primary crime was stealing -- usually livestock -- punishable by 29 bare-back lashes at the whipping post for free persons, servants and slaves. By 1737 some black slaves received 39 lashes and/or burning of their hands for stealing. Slave trials were documented in detail, whereas most other trials were devoid of detail in the records.
Some court cases were unique. Only one free black's petition came to in court in 1677. During 1688 certain county residents were considering mutiny and rebellion against England. The court noted in 1692 that the law barred blacks from receiving their freedom. Only one female attorney was ever noted in court, and she appeared frequently since her merchant husband in England had considerable outstanding business credits. A Quaker requested toleration of regular worship meetings in his home in 1691. The first proclamation about a post office was in 1693. The court tried a man for marrying his deceased wife's half sister in 1694, but he was allowed to remain married having established doubt as to the common parentage of the two women.
Interestingly the Clerk of Court was ordered to bring all court records to the newly constructed courthouse clerk's office in 1689 to ensure preservation, care, security and easy access, as opposed to being kept scattered among three homes in the county. Later that year a long special court hearing was held when the Clerk refused to comply because he feared losing his position if the records were not primarily kept in his home. The court gave him one month to move all the records and to regularly man the courthouse office to record court documents and make copies. Ultimately most of the records at the courthouse were burned during the Civil War.
American settlement through the nineteenth century was an amazing experience in our family. Comparatively speaking, we have an incredible number of immigrant direct line ancestors traced back to Europe, primarily to Great Britain and Germany, but occasionally to France and the Netherlands. Numerous other lines could not be traced across the Atlantic.
My maternal ancestral lines from England included Broughton, Christian, Edwards, Flanders, Haddon, Hewett, Kendall, Lewis, Leveson, Melson, Michael, Mitchell, Nottingham, Offley, Osborne, Revell, Robinson, Rogerson, Russell, Sanford, Satchell, Scarburgh, Sears, Smart and Thorowgood. Our Scot lines were Dashiell, Downes, Inglis, Martin, Mitchell, Wallace; our Irish families were Anderson, Going, Kyle, Lanphier, Morrison, O'Callaghan, Perry, Rowe, Wall, Wallace and Woods; our German llines included Emmert, Franck, Fresemann, Guenther, Hamman, Kampf, Muehlschlaegel, Ruff, Salome and Schuette; our Bowdoin and Remy families immigrated from France; and the Custis and Michael families were from the Netherlands.
Winslett ancestral lines were only traced to England and included the Allen, Atkinson, Sherwood, Strong, Stubbs, Tucker, Whaley, Whitehead, Williamson and Winslett families.
For the Schmidt lineage, English families include the wealthy Archdale, Combe, Lawson and Lovett families as well as the Rench family; the Irish line was McElhaney; and our German lines included Bohringer, Cuntze, Friesse, Frey, Kizler, Hilsenbeck, Moll, Reinschmidt, Schmidt, Schwan, Schwamm, Stoever, Weiss and many various Straub lines.
The Murphy family's Woodworths lived in Canada but likely came from England and their Feinthel family was from Germany.
Other lines origins are not definitively determined because our immigrant ancestor's data needs further research.
We have a significant number of Scot and Irish ancestors who crossed the ocean to Virginia, Pennsylvania and Georgia. The environments these families endured call for some additional explanation. Our Downes, Dashiell and Martin immigrants arrived in America from Scotland relatively well-to-do in 1645, 1653 and 1706 respectively. Scot immigration to America increased in 1707 after the Act of Union between England and Scotland joined the two countries. The Scot flight to America had three components: Scot-Irish, Highland Scots and Lowland Scots. The Scot-Irish were Lowlanders who had moved from Scotland primarily to the Ulster area in Northern Ireland between 1600 and 1700 taking over lands from which Irish had been forcibly evicted. Scot-Irish were Presbyterian Scots who during their century in Ireland intermarried with English Puritans, refugee Huguenots and pure Irish. The Scot-Irish were generally the middle-class merchants, small farmers and woolen and linen manufacturers. Scot-Irish Lowlanders immigrated individually or with their family, whereas Highlanders immigrated in organized groups and settled in isolated, clannish communities.
The exodus of the Scot-Irish to Philadelphia, PA in the early 1700s was attributed to the English ban on imported Irish woolens and linens; increased rents and religious tithes; and closure to the Scot-Irish of the coveted military, customs, law and legislative professions. Emigration was fueled in 1716-1718 when long-term land leases expired and rents soared. Landing in Philadelphia, PA, Scot-Irish moved to vacant Pennsylvania lands. On receipt of favorable reports in Europe, especially from Pennsylvania where farming conditions were promising and religious freedom was guaranteed, a second immigration wave occurred in 1725-1729. Our Wallace and Woods families arrived together in 1724. However, after restrictive Pennsylvanian laws were passed, these Scot-Irish moved on to the back country of Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas where settlers were actively being sought. The natural environment was similar to that of Scotland, particularly in Augusta and Rockbridge counties in Virginia. In after years Irish crop failures and other disasters kept the immigrant flow steady. After 1730 increasingly Scot-Irish immigrants went directly to the South, especially to Charleston, SC. Nine out of ten Scot-Irish immigrants of the era reportedly indentured themselves as servants to pay their passage. Scot-Irish culture and religion generally encouraged marrying within a select group of Presbyterian Scot-Irish resulting in numerous intergenerational cross-family ties among a select few families and among cousins, especially in our Wallace and Woods lines.
Highlanders began arriving about 1730 and settled in New York, western Georgia and throughout the Carolinas. In 1732 to 1735 our Lanphier and Going families immigrated together and two of our Anderson progenitors arrived. After 1760 immigration numbers soared because of crop failures and clearances in Scotland where landlords evicted tenants and razed their homes. Our Glenns arrived in 1768 taking advantage of land grants for Presbyterian immigrants to South Carolina. Also after 1750 the Lowland farmers escaping rent hikes began to arrive with Lowland immigration reaching its peak between 1770 and 1775 and stopping temporarily with the American Revolution. Lowlanders composed the majority of the Irish coming to America. Unfortunately many Irish records of this era, especially in Ulster, were apparently destroyed in the 1927 insurrection. The Perry family arrived in 1823 and took work in the northern mills.