First Families of Virginia: Wikis


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First Families of Virginia (FFV) originated with colonists from England who primarily settled at Jamestown and along the James River and other navigable waters in the Colony of Virginia during the 17th century. As there was a propensity to marry within their narrow social scope for many generations, many descendants bear surnames which became common in the growing colony.


English heritage, second sons

Many of the original English colonists considered members of the First Families of Virginia migrated to the Colony of Virginia during the English Civil War and English Interregnum period (1642-1660). Royalists left England on the accession to power of Oliver Cromwell and his Parliament. Because most of Virginia's leading families recognized Charles II as King following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Charles II is reputed to have called Virginia his "Old Dominion", a nickname that endures today. The affinity of many early aristocratic Virginia settlers for the Crown led to the term 'distressed Cavaliers,' often applied to the Virginia oligarchy. Many Cavaliers who served under King Charles I fled to Virginia. Thus it came to be that FFVs often refer to Virginia as "Cavalier Country". These men were offered rewards of land, etc, by King Charles II but they had settled Virginia and so remained in Virginia.

Most of such early settlers in Virginia were so-called "Second Sons". Primogeniture favored the first sons' inheriting lands and titles in England. Virginia evolved in a society of second or third sons of English aristocracy who inherited land grants or land in Virginia. They formed part of the southern elite in America.

In some cases, longstanding ties between families of the English aristocracy simply transplanted themselves to the new colony. In one case, for instance, ancestral ties between the Spencer family of Bedfordshire and the Washington family meant that it was a Spencer who secured the land grant on which the Washingtons would later build their Mount Vernon home. These sorts of ties were common in the early colony, as aristocratic families shuttled back and forth between England and Virginia, maintaining their connections with the mother country, and with each other.

The skein of ties among Virginia families was a legacy of England's ancestral feudalism: in a pre-industrial economy based largely on the possession of land, the ownership of that land was tightly controlled, and often passed between families of corresponding social rank. The Virginia economy, predicated on the institution of slavery and not on mercantile pursuits, meant that the gentry could keep tight rein on the levers of power, which passed in somewhat orderly fashion from family to family. (In the more modern mercantile economy of the north, social mobility was increased, and the power of the elite was muted by the forces of the market economy.)

Many of the great Virginia dynasties traced their roots to families like the Lees and the Fitzhughs who traced lineage to England's county families and baronial legacies. But not all: even the most humble Virginia immigrants aspired to the English manorial trappings of their betters. Virginia history is not the sole province of English aristocrats. Such families as the Shackelfords, who gave their name to a Virginia hamlet, rose from modest beginnings in Hampshire to a place in the Virginia firmament based on hard work and smart marriages. At the same time other once-great families were decimated not only by the English Civil War, but also by the enormous power of the London merchants to whom they were in debt and who could move markets with the stroke of a pen.

Native Americans

Many of the First Families of Virginia can also trace their ancestry to a young Native American named Pocahontas. She was the youngest daughter of Chief Powhatan, who had created the Powhatan Confederacy in the late 16th century and led during the first ten years of the settlement which began at Jamestown in 1607.

In 1614, Pocahontas married English-born colonist John Rolfe, who arrived in Virginia in 1611 after a trip of great hardship. It included being shipwrecked on Bermuda and the deaths of his first wife and their young son. Rolfe had become prominent and wealthy as the first to successfully develop an export cash crop for the Colony with new varieties of tobacco. The combination of notable Native American and English heritage began when their only son, Thomas Rolfe, was born in 1615, and his offspring. Many married other persons of FFV heritage, as there was a propensity to marry within their narrow social scope for many generations.

In 1887 Virginia Governor Wyndham Robertson authored the first history of Pocahontas and her descendants, delineating the ancestry of the Native American woman as it spread among FFV families such as the Bollings, Whittles, Blands, Skipwiths, Flemings, Catletts, Gays, Jordans, Randolphs, Tazewells and many others.[1] The intermarriages between these families meant that many shared the same names, sometimes just in different order—as in the case of Lt. Col. Powhatan Bolling Whittle of the 38th Virginia Infantry, Confederate States of America.[2]

Listing (partial) of family names

Some family names include:

  • Ackiss
  • Allerton
  • Armistead
  • Austin (James Austin, born 1611 in Kent, England; his son, Robert Austin, born in Surry County, VA, about 1650)
  • Bacon
  • Ball
  • Ballard
  • Baskerville Robert and John Baskerville arrived 1635
  • Bassett
  • Bates
  • Beckwith, William
  • Bell--Sir Robert Bell
  • Berkeley
  • Beverley - of Blandfield Plantation c.1683
  • Blair
  • Bland
  • Bolling
  • Branch -- Christopher Branch, 1620
  • Bray
  • Brereton
  • Bridger
  • Browne of "Four Mile Tree"
  • Browning
  • Burwell
  • Byrd
  • Cabell
  • Calthorpe
  • Carr
  • Carrington
  • Carter
  • Cary
  • Chandler
  • Chichely
  • Chiles (Col. Walter Chiles, Jamestown, 1638)
  • Churchill
  • Claiborne
  • Clay(e)
  • Cobbs
  • Conway
  • Corbin
  • Custis
  • Cole
  • Compton of Brathwood Hundred
  • Cocke
  • Cox
  • Dabney
  • Dameron
  • Dawkins
  • Dawson
  • Dew
  • Digges
  • Dillard
  • Dodds
  • Ludwell
  • Lunsford
  • Lynn/Lyne
  • Mallory
  • Marshall
  • Martiau
  • Mason
  • Mathews
  • Minter
  • Nelson
  • Overton
  • Pace
  • Page
  • Percy
  • Parke
  • Pendergrass
  • Pendleton
  • Peyton
  • Pickett
  • Prater/Prather (Thomas Prater, Elizabeth City, 1622)
  • Price
  • Randolph
  • Reavis [Edward I]
  • Redd
  • Roane
  • Robertson
  • Robinson
  • Rolfe
  • Rowe
  • Royall
  • Scarborough
  • Settle (Francis Settle, the "Emmigrant")
  • Shackelford of Shacklefords, Virginia
  • Skipwith
  • Smith of Gloucester Co.
  • Spelman
  • Spencer
  • Spotswood
  • Snipe
  • Stamps
  • Sullivan
  • Talliaferro/Toliver
  • Tapscott
  • Tatum
  • Tayloe
  • Taylor/Tyler
  • Thompson
  • Thoroughgood
  • Thornton
  • Throckmorton
  • Tredway
  • Tucker
  • Venable(s)
  • Vermillion
  • Waller
  • Walton
  • Ware
  • Washington
  • West
  • Westbrook
  • Whaley (Whalley)
  • Whiting
  • Whittle
  • Willoughby
  • Winston
  • Woodliffe/Woodlief
  • Woodson (John Woodson, Jamestown, 1619)
  • Wormeley
  • Yardley

See also


  1. ^ Pocahontas, alias Matoaka, and Her Descendants, William Robertson, J. W. Randolph & English, Richmond, 1887
  2. ^ Lt. Col. Powhattan Bolling Whittle

External links

Further reading



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