Archive for November, 2008

Grantham family lineage to William the Conquerer

November 23rd, 2008 No comments

I forgot whether it was my junior or sophomore year in high school, but at the end of class one day, Mrs. Wright asked me if I knew anything about my family tree. I told her I did not, and a few days later she told me she believed I was a descendent of William the Conquerer. This was in 1988 or so. I never believed it and had always gotten a kick out of it.

One thing I’m learning as I explore my family tree is the English kept damn good records, and it seems they tried to impress this upon early American settlers. Maybe life was too tough then, or maybe the constant accounting of life is what they fled for a more simple life in America. The early settlers did enough record keeping to get by, but it was way more than the pioneering generations that soon followed.

Over the past couple of weeks, my family tree has sucked me into a rich family narrative woven into some of the most fascinating moments in history. My weekends have become consumed with exploring one family member or another, imagining their life’s challenges or pondering their noted failures. It’s even more profound seeing some of these ancestors with their own Wikipedia entries.

Last week an email came from saying records were recently added that showed the Warren line in my family tree now going back to the First and Second Crusades. I opened up the family tree and went back in time to my 30th great grandfather Fulk the Younger, King of Jerusalem. His battles in the Crusades, his involvement with the Knights Templar, his appointment to King of Jerusalem and burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are documented. So is his lineage, and it was just a matter of someone entering it into before the Warren line in my family tree was recognized as a match.

The Warrens who colonized early America trace their ancestors back to the son of Fulk, Geoffrey of Anjou, who is also the father of King Henry II. It was that online bio that made me do a double take. King Henry II is the great grandson of William the Conquerer.

I could not believe that when I read it and went back to my family tree. Geoffrey’s wife, Matilda the Empress, is the daughter of King Henry I who did not have an heir and passed the thrown to Geoffrey and Matilda’s son. King Henry I’s father was William the Conquerer, also know as William the Bastard because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

Part of my family descends from there through Geoffrey’s illegitimate son named Hamelin (de Warenne) Plantagenet who begat the Warrens. The descendant Thomas Warren, who died in Surry, Va in 1670, was the great, great, great grandfather of Catherine Proctor who married my 8th great grandfather Edward Grantham.

How could Mrs. Wright have known this 20 years ago? Even after two weeks of research, I can see how certain surnames have a known traceable history like a well worn path back in time. I assume she knew something about parts of my own family from her studies of English history and literature. Maybe certain points in my surname’s family tree take those well worn paths.

Grantham’s Reeds: Colonial Virginia Land Map

November 20th, 2008 1 comment


Somewhere among these Surry County Virginia land patents from the 1600s is the 200 acres Edward Grantham bought. This map showed the area 20 years prior to the purchase mentioned below. He sold the property a couple of years later for a good profit and got a new land patent. That property was known as Grantham’s Reeds.

Edward bought 200 acres in Surry County on September 23, 1682, from John Rodgers, Sr., and his wife Mary.  The land was purchased for 1,000 pounds of tobacco with the contract written on the back of the land patent that had been issued to Rodgers in 1666 by Governor William Berkeley.

Edward sold 100 acres of this land to William Jonson in 1684 for 1,650 pounds of tobacco. The other 100 acres and “40 foot dwelling” was sold to Thomas Davis in 1686 for 3,500 pounds of tobacco.

Edward received a land patent of 300 acres on May 29, 1683. The land was located in Southwarke Parish, Surry County, on the branches of Cypress Swamp adjoining Thos. Jordan. The patent was granted for the transportation of six persons into the colony: Isabel Huberd, Jon. Bincks, Tho. Peel, Jon. Anderson, Jon. Walker, & Timo. Jackson. Edward Grantham’s property on Cypress Swamp was known as Grantham’s Reeds. Many of the deeds concerning this land mention the “cart path,” which was actually a well traveled road leading from North Carolina to Southwarke Church and the warehouses at Gray’s Creek.


After scanning over the map, I found the 200 acres owned by John Rodgers. I pulled up a Google map of the land directly across from Jamestown, VA and then overlaid the old patent map. It was tough getting them to line up, but I moved it back and forth until some nearby creeks met and there it is, the first 200 acre property. I highlighted the area in yellow. Here’s the satellite view. I’m still looking for Grantham’s Reed.

Nathan Bacon died of the ‘Lousy Evil’

November 17th, 2008 No comments


The first time I read about the “Lousy Evil” was this weekend in distant relative Sir Thomas Grantham’s personal account of how he ended Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 on behalf of Virginia Governor William Berkeley.

Grantham said in his book An historical account of some memorable actions, particularly in Virginia that Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of Bacon’s Rebellion, “died of the Lousy Evil,” known medically as Phthiriasis. But you might know the Lousy Evil by its more modern name: crabs.


According to Grantham (who worked on behalf of the Governor), he basically showed up at one of the rebel meetings and convinced them to surrender in the wake of Bacon’s death. He provides an interesting account of the entire affair.

History may prefer the narrative that Nathan Bacon’s untimely death was for the cause and by the cause, but there it is tucked away in a distant relatives notes on the first American rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon died of crabs. Now, maybe it was just an insulting jab, but now I know why people wore merkins in the 1600s.

Sir Thomas Grantham and Bacon’s Rebellion

November 16th, 2008 No comments


Today I’m reading Sir Thomas Grantham’s account of his role in Bacon’s Rebellion and how he got the rebels to surrender to Virginia Governor William Berkeley. The introduction described Berkeley as “uncompromising.”

Virginia groaned beneath the accumulated oppressions of Charles the Second and his insatiate minions. The profligate monarch found a fitting viceroy in the choleric and uncompromising Berkeley, who gives infamous testimony to his own character in his memorable reply to an inquiry of the English Council: “I thank God there are no free-schools, nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these three hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!”

Governor Berkeley sounds a lot like some politicians today. Berkeley commissioned Sir Thomas Grantham to intercede in Bacon’s Rebellion on Virginia’s behalf. It was America’s first rebellion by colonists. Grantham took advantage of Nathaniel Bacon’s death to quickly convince rebel leaders they’d be treated with mercy, and they surrendered. Once in the custody of Governor Berkeley, the rebels were hung.

Grantham family land deals in Colonial America

November 14th, 2008 No comments

Thomas Warren is the great great grandfather of Catherine Proctor (my 8th great grandmother), who married my 8th great grandfather Edward Grantham, yes the tobacco farmer who received levies for not going to church and for trading with Indians. Thomas Warren’s estate at Smith’s Fort was purchased from Thomas Rolfe, the son of John Rolfe and his wife Pocahontas, according to old land deeds.

Here are some notes I’m finding on Warren. According to these notes, Warren’s estate, Smith’s Fort Plantation, was land he purchased from Thomas Rolfe, the son of John Rolfe and Pocahontas.

Thomas Warren was born before 30 January 1623/24 at Ripple Court, Kent, England.1 He was the son of William Warren and Katherine Gookin. Thomas Warren was baptized on 30 January 1624/25 at Ripple Court, Kent, England.3,4,5 He married Alice Powell, daughter of William Powell and Margaret Whitney, before 1645 at Virginia. Thomas Warren married Elizabeth Spencer after 25 September 1654 at Surry County, Virginia.6 Thomas Warren married Jane Stokes after 1658. Thomas Warren died on 21 April 1670 at Smiths Fort Plantation, Surry Co, Virginia.7 His estate was probated on 21 April 1670 at Surry County, Virginia.8

He was Type: Bought land at ‘Smith’s Fort’ from Thomas Rolfe (son of John Rolfe & Pocahontas). He Notes for Thomas Warren: Came to VA in 1640. Purchased land from Thomas Rolfe (given to John Rolfe, his father, by Powhatan as a wedding gift in 1614 when he married Pocahontas) in 1643. Member of House of Burgesses for James City, Oct 1644- Mar 1658. In 1653, he began construction of a brick house 50 feet long which he managed to have completed by the time he married Elizabeth, daughter of ancient planter William Spencer. Member of House of Burgesses for Surry Co., 1663-1666. He was qualifying ancestor for Jamestowne Society.9 Thomas Warren immigrated before 3 February 1639/40 to Surry County, Virginia.2 He was Type: Granted land on 3 February 1639/40 at 450 acres, eastern branch of Smiths Fort Creek, Surry Co, Virginia.2 He immigrated in 1641; With Daniel Gookin.4,5 He immigrated after 3 February 1640/41 to Surry County, Virginia.1 He was Type: Land patent on 3 July 1648 at 290 acres, Surry Co, Virginia.2 He was Type: Built circa 1651 at Smith’s Fort, Gray’s Creek Plantation, Surry Co, Virginia.10 He lived in 1668 at ‘Smith’s Fort’, 1200 acres at the mouth of Gray’s creek, Surry Co, Virginia.11,12 He left a will on 16 March 1668/69 at Surry County, Virginia.8

Grantham family history in early Colonial America

November 12th, 2008 No comments

My great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandpa was pardoned by the Grand Assembly in Virginia,

William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, Vol 3, No. 2. (Oct., 1894), pp. 81-96.

In March, 1655, the Grand Assembly, con-sisting of the Governor, Council and Burgesses, pardoned(2).
“Leift.-Coll. Thos. Swann, accused and impeached for the death of his servant, one Elizabeth Buck”, the ordinary course by petition to the chancellor being impossible, as “this collony is not as yet settled with such officers as belong to passing such pardon, and noe publick seale being in the countrey.”

and he rounded up the boys to get the Indians.

On 10 March 1638/9, Thomas renewed his deceased father’s patent to 1200 acres on the south side of the James River. In 1639, Thomas was named as Viewer of Tobacco for James City County, Virginia, from Smith’s Fort to Grindall’s Hill. As a viewer, Thomas was responsible for enforcing the rules governing the growing of tobacco. In 1644, the Virginia Assembly ordered that various counties march upon enemy Indian tribes. Captain Shepard and Mr. Swan were to raise 50 men in Surry [James City?] County as their contribution to a march to Pamunkey.

In November 1645, Thomas was a member, from James City County, of the Virginia Assembly. His wife Margaret died 5 April 1646 at Swann’s Point, where she was buried. In 1649, Thomas served from James City County in the Virginia House of Burgesses.

and owned slaves.

On 9 April 1674, Thomas Swann was one of the Councillors present when the General Court was held in morning and afternoon sessions. On 3 November 1674, the Surry county court found in favor of Thomas Swann in a lawsuit he brought against Francis Gray. Thomas was awarded 2769 pounds of tobacco. In the list of tithables for 1675, Thomas was one of the few men in Surry County who owned slaves. On that list, Thomas, of Southwark Parish, had 3 white servants and 2 Negro slaves. On 16 March 1676, Thomas was appointed administrator of the estate of Francis Sumner.


November 11th, 2008 No comments

I spent virtually all of my Sunday on discovering my roots. I was sucked into it by the commercials they’re running on TV. It’s a pricey service, but it’s worth it so far.

I was amazed at the actual copies of documents Ancestry had access to that confirm dates, locations and who these people are. I could see old hand written census documents, ship musters (listings of passengers and inventory), divorce documents, birth certificates and more. The picture I have emerging of my family has made a big impression on me, and my evenings now turn to hours of discovering a bigger picture family narrative.

Take a look at the part of the family tree isolated above. If you can read it, these are the ancestors of James Grantham – my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather. Several of these names pop up in popular history of the founding of our great nation through the charter companies that gave land grants to English share holders.

The stories of all the troubles early settlers faced is haunting. John Proctor’s story in particular is one I spent last night reading about. John’s wife Allis was one of the settlers who defended Jamestown from “savages” in the Jamestown massacre of 1622. Apparently, she refused an order of the council to leave her settlement home.

According to a ship muster, John had come here in 1607 and his wife Allis came in 1621. But John had traveled back to England for the funeral of his brother. When he returned, he was abandoned in Bermuda (an accidental colony) and later brought back to Jamestown only to face murder charges for fighting with a servant who later died of his injuries. Their great granddaughter eventually gave birth to James.

What I’ve been uncovering over the past couple of evenings are several other lines of founding families whose children eventually headed east into Kentucky and south into North Carolina meeting up with other Granthams who had also made the journey from England.

So far, I’ve been able to go as far back as the 1200s on the Grantham side of the family, all of which presumably go back to William De Graham whose family castle is in Grantham, England. He is the founder of the Scottish Clan Graham, for whom the city of Grantham is named. I’m still trying to figure out how Edward Grantham came to America during the colonization and whether it was by choice or as an indentured servant. Here is some copy of a document purporting to be the will of his son, Edward Grantham, Sr., for an estate in Surry County Virginia.

Here’s more about Edward Sr whose grandson James eventually marries John Proctor’s great granddaughter mentioned above. I got a chuckle out of this:

In 1687 his name appeared on the list of the Virginia militia. In 1694 he was the subject of a presentation by the Grand Jury for “Entertaining Indians contrary to Law & for not comeing to church” which probably meant he was trading with the Indians on Sunday. In 1694 in Order Book No. 4 he is described as “Lame and impotent person” and relieved from paying public levies.

On my mother’s side of the family, I don’t have a lot of information at the moment. What I do know is we are German immigrants, blacksmiths that came to America in the 1800s to the Midwest where they merged with the Paddock family, a family of merchants (stores, hotels, etc.). I’m still too deep in the woods of history to have fleshed all that out.