January 31, 2010
The Origins of the Lost
the past few years, we've focused a great deal on the new technologies
available by using DNA. While
we do need that technology, and for the families in the US from Eastern
NC, and families in the UK from target areas to test, we also need to
specifically identify those families whose members were part of the
so-called "Lost Colony".
Otherwise, we have no clear base for comparison.
be clear, the colony was never "lost", it was abandoned,
unintentionally, but abandoned just the same.
It was only "lost" to history, and in particular to the
historians in Europe. Just
ask anyone on Hatteras Island today, or in 1701 when John Lawson asked
them, or in-between, and they'll tell you what happened to the
course, our task is to prove they survived and descend to the present.
the past, various individuals have focused on certain specific names,
with some small measure of success.
For example, we know where Ananias Dare and his young wife,
Eleanor White were married, and when.
We also now know where Ambrose Viccars and his wife, Elizabeth
Phillips were married as well. Both
couples were married in London, the Dare's in 1583 and the Viccars in
1582. Aside from that and
some potentially exciting location possibilities for John White and
Ananias Dare, we've all pretty much come up empty handed.
extracted what Dr. William S. Powell had to say about his research into
the colonists over his more than 30 year career.
He was saddened by how little he and others had been able to
discover, despite decades of research.
My extractions of his final comments and summary of what he had
been able to surmise about the identify of each colonists is found at
this link on our website. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~molcgdrg/faqs/bsum.htm
that time, Nelda Percival has discovered court filings pertaining to the
guardianship of John Dare, illegitimate minor son of Ananias Dare, filed
in 1594, shortly after the required 7 year wait required to declare
someone dead. In 1597, John
was still a minor. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~molcgdrg/sur/2d/dare9.htm
surname researchers in some cases have done extensive research on a
particular surname, which is immensely helpful to us.
The most recent example of this is the Dare surname project who
kindly contributed an "Ancient Dare Timeline" to our project. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~molcgdrg/sur/2d/dare3.htm
However, we're still wrestling with some critical issues, like
which John White is "the" John White, and which Ananias Dare
is "the" Ananias Dare. Minor
we work through the volumes of both original documents and publications
since the time of the colonists, it has become evident to us that while
we are searching for individual colonists' families, we are also
searching for a group of people who had to have some common bond,
interest or opportunity to bring them together as the group that would
become the "Lost Colonists".
These people, at least some of them, had to know each other.
They had to live close to each other.
They had to find out about the opportunity.
himself states in his journal that he feels particularly responsible
because he himself recruited several members of the group. We also know that many of the people in the "lost
colonists" group and earlier voyages bore the same surname, and in
some cases, the identical name, as a lost colonist.
This suggests a family connection between the groups at minimum.
We also know that Robert Coleman who drown on the 1590 rescue
expedition was along, not as a sailor, but as a family member searching
for his brother Thomas Coleman. In the same vein, we know that John Pory from Jamestown was
the brother of Anne who married "lost colonist" Robert Ellis.
Anne is not among the names on the colonist roster, so we don't
know if she had died or if she stayed home, awaiting the next voyage to
Virginia. But her brother
came to look for Robert more than 20 years later, and got breathtakingly
close, prevented from making contact with reported colonists only by an
Powell, our British historical liaison as well as Mayor of Bideford, and
I decided to take a look at our colonists in a bit of a different
manner. Rather than look
for specific details, we decided to look at the 50,000 foot level and
see what kinds of patterns we might be able to find.
had previously done some demographic work with the colonists surnames.
He is in a unique position, of course, living in Bideford today,
with access to records that are not available here.
Andy analyzed each of the surnames and their variants, I asked him to
write a summary document that described what he found.
As we expected, the colonists fell into several groupings, but
not always where we expected. What
we did expect to find was a concentration in the West Country area
centering on Devon, and we found that.
There was a secondary group in the West Midlands area and also
one in Scotland. Wondering
about this? Let's let Andy
tell us what he found, and why he thinks it's particularly relevant to
solving the mystery of the Lost Colony.
Our feature article in our Special Edition is courtesy of
Bideford's Mayor Powell.
like to thank both Mayor Andy Powell and Nelda Percival, our webmistress,
for their continued hard work and perseverance in their search for the
colonists. Nelda extracted
IGI information for all of the colonist surnames and a portion of Andy's
recent work appears here.
OF THE LOST COLONISTS
A number of years ago I formulated a theory that
many of the Lost Colonists had common origins. The research I conducted
at that time was not entirely laid down on scientific principles but it
did provide enough evidence to support that theory.
Now, in 2010, Roberta
Estes has recreated that exercise using a more scientific foundation;
the outcome of which confirms much of my original results. It is
thrilling to have one’s work vindicated and I extend my grateful
thanks to Roberta for doing so.
If we analyze these results and combine them with
what we know or can hypothesize with a degree of foundation, we obtain
some interesting correlations.
if we look at the 1585 voyage and the military colonists, many of their
surnames and those of the accompanying mariners also appear in the 1587
colonists roster. Some may even be one and the same individual (e.g.
Edward Powell). This is strongly suggestive of family connections,
principally I believe, with the father seeing the Colony as a new
beginning for his son and an escape from the relative poverty of workers
in England at that time. We can be in no doubt that the exploits of
their adventure in 1585 would have been told to family and friends.
are also some anomalous individuals, several single women and obviously
a great many single men. It is not unrealistic to suggest that some of
them may have been miscreants of the day, or even surplus to
requirements, and their landlord/s simply using the colony as a means to
rid themselves of them. The reality of any of the singletons being
girlfriend/boyfriend relationships seems unlikely given that we know
some of the married couples tied the knot shortly before sailing, (e.g.
The Dares and Viccars) and did so no doubt due to an awareness of the
enormity of the task that lay before them and the likelihood of survival
or even at return to England being slim at best.
if to underline this, I have recently discovered a document which is a
Last Will and Testament of Sir Richard Grenville, Admiral of the Fleet
that took the 1585 Military Colony to Roanoke. It was written a few
weeks before he sailed in 1585.
for the number of single men, we have to assume that their passage was
envisaged as a working party to set up the colony, possibly in the
Chesapeake Bay area as originally intended. What
assumptions they had we can only guess at. Was it for the promises of a
safe return to perhaps collect partners and sweethearts for the next
voyage, or was it that they really were miscreant or surplus as
considered, or was it simply a job? One thing we can be sure of, they
did not sail with the intention of marrying and settling with the local
‘savages’ as the Croatoans were termed.
the demographics themselves do reveal some relatively strong patterns;
The West Midlands, Lincolnshire, West Scotland/Ireland,
Portsmouth/Hampshire, Somerset/Dorset, Devon (Bideford/Plymouth), and
West Cornwall; all feature very prominently.
rather subjective at this time I am inclined to largely dismiss London
origins. My reasoning for this is twofold.
that London was fashionable and a Mecca for the landed gentry (witness
the names associated with the Investors and ‘Gentlemen’
participants) and in almost every case, these people had estates in the
country and simply used London as a giant commercial and communication
hub, which is effectively what it was…. a central meeting place, and
of course where money was discussed.
such a large population would hardly know of any such venture to
Virginia, and effectively signed up for it, without some form of mass
marketing. Do we have any posters advertising the voyage? Any Parish
records of the dozens of communities in London being asked for
volunteers? Is there anything in the London guilds (such as the Painters
and Stainers Guild) recording the request for volunteers of specific
trades (as recommended by Hakluyt)? In short with such widespread for
potential sources of evidence it would be surprising if nothing survived
to support this theory. Yet there is nothing, thus, the only answer can
there were any London connections these would seem largely to point at
White’s ‘Administrators’ who may in some part have been working on
behalf of the Investors as (for example) book-keepers.
given that being a favoured courtier at the Elizabethan court was fickle
at best, there being regular stories of deceit and treachery; it is
hardly likely that any prominent individual whose downfall might result
in the promotion of another at this court, or worse, result in the
dismantling of their estate to the benefit of that rival; would have
entrusted their personal finances to a (for example) ‘Roger Bailie
& Co. Accountants’ for fear of that company being owned or
influenced by a more powerful enemy. Nevertheless, if this was the case
and such generic institutions were used, it seems hardly likely that
their valuable and trusted employees would have simply been let go
without some return from the colony investors; but there are no known
records of any such correspondence.
what of the other demographic areas?
I believe they fall largely into two distinct focus groups:
Hampshire or more specifically Portsmouth connection could be down to
one simple fact. The fitting out of the ships at Portsmouth for a voyage
to plant a colony in Virginia would have been common knowledge amongst
the towns-folk, as significant numbers of them would have been called
upon to supply victuals etc. Given that Raleigh wanted 150
“Planters” and was well short even when finally sailing (117), we
have to accept that some of the Colonists may simply have been
speculative enquiries of the Ship’s Captains.
is likely that the demographic traits surrounding Plymouth in Devon
could be for exactly the same reason. Plymouth was a stopover for the
outbound 1587 colony.
West Midlands have a connection through the Earl of Shrewsbury an
investor in the colony and one who was certainly known to Raleigh &
Grenville. George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury had a flagship called
‘Talbot’ of some 200 tunnes which took part in Drakes West Indian
adventure; the one that relieved Ralph Lane’s colony.
Lincolnshire connection has yet to be tied in via a known Investor but
the nucleus of surnames largely exclusive to the area may be through
Hakluyt’s advice for good builders; Lincolnshire being specifically
known for this at the time, the evidence for which is in the signature
style of the area’s house construction.
Dorset; the remaining Devon areas (North Devon ~ Bideford, and East
Devon); and West Cornwall, all have overwhelming connections to the most
pivotal players and investors in the Colony ~ Grenville (North Devon),
Raleigh (East Devon), Sackville (Somerset and Dorset); and Sir John
Arundell (West Cornwall).
The West Scotland/Southern Ireland (Cork) connection
had been puzzling me for a long time but a recent discussion with
Professor Mark Horton, who has studied early Scottish migratory
patterns, revealed that in the case of the colonists it seems most
likely that we can determine their migration as due to religious
In the late 1500’s Scotland was still a country in
its own right under Mary, Queen of Scots; a staunchly Roman Catholic
follower. There can be no doubt therefore that many Protestants were
evicted from their lands.
Sir Walter Raleigh knew of their plight and had
connections with the west coast area of Scotland. It seems very likely
that given his need to secure his Irish estates from the Irish warlords,
he took a ready-made colony from the west coast of Scotland and
transplanted it to his estates in southern Ireland. Here we must also
recognize that Grenville, Raleigh’s in-law through marriage, had
estates. This explains the prevalence of Scottish names in Southern
Ireland and probably the mixing in of a few loyal Irish workers also
living and working on the English estates in Cork.
So how did they become colonists? We know that in
the latter part of the 1580’s much of the Irish estates of Grenville
and Raleigh were not faring well. I believe that when Grenville and
Raleigh were looking for colonists they looked in part, to their Irish
Excepting the ‘walk-on’ candidates at Plymouth
and Portsmouth, the remaining demographic ‘hotspots’ leave us with
one problem; the logistics of how they all came together to be
What we have to look at in considering this is that
England’s highways of the day were appalling; if they existed at all
they were the remains of the once great Roman roads (still a feature of
today’s highway network.) The distance from Bideford to Plymouth
overland was three days by sea and could be up to four by land and even
today this is still a two hour journey to cover a distance of 70 miles,
which even in January 2010 was impassible for two days due to snow.
Further, many roads passed through woodlands renown
for highway robbery; let alone the more rudimentary fact that few of the
colonists would have had horses let alone carriages and carts by which
to take their lives to port with.
This leaves sea travel, and whilst we know of
occasional pirating activities, which would have created some risk, (Sir
Richard Grenville was recorded as dealing with two notable cases at
Padstow in 1581 and Studland Bay (Dorset) in 1582); sea travel was
clearly the safest and simplest option.
For those in East Devon and West Dorset it would
have been a simple matter of a coastal sailing, probably from Lyme
Regis, a Port central to both areas (and of course known for Dare’s.)
Whilst those from the West Midlands could quite
readily have sailed down the River Severn (a major navigable river
through the area and not least upon which the town of Shrewsbury stands)
and into the Bristol Channel. Possibly staying over or meeting up with
others at Bideford.
The Lincolnshire contingent may have been hired
specifically. There passage may have been via ship from London, or they
may have braved the notorious but well travelled London-Portsmouth road.
(It is not inconceivable that they may have been working on buildings in
London, perhaps even Raleigh’s Durham House?)
As for the Scottish contingent and their Irish
counterparts in southern Ireland, we need look no further than the local
port of Youghal, the principal port serving these estates. Grenville,
acting under instructions from Raleigh simply picked them up and
transported them to Bideford; not only the nearest English Port, but
Grenville’s home port. Youghal was also a Port which Bideford had
traded with probably even before the 1500’s and did so right through
until the 1930’s.
This connection would also explain why some of the
Scottish surnames are so prevalent in the North Devon area today; e.g.
The Cornish contingent would have readily travelled
What we now have is Colonists amassed around
Bideford, Plymouth, and Portsmouth.
It is extremely unlikely that the majority of
Colonists sailed from Bideford to board the ships at Portsmouth. For a
start, to get from Bideford or any other western or northern point of
origin they would have had to sail past Plymouth to get there; highly
Interestingly, although not yet transcribed at the
time of writing this, the 1589 Hakluyt document tells us (from a
first-hand account) that three ships left Portsmouth in 1587 and then
spent the next eight days riding at Cowes before sailing to Plymouth
where they moored for a further two days.
Cowes is not twenty minutes out to sea from
Portsmouth, being a principal port on the northern side of the
neighbouring Isle of Wight. It is therefore inconceivable that the ships
would have set sail with 117 colonists onboard only to anchor a few
miles off-shore, for eight days.