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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology



December 2011


Hatteras Island 1704 Visitor

By Baylus Brooks

In the North Carolina Colonial and State Records, Volume 1, Page 603, in a letter written by John Blair, we discover that John Blair visited the early colony of North Carolina in 1704.  Here's what he had to say:

"You may also consider the distance that the new colony of Pamtico is from the rest of the inhabitants of the country, for any man that has tried it would sooner undertake a voyage from this city to Holland than that, for beside a pond of five miles broad, and nothing to carry one over but a small perryauger, there are about fifty miles desert to pass through, without any human creature inhabiting in it. I think it likewise reasonable to give you an account of a great nation of Indians that live in that government, computed to be no less than 100,000, many of which live amongst the English, and all, as I can understand, a very civilized people.

I have often conversed with them, and have been frequently in their towns: those that can speak English among them seem to be very willing and fond of being Christians, and in my opinion there might be methods taken to bring over a great many of them. If there were no hopes of making them Christians, the advantage of having missionaries among them would redound to the advantage of the government, for if they should once be brought over to a French interest (as we have too much reason to believe there are some promoters amongst them for that end by their late actions), it would be, if not to the utter ruin, to the great prejudice of all the English plantations on the continent of America.

I have here in brief set down what I have to say, and shall be ready to answer to any questions the honorable society shall think convenient to ask me concerning the country; and shall be both ready and willing to serve them anywhere upon such encouragement as I can live, according to my education, after my Lord Weymouth ceases to lay his commands on me."

Here's the original if you'd like to take a look:

The Nation of Indians would clearly be the Tuscarora.  His statement shows us how devastating the ensuing Tuscarora War would be, a decade later, when the tribe was nearly annihilated. 

Whidby - Midgett Headright Records

When people collaborate, magical things happen.  As we've been building the Hatteras Neighborhood, the one from the 1700s that is, I've been collecting information from anyplace I can find it.  Kay Lynn Midgett Sheppard kindly offered to work with each of the surnames to see what she can find that I don't already have.  A second set of eyes is a wonderful thing to have.  In this case, she found  a wonderful record that combines two of our Hatteras families, the Whidbeys and the Midgetts  Furthermore, the progenitor of the Midgett line is involved, Matthew Midgett, and his wife Judeth. 

Headrights were claimed when individuals paid for the passage of other people.  Generally, the headrights consisted of 50 acres of land awarded to the individual who paid for their transportation.  If someone paid for their own transportation, they got the 50 acres themselves.  Many times these headrights were bought, sold and traded, like trading cards and it was sometimes many years before they were actually claimed for land.  However, in this case, since these families were subsequently found together on the Outer Banks and on Hatteras Island, it's likely that the Whidby's and Midgett's were acquainted, perhaps before in the old country as well.

Source:  North Carolina Headrights - A List of Names 1663-1744 by Caroline B. Whitley

Colonial Court Records, Land Papers-Wills, 1665-1746 - SS State CCR 187

#12 (no date) Petition of Georg Whitby to "his honorable court" to prove rights: in all 32 rights

            Georg Whitby and his 6 children

            Wm. Bell and his Servant

            George Bell and wife and child

            Jno. Barrows, his wife and 3 children

            Francis Linfield and wife and child

            Jno. Robison

            Doctor Davison, his wife and 2 Servants

            Judeth Migett and 3 children  [wife & children of Matthew Midgett!!]

            Samuel Green and wife

            Jno. Hanbury


Kay's note: The date on this had to be after May 1709 because Judeth Migett’s 3rd child was born in May 1709.


I know that in Virginia, headrights were worth 50 acres each.  I asked Kay Lynn about headrights in North Carolina and she once again proved to be a wealth of information.

In 1693/4 a headright was worth about 60 acres but, but that varied

Proving headrights for land was common in early colonial courts.  Individuals claimed rights for themselves, for persons they had brought into NC and for persons whose right they had acquired by purchase, transfer, or inheritance.  Families and relationships were sometimes mentioned in the headright but a lot of the time relationships were just inferred. 

The earliest NC patents were granted for the service of bringing settlers into the colony.  For this service, a person earned a right for a given number of acres per settler, or "head", according to the type of head (male/female/child/free/bonded/slave).  It was not required that a headright be claimed when he or she arrived in the colony; headrights could be held until a sufficient number had been accumulated to qualify the patentee for the maximum allowable acreage. 

Acreage varied with the time period, but the usual stipulation was that the grantee settle on the land or cause it to be settled, clear and plant a given number of acres within a specified time, and fulfill other conditions stated in the document. 

In the early 1690s acreage restrictions were liberalized and many settlers allowed their old grants to lapse and applied for larger tracts.  A patent lapsed when the grantee failed to fulfill the stipulated requirements and lost his or her right to the tract.  It then reverted back to the colony or state to be regranted to a new applicant.  Headright proofs for the mid-1690s are among the few that provided the names of importees, but it should be remembered that they (and the grantee) probably had been in the colony for a number of years. 

The system for claiming headright was changed in 1741.  Grants issued from then until the end of the system in 1754 were for the grantee's own head and those of his immediate family (wife, children & slaves), and they need not have been imported into the colony to qualify.  Proofs continued to be presented to the county courts, but reports of such proofs were forwarded to the Court of Claims.  The colony-level records usually include the numbers of whites and black in the family but not their names.  In a few cases, however, their names (and sometimes ages) can be found in the county court minutes.

Thanks Kay Lynn, for the lesson on North Carolina headrights.


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