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Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology


March  2012

Nancy's Tidbits

One of our most popular items has been Nancy's Tidbits.  Often someone drops us a note telling us that they've used her tidbits and how helpful they have been.  Nancy, thanks so much for this very popular ongoing series!


Geography in UK Genealogy

By Nancy Frey


One of the most important aspects of genealogy is knowing the area that you are researching.  When asked where they lived, most people would give the name of their Parish, not the name of the village in which they lived.  Sometimes, but rarely, a note is made in a parish register of the actual village where the family resided and that is really helpful in establishing where the family you are researching lived within the parish.


I rely heavily on one website for this type of information.  The URL is  You can zoom in on the parish you wish to look at and overlay the Ordinance Survey map of the 1850s on top of the parish.  The OS often shows the names of farms and estates.


These maps can be saved as .pdf or printed out with or without the OS map.  I save them and then print them out later.  Once I have located the area where my family actually lived, I will then save all the surrounding parishes as well.


Yes, it’s a lot of space on your hard drive, but if you want to really get a feel for where your ancestors lived, I find these maps a necessity.


Of course, this is just the first step.  Once you have the maps, then you have to research the History of the area and Google is the place to go.  You never know when your particular family is going to be mentioned in documents or books.  These are valuable resources in pinpointing your family’s place in history.  The likely sites that will come up on Google are British History Online ( and the UK National Archives ( as well as Internet Archive (



Thomas Spencer's "Molatto" Wife in 1726


Thanks to R.S. Spencer for sending the Thomas Spencer Currituck County Court records.  In the NC General Court Minutes, July 1726 - August 1726, Mr. Spencer found the following records from the July session:


Blacknall v Blacknell, Information - the information made by the Reverend Mr. John Blacknall of Edenton in Chowan precinct clerk to Christopher Gale Esqr. Cheif (sic) Justice against himself for joyning together in the holy estate of matrimony Thomas Spencer and Martha paul (sic) a Mulatto Woman at the motion of the Attorney General is continued to the next Court on the last Tuesday in October, next.


This entry is followed by another one:


Blacknall v Spencer, Information - The information made by the Reverend Mr. John Blacknall of Edenton in Chowan precinct Clerk against Thomas Spencer of Curratuck precinct for joyning himself in Marriage to Martha paul (sic) a Mollatto Woman at the motion of the Attorney General is continued to the next court on the last Tuesday in October next.


Who is Thomas Spencer?


R.S. Spencer tells us that there were two Thomas Spencers in the area at the time.  One Thomas who died in 1725 had a wife named Sarah.  This Thomas clearly did not marry in 1726.


The Thomas who married in 1726 had died by 1736.  R.S. Spencer believes that this was his ancestor who had a son named William and a daughter named Ann who married Henry Gibbs. William had a son Christopher who the third-great-grandfather of R.S. Spencer.  R.S. believes that Martha Paul was a second wife for Thomas Spencer and his children, were by his first wife, of whom there is no record.  Some researchers show his first wife's name as Sarah.


The book "A Coat of Many Colors: Religion and Society Along the Cape Fear River" by Walter Conser tells us a bit more about this unusual record.  It seems that the Reverend Blacknall knew that marrying a white man and a mulatto woman was illegal, and he clearly knew the consequences, but he apparently, for some reason, opposed this policy, whether it was on ethical grounds or maybe because Thomas Spencer, or Martha Paul, were his close friends.  In any event, he joined them together in the holy estate of matrimony, then he turned himself in and collected half of the 50 pound fine that went to the informer.  He was never prosecuted, but he did quietly leave his post at the Anglican Church in Edenton and returned to Virginia, infuriating Governor Everard and leaving the church in Edenton without a priest.


This is the Spencer family who, within a generation or so, had expanded to both current Hyde and Dare Counties, in the Lake Mattamuskeet area as well as on Hatteras Island.  We know that by in 1716, Thomas Spencer had a land grant for 640 acres on Hatteras Island and Henry Gibbs, the same year had a grant for 540 acres.  Both of these men were on the 1718 tax list, but Thomas does not have the "1" beside his name, possibly indicating a man of advanced age who was no longer required to pay taxes on himself.


Ann Spencer, daughter of Thomas and sister of William, married Henry Gibbs.  He was born about 1693 and died between 1759 and 1763.  Both the Spencer and Gibbs family were found in very early Currituck County records, living adjacent, and both carry the oral history of having Native heritage. Both are found on Hatteras Island as soon as the land was available, which may indicate they were living there as squatters before the land was available to be applied for in land grants.


Whether the oral history of Native heritage began with Thomas Spencer marrying a "mulatto woman" who could have been Native or mixed Native, we'll likely never know.  Perhaps his first wife had been mixed as well. 


The oral history could also stem from the longstanding association of both of these families with the Native people, interacting with them and living as neighbors.  It's certainly possible that living in such close proximity, romance bloomed in later generations and there were additional or later marriages with Native people or Native descendants as well. 


You can see more about the Gibbs family here: and the Spencer family here:


William Eaton's Muster Roll - Granville County 1754


The Saponi Indians were allied and grouped with the Eno, the Shakori, the Totera and others especially after their time at Fort Christanna in from 1714-1716.  William Eaton was a well known trader and he obtained land in Granville County, NC.  The smaller eastern tribes were quite unsettled after Fort Christanna was closed and tried living in different locations.  Eventually, all of these people were simply called the Saponi.  In 1730 the group went to live with the Catawbas in South Carolina on the North Carolina border, but in 1733, they were back in Virginia again.  In 1742, they returned to the Catawba, but returned a second time in 1748.  During this time, the Catawba were absorbing a number of remnant tribes who were not strong enough to protect themselves.  Indian numbers were dwindling due to constant warfare and disease.  Unlike the English, with a new supply of colonists constantly arriving from Europe, there was no replacement mechanism for the Native people.

By 1754, William Saunders in the "Colonial Records of North Carolina" report that a group of 30-40 Saponi had settled on the lands of William Eaton in Granville County, NC. 

As luck would have it, Janet Crain discovered the "Muster Roll of the Regiment of Granville County under the command of Colonel William Eaton as taken as a general muster of the said Regiment October 8, 1754."

On that list are several surnames that are recognizable as families associated with Native heritage such as Harris, Chavers, Alford, Cade, Nichols, Hedgeparth, Gowen and others.  Several are also associated with Melungeon heritage such as Gowen, Mullins, Collins, Bolton (Bollin) and Moore. 

However, the question is whether or not there is anything on the muster list that might identify who is Native and who is not, and indeed, there is.  Several people are noted at either negro or mulatto, as follows:

·        Edward Harris, negro

·        William Chavers, negro

·        William Chavers Jun., Mul.

·        Gilberth Chavers, Mulatto

·        John Smith   Nut Bush (I'm just going to leave this alone)

·        Thomas Gowen, mulatto

·        Mickael Gowen, mulatto

·        Edward Gowen, mulatto

·        Robert Davis, mulatto

·        William Burnel, mulatto

John Smith's note of "nut bush" could be an indication of a location.  One man is noted by a creek name and one says "up the river".  Or it could possibly be an indication of a Native group association.  If we exclude this individual, as he is not noted as being negro or mulatto, there are a total of 9 men "of color."  Only free people could serve in the militia, so we know these men weren't slaves.  

If each man had a wife and one child, that would be 27 people, 2 children would be 36 people and 3 children would be 45 people.  This fits the 30-40 Saponi stated to have gone to live on William Eaton's land.  Of these, the Chavers and Gowen families are known to be Lumbee as well as Tuscarora.  Harris is the primary Catawba surname, although being a very common surname, may not be related.  Gowen (Goins) is a Melungeon surname as well.

Perhaps, using the muster roll and the NC colonial records, together, we've just identified a number of Saponi families.  By this time in the historical record, the name Saponi could represent any of the eastern remnant tribes' members. 


Hatteras Indians in New Bern, NC???


In his paper, "Cherokee communities of the South", written in 1978 and published a year later, he analyzes and discussed the various groups of people of Native ancestry in the Eastern US who are not part of the official Cherokee tribe, but claim affiliation with or descent from the Cherokee.  It is a very interesting paper and can be downloaded for free at this link: 

Mr. Thomas makes two very interesting statements in his paper.  Unfortunately, he is deceased, or I could ask him about his sources.  But since I can't, I'm asking if any of you have any information that might be useful.  Let's take a look at what he says. 

There is a third and early small migration of Indians into the Appalachian area.  It came into the region of Asheville, then went north along the French Broad River into east Tennessee.  It appears to have "petered out" at this point.  I am not clear as to the source of this stream.  There are some indications that it came from a settlement of largely Hatteras Indians on the Neuse River near New Bern, North Carolina, on the coast.  It may have originated in Granville County, or in both communities.  There is evidence that there was intermarriage and movement between the Indian settlement in Granville County and the one on the Neuse.  This is not an important stream in the history of Appalachia and we will have to wait for further investigation to be sure of its source. 

Given my numerous years of Native research focused on the eastern tribes, I was surprised to see this comment, as I've never heard of this before.  I would love to be able to find and track some confirmed Hatteras families, but who are they? 

I do know that for years, the Lumbee have claimed Hatteras ancestors of course, and that the older people could go back to the coastland and knew where their land was.  Of course, those "older people" were "older people" a long time ago, in the late 1800s, so now that knowledge, whatever it was, is long gone.  But maybe these two items are related.  If anyone knows any specifics about the Lumbee and their eastern coastal relations, please, please, let me know.

Mr. Thomas's second statement is as follows:

It appears that when these people from Granville County first came into Appalachia, they were known to whites as Melungeons.  In fact, some whites in southwest Virginia and east Tennessee still refer to these people as Melungeons.  I would guess that this term was used by these Indians when whites asked their nationality.  There is some evidence that his term was applied to early Indians in Robeson County, as well.  It appears to have been a term that originated around New Bern, North Carolina.  It was coined by the French speaking settlers of that section.  It connotes a population that is mixed, coming from the French word melange, "to mix"; thus, Melungeons.

To be sure, there are just about as many origin stories or hypothesis for the word Melungeon as there are drops of rain, but Thomas was an academic with no horse in this race.  He obviously had found something, but what?  The first written account of the word Melungeon is found in the Stoney Creek Church Minutes of Russell (now Scott) County, Virginia in 1813.  According to various court records, the term was apparently used in both the Robeson County areas of North Carolina and the adjacent border counties of South Carolina in reference to people living there in the late 1700s.  So it's entirely possible that the term might have originated in the New Bern area.

These two statements, combined, if in fact that can be associated, certainly generate more questions than answers.  Does anyone have any research that might suggest what it was that Mr. Thomas came across?


Ye First Council of Bideford

By Andy Powell


In December a good friend of mine made an amazing discovery..... an obscure book held in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, written in 1792, contains the record of the First Town Council of Bideford set up by Sir Richard Grenville in 1572.

This information was lost in 1851 when the then Town Clerk burnt all the old records he considered to be cluttering his cupboards.

For the first time ever known to be in the public domain, I can hereinforth record that the Aldermen of that first council where:

·        Thomas Leach

·        Aldred Stockombe

·        Anthony Honey

·        John Salterne (Merchant Adventurer and elected First Mayor of Bideford)

·        Sir Richard Grenville

These five men then duly elected the following as Burgesses of the Town:

·        Richard Burgin (Gent)

·        John Suzan (Gent)

·        George Stafford (Gent)

·        William Davie

·        John Short

·        Thomas Meager

·        Raimond Anthony

·        John Salterne as elected Mayor, then chose as his private Alderman:

·        Richard Willott (Gent).

A little piece of recovered.

Roberta's comment:  Note that Edward Stafford was one of the 1585 military colonists.  

Andy's comment:  If you like Stafford then we won't mention the Berry, Harvie or Browne who were also Mayors or Aldermen of the town during the following years then..... nor perhaps the Smith or the Lacie or Allen or Martyn or Coffin or Chapman......


Wrecking on Hatteras: A Long Tradition

By Baylus Brooks

Solomon Lumberd was a mariner from Maine who once sailed the Dove to England, claiming to be of the “North Carolina trade” and left his name upon “Lumberd’s Marsh” on a later Hatteras deed; Erasmus Harfleet was a mariner who wrecked on Cape Hatteras in spring 1708; William Reed, he was a Justice of the Peace and wealthy speculator in North Carolina property, later the "president of North Carolina" and obtained the first deed on Hatteras in 1712; John Neale was a virtual unknown of some pecuniary significance who lived near or with Hatteras Indians; Patrick and John Mackuen lived nearby; Thomas Bilton, a shipwrecked mariner on his way from Lisbon to Virginia… what do all of these people have in common?  They visited Hatteras Island before the first recorded deeds in 1712-16.  They also left a pile of glorious garbage near Buxton and probably elsewhere for later archaeologists to find.  That’s why we’re looking!

On October 30, 1707, a ship sailed from Lisbon, Portugal to arrive upon the “Virginia” sand banks.  It encountered “hard Gales of Wind” and anchored off Cape Hatteras, where the crew “spoke to the Virginians on shore.”  They beat the coast for several months, finally wrecking in the latitude of Bermuda.  From there, nine persons, including Thomas Bilton, made their way in a ship’s boat to Anguilla in the West Indies.  After the wreck, they were thirty-one days at sea and “constrained to drink their own urine.”  This comes from the account of Thomas Bilton in “A Voyage from Lisbon to Virginia,” published in London in 1715.  It is one of the few accounts of contact with the Englishmen living on Hatteras Island prior to recorded settlement.

Another record of a shipwreck only two months or so later, following similar routes from London to Lisbon to America, tells the names of some of these Englishmen upon Hatteras’ shores.  The ship America sailed from London to Lisbon, Portugal, and then ran aground on Cape Hatteras before March 1708.  Erasmus Harfleet survived the wreck and attempted to salvage what he could while on Hatteras Banks, but was stopped by Justice of the Peace William Reed who just happened to be in the vicinity.  A petition was filed by Harfleet on March 11, 1708:

Petition of Erasmus [Harfleet] who states that he is a mariner belonging to the ship America which apparently wrecked at Cape Hateras upon the sand banks. He was allowed to work upon the sand banks to save what he could from the wreck. He complains that Wm. READ [Reed] came and threatened him if he took anything belonging to the wreck. Salvage from the wreck was the only wage that the petitioner would receive for his wages from London to the City of Lisbon in Portugal. Asks for resolution. [Back:] Patrick MACKANNE, John NACKOUNE, John NEALE, Laruence MARTINSON, witnesses. 11 Mar 1707/8 [CCR-192].

It should probably be noted that some years later, Erasmus Harfleet was accused of purposely wrecking a ship in the sound off of Roanoke Island while en route to the area then called “Croatan” (known formerly as “Dasamonquepeuk” and today, as “Mann’s Harbor”) in 1714.  Harfleet was hired by Joseph Parker to pilot the ship, but when the ship ran aground, Harfleet began salvaging the wreck and refused to “get the sloop off” the shoals, who “cursed and said he would never go on board.” Harfleet had already unloaded a boatload of goods onto the mainland before refusing to go back, so he did not seem to mind going aboard the sloop while there were valuables on her.  [CCR-192, 26 Apr 1714]. 

Erasmus Harfleet may have been a ner’do’well and justifiably stopped in his “salvage” activities by William Reed that early spring day in 1708.  Still, that encounter with Reed and other “Virginians” on Hatteras Banks tells us something valuable about the activity on that island before its recorded habitation by Englishmen.  Most Hatteras deed records occurred in 1716, although the earliest record we have is a deed for Col. William Reed in 1712 and several others in the following years, so we know he spent a good deal of time there.  At least, he was around to justifiably harass our Mr. Harfleet a few years earlier. 

Dr. David Sutton Phelps (archaeologist from ECU) found a “workshop” locale on Hatteras near the present town of Buxton during his excavations in 1998 that he dated from 1650-1720.  Coins that he found indicated its use by 17th-century Englishmen.  I have postulated before that settlement of Hatteras might have begun as early as the first Virginians arriving south of the Dismal Swamp in the mid-1600s, maybe earlier.  You see, with no roads and numerous creeks inland, travel by water was far easier in those days and Hatteras made a perfect “first stop,” yet, not always a chosen one. 

The first “official” record we have is for Indian trader Nathaniel Batts in 1654/5.  Still, Virginians had most likely filtered into North Carolina for years before that and certainly, mariners on their way to New England, the West Indies, London, or Portugal found the shores of Hatteras Banks whether they wanted to or not.  The earliest arrivals likely sought the opportunities for whaling off of Hatteras.  Yes, there were whales here before the twentieth century.  The earliest possible European encounter with Hatteras probably occurred in the mid-1500s by the Spanish.  Later, more encounters came from English fishing and New England whalers.

Nothing can be certain without written proof, however, but the constant English shipping that began in 1607 with the founding of Jamestown in Virginia and that ran past Cape Hatteras on its way from the West Indies and on to London most likely deposited frequent and hapless visitors to Hatteras Island.  Many of them remained.  This was the normal trade route, a clockwise voyage from London, to the Canaries, Portugal (long allied with England), across the Atlantic on the trade winds to the West Indies, along the American coast, again picking up the trade winds in the North Atlantic, and then back to England.  This was fed by a desire to deprive the Spanish of their gold and silver, then later, for the sweet white gold of sugar from the Caribbean. No product was ever more valuable than sugar.

The money is what prompted men like Bilton and Harfleet to brave the obvious dangers of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and caused over 2,000 known shipwrecks (actual numbers vary around 5,000).  Ships have found the bottom of these waters since early in the sixteenth century.  Hatteras was not simply an island in North Carolina.  It was a maritime hazard, entrepôt, whaling and porpoise center, and supply station for shipping all along the eastern seaboard.  It frequently encountered visitors like Bilton and Harfleet.


Ship Wreckage on Hatteras Island - Photo by Collier Cobb, circa 1900.

Other names mentioned in Harfleet’s petition in 1708 were John and Patrick Mackanne/Nackoune [Mackuen], and John Neale [O’Neale].  These are names also found later in the official deed records of Hatteras Banks.  Both are found in the “Trent Woods” area (today’s Frisco) where we also find the Elks band of Hatteras Indians:

Pat bk 8, pat 2771, p 132  Anna MacKuen Dec 19 1716  155 acres between William Rowlason and Patrick Callahan joining ye sea side and ye sound.  Wit Charles Eden, Thomas Pollock, Fra. Foster, N. Chevin, T. Knight

Anna MacKuen is probably the wife of John or Patrick MacKuen.  Her husband must have died before 1716 when she was granted the land that the family had lived on for years.  Patrick Callahan’s name will appear again.  For now, we should focus on “John Neale.”  He is an important name when it comes to the Hatteras Indians.  It was in 1720, after the Tuscarora War, that John O’Neale was entrusted with the delivery of gunpowder, lead shot, and flints to the Hatteras Indians.  O’Neale was perhaps chosen because his land may have included the “Indian Town” once visited by explorer John Lawson:

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