Saturday, July 27, 2013

So... the Jamestown Story

George Percy
I've finally got a little time to settle down and write the promised personal "story behind the story" regarding Jamestown Colony. If you'll recall, some time back I had my DNA tested by 23andMe, and I wrote about it here. Since getting my results back, a handful of people at that website have contacted me to say we're related based on certain genome matches (the company estimates things such as 3rd, 5th, 6th cousins, etc). But I was unable to tell them how we might be related without having a family tree done.

Well, so now I've embarked on the genealogy wagon on ancestry.com, and I have to say, I'm finding out some interesting things. First of all, I've debunked two "family legends"--that we are related to Mary Todd Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson. There is a Mary Todd in our tree, but she is not the one who married Lincoln. And, there is also a Ralph Waldo Emerson, but he is not the same man who was a Transcendentalist and wrote the wonderful essays. But one "legend" is true: both sides of our family have been in America since its founding. I've got Quakers on one side and Revolutionary soldiers on both (including a Capt Mordecai Abrams from London, who fought in the Revolution and was Jewish! on my father's side.)

But this brings me to Jamestown Colony. One of my ancestors is an English gentleman named George Percy, who arrived with the first three ships to Jamestown Colony. His father was Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and his mother was Lady Catherine Neville.

Back to the story. George Percy actually had the highest social rank of every last gentleman on that first trip to Jamestown. I suppose we can guess that he was new to hard labor (although he was an experienced soldier). But he also had terrible asthma and quite possibly suffered from epilepsy. Thus it's not really a surprise the colonists didn't put him on the Virginia Council. Once Capt. John Smith, Gabrielle Archer, and John Ratcliffe took over the colony, poor old Percy became their subordinate and did as he was bidden.

However, he must have gained enough respect since he became president of the colony after the departure of Captain John Smith. But it was during Percy's tenure that Jamestown went through "the starving time" discussed in the video below. Even though Percy kept a record of his time at Jamestown colony, he never mentioned cannibalism--though if he knew it was going on, that's not really a surprise since it would reflect poorly on him. Besides, he was ill so often that he pretty much left the colony in the hands of Archer, Ratcliffe, and another fellow named John Martin. 

In June 1610, when Thomas West (also my ancestor), the 3rd Baron de la Warr, arrived just in the nick of time with more colonists and supplies, Percy gladly gave up his position to him, although he chose to stay at Jamestown. At that point, the colonists were finally able to gain a foothold in the area, largely because they went on a slaughtering campaign of the local Indians. I don't mean just the Powhatans, either. La Warr himself made use of Percy's military experience to send him and 70 men to annihilate the local Chickahominy and Paspahegh Indians. Because of this, de la Warr made Percy Governor of Virginia in his absence, having been called back to England, and Percy held that post until he returned to England in 1612.

Here's the thing that astonishes me: despite his health issues, Percy was at Jamestown Colony from its founding in 1606 until he left in 1612. So many men died--at one point, they were down to just fifty--yet Percy managed to survive the whole time. When he departed, he left a wife there (Anne Percy), so perhaps he intended to come back. He did not make it back, and she died in 1618. He also left a daughter there, Anne Claiborne, who wound up marrying John R. West, the grandson of Thomas de la Warr. John West became the 3rd governor of Virginia.  Their daughter, Alice, married one Thomas Harris--and then it's a straight line to my mother, Joyce Harris Luck.

So, it's an interesting story and interesting that I have a personal attachment to it. I can't say I'm fond of the fact that my ancestors slaughtered Indians, but the flip side of that is that they played a very large part in the founding of this country we now call the United States of America.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

How do you trace your lineage to Thomas Harris and Alice West when there are no extant Charles City records that name any of their children?

Joyce said...

Info I got on ancestry.com. Records at Isle of Wight.

Joyce said...

And this: best deductions, really.
http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/c/a/m/Maggie-Campbell/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0422.html

Anonymous said...

There would be no records in Isle of Wight since Thomas Harris and Alice West lived and died in Charles City. Thomas was a Lt Col in Bacon's Rebellion, captured and hung by Governor Berkley in Jan 1677. The Thomas Harris d1672 in IOW came from Lancaster Co., VA of unknown parents and was not related to either the Charles City or Crixie England Harris family. He married 1st in Lancaster to Eleanor George and had one son John Harris d1712 and 2nd to Alice NEWMAN and had several daughters and ONE son Thomas Harris who married Judith Edwards and died in 1712. DNA has proven there are no male Harris descendants of this Thomas Harris d1672 after 1758 when the only son Benjamin of Thomas & Judith Edwards had died. tomlking3@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

The Maggie Campbell site has been retired by Genealogy.com as have all of their family pages. Her pages were based on the 1995 Robert Harris book which was based on the 1957 book by John Boddie "Historical Southern Families. This book has been refuted by many of todays leading professional genealogists. Robert was well aware of the problems with Boddie's work by refused to do any research to prove and of Boddie's claims, stating that he did not have the time to go back and renumber all of the generations in his manuscript.

Joyce said...

Thanks for the info. Yeah, I know there was a long thread on ancestry about the two Thomas's and we'd determined our Thomas was NOT the one in Bacon's Rebellion. I haven't looked at it in a while, but I wound up tagging that entry as questionable. That branch may have to dead end with him. I'll email you.. it seems to me Thomas may have had two wives as well.

Anonymous said...

There can be no Harris lines from the Thomas Harris d1672 as he only had one grandson Benjamin Harris who died before 1758 leaving only one
daughter Mary. The Thomas Harris d1677 that married 1st to Alice West did have a 2nd wife Yvett Hatcher, but she bore him no children. The other Capt Thomas Harris of Jamestown 1586-1647 had two wives Adria
Hoare who was the mother of all of his childred and the widow Joane Vincent who was too old to have children by the time they married. I don't see any emails from you in my inbox, did I miss one???
tomlking3@gmail.com

Joyce said...

No, I haven't emailed you.... I've just been really busy with school and grading and yadda blah, so I haven't had any time to devote to my tree... probably for over a year now, to be frank. (I mean, this post is two years old, right?) There's an interesting discussion about this going on at ancestry with a fair amount of conflicting info but I did save a bunch of info from a user named boxmommy who says she's studied this particular Harris branch for over 50 years now. There definitely isn't agreement; I've tagged this entry as "unconfirmed" in my tree and will have to read through everything once I get the time. I may just have to have this branch deadend with the whole Thomas Harris question, unless some sort of DNA comparison can be made between Harris descendents and someone can figure out for sure which one is which and therefore descends from whom.

Anonymous said...

I am the boxmommy on Ancestry. We have had DNA on this branch of Harris for over a dozen years now, proving that the Edward Harris who died in 1677 married to Martha Hardy and Thomas Harris d1688 married to Ann Martin Tomlin were brothers. About 60 descendants of these two have been FTDNA tested and their markers are identical. Results are at: www.harrisdna.org in Group 4. In my 50+ yrs of researching them, I have found ~two dozen direct descendants of these two brothers named WEST Harris, a strong indication to me that they had a mother named West, namely this Alice West. Have found only one record of her and that is of her being transported from London in 1635 as Alice West Harris age 21. Thomas Harris d1677 never lived in Isle of Wight, only in Charles City where he is buried in the Westover Chapel Cem. He did patent 1000 acres in IOW for which he named John Hardy as the 1st of 20 headrights. John Hardy patented 1150 acres in 1666 on the SW corner of the Thomas Harris patent which Thomas abandoned by 1668. Then Thomas Harris Jr d1688 patented 280 acres in 1686 on the SW corner of the John Hardy patent. There is no record of when Alice died but it had to have been c1660 as there were minor children when he died that his widow Yvett gave up guardianship to their older sister Frances Harris who had married John Hardaway. As the lead researcher for Group 4, it is quite evident that there are probably other unknown or untraced sons of Thomas Harris and Alice West that we haven't heard of or researched since there are at least three other West Harris I cannot trace back to these two brothers, perhaps one of these unnamed minor children mentioned in the probate proceedings in Charles City.

Anonymous said...

I am the Ancestry boxmommy. We have had a DNA research study for a dozen years now at www/harrisdna.org under the Group 4 line. We have ~60 submitters descended from either Edward Harris d1677 & wife Martha Hardy or his brother Thomas Harris d1688 & wife Ann Martin Tomlin. It is probable that there were other unknown or unresearched children of Thomas Harris and Alice West that we do not know of. What I have found is the there are ~ two dozen male Harris descendants of these two brothers named WEST Harris, a strong indication to me that they had a common mother named West, namely this Alice West. Thomas & Alice West Harris lived in Charles City but he did patent 1000 acres of land in 1658 in Isle of Wight, naming John Hardy as his 1st headright. In 1666 John Hardy then patented 1150 acres on the SW corner of the Thomas Harris Sr 1658 patent that he had abandoned. Then in 1686, Thomas Harris Jr patented 280 on the SW corner of this John Hardy patent. There is only one record of Alice West and that is a note of her being transported from London in 1635 as Alice West Harris age 21. No known parents or when she died, nor any proof of her children's names. There is a 1995 book on The Five Thomas Harrises of Isle of Wight County Virginia that documents these five different families.

Joyce said...

Ah! If I gave you my gedmatch number, can DNA establish which Harris it is I'm actually descended from? (DNA at this level is well beyond anything I know to compare and figure out)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can use your gedmatch number to see your marker values to compare with the 725 Family Tree Maker Harris Surname Project submitters. Sometimes seeing the results can turn into quite a shock
as they don't always lead to the line a person expected, such as those descended from Maj Robert Harris d1701 claiming descent from Capt Thomas Harris of Jamestwon as had long been claimed, but is now disproven by DNA. We only have one person claiming descent from the Thomas Harris d1672 in Isle of Wight but his line of descent is faulty which he reinvents every few years. The Five Thomas Harrises book does not cover the LT COL Thomas Harris in Charles City but he was accepted as late as 1995 as the son of Sgt John Harris, husband of Alice West and the father of Thomas Harris d1688. Boddie was well aware of him when he wrote his "Historical Southern Families" in 1954
but ignored him since he couldn't connect him to the Isle of Wight Harris family that he claimed was all one line of Harris. Boddie was related to the line of Thomas Harris d1672 so he made every Harris in IOW as a relation, which is not at all true.

Joyce said...

That would be great! I don't have any particular attachment to which Harris I'm related to; it's more important to be as accurate as I can be. It was a slapdash job on ancestry to begin with, so if that line is incorrect, it's simply incorrect.

Gedmatch number is M091216.

Very grateful for all your help with this.

Joyce

boxmommy said...

There can be no yDNA comparison to the line of Thomas Harris d1672 as he had no male Harris descendants after 1758. Therefore there are no living direct male Harris descendants of Thomas Harris d1672. There are over 50 living descendants of Thomas Harris d1677 in our FTDNA Harris Surname Project at http://www.harrisdna.org/results.html, Group 4 through his sons Edward Harris d1677 and Thomas Harris d1688.

Joyce said...

Have I been speaking with one person here or two persons? I'm not sure.

Boxmommy, I can't tell if you're contradicting the above comment or not. I just don't know enough about comparing DNA to be positive I'm fully grasping what you're saying. Are you saying my Gedmatch info is useless because it's not a full profile, or....? Sorry for my ignorance.

Thanks, Joyce

boxmommy said...

I am both boxmommy and anonymous. I no longer use gedmatch as it is too inaccurate and I don't have time to try your Gedmatch number against each of the other 700+ Harris FTDNA submitters, who may or may not have gedmatch numbers. You don't say what company or what DNA test you have taken, so it is impossible to even guess at a Harris connection.

Joyce said...

OK, no worries.

The company was 23andMe, the basic spit a into a test tube thing, so that may not be useful for this particular task.

If it's a lot of work and gedmatch isn't reliable, then I have nothing to offer the Harris group anyway--beyond what else I know. Harris is Mama's maiden name, early Virginia roots, her branch of the family later migrated to North Carolina, very likely tobacco planters. It's all I've got, unfortunately, and I have no contact with that side of the family since her untimely death in 1968. I was 6 years old, so there's precious little for me to work with.

But, thank you very much for all the info.

boxmommy said...

Your Luck line looked promising at first as I thought it could connect to the John Jennings & Martha Harris (niece of Thomas Harris d1677)line until I reread the John Brayton 2001 book on the Descendants of John Jennings where he cited that all of John Jennings children were by his 2nd wife Mary Seward, including a daughter Sarah who married a Luck. I'd probably be able to tie any NC Harrises back to a correct line if you posted more names and data about them,

Joyce said...

I'm so sorry! I haven't visited this blog in forever. So busy grading papers, trying to shift my classes from in-person teaching to online distance education (so having to learn the software), and then a writing project for a friend's podcast.

Here's my problem. I have ZERO data or knowledge of any of these folks except for some in my Luck line. But, all that side of the family is gone now except for a brother and a few cousins, and they don't know any more than I do. On the Harris (mom's) side, I know even less since she passed when I was six. My father remarried and the family lost touch with anybody on that side (with the exception of a grandmother I found after I turned 18, and she has long since passed on). Since I live in California, it's all but impossible for me to do much research out here--even in records I turn out to be "incorrect," since my mother is actually Joyce Harris, but records say it's my stepmother (she legally adopted me).

All I actually know is what's already on Ancestry.com.

I know my grandfather Harris's name was David and he was a brigadier general in the Army, I think during Korean War. His brother was named Charles and he taught at UCLA, if memory serves. I know so little of my own family. I know so little of my own family--I even spent several years in a few foster homes as a child.

I need to get back to trying to clean up my ancestry family tree some time, but I'm starting to think I may not have time for that until retirement! Perhaps semi-retirement in a few years if I'm lucky.

I do appreciate your time and attention and desire to see me get all this information correct.

boxmommy said...

Your DNA from Ancestry was just an autosomal DNA genetic test that only is guaranteed accurate for five generations. Ancestry tries to convince its customers that the extended generations it claims in its matches are accurate, but those matches are actually taken from what other Ancestry subscribers have posted on their Ancestry trees, not a scientific match to their chromosones. The accuracy of the Ancestry test drops by one half for each generation back from the five generations so by ten generations the accuracy is only 3.125%. So even further back, what matches you are getting from Ancestry are whatever their subscribers have on their trees, with or without any research to verify what they are copying is true. Ancestry now has ~20,000 trees that claim Capt Thomas Harris 1585-1658 of Jamestown was the son of a royal English couple and half of these trees claim he had a son Robert Harris d1701 who married Mary Claiborne. Both of these claims have been proven false for over two decades, but Ancestry keeps putting leafy hints to support these claims.

Joyce said...

Leafy hints! LOL! Yeah, the last thing I remember is putting a note on that Harris line to remind myself to research it further.

I didn't have my DNA done through ancestry, though. Did it through 23andMe, although it's probably just the same spit test ancestry does. Unsure how accurate but the matches to others on 23andMe appear to be based on common chromosome chains....they allow you to see where the chains match and tell you which gene(s) and then "guess" 4th, 5th, cousin. I've never seen a guess beyond a fifth. Never got a first or second cousin hit, either.

Jennie Clark said...

Hi, I wonder what info you have on your Luck family? I think that my family are descendants of John and Sarah Luck.

Joyce said...

I do have a great-great uncle named John Page Luck from Hanover County (Ashland), VA. Don't have his wife's name. Sound like your guy?