The Web of Virginia Kinship

I would like to propose that Virginia Baron: The Story of Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax, written by Stuart E. Brown, Jr. in 1965 and published by Chesapeake Book Company, Berryville VA is a model biography. Brown places Lord Fairfax (b. 1693 and d. 1782) in the middle of Virginia history, Northern Neck society, and English social customs yet with a decided American frontier flavor.

Brown discusses: quit rents and headrights that ate into the landed estate and power base of the Northern Neck Proprietary. The importance of the Bristol Merchants and consignment shipping of tobacco and other crops. Triple taxes levied against those who refused to take an oath of support in behalf of the new governments (especially during rebellions and revolutions), including Lord Fairfax.

And my favorite parts of any biographical study–1) the Bibliography of Sources, both unpublished manuscripts and printed works, and 2) the Footnotes. And this work includes some of the most important sources for Virginia genealogy!

Stuart E. Brown, Jr. describes the families Lord Fairfax was related to, including George Washington, Robert “King” Carter, the Culpepers, and numerous other people within the power structure of Virginia. This lays the background for what is called the Web of Virginia Kinship. And I plan to talk about this extremely significant element in Virginia genealogy research, overlooked by most genealogy teachers and seminar presenters, in my next posts on this Virginia Blog.

Historians refer to these interrelationships, and refer to the oligarchical nature of Virginia politics and power. Genealogists seem to avoid considering that all Carters might be related.

The web of kinship:  I have a client of long standing, born in Tennessee whose ancestry is almost exclusively Virginian for many generations– with three Carter lines, three Bowman lines, and two Hardin lines. Do the lines descend from the same ancestors? Yes!

The web of kinship:  extends into all levels of society and interaction, not just political power.  Bolstered by primogeniture (where the landed estate descends automatically to the eldest male heir) and entail (the legal descent of title bypasses the need for public recording of property ownership). Supported by legislative act requiring that slaves and bonded servants attached to the estate descend with the estate.

And I’ll tell you where to find the pedigrees and list the family surnames that make up the Web of Virginia Kinship. Stay tuned!

Add to your Virginia Autumn reading list:

Jean Pickett Hall, trsc. “The Ten Thousand Name Petition,” Magazine of Virginia Genealogy 35 (Spring 1997) 101-07; (Summer 1997) 191-95. A series of petitions from Baptists in Albemarle, Amelia, Amherst, Buckingham, Caroline, Henry, Lunenberg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Prince William,  and Sussex counties 1770-1772 requesting equal treatment under the Toleration Act were pasted into a continuous roll for presentation to the House of Burgesses. Although proposed by the Baptists, they were signed by persons of all faiths. See also William Henry Foote, Sketches of Virginia: Historical and Biographical (Richmond VA: John Knox Press, 1966. Reprint, originally published 1850.) Foote describes attempts to rid the Virginia constitution of the rigid practice of Anglican (Church of England) legalities and make it reflect more tolerance.

Remember, only Church of England marriages were legal and recognized in Virginia until the new constitution went into effect in the 1780′s. See especially pp. 319-48 where Foote reproduces the various memorials to the House of Burgesses from the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Baptists seeking religious freedom and the right to perform their marriages according to their own format and doctrines.

Chatty biographies describe the person’s life and times, with the customs, traditions, and laws upon which those times were based. Then as you read, you can understand the life more fully and learn about the times that shaped the life experience. Genealogies need more biographical details, not just the begats.

Have you encountered the Deed Data Pool?

Deeds are posted in a pool that can be imported into DeedMapper and viewed or edited. They can also be used as an overlay on topographical maps showing exactly where they lie on the ground and in respect to each other. Check it out at

Deeds are listed for many counties of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky along with other states.  Maybe the ones you need are listed.  Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Stay tuned–I have acquired a whole Virginia library of books for the Genealogy Library Center, Inc.  And I am so excited and so anticipating drafting an inventory of this library.  Stay tuned!

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