Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Genealogy Mysteries in Maryland

I've been poking around my genealogy for several months now. Since I recently learned—while checking on my Webb ancestry—that I descend from Moses Greer, Sr., one of the  founders  of Franklin County, I've been looking up the Greer line. The Internet has, of course, provided a wealth of resources, and it wasn't long before I learned the Franklin County Greers descended from the Gunpowder River, Maryland, Greers.

Knowing where they came from made looking them up easier, and I found numerous Internet posts revealing that those Greers came from a long line of Lords of Lag in Scotland.

as shown inThe Historical Families and the Border Wars,by C. L. Johnstone, 1878.

I learned that before they were Greers/Grears,/Griers, the ancestors were Griersons, and before that MacGregors. A bit of poking around the Internet revealed a thousand years of my history—OR NOT.

There's a problem with the founder of the American line—James Greer. Or Grear. Or Grier. Born in 1627, James came to Maryland as an indentured servant in 1674-75 aboard the Batchelor of Bristoll, captained by Samuell Gibbons, who made a tidy profit from hauling ninety or so servants to America. The "list of servants transported by Samuell Gibbons of Bristoll in the Ship Batchelor of Bristoll 1674" is here, as is other information about these servants.

The ship's captain not only made a tidy profit from hauling 90 servants to Maryland, some others also did:

Know all men by these presents that I Robert Ridgely of St. Mary's City for a valuable consideration to me paid by Thomas Selby of Somerset County do Assign, Sell and make over unto the said Thomas all my right, Title and Interest of, in and to Twenty five Rights to Land to me due by assignment from Samuell Gibbons of Bristoll, merchant, due the said Samuell for Transporting Robert Hutchins, Robert Mackahee, Agnes Sincler, John Grey, Thomas Mercer, Anthony Winslow, William Winslow, James Winslow, John Miller, James Grear, John Lynsey, John Keane, John Macknamerry, Jeffery Mackvey, Mathew Shaw, John Bradshaw, John Tarneck, Alexander Wallis, Daniell Henry, John Mackelman, Robert Orr, Hugh Maynard, James Feilding, Andrew Agnew, and Daniell Macknele into this province to Inhabit. To have and to hold the Said five and Twenty Rights to Land to him the Said Thomas Selby, his heirs and Assigns forever, Witness my hand and Seale this Sixth of November 1674
Witnesses: John Blomfeild    Robert Ridgely {Seale} Robert Ellis

Why would a member of a well-to-do Scottish family sell himself into servitude? Others apparently wondered the same thing, and I found a few sources that indicated there were two James Griers. Did they get mixed up somehow? 

A trip to the Franklin County Historical Society to look at the big Greer chart revealed this: "James Grier, 2nd son, born 1627, and emigrated with Samuel Gibbons 2 Nov. 1675. Died 1688 in Maryland." (It's the info by the star below.)

Emigrated? What a tactful way to phrase it. Too much evidence exists, however, that the Maryland  James was a servant and not a nobleman. Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the other James Grier had apprenticed himself to an apothecary/surgeon, a respectful enough career for one who isn't the first son (and thus the inheritor) in a well-to-do family.

I'm not the only one who is suspicious suspicious. From

A tradition seems to have developed among a number of these families that they are descended from a James Grier of the family of Capenoch, son of Sir James Grier and Mary Browne, probably born in the early 1630s. He is mentioned on the "Carrickfergus" tree as "James Grier M.D. of Edinburgh, died unmar." Whilst this tree is known to have many errors, this would appear to not be one of them. Recent research by Richard Miller has uncovered that James Grierson of Capenoch was buried on 23 January 1662 in Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh. Contact with the Scottish Genealogical Society in Edinburgh confirmed that the burial was of James Grier(son) of Capenoch who was an MD (Apothecary) and died unmarried in Edinburgh. We will have to look elsewhere for the immigrant James Grier or Grear. There are, however, persistent rumours that members of the Capenoch family emigrated to Ireland at various times. It may be from those migrations that the American Greers spring. 

There are other online references raising suspicions about the Maryland James Grier, but you get the gist. So where did my Greer ancestor originate? Odds are good, since the ship sailed from Bristol, England, and made some stops along the Irish coast, that he could have come from Ireland. But I don't know for sure.  

Update: Since some of the links above go to different sites  than they did when I originally posted, here is an update about the passengers on the Batchelor of Bristol:

Another mystery involves Samuel and Grisselle Smith, who may or may not have come to Halifax County from Maryland in the 1700s. Back then Halifax encompassed part of what is now Franklin County. To complicate matters, Mrs. Samuel Smith's name is spelled lots of ways—Griselda, Grissel, Grizzel, Grezzel, Grisley, etc.

Anyhow, on 26 September 1732 in Prince George MD, one Samuel Smith (born 1708 in Middlesex, VA, died 1776 in Bedford, VA) married Grissel Locker (b. 28 Feb 1715 in St. John's Parish, Prince George MD, and died 1786 in Bedford, VA). She was supposedly the daughter of Thomas and Elinor Evans Locker, and Samuel was the son of Nicholas (b. 1680; died 1757) and Ann Smith of Essex, VA.

Another Smith born in VA also married a woman with a similar first name: "The 1748 King and Queen Co., VA will of Thomas Coleman shows that his daughter Grizzel was married to a Mr. Smith." This Samuel Smith was involved in land transactions in the Franklin County area as early as 1759.

Anyhow, I've come across sites where all of Sam and Grisley's 13 children were born in Maryland from 1735 through 1759, another that says daughter Anne was born in Virginia in 1740, another that says Samuel and Grisley were both born in 1738 in Halifax (with their son John born in Halifax in 1750 and died in Franklin County in 1800).

My guess is that the two Samuel Smith families are pretty well tangled together and have confused many researchers. Anyhow, as I try to untangle these  family lines, I'm pretty confused myself.


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Blogger CountryDew said...

That's the great thing about genealogy; it's the mystery that never ends.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Ginny Goblirsch said...

He Becky - yes two couples with the same name around about the same time. It's thought Samuel Smith and Grissel Coleman are from Essex Co Va (Capt. Nicholas Smith) and the other couple from PGC, MD. Four of the MD Smith Children's births are recorded in Vestry records incl John (1735), Eleanor, Sadoe (Zadoc?) and Samuel (1755). MD Samuel is probably the one recorded in Bedford Bedford/Henry Co. chancery records bef 1786 where all children except John are named. My 5X great grandfather is named there. In 1784 John Craighead got a land grant on So side of Blackwater adjoining Samuel Smith. This can be seen on the settlement map. I don't know when the other Samuel Smith left the area but some folks say it was earlier than that. so that bit of info might help untangle this. Lots of research getting to this point. I also don't know how the Essex county Samuel and Grissel were traced to Bedford Co. The Chancery records for MD Samuel is a pretty good clue for his presence in the area. Crazy making for sure!

12:53 PM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

A lot of Franklin County/Bedford County area residents came from the Essex/King & Queen area to Hanover/Goochland to Fluvanna/Albemarle area and southward from there, so that is plausible.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

Franklin County (named after Benjamin Franklin) was formed in 1785 from parts of Bedford and Henry Counties. The early Smiths in my line were in the southeast part of Bedford that became northeast Franklin County. Henry County was founded in 1777 from Pittsylvania County, which was formed in 1767 from Halifax County.

11:05 AM  

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