From Whence They Came

Ship Image Nova BritanniaRecent posts have highlighted this family’s ancestors who were Scotch-Irish, French Huguenot, German, and Irish. And of course, there are the earliest posts that described the origin of the family’s surname amidst the European Jews of France and Hungary. While the family’s European antecedents include a diversity of influences, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that overall our origins were mostly British and more particularly English.

Using the the framework of the eight families representing the author’s great-grandparents, here are the estimated origins for each.

Origin Chart 3-22-17

Estimated percentage of family origin by distinct ethnic/linguistic group. “British” refers to an origin on the island of Great Britain, including England, Scotland, and Wales.

As the caption states, “British” includes English, Scottish, and Welsh migrating from the island of Great Britain. It is sometimes possible to find records indicating a more specific origin, as for the George and Ragland families from Wales, but since many of these British immigrants arrived in the 17th century when records were either less-well-maintained or had longer to get lost, it is often difficult to get very precise.

These figures are estimates only, and are derived by making some assumptions. One of the most important assumptions is that prior to the Revolutionary War, the Germans and Scotch-Irish tended to marry within their communities, so it assumed that if a pre-1776 individual is from one of these two groups, all of their ancestors were from the same group.

Second, where most of the pre-Revolutionary War ancestors lived in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland virtually everyone was of German, Scotch-Irish, French Huguenot, Native American, African, or British descent. There is no documentary or DNA evidence that the family has any Native American or African roots. Since the first assumption above takes care of the Germans and Scotch-Irish, the only choice left for someone born in these southern states before the Revolutionary War was British, perhaps with some very occasional French mixed in. Thus, individuals born in the southern states before the Revolutionary War and outside of the Scotch-Irish and German communities were assumed to be British unless there is specific evidence for some other origin for one or more of their ancestors.

The “Unknown” category represents those parts of the family tree which have not (or cannot) be traced back as far as the Revolutionary War. In most cases, the missing ancestors are likely British based on names and locations.

The “Total” row refers to the proportional immigrant origins of the author and his brother who are the great-grandsons of all 8 of the listed individuals. That row is not particularly of use to anyone else, except perhaps our children.

As a bonus, click on the link below to view a PDF table containing a list of known immigrant ancestors, their year of arrival, and various other tidbits of information where available. This table is very much a work in progress, so it is worth checking back periodically for updates. Most immigrant ancestors are likely to elude identification because there were so many that arrived in the 17th century when records were poor and were often lost or destroyed. There is more reliability in the 18th century when the French Huguenots, Germans, and Scotch-Irish arrived. The 19th century records should be better yet, but arrival records for the Hockshaws and Marie Morningstar have not yet been located.

Immigrants 3-22-17 PDF

Please make any corrections or raise any questions in the comments. Challenges are welcome. I have found multiple versions of immigration stories for many families (and have left those out of the table unless they can be positively resolved), so I would be unsurprised if there are alternate versions for some of the listed individuals that I simply have not encountered yet. I have relied on secondary sources quite a bit for the list of immigrants.

Note that the earliest identified immigrant is Thomas Harris from the Nelson family, arriving in Jamestown, Virginia, four years after the first English settlement in 1607, and eight years before the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock. Five of the eight families had immigrant ancestors who arrived to Virginia within the first 50 years of British settlement in the New World. It is likely the Tenery family has earlier ancestral arrivals than those located so far. The Fohl family has one non-German thread that is relatively unknown too. It would be unsurprising if at least six of the families were represented in the colonies by 1657.


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