Dabney #3046

Cornelius Dabney #3046 is the same as Cornelius Dabney #3048.

English St George flag animationCornelius Dabney (1631-1694)

Born in England.  Arrived in Virginia between 1649 and 1664 and

USA flag animationSusannah Swann (1643-1724)

Probably born in Virginia.

Dabney 3046I am descended from Cornelius Dabney (1631-1694) in more ways than the path illustrated above[1].

Dabney-Family-Origin-1937-1st pageAt this time, it is not definitely known from whom Cornelius Dabney is descended.  Many claims have been made that Theodore D’Aubigne was his father, and that that Theodore was a descendant of  the French Huguenot Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552–1630), who was a poet, soldier, propagandist and chronicler.[2] Whether or not Theodore D’Aubigne is actually the father of Cornelius Dabney is unproven.  There are also plausible theories that the Dabneys of Virginia were descended from Dabneys who had resided in England for centuries, and were not French Huguenots at all.  Even under the Huguenot scenario, there seems to be agreement that the Virginia Dabneys migrated from England (or Wales), where they had lived for some years as refugees.  The two theories are explained in an article in Charles William Dabney’s article entitled “Origin of the Dabney Family of Virginia“, Virginia Magazine, Vol. XLV, No. 2 (April 1937).  The opposing theories are summarized as follows (paraphrased):


The Huguenot Theory[3]

One theory was that the original founders of the family were Huguenots who first fled to England, married there, and then came to America.  The advocates of the Huguenot theory claim descent from a Cornelius Dabney who married Sarah Jennings for his second wife in 1721, and was a descendant of the French Huguenot Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552–1630), through his son Constant (b. 1609?).  According to this tradition, brothers Robert and John immigrated to Massachusetts and Virginia, respectively, around the same time as Cornelius and founded three separate Dabney lines in America.  This was a persistent tradition in all branches of the family for many years and was widely promulgated by the publication in 1888 of Mr. W. H. Dabney’s book, The Dabneys of Virginia.  This belief began to be questioned, however, when it was learned from old Colonial records that there was a Cornelius Dabney in Virginia as early as 1664, when he received land grants, at least twenty-one years before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In fact, Cornelius, the first immigrant who had established himself, learned the language of the Indians and been made agent of the Colony to the Indians, must have been in Virginia several years before 1664.   It appears likely that the supposed progenitor of the Huguenot Dabneys in Virginia (Cornelius), was actually the son of the earlier Cornelius Dabney, who was resident in Virginia in 1664, prior to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the Huguenot migration to America.


The Norman/English Theory

The second theory was that the Virginia Dabneys were originally Norman French and came over with William the Conqueror. There are numerous Dabneys in England whose genealogies can apparently be documented from English records. The records in Virginia indicate not only are there no grounds for supposing that the Virginia Dabneys are descendants of any Huguenot, but that, on the contrary, there is every reason for believing they were of English origin.  The insuperable difficulty in the theory of the Huguenot origin of this family is the fact that a Dabney had been in Virginia at least thirty years before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which was the occasion of Huguenot diaspora. Not knowing this, the advocates of the Huguenot theory claim descent from a Cornelius Dabney who married Sarah Jennings for his second wife in 1721, when, as a matter of fact, this Cornelius was the son or grandson of the Cornelius who was in Virginia in 1664 and died in 1693.

St. Margaret's Church, Bucknall, Lincolnshire (photo credit: Gary Brothwell)

St. Margaret’s Church, Bucknall, Lincolnshire (photo credit: Gary Brothwell)

One theory of the parentage of Cornelius Dabney is explained in William Deyo’s book – The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779) of Virginia and His Two Wives, Jane Quarles and Anna Harris, etc… (Colonial Beach, Virginia: DeJoux Publications) 2000.  He cites the discoveries of Arden H. Brame, which were published in The Colonial Genealogist (Vol. XII, Issue 46, p. 172).  According to Deyo (p. 31), Brame claims that:

“Cornelius Dabney was christened as Cornelius Daubney on 11 Dec 1631 in the parish of Bucknall, Lincolnshire, son of Theodor Daubney.  His mother was Dorothy bate or Batts, christened on 18 Feb 1604, daughter of Humphrey Bate (christened 19 Mar 1576, son of Humphrey Bate and Rebecca Dowe, who were married 15 Jan 1561).  Theodor Daubney married Dorothy Batts on 30 Apr 1630.  Theodor Dawbney was christened on 6 Jun 1606, in the parish of Scotter, Lincolnshire, son of John Dawbney.  Cornelius Dabney’s grandfather, John Dawbney, was born 1570 at Scotter, Lincolnshire.  He graduated from St. John’s College, Cambridge University, in 1588.  John Dawbney was the Vicar of Calverton, Nottinghamshire, and the Rector of Scotter (1605-1610).  He was buried at Scotter on 28 Jan 1610/11.  John was designated on the records as the son of William Dawbney (about 1535-1613), whose wife was Agnes (bried 15 May 1604, Scotter).  William Dawbney left a wil in 1613.  William’s brother, John Dawbney, was the Vicar of Scotter before William’s son, John, had left a will at Scotter in 1605.  William Dawbney (about 1535-1613) was named in the will of his father, Richard Dawbney (died 1545/6) of Scotter.  Richard Dawbney’s wife was Isabell.”

My own belief at this time, based on the reading I have done, is that the Virginia Dabneys were descended from an established English family, which had been resident in England probably as far back as the Norman conquest, and that the Huguenot connection is a legend.  If there were a Robert d’Aubigné, who went to Boston, and brothers, Cornelius and John d’Aubigné, who went to Virginia, it is certainly wrong to call them Huguenots, for their grandfather, Constant, renounced the Protestant faith, if he ever held it, and was denounced in his father’s wrtings for doing so.   Moreover, there is evidence of at least one Dabney residing in Virginia decades prior to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which led to widespread Huguenot migration to America.  Presumably for these reasons, he Dabney/D’Aubigne line is not a recognized Huguenot line by the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia (although the lineage has apparently been recognized by the National Huguenot Society and the Huguenot Society of America).

Colonial records indicate that there was a Dabney (cited as Cornelius De Baney and spelled variously de Bonis and deBoney) in Virginia certainly as early as 1664 when he received a grant of 200 acres on Tottopotomoy’s Creek, South Side of York River, a little below the fort of Manakin. (27 Sep 1664).  Later, there is also record of a grant of an additional 640 acres on Tottopotomoy’s Creek (7 Jun 1666).  These grants and subsequent records indicate residence in Virginia at least twenty-one years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, casting doubt on the claim that Cornelius Dabney was a Huguenot.

Primary source references are cited in Virginia Magazine, “Origin of the Dabney Family in Virginia”, 1937.  The author of this article concluded, based on the evidence reviewed, that, Cornelius immigrated to Virginia some time between 1649 and 1664 (at the latest).  Furthermore, there is evidence that by 1664 he had established himself, learned the language of the Indians and been made agent of the Colony to the Indians, which suggests that a date closer to 1649 is probable.  According to other sources, he is said to have been a negotiator and interpreter between the British authorities and Cockacoeske, queen of the Pamunkey Indians and widow of Chief Totopotomoi, a grandson of the sister of chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas.

Susannah Swann, the wife of Cornelius Dabney has been an enigma and not easily explained in the Swann family.  Based on the birth dates of her children, she must have married prior to 1674.  She requires further investigation, and gaps in the historical record may make it impossible to positively identify her.  In many generologies, she is identified as the daughter of Thomas Swann and Margaret Delton.  Thomas is the son of William Swann and Judith Greene.  William had emigrated from England to America not long after Jamestown was settled, probably sometime after the year 1616, which was the year Thomas was born (whether in England or Virginia is unclear).  William Swann was a pioneer when he crossed the James River and settled Swann’s Point, five miles from Jamestown.  Several generations of Swann’s family were born, lived and died at Swann’s Point, in Surrey County, Virginia.  Since Susannah’s actual parentage is so unclear, I have not included  Thomas and William among my direct ancestors, pending clarification.

Thomas Swann and Margaret Delton’s first-born daughter, Susannah Swan, born 26 Oct 1640 and died 25 Nov 1660 without issue “Having been married to Major William Marriott eight months and twenty two days – and was buried at Swann’s Point”, according to the records available.  If this is true, she was not the wife Cornelius Dabney, although Cornelius’ wife may have been connected to this Swann family in some manner that has not been discovered.  It is thought, for example, that Thomas’ father, William, remarried in 1637 following the death of his first wife, Judith Greene, in Virginia around March 1636, although the name of his second wife is unknown at present.  However, William died the following year[4], leaving no record of children by his second wife.

If Susannah Swann, wife of Cornelius Dabney, was not the daughter of Thomas and Margaret, then who is she?  There is not another contemporary “Susanna Swann” that fits the known facts.  Although the surname of Swann is frequently attached to her in the historical narrative, I know of no documentary evidence to explain how that name became attached to her.  Of course, the absence of facts invites speculation, which leads to an alternative theory, which will probably never be proven or disproven:

A historical marker located on Route 30 in King William County, Virginia (N 37° 40.790 W 077° 00.337)

A historical marker located on Route 30 in King William County, Virginia (N 37° 40.790 W 077° 00.337)

At the time that Cornelius Dabney was married to Eedith, he know that he became the interpreter and close companion of Cockacoeske, Queen of the Pamunkey Indians, and widow of Chief Totopotomoi, a grandson of one of the sisters of Chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas.  Because of Cornelius Dabney‘s close association with Queen Cocacoeske, it may be that he received a woman of the Queen’s family to wed after the death of his first wife, Eedith.  According to some family traditions, Cornelius Dabney‘s second wife, Susanna, is considered to have been of the family of Chief Totopotomoi and Cockacoeske.  This is plausible and supported indirectly by a persistent family tradition among the Dabneys of Indian descent.  If it is true, Susanna was most likely a granddaughter of Chief Totopotomoi and Queen Cockacoeske (perhaps by an English father), or possibly even a daughter, making Totpotmoi and Cockacoeske our direct ancestors (either 10th or 11th grandparents).  For this reason, I have included an article on these Indian leaders under “Notable Kin”, even though the relationship has not been proved and probably never will be.

Descendants of Cornelius Dabney include Patrick Henry (the orator and Governor of Virginia), Dabney Carr (brother-in-law of President Thomas Jefferson), Nancy Astor (first woman to sit in the British House of Commons), Zacchary Taylor (President of the United States), and his daughter Sarah Knox Taylor, the first wife of President Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy.

Cornelius Dabney is the 3rd g-grandfather of Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), 12th President of the United States, as is another of my ancestors, Richard Lee[5], making President Taylor my 4th cousin 6x removed on his mother’s side (through Dabney) and my 3rd cousin 8x removed on his father’s side (through Lee).

Interestingly, Elizabeth Dabney Waller (1808-1881) was a descendant of Cornelius Dabney on both sides of her family, due to the fact that both of her grandmothers, Sarah Ann Dabney (1740-1822) and Mary Dabney (1742-1818), were children of John Cornelius Dabney (1724-1773) and Anna Harris (1724-1775).   This means that Elizabeth’s parents, Dabney Waller (1772-1849) and Elizabeth Minor (1768-1832) were 1st cousins, and Cornelius Dabney was her 3rd g-grandfather in both the paternal and maternal lineages.  It is worth noting that Elizabeth Minor is not of the lineage of Thomas Minor (1608-1690) of Stonington, Connecticut, who is discussed under his own heading, but rather of Meinert Doodes (1617-1677), whose son took his father’s surname for his given name and adopted the Minor surname.  With the marriage of Dabeny Waller and Elizabeth Minor, the Dabney lineage merges with the lineage of John Waller (1673-1754), and this lineage is continued under his own heading, as he was an immigrant to Virginia and is the first in his line.

Descendants in the direct lineage of Cornelius Dabney (i.e., those who are my ancestors) remained in Virginia until the mid 19th century, eventually settling in Spotsylvania County, where the Dabneys intermarried with the Waller and Carr families.

[1] Cornelius Dabney is also my 9th g-grandfather through his daughter, Mary Dabney, as follows: Mary Dabney (1687 – 1748), 8th g-grandmother – Sarah Dabney Carr (1714 – 1772) – Thomas Minor (1740 – 1816) – Elizabeth Minor (1768 – 1832) – and continuing as above through – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

Théodore-Agrippa d'Aubigné

Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné

[2] Théodore-Agrippa d’Aubigné was born at the Aubigné château of Saint-Maury near Pons in the present day Charente-Maritime, the son of Jean d’Aubigné, who was implicated in the Huguenot Amboise conspiracy to kidnap the King (1560). Aubigné studied in Paris, Orléans, Geneva and Lyon before joining the Huguenot cause of Henry of Navarre (Henry IV) as both soldier and counsellor. Henry’s accession to the throne of France entailed an, at least nominal, conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and Aubigné left his service to tend to his own Poitou estates, even though his Huguenot confederates welcomed Henry’s religious tolerance. When Marie de’ Medici became regent following Henry’s assassination in 1610, she embraced the Counter-Reformation and Aubigné’s isolation made him an easy target. He was proscribed in 1620 and fled to Geneva where he lived for the rest of his life.  His daughter Louise Arthemise d’Aubigné, Madame de Vilette, was born in 1584 at Mursay to Suzanne de Lusignan de Lezay; at an early age on the 22 of October 1610 she married Benjamin Valois de Vilette in Maillezais.  His son Constant d’Aubigné led a scandalous life of adventure. Constant was twice married. His first wife, Anne Marchant, left a son Theodore. His second wife, Jeanne de Cardilhac, was the mother of Mme. de Maintenon (who, by many interesting turn of life events, married the King of France, Louis XIV) and Chevalier D’Aubigné. The d’Aubigné line was continued through Ann Marchant’s son, Theodore (1613–1670).  His g-grand daughter Françoise Charlotte d’Aubigné married into the House of Noailles. From Françoise Charlotte and her husband, Adrien Maurice de Noailles, Agrippa is an ancestor of include the present duc de Noailles, who has three children. Others include Adrienne de Noailles, wife of the famous marquis de Lafayette; the Duke of Brabant, Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este and Prince Laurent of Belgium.

[2] For the historical background of French Huguenots, refer to the “Articles” tab.

[3] William’s date of death is inferred from the contemporary land records. In 1635, William patented 1,200 acres in the county of James City, on the south side of the James River, bounded west from Smith’s Mount to the half way neck.  In 1638, the patent of William Swann was renewed in the name of Thomas Swann, his son, following his father’s death.

[4] For details, refer to article under “Notable Kin”.  Richard Lee is also the 2nd g-grandfather of General Robert E. Lee.



  • Elizabeth

    Did Cornelius have children through his wife Edith? Or were all of his children through Susannah?

    • Janet Dabney Kiggans


      From her will “my dear children three” Cornelius Dabney, Dorothy (Trice) and Mary (Carr).

      From a letter from Cornelius to Col. Moryson in England he stated that his wife would send one of her sons to service when they had reached the age. (Probably to be schooled in England) so one would assume that there were at the least 2 sons by Edith

      Janet Dabney Kiggans

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