Harris #12208

William Harris (1596-1656)

Born in Willingale Doe, Essex, England.  Arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1621 and

Ellen Burrows (1599- )

Born in England.  It is not known for certain when she settled in Virginia.

Harris #12208

The Arms of William Harris (1490-1556), the g-grandfather of William Harris, the 1621 immigrant to Virginia

WARNING: There is a great deal of uncertainty and even controversy regarding the English origins and descendant branches of the Harris family in Virginia, including William Harris (immigrant of 1621), Thomas Harris (immigrant of 1611) and Robert Harris (immigrant of 1634/5).  One fact above all appears evident: The relationships among the families of Claiborne, Butler and Harris (the family of William HarrisWilliam Claiborne’s “servant”, or apprentice, who accompanied him to Virginia in 1621) are complicated and not altogether clear.  If documents exist in Virginia or England to clarify the situation, researchers most likely would have discovered them by now.  Because of the often deplorable state of early colonial records in Virginia, those of us with Virginia ancestors at times have little more to go on than “family tradition”.  Where clarity can be found, it is due to the work of extremely industrious and determined researchers, who over the course of decades have located those first-hand records in court houses, unpublished family bibles, local parish registers and cemetery grave markers.  Many times, the “proof” is simply not available, and researchers must construct the most likely explanation that harmonizes with the incomplete records and other historical clues that exist.

Possible connections among the families mentioned above have invited speculations by many researchers these family lines over the years, and the connections presented here are not proven in all cases.  While it is clear that these families are closely connected in Virginia, and even earlier in Essex, England, the exact nature of the relationship between specific individuals cannot always be determined.  Many of the family members shared the same names through multiple generations and in various branches in the same generation.  As a result, and sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and cousins can easily be confused with one another.   Connections have been investigated at length by J. McFarland Williams[1], William L. “Night Owl” Deyo[2] (the former President of the Virginia Genealogical Society and the Tribal Historian of the Patawomeck Indians of Virginia), Noel Robertson of Australia, James P. Harris of Richmond, Virginia and others, often resulting in different conclusions.

Essex County, on the map of England

In this account, I will present what seems to be the consensus view among Harris family researchers of the present state of knowledge.  Although not all of these speculations are proven, the many tantalizing connections suggest strongly that the Claiborne, Harris and Butler families of Essex, England were closely connected already in England, and that these connections continued in Virginia.  This is a case where conclusions could be radically altered by the future discovery of previously unknown sources.  Anyone interested in exploring the many alternative lines of speculation is invited to consult the work of Williams, Deyo (noted above) and others who have contributed to the research to date on these families.

The connection of Major Robert Harris, as son of William Harris is based upon the research of William L. Deyo (cited above).  Through research and analysis of the records in England and Virginia, and using the Harris research of J. McFarland Williams as a springboard, he presents compelling evidence, based upon the intricate familial interconnections of the Harris family with the Boteler/Butler and other families, both in England and in Virginia.  He also mentions that in following the latest research on the Harris family, that he found misinterpretation of the records in England, which he verified by obtaining the wills of every Harris individual shown in William’s published lineage of Robert Harris.  William Harris, shown here as father of Major Robert Harris, was “servant” to Col. William Claiborne, in this case such descriptive title being actually “apprentice”.  Tradition has long stated that Major Robert Harris married the daughter of Col. Claiborne, and only recently has it been acknowledged that Claiborne did indeed have a second daughter.  She is called Mary according to tradition, but Mr. Deyo states that similarly to William Overton’s wife (called Mary in some records but Elizabeth in the will of her mother), her name was Elizabeth, and that Mary was her christening name and the one she chose to use.  The compelling interconnections and familial relationships are complex, and they are explored through extensive quotes from Deyo’s work, but interested readers are of course invited to consult Mr. Deyo’s work directly.

Map of Willingale Doe, Essex and vicinity

English Origins

Records relating to the ancestral family of William Harris have been located in the village of Willingale Doe in Essex, England and analyzed by many researchers of these family lines.  Willingale Doe is about eight miles west of Chelmsford in Essex.  In this village we find the parish records for the entire family of William Harris and Joan Hardings, including their son William Harris (Jr.), who was born in 1596 and who migrated to Virginia with William Claiborne in 1621.

William Harris of Willingale Doe, the immigrant to Virginia whom I refer to as William (IV), is thought to be the great grandson of William Harris (I) of Southminster (1490-1556).  The main source we have to rely on for William Harris (I) of Southminster is the Visitations of Essex[3] 1552.   Essentially that information tells us the basics about the first three generations.  The Visitations of Essex 1558 go on to list all three wives, all thirteen of his children, as well as a number of his grandchildren.  Since he was a prominent Essex official, there are other court records that substantiate the time period in which he lived.   His will in 1556 confirms five of his sons, that his last wife was named Agnes [Rutter] and lists the properties he owned.  The five sons who were still living in 1556 were William (II) and Vincent by the first marriage, Arthur by the second marriage, and Christopher and Edward by the third marriage.  William Harris (I) first married Joanna Smith and had a son and heir, William Harris (II) (1518-1559), who married Jane Semer, who likewise had a son named William Harris[4] (III) (1545-1601) (known as William of Shenfield).  His son was William Harris (IV), immigrant to Virginia (1621).[5]

Even if the Visitations of Essex are inaccurate, we know that William (I) had those five sons, and he names them in that order in his will.  The oldest son William (II) actually does not receive a legacy from his father in the will, and wording in the will implies that he had already been provided for and was well established in 1556.  The will states that he had already been assigned property that was not named, and we do not know the location of that property.

According to the Visitations of Essex of 1558, there was a Joane da. to Sr. Thomas Percy Knt. Who married Arthur Harris of Prickwell in Sussex (? In Essex).  This Sr. Thomas Percy Knt. is said to be the 2o son of Henry Earl of Northumberland and Elianor da. & coheir to Sr. Richard Harbottell Knight.  Despite what is reported in published sources, many researchers have pointed out correctly that this Sr. Thomas Percy Knt. could not refer to Sir Thomas Percy[6] (1504-1537) who was a participant in the 1537 Bigod’s Rebellion, an act for which he was convicted of treason and hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn by Henry VIII.  That Thomas Percy could not have had a daughter, Johanna, who was old enough to be the mother of William Harris (1490-1556), who is believed to be the g-grandfather of William Harris (1596-1656), immigrant to Virginia of 1621.  One possible explanation, offered by William Deyo (former President of the Virginia Genealogical Society and the Tribal Historian of the Patawomeck Indians of Virginia) is that Johanna Percy is actually the sister of Sir Thomas Percy’s father, Henry Algernon Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland (1477-1527), and that the Essex herald placed Johanna in the wrong generation.  Such errors are not unknown, and it is highly unlikely that the official herald would have stated a descent from a noble family such as Percy at the beginning of the pedigree without good cause.  However, Henry Percy, 4th Earl is not known to have had a daughter named Johanna.  Another possible explanation could lie in the fact there seem to have been two men by the name of “Thomas Percy” who married women by the name of “Eleanor Harbottle” in different generations.  Many of the difficulties are resolved if we could prove the connection of the Percy and Harris families through Thomas Percy, Lord of Egremont (1422-1460), who was the son of Henry Percy the 2nd Earl of Northumberland, and Thomas’ supposed wife Eleanor Harbottle (1426-1483).  The dates would make more sense.  A separate problem, however, is that this Eleanor’s father is thought be named “Robert” (1401-1443) and not “Richard”, as stated in the Visitations of Essex of 1558.[7]

Although there are few actual parish records for the early 1500s, we can estimate by various sources that William Harris (I) married his first wife Johanna Smyth around 1515.  With thirteen children, if William Harris (I) averaged one child every two years over all three wives, that would put the last child being born in 1541.  We already know from the 1556 will that Christopher and Edward Harris were still minors in 1556, confirming that Edward, the last son, was probably not born until around 1540-1545.  If William (II), the first son, was born shortly after the 1515 marriage, then he was just coming of age, marrying, and having his first son William (III) in that same 1540-1545 time period.  That means William Harris (I) of Southminster had a son Edward and a grandson William (III) who were approximately the same age.

The parish records of Willingale Doe, Essex, England tell us that William Harris (III) married Joan Hardings on 6 May 1576.  That is a nearly perfect 30 year cycle from 1516 (1516-1546-1576), giving the distinct possibility of William Harris (III) of Willingale Doe to be the third generation William.


Immigrant to Virginia, 1621

William Harris (IV) arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in October 1621, aboard the George.  He was a surveyor in the party of William Claiborne.  One major piece of information we have concerning William Harris is the first land patent for William Claiborne that was recorded on 3 Jun 1624.  It was for the property that would form Claiborne’s first plantation at “Kecoughtan” (Elizabeth City or later Hampton).  In it Claiborne claims the patent for transportation of three persons: William Harris who came on the George in 1621 and John Phipps and William Morris who came on the Tyger, also in 1621.   All of this information is contained within the patent itself.  These four men represent the survey crew sent over by the Virginia Company in 1621 to start laying out a new town at Jamestown, with William Claiborne in the new position as Surveyor General.

Map of Jamestown, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay

William Harris settled at Elizabeth City, because he was acting as overseer for William Claiborne‘s plantation at Kecoughtan.   After the Virginia Company was dissolved in 1625, another new leadership group was established with Virginia as a royal colony. Claiborne had friends in high places and was named to the Council of Virginia at age 24 and appointed Secretary of State at age 26.   He had already begun to become involved with the exploration of the upper Chesapeake Bay all the way to what is now Pennsylvania.

As mentioned previously, the relationships among the families of Claiborne, Butler and Harris (the family of William Harris, William Claiborne’s “servant”, or apprentice, who accompanied him to Virginia in 1621) are complicated and not althogether clear.  One researcher who has investigated the matter, William Deyo, explains as follows, in the “Additions and Corrections” addendum to one of his books[8]:

“To show how closely associated the family of Col. William Claiborne was with that of William Harris, son of Sir William Harris and Frances Astley[9], one only needs to check out the family of Claiborne’s wife, Elizabeth Butler.  Elizabeth Butler was the daughter of John Butler of Roxwell, Essex, and his wife, Jane Elliott, daughter of Edward Elliott of Newlands Hall and his wife, Joan Gedge, daughter and co-heir, with her sister, Mary, of James Gedge (d. 1555) of Shenfield. Essex.  Joan Gedge’s sister, Mary Gedge, was married secondly to John Butler, grandfather, by his first wife, Cressit St. John, of royal blood, of Mrs. Elizabeth (Butler) Claiborne.  Mrs. Claiborne’s half-uncle, Nathaniel Butler, son of John Butler and Mary Gedge, was the Governor of Bermuda[10].  The key to Elizabeth (Butler) Claiborne’s kinship to the Harris family is that her grand-aunt, Mary Gedge, who was also her step-grandmother, was first married to Sir Christopher Harris, by whom she was the grandmother of William Harris, apprentice of William Claiborne! By Mary (Gedge) Harris, widow of Sir Christopher Harris, marrying secondly to John Butler, the Harris children would have been raised with Elizabeth (Butler) Claiborne’s father!  By Elizabeth’s father marrying the daughter of Joan (Gedge) Elliott, it made her a first cousin once removed to the Harris children of Mary (Gedge) Harris Butler! William Claiborne’s brother-in-law, Thomas Butler; haberdasher, of London and Virginia, was an associate of Claiborne’s brother, Thomas.  Thomas Butler, ancestor of the compiler [William Deyo] in several ways, married a widow, Joan Mount Stephen, and had several sons, one of whom was named “Christopher,” a name that carried down in the Butler family in Virginia for many generations.  It is possible that Joan Mount Stephen may have been a cousin of Thomas Butler through the Harris family from which the name of her son, Christopher, was taken.  As Robert Harris, son of Robert Harris, the immigrant to Virginia, appears to have come from this Harris family, it is strongly believed by the compiler that his wife, Mary Claiborne, was the daughter of Thomas Claiborne, the only surviving son of Thomas Claiborne, brother of Col. William.  If Mary was a relative of Col. William Claiborne, this is the only possible legitimate connection.”

Although not all of these speculations are proven, the many tantalizing connections suggest strongly that the Claiborne, Harris and Butler families of Essex, England were closely connected already in England, and that these connections continued in Virginia.

While William Claiborne was involved with his explorations and the official affairs of his position, William Harris managed Claiborne’s plantation affairs on the Peninsula.

William’s son, Robert Harris, later married Mary Claiborne (the daughter of William Claiborne and Elizabeth Butler).

Although many published family histories have included Mary Claiborne as a daughter of William Claiborne and (Jane) Elizabeth Butler, some researchers are skeptical due to a paucity of documentary evidence.  For the purposes of this study, it is assumed that the traditional parentage is correct, and resolving this controversy will be left as a matter for further research.  William Deyo (whose work was cited previously) provided the following explanation in an online post on the RootsWeb website (6 Sep 2005):

“The thing most people cannot get past is that how could William Claiborne’s daughter, Mary, marry Robert Harris when William Claiborne did not have a daughter, Mary!  It is a clear fact that he had two daughters, Jane and Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is the one whose husband is not specifically stated in the records.  Her name is also NEVER given as “Mary” in the official records because her given name at birth was Elizabeth.  “Mary” was simply the name that she wished to be called by, her religious confirmation name.  It is the name that her descendants would naturally remember.  It would have been quite logical for her to have used another name other than “Elizabeth” among her family, as that was the name of her mother who was living at the same time.  This is not a rare case at all.  Her own son, William Harris, married Temperance Overton, whose own mother did exactly the same thing.  Temperance’s mother was named “Elizabeth Waters” at birth but chose to be called “Mary”, her religious confirmation name, by her family and friends.  We have proof of this, as her mother, Ann Waters, of London, named her as Elizabeth Overton in her 1700 will, and the Overton family record, in a religious book during her lifetime, recorded her name as “Mary” Waters.  Fred Dorman did not do the in depth study of the Harris/Claiborne connection I did. He also was not aware of the close relationship of William Claiborne’s wife, Elizabeth Butler, to the Harris family or of the knowledge that William Claiborne’s surveying partner, William Harris, whom he transported to Virginia, was the father of Robert Harris who married Claiborne’s daughter.  Since Robert Harris’ land was in walking distance from that of Elizabeth “Mary” Claiborne, daughter of William, and their fathers were close associates, they certainly were well acquainted.  Family records of a grandchild stated the marriage took place, and at least one grandchild was named “Claiborne” Harris.  None of this proves beyond any doubt that the marriage took place, but the supporting evidence is overwhelming.  Since no one else has come up with another marriage for William Claiborne’s daughter, Elizabeth, I am totally convinced she is the one who married Robert Harris and possibly first to a Mr. Rice.  It is obvious that Mr. G. M. Claiborne (of the 1900 Claiborne genealogy[11]) had access to the original journal of Robert Harris’ grandson, Thomas Harris, which stated Robert Harris married the Widow Rice and her maiden name was said to have been Claiborne.  There is even a court record of the time cited in my manuscript which lists Robert Harris and Elizabeth Harris as witnesses, indicating there was a married couple in the area named Robert and Elizabeth Harris.”

William Harris (IV) appears in the 1623 muster of Elizabeth City, and was then acting as overseer for the plantation of William Claiborne at Kecoughtan.  He married Ellen [surname possibly Burrows[12]] about 1624.  The marriage probably took place in or near Jamestown, Virginia, but the timing and circumstances of Ellen’s arrival in the colony are not known (although one possible verison of events is included in the notes, below).

By 1626, William Claiborne had established active plantations at Kecoughtan, Archer’s Hope and Blount Point on the lower Peninsula and also on the Eastern Shore.  Kecoughtan (Hampton, Va.), being the more centralized location, became Claiborne’s home base of operations.  William Harris was located at Elizabeth City, and acted as overseer for William Claiborne‘s plantation at Kecoughtan.   It was here that he would become associated with the Burrows family.  Also about this time, William Harris received a land grant at Blount Point, in partnership with Anthony Burrows. The location of this parcel was inland from the main river, directly across Deep Creek, which had been granted to William Claiborne.  While Claiborne’s grant was permanent, the grants for William Harris and Anthony Burrows were ten year leases payable with annual amounts of tobacco.  This indicates the land was for tobacco planting only, and there was no intention of residing there.  It is almost certain that William Harris resided at Jamestown while managing all of the various properties along the river from Jamestown to Blount Point for himself and Claiborne.  He would reside at Jamestown for the rest of his life.  William died at Jamestown about 1656.

The children of William Harris and Ellen Burrows are listed as follows:

  1. James, born about 1625 and died after 1667.  He settled first in York County, Virginia in about 1647 and later removed to Westmoreland County about 1662.
  2. William (V), born about 1630 and died about 1690.  He was a resident at Jamestown, Virginia in 1658.  Children: Robert, married (1st)  Mary Albritton and (2nd) Anne (widow of George Fuller); William (VI) and Thomas, married Beatrice [surname unknown].
  3. Robert Harris (see below)
  4. Possibly others: Christopher, Edward, Richard?

The following extended account of Robert Harris (and the extensive family interconnections of various early Virginia families), in which William Deyo explains his reasons for believing that there is truth to the tradition that Robert married Mary Claiborne, is quoted from an Appendix to his Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779)[13]:

 “Robert Harris first appears in a 26 Oct 1657 York County, Virginia, court order in which Col. William Barber, Christopher Harris, Robert Harris and Richard Harris were appointed to divide the estate of the late Nicholas Commins, whose widow, Ellinor, had married Francis Wheeler.  Since it is known by the will of Nicholas Commins, which was proved in York County in 1656, that he left a widow, Ellen (Eleanor), a son, Nicholas Commins Jr., and a daughter, Elizabeth, the wife of Robert Harrison, one might assume that the above Robert Harris is actually a “Harrison,” but it seems highly unlikely that Nicholas Commins’ own son-in-law would be appointed to divide the estate of his wife’s father, especially since she was a legatee.  That would appear to be a definite conflict of interest.  It is likewise confusing that the land patent of Robert Harris on the headwaters of Ware Creek near the Rickahock Path in 1659 was made in the name of Robert Harrison.

“One would initially think that the owner of the patent was the Robert Harrison who was the son-in-law of Nicholas Commins, but this can be solved by the known death of this Robert Harrison per the records of York County in 1658 and by the fact that Robert Harris, as he was so designated many times in regard to this same patent until 1680, lived long past 1658.  The fact that he knew the Commins family is important, as Nicholas Commins Jr. owned a tract of land that adjoined Robert Harris’ patent in New Kent County.  Robert Harris’ land was only about 15 miles from land of his supposed father, William Harris, and only about 10 miles from the home of Col. William Claiborne, associate of William Harris.  Robert Harris’ land was in the same immediate vicinity as that of James Harris, who eventually sold his land to Joseph Crowshaw.  James Harris had owned land adjoining Thomas Poynter/Pointer and Joseph Crowshaw, per a description of Crowshaw’s patent of 10 Dec 1651.  That tract of James Harris was probably the same one that he sold to Thomas Poynter/Pointer, per a deed of record in York County, on 14 Jul 1652, which adjoined Willson and Mr. Parke, and in which Thomas Poynter/Pointer immediately assigned to George Turner.

“Note that Christopher Harris had sold a tract to Daniel Parke, and his own servant, who also patented land in this same vicinity, was named James Wilson.  The land of Robert Harris adjoined the tract of James Wilson, this very servant of Christopher Harris!  We now have good evidence that the longtime tradition of Robert Harris’ marriage to a Mary Claiborne is true.

“As stated in my book, the journal of their own grandson, Thomas Harris, confirmed that his parents were Thomas Harris and Mary Giles and that his grandfather was Robert Harris who married a widow, Mary Rice, said to have been a Claiborne.  As Thomas Harris’ own brother was named Claiborne Hands, there can be little doubt of source of his name.  It has generally been accepted since the 19th century that William Harris, husband of Temperance Overton, was the son of Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne, but I always wanted some proof of the statement.  The journal of Thomas Harris satisfies me, especially when we review other supporting evidence.  J. McFarland Williams had stated in his manuscript that William Harris was the son of William Harris of Weyanoke, grandson of Christopher Harris, and great grandson of William Harris, the servant/apprentice of Col. William Claiborne.  After concentrated research, I have been unable to support any of that line except that William Harris appears to be a grandson, rather than a great grandson of William Harris, the immigrant of 1621 with William Claiborne.  Mr. Williams had a list of the children of Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne, which I assume came from the journal of Thomas Harris, along with the list of Thomas’ own siblings and their spouses.  The list of Robert Harris’ children did indeed include a William Harris, but Mr. Williams stated that he was the one who patented land on Cubb Creek, as did Thomas Harris, son of Robert.  As that land adjoined Overtons. Glenns, and others, I am not convinced that the William Harris who owned land on Cubb Creek was not identical with William Harris of “Cedar Hill” who married Temperance Overton.  The William Harris who owned land on Cubb Creek had sons, David and Edward Harris, who inherited the land.

“Since we do not have the will of William Harris of Cedar Hill, we do not know the names of all of his children.  He could very easily have bequeathed that land to sons, David and Edward Harris.  There are a couple of publications which show that the William Harris who owned land on Cubb Creek was a son of Major William Harris (1629-1678) and grandson of Capt. Thomas Harris of Jamestown.  That connection was thought to have been supported by the close association of William Harris (Cubb Creek) with George Alves, the second husband of Major William Harris’ wife.  Could that association simply have stemmed from George Alves having been a close relative of the Harris family and a descendant of Bartholomew Averes who married Felice Harris, grandaunt of William Harris, the immigrant of 1621?  The publications in regard to William Harris (Cubb Creek) having been a son of Major William Harris (1629-1678) completely contradict the statements in the journal of Thomas Harris, son of Thomas Harris and Mary Giles, as well as the statements in the 1829 manuscript of Gideon Harris, both of whose parents were grandchildren of Thomas Harris and Mary Giles, that Mary Giles’ husband was Thomas Harris, not William.  The 1829 manuscript was stated by the author, Gideon Harris, to have been copied from a much older manuscript, probably written by one of his parents.  Gideon Harris had firsthand knowledge of the family from his mother, who was still alive when he reached the age of 46.  Gideon Harris also had a special interest in his Harris ancestry due to the fact that both of his parents were grandchildren of Thomas Harris and Mary Giles.  It is highly doubtful that the name of Mary Giles’ husband would have been incorrect on his manuscript, especially since it was copied from a much older one.  This also agrees with the statement from the journal of Thomas Harris (died 1784), who certainly should have known the names of his own parents.  Possibly, the son of Major William Harris did actually live near or on Cubb Creek, but more information is certainly needed to completely contradict the old manuscripts and to identify him with the husband of Mary Giles.

“Mr. Williams’ list of children for Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne contained the following: William, Thomas, John, Robert, Judith and Mary.  The late genealogist, Dr. Malcolm H. Harris, gave support to Robert Harris having at least William, Robert, John and a Richard Harris in his 1981 article in the Virginia Genealogist, “Major Robert Harris (ca 1630-ca 1701) of New Kent County, Virginia: Was He Real or Myth?”  Dr. Harris also explored the facts about the wife of Robert Harris having been Mary, daughter of Col. William Claiborne.  He told me back in the late 1960s, when I was a student at the University of Richmond, that he was convinced of it.  His above article concluded that it was probably true, and he did not even have Thomas Harris’ journal to support his statement.  Dr. Harris determined that Col. Claiborne did indeed have another daughter besides Jane Claiborne, wife of Thomas Brereton, who was mentioned as being under the guardianship of Samuel Smyth, cousin of William Claiborne, in 1648.  This daughter was no doubt the Mrs. Elizabeth Clayborne Jr. who patented land in New Kent County in 1668, which immediately followed the patent of Jane Claiborne’s husband, Thomas Brenton.  She was styled Mrs. simply because she was a single woman of property, just as her sister, Jane Claiborne, was so styled earlier when she was a single woman of property.  The use of Jr. was simply to distinguish her from her mother, Elizabeth Claiborne.  Note that Elizabeth Claiborne Jr.’s land adjoined the plantation of Charles Edmonds, as did the land of Robert Harris!  One of her head-rights was none other than John Busby/Basby/Barsby, whose land also adjoined Robert Harris.  I believe that this Elizabeth Claiborne was the wife of Robert Harris.  Why then was his wife called “Mary?”  One should only recall that Robert Harris’ daughter-in-law, Temperance (Overton) Harris, was the daughter of William and “Elizabeth” (Waters) Overton (as she was named in her mother’s will), who used the name of Mary in her family and was so called in the family register that recorded her marriage to William Overton in 1670.  Mary was simply her religious confirmation name by which she chose to be called instead of “Elizabeth.”  The familiar use of the confirmation name is still practiced even to this day.  It cannot now be used, however, on official documents in place of one’s legal name in today’s society.  It can be seen by the patent record of Elizabeth Claiborne and the will of Anne Waters, mother of Elizabeth (Waters) Overton, that the ‘legal’ name was carefully chosen at that time, as well.  There could not be much better circumstances for a marriage between Robert Harris and the daughter of William Claiborne, when, not only did she own land in walking distance from Robert Harris, but his father, William Harris was Claiborne’s close associate, whose family was entangled by blood and marriage with that of Claiborne’s wife!  The records of York County, Virginia, reveal that on 21 Aug 1666 one John Achley of London, Merchant, appointed his friend, Edward Ramsey, of Martin’s Hundred, as his attorney in York County.  There were two witnesses to this action, Robert Harris and Elizabeth Harris.  Could this be Robert Harris and Elizabeth Claiborne?  The date is two years earlier than the patent record of Mrs, Elizabeth Clayborne, Jr., but most of the patents were recorded at least three to five years after they were initiated.  This may indicate the approximate year of marriage of Robert Harris to have been 1666.

“Some clarification needs to be given for the incorrect ancestry of Robert Harris of New Kent County stated by J. McFarland Williams in his manuscript that 1 quoted in my book.  Mr. Williams placed this Robert Harris as the son of Robert Harris (b. 1615) who immigrated to Virginia in 1634/1635 and settled in Isle of Wight County.  He referenced a court suit that showed Robert Harris as a son of a Robert Harris and as the brother of Mary Harris, wife of Anthony Spiltimber and Matthew Swann, and as the brother of Martha Harris, wife of John Jennings.  The court suit that he referenced of 1665 absolutely does not state that Robert Harris (b. 1615) of Isle of Wight had a son, Robert, and clearly shows that his only heirs were his daughters Mary and Martha.  The recent book, Colonial Families of Surry and Isle of Wight Counties, Virginia, Volume 2, The Descendants ofRobert Harris…, by John Anderson Brayton, gives an excellent account of this family.  The wife of Robert Harris (b. 1615) was stated as being unknown, but I have found what appears to be a reference to his widow in English Estates of American Colonists, by Peter Wilson Coldham.  Mr. Coldham listed the following administration in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Harris alias Crump, Mary (Jane in margin), of Virginia.  Administration to daughter Martha, wife of John Jennings. (June 1656).

“Christopher Harris was referred to in the records as a merchant.  He was involved with many of the families of the rebels of Bacon’s rebellion but left Virginia in 1661 and settled in Northamptonshire, England, before the rebellion took place.  He patented land in James City County on 21 Apr 1658 near the Richahock Path, which was in the same immediate vicinity as the land of James Harris and Robert Harris.  It should be noted that the area in question here is at a point where the counties of New Kent, York, and James City all joined before various boundary changes took place.  All of the lands mentioned were very close in proximity.  This tract was later sold to Daniel Parke.  Christopher Harris also patented land in Westmoreland County, Virginia, near that of his supposed brother, James Harris.  Both men were closely associated with John Washington.  James Harris had given Washington a power of attorney to act on his behalf in Westmoreland County.  We learn from the letter of Annis Cotton (Mrs. John Cotton) of Queen’s Creek, York County, Virginia, written to Christopher Harris in 1676, addressed to Mr. C. H., at Yardley, Northamptonshire, that John Washington had, at various times, visited the house of Christopher Harris when he was a resident of York County, Virginia.  An in-depth article on this letter, by Francis Burton Harrison, is given in Genealogies of Virginia Families (from The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography), Volume 3, pages 845-855.  Mrs. Cotton informed Christopher Harris of the executions of several of the rebels including James Wilson, whom she stated had been Christopher Harris’ servant, and Anthony Arnell [Arnold], whom she stated had lived at Christopher Harris’ house.  Note that James Wilson owned land adjoining Robert Harris in New Kent County.  Anthony Arnold owned land in New Kent County adjacent to Thomas Brereton, son-in-law, of Col. William Claiborne, and to George Lyddall (of whom presently).  Arnold also took over a patent of 500 acres in Westmoreland Comity, Virginia in 1665 that had been deserted by Thomas Brereton.  This same Anthony Arnold who lived at Christopher Harris’ house was brought to Virginia and claimed as a head-right in 1658 by Thomas Harris of Isle of Wight!  Was this jut by chance?  I do not think so!  Mrs. Cotton’s letter of 1676 revealed that Christopher Harris’ late wife was the stepdaughter of Nathaniel Bacon, the elder, a near relative of Nathaniel Bacon, the rebel.  A York County record of 18 Mar 1660/1, referenced by Francis Burton Harrison in his article, showed that Christopher Harris and his wife, Anne, were to receive 250 pounds sterling from Nathaniel Bacon in three separate payments, the first on the date of the agreement, the second on 10 Feb 1661/2 payable in London, and the third on 10 Feb 1662/3 in London.  Mr. Harrison stated that this seemed to indicate that Mrs. Anne Harris was disposing of her inheritance in Virginia and that she and her husband were leaving Virginia to live in England.  Nathaniel Bacon (1620-1691/2), son of Rev, James Bacon and Martha Woodward, married first, before 1650, in England, to Elizabeth Kingsmill, only daughter of Richard Kingsmill.  I do not find that she had children by a former marriage.  I have not found very much material on the wives of Nathaniel Bacon and hope that any readers who have such will contact me.  Nathaniel Bacon came to Virginia about 1650 and soon after, married Anne, the sister of William Basset, who had been widowed twice before. I have been given material, that I have not yet been able to validate, which states that Anne Basset was first married to William Smith and was married secondly to Anthony Jones.  By her marriage to William Smith, Anne is said to have had a daughter, Anne, who married a George Fawdon.  I cannot find any thing to support this, but must assume, from want of other candidates, that this is the stepdaughter of Nathaniel Bacon who was married to Christopher Harris.  I do not know if she married Harris as the Widow Fawdon or if she was single, and the first marriage did not occur.

“The Harris association with the Basset and Bacon families is quite significant, as William Harris’ wife, Temperance Overton, was known to have been related to them, possibly through both parents.  Nathaniel Bacon’s mother, Martha Woodward, was secondly married to one Robert Peake, no doubt a relative of Sir Robert Peake of England who named Temperance Overton’s maternal grandparents and George Lyddall of Virginia as his cousins in his will.  Temperance’s father, William Overton, co-patented land with George Lyddall’s son.  The Lyddalls were related to the Bacons in England through the Woodward and Honeywood families.  George Lyddall’s daugher, Anne, married Edmond Bacon, a near relative of Nathaniel Bacon. Nathaniel Bacon’s own sister.  Elizabeth Bacon, married one Thomas Burrowes (a relative of Ellen Burrows, the supposed wife of William Harris, the immigrant of 1621, and mother of Christopher Harris?).  It is interesting that Anne Bassett’s second husband, Anthony Jones, was involved in an admiralty case in 1637 on the side of Richard Bennett and Robert Sabine against Henry Hutchinson.  Edward Harris of St. Dunstan, London, England, aged about 41, made a deposition in 1638 or 1639 in this very ease on behalf of Richard Bennett of Point Comfort, Virginia, who had appointed Harris as his surety to stand for him in the admiralty case.  I believe, with all of the connections to William Harris and his family in Virginia, that this Edward Harris was none other than the Edward Harris, christened April 1599 at Willingale Doe, Essex, England, son of William Harris and Joan Hardings, and brother of William Harris, the 1621 immigrant to Virginia.

“In his book, Colonial Granville County and its People, Worth S. Ray stated that he believed that Christopher Harris was related to Edward Harris and Capt. Thomas Harris.  He cited a record in regard to Edward Harris, dated 23 Nov 1638, in London, England, in which Edward Harris was the sole legatee, the executor and kinsman of Judith Bennett, the widow of Richard Bennett, who died in Virginia on 28 Aug 1626.  This Richard Bennett was the brother of Edward Bennett of Virginia and was the uncle of Gov. Richard Bennett, above.

“An Edward Harris received a patent of 730 acres in New Kent County, Virginia, on 19 Dec 1664 that was adjacent to the land of Charles Edmonds.  A earlier patent of Richmond Terrell on 28 Nov 1656 showed that this land of Edmonds was the same that he owned near the Richahock Path and, therefore, very close to the lands owned during the past six years by Christopher Harris, James Harris and Robert Harris, as well as those owned by Elizabeth Clayborne, Jr., her head-right, John Busby/Basby and Christopher Harris’ servant, James Wilson.  This Edward Harris could have been the brother of William Harris, the 1621 immigrant, mentioned above, but I believe that he was a younger man and son of William Harris, who was named after William’s known brother, Edward.  It seems quite logical, in view of all of the above, that these Harris men (Christopher, James, Robert, and Edward), along with William Harris (proven son of William Harris, immigrant of 1621) and one Richard Harris of the noted 1657 record with Christopher and Robert, were all brothers and children of William Harris, the 1621 servant/apprentice of Col. William Claiborne.”

Robert Harris was born about 1635 and died about 1701.  He settled on Ware Creek in New Kent County, Virginia in about 1659.  Although there is no conclusive proof, the conclusion of many Harris family researchers is that Robert married Mary (Elizabeth) Claiborne (discussed above), the daughter of William Claiborne and Elizabeth ButlerMary Claiborne had been previously married to Edward Rice.  She was born about 1635 and died about 1710.

The probable children of Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne are listed as follows:

  1. William Harris, see below.
  2. Thomas, born about 1675, married Mary Giles.
  3. John, married (1st) Anne and (2nd) Mary Stanley.  Sons of John and Anne: John and Benjamin. Son of John and Mary: Daniel, married Mary Hutchins.
  4. Robert
  5. Judith
  6. Mary

William Harris was born about 1669 and died before 1733.  He married Temperance Overton in about 1695.  She is the daughter of William Overton and Elizabeth (Mary) Waters, discussed under their own heading.  Temperance was born 2 Mar 1679 and died 19 Feb 1710 (according to her grave marker – possibly the earliest known grave site in Hanover County, Virginia).  William Harris was known by the title of “Captain”.

It has been generally agreed among those who have researched the early generations of this family that Captain William Harris was the son of Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne, however this connection has been disputed by others, as discussed above.

Captain William Harris first appeared in the records of Hanover County, Virginia on 28 Jan 1706, when he was appointed surveyor of a new road in the Forks (Forks of the Pamunkey River), which places him in the area where he had his home.   In 1716, William Harris was elected a vestryman in St. Paul’s Parish.   On 22 Sep 1716, he was admitted as vestryman and took the oaths of office administered by Mr. Henry Chiles, one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace.   In 1721, William was named a church warden, and the same year, he was directed by the vestry to procure places and workmen to build two chapels in St. Paul’s Parish.

The Vestry meeting for St. Paul’s Parish was held on 6 Nov 1722 at the home of Mr. William Harris, and James Overton was admitted a vestryman in place of Rowland Horsley, lately deceased.   In 1723, he was called Captain William Harris in the minutes of the vestry meeting and he was charged to fetch the ornaments from Capt. William Harris and carry them to the chapels.  In October 1724, Captain William Harris was present at the vestry meeting of the new parish of St. Martin’s, which included the area above the South Anna River in the Forks and west of Stonehorse Creek.  The parish records of St. Martin’s Parish are no longer extant.

A monument to Temperance Overton Harris rests over her grave at Cedar Hill in the old Harris graveyard at Cedar Hill (Glen Cairn near Doswell), Hanover County, Virginia.  Hers may be the earliest known grave site in Hanover County, Virginia.  The inscription reads as follows:

Here Lies the

Body of Temp

erance Harr

is deceased

the 19th of February

1716     W.H.

The land patented by Capt. William Harris lay in the area between the North Anna River and Little River and was acquired by patent and purchase in a series of patents issued between 1713 and 1731, as follows:  (1) 4,000 acres in New Kent County (13 Nov 1713), (2) 380 acres in New Kent County (6 Jun 1713), (3) 300 acres on Beaverdam Creek (1 Jul 1717), (4) 400 acres (4 Sep 1723), (5) 400 acres 5 Sep 1723), (6) 76 acres (24 Mar 1725), (7) 266 acres on the south side of Little River at the mouth of Byars branch and his own lines (24 Mar 1725).  All these tracts totaled just under 6,000 acres which was a very large estate.

Harris Family Burying Ground on the property of Kings Dominion Park in Virginia (Cedar Hill). Photo taken 15 Mar 2007, looking west inside cemetery. It is believed to be the oldest cemetery in Hanover County, Virginia (photo credit: Gary Violette).

Harris Family Burying Ground on the property of Kings Dominion Park in Virginia (Cedar Hill). Photo taken 15 Mar 2007, looking west inside cemetery. It is believed to be the oldest cemetery in Hanover County, Virginia (photo credit: Gary Violette).

One researcher of this family, whose name I have not learned, related in an anonymous article posted on the internet that he located and visited the Cedar Hill Cemetery on 22 Oct 1991.  Descendants of Temperance Overton Harris placed a new tombstone at her grave in the 1930s.  Unfortunately, the old burying ground has been poorly maintained and most of the stones have been broken.  Only three or four Harris markers have survived.  The burial ground is located near the town of Doswell, Virginia, but it is not accessible to the public.  However, the anonymous author claimed that he was led to the burial ground by an old-timer by the name of Dan Terry, who had lived in the Doswell area since 1919.  What remained of the burial ground was across a field adjacent to the Terry property on a parcel of land now located on a maintenance property of the “King’s Dominion” amusement park, next to a water tower visible from the Terry’s home.  The anonymous author was able to see the burial ground after Mr. Terry first alerted the King’s Dominion security department.

Another view of the Cedar Hill burial ground

In the 1930s, Malcolm H. Harris reported that the old Harris cemetery was one the largest in Tidewater Virginia and covered several acres.   In 1991, all that is left of this cemetery is an area about 10,000 square feet, and only half a dozen stones are legible.  Numerous stones were broken just above the ground.  The Terrys mentioned that the cemetery had not been cared for in decades.

A more recent Harris burying ground is located in the Kings Dominion parking lot several hundred yards south of the Cedar Hill burying ground.  Unfortunately, Kings Dominion did not protect this burying ground.  The tombstones have been stacked around the base of a huge tree on an earthen mound, which is all that is left of this burying ground.  As of 1991, the tree and mound could be seen from the road along the northern property line of King’s Dominion (Route 688).

This restored marker for the grave site of Temperance Overton was placed by descendants in 1934.

The following directions were offered in an online posting, but I cannot vouch for their accuracy or usefulness:  “To locate the old Cedar Hill Harris burying ground, take the Highway 30/Kings Dominion exit on Interstate 95.  Go east on Highway 30 about 1/2 mile to County Road 688.  Turn right (east) onto 688.  On the right is the Kings Dominion parking lot with the large tree on the earthen mound.  Beneath this tree is the more recent ancient Harris burying ground.  About 1/2 mile on the left is a group of 4 or 5 mailboxes and a road which leads to a large round water tank visible from 688, about 300 yards to the north.  Turn left onto this road and go to the water tank.  The Cedar Hill burying ground is 100 feet or so to the left of the water tank.”

As mentioned above, Captain William Harris patented a large tract of land between the North Anna and South Anna Rivers.  His wife is buried only a few hundred yards north of Kings Dominion Amusement Park.  His descendants buried their dead in a burying ground on the parking lot of Kings Dominion.  Therefore, it appears that Kings Dominion is on the land patented by Captain William Harris.

Up to 13 children[14] have been attributed to William Harris and Temperance Overton.  No family Bible has turned up, and the will of Capt. William Harris was lost in the fire, which destroyed the Hanover County records.  According to Malcolm Hart Harris[15], only six children have been derived from both court and family records (however, it is possible there were many others whose records have been lost over time):

  1. (Major) Robert Overton Harris (1696-1765), see below.
  2. John (1703-1778), married (1st) Mary Stanley and (2nd) Ann Clough.
  3. Benjamin (1705-1765), married (1st) Mary [surname unknown] and (2nd) Sara Dumas.
  4. William (1707-1792), married Elizabeth Burnett.
  5. James
  6. Jemina (about 1709- ), who married her cousin William Overton.

After Temperance died, William Harris married (2nd) Mary Butler [Ellis].

Robert Overton Harris was born about 1696 in Hanover County, Virginia and died before 8 Aug 1765 in Albemarle, Virginia.  On 13 Jan 1720 he married  Mourning Glenn, daughter of James Glenn and Mourning Winn.  She was born about 1702 in New Kent County, Virginia and died 8 May 1775 in Albemarle, Virginia.  Robert was known by the title of “Major”.

His spent his early years in Hanover County and was elected to the General Assembly with William Meriwether.  They sat as Burgesses in the session that convened 1 Nov 1738.  He also served in the sessions which began 22 May 1740 and on 1 Aug 1740.  In the session for 6 May 1742, Robert Overton Harris and John Chiswell were the Burgesses from Hanover County, and in the next session for 4 Sept 1744, William Meriwether was in the place of Robert Overton Harris who had accepted the position of Surveyor in Louisa County.

Robert Overton Harris was in the first commission of the peace for Louisa County in 1742, and it is probable that he at that time resided at his plantation on Little River, which he had purchased from Benjamin Harris and Sarah his wife, and which he later conveyed to his son Tyree Harris.

He received for grants of land which lay in what became Louisa County, and it was in this area that he established his home, which he later gave to his son, Tyree: (1) 400 acres on Newfoundland River (16 Jun 1727);  (2) 400 acres between the North Anna and Little River (28 Sep 1728);  (3) 95 acres on south side of Little River adjoining his land (20 Jul 1738) and (4) 400 acres on both sides of Rocky Creek (15 Sep 1752).

Major Robert Harris was appointed Sheriff of Louisa County in 1751 and served the usual two year term.  He had been surveyor of the county since its erection in 1742.  He was included in the commission of justices named in 1752, but soon after this he disposed of his property in Louisa and moved to Brown’s Cove on Doyle’s River in Albemarle County, Virginia, where he had acquired a large tract of land.  He resided there until his death in 1765.

His wife, Mourning Glenn, survived him until 1776 when she died, leaving a will in which she named Robert Harris, her deceased husband.

In his will, Major Robert Harris did not leave property to a number of his children.  Consequently, a family record handed down to the Hon. John T. Harris of Harrisonburg, Virginia and furnished to Malcolm Harris provides us with a list of the children of Major Robert Harris.

Children of Robert Harris and Mourning Glenn (all born at St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, Virginia) were:

    • Anna Harris, born 31 Mar 1724 and died 1775.  She married John Cornelius Dabney, born 1724 at St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, Virginia and died 1773.
    • Christopher Overton (1725-1794), married (1st-1745) Mary Dabney and (2nd-1763) Agnes McCord.
    • Tyree (1728- ), married (1st)  Miss Chapman and (2nd) Miss Simpson.
James & Mary Harris grave marker, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Lexington, Virginia)

James & Mary Harris grave marker, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Lexington, Virginia)

  • Mary (1730-1819), married James Harris (1722-1792).
  • Mourning Glenn Harris (1732- ), married John Jouett.
  • Lucy Harris (1734-1803), married William Shelton.
  • Sarah (1736- ), married John Rodes in 1756.
  • Robert (1741- ), married Lucretia Dalton.
  • Rachel (1744- ), married Capt. William Dalton, son of Samuel Dalton and Anne Dandridge Redd.
  • Frances Elizabeth (1746-1788), married Joel Crawford (1736-1788).  She was the mother of William Harris Crawford, United States Senator from Georgia, Minister to France, Secretary of the United States Treasury under President Monroe and a candidate for presidency in 1824 (more under “Notable Kin”).
  • William (1752- )

The Will of Robert Harris of Albemarle County, Virginia (from History and Genealogies by W. Harris Miller, p. 267:

18 Jun 1765 In the Name of God, Amen. I, Robert Harris of the County of Albemarle, being in perfect mind and memory do make and ordain this my last will and testament, in manner and form following. First and principally, I recommend my soul to the Almighty God, who gave it to me not doubting bur thru the merits of my Blessed Saviour to have full pardon and remission of my sins and my body I recommend to the earth from whence it came to be buried in such manner as my executor hereafter named shall see fit. And as touching such temporal estate as it hath pleased God to bestow on me, I give and dispose of in manner and form following:

Imprimis, I give and bequeath to my son, Christopher Harris, forty acres of woodland ground lying and being in the County of Albemarle, on a large spur of the Blue Ridge mountains near the place commonly called and known by the name of “Bear Cornfield” to him and his heirs forever.

Item – I give and bequeath to my son, William Harris, after the decease of my loving wife, Mourning Harris, all the land which I hold in the County of Albemarle to him and his heirs forever.

Item – I leave my wife, Mouring Harris, the sole use and benefit of all the lands and plantatin during her natural life, which is above given to my son William after her decease.

Item – My will and desire after the decease of my wife that my negro man, Harry should he then be living in that case I give and bequeath the said Harry to my son Robert Harris, Junior, to him and his heirs forever.

Item – My will and desire is after the decease of my loving wife that my negro man Peter, should he then be living, in that case I give and bequeth the said Peter to my son Tyre Harris, to him and his heirs forever.

Item – My will and desire is that if my son William Harris should not die before attaining the lawful age or without issue, that in that case he the said William Harris, should be further educated, the charges thereof shall be paid out of the estate given him, after the whole being sold by my executors hereinafter named and the remainder of the money arising from such sale be equally divided amongst all my children or their legal representatives.

Item – My will and desire is that my son William Harris be under the tuition, direction and government of my son-in-law John Rodes, until he shall attain lawful age.

Item – I give and bequeath to my loving wife when all of my debts and funeral expenses is paid, all the residue of my estate, be it of whatever nature or quality soever to her and her heirs forever.

I do constitute and appoint my son-in-law John Roades and William Shelton to be my executors of this my last will and testament. As witness my hands and seal this 18th day of Jun in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and sixty five.

Robert Harris {SEAL}

Signed, sealed, etc. in the presence of Daniel Maupin John Mullins James William Maupin Courtney Mullins

At a Court held for the County of Albemarle the eighth day of August 1765, this will was presented in Court, proved by the oath of Daniel Maupin and William Maupin witnesses thereto and ordered to be recorded and on motion of John Rodes and William Shelton, the executors named therein, certificate is granted them for obtaining a probate thereof in due form, on giving security, where upon they with David Rodes and Christopher Harris their securities entered into and acknowledged their bond according to law.

The lineage of  Anna Harris and John Cornelius Dabney is continued under the heading of Cornelius Dabney (1631-1694).


[1] Willams, J. McFarland. Harris Family of Virginia: Captain Thomas Harris – Immigrant of 1611; Robert Harris – Immigrant of 1634-1635; compiled by descendant J. McFarland Williams, Jr.  This work has been filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1971 (1 Microfilm reel); held at the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Williams’ “typescript” (article) was written in 1959 for the DAR on the English origins of Capt. Thomas Major Robert Harris. His original typescript is in the National Library of the DAR in Washington, DC.

[2] Deyo, William L. The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779) of Virginia and His Two Wives, Jane Quarles and Anna Harris.  An analysis of the English connections of the families of Dabney, Harris, Overton, Waters, Peake, Herbert, Mallory, Quarles, Millett, and others (Colonial Beach, Virginia: DeJoux Publications) 2000.

[3] Metcalfe, Walter (ed.). The Visitations of Essex by Hawley, 1552;  Hervey, 1558; Cooke, 1570; Raven, 1612 and Owen and Lilly 1634, to which are added miscellaneous Essex Pedigrees (London: The Harleian Society) 1878, in 2 parts.

[4] William (III) is first cousin to another man of the same name and almost the same dates, Sir William Harris (1556–1616), an English knight, land owner and a notable incorporator in the third Virginia Company of London.  This Harris family appears to have originated some 40 to 50 miles east-north-east of London and on the north bank of the River Crouch.  The village of Cricksea (or Creeksea) exists today on this peninsula in Essex County.  Creeksea is located about 2 miles west of Burnham-on-the-Crouch and about 18 miles inland from the North Sea.  Anciently Called “Danes Island”, this area was inhabited largely by Norman families after the conquest 1066. Sir William Harris of Cricksea was knighted on 23 July 1603 at Whitehall on the eve of the coronation of James I.  His elevation to the knighthood was the result of military service in Ireland during the Nine Years’ War (Ireland) along with his cousin Sir William Harris of Shenfield, Essex.  Sir William Harris was born 21 Sep 1556 in Essex.  His parents were Sir Arthur Harris and Dorothy Waldegrave.  He made his home at Creeksea Place Manor.  Sir Henry Mildmay, Keeper of the Crown Jewels for Charles I, married into the Harris family and, by the laws of the day, eventually became the owner of Creeksea Place Manor.  He is reputed to have been one of the twelve State elders who subsequently signed King Charles’s death warrant.  Following the execution and after the accession to the throne of Charles II, Sir Henry Mildmay was said to have been arrested at Cricksea, and he and the other eleven elders were accused of regicide (the murder of a king or queen), later pardoned but it is said, to make sure they did not forget the enormity of their crime, all twelve were obliged to spend the anniversary date of the King’s execution in the Tower of London.  Sir William Harris married Alice Smythe on 6 May 1583 in St. Gabriel Fenchurch, London, England.  Alice was the daughter of Thomas Smythe of Westenhanger, Kent.  The children of Sir William Harris and Lady Alice Harris were: Sir Arthur (1584-1632), William (1585-1622), Thomas (1586-1617), John (1588-1638), Alice (married Sir Henry Mildmay), Frances (married Mr. Roope), Elizabeth and Mary (married Gyles Browne).  Some of these also have lines of descent in Virginia.  It is possibly through his cousin’s connections to the Virginia Company of London that William Harris, immigrant to Virginia in 1621, obtained his position as apprentice to William Claiborne.

[5] Other lines of descent from William (I) to William (IV) have been proposed, but there seems to be general agreement among researchers of this family that William (IV) is the great grandson of William (I).  For example, William Deyo, in the work cited above, proposes a line of descent as follows: William (I) and Anne Rutter –Christopher and Mary Gedge (also the first wife of John Butler, the father of William Claiborne’s wife, Elizabeth Butler) – Sir William Harris of Senfield Manor, Essex (knighted at the coronation of King James I in 1603) and Frances Astley – William (born 1596).

[6] In any case, I am descended from Sir Thomas Percy (1504-1537).  He is my 16th g-grandfather through his daughter Mary (1532-1598), the 2nd g-grandmother of our immigrant ancestor, Richard Ingraham (1600-1683), discussed under his own heading.

[7] The various lines of descent, proven and proposed, between the Plantagenet kings and the Percy and Harris families, are outlined in more detail in the article on “Royal Ancestors”.

[8] Deyo, William L. The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779) of Virginia and His Two Wives, Jane Quarles and Anna Harris.  An analysis of the English connections of the families of Dabney, Harris, Overton, Waters, Peake, Herbert, Mallory, Quarles, Millett, and others (Colonial Beach, Virginia: DeJoux Publications) 2000.

[9] Many sources identify the parents of William Harris (b. 1596) as William Harris (1545-1601) and Joan Hardings (1550-1615).

[10] Nathaniel Butler (born about 1577, living 1639, date of death unknown) was an English privateer who later served as the colonial governor of Bermuda during the early 17th century.  He had built many structures still seen in Bermuda today including many of the island’s coastal fortresses and the State House, in St. George’s, the oldest surviving English settlement in the New World (the State House, completed in 1620, was the first purpose-built building to house the Bermudian parliament).  He also has the distinction of introducing the potato, the first seen in North America, to the early English colonists of Jamestown, Virginia.

[11] This is a rare volume.  Citation: Claiborne, G. M.  Claiborne Pedigree, a genealogical table of the descendants of secretary William Claiborne, of the junior branch in the United States…  (Lynchburg, Virginia: J. P. Bell Co.) 1900.  Copies are available in some large libraries, including the New York City Public Library and the library of the University of Wisconsin (Madison).

[12] Her aunt was possibly Anne Burrows, who was married at Elizabeth City, Virginia to John Laydon, who had arrived at Jamestown in 1607.  Ellen’s father was born in London in 1581, being age 44 on the muster of 1625.  Anthony Burrows had a brother James and an only son James.  Ellen was possibly the daughter of this Anthony Burrows.   Anne Burrows (sometimes spelled Burras) was an early English immigrant to Virginia and the first English woman to marry in the New World.  Her daughter, Virginia, was the first child of English colonists to be born in the Jamestown colony.  Anne Burras arrived in Jamestown on 30 Sep 1608 on the Mary and Margaret, the ship bringing the “Second Supply”.  She came as a 14-year-old maid to Mrs. Thomas Forrest.  Documentary sources, including the diaries of John Smith, president of the colony in 1608 and 1609, indicate that Forrest and Burras may have been the only two women at Jamestown until 1609.  Excavation at Jamestown in the late 1990s unearthed the burial of one of the New World’s first English female colonists and, as such, one of the earliest women settlers in the New World.  The remains are thought to be those of Mistress Forrest.  Anne Burrows, John Laydon and their four daughters were listed in the muster of February 1624/5, and this census gives Anne’s age as 30.  All four children are shown as born in Virginia, but their ages are not given.  John Laydon was shown as having 200 acres in Henrico in May 1625.  However, the 1624/5 Muster shows the family living in Elizabeth City.  A patent to John Leyden, Ancient Planter, dated 2 Dec 1628, refers to 100 acres on the east side of Blunt Point Creek, land now in tenure of Anthony Burrowes and William Harris.  No proof has been found of the marriage of any of the four daughters, though it has been suggested, on the basis of land records, that one daughter may have married John Hewitt or Howitt.  Nothing is known of the parentage of Anne and her brothers, John and Anthony.  Reportedly from London, Anne and her brother, John both came on the Mary and Margaret.  Anthony is believed to have joined them in Virginia in about 1613 bringing his daughter, Ellen, who married William Harris, surveyor in 1624.  The latest known record of Ann being alive was in 1630 and the date of death is not known.

[13] Deyo, Appendix to The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney (ca 1743-1779), cited above, dated 26 Dec 2001, “Latest Findings on Harris Family”.

[14] Harris, Thomas Henry. The Harris Family, 1611-1914, p.14 (only about 10 copies are known to exist in libraries around the country, including the St. Louis Public Library and the Spokane Public Library)

[15] Malcolm Hart Harris was the author of several books on the colonial history of Virginia, and I have not been able to locate where this specific citation comes from.



  • Chris

    My name is Christopher James Harris Jr I’m the one with same blood I’m located In Itasca tx my people want me dead and I believe this is why

  • mary kempf (nickname Tery)

    Temperance Overton and William Harris are my 8th g-grandparents- I am looking for family lines..Then William Harris Jr married Elizabeth Burnett…(from what i am told)… Overton Harris married Anne Nelson… Francis Harris married Moses Keeney(spelling)… Moses Keeney Jr married Mary Huff… Keeney married Basham… Minverva Keeney married John Keeney… Bell Keeney married Black Davis…Earl M Davis married Virgie Ocal Byrd…Donald Davis married Ruby Dawson… Then ME… what a line. But any help would be grateful.. I did DNA Tribe test and result 4.0 NA my brother is 4.8 NA – now to find link.. Thank You in advance

  • William D. Harris

    I am related to this harris family , James Harris born Virginia to Kentucky my great-grandfather James A. Harris born about 1856 this is news to me just learning about Harris Family all info is welcome…. thanks

  • Dianna Rickard

    anyone have verifiable of the following: Martha Harris m. to John Jennings; her parents thomas harris m. to alice west; thomas’ parents john harris m. dorothy calcott; john’s parents being Sir William Harris m. Alice Smythe (Smith)?

    • Tom King

      The Martha Harris who married John Jennings was a proven daughter of Robert Harris who died in 1659 in Surry Co., VA. There is a 1663 Surry law suit by Anthony Spilltimber with wife Mary, dau of Robert Harris vs John Jennings with wife Martha, sister of this Mary Harris Spilltimber, over property that these two sisters inherited from their decease father Robert Harris (not his brother Thomas Harris for whom there are no proven children). The 1678 will of John Jennings is unclear if the three children named, Martha, Mary and John Jennings jr are by Martha Harris or his 2nd wife Mary Seward. There is a book on this John Harris by a noted professional genealogist that says that Marthe Jennings bore him no children and then lists many generations of descendant by this 2nd wife.

  • I’m chasing my 11th GGF John Harris on Ancestry.Com and looked at other trees to see how well we were in agreement w/people and dates etc. I could find no excuse for one of my John Harris’ last son “Robert” – I believe he was pulled off of somebody’s tree for a decoration: “General Robert Harris” . I HATE THAT. But the good thing is I found your site! Oh Oh, I just glanced at Tom King’s post and see he’s referring to “my” Isle of Wight family… so I guess that is good? and I can kick “Major Bob” out of my tree..please correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂 Melanie Wood

  • Jim Ryan

    Has any Harris researcher learned more about the ancestry of Robert Harris (mentioned above) whose daughter Martha married John Jennings? I didn’t see any lineage for him above — or did I miss something?

  • Tom King

    The lineage of Robert Harris d1701 back to the Percy family is problematic. This line to the Percy family is the same for the descendants of Sir William Harris of Crixie to his Charles City and Isle of Wight family. DNA of these descendants show that they come from a different Haplo Blood Group as do the living direct male Harris descendants of Maj Robert Harris d1701. This difference in Haplo Blood Groups proves conclusively that these two Harris families were NOT related and had no common male Harris ancestor within thousands of years, back to when the Haplo Blood groups were formed. The line of Sir William Harris back to the Percy family is proven in the heraldry records in the College of Arms. This ancestry for Maj Robert Harris appears to make many assumptions that may not be true.

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