The Phelps, Phips, and Anthony Families

The Phelps and Anthony families

A line of evidence connects a “Phelps” family in 18th century (1700s) Virginia with the Anthony family. We’ve discussed surveyor connections at numerous points, beginning with the surveyor partnership of John Phips and William Harris in Jamestown. This Phelps family included at least one surveyor, and the family was associated with a later man named William Harris, and they dealt with the Anthony family.

This Anthony family, in turn, appears to connect to the Anthony family which later surfaces in Surry County, North Carolina, with an Anthony daughter – Keziah Anthony – marrying George Phips. Further, at least one surveyor was included in this Anthony familyr.

Would one family branch call itself Phelps at the same time that another branch would call itself Phips or Fipps or Phipps or Fips? Based on anecdotal evidence regarding various families, it certainly would seem possible.

And we’ve discussed how the Phripp family was very likely another part of the same family, and how the Phibbs family of Ireland was probably tied to the Phipps family of England. We’ve also discussed what appears to be a clear connection of some sort to a family called Fitts or Fitz.

Part of the reason for this might have been simply the fluidity of names, at the same time that the family (or families) seemed on the move, where their surname was often unfamiliar to locals because they were newcomers. If your last name is Phipps, no doubt you’ve been called Phibbs, Phelps, and Phillips at various times in your life. It appears that there are families in modern times which have used the Phelps and Phipps names more or less interchangeably.

The reason could also be because of some sort of an undefined scandal, as we’ve discussed before, and perhaps later the very real and documented issue of Phipps or Phips individuals who were Tories or even British officials in America around the time of the Revolution.

Far too many connections to the Phelps family exist to rule out the possibility that this could be a part of the same family as “Phips,” “Fips,” “Phipps,” etc. For example, this Phelps family appears to have been related to someone named John Pleasants. We’ve discussed how the Burton family – closely associated with the Fipps family in Goochland County, Virginia (the orphans there were bound out to a Burton) and with George Reeves (he married a Burton) who was the father in law of Samuel Phips in Ashe County, North Carolina.

We’ve discussed other surname associations in the past which involve this Phelps family. Those alone seemed compelling reasons to wonder whether this “Phelps” family could have been Phips or Phipps. But a close association as well with an Anthony family which married into a Phips family of North Carolina?

Was the “Phelps” family in this case in Virginia the same family as “Phips” in Surry County, North Carolina? Surry County has been discussed in previous posts as a destination point for family members of John Fips who died about 1768 in Charlotte County, Virginia.

The Anthony family in Virginia

In the case of the Anthony family in Surry County, North Carolina, secondary sources claim the family was in Goochland County, Virginia earlier, the same county we’ve been discussing in connection with the Phips family. Not only that, but the 1816 will of Thomas Anthony of Surry County, North Carolina specifically refers to his daughter Keziah Anthony who married George Phips.

An Anthony family appears to have been amassing land in Goochland County around the mid-18th century (1700s), with a John Anthony, possibly the one also appearing in Goochland County, having been appointed surveyor in Albemarle County, a county formed from Goochland. Around the same time, a “Phelps” family was acquiring land in Albemarle and Goochland Counties, presumably the same family.

Several Phelps individuals were present in several Virginia counties and could have been related. A Thomas Phelps who appears in Albemarle and Goochland Counties in the 1740s and 1750s may possibly have been the same as, or at least related to, the Thomas Phelps who received a patent in Brunswick County on 12 January 1753.

Around this same time, the name William Phelps appears in Albemarle, Goochland, and Bedford Counties. What’s interesting about him (considering all of our many discussions about surveyors and about the Phips and Harris surveyor connection) is that in the 1750s in Bedford he was appointed surveyor. About the same time, he brought a case against a certain William Harris, which was dismissed.

He also had a major case against a Payne there in the 1760s, and one must wonder whether there might have been a connection to the Payne family we’ve discussed in connection with Lewellyn Phipps who married a Cook whose mother was a Payne. That family seems probably related to the William Cook who served in the Revolution from Caroline County as a substitute for Joseph “Wiltcher,” as transcribed (Witcher? – a name which married into the Fips family), with the page scans apparently absent from online databases.

Thomas Phelps of Albemarle County appears to have sold land in Lunenburg County in 1764 to John Anthony of Lunenburg. Was this the same John Anthony who earlier, in 1745, was appointed a surveyor in Albemarle County?

Was this Thomas Phelps related to the Thomas Phelps who left a will in Albemarle County in 1751 which was witnessed by a certain Chicely Crisp or Chiceley Crisp, depending on transcription? Chicheley is the name of a village and parish in Buckinghamshire in England. Buckinghamshire is where the Phips family who were Lollards of Hughenden lived.

The person referred to as Chicely Crisp may have used another form of his name, since nothing comes up readily in searches using either spelling. Perhaps he was only there briefly, or perhaps he went by another given name. A Nicholas Crisp shows up in records in Albemarle County as early as 1688, when he witnessed the will of one Anthony Slocumb. The name Nicholas Crisp also shows up as a justice of the general court in Albemarle in 1714.

We have dealt in multiple past posts with a direct connection between the Phipps family and the Crisp or Crispe family, which was associated with the Caribbean and with the Jeaffreson/Jefferson family. And, for what it’s worth, a William Crisp was a surveyor in 1750 in Augusta County.

We have discussed Brunswick County, Virginia over and over, and it has been amazing to see how many times that location has come up in Phipps research without looking for it. Secondary sources appear to connect a John Phelps of Albemarle and Lunenburg Counties with Brunswick County.

He appears to have served in the House of Burgesses with the father of George Washington and with Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson. We have noted various indirect connections to Thomas Jefferson in past posts, especially through the Epps line, and is it worth noting that Peter Jefferson was yet another surveyor?

Phelps Island in the James River

Mid-18th century (1700s) records refer to Phelps Island in connection with the Phelps family already mentioned. That land eventually passed into the hands of John Hartwell Cocke, Jr. We’ve mentioned connections to the Cocke family in earlier posts.

The Hartwell name may have come from the same source as in the name Hartwell Epps, who was a Virginia War of 1812 soldier. (We’ve discussed various Epps links, with the Epps family tying into the Burton, Reeves, and Phips families.)

Phelps Island was, at one time, in the middle of what was called the Fluvanna River, in Albemarle County. The Fluvanna was the name given to a part of the James River. The Fluvanna name was later dropped. A Phelps plantation was either on the island or located very near there.

The island, however, appears to have disappeared. Although it shows up in an early map, modern satellite views and maps show no such island. (The Seven Islands, a bit further west, are still there.) Presumably Phelps Island is either under water, or the river changed its course and the land it occupied is no longer an island, or perhaps the island was removed for navigation.

This is all a bit west of present-day New Canton, Virginia. The land was once in Albemarle County, with Albemarle having been formed from Goochland County, but today where the island sat, if the river is running the same course, is right on the line separating Buckingham County and Fluvanna County. This is a bit east of where the Slate River joins the James River, and west of the John H. Cocke (that name again) Memorial Bridge.

Buckingham County is where Jones Phipps surfaced in a surveyor’s plat book in 1804. A secondary source claims that he may have also been known as Phelps. Also, a Mary Ann Phipps in Buckingham County in 1771 is said to have married a James Pendleton, with a Harris as his brother in law. And in 1771, a Richard Fipps advertised that he had found an unclaimed horse in Buckingham County.

The various Virginia locations mentioned here are not as disparate as they sound. Fluvanna County was formed from the original Henrico County shire. (Goochland was the first county formed from the shire of Henrico.)

Buckingham County was formed from Albemarle. Albemarle County was formed from part of Goochland. Lunenburg was formed from part of Brunswick. Bedford County was formed from part of Lunenburg.

George Phips, son in law of Thomas Anthony

The George Phips who married Keziah Anthony, daughter of Thomas Anthony, is said to have been born about 1785 in North Carolina. The two are said to have married in Surry County, North Carolina in 1807. There is a marriage bond, dated 2 July 1807, extant for the couple, according to a typescript.

George supposedly  died about 1830, which may or may not be correct. A Yadkin County, North Carolina file regarding his estate is dated much later – 1854.

The will of Thomas Anthony, dated 8 October 1816 in Surry County, North Carolina, outlines the following:

  • 50 acres to his son James
  • 100 acres, where George Phips “now lives,” to his grandchildren William, Millia, and David, identified as sons and daughters of Thomas Anthony’s daughter Keziah Phips
  • 1 bed, 1 chest, and 6 plates to his daughter Keziah Phips
  • 130 acres to his daughter Millia (not to be confused with his granddaughter Millia), adjoining Joseph Aldridge
  • 1 bed, 2 cows and their calves, 4 hogs to his daughter Millia
  • 1 shilling to his daughter Sarah Smith (no explanation)
  • 1 bed to his granddaughter Elizabeth Smith
  • His “negro fellow” named Jef and the rest of his land to be sold, and the money to be divided equally among his 3 sons John, David, and William
  • 1 dish, 6 plates to the children of his daughter Millia Anthony
  • Obadiah Martin appointed executor (he supposedly had married a Martin)

Note that this was a Surry County will. Yet the 1854 estate file of George Phipps (as spelled this time, Phips earlier) refers to the land given to the grandchildren as being in Yadkin County. How can this be?

That’s because Yadkin County was not created until 1850. Then, it was formed from the part of Surry County which was south of the Yadkin River.

The estate file refers to the three grandchildren who, in the will, were called William, Millia, and David Phips. In the estate file, however, they are referred to as William, Millie, and David Phipps. A petition in that file refers to land willed to them by Thomas Anthony, deceased. This land is now referred to as being “situate in the County of Yadkin, on the waters of Deep Creek.”

In addition, an 1855 Yadkin County survey report in the estate file refers to “the heirs of George Phipps (deceased)” on Deep Creek. There, the woman formerly called Millia, then Millie, is now called Milly.


Many connections which appear to perhaps connect the Phips or Phipps and the Phelps families have been found, more than can reasonably be recounted here. (See past posts linked below.) The idea that the Phelps family might be yet another branch of the Phips or Fipps etc. family may seem preposterous, not just because the names are somewhat different, but because so many places are represented.

They were clearly, however, people on the move, as was the family which called itself Fips, Phips, Phipps, etc. Perhaps that had something to do with the surveyor profession. This was an extremely lucrative profession, but perhaps could not remain so forever, unless one moved on.

Otherwise, the demand for surveyor work would still be there, but that demand would diminish over time. When new territories opened up, however, virtually everyone suddenly needed to hire a surveyor.

Some research questions

  • Who were the parents of this George Phips or Phipps who married Keziah Anthony?
  • Does Thomas Anthony indeed connect to the Anthony family with land holdings in Goochland County, and if so, do they connect to the Phips, Fipps, Fop family of Goochland, including the 1742 orphans, Joseph and Benjamin Fipps?
  • If the same Anthony family, then was the Phelps family associated with them the same as the Phips, Fipps, Fop family of Goochland County?
  • If the above was the case, then was the William Harris who was sued in the 1750s by surveyor William Phelps related to the William Harris who served as a surveyor with John Phips out of Jamestown beginning in 1621, or to William Harris’s son James who was was supposed to have been a surveyor with the 2nd generation surveyor John Phips? This William Harris referred to in Bedford County in the 1750s in connection with William Phelps would presumably have been the same William Harris mentioned in connection with him in the 1740s in Albemarle County. Albemarle was formed from part of Goochland.  One 1757 deed from Bedford County connects William Harris, William Phelps, and John Payne of Goochland County. William Phelps and William Harris were adjacent landowners in a 1749 Albemarle County patent.
  • Could the Phelps plantation in Albemarle County (later Fluvanna; see 1748 patent in Albemarle) have been a Phips or Phipps plantation? Could this have been the same family? Evidently this was at or very near Phelps Island in what was once termed the Fluvanna River. That was a name formerly given to the James River west of Columbia.
  • What was the involvement of the Phelps family in Lunenburg County, and could they connect there in some way with the John Fips or Phips family of Lunenburg? We’ve discussed various Cumberland County, Virginia connections. Was John “Felps” of Cumberland County (formed from Goochland) who moved to Lunenburg County in 1755 related to John Fips/Phips who lived in Lunenburg shortly before he died about 1768 in newly formed Charlotte County? In the past, we’ve mentioned various connections and bits of evidence which appear to suggest some sort of connection between the Phelps/Felps family of Goochland and Lunenburg Counties, etc. with the Fips/Phips family of Lunenburg and Charlotte Counties.

Some relevant resources


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