Jamestown to Brunswick County and Beyond

After looking at countless records and abstracts of records – and largely thanks to the tireless efforts of the editor of the website known as A Witcher Genealogy, it seems as though things are coming together, in terms of research into the Fips, Phipps, etc. family of southeast Virginia with migrations into northwest North Carolina and elsewhere.

In the past, various posts have looked at connections across England which seem to suggest a polarization among family members along both political and religious lines. Much of that had to do with the struggles of the English Civil War, plus the emergence of spiritual movements which challenged the state church.

That polarization might explain why a young surveyor named John Phips, apparently from Hornchurch in Essex, might very likely have been related to the Phipps or Phips family associated with Francis Phipps or Phips of Reading in Berkshire.

Francis was, himself, apparently closely connected with the Caribbean trade, which comes into play at various junctures in the Phips (and its variant surname forms) saga. It was no accident that both Jamestown, Virginia and Bermuda were Virginia Company colonies.

It was William Claiborne, himself a surveyor, who was responsible for bringing the young surveyor John Phips to Jamestown in 1621, along with a surveying partner, William Harris, who arrived around the same time. The Claiborne and Harris names and connections would persist in association with the Phips or Phipps family for quite a few years to come.

John Phips arrived on a ship called the Tiger, and William Harris on the George, both in 1621. Although the infamous “starving time,” during which cannibalism appears to have been present, was over at Jamestown, that doesn’t mean that John had an easy life. Another more minor “starving time” was still to come, plus Indian attacks.

Mentioned in the above video is John Rolfe, who married Pocahontas. A son married a Poythress, and we’ve noted various Poythress connections. James Phipps bought land from a Poythress in Brunswick County. A daughter of that son married a Bolling, and we’ve noted lots of Bolling connections. These names just keep recurring.

John was brought to Jamestown by the Virginia Company, and a London merchant involved in that company at, apparently, that moment was Col. John Jeaffreson. This is the man whose widow married Francis Phipps of Reading.

This Jeaffreson family is the family which, it is suspected, ties into the “Jefferson” family associated with Thomas Jefferson, the American president. This is the Thomas Jefferson whose mother in law was an Epps or Eppes. This Eppes family was the family which ties directly into George Reeves of Wilkes County, North Carolina, and then Grayson County, Virginia, the father in law of Samuel Phips of Ashe County, North Carolina.

Countless records show associations with people named Phipps (or some variant) with the same small group of associated names, over and over. These families frequently operated in several counties (or even multiple colonies) at once, with what was clearly the same individual dealing in land transactions with several others in one county in Virginia, then a few months later or a year later dealing with the same group of people in another county.

Some of these names recur and criss-cross again with amazing frequency. Through it all emerges what appears to be a collection of people whose name sounds or looks like “Phipps,” but which used a wild array of spelling variations. Were they the same family? Recurrence of the other surnames, surnames of associated families, could just be coincidence, but that isn’t likely to be coincidence when enough of the same names keep recurring repeatedly.

In addition, sometimes the records themselves suggest that this odd spelling variation really is “Phipps” or something similar. Phripp, Felts, Fitts, Phillips, Phelps, and even perhaps “Capt. McFipps.” When the same surnames of other families keep recurring in association with them, when the same sorts of activities and social and family associations keep recurring, one has to suspect that we’re dealing with a family which has used a variety of surnames.

And that wasn’t that unusual for that time. Today people believe they are their name, and become incensed when someone mispronounces that name. In an earlier era, however, people don’t seem to have cared. That’s discussed briefly in the video linked above.

Why was it that when land in Albemarle Parish (Sussex County, Virginia) was processioned in the 1770s, John and Nathaniel “Felts” were involved, but also names closely associated with the Phips family, like Harris, Cocke, Ezell, Richardson, and Nusom/Newsom processioned right alongside them? Why was Benjamin “Phipps” the sponsor for the christening of Nancy “Felts” there in 1767? Why was Matthew “Phripp” sometimes called Phipp and the like?

Perhaps for the same reason that one family with whom the “Phipps” family was closely associated appears to show up in records as Witcher, Wyche, and in a variety of other forms. The same could be said of Cocke AKA Cook AKA Cooke, or Turberville AKA Turbyfill AKA Troublefield, etc.

Part of these Phipps, Fips, Phillips, Phelps, McFipps, Phripp, etc. people can apparently be placed into a genealogical structure suggested, in part, by a 1972 manuscript by Audrey Woodruff. She was a genealogist who generally wrote and published under the name Mrs. Howard Woodruff.

Something of a relationship structure had already been suggested in earlier posts, based on the find of a family Bible at the Library of Virginia and other sources, including abstracts and descriptions of record collections at the Library of Virginia and at the University of North Carolina. Also helpful has been an 1845 Brunswick County summons pertaining to heirs of Abner Woolsey (who is listed below). Mrs. Woodruff located an additional family Bible and had found additional records which tie into the same overall structure.

The following is a result. This certainly comes very far from tying together all the parts of the Phipps, etc. family of early southeast Virginia. In fact, it does not even directly tie back to John Phipps, the immigrant surveyor. It does, however, represent a starting point from which other ancestors can be appended later.

In order to do the following list justice by referring to specific records at this point would be impossible. That’s because there are simply too many records to recount here. Perhaps some of this will be fleshed out in later posts.

Relationships are denoted by indentations. Children are indented under their parents. Persons appearing at the same indentation level would be siblings.

  • Joseph Phipps (abt 1735- ), will dated 1803 Brunswick Co., VA, m. abt 1760 Sarah Williams
    • Benjamin Phipps (1761 -1845}, see Benjamin Phipps family Bible at Library of Virginia, m. Lucy Tuberfield
      • Wilson Phipps
        • Mary J. Phipps, m. Nick Kidd 1836
        • Adalaid W. Phipps, m. Gilliam Pearson 1840
      • Martha Goodall Phipps (1795- ) [Mrs. Woodruff calls her Marsha], m. Lazarus Vann, divorced, resumed her maiden name
        • Robert Stanfield Phipps (1820- )
        • Lucy Tuberfield Phipps (1834- ), m. Lazarus Vann
      • William Phipps (1793- )
      • Williamson Phipps (1798- ), appears to have moved to GA
      • Elizabeth Phipps, m. William C. Cabiness 1818
      • James N. Phipps (1806- ), m. Mary (“Polly”) Steed; see the Steed and Phipps Family Papers at the University of North Carolina, with ties to Vance County, North Carolina
      • Winfield Phipps (1802- ), m. (1) Eliza M. Powell, (2) Julia Ann King; see the Julia Ann KIng Phipps papers at the Library of Virginia
      • Littleton Phipps (1801-1876); appears to have moved to Baker County, Georgia where he appears to have fathered mulatto children
      • [Mary Phipps?; listed among other children of Benjamin in family Bible but not listed by Mrs. Woodruff]
    • (Daughter) Phipps (abt 1763/4-abt 1785), m. (2) Joel Manning
      • John Manning (abt 1783- )
      • Sarah (“Sally”) Manning (1785- )
      • Caleb Manning, Jr. (1787- ) [called Jr. because of an older uncle Caleb]
    • John Phipps (1771-1841), m. (1) Susan Neal, (2) Nancy M. Harrison
      • Children by Susan Neal:
      • Susan S. Phipps (1815- ), married Richard S. Kidd
      • Unnamed baby who did not survive
      • Children by Nancy M. Harrison:
      • Permelia Pickney Phipps (1821-1896), m. John Wesley Ward
      • Mary Skinner Phipps (1823- ), m. John E. Branch
      • Eugenia Belgrady Phipps (1826-died young)
      • Sarah Ann Phipps (1828- ), m. David Branch
      • John Joseph Benjamin Phipps (1832- ), apparently called Ben
    • Mary Phipps (abt 1774- ), m. Abner Woolsey
  • Benjamin Phipps ( -early 1800s), believed to have been brother of Joseph, believed to have married (1) – Richardson, (2) Ruth Hayes
    • Richardson Phipps, m. Fanny/Fanney Newsom
      • Caroline Phipps (1813-1881), m. Glenn Pegram
      • Martha R. [Richardson?] Phipps (1800-1865), m. (1) Bryant Boone, (2) Jonathan Wyatt
    • Jordan/Jordon Phipps, m. Penelope McCullock or McCulloch; he appears to be the person of that name who stayed in Wilkes County, North Carolina for a while on his way from Sussex County, Virginia to middle Tennessee
    • John Phipps, m. Nancy Long; one must wonder if she was related to the Long family which was so closely connected with the Phips family in Ashe Co., NC
    • Martha (“Patty”) Phipps, m. John Prince; records tie into the Newsums (above) and Wyches (discussed in text above) and Stokes family (discussed in past posts), and the Claibornes (discussed in text above); the Prince family in turn ties into the Poythress family (discussed in text above)
    • [(Unknown) Phipps, daughter, m. Joseph Prince (note that Martha married John Prince); seems implied by her father’s will, but not mentioned by Mrs. Woodruff; she is tentatively added here]
    • Susanna Phipps [Mrs. Woodruff spells the name “Susannah”], married Cary Mosby; the Mosby name comes into the play with the “Phelps” family in Cumberland County associated with John Pleasants who ties into the Burton family and the Reeves family, as we’ve discussed various times

Plus others. Mrs. Woodruff also refers to the following:

(1) James Phipps, believed to have perhaps been a brother of the Joseph who is listed above as born about 1735. Mrs. Woodruff refers to 3 names – Joseph, Benjamin, and James Phipps, all appearing in a Brunswick County tax list on 19 April 1787.

(2) Thomas Phipps, who Mrs. Woodruff says married Ann Clark in 1737. When the estate of a Samuel Clark was appraised in 1735-7 in Brunswick County, the appraisers included a “Wych” (Wyche), a “Reaves” (Reeves), and a Harris, all surnames which we’ve referred to over and over. A 1745 land grant to Peter Wytch in Brunswick County adjoined two men named Clark. A 1746 Brunswick County deed is from a Clark to a Wych.

A daughter of John Fips of Charlotte County, Virginia, who died about 1768, married Ephraim Witcher, apparently a form of Wyche. A 1747 Brunswick County deed from a Cook (Cocke) and a Rives (Reeves) was witnessed by Samuel Clark. then a 1777 Brunswick deed to a Clarke was witnessed by 4 men named Wyche and by Absalom Bennett. Absalom Bennett comes into play in the 1790 Brunswick County chancery case we’ve already discussed, which involved Benjamin Phipps, Joseph Phipps, and testimony from family members in Wake County, North Carolina.

(3) Sterling Phipps who, according to Mrs. Woodruff, married Mary Williams in 1792. (Notice that Joseph Phipps, discussed earlier, married a Williams.) One has to wonder whether the name was actually Starling, since this is a name which has been noticed in various period records, while Sterling does not seem to have come up.

(4) William Phipps, according to Mrs. Woodruff, married Nancy James in 1796 in Brunswick County. Woodruff seems to refer to Nancy living on her own in the 1810 census in Brunswick County.

For more:


2 thoughts on “Jamestown to Brunswick County and Beyond

  1. Above it lists Benjamin and Lucy (Tuberville) Phipps’ daughter as Martha Goodall Phipps. It states that she married Lazarus Vann, and that when she divorced him, she took back her maiden name. If this is the case, why do her children also have her maiden name? They are Robert Stanfield Phipps, and Lucy Tuberville Phipps (presumably named after her grandmother). Robert, Lucy and Martha are all found in record in Madison County, Alabama. Martha married Lazarus in Madison County, Alabama when she was around 44 years old – after her children were born. I see 3 possible options: 1, Lucy and Robert were illegitimate (seems unlikely), 2. When Martha changed her name, she also changed her children’s name (seems unlikely, not to mention she married Lazarus Vann after her children were born. 3. Benjamin and Lucy may have had a daughter named Martha, but also additionally maybe had a daughter-in-law named Martha Goodall? Perhaps William’s wife? Whichever son she was married to, perhaps he died young? If so, did they move to Madison County, Alabama together and he died there, or did Martha move to Alabama with her children after her husband died? Curious to figure this out.

    • It was not uncommon for surnames of children to unofficially change, for various reasons. Sometimes the surname was changed to that of a stepfather, for instance. Also, census takers appear to have sometimes assumed surnames of children, without asking.

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