Past News Summary
1. ARTERBURN is not genetically related (within any meaningful time frame) to any
of the previously suspected variant spellings of "Arterburn" as represented by
the individuals bearing those surnames (i.e., "Edeburn, Otterburn, Arterberry,
Otterbein, Arthaber") who agreed to participate in our Project (see "DNA Results"
page), since their Y-SNP results locate them in Haplogroups J, R1b, and I, respec-
tively, and ARTERBURN is in Haplogroup R1a. Whether these particular individuals
represent all family lines bearing these surnames has been rendered irrelevant,
since we now have definitive evidence of the most recent genetic origin of the
ARTERBURN patrilineal line in the Old World.
2. The ancient ancestry of ARTERBURN is defined by Y-SNPs R-Y47/46, our specific
subclade within the larger Haplogroup, R1a. We have matched with distant relatives
who share common ancestors with us, and who are either Indian emigrants living
abroad or Indians currently living in India (see "Results" page). Thus, South Asia
— the subcontinent of India, apparently, was the Old World place of origin of the
patrilineal ancestors of William and Peter. This genetic evidence is corroborated
by historical evidence, most notably the court testimony of relative, John Elsea, in
which he attested that James Arterburn's father "was a very dark skin man, as
dark as a Cherokee Indian," who "came from the East India" (cf. Some Research
Our Story In Continuing Research:
When Some Research Notes was compiled and published, we lacked the
servant, "John William/Williams" of Charles County, Maryland?
mother — perhaps spelled differently, or did Peter simply adopt a different
(i.e., other than "Williams") surname?
5. Could "Elizabeth," a "Pamunkey Indian Queen" and mother of George
Williams who "intermarried" with the (East) Indian, William, have been the
mother of "Peter Otterburn," which could explain a Shenandoah (Warren)
County tradition in which "Otterburn" — remembered as the name for a
"tribe of Indians" — became the namesake of "Otterburn School?"
6. Was William's Elizabeth the "full-blooded Indian" remembered in
family tradition (cf. The Arterburn Cousins, pp. 10-11), since mtDNA
testing has proven that William Arterburn's wife, Nancy, was of European
matrilineal descent and not a "full-blooded Indian?"
7. If Elizabeth was Peter's mother, could "Atterburn" or "Otterburn" have
been an English-sounding surname shortened or adapted from an ancestral
Indian name (e.g., "Ottopomtacke") derived from Peter's mother?
Arterburn, Otterburn, Atterburn, ____?____
The pronunciation of the "Otterburn" surname with its anomalous
variations of spelling found in 19th-century English census records
are remarkably similar to the variations in spelling of Peter's name
as recorded in 18th-century public records of Maryland and Virginia.
In 19th-century England, "ar" was often pronounced with broad A
(as in "father") while the "r" sound was dropped or diminished
of ordinary speech (e.g., "card," "arse"). This speech sound of
broad A could be confused with the sound of short O, and vice versa,
when names were spelled only from vocalization, as illustrated
by anomalous renderings of "Arterburn" for "Otterburn" names in
England (see Some Research Notes (7th ed.), pp. 29-46; pp. 61-70).
The "Great Vowel Shift" that resulted in the emergence of broad A
Early Modern English had begun in the 15th century, and also
impacted evolving American English in 18th-century Maryland
The earliest spelling (May, 1773) we find in Shenandoah County is
of "Peter Otterburn" in Henry's record of baptism, which agrees with
the broad A sound heard in "Arterburn." Some transcriptions of
"Atterburn" (e.g., when not in an alphabetical list, originally) could
arguably have been transcribed as "Otterburn," since examples
of upper-case cursive "A" and "O" (without an upper loop) can be
found that are virtually indistinguishable. (For an example of Peter's
name transcribed as "Otterburn" in Prince William County, see "Prince
William County People," then compare this to the actual facsimile
image of the "Tithables List of 1765," in Appendix #5 of Supplemental
The broad A sound heard in "Arter-" and the similar sound of short O
in "Otter-" suggest that broad A (not short A as in "cat") was probably
represented in renderings of "Atterburn," in those instances where
cursive "A" was originally rendered, although this appears to us a
deviation in spelling since a short vowel typically precedes double
consonants in English, today. "Atterburn" (as transcribed) is found
exclusively for Peter in Maryland, and occurs predominantly for both
Peter and William in Prince William County, which suggests that an
"r" sound was not heard in the first syllable of Peter's pronunciation,
originally (as suggested by the rendering, "Peter Otterburn," also).
While Peter was likely born in America and learned to
speak English from childhood, his repeated use of a
personal mark is evidence that he was almost certainly
illiterate. Thus, Peter's surname as spelled in public
records was almost certainly the result of the phonetic
renderings of others based on Peter's pronunciation,
not Peter's spelling. We cannot safely assume that
"Atterburn" or "Otterburn" simply and literally
rendered in English whatever speech sounds Peter
may have initially vocalized as a surname. However,
we can reasonably infer that Peter's vocalization of
his name apparently remained largely consistent from
1736 on—assuming that broad A and not short A was
originally intended in the renderings of "Atterburn,"
which appears likely. Peter may have early conformed
or adapted his own pronunciation to more closely
match that heard from other English speakers reading
or repeating his name, as well.
The evidence is clear that Peter's patrilineal ancestors could not have
been English (or Scottish) "Otterburns." Could Peter's mother have
been an "Otterburn?" There is no history of "Otterburns" in colonial
Maryland or Virginia. Both Native Americans and free African Americans
in colonial Maryland and Virginia apparently adopted non-inherited
surnames. We must seriously consider that Peter may have simply
adopted his surname. Peter's Asian ancestry also makes this prospect
more likely, since he would have been less likely to have had an inherited
English surname on his father's side. The additional prospect, explored
below, that Peter's mother may have been Native American increases
the probability that Peter adopted rather than inherited his surname.
What then are we to make of the tradition of German ancestry reported
by a majority of the descendants interviewed by Art & Jan Arterburn,
or of the related claim (never actually substantiated) of Swiss ancestry
for the ARTERBURNS by a Shenandoah County genealogist? Could
Peter's wife, Sarah, have been the source of this German tradition?
Germans were by far the majority population in Shenandoah County,
and Peter clearly associated with English-speaking Germans and Swiss
(e.g., Henry Spillmann, John Wolf, Samuel Stover/Stauffer). Some of
the children of Peter and William and their descendants intermarried
with Germans and Swiss (e.g., Booker/Bucher, Carrier/Karrier, Houn,
Leith, Smoote/Smootz, Wey, Wolfe) in Virginia and Kentucky and Indiana.
In his monumental work of research, Paul Heinegg's summary statement
that "East Indians apparently blended into the free African American
population" clearly does not describe the ARTERBURNS. In his foreword
to Heinegg's book, Maryland historian Ira Berlin notes that "Heinegg's
genealogical excavations reveal that many free people of color passed
as whites—sometimes by choosing ever lighter spouses over succeeding
generations." Although Berlin primarily had free African Americans in
mind, his observation also applies to East Indians and Native Americans.
Peter and William were always listed as "White" in the tax lists and
censuses of Shenandoah County, apparently a clue that they were accepted
as such among their peers. However, some of William's family members
were mistakenly reported as "Blacks" in the Tax Lists of 1787 and 1796.
One of the reasons William and Nancy moved their family from Shenandoah
County to Kentucky was because they "did not fit in" in Virginia, according
to family tradition as reported by the authors of The Arterburn Cousins.
Prior to Shenandoah County, the few extant records in Prince William
County and in Maryland make no explicit mention of Peter's status, with
the reasonable inference that Peter was regarded as a "free person"
and apparently accepted without racial distinction. This could be a clue
that his wife before Sarah — in Prince William County or in Maryland —
was also a "fair skin woman."
Art and Jan Arterburn knew almost nothing of the ARTERBURN story
before Shenandoah County when they published The Arterburn Cousins.
We owe them an immense debt of gratitude for their groundbreaking
research, but they missed or discounted important clues and evidence
even in Shenandoah County public records. They also made some
mistakes, but then made determined efforts to publicly correct those
mistakes when discovered (e.g., "William Smith Arterburn" and Mary
"Polly" Arterburn as William's daughter). Regrettably, Jan and Art had
both left us before new evidence was discovered which corrects their
assumption that Peter and William were brothers. We may never
have "smoking gun" evidence to positively prove that William was the
son of Peter. But the weight of the evidence that we do have clearly
does not support the assumption that Peter and William were brothers.
The evidence does reasonably support the conclusion that Peter was
much older than William, and that an unnamed William was apparently
present and counted in Peter's household — before the approximate
time of William's marriage and birth of his first child. These and other
clues make it far more likely that Peter was William's father.
The Arterburn Cousins did not present any evidence to support the
"brothers" assumption because there was none, and none has since
been found. This assumption was largely based on the fact that both
Peter and William had young children in Shenandoah County. But we
now have evidence of additional and unidentified members in Peter's
household overlooked before who may have been children and older,
of different and earlier birth years for some of the children of record,
and clues that Sarah was younger than Peter (cf. Supplemental Notes).
Sarah does not appear by name in any extant record until 1773, so
we cannot be absolutely certain which children born before 1773
belonged to her.
We know Peter's age and birth date (1711) from public records in
Maryland. Peter appears several times in extant records of Charles
County, Maryland from 1736, and in Prince William County (PWC),
Virginia from 1759. William appears for the first time by name in
any extant record much later, in 1767, and only in Glassford's credit
accounts, in PWC — about the time that William married and started
his family, and long after Peter's credit had already been established.
Peter appears in the Tithables List of 1765 in PWC as head of house-
hold with another male, age 16 or older; William is not otherwise
listed. Peter appears in court records of Prince William County, but
never William. Peter was a landowner in Virginia, but William did
not become a landowner until much later, after moving to Kentucky.
Peter requested and was granted a permanent exemption from the
poll tax in Shenandoah County, in 1783, "for age or infirmity," as
provided by Virginia law. Peter continued to appear in tax lists
as exempt (from the poll tax) but with taxable personal property,
and we know that Zachariah McKay charged Peter for rent in 1790,
neither of which would likely have occurred if Peter had been "infirm"
in 1783. Thus, Peter's permanent exemption was almost certainly
granted because of age. William never at any time requested or
received such an exemption.
Peter drafted his Will in 1796 after an absence from the tax lists for
a few years — perhaps a sign of frailty or failing health, and died in
1803. In his Will, Peter left his entire estate, which consisted only of
personal or chattel property, to Sarah unless she should remarry—
implying that she was considered a prospect for remarriage. If Sarah
should remarry, then Peter's property was to be divided among "each
of my sons and daughters," implying children other than Sarah's. If
Sarah had been comparable in age to Peter, and Peter's progeny were
limited to his family with Sarah, there would have been no need for
such provisos. Finally, William made the arduous move of hundreds
of miles to Kentucky with his family, about 1798, and apparently lived
a vital life until his death there— almost 20 years later, in 1817.
Peter and William apparently moved their families about the same
time from Prince William, Fauquier, or Culpeper County to old Frederick
or Dunmore County, Virginia, and were obviously closely related (as
confirmed by Y-DNA testing). We have no evidence of a "Peter Sr." and
"Peter Jr."— all of the evidence we have clearly points to only one "Peter"
who was old enough in Shenandoah County to have been born in 1711.
The scenario that best explains the evidence is that William was most
likely the son of Peter, born to a previous wife in Maryland, probably
within the time frame, 1732-49. There may have been other children,
too, whether or not they all survived, as suggested by unidentified
members in Peter's household in the censuses of 1775 and 1785 (see
also Some Research Notes and Supplemental Notes).
We have no solid clues about the identity of William's mother, Peter's
previous wife. John Elsea's description of James Arterburn's mother as
a "fair skin woman"— presumably Sarah, suggests a decided preference
for an Anglo-European identity, as do the intermarriages of their children
and descendants (and of those of Peter's son, William) with Germans,
English, Scots, and Scotch-Irish.
The anomalous rendering of "Peter Arturberner" in Shenandoah
County appears more likely a case of an identity attributed than
of a surname revealed, given what we now know. "Arter," "Bern,"
"Berner" and "Burner" were represented in Shenandoah County.
However, this compound rendering of "Arturberner" cobbled
apparently from the sound of Peter's name has no history in either
Germany or Switzerland. Germans of dark complexion (e.g., "Black-
Dutch") from the south of Germany and neighboring Switzerland
physical appearance, informed perhaps by the knowledge that he
had German relations, and the fact that he was in court supporting
a German, "Henry Speelman," when this early spelling was rendered
(1774) might have suggested such an identity to the clerk who
heard Peter and recorded his name. If this clerk happened to have
been a German literate in English, he might have heard either
English broad A or German long A, both of which are practically
identical in sound. Similarly, the consonant "r" at the end of a
syllable (as in "Ar tur bern er") is often muted or slurred by German
speakers, similarly to English non-rhotic "r." In either case, this
spelling would probably have sounded like "Ah tuh buhrn uh"
when pronounced in this environment, and essentially matches
that heard in the renderings of Peter's vocalization spelled as
"Otterburn" and "Atterburn" (i.e., with broad A).
The evidence is clear that Peter's patrilineal ancestors were not
dark Germans or Swiss. However, Peter's support of Speelman
and apparent connections with other Germans, together with
intermarriages and a family tradition all suggest some kind of
familial or cultural relationship, very likely derived from Sarah.
William's wife, Nancy, who has now been confirmed through
mtDNA testing to have been of European (matrilineal) ancestry,
possibly could have been of German descent.
"Arturberner" probably does not tell us anything about the origin
of our surname, but does mark the emergence of "Arterburn" as the
predominant spelling found in public records of Shenandoah County.
"Arterburn" occurs only twice in Prince William County (PWC), in
John Glassford's Dumfries Stores accounts— for Peter, compared to
ten entries of "Atterburn" (as transcribed) for Peter and William in
these same accounts, not including extant PWC court records for
"Peter Atterburn." These two anomalous "Arterburn" spellings in
Prince William County appear to be instances of interpolating "ar"
in rendering Peter's pronunciation, interpreted as English broad A
with non-rhotic or diminished "r," similar to anomalous renderings
of "Arterburn" (and "Atterburn") for "Otterburn" in England.
for pronouncing "aunt"— a word not spelled with "r"— in his
London dictionary in 1775. Walker's example seems remarkably
revealing of the extent to which "ar" had become identified
during Peter's time (e.g., Tidewater English) with the speech
sound of English broad A paired with non-rhotic "r."
Whether the "Arterburn" spelling became the final form of our
surname as a result of the intersection of German and English
cultures and languages in 18th-century Shenandoah County,
aided perhaps by our family's embrace of a German-American
identity the better to fit in, may be impossible to prove but seems
likely. The origin of the tradition of our German ancestry and
the origin of our surname are probably not related, otherwise.
As American English continued to evolve and as rhotic pronun-
ciation became the norm, and as literacy improved, the spelling
of "Arterburn" was established beyond Shenandoah County in
family and public records. However, spelling variations of our
surname can be found in public records throughout the 19th
century. Even today, many of us have probably heard others
pronounce "ar" in "Arterburn" as broad A with and without the
sound of "r."
"Peter Atturburn alias Williams"
The formulation, "Peter Atturburn alias Williams," (Liber T, No. 2,
p. 214) has not been found subsequently in Charles County Court
records. Although earlier records that are available have not been
searched, this entry (1736) may reflect Peter's (b. 1711, age 25)
first court appearance and a statement of Peter's bona fides as a
free man with standing before the court. "[A]lias Williams" suggests
the court might have relied on the previously adjudicated status of
We also have the account of John Gardiner pointing out his
Maryland and Delaware / by Paul Heinegg.
" ... George Williams son and heir to William who
intermarried with a Pamunkey Indian Queen named
Elizabeth of Prince George's County ... a certain
Ward aged 75 deposeth that he has known George
Williams a Native Indian from his infancy ... son of
the Queen of Pamunkey who was wife to an Indian
called Mc [Mr?] William the father of the said Geo.
Williams ... 31 years ago  George Williams
and his parents lived where Fran[ci]s Payne now
lives ... John Gar[di]ner deposed the Indians were
forted in Cornwallis' neck about fifty years ago ... "
(Underline, italics, and bracketed contents above
added. See Heinegg's complete transcription. Also,
this land located in Prince George's County in 1733,
referred to as "then lying in Charles County"— was
located within the boundaries of old Charles County
before 1696, and later reverted to new boundaries
and relocated within Charles County, after 1748.)
The terms "intermarried" and "Native Indian" in contrast with
"Indian" in this context suggest that George Williams' father
was probably an Asian or "East Indian" and not an American
in Charles County, today, is reminiscent of the fact of
the prehistoric habitation of Pamunkey Indians on the
western shore of Maryland. From Maryland.gov Website:
"One of the largest tribes in the Powhatan
Confederacy, the Pamunkey tribe was
centered in northern Virginia, with villages
in Charles, Prince George's and St. Mary's
counties, Maryland. With the expansion of
European settlement, the Pamunkey
consolidated, abandoning many of their
villages, including all those in Maryland."
The Pamunkey tribe has occupied a state reservation
in King William County, Virginia, since the 17th century,
but only just recently received Federal recognition by
the U.S. government, the only Virginia tribe to have
achieved such recognition thus far.)
John Gardiner (of Nonesuch) here testified apparently in
support of this claim of George Williams, whose family
had also lived in the community around Mattawoman
Creek (see also "Prince George's Land Records," below).
If Peter belonged to the family of George Williams and had
had a longstanding acquaintance with Gardiner, this could
account for why we find Peter at Nonesuch, in 1736/7.
William and Elizabeth are identified in this court record
only by English calling (given) names. Complete names
were typically used to identify individuals in these court
records. This appears to be a telling clue that William had
not inherited an English lineage or surname. George's
surname of "Williams" very likely was a "patronym,"
adapted from his father's name (i.e., son of William),
probably on the occasion of George's Anglican baptism
or when as a boy he attended the "Indian school" at
the College of William and Mary (see below). Elizabeth,
identified by her son as a "Pamunkey Indian Queen,"
appears to have been "Mrs. Betty, Queen of the
Pamunkey Indians" ("Betty" was/is a common
nickname for "Elizabeth"), who succeeded her aunt,
"Cockacoeske," as "weroansqua" or female chief of
the Pamunkey upon the death of her aunt, in 1686.
(See the image of the silver frontlet presented by
Charles II, King of England, to Cockacoeske, first
to bear the title, "The Queen of Pamunkey," on
our masthead above.)
Betty's age is unknown. She was mentioned only
as the "niece" in a document upon her succession,
in 1686. This and the fact that "Mrs. Betty Queen
of the Pamunkey Indians" appears as her name in
only one document much later, in 1701, suggests
that Betty might have been a young maiden or
even a child, in 1686.
requesting the confirmation of a sale of
Pamunkey land to English subjects is
submitted to the General Court bearing
the mark and the name, "Mrs. Betty, the
Queen." It is thought that Mrs. Betty
..., the niece who succeeded the Pamunkey
chief Cockacoeske, [and Ann] are the
(Encyclopedia Virginia. Underline and
bracketed content added)
after the royal Queen Anne ascended the throne of
England (1702), perhaps as a conciliatory gesture
toward the English at a time when the fortunes of
Pamunkey Indians were waning. That Betty may
have been young when she became leader of the
Pamunkey is suggested also by the fact that "six
great men of Pamunkey Town" co-signed, using
their adopted English names with personal marks,
the first petition bearing the name, "Queen Ann,"
in 1705/6. These "great men" may have been
Betty's council of advisors from her earliest days
as a youthful leader of the Pamunkey.
"Often, Indians held more than one name
simultaneously, with different names used in
"Sparse documentation and the Powhatan
Indians' practice of changing their names on
important occasions have led to confusion in
identifying the principal leaders of the
"Pocahantas [aka "Amonute," aka "Matoaka
alias Rebecca"], for instance, had a formal
given name; a "secret," or highly personal
name; and nicknames that were updated
throughout her life, sometimes commenting
on her personality or her position within the
(Encyclopedia Virginia. Hyperlinks and
bracketed content added)
"Elizabeth/Betty" and "Ann" were apparently one and
the same, as suspected by historians and virtually
confirmed by the fact that their personal marks (i.e.,
cursive upper-case "E") were essentially identical.
George Williams was probably the unidentified son of
"Queen Ann" who was sent to the "Indian school" at the
College of William and Mary, in 1711. George's age or
birth and death dates are not known, but he was living
with his parents in 1702, and thus was likely a child or
youth in 1711. The wording of this court record and its
reference to a formal petition to the governor appear to
represent George as a literate and astute person, and
this coupled with the fact of George's Anglican baptism
also support the likelihood that he may have benefited
from formal schooling.
("John Williams" was identified as an "Indian" in the
1784 tax list of King William County, Virginia. "James
Williams" was one of "the Indians of the Pamonky
tribe" who signed a petition to the Virginia Assembly,
in 1798, as noted (pp. 59, 151) in the recent finding
of the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs
in granting the tribe's petition for Federal recognition.
Both men may have been descendants or relatives of
George may have used "Elizabeth" instead of "Ann"
as his mother's name in this court record because the
former (as in "Betty") must have been her primary
English name, as suggested by her persistent use of
of Arterburn DNA Project or our Project's Facebook
page for the documentary image of Betty's mark),
even when signing as "Queen Ann." That Betty either
chose or was given the English name, "Elizabeth,"
also suggests an aspirational awareness of English
royalty befitting a "Pamunkey Queen," since the colony
of Virginia was originally named for the "Virgin Queen,"
evident in choosing as a second English name an
time when the Pamunkey Indians undoubtedly were
in need of the goodwill of the English. The English royal
Queen Anne was married to "George," a Prince from
Denmark (as in Prince George's County). That Elizabeth—
as "Queen Ann," chose the name of "George" for her
son appears to have been an homage to the English
royal family, as well.
"Hessin Casseyous, Queen of Pamunkey," signed a Deed
with her personal mark, an upper-case cursive "E," most
likely the English phonetic rendering of her Indian name,
(Liber C, p. 84a) that conveyed 250 acres of Indian land
on Pamunkey Creek during the "natural life" of William
Hutchinson and his son, John, October 26, 1703, there-
after "to be returned to me, my heirs and successors."
"Izingoughsiowaugh, Queen of Pamunkey," had concluded
"Articles of Peace and Amity" with the Governor of Maryland
on April 9, 1700, but did not sign; "[S] Chixenehat[t], husband
to the said Queen and Colonel [E] James her Speaker and
Plenepotentary," both signed on her behalf. These examples
of Elizabeth's Indian name are phonetically similar, and most
likely represent the same underlying Indian name. Whether
William also adopted a Pamunkey name or used his (Asian)
Indian name and signed as "S Chixenehatt" in this instance
for Elizabeth, or whether this was actually another Pamunkey
tribal leader is unclear.
This court record (p.332) of George's claim includes
testimony that "Mary Dempsey 58 years deposes she
knows William ..." (from Heinegg's transcription), so
William must have still been alive in 1733. But no
mention was made of Elizabeth. This appears to be
a clue that Elizabeth was already deceased by 1733,
which would also accommodate the presumptive date
of Queen Ann's death (1723 or after).
William must have been recognized as a free man since
George apparently asserted his lawful claim to this land
through his father as well as his mother. In his petition
that George presented to the current proprietary governor
(who had traveled from England to Maryland briefly in
1732), and now lodged as this record before Charles
County Court, George claimed that the governor's
who served as governor of Maryland for two terms,
1661-76 and 1679-84, had "granted" this land to
George's "ancestors" the Pamunkey Indians who
later by "Mutual agreement of the Indians afsd
[i.e., aforesigned, or conveyed] their part to your
petitioners father [William] and his heirs forever."
Could "Peter Atturburn alias Williams" have been the
younger son of William and Elizabeth? If William did
not have an inherited English surname, then Peter may
have had no compelling reason to use the same surname
as George. Charles County Court used this extended
name for Peter in this single instance only, in 1736, as
far as we know— as if "alias Williams" was an initial
validation of Peter's identity and legal status as a free
person before the court by connecting him to George
Williams' family. Peter next appears (1743) in Charles
County Court, and in all subsequent court records,
only as "Peter Atterburn."
If Elizabeth was Peter's mother, her native customs
might have influenced Peter's choice of a different
surname. Naming practices among Powhatan
peoples— which included the Pamunkey— were
distinctly different to that of Europeans, and did
not use the equivalent of inherited family names:
"The Powhatans ... also took multiple names,
sometimes simultaneously, beginning early in
their lives. These multiple names did not follow
the English pattern of first name, middle name,
and surname, however. In fact, Strachey reports
that the Powhatans were unaccustomed to
English naming practices and often insisted on
calling Englishmen by their first names only."
(Encyclopedia Virginia. Ellipsis added.)
Peter may have had an ulterior reason for choosing
a different surname. Peter's desire to identify with
Europeans, or to distance himself from his Native
American or Asian roots or from African Americans
in Maryland bearing the "Williams" surname— one
or more of these reasons could have been a factor.
This dispute over land rights on Cornwallis' Neck may
have even played a role; we don't know exactly when
Peter first used the surname that we find recorded
as "Atturburn," in 1736. Apparently, George Williams
lost in court his ancestral claim to this land (see the
the letter of advisement from the Governor's Council
to Charles Pye, in 1736; see also Calendar of Maryland
State Papers, No. 1: The Black Books, p. 226; and
"The Cornwallis or Mattawoman Neck, 1608-1890.")
Whether George and "his family" were allowed to "live
quietly" on the land he had claimed, as recommended
by the Governor and Council to the counter-claimant,
Charles Pye, or chose to move away remains unknown.
However, the remarkably coincidental timing of the
apparent arrival of "Peter Atturburn alias Williams" at
John Gardiner's "Nonesuch," about 1737, suggests that
Peter could have been living on this ancestral land on
Cornwallis' Neck, along with George and his family
(and Elizabeth's William, and perhaps other family
members, too). Peter may have decided to move
away because of the controversy or have been forced
to do so after the loss of George's claim. If they
were brothers, George and Peter might have chosen
different paths at this point: George, who was
identified as a "Pommonkie Indian" in his petition
to the Assembly of Maryland, might have moved
his family to Pamunkey reservation lands in King
William County, Virginia (where we find "John Williams,"
in 1782, and "James Williams," in 1798). Peter,
whose subsequent history is known to us, evidently
cast his lot with Europeans and became a tobacco
planter and, for a time, the tenant of John Gardiner,
who may have been a family friend.
If Elizabeth's William was Peter's father, this could be
reflected in the naming of Peter's apparently first-born
son, "William" (i.e., William who married Nancy and
and d. 1817 in Jefferson County, Kentucky), born to
Peter's previous wife in Maryland.
If Elizabeth was Peter's mother, this could be reflected
in the naming of "Elizabeth (Arterburn) Carrier/Pringle"
and "Elizabeth (Arterburn) Cornwell," daughters of Peter
and William, respectively.
The Otterburn Indians of Warren County
If Elizabeth was Peter's mother, this could explain the
naming of the early 20th-century "Otterburn School"
(in "Otterburn Precinct," today) for a "tribe of Indians"
that once had lived there. (See the Arterburn DNA
for the newsclippings, "Otterburn's Mysterious Origins"
and "Woodland Indians Lived in Warren.") The school
building is located where Peter is known to have lived
in Shenandoah County (in Warren County, Virginia,
known by this or a similar name; "Peter Otterburn"
was the obvious referent.
We must consider the possibility that, if Peter
was the son of William and Elizabeth, whatever
he initially vocalized in Maryland as a surname
could have been derived from an Indian name
given to him by his mother or that he himself
had chosen, whether adapted by Peter himself
to sound more like an English name or by those
who initially rendered "Atterburn" in spelling.
"Virginia Indians began adopting English first
names after the middle of the seventeenth
century. In the 1680s, a small number of
Indian children who went to work for English
farmers were given English first names, and
in some county records both names were
recorded. By 1700 some Indian elders took
on English first names, sometimes paired with
shortened Indian surnames, to be used when
dealing with non-Indians and possibly even
among themselves. By 1750, ... most
Powhatan people [which would have included
the Pamunkey] ... had English first [names]
and surnames that they apparently used
(Encyclopedia Virginia. Underline, hyperlinks,
ellipses, and bracketed contents added)
"Ottopomtacke," the name of one of Powhatan's
wives, could have been shortened and adopted
by Peter. If vocalized by Peter as "Ottopom,"
his contemporaries could have heard "Ottabun"
instead, which was then rendered in spelling
as "A/O/tterburn." Instances of the renderings,
"-bon / -bun," at the end of our surname have
been found that suggest that this word sound
may have been closer to the actual vocalization
of Peter and William than "burn," which may have
been spelled with interpolated non-rhotic "r."
If Ottopomtacke had been the ancestor of Peter
through his mother, Queen Betty/Elizabeth, how
could Betty have been the "niece" of Cockacoeske,
who was a descendant of Opechancanough,
brother of Chief Powhatan? We would assume
Betty and Cockacoeske to have been cousins, in
the same way the English calculated relationships.
But the Powhatan Indians, who had different
customs and did not distinguish family lines by
surname, may have used the borrowed term
"niece" differently in their matrilineal society
than was customary for the English.
The inspiration for the naming of "Otterburn School"
by a 20th-century surveyor/builder in Warren County
may not have been derived from local tradition about
Peter's "East Indian" ancestry, but from actual if
garbled local memory of "American Indian" ancestry
for the ARTERBURN family, as well.
If Elizabeth was Peter's mother, our family tradition in
which William's wife was remembered as a "full-blooded
Indian" (cf. The Arterburn Cousins, pp. 10-11) likely
refers to William's Elizabeth — who probably was a
"full-blooded" Pamunkey. We have tested the mtDNA
of a matrilineal descendant (#466293) of Elizabeth
(Arterburn) Cornwell, daughter of William and Nancy,
which revealed that William's Nancy was of European
(i.e., Haplogroup H) descent and not Native American
on her mother's side, which confirms that this family
tradition probably does not refer to William's Nancy.
Testing the Y-DNA of a patrilineal (male) descendant—
if one could be found— of George Williams would show
whether George's father was also likely to have been
Peter's father. Since Asian ancestry has been confirmed
(Y-DNA) for Peter on his father's side, a positive test
match with George's descendant would also confirm that
George's father was "East Indian," or Asian, as suggested
in the Charles County Court record. Aside from the prospect
of DNA evidence, we may yet find documentary evidence
in historical records— whether public or private— that
could confirm this likely scenario of Peter's parents in
Maryland. Whether the story of William and Elizabeth is
our story presents an exciting prospect for the future
of ARTERBURN family research.
"Francis Pain, age 29 years; mentions Henry Ward ..."
"John Ward ... mentions his father, John Ward, Sr.,
(Note: "Ruth Coffer" witnessed John Ward's Will)
"Henry Tanner, age about 89, declares that about
(Notes: Nelson County, adjacent to Jefferson;
Might Peter Arterburn's unusual and distinctive personal mark of
Note the remarkable similarity between Peter's mark
Our Story in Continuing Research:
Developments in 2016
We have results of autosomal DNA testing (using FTDNA's Family Finder, 23andMe,
and Ancestry.com) for two descendants of William Arterburn Jr., three descendants
of Elizabeth (Arterburn) Cornwell (William Sr.), three descendants of Elzia Arterburn
(James Sr.), a descendant of James Arterburn Jr., a descendant of Isaac Arterburn
(James Sr.), and two descendants of Jemima (Arterburn) Collins. These twelve (12)
descendants represent a cross-sampling of the lines of descent from both of Peter's
apparent wives (i.e., Sarah and the unknown mother of William).
We have applied the raw data from these autosomal DNA test results in GEDMATCH's
Eurogenes K13 admixture model, a model recognized for reliable correlations with
Native American populations. All of these descendants, who represent seven (7)
different lines of three of the children (including William Sr.) of Peter Arterburn, have
shown a small percentage of Native American ancestry, consistent with the fact that
7-9 generations separate these descendants from Peter's mother, and also consistent
with the fact of intermarriage with Europeans in every generation since, including that
of Peter and William. That we have both family tradition and independent local
tradition (in Warren County, Virginia) of Native American ancestry for ARTERBURN
appears to corroborate these atDNA findings.
GEDMATCH's Eurogenes K13 model also returned results for each of these descendants
of West/South Asian ancestry in ARTERBURN atDNA, which appear to correlate with
our Y-DNA test results of Southwest Asian (Indian) ancestry for Peter's father. Our
conclusive Y-DNA results for the ancestry of Peter's father point to the likelihood that
the common denominator for Native American ancestry across family lines of both Peter
and William most likely would be Peter's mother. Testing of autosomal DNA (atDNA)
and X-DNA does not reveal which ancestral line(s) was Native American, of course.
But the probability that all could be positive for Native American ancestry owing to
family lines other than ARTERBURN seems highly unlikely.
As for the future, if we could find a documented descendant of George Williams to
participate in Y-DNA testing, this would effectively show whether or not George's
father, William in Maryland, was also Peter's father, and our common "East Indian"
or South Asian ancestor; and, thereby, whether William's wife, Elizabeth, was
likely to have been Peter's mother. If such a descendant were found, atDNA testing
could also reveal Native American ancestry, and might result in atDNA matches with
ARTERBURN descendants, which could provide further confirmation that Elizabeth
was likely to have been Peter's mother. Perhaps another ARTERBURN descendant,
whether of the present or of the future, will not rest content to leave this work
unfinished, and will take up the search and find a living male (patrilineal) descendant
of George Williams (and/or of William and Elizabeth). Whereupon, Y-DNA testing
might finally confirm with confidence our ancestral first family in America.
Family Search: Charles County, Maryland Genealogy
Family Search: Virginia Public Records
MSA: Maryland Government Records (Jurisdiction: Search by County)
Facebook: Arterburn DNA Project
Wikipedia: Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)
Eupedia: Haplogroup R1a (Y-DNA)
National Geographic Society: Genographic Project
Smithsonian/NMNH: Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation
Miss America 2014: Nina Davuluri
ABC News: Indian Ancestry of Princess Diana
Interior/Indian Affairs: Proposed Finding for Acknowledgment of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe
Estes/Native Heritage Project: Pamunkey Indians