Early Chesapeake

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About us

This initiative has been established to extend the genealogical work of those with colonial and early U.S. (pre-Civil War) roots in the early Chesapeake region of Virginia and Maryland. Those with surnames and family histories linking them to the area are invited to join.

Many immigrants to the Chesapeake Bay area came in response to the need for labor for the large-scale production of tobacco. Since most were young and poor, it has been difficult for genealogists and historians to make the transatlantic connection. Up to the time of the Civil War, Virginia and Maryland received many whose prospects were bleak in the old world. It is hoped that the application of DNA genealogy will illuminate family connections and link researchers to English origins.

An interest in exploring the DNA roots of early Chesapeake settlers began with Sara Lewis's research in Mathews County, Virginia, located on Virginia's Middle Peninsula and discoveries she made after having her father's DNA analyzed. She found she was related to groups of Welsh descendants who did not share her surname. Therefore, the surnames listed here are related to her Mathews County, Virginia, research, but participation in the group is not limited to them.

About Mathews County, Virginia,: Mathews was formed in 1790 from Gloucester County, Virginia. Hugh Gwynn of Wales was an early settler whose land patents extended along the Piankatank River. Gwynn's Island bears his name and Milford Haven, the body of water that separates the Island from the Mathews mainland, is a clue to his Welsh roots. Other 1600s land records for the area that became Mathews include the names Armestead (Armistead), Bohannon, Billups, Curtis, Davis, Degges (Diggs), Dudley, Elliot, Forrest, Lillie (Lilly), Ludlow, Marchant, Mechen (Mecham), Morgan, Putnam, and others. The boundaries of Gloucester County's colonial period Kingston Parish include most of modern day Mathews. The parish vestry’s register of marriages and births from 1749 to 1827 remains a key tool for genealogists. The modern county is still populated by many descendants of its earliest settlers.

Minimal pedigrees for Early Chesapeake ancestors were included in former site co-administrator Dwight Hogge's website at http://hdhdata.org/chesapeake.html, who died in 2017. The co-administrators shared a long-term interest in adding to the body of knowledge on the evolution of English society in the Chesapeake Bay region. Currently, Sara Lewis is sole administrator.