North Carolina

17th Century Virginia Settlers

When one expands a family tree to the 17th century, a new world emerges. A distinctive society develops upon the pages of long ago equipped with unfamiliar customs, culture and standard daily living. Strange writing phrases and patterns are quickly noticeable by examining the time period materials and documents. Researching the 17th century is different from future centuries but very entertaining and intriguing. This fascinating time period quickly becomes a new learning curve for the majority involved with genealogy research. You can accomplish the task by broadening your horizons and allowing the flow of this century to drive you forward with your family genealogy. A positive realm embellished with patience is a perfect attitude to have when digging through these records.

Grave Markers Under an Oak Tree located in Accomack County, Virginia-Pictured in the background is the Ralph T. Whitelaw house. The right wing was built circa 1673 (Courtesy of The Library of Congress)

Finding bountiful documents takes a specific approach and may stay mysterious until you become more familiar with the record keeping process. The storage arrangements for much of this material will differ greatly from region to region. Digging into this unknown evidence allows new development from the family historian which makes the personal experience of 17th century exploration so satisfying. This blog will take you on a journey to various early surnames arriving to Virginia during the years of 1634 and 1635. You will discover the highlights of an initial stage probe attempt on actual persons from this time period. Always prepare yourself for research by setting guidelines and rules to follow. The stage probe mentioned encompasses this technique with a positive attitude, patience for the materials to appear and a method of analyzing the results correctly. The actual probe process developed over the years by researching and digging into the records. The inquiry will study the lives of these individuals with a specific approach by sharing the knowledge on hand and tracking their footprints one step at a time. Are you ready to begin? Moving on to the next segment where the evidence comes to life from the 17th century. The good stuff.

The early surnames mentioned below acquired land in the amount of 50 acres Applications submitted for these grants often provide additional details about the individuals. The identity of the person is confirmed by requiring the first and last name as well as the name of the individual who was responsible for transporting the applicant to Virginia. The dates associated with the land grant is the date of the processed application. Please note, dates of initial arrival are perhaps years before the date of the completed land grant. This procedure enhances importation grants which is one of the key factors of establishing settlement and becoming a landowner during the 17th century.

Land Grant for John Lacy dated 1667 (courtesy of the Library of Virginia Archives)

This probe will begin with Richard Lacy receiving 50 acres of land on July 2, 1635, in Virginia. This information is documented with the book entitled, “Virginia County Records” by William Crozier, page 22. Richard received his sponsorship for transportation from Samuel Weaver. The Lacy surname appeared frequently in Virginia throughout the 17th century as the following evidence will show. First, apply the research on the focused area. In this case, the information gives us the area of Virginia and by concentrating on this we begin to collect records immediately. An encouraging discovery of a later land grant issued on March 28, 1667, is shown for John Lacy. This particular parcel consisting of 370 acres is located in Rappahannock County. Could he be related to Richard? Also, the discovery of a will dated August 5, 1700, in the name of Peter Lacy brings additional questions. This individual apparently died at a young age as the will mentions his uncle, Thomas Connaway. Could this person be related to Richard Lacy of 1635? Now the original path we began with suddenly becomes wider and filled with possibilities of new probes and discoveries. A further probe into a possible link from Richard Lacy to John Lacy in the Rappahannock County area would be the first step in moving forward.

Map of Virginia by Christopher Browne circa 1685 (courtesy of Library of Congress)

The next probe will embark on an adventure with Robert Greenfield who received his land grant on July 9th, 1635. Robert arrives to Virginia due to the sponsorship of Thomas Phillips. The sponsor in this case may lead to a more direct location as discoveries of land abstracts plainly show Thomas Phillips owning 300 acres in James City. His home is located on the south side of Chickahominy River, and he receives an additional 150 acres for transporting not only Robert Greenfield, but also Robert Mason and Solomon Davillos. Your primary focus now becomes the region of Chickahominy River in James City, Virginia.

A brief listing of various surnames ranging from 1634 to 1635 are listed in this paragraph. Virginia quickly established the coastal areas during the 17th century and rapid growth occurred with new settlements advancing inward to the central portions of the colony. The additional surnames located for these years are; Baldwin, Pursen, Hardwood, Hasley, Griffin, Cowes, Baker, Powell, Eastwood, Dyer, Walton, Archer, Parker, Jones, Pattison, Edwards, Owles, Howard, Hill, Grimes, Manning, Foster, Bolton, Chant, Peale, Yates, Atkins, Hickman, Cripps and Crouch. These and many more can be found among the state records of Virginia.

As you can see from this brief example, the 17th century records are available for research. The most difficult thing with this type of research is locating exactly what you are looking for. Take in all the clues and hints. Each one of these will guide you on a remarkable journey to the past. Along the way, you will embark on adventures that you never thought of and all the while preserving the history of your family during the process. I wish you all tremendous success with your personal journeys and discoveries into the 17th century of colonial Virginia.


  1. Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents published by The Virginia Magazine of History & Biography 1895
  2. Early Virginia Immigrants by George Greer published 1912
  3. John E. Manahan. “New Light on Old Charles City County.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 64, no. 4, 1956, pp. 458–473. JSTOR, Accessed 15, Oct. 2020.
  4. QUISENBERRY, A. C. “THE FIRST PIONEER FAMILIES OF VIRGINIA.” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, vol. 11, no. 32, 1913, pp. 55–77. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Nov. 2020.
  5. Library of Virginia Online Database
  6. Virginia County Records by William Crozier published 1905 pp. 21-26
  7. Virginia Museum of History & Culture

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