October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – John Culpepper the Merchant

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 is 23 posts in 23 days (Monday through Friday) about 23 ancestors. It’s still not to late to join us.

Ancestor #2 –  John Culpepper the Merchant

My 10th great grandfather was John Culpepper, whom we refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant. He was born in 1606 in Kent, England to John Culpepper of Astwood and Ursula Woodcock, and some say he may have died in Virginia around 1674. I say “may have” because there is some genealogical confusion as to which John Culpepper was which. There were fathers, sons, and brothers all with the same name confused further by very sketchy records. Through my research, I have come to believe the John Culpepper who died in 1674 was actually his nephew, son of his brother Thomas.

Anyway, we do know John married a woman by the name of Mary and had sons named Henry (my 9th great grandfather), Dennis, James, Robert, and John of “Culpepper Rebellion” fame. At this point in history, female children weren’t noted, so between the five male births from 1635ish to 1645ish there may have been daughters born also. There is some evidence he had daughters named Hannah and Susannah, which sounds to me like a Dr. Seuss book, but the more I look at them, the more I’m convinced they were not his daughters. There is also further evidence of another girl named Abigail. I haven’t examined her records (or lack of them) yet.

feckenhamcourtfrontA few years ago, my cousin Warren Culpepper visited England and attempted to get pictures of John’s childhood home, the Culpepper manor, Astwood in Feckenham, but they were asked to leave by the owner. These photos are as close as they got.


John is thought to be the ancestor of most American Culpeppers. He and his brother had ties to Virginia, so between the boys running back and forth to England (who kept VERY good records) and colonial America (who kept very poor records) we kind of lose track of him.

St_John_the_Baptist,_Harrietsham,_Kent built in the 11th centuryThe few other details we know is that he was baptized in Harrietsham, England at St. John the Baptist Church (built in the 11th century) on 6 Oct 1606; he was admitted to Middle Temple (a law school) to be trained as a lawyer on 7 May 1621, listed in the records there as the second son of John Culpepper of Astwood, Esquire; and he probably didn’t like being a lawyer, because he took up a career of merchant instead. Darned kids never do what you want them to do.

Before 1633, he became part owner with his elder brother of a merchant ship called the “Thomas and John,” which was involved in trade between England and the colonies. Merchants of colonial America left very few records, so our research suffers, but it would appear he and his brother owned a trading company with points of presence in England, Barbados, New England, and Virginia. Maybe this is where my love of tall ships comes from.


culpepper book 2 cover ideaEven though we don’t have a lot of records about John Culpepper the Merchant, we can tell he was obviously a brave man, sailing back and forth across the Atlantic like that. Ahoy, sailor!

17 responses to “October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – John Culpepper the Merchant

  1. Pingback: October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – John Culpepper the Rebel | a day in the life of patootie

  2. Pingback: Nice House, Gramps! | a day in the life of patootie

  3. Pingback: Frances Culpepper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell etc etc | a day in the life of patootie

  4. Perhaps this ancestor is the reason I am in the nautical Antique business in West Palm Beach.
    An old story goes that either John or a brother practiced the fine art of acquiring livestock and other good and valuable from Spanish in the Caribbean and sold for a tidy profit in Barbados. It is also said that they neglected to offer compensation for their acquisitions. There is still Culpepper Island on the East coast of Barbados to this day and many leftover Culpeppers running about the island

    • Thanks for stopping by, David. I’m sure the nautical DNA was passed on to you. 🙂
      I’ve been researching these numerous Johns for a new book I’m writing, and I’ve come to the conclusion there were 4 of them at the time they were merchants.
      1. John the Merchant 1606-? (owned the ship “Thomas and John” with older brother Thomas.)
      2. John the Rebel 1644-1694 (John the Merchant’s son, who I think owned the ship “Culpepper” and was the merchant between Barbados and the colonies. I’m not convinced his dad ever made that Barbados trip. It seems he only sailed between London and VA, escorting new immigrants to the colonies.)
      3. John son of Thomas and Katherine 1633-1674 (John the Merchant’s nephew who I think was the Surveyor General of VA and died there in 1674, confusing the above blog even further.)
      4. Lord John 1635-1689, who was a cousin and owned Leeds Castle.
      Of course every John had a brother Thomas and every Thomas had a son John. :p Now, I’m going to look at that Culpepper Island. 🙂

      • Hi Lori,

        Thanks, It is my understanding that one of these fellows was the sheriff of Norfolk County before it was divided. His brother was the privateer. I have never found any family proof of this. I suspect that sort of endeavor was not logged anywhere.

        Best regards, David Culpepper

      • A lot of researchers think the sheriff/surveyor was John the Merchant, and his brother Thomas’s kids were John the Rebel and Frances Culpepper Berkeley, because they think John the Rebel signed legal documents for her, but that young John was never trained in law. I think John’s father was indeed John the Merchant, and also the one who signed the legal documents because he was trained as a lawyer. I’m positive John the Merchant and Thomas both had sons named John, the rebel and the sheriff/surveyor, respectively, and the records are getting mixed up. And John, son of Thomas, did have a brother named Alexander who may be your privateer.
        Anyway, I may call on you to help me with ship details as I write this book. I don’t know my jib from my mizzle. haha!

        • Hi and thanks for clearing up something I did not know.

          All you need to know about vessels is the difference between the stim and the stern. If you know this you will go in the direction you wish.

          I still do not know exactly which of the Colonial Culpeppers I came from.

          Check google earth, Culpepper Island is in the East of Brbados. There is another Culpepper Island in the Galapagos. Some charts have a Spanish name, others Culpepper.


          Best regards, David Culpepper

  5. Pingback: Frances Culpepper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell etc etc | a day in the life of patootie

  6. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #10 Thomas Culpepper | a day in the life of patootie

  7. Pingback: Sir William Berkeley – Culpepper Saga | a day in the life of patootie

  8. Pingback: Culpepper Saga People and Places | a day in the life of patootie

  9. According to Ancestry.com Henry Culpeper is my 11th grandfather through my paternal great grandmother. I’m still confused on some of the details of John “The Merchant” Culpeper. Luckily someone already did all the hard work to trace him.

  10. Pingback: 52 Ancestors – #27 Joseph B Culpepper, Patriot | a day in the life of patootie

  11. Pingback: Nice House, Gramps! | Lori Crane

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