Sailing to Jamestown

I was doing research for a new book and found three ships sailed from England in 1606 and founded Jamestown, Virginia. Their names were Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed. On a side note, there is some evidence the the first ship was actually named the Sarah Constant, but that’s neither here nor there. The ships carried 105 passengers and 39 crew, and it took them four months to cross the Atlantic. I added the ships to my story and didn’t think much else about them, until I saw the following picture…

susan constant, discovery, goodspeed replicas on the chesapeake

These are the replicas of the original ships. They were used in 2007 to celebrate the 400th birthday of Jamestown and remain docked on the James River. Well, if you know me, you know I love tall ships, so now you have my interest. The more I researched the ships, the more exciting tidbits I found.

Many American’s know the name John Smith (of John Smith and Pocahontas fame) as being one of the original settlers of Jamestown, but few know that he sailed to American on the Susan Constant, and less know that he was almost hung for having a disagreement with one of the ship’s officers. Instead of killing him, they imprisoned him on board the ship for the remainder of the journey. Four months is a long time to be confined to the hole.

The captain of the Godspeed was Bartholomew Gosnold. He had made voyages to the colonies before. In 1602, he discovered and named Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyards, but the settlements he tried to place there didn’t take hold. After securing funding and ships, he sailed again in 1606. This time confident that a settlement could be formed. The thirty-something husband and father never saw his family again, as he died of scurvy and dysentery only four months after landing in Jamestown. Don’t drink the water!

The Jamestown colony was settled in 1607 by adventurers bent on making a profit. The Plymouth colony was not settled until 1621. Plymouth settlers fled to the new world for religious freedom. Why is it that Plymouth is so much more popular in the American history books than Jamestown? Is it because of Thanksgiving and those silly hats the Puritans wore?


Genealogy 101

613treeI blog a lot about my ancestors, as I have over 9000 people in my family tree. I am not a professional genealogist, but I have researched my family since I was in my teens. I’m 50mumble now. Not only was I researching my family before was born, I was researching them before COMPUTERS were born. Take that!

Some visitors to my blog have asked me where to begin in their own search. Below are some basic tips. These tips are for people who have access to their families. If you were orphaned or adopted, you may need the help of a professional to assist you in your search. In some cases, that professional would be a genealogist, in others cases, it would be a private investigator, in others, a lawyer to help you gain access to court documents.


  • The first place to start is with your living relatives. (Take a tape recorder and/or a pad of paper with you!) Ask them what they know about the family. You’ll often find elderly family members will not only be a wealth of information, they will be happy to stroll down memory lane and fill you will stories of the past. Stories of their parents and grandparents, and stories of their great grandparents that they heard when they were small. Write these stories down. They don’t exist anywhere else and can shed light on records you will find. An elderly man in my family said his sibling had pink eye when they were about to immigrate to America, so they were not allowed to board the ship from Italy. When we found the immigration records at Ellis Island, there were two dates of immigration for the family – three months apart. We would have wondered what happened at immigration had we not been told the pink-eye story.
  • The next thing to do is dig through attics and basements. Look through photo albums, newspaper clippings, programs and announcements. I’ve seen old wedding invitations at my aunt’s house and had no idea who the couple was, but once she explained to me the connection to the family, I began extending my tree.
  • Now that you have a handful of names, dates, and places, Google them. You may be pleasantly surprised to find records online or find someone else has already been researching your family. If you find some of your ancestors have already been researched on Ancestry, you may decide to join. There are also other sites to store your findings – My Heritage, Family Search, – or you can purchase software like Family Tree Maker, or you can use a notebook. Whatever works for you.
  • Check U.S. Census records. They are all online and you can find them at sites like Ancestry and Find My Past. There are also directions on those site on how to search records. Be warned that the 1890 census was mostly destroyed in a fire, so you’ll have to connect your own lines between 1880 and 1900.
  • If you are near the city your ancestors lived, drive to the history/archives office. Also check old newspapers which are usually kept at the library, court records, church records, and cemetery records. Visiting cemeteries where your ancestors were buried can also shed light on the family. Infant mortality used to be a lot higher than it is now. If you are not near your ancestor’s city, visit Find A where volunteers catalog grave sites. You can ‘virtually’ visit cemeteries all over the country.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you run into a dead end. Attempt to go around your ancestor. I got stuck on my great grandmother because she lived a quiet life in the country and didn’t leave any records, but when I looked up her brother, the whole family came to life. If your ancestor didn’t leave records, he/she may have siblings or children who did. Keep searching.
  • Keep meticulous notes. When you find something, write yourself a detailed note of where and what the document was. Many times I’m asked how I know something, and it’s always good to verify the information came from a Bible Record or a Last Will. Beware of anyone else’s information. Sometimes people fill in the gaps in their research with guesses. Once others start to latch onto those guesses, everyone begins to take the information as fact. Keep notes. Research things for yourself.

Not only will you learn about your family and your heritage, you will also learn an amazing amount of history. When you take your ancestors birth and death dates and add the history of the town and the political and religious climate of the world into the mix, you begin to understand who you are and where you came from. Researching genealogy is a time-consuming hobby, but it’s an exciting journey!


Frances Culpepper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell etc etc

frances_berkleyMy cousin, Frances Culpepper (photo), was born in England in 1634 to Thomas Culpepper and Katherine St Leger. Thomas’s brother, John Culpepper the merchant, was my 10th great grandfather and will play a role later in her life. Frances was baptized 27 May 1634 at All Saints Church in Hollingbourn, where all of the family at that time was baptized. Her siblings were: Mary (1629-30 who died as an infant), Ann (1630-95), Alexander (1631- 24 Dec 1694, Surveyor General of Virginia), and John (1633-74 who often gets confused with John the Carolina Rebel, son of John the merchant).

Culpepper Connections website describes Frances as, “Apart from Pocahontas, Lady Frances Berkeley, the strong-willed, thrice-married and childless Colonial dame who ruled the political roost in Virginia from around 1670 until her death in the 1690s, was the Old Dominion’s most notable 17th century woman.”

Well, doesn’t that make you want to know more about her?

Her father, Thomas Culpepper, was one of the original proprietors of the northern neck of Virginia when the Virginia Charter was formed, transferring control of the colony from the Crown to individual investors. Following King Charles I execution, Thomas moved his entire family to Virginia in 1650 when young Frances was only sixteen. When she turned eighteen, she married the governor of the Albemarle settlement in what is now North Carolina. He was also the owner of Roanoke Island. Yes, where the very first colony disappeared from. His name was Samuel Stephens. Samuel and Frances lived for seventeen years on his 1350-acre plantation called Boldrup in what is now Newport News, Virginia. The plantation land and the house’s crumbled foundation is all that is left today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

SirWilliamBerkeley2Following Samuel’s death in 1669, Frances inherited his large estate and in 1670, she married yet another politician, Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia (photo). They took up residence at his estate called Green Springs (photo) near Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, about 200 acres of the original plantation land is preserved by the National Park Service, which acquired the property in 1966.

green springs


Nathaniel Bacon, T. ChambarsIn 1676 (100 years before the Revolution and the same year her cousin John Culpepper the Rebel was causing problems in Carolina) there was a dispute with the local Indians who had been chased north by militiamen. The Indians raided the Virginia frontier out of anger, hunger, revenge, who knows? Some colonists saw this as an opportunity to isolate or kill the Indians, some saw it as an opportunity for new slaves and lands. It was typical politics with each side rallying for their own cause. A newcomer to the land and the local Virginia Council was Nathaniel Bacon (photo). He asked Sir William Berkeley to form a party to kill off the Indians, but Berkeley refused as some of the Indians were Virginia’s closest allies. In defiance, Bacon raised a group of volunteers to fight the Indians. This led to a civil war of sorts, with Bacon’s followers against Berkeley’s loyalists. It also became a personal vendetta. At one point, tiring of Bacon’s threats, Berkeley bared his chest and dared Bacon to shoot him. After the public display, Berkeley threw Bacon out of the Council, later reinstated him, and then threw him out again. Berkeley ended up being chased out of town by Bacon’s men, who burned down the capital. Bacon died of dysentery in Oct 1676, but the fighting continued for a few more months without his leadership.

Here’s where Frances steps in…


Frances sailed to England on her husband’s behalf to ask King Charles II (photo) for help, and the King, unaware that Bacon was already dead, signed a proclamation for putting down the rebellion. He dispatched one thousand troops to Virginia, along with a commission of three men to find out what the hell was going on. By the time the soldiers arrived, without Bacon’s leadership, the rebellion had died down. The three members of the King’s commission watched Berkeley identify Bacon’s men as traitors and witnessed the hanging of twenty-three of them. Once the commission reported this back to King Charles II, he summoned Berkeley to return to England to explain his actions. As soon as spring arrived, Berkeley sailed to England to plead his case with the King. He became ill on the journey and went directly to his brother’s house in London upon arrival, where he died in July 1677 before getting a chance to tell his side of the story to the King. Frances didn’t receive the news of his death for months.

Here’s where uncle John steps in…

When John Culpepper the Merchant was fifteen years old, he attended Middle Temple, which was a law school. There he met a young William Berkeley, who was not a “Sir” at the time, and the two became fast friends. Though John was trained as a lawyer, he was more inclined to be a merchant, and in 1633, he bought a ship with his brother Thomas (Frances’s dad) called the “Thomas and John.” The ship delivered immigrants to the new world and shipped cotton, tobacco, and the like back to England. This was probably the vessel Frances and her family sailed on in 1650 to move to Virginia. During the rebellion, Frances and William Berkeley needed money to sail back and forth for this rebellion nonsense and they sold off Roanoke Island. Uncle John Culpepper was the lawyer who oversaw the sale of the land to the Lamb family, witnessing William Berkeley’s signature on the deed.

Gov_Phillip_LudwellIn 1680, Frances married her third husband, Col. Philip Ludwell (photo) of the 4,000-acre Rich Neck Plantation. Ludwell had been a chief supporter of Berkeley during the rebellion and also his cousin. Hmm. Frances never relinquished her title however and was known as Lady Frances Berkeley for the remainder of her life. She died around 1695 at the age of 61. Her body is interred at Jamestown Church Cemetery in Jamestown, Virginia.

As for Col. Ludwell, after serving as governor of the Colony of Carolina 1691-94, he returned to Virginia where he served as Speaker of the House of Burgessesin in 1695-96. In 1700, he moved back to England where he died in 1716.

Anyone seen a plantation around here?

My aunt lives in Meehan, Mississippi where she married Robert McQueen about fifty years ago. She told me one day an old black man came knocking on her door. She lives in the middle of nowhere, so a stranger knocking on her door was highly unusual. But being in the friendly South (and the fact that she always has a loaded pistol on her), she wasn’t concerned with not knowing the stranger, so she opened the door. He offered to sell her some vegetables. I don’t know if she bought them or not, but the two struck up a conversation.

He asked her if she knew the old Allen Plantation. He said his grandfather worked on it his whole life and it was around the area somewhere. She told him her mother-in-law was an Allen, but she didn’t know if they had a plantation, and she wondered why she had never heard of a family plantation before now.

I began searching for clues. Draw yourself a diagram and follow along. My aunt’s in-laws were William “Mac” McQueen and Mabel Allen, who was the daughter of Preston and Minnie Allen. Mabel’s uncle (Preston’s brother) was Joe Oliver Allen who married Amelia Hand. The couple lived in Amelia’s parents house (Alexander Trotter and Eliza Hand), and after her parents died, the property naturally transferred into the Allen family. I’m convinced the photograph below (circa 1903) is the family plantation the man on my aunt’s porch was speaking of, and if you look on the far left side, you’ll see a black man in the background. His name is George Weeks. My aunt never saw her visitor again, and I wonder if this man in the photo is the grandfather he spoke of.

mcqueen allen home 1903 see notesThe home was located in southwestern Lauderdale County, MS on Point-Wanita Lake Road, just south of Meehan.

Sitting Down in the middle is Eliza O’Ferrall Hand

The two little girls with Eliza are her granddaughters, Alda Allen and Marion Inez Allen.

To the left, Eliza’s daughter Amelia Hand Allen and Amelia’s husband Joe Oliver Allen. Amelia is holding their daughter Velma Estelle Allen.

To the right in the fancy hat is Eliza’s daughter Corette Hand.

The following info is from al and mary dot org

“Note the black man to the far left of the picture. His name is George Weeks. I have been told that right after the Civil War, George showed up at the Hand home, hungry, ragged, and able to speak only a few words of English. He was obviously just a few years from Africa and very confused. The Hand family took him in and he worked for them the rest of his life. The A. T. Hands moved into this home about 1878. Several years after this picture was taken, the old home burned, and the Allens rebuilt on the same site. I can remember the Allen home, having visited there with my parents in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. What I remember most about the home was a spring located across the road from the house with a hydraulic ram that pumped water up the hill and across the road to a tank that was located to the left of the home.” ~ Albert H Spinks, April 23, 2001.