How to Research Settlers From Early Hanover County, Virginia
Updated: Jan 6
When Hanover County was formed from New Kent County in 1721, this region had become crucial to the settling of central Virginia. By this time, the pioneers that had come to the area had started to become politically and economically affluent. From Anglicans such as John Henry and John Chiswell, they became important members of the county, but unfortunately for modern genealogists, it can sometimes be difficult to conduct research in Hanover. On April 3, 1865, a fire in Richmond, Virginia, destroyed wills, deeds, and other documents, presenting researchers with genealogical brick walls. However, there are still some remaining documents left. For the purposes of this article, we will explore examples on how to research the pioneer, John Henry, within the surviving records of Hanover County.
Although, before we can begin, it is important to realize that Major John Henry was a prominent Anglican, landowner. As a result, he and his family are easier to research, and despite the massive record loss, the records of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover were not lost. Nor were the colonial land grants destroyed, which allows us to break through this genealogical brick wall.
First documented in the parish records on June 11, 1737 as a vestryman in St. Paul’s Parish,1 John had just begun his political career. Trusted with helping run and maintain the Established Church in Hanover County, this was only the beginning. On March 17, 1738, John Henry was acting as a surveyor for Colonial William Merewether by drawing a plat map of Newcastle Town,2 a busy merchant city. Today the site does not exist, but in 1738, it was a settlment where men of status like John Henry participated in the tobacco trade. The consequences would further affect his wealth and his family’s prosperity.
To this today, we can also find surviving government grants where John Henry was granted large amounts of land in Hanover County. While it is true that the county deeds have been lost, the government records still remain intact. Beginning in January of 1733, John is given 1,200 acres,3 which is more evidence that he had become an important figure. By the time of his death, he was well respected.
For many descendants of Hanover pioneers, it can be a tedious and difficult task to research their genealogy. However, if they were part of the Established Church of England, it can be a great deal easier pursue this endeavor, especially if they were well off.
Documentation and Suggested Readings:
1. C. G. Chamberlayne, The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish (Richmond, Virginia : Virginia State Library and Archives, 1989), 148.
2. Eugenia G. Glazebrook, Preston G. Glazebrook, Virginia Migration: Hanover County (1943; reprint, Baltimore, Maryland : Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc, 2002), 55-56.Lela C Adams, Henry County Virginia Will Abstracts Vol. I and & II, 1777-1820 (Greenville, South Carolina, 1985), 13.
3. Denis Hudgins, Cavaliers and Pioneers Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants: Volume four: 1732-1741 (Richmond, Virginia : Virginia Genealogical Society), 27.