First Families of Virginia – The Custises

All families on the First Families list were involved across the world in one way or another, but arguably no one was more involved than the Custises.

Their family history is relatively short, but from their rather humble beginnings as Cliffes in England, they grew into important figures. The Cliffe name morphed into Custis, and then the Custis name spread to Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, the Caribbean, and Virginia.

Along the way, they mingled with royalty and aided some of history’s most famous people. Then, they became important and famous themselves. The main Virginia Custis line may have ended in the 1850s, but their accomplishments and landmarks endure, from the somewhat obscure Custis tombs to the hallowed Arlington National Cemetery. Indeed, without them, there wouldn’t be an Arlington.

In this pair of episodes, we take a look at the Custis family beginnings, and detail how they became the great family who played an important part in so much of Virginia’s history.

Custis Episode Part 1
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Custis Episode Part 2


SOURCES:

  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2004.
  3. Billings, Warren. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 2004.
  4. Bruce, Phillip Alexander. Social Life of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Origin of the Higher Planting Class. New York: JP Bell Company, 1927.
  5. Crozier, William Armstrong. Editor. Virginia Heraldica: Being a Registry of Virginia Gentry Entitled to Coat of Armor With Genealogical Notes of the Families. New York: The Genealogical Association, 1908.
  6. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  7. Evans, Emory G. A “Topping People”: The Rise and Decline of Virginia’s Old Political Elite, 1680-1790. Charlottesville, VA: UVA Press, 2009.
  8. Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  9. Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. New York: Charles Scribners, 1957. (Specifically Volume 1).
  10. Horn, James. Adapting to A New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  11. Jackson, Cordelia. “Tudor Place.” Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., vol. 25, Historical Society of Washington, D.C., 1923, pp. 68–86, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40067401.
  12. Lucketti, Nicholas et. al. Archaeology at Arlington: Excavations at the Ancestral Custis Plantation, Northampton County, Virginia. Virginia Company Foundation and APVA, 1999.
  13. Lynch, James B. The Custis Chronicles: The Years of Migration. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1993.
  14. Lynch James B. The Custis Chronicles: Virginia Generations. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1997.
  15. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  16. McCartney, Martha W. Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers: A Biographical Dictionary, 1607-1635. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007.
  17. McMillan, Joseph. Changes of Arms in Colonial North America: The Strange Case of Custis. The Coat of Arms: The Journal of the Heraldry Society, Vol. 11, Part 2, 2015.
  18. Meade, William. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. in Two Volumes. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1891.
  19. Neill, Edward D. Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles The First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s and Sons, 1886.
  20. Pecquet du Bellet, Louise. Some Prominent Virginia Families, 4 Volumes. Lynchburg, VA:  J.P. Bell Company, 1907.
  21. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  22. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  23. Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607-1763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  24. Washburn, Wilcomb E. Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell 1625-1660. Kindle Edition.
  25. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Under the Stuarts: 1607-1688. New York: Russell and Russell, 1959.
  26. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. The Planters of Colonial Virginia. Kindle Edition.
  27. Whitelaw, Ralph T. Virginia’s Eastern Shore: A History of Northampton and Accomack Counties. 2 Vols. Peter Smith, 1968.
  28. Wright, Louis B. First Gentlemen of Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Dominion Books, 1982.
  29. Zuppan, Josephine Little. The Letterbook of John Custis IV of Williamsburg, 1717-1742. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004.
  30. Jo Zuppan. “John Custis of Williamsburg, 1678-1749.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 90, no. 2, Virginia Historical Society, 1982, pp. 177–97, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4248543.




All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Custis Family Crest. Woodlawn and the Tudor Place are both from Wikipedia. The Arlington Mansion sketch is from Northampton County.

Music used for the first episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Waiting for Lightning” by The National Parks also available on Apple Music.

Music used for the second episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers also available on Apple Music.

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