Perhaps the Armisteads, pronounced “Ahmi-steyud” by colonial Virginians, are not the most important First Family of Virginia, but their impact is without question. They feature in most First Family genealogies, including two presidential lines the Tylers and Harrisons. They also have ties to other important figures such as Robert E. Lee and Robert “King” Carter to name a few.
Beyond family connections, the Armisteads were involved in settling along early Hampton and Norfolk as well as the Middle Peninsula, where the main family branch settled. Soon thereafter, the Armisteads were involved in not only Virginia, but also Maryland, and then North Carolina, before they started to spread south and westward into the evolving United States.
Along the journey, Armisteads featured in all of early America’s Wars from Independence to 1812, Mexico, and the Civil War to name a few. The most notable figures from those conflicts were William and his slave James, George, and Lewis Armistead respectively.
The Armisteads did more than fight America’s wars; however, they helped unite leading families, and build a Commonwealth as well as a newly formed Country. For that, their inclusion in the First Family list is undeniable.
Music used for the first episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “The Crossing” performed by The East Pointers, also available on Apple Music.
It’s hard to think about Yorktown, VA without the Nelson family. In fact, one could say it another way – It’s hard to think about the Nelson family without Yorktown. They were so instrumental in creating the once prominent port city that they’ve often been called the city’s founders. Whether they were or not is debatable, but what is not debatable is that Yorktown as we know it would not have existed.
“Scotch Tom” emigrated to Virginia in the early 18th Century, began many businesses, and established a solid foundation for his descendants in the process.
Those descendants became major figures that shaped Virginia and then the United State’s History. Undoubtedly that history would be quite different had this important family not existed, which is why the Nelson’s must be discussed.
The Parke Family may not have endured as the others on the First Family list, but their impact, mostly negative due to Daniel Parke, Jr, is undeniable. They burst onto the scene in both England and Virginia relatively quickly. Within a few generations, all that remained of them was their name, which was curiously demanded to be added to any who wanted to inherit Parke wealth.
The Parkes helped build Yorktown and Williamsburg. In the process, they found themselves at the heart of a thriving colonial community. It was a community that the last Parke male heir wanted to govern, but he couldn’t govern himself. In the end, the family that had intermarried with Ludwells, Byrds, and Custises saw their inheritance pass into those and other leading families of their day.
The Grymes have a hazy beginning in Virginia. The consensus is that they came from Ightham, England through Reverend Charles Grymes, but there are other theories. Bishop Meade, a Grymes descendant himself, claimed that they came from Thomas Grymes, Lieutenant General in Oliver Cromwell’s army. Famed genealogist Louise Pecquet Du Bellet recounts the same theory in her monumental work. But evidence supporting the claim is lacking. Either way, we do know who the Grymes were by their second generation.
From that generation onward we know a fair amount about this prominent Middle Peninsula family. They owned much land, served in high offices, and married very well. But by the late 18th Century the Grymes wealth had been spread thin, either by poor financial management, or inheritances which moved holdings out of the family.
The name still carried some weight into the 19th Century, especially as Grymes women continued to marry very well for themselves. However, those marriages served to spread remaining Grymes wealth throughout Virginia, and eventually out of the Commonwealth, furthering their slow decline.
Today little is left other than what was once Grymes’ land or tombstones of their most well-known family members. But they were once a proud family, a family that could rightly boast of their position among Virginia’s elite.
Jane Lucas DeGrummond. “Cayetana Susana Bosque Y Fanqui, ‘A Notable Woman.’” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, vol. 23, no. 3, 1982, pp. 277–294. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4232191.
“Grymes of ‘Brandon’ &c.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 27, no. 2, 1919, pp. 184–187. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243724.
“Grymes of ‘Brandon’, &c (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 27, no. 3/4, 1919, pp. 403–413. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243739.
“The Grymes Family (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 1, 1920, pp. 90–96. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243758.
“Grymes of Brandon Etc. (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 2, 1920, pp. 187–192b. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243769.
“Grymes of Brandon, &c (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 3, 1920, pp. 283–285. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243781.
“Grymes of Brandon, &c (Concluded).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 28, no. 4, 1920, pp. 374–375. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4243794.
The Ludwell family had arguably more impact upon Virginia’s foundations in the shortest amount of time. In just over a century three Philip Ludwells stood atop Virginia’s power structure, and then because of no male heirs, the name vanished in all but first and middle names used by other First Family relatives.
They hailed from Bruton, Somersetshire, England, the same area as Governor William Berkeley. In fact, they were most likely related to the powerful 17th Century Colonial leader, which appears to have aided the Ludwells from the very beginning.
Thomas Ludwell served in the Cavalier army during the English Civil War alongside Governor Berkeley’s brother John. John Berkeley recommended Thomas to become Virginia’s Colonial Secretary of State as a reward for his service to the Crown, and Charles II obliged. Thus, Thomas moved to Virginia. Philip, Thomas’s youngest brother, tagged along, and together they planted the Ludwell name firmly in Virginia’s history.
Virginia B. Price. “Constructing to Command: Rivalries between Green Spring and the Governor’s Palace, 1677-1722.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 113, no. 1, 2005, pp. 2–45. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4250232.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of Philip Ludwell Sr’s Crest. Greenspring Plantation is from Green Spring Plantation as seen by Benjamin Latrobe during the plantation’s Ludwell ownership. The Ludwell Paradise House is from Virginia Places.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on Apple Music, and “Roots” by The Arcadian Wild also available on Apple Music.
Not all of Virginia’s First Families held the Colony’s highest offices, but they didn’t need to hold those offices in order to affect Virginia’s history. Some of them, like the next name in our series moved in the same circles as the other families, and often intermarried within those social spheres.
A few things make the Taliaferro name an interesting study. Legends regarding their founding reach as far back as Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror’s Norman Invasion, and into Europe’s royal families. That’s before the Taliaferro name even made it to Virginia. Once in the New World, Robert Taliaferro “The Immigrant” got to work forging new bonds, while working to expand Virginia’s landscape. That work didn’t end with Robert’s death.
The Immigrant’s children picked up where their trailblazing father left off and expanded Virginia’s borders even further. While doing so, they began adding to the colonial framework, especially along the Middle Peninsula, before moving slowly westward. Along the way, Taliaferros featured in all of Virginia’s wars from as early as small skirmishes along frontier lines to the War for Independence, War of 1812, Civil War and beyond.
Their work has left a lasting legacy that soon spread not only beyond Virginia borders, but also color lines as well. Today, it is not uncommon to see the name shared by both white and black Americans. One former slave even proudly kept the name as part of his own. Perhaps this family didn’t put a son into the highest positions, but Virginia would not be the same without the Taliaferros immigration.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of one of the Taliaferro Family Crests. The William Booth Taliaferro and Booker T. Washington portraits as well as the Thomas Jefferson Sketch of the Taliaferro Crest are from Wikimedia Commons. The Taliaferro County, Georgia Map is from My Genealogy Hound. The final picture is of Carter’s Grove Plantation, a home designed by Richard Taliaferro from Riley and Associates.com
In this episode I begin making the case that perhaps Governor Berkeley’s greatest contribution to 17th Century Virginia and beyond was his encouraging Cavaliers to immigrate into the colony.
Beginning in the 1640s many of those Cavalier families took up Berkeley’s offer, and indeed moved many sons into the Old Dominion. The first family on our list, the Bollings, sent teen-aged Robert to the New World in 1660. He quickly worked his way into existing society, especially when he married Pocahontas’ granddaughter, Jane Rolfe in 1674.
Robert’s arrival was a case of old meets new in that the Rolfe line was one of the earliest prominent Virginia families, even if Thomas Rolfe, John and Pocahontas’ son, didn’t return to Virginia until the 1640s himself. The Rolfe’s still owned land, and it was in Thomas’ name. He received more lands over the next couple of decades, which made marrying his daughter Jane a highly prized choice.
Robert and Jane’s marriage extended genealogical links from John Rolfe and Pocahontas into the 20th Century. Their children and grandchildren were highly influential planters, merchants, and statesmen who helped shape Virginia into a powerhouse up to the American War for Independence and beyond. Because of that, as well as their connection all the way back to 17th Century Virginia’s most famous marriage, the Bolling family is my first episode in the First Family of Virginia Series.
1619 was a pivotal year in Virginia for many reasons, but author K.I. Knight says that one key issue that did not begin in 1619 was slavery. The “Twenty and odd” did arrive in August 1619, but according to Ms. Knight’s meticulous research the “Twenty” were in fact 14 at first, and many of those 14 went on to help save the colony after the 1622 uprising before securing land of their own. Some of them, like Anthony Johnson, even owned slaves themselves.
For sure, slavery seems to have been around the Virginia landscape in some form by the 1640s, but it wasn’t the institution that it became by the 18th and 19th centuries. Kathryn puts together an astounding narrative weaving extant court and genealogical records together to prove that the immoral institution evolved over time, before it became legally organized by the late 1690s and early 1700s. Exact beginning dates are hard to pin down, largely due to lost records. Regardless, the foundations for American slavery were being set during the 17th Century, and this episode discusses those foundations as they occurred in Virginia.