Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Florida Crackers


Depending on whom you consult, the term Florida Cracker may refer to immigrants from as early as colonial times to more recent arrivals—well, make that around Civil War times—in Florida. The point of the term is to delineate those who were pioneer settlers, generally of European heritage, in the region which eventually became Florida. Many of those immigrants were North American colonizers who moved south from the Carolinas and Georgia, some of whom were Scots-Irish, Irish, or English by ancestry, often moving along the frontier regions of each of those states before arriving in Florida.

Among Floridians, the term is sometimes used simply to denote that their family has been in Florida for many generations. Of course, genealogists—not about to lose an opportunity to chart such relationships—have come up with designations to honor such pioneer residents, and the Florida State Genealogical Society has made their database of "Florida Pioneers" publicly available on their website. Not surprisingly, some Townsend family members—such as the one I mentioned the other day, Allen Townsend, possible brother of my third great-grandmother, Delaney Townsend Charles—have been recognized in that category of early settlers to territorial Florida.

When the Townsends came to north Florida during its territorial years, they were among many others who had followed that same migration pattern—moving from South Carolina through Georgia, then eventually across the state line into the northern region of what eventually became Florida. Perhaps the fact that in 1860 a map maker issued a map featuring the counties of Florida, strangely juxtaposed with the state of South Carolina, is no surprise.

Though my family line which leads back through the generations to Delaney Townsend has not been confirmed to the specific identity of her parents—my third research goal for this year—this past month has clarified several possible connections to other Townsend settlers in the area around Madison County. Between my Townsend line and the Charles line she married into—plus the McClellan line of her daughter Emma's husband—I certainly have a number of eligible ancestors to document through the Florida State Genealogical Society's pioneer program. Guess that makes me a "Florida Cracker," too.

Now that the month has come to a close, we'll move on in April to another research goal for 2021. This time, we'll move from my mother's ancestors to my mother-in-law's roots and revisit a challenge from last year which also was left uncompleted. While we put the mystery of Delaney's Townsend roots on hold in Florida and South Carolina, we'll move on to another set of early settlers in the south: the Carrolls in colonial Virginia.


  1. The records you need are just so elusive!

    1. This is where being able to go to the local area and research in person comes in handy. Not everything is accessible online...yet.

  2. Jacqi you are so helpful. I'm going to use the resources you have linked to do some searching. I have already found records that my gr-gr-grandfather Jeffers (who never lived in Florida) bought land in Madison County for his wife's younger brothers. I can see where Thomas Anderson the sheriff paid him back, but I have lost all trace the youngest brother James Anderson. I have often wondered, and now I have more tools.

    As for reasons Carolinians migrated to Florida, I have often scratched my head about that, too. I have lived there, and I had air conditioning :-) I asked one of Thomas the sheriff's descendants - he said it was to do missionary work. I have my doubts about that. Scrounging around in old newspapers, I believe I saw where a young Thomas, living in Hamburg SC with the Jeffers, joined the local militia, which marched off with great fanfare to fight the Indians in Florida. I'll bet he saw the possibility then of acquiring land there later. (His own father apparently mismanaged the family money and property.)

    1. You may be on to something with that speculation about joining the militia during the Seminole Wars, Lisa. I didn't mention it much in my posts, but during this entire period I was researching, some of the Townsends--and the other families they married into--were involved in those same battles in Florida.

      But don't dismiss outright the possibility of missionary work. My branch of the Townsend line married into another line in that region, which did include a minister. I suppose anything is possible.


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