Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Speedy Overview

Mostly, family trees are assembled step by step. After all, each new entry from the previous generation needs to be carefully inspected by comparison with documentation on the specific individual in question. Perhaps, in following the work of genealogical trailblazers in my pursuit of my sixth great-grandfather John Chew's parents, I hadn't expected to run into such a speedy overview. But that is indeed what I've stumbled upon.

In exploring some old genealogical publications of the previous century yesterday, we discovered that John Chew's parents were Larkin Chew and his wife, Hannah Roy. From those same resources viewed yesterday, it was easy to see the trail moved quickly from Larkin Chew to his father, Joseph, and then onward to yet another generation—all still in the British colonies in North America.

Here's the overview, as found in a few resources posted online. First, from last month's research into another of my mother's colonial lines, John Carter, I discovered a brief overview of the Chew family in the 1912 Joseph Lyon Miller book, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford." While the section began with the founding immigrant, we'll continue our exploration by connecting with the generation immediately preceding Larkin Chew.

According to the Miller book, Larkin Chew was the only child of Joseph Chew and the unnamed daughter of a "Mr. Larkin of Annapolis." With the mention of Annapolis, we immediately recognize that we are no longer researching ancestors living in colonial Virginia, but from neighboring Maryland. In fact, though Larkin may have lived his adult life in Virginia, he was likely born in Maryland. Joseph Miller speculated that Larkin's father Joseph, though born in Virginia, had moved to Maryland sometime after 1659.

Joseph Chew, whom Miller pinpoints as having been born in 1641 and dying in Anne Arundel County in 1716—though I have yet to find support for that—was apparently born a colonist, despite the early date of his birth. According to Miller, it was Joseph's father, another Chew man named John, who was the founding immigrant. This pushes the timeline of the family's arrival in the New World to a fairly early date. 

John, the immigrant ancestor, was said to have been born in England in 1598 and arrived in Virginia "about 1620," according to Joseph Miller. Putting that date in perspective, the passengers on the Mayflower reached land in that same year. England first established the Jamestown settlement in 1607 in Virginia. So whenever it was that John Chew arrived in the New World, he was among some of the earliest arrivals to the continent.

That, of course, depends on whether that information was all correct. While the Miller book may be fascinating to follow (at least for those readers who can claim the book's subjects as their ancestors), I can find very little in the way of notes regarding sources. And yet, I can find other publications which echo that same information—some, more or less similar though not entirely agreeing with the specifics. A wry thought sometimes passes my mind that this seems not entirely unlike our modern avocational researcher's tendency to copy other people's online trees. More repetition does not necessarily make a statement become truth.

Fortunately for us, our Chew ancestor's point person—Larkin Chew, whom I'm currently researching—had ample mentions of his name in court records, back in Spotsylvania County and elsewhere. Thanks to a tip from fellow blogger Patrick Jones of Frequent Traveler Ancestry, one website he shared includes a running catalog of several of those court records for Larkin Chew, along with abstracts of the legal issues in which he was mentioned. That, at least, can give us a jump start on the tedious process of sifting through the details of one man's life in colonial Virginia.

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