Thursday, February 22, 2024

On Hog Island


Sometimes, our family history discoveries may put us in hog heaven. At other times, we may run across histories which seem to have gone hog wild. But when I see a narrative which states that my Chew ancestors first lived in a place called Hog Island, I remind myself that this researcher is not hog tied; I can let my fingers do the walking through all those online resources to examine the records.

If we wind our way backwards through time, from my seventh great-grandfather Larkin Chew to his father, Joseph Chew, we see that the family which in more recent times had lived in Colonial Virginia was now in neighboring Maryland. Yet, before Joseph Chew's supposed 1716 death in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, his family had come to Maryland from York County, Virginia. That, in fact, was Joseph Chew's likely birthplace.

According to the Joseph Lyon Miller book, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford," the founding ancestor of this Chew family line was John Chew, Joseph's father. The Miller book states that John Chew came to Virginia about 1620 and "settled first at Hog Island."

Unfamiliar with Virginia geography, I had to look up that reference to Hog Island. I like to use Wikipedia entries for a quick, thumbnail sketch of a location as I do family history research, just to get a general idea of what the place was like, its history and neighboring cities and counties. But looking at the Wikipedia entry for Hog Island showed me right away that someone got something wrong in this narrative. According to the Wikipedia entry, Hog Island was first settled in 1672 by a small group of English colonists.

Oh oh. That 1672 date far exceeds the Miller claim of John Chew's arrival in 1620. And yet, the book also mentions that John Chew served in the House of Burgesses, representing Hog Island in 1623, 1624, and later in 1629. This discrepancy calls for additional verification.

A quick check indicated that the colonial Virginian government established in 1619 as a precursor to the House of Burgesses was known as the General Assembly. A list of those first representatives and the settlements which they represented in 1619 shows, of course, no mention of John Chew yet—but it also reveals there was no mention of anyone representing Hog Island. On the other hand, an alphabetical listing of all representatives to the House of Burgesses from that first year through 1775 included someone by the name of John Chew (and also someone named Larkin Chew), so it is likely John was part of that governing body. At least the Miller book explains that John Chew also served as representative of York County in the House of Burgesses at a much later date.

Regardless of this discrepancy in times and locations, another book echoed the same history. A genealogy written by a Chew descendant, Frank Chew Osburn, and printed posthumously by his estate in 1945 affirms that same Hog Island location with an early settlement date of 1621.

With that tale of the immigrant ancestor John Chew, we move from those whose lives can be at least partially documented on this continent to conjecture about which parents came before, and from which homeland location—Somerset? or Worcestershire? The latter is not one of my goals for this month's Twelve Most Wanted research, nor, I think, will it ever be. Though I never expected the Chew line in this country to have extended so far, it was certainly satisfying to have trailed it all this way.

From this point, we'll wind our way back to John Chew's descendants to check what else might be learned about the spouses associated with this line in the next few days. And then, there's one more detail I need to examine, back at the point at which we started with Hannah Chew and her husband John Carter: just how it is, if at all, that John Carter was related to the famed colonial Virginian dubbed King Carter.

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