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Home: Surnames: Pettus Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: Thomas/Stephen Pettus??father of
Posted by: W. W. Pettus Date: November 29, 2001 at 22:35:42
In Reply to: Thomas/Stephen Pettus??father of by E. A. Sloan of 941

If you are confused about Stephen Pettus, immigrant to Virginia, you have every right to be. The databases I have checked have all sorts of conflicting dates and parentages for Stephen. Most early Pettus genealogists were unaware of him or ignored him. I have written most of the contributors to the databases asking them where they got their information, and the invariable answer (if I got one at all) was that the contributor had gotten his or her information from someone else. Apparently, no one had done any research into original records.

Here are some facts, based upon original records:
The Virginia land patents show that Stephen Pettis was in Virginia by 1637. A Stephen Pettus was assigned an interest in land on the James River in 1642 (Byrd Title Book). Later in the 17th C., Stephen Pettus lived on Ware Creek in New Kent Co. (Virginia land patents). He had some troubles with the sheriff of New Kent Co. (Minutes of the Council). Stephen Pettus is mentioned on a few occasions in 17th C. court records of York Co., which is SE of New Kent and north of James City Co.

In 1700, a Stephen Pettus of Blisland Parish, New Kent Co., was one of the grantors in the sale of the Pettus estates (including Littletown Plantation) in James City and New Kent counties. Ware Creek is in Blisland Parish. Some writers believed that the grantor was the son of Thomas Pettus II of Littletown Plantation, but why did he live in Blisland Parish in the next county? More likely, he was a descendant of the immigrant Stephen.

Allowing for poor handwriting on the part of a clerk, Stephen Pettus may have been the Stephen Petty who was on the Quit Rent Roll for New Kent Co. in 1704. The name Stephen Pettus/Pettis shows up in the parish records of New Kent and later Hanover County from about 1710 to 1720. Stephen Pettus patented land in what became Louisa Co., Va. (Virginia land patents). Stephen Pettus married a daughter of Capt. George Dabney (holographic will, 1729) and had sons Stephen, Jr., Dabney, George, and John (not necessarily in that order). Stephen, Jr., evidently inherited his father's plantation, and the younger sons got the land in Louisa County. A good deal is known from extant records about the lives of Stephen, Jr., Dabney, George, and John. Furthermore, some solid genealogy has been accomplished for the later generations descending from Stephen.

How many generations of Stephen Pettuses are mentioned above? That is open to interpretation, since no birth or death records are extant. My forthcoming book examines the possibilities and reaches some conclusions.

Pocahontas Stacy (The Pettus Family, 1957) thought that the immigrant Stephen was the son of Col. Thomas Pettus of the Virginia Council, but she cited no record showing that Thomas married before coming to Virginia. Bear in mind that if Stephen was the eldest son, he would have inherited his father's plantations under the law of primogeniture. But the plantations were inherited by Thomas Pettus II, who was an orphan in 1672 (Minutes of the Council). About a year after Thomas's daughter Elizabeth died unmarried in 1700, Stephen Pettus of Blisland Parish sold the plantations (deed).

I know of no record of the birth of a Stephen Pettus in Norwich in 1619 or any other year. 1619 sounds a bit too convenient to me, because that was the year that Thomas Pettus of Norwich and Virginia became 21 (he was born in 1599). On the other hand I did find a Stephen Pettus who was born in England in 1629 and orphaned in 1634. This Stephen Pettus is the only one that I have found in the English records (I have copies of at least two different original records that mention his father). This Stephen was Col. Thomas Pettus's first cousin, once-removed. I am presently documenting my research in the notes to my forthcoming book.

You mentioned two Thomas Pettuses arriving in Virginia about the same time. Perhaps you have in mind (1) [Mr., Capt. (1643), Col. (ca. 1650)] Thomas Pettus, who was in Virginia by 1641 as a member of the Council of State (commission from Charles I), and (2) Thomas Pettus, Jr., who was named as a headright by Capt. Thomas Pettus in 1643 (land patents). Note that Thomas Pettus, Jr. was not Thomas Pettus who inherited the plantations. Thomas Pettus II was an orphan in 1672. If Thomas Pettus, Jr., was the son of Col. Thomas Pettus of the council, he must have died young, and a later son was given the same name.

The supposed marriage of Susanna, supposed daughter of Stephen Pettus of New Kent, to Evan Ragland is largely based upon Ragland family tradition and the fact that some early Raglands used the name Stephen or Pettus (parish and land records). I cannot confirm the marriage, nor can I disprove it, but I have no reason to doubt that the conjecture or tradition is valid. Have you read the recent books (ca. 1997) on the Ragland Family by Charles Ragland? Unfortunately, these books are no longer in print.

For more details and analysis of the relevant documents, you will have to wait for the publication of my forthcoming book.


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