I am currently working on 'Our Brown Roots' which will be a book about my father's family. This is a small portion of that book.
Note: This is a work in progress & may be changed as more evidence is collected.
1645 VA - 1710 VA
John Alford is the earliest Alford who we can point to with confidence, and say, this is our direct ancestor. John was born in Virginia c 1645.[i] The names of his parents have been lost with time. We can find John in the records of eastern Virginia in the County of New Kent, established in 1654. The area’s early inhabitants were of English stock and the area was named for Kent, England.[ii] The boundaries of the county changed over time but we know our ancestor was granted land there. In 1682 John Alford had two land grants in New Kent County. On 20 April 1682 he received a land grant for 410 acres on the south side of the York River beginning at “a corner tree of a dividend of land formerly surveyed and patented by Colo. Hammon, standing in the Slashes of Coshockahick.”[iii] On 22 October of the same year he received a grant for “150 acres on the south side of York River and is reputed Colo. Hammonds land called by the name Nantacooke Neck.”[iv]
Early settlers in Virginia, like our Alfords, faced a vast forest with no open fields or plains. Although the task of clearing land for planting was tremendous the forest held many resources. The daily needs of the settlers came from the land and the water.
Midst tall pines, oak, walnut, cedar, wild cherry, locust, swamp willow, holly, myrtle and persimmon, entangled with grape vines, reaching the tops of trees, and Virginia creeper, game found a haven. Deer, bears, rabbits, squirrel, opossum, raccoon, foxes, weasels, mink, otter and muskrat were sheltered in the thickets and adjacent swamps, while wild ducks and geese made of the marshes, boarding the waterways, a rendezvous for days and weeks their flights southward. The bay, at hand, and its estuaries abounded in trout, hogfish, rock, shad, sturgeon and other edible species in season, not to speak of soft-shell crabs, hard-shell crabs, turtles, terrapin, clams and oysters.[v]
As the land was cleared cedar, cypress and black walnut were exported to England. Pitch, tar, iron ore, sturgeon, sassafras were exported as well. Tobacco was the lucrative crop. Corn, barley and wheat were planted to meet daily needs. Livestock supplied milk and butter.[vi] Settlers found or grew what they needed and sold the excess to England.
We can find John Alford in the records of Saint Peter’s Parish within New Kent County. At that time in Virginia a parish “was a unit of both civil and religious authority that covered a set geographical territory.” Each parish had both a minister and a governing body called a vestry comprised of local elites.[vii]
As a religious institution, a parish contained a mother, or central, church, and frequently two or more so-called chapels of ease in outlying areas that the minister served on successive Sundays. As a civil institution, the parish vestry was charged with overseeing a wide range of responsibilities that included social welfare and presenting moral offenders to the courts.[viii]
Our Alford ancestors lived in Saint Peter’s Parish in New Kent County. We can find many references to them in the records of the parish. The vestry set an annual levy, or tax, that was used to pay the salary of the minister and to provide for the poor of the parish. The levy also helped to relieve parishioners of the expenses associated with raising bastard children.[ix] In October 1687 John Alford was compensated for “nursing a bastard child.”[x]
Vestries appointed individuals to maintain local roads and provide ferry service over Virginia's many rivers. In 1698 John Alford applied to St. Peter’s Parish to “help cleer [sic] the Roads” in his area.[xi]
Another task of the vestry was processioning land or “going round … the bounds of every person’s land” in the parish every four years. They reviewed the landmarks that separated the properties of the various occupants of the parish. Property that was processioned three times “without complaint gained legal status as the formal boundaries of an individual’s property.”[xii] In 1701 John made an appeal to the vestry of the parish to have his property processioned.
Whereas, Mr. John Alford and Mr. Will. Major made complaint to this vestry that they have never had their lands prossessioned [sic] according to Law, the orders being Lodged in the hands of Col. John Lightfoot, who never put the Same in Execution; Therefore, ordered that John Wilson, John Lightfoot, Esq’r, Mr. Will. Major, Mr. John Alford, Dan’ll Parks, Esq., and William Millington forthwith goe [sic] on prossessioning [sic] and reamarks [sic] Each others’ bounds, and make returns of this order to the next vestry.”[xiii]
In 1704 John was still in New Kent County, with 240 acres in Saint Peter’s Parish.[xiv]
John may have had a brother named William Alford who also lived in the area at that time. William Alford had sailed from Bristol, England for Virginia between 1654 and 1663. He appears in several records of the time.[xv] However, we cannot be certain of his connection with our John Alford. William Alford died 11 February 1709/10.[xvi] ,[xvii]
John died in New Kent, Virginia on 14 March 1709/10.[xviii] We do not know the name of his wife but we know the couple had at least five children born in New Kent County: James Alford, Elizabeth (Alford) Winfrey, William Alford, Mary (Alford) Wood and John Alford. These children and other Alfords are included in the records of the county and the parish.
John was, almost certainly, buried at his home.
At every plantation there was a family burying ground, not far distant from the house, and usually in or near the garden, where blossoms carefully nurtured, brightened the last resting places of deceased family members. The plantation burying ground originated through necessity rather than in sentiment. In the seventeenth century a real problem would have been posed by any attempt to transport he deceased and the funeral procession to the distant churchyard.[xix]
[i] Saunders, C. A., My Alford Heritage (Texas: Morgan Printing, 2005).
[ii] New Kent County, New Kent County Virginia History (newkent.net: Accessed 2017).
[v] Jester, A. L., Domestic Life in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Company, 1994) 26-27.
[vi] Jester, A. L., Domestic Life in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Company, 1994) 26-27.
[x] The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia. The Vestry Book of Saint Peter's Parish, 1682-1758; New Kent County, Va., [Parish Record Series, No. 3] (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 2006) 11.
[xi] The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia. The Vestry Book of Saint Peter's Parish, 1682-1758; New Kent County, Va., [Parish Record Series, No. 3] (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 2006) 49.
[xiii] The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia, The Vestry book of Saint Peter's Parish, 1682-1758; New Kent County, Va., [Parish Record Series, No. 3] (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, Greenville, SC, 2006) 63.
[xiv] Alford, Gil, Virginia Alfords: The First 100 Years (AAFA Action, Spring 1994) 52 – 54.
[xv] Alford, Gil, Virginia Alfords: The First 100 Years (AAFA Action, Spring 1994) 52 – 54.
[xvi] Alford, Gil, Virginia Alfords: The New Kent County Years (AAFA Action, Summer 1994) 48 – 51.
[xvii] National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia, The Parish Register of Saint Peter's New Kent, County, Virginia 1680-1787 [Parish Record Series, No. 2] (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc.) 53.
[xviii] National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia, The Parish Register of Saint Peter's New Kent, County, Virginia 1680-1787 [Parish Record Series, No. 2] (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, Inc.) Page 53.
[xix] Jester, A. L., Domestic Life in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Company, 1994) 78.
1 John Alford b: c. 1645 VA, d: 14 Mar 1710 New Kent, VA
2 James Alford b: c. 1687 New Kent, VA, d: c. 1730 New Kent, VA
3Lodwick Alford b: Abt. 1707, d: c. 1800 NC
+Elizabeth b: 29 Apr 1717 New Kent, VA, d: 29 May 1735 VA
+Susanna b: Abt. 1718, d: c. 1738 +Rebecca Ferrell b: Abt. 1720
3 Goodrich Alford b: c. 1710, d: 1753
3 James Alford b: 07 Feb 1713 in New Kent, VA
3 Warren Alford b: 1715 New Kent, VA
3 Julius Alford b: Sep 1717 New Kent, VA, d: Nov 1771 NC
+Lucy Newton b: 1720, d: 1790
2 Elizabeth Alford b: c. 1683 VA, d: c. 1714
+Jacob Winfrey b: 1672, d: 1710 New Kent, VA, m: 03 Nov 1698 VA
3 John Winfrey b: 24 Sep 1699 New Kent, VA
3 Jane Winfrey b: 25 Dec 1701 New Kent, VA
3 Jacob Winfrey b: 14 May 1704 New Kent, VA
3 Elinor Winfrey b: 06 Apr 1707 New Kent, VA
3 Elizabeth Winfrey b: 10 Apr 1709 New Kent, VA, d:1709 VA
3 Henry Winfrey b: 04 Feb 1710 New Kent, VA
2 William Alford b: c. 1690 VA
2 Mary Alford b: c. 1691 VA
+Robert Wood m: 21 Oct 1711 New Kent, VA
3 Abel Wood b: 27 May 1712 New Kent, VA
2 John Alford b: c. 1693 New Kent, VA, d: 2 May 1726 New Kent, VA
3 Frances Alford b: 4 Aug 1717 New Kent, VA, d: 27 Apr 1726 VA
3 Elizabeth Alford b: 01 Jul 1719 New Kent, VA
3 Unity Alford b: 16 Dec 1723 New Kent, VA
3 Charity Alford b: 16 Dec 1723 New Kent, VA