Friday, September 11, 2015

The Robert Harrisons of Charles City & Prince George Counties, Virginia

    The first Robert Harrison of Prince George County about whom anything much is known was Robert I, who was perhaps born circa 1725 and died before 10 February 1789, when his will was presented for probate.1 He married Elizabeth Cureton,2 who was born on 20 January 1726/7, daughter of John Cureton and Frances [Thweatt].3 He is known as Robert of Bicars.
    Robert and Elizabeth had a son, Robert II of Huntington, who was born on 11 February 17554 and died on 8 July 1797.5 He married Henrietta Maria Hardyman,6 daughter of William Hardyman and Angelica Epes,7 and had (among others) Robert Harrison III of Racefield, who married Charlotte Thomas Pretlow.8.
    It has been repeated countless times that Robert I was a member of the Harrison family of Berkeley in Charles City County, son of Benjamin Harrison and Anne Carter. This supposition arose possibly because of Robert’s purchase from Benjamin in 1760 of Bicars, the 600 acre plantation with house and dependencies, orchards and gardens, on Tar Bay on the south side of the James River.9
    Most accounts agree that Robert of Berkeley married Elizabeth Collier, with whom he had a son Collier10 and daughter Ann. According to John Bennett Boddie, his second wife was Beersheba Bryant, with whom he had sons Braxton Harrison and Robert Carter Harrison.11 Another source wrote that the Harrison-Collier children were Collier Harrison (who married first Christina Minge, nee Shields, and second Beersheba Bryant) and Braxton Harrison.12
    Yet another account related that Robert of Berkeley, born circa 1730 and died before 1771, married Elizabeth Collier and had Collier Harrison, who married first Christiana (Shields) Minge, by whom he had Elizabeth Harrison and Collier Harrison who died young. By his second marriage to Beersheba Bryant, Collier had Robert Carter Harrison and Braxton Harrison. Many more instances of tangled relationships abound, both in print and on the Internet.   
    Presented, without proof, on the “The Harrison DNA Project: Patriarchs” website is the lineage below.13

    No mention is made of Henry Harrison (Robert's surviving brother) and Collier Harrison (his son). Obviously, there is a great deal of confusion about Robert of Berkeley, his wife or wives, his children, and grandchildren. 
    A suit, “Harrison, against Harrison and Others,” originally initiated in a lower court of Virginia years earlier as “Syme vs Harrison” and finally settled in the Court of Appeals of Virginia in 1799, provides evidence of the death and parentage of Robert Harrison, the original defendant. In the report of the decision, it was revealed that Robert was dead before 29 October 1770 and that he had brothers Henry and Benjamin, as well as sons Collier (eldest son) and Braxton.14 This suit definitely rules out Robert I's being Robert of Berkeley.
So, who was Robert Harrison I, husband of Elizabeth Cureton?

    It has been suggested that Robert I was the son of an earlier Robert Harrison to whom Benjamin Harrison sold two slaves, Dido and Ned, on 11 June 1736.15 The connection is said to be substantiated by the fact that Robert I had the bill of sale in his possession. This likely progenitor probably lived at Maud's Neck and Swamp Field in Prince George County.
    It would be interesting to see the results of a Y-DNA test for a descendant of Robert Harrison I of Prince George County. Would it connect him to a known patriarch?
     1Robert Harrison, will dated 15 January 1787, proved 10 February 1789 in Prince George County, Virginia, court.
     2Cureton family Bible record, 1717-1812, photocopy and transcript, Library of Virginia Bible records collection, accession no. 29236; digital images, Library of Virginia Digital Library ( : accessed 24 November 2001); currently at ( : accessed 17 August 2015).
     3Cureton family Bible record, 1717-1812.
     4Robert Harrison family Bible record, photocopy and transcript, Library of Virginia Bible Records Collection, accession no. 27394; digital image, Library of Virginia Digital Library (accessed 24 November 2001).
     5Robert Harrison family Bible record.
     6Robert Harrison family Bible record.
     7Dorman, Epes compilation
     8Probably Robert Harrison’s will.
     9Purchase of Bicars from Benjamin Harrison.
   10“Robert Harrison,” memorial 70963725, Find A Grave (accessed 15 August 2015); record by Georgia Girl, June 2011. The location of Robert’s burial was unknown.
   11John Bennett Boddie, Historical Southern Families, volume IX (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogic Pub. Co., 1965), p224.
   12Louise Pequet du Bellet, Some Prominent Virginia Families, p. 506.
   13“The Harrison DNA Project: Patriarchs,” Lineage 34-The James River / Presidential Harrison Line, haplogroup R1b1a2,World  ( : accessed 15 August 2015), 
   14Daniel Call, Reports of Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Court of Appeals of Virginia, volume I (Richmond: Thomas Nicholson, 1801), pp. 419-429; digital image, Google Books (accessed 19 August 2015).
   15Lindsay O. Duvall (Rev.), Virginia Colonial Abstracts - Series 2, Vol. 6, Records of Prince George County, Virginia, 1666-1719 (copied and reprinted, Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).