Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Northin Virginia

In preparing for an American history class that I am teaching, I was reading through material about the founding of Jamestown in 1608 and the early Virginia colony. It was around 1634 or so that Virginia started being an exporter of tobacco. This got me thinking about our family history and what they were doing at that time. I knew that my ancestor John Northin had come over in the first half of the 1600’s and so tried to match some things up. John Northin was born in England in 1613, but he married Elizabeth Clarke and they had a son, Edmund Northen born in York County, Virginia in 1653. Edmund died in Richmond Country, Virginia in the early 1700s. Curious about the geography, I saw found out that York County was originally called Charles County Shire and was one of eight original shires set up when the Dominion and Colony of Virginia was founded. It actually backs up to the county that now holds Jamestown. The name was changed to York County and the river to the York River in 1634. The settlers there almost all came in, to raise tobacco and York County seemed to be the center of activity. Two things strike me as interesting. One is that most men came over single with a ratio of men to women of about 7:1. Also many died the first summer they came over in what they called a ‘season processing’ which generally meant surviving bouts of malaria. Since John Northin married, he was one of the lucky ones. The other things is that many men came in under the headright system in which men who could pay their way over were given fifty acres to farm. Since we don’t know whether he was married when he came over, we could also speculate that he might also have come over as an indentured servant. That is possible since most men came over single and in their early 20’s. John Northin could have easily fit that profile. The other interesting fact, according to the text was that most men did not live to be much past fifty whereas John Northin died in the 1693’s, so his life may not have been as rough as some. He may have own some land. Though John probably died in York, his son move up to Richmond County, probably in the area that is now the town of Warsaw. It is farther up the neck in Virginia and, at least my chain of the family, stayed in that area up until my grandfather moved down to Wicomico Church. Not that it changes anything, but it is sort of neat to think that one of our relatives was in on the ground floor of the American history we all learned about in our textbooks.