John James – Immigrant Cavalier to the New World

The original patent grant of 500 acres awarded to John James by Sir William Berkeley is easily identifiable today.

2 – First Patent of John James – Pohick Creek

Pohick Creek and Pohick Bay fall adjacent to land identified on modern maps as Pohick Bay Region. Today, this location also is identified by the name “Mason’s Neck.” George Mason IV built historic Gunston Hall on this land. The estate is a popular tourist attraction.

Regional map, showing Pohick Bay and Pohick Creek at the threshes of the Potomac River where John James, the Immigrant, patented his first land in the New World

“JAMES, JOHN Stafford County
“500a. On the north side of Pochick Creek in the freshes of the Potowmack river, beginning in the line of land formerly surveyed by WILLIAM GREEN, and adjoining RICHARD NORMANSELL.”

Source: Virginia Land Office Patents & Grants, #6, 1666-1679, p. 288

Contemporary road access map to Pohick Creek and Pohick Bay

Patent Sold to George Mason II

Original Patentee or Grantee JOHN JAMES to GEORGE MASON II, July 19, 1690, 500 acres, per the will of GEORGE MASON II, as is in Rowland {op. cit.}. A copy also appears in PLC 2:13. The George Mason lineage adopted in this report is in accord with Rowland, Kate Mason, 1892 (reprinted 1964), The Life of George Mason 1725-1792: Russell and Russell, Inc., New York, 2 vol., wherein

  • George Mason I “the Immigrant” (1629-1686);
  • George Mason II (1660-1716);
  • George Mason III (1690-1735);
  • George Mason IV of Gunston Hall (1725-1792);
  • George Mason V of Lexington (1753-1796);
  • George Mason VI (1786-1834).
Modern land titles in the Northern Neck today derive from the Colonial patent of John James and subsequent sale to George Mason, among others of the original patent holders of the period.

Land Dispute of French Mason Confirms Patent of John James the Immigrant

A lawsuit by French Mason was brought against Daniel McCarty. By the 1700s, it was common to resurvey land transactions of the patent period to ascertain certainty and errors.

JAMES, JOHN 500 20 July 1670 P 6:280 

Northeast side Pohick Creek in line of William Green and adjacent to Normansell, Thomas James, son and heir of John James, sold to George Mason (II) 19 July 1690. George Mason (II) devised by his will to his son French Mason, who applied for and received a NN grant 26 November 1717. The land was surveyed and found to contain 405 acres. 

Source: Mitchell, Beth. "Beginning at a White Oak," Patents and grants of the Northern Neck in Fairfax County, Virginia, 1977, p. 63. See also pp. 313-315.

The resurvey by Daniel Jesing of the patent of John James by the plaintiff French Mason identified the patent as containing 405 acres, and not the 500 acres the original patent and survey so stated.

Patent of John James – The Dismal Swamp

The holdings of John James over time extended south from Virginia into the territory of North Carolina.

“JOHN JAMES 1000 acs. Low Norf. Co. 27 Sept, 1680, p 57. A swamp parting this and the long ridge; by the road; to RICHARD BONNEY’s line &c. Trans of 20 pers: Bet. servt. JANE BEAG, HECTOR PINGs (-), Pet. BOWARD, JANE BUTLER, ISAAC BRITT; JNOW. QUAN, MICH, DEGO, MARK DUNCUM, JA. THOMAS, Pet. MASON, JNO.BRITOON, JNO. DWANE; TAFFY, DICK, TOM, ANN, PEGG.”

Source: Cavaliers & Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents & Grants, by Nell Marion Nugent, pub by Virginia State Library, Richmond, VA, 1977, p. 213

Two Issues

1. The Location of Origin of John James the Immigrant in the Old World

Attribution of Pembrokeshire, Wales as the location of origin of our James family in America originated with Joan Malley Beamis. Joan is a granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, an uncle of Frank and Jesse James.

Joan published her family history of the Jesse James family, Background of a Bandit, in 1970. At that time, she pointed to the location of origination of the James family as Pembrokeshire, Wales. This appears to have occurred at the recommendation of her research and writing partner William Pulliam. Pulliam was attempting to align his family ancestry with that of Joan and the Jesse James family. Pulliam was never truly successful in his effort.

1a. Pembrokeshire, Wales, Objects

Stray Leaves was contacted by a genealogical society in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The contact was a surprise. Worldwide peer review was attracted to the genealogy data of Stray Leaves for nearly twenty-five years. That’s how long Stray Leaves had been publishing its data and findings.

The society in Pembrokeshire complained it received endless queries from America. The queries requested information and source data from Pembrokeshire to confirm Pembrokeshire as the point of origination for the Jesse James family in America, as Background of a Bandit stated.

Most importantly in its complaint, the society in Pembrokeshire stated unequivocally that the society’s own records showed no evidence of the James family’s ancestry residing in Pembrokeshire.

Stray Leaves explained to the Pembrokeshire society that its own genealogy research concurred. The research of Stray Leaves did not justify or substantiate the claim of the Americans either.

Caernarvon, Wales is the location of origin that the research of Stray Leaves identifies for this James family.

Immigrants from England relocated to America. Their points of origin reflected the interests of their migrating communities.

This identification of the location is corroborated by developments of test results from the Y-chromosome DNA study of the Jesse James family.

Test subjects who claimed origination of their James ancestry as Pembrokeshire, Wales, differed substantively in their published DNA profiles. They do not resemble the DNA profile of test subjects bearing the surname James who descend from John James, the Immigrant.

1b. Genealogy of Joan Beamis Casts Doubt

Joan Beamis expressed doubt that Pembrokeshire is the location of origin for the Jesse James family. She expressed this in letters written to the James family after the publication of Background of a Bandit. These letters appear in the John Beamis Archive of The James Preservation Trust.

Joan deduced that her genealogy was limited in scope. She made clear her belief that there was far more genealogy of the Jesse James family yet to be recovered by future research. Joan concluded that her book reported only some of the Jesse James family’s genealogy, but not all of it.

Three decades of genealogy research, public reporting, and peer review by Stray Leaves have confirmed the suspicion of Joan Malley Beamis. The documents collected in The James Preservation Trust and the family’s own Y-chromosome DNA study and findings corroborate the conclusion. This research continues to develop more so.

2. The Surname of Elizabeth, the Wife of John James the Immigrant

Traditional genealogies by independent researchers have long identified the wife of John James simply as Elizabeth Norman. This identification is an error.

No distinction is made about the name. Is the surname “Norman” a birth name, a marriage name, or a name in use subsequent to a previous or later marriage?

The Register of Overwharton Parish, Stafford Co VA, 1723-1758, p.59, makes the name absolutely clear.

“JOHN JAMES came to Virginia in 1650 and in 1670 patented land in Stafford County where he died ante 1690; his widow ELIZABETH married secondly THOMAS NORMAN.”

The birth name of Elizabeth is properly attributed as ELIZABETH UNKNOWN. Her name as the spouse of JOHN JAMES THE IMMIGRANT would be ELIZABETH UNKNOWN-JAMES. Her name following the decease of JOHN JAMES and subsequent remarriage to THOMAS NORMAN would be ELIZABETH UNKNOWN-JAMES-NORMAN.

The Overwharton Parish Register, page 88, further identifies a Norman family burial ground. This may be the final resting place of ELIZABETH NORMAN.

About a mile from Decatur Store in upper Stafford County is a Norman Family cemetery. The oldest three tombstones are inscribed as follows: “In Memory of Mrs. ELIZABETH NORMAN who departed this life January ye 20, 1771, in the 57th year of her age.” “JAMES NORMAN son of THOMAS and ELIZABETH NORMAN who departed this life October ye 11th A.D. in the 32 (37) year of his age.” “In Memory of Mr. THOMAS NORMAN who departed this life March 2nd A.D. 1780 in the 73rd year of his age. “

The research of Stray Leaves firmly establishes the land patent received by John James, the Immigrant, was adjacent to land owned by Richard Normansell. By the 1700s, the surname Normansell falls from use, presumably replaced by the shorter version of the surname, Norman.

To Page 3- Permanent Settlement of the James – Overwharton Parish at Aquia Creek