Friday, June 10, 2016

Who Was the Original Jennings Immigrant?

The first documented Jennings direct ancestor in Virginia was my four times great grandfather, Benjamin Jennings (about 1740-1815). He first appeared on a payroll record for the Virginia Milita on 9 September 1776, serving as a private in Captain Thomas Gaddis' company. He married twice, had eight known children, and owned land in Powhatan County. His life was fairly well documented after the Revolutionary War, including a will.

Many public trees claim his parents were James Jennings and Mary Dickerson. James was a son of Colonel William Henry Jennings and Mary Jane Pulliam. There is much documentation to support the life of the colonel, that he immigrated to the Virginia colony from England, and had a son named James. The only problem is there is also evidence to support that his son, James, ever had a son named Benjamin and was ever married to a woman named Mary Dickerson.

I set a research task for myself to discover all of the immigrants to Virginia with the surname Jennings. My plan was to research those men until I have proved they are not related to Benjamin or, if I am lucky, were related.

Tobacco ships on the James River in the 1600s; image courtesy of The
Maritime Heritage Project

During a trip to the Library of Virginia in Richmond, I created the following list of people as possible ancestors:
  • Edward Ginnings, 1663, transported by Thomas Mudgett
  • William Jennings, 1635, transported by William Woolritch, who received a grant in Elizabeth City County
  • Edward Jennings, 1643, transported by John Wall, who received a grant in Northumberland County
  • Edward Jennings, 1662, transported by Richard Iliffe
  • John Jennings, 1643, transported by George Levitt
  • John Jennings, 1662, transported by Valentine Allen, who received a grant on the south side of the Rappahannock river
  • John Jennings, 1635, transported by Thomas Fowler, who received a grant of 900 acres in James City County near the Chickahominy river
  • Nathaniel Jennings, 1643, transported by William Lawrence, James City County
  • Philip Jennings, 1635, age 25
  • Richard Jennings, 1636, transported by Elizabeth Hawkins and her son, received land in Elizabeth City County
  • Symon Jennings, 1643, transported by Richard Howe, Gentleman, Henrico County
  • Thomas Jennings, 1636, transported by Walter Daniell, James City County
  • Ed Jennings, 1664, transported by Thomas Philpott, who received a grant in Westmoreland County
  • Henry Jennings, 1635, age 24, a minister, transported from London to America in the Truelove de London, Robert Dennis, Master
  • Henry Jennings, 1658, transported by James Kimygam and James Fullerton, who received a grant in Rappahannock County
  • Jane Jennings, 1635, age 25, transported on the David
  • John Jennings, 1635, age 18, transported by Peter Blacker
  • John or Jonas Jennings, 1638, transported by Edward Travis and John Johnson, James City County
  • Matthew Jennings, 1623, died in Virginia
  • Michaell Jennings, left Virginia on 26 September 1679 bound for Jamaica aboard the sloop, Butter
  • Nicholas Jennings, 1634, age 22, bound for New England April 1634
  • Richard Jennings, 1635, transported by John Flowers, master of the Dora
  • Richard Jennings, 1636, received a grant in Henrico County due to his wife, Dorothy, widow of the late Edward Garner
  • Richard Jennings, 1651, transported by George Eaton, Northumberland County
  • Richard Jennings, 1653, transported by Matthew Tomlin, Northumberland County
  • Sarah T. Jennings, 1635, transported by John Flowers, master of the Dora
  • Thomas Jennings, 1638, transported by Roger Davis, Charles City County
  • Thomas Jennings, 1639, transported by Walter Daniell, James City County
  • William Jennings, 1679, in the sloop Trufriendship, Charles Kallahana, commander
That's a lot of Jennings!

If I was sure this was a complete list, I might continue with my original plan, but right now, I am rethinking my research strategy.



  1. Sometimes the long way is the only way. I had to do something similar when researching the father of my husband's 2x great grandfather, John C. Williams. Eventually, I was successful, but it took a couple of years.

    1. I think you may be right, Linda, though I am not looking forward to the process. Due to the time period, I may never have definitive proof but likely end up having to write a proof statement. I believe I will have thoroughly checked the "reasonably exhaustive search" box however! ;)

  2. Hi! From the research I’ve gathered, I trace to William Jennings ~1635.
    Jennings hadn’t come from England, rather from the plantations of Northern Ireland. The jennings family of Northern Ireland could’ve been from Scotland, England, or Even wales.
    Jennings was first recorded as brothers Jernigan & Jerningho.
    The theory is they migrated to England as Angles & this is supported by the danish word “Jern” meaning “iron”.

    The angles came and settled England during the Iron Age with King Canute. The jennings in medieval England were famous for their iron work.

    However, iron workers looking for better pay also migrated to england from Wales, into danish settlements. The iron workers would be called jernings. The jennings could’ve originated in wales as there is still a curiously high concentration of the surname there today.

    1. This is all very interesting information! Much later in the late 1800s, my Jennings line married into a line with deep Presbyterian roots in Northern Island. They were Scots who had been "planted there" according to English policy to make Ireland less Catholic.

    2. I find your information very interesting. I am doing my husband's family tree and am currently doing the Jernegan Jernigan) family ancestry. From my research, there were 2 men (possibly brothers) named Jernegan and Jerningho (now Jennings) who went to England with King Canute. It is believed that my Jernigan was possibly of Danish descent and that he might have been a sword maker. Your info gave me more info and maybe my Jernegan (Jernigan) was so named because he was an ironworker who made swords. My Jernegan settled in an area now known as East Anglia in England (named for the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of The Angles) in Norfolk and Suffolk, England.

    3. I forgot to mention that maybe your Jerningho and my Jernigan (or Jernegan) were the 2 that may have been brothers that went to England with King Canute? Anyway, your mention of the Danish word for "iron" is "Jern" may have been where my Jernigan's name came from. In my research, it is said that Jernigan (born circa 980 AD) and Jerningho were granted lands and manors in 1011 in Norfolk and Suffolk, England by King Canute for their faithful service to his father King Sweyn I of Denmark.

    4. Yes, I've read much about the King Canute connection. However, it always descends to the Ironmonger of Birmingham. And for him to have been an ancestor, he and his wife would have had to have had all their children in Birmingham, but one who was born hundreds of miles away. Possible but unlikely especially since that genealogy was done in pursuit of a large inheritance and was never accepted by any court.

  3. One of the Richards in your list may have returned to England.

    COMBS Witch: Mary Fuller. True bill.Combs was a parish with a tradition of puritan dissent. Its minister between 1615 and 1647 was the godly Thomas Sothebie, who married the daughter of Edmund Dandy, lord of the manor of Combs. This small village also supplied migrants to New England in 1630. In 1647, a returning √©migr√©, Richard Jennings (1616-1709),became rector of the parish until his ejection in 1662, and like his predecessor he married another daughter of the lord of the manor, Edmund Dandy.Ewen, Witch Hunting, 308; Tyack, ‘Migration from East Anglia’, Appendix 1, xv; Cal.Rev., 297

    After he was 'Ejected' he may have returned to the Colonies.