Earliest Wilbourns in Virginia

This posts begins in 1652 and ends in 1764.

Here are the Wilbourn generations, like links in the family chain, at a glance:

SAMUEL?  → JOHN? → JOHN? → EDWARD? → JohnThomasWilliam C. → ChampionAmonet WashingtonWilliam HarveyElla Washington (Rae) (our grandmother) → Go to summary of this line

The first four generations have question marks only because circumstantial evidence, not court-sworn documents, suggests they are John’s ancestors.

John is underlined and italicized because beginning with him the rest of the generations are proven by sworn documents, as the next posts about them will demonstrate. In their case, there is no guesswork about their connection from one Wilbourn to the next, down to our grandmother.

This post is about the first our Wilbourns and their contemporaries. Do you like a good historical detective story that is not a fiction?

The Ship Godspeed

This replica of the ship Godspeed sails past the Statue of Liberty in New York. We don’t know which ship our earliest Wilbourns sailed on, but no doubt it was just like this one, because Godspeed set sail for Jamestown in 1606-1607. The voyage could last two to three months, but she took 144 days.

Godspeed replica.jpg


We Wilbourn descendants are originally Virginian, not New Yorkers. On the European side the Wilbourns came from England, though one researcher says Wales.

The purpose of the photo is communicate what sacrifices they made to reach these shores and make a life for themselves and eventually for us.[1]

Robert, Mathew, and Samuel:

The Original Ocean-Going Pioneers

These three sea-faring immigrant-pioneers are most likely our earliest ancestors, with the evidence giving the slight edge to Samuel.

Assumptions and DNA

For our historical detective case, we need two safe assumptions. First, these three men had male offspring. Historical probability says many men married and had sons at this time, so the assumption is safe. Second, their offspring moved farther inland, into Virginia, as the decades wore on. Again, history says many families did, so this assumption is also sound.

To realize how safe those assumptions are, DNA tests of present-day male Wilbourns with whom I’ve been in contact, either directly or indirectly, show that the Wilbourns who migrated to the southern Virginia counties of Lunenburg and Mecklenburg resided in the northern counties of Caroline, Spotsylvania, Fauquier, and Prince William and the central county of Goochland. In this post, however, we focus on Spotsylvania, the central counties, and the southern ones – all in Virginia.

Our line that is proven by court-sworn documents, beginning with John (the underlined, fifth link in the chain, above) settled in Lunenburg and Mecklenburg Counties.

One researcher, our distant cousin whose last name is Welborn, descends from the northern and southern Wilbourns (our line). He wrote me in 2013: “I also have made a perfect DNA match with the Wilbourns of Mecklenburg Co.” That’s our key county (see the post on Thomas Wilbourn). Further, he wrote online in 2009: “The Goochland Co., VA Wilburn line is a 36 of 37 marker match with my line.”[2] That’s the key central Virginia county for us.

The Three Original Immigrants

The three earliest Wilbourns who are relevant to our lines arriving on the colonial shores of Virginia are Robert (by October 10, 1652, in Lancaster County); Matthew (by November 16, 1653, Lancaster); and Samuel (by October 5, 1654, Westmoreland County). Recall that the transporter got about 50 acres, more or less, per person he transported. These dates show when the transporter recorded their names in the Virginia records; the immigrants could have gotten here weeks or months earlier.[3]

Spelling Variations

And don’t think twice about the variations in spelling. That’s the way things were for clerks at that time. I’ve seen them spell the same name two or three different ways in the same document.

Here are the records of the three original Wilbourns, the transporters Bayles, Grimes, and Maj. Miles getting 50 acres per person:

Robert Welbourne, Lancaster County:

He arrived before 10 Oct. 1652:

John Bayles, 250 acres, Lancaster Co., 10 Oct. 1652, p. 124. Bounded on N. W. with Capperts Creek, N. E. with Potomeck R. & on S. E. with another tract of his land. Transporting 5 persons: Robert Welbourne, William Jeffreys, James Macknill, Robert White, William Newton, Mar. Boone

Mathew Welbourne, Lancaster County:

He arrived before 16 Nov. 1653:

Charles Grimes, 600 acres, Lancaster Co. 16 Nov. 1653, p. 228. Bounded on N. W. side with Nyerncock Creek, S. W. upon swamp, etc. Transporting 12 persons: William Ward, Henry French, Thomas Wells, Thomas Bauldwin, Henry Day, Richard Foard, Edward Ashbournham, And. Marklinton, (?) Arunges Whitehorne, Mathew Welbourne, Richard Sexton, John Fowler.

Sam Wilbourn, Westmoreland County:

He arrived before 5 Oct. 1654:

Major Miles Cary, 3,000 acres in Westmoreland Co., 5 Oct 1654, p. 285. Bounded on S. W. side with Ohoquin R., on S. E. side with land of Mr. Drayton & N. W. upon a swamp near the falls of said river dividing this & land surveyed for Col. Hump. Higgenson. Transportation of 6 persons: Roger Daniel, Sr., Roger Daniel Jr., Ann Taylor, Thomas Heynes, Ro. Synsbury, John Ledrick, John Squire, Ann Whitson, Marg. Creese, David Beoan, Evan Lewis, Martin Cheins, John Berreman, Ann Colton, Sam Wilbourn, Andrew Wyatt, John Haynes, Mary Martin, Mary Cordecur, Mary Taylor, Ann Bennes, Jno. Fatherell, Jenkin Wotten, Walter Johnson, John Clark, Ann Madoxs, Val. Prentice, James White, Eliz. Brown, Rich. Workman, Ann Tildamus (Note: This should, no doubt, be for 60 persons, although but 32 names appear).[4]

Remember, there is no large army of Wilbourns at this time in Virginia. There are not very many people at all. These three men are contemporaries, arriving within two years of each other. Therefore, I like to think they’re brothers. At the very least they’re cousins. But who knows: maybe only Robert and Mathew are related, sharing the same spelling and arriving in the same county.

My best guess is that all of them were indentured servants who got here between the ages of 10 and 15, worked their five to seven years of hard labor for food, clothing and shelter; and then they set off on their own, to acquire land or work in the shops or on the farms.

Our documented direct lines became farmers – of tobacco for sure and other crops too.

County Map of Virginia


To help you follow the reconstruction of the historical detective story, here is a county map. You can track the earliest Wilbourns and their migration westward by beginning with Samuel in Westmoreland County and then Robert and Mathew in Lancaster County.[5]


Since the circumstantial evidence is strongest, in my opinion, that he is our direct line, we begin with him.

He arrived in Westmoreland County. In addition to the two central counties of Louisa and Goochland, there is one northern county that is also important for our lines of Wilbourns: Spotsylvania. But we also look at Essex and Caroline Counties, right after Westmoreland.

Let’s track this (probable) line of Wilbourns westward.

Westmoreland County

A John Welbourn is found in one record in Westmoreland, in 1679. This John is qualified to be Samuel’s descendant, being in the right place, at the right time.

Map of Virginia highlighting Westmoreland County


December 17, 1679: Rob. Hewit v. John Welbourn. Non-suited, not prosecuting his action, 50 pounds of tobacco.[6]

Essex County

A John Wilbourn appears in two 1697 Essex County records. This county is due west of Westmoreland and was formed out of Old Rappahannock County, now extinct, and not to be confused with present Rappahannock County.

Map of Virginia highlighting Essex County


The court orders read:

May 11, 1697: Ordered that the suit between John Blandall and John Willburn be referred till the next Court at the defendants’ request.

November 23, 1697: Ordered that ye suit between Tho. Gouldman and Jno. Wilburn be dismissed for want [lack] of persecution.[7]

Remember, there is no large army of Wilbourns at this time and place in Virginia. The Johns in Westmoreland and Essex Counties could be the same person if he lived a long time, but they were probably father and son. Unfortunately, however, we don’t have legal proof about their relationship, only circumstantial evidence, like the same name.

Caroline County

Map of Virginia highlighting Caroline County


It grew out of Essex County (and King and Queen and King William Counties) in 1728. It borders Essex. One record reads:

May 14, 1752: On the motion of Edmund Taylor it’s ordered he have administration of the estate of John Wilbourne, who with John Taylor Jr., his security acknowledged their bond (p. 311)[8]

It seems then that this John died before May 14, 1752. That date qualifies him to be the descendant of the Essex County John. He may even replace Edward Sr. in the links in the chain (above).

Spotsylvania County

This is the key county, for it is where the underlined John’s – our direct ancestor’s – first document appears.

Map of Virginia highlighting Spotsylvania County


It was formed from Essex (and King and Queen and King William Counties) in 1721 and borders Caroline to the west.

John Wilbourn and Edward Wilbourn appear in the records, in 1746/7 and 1747. Also, to repeat, there is no large army of Wilbourns at this time, so surely the John in Essex County is related to the John in Spotsylvania County.

February 4, 1746/7: Joseph Hawkins, Gent., v. John Wilburn, the same is to be continued. (Court Order p. 406).

March 4, 1746/7: Joseph Hawkins, Gent., plaintiff v. Edward Wilburn, defendant. The plaintiff proved his account against the said defendant, for one pound, nine shillings, and three pence, current money and the same is continued for the garnishee (Court Order Book, p. 410).

June 2, 1747: Joseph Hawkins, Gent., plaintiff v. Edward Willburn, defendant, by attachment } this day came the plaintiff by his attorney, and the defendant being solemnly called came not and Philemon Hawkins, the garnishee, appeared and on oath declared he had sufficient of the estate of the said defendant in his hands to discharge the said debt and costs; therefore it is considered by the court that the said Philemon Hawkins pay unto the plaintiff the sum of one pound, nine shillings, and three pence, plus costs by him about his suit in his behalf expended (Court Order Book, p. 422).

June 7, 1748: John Dunkin v. Edward Willburn, the same is dismissed (Court Order Book, p. 468) [9]

Those in the upper classes (e.g. Gentlemen) could sometimes abuse the lower classes. And our line appears to be ordinary farmers or dealers in tobacco. The market for that crop could fluctuate wildly; sometimes farmers made money, but they also often lost. We don’t know for sure the back story to those documents.

In any case, our legally proven John Wilbourn settled in the Bluestone Creek and Woodpecker Creek areas, in Lunenburg County, in south Virginia, appearing in the tax records there in 1748 (see his post for the record). So the dates match up or do not contradict a move: 1746/7 in Spotsylvania and 1748 in Lunenburg.

John’s name drops out of sight in the records in 1747, while Edward’s name remains in that county for several more years. Edward seems to have taken over the lawsuit initiated by Joseph Hawkins, Gentleman. Somehow Philemon Hawkins (Joseph’s son?) discharged the debt.

Excursus One: Is Edward Sr. the Father of John and Edward?

One researcher speculates that the same Gentleman in the first to third record and the word “estate” in the third one indicate that the estate owner had died. If that’s the case, then we have discovered John and Edward’s father. But we don’t know his name, unless it is Edward Sr.

Edward’s (Jr.) descendant offers this analysis (slightly edited) in October 2013:

I’ll try to explain how I read these records.  February 4, 1746/7 Joseph Hawkins filed suit against John Wilburn.  This was a filing and not court appearance so it was continued.  It didn’t say John Wilburn didn’t show up or was called to show up.  One month later on March 4, 1746/7 Joseph Hawkins filed again for the same debt, but this time against the estate of Edward Wilburn for one pound, nine shillings, and three pence, and he proved the debt, and a garnishee is appointed, Philemon Hawkins.  Being exactly one month apart and filed by the same gentleman, I see them as the same debt.  The one filed against John was continued to next meeting on the 4th of the month when they meet.  I don’t see any record of the one against John being dismissed.  The one exactly one month later was the continuation that was ordered when John was sued.  But when Joseph Hawkins brought his evidence to prove the debt, it showed that Edward was the one who owed the money and he had died, so a garnishee was appointed to receive the debt that was proven against Edward who was dead.  . . . [O]n June 4, 1747, the court met and ordered the garnishee, Philemon Hawkins to give the one pound, nine shillings, and three pence to Joseph Hawkins.  So now this debt is paid in full and the estate for Edward Wilburn has been completed.  We have two Wilburns, father and son.

Another of our distant cousins writes me in an email in October 2013:

If Philemon Hawkins is appointed garnishee (definition:  a third party who is served notice by a court to surrender money in settlement of a debt or claim), would this imply that perhaps Philemon was being named the executor of Edward’s estate and therefore ordered to pay the debt to Joseph Hawkins from the estate?   Thus, even without “deceased” added to Edward’s name the implication is that Edward is, in fact, deceased?  Why else would Philemon be the one who has to pay the debt?  And, interesting that it was not a son who was appointed garnishee.

I am assuming Edward was not kind enough to leave us a will.  Based on my understanding, he died fairly young and probably unexpectedly.  Most of the wills I have seen are death bed wills, not “estate planning.”

However, it must be considered that those four Spotsylvania records are consistent with the belief that there are only two Wilbourns who were being sued by Joseph Hawkins: John and Edward, with Edward taking the lead to pay off the one pound, nine shillings, and three pence. We don’t need to over-read the word “estate.”

So the living Wilbourn descendants and I are reluctant to assert categorically that there is an Edward Sr. We can only say – probably.

If Edward Sr. doesn’t exist, then John of Caroline County qualifies be to Edward and John’s father. If Edward Sr. does exist, then John of Caroline County qualifies to be his brother, and Edward Sr. named his two sons after himself and his brother: John and Edward.

But all this is speculative, though studying the four Spotsylvania records again and re-reading our distant cousins’ analysis makes me more confident that there is an Edward Sr., who is the father of our (underlined) John.

But the next excursus is not speculative. We are about to go into the realm of legal proof.

Excursus One: Edward

Regardless of whether there is an Edward Sr., the four records in Spotsylvania say Edward (Jr.) and John were related, probably as brothers (and, remember, this John is probably our direct line).

Edward lived an interesting life. Here is a (slightly edited) email in August 2013 from his living descendant:

We can calculate from Census records that Edward was born in 1724 / 1725. His wife Mary was born in 1730.

 Edward’s life has been well documented and some of the documents show how he lived and interacted with his neighbors and family. One early record that has been found for him is in Spotsylvania County, in 1747 and 1748, regarding a debt apparently originally filed against a John Wilbourn. If the John Wilbourn shown there with Edward in Spotsylvania was Edward’s father, it could be shown to be very likely that John went to Lunenburg County since the DNA matches perfectly with no mutations for 37 markers with the Mecklenburg Wilbourns and Edward’s descendants and only 1 mutation with the Goochland line of Wilburns. If you look at the first names of the men in Edward’s line, John, Thomas, Robert, William, Edward, and William, they are almost identical to the Goochland Wilburns and the Mecklenburg Wilbourns.

 Edward Wilbourn was first documented in Prince William County, VA, in 1752. There was only one other Wilbourn documented in this county during this time period. He was Duke Wilburn in a 1752 court record and a tax list for 1751. Edward is shown in Hamilton Parrish, Prince William County, in 1751, which is close to and includes Elk Run. Edward is recorded in Prince William from 1752 to 1759 when Hamilton Parrish became part of Fauquier County that was split off from Prince William County. He continued to be well documented on his land on Marsh Run, which is connected to Elk Run until 1769. It is probable that he was known as Duke Wilburn when he first came there.

 Edward was married to Mary St. Clair almost immediately after he shows up there. He lives next to Mary’s father, Alexander St. Clair. Alexander was living in Stafford County and moved to Prince William County. He has many documents in Stafford and Prince William / Fauquier County. We find Alexander on a ship from Scotland which leaves him as an indentured servant for seven years. He eventually became very prosperous, being a tobacco dealer. Edward was apparently in the same business, as seen from his many court documents. This is probably how he met his wife, Mary.

 Edward is next seen in Granville County, NC, where he bought land from John Hampton on January 14, 1769. Records in Fauquier show he had some financial difficulties just before he left for Granville. He has many records in Granville until he moved to Surry County, NC in 1784. He would have been about 60 when he moved to Surry County.

 His oldest son was Thomas, who was born about 1750. Edward’s two youngest daughters were born in NC. He accumulated quite a bit of land in Surry County and had a couple of slaves. One of them he willed to his wife when he died in 1806. His son Richard had even more land and at one time 12 slaves. Many of their families still live in the same area. There were many documents for Edward and his son on the records of Surry County.

 Edward served in the Revolutionary War in NC as did several of his sons. He received land from the State of NC, apparently for his service in the war.

 One of his sons, Edward, Jr., went west and served in the War of 1812 as a Colonel from KY under Stonewall Jackson in Louisiana and was one of the first settlers who moved with his families and the families of his slaves to Texas in 1846. They formed a wagon train and went to Texas from St. Louis, MO, where he had moved from KY.

Edward’s descendants regard him highly and are proud of their lineage. The main researcher – Edward’s living descendant who took the DNA test – has done mighty fine work and upkeep on his heritage.

Robert and Mathew

We look at the possible descendants of the two Lancaster Wilbourns, Robert and Mathew, the original immigrants, in our detective story. If any two men qualifies as brothers, they are the ones. Or they may be father and son.

Lancaster County

Map of Virginia highlighting Lancaster County

They arrived in that county by 1652 and 1653, respectively.

Essex County

Map of Virginia highlighting Essex County


It is a little north of Lancaster County. Recall that it grew out of Old Rappahannock County (now extinct) in 1692, which had grown out of Lancaster County in 1656.

Recall these two court orders:

May 11, 1697: Ordered that the suit between John Blandall and John Willburn be referred till the next Court at the defendants’ request.

November 23, 1697: Ordered that ye suit between Tho. Gouldman and Jno. Wilburn be dismissed for want [lack] of persecution.[7]

The two 1697 Essex records of John Wilbourn cited in Samuel’s section could mean that that John descends from Robert or Mathew.

Middlesex County

It’s a little south of Essex.

Map of Virginia highlighting Middlesex County


A Thomas Wilbourn and Frances Wilbourn appear there, and this county was formed from Lancaster County in 1673. Thomas’s records are from November 3, 1707 to April 8, 1737, when he is cited as deceased. Frances’ record tells of her marriage.

November 3, 1707:

Lewis v. Richason (sic), judgment. In an action of debt between John Lewis, assignee of Thomas Wilburn, plaintiff and Charles Richason, defendant, for sum of 20 shillings, due by bill dated November 31, 1705, the defendant produced a discount of 15 shillings, and having made oath that the same is just and true, it is allowed him and judgment granted to plaintiff for the balance being 5 shillings, which defendant is ordered to pay with costs also (Order Book 4, p. 148)

November 29, 1728: William Guthrie and Frances Wilborn married.

April 8, 1737: In action upon case between James Hill and Lydia his wife, administrators of Thomas Wilbourne, decd, plaintiffs, and William Robinson, defendant on the plaintiffs, motion an alias capias is awarded against the said defendant (Order Book 1732-1737, p. 82).

July 6, 1737: In action upon Case between James Hill and Lydia his wife, administrators of Thomas Wilbourne, decd, plaintiffs, and William Robinson, defendant, the defendant pleaded he did not assume and trial thereof and referred (Order Book 1732-1737, p. 86)

October 4, 1737: In the action upon case between James Hill and Lydia his wife, administrators of Thomas Wilbourne, decd, plaintiffs and William Robinson, defendant, by consent of the parties, the suit is ordered to be dismissed (Order Book 1732-1737)[10]

King and Queen County

Map of Virginia highlighting King and Queen County


This county was formed in 1691 from New Kent County, which is also due west from Lancaster County, but farther inland than Middlesex.

A Thomas Wilbourn appears in one 1704 record there.

Virginia Quit Rent Rolls, 1704; “A True Account of the Lands in King and Queen County, as it was taken by Robert Bird, Sheriff, in the year 1704”; Wilbourn, Tho. 250 acres.[11]

From there, it’s not a far leap to the middle Virginia counties of Goochland and Louisa, where the Wilbourn records crop up in abundance. The Wilbourns who appear in those central counties could have moved northward to Spotsylvania County, while some moved southward to Lunenburg and Mecklenburg.

One last clue for Robert and Mathew: Richard Wilbourn, who was discussed above.

Louisa County was formed out of Hanover County in 1742. Hanover is west of King and Queen County, which is west of Lancaster County. Richard – if he’s the same person – lived both in Louisa and Lunenburg Counties. And this fits Robert’s and Mathew’s descendants moving westward from Lancaster, and then northward to Spotsylvania and southward to Lunenburg-Mecklenburg.

The Wilbourn who descends from Edward (Excursus Two) and who took the DNA test writes in favor of Robert. He says in an August 2013 email to me (slightly edited):

I have always felt that the Robert Wilbourn that was transported in 1652 was our ancestor, the first from England, because of his name.  More on his name:  There are many men by the name of Robert in my line, in [another Wilbourn descendant’s] line and in [another Wilbourn researcher’s] line.  There are many named Thomas also.  I have suspected the Thomas on the 1704 tax roll.  As for Samuel, it has never been used in my family until this current generation; there was one from Thomas’s line, who is a young man currently in the military.

The name Samuel was used in the Accomack line repeatedly and their DNA isn’t even similar. Samuel is also used several times in the Sussex county Wilbourns.  They link with the Wilkes County, NC Welborns who do not match our DNA and claim to be from the Accomack Welbornes.  They used many Bible names like Daniel, Samuel, Issac, Nathaniel, and etc.  They also had many men named John and I have eliminated every one.  . . . Also, you mentioned the Wilbourns in Essex County, part of Northampton near Spotsylvania.  Good possibility.  Of course we need a lot more than we have to settle on one of these.

Central and Southern Counties

It’s now about 100 years after Samuel, Robert and Mathew reached these shores. Any of their lines could have lived in the following counties; indeed, we can be sure, because of DNA, they did.

We’re ready to look at three additional and later Wilbourns: Robert, Richard, and Thomas (our direct line). They go a long way to prove the connection between the central counties (Goochland and Louisa) and southern counties (Lunenburg and Mecklenburg) in Virginia.

Goochland-Louisa (Central) and Lunenburg-Mecklenburg (South)

Recall that Mecklenburg County formed out of Lunenburg in 1764/5 and that the (underlined) John settled in Lunenburg by 1748.

Also recall the one researcher and his DNA test: “I also have made a perfect DNA match with the Wilbourns of Mecklenburg Co.” Further, he wrote in 2009: “The Goochland Co., VA Wilburn line is a 36 of 37 marker match with my line.”

Lunenburg-Goochland Counties

Map of Virginia highlighting Lunenburg CountyMap of Virginia highlighting Goochland County

Lunenburg ………………………………………….Goochland

Here’s a marriage record for both counties:

“Robert Wilborn m. Sally Billups 25 Dec. 1782, in Lunenburg Co, VA; Robert is stated as being from Goochland Co. Minister: Thomas Crymes.”[12] So Robert got married in Lunenburg, but the marriage was recorded in Goochland. There’s a Wilbourn connection between the two counties. This Robert qualifies as a descendant of the Thomases in Middlesex and King and Queen Counties. But a descendant of Samuel could have moved into this county as well.

Lunenburg-Louisa Counties

Map of Virginia highlighting Lunenburg CountyMap of Virginia highlighting Louisa County

Lunenburg …………………………………………………………..Louisa

Only four records for Richard in Louisa County are offered here (there are a lot more):

Sept. 12, 1743: In an action of trespass: Philip Roots (plaintiff) v. Richard Wilburn (defendant); it is ordered the action be dismissed (Court Order, p. 78)

Oct 10, 1743: Anne Johnson, Love Statham. And James Watson and Peter Curry petition for a road to be cleared called Christmas Road in this county (Louisa); Love Statham is appointed overseer and all the laboring males tithable belonging to Love Statham, Anne Johnson, and Richard Wilburn are allotted to assist in clearing the road and keeping it in repair. (Court Order, p. 80)

May 28, 1746: Richard Willborn v. Lawrence Redman, petition} dismissed at the defendant’s costs. (Court Order, p. 192)

May 28, 1746: On the motion of William Starke, Gent, it is ordered that Joseph Williams, Richard Holt, Richard Wilborn, and William McDowell and the laboring male tithables belonging to each of them be added to the road whereof he is surveyor. (Court Order, p. 193)[13]

Richard in Lunenburg County (only three records are offered here):

September Court 1762: Richard Wilborne v. Wm Hill, defendant in trespass, assault, battery; jury: Jacob Womack et al. (not named); defendant not guilty (Order Book 8, p. 117)

July Court 1763: James George, plaintiff, v. Richard Wilburn and William Easley, defendant, in Case} Plaintiff came by his attorney and defendants by their own person, and defendants agree plaintiff has sustained damages by nonperformance, 8 pounds, 15 shillings, and 3 pence, plus costs (Order Book 9, p. 97-98)

June Court 1764: Joseph Williams, petitioner v. William Easley and Richard Wilburn, defendants, on a petition} defendants not appearing judgment for petitioner, 2 pounds, 19 shillings, 4 pence, with interest (Order Book 10, p. 88)[14]

And we will see that in our (underlined) John’s post, next, a certain Richard appears in John’s probate in Lunenburg County, though in a garbled spelling of Richard’s name. Are they the same one? Maybe.

In any case, we don’t know (yet) who Richard is. He could be the underlined John’s brother. They certainly look like contemporaries of the same generation. Anyway, recall that the underlined John is our direct line, proven by court documents, and he lived and died in Lunenburg County. We also believe because of these documents and the DNA tests that John is related to the Wilbourns in the central counties.

Mecklenburg-Goochland Counties

Map of Virginia highlighting Mecklenburg CountyMap of Virginia highlighting Goochland County

Mecklenburg ………………………………………….. Goochland

Mecklenburg is on the left and was formed out of Lunenburg in 1764/5; Goochland is on the right.

Even though our Thomas Wilbourn (the underlined John’s legally proven son) and Hannah Lamkin lived in Mecklenburg County, they got married in Goochland County, on October 23, 1769.[15] Thomas is our direct ancestor. Clearly he went north all that way because he had cousins and aunts and uncles up there. Any of the Wilbourns could qualify.

To wrap up this section of our historical detective story, we see Samuel’s lines move from Westmoreland County and westward to Essex, Caroline, and Spotsylvania. Then from there they migrated southward to the central counties of Louisa and Goochland. Finally, our line went further southward and settled in Lunenburg and Mecklenburg and Granville County (and Surry County), North Carolina, which borders Virginia.

For Robert and Mathew, their lines went due west from Lancaster and into Essex, Middlesex, and King and Queen Counties. From there it’s not a far leap to the central counties. Then one or two of their descendants could have migrated northward to Spotsylvania County, and even further north to Fauquier and Prince William Counties, where Edward prospered.

The documents and DNA tests prove the connections between the northern, central and southern counties.

Final Questions

Two last questions that the reader may be asking: what if there’s another Wilbourn we don’t know about? Couldn’t John descend from him?

While that’s possible, I and our distant Wilbourn cousins can deal only with people who are documented, not someone who has no records. Ghosts need not be researched.


The earliest Wilbourns did not leave behind adequate papers to sort out family relationships, even after searches have been made for decades. It should be noted that other early family lines of ours, like Lamkin, Cox, and Johnstons (not covered in these posts), left a long and clear paper trail. The absence of Wilbourn paperwork suggests they were poor or at least stayed out of court for the first 80 to 100 years, except for very few cases.

Since the Wilbourns did not leave behind adequate paperwork, we have to take educated guesses. After looking at the records and the Wilbourn’s migration patterns, we have a little more clarity, but we’re still left with a mystery in our historical detective story.

The migration pattern of three original Wilbourns and their descendants can be narrowed down, but not with absolute certainty, unless we have more DNA tests and find more records that miraculously pop up.

Our John Wilbourn descends from any of the three original and sea-faring pioneers: Robert, Matthew, or Samuel. For sure they are contemporaries, arriving in 1652, 1653, and 1654, respectively. Surely they are related. Brothers? Cousins?

So we’re back to square one, the original question: who is the original ancestor? But at least we have filled out the picture a little more.

An important discovery in this research and email exchanges with Edward’s living descendant is that John has a brother, Edward. We may have even discovered the existence of their father, also named Edward. But that last statement is speculative.

My Opinion

I give the substantial edge to Samuel and his probable son John, both in Westmoreland County, early on.

First, it is much easier for Samuel’s and John’s descendants to go slightly north to Spotsylvania County, than it is for the descendants of the two original Lancaster County Wilbourns (Robert and Matthew) to do this.

Second, the name John, though extremely common, appears from one generation to the next, in the counties of Westmoreland – Essex – Caroline – and Spotsylvania. Sometimes early Americans gave three or four generations the same first name.

Third, the chronological formation of those four counties emerging out the other means their migration was not difficult at all. Maybe in some instances that they didn’t have to move at all, but the county was formed below their feet, so to speak. But more research about where exactly they lived needs to be done.

Fourth, Edward’s present-day descendant whose last name is Welborn took the DNA test, which proves with remarkable clarity and minimal variations that he descends from the Wilbourns in Goochland and Mecklenburg Counties.  Welborn’s ancestor Edward lived in Spotsylvania County, to the north, where a certain John also lived and who disappears from the records in 1747. Since they appear in the same court case initiated by Joseph Hawkins, Gentleman, it is clear John and Edward are related (there is no large army of Wilbourns in these counties at this time). They are most likely brothers. Eventually our lines migrated southward, into the central and southern counties of Virginia, and into North Carolina, counties that border Virginia.

Fifth and finally, our (underlined) John settled in Lunenburg County in southern Virginia in 1747-1748 around the same time the Spotsylvania John disappears from his records up there. So we’re probably dealing with the same John who’s connected with Edward in Spotsylvania. John migrated southward to Lunenburg, out of which Mecklenburg was formed in 1764/5. In about 1769, Edward moved to Granville County, North Carolina, which borders Mecklenburg County. In other words, as noted, our Wilbourns trended toward the south, not to the north, after they finished their business in the northern Virginian counties of Spotsylvania, Fauquier, and Prince William.

Thus in my opinion, with about 70% certainty, Samuel is our direct ancestor, with two Johns and Edward coming as his offspring; then our legally proven (underlined) John appears more frequently in the records in Lunenburg County.

When we get to the Lunenburg County John Wilbourn in his post, next, we will discover legal proof of three of his descendants. In that post there will be no guesswork about them.

See John Wilbourn and Judith


Bontempo, Lydia Sparacio. Virginia County Court Records, Order Book

Abstracts of Middlesex County, Virginia, 1732-1737. McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 2002.

Davis, Rosalie Edith. Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Books E and F, 1774-1790.

Manchester, Missouri: published privately, 1983.

—. Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Books C, C ½, D, and D ½, 1759-1774.

Manchester, Missouri: published privately, 1977.

—. Louisa County, Virginia, Deed Books A and B, 1742-1759, Bellevue,

Washington: Manchester, Missouri: published privately, 1976.

Dorman, John Frederick. Westmoreland County, Virginia Order Book, 1675/6 –1688/9, Part II. Washington, DC, 1983.

—. Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1746-1754, Part Three, 1750-1752.

Washington, D.C.: published privately, 1970.

Elliott, Katherine B. Early Wills 1765-1799. Mecklenburg County, Virginia,

published 1983.

Goochland County, Virginia Marriage Bonds, 1730-1854. Genealogical Society of Utah, 1936.

Hopkins, William Lindsay. Middlesex County, Virginia Wills and Inventories

1673-1812, and Other Court Papers. Richmond, Virginia: Gen-N-Dex, 1989

Jones, Mac. W., ed. The Douglas Register, Being a Detailed Record of Births,

Marriages, and Deaths, Together with Other Interesting Notes, As Kept

by the Rev. William Douglas, 1750-1797. Richmond: J. W. Ferguson and

Sons, 1928.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Deeds, 1765-1771, T. L. C. Genealogy, 1991.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Deeds, 1771-1776, T. L. C. Genealogy, 1991.

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Deeds, 1777-1779, T. L. C. Genealogy, 1994

Nottingham, Stratton. Marriage License Bonds of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

from 1765 to 1810. Onancock, VA, USA: Stratton Nottingham, 1928.

Sparacio, Ruth and Sam. Virginia County Court Records, Spotsylvania County,

Virginia, 1746-1748. McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 2000. This book contains Spotsylvania County Orders taken from Spotsylvania

County Order Book 1738-1749, pp. 392-504, for Courts held 8th September 1746 through 9th of March 1748/9.

—. Virginia Court Records, Louisa County, Virginia, Orders (1742-1744).

McLean, Virginia, the Antient Press, 1999.

—. Virginia Court Records, Louisa County, Virginia, Orders (1744-1747).

McLean, Virginia, the Antient Press, 1999.

—. Virginia Court Records, Louisa County, Virginia, Orders (1747-1748 / 1766 /

            1772). McLean, Virginia, the Antient Press, 1999.

—. Virginia County Court Records, Middlesex County, Virginia, 1707-1708.

McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 1998.

—. Virginia County Court Records: Goochland Co., Virginia Land Tax Books (2

vols: 1782-1788 and 1789-1794), McLean, Virginia: Antient P, 1997.

—. Virginia County Court Records, Order Book Abstracts of Essex County,

Virginia, 1695-1699. McLean, Virginia, 1991.

“Virginia Tax Records, from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography,

the William and Mary College, Quarterly and Tyler’s Quarterly.”

Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1983

Williams, Kathleen Booth. Marriages of Goochland Co. Virginia, 1733-1815.

published privately, 1960.


[1] Source for ship Godspeed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godspeed_%28ship%29;

 [2] http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/WILBURN/2011-12/1323019469;

[3] Readers should be aware that these headright shipping transports, documented by Nugent in Cavaliers and Pioneers, have the possibility of fraud. The transporter could add a few names or claim the ship-load of people twice. Generally speaking, that’s a possibility. However, in my view, each specific document is innocent until proven guilty. And I can find no evidence of fraud in the three headright records that have Samuel, Robert, and Mathew in them.

[4] Nell Marion Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1666, vol. 1, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.), 264 (Robert), 282 (Mathew), 294 (Samuel).

[5] Source for the map: http://www.digital-topo-maps.com/county-map/virginia.shtml;

[6] John Frederick Dorman, Westmoreland County, Virginia Order Book, 1675/6 – 1688/9, Part II, Washington, DC, 1983, p. 175. See http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/115.html; the supporting links (here and below) are to posts I did in February-March 2010 at the Wilbourn Gen Forum. You can google the site.

[7] Ruth Sparacio and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records, Order Book Abstracts of Essex County, Virginia, 1695-1699, McLean, Virginia, 1991, pp. 56 and 84 (respectively). This book includes abstracts from Essex County Courts held from 10 February 1695 to 21 June 1699. See  http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/100.html;

[8] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1746-1754, Part Three, 1750-1752, Washington, D.C.: published privately, 1970. See http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/96.html;

[9] Ruth Sparacio and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records, Spotsylvania County, Virginia, 1746-1748, McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 2000. This book contains Spotsylvania County Orders taken from Spotsylvania County Order Book 1738-1749, pp. 392-504, for Courts held 8th September 1746 through 9th of March 1748/9.

See http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/114.html;

[10] Ruth Sparacio and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records, Middlesex County, Virginia, 1707-1708, McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 1998. This Book contains orders from Middlesex County Order Book no. 4, 1705-1710, pages 103-220, for courts held 5 May 1707 – 7 February 1708/9; Lydia Sparacio Bontempo, Virginia County Court Records, Order Book Abstracts of Middlesex County, Virginia, 1732-1737, McLean, Virginia: the Antient Press, 2002. This book of court orders begins with page 1, at a court held 6 January 1732 and ends with page 94 at a court held 3rd day January 1737; Middlesex Co., VA Christ Church Parish Registry Book. See http://www.brightok.net/~lguthrie/TIMELINEALLnobullets.htm;


[11] Virginia Tax Records, from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the William and Mary College, Quarterly and Tyler’s Quarterly, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1983; see http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/109.html; it should be noted that a Thomas Willbourne imported one person (Fra. Badingham) by (not on) Nov. 2, 1705, to King and Queen County, so this Thomas could be a different line entirely from Robert and Matthew (Nell Marion Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers, vol. 3, Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1979, p. 99). If Thomas doesn’t fit here, then the descendants of Robert and Mathew could have leaped over Thomas and gone due west and further than King and Queen County, right into Hanover County.

[12] Douglas Register: http://www.amazon.com/Register-Marriages-Interesting-Goochland-French-hugenot/dp/B000O96NQ2/; Goochland County, Virginia Marriage Bonds, 1730-1854, Genealogical Society of Utah, 1936; see http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/98.html;

[13] Ruth Sparacio and Sam Sparacio, Virginia Court Records, Louisa County, Virginia, Orders (1742-1744), McLean, Virginia, the Antient Press, 1999; —, Virginia Court Records, Louisa County, Virginia, Orders (1744-1747), McLean, Virginia, the Antient Press, 1999. See: http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/99.html;

[14] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia, Order Book 7, 1761-1762, New Orleans: Bryn Ffylliaid, 1999; —, Lunenburg County, Virginia, Order Book 8, 1762-1763, New Orleans: Bryn Ffylliaid, 1999; Lunenburg County, Virginia Court Order Book no. 9, 1763-1764, T. L. C. Genealogy, 1999; see http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/104.html;

[15] Douglas Register: http://www.amazon.com/Register-Marriages-Interesting-Goochland-French-hugenot/dp/B000O96NQ2/; see http://genforum.genealogy.com/wilbourn/messages/98.html;

2 thoughts on “Earliest Wilbourns in Virginia

  1. I am granddaughter of Ralph Ronald Wilbourne. I believe he was born in Dirksen, OR. His father was John Benton Wilbourne was Lucy Ann Olds. I believe that John B Wilbourne’s father may be the John Wilbourne who Ft Wilbourne was named in Illinois. It is where Abraham Lincoln came to fame in 1832 in the Black Hawk Wars. The fort was mostly a place to drop off supplies. I was told JBW’s father was a quartermaster.

    Would you know of anything that might connect John Benton Wilbourne to your research?


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