Clues in Hance Hendrick’s Patents

As discussed in more detail on another page, in 1699 Hance Hendrick was one of several men who claimed rights to land in the Pamunkey Neck of what would shortly become King William County, Virginia on the basis that they had bought their land from Ralph Yarbrough, who had acquired a large tract from the Pamunkey Indian tribe.  With his right secured,  Hance Hendrick applied for patents for two adjacent parcels.

We find a number of interesting elements in these patents, particularly some clues that suggest he had settled on this land as much as twenty years earlier.

But first…

He probably purchased his headrights from someone else

Hance Hendrick’s first patent in King & Queen (later King William) County in17011 was based on ten headrights:  himself, his wife Jane, and eight other persons listed in this order:

Hance Hendrick & his wife Jane, John Ashford, Evan Humphries, James House, John Jones,Wm. Bennett, Jos. Singleton, John Wood, Mary Allaway

Just over two years later in April 1704 a William Lowry patented 1044 acres in Essex County based on 21 headrights, listed in the patent in this order:2

Wm. Eake, John Ashford, Evan Humpheys, James House, John Jones, Wm. Bennett, Joseph Singleton, John Wood, Mary Allaway, Mary Bennett, John Mills, Edwd. Welch, Jone Welch, Wm. White, James Colly, Timothy Done, Elinor Spade,Ruth Nowell, John Westin, Robt. Davis, Jack, negro

It is not particularly unusual to find duplicate lists like this — one of my ancestors appears on a certificate that was used in four different patents.3  In fact, three other names in Lowry’s list were also used again in a 1713 patent. 4  What this means is that both Hendrick and Lowry purchased a headright certificate containing those eight names from someone else, perhaps someone in the colonial Secretary’s office where one could obtain headrights in exchange for modest bribes.  When the Board of Trade began investigating headright corruption in 1696, former Governor Francis Nicholson testified that the sale of headright names by his clerks in the early 1690s was “common practice.” Edward Randolph reported that “I have heard of many false certificates of rights. The practice is common…” Yet another report called the Secretary’s office a “mint of [head]rights, at which they may be purchased at from one shilling to five shillings per right.”   Headrights could also be purchased from the original  owner of the certificate.  My own analysis of 17th century headright certificates (see the Articles pages) showed that most genuine headright certificates were sold in private sales, so that the resulting patent was issued to someone who had nothing to do with importing the named individuals, and who likely didn’t know them from Adam. The point of all this is that we can safely conclude that Hance Hendrick was not engaged in importation of servants himself, but rather purchased the rights from someone else.

We should also point out that we can determine neither the time frame nor the geography in which the eight named persons were imported.  Of the eight names, a few like Wood and Jones are too common to trace reliably, and others have not been found in any other record.   A John Ashford of Northumberland County bought land in Essex County in 17045 but the Ashford name is common enough that this may be a coincidence.

We do, however, have a single clue that places the importation event quite far away in both time and space. There is record of an Evan Humphreys — a name unusual enough that it may have been unique in Virginia of the time — who appears as a taxable servant to Robert Kae in Surry County in 1677 and 1678, and perhaps earlier.  In 1675 and 1677, the intervening year being missing, Robert Kae was charged with six unidentified tithables.  But in 1677 Rowland Davies testified in court that one of Kae’s tithables was an “Evan Humphrey”.  In the 1678 tax list all six tithables were named, among them a “Van Humphrey”.  In 1679 Evan Humphrey was one of four men tithable to a Mrs. Drew.  As “Evan Humphreys” he began appearing as a free man in Surry tithables in 1681. in 1688 “Evan Humphreys & William Bennitt”, another headright name, were tithable together.

In 1710 the Surry County court generously awarded Evan Humphreys a headright certificate for importation of himself into the colony “he having been in thirty years & was a servant when he came in.”6  If this was the same Evan Humphreys, the certificate used by Hendrick and Lowry may have been as much as twenty years old.

Why didn’t Hance Hendrick claim his sons as headrights?

If he arrived in Virginia as head of a family, surely he would have claimed his children as headrights.  He claimed himself and his wife, indicating that they had both immigrated into the colony, but claimed no children at all.  If his children had been born elsewhere and imported into Virginia, why didn’t he claim them? He needed 14 additional headrights to process the two patents and at least 8 of those, if not all 14, he purchased.  There was no reason to buy headrights if his children were available.  (There was no age-related restriction on headrights; the only requirement was that a person enter into Virginia with the intention to inhabit.)

Was he in Virginia by the 1680s?

It is hard to escape the conclusion that his children were born in Virginia.  And that would place him in Virginia by the early 1680s, based on the estimated birth years of his four sons.

That the sons were born in Virginia is also suggested by the observation that they exhibited the characteristics of English citizens. For instance, only English citizens could own land in Virginia, something all the sons did at young ages. (Hance himself had to have been a citizen when he bought from Yarbrough but naturalized citizenship would not extend to his children unless they were born in an English colony.) Naturalization records in Virginia after 1680 are non-existent, but it seems highly likely that the sons were citizens by birth and so would not have had to petition the Governor for citizenship, quite an expensive proposition for anyone, much less young men.

Could he have been in Pamunkey Neck by the early 1680s?

While he may have lived elsewhere in Virginia before arriving in Pamunkey Neck, there is reason to think that Hance Hendrick had settled on his land there as much as twenty years before presenting his claim in 1699.

  • His two patents occupied far more river frontage than any of the occupants of the Yarbrough lease, which suggests that he was one of the earliest purchasers.
  • The patents of 1701 and 1702 are rich with descriptions suggesting that the original surveys were many years old.
    • The surveys for his 1701 and 1702 patents restated the metes and bounds of his original purchases from Yarbrough.  The 1701 patent refers to an “old persimmon corner tree being dead” and “an old line of marked trees” on the line between Hendrick and Morris as well as to the “old corner between Hance Hendrick & John Oakes”.  Clearly enough time had elapsed for a corner tree to die and other lines and corners to be described as “old”.
    • The 1702 patent refers to “a pine stump formerly the corner tree but now down and rotten” and another corner white oak “within sight of Hance’s old plantation”.  Enough time had passed that a corner tree had died and fallen. (For what it’s worth, pine stumps would rot approximately 4-5 years after the tree died.)


  1. Virginia Patent Book 9, page 362. []
  2. Virginia Patent Book 9, page 598. []
  3. See this page. []
  4. Virginia Patent Book 10, page 82. []
  5. Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. 1 (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988 Reprint), page 110. []
  6. Surry County Court Orders, Book VI (1700-1711), page 146. []