Who Was Charles Witt’s Father?

I have somewhat arbitrarily assigned him as a child of John Witt III, but it is not really clear whether he was a son of John Witt II or John Witt III.   His apparent birth year of 1718 or earlier makes determining his father somewhat difficult.  He is older than any of the known fourth generation Witts and younger than any of the third generation Witts (except perhaps for Sylvanus Witt).  He could therefore have been either the youngest son of John Witt II or the eldest son of John Witt III.    You can make an argument for either case.    It is more difficult to make a case for his being a son of William Witt, as the Huguenot  Society did in 1924 and that seems by far the least likely alternative.

Unfortunately, the fact that he lived just over the border in records-poor Henrico County until the late 1740s, eliminates any possibility of finding him in records for most of his early life.  The arguments for any of the alternatives are inconclusive, but most current Witt researchers accept him as a probable son of John Witt III.

Could he have been a son of John Witt II?

Certainly John Witt II could have had a child as young as Charles Witt.   He was still in his 40s in 1718, and may have been married to a young second wife.  Ann Rogers (who had two unmarried sisters in 1730)  may well have been a young second wife capable of bearing children in 1718.  Sylvanus Witt, a proven son of John Witt II, may have been another young son.   We have some reason to think that Sylvanus Witt was about the same age as Charles – he first appears in the records the same year as Charles and died within five years of Charles.  In addition, we have the striking absence of records for Charles Witt involving other Witts, a circumstance that makes sense if he were a much younger half-brother to John Witt III.  We also have his purchase of land in Henrico County in 1739, a demonstration of independence perhaps more logical for a young son of John Witt II than for the eldest of John Witt III.  Against this argument, we have his absence as a witness to the deed selling John Witt II’s land – though he may have been in Lunenburg and unavailable at the time.

The argument for John Witt III

We have only some weak circumstantial evidence.  Although we don’t find John Witt III in the records until 1731, he also could have had a son as early as 1718.  We do know some of his children were born just a few years later.  Although Charles Witt rarely appears in records in conjunction with other Witts, he does appear in a few records with sons of John Witt III (perhaps the 1746 tithables, the 1767 deed witnessed by Elijah, and the road order near Elijah).  Further, he and his children are sometimes found in the vicinity of fourth generation Witts and their in-laws – though this could be more of function of their ages and geography than of their generation.    Against this argument is the possibility that Charles Witt’s wife was a daughter of Thomas Harbour.  If this were to be provable some day, then all the circumstantial evidence in favor of John Witt III becomes worthless.  The circumstantial evidence would then be explained by the Harbour connection – while a marriage to Lavinia Harbour has no bearing on Charles Witt’s parentage, it would be sufficient to explain his association with David and Elijah Witt.

Some of our knowledge is “neutral” in the sense that it supports neither argument.  For example, either he or Sylvanus WItt must have been the third tithable in 1734 (only one of them since the other two were John II and John III.)  He moved to Lunenburg (later Halifax) County, but so did both John Witt III and several of his children, as well as his supposed father-in-law.  He did not give the names John, Elizabeth or Ann to any of his children.  (His children had mainly biblical names, a circumstance most likely due to his age and religious beliefs rather than to his generation.)  He was not involved in any transactions with any other Witts or the Harbours beyond those mentioned, though he did at one point own land adjoining a patent of Thomas Harbour’s.  None of the children of John Witt II or John Witt III named any children “Charles”.  His age, of course, can work for either argument.

Unlikely to be a son of William Witt

Several early 20th century Witt researchers proposed that Charles Witt was a son of the William Witt, who died in 1754 in Goochland County.  This assertion was first published in the Manakin Huguenot Society’s initial Yearbook in 1924, and repeated in numerous subsequent publications by Virkus and Burgess and others.   William Witt’s will names only two sons, John and Benjamin.  The Huguenot Society’s correspondents originally concluded that there were five additional sons based on subsequent relationships between the two sons named in the will and other Witts.  Further investigation shows that all five of those “sons” were actually grandsons — sons of either John Witt or Benjamin Witt.

With regard to Charles Witt, only evidence offered in support of the assertion that he was a son of William Witt was Charles Witt’s witness to a deed by Benjamin Witt in Prince Edward County in 1756.  It was assumed that this Charles Witt was a brother of Benjamin Witt, and that he was the same Charles Witt whose will was probated in Halifax County in 1781.  Neither of these assumptions is true. There were, in fact, two persons named Charles Witt. The Charles Witt who witnessed the 1756 deed was actually a son of Benjamin Witt, and he appears frequently in Prince Edward County and later in Buckingham County during a period when “our” Charles Witt was elsewhere.

There is absolutely no relationship of any kind in the records between “our” Charles Witt and William Witt or any of the children of William Witt.


Unless new evidence surfaces, we can’t know who his father was.  He was almost certainly the son of either John Witt II or John Witt III but we may never know which.