Genealogy requires rather a substantial amount of critical thinking and deductive reasoning. This is especially true the further back in time you go…when the paper trail becomes sparse. I’m going through this right now with one ancestral cousin, the English immigrant Henry West who settled in the Virginia Colony. He would found an outpost settlement in what is the Richmond, Virginia area (The Origins of Richmond, http://www.envisionthejames.org/detail/the-origins-of-richmond/evj79769abf7da845298)
He’s a double cousin. He an ancestor that is shared in my father’s Roane family line and my mother’s Matthews family line.
I have two distinct lines of Wests in my family tree. Henry “The Immigrant”‘s is one. The Barons de la Warr are another (the State of Delaware was named for this line). Contemporary records say that Henry was related to the Baronial line of Wests. He is cited as being a nephew of Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr and the 2nd Governor of the Virginia Colony:
Nephew is a pretty cut and dried familial term. So you’d think that Henry’s relationship to either Thomas should be all done and dusted. Far from it.
Thomas West does have one known brother. However, records for that brother are extremely scare. So far, I have only found one son for this brother. His name isn’t Henry. So no nephew Henry’s to be found here. My hunch is that untangling his descendants will require a visit to the British National Archives in London.
On numerous online family trees, I’m finding stories that my Henry’s proper name was William. So it was back to the drawing board to search. It turns out that Thomas West did indeed have nephew named William West:
A few months short of a year after he arrived, [Thomas West, 2nd Baron] De La Warr left Virginia because of illness. A third of the colony’s population was dead, mostly from disease. Miners, brought to Virginia to search for gold, silver, and copper, had planned a mutiny and seen their ringleader hanged. The governor’s nephew, Captain William West, had been killed in battle [with the Powhatan tribe]. From http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/jamestown_settlement_early
This William West, however, was born earlier than Henry “The Immigrant” West – and died much earlier.
So this William isn’t a match either.
It’s the usual genealogy blunder. Just because two men from the same family died in battles with Native Americans does not make them one in the same person.
So it was back to the drawing board yet again. I’ve had to go back to the first West who was created Baron de la Warr and sketch out his descendants. There are Henry Wests to be sure…none are even close to being a match for my cousin, Henry “The Immigrant” West. They are either born too soon, too late or never travelled from England to the American colonies.
At the moment, I’ve ruled out all of the possibilities for identifying who Henry “The Immigrant” West actually is. That’s not a bad thing. While I know who he isn’t…I know enough about to him to eventually identify who he is in terms of his relationship to the overall West family. If he’s a relation at all. It just requires more research and hunting.
What is interesting is that Henry “The Immigrant” West had land along the James River, near to properties owned by Thomas and Francis West. Henry is also associated with Jamestown, Thomas and Francis West’s base of operations in the Virginia Colony, upon his arrival in the Virginia Colony. Which leads to me to believe that the strongest possibility is that Henry was a cousin to Thomas, rather than a nephew.
Critical thinking and deductive reasoning suggests:
- The original account for Henry “The Immigrant” is incorrect. This would mean that somehow, somewhere back in time, Henry “The Immigrant” West was confused with Henry West, son of Thomas West.
- My Henry may not be a relation to the Baronial line of Wests at all. He may simply be from an unrelated West family.
- My Henry may share a much older common ancestry with the Baronial line of Wests in England; making him a cousin.
- A contemporary may have heard the name West and simply assumed he was a relation to Thomas West.
- Henry may be his middle name, which he preferred using. Meaning his first name is unknown.
- Whatever colonial records that could shed light on Henry’s relationship to Thomas West have either been lost or destroyed in the course of time, skirmishes (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion) or various wars.
The search for Henry continues…