William of Norfolk Co - The Broket Archive

William and Mary Brokett of Norfolk Co Virginia 1703

We know of the existence of this couple solely from a half-torn 1703 deed of sale. About 40% of the deed’s left side is missing or illegible.1 It was found at the Chesapeake City Center records office in 1999 by Prof Clyde Brockett, and he obtained a paper photocopy, but when he returned to the Center some time later to study it more closely, he couldn’t relocate it. Perhaps you can help us find out more? Photographing it under ultra-violet light should reveal more of the illegible parts.

The interpretation of this deed highlights the temptation of linking isolated pieces of evidence together too readily and how the conclusions of an experienced researcher of the documentary records can be overturned by Y-DNA evidence.

Contents of this page:

The text of the 1703 deed
Summary of the deed
Explanation of the deed
Who were William and Mary?

Text of the 1703 Norfolk County deed


1. To all to whom these presents shall Come &c Know Yee that I William2
2. [Bro]kett of Norfolk County with the Consent of Mary my Wife for
3. ……… good Causes & Considerations in for & unto moveing; But more
4. [especi]ally for this Consideration of the Summe of Foure thousand
5. … hund[re]d pounds of tobacco in hand payd or Secured to be payd
6. …… [at the e]nsealing & delivery of these presents by Henerey Loo
7 ………….. afor said The Receipt of which we Acknowledge & Doe
8. ………. the said Heenery [Loo], his heires &c of Every part & parcell
9. divers …….. bargained, Alienated Sold Enfeoffed & Confirmed
10. Especi[ally] … ..se presents doe bargaine Alienate Sell Enfeoffe & Confirme
11. ……………. [sai]d Henry Loo a parcell or T..l of Land Scituate lying &
12. at ………………..Norfolk County on the Westerne branch of Elizabeth River
13. of th………………ed of Church Creek bounded betweene Joseph M…es &
14. Disch[arched by Hene]ry Loo And Edward …es on the back ..oe ..ming into the
15. …………………………. ing Seaventy Acres being part of a Pattent
16. ……………………. the said Joseph M..es & the said Brockett Containing two
17. …………………………. twelve Acres Granted ………… by the said Pattent may at
18. .en…………………………e To have & to ho[ld the sai]d seaventy acres of Land
19. on …………………………………….. ediffice ….. [build]ings Orchards Gardens
20. …………………………………………………………… [w]oods & underwoods timber
21. ……………………………………………………………………munities whatsoever
22. …………………………………………………………………….ion belonging or any=
23. ……………………………………………………………. [Hene]ry Loo & to his heires
24. ………………………………………………………………………..ine the said William
25. ………………………………………………………………………. with Warranty of
26. ……………………………………………………………………… And I the said William
27. ……………………………………………………………….. & Administration &c Unto the
28. ………………………………………………… Administration in the penal Sume of
29. …………………………………………. [pou]nds of tobaccoe to give Such further
30. ……………………………………………….. the said Land & premises to the said Loo his
31. [heires] …………………………………….. learned in the Law shall advise or
32. ……………………………………………………. (if need require) As also that the said
33. ……………………………………………….. and delivery of these presents free from
34. ………………………………………………….. Grants, Rights & Tittles of Dower
35. …………………………………………….. [wha]tsoever And to acknowledge this
36. ……………………………………………………….. required and Mary my Wife
37. ………………………………………………………….her thirds to the same In
38. ………………………………………………………….. sett our hands & seales this
39. ……………………………………………………………… 1702
40. Sign…                                                                     by his
41. Thomas ……                                                  [Willia]m X Brokett & seale
42. Elizabeth ……                                                            marke
43. Sampson ……                                                        by her
44. ……                                                                 [Mar]y W Brokett & seale
45. ……                                                                       marke
46.               Cour………. said Will[iam Brocke]tt
47.               Mary [his W]ife did ………………..her
48.                    Right of dower ther[ein?] …… ie
49.                this 24th. of February 1702/3 …dered
50.                to be Recorded
51.                                    Test.. Sampson Broer D: CCar?

Summary of the deed

The following summary is subject to more parts of the deed becoming legible and possibly altering some of the meaning.

Lines 1-11: In 1703 William Brokett and his wife Mary resided in Norfolk County, Virginia. The deed confirmed William’s sale of land he owned there to Henry Loo/Loe in consideration of 4 thousand and some hundred pounds of tobacco.
Lines 11-13: The land comprised 70 acres on the west branch of the Elizabeth River near that part of Church Creek bounded on one side by the property of Joseph M…es.
Lines 15-17: The 70 acres was part of a Patent of two [hundred?] and twelve acres.
Line 34: Rights and titles of Dower are mentioned.
Lines 41-44: William signed with an ‘X’, Mary with a ‘W’.
Lines 46-51: A Court footnote
Lines 47-8: Mary’s Right of Dower in the property are mentioned again.

Explanation of the deed

The following explanation is subject to more parts of the deed becoming legible and altering the meaning.

Line 2: The deed was made by William with Mary’s consent; it wasn’t a joint William and Mary deed.
Lines 4-5: Payment was in tobacco. This was common in Virginia at the time. “Promissory notes payable in tobacco were even used as currency, with the cost of almost every commodity, from servants to wives, given in pounds of tobacco.”3 Payment for several of Samuell Brockett’s transactions were made in tobacco, for instance one in 1674 in St Mary’s County, Maryland.
Line 6: Henry Loo was …
Lines 11-13: Church Creek on Elizabeth River is discussed elsewhere.
Lines 15-17: This strongly suggests that William—or another—Brockett had obtained the land by patent from the Virginia General Assembly. The larger property, 70 acres of which were being sold, were owned by “Joseph M..es & the said Brockett”. The “said Brockett” was probably William but could have been another who had passed it on to William: his father, for instance. A patent was normally issued on completion of service. Ultra-violet light could reveal more here.
Lines 41-44: The couple were probably illiterate—he signing with an ‘X’ and ‘W’.
Lines 34 and 47-8: Nash interpreted these two occurrences of the word “dower” to mean that this land was theirs only by right of Mary, and had come to them as a portion given with her on their marriage.4 However, the mention of patent in lines 15-17 show that the property was William’s [and Joseph M…es’], whether earned by service or inherited. The mention of the dower in the deed and the Court footnote were for the benefit of the purchasor and sought to extinguish any right of dower Mary might claim in it by having Mary’s consent in writing to waive any such right. However “again and again a wife, after the husband’s death, would in any case claim dower of her husband’s estate and overturn the fact that she had consented by saying that she had had no choice but to do what her husband told her to do.”5
Line 49: The 1702/3 dual dating was the old style, meaning 1703. This has sometimes been misinterpreted as 1702, e.g. by the old brockett.info site.

Who were William and Mary?

The lack of regular record keeping during the early colonisation of Virginia means that this half-torn deed may be the only record of the couple to be found. How old they were in 1703, when and where they married and who William or Mary’s parents were may never be known. So can the records of emigration from England give us any clues about William?

Up to 1700 three William Brocketts are known to have come to America: the first 2 were transported in 1638 and 1668 and the 3rd completed his service in 1677. Assuming that each one came as a young man aged between 15 and 24 (likely, although many came younger and some older):

  1. The 1638 William would have been born 1614-23 and aged 80-89 in 1703. He came to Accomack Co, Virginia. Nugent listed him as Brackett.
  2. The 1668 William would have been born 1644-53 and aged 50-59 in 1703. He came to Virginia.
  3. The 1677 William would have been born 1649-58 and aged 45-54 in 1703. He completed his service in Maryland.

Which of these three the 1703 William was most likely to have been is speculation. The one aged 80-89 in 1703 looks unlikely, although perhaps not impossible, if he had come across younger. One of the other two could well have been him; Samuell Brockett, for instance, is known to have been in both Virginia and Maryland. But then, we don’t know all the immigrants; many came unrecorded. And on the other hand any or all of the three might have died well before 1703: “According to some estimates, about 40 percent of those who arrived in these regions died during their terms, many in the first year”.6 Others returned to England. So, the 1703 William may have been none of these three.

Perhaps, as another possibility, a generation intervened and he was the son of an immigrant. Might he have been a young man in 1703, aged 25-30 and born c 1673-8, newly married, and selling off inherited land to move on somewhere else? A father would need to have immigrated by 1670 at the latest in that case. Of the recorded immigrants at least 4 could have been possible fathers. Thus one could speculate that Samuell was his father. Samuell was known to have owned land and married. Then as another alternative, might William have been middle-aged in 1703 yet still been the son of an immigrant? Could the William who immigrated as early as 1638, or the 1703 William himself, have at some stage traveled the 100 or so miles from Accomack Co to Norfolk Co?

Then there is the question whether William and Mary had any children of their own. Were any other Brokets recorded in Norfolk Co at this time or a decade or two later? No. But one was recorded dying in Princess Anne Co VA in 1712 and two others in Pasquotank Co NC in 1732 and 1747. These were all within only about 50 Km of each other, so well within range of possible movement. A good case can be made that the last two were sons of the one who died in 1712, but not that he was son of William and Mary. This Chesapeake area was the point of arrival for huge numbers of immigrants at this time and apart from the geographical proximity just mentioned and a possible timing based on the assumption that William was in his 50s in 1703, no other evidence can be made to link William with these other Brocketts. Except for the name. It was, then as now, uncommon, and on the basis that there were no others around you could perhaps make a case. But this would assume that all the Brokets were recorded, but as we see with William himself, it is a lucky chance that this half torn deed has survived at all. Aside from all that. William and Mary may have had no children, they may have had only daughters, they may have had sons but the one who died in 1712 wasn’t one of hem, and so the speculations could continue.

In sum, all these are hypothetical questions and arguments from silence, weak negative proof, and, by the Genealogical Proof Standard, a proof statement for the 1703 William being any particular one of the 3 immigrant Williams, or the son of another immigrant, is tenuous.

Despite all this speculative uncertainty, and despite his otherwise careful and normally sceptical approach, Nash came to the conclusion that the 1703 William was the 1668 immigrant, moreover he probably came from Wells in Somerset, England, and he and his wife Mary were the ancestors of a VA/NC clan:

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Page Last Updated: February 8, 2019

Footnotes

For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.

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[1] It is apparently among the Norfolk County records at Chesapeake City Center, and mentioned in Abstracts of Norfolk Co Wills, 1710-1753, Book 9, p 588.

[2] For ease of reference line numbers have been added to this transcription. Underlined letters indicate abbreviations in the original like presents, written p'sents in the original; square brackets indicate suggested words or letters that are obscured or missing from the original.

[3] Encyclopedia Virginia online at goo.gl/15gq4N (accessed 21 Oct 2018).

[4] Oral communication.

[5] Communication from David Bethell 17 Mar 2018.

[6] Sacks 1991 ch 8.