William of Norfolk Co VA - The Broket Archive

William and Mary Brothett of Norfolk Co Virginia 1703

If you had visited the Broket Archive between 6 Aug 2007 and 29 Sep 2022 you would have found a page entitled William Brockett of Norfolk Co Virginia 1703 devoted to a lengthy discussion of this half-torn 1703 deed of sale from Norfolk Co Virginia:1

Brothett VA deed 1703

But now the discussion is radically different since as you can see, William’s surname is no longer Brockett.

Contents of this page:

1. Photocopies 1997-2022
2. Nash’s deductions 1998-2005
3. FamilySearch 2022
4. The moral of the tale

1. Photocopies 1997-2022

The half-torn 1703 deed was found at the Chesapeake City Center records office in 1997 by Professor Clyde Brockett of Norfolk Virginia (see the separate page). He obtained a paper photocopy at the time, but later when he returned to the Center to study the deed more closely, he couldn’t relocate it, and he never managed to do so—nor did anyone else. In 1998 Clyde sent a photocopy of his photocopy to Richard Nash, a keen Broket researcher (see the separate page), who made a photocopy of the photocopy of the photocopy and mailed it to this Broket Archive. As you can see from the image above, about 40% of the deed’s left side is missing and other lines and words are illegible or very difficult to read, whether because of bleed-through from the reverse side or from image degradation during the photocopying process. I thought photographing the deed under ultra-violet light would reveal more of the illegible parts, and some years later I wrote to the Center to see if they could make a better copy under ultra-violet light, but they also failed to locate the deed. But together the 3 of us extracted the following main points:

On 24 Feb 1702/3 a William Brockett of Norfolk Co and his wife Mary put their marks and seals to a deed selling 70 acres on the west branch of the Elizabeth River, bounded on one side by the property of Joseph M…es, to Henry Loo/Loe in consideration of 4 thousand and some hundred pounds of tobacco. The 70 acres were part of a Patent granted to Joseph M…es and William Brockett.

William and Mary’s surname occurs in full only 3 times in the fragment, and in the photocopy of the photocopy of the photocopy the two middle letters of the name looked somewhat smudged together. In the enthusiasm of finding such an early Brockett reference in Virginia, and absorbed in our attempts to decipher the rest of the document and guess what might have filled the gaps, it didn’t occur to us to doubt Clyde’s reading of the surname as Brockett; he had seen the original. Our only slight query about the name was whether the middle letters were ‘ck’, or just ‘k’ with a thickened downstroke, i.e. Brockett or Brokett. This was the full attempt of our transcription—up to 2022:2

1. To all to whom these presents shall Come &c Know Yee that I William
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?

2. Nash’s deductions 1998-2005

A couple of years after receiving his photocopy of the deed Richard Nash published a book about his ancestors, in which his narrative on the Brocketts began as follows:3

“A William Brockett made his way to the Virginia Colony between 1638 and 1668. In 1702 a William Brockett died in Norfolk County, Virginia, leaving his wife, Mary. Francis Brockett, possible son of William, died in Princess Anne County, Virginia, in 1712. He had married Rebecca Cornwell, daughter of Joshua of Norfolk (later Princess Anne) County. We are convinced that those Brocketts, as well as the later ones in adjacent Pasquotank Co, North Carolina, are all related…”

Nash privately printed only a small number of copies of his book, but since he lodged one with the Library of Virginia, some observations need recording.

Nash’s method of deduction quoted above was what is called Negative Proof, see the separate page. It’s a method much used in genealogical research whereby in the absence of evidence to the contrary two or more separate events or circumstances are linked. As such, it can contribute to a good proof statement—provided of course that the evidence of the events or circumstances is valid. The separate events Nash linked here were:

1. The arrival of a William Brockett in Virginia in 1638 or 1668
2. The deed of sale of land in Norfolk Co Virginia
3. Deeds of sale and purchase of land by a Francis Brockett and wife Rebecka in Princess Anne Co Virginia in 1696.

  • That a William arrived in Virginia in 1638 and 1668 is evidenced by published lists of 17th C immigrants to Virginia, the 1638 one arriving in Accomack Co and the 1668 one sent from Bristol, England, see the separate page. The 1638 immigrant was actually a William Brackett, but in any case Nash preferred the later 1668 one as the William of the 1703 deed.
  • The 1703 deed of sale exists. Its date was actually 1702/3—in today’s usage 1703 rather than 1702. By the way, it was incorrect to say “a William Brockett died in Norfolk County” that year. 1702/3 was the date of the deed not of William’s death. However, this didn’t in itself affect the validity of the negative proof, although it would have been more correct of course if Nash had said he “signed a deed in Norfolk County”.
  • The records of Francis Brockett in Princess Anne Co 1696 also exist. In 1691 Lower Norfolk County had been divided between Norfolk and Princess Anne counties, and the 1696 records concerned land over on the east side of Elizabeth River.
  • No records of other Brokets had—or indeed have since—been found in those counties prior to those concerning Francis in 1696.

Thus, since Nash knew of no evidence to disprove the possibility that these separate events or circumstances could be linked, using negative proof he sensibly deduced that it was possible that Francis Brockett was the son of William. He had also found records of later Brocketts in adjacent areas, and was convinced—mostly again by negative proofs—that those Brocketts were all related. He claimed descent from one of them, and therefore also from this William of Norfolk VA. Procedures like this are a common feature of genealogies—few records other than of baptisms and some marriages explicitly state a person’s parentage—and many of Nash’s negative proofs for early VA and NC Brokets are highly likely to be correct. With hindsight it is easy to be over critical and US Brockett genealogy is greatly indebted to Nash for many of his findings (from the days before records became available online). But of course when an essential element of a negative proof is found to be incorrect the whole proof is invalidated. In this case it turns out that the signatories to the 1703 deed of sale weren’t in fact Brocketts at all.

Nonetheless we continue to display the following chart for the record, unaltered despite a couple of relationships since discovered to be wrong (for the one concerning Benjamin Brockett, d 1758, see the separate page). The  Broket Archive assembled the chart in 2005 from Nash’s various writings and email communications—mainly his Time Line—and it was approved by him while acknowledging that some of the dates were estimates or speculations.
BROCKETT of Virginia and N Carolina 17th – early 19th C—Richard Nash’s suggested reconstruction c 2005

English origins?

Based on the 1703 deed of William of Norfolk VA Nash appeared to work backwards from the known death of Francis I in 1712 by several estimated steps to a possible date of birth for William of 1650 in England (aged about 18 at emigration) and of 1620-25 for his parents. Using Broket Archive data Nash employed negative proof again to settle on two possibilities, which he circulated by email:

1. William, baptised 1654 in Wells, Somerset, son of William, baptised 1615, and Mary LEWIS, see the separate page.
2. A hypothetical son of Frances Brokett, baptised 1624 in Dorking, Surrey, unmarried brother of Jane, see the separate page.

In addition to the dates, the negative proofs rested mainly on the facts that both locations were in the south of England, as was Bristol, and neither individual had been found again in English records. These negative proofs were by no means strong, in particular the second one, based as it was on an unevidenced person. We only mention them here because—along with caveats that they were speculative—they were mentioned in various places in this Broket Archive, and are now obviously to be disregarded.

3. FamilySearch 2022

But as for the 1703 Norfolk VA deed of sale, we never doubted that a William and Mary Brockett were alive in Norfolk VA in 1703—until 11 August 2022 that is. On that day I was thrilled to discover that microfilm images of original 16th and 17th C court records from Norfolk and Lower Norfolk County Virginia had been made freely available online by FamilySearch. Among other collections in FS’s huge database: United States, Virginia, Chesapeake (Independent City) – Land and property was one entitled Deeds and wills, 1637-1900 with 121 microfilm reels, one of which was Deeds and wills, v. 6 1695-1703 with 562 images.4 The individual details of all these deeds (names, locations, dates) haven’t yet been indexed into FamilySearch’s general database, so you can’t search under the name ‘Brockett’, for instance, but must step one by one through the images. Many in this particular collection are damaged but the distinctive shape of the damage of our 1703 deed made it easier to find.5

About 40% of the deed in the online image is of course still missing but much of what remains is clearer than in the photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy and one small—but vital—misreading of 2 letters by Clyde Brockett was suddenly noticed. The result is that there is now no longer any record on this Broket Archive of a William and Mary Brockett of Norfolk Virginia 1703. The couple didn’t exist. In the photocopy of the photocopy of the photocopy the two middle letters of William and Mary’s surname at the bottom of the deed were smudged together and it had been unclear whether they were ‘ck’ or just ‘k’ with a thickened downstroke, i.e. Brockett or Brokett. However in the online image it is clear that the two letters are in fact ‘th’, i.e. Brothett, with the lower part of the shoulder of the ‘h’ distinct from that of the ‘k’ in the word ‘marke’ and the same as that in the words ‘by his’ and ‘by her’:

Brothett marks 1703 deed Norfolk VA

Brothett is an unusual and unexpected surname, but related deeds found in FamilySearch’s same database showed that it was a variant of the more common Brothwaite, Brothwett, Brathwait, Braithwaite, and Brathaite. For instance, an agreement dated 15 Sep 1690 signed by William and Mary Brathwait and Joseph Munds recorded their agreement to allocate a portion of 50 acres out of the 212 they had been granted abbutting a “branch Called the Little branch” in Elizabeth River in a patent as orphan land for Henry Lowe.6 Usefully, this document dated the original patent to 1 Jun 1678, enabling me to find it in the Library of Virginia Index of Patents. The patent granted the same 212 acres to William Brothwait (Brothwett in the margin) and Joseph Muns for transporting 5 named people.7

Another indenture of sale dated almost 9 years later on 1/2 Jan 1711/12 adds a twist to the tale. It recorded the sale of the very same 70 acres by Thomas Scott Gent to Henry Loes, both of Norfolk Co, endorsed by Sarah and Joseph Muns.8 It shows that the 70 acres had always in fact been within the bounds of Scott’s patented lands and Wm Brahaite [sic] had mistakenly (fraudulently?) sold it to Loes [on 24 Feb 1702/3]. Another fragmentary court record around the same time as the 1703 deed (a few pages before) showed a court order for “William Brothett [to pay] Thomas Scott the summe of foure …”9 These various documents clarify and confirm some of our earlier tentative decipherments of the damaged 24 Feb 1702/3 deed, such as:

  • The site of the 70 acres was “on the southwestward side of Church Creek issuing out of the main western branch [of Elizabeth River] beginning at a little branch by the side of Church Creek formerly the bounds between Wm Brothwaite / Brathwait and Joseph Muns and running up Church Creek to Capt Craford’s line into the Great Swamp”.
  • The 70 acres were not—as we had deduced from lines 15 and 16 of the 1703 deed—part of the Patent granted to William Brothwait and Joseph Muns in 1678, but were in fact part of Mr Scott’s patents and had been wrongly sold by William.

Without going into further unnecessary details, it seems that our deed of 1703 was William Brothett’s 1703 wrongful sale of the 70 acres.

4. The moral of the tale

The main lessons I learnt here are:

  • Always strive to get as close as possible to original documents.
  • Scrutinise the text letter by letter, especially names.
  • Keep aware of the temptation to jump to conclusions.
  • When you do uncover an error that you have published, don’t cover it up again, but publicise your correction asap, whatever the knock-on effect may be.

The focus should always be on the quality and use of evidence to support a hypothesis. Evidence like a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a fragment of a document is poor quality and should only be used in a proof statement with caution. Transcribing original documents and publishing the results is valuable for those who can’t so easily access them, but the transcriber has a heavy responsibility to be accurate. Make a mistake and publish it and it may not be noticed by those without access, and from them it could be repeated by one, two, twenty, a hundred people…

This William and Mary of Norfolk Co Virginia were not Brocketts and were not the progenitors of the Brocketts of Virginia and North Carolina.

Page Last Updated: October 2, 2022

Footnotes

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

Expand

[1] Versions of TBA dating back to 4 Feb 2005 have been preserved by archive.org.

[2] For ease of reference line numbers have been added. 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] June 2000, p 32.

[4] Film #007645629, accessed 11 Aug 2022. Also at image 982/1116 of Deeds and wills, v. 5-6, 1686-1703 (Film # 007645617).

[5] Image 512/562, accessed 11 Aug 2022.

[6] Image 166/1116 of Deeds and wills, v. 5-6, 1686-1703 (Film # 007645617), accessed 11 Aug 2022. This was on the western side of the River and not to be confused with Little Creek on the eastern side.

[7] Library of Virginia Index of Patents No.6 1666-1679 (PartI & PartII) p 648, accessed 11 Aug 2022. But not in Nugent's Index in Cavaliers and pioneers; abstracts of Virginia land patents and grants, 1623-1800 pp 596-8 and 696.

[8] In 2 copies on images 73-4/562 (pp 131-132) of Deed book no. 9 1710-1717, film #007645631, accessed 11 Aug 2022.

[9] Image 976/1116 of Deeds and wills, v. 5-6, 1686-1703 (Film # 007645617), and image 509/562 of Deeds and wills, v. 6 1695-1703 (Film #007645629) both accessed 11 Aug 2022.

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