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Rosamond Pruett - the Matriarch of our Pruitts?

Birth Record for Samuell Prewtt in Northumberland Co., Va.
Birth Record for Samuell Prewtt in Northumberland Co., Va.
On February 1, 1700, Samuell Prewtt (or Prent) was born to Rosamond according to Northumberland Co., Va. records. Twenty-five years earlier, on October 20, 1675, a Rosamond Pruett (or Brett) was claimed as a headright (along with 24 other individuals) on a grant of 1200 acres in Gloucester, Va. to Col. Robert Abrahall. Three years later, on September 26, 1678, Rosamond Brett was (again?) claimed by Col. Abrahall as a headright (along with 19 other individuals) for an additional 1000 acres in New Kent Co., Va. Both properties were described as being on the "NE side of Mattopony Riv." so they were likely close to each other. Col. Abrahall claimed at least 19 of the same people for both of these land patents.
Col. Abrahall Patent 1675
Col. Robert Abrahall Patent 1675
Each individual (or headright) entitled the patentee to 50 acres of land. It was common practice to buy and sell the names of potential headrights. The patentee need not have been responsible for paying the person's passage to America as long as he/she held the right to use their name. Each person's name should only have been used once, but that technicality was often overlooked or ignored by patentees and the authorities who oversaw the headright patent process. In this case, since the land was patented in two different counties, the authorities may not have known that the colonel was using the same names.

Col. Abrahall Patent 1678
Col. Robert Abrahall Patent 1678

The similarities of the names on the birth record and the two land patents suggests that these three Rosamonds were the same person. Prewtt, Prent, Pruett and Brett have been the last names decyphered from the handwritten records by those transcribing them. Rosamond was not a common name and the spellings of the last names, while difficult to determine, are not too different from each other. Since Col. Abrahall used many names more than once on his patents, it's likely he used the same Rosamond on these two patents. In addition, Gloucester Co. and New Kent Co. are only about 40 to 50 miles from Northumberland Co.

Land Patent and Birth Record Name Comparisons
Land Patent and Birth Record Name Comparisons
It's very easy to imagine that Col. Abrahall could have bought Rosamond's headright soon after she arrived in America. Her arrival could have been in 1675 or years earlier. The colonel and Rosamond need never have even met for him to secure her headright. It's also possible to assume that Rosamond was a child when she came to America and was still young enough to have a child in 1700 since there was no restriction on the age of a headright.

Was Rosamond Prewtt's son the Samuel Pruitt who lived in Maryland and fathered three sons who migrated to the Halifax/Pittsylvania Co., Va. area by the mid-1760s? The evidence is circumstantial at best. St. Mary's Co., Md. is just across the Potomac River from Northumberland Co., Va. John Hawkers HeadrightIt was fairly common for people to cross the Potomac into Maryland from the Northern Neck and Tidewater areas of Virginia and may have been the route taken by Rosamond and/or Samuel Pruitt in the early 1700s. John Hawker, who was likely the headright mentioned in this 1651 Northumberland Co. patent, and the grandfather of Samuel Pruitt's wife, Elizabeth Hawker, also likely took that route into Maryland many years earlier. Members of the Hawker and Pruitt families lived close together in Prince George's Co., Md. and later in Pittsylvania Co., Va. Who was the father of Samuel Pruitt? All efforts to link Samuel to known Pruitt immigrants of the 1600s have been unsuccessful. Some have tried to say he was born in 1684 and that he was the son of John Pruitt and Sarah Lessene, but there seem to be no records to support either claim - parents or date. More commonly, researchers have indicated that Samuel was born in April 1700 in Maryland, but again with no record to corroborate that assumption. With the complete lack of records for a 17th century Samuel Pruitt, it's tempting to embrace this February 1700 birth record as our Samuel Pruitt. However, further proof is necessary before we can leap to that conclusion. Recently uncovered Y-DNA evidence of a close relationship between the Pruitts, Whites and Sweeneys/Swinneys may provide a new avenue for research into the role Rosamond may have played in the early history of our Pruitts in America. It may even call into question whether Samuel Pruitt was descended from a male Pruitt.

Was Samuel Pruitt's Father a Swinney?

Rosamond Prewtt/Prent/Pruett/Brett appears to be a single mother to Samuel in the 1700 birth record. For those records where a single parent was shown, most seem to list the father. Is there any way to determine the father of this Samuel? Perhaps other records will be uncovered that shed light on a relationshop between a Pruitt and Rosamond, but until then, we have one lead that might help uncover a partner to Rosamond and a father to Samuel. In the last few years we've discovered Y-DNA evidence that some Pruitts, Whites and Sweeneys/Swinneys share a common ancestor in the 1700s. Now, based on recent results from the 111-marker Y-DNA tests some have taken, the evidence is even more clear. The chances of a common ancestor within the last seven generations is around 50%. The chances of a common ancestor within the last ten generations is around 80%. Eight generations back on my family tree would be Samuel Pruitt, nine generations would be the father of Samuel Pruitt and ten generations would be his grandfather. It could be that Samuel Pruitt was the son of a Swinney living in the Tidewater/Northern Neck area of Virginia. It's unlikely that the common ancestor could have been a male born after Samuel's birth and before the 1760s when Samuel's three sons moved to the Halifax/Pittsylvania County area. Samuel Pruitt had moved to northcentral Maryland and the Swinneys moved to North Carolina a bit later. If the common ancestor was a male born after the Pruitts moved to Pittsylvania Co., the descendancy scenario gets much more complicated. The lines of two sons of Samuel Pruitt II and one son of John Pruitt, Sr. have been shown by Y-DNA evidence to be related to each other and to some Sweeneys/Swinneys and Whites. The same can be said for the sons of Moses Swinney around that same time. It seems improbable for any event(s) to have occurred around that time (mid-1700s) that would create a Y-DNA match for all of these individuals even though they lived in the same general area of southcentral Virginia and northcentral North Carolina. The only possibility that comes to mind is an adoption of Whites and/or Swinneys into two different Pruitt families (or some other similar set of adoptions into one of the other families). For this discussion, we'll file that scenario away and explore the idea that the common ancestor was born in the mid to late 1600s.

Another interesting finding in the 67-marker Y-DNA results is the slightly more removed genetic distances of several individuals who have (or appear to have) Irish or Scots-Irish ancestors. A Quigley whose ancestor was born in County Tipperary, Ireland around 1817 has a 50% chance of a common ancestor in the last eight generations and 80% in the last twelve generations. A Fox whose ancestor was also born in County Tipperary around 1824 also has a 50% chance of a common ancestor in the last eight generations and 80% in the last twelve generations. A Kennedy, Mahoney, Fleming and Andrews have similar genetic distances, but no ancestral information.

According to researchers, Edmund Sweney, Sr. was born in 1630 in Ireland, emigrated to Virginia in 1655 and died in Elizabeth City Co., Va. in 1697. Edmund Sweney, Sr. had seven children including four males who died after 1728 (Samuel, Merritt, Edmund, Jr., and Lazarus). All the males spent much of their life in and around Elizabeth City County. Of interest, perhaps for no more reason than his first name, is that Samuel Sweney was identified as a ship owner out of Norfolk in 1709 and died after 1753.

Virginia Counties Around 1700
Virginia Counties Around 1700
Elizabeth City Co., Va. is just south of Gloucester Co., the presumed base of operations for Col. Robert Abrahall. Gloucester Co. is just south of Northumberland Co. The three locations are around 70 to 80 miles apart in total. It's not known whether any of these individuals, Abrahall, the Sweneys or Rosamond Prewtt had any association with each other. Some questions that need to be answered or confirmed include:

Thomas Purifoy Patent 1655
Thomas Purifoy Patent 1655
The headright patent of Thomas Purifoy attached to Edmund Sweney, Sr.'s family tree is particularly intriguing. It indicates that Edmund Sweney's son Edmund, Jr., and daughters Elizabeth and Mary were born before 1655, presumably in Ireland. By their absence from this record, it suggests that sons Samuel, Merritt and Lazarus were born after 1655. Of course, the date of a patent has almost no connection to the date of immigration - it could have occurred any number of years before the patent date. The fact that the children of Edmund, Sr. had their own children in the late 1710s and 1720s suggests there may have been another generation between Edmund, Sr. and many of the children listed for him. That possibility should be investigated.



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