The Nelsons: distinctly English with a dash of Cherokee

The Nelsons: distinctly English with a dash of Cherokee

William Nelson William Nelson The Nelson House in Yorktown, Virginia The Nelson House in Yorktown, Virginia Thomas Nelson Jr. Thomas Nelson Jr.

Thomas “Scotch Tom” Nelson (1677-1747) appears to be the earliest known Nelson to immigrate to America. He hailed from Yorktown, England - on the border of Scotland, hence his nickname. He and his family are listed as part of the First Families of Virginia (FFV), indicating that although the Nelsons were not one of the earliest settlers, they were certainly socially prominent and wealthy.

Scotch Tom’s son, William Nelson, became a successful businessman and politician, even serving as acting governor of Virginia for a short while. However, it is William Nelson's son, Thomas Nelson Jr, who would be come the most decorated and documented Nelson in early American history. Thomas Jr was a Brigadier General during the American Revolutionary War and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This is where the lineage gets very confusing. The Nelson men fathered lots of children and gave them all similar names. I haven’t been able to establish conclusively the father of Shadrach (Otis’s GG Grandfather). What I do know is that one branch of Nelsons remained in Virginia - while another branch of Nelsons (our branch) made their way to North Carolina. Shadrach was born in North Carolina and died in Indiana.

The Nelson maternal line

Early Nelson wives were of distinctly English background. In fact, Thomas Jr’s mother family can be traced back to King Henry III in England.

However, there is also a strong oral history passed down through  generations of North Carolina relatives that involves a Cherokee Indian named Agnes. Some say that Agnes was the name of an Indian maiden who nursed Abraham Sr back to health after a terrible shipwreck. Others claim Agnes was the first wife of Thomas (the third) and mother of Abraham. Each family is certain that their oral history is correct. After ten hours of research, I can tell you that confirming either story is beyond my patience and ability. But clearly there is something there. I think the confusion comes from four generations of Nelson men naming their children Thomas and Abraham.

In summary: The Nelson family is distinctly English, with a dash of Cherokee thrown in for flavor.

Photo credit: Archives.com, 1907, Norma Earl Smiser. Archives.com offers useful tips for researching Native American Genealogy. (N.B. this is not Agnes, the Cherokee Indian of Nelson family legend.)

Photo credit: Archives.com, 1907, Norma Earl Smiser. Archives.com offers useful tips for researching Native American Genealogy. (N.B. this is not Agnes, the Cherokee Indian of Nelson family legend.)

credits: http://www.archives.com/genealogy/family-heritage-native-american.html

http://www.dsdi1776.com/signers-by-state/thomas-nelson-jr/

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