It is apparent, from recent discoveries of historical documents including publications of The Wm. & Mary Quarterly, wills deeds and tax records found in archives of public records in Kentucky and in Virginia, that our family history is parallel with the history of Kentucky, Virginia and possibly of America herself. Although, our oral history states we are of Irish decent and of Quaker origin, our Irish ancestry nor the first immigrant to America proven to be of our lineage has yet to be discovered.
That being said, our ancestors have been documented in Hanover County, Virginia as early as 1774. There are references to supposed relatives in Rappahannock as early as 1661 and an article by Mrs Mary Dowling Bond her article titled (26 Feb 1924 Anderson News article: Anderson County Pioneer Families ) states " As early as 1680 John White owned the plantation near Beaver Dam in Hanover County Virginia". Unfortunately, Hanover County not established until 26 Nov 1720
These earlier immigrants to The Colonies, of which we are apparenty decended, came for several reasons. The first, was to escape religious, economic and social persecution in their homeland. Secondly, a few were bannished to The Colonies for punishment of crimes in England however the bulk simply came to seek their fortunes in the new world. Earlier Scots-Irish immigrants were mostly Presbyterians or Puritans who were persecuted by the Church of England and were unable to own land or hold a job. The term Scots-Irish is used to describe the people of "Ulster" which currently encompases Northern Ireland and two counties of the Republic of Ireland made up the bulk of these immigrants. On a recent trip to the Ulster region of Northern Ireland I was astounded to learn that the surname White is the 25th most popular name falling between Kelly and Sweeney. I briefly visited White's Tavern the oldest pub in Belfast while there. Several waves of Ulster immigrants settled in Pennsylvania, then Virginia and diverged to Kentucky or North and South Carolina.
Hanover County Virginia, settled by planters and plantation owners at the headwaters of the Pamunky River was a westward outgrowth of original settlements in the Tidewater Region of Virginia. The County was officially formed in 1720 from New Kent County (which was formed out of Spotsylvania County) and was named after King George I who was the "Elector of Hanover in Germany" when he ascended to the Throne. The earliest current reference to property ownership presently proven to be of our lineage is the 1789 tax rolls of Hanover County, Virginia. There, Phillip White had 200 acres and apparent siblings Thomas, Elias, Chelton, John, Robert & Ambrose( later children of Phillip were given some of these names again) were also land owners. A John White, a presumed brother had an ordinary liscense (Tavern / Inn). Mention of Whites as land owners in St. Paul Parish of Hanover County is numerous. Not only purchases and sales of property but in "meets and bounds" references of other property transfers. Barret White, currently our earliest proven ancestor, was a member of the Hanover Committee of Safety in 1774. A John White, either Uncle, Father or no relation was also a member of the Hanover Committee of Safety.
Unfortunately, most of the Hanover records were destroyed during the Civil War. The county clerk removed the records to Richmond for safekeeping during the conflict which proved to be disasterous. Hanover is the county of Henry Clay's father as well as Patrick Henry, Thomas Sumpter, The Breckenridges and others who's names are familiar to Early American Historians. It was also home to Dolly Madison for a time. Many Civil War battles, including Mechanicsville, First and Second Cold Harbor, North Anna, Hanover Courthouse, Gaines Mill, Seven Days and Watt House were fought in Hanover due to its proximity to Richmond. It seems that the White's had started the move to Kentucky after 1789. The area was originally settled by the Chickahominy and Pamunky Indians and their reservations are nearby today.
The Kentucky migration came via river from Pittsburg and overland through the Cumberland Gap from Virginia. Land laws of 1779 passed by the Virginia Legislature were an impetus to migration to Kentucky, then a County of VA (KY became the 15th state in 1792) stating "reserved for Virginia Troops, 400 acres for $9.00 plus a pre-emptive right to buy an additional 1,000 acres adjoining". Kentucky Soldiers of War tributes Phillip White with service as a Major in the War of 1812. Documents have been discovered proving our family's presence in Kentucky as early as 1791 (Wm&Mary Quarterly vol 21 #3 pg 151/Jno White of Hanover purchased negroes and cattle from Robert Blackwell of Woodford County, KY). This John is presumed to be a brother to Philip. Philip, along with his father Barret and , presumed Grandfather Col. John White (Uncle or no relation whatsoever) were members of the Hanover Committee of Safety at the start of the Revolutionary war. Committes of Safety were established after the House of Burgess was disolved by the King of England and the precursor to local government in America.
As was the custom of the time, families tended to move enmasse to new frontiers, and the White's seem to be no different. Phillip White and his sisters, Fanny, who married Reverend John Penny and Mary, who married Robert Blackwell were some of the first settlers of Lawrenceburg and are referenced extensively in Anderson County history. I recently uncovered a deed dated 25 July 1815 wherein he purchased land from a Thomas Prather. He became a major land owner and, according to History of Anderson County, "exercised much influence in the formation of society there along with brothers-in-law John Penny, Sr. and Robert Blackwell" and neighbor Andrew McBrayer, who's son later married one of Philip's daughters. He served in the Kentucky Legislature in 1816 representing Franklin County (portions later to become Anderson County in 1827) He was also sheriff of Franklin County in 1820. His will, page 103, will book #1, Frankfort, Franklin County, KY circa. 1822, four pages in length, is testament to his extensive holdings. The first settlement in Kentucky was Harrodsburg in 1774 by Captain Harrod ( Boonesboro settled a year later in 1775) and Lawrenceburg was apparently an outgrowth of the Harrodsburg settlement once the threat of Indian raids subsided.
Research progress is slowed due to the fact that each written statement must be independantly cooberated since much of the early history was oral and subject to error. For instance, a recent paper found in the Anderson County Library stated that a Colonel John White b: 1695 must have served in the Revolutionary war when, in fact, if you apply common sence you realize the man would have been in his 80's and must have received his rank elsewhere. Printed books should not escape the same scrutiny. I have already uncovered several mistakes in the History of Anderson County mentioned earlier. When conflict occurs the researchers judgement falls with the source that is most credible such as legal documents like deeds, wills and lawsuits or respected publications such as the Wm. & Mary Quarterly. Progress has also been slowed by the fact that it seem there are more White's in Colonial American history than leaves on a tree in June.