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The Cobb Families of Isle of Wight County, Virginia

File Manager   Betty Atkinson

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There has been much confusion over the years about various Cobb/Cobbs families that lived in VA during its early years. Many researchers and writers have confused these families without many official documents to prove who they actually were.

Current researchers are strongly advised to not assume that anything here is absolutely correct. Doing so and then posting one’s own family history online at various other sites spreads errors. Publishing books about lines that you have not totally researched and documented spreads errors. So we advise that no one use this information to publish any book or to post any family line as “correct” unless you can document beyond a shadow of a doubt the entire line back to either of these immigrants.

Our current focus in Isle of Wight Co, VA will be on the families of Joseph and Nicholas. Various books have confused these two and tried to make them related to each other. It is important to note that DNA studies have shown, so far, that these two men were NOT related. It is also important not to assume that Ambrose Cobbs was related to these two families. He never lived in IOW County but lived first in York County before his family spread out over the colonies and then the various states. (see info about county formation maps below.) Based on DNA studies we know that books you may find that attempt to connect Ambrose to either Joseph or Nicholas are in error.

The families of Joseph and that of Ambrose have been professionally researched and thoroughly documented in "The Cobbs of Tennessee", Cully Alton Cobb, Ruralist Press, Atlanta, 1968; and "The Cobbs of the Tidewater", Bruce Montgomery Edwards, Montgomery Publishing Company, Knoxville, 1976. Neither of these works is 100% error-free, and each has its share of critics. These books may, however, have included the lineage of Nicholas of IOW based on some assumptions. Now that we have the Cobb DNA project well established it is important to make certain that we do not attempt to mix the lineages of Joseph or Nicholas with each other or with that of Ambrose Cobbs.

Concerning the two authors referenced in the preceding paragraph. An attempt to find biographical information on Bruce Edwards has been unsuccessful. However the credentials of Cully Alton Cobb are nicely outlined here.

Understanding how and when the various counties were formed in VA is vital to understanding how to research the various Cobb/Cobbs lines that came into and went through VA. According to the county formation maps by 1634 there were 8 original "Shires" which were immediately referred to as Counties. These were Henrico, Charles City, James City, Elizabeth City, Accomack, Warwick River, Charles River (which became York) and Warrosquoyacke which was renamed Isle of Wight in 1637.

So what do we know about Joseph and Nicholas? First we know that Joseph arrives in 1613 in Jamestown which was the only landing on the James River. Jamestown is on the north shore of the James River while Isle of Wight County is on the south shore. He lived about 10 yrs in Jamestown and then moved to Elizabeth City County before ultimately dying in IOW in 1654. Some of his descendants end up in Southampton County because this county was taken from IOW in 1749. When inputting genealogy data into your software it may make good sense to use the place names only during those times that they actually existed. It may be a good idea to search for county formation maps at the site listed above when checking for places and dates.

Some researchers argue about who Nicholas was, suggesting that he may be the same as the Nicholas Cobb that was transported to St. Christopher Island in 1635 when he was listed as a male aged 24 which would make him born about 1611. Some say that he was a son of Joseph of Isle of Wight but DNA results show that he is not. Might he have been another Nicholas Cobb that came from England or elsewhere? Possibly but at this point in the research it is not as important to stew over where he came from as to get his descendants correct on this side of the great pond.

So for the moment we are assuming that Nicholas was the same person as the fellow who, according to the manifest of the William and John was transported to St. Christopher in 1635 where he was listed as a male age 24. He made various trips to Holland and England and brought 5 of the Cobb family members back with him (Susan, Mary, Susan, Jane and Jane Howard, who we think was his mother in law or sister in law.) Any children born after these were probably born in the colonies. He witnessed a transfer of land in 1656 in Isle of Wight, VA, which puts him in VA at least by this time. His first known child born in the colonies was born in IOW about 1663. Nicholas died in IOW Co, before May of 1686.

Understanding family lines requires that one also understand migration patterns even though migration patterns are not ultimate proof of family connections. There are many times that descendants of 4-5 different Cobb or Cobbs families appear in the same general area of the states and often living near each other.

The Ambrose COBBS line wasted no time in beginning a migration into western Virginia, then from there to the Carolinas, Kentucky, what is now West Virginia, and the upper Ohio River valley. The Joseph Cobb line, however, seemed to remain concentrated in the tidewater region of Virginia, then migrated southward into the coastal counties of North Carolina, before ever beginning to move westward. Incidentally, in those times, someone that "went West" meant they were still probably somewhere East of the Mississippi River.

Recent DNA studies show that the descendants of Ambrose Cobbs do not match the descendants of Joseph of Isle of Wight Co, VA or of Nicholas of the same place. Because the old file posted here was obviously contaminated by connecting Nicholas to Joseph we have decided to split the files into 2 separate files at this time and potentially to add another separate file for the descendants of a man named John Cobb who appears at some point in Isle of Wight Co, VA. Until we have further evidence on this John Cobb we will not add a file for his descendants.

DNA studies also show that there is no genetic connection between Ambrose, Joseph, Nicholas or John. Earlier researchers and authors of various books have attempted to connect Nicholas Cobb to Joseph Cobb because of proximity.

Some have stated that Nicholas was a son of Joseph but no Nicholas or any descendants were mentioned in Joseph’s will. Joseph died in 1654 and Nicholas about 1686. Joseph’s will did not mention a son or any relative named Nicholas.

It appears also that Nicholas was much wealthier than Joseph of Isle of Wight and it has been suggested that he may have been involved in the slave trade.

What we shall attempt to do by creating this separate page for the Cobb families of Isle of Wight Co, VA is to finally separate these families into what appears to be 2-3 distinctly different genetic lines so that future researchers will be less confused.

One final clue to aid researchers! It is speculated that Joseph Cobb immigrated to America, on religious grounds. Currently there appears to be no way to determine if this was the case or not. It has been assumed that this line used biblical given names for their children but if one looks closely the only names that appear which could be considered biblical would be Joseph and Pharoah. However, Pharoah is an Egyptian name and would have come from the first known marriage in this line of Elizabeth Flinton whose fathe was named Pharoah.

Biblical names are very, very rarely found in the Ambrose Cobbs or Nicholas Cobb lines. Also there is another line that is NOT genetically related to either of these lines, whose descendants also populated the south and southwestern U. S. who consistently used Biblical names. From what we know of the family religious grounds did not appear to be the deciding factor for that family’s immigrant either.

Researchers are encouraged to provide information and proof of any connection to either of these lines. You are also encouraged to provide criticism and corrections where you have proof of errors. If you wish more information on the various DNA connections please contact the file manager.

One additional caution: there has been much speculation as to who the William Cobb who m. Sarah Stancil is. At this point we have not solved this riddle and he appears in the line of Joseph. However, the only family that appears to ever have used the name Stancil as a given name has been the descendants of Nicholas. At this point we need additional help solving this riddle and figuring out how to identify the correct William and put him with the correct family. Your assistance is eagerly sought.


Reminder: Each family line has its own separate index.

Descendants of Joseph Cobb

Descendants of Nicholas Cobb

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