Short Family Roots
The History and Genealogy of Thomas and Ann Short and their Descendants
(Including Shortt, Shorte, etc.)
Dedicated to the Memory of our Honored Pioneer Ancestors
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Short database and pedigree is located at the end of the historical section.)
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Thomas & William Short
in Old Rappahannock & Essex Counties, Virginia
In the mid
1600s, Thomas and William Short were among the early residents of Lancaster and
Old Rappahannock Counties, Virginia. I could not determine how these two men
were related, but William seems to have died or removed after April 29, 1658
when he was noted in court documents for the last time. Josephine Short
Lynch has done considerable research on the Shorts of 17th century
Virginia. She writes that a William Shorte was claimed by John Kempe as a
headright in James City on October 24, 1639. To encourage settlement of America, the
English government provided parcels of land to individuals who "transported"
immigrants from Europe. Masters of ships were often the recipients of these
grants, but almost anyone that paid for the immigrant's passage was eligible. These rewards
were termed "headrights". Josephine also states that “This
William Shorte was undoubtedly the William Shorte found in Gloucester and
Lancaster Counties later. He was the progenitor of the Shorte family found
later on the Rappahannock River.” Josephine concluded that this William Shorte was not part of her line, so she did not include any of his descendants
in her book. Although I am not sure about the William Shorte in 1639 James City,
I agree with Josephine that the Rappahannock Short's were not part of her line. William Short seems to have been successful in Lancaster since, on
September 1, 1657, he and William Lippeate were awarded 400 acres on
Fleets Bay, between the mouths of Haddawaies and Corotoman Creeks. This award was "for the transportation of eight persons"
to Virginia (headrights).
Court records show that Thomas Short was born in 1642 and between 1666 and 1673 he married Ann Nott Landman, widow of William. By July 2, 1685, Thomas Short had died and Ann was married again to William Hasle. The rigors of the times dictated that many early settlers were married three or four times. Indeed, it was not uncommon for a widow to remarry before the estate of her late husband was completely settled.
The records of Old Rappahannock, Lancaster, Westmoreland and Essex Counties indicate that Thomas and Ann Nott Landman Short may have had three sons that survived to adulthood: Thomas Jr., William and Samuel. On January 1, 1689, Thomas Short sold 1000 acres that were originally "granted by patent to Michaell Hugill and Thomas Short, my father". Abundant other references to Thomas Jr. are found in the records but, although William and Samuel seem to be contemporaries of Thomas Jr., they are mentioned only infrequently. The statutes of primogeniture were probably the reason for their relative absence in the court records. Most of the surviving records deal with land transactions and it is quite obvious that Thomas Jr. inherited the bulk of his father's holdings.
The October 7, 1693 Westmorland County will of William Shores strongly suggests that William was the son of Ann Nott Short, the only known wife of the elder Thomas Short. Also, on August 11, 1699, William and his brother Thomas Short participated in the probate of the will of Susanna Davis. The Westmorland records also show that William and Mary Short owned land there in 1703 and that William died before June 10, 1712, leaving only one known son, William Jr., who died in 1721 at age twenty-one. I have not found any primary evidence of any other male descendants of these two men.
However, no direct evidence at all has been discovered that points to the parents or siblings of Samuel Short. Between 1704 and 1708, Samuel married Sarah Catlett Taliaferro Sallis (her 3rd marriage) and their son Samuel Short is mentioned as a half-brother in the 1725 will of Samuel Sallis Jr., the son of Sarah and her second husband, Samuel Sallis. Previously, this Samuel Sallis Jr. witnessed a deed involving Thomas Short Jr. and Charles Brown Jr. in 1723. Although the first Samuel Short may have had other children, none have ever been proven or even suggested by circumstantial evidence. However, in 1753, a Samuel Short received a Northern Neck land grant in the branches of Hawksbill Creek in the Shenandoah Valley of then Frederick Co., Virginia. Strong circumstantial evidence found in the counties of Spotsylvania, Orange and Frederick leads me to believe this Samuel was the son of Samuel and Sarah Catlett Taliaferro Sallis Short. Samuel Jr. was married to Ann Price and, as new Virginia counties were formed, their children and descendants lived in the counties of Frederick, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Page. About the same time that Samuel Jr. obtained his land grant, a William Short forfeited a land warrant nearby. I have not discovered any mention of this William Short in later records; however, some twenty years later, Samuel Short III, the only lawful heir of Samuel Short Jr., transferred this exact land to a neighbor.
yDNA results indicate that a descendant of John Short (1756-1836), the assumed son of Samuel Short Jr. discussed directly above, is not genetically related to the descendants of Thomas Short Jr., discussed in the opening paragraph. Samuel Jr. and Thomas Jr. lived in Essex County, Virginia at the same time and Thomas Jr. was familiar with Samuel Sallis, the half-brother of Samuel Short, so it is difficult to see how they were not part of the same family, even if they were not genetically related. There are several other alternatives to this situation. Since the Short surname was common in Virginia, the assumptions that Samuel Short Jr. of Essex County was the same person as the Samuel Short of that married Ann Price and/or that John Short was the son of Samuel Short Jr. could be incorrect. Also, there could have been a non-paternity event in either of the lines. Future yDNA results may provide a more complete answer; however, we may never know the circumstances of this situation.
So, it is quite likely that William Short of early Lancaster County was the father of Thomas Short Sr., but either could have been the immigrant Short that established a new home in the American colonies. Old Rappahannock County was located on the south side of the Rappahannock River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and was formed from part of Lancaster County in 1656. This area is in the heart of the Virginia peninsular region and is bounded on the south by the York River. The rivers played a vital role in the local economy which was highly dependent on the cultivation, sale and exportation of tobacco. English ships regularly visited riverside docks bringing supplies to the settlers and then sailed on to other ports laden with tobacco. Indeed, the importance this plant was so great and coin of the realm was so scarce that tobacco was the “currency” used in many land transactions. A typical sale would involve several thousand pounds of tobacco. In an effort aimed at stabilizing the price of tobacco, the colonial government enacted laws regulating the culture, production and sale of this product. The success of these laws is questionable, since many entries in old court record books deal with the prosecution of offenders and the penalties imposed on those plantation owners found guilty of violations.
In the late 17th century, as it is today, most of the area that was Old Rappahannock was rural and sparsely populated. To encourage immigration, the English government used inventive methods aimed at potential settlers from countries other than the British Isles. With government assistance, Robert Beverley, a prominent land promoter of the time, established the settlement of Beverley Park and advertised it as a home for Huguenot refugees from France. In 1692, Essex County was carved out of Old Rappahannock and the village of Tappahannock was selected as the county seat. Fortunately, for the family researcher, this area was mostly spared the courthouse and record destruction that accompanied the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
As far as I know, the first Thomas did not leave a will, but the will of Thomas Short Jr. has survived. In this 1740 document, Thomas Jr. names his wife Catherine and his children William Short, John Short, Ann Golden, Eliza Short, Catherine Short, Sarah Short and Susannah Short. His estate was probated at Tappahannock in late 1744. Another son, Thomas Short III, most likely predeceased his father.
On March 12, 1750, William, the son of Thomas Jr., and his wife Elizabeth conveyed to William Bates land that Elizabeth had inherited from her mother, Elizabeth Pell Bendry Virget and on February 19, 1753, William Short and his then wife Barbara, conveyed land to Sarah Brooke with an indenture. Barbara relinquished her dower rights. Shortly after that transaction, on June 19, 1753, Young Short, son of William, witnessed a power-of-attorney in Essex County.
On September 15, 1752, John Short, the other living son of Thomas Jr., and his sister Sarah entered into an indenture that left Sarah with the land that John had received upon the death of their father. John’s wife Dinah relinquished her dower rights. Some researchers have claimed Winfred Randall of King George County as another wife of this John; however, until recently, we have not been able to confirm this connection. We are grateful to Marie W. McMahan for sending us a packet of research material compiled by Gladys S. Cramer, Marie B. Fellers, George H. King and Josephine S. Lynch. The primary records referenced in this research include the 1771 Essex County probate proceedings associated with the death of John Short's mother, Catherine, the widow of the abovementioned Thomas Short Jr. In this record, John Short of Pittsylvania County is described as her eldest son and heir at law. Also included in the packet are King George County court documents showing that John Short married Winifred Randall before September 4, 1758, lived in King George for several years, then moved to Pittsylvania before October 13, 1769. Apparently, the home of John and Winifred Short was in that part of Pittsylvania that became Henry County in 1777 and then Franklin County in 1786 as several of their daughters were married in Franklin.
Three sons of John and Winifred Randall Short have been posited: John Randall/Randolph Short, Thomas Randall Short and William Short. We have found some primary evidence to support these assumptions. Most persuasive are the 1787-1800 Franklin County tax records which seem to place these three men in Franklin at various times during this period. In addition, John Short and John Randolph Short were witnesses in the same court proceeding. Later, John R. Short was recorded in the 1791-1799 Fauquier County tax records. The descendants of this John R. Short have been very well researched and documented and recent yDNA tests have proven that this line indeed descends from the abovementioned Shorts of Old Rappahannock. This is a major breakthrough for this line and demonstrates the power of yDNA testing when combined with traditional research based on primary records. Later circumstantial evidence from Smith County Tennessee, Calloway County, Kentucky and Wayne County, Missouri indicates that the William Short and Thomas R. Short found in these locations are the same individuals that were found in Franklin County, Virginia. That two of William's children were named John R. Short and Winifred Short is the most persuasive evidence. Both William and Thomas R. Short seem to have moved to Smith County, Tennessee around 1800. William soon moved on to Calloway County Kentucky and some of Thomas' children moved to Wayne County, Missouri. One of these children was Washington Short, who stated that his father was born in Virginia; however, we have not found any primary evidence showing that the middle name of Thomas was Randall or Randolph. The motivation for the moves to Kentucky and Missouri seems clear: Kentucky state land grants in the Jackson Purchase and federal land grants in Missouri. It would be very helpful if male descendants of William and Thomas R. Short joined the Short DNA Project.
The geographical association of the three Short men in Franklin County now seems even more important; however, the tax records pose an additional conundrum. In addition to the three Short men mentioned above, a Thomas Short Sr. was twice recorded. This Thomas Short Sr. is a complete mystery, but he could have been the father of Thomas R. Short and/or, less likely, William Short. Since the John Short that married Winifred Randall had at least one nephew named Thomas Short, we do have a possible identity for this Thomas Short Sr.; however, we do not have any evidence at all to support such an assumption.
A few comments about Randall vs Randolph: Middle names were seldom used in early America, so we have very few examples to compare and, to our knowledge, we have no images of signatures written by the man/men in question. We do have a few examples that are images of documents that were written by clerks, enumerators, etc; however, most of these are transcriptions of other documents. Obviously, Randall and Randolph sound alike and even look alike when written in the often unclear script of the 18th century and transcribed by bored clerks. Virtually any alphabetically arranged record has been transcribed at least once. In addition, the surname Randolph was quite common and very socially and politically prominent in Virginia. So, until we can see an image of a signature, we are inclined to place little emphasis on claims of either name.
Captain John Smith’s “List of first settlers at Jamestown Island, Virginia, in 1607” offers a very intriguing possibility. John Short, Gentleman, is among those noted by Smith; however, the fate of this Short is unknown. His death was not recorded, so he probably survived the incredible early hardships of the colony. He may have removed to England, Bermuda or another part of Virginia. Captain Smith mapped and recorded his extensive exploration of the Chesapeake Bay and many of the place names he originated are in use today. Smith’s account of his Rappahannock River (then Toppahanock River) voyage proves that the early settlers were well aware of this area and its potential for tobacco cultivation. One of the Captain’s more colorful geographic descriptors was Stingray Point, at the mouth of the Rappahannock. As related in The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles...., the Captain suffered a very serious wound while fishing in 1608. However, I have not found any evidence at all to link this John Short, Gentleman, to any of the 17th century Shorts found in various Virginia locations.
Thomas, William & Young Short in Manakin Town, Virginia
Beginning in the early sixteen hundreds, many Huguenots fled religious persecution in France and immigrated to other countries, most notably England, the Netherlands and America. One of the most well known Huguenot enclaves in America was established in 1700 in east-central Virginia. At the site of a deserted Monacan Indian village on the south side of the James River about twenty miles west of present day Richmond, the English government set aside thousands of acres as a Huguenot refuge. This site soon became known as Manakin Town and was located in a part of Henrico County that later became Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties in 1749. Although Shortt/Short may not seem to be a French name, the 1933 edition of The Huguenot, the journal of the Huguenot Society, includes the surname Shorte in a “List of Manakintown Settlers”. However, the Short/Shortt/Shorte surname is not included in any of the extant passenger lists of the four primary ships that brought the largest influx of Huguenots to Virginia in 1700. By 1750, the French heritage of Manakin Town was in decline and many of the descendants of the original settlers were no longer literate in French. Many descendants had moved on and the center of the declining French culture had contracted and was located in Powhatan County.
Short Records in The Douglas Register
The Douglas Register, a personal record of Reverend William Douglas' forty-five year ministry, is one of the few documents that survived in Virginia's "Black Hole" of genealogy. Most of the records of Henrico and derivative counties were destroyed by invading armies in several wars.
Reverend Douglas married some of the children
of William, son of Thomas Short Jr.:
• Young Short and Mary Bilbo, “in Manikin town”, Feb 3, 1756,
• Thomas Short and Ann Payne, “both of Maneken town”, Jan 10, 1762,
• John Short and Olive Sasseen, “both of Maneken town”, Sep 18, 1766.
In addition, Reverend
Douglas baptized several of the children of the above marriages:
• Young Short & Mary Bilbo;
• a daughter named Elizabeth, born Mar 7, 1764, baptized Apr 15, 1764,
• a daughter named Mary, baptized Sep 14, 1766,
• a son named Reuben, born Jan 10, 1769, baptized Mar 4, 1769.
•Thomas Short & Ann Payne;
Some of these marriages and baptisms took place in Manakin Town/King William Parish in Powhatan County. Although Reverend Douglas was the pastor of Dover Church in St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County for 27 years, he also ministered in the Anglican church of Manakin Town for 19 years. However, I cannot find one Short in The Vestry Book of King William Parish which covers the period of 1707 to 1750. Also, a 1744 list of King William Parish residents, compiled by Reverend Douglas, does not include a Short.
Archibald Short - DAR Revolutionary War Patriot
Recently, a descendant of
Archibald Short (1758-c.1845), was admitted to the DAR through Archibald's son Obediah and grandson Wellington. The
membership application process is difficult and time consuming, but this effort
overcame the most difficult documentation obstacle and paves the way for others
in his line. It will take some time before this event is published by the DAR
but, if you are an interested descendant, please contact me.
Because very few early Virginia church records have survived, the study of most early immigrants is based on the evaluation and subjective interpretation of the wills, deeds, court orders and Bible records associated with those individuals. I have examined many of the published abstracts of the documents relating to the Shorts and have compared my interpretations with the work of other family historians. Although my findings are in basic agreement with the work of several other researchers, we do differ on some important points. I am very confident that Thomas Short had a son Thomas and that Thomas Jr. had sons John, William and Thomas. As mentioned above, the first Thomas Short also had a son named William who died at a relatively young age, leaving a son who died at twenty-one. The first Thomas Short may have had another son named Samuel, but that possibility has not been proven. Undocumented lineages that claim both William and Samuel as ancestors abound on the web. While these assertions may be true, I have not seen any supporting evidence for the claims nor has any evidence been offered. I welcome any information concerning any of these individuals, no matter how trivial it may seem.
Although a very few families use or have used the Shortt spelling (most notably, the Floyd County, Virginia branch), I have used Short in the Database to ease the search process; however, I will also include Shortt as primary, if requested to do so.
Any corrections/additions/comments that apply to Thomas Short and his descendants will be greatly appreciated.
Barbour, Philip L., editor. The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, (1580-1631). The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill & London, 1986
Bethlehem Baptist Church - History
Essex County Virginia and the Town of Tappahannock
Douglas, William. The Douglas Register, transcribed & edited by W. Mac Jones, Genealogy Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1977
Elterich, Allison Wehr. The Diligence and Disappearance of Manakintowne’s Huguenots, The Reprint Co., Spartanburg, SC, 2000
Lind, Delores M. The Descendants of William Short Across America, October 1998, Revised; October, 2000
Lynch, Josephine Short. Short, An Early Virginia Family, Whittet & Shepperson, Richmond, VA, 1970
Fife, Robert H. The Vestry Book of King William Parish, Virginia, English translation published by the Virginia Historical Society, 1905-1906. Reprint published by the Manakin Episcopal Church, Midlothian, VA, 1966
Shackelford, George Green. Jefferson's Adoptive Son; The Life of William Short 1759-1848, University Press of Kentucky, 1993
The Huguenot, The Huguenot Society, Vallejo, CA, 1931, 1933, 1941, 1943
The Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia
The Library of Virginia, Virginia Land Office Patents and Grants/Northern Neck Grants and Surveys
These links will take you to
More Short lineages
(Please send me your Short link)
(Please send me your Short descendant photos)
Short yDNA Projects
Recent yDNA submissions and comparisons have yielded some very interesting results. If you are interested in your heritage, the benefits of yDNA testing offer intriguing possibilities. To view an explanation of these benefits, along with the results obtained so far, please browse the Short DNA Project.
I urge male Shorts to join the project and submit a 37 marker test. This project deserves your support.
The focus of my research has been on the descendants of Thomas Short of Old Rappahannock, Virginia. I invite other researchers to share information and images pertaining to this family line. I will gladly acknowledge your contributions and/or provide links to your online data. Most of the genealogy of Thomas Short and his early descendants has been derived from my independent research. Nearly all the work on the descendants of Calton and Elizabeth Shelton Short is my own. However, I do make use of the work of other researchers and family historians and, except where the data pertains to my direct line, I do not always attempt to verify the findings of others. In creating Short Family Roots and the associated online database, one of my objectives was to provide a comprehensive, documented resource for those doing research on the descendants of Thomas Short. Hopefully, this approach will provide a base that other researchers of this line will enhance with their contributions. For much of this information displayed at this website, I am indebted to the following individuals, institutions and organizations:
I am especially grateful to the transcribers of old documents. This is a very difficult task and every serious researcher should try their hand at transcription. Copies of original census records are a good place to start. Most of the authors of the transcriptions that I have used are included in the above list.
Revised Jun 5, 2015
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