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Compiled by Glenn Gohr

One branch of the Sewell family lived in Durham County, England in the 1600s. The name is reported to be Anglo-Saxon, and not Celtic, Danish, or Irish or anything else. It comes from the name "Seaweald," which means victory, strength, sea captain, or protector from sea [pirates]. Alternatively it could mean "one who comes from Seven Wells," the name of towns and places in Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire, England. Presumably the Sewells of North Carolina (where the name is also spelled as SOWELL and SHOWELL) are descended from this same family.

My Sewell family left Onslow and Duplin County, North Carolina, and settled in McNairy County, Tennessee in the 1820s. There were several brothers of Elias B. Sewell who came to McNairy County where they intermarried with the Pyrons, Hardins, Swains, Plunks, and many other founding families of that county. I am grateful to cousins Virginia (Pyron) Snyder of Memphis, Tennessee; Cava (Massengill) Peerey of Adamsville, Tennessee; and Ron Pyron of Alabama for helping me to learn more about my early Sewell ancestors.

Most of the information on my extended Sewell family is recorded in a book called My Family Tree by Merle O’Neal Kent. Longwood, FL: Privately published. It was first published in 1960 (95 p.) and was revised in 1964 (135 p.). I have copies of both editions of the book. Another revised edition has been published in recent years by a cousin, Mildred Sasso, in Savannah, Tennessee, and she is working to hopefully update the book one more time.

I have also determined that one branch of the Sewell family from North Carolina migrated through McNairy Co., Tennessee (where my family lived) and then settled in Greene County, Missouri (which is where I now live). This is the family of William Sewell (1775-1849) who married Catherine Butler. I’m sure I have distant Sewell relatives living close by.

Two other good books on the SEWELL family are: One Sewell Family by Roy Brown Sewell. Atlanta, GA: Higgins-McArthur Company, 1960. (94 p.); and History of the Sewell Families in America by Worley Levi Sewell, Sr. Palm Beach, FL: Privately published, 1955. (198 p.). These last two books are not my direct line, but they still make for interesting reading. The Worley Sewell book includes some good information on early Sewells in Virginia and other places and does mention the Charles Sowell of North Carolina who is presumed to be our direct ancestor. Both of these books can be requested at your local library through interlibrary loan.

There is also a Sewell’s or Sewall’s Point in Maryland or Virginia, which has historical significance. Mention of this has been made in the past archives of the Sewell e-mail list on Rootsweb. I have also seen a Sewall family connected with the Mayflower. It would be fascinating to connect the family back further to find connections in Virginia, Maryland, New England or Great Britain. Possibly involvement in a DNA study would help.

Among my Sewell relatives are the infamous “Ma Barker” (Arizona Donnie Clark-Barker) and her gang, made up of her husband George and boys, Arthur “Doc” Barker, Fred Barker, Herman Barker, and Lloyd “Red” Barker.

See the Sewell/Sowell Family of Bertie County, North Carolina and McNairy County, Tennessee, and other places on Rootsweb’s WorldConnect site.

Here is my SEWELL lineage as far as can be determined:

  1. Charles SOWELL of NC, possibly father or grandfather of:
  2. Samuel SOWELL, Sr., b. ca. 1755 NC, d. 1809 Onslow Co., NC; md. ca. 1780 to Mary GERMAN/JARMAN, b. NC, d. aft. 1809 NC
  3. Elias B. SEWELL, b. 16 Dec. 1799 Duplin Co., NC, d. Nov. 1882 McNairy Co., TN; md. ca. 1827 McNairy Co., TN to Jane "Jennie" RUNNOLDS (?), b. ca. 1807 TN, d. Aug. 1879 McNairy Co., TN (both buried Mars Hill Cemetery, McNairy Co., TN)
  4. Harriett Ann SEWELL, b. 22 Jan. 1829 McNairy Co., TN, d. ca. 1860 McNairy Co., TN; md. ca. 1845 McNairy Co., TN to Allen Perry SWAIN, b. 22 Feb. 1822 TN, d. aft. 1860 McNairy Co., TN
  5. Sarah Elizabeth SWAIN, b. 12 Oct. 1846 McNairy Co., TN, d. 12 May 1934 McNairy Co., TN; md. 17 Sept. 1867 McNairy Co., TN to William Henry PYRON, b. 8 Jan. 1846 McNairy Co., TN, d. 20 Sept. 1909 McNairy Co., TN (both buried at Mars Hill Cemetery, McNairy Co., TN)
  6. Docia Bell PYRON, b. 5 Oct. 1872 McNairy Co., TN, d. 1 Sept. 1944 Lyford, Willacy Co., TX (buried at Combes, TX); md. 28 Oct. 1894 McNairy Co., TN to James David HARRIS, b. 9 Jan. 1871 McNairy Co., TN, d. 22 Sept. 1938 Marlow, Stephens Co., OK (buried at Marlow Cemetery, Marlow, OK)
  7. William Earl HARRIS, b. 8 Aug. 1895 McNairy Co., TN, d. 5 Jan. 1967 Cortez, Montezuma Co., CO; md. 12 Dec. 1915 Parker Co., TX to Orpha Antonia Hazel GARVIN, b. 11 Nov. 1895 Jack Co., TX, d. 21 Dec. 1979 Cortez, Montezuma Co., CO (both buried in th Dove Creek Cemetery, Dove Creek,CO) *These are my grandparents.


If you have queries concerning the SEWELL surname, you may post these at the Sewell Family Genealogy List which I manage.

Sewell Genealogy List is a part of the Rootsweb e-mail discussion lists. It offers free queries and discussion on the Sewell surname and variant spellings.

To subscribe, send an e-mail to:
Leave subject line blank (This will be ignored).
In the body of the message type: subscribe

Then a welcome message will be sent telling how to post messages. Once you are subscribed, you may send a query to everyone on the list by sending e-mail to:

Archived postings to the Sewell e-mail list can be found on the WEB at:

When prompted, type in SEWELL for the name of the list. A second screen will appear where you can choose a year and type in a search word(s). If you type in SEWELL you would probably get all the previous postings to the list. You can also type in a person's name instead or a locality to narrow your search. If you wish to do a search by date, try entering it in quotation marks with the day and then the month as "01 Mar" using single digit dates preceded by a zero and only the first three letters of the month.


There are several Message Boards on Rootsweb which are set up for the SEWELL surname. These boards are for posting information in the following categories: BIBLE, BIOGRAPHY, BIRTH, CEMETERY, CENSUS, DEATH, DEED, IMMIGRATION, LOOKUP, MARRIAGE, MILITARY, OBITUARY, PENSION, QUERIES, and WILLS. The search perameters and drop down screen on the main page allow you to do a key word search or to view all postings according to one of the above categories. Click on the icon below to access the Sewell Message Boards.

Query Post a query (or information from any one of the above categories) on any SEWELL name or related family. Please give dates, and locations they lived. Try to give as much information as possible.

An online genealogy forum for posting queries has also been set up specifically for the SEWELL family on GenForum. It can be found at the following address:

***Note***During the Fall of 1998, GenForum combined with Family Tree Maker, which means that all queries and information posted to that site becomes the property of Family Tree Maker. This is still a good site to look up information and get contact names for the SEWELL lines you are searching, but be advised that if you now post a new query or a response to something on that site, chances are that sometime in the future Family Tree Maker will include that information on a CD-ROM which they will sell for profit to anyone who is interested. I do not like the idea of someone else using my hard researched information and ideas and selling them for a profit without my knowledge. This same practice is evident on all of the Family Tree Maker pages which are found on the internet, if you will read the disclaimer notices on those pages. I recommend the Family Tree Maker pages as good look up pages, but I don't recommend posting information there. Similar things can be said for and which are connected to each other and seek to make a profit from genealogical materials on the internet.

Some other SEWELL researchers and web sites include:

    Bob Anderson's Sewell Genealogy (He is researching the family of Henry Sewall, b. ca. 1576 Coventry, Warwickshire, England, d. aft. April 8, 1657 Rowley, MA; md. 1st, Mary Cawarden; md. 2nd, Ellen Mosley; md, 3rd, Anne Hunt.) There are many good links on his page. E-mail him at:

    The Kevin Peter Dodson Home Page (He is researching Sewells in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, England.) E-mail him at:

    Edwards & Pelosi Homestead (which includes Sewell and Howell of GA & NC) and Descendants of Henry Sewell, b. 1610 Coventry, Warwick Co., England, d. ca. 1644 VA. Both are maintained by Gladys Pelosi at:

    Bob Sewell's Genealogy Page. (He is a descendant of Jesse Sewell, b. 1600s prob. in Durham Co., England, who immigrated to America with his son, Abraham, in the early 1700s and had descendants in Maryland.). E-mail Bob at:

    Jim Sewell's Sewell Family History Page and Jim Sewell's Sewell Family Queries Page.

    Also Jim Sewell has these sites: Descendants of Jesse Sewell and Outline of Descendants of Jessee Sewell. You may e-mail Jim at: or

    The Sole Society (A British family history society which is devoted to researching the Sole surname and variant spellings of Sewell, Saul, Solley, etc.). E-mail them at:

    This group also has a link to Sewell Researchers in the U.S.:

    And this group also publishes a family journal called Soul Search which is edited by John Sole at

    Carma Wallace's Sewall/Sewell Genealogy and Related Families Page.

    Carma also has these related sites: Descendants of Henry Sewall (b. 1576 in Warwickshire, England), and Anne (Hunt) Sewall. and Descendants of Henry Sewall (b. 1740 in Bath, ME). E-mail Carma at:

Copyright © 1998-2013.

Last updated July 7., 2013.

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