OOPS!!! Captain Thomas Harris 1586-1682 is NOT Sir William Harris' Son?

Started by Ann on Tuesday, August 3, 2010


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8/3/2010 at 7:32 PM

Now I know this is not going to be a comfortable discussion. But I recently discovered that Thomas Harris is NOT a son of Sir William Harris (b.1556) of Crixie, Essex, England.


As collaborators and managers of these profiles, I open this discussion to see what protocols we might consider when we make this discovery. This is a reality that is going to happen from time to time. It's nobody's fault. The discovery might not have happened were it not for a researcher who happened to discover the will of the unmarried and sickly Thomas Harris in an old vault. See the information below:

"I used to hold to the belief that Captain Thomas Harris of Jamestown, VA was the son of Sir William Harris, b. ca. 1550 Creeksea, Essex Co., England, d. 14 Nov. 1616 Creeksea, Essex Co., England who married 1582 to Alice Smith, b. ca. 1556 Weston Hanger, Kent Co., England, d. ca. 1615 Creeksea, Essex Co., England.

This view was supported by records published by Olive and Joe Cletus Harris of Florence, Alabama. Also by John Bennett Boddie and by William Ligon. However, recent research has uncovered the will of Thomas Harris of Creeksea, Essex Co., England, who died in 1617 unmarried and without issue. All of his property was willed to his brothers and sisters. For a typed copy of this will go to The Will of Thomas Harris of Creeksea, County Essex, England, 1617.

Thus the Capt. Thomas Harris of Virginia is NOT a son of Sir William Harris and Alice Smith. That also means there is no proven Royal descent in my line of Harrises. The Harrises of Essex intermarried with the House of Percy, the Nevilles, and many other noble families, but this is now proven not to be my direct line of descent.

More research is being done on this. Current discussion on the HARRIS-VA discussion list is that Captain Thomas Harris was still a close relative of Sir William Harris of Cricksey/Crixe/Creeksea County, Essex because of his association with the Virginia Company of London that helped to establish Jamestown. Sir William Harris and his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Smith, were heavily involved in this enterprise in the New World."

What do we do? I've been enshrouded in sackcloth and ashes for two days over this.

8/4/2010 at 7:04 AM

I've edited and merged some of these accounts. (Though I don't actually manage any of them, I collaborate with many who do and I'm on the auto-approve list of several.) I certainly want to help correct the information and ensure I'm not propagating bad information! I haven't had time to fully investigate the situation, but I will soon. This is just a note to say I intend to help.

8/4/2010 at 7:32 AM

Can you merge the two Thomas' then edit the profile?

8/4/2010 at 7:58 AM


And this is something that we will all grow in investigating. You're quite right, none of us want to continually propagate the same errors over again. As I said in "collaboration pool," the problem is that is a fluid project. It is not static like a single family tree, wherewith soft research of compromising quality will create a Family Tree with royalties and anything you can think of. Add to it, no one is to "dare" question it's authenticity.

The energy spent with us online shows that we ARE interested in knowing our family's truth, whether good or not-so-good. Truth is our intent. I think the biggest hurdle is consensus. and source. We likely could be the ones that can research and find the correct ancestors to these branches.

I think this Thomas Harris is a close relative, whether nephew or cousin to Sir William, since they are from the same location. It's a matter of doing the research. But it's not my intent to place a person in my tree, to delude myself and others over royalty.


I don't think we'd want to merge the two Thomases. I guess it would be more like first finding the correct parents for Capt. Thomas Harris, and then see how they may relate or not relate to Sir William Harris. Most researchers conclude he must be a relative to Sir William, but how.

8/4/2010 at 8:12 AM

Okay, so how _should_ the tree look? If I'm reading it correctly, there are two Thomas Harrises, both of them sons of William Harrises? Is that right?

8/4/2010 at 8:59 AM

I will provide you the tree here:


This Captain Thomas Harris is NOT the son of Sir William Harris and ALyce Smith as shown in this tree diagram. The point is that many people who have included this family in their tree now have an error as to this Thomas Harris' ancestors. We have no information as yet who are the real ancestors. But we will discover such errors from time to time. We need to determine how to correct these errors.

Hope I'm clearer. If you haven't included this person in your tree, be careful not to include the erroneous information.


8/4/2010 at 9:36 AM

When I click on http://www.geni.com/family-tree?ref=ph#6000000003962613089 it tells me it can't fulfill the request.

8/4/2010 at 10:48 AM

Hi Michael,

Sorry about the confusion. Are you a Geni Pro subscriber? I'm saying that because I think there may be some limitations on being able to see the Family Tree if you're not subscribed. I have two accounts, one free and one not. So I think that's why you're not able to see the tree.

So sorry for the confusion.


8/4/2010 at 11:25 AM

I'm not a pro subscriber, but that doesn't seem to be the problem. Could you link to the account itself, not the tree? Maybe that would work.

3/11/2011 at 10:58 AM

Does the line then stop with Capt Harris? 1586-1682

3/22/2011 at 3:36 PM

Not to spoil the fun here, but I cannot see anything in the William Harris will that at all warrants or even hints at your conclusions. Anyone who has done much colonial genealogy will tell you that old wills almost never mention children who have left the county (and far less the continent!) to reside elsewhere since it was unlikely the legatee would ever return to the ancestral home to claim it and any legacy would wind up going to the king. His not mentioning a wife merely suggests he died a widower. Additionally, such wills were often written hastily near the time of death and there was not much motivation for including historical information not pertinent to the legal business of the document.

3/23/2011 at 10:04 PM

Ann and Patrick, my reading of the evidence as presented is that while William Harris did have a son Thomas, that son died around 1617 and therefore was not the same Thomas Harris as the one who died in 1682. While this first Thomas was named in his father's 1616 will, he was not named in his brother's 1622 will, and Ligon's own statement is, "Between the dates of the two wills before mentioned, 1616, and 1622, no will nor administration of any Thomas Harris of this family is found, so he evidently was not deceased." The subsequent finding of the proven 1617 will at Chelmsford of Thomas Harris, son of the above-named William, would seem to clearly make Ligon's assumption disproved.

3/23/2011 at 10:05 PM

Ann, have you inserted this information in the profiles of the various Harris family members? If not, it needs to be included.

3/24/2011 at 1:23 AM

I suspect I was involved in part of this (the dating system in the display name appears to be the one I use).

I'd agree with Pam in that the best thing to do to prevent this sort of mistake is to insert pertinent information in the About Me page, so that if there are mistaken merges, etc., attention can be given to the mistake right away, and further mis-merging halted. Ideally, there should be information not only about important dates (birth, baptism, marriages, death), but also the relationships (parents, siblings, spouses, children). Biographical information wouldn't hurt, either.

It's frustrating to run into situations where there is no such information to work from, particularly when faced with merging profiles with widely varying information (same name, same relationship to a nearby family member, but the dates being off, etc.). And if the information isn't in the About Me, whether this is correct or not, I tend to feel like the profile was placed with not so much research. So the window for variation that I tolerate becomes broader. I'm probably not the only merger that feels that way.

But I'm always willing to assist with corrections on mistakes like this, where they are pointed out, and of course where the help is welcome.

7/29/2012 at 9:26 PM

With much documentation connecting Captain Thomas Harris to so many of the families in Essex also involved in the colonization of Virginia it is very difficult to accept that he is not closely related to Sir William Harris. Has the will of Thomas Harris in 1617 been truly authenticated? Odd that it only recently appeared when these things were so well documented by royals. Are there any cross references such as church documents, other family papers, etc to support this issue? If he was very sickly then there should be medical notations in journals. I do not mean to be a nay-sayer; I simply want to know for sure before I change my husband's tree.

10/12/2015 at 6:47 AM

This discussion is about Capt. Thomas Harris, I

This same subject has come up again

Private User
10/12/2015 at 7:35 AM

I've had a few nasty surprises like that - for instance, finding a verified list of the children of Rev. Haute Wyatt, and (surprise!) Nicholas Wyatt is NOT on it. So despite widespread belief that Nicholas was the Rev.'s son - he wasn't.

(It was always suspicious that Nicholas was a Dissenter who became a convinced Quaker, while the Rev. was definitely Church of England albeit with Low or Broad leanings - but people can change as they grow up. On the other hand there are lots of Wyatts in Devonshire, including a fair number of Nicholases, and the area was a hotbed of Dissent. So the most promising place to look for ancestors of Nicholas would be there.)

Then there was Frances White Wells...there was just enough circumstantial evidence surrounding her that I wound up splitting the difference and treating her as the daughter of Sir Richard White by his first wife, Anne Gray. But primary documentation is still missing.

Private User
6/4/2016 at 4:30 PM

The siblings named in the 1617 Will of Thomas Harris in England match the names of the children of Sir William Harris of Crixie shown on the 1612 Visitations of Essex and the unpublished records of the heralds at the College of Arms in London who hold a Crown Warrant to keep records of all families of nobility. This is the body that grants new coats of arms or revised one to sons inheriting a title, also for Burke's Peerage listings. The only sibling not named is his sister Alice who had committed suicide in 1615 over her unhappy marriage to Sir Henry Mildmay. This will was published in 1994 in "The Virginia Genealogist"
so it is not something that just suddenly appeared. yDNA from lining direct male Harris descendants show a possible match to the line of Sir William Harris d1616, but back 5-6 generations.

Private User
6/5/2016 at 3:45 PM

So all the children of Sir William Harris of Crixie are accounted for, and Capt. Thomas Harris is *not* one of them.

Negative findings, even when disappointing, are still informative.

Sounds as though he's maybe a scion of a cadet line - the Visitations, even when they're accurate (and they aren't always), are generally not much help with that sort of thing.

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