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Robert Harris

Birthdate: (66)
Birthplace: Hanover, (Present Henrico County), Virginia Colony
Death: Died in Blissland Parish, New Kent County, Province of Virginia
Place of Burial: Hanover County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Harris, IV and Ellen Harris
Husband of Mary Elizabeth Rice
Father of Judith Harris; Mary Swann; John Harris; Robert Harris; Claiborn Harris and 6 others
Brother of James Harris; Maj William Harris and Mary Harris

Occupation: Farmer, Major
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Robert Harris

Robert of the Forks

Robert Harris (c. 1635 – c. 1701) was the 3rd son of William Harris of Jamestown, VA. Robert was born in the “The Forks", an area around what is now known as Doswell, in Hanover County, Virginia.

Today, Route 60/30 roughly follows the old path and passes very close to the Robert Harris property, a distance of about 15 miles from the William Harris property at Jamestown. One of the neighboring property owners of Robert Harris was William Overton, father of Temperance Overton, who married this Robert's son William.

Robert settled on Ware Creek in New Kent County around 1659. He is believed to be buried in the Harris Graveyard, in Hanover County, Virginia.

Robert Harris married the widow Elizabeth ‘Mary’ Claiborne (Rice). There has been much speculation about Mary Claiborne’s parentage. Most researchers claim she is a daughter of William Claiborne, while others believe her to be the daughter of William Claiborne’s brother, Thomas Claiborne.

I am inclined at this moment to agree with the latter, and not the former. This would explain where the name “Thomas” would have originated in the Harris line.

Known children of Robert and Mary include:

  1. Mary Harris (born c. 1662) - married Joseph Royall
  2. Judith Harris (born c. 1664)
  3. Thomas Harris (c. 1666 – c. 1725) - married Mary Giles
  4. William Harris - married Temprance Overton
  • There have been numerous, numerous claims about the issue of Robert Harris and Mary Claiborne, most of which have unsubstantiated. The issue listed above are those who are the most certain.
  • William (married to Temperance Overton), has been genetically linked to Robert Harris. There is no debate there. Claiborn Harris, Robert's grandson, has been genetically linked as well. Those who are interested are recommended to check out the Harris DNA project for more information.


The connection of Major Robert Harris as son of William Harris is based upon the research of William L. Deyo (former President of the Virginia Genealogical Society), published in his three-part booklet The Family and Ancestry of William Dabney of Virginia and His Two Wives, Jane Quarles and Anna Harris, Additions and Corrections, and Latest Findings on the Harris Family. Through research and analysis of the records in England and Virginia, and using the Harris research of J. McFarland Williams as a springboard, he presents compelling evidence, based upon the intricate familial interconnections of the Harris family with the Boteler/Butler and other families, both in England and in Virginia. He also mentions that in following the latest research on the Harrises, that he found misinterpretation of the records in England, which he verified by obtaining the wills of every Harris individual shown in the above lineage preceding Major Robert Harris. William Harris, shown here as father of Major Robert Harris, was "servant" to Col. William Claiborne, in this case such descriptive title being actually "apprentice". Tradition has long stated that Major Robert Harris married the daughter of Col. Claiborne, and only recently has it been acknowledged that Claiborne did indeed have a second daughter. She is called Mary according to tradition, but Mr. Deyo states that similarly to William Overton's wife (called Mary in some records but Elizabeth in the will of her mother), her name was Elizabeth, and that Mary was her christening name and the one she chose to use. The compelling interconnections and familial relationships are far too complex to address here, and the author invites any who are interested in Mr. Deyo's research to contact him at

a. The following record is offered as proof that Col. William Claiborne had more than one daughter.

NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY RECORDS STATE OF VIRGINIA Deeds & Orders 1650 - 1652, pg. 36-William Claiborne 1648

Whereas there are certain debts and other things due to me at Chichecon (i.e. Chicacone) and other places up the Bay. These presents are to appoint and authorize my kinsman Mr. Samuel Smith to ask and receive as also to implead and acquit and compound for any the said debts with any persons inhabitants or beings in the said places and in particular as being guardian unto my two daughters. I do hereby authorize the said Samuel Smythe to take all those cattle at Chiceon into his custody for their use and to receive a heifer due from the estate of James Cloughton for a bull he killed of theirs.

witness hereunto my hand and seal this second day of April 1648

W. Claiborne

Witness: Christopher Williams

b. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, Maj. Robert Harris was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from Hanover County in the assembly of 1736-40, and in the session of 6 May 1742. In the session of 4 Sep 1744, William Meriwether represented Hanover in place of Robert Harris, who had accepted the place of surveyor of Louisa County, where he settled in 1742. He also served as Justice of the Peace for Louisa County in 1742. He later removed to Albemarle County, where his will was recorded in 1765.


WLD; Virginia Genealogies and Biographies, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography, Burgesses and Other Prominent Persons, Volume I, p 252; Southern Genealogies, Historical Southern Families, Volume XIX, Harris of Hanover County, p 107-108; William Deyo.


Subject: Some Scattered Notes about Robert Harris Probable Immigrant of Early Virginia


Since many are puzzled, including myself, about the origins of the Harris family of the Pamunkey River area of Hanover Co., I thought I would share with you my motes made over a number of years. I would welcome comments and receipt of any documented evidence you have found in your Harris-Hunting. If you use any of the material which I have quoted, please give a citation. This is standard procedure these days for adequate family histories. E.W.Wallace


From: Subject: Some Scattered Notes about Robert Harris Probable Immigrant of Early Virginia Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 00:38:23 EDT

Since many are puzzled, including myself, about the origins of the Harris family of the Pamunkey River area of Hanover Co., I thought I would share with you my motes made over a number of years. I would welcome comments and receipt of any documented evidence you have found in your Harris-Hunting. If you use any of the material which I have quoted, please give a citation. This is standard procedure these days for adequate family histories. E.W.Wallace

Submitted by E.W.Wallace


There is much confusion among the descendants of Christopher Harris (d.testate ca. 1796) of early Madison Co., KY as to exactly who was the American progenitor of the Harris family of Hanover Co., Louisa Co., Albemarle Co., VA and of Madison Co., KY. To add to the confusion, many of the family wish to link themselves to the Thomas Harris whose four-generation family group appears in ADVENTURERS OF PURSE AND PERSON, John Frederick Dorman, compiler.

In that sketch there is no information concerning an Overton family with whom the family of Robert Harris is strongly linked. Therefore, until better evidence is presented, the link of the New Kent-Hanover Co.-Louisa Co.-Albemarle Co. Harrises to Thomas Harris should be held in abeyance. There is no mention of a Robert Harris in the list of descendants of Thomas Harris which is presented in ADVENTURERS.

Much has been written of the Robert Harris family, but there is lack of documentation, principally because records of New Kent Co. and of Hanover Co., Virginia, have burned.

Reportedly, Robert Harris, born ca. 1635, emigrated from Wales ca. 1650-1660, married ca. 1670, and died 1701. The source of this information is J. N. Cross and M. C. Cole in WILLIAM CROSS OF BOTETOURT CO., VA, AND HIS DESCENDANTS 1733-1932 (1932). Much of this information conflicts, however, with the later information provided by Malcolm H. Harris, M.D. who studied the Harris family of early New Kent, Hanover, and Louisa Cos., VA. Another date for Robert's marriage is ca. 1650. This is apparently secondary evidence and needs to be compared with whatever primary evidence exists. Much of this information doubtless is based on circumstantial evidence, not documented evidence.

Harris is spelled in Wales as Harries. It derives from the name of Henry and can also be spelled Henery and Hendry. Parry and Penry also come from Henry. It is an old name dating back to at least the 13th century. See Welsh Surnames by T. J. Morgan and Prys Morgan. However, Scots people also have this surname as do English people.

In 1635, one Robert Harris, age 19, was a passenger on the ship Bonaventure (John Camden Hotten, LISTS OF IMMIGRANTS TO AMERICA, 1880). Also 1635, another Robert Harris, age 20, was a passenger on the Ship Primrose (Ibid.). However, if the birthdate given to Robert Harris "the immigrant" is correct, these two Harris males can be eliminated from this discussion.

More recent analyzed, documented information about Major Robert Harris of New Kent Co., VA appears in Malcolm Hart Harris, "Major Robert Harris (CA 1630-CA 1701) of New Kent County, Virginia: Was He Real or A Myth?" in THE VIRGINIA GENEALOGIST, V. 25, No 1, (1981), p. 191-203.

Dr. Harris traces Robert Harris through land patents and court documents. He writes that "it is certain that the lands of Robert Harris lay along the headwaters of the branches of Ware Creek in New Kent County." Harris gives specific locations as shown on modern-day maps. "Plotted on a geodetic survey map, the area is just north of the line between New Kent and James City counties and about equdistant between Barhamsville [New Kent Co.] and the confluence of Ware Creek and York River. He adds: "This land was owned by Robert Harris from prior to 1659 until after 1675/6."

Dr. Harris then cites a warrant issued by Governor Sir William Berkeley to the Escheator of New Kent County. Among those appearing on the jury were Wm. Overton, Evan Jones (Overton's co-patentee in an early land patent), and Robt. Harris. Comments Harris: "This record confirms that Robert Harris was qualified for jury service, was a freeholder and resident of the County of New Kent. Of equal interest is the association of William Overton on this jury."

About jury composition of New Kent Co, Dr. Harris makes these additional remarks:

"William Overton, the immigrant, was born in England 3 Dec 1638. He came to Virginia and later his betrothed, Elizabeth Waters, followed him and they were married on the deck of the ship in which she came on 24 Nov 1670 at Yorktown. They acquired land in New Kent County where they were established in 1673 when he served on the jury."

Examination of some of the patents which mention Ware Creek (as in CAVALIERS AND PIONEERS, V. II) indicates that some of the same persons who later were associated with the Harris family as they migrated up the James River received patents along Ware Creek:

1667 - Stephen Pettus (C&P II, p. 28)

One of the later treatises of the Harris family appears in Virginia Lee Hutcheson Davis's TIDEWATER VIRGINIA FAMILIES in a section entitled "Robert Harris." (Virginia Lee Hutcheson Davis, TIDEWATER VIRGINIA FAMILIES [Baltimore, 1989] pp. 458-459).

Davis believes Robert Harris must have owned land on the head branches of Ware Creek before 1659. Because all of the records of New Kent Co. were destroyed in an arson fire in 1787, the thesis cannot proved except by preponderance of evidence.

"While there is no record of a land patent to Robert Harris, the land patented by George Browne by April 29, 1659, was on 'the north side of the head branches of Ware Creek, on William Gilliam and Mr. Overman (Overton), and southwest on a branch parting it from Robert Harris." (Virginia Land Patent Book 4, p. 268) The Overton family originally lived in the Ware Creek area of New Kent County, later removing to the Forks area of Hanover Co. Davis writes that after the threat of Indian raids lessened, following Bacon's rebellion, the colonists began to move into the upper reaches of the Pamunkey River and its tributaries, the North and South Anna Rivers. The confluence of these two rivers became known as "the Forks." Refer to the land records of other Harris males.

Davis continues, "Two years later, on January 29, 1661, James Wilson was granted land on 'the east side of Ware Creek, to a branch of Cowpen Swamp and the lines of Robert Harris.' Fourteen years later, when Wilson repatented the land, it was again described as adjoining the land of Robert Harris. (Patent Bk. 4, p. 285; Book 6, p. 589.) There are a number of patents for land in the area of the above patents, describing land which adjoined the land of Robert Harris."

Davis concedes it is difficult to locate the small creeks and branches named in early land patents of Virginia, but Ware Creek can be identified and, also, where it flows into the Pamunkey-York River.

"Robert [Harris] must have owned land in the area near Barhamsville (presently Route 30 and 600 in New Kent County), since this approximates the head branches of Ware Creek. The land would have been north of the present day boundary of New Kent and James City Counties, between Barhamsville and the confluence of Ware Creek and the York River."

Davis refers to the article in THE VIRGINIA GENEALOGIST written some years ago by Malcolm Hart Harris, MD. Dr. Harris concluded that there was little doubt that Robert Harris was the father of William Harris, who settled in the Forks in Hanover Co., another burned county.

Possible Marriage

The conclusion of several researchers of the Harris family is that Robert Harris of Wales (1630-1700), about 1650, married the widowed Mrs. Mary Rice, whose maiden name was Claiborne. She, reportedly the widow of one Edward Rice, was the daughter of Secretary William Claiborne and his wife Elizabeth Butler. These same researchers have concluded that Robert and Mary's son, William, born in 1665, married Temperance Overton (b. 1679), daughter of William Overton.

However, Dr. Harris has written, "It seems more probable that Robert Harris did marry Mary Rice, widow of Edward Rice and daughter of Col. William Claiborne and Elizabeth Butler his wife, but there is no record left to prove it, as far as known [parts of sentence are italicized], for records have been destroyed." In a later publication concerning the Claiborne family, John Frederick Dorman writes in a footnote that there is no evidence of a such a marriage.

Davis also cautions that there is no definitive answer concerning the wife of Robert Harris. Neither does there seem to be evidence of the name of the wife of Edward Rice. There is no documentation that Robert Harris married Mary (Claiborne) Rice, widow, nor is there documentation that William Harris was the son of Robert Harris, "the immigrant. "

Davis points out that the land holdings of both Robert Harris and William Overton were in Blisland Parish, New Kent Co., not too far from the plantation where Colonel William Claiborne had established his home, after he left Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

Possible children of Robert Harris

Most histories of the Harris family are vague about any children of Robert Harris, although William Harris is believed, based on examined documents, to have been his son. Malcolm Hart Harris, in listing Harrises on the 1704 tithe lists for St. Peter's and St. Paul's Parishes in New Kent concludes, in agreement with E. Stuart Johnson, that "the parents of Capt. William Harris had other children who were among these tithables." Reference should be made to his article in THE VIRGINIA GENEALOGIST, V. 25.

The following Harris males appear on the 1704 Quitrent Rolls for 1704, but none is immediately identifiable as a child of Robert Harris:

Edmond Harris 100 John Harris 140 Benj. Harris 100 William Harris 100 Wm. Harris 125 Thos. Harris 100 William Harris 100 Robert Harris 100

(Note that there are three instances of a William Harris. Is this the same person, two persons one of whom owns two pieces of property, or are there three distinct persons?)

Circumstantial Evidence

There is linkage of a younger Robert Harris, ca. 1715, with members of an Overton family as well as with a Glenn family member, the younger Robert Harris having married Mourning (reportedly Glen or Glenn, but disputed by others):

"The Lands of Saml Overton [qv], Jas Overton, Henry Mills, Jos. Peors, Matt: Toler, Widd: Bradley, Mr. Duke, John Hickenson, and Jno Glenn being made one Precinct, whereof Saml Overton, and James Overton were Overseers made this return, viz. this Order Executed, Mr. Duke's, & Jno Hickason's only excepted, which promis'd to come but did not in, in presence of us, Henry Mills, Robt Harris, Jno Glenn, Saml Overton & Jas Overton."

(C. G. Chamberlayne, THE VESTRY BOOK AND REGISTER OF ST. PETER'S PARISH, NEW KENT AND JAMES CITY COUNTIES, VIRGINIA, 1684-1786, "Hanover County, Virginia, 1706-1786" [Richmond, 1937], p. 255.)

In the same section of the transcribed vestrybook is mention of a William Harris in the same neighborhood, but there is no stated linkage to Robert Harris. Study of the land holdings of each male mentioned would have to be made. The Widd: Bradley's land was mentioned in both processioners reports, however.

"The lands of Xph Hudson, Wm. Harris, Alex Cock, Widd: Bradley, Widd: Kimbrough, John Joiner, Philip Joiner, Saml Chamberlayne, and Col. Jennings, being made one precinct, made this return viz, this Order fulfild Only no body appeard for Col. Jennings & Saml Chamberlayne having no land in these parts.

"Exactly Copied by John Fitsgerrald C V, April ye 10th, 1716." (Ibid.)

Another Robert Harris?

Beverly Fleet in VIRGINIA COLONIAL ABSTRACTS, "Charles City County, Court Orders 1655-1658", p. 176, gives as one of the numerous headrights of one Howell Pryse "Robt. Harris." Another Harris was also listed, a Roger Harris. None of the others listed are immediately identifiable as associates of Robert Harris.

"p. 82 [court ca 1655/56] Howell Pryse hath proved right by testimony produced to 4800 acres of Land by assignem't for the charge of importing ....".

Interestingly, this abstract is not indexed in Nugent's CAVALIERS AND PIONEERS, V. I which is for the period 1623-1666.


NOTE: the info below seems to be about a DIFFERENT Robert Harris, this one of York County, VA.

Last Will and Testament of Robert Harris dated June 27 1712 - proved at court held for York Co Va Nov 1716 York Co., Virgina Records, Vol. IX - 22; York Co., VA Orders & Wills 15, p. 35

In the name of God amen I Robert Harris of Yorkhampton Parish in York County, being sick and weak in body but thanks to Almighty God I am perfect sense and memory do make this my last will and testament in manner and form as followeth viz First I bequeath my soul to God my Creator and to my blessed Savior who redeemed it in hope of a joyful resurrection. My body to be decently buried at the discretion of my Executor hereafter named and as to the wordly goods which it hath pleased God to bestow upon me, I give in manner as followeth viz Item I give to my son Robert the plantation whereon he now lives that is to say the houses and orchards and 50 acres of land adjoining to the houses,and 50 acres of land more part of the land I bought of John Petters to him and his hers forever but if it should please God that my son Robert should die without issue lawfully begotten then I give said land to my son Matthew and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten but if it should please God that my son Matthew should die without lawful issue then I give said land to my son John Harris and to his heirs forever. Item I give to my son Matthew Harris all my land Houses and Orchards which I have not already disposed of to him and his heirs forever but if my son Matthew should die without issue legally begotten then I give the said land to my Son Robert and the heirs of his body legally begotten then I give my said land to my son John and his heirs forever. Item I will and desire that my loving wife Ann Harris enjoy the third part of all the lands that I have given to my two sons Robert and Matthew during her natural life except 50 acres that I have given to my son Robert where he now lives. Item I give to my son Robert Harris thirty pounds sterling to buy him a Negro that I promised him when he was married. Item I give to my two sons Robert and John all my leather and tool Item I give to my son Matthew Harris three negroes viz Dick Pety and Tom and the increase to him and his heirs forever and I do further give to my said son Matthew all my household stuff that is to say bedding pewter Ironware and other necessary that are of the plantation where the said Matthew now lives. Item I give to my son John Harris Two cows a steer and six sheep Item I give to my son Matthew Harris all my cattle and sheep which I have not already disposed of that are on the plantation where my son Matthew now lives and half of the hogs and the other half of the hogs I give to my loving wife Ann Harris. Item I give to my loving wife three negroes by name Peter Moll and Jerry and the increase to her and her heirs forever I do likewise give to my wife the remaining of my money that I have in the hands of said Mr. Perry of London, And I do further give to my said wife all the house hold stuff in general that belongs in the house in which I now live as likewise all the stocks of cattle sheep hogs horses and mares and all other moveables whatsoever that belong to the house and plantation provided she will pay her two sons George and Stephen their portion that are due them without claiming any other part of my Estate besides what I have given her in my will. Lastly I do appoint my Loving wife Ann Harris and my loving son Matthew Harris to be my Executors of this my last will and testament In witness whereof I have set my hand and seal this twentyseventh day of June seventeen hundred and twelve. June 27 1712 Robert Harris [seal]

Signed and sealed by Robert Petters, George Fuller, William Barker Codicil being considered I do make an alteration in this my will I give to my son Matthew Harris all the nayles and ironwork which came in for my house and I give to my wife Ann Harris the use of my girl Jenny during her natural life and if my said wife wants money to pay off the estates of Edward Fuller then her sons to raise money then after her decease to return to my son Robert Harris to his heirs forever In witness whereof I set my hand and seal this day of July sixth seventeen hundred and twelve Heard at the court held for York Co. November 1716

Matthew (Robt Harris abt 1655-1660-1716, Robt abt 1635, Wm Harris 159 When Robert Harris died in 1716, his sons were just coming of age. Only Matthew appeared to be married at that time. That places the sons as being born in the 1690-95 period which works out with Robert Harris being born around 1655-60 and that, in turn, works out with the William Harris at Jamestown coming of age around 1655. Although there appear to be no firm records to definitely link Robert Harris of Yorktown to William Harris of Jamestown, the proximity, demise of Jamestown, and near-perfect timeline would certainly seem to suggest the connection. [children Robert Harris and lst wife Mary Allbritton > Robert, Matthew, John ]

from: Post-em, by NS, , Feb. 2, 2005 @

Settled in York Co., VA about 1682


view all 24

Robert Harris's Timeline

Hanover, (Present Henrico County), Virginia Colony
Age 15
June 3, 1655
Age 20
The Forks, Hanover, Virginia
August 10, 1655
Age 20
New Kent County, Virginia Colony, Colonial America
October 3, 1657
Age 22
Age 23
New Kent County, Virginia Colony
Age 29
Age 30
Hanover County, Virginia
Age 33
Virginia Colony