Solo ~ William Thornton Sr. ~ 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks #27

solo-logoThis week’s prompt is “Solo” so I thought I would write about one of my many ancestors who made the voyage to America by themselves. Since there are so many I had a hard time choosing just one. However, I have never written about this particular ancestor before and I have enjoyed researching him.

William Thornton, my 10x Great Grandfather, was born in 1620 in The Hills, Yorkshire, England. He immigrated to Jamestown Virginia in 1641 being transported powatan warby William Prior and by 1643 he moved to York County, Virginia. There he purchased 164 acres of land and began to build his home. On April 18, 1644, the Powhatan Confederacy launched a coordinated attack on the settlements in Virginia killing around 400 colonists. All of the settlers who survived the attack were ordered to return to Jamestown for their safety and this included William. Here he married Elizabeth Rowland (1627-1671) in May 1644.

By 1647, the Indian War was over and William and his wife returned to his property and completed the house. They had 3 sons, William Jr. (1649-1727), Francis (1652-1726), and Rowland (1653-1722). In October 1648 the House of Burgess passed an William Thornton mapact allowing settlement north of the York River with an effective date of 1 September 1649. Colonists were allowed to apply for land grants immediately. It was two months later on December 21, 1648, that Richard Lee was granted 1250 acres on the north side of York River. Sometime before February 16, 1653, Lee assigned the northern portion of his grant to William Thornton thus it appears William Thornton moved north of the York River between September 1,1649 and February 16, 1653. This land is in present-day  Gloucester County, Virginia, on the south side of Bland Creek. Gloucester County was created in 1651 from York County.

It was on this parcel in Gloucester County that William would live until he moved to Stafford County, Virginia, around 1708. On February 16, 1665, William Thornton of Petsoe Parish, Gloucester County, increased the size of his holdings when he received a grant of land for another 164 acres on land joining the land where he lived.

Even though he continued to live in Gloucester County, on September 27,1673 William purchased land further to the west up the Rappahannock River apparently to provide for his sons. William purchased 2000 acres on the north side of the river from John and George Mott. That same day William, of Gloucester County, Virginia, gave James Kay a power of attorney to accept possession of the 2000 acres he had purchased from the Motts. William gave this land on July 16, 1675, to his 210px-William-thortonsons Francis and Rowland, if they had no heirs then it would go to his son William Jr. William was a vestryman in Petsoe Parish from 1677-1706. He was listed as William Thornton, Senior, in the Petsoe Parish, Gloucester County, quit rent roll for 1704 as having 525 acres. On April 23,1706 William asked for a “quietus” from serving as a vestryman. The vestry granted his request and appointed a new vestryman in his stead. Sometime before December 22, 1708, William moved to Stafford County, Virginia. On that date William, “Late of the County of Gloucester and now of Stafford County,” gave a power of attorney to Jonathan Gibson to acknowledge a deed of gift for 2000 acres of land he had given to his sons in 1675. He had acknowledged the deed in Gloucester County Court but wanted to record it in Richmond County where the land was then located. William died in 1709. Although he came to the colonies solo, he left an abundance of descendants.

Researching this ancestor has led me to the discovery of a new line that I am anxious to dive into. If what I uncovered is true and I can prove it, I may be related to one of my favorite historical figures. If it proves correct, I will be writing a follow-up blog.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


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