JOURNAL OF GENTRY
GENEALOGY
Volume 3 Issue 12
January 2004
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THE GENTRY FAMILY IN AMERICA


A Look Backwards and a Look Forward


by
Willard Gentry
 

Descendants of Nicholas Gentry of New Kent County, Virginia
With this issue the Journal of Gentry Genealogy changes its format from a regularly secheduled monthly journal to one in which issues will be added to the website at irregular intervals. It is appropriate to look back and review the past three years during which we have attempted both to describe many of the known facts about the first four generations of the family of Nicholas Gentry the Immigrant, and to provide logical suggestions to fill in the many gaps in our knowledge of these early Gentrys. We have but touched the surface in many cases and it is the editor's intention to continue to document various descendants in greater depth. The family of Nicholas-I (the Immigrant) was a prolific one, and included the following number of individuals as a minimum:

  Second Generation     9 (?) children
  Third Generation   40 grandchildren (from the male line alone)
  Fourth Generation 230 great-grandchildren (ditto).
These are the descendants of sons only and does not include the children of daughters or other descendants that have not been identified. Some of their relationship credentials are very solid, a number of them are very speculative and tentative in their assignment of relationship, while the vast middle range consists of individuals whose family relationships have almost certainly been worked out, but there is little or no documentation for such.

Over the course of three years, these various Gentry descendants have been discussed in varying degrees. Conspicuous by their absence have been most of the descendants of Nicholas-II. Richard Gentry's 1909 compilation, "The Gentry Family in America" (GFA) covers this line of descent with a very high degree of inclusiveness. The information he provides is not always right, but it has not seemed necessary to the Journal editor, to plow this ground twice, when there has been so much else waiting attention.

The family of Samuel-II Gentry, while omitted to a large degree in GFA, has a wide-spread distribution of descendants scattered across the country. Family historians have been able to put together major patches of a tapestry of relationships, but in many, many instances, there are connecting threads missing so the resulting tapestry is very moth-eaten. The Journal has tried to systematically describe the sons and grandsons of Samuel-II in order that individual family genealogists may tie into this fabric.

The families of Joseph-II and James-II are quite different from those of their brothers. Samuel and his family moved from Virginia to North Carolina and South Carolina, and Nicholas-II's family for the most part moved to Kentucky. David's family moved entirely and exclusively to South Carolina. By contrast, Joseph's especially and James' families stayed primarily in Virginia. From the very beginning, records have been missing for these families. The early destruction of records in Hanover County, Virginia, and the loss of census records for 1790 and 1800 for almost all of Virginia have removed records that would otherwise have been of great value in working out relationships. The relatively limited number of these descendants who did leave Virginia beginning basically with the fifth generation of Gentrys, have mostly not had clear ties back to the early generations. The Journal has tried to collect information on all the scattered, unconnected references to early Virginia Gentrys and to suggest logical ways in which they might be related. This has been only partly successful, and there are still many questions concerning various Gentrys that appeared in census records there from 1810 onwards, and in other civil records.

John Gentry is still another type of puzzle. As of this writing there are many questions relating to both him and his family. Was he a son of Joseph-II or was he a brother, one of the youngest sons of Nicholas-I? Further questions relate to his family and whether the John Gentry who died in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1769 was this same John or a son of his.

Unrelated Gentrys
Throughout all the articles included in the Gentry Journal, the various individuals and families described have without exception been descendants of Nicholas Gentry of New Kent County, whom we refer to as either Nicholas-I or as Nicholas the Immigrant. By far the greater number of Gentrys living in the United States today descend from this individual. However, there were a few Gentrys who came to America in the early years who were not a part of that family. We will mention them briefly.

New Jersey Gentrys
A William Gentry who served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Gloucester County, New Jersey militia is mentioned in a brief paragraph in Vol 1, #12. He is included in "Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War", compiled by William S. Stryker, New Jersey Adjutant General. He is also included in GFA as #255 with very cursory information provided. One son, one grandson, and one great-grandson are listed further in GFA. Early records are missing in New Jersey, the first available Federal census is 1830. William and two other Gentry references are found in that census and further Gentrys in 1840 and 1850, but they cast no light on where the family originated. There are unconfirmed reports that William was the son of a John Gentry who was the first to settle in New Jersey. The odds are very great that this family bears no relationship to the family of Nicholas Gentry.

Robert Gentry of Philadelphia
The William Gentry cited above almost surely is not a part of the Nicholas Gentry family nor was a Robert Gentry who appeared in the Pennsylvania 1790 census and in succeeding census records for Philadelphia. Robert had three sons, Hugh (born about 1775-1780), Thomas (born about 1784) and Samuel (born before 1790). Hugh moved to Chester County, Pennsylvania, before 1800, where the census showed him with five young children. He then disappeared . Thomas and Samuel were living independently in Philadelphia by 1810, and their families continued to live there through 1850 and beyond. Two sons of Thomas reported in the 1880 census that their father was born in New Jersey. Philadelphia is just across the Delaware River from Gloucester County, New Jersey. We can safely assume that Robert was a part of the New Jersey Gentrys.

Samuel Gentry - Deportee
Peter Wilson in his compilation, "The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775", provides a reference to a Samuel Gentry who was sentenced in the period Oct-Dec 1754 to transportation from Middlesex County, [reason for sentence not specified--some records indicate stealing; destination not specified]. Despite a profusion of Samuel Gentrys in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, none of them match this particular individual. Since the sentence of deportation to "the Americas" included large number of deliveries to the "Sugar Islands" (in particular, Barbados), this writer believes that (1) Samuel died during his passage overseas or shortly afterwards; or (2) he was sent to one of the West Indies islands rather than to mainland America. A very large number of convicts sent to Barbados died not long after their arrival due to poor working conditions and diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. If Samuel was indeed sent there, he probably did not survive for any length of time.

Elkanah Gentry
In the 1764 tax lists for Onslow County, North Carolina, an Elkanah Gentry is included, indicating ownership or at least occupation of land.. Four years later, in 1768, Elkanah was granted patent #6386 (Patent Book 23-284) for presumably an additional 235 acres in Onslow County on the south side of New River on both sides of Elder Branch. Onslow County is on the southeast coast of North Carolina, far from any of the other Gentrys who moved to Johnston and Surry County in the 1760's. Nothing further has ever been found concerning this Gentry and we can surmise that he died at a relatively young age without survivors, or more probably, his children were all daughters who did not carry on the Gentry name. There is no reasonable explanation for Elkanah's presence in Onslow County except as a result of direct immigration, without any relationship to the Nicholas Gentry family.

Later Arrivals
Still another Gentry who came independently to America was Francoise Gentry who was living in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana in 1850. Francois listed his place of birth as France. On the East Coast, there is a record of three Gentrys being among the famine immigrants from Ireland who arrived at the Port of New York between 1846 and 1851. Ira Glazier's compilation of these immigrants includes a John Gentry, age 20, laborer, date not specified in the Port records. On board the ship, "Carrib", Joseph Gentry, age 21, laborer and Judy Gentry, age 18, servant (presumably Joseph's wife), shipped in from Galway, Ireland in 1851.

There are undoubtedly a number of other Gentrys, whom we have not documented, who arrived in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth century from Canada or from Europe who were unrelated to the Nicholas Gentrys. The sum total of all of these and their descendants, however, does not begin to approach the number of Gentrys who have descended from Nicholas Gentry. There is no question that an overwhelming number of the Gentrys living today are all related to this one man.

(Appendix deleted, 2014)

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