Publications like The William and Mary Quarterly offer brilliant insights into the prominent families of Virginia. This quarterly publication is a history journal published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. It covers the history of colonial North America and the “Atlantic world” from the fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. Information sources like this have provided invaluable insights into Sheffey and Roane families.
Before spending time reading publications like The William and Mary Quarterly I had no idea how prominent these two families were within Virginia.
The Roanes, with their connection to minor British aristocracy – and as yet unproved descent from Pepin The Great (father of Charlemagne) – placed them towards the pinnacle of Virginia society. The Sheffey’s, descended from a German immigrant whose father was a burger and judge – were esteemed and respected.
I find it interesting that throughout the centuries, including the present day, the various Sheffey family branches derive a great deal of respect for, and pride in, the family name. The many daughters of that family used the family name as a middle name for their offspring – a practice that carriers through to the present day. There is a distinct family identity amongst the various Sheffey clans.
The Roanes, on the other hand, appear to be quite different in this regard. They don’t appear to have the same intensity of identity with the surname. However, as I meet more and more of my distant black Roane relations, there is a quiet pride in being descendants of this family.
As far as I am aware, there was never a union through marriage between any of the white branches of the Roane and Sheffey families. Their lines only merged through marriage through their black descendants – my paternal Sheffey grandfather and my paternal Roane grandmother. In a way, it reminds me of a Shakespearean sub-plot. In the society of the day, a marriage between a black Sheffey and black Roane wouldn’t have merited the attention of a marriage between, say, a white Sheffey-Preston union or a white Roane-Henry (as in Patrick Henry) union.
While I’ll chat about family themes and traits later on, I do wonder what traits my immediate family have inherited through such a union. I also laugh as I wonder what our white Sheffey and Roane ancestors would have made of it.