Genealogy Adventures

The mystery of Henry West (1608-1647)

Genealogy requires rather a substantial amount of critical thinking and deductive reasoning. This is especially true the further back in time you go…when the paper trail becomes sparse. I’m going through this right now with one ancestral cousin, the English immigrant Henry West who settled in the Virginia Colony. He would found an outpost settlement in what is the Richmond, Virginia area (The Origins of Richmond

He’s a double cousin. He an ancestor that is shared in my father’s Roane family line and my mother’s Matthews family line.

I have two distinct lines of Wests in my family tree. Henry “The Immigrant”‘s is one. The Barons de la Warr are another (the State of Delaware was named for this line). Contemporary records say that Henry was related to the Baronial line of Wests.  He is cited as being a nephew of Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr and the 2nd Governor of the Virginia Colony:

contemporary account of the death of Henry West
Account gathered from contemporary records. Taken from Plantation Homes of the James River by Bruce Roberts, Elizabeth Kedash Click for larger image

Nephew is a pretty cut and dried familial term. So you’d think that Henry’s relationship to either Thomas should be all done and dusted. Far from it.

Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr, 2nd Governor of Virginia.
Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr, 2nd Governor of Virginia.

Thomas West does have one known brother. However, records for that brother are extremely scare. So far, I have only found one son for this brother. His name isn’t Henry. So no nephew Henry’s to be found here. My hunch is that untangling his descendants will require a visit to the British National Archives in London.

On numerous online family trees, I’m finding stories that my Henry’s proper name was William. So it was back to the drawing board to search. It turns out that Thomas West did indeed have nephew named William West:

A few months short of a year after he arrived, [Thomas West, 2nd Baron] De La Warr left Virginia because of illness. A third of the colony’s population was dead, mostly from disease. Miners, brought to Virginia to search for gold, silver, and copper, had planned a mutiny and seen their ringleader hanged. The governor’s nephew, Captain William West, had been killed in battle [with the Powhatan tribe]. From

This William West, however, was born earlier than Henry “The Immigrant” West – and died much earlier.

So this William isn’t a match either.

It’s the usual genealogy blunder.  Just because two men from the same family died in battles with Native Americans does not make them one in the same person.

So it was back to the drawing board yet again. I’ve had to go back to the first West who was created Baron de la Warr and sketch out his descendants. There are Henry Wests to be sure…none are even close to being a match for my cousin, Henry “The Immigrant” West. They are either born too soon, too late or never travelled from England to the American colonies.

At the moment, I’ve ruled out all of the possibilities for identifying who Henry “The Immigrant” West actually is. That’s not a bad thing. While I know who he isn’t…I know enough about to him to eventually identify who he is in terms of his relationship to the overall West family. If he’s a relation at all. It just requires more research and hunting.

What is interesting is that Henry “The Immigrant” West had land along the James River, near to properties owned by Thomas and Francis West. Henry is also associated with Jamestown, Thomas and Francis West’s base of operations in the Virginia Colony, upon his arrival in the Virginia Colony. Which leads to me to believe that the strongest possibility is that Henry was a cousin to Thomas, rather than a nephew.

Critical thinking and deductive reasoning suggests:

  1. The original account for Henry “The Immigrant” is incorrect. This would mean that somehow, somewhere back in time, Henry “The Immigrant” West was confused with Henry West, son of Thomas West.
  2. My Henry may not be a relation to the Baronial line of Wests at all. He may simply be from an unrelated West family.
  3. My Henry may share a much older common ancestry with the Baronial line of Wests in England; making him a cousin.
  4. A contemporary may have heard the name West and simply assumed he was a relation to Thomas West.
  5. Henry may be his middle name, which he preferred using. Meaning his first name is unknown.
  6. Whatever colonial records that could shed light on Henry’s relationship to Thomas West have either been lost or destroyed in the course of time, skirmishes (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion) or various wars.

The search for Henry continues…

6 thoughts on “The mystery of Henry West (1608-1647)

  1. Did you ever solve your Henry West mystery? I may have a lead. I have a ancestor, William West, who was active in Bacon’s Rebellion and sentenced to death. His brother, Henry West, lead a petition (1677) to spare his life, partly because he had taken up arms against the indians who had “murdered his father.” So, my Williams & Henry’s father (killed by indians) might be your Henry. My William married Rebecca Bracewell, abt 1667, dau. of Rev. Robert Bracewell Isle of Wright. I don’t know his birth date or parents, but his will is dated 20 Oct 1708. If you have any info, please let me know!

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. That’s a very helpful lead. I have your Henry in another part of my tree. I’m trying to slowly unlock four Henry Wests, all born around the same time, to be certain I’m picking up the trail for the Henry I’m searching for. The one you mention is the strongest candidate. I’m just not 100% certain

    2. That is my ancestor as well. His daughter, Rebecca, mentioned in his will: 1708: The will of William West was written Oct. 2, 1708, and probated Feb. 9, 1708/9 lists sons: William, Richard, and Robert, all to receive land; to daughter Mary Green an Indian girl; to daughter Rebecca an Indian woman and all the rest of the estate.
      William was sentenced to death for his part in Bacon’s Rebellion (1677), but he managed to escape from the jail located on the land of Col John West (part of which is now know as “West Point.”)
      John West was in a relationship with the “Queen of the Pamunkey, Cockacoeske, who left the estate about the same time as William West escaped. SO,
      I guess that William West was somehow related to John West, maybe through an illegitimate child, and that he arranged the escape.
      2. That the Pamukey took William with them to the Carolinas.
      3) That William took up with a woman while there and had a children, Rebecca and Mary, the aforesaid mentioned “Indians.”
      This is especially rich as William’s reprieve and pardon (before April 1708) was “because Henry West, the family patriarch, had been murdered by Indians.”

      Strange fact: almost no Rebeccas in my family tree, both Rebeccas are of mixed ancestry. (& I am Rebecca)

  2. In olden times, relationship terms often vary from their modern meanings. Eg, a cousin could be a nephew or vice versa, daughter could also be the daughter in law, etc…

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