The Earliest Yanceys – what do extant records tell us about them.


For the sake of this report we will consider the 1st generation of Yanceys to be that of Charles Yancey of Hanover and Lewis Davis Yancey of Culpeper Counties Virginia. Some believe they may have been brothers – but proof is lacking.  The 2nd generation will be their children, 3rd grandchildren, and so on.


A chart of the first few generations of Yanceys in America – ALONG with references to primary source records can be found at:


What do we know about the early Yancey??  Analyzing what we know about them may be very helpful in searching for their origin and background.

Below are a few notes of summary.






Their Names: 

What the records show:

The first two generations of Yancey – consisted of Yanceys with male names:  Charles (3), Lewis(2), Robert (2), James(2), John(2), Richard(2), Archelaus, Jechonias.  The majority of such names are very typical English names of the period. Though such names would have been popular names throughout the British Isles (Wales, Scotland, Ireland). 

What the records DON’T show:

Among the very earliest Yanceys we DON’T find anything but typical English names.  We don’t find names that are primarily considered  FRENCH (such as Jean or Jaques ) or WELSH (such as Hugh or Gwen). In the Third generation we DO see some influence of how maternal ancestral lines determined some names to be from Non English families. (Such as the case of Jeremiah Yancey – being named after his French grandfather Jeremiah Dumas.  

Naming Practices




The Families they intermarried with:

What the record show:

Some of the families that intermarried with the earliest Yanceys included the following:  (with country of origin):  KAVANAUGH (Ireland), DUMAS (France), LAYTON(England?), NALLE (England), SAXON (England), JENNINGS (England), MINGHAM (England) , COSBY (England), KIMBROUGH (England), YEARGAN , DICKINS (England), NUCKOLLS (England), HICKS (England), JONES , CRAWFORD (Scotland), MULLINS (France), POWERS (England), MITCHELL (England?), LAYTON, LEWIS(Ireland), FAVER, FIELD (England), PENDLETON (England), HOLLOWAY(England), CUDWORTH (England).

Families Associated with the Early Yanceys of America




What the records show:

The vast majority of early colonial Virginia residents were members of the Church of England (as Virginia was merely a colonial extension of the Mother Country).  In Virginia the church was referred to as the Protestant Episcopal Church.  Church and state were greatly intertwined with each other. It was often members of the church vestry who were very much involved in community and county affairs. Church attendance was required by law – and “tithes” were used to pay for governmental expenses.  It is clear from the records that members of the Yancey Family were typical supporters of the Protestant Episcopal faith.  Reverend Robert Yancey of the 3rd generation of Yanceys in America was minister ordained by the Bishop of London who served in Louisa County Virginia. Richard Yancey of Culpeper County and possibly others served on church vestry organizations – filled by respected members of the community. There is evidence that the Yanceys were not just lackadaisical about their support of the faith. On the contrary - One Nathan Yancey in his will – not having any children - granted support for the education of children in the county declared such funds would ONLY be used for members of the Protestant Episcopal Faith.   However - at the time of the Revolutionary War the influence of the Church in America quickly dwindled and many of the people – converted to newer Christian sects such as Methodism, Baptists, and Presbyterians – typical in the Yancey family.

What the records don’t show:

Although there is evidence that some of the early Yanceys married French women – coming from families – who MIGHT possibly have been Huguenots (French Protestants) – who settled in that area that became known as “Manakin Town” in King William County. There is no indication that the Yanceys were protestants themselves. There is no evidence that the Yanceys came to America for religious reasons – though the one possible connection – though unproved – is the connection to the LEIGHTON family of Scotland – Alexander Leighton suffering great persecution from the Crown for his religious views. Also on a related note - there is no evidence that any of the Yanceys were Quakers.  Various Quakers did come to America in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s and settled in Pennsylvania and parts of Virginia.








What the records show:

The very earliest Yanceys seem to have been modest in their means – but WERE landholders – which would have placed them in the middle class. The 1704 quit rent rolls records Charles as owning 100 acres (small compared to most of the land owners)

However some of the earliest Yanceys do seem to have married into some moderately wealthy families – such as the Kavanaughs (large land owners), the Crawfords, the Cudworths and others. Keep in mind that whenever a woman was married her father gave her a “dowry” that she carried into the family – sometimes of a significant amount.  In a few generations, with the acquisition of more land, more assets, more slaves and in some cases various entrepreneurial  ventures various branches of the Yancey family became relatively affluent. But a good percentage of the Yancey family seeem to be rather average and typical in their economic affluence.
It seems quite plausible that the very first immigrant Yancey – may have been a younger son of middle class family of England or Wales – that came to America to seek his fortune and knew that just by arriving in America – might gain more land then his oldest brother would get from the family estate (as in those days the estate passed from father to oldest son). 


What the records don’t show

Contrary to some family stories – there is virtually no evidence to make one believe that the early Yanceys had any connection with Sir William Berkeley who came to Virginia as Governor in 1642 – or ANY OTHER member of the ruling aristocracy.   However it is interesting to note that the Crawford Family (who did come over about 1642 and intermarried with the Yancey - did have some distant connections to Berkeley) 




Yancey on  County Records

What the records show:

The first documented case of a Yancey – is that of Charles Yancey in 1704 in King William County Virginia – on the Quit Rent Rolls (a census of Virginia land holders). Soon after it would seem he apparently moved to what became Hanover County  - most Hanover County records have been lost or destroyed and we unfortunately don’t have many of the records for that time period up until about 1742 when Louisa county was formed. Yanceys were also in Spotsylvnaia and Culpeper county – in all these latter counties court records have survived and we have a wealth of records concerning the Yanceys from about 1740’s onward – with a scarcity of records between 1704 and 1742.

What the records don’t show:

There have been no records found for Yanceys in Virginia prior to 1704. Now certainly some records have been lost (such as the records of their initial immigration and land grant) – but surely if they had lived in Virginia any number of years (1642 is a common family tradition) – if that was indeed the fact – SURELY there would have been some record of them – a church record, their name in some local news, a letter, a diary – but even ignoring court records – there is no shred of even a MENTION of them in pre 1700 records. Researchers from the early 1900’s till now have found no indication of Yanceys living in Virginia in the 1600’s.  I think it only reasonable to assume that they came to Virginia  a few years prior to 1704 and were probably granted 50 acres each for two people arrival (father and son) or husband and wife).  Most immigrants to America who paid their own way were granted 50 acres. The fact that they ONLY had 100 acres and that it appears there was ONLY one family – and that  this is the FIRST mention of them anywhere on any record leads me to believe that such Charles Yancey was a recent immigrant. If they had been here longer there would have been more than a single family and they would have been mentioned on SOME sort of prior record – and they probably would have had more then 100 acres. 

see also:  Land acquisiton records for early Yanceys of Virginia


The 1642 date seems to have come from the fact that THAT is the year that Sir William Berkeley came to Virginia.   It seems certain researchers thought there was some link between the Yancey and Berkeley and they noted Berkeley came in 1642 - so they also attributed the date (erroneously it seems) to the Yanceys.   Another source of the 1642 date may have been the fact that David Crawford  did come over to Virginia about 1642 and had multiple close descendants who intermarried with the very early Yanceys)  David Crawford did have some distant connections to Berkeley. 




What the records show:

Most of the very earliest Yanceys seem to have been small plantation owners. Owning a few hundred acres and a few slaves.  As plantation owners they were often worked as “jack of all trades” – involved in numerous aspects of plantation life.  One early Yancey became a minister, a few became lawyers,  a few held public offices. But the vast majority were involved in small plantation life – and with the acquisition of slaves were able to establish farms producing tobacco and other cash crops. Various of the early Yanceys were involved in entrepreneurial  ventures – such as mills, distillleries and merchant establishments – which seem to have been quite lucrative. Yanceys in Louisa County and Albemarle County built mills and seemed to have profited from their use.

What the records don’t show

 It is interesting that few of the very early Yanceys are labeled with such trades as “blacksmiths” or “Carpenters” or “butchers” or “tanners” etc. – apparently on the plantation they had to do a little of just about everything.






The Revolutionary War

What the records show:

During the Revolutionary War – the vast majority of the Yanceys supported the revolutionary cause on the side of the American Patriots. There is evidence to indicate  that at least one may have lost his life in the cause – though details are scarce.  Various members of the Yanceys drew pensions or bounty land warrants for their service. Just about all who could serve did serve in the revolutionary cause. Those who couldn’t serve as soldiers often served in other ways.

What the records don’t show
There are virtually no records of significance to indicate that any of the Yanceys supported the Loyalist cause (those who wanted to retain the status quo as a colony under British control).





There is really nothing to indicate that the Yanceys (as a whole) were anything other than typical  normal citizens of the community (speaking in general of course – as with any family there were exceptions).  There lifestyle seems to have been quite typical of the people in rural Virginia Counties (Louisa, Albemarle, Hanover, Culpeper).  Information concerning store accounts we have extant copies of from the 1700’s gives an interesting aspect of life at that time.

Another interesting aspect – family size – it was quite typical to have 8-10 children in a family (or more with successive  wives). With families like this – the Yancey population quickly grew exponentially.  In 1704 there was only one recorded Yancey Family in Virginia. By 1800 there were more then 100 and by 1850 nearly 500.


Another point of interest is that the Yanceys were concentrated in RURAL counties

more in the interior of  Virginia.  They were NOT settled in coastal counties nor were they near large towns or cities.




The very earliest Yanceys did own a small number of slaves per family. Slaves made it much easier to run the ‘labor intensive” tobacco based plantations. With time some branches of the family grew in their plantation acreage and in their number of slave labor.  Slaves were passed on from one generation to the next - often declared in the last will and testament of a dying member of the family and passed on to children. By the 1800’s certain members of the Yancey family had large plantations and large numer of slaves (over 50).   

Slave labor was very typical among the Virginia “planters” (farmers) – and the Yanceys were no exception. A few branches of the family it seem, though, did not own slaves – one would kind of think that was by choice and not just because they couldn’t afford them – but the exact circumstances are not known to us.




Community Involvement

What the records show:

Every thing I have seen seems to indicate that the Yanceys were involved with  the local community/county affairs (as was typical for most families).  In colonial times Yanceys served on church vestries, were assigned by the courts to help in community affairs and help maintain community resources – such as maintaining roads and surveying boundary lines etc. Yanceys served in public office – county commisioner, justices of the peace, sherrifs, and other assignments. Everything would seem to indicate that they were respected members of the community.

What the records don’t show:
There is noting to indicate that the earliest Yanceys were among the elite ruling Aristrocracy. On the other hand there is no indication that they were part of the lower class indentured servants or slaves at any period of time.  





Migration Patterns.

As the land west of early Virginia opened up – that area known as the Ohio Valley – and also as land became available farther south in North and South Carolina and Georgia – the Yanceys were often among the pioneers in such migrations.  Yancey descendants were among the earliest as Boonesboro for example.  John Yancey was among the first to build “taverns” along the migratory routes to the west. Some of the Yanceys were granted bounty land for their  revolutionary war – that was in frontierland – such as Kentucky.  With the law of primogeniture it was the oldest son who usually inherited the majority of  the estate – and thus stayed on the plantation/estate of his father (as we see Charles Yancey did as he inherited the estate of his father Lewis Davis Yancey in Culpeper).  It was often the younger sons who left and set out on their own – often migrating west and south to new lands to settle down to make a life for them and their families as frontier pioneers. After the revolutionary war – the law of primogeniture fell out of use to a large degree – but none the less the migratory pattern to the new frontiers continued.


Few, if any, of the earliest Yanceys seem to have been mountain men, or trappers or the sort who never really settled down in any one place.






All known Yanceys of the 1700’s are known to have lived in the Southern United States with its plantation economy. A rare few did travel into the North and back. The Yanceys were Southernors – with all that that entailed – from the colonial period up to the Civil War. By the mid 1800’s a small percentage of the Yancey family had migrated to the North and served with the Union in the Civil War – but this was a small percentage.  The vast majority were confederates.