Our Boatwright / Boatright Family Genealogy
My name is George Boatright and I am a twelfth generation descendant of John Botwright (b. 1607 in England). I have collected information on many branches of the Boat(w)right family in America. I believe that almost all branches of our family descended from a single ancestor, John Botwright, who immigrated to America in approximately 1654. Unfortunately, many early birth, marriage and death records for our ancestors were lost to church and court house fires over the years. The relation of the various Boat(w)right family branches has been determined by utilizing DNA testing.
My goal is to include information on all branches of the family on this web site. If you can help me fill in some of the blanks, or correct errors and omissions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Linda Goetsch
Remember me in the family tree,
My name, my days, my strife.
Then I'll ride upon the wings of time;
And live an endless life.
(Use granted by permission of the Author/Copyright Holder)
The Original Boatwright?
A man from Normandy and his family had lived in a part of the area around Caen, France, which is just a stone's throw from Bayeux, for many generations. Bayeux was the launching point for the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 by William, Duke of Normandy also known as the Conquerer. The man told of an ancient ruined fortress on the coast called "La forteresse de Batuvrai" (literally, the keep of the boatbuilder), located on the coast near Caen. When I went there, I was a little surprised to actually find an ancient ruin of some kind still there. Later I discovered from a few of the residents in the area that it had been said that it was the keep of the royal shipwright to William himself.
If you travel to Bayeux and look at the famous tapestry, you can actually see the shipwrights constructing the longships that took William and his army across the English Channel. In the famous Doomsday Book written soon after the conquest, there is mentioned lands given to William's most faithful vassals and servants. Among them a shipwright ("Batuvrai").
Source: Michael Boatwright, who lived in France for 3 years and met the man from Normandy who related the story of the Boatwrights.
English Origins of the Boat(w)right Name
The English surname BOATWRIGHT, and its variants BOTWRIGHT and BOATRIGHT, is of occupational origin, descriptive of the trade or profession pursued by the initial bearer of this surname. The name is derived from the Old English word "bat" meaning boat, and "wyrhta" meaning wright, and thus, the original bearer would have been a boat builder or ship's carpenter. The earliest English reference to this surname dates back to the fifteenth century where one John Botwright is recorded as living in Suffolk County, England in 1469. In 1524 one John Botewrighte is listed in the "Subsidy Rolls" of Suffolk.
A Brief History of our Boat(w)right Family in America
Our ancestor, John Botwright, Jr. traveled from Cambridge, England to the new world of Virginia in the mid 1600's. John, Jr. signed on as an indentured servant. It must be emphasized that the indentured servants were not slaves, and that at the expiration of their terms there was no barrier, legal, racial, or social to their advancement. The terms of indenture not only took for granted that the servant, upon completing his contract would establish himself as a proprietor, but usually made it obligatory for the master to furnish him with the equipment necessary for his new life. In exchange for his passage to America, young John agreed to work as an indentured servant for four to seven years. This was a very common way of attracting people to the new world: the promise of a bright future, land ownership and freedom, in exchange for three to seven years of hard labor. John's headright was patented to Humphrey Dennis, of Virginia, in 1654.
Why did young John travel from England to Virginia? England was in turmoil in the late 1640's. The English civil war had just ended. Victorious Puritans would soon behead the King, Charles I. Oliver Cromwell was in the early stages of his protectorate and still battling competitors for supremacy among their Puritan comrades. As the Puritan government became established, Englishmen who supported the monarchy found that England was no longer a safe haven for them. Not only might they lose their financial wealth, some were in danger of losing their heads if they remained in England. The Stepney docks must have been frantically busy as entire families and their retainers sought passage out of England. Was it, perhaps, imperative that John leave the country at this time? Was John or his parents so closely associated with the Royalist cause that he had to flee for his safety? Or was John simply looking for a better life, the chance to own land and prosper? We will most likely never know the cause of John's immigration to Virginia as an indentured servant.
The Boatwright family established themselves in Virginia, settling in the county of New Kent and a portion of New Kent that became Hanover County in 1720. In 1714 William Byrd argued before the Colonial Board that the cost of the government in Virginia, which had become a burden on the King, could be defrayed by selling the land outright at 5 shillings for 50 acres. This produced a profound effect on the colony and by 1755 almost all of present Virginia had been claimed, mostly by descendants of the early colonists. Persons arriving in years after that were obligated to purchase land from the conglomerate landholders and speculators at the market rate.
With land in Virginia at a premium, branches of the Boatwright family migrated west in Virginia, to the counties of Cumberland and then Buckingham. Other branches of the family migrated to North Carolina and South Carolina during the second half of the 1700s.
In the early 1800s branches of the family moved westward to Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio. In the south, branches of the family moved to Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. In the 1830s and 1840s, migration to Arkansas and Missouri occurred. The migration of the Boatwrights mirrored the migration within America in general, as families moved to undeveloped, former Indian lands, looking for better farming conditions and better economic opportunities.
For the first 200 years of our family in America, we were farmers. As the country began to industrialize during the 1850s and beyond, many of our family members left the farms and immigrated to the cities of America.
To search for an exact phrase, "enter it in quotation marks." To search for several key words you may use AND/OR syntax. If you are looking for specific persons included in the Boat(w)right Family Genealogy in America, you will have better results using the list found at Name Index for John Boatwright Family.
last modified: January 3, 2015