George Brassfield – Cheshire County, England to Essex County, Virginia
Georgius Brasfeild [sic], son of Thomas, was baptized at the Parish of Macclesfield, Cheshire County, England on 17 June 1688 in St. Michael’s Church. The Brassfield families in the records of the Cheshire Records Office are few and most likely interconnected. Researchers feel George’s mother was a woman named Abigail, who married Thomas.
|Images: Photograph. St. Michael's Church and side of Town Hall. 15 Jan 2005. Peter Hitchmough. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Macc_StMichaels.jpg|
Abigail, the wife of Thomas Brassfield, was buried in 1696. One theory Brassfield researchers have is that Thomas was unable to care for George and any other children from this marriage. Perhaps that led to George’s servitude in Virginia.
George Brassfield sailed from Liverpool to Virginia on 19 October 1698 onboard the Loyalty. George was to serve 11 years,  allowing us to estimate his age at approximately 11 years old as most children were freed on their 21st birthday.
The records of the Corporation of Liverpool verified George was on a list of 37 servants to go to Virginia. From 1697 to 1698 the Corporation of Liverpool record showed 1,300 individuals sent to Virginia.
Bernard Gaines, a prominent planter and judge in Essex County, Virginia became George’s master. In the court case to legalize the indenture, the court of Essex County determined George to be nine years of age. If George was 11, based on the passenger list and baptism record, this meant Bernard Gaines potentially added two more years to his servitude. On 12 February 1703, Bernard Gaines was granted 400 acres for paying the passage of eight persons, one of whom was George, to Virginia.
We do not see George in the records again until 16 May 1721. On this date, he purchased 300 acres of land from Richard and Anne Carver in Essex County, Virginia. The purchase price was 1,500 pounds of tobacco, an incredible amount of money at the time. How he came into such a large quantity of tobacco is unknown. Researchers feel he learned how to farm tobacco working on the Gaines plantation. Tobacco was the cash crop for the Virginia Colony, and this knowledge could make anyone willing to put in the large amount of labour it required a very wealthy person.
The land he purchased later became part of Caroline County, Virginia. This county had a significant loss in bound and loose court records due to the Civil War. Due to the loss, researchers are unable to trace the land George held for the next century. Also, without probate records, we do not know when he died.
Brassfield researchers feel that he had two sons, George and Michael. These men relocated to North Carolina and their descendants spread across the United States. According to James Horn, Historian of Indentured Servitude Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, all Brassfields in the United States are descended from this man.
But.... something does not add up.
County Formation Timeline
|Boundary of Essex County, Virginia (circled and highlighted) from 30 April 1721 - 29 April 1728. Image: Digital. Newberry Library. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/map/map.html#VA|
As the land was settled, and the population grew, the large counties originally formed in the Virginia Colony were carved into smaller ones. For the purposes of this case study it is important to understand how the land changed around those living there. Particularly as record loss in Virginia is a concern. The land George Brassfield was indentured on, as well as lived and died on, changed names several times over his lifetime. He landed in Essex County and it was presumed he died in Caroline County, however, he only moved a few miles at any given time that we can tell. Data taken from Virginia: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries by the Newberry Library.
As mentioned in this article the genealogy of George Brassfield was part of the Reba McEntire episode of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? in 2012. I, however, knew about him for several years before that as the potential immigrant ancestor for my own Brassfield line.
In 1959 Annabelle and Edward McAllister wrote Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies which is considered the authority on the history of this family within the United States. Further research was conducted over the next few decades culminating in the website Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies maintained by Michael D. Brasfield. When the website became too cumbersome, he moved the whole tree to Ancestry where he also manages two message boards on the subject. As for my research, everyone pointed back to these sources as the de facto authority on the subject.
The researcher in me was not satisfied with using someone else’s research 100% of the time. Over the years I have researched this line one and off, collecting records as I found them and entering them into my database. This research project seemed like an opportunity to dust off my research. Unfortunately, the more documents I uncovered, the more questions I had.
Primarily, I questioned the assumption that George Brassfield was the only George Brassfield transported to the Virginia Colony. Second, I wondered why Bernard Gaines applied for his headright acreage three years after he purchased George’s indenture. An action typically completed within months of purchase.
Research into Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents by Nugent further reinforced my scepticism that George was the only one brought to the Virginia Colony. There were two abstracts which also claimed headrights on persons named George Brassfield.
- Thomas Merriwether received 364 acres in Essex County, Virginia on 20 October 1704 for transporting eight people (one was a Geo. Brasfeild).
- John Jones received 75 acres in St. Pauls’ Parish, New Kent County, Virginia on 11 July 1719 for importing two persons (one was a George Brasfield).
As for Bernard Gaines, a correction came via Carol Brassfield. Mrs. Brassfield lives in England and runs the Brassfield one-name study which she started for her late husband. Carol stated in an email to me that Bernard was not George’s first owner. A man named Carver held his indenture first and then sold him to Gaines. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate this information myself, and she did not send me the documents to show this before the paper was submitted. Even if Bernard was his second owner, why did he apply for the headright? Was this a case of gaming the system? I found no acreage given to a man named Carver in Cavaliers and Pioneers.
These questions need further research and analysis. As it stands now, I only feel comfortable stating a person named George Brassfield was on The Loyalty in 1698. He was most likely a 10-11-year-old boy based on the number of years he was slated to serve. Beyond that, researchers must locate new records to determine how many George's where in Virginia during the early 1700s.
So, do you think James Horn may come to regret that statement on national television during his big reveal to Reba McEntire? Only time and more research will tell.
 Brasfield, Michael. Online Ancestry Family Tree.
https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/tree/84027385/family : accessed 1 April 2018.
 Brasfield, Michael. Brassfield-Brasfield Ancestry Message Board.
https://www.ancestry.com/boards/surnames.brasfield/mb.ashx : accessed 1 April 2018.
 Nugent, Nell Marion. (2004) Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents Volume III 1666 – 1695. Richmond: The Library of Virginia.
 Brassfield, Carol. Op. Cit.
 Newberry Library. (2006) Virginia: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries. Virginia Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/documents/VA_Consolidated_Chronology.htm#Consolidated_Chronology : accessed 1 April 2018.
 Brassfield, Carol. (2018) RE: Contact from the Guild Website regarding your Brassfield study. Email to Shannon Combs-Bennett, 6 April, 17:34.
 Who Do You Think You Are? (2012) Reba McEntire. Television Program. National Broadcasting Company (NBC), New York City, 12 March.
 New England Historic and Genealogical Society. (1913) List of Emigrants to America From Liverpool 1697 – 1707. Boston: New England Historic and Genealogical Society. https://archive.org/details/listofemigrantst00bost : accessed 15 March 2018.
 McAllister, Annabelle C. and McAllister, Edward N. (1959) Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edward Brothers, Inc.
 Who Do You Think You Are? Op. Cit.
 McAllister. Op. Cit. Who Do You Think You Are? Op. Cit.
 Dorman, John Frederick. (1959) Essex County, Virginia Records, 1717 – 1722. Deeds, Etc., No. 16, 1718 – 1721. Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3, 1717 – 1722. Deed Book 16. p. 259 Washington, D.C.: Dorman.
 Library of Virginia. (2017) Lost Records Localities: Counties and Cities with Missing Records. Research Notes Number 30. https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/rn30_lostrecords.pdf : accessed 20 March 2018.
 McAllister. Op. Cit.