Joel Warren Norcross included the following reference to the Northcross family of Virginia in his 1893 work on the Norcross family of Massachussetts:
“W. N. Northcross of Trenton, Kentucky, writes me that his grandfather lived in Virginia in the early settlement of that State. He was an Englishman coming perhaps from the Isle of Mann, which is about 70 miles from Ribchester. He settled in what is now Sussex County, 35 miles south of Petersburg. The early names of the Northcross are similar to the early Norcross names. He thinks the names Northcross, Norcrosse and Norcross have one origin.”
The striking similarity between that statement and the following quote by sisters Margaret Northcross Ellis and Josephine Northcross Fagg in their book Tidewater Ancestry, tends to make one believe there may be something to this family legend. These women are descendants of Richard Northcross of Virginia, as was W. N. Northcross. Their branch of the family remained in Virginia, while other branches moved south and west during America’s years of expansion. They write,
“It has always been claimed, by certain members of the family, that the first Northcross to land in America was a schoolmaster and that he came from the Isle of Mann. This was reported by Cousin Tom and was generally believed, because he was the only relative who had visited the British Isles.”
There is some speculation, which has made the rounds on the internet for years and seems to be accepted as fact by many, that Richard Northcross of Virginia, husband of Jane, was the son of Richard Norcross and Rose (sometimes seen as Jane) Woodward of Massachussetts and that this Richard Northcross was married to a woman named Jane Stratton. No source is ever given for this information, but it appears to have caught on and most internet family trees on the Northcross family include it. It is as if the mere repetition of this has made it true in the minds of many researchers. While the fact that no source is ever posted for this doesn’t make it not true; it does make it speculation. Whether this family came from the Isle of Mann or descends from the Norcross family of Massachussetts, or has some undetermined origin, I will leave for the reader to decide after presenting the evidence uncovered.
On the side of Massachussetts origins, we have the fact that the given names of some of the sisters of Richard Norcross (b. 1687), son of Richard Norcross (b. 1660) and Rose Woodward, appear in association with Richard Northcross of Sussex County, Virginia, but these were very common names at the time. Richard Norcross (1687) of Massachussetts had a sister named Abigail and a half-sister Hannah. Abigail and Hannah Northcross were both mentioned in records of Albemarle Parish and seem to be peers of Richard, as they served as godmothers to his children. However, there were also both a James Northcross and a Thomas Northcross mentioned in the same Virginia records; both appear to have been contemporaries of Richard Northcross, possibly his brothers, but the possibility exists that they may have been uncles or cousins as well. Richard Norcross of Massachussetts had no brothers named James or Thomas, nor any close male relations with those names. If Abigail and Hannah are to be used to support the idea that Richard was from Massachussetts, James and Thomas must also be included. Their presence seems to cast doubt on the theory of Masschusetts origins.
Joel W. Norcross made the following statement regarding the children of Richard Norcross and Rose Woodward of Massechussetts:
“He had a large family of eleven children, eight sons and three daughters. His sons settled in different parts of the State (Massachusetts) and Connecticut. . . This seems to be the first scattering of the Norcross family. He sold his estate which contained four acres to his son Joseph in 1743 when 83 years old. He died in 1745, aged 85.”
So we know that some of his children did move away from their original home of Watertown, but most seem to have remained in New England. It is curious that no mention is made in Watertown records as to what became of his son Richard.
According to The Genealogical Dictionary of New England Settlers, Richard Norcross, husband of Rose Woodward, was indeed a schoolmaster, as was his father, also named Richard, before him (b. 1620). The father, Richard, and Richard’s brother, Jeremiah, were the original Norcross immigrants to this country. This family was originally from Ribchester, England, not the Isle of Mann. Ribchester is about 70 miles away from the Isle of Mann. Ministerial records in Watertown, Massachussetts clearly show the presence of both Richard Norcrosses in that town as late as 1690.
“Such as were baptized by me in Watertown in 1689, & also 1690. . .Ye 25th of May 1690 3 children, one of Josiah Jones called Issaac & 2 of your Richard Norcrosse (he & his wife Rose publickly took shame for their grt sin. I might have written this & many other things as yt of Sarjeant Barnard, Nat, Halland, & other things by themselves but wt I write is only for myself & not others) called Richard, & ye other Samuell . . .”
I don’t know what the “great sin” of Richard and his wife Rose could have been, but this clearly states that Richard Norcross, their son and the one who was supposed to be married to Jane Stratton, was baptised in Massachussetts on May 25, 1690. It is known that Richard Northcross of Virginia, husband of Jane whose last name we will leave alone for now, died around 1802 as evidenced by the will he wrote in 1792 that was proved in court in 1802. It does not seem possible that this could be the Richard Norcross (b. 1687), son of Richard Norcross and Rose Woodward as he would have been over 110 years old at the time of his death. In addition, he and his wife Jane did not start having children until the mid 1700’s. Surely 110 years is an overly optimistic life expectancy for most anyone, let alone someone living on what was the frontier in Virginia in the early 1700’s.
Court records in both Surry and Sussex counties, Virginia clearly label a Richard Northcross, Sr. and a Richard Northcross, Jr. (outlined more clearly in a future post on Court and Land Records of the Northcross family). That said, it is possible that Richard Norcross (b. 1687) was the Richard Northcross, Sr. who appears to have been the father of Richard, Jr., husband of Jane; if indeed Richard Norcross left Massachussetts and migrated to Virginia. However, this Richard was married to a woman named Mary, not Jane, asas will be shown, and so his wife could not have been Jane Stratton.
As stated above, there is some evidence that the children of Richard Norcross and Rose Woodward did move away from Watertown, but no proof has been uncovered to show a migration outside of New England. This subject obviously requires more research before a definitive answer can be put forth.
James Northcross was mentioned in Reverand Willie’s parish registry several times as having served as a godfather in Albemarle Parish, in particular to Susanna Northcross, daughter of Richard Northcross and his wife Jane in 1753. James died in 1763, apparently intestate, in Brunswick County, Virginia. The appraisal and inventory of his estate was recorded in that county July 13, 1763. His estate was finally settled in 1773. Mary Northcross received “her third part of personal estate after charges pay’d” of 11 pounds and 3 shillings, leading to the assumption that this was her part as a dower’s share and gives us at least a first name for James’ wife. Two girls, Mary and Martha Northcross, are mentioned as having each received a third of the estate paid to their guardian, Joseph Burnett of the same amount as Mary above. James and Mary may have had another daughter as there was a payment from James’ estate to Leonard Powell “for making a coffin for a little girl” as well as a charge for making a coffin for James. She must have died between the time her father died in 1763 and when his estate was settled. Joseph Burnett was mentioned in Wake county, North Carolina in 1771 having been appointed as the guardian for Mary Northcross, orphan in that county. A search of this county’s records may produce more information regarding these orphans, but at present no other information has been uncovered regarding them.
Thomas Northcross was also mentioned as serving as a godfather in Albemarle Parish as early as 1748. Thomas left no known children and no record of an estate for him has been found. There were also Northcross women mentioned in early parish records. Hannah, Abigail, and Tabitha may have been sisters, cousins, or aunts of Richard, or even wives of James and Thomas. Their exact relationship is maddeningly unknown.
We have a total of seven Northcrosses mentioned in Albemarle Parish records; Richard, Jane, Thomas, James, Hannah, Abigail and Tabitha with no relationships given among them other than that between Richard and Jane who are clearly labeled as husband and wife.