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William Claiborne of Virginia (1600-1676/9)

There has been considerable confusion about the origins of William Claiborne. His baptismal record is given in the Registers of Crayford Parish, Kent England (1558-1812): Aug. 10, 1600. Wilhelmus f [filius] Thomas Cleyborn generosi. Translation from the Latin: William son of Thomas Cleyborn gentleman. His father, Thomas Clayborne, was a wealthy merchant from King's Lynn in county Norfolk, England who had moved his business to London in the late 1590's. He had married William's mother, Sara (Smyth) James, at St. Dunstan's Stepney, Middlesex on 21 Nov 1598. Sara (Smyth) James was the widow of Roger James of Bednal Green, parish of Stebunheath, Middlesex, who had died 10 Dec. 1596.

On 31 May 1617, William Claiborne, age 16 matriculated Pembroke College, Cambridge. Their records show him as son of Thomas Claybourne of Crayford, Kent.

No actual records have come to light at this time that explain how William Claiborne became involved with the London Company, though there is considerable speculation. What is known is that he went to Virginia on the George in the company of Sir Francis Wyatt, newly appointed Governor. Their arrival at Jamestown, Virginia Colony is noted as Oct. 1621. William came as Surveyor of the Colony, one of his first jobs being that of laying out New Towne, an area on Jamestown Island.

In 1623, William was appointed to the Council, being reappointed in 1624. From 1625-35 and 1652-60, he served as Secretary of the Colony and from 1642-60 also served as Treasurer. Meanwhile, he continued to survey the colony of Virginia and explore the areas around the Chesapeake. He established a trading post and plantation in 1631 on an island in the Chesapeake Bay. William Claiborne named the island Kent Island and the plantation Crayford. Kent Island ended up within the boundary identified by the Maryland patent of George Calvert, Lord Baltimore, and was seized by his agents It was never legally recovered by the Claibornes or Virginia. A good explanation is found in Chesapeake Conflict by Gene Williamson.

John Frederick Dorman in Claiborne of Virginia places the marriage of William Claiborne and Elizabeth Butler [Boteler] as about 1635. This book contains the genealogical information for them and their children :

  1. William (abt 1636-1678)
  2. Jane (abt 1638-bef 1671)
  3. John (abt 1641- ?)
  4. Elizabeth (1643/45- aft 1668)
  5. Thomas (1647-1683)
  6. Leonard (abt 1649-1694)

Your Best Sources:

  1. Town Hall Books of King's Lynn, county Norfolk, England.
  2. William Claiborne's baptismal record located: Libraries & Museum Department, Local Studies Center, Hall Place, Bourne Road, Bexley, Kent DA5 1P2 Eng.
  3. Clayton Torrence, "The English Ancestry of William Claiborne of Virginia," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 56, No. 3 & 4, pp. 328-43, pp. 431-460.
  4. John Venn and J.A. Venn, ed., Alumni Cantagrigienses, pt. 1, I (Cambridge, 1922), p. 350.
  5. John Frederick Dorman and Claiborne T. Smith, Claiborne of Virginia, Gateway Press, Inc (Baltimore, 1995)
  6. Gene Williamson, Chesapeake Conflict, Heritage Books, Inc. (1995)
  7. Lolita Hannah Bissell, Cliborn-Claiborne Records (Nashville, 1986)