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 around the world. We are of Viking decent. Our ancestors most likely joined in the invasion of England in 1066 by William the Conqueror. They subsequently settled in Suffolk and Norfolk, to the northeast of London. In 1654, John Botwright immigrated from London to Yorktown, Virginia. DNA testing proves that almost all branches of our family in America descended from this single ancestor. 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 Boatwrights were originally Vikings
In England the Viking Age began dramatically on 8 June 793 when Norsemen destroyed the abbey on the island of Lindisfarne. The devastation of Northumbria's Holy Island shocked and alerted the royal courts of Europe to the Viking presence. "Never before has such an atrocity been seen," declared the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin of York. Medieval Christians in Europe were totally unprepared for the Viking incursions and could find no explanation for their arrival and the accompanying suffering they experienced at their hands save the "Wrath of God". More than any other single event, the attack on Lindisfarne demonized perception of the Vikings for the next twelve centuries. Not until the 1890s did scholars outside Scandinavia begin to seriously reassess the achievements of the Vikings, recognizing their artistry, technological skills, and seamanship.
The period from the earliest recorded raids in the 790s until the Norman conquest of England in 1066 is commonly known as the Viking Age of Scandinavian history. Vikings used the Norwegian Sea and Baltic Sea for sea routes to the south. The Normans were descended from Vikings who were given feudal lordship of areas in northern France-the Duchy of Normandy-in the 10th century. In that respect, descendants of the Vikings continued to have an influence in northern Europe. Likewise, King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, had Danish ancestors. Two Vikings even ascended to the throne of England, with Sweyn Forkbeard claiming the English throne in 1013-1014 and his son Cnut the Great becoming king of England 1016-1035
Generally speaking, the Norwegians expanded to the north and west to places such as Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, and Greenland; the Danes to England and France, settling in the Danelaw (northern/eastern England) and Normandy; and the Swedes to the east, founding Kievan Rus'. Among the Swedish runestones mentioning expeditions overseas, almost half tell of raids and travels to western Europe. According to the Icelandic sagas, many Norwegian Vikings also went to eastern Europe. In the Viking Age, the present-day nations of Norway, Sweden and Denmark did not exist, but were largely homogeneous and similar in culture and language, although somewhat distinct geographically. The names of Scandinavian kings are reliably known only for the later part of the Viking Age. After the end of the Viking Age the separate kingdoms gradually acquired distinct identities as nations, which went hand-in-hand with their Christianization. Thus, the end of the Viking Age for the Scandinavians also marks the start of their relatively brief Middle Ages.
The motives driving the Viking expansion are a topic of much debate in Nordic history. One theory is the Vikings exploited a moment of weakness in the surrounding regions. England suffered from internal divisions and was relatively easy prey given the proximity of many towns to the sea or to navigable rivers. Lack of organized naval opposition throughout Western Europe allowed Viking ships to travel freely, raiding or trading as opportunity permitted. The decline in the profitability of old trade routes could also have played a role. Trade between western Europe and the rest of Eurasia suffered a severe blow when the Roman Empire fell in the 5th century. The expansion of Islam in the 7th century had also affected trade with western Europe.
Raids in Europe, including raids and settlements from Scandinavia, were not unprecedented and had occurred long before the Vikings arrived. The Jutes invaded the British Isles three centuries earlier, pouring out from Jutland during the Age of Migrations, before the Danes settled there. The Saxons and the Angles did the same, embarking from mainland Europe. The Viking raids were, however, the first to be documented in writing by eyewitnesses, and they were much larger in scale and frequency than in previous times.
Norsemen first began raiding in what became Normandy in the late 8th century. Permanent Scandinavian settlement occurred before 911, when Rollo, one of the Viking leaders, and King Charles the Simple of France reached an agreement surrendering the county of Rouen to Rollo. The lands around Rouen became the core of the later duchy of Normandy. Normandy may have been used as a base when Scandinavian attacks on England were renewed at the end of the 10th century, which would have worsened relations between England and Normandy. In an effort to improve matters, King Aethelred the Unready took Emma of Normandy, sister of Duke Richard II, as his second wife in 1002.
Danish raids on England continued, and Aethelred sought help from Richard, taking refuge in Normandy in 1013 when King Swein I of Denmark drove Aethelred and his family from England. Swein's death in 1014 allowed Aethelred to return home, but Swein's son Cnut contested Aethelred's return. Aethelred died unexpectedly in 1016, and Cnut became king of England. Aethelred and Emma's two sons, Edward and Alfred, went into exile in Normandy while their mother, Emma, became Cnut's second wife.
After Cnut's death in 1035 the English throne fell to Harold Harefoot, his son by his first wife, while Harthacnut, his son by Emma, became king in Denmark. England remained unstable. Alfred returned to England in 1036 to visit his mother and perhaps to challenge Harold as king. One story implicates Earl Godwin of Wessex in Alfred's subsequent death, but others blame Harold. Emma went into exile in Flanders until Harthacnut became king following Harold's death in 1040, and his half-brother Edward followed Harthacnut to England; Edward was proclaimed king after Harthacnut's death in June 1042.
William I, (c. 1028 - 9 September 1087), usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy (as Duke William II) from 1035 onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.
William was the son of the unmarried Robert I, Duke of Normandy, by Robert's mistress Herleva. His illegitimate status and his youth caused some difficulties for him after he succeeded his father, as did the anarchy that plagued the first years of his rule. During his childhood and adolescence, members of the Norman aristocracy battled each other, both for control of the child duke and for their own ends. In 1047 William was able to quash a rebellion and begin to establish his authority over the duchy, a process that was not complete until about 1060. His marriage in the 1050s to Matilda of Flanders provided him with a powerful ally in the neighboring county of Flanders. By the time of his marriage, William was able to arrange the appointments of his supporters as bishops and abbots in the Norman church. His consolidation of power allowed him to expand his horizons, and by 1062 William was able to secure control of the neighboring county of Maine.
In the 1050s and early 1060s William became a contender for the throne of England, then held by the childless Edward the Confessor, his first cousin once removed. There were other potential claimants, including the powerful English earl Harold Godwinson, who was named the next king by Edward on the latter's deathbed in January 1066. William argued that Edward had previously promised the throne to him, and that Harold had sworn to support William's claim.
Throughout the summer of 1066, William assembled an army and an invasion fleet in Normandy. Although William of Jumieges's claim that the ducal fleet numbered 3,000 ships is clearly an exaggeration, it was probably large and mostly built from scratch. Although William of Poitiers and William of Jumieges disagree about where the fleet was built - Poitiers states it was constructed at the mouth of the River Dives, while Jumieges states it was built at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme - both agree that it eventually sailed from Valery-sur-Somme. The fleet carried an invasion force that included, in addition to troops from William's own territories of Normandy and Maine, large numbers of mercenaries, allies, and volunteers from Brittany, northeastern France, and Flanders, together with smaller numbers from other parts of Europe. Although the army and fleet were ready by early August, adverse winds kept the ships in Normandy until late September. There were probably other reasons for William's delay, including intelligence reports from England revealing that Harold's forces were deployed along the coast. William would have preferred to delay the invasion until he could make an unopposed landing. Harold kept his forces on alert throughout the summer, but with the arrival of the harvest season he disbanded his army on 08 September.
William built a large fleet and invaded England in September 1066, decisively defeating and killing Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. After further military efforts William was crowned king on Christmas Day 1066, in London. He made arrangements for the governance of England in early 1067 before returning to Normandy. Several unsuccessful rebellions followed, but by 1075 William's hold on England was mostly secure, allowing him to spend the majority of the rest of his reign on the continent.
As part of his efforts to secure England, William ordered many castles, keeps, and mottes built - among them the central keep of the Tower of London, the White Tower. These fortifications allowed Normans to retreat into safety when threatened with rebellion and allowed garrisons to be protected while they occupied the countryside. The early castles were simple earth and timber constructions, later replaced with stone structures.
At first, most of the newly settled Normans kept household knights and did not settle their retainers with fiefs of their own, but gradually these household knights came to be granted lands of their own, a process known as subinfeudation. William also required his newly created magnates to contribute fixed quotas of knights towards not only military campaigns but also castle garrisons. This method of organizing the military forces was a departure from the pre-Conquest English practice of basing military service on territorial units such as the hide.
By William's death, after weathering a series of rebellions, most of the native Anglo-Saxon aristocracy had been replaced by Norman and other continental magnates. Not all of the Normans who accompanied William in the initial conquest acquired large amounts of land in England. Some appear to have been reluctant to take up lands in a kingdom that did not always appear pacified. Although some of the newly rich Normans in England came from William's close family or from the upper Norman nobility, others were from relatively humble backgrounds. William granted some lands to his continental followers from the holdings of one or more specific Englishmen; at other times, he granted a compact grouping of lands previously held by many different Englishmen to one Norman follower, often to allow for the consolidation of lands around a strategically placed castle.
The medieval chronicler William of Malmesbury says that the king also seized and depopulated many miles of land (36 parishes), turning it into the royal New Forest region to support his enthusiastic enjoyment of hunting. Modern historians have come to the conclusion that the New Forest depopulation was greatly exaggerated. Most of the lands of the New Forest are poor agricultural lands, and archaeological and geographic studies have shown that the New Forest was likely sparsely settled when it was turned into a royal forest. William was known for his love of hunting, and he introduced the forest law into areas of the country, regulating who could hunt and what could be hunted.
William took over an English government that was more complex than the Norman system. England was divided into shires or counties, which were further divided into either hundreds or wapentakes. Each shire was administered by a royal official called a sheriff, who roughly had the same status as a Norman viscount. A sheriff was responsible for royal justice and collecting royal revenue. To oversee his expanded domain, William was forced to travel even more than he had as duke. He crossed back and forth between the continent and England at least 19 times between 1067 and his death. William spent most of his time in England between the Battle of Hastings and 1072, and after that he spent the majority of his time in Normandy.
William's final years were marked by difficulties in his continental domains, troubles with his eldest son, and threatened invasions of England by the Danes. In 1086 William ordered the compilation of the Domesday Book, a survey listing all the landholders in England along with their holdings. William died in September 1087 while leading a campaign in northern France, and was buried in Caen. His reign in England was marked by the construction of castles, the settling of a new Norman nobility on the land, and change in the composition of the English clergy. He did not try to integrate his various domains into one empire, but instead continued to administer each part separately. William's lands were divided after his death: Normandy went to his eldest son, Robert Curthose, and his second surviving son, William Rufus, received England.
At Christmas 1085, William ordered the compilation of a survey of the landholdings held by himself and by his vassals throughout the kingdom, organized by counties. It resulted in a work now known as the Domesday Book. The listing for each county gives the holdings of each landholder, grouped by owners. The listings describe the holding, who owned the land before the Conquest, its value, what the tax assessment was, and usually the number of peasants, ploughs, and any other resources the holding had. Towns were listed separately. All the English counties south of the River Tees and River Ribble are included, and the whole work seems to have been mostly completed by 1 August 1086, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that William received the results and that all the chief magnates swore the Salisbury Oath, a renewal of their oaths of allegiance. William's exact motivation in ordering the survey is unclear, but it probably had several purposes, such as making a record of feudal obligations and justifying increased taxation.
No authentic portrait of William has been found; the contemporary depictions of him on the Bayeux Tapestry and on his seals and coins are conventional representations designed to assert his authority. There are some written descriptions of a burly and robust appearance, with a guttural voice. He enjoyed excellent health until old age, although he became quite fat in later life. He was strong enough to draw bows that others were unable to pull and had great stamina. Geoffrey Martel described him as without equal as a fighter and as a horseman. Examination of William's femur, the only bone to survive when the rest of his remains were destroyed, showed he was approximately 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) in height.
The impact on England of William's conquest was profound; changes in the Church, aristocracy, culture, and language of the country have persisted into modern times. The Conquest brought the kingdom into closer contact with France and forged ties between France and England that lasted throughout the Middle Ages. Another consequence of William's invasion was the sundering of the formerly close ties between England and Scandinavia. William's government blended elements of the English and Norman systems into a new one that laid the foundations of the later medieval English kingdom. How abrupt and far-reaching were the changes is still a matter of debate among historians, with some such as Richard Southern claiming that the Conquest was the single most radical change in European history between the Fall of Rome and the 20th century. Others, such as H. G. Richardson and G. O. Sayles, see the changes brought about by the Conquest as much less radical than Southern suggests. The historian Eleanor Searle describes William's invasion as "a plan that no ruler but a Scandinavian would have considered".
Our Viking ancestry has been confirmed by DNA testing multiple branches of the family!
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 Conqueror. 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 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 long ships 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 London and then on 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: June 21, 2020