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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology




April 2011


Conditions in England before the Departure of the Lost Colonists

By Nancy Frey


The decisions of the families, who went to the New World with Raleigh, to leave the country of their birth and start a new life in a place unknown to them, must be considered in light of the conditions in England prior to their departure.  Here are some of the things I found out in my research.


Religion & Wars


In the early 1500's the people of England all practiced the Roman Catholic religion. The practices of the Catholic religion were questioned during the Reformation and the beliefs of men such as the German Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) prompted a new religion called Protestantism.


The Reformation


Here's what George P. Fisher D.D. says in his book published in 1900:


While the Reformation in its distinctive character is a religious event, it is not an isolated phenomenon.  It is a part and fruit of that general progress of society which marks the fifteenth century and the opening of the sixteenth as the period of transition from the Middle Ages to modern civilization.  This was the period of inventions and discoveries; when the magnetic compass coming into general use enabled adventurous mariners to steer their vessels into remote seas; when gunpowder revolutionized the art of war; when printing by movable types furnished a new and marvelous means of diffusing knowledge.  It was the era of great nautical discoveries; when Columbus added another hemisphere to the world as known to Europeans, and Vasca da Gama, sailing to India round the Cape of Good Hope, opened a new highway for commerce.  It was likewise the era when the heavens were explored, and Copernicus discovered the true system of the universe.

As Protestantism in its origin was not an isolated event, so it drew after it political and social changes of the highest moment.  Hence it presents a twofold aspect.  On the one hand, it is a transformation in the Church in which are involved contests of theologians, modifications of creed and ritual, new systems of polity, an altered type of Christian life.  On the other hand, it is a great transaction in which sovereigns and nations bear a part; the occasion of wars and treaties; the close of an old and the introduction of a new period in the history of culture and civilization.


The era of the Reformation, if we give to the term this comprehensive meaning, embraces the interval between the posting of Luther's Theses in 1517 and the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.


Historical Timeline


Henvy VIII decreed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 establishing the Church of England as the only legal religion in England.  Referred to as Protestantism.


His daughter Mary reigned from 1553-1558 and  restored Catholicism.  Protestants were persecuted and 300 burnt at the stake – Bloody Mary.



Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558 and restored Protestantism but allowed Catholics to practice their religion so long as they didn't cause any problems.


In 1569 the Nevilles of Durham and Percys of Northumberland plotted to overthrow Elizabeth I and reinstate Roman Catholicism in “The Rising of the North”.  Pope Pius V heard of the revolt and decided to help the rebels by deposing Elizabeth.  The rebellion failed but the Pope's action increased her distrust of Catholics.


In 1570 Pope Pius V (1566-1572) issued a bull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth I for her actions in separating the English Church from the Roman Church and her persecution of Roman Catholics in Britain.


The Irish War also known as the Desmond Rebellions - A series of Rebellions regarding control over the province of Munster over three decades 1560's, 1570's and 1580's.  The Irish family of the Earl of Desmond was fighting for the control of Munster from the English.  Religious reasons - Catholics in Ireland against the Protestant England.  Catholic Spain supported the Desmond rebellion


In France on 24 August 1572 the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre occurred when French Protestants were massacred by French Catholics in Paris which was witnessed by Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Walsingham. Similar atrocities elsewhere in France resulted in thousands of deaths, and caused panic in England with fears of a Catholic invasion


In 1580 Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) conspired to have Queen Elizabeth I assassinated after his initial failure to get Emperor King Philip II of Spain to attack Ireland, the Netherlands and then England.


19 March 1581 - The English Parliament passes strict legislation against Roman Catholics with heavy fines for hearing Mass.


1584 - The Protestant William of Orange is murdered and England sends aid to the Netherlands.


Elizabethan War with Spain from 1585 - 1603 exploded due to various conflicts surrounding the wealth and power to be gained from trade from the New World, and the differences in religion.  The fanatical Catholics in Spain saw a war, and the conquest of England, as a religious crusade which had been given Papal blessing.


The escapades of the Elizabethan seamen, or pirates, included attacking Spanish vessels and taking any gold and silver.  Not surprisingly Elizabeth made no real effort to chastise these escapades! Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh and Frobisher hated the Spanish and the Catholic religion.


8 December 1585 - Robert Dudley leads the English army to fight the Spanish forces who are occupying the Netherlands.


1586 - The Babington Plot - Sir Francis Walsingham discovers a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and replace her with Catholic Mary Queen of Scots.


Oct. 25 1586 - The Catholic Mary Queen of Scots is convicted of involvement in the Babbington Plot.


19 April 1587 - Drake destroys the Spanish fleet at Cadiz.


8 August 1588 The Catholic Spanish Armada of 132 ships is defeated by the English fleet of 34 ships and 163 armed merchant vessels.


At the time that Raleigh formed his plans to search for a place in America for his new Colony, he had already been present at The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris.  War with Spain was imminent and started about the time of his first exploratory trip in 1585.  As a Merchant he would know that trade always made money during wartime.  His reasons for wanting to plant a colony in Virginia were many.


Did the colonists have the same reasons for wanting to leave England?  Perhaps they too felt they could become wealthy in the New World.  But they may also have been looking for some place where their future would be more secure and they would be free to practice whatever religion they chose.


Matthew Midyett

As we work through the Hatteras families in the DNA project, looking for colonist matches of course, I've searched for the oldest information about each family that can be found.


We are very fortunate that Kay Lynn Sheppard is a Midgett by birth and has made a "genealogy career" of collecting every snippet of Midgett or Midyett information that is to be found.  I found an old article that had been printed some decades past and asked her about the authenticity of the contents, and she shared with me some distressing news.


The article referred to the Thomas Midyett Bible, and well, to put it bluntly, it was a fake.  Never existed.  Furthermore, Matthew had parents in this article, and to quote Kay, there is "not one shred of evidence" for that claim either.  Lastly, while she does have a copy of the Matthew Midyett will, the original is now missing from the North Carolina State Archives. 


Obviously these issues led me to ask the question, what do we know about Matthew Midgett or Midyett?  Kay was kind enough to send me ten page of notes.  She does preface these notes by saying that the birth, death and marriage dates for all individuals involved, with the exception of items such as Matthew Midgett's will, were taken from the nonexistent Thomas Midgett Bible.  Therefore, while these are probably nearly correct, they cannot be proven and should be viewed as speculative at best, and possibly outright fakes at worst. 


Matthew was born on April 10, 1676 and died on December 25th, yes, Christmas Day, 1734 on Bodies Island in what was then Currituck County, NC.  He married Judith "Judy" White on July 13th, 1702 in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, the daughter of Samuel White, as proven by his will.  Judith was born August 3rd, 1681 in Anne Arundel County and died September 26, 1744 on Bodies Island.


In 1703, we discover from the court records that Matthew is a ship's carpenter.  At the January court, William Killburne was bound to Matthew Midiate to learn the skill of ship's carpenter. 


In June of 1703, Mathew Midget registered his livestock "mark", for "cattle a crop and two slips in the left ear".  At that time, livestock roamed free and grazed.  The only way to be able to determine your livestock from the livestock of other farmers was via your registered ear marks.


In 1703, Judith's father died, naming Judith and Matthew Midgett in his will, leaving them 10 pounds sterling. 


In 1704, Matthew Midiate, a shipwright, was sued, and referenced as "late of Anne Arundel County", so he had apparently moved on.  However in March 1704, the sheriff caught up with him and he was brought to court to answer to William Bateman for trespass.  Trespass at that time was more likely related to farming another man's property than to trespass as we think of it today.  In June of 1704 the court noted that Matthew owed William 1 pound 10 shillings "for cakes and beer and punch and wine".  Sounds like one heck of a party.


Matthew was again in trouble in January of 1707 along with Thomas MacNamara for breaking into a tobacco barn and stealing one sheep  In June Matthew posted bond for his later appearance, but he did not appear and the bond was forfeited. 


In June of 1708, Charles Kilburne sued Matthew for debt.  Matthew was not found "in the bailiwick" whereupon the court ordered Matthew's goods attached.  That indeed got Matthew's attention.  Matthew was in North Carolina by this time and appointed Richard Johnson and William Nicholson to represent him in the Kilburne suit. Kilburne promptly sued both men as well as Midgett.


Although Matthew had left Maryland in 1707 or 1708, in 1716 Matthew was ordered to pay William Bladen 24 pounds of tobacco for representing him in the 1704 suit.  William was apparently a very patient man.


The move to North Carolina removed Matthew from the Queen's jurisdiction and put him under the much looser jurisdiction of the Lord's Proprietors. 


In 1711, Matthew was living in Chowan County where he became a bit of a hero when he apprehended a brigantine belonging to Emanuel Low who had fired upon then Governor Edward Hyde and his supporters.  It's good to have saved the governor!


Not long after that, in February 1712, Matthew received his first land patent on the south side of Albemarle Sound, 341 acres, land commonly known as White Oak Island, "joining the sound, the swamp and the pocoson and the great swamp".  This had been surveyed by Jonathan Bateman who assigned it to Matthew.


In April of 1712, Matthew received another 360 acres on the northwest side of the Alligator River in Chowan precinct of Pasquotank County.  This grant was signed by Governor Hyde.   


Shortly thereafter, in an unexpected turn of events, the widow of Governor Hyde sued Matthew for failure to deliver goods including 40 yards of blue linen and Indian corn. 


In 1713, Matthew sat on a grand jury.


However, later in 1713, Matthew was once again in trouble, accused of underhandedly making a patent on another man's land, knowing that the man had cleared the land but had not gotten the papers filed.  Anthony Alexander asked to have Matthew's right to the land forfeited.  The jury ordered that Anthony be granted the patent to the land and that Matthew could "take up any vacant land if there is any left". 


It seems that Matthew and Emanuel Low were not done being at odds with each other.  In volume 2 of the Colonial records, which begins in 1713, Emanuel Low accused Matthew of breaking into his storehouse when Edward Hyde was governor and taking a quantity of rum and sugar.  The board determined that Low's petition was 'altogether scandalous, injurious, seditious and false'.  Maybe Emanuel never quite forgave Matthew for the 1711 event. 


In volume 5 of the colonial records, which begins in 1709, we find this very interesting entry regarding Matthew:


" Upon complaint of Jno. Durant, a Yawpim Indian, setting forth that when he was out against the Indian enemy under the command of Mathew Midgett, he the said Durant, tooke an Indian slave woman and the said Mathew Midgett took her away from him without any sattisfaction:  And the matter being heard it is the opinion of this court that the said slave woman did belong to the said Durant, wherefore it is hereby ordered and decreed that the said Mat. Midget doe pay unto the said Durant, ten pounds in consideration of the said slave."


This event likely took place between 1709 and 1713.  During this time the local Indians were very much involved in Indian slave practices whereby they would capture Indians from other tribes, enslave them, especially women and children, and sell them to English planters for plantation work.  Given that this John Durant was an Indian, and he owned a female Indian slave, and obviously cared that he was paid, not about her personally, this is likely an example of Indian slave practices.  Matthew may have felt that Durant would never challenge him in court, but he was wrong and had to pay Durant for the slave.  The Tuscarora War erupted in 1711, interrupting Indian slave practices until the end of the War when many of the Tuscarora were themselves enslaved and transported elsewhere.


In 1715, Matthew obtains another 1500 acres on the south shore of Albemarle Sound and in 1712 and 1714, he sold some of his earlier patented lands.


By 1717, Matthew was listed in Currituck County for 150 acres of land upon which he had not paid taxes.  Even back then, death and taxes were both inevitable.


In 1717, we finally find Matthew on the Outer Banks chain of islands.  He patented 100 acres "on the Sand Banks to the southward of Roankoke Inlet, joining the sound side, the seaboard and the sea shore".


In 1721, both Matthew and a Samuel Midget witness a deed from Thomas Peartree to John Fitzpatrick.  Matthew writes his name but  Samuel signs with a mark.  Kay does not know the identity of this Samuel Midgett.  However, Matthew's son Samuel would probably have been over the age of 16 at this point, born approximately 1704, and could possibly have signed as a witness if no other adults were available.


In 1722, Matthew patents another 80 acres on "an island commonly called Bodyes Island, between Roanoke Inlet and his former survey".


In 1727 he patents another 1900 acres on Cow and Bodyes Island the entire length of the nine and a half miles for a breadth of 100 poles. 


On December 21st, 1834 Matthew made his will.  In the will, he named his son Samuel who received the 100 acres on Albemarle Sound, son John who received the "great periaugar and sails", son Joseph "the part of the island where he now lives" and "one old canoe named the Seaflower", and sons Matthew and Thomas who received the part of the island where Matthew 'now lives'.  Then daughters Ann, Cateran, Judy and Dina each received a feather bed.  Matthew also received two slaves.  John and Joseph Midyett were executors and witnesses were Tulle Williams, Joseph Oliver and Mary Hunter.


Four days later, Matthew died. 


In an usual entry in 1739, John sold his mother, Judy a tract of land containing 70 acres for 20 pounds.  Whatever the genesis of this transaction, I'm sure it made for lively family conversation.


Children of Matthew Midyett and Judith White, married July 13, 1702, were (remember, birth and death dates are speculative:

·        Samuel Midyett, Sr., b. December 06, 1704; d. January 29, 1780, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC.  May have married Mary Paine? Or Brooks?

·        John Midyett, b. February 10, 1706/07; d. August 1735, Currituck Co., NC.

·        Ann Midyett, b. May 16, 1709; m. William Daniels, Jr., July 30, 1736, Currituck Co., NC; b. September 16, 1702, Boston, Suffolk Co., MA.  William was possibly the son of William "Danil" & Dorothy Bud who were married in Boston, Massachusetts on September 27, 1699 by Mr. Benj. Wodsworth

·        Joseph Midyett, Sr., b. March 30, 1712; d. March 10, 1771, Chicamacomico, Currituck Co., NC.  Married Elizabeth Margery ???.

·        Matthew Midyett, Jr., b. April 16, 1715, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC; d. January 1738/39, at sea.

·        Catherine Midyett, b. October 10, 1716, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC.  Supposedly married Ezekiel Hooper but no proof of that.

·        Thomas Midyett, Sr., b. November 14, 1717, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC; d. April 1788, at sea.  Married Bethany ???.

·        Judith Midyett, b. August 12, 1719, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC.  May have married William Daniels, Jr. of Boston, Massachusetts.

·        Dinah Midyett, b. June 10, 1721, Bodies Island, Currituck, Co., NC; m. Thomas Morris, July 19, 1740, NC.





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