5 November 2023 • Michael Cooley, BA, MA

Evaluations Concerning Published Statements Asserting that Richard Bennett Sr of Blackwater, Virginia married Anne Barham of Kent County, England

I have long suggested that conflation is the original sin of genealogy. The amalgamation of two or three individuals into one can be enormously difficult to untangle, and it can send generations of family historians off in the wrong direction. In this case, it's not that the Annes defined below could not possibly be the same person but that there isn't a good reason to suspect they were in the first place. The data simply doesn't exist.

A significant number of descendants of Richard Bennett Sr (died c1709) of Mulberry Island believe his wife, Anne, was a descendant of the Barhams of the village of Barham in Kent, England. However, to date, no true genealogical record has been found to support the claim. It is my current contention that a primary document, the 1641 will of Anthony Barham, was misinterpreted, and that a sentence in a book — a secondary document — is not specific enough to arrive at any conclusions and that the claim is unsupported by primary documentation. In fact, Anne Bennett is documented in only one source,

"Richard Bennett, ye elder of the Upper Parish of Isle of Wight with the free will and consent of my wife Anne, have for a valuable consideration to me and hand paid before the sealing, grant unto George Morrell of Lawne's Creek Parish in the County of Surry, 150 acres situate on the west side of Pocatink Swamp in Surry, the same parcel of land being part of a patent for 630 acres to me granted the 22nd July 1682 - near Mr. Thos. Binns" (Deed Book 2, pages 30-31).

Likewise, only one primary record for Anne Barham has been uncovered, that of the will of her maternal grandmother, Dame Elizabeth Filmer, noted below. No baptismal record has been uncovered. She is not mentioned in the wills of her father, mother, nor of her brothers, Edward and Charles. It is my considered opinion that the proposed relationship between Mrs. Richard Bennett and the Barhams began with a misinterpretation of the will of Anthony Barham, the husband of Elizabeth Pierce, Richard Bennett's half-sister.

Thomas Pearce was killed in the Indian uprising in Virginia Colony on Easter, 1622. It was first believed his wife and daughter were likewise murdered and were reported as such on the 1623 "List of the Living and Dead." If they were among the women and children taken hostage by the invaders, in time Pierce's widow married Thomas Bennett and his daughter, Elizabeth Pierce, married Anthony Barham, a scion of an aristocratic Kentish family. In his will, Barham refers to Bennett as brother-n-law and Alice (then Bennett) as "mother Bennett." The descendants of Anthony and Elizabeth (Peirce) Barham, then, are descended from the noble families of Filmer and Argall. However, "brother-in-law Richard Bennett" was misinterpreted. The first thought of many was that they were related by law through Bennett's wife. However, the truer story has been uncovered since (at least) 1938, the publication date of Boddie's Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, commented on below.

The contention being explored is this article is that,

  • because Charles Barham resided in the same neighborhood in Virginia as Richard Bennett Sr, Bennett's wife, Anne, was Charles's sister,
  • because the maternal grandmother of Charles named her granddaughter, Anne Barham, in her will, Richard's wife Anne was a Barham,
  • because Charles is listed in Douglas Richardson's books (see below) as a "gateway ancestor" to English royalty, Richard Bennett's wife is a gateway ancestor,
  • because Anthony Barham names Richard Bennett as a brother-in-law in his will, Richard's wife was Anne Barham.

The latter is reasonable, but in-law relationships occur a number of ways. Otherwise, anyone should be able to see the problem. There is no record that remotely attests to a marriage between Richard Bennett and Anne Barham. In context to the question at hand (Did Richard Bennett marry Anne Barham?), this is all that has been proven,

  • that an Anne Barham, daughter of Robert and Katherine (Filmer) Barham resided in Kent County, England during the 1630s,
  • that Anthony Barham immigrated to Virginia in 1624, well before Anne was born,
  • that Anthony's cousin of some undetermined degree, Charles Barham, was present in Virginia by 1658 (long after the presumed marriage of the Bennetts),
  • that Anthony Barham married Richard Bennett's half-sister, Elizabeth Pierce,
  • and that Richard Bennett Sr had a wife named Anne, a woman mentioned only in a single deed, as above.

Of the records (primary and secondary) studied, none claims a blood linkage made between the wife (Anne) of Richard Bennett Sr's wife and the Barhams. Only Richardson's text (below) makes the the specific claim, "Anne (wife of Richard Bennett)." But in all the records examined to date, Richard Bennett's wife is mentioned in only one, the deed described above. None of the sources Richardson provides demonstrates proof of Mrs. Anne Bennett's identity. All that remains is a response to the question I've put to Douglas Richardson, "What prompted you to write that Anne Barham married Richard Bennett?" That issue is further discussed below.

Information about the Y chromosomal profile of the Blackwater Bennett's can be found at Click on "Reports" for links to this and other articles, essays, reports, and documentation for the family.

Cited Sources and Comments

Barham, Anthony, "Will of Anthony Barham" (1641), The National Archives (UK), reference PROB-11-187-112, web,

Barham mentions his brother-in-law, Richard Bennett, wife Elizabeth, and mother-in-law "mother Bennett." The stated relationship to Bennett has been interpreted as meaning that his sister, Anne, was married to Richard. I initially bought into that line of thinking as well. But, as is often the case, the truth is a bit more subtle. Firstly, Anthony doesn't refer to this supposed sister. In fact, it's not been demonstrated he had a sister. More importantly, Barham's in-law relationship to Richard is documented through his wife, Elizabeth Pierce, the daughter of Thomas and Alice Pierce. (Alice married Thomas Bennett, Richard's father, after the death of Peirce. She was probably his mother.) Despite what people have come to believe, no documentation has been presented that Anne Barham ever immigrated to Virginia let alone was married to Richard Bennett.

Barham, Katherine, "Will of Katherine Barham, Widow of High Holborn, Middlesex", written 1 Nov 1639, probated 19 December 1662, The National Archives (UK), reference PROB-11-309-583, web,

Katherine was the mother of Anne Barham whose marriage we're trying to prove (or otherwise). Although the will of Anne's grandmother (Elizabeth Filmer) is sufficient evidence of the relationship, that the wills of both parents — nor those of her brothers Edward and Charles — lack any mention of her is curious. In fact, her grandmother's will is the only document discovered to date that demonstrates she ever lived. Katherine's will names daughter Susannah Barham, son Edward Barham, Sir Edward Filmer, and son Richard Barham (executor). This codicil is included: "To his honored kinsman Sir Edward Filmer: It is my earnest desire you would be pleased to pay the full summe of fiftie pounds out of the rents of Maxfield Farm after my mothers decease to whom she shall loaned it by will and you shall very much obliged - your humble servant : Edward Barham : Fulwoode Rents : Feb 21th 1648." In short, no in-law relationship with Richard Bennett is stated in this document.

Barham, Robert Young, The Pedigree of the Family of Barham of England and Virginia, (New York: Salisbury Press, 1963), web,

This book is cataloged as being published in 1963. The trees, presumably from uncited works by the College of Arms, appear to have been poorly copied. The text in the latter part of the book was typewritten. The person who suggested this as a reliable source states that it shows "that Anne Barham was of the Barham family located in the British Virginia Colony in the mid-seventeenth century." Indeed, there were at least two Barhams long-documented in Virginia, Charles and Anthony of undetermined relationship. The family of Robert Barham and Katherine Filmer is found on pages 8 through 11 (not the image numbers). Elizabeth Filmer's parents are found at page 19. Anne is listed as the last child. It's noticed that the sister before was baptized 26 May 1631. Of course, baptismal dates were not birth dates, but it's reasonable to consider that Anne might have been a couple of years younger. In the end, all this accomplishes is to confirm that an Anne Barham was born to Robert and Katherine in about 1633. There's nothing here indicating that Anne ever went to Virginia or married Richard Bennett Sr.

Boddie, John Bennett, 17th Century Isle of Wight County VA, 1 (Chicago: Chicago Law Printing Company, 1938), 294-295.

Boddie transcribed a 1682 deed (Deed Bk. 2, pp. 30-31), quoted above, that names the wife of Richard Bennett as Anne. No one has denied that. It should be noted, however, that he was a bit iffy as to whether this was even the Richard of the Blackwater Bennetts. I believe any doubt has subsequently been removed. In any case, Boddie makes no claim about Anne's maiden name or her relations.

Boddie, John Bennett, Southside Virginia Families, 1 (Redwood City: Pacific Coast Publishers, 1955), 56-57.

I've read the sixteen pages under the heading of "Thomas Pierse of Virginia, Sergent of Arms of America's First Constitutional Convention and First Legislative Assembly 1619" (48-64). Boddie mentions the Barham granddaughter Anne (as above) but surmises that she had to have been born after Robert Barham's death in 1629. This book holds not even the slightest hint that Richard Bennett's wife was a Barham.

Coldham, Peter Wilson, English Estates of American Colonists, 1610-1699 (Baltimore, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1980).

The link above pulls up a scan of the relevant page regarding the wills of Anne Barham and Anthony Barham. This Anne was a generation older than the Anne Barham we're trying to prove. Anthony Barham is sometimes considered to have been Anne's son because he's mentioned in her will. The relationship, however, is not described. There is nothing in either record about Anne, the daughter of Robert and Katherine Barham, nor about her marriage.

Filmer, Elizabeth, "Will of Elizabeth Argall Filmer," written 23 March 1635, proved 16 August 1638, web,

Yes, this document proves that Elizabeth Filmer had a granddaughter named Anne Barham, but it certainly doesn't prove that Anne, wife of Richard Bennett of Virginia, was the same person. If Anne was born after 1629 (let's say 1630) as Boddie suggests below, she would have been eight at her grandmother's death in 1638. Nothing presented here provides evidence that Elizabeth's granddaughter was (or was to become) the wife of Richard Bennett Sr.. In fact, the default here is that she was unmarried and still living in Kent, England.

Filmer, Bruce John, Filmer Family Notes 1, (London, 1984), 63-77, 98.

Only one copy is found throughout the world — at the Kent County, England Archives. I received the following response to my inquiry:

Dear Michael Coooley,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding 'Filmer Family Notes' part one, by Bruce John Filmer, London 1984.

Although there are two references to Anne Barham on pages 63-77 and 98, there are no references of a Richard Bennett, nor of their marriage. There is an index [f]or this volume, but again no entry for Richard Bennett. Please can you check the sources of this information?

Yours sincerely,
Jonathan Barker
Archive Collections Officer

genealogy1066, "The English Origins of Some Virginia Settlers of the Merchant/Yeomanry Class," web,

This is from a website titled "Walter FitzGilbert de Hamilton." The author identifies himself only as genealogy1066. However, found at the bottom of the page is, "by m stanhope copyright B.T. Shannon 2022." I've been looking at the site for several years. He's obviously put a lot of work into it but he rarely cites sources, and much of it is wrong. There are two mentions of Barham, including a brief abstract of Anthony Barham's will. There's also this concerning Richard Bennett's wife: "Richard Bennett, d. 1709. His first wife was (circumstantially) Anne, who was Charles Barham's sister (see Douglas Richardson, 'Plantagenet Ancestry'). This is merely a circular reference to Richardson. These pages are a good effort but of an amateurish presentation.

Kruemcke Jr, Max R., Ancestors of Max R. Kruemcke, Jr (Self Published, 1980). Bound, unpaginated typewritten manuscript.

I almost resent having to include this. It's yet another illustration as to the depths that genealogical citation has sunk. It not only presents the uncited claim that Richard Bennett married Anne Barham but includes a number of unfounded myths about the Wiveliscombe Bennetts, of which the Blackwater Bennetts are said to have descended. "Unfounded" because not a single, supporting, contemporaneous document has been found. However, in the end it does serve because we now know that these claims date back to at least 1980. (I had earlier read that a 1990 work was responsible for the Bennett-Tankerville myth.) In time, we just might find the original source and will be able to evaluate it.

Richardson, Douglas et al., Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004), 304.

The same entry is found in Richardson's "Magna Carta Ancestry" (2011) on page 328. It claims that Robert Barham had daughter "Anne (wife of Richard Bennett)" but further information for neither person is stated. The sources for the entries (and my comments) are: Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (VMHB) 24, 1916, 158-162 (Some Filmer wills. Nothing about Anne Barham); VMHB 48, 1940, 276-280 (no mention of Anne Barham); VMHB 48, 1940, 358-360 (no mention of Ann Barham; VMHB 4, 1981, 528-532 (bad entry, these pages not found); Filmer Family Notes 1, 1992, 63-77, 98 (discussed above). In brief, none of the sources cited by Richardson mentions Ann Barham as wife of Richard Bennett.

Robertson, Gary Boyd, The Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants to the American Colonies (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2004), 304.

This carries the lineage from Edward I to Charles Barham of Virginia. It shows he had a sister named Anne whom Richardson says married Richard Bennett (of no specified place or date). This book merely draws out the lineages. No dates, places, etc are included. However, it does cite sources. In any event, there are no particulars concerning Anne, where or whom she married.


Genealogists need to create working hypotheses in order to further their research. However, publishing these theories as fact only slows down the process, cheapens the "product," and promotes disrespect for both the ancestors and future researchers. The very best way to avoid these problems is not to propagate unsupported trees.

Yes, there may be some element of truth to this theory and, it seems, we have found it — that Richard Bennett was an in-law to the Barham family and that the children of his half-sister, Elizabeth Pierce Barham, were children of Anthony Barham. But until Douglas Richardson provides a citation for his statement, this appears to be as far as we can go on the matter.