Dewberrys in the Mist


St Bartholomew's Day Massacre. Bad day to be a Protestant.

St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Bad day to be a Protestant.

The original Dewberry family in America descends from Peter De Berry (1619-1679, Dad’s 9th great grandfather). Peter seems to have been a pretty sharp fellow. To understand why, you must know a bit about French history. The DeBerry family was in fact a French family who were Protestant in their religion. Be aware of the fact that in the middle ages and Renaissance, up until about 1800, one’s religious choice wasn’t merely a personal preference, it could be a matter of life and death. For virtually all of the 1300s through the early 1700s, religious wars and persecutions were occurring all over Europe, all of the Catholic vs Protestant variety. The DeBerrys were Protestant, and belonged to a group known as the Huguenots (yoog-NO).

Smilin' John

Smilin’ John

In 1598 the new French king, Henri IV, issued a law known as the Edict of Nantes, which established Catholicism as the state religion of France, but which granted equal rights to French Protestants. Apparently, though, Peter DeBerry’s father saw the handwriting on the wall and got the hell out of France sometime around 1600, as his son Peter was born in James City, Virginia in 1619. It turns out that Peter’s father was correct, for in 1685, the next French king, Louis XIV, changed the law with the Edict of Fontainebleau and had being Protestant declared illegal, punishable by the seizure of all one’s property, goods, and death by burning.

So, the reason the name DeBerry does not appear on any of the lists of French Huguenot refugees is that they were in Virginia before the flood of French Protestant refugees following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. We know with certainty that our ancestor Peter DeBerry was in Virginia in March of 1664/65, as there are Surry county, Virginia deeds in his name.

By the beginning of the 18th Century in Virginia, though, the DeBerry family appeared to have been assimilated into the English society and to fit in well with their thoroughly English neighbors.  Peter Thomas De Berry (1643-1712, Peter’s son, and Dad’s 8th great grandfather, was one of the vestrymen of Newport or Upper Parish, Isle of Wight Co, VA in 1704.  Although the early Vestry Records of that Parish have been lost, a letter from the Vestry in 1704 requesting a minister is of record in England. Among the signatures of the vestrymen is that of Peter Thomas DeBerry. Peter was also a Lieutenant in the Isle of Wight Co. militia at that time.

The DeBerrys were well established in Virginia and solidly middle class farmers and merchants.  By the time of Thomas Nathaniel Dewberry (1734-1793, Dad’s 6th great grandfather), the family was looking to relocate farther south for more land to support the large Dewberry family.  Incidentally, records start appearing around 1715 in which the French DeBerry was being replaced by the modern spelling of “Dewberry,” most likely to ensure a more correct pronunciation).

Thomas Nathaniel’s son William Irby Dewberry (1734-1793, Dad’s 5th great grandfather) moved with most of his family to Halifax, North Carolina in the mid-1700s.  William Irby’s son James Dewberry (1774-1853) is the Dewberry ancestor who made the big move west and south.  In 1810, he’s documented as being in Georgia with his family, as some of his children were born in Warren county, GA, but where he finally stopped, claimed cheap land, and settled was Conecuh county, AL.

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