Colonel Henry Meese and his wife Otonah "Mary" Wahanganoche of Virginia; is this Junky Genealogy?

I have been doing a lot of research on the Powhatan Indians of the early Jamestown era. Not much is known about them other than what was recorded by the English Colonists. Despite this dirth of information, many many people claim descent from these people. A lot of these claim have no basis in fact and are completely unsourced. Some claims are easily discredited with a little research. I have written several articles about some of these fabricated genealogies. Here is another one that is found on ancestry, werelate and wikitree. I don't mean to pick on wikitree, I actually love it, but the Powhatan Indian Fantasy Genealogy is in full force on their site, so I use them as an example.

The genealogy that I would like to pick apart is that of the supposed daughter of an Indian Chief named Wahanganoche. He belonged to the Patawomeck Tribe and became its chief after the death of his father Iopassus. He was said to have been murdered by the English in 1662-1663.[1][2] This was a troubled time for the remnants of the Powhatan Confederacy, their world was being torn apart by the English settlers who were claiming more and more of their land. The Patawomecks were forced to sell all their remaining land in 1663. In 1666 the colonial government called for the total destruction of the Patowomeck Tribe, the men were to be killed and the women and children enslaved. A census, done in 1669, gave proof that the tribe was no more, and the name fell out of the colonial records. [3]

In this violent climate, Wanhanganoche was said to have had three possibly four daughters who married English colonists. According to wikitree these women were; Grace Ashton, Keziah Arroya Bryant, Unknown Grigsby and Ontonah Meese. There are no sources listed other than ancestry trees. Is this a case of Junky Genealogy? Let's find out.

ontonah meese

The wiki tree profile for Ontonah (as of 12 March 2016) states that she was born in 1645 on the Potomac River, Allegany, Maryland (260 miles from Jamestown), married Henry Meese in 1658 (age 13) in Maryland, had daughter Mary in 1651, (seven years before she married and at age 6) and that she died in Kentucky in 1700. Gee, does any of this jump out of you? It screams Junky Genealogy to me. Since no children of Wahanganoche were recorded in colonial records I'm going to jump to Henry Meese the supposed husband of Ontonah.

english origins
photo by david stowell from over warton, oxfordshire
Henry Meese is said to have originated in Over Warton, Oxfordshire, England.[4] About 1575 the name Meese began appearing in the manor records of Over Norton. Robert Meese was a yeoman, farmer who was in the process ofconsolidating the copyhold leases on the manor lands. Robert had two sons, Edmund, a lawyer, and John. He is most likely the Robert Meese of Over Norton whose will was probated in 1589. His son Edmund died in 1617, apparently unmarried. Robert's son John married Margaret Cox, daughter of George Cox, of Over Norton. He continued the consolidation of land, passing most of it to his son Robert on his death in 1621. By 1640 Robert Meese held almost the entire manor himself; only a handful of acres were leased to others. [1] The entire estate was rebuilt in the 1800's including the church which was torn down and rebuilt. 

an interesting wife

According to the visitation of Oxford, Robert Meese married Mercy Brend, the daughter of Nicolas Brent, Esq. of West Moulsey, Surrey. Mercy's mother was Margaret the daughter of Sir Philip Strelley.  Nicolas was the owner of the Globe Theater in London. This was the theater where Shakespeare performed his plays. Nicolas died in 1601 leaving his wife and five small children, including Mercy who was born in 1597.

Margaret Brend remarried in about 1605 to Sir Sigismund Zinzan, alias Alexander. The had eight children. Sir Sigismund and his brother were equerries to Queen Elizabeth and King James. [2] An Equerry is an office of honor, the equerry is an attendant with responsibilities for the horses of a person of rank. 

Now West Moulsey is some 80 miles away from Over Norton and the Zinzan world was centered in London around the King. I have to ask, how in the world did a country farmer meet and marry Mercy Brend?

In any case, Mercy, Brend or not, married Robert Meese by about 1622, remember she was born in 1597. [3] Together they had 13 children. They were in order given in the Visitation: John, Robert, Sigismund, Francis, George, Michael, Henry, Nicholas (bp. 1629), Charles (bp. 1630), Matthew (1631), Thomas (bp. 1633), Elizabeth and Margaret.  If Nicholas was born in 1629 then Henry, if this is the correct birth order was born in 1627 or 1628. [4]

Henry's father had ambitions for his sons. Charles Meese was apprenticed to a London Goldsmith in 1648, finishing in 1655. It is probable that Henry did an apprenticeship with a Draper in London as he was later called a Merchant Draper and to do so he had to have been a member of the guild.[5] Added 20 August 2016: Henry did do an apprenticeship. His master was Thomas Purcell of the Drapers Company. His apprenticeship began in 1641 and was for eight years. The document proves that his father was Robert Meese of Overwarton, Oxon. [6]

 By 1655 Henry was making connections in the New World. His name first appeared in the colony of Maryland in 1655, in a court document. Of note, there was also a George Meese, merchant, in Maryland as well, but his name does not appear again in the records. Was this George his brother? 

Maryland was a proprietary Colony. It was given by the King to George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore. In 1656, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, who remained in England, sent his younger brother Philip to help manage the Colony, he would act as Governor in 1660-1661. In 1657 Henry Meese, Nathaniel Utie and Philip Calvert began surveying land. They had a 3,000 acre tract, the Mount Traviers Tract, laid out. They failed to do anything with it an it was returned to the Proprietor. [5]

warton manor
In 1658 Utie and Meese made an agreement with the Maryland Governor to bring over 60 immigrants, in return they were both to be granted 2300 acres of land. On 15 August 1658 the grant, known as Worton Manor was surveyed for Henry Meese. The patent for the land was issued on 13 August 1661 but not to Henry. In 1660 Henry Meese of London, Merchant, sold the grant to Col. Edward Carter of Virginia. [6] Henry's name continued to appear in the Maryland records until about 1665. It seems clear that he traveled back and forth from London to the Colonies, but considered himself a London merchant. In a 1664 court case, Henry was identified as a Gentleman. He maintained a life long relationship with Philip Calvert, who wrote to him in 1681, both died shortly after the letter was written. The tone of the letter conveys a warm friendship with Calvert making reference to Henry's wife as well as his own. [7]


On 20 October 1665, Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, granted to Henry Meese, 1000 acres of land in Stafford County. The land was on the south side of the Potomac River on the eastern branch of the Wipsemasin Creek. This land had originally been granted to Thomas Pettus who sold his rights to the land to Henry for the sum of £90. The original deal was conclude on 22 Jan 1661. On 7 June 1666 a second land grant was issued and included the original 1000 acres with an additional 1000, giving Henry a total of 2,000 acres of land. [9] Henry was made a Lieutenant Colonel in the Stafford County militia and was on the Northern Neck Committee. [10] A little more than three years later Henry Meese returned to England.

london merchant
Back in London, Henry Meese was a prolific importer/exporter. The Port of London records show he imported tens of thousands of pounds of tobacco from Virginia, which he turned around and exported to Amsterdam, Sweden, Breman Germany, and other ports around Europe. In August of 1677, Captain Webber, ship unnamed, brought him 34,800 lbs of Virginia tobacco. [10] Henry did not only deal in tobacco though, he was a cloth merchant by trade, and the fledgling Virginia colony was in need of cloth as well as every other thing needed to survive. Henry exported cloth; linens, kersies, cotton, German linen, Irish hose, English ticking, and lockram. He also exported shoes, saddles, gunpowder, lead shot, iron, grindstones, nails, bedding and blankets. None of which was yet to be manufactured in Virginia. [11] Henry was it seems a rich successful businessman who knew how to take advantage of a lucrative market. What does a rich man need? He needs a rich wife of course!

Anne pert

Henry Meese's bride was a young woman named Ann Pert. She was the daughter of Henry and Frances Pert of Arnold's Mountnessing, Essex. Henry was the son of Henry and Elizabeth Pert and Frances was the daughter of Dame Jane Herrys and Sir Arthur Herrys of Woodham Mortimer, Essex. Their pre-nuptial agreement was written on 2 December 1646. Henry inherited his father's estate in 1650. Henry Pert died in 1658  leaving a widow and eight children including Anne who had yet to turn 21. He bequeathed each of his children 1000 pounds, at marriage. [12]

On 16 April 1675 Henry signed his marriage negotiation with Frances Pert for the hand of her daughter Anne. The couple made their home in the parish of St. Katherine Cree in London. They had four children, two sons and two daughters. Their names were Henry, John, Anne and Frances. Anne was the oldest, born in 1676-1677. [13] The others followed in quick succession. John was born on 20 October 1681. [14]

will and death
Henry Meese wrote his last will and testament on 12 January 1681/82. His will was probated by his wife ANn on 5 April 1682. Henry left his wife his house and all it's contents and two thousand pounds. He left the bulk of his estate, including his 'plantations in Virginia' to his four children. He makes it clear that all of his children are minors under the age of 21.Henry was buried at Mountnessing, the home of his wife Ann Pert. [15]

land sale

In his will, Henry instructed his widow to sell the Virginia land if needed to provide for their children. In 1692 Ann hired an attorney to represent her in court in Virginia. In a case, called Luke vs. Waugh, Anne sought rent payment from the tenant, who had not paid a penny since Henry Meese's death. She also wanted to sell the land. Businessman and Lawyer, William Fitzhugh, wrote about the land in his letters, he was interested in buying the land himself and instructed a man to try to buy it. 

henry jr.
Henry Meese Jr. followed in his father's footsteps and became a merchant in London. Unfortunately he did not live a long live. He wrote his will in 1701 and left his estate to his sister Ann Meese. He also made a bequest to his mother Ann Meese. His brother John and sister Frances were not mentioned. 

ann meese
Ann Meese, daughter of Ann Pert and Henry Meese, lived her life in the parish of St. Paul's Covenant Garden, London. She died unmarried in 1719, her estate was probated on 13 November. She made bequeaths to her Pert Aunts, Dorothy, Mary, Elizabeth and Alice. She left money to her dear kinswoman Margaret Meese. She also requested to be buried next to her beloved mother at Mountnessing in Essex. She did not immigrate to Virginia, she did not marry Richard Bryant. [17]

Did Colonel Henry Meese marry an Indian woman named Otonah, aka Mary, the daughter of Wahanganoche? My answer is no. Henry was a rich London merchant who spent 15 years in Maryland and Virginia making his fortune shipping tobacco to Europe and articles of daily living to Virginia and Maryland. His friends and business partners were the men who ran the Colonies. Would this man marry the penniless daughter of the leader of a tribe which the Virginia government wished to extinguish? Where would he have met her? Wahanganouche was dead by the time Henry came to Virginia, the Patawomeck tribe decimated. This is pure junky genealogy.

Even if you believe that this was possible, I put it to you that there is no proof. Genealogy without proof is fiction. 


[1] Bill Deyo, "Virginia Indians Today, Patawomeck Indians of Virginia," Virginia 's First People; Past and Present (http// : accessed 10 March 2016). This article says the chief died on his way home from Williamsburg, possibly murdered. Note the wikitree profile states he died on 1 April 1664, this is without a source and does not seem to be accurate.

[2] "History of the Patawomeck Indians," Patawomeck Indian Tribe (Patawomeck Indian Tribe of : accessed 10 March 2016). This article says that the chief died on his way home from Jamestown in 1662, possibly by murder.

[3] Helen Rountree, Pocahontas's People, The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries, (Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1996) 122.

[4] David Tharp, "Histories: Aquia Episcopal Church," A History of the Tharp, Allentharp, Hager, Norvell and Keish and Related Families, 2007, ( : accessed 13 March 2016). states that Over Wharton Parish in Virginia was named for Henry Meese's home in England.

[5] Louis Dow Scissco, "Notes on Augustine Herman's Map," Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 1 (March 1938) 348, digital image, MSA ( : accessed 16 March 2016).

[6] Louis Dow Scissco, "Notes on Augustine Herman's Map"

[7] Philip Calvert, A Letter to Henry Meese, Merchant of London, 29 December 1681, digital image, Early English Books ( : accessed 15 March 2016)

[8] Land Office Patents No. 5, 1661-1666 (v.1 & v.2 p. 1-369) p.513, database with images, Online Catalog University of Virginia ( p=P5&collection=LO patent : accessed 13 March 2016) entry for Henry Meese.

[9] Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography Vol. 1. (Virginia: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1915) 136, digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 13 March 2016). Biography of Henry Meese.

[10]Port of London records
[11]Port of London records

[12] Gloucestershire County Council, "Pert Settlements and Wills, 1646-1671," digital images Gloucestershire Archives Online Catalog ( : accessed 15 March 2016) reference D678/2/F8/1-4, Marriage Settlement of Henry Pert and Francis Herrys and Will and Probate of Henry Pert.

[13] England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Will and Probate of Henry Meese 1682.

[14] London Metropolitan Archives, St Katherine Cree, Composite register: baptisms 1663 - 1692/3, marriages and burials 1663 - 1693, P69/KAT2/A/001/MS07889, Item 001, birth of Frances Meese

[15] Henry Meese, Merchant Draper, Will, London, England, 1682; Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; The National Archives; Kew, England; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 March 2016).

[16] Henry Meese, Merchant, Will, London, England, 1700;PROB 11; Piece: 459, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers; The National Archives; Kew, England; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 March 2016).

[17] Anne Meese, Will, St. Paul's Covenant Garden, London, 1719; PROB 11; Piece: 459, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions, The National Archives, Kew, England; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 March 2016).


[1] Institute of Historical Research, "Over Worton Parish," British History Online ( : accessed 15 April 2016). 

[2] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopdepia, "Nicholas Brend, Esq.," ( accessed 15 April 2016).

[3] Herbert Berry, "Shakespeare's Playhouse," The Development of Shakespeare's Theater, (AMS: New York, 1987).

[4] William Henry Turner, The Visitation of the County of Oxford, (London: Taylor and Co., 1871) Archives (

[5]Institute of Historical Research, "Records of London's Livery Companies Online, Apprentices and Freeman 1400-1900," database search, ( : accessed 15 April 2016) entry for Charles Meese.

[6Institute of Historical Research, "Records of London's Livery Companies Online, Apprentices and Freeman 1400-1900," database search, ( : accessed 15 April 2016) entry for Henry Mease.

[7] William Hand Brown, Clayton Coleman Hall, Brenard Christian Steiner, Archives of Maryland, Vol. 41, (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1922).

Favorite Posts