Andersons of Colonial N. Carolina

meant what they said, said what they meant

John Bryan study

with 16 comments

A Jno: Bryan was one of three headrights for Robert Saven in his patent of 1653. Curiously, John Bryan had received his own patent in 1652. I’m not sure what to make of this. By my map calculations these people were only a few miles apart and each in Nansemond. The John Bryan with the patent of 1652 renewed his patent in 1664 – this was not unusual; a sort of grace period was allowed for a colonist to establish himself before having to pay his “rent”. The fact that the headright of Robert Saven shows up a year after the patentee of the same name does not bother me that much logistically… it can easily be the same man. It forms a basis to reasonably conclude that John Bryan was imported to Nansemond “around” 1652 or so. He did not “have” to be an indentured servant to Robert Saven; other arrangements might have been made we are not privy to.

I have just ran across the website of Stephen Ballard where he has dug up some info where that John Bryan apparently transported a couple of “servants” which do not fit on my radar screen. This just rattles my cage. This even causes me to spit out completely unnecessary and irritating analogies.

First my map to orient the actors in this play and then Stephen’s take on the happenings from his point of view…

Stephen Ballard’s take:

“John Bryan’s activities in the Virginia colony are worth noting.

John Bryan patented 168 acres on Indian Creeke, a branch of Nansemum river, joining to patent of Mr. John Garrett, running for length north butting on line of William Storey & c. 15 October 1652,3  Transfer of 4 persons: William Scott, Grace Harris, John Merr, Anne Stonewall.4   He renewed this patent on 17 August 1664.5

Jon Bryan was named a headright in a patent taken by Robert Saven for 150 acres in “Nanzemond County” on 11 June 1653,6

John Bryan patented 200 acres in Upper Norfolk County on 18 March 1662,7 , at south side of the west branch of Nancimond River, lying at south side of Indian Creek, running by Mr. Wm. Denizens &c.  Renewal of patent dated 20 March 1659.8

Jno. Bryan patented 200 acres in Upper Norfolk County, 18 March 1662,9 south side of the west branch of Nancimum River on both sides of the Indian Creek, running by Mr. William Densons line &c.  Renewal of patent dated 20 March 1659.10  He sold this tract to John Moore, who renewed a patent for it on 11 March 1664.11

John Bryan renewed a patent dated 15 October 1652 for 168 acres on the Nansemond River at Indian Creek.12  Seven years later, on 15 August 1659, we see that John Ballard and Lewis Brian, both of Bitton in Glocestershire, were bound to “John Brian, planter, to serve in Virginia: Lewes [Lewis] Brian of Bitton, Glos, yeoman, for 4 years; John Ballard of Bitton, Glos for 6 years.”  On 24 August 1659, “Jon Boulton of Bitton, Glos, bound to John Brian, planter, to serve 4 years in Virginia.” Wilson, p. 433.

We do not find John Bryan claiming John Ballard as a headright.”

Myself, Jennifer from California and David Gammon have been slowly and meticulously gathering notes on these Bryan fellas. We have mostly concluded that Lewis Bryan was the son of John Bryan 1652 so this puts a wrinkle in our ironing… (Lord I do seem to have a problem with these irritating analogies).

Meanwhile, we are on the hunt! to verify these indentured servants… or dismiss this as utter nonsense… whichever. Let loose the hounds… (groan).


In the comments it has been suggested that one of the Bryans used an image of an “anchor” in conjunction with his signature. Of course a tale like that is just TOO much to pass up. Jennifer had previously spied that “strange” mark and we discussed it… she going so far as to work up several comparisons… alas, we came to the conclusion he was indeed illiterate and just got a kick out his weird “mark”. Jennifer seems pretty adamant with her opinion… I just go along to get along…

Written by anderson1951

February 15, 2023 at 9:31 am

Posted in Uncategorized

16 Responses

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  1. A lot of these fellas moved into Bertie County later. I have been pulling up Bryan/Bryants in my DNA cousin matches, but had no idea they also went back to Western Branch! Also Gay shows up in those matches. X marks the spot. These may be the same ones who produced Needham Bryant. Or is that a different line?



    February 15, 2023 at 9:48 am

    • I had about concluded “all” of the Bryans from early NC came from these Nansemond Bryans… I still think most did, however, this new info may indicate Lewis Bryan may not have been a son (perhaps another relative?). But.. that said, if an early Lewis Bryan shows up ca. 1659 then the later Lewis in NC would likely be a son. It all gets very wonky at that point. So it is important to work out this indentured servant question.

      I have no doubt Needham Bryan was from the Nansemond crowd. (well… pretty damn sure).



      February 15, 2023 at 9:57 am

  2. My contention is the same as Worth Ray first postulated decades ago, that Edward Bryan who arrived early on in Jamestown was the likely progenitor of most of the North Carolina Bryans/Bryants. Another indentured servant, John Needham was his contemporary. Their proximity in both time and place furthers the theory that Edward (or son John, I forget, and not looking it up,) married one of Needham’s daughters and hence the name Needham Bryan(t) was passed down through multiple generations and branches of the family. I suggest one of the John’s is a son of Edward. My interest comes in from William Bryant in Bertie County.



    February 15, 2023 at 10:31 am

    • As noted above… I am not fully on board that John Bryan was the progenitor (nor do I rule it out)… but it does have merit. Your Edward Bryan is someone I’ll take a look at. If he was a survivor of one of the massacres or even later, then he was certainly at the right place and the right time to have descendants… which would throw my “easy” theory into chaos. Thanks a lot…. (smiling)



      February 15, 2023 at 10:48 am

      • Here is another twist. Edward Bryan arrived in 1620 from England; some have him from Wales and others from Ireland, but this is just not so. He came over on the Bono Novo (see Coldham). He did survive the massacre and in 1624 was working for Edward Waters in Elizabeth City. Waters was one lucky fellow… his was a short but charmed life. He survived the tempest and shipwreck on Bermuda. Stayed there to lay claim for England and found a world class fortune of ambergris… most of that was stolen by his higher ups, but he must have gotten a piece or two in the end, because he established a shipping enterprise in Elizabeth City and had warehouses in England and also Ireland. All this being said just to show that Edward Bryan as his right hand man, would have had the opportunity to actually go to Ireland, and return to Virginia at any time.. this might be where the idea of Bryan being Irish first started. That at least is my own personal speculation. He definitely wasn’t connected to any Irish aristocracy whatever the case, him being indentured and what not. Just saying.

        Liked by 1 person


        February 15, 2023 at 11:52 am

  3. This looks like the same John Bryan who transported John Ballard of Bitton, England and Lewis Bryan/Bryant also of Bitton to IOW or Nansemond. In Nansemond you find patents for both. John Ballard returned to England after the indenture and returned to Nansemond transporting others for a patent. Lines of these Ballards from John Ballard have been identified by YDNA (YDNA matches to Ballard, Porter, Boyt) and also have Autosomal matches to lines of Bryan’s on the Nansemond patent maps.
    Autosomal matches include Needhan Bryan 1690-1770 and his father John Bryan 1626-1711 along with matches to the Jernigans and many others within a 25 mile area on your patent maps. Thanks you for the additional records!
    David Boyett, YDNA Admin



    February 15, 2023 at 10:58 am

    • Hi David
      We are taking a pretty deep dive into these Bryans… I am looking for some primary “smoking gun” proof of these indentures. You say John Ballard returned to England after his indenture (to John Bryan) and returned (transporting others)… That is pretty specific. I assume you base that on the list of headrights? (in his first patent) I will have to investigate further … thanks.

      That makes sense as I do not see any Ballards settling near Indian Creek… they were all pretty much around Sumerton in southern Nansemond near the NC border.



      February 15, 2023 at 11:30 am

      • I’m dissecting the Edward Waters patent… this is a fascinating amount of info…

        …trans… out of England of two
        servants (vizt) Edward Bryan who
        came in the Bona Nova 1620
        and William Arnall who came in
        the Sea Flower 1621

        Waters has two patents I will try to map…

        Liked by 1 person


        February 15, 2023 at 12:11 pm

    • As an aside: David, there were Boyetts that moved south to Burke/Screven County, Georgia. As did many other families from the same area between 1770-1800s.



      February 15, 2023 at 1:19 pm

  4. Scrivenor
    I’m beginning to appreciate where you are coming from…
    Once you trace these Bryans (or a branch thereof) down to the west bank of Chowan River near the Wiccacone Creek area you run across another Edward Bryan who “somehow” has mastered the art and mystery of being a seaman and sailing back and forth to the Bermuda Islands or Barbados (I am not fluent enough yet to break it down). If he is a descendant of a well traveled guy who was a first hand observer to the machinations of early colonial merchants then that could explain a lot of my questions.

    It would also explain how the name “Edward” came to be in the Bryan lexicon. The Edward in Chowan River could be the grandson of the first Edward. I mean, hell! it sounds good and makes sense.

    Whoa… that could also explain why The John Bryan 1652 and the headright of Robert Saven 1653 would appear at the same time… 1652 may have made the trip back to England and simply sold or bartered his headright to Saven. The actual details are irrelevant really, it just makes sense. The Indian Creek was navigable (I’m pretty sure) at that time, so Bryan could have kept a bit active with boat trips up the Nansemond River… but I am getting silly with speculation…



    February 15, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    • I forget which Bryan, as it has been a while, but one of them signed his name and included an anchor in his signature. Some memory of an upside down one, if that meant anything…



      February 15, 2023 at 12:54 pm

      • My sidekick, Jennifer from California will be beside herself looking for that damn anchor… smiling



        February 15, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      • The “mark” by James Bryan appears as an equal-armed cross (aka, square cross) with circles at each terminal. 1689 IOW (as witness to deed, Thomas Mann), 1720 James Bryan(t) of NC to Matthew Jones of IOW (mark appears twice during transactions).



        February 15, 2023 at 11:38 pm

  5. Just for Jennifer then…
    In Nov 1717, James Bryant of Albemarle County NC sold 315 acres between Kingsale Swamp and Blackwater River to Thomas Davis of Isle of Wight County VA, for 22 barrels of tar. Bryant’s mark was an anchor.

    Liked by 1 person


    February 15, 2023 at 1:35 pm

    • How very kind of you! especially because I don’t have that record within my 20 pg timeline (naughty me)



      February 16, 2023 at 12:22 am

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