Myths, Errors, and Fairy Tales

Who was the ancestor of Ambrose Cobb?

(The father of John Cobb of Kent; c1324)


Updated: 01 December 2007:

Click HERE to see a lengthy Hoax Alert.




Ambrose and Joseph Cobbs

Without doubt, the oldest and still most perpetuated error made in Cobb genealogy, is the claim that these two men were from the same family line. And yet accurate information has been available since at least 1976!  Further ... results from the Cobb DNA Project have conclusively proven Ambrose and Joseph were not related in any way.

By 1650, there were two unrelated Cobbs families firmly established in Virginia, within just a few miles of each other...the families of Ambrose Cobbs in what is now York County, and that of Joseph Cobb in Isle of Wight County.

Joseph was the son of Richard Cobb and Sybil Sheets (sic). Richard was born no later than 1562 near Aberdeen, Scotland. He sailed to Holland as a soldier in one of the Spanish wars, where he met and married Sybil Sheetz on 08 Nov 1576. There were sixteen children produced from this union, one of whom was Joseph born about 1588.

Joseph was married to Elizabeth Flinton by 1610, and by her had at least four sons. In 1613, Joseph sailed to Virginia on the ship "Treasurer". He was joined by his wife and children some six years later, when they arrived on the "Bonnie Bess". This family established itself in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. As the family expanded, its members spread into Surry and Southampton counties. By the early 1800's, this family had extended down into the northeastern coastal counties of North Carolina.

Ambrose Cobbs was born 1603 in County Kent, England, located at the extreme southeastern corner of the British island, where his family had been established since at least 1258. He was the son of another Ambrose who had married Angelica Hunt about 1584. Ambrose (Jr) married Ann White on 18 Apr 1625 in Norton Parish, Kent.

After selling all their lands in England in 1633, Ambrose and wife Ann, along with three children arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1635. In July 1639, Ambrose patented 350 acres in what is now Chesterfield County, about fifty miles upriver from Jamestown, and about nine miles from present Petersburg.

As this family expanded, its descendants migrated into the Virginia interior, then from there to other states. By 1800, this line was represented in western North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

It is presumptive on my part that Joseph's "seniority" in Virginia, and the close proximity of the two families during those first few years in America that lies at the heart of the genealogical error. Historically, it has been summarily assumed that since Joseph was older than Ambrose, and had arrived in Virginia some twenty years ahead of him, that he (Joseph) was an older kinsman of Ambrose Cobbs. In every instance where the error is encountered, Ambrose is listed as either a son or younger brother of Joseph. It is common to find entire generations of the Ambrose line incorporated into the Joseph line pedigree.

This error can be found literally everywhere --- LDS files, DAR records, books, and websites. It seems there is no way to put an end to it! And there is absolutely no justification for it --- if only people would do a more thorough job of research, and stop accepting outdated and obsolete sources of information carte blanche.

Both families have been professionally researched and thoroughly documented in "The Cobbs of Tennessee", Cully Alton Cobb, Ruralist Press, Atlanta, 1968; and "The Cobbs of the Tidewater", Bruce Montgomery Edwards, Montgomery Publishing Company, Knoxville, 1976. While neither of these works is 100% error-free, their accuracy must definitely be rated in the 95-plus percentile. Both examined the possibility of there being a relationship between the two Virginia, Cobb families. And both make it clear (with the Tidewater book stating it flat out) that there is no credible documentation connecting the two families. The Tidewater book did speculate however, the "possibility" of there having been occasional business dealings between them.

Concerning the two authors referenced in the preceding paragraph. An attempt to find biographical information on Bruce Edwards has been unsuccessful. However the credentials of Cully Alton Cobb are nicely outlined "HERE".

Another caution will be offered concerning the spelling of the surname. While it is possible to occasionally find records where members of Joseph's line spelled the name "Cobbs", this practice had pretty well ceased within the first two American generations. On the other hand, the Ambrose Cobbs line did not begin to drop the final 's' from the name, at least in significant numbers, until after being in America for well over a hundred years. Those branches (of the Ambrose line) that remained in Virginia, appear to have most faithfully retained the 's', but at least two lines (now in Georgia and Alabama) continue to carry it to this day.




Did a Cobb actually fight a duel?

Here's an interesting story received from a researcher in Houston, Texas.

I have no confirmation of this myth or legend , but thought you have heard it or can shed some light on the subject. My third great grandfather was William Graves born 1755 in Culpeper, died in 1832 in Charlotte County, Va. (the son of Thomas Graves Sr. of Culpeper County Va.) (Thomas died 1811 and left a will) .The myth or tale is that John Cobbs married Sarah Fisher in Chesterfield County, VA Nov. 19, 1789 ( This is supported by a Powhattan County Ministers Returns 1786-1800.) It is reported that Sarah caught the eye of William and he wanted to marry her. I have a land record placing the three of them in Chesterfield County about this time. She would not divorce John Cobbs, but loved William. William challenged John to a duel and John Cobbs was killed. In a will (Thomas Cobbs) dated June 27, 1822 in Campbell County, Va. it shows his son John deceased. I am very interested in this, because according to legend my second great grandfather was born of this marriage and as further proof, named a son William Fisher Graves, I have pictures of his headstone and numerous Charlotte County records where a John Cobbs witnessed deeds etc. for William Graves.

If anyone can shed any light on this let me know.





Vintner Cobb --- Was he or wasn't he?

Vintner Cobb has been the subject of some controversy. Was he or wasn't he a son of the Ambrose Cobb who died in Lincoln County, North Carolina, about 1798? The answer is that it depends on what the individual researcher is willing to accept as definitive documentation.

If this researcher did not believe he was a son of Ambrose Cobb, Vintner would not be found in this database. But I must also maintain that (1) currently available documentation is NOT sufficient to state with finality that it is a proven fact. (2) Therefore, my reasons for believing it go beyond a strict compliance to genealogical standards.

The only evidence offered thus far to establish a father-son relationship between Ambrose and Vintner is limited to two Kentucky records dated 1815 and 1818, respectively. See below ---

·         (1) Knox County, Kentucky, Book B, p.352, 23 Jun 1815. "Ambrose Cobb (X) of Knox Co, KY, Administrator of the Estate of Vinter Cobb, deceased, appoints William Miller, of Knox Co, as his Attorney to collect from William Cobb, of Lincoln Co, State of NC, money due me as lawful heir of Vinter Cobb, deceased."

·         (2) Clay County, Kentucky, Book A, p. 221, 12 Sep 1818. "...Ambrose Cobb, Sally Payne, John Cobb, William Cobb, Jenne Arnold, Polly Finn (Fain), Robert Cobb, Thomas Cobb, Ralph Cobb, heirs of Ventner Cobb, deceased, appoints William Miller, of Knox Co, KY, as Attorney, to collect all the monies due them in NC, or coming to their father, Ventner Cobb, deceased, from the estate of their grandfather, Ambrose Cobb, deceased."

These records are popularly called "Court Orders" but they are really nothing of the kind!  It is the failure to understand the nature and meaning of these documents that lies at the root of the controversy.

By definition, form, and verbiage, both of these documents are POWERS OF ATTORNEY. They were filed in the Orders Books of two separate county courts, hence the misnomer "Court Orders". Both documents clearly and simply state nothing but that, "We appoint William Miller our attorney to do the following ---." By definition, Power of Attorney means simply that Party #1 gave Party #2 the legal authority to represent them in a certain specific matter --- period --- no more, no less.

In both instances, the heirs of Vintner Cobb gave their power of attorney to a lawyer (William Miller) for the purpose of doing two things:

·         (1) To demand the payment of any inheritance due them from the estate of Ambrose Cobb. In order to do this, the attorney had to ---

·         (2) Present and prove to the proper authority in Lincoln County, North Carolina, those folks were who they claimed ... the heirs of Ambrose Cobb.

Just because those folks claimed Vintner was the son of Ambrose did not (and does not) make it a fact --- legally, genealogically, or any other way! The claim was (and still is) subject to scrutiny and validation.

Those two Powers of Attorney represented the BEGINNING of a formal legal process. The records giving the FINAL OUTCOME of that process are the ones needed to settle the Vintner-Ambrose relationship question once and for all. Those records would reveal whether the claim of descendancy was recognized as legitimate, and whether the demand for payment was met...or why not.

Those records are missing.

I have personally examined the estate records of Ambrose Cobb which are now in the North Carolina State Archives. They are horribly incomplete. It took twenty years to settle that estate, and there is a 10-year gap between documents from 1805-1815!  If that archives folder was three times its current size, it would still leave a thousand unanswered questions! The only people specifically named were Ambrose’ wife Sarah, daughter Mary Jackson who he virtually disowned, and sons William and James who were appointed Executors. 

1.         There is not a single mention of anyone in the entire State of Kentucky. 

2.         There is absolutely nothing that even refers to lawyer William Miller.

To complicate matters, the court records for Lincoln County in that same time frame are also missing.

And that is where it stands.

It will require a DNA analysis of Vintner Cobb descendants to settle the question once and for all.  To date (December 2007) no volunteers have come forward.

One final point: It has been speculated that Vintner Cobb was not listed in "The Cobbs of Tennessee" (Ruralist Press, Atlanta, 1968) for the reason that no research was done of Kentucky records to seek additional Ambrose Cobb heirs. I disagree.

This book was published by Cully Alton Cobb, the owner of Ruralist Press. He was a wealthy man by any measure and retained the services of PROFESSIONAL genealogists on both sides of the Atlantic to do the research. Professionals have specialized training and advanced research skills, and adhere to a higher standard of proof than do amateur hobbyists. It is my opinion that Vintner was more probably deliberately omitted from the work for the reasons I have attempted to explain here.

Simply stated, those Kentucky Powers of Attorney --- ALONE --- with no additional supporting evidence --- although very compelling and tempting --- prove absolutely nothing more than that someone hired a lawyer. And to repeat, there is no evidence anywhere that indicates the lawyer ever even began to perform.

This being the case, the most we can say is that Vintner was "probably" a son of Ambrose Cobb --- but it is NOT PROVEN by the limited currently available documentation.


Send your Myths, Errors, and Fairy Tales to M.Cobb. I will post them here as long as (1) they do not violate any laws. (2) They contain no profanity. (3) Your criticism is constructive, and supported with documentation.