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Three Cobb Families of
Isle of Wight County, Virginia

File Manager Betty Atkinson

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There has been much confusion over the years about various Cobb/Cobbs families that lived in Virginia during its early years. Many researchers and writers have confused these families without many official documents to prove who they actually were. Our attempt with this group is to try to show who they were and as far as possible where they came from.

Current researchers are strongly advised to not assume that anything here is absolutely correct. Doing so and then posting one’s own family history online at various other sites spreads errors. Publishing books about lines that you have not totally researched and documented spreads errors. So we advise that no one use this information to publish any book or to post any family line as “correct” unless you can document beyond a shadow of a doubt the entire line back to either of these three immigrants. Book authors- Beware!

What we shall attempt to do by creating this separate page for the Cobb families of Isle of Wight Co, VA is to finally separate these families into what appears to be three distinctly different genetic lines so that future researchers will be less confused (not four because Ambrose never lived there).

Our focus, in the past, has been in Isle of Wight Co, VA on the families of Joseph and Nicholas. Various books have confused these two and tried to make them related to each other. It is important to note that DNA studies have shown, so far, that these two men were NOT related and that Ambrose Cobbs was not related to either of them.

Actually Ambrose Cobbs never actually appears in IOW County but lived first in York County before his family spread out over the colonies and then the various states. (See info about county formation maps below.) Based on DNA studies we know that books you may find that attempt to connect Ambrose to either Joseph or Nicholas are in error. We suggest you go to the Ambrose Cobbs section of this website for that family.

The families of Joseph and that of Ambrose 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. Neither of these works is 100% error-free, and each has its share of critics. These books may, however, have included the lineage of Nicholas of IOW based on some assumptions. Now that we have the Cobb DNA project well established it is important to make certain that we do not attempt to mix the lineages of Joseph or Nicholas with each other or with that of Ambrose Cobbs.

Understanding family lines requires that one also understand migration patterns even though migration patterns are not ultimate proof of family connections. There are many times that descendants of 4-5 different Cobb or Cobbs families appear in the same general area of the states and often living near each other. The probable cause for this is opening of new areas taken from the Indian tribes on the continent in an attempt to drive them out with forced appropriation.

Understanding how and when the various counties were formed in VA and NC is vital to understanding how to research the various Cobb/Cobbs lines that came into and went through VA and NC. According to the Virginia county formation maps by 1634 there were 8 original "Shires" which were immediately referred to as Counties. These were Henrico, Charles City, James City, Elizabeth City, Accomack (later Northampton and Accomack), Warwick River, Charles River (which became York) and Warrosquoyacke which was renamed Isle of Wight in 1637.


DNA studies also show that there is no genetic connection between Ambrose, Joseph, Nicholas or John. Earlier researchers and authors of various books have attempted to connect Nicholas Cobb to Joseph Cobb because of geographical proximity.

Recent DNA studies show that the descendants of Ambrose Cobbs do not match the descendants of Joseph , Nicholas or John Cobb of Isle of Wight Co, VA. Because the old file posted here was obviously contaminated by connecting Nicholas to Joseph we have decided to split the files into two separate files at this time and are now adding a third file. Now we have included the lineage of John Cobb who married Eleanor Whitfield, go here to see more.

The Ambrose COBBS line wasted no time in beginning a migration into western Virginia, then from there to the Carolinas, Kentucky, what is now West Virginia, and the upper Ohio River valley. Additionally a group of them went south early into Georgia and Alabama and thus spread across the country as it was formed and Indian lands were appropriated and opened for white settlement.

The Joseph Cobb line, however, seemed to remain concentrated in the tidewater region of Virginia, then migrated southward into the coastal counties of North Carolina, before ever beginning to move westward. Incidentally, in those times, someone that "went West" meant they were still probably somewhere East of the Mississippi River.

The Nicholas line appears to move from Isle of Wight Co into Southampton Co, Virginia and Bertie County, North Carolina. As early as 1790 we find grandsons of this Nicholas in the Bertie Co, North Carolina, specifically: Edward, Henry, James and even a Nichos which appears to be an abbreviation for Nicholas. This 1790 census gives the surname as COB (with one capital B) for all the folks we found there so it is likely to be a peculiarity of the census taker since the two families were not related.

The John Cobb line may have started out in Northampton Co, Virginia about 1726 or earlier. However, that may be a separate family as the first known child of John Cobb and Eleanor Whitfield was born 1728 in Blackwater, Isle of Wight Co, Virginia. By 1767, when John appears to have died, they were in Bertie County, North Carolina. In the 1790 Bertie County, North Carolina census there was a John Cobb (not the one married to Eleanor), an Eleanor living alone and a Nathan, who was a son of John and Eleanor. There was another son named Lewis that moved elsewhere in North Carolina after his first child Horatio was born in Bertie County.

See below for an introductory “grouping” of each of these families, minus Ambrose because you will find his family in a different section of this website.

Researchers are encouraged to provide information and proof of any connection to any of these lines. You are also encouraged to provide criticism and corrections where you have proof of errors. If you wish more information on the various DNA connections please contact the file manager.

Map of IOW VA


Please note that the 1790 census for Virginia has been lost so we can't refer to it for research purposes.

This Joseph Cobb came to Jamestown, Virginia on the ship Treasurer in 1613 to Jamestown, which was the only landing on the James River. Jamestown is on the north shore of the James River while Isle of Wight County is on the south shore. He lived there ten years and then settled in Elizabeth City County before ultimately dying in Isle of Wight in 1654. He was listed in an Isle of Wight census in Jan 1625 with wife Elizabeth and two sons, who came over in 1623. He and his family raised tobacco as their livelihood.

Some of his descendants end up in Southampton County because this county was taken from Isle of Wight County in 1749. The new dividing line in 1749 was created by the Blackwater River and this river forms the eastern most edge of Southampton County and thus the western border of Isle of Wight County. It is entirely possible that the families that lived there didn't move but the boundries of their counties did. When inputting genealogy data into your software it may make good sense to use the place names only during those times that they actually existed. It may be a good idea to search for county formation maps when checking for places and dates.

From state papers in the Public Record Office, London, a census of the inhabitants of Virginia taken between January 20 and February 7, 1624 or 1625 lists 1,232 names, with ages and ships taken. Item no. 1272, Colonial Records of Virginia, has many more.

Joseph Cobb's will, recorded in Isle of Wight Co, Virginia in 1653, mentioned legatees, wife Elizabeth to get 300 Acres called Goose Hill and leaves property to sons Benjamin and Pharoah and daughter Elizabeth. Wit. Joseph Dunn, John Childs. There is no son named Joseph mentioned in his will which suggests that either he didn't have a son by that name or he was dead along with any progeny. Also, there is no son named Nicolas either, which helps genealogically to separate this line from Nicholas, who came later.

Joseph's name was mentioned frequently in the Southampton County, Virginia records according to The Massengills, Massengales and Variants page 817. While we don't know that he actually lived there, many of his descendants lived there and some still do.

It is speculated that Joseph Cobb immigrated to America on religious grounds. Currently, there appears to be no way to determine if this was the case or not. It has been assumed that this line used biblical given names for their children, but if one looks closely the only names that appear which could be considered biblical would be Joseph and Pharoah. However, Pharoah is an Egyptian name and would have come from the first known marriage in this line of Elizabeth Flinton, whose father was named Pharoah.

Biblical names are very, very rarely found in the Ambrose Cobbs, John or Nicholas Cobb lines. Also, there is another line that is NOT genetically related to any of these lines, whose descendants also populated the south and southwestern U. S. who consistently used Biblical names. From what we know of the family, religious grounds did not appear to be the deciding factor for that family's immigration either.

One additional caution: there has been much speculation as to who the William Cobb who married Sarah Stancil is. At this point we have not solved this riddle and he appears in the line of Joseph. However, the only family that appears to ever have used the name Stancil as a given name has been the descendants of Nicholas. At this point we need additional help solving this riddle and figuring out how to identify the correct William and put him with the correct family. Your assistance is eagerly sought.


Some researchers have stated that Nicholas was a son of Joseph, but no Nicholas or any descendants of a Nicholas were mentioned in Joseph's will. Joseph died in 1654 and Nicholas about 1686. Joseph's will did not mention a son or any relative named Nicholas.

Some researchers argue about who Nicholas was, suggesting that he may be the same as the Nicholas Cobb that was transported to St. Christopher Island in 1635 when he was listed as a male aged 24 which would make him born about 1611. DNA results show that Nicholas was not a son of Joseph of Isle of Wight. Might he have been another Nicholas Cobb that came from England or elsewhere? Possibly, but at this point in the research it is not as important to stew over where he came from, as to get his descendants correct on this side of the great pond.

So, for the moment we are assuming that Nicholas was the same person as the fellow who, according to the manifest of the William and John was transported to St. Christopher in 1635 where he was listed as a male age 24. He made various trips to Holland and England and brought five of the Cobb family members back with him (Susan, Mary, Susan and Jane Cobb and Jane Howard, who we think was his mother-in-law or sister-in-law.) Any children born after these were transported were probably born in the colonies. He witnessed a transfer of land in 1656 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, which puts him in Virginia at least by this time. His first known child born in the colonies was born in Isle of Wight County about 1663. Nicholas died in Isle of Wight County before May of 1686.

It appears that Nicholas was much wealthier than Joseph of Isle of Wight and it has been suggested that he may have been involved in the slave trade. This does make sense because of his experience as a mariner. As you follow the descendants of Nicholas it appears that after 1790 the census included slave numbers and following the same folks down into 1840 and later you will find slaves listed and can tell which families didn't have any or had the fewest. From observation it appears that the Ambrose Cobbs family owned the most slaves over all.

In the 1790 Bertie County, North Carolina records we find Henry, James, Edward, Nicholas and possibly a widow with two sons under 16 living there. They are definitely connected with the Nicholas line. Two other males listed in this census, named John and Nathan, are sons of John and Eleanor. These two given names were rarely used for children in the Nicholas line.


River Map

Although the DNA results show no genetic connection between this family line and that of Joseph and Nicholas, (two early immigrants to VA, especially Isle of Wight Co, VA) they appear to have lived in the same county at some point. Looking at the map on this page and you should be able to quickly see how it does make sense for John to have been born in Blackwater and it to be part of Isle of Wight Co. The Blackwater River is on the south western most edge of the county. The fact that the river flows southeast while forming the western edge of IoW county and meets with the Nottaway River to merge just north of the North Carolina state line into the Chowan River makes it easier to see how the family (once settled along the Blackwater) would have easily migrated south into what would have been Chowan County. In 1722 part of Chowan became Bertie Co. In 1741 Edgecombe and Northampton were taken from Bertie County so we need to see which members of this family went that direction also. I think it helps to look at county formation maps that show the transitions in a state from the earliest times to modern day.

Where did they come from? There is actually no info that points definitively to any specific area. It appears that these folks have been confused with another Virginia Cobb family, a descendant of whom matches Ambrose's line. Both of the progenitors appear to be named John Cobb. One shows up in Northampton County, Virginia, the other starts out in Blackwater and ends up in Bertie County, North Carolina. Based on the DNA results any reference to the Cobb family that was in Northampton County, Virginia cannot be assumed to be correct.

Editing out data that points to the John Cobb who m. Rachel unknown and whose descendants were still in Northampton in 1820 and whose descendants match the Ambrose Cobbs DNA pattern then we must go back to the drawing board or research board to see what info we can actually find that may offer some “proof” for the lineage mentioned below. One thing to note is the confusion between a John Cobb who appears in early 1700s in Northampton County, VA and the John Cobb who marries Eleanor Whitfield is a big issue. Researchers on the Northampton VA line note records that he was accused of being of mixed parentage or mulatto and we have made this mistake also. Then the researchers of that same line seem to have that John dying near the Nottaway about 1767 – which I believe is really the John who married Eleanor.

We do know that the name of the progenitor was John Cobb based on this Bertie County, North Carolina record. “ i. Lewis, born about 1754, fifteen-year-old "orphan of John Cobb," bound to John Barnes to be a shoemaker on 27 September 1769 in Bertie County. ii. Nathan, born about 1754, a sixteen-year-old "orphan of John Cobb," bound to James Prichard to be a cooper on 29 March 1770 [CR 10.101.7 by NCGSJ XIV:34, 35].” Note that there are two boys who are listed as orphans of John Cobb and the time frame fits with the given death of a John in 1767, some say in the Nottaway area, which I believe is likely along the Nottaway River.

The above data listed as from NCGSJ = North Carolina Genealogy Society Journal. Much more info might be had if we could see the actual documents rather than an abstract of the original.

From this info we can make a couple of assumptions, some of which may or may not hold up to scrutiny.

First,originally we had info that there was a John mentioned as taxable in his own household in 1726 (we believe this may reference Northampton County, Virginia and must find the reference again) could be the father of the John (born in Blackwater, IoW in 1728) who married Eleanor Whitfield. We don't know if he was. He was also listed in other documents as the first Cobb to move to Bertie Co, NC. At least one John Cobb was listed as the first Cobb to move to Bertie but we don't know if he was THIS particular John Cobb.

Second, in 1764 we find a John Cobb in Bertie Co and 1767, taxable in other people's household. If he was taxable in 1726 in his own household then what happened to him and his family? Why, if he was the same person was he listed in the Wilson household? The fact that he was listed in someone else's household may explain the next part.

Third, those sons who were bound out as apprentices on 27 September 1769 so the assumption is that their father died that year. There were at least these two sons but another John Cobb born in the same time frames had 2 sons, one of whose descendants match the descendants of these two orphans, so he would have been a brother of these two orphans or a cousin. I have include this John as a possible son of John and Eleanor until we can determine some other rationale for their unique status as a DNA match. Another thought is this... IF Nathan and Lewis were bound out but John was not then are they siblings and/or was John older and out of the house or too young to be bound out? Based on the 1790 Bertie County, North Carolina census we cannot tell since the oldest males were listed as “16 and older”. We find from the 1790 census that this John COB had 1 son under 16 and 6 females in the household.

Fourth, the assumed death of death (dod) given me of Eleanor at about age 55 doesn't explain why the children were bound (apprenticed) at age 15 and 16 and the other John was not, nor why she would allow this to happen unless she was not able to physically or financially take care of them herself. She was living alone in Bertie in 1790.

Fifth, the 1790 Bertie Co NC census records show Cobb families with the spelling being Cob and none with the Cobb or Cobbs spelling. The list included a Dolley Cobb with 2 sons under 16 of which we can find nothing more that we can prove. The County census also has 4 males, Henry, James, Edward and Nichos (Nicholas?) who we can track to Nicholas of Isle of Wight county, VA. Lastly the Bertie Co., NC census records in 1790 show a John Cob, a Nathan and Eleanor in separate households. All the Bertie County, NC census records for that year are alphabetized so there is no way to tell who lived near whom. That would have been very useful in this research.

It would be extremely important, we think, to see if one could find the original documents mentioned above in the Journal and in court records to see what else was included. Help finding these documents, IF they still exist could be of great help. It is important NOT to assume that abstracts of records provide all the vital data. I have seen over and over that it doesn't always agree. It would also be extremely helpful to find additional records that would provide more clues.

We find John and Nathan(iel) remaining in Bertie Co, while Lewis seems to have moved elsewhere in NC after his first son, Horatio was born there in 1780 which explains why Lewis wasn't there in 1790. If Lewis became a cooper then this makes sense as he would move to where the business was.

Here is a listing with other info for the Bertie County, North Carolina census of 1790:
Dolley Cob with 2 males under 16, no slaves
Edward Cob, living alone and over 16, no slaves – great grandson of Nicholas and brother of Henry and James.
Henry Cob, 5 females and 1 male over 16 and 2 under 16, 2 slaves
James Cob, 6 females and 2 males over 16 and 3 under 16, no slaves
John Cob, 6 females and 1 male over 16 and 2 under 16, 1 slave - Nicholas family didn't use given name of John in this time frame.
Nathan Cob, 4 females and 2 males over 16 and 2 under 16, 1 slave (son of John and Eleanor)
Nichos Cob, 3 females and 2 males over 16. Probably Nicholas descendant.

1800 Bertie Co, NC census, alphabetized so you can't tell how close they lived:
Elizabeth Cobb 1 female 45+, 1 female 26-44, 2 females under 10, 1 male 10-15 – no slaves
Henry Cobb, 1 female and 1 male over 45+, 1 male 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 1 male 10-15, no slaves

These 2 below are probably related.
John Cobb, 1 female and 1 male 45+, 1 female 16-25, 3 females 10-15, 2 females and 1 male under 10, 1 male 10-15 , 2 slaves
Nathan Cobb, 1 female and 1 male 45+, 1 female 26-44, 3 males 16-25, 3 males under 10, no slaves.

1810 Bertie Co, NC Census : NOT alphabetized. Most of these are Nicholas Cobb descendants except Nathan. Note there is no John Cobb in this year's census.
Charles Cobb, 1 male 26-44, 1 female 45+, 2 females 16-25, 1 male and 1 female 10-15, 8 slaves
Elizabeth Cobb 1 male, 1 female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 males and 2 females under 10, no slaves.
Same page with Nathan
Henry Cobb Sr, 1 male , 1 female 45+, 1 female 16-25, 1 male and 1 female 10-15, 1 male and 2 females under 10, 2 slaves
Henry Cobb Jr , 1 male and 1 female 26-44, 1 female under 10, 1 slave
James Cobb 2 doors from the 2 Henrys – 1 male 26-44, 1 female 16-25, 1 female under 10.
James Cobb, 1 female 45+, 2 females 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 females 10-15, 1 female under 10 no slaves. On same page as 2 Henrys.
Joseph H. 1 male and female 26-44, 1 male 10-15, no slaves
Nathan Cobb, 1 male 45+, 2 females and 4 males 16-25, 1 female and 1 male 10-15, 5 slaves
Thomas Cobbe, 1 male and 1 female 25-44, 1 female 16-25, 1 female 10-15, 1 female and 1 male under 10, 1 slave.

1820 Bertic Co, NC census. Alphabetized this year
Charles Cobb, male and female 26-44 , 1 male 10-15, 2 males and 3 females under 10, 2 slaves
Charles Jr...1 male and female 16-25, 2 males and 4 females under 10 , 1 free colored male, 1 female slave
Elisha Cobb 1 male and female 45+, 1 male 16-18, , 2 females and 2 males 10-15 , 1 female and 2 males under 10, 3 male slaves under 14
Henry Cobb, 1 male and female 26-44 , female 10-15, 2 females and 1 male under 10, 1 male slave 14-25
James Cobb, 1 male and female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 1 male and female 10-15, 2 females, 1 male under 10, no slaves.
James Cobb, 1 male and female 26-44, 1 female 10-15, 2 females and 4 males under 10, 2 male slaves under 14.
Janey Cobb, 1 male and female 26-44, 2 males and 1 female 10-15, 2 females and 1 male under 10, 5 male slaves under 14.
John H. Cobb, 1 male and female 16-25 (newly weds?) 1 m and 1 f slave under 14, 1 m slave 14-25
Joseph Cobb, 2 females 45+. male and female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 females under 10, 1 male slave 45+, 1 male slave under 14
Thomas Cobb, prob estate of, 1 female 16-44, 1 female and male under 10, 3 slaves (female 14-25, male 26-44, 1 male under 14
William Cobb, couple 16-25, 1 f 10-15, 1 male under 10, 1 slave under 14

1830 Bertie Co, NC Census.

Any help with solving these questions and thus the lineage would be appreciated greatly.

Reminder: Each family line has its own separate index.

Descendants of John and Eleanor Whitfield Cobb

Descendants of Joseph Cobb

Descendants of Nicholas Cobb