New Englanders in the South

Kimberlys of North Carolina

Earlier this month I went to the National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, North Carolina; it was my first time in the Tar Heel State. While I have many southern ancestors who started out in Virginia and Maryland before heading west, none of them – as far as I have found – lived in North Carolina or further south. However, through some of my New England ancestry in Connecticut, I have a brief connection to North Carolina in the late seventeenth century. While not necessarily the “normal” migration, there are several cases of New Englanders going south rather than west, many times settling there permanently.

My own case was Abraham Kimberly of Stratford, Connecticut. He was born say 1630, perhaps in Gloucestershire, England, where his parents Thomas and Alice (Atwood) Kimberly were married in 1628. The Kimberly family arrived in New England in 1635. They were first in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and in New Haven, Connecticut by 1639.[1] Abraham had two children recorded in New Haven in the 1650s, but had moved with his wife Hannah to Stratford (where Abraham’s parents had also settled) at some point in the 1660s, as they appear in the vital records. However these records show that the Kimberly family spent a few years in “County of Albemarle in ye province of Charolina.”

Their residence was short lived. Abraham appears in a few records in Albemarle County (they lived in the part now known as Chowan County), and returned home to Stratford before 1680.[2]

Cases of New England migration go back to the early colonial period. Isaac Allerton, Jr., born in Plymouth about 1627, son of Isaac Allerton and grandson of William and Mary Brewster, all Mayflower passengers, moved to Northumberland County, Virginia during the 1660s. Thus his great-great-grandson, Virginia-born President Zachary Taylor (1784–1850), has a small amount of New England ancestry through an early southern migration.[3]

Courtesy of

Another late seventeenth-century group migration movement was the settlement of Dorchester, South Carolina by followers of Reverend of Joseph Lord. The settlers were from, as you might have guessed … Dorchester, Massachusetts. The town was abandoned in 1751, although many of the settlement would resettle further south in Midway, Georgia. Lyman Hall (1724–1790), himself born in Connecticut, had moved to Dorchester, South Carolina and followed the group to Georgia, where he served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence; he was later Governor of Georgia. [4]

However, at the NGS conference in Raleigh, most of the North Carolinians with New England ancestry I met derived from Nantucket Island. While Nantucket and North Carolina were connected in the colonial time period via the whaling industry, in 1771 a large wave of Nantucket and Rhode Island Quakers settled inland in Guilford and Onslow Counties in central North Carolina, where they gave up whaling for farming.[5] I had read about these various migrations years back, so it was nice to meet a couple of people who shared this ancestry.

There are, of course, incorrect or otherwise “made up” migrations south. One example involved the ancestry of Abraham Lincoln’s mother Nancy Hanks. Early Hanks genealogists had tried to connect her back to Benjamin Hanks of Plymouth, Massachusetts, when actually her Hanks family was always in Virginia.[6] A common source for these problematic “genealogical leaps” are the ubiquitous online family trees, where “the name is the same” leads hopeful genealogists to combine two unrelated people as one person. But these New England-to-the-South migrations did occur and sometimes result in small “slivers” of New England ancestry in an otherwise Southern family tree.


[1] Thomas Kimberly appears here in The Great Migration.

[2] Abraham is summarized in Donald Lines Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman, Hale House and Related Families (Hartford 1952), p. 671, and appears in documents abstracted in The North Carolina Historical Register, 1: 136, 138.

[3] Barbara Lambert Merrick, Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Volume 24: Elder William Brewster, Part 1, Generations 1–4, 163–81; Gary Boyd Roberts, Ancestors of American Presidents, 33–35.


[5] The History of Guilford County, North Carolina

[6] C.C. Child, “The Maternal Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln: The Origins of Nancy (Hanks) Lincoln, A Study in Appalachian Genealogy,” New England Ancestors 4: 1 [2003]: 25-29, 55, and C.C. Child, “The Hanks DNA Study: I Was Wrong!,” American Ancestors 17: 3 [2016]: 55–57.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child