Nansemond Tribe

The largest group of descendants of the more southerly Powhatan tribes is that which comprises the Nansemond. They reside at Portsmouth, Bowers Hill, near Suffolk, and in general about Dismal Swamp. Their name has hardly disappeared from the pages of history for more than a few years at a time. Captain John Smith gave them a place of prominence in his narrative, and a number of entries since his day in literature connect them closely with the past. In the last century they have lapsed in numbers and strength through mixture and dispersion, yet the number of those considered as Nansemond descendants must be about 200, according to J. L. Bass, their present chief. From William W. Weaver and Mr. Bass in 1907 Mooney recorded some information which he published. 1Mooney, James, The Powhatan Confederacy Past and Present, Amer. Anthr., vol. ix, no. 1, 1907, p. 150 He noted that the men were mostly engaged in truck-farming and as sailors and that they numbered about 180. According to most recent information, in March 1923, the descendants organized a Nansemond Indian Association with 58 enrolled members to cooperate with the other organized bodies of Indians in the state. Their principal family names are Bass (fig. 37) and Weaver, from whom are descended others: Bateman, Bond, Brady, Bright, Cable, Collins, Craigins, Gaylord, Gray, Green, Harmon, Holloway, Howard, Jones, Okay, Osborn, Porter, Price, Rowland, Sawyer, Scott, Sebastian, Simcoe, White, Wilkins, and Williams.

Augustus A. Bass, Nansamond
Fig. 37 – Augustus A. Bass, Nansemond

I might add that a detailed study of the Nansemond Tribe History is to be awaited with some interest. Until this is made one can only entertain a suspicion of the likelihood of some ethnological divergence from the Pamunkey and Mattaponi pattern, since the Nansemond are on the border of the North Carolina coast Algonquian sub-area.

It may not be out of place to note that among the ethnological survivals here to be investigated the Nansemond preserve interesting information on bear-hunting, which is still pursued in Dismal Swamp, and wolf-trapping, of which tradition has something to reveal. They also offer the usual amount of surviving agricultural lore, and some other topics under material culture, connected with hunting, fishing, and the use of dugout canoes. The latter are still to be found in their possession.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Mooney, James, The Powhatan Confederacy Past and Present, Amer. Anthr., vol. ix, no. 1, 1907, p. 150
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8 thoughts on “Nansemond Tribe”

  1. I’d be interested in connecting with anyone that is researching a connection to the Nansemond through families with the surnames of Williams, King, Howe, and Farrar.
    I’m also trying to find out more information on Hannah Basse that was married to Henry William Kerby. Hannah died abt 1703 in Suffolk, Nansemond, Virginia.
    My e-mail is [email protected]

  2. My name is William Van Bass. I am originally from Michigan but now live in Tn. My father Willis James Bass was born in Terrell Tx . in 1929. I have been tracing our heritage back as far as 1480. I have documentation of being of Nansemond blood. I was born in 1954. I would truly love to hear from someone concerning my heritage. I’ve known my whole life that I had Indian blood , but now I have proof as far as I know. John Bass and his wife Princess Keziah Elizabeth are directly related to me as others. My phone number is 731-577-4467. My email is [email protected]. looking forward to speaking with someone about my proud heritage. Thank you.

  3. Melanie Garvin Gregory

    I recently learned that I am a descendant of Kezia Elizabeth. I am just so proud and yet sad at the same time. I wish I knew more about the Nansemond and how to be legitimately involved.
    Melanie Garvin Gregory
    X12 Granddaughter of Keziah & John Basse.

  4. Hello! My 9x Great Grandmother was born in Chuckatuck Nansemond (that is how it is listed). I was told this means she was part of the tribe. I haven’t been able to get any further because her parents are not listed anywhere and all I have is the Christian name she married under. Previous to that all I have is a date of birth. How can I verify that she is Nansemond Indian? Her name is Margaret Wiggs. She Married William Yarrett who immigrated to the US from England from what I can tell. I also show that she passed away in the same town she was born in.

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