The Register of Saint Paul’s Parish, 1715-1798

The “Register of Saint Paul’s Parish, 1715-1798: Stafford County, Virginia, 1715-1776; King George County, Virginia, 1777-1798” stands as an invaluable resource for genealogists and historians alike, documenting the early inhabitants of Virginia across two jurisdictions over eight decades. This publication, meticulously compiled and now presented in a handsomely bound volume thanks to the restoration efforts sponsored by the John Lee and Lillian Thomas Pratt Foundation in 1940.

Originally found in a state of disrepair, the register’s restoration has preserved a vital link to Virginia’s colonial past. The entries, commencing in 1715, were penned by a succession of parish clerks whose inconsistencies and errors in recording were later addressed by Reverend David Stuart. Taking over the register in 1725 due to these clerical inaccuracies, Reverend Stuart’s intervention marked a pivotal moment in the document’s history, ensuring a more careful recording of parish events. Despite their efforts, both Reverend David Stuart and his successor, Reverend William Stuart, encountered challenges in maintaining the accuracy of names and dates, reflecting the period’s widespread illiteracy and the phonetic transcription of names.

The register itself is a comprehensive collection of marriages, births, and deaths, reflecting the community’s life and lineage through generations. It holds particular significance for genealogists, providing rare insights into familial connections, social standings, and the evolution of naming conventions over time. Especially notable is the consistent recording of prominent families’ surnames, offering a clear lineage for those tracing their ancestry to Virginia’s early settlers.

In addition to the genealogical records, the introduction of this volume sheds light on the painstaking process of compiling and correcting the register to make it accessible and useful for modern researchers. The editor’s efforts to address inconsistencies and errors, while maintaining the integrity of the original entries, underscore the challenges faced in preserving historical documents.

This volume not only serves as a genealogical record but also as a testament to the dedication of those who have worked to preserve and present this slice of American history. For genealogists, the “Register of Saint Paul’s Parish” is more than just a collection of names and dates; it is a doorway to the past, offering a tangible connection to the lives and stories of Virginia’s colonial residents.

The abbreviations employed are the usual: B.(born); M. (married); D.(died).


When I first saw the parish register of Saint Paul’s Parish over thirty years ago it was in a deplorable state of repair. The back had all but disappeared, the first dozen pages were completely loose and many pages had crumbled around the edges into the writing. In 1940 the John Lee and Lillian Thomas Pratt Foundation sponsored the restoration of this volume and it is now handsomely bound in black leather with gold lettering.

The book bears the business plate of the seller:

at the Crown & Scepters in great Eastcheap
near Crooked Lane end, London
Makes and Sells all sorts of Merchants Ac
compt Books, Shop Books, Pocket Books &c.
Likewise Sells all sorts of Writing & other Pa
pers, Bills of Lading, Letter Cases & all other Sta
tionary Wares wholesale & retale at reasonable rates”

The register begins in 1715 apparently in the handwriting of a parish clerk, and it appears there were several such clerks who were not polished penmen and who made multiple errors both in names and dates, until the Reverend David Stuart could no longer tolerate their haphazard manner. After an entry of the 6th of June 1725 he wrote:

“Note that several of the above children’s names are
wrong inserted as to the year of God, by reason of
the carelessness of the Clerk, which occasioned my
taking the Register into my own Care and Management.
David Stuart, Minister”

The Reverend David Stuart seems to have kept the register until the month of his death which took place on the 31st of January 1748/9, although as early as 1747 there are entries in the handwriting of his son the Reverend William Stuart (1723-1798).

The Reverend David Stuart was more systematic than the parish clerk whose manner of keeping the register he criticized, but neither he nor his son were beyond reproach in this duty. Both of these rectors made many errors in spelling both Christian and surnames as well as dates. Illiteracy was prevalent among their parishioners and it appears various names were recorded phonetically, not always the same way.

Both of the Reverend Mr. Stuarts were consistent, however, in spelling the surnames of the great landed families of their parish; neither errs in spelling Alexander, Ashton, Berry, Berryman, Buckner, Bunbury, Dade, Fitzhugh, Foote, Fowke, Gray, Hooe, Jones, Massey, Pratt, Scott, Seaton, Short, Stuart, Thornton and Washington. With many other surnames they were quite inconsistent and this fact has made it somewhat difficult to bring the register into the form I now present. A verbatim transcription would not have been as useful and that too would have presented its problems.

Inconsistencies are also found in certain Christian names: Alis, Ales and Alce for Alice; Helen, Helenor, Heleanor, Eleanor and Elinor are interchanged and it appears the Reverend David Stuart often wrote Hele(a)nor for Eleanor; and we are sometimes puzzled over Hester and Esther as well as Elizabeth and Eliza. Several of the leading families in the parish were descendants of Captain Robert Beheathland, who came to Jamestown with the first settlers of 1607, and the name was often used as a Christian name in these families, yet the register sometimes errs in the spelling of the name. It appears other families in the parish, not descendants of Captain Robert Beheathland, took a fancy to the name and also used it. Other obvious errors were Grice for Price; Garry for Parry (Perry); Parrett for Barett &c. Likewise there are many inconsistencies in the dates; sometimes other more reliable contemporary records definitely show Saint Paul’s Parish Register to be in error, while prima facia evidence in the register itself reveals obvious errors.

The Reverend David Stuart seems to have made entries soon after the recorded happenings in most instances, but at times there is evidence the Reverend William Stuart neglected the Register and attempted to transcribe into it, doubtless from another note book, that which should have been recorded several years previously. A careful study of the Register indicates that this practice led to confusion, Thus some doubt arises at times as to the precise year, date or name.

As examples of these alleged errors in the Register I wish to point out but a few:

  1. The Register records the birth of Phillis Reilly as the 14th of November 1717, while her tombstone says she was born the 15th day of November 1717 and died the 4th day of April 1771, aged 54 years. She was the wife of Captain William Mountjoy (April 17, 1711 – September 27, 1777) of Overwharton Parish, Stafford County.
  2. The Register records the death of Robert Taliaferro as the 6th of June 1726, while his tombstone at “Eagle’s Nest” says:

“Here lies the body of
of Francis and Elizabeth
Taliaferro who Departed
this Life the 9th of May 1726
in the 28th year of his age.”

  1. The Register records the death of Elizabeth Walker as the 25th of August 1737, while her tombstone says:

“Here lies the Body of
Elizabeth Walker
wife of William Walker of Stafford
County and daughter of Henry Netherton,
Gent: deceased, who departed this life
August 26, 1737 Etates 29,”

The above inscription also shows the correct spelling of the surname of this lady; it will be noted that Reverend Mr. Stuart erred when he recorded their marriage in 1731. William Walker was an architect and his interesting will remains of record at Stafford County Court. The diary of the Reverend Robert Rose (1704-1751) of Essex County is enlightening concerning persons in Saint Paul’s Parish as he married on the 6th of November 1740 Ann Fitzhugh (March iG 1720/1 – April 18, 1789), daughter of Colonel Henry? Fitzhugh of “Bedford” and often visited in the parish. Reverend Mr. Rose recorded:

February 28, 1748/9: Left Essex, dined at Port Royal, bound
Robert Bagge to Robert Walker, got to Capt. Fitzhugh’s at night.
March 1, 1748/9: Left Capt. Fitzhugh’s., Rain. Stopped at Mr.
William Fitzhugh’s [“Marmion”] and dined, returned to Mr. Walker’s
who had got home from Williamsburg where he had undertaken the
Capitol for £2,600.

February 11, 1749/50: Went to Overwharton Church where I heard of
Mr. William Walker’s death which will, I hope, delay the building
of the Capitol. Returned to Mr. John Fitzhugh’s. Very cold.
February 15, 1749/50: Went to Mr. William Walker’s funeral who
was buried with his wife in one grave [at “Bedford”]. Very cold.

  1. The Register records the death of Captain Samuel Bowman as July 14, 1742, while his tombstone at “Eagle’s Nest” says:

“CAPt ,
Born the 10 June
Died the 18 July

  1. The Register records the birth of John Burkett Pratt as 6th of August 1761 while a contemporary recording in his parent’s family Bible as well as his tombstone in the family cemetery at “Camden”, Caroline County, Virginia, says he was born the 4th of September 1761, and died the 15th of January 1843. He dropped his middle name and married in 1784 Alice Fitzhugh (January 20, 1759-November 28, 1845), wealthy widow of Henry Dixon, Gentleman, of Port Royal, and daughter of John Fitzhugh (1727-1809) of “Bellaire”, Stafford County, and Alice Thornton (1729-1790), his wife. The lineal descendants of John and Alice Pratt are yet in possession of “Camden.”

On the other hand, it appears the Register is correct in recording the marriage of Benjamin Baber to Mildred Berry on the 10th of November 1791, while the King George County Marriage Register notes the license was issued the 11th of May 1790. Likewise Reverend William Stuart recorded he married on the 23rd of November 1791 Enoch Berry and Judith Fowke, while the King George County Marriage Register notes the license was issued the 11th of May 1790. It is impossible for me to say how these discrepancies came about, but it appears likely the recordings of the Reverend William Stuart in these instances are correct.

The alteration in the Calendar which took place in 1752 will explain other apparent discrepancies in the Register. For instance, the birth of William Fitzhugh of “Chatham” is recorded by the Reverend David Stuart as the 24th of August 1741 while a sampler made by his daughter and his tombstone inscription both re-cord his birth as the 4th of September 1741; the former is the Old Style date and the latter is the New Style date. It appears some people quickly adopted the New Style or Gregorian Calendar, which was effective in England and her colonies in 1752, to reckon their birthdays and made the alteration at once while others clung to the Old Style or Julian Calendar. Among the latter was General George Washing-ton who was born the 11th of February 1731/2 (Old Style) or the 22nd of February 1732 (New Style); it is said he always celebrated his birthday on the 11th of February. The Virginia Gazette of the 26th of February 1780 said: “Friday, the 11th instant, was celebrated at Fredericksburg the birthday of our illustrious Chief, General Washington.” [This newspaper account gives considerable detail of the celebration at Fredericksburg, Virginia, where the General’s mother lived, |

But now after all these years, these errors and discrepancies are trifling matters for the most part – slips of the pen and memory. We can but be forever grateful to those who left us Saint Paul’s Parish Register, for indeed it fills a void as no other manuscript could possibly do considering the mutilated Stafford County court records and the loss of many other records in this area.

Roughly it may be said that the Register records marriages 1715-1796; births 1715-1775 with a few thereafter; and deaths 1715-1750 with a few thereafter of relatives of Parson Stuart and his death in 1798. The Reverend David Stuart usually recorded both birth and baptismal dates in full for whites and Negroes, but the Reverend William Stuart records only the birth dates. After the beginning of the Revolutionary War Parson Stuart virtually discontinued recording the births of both whites and Negroes and for the next twenty years his entries are almost entirely those of the marriages which he performed. After recording the death of his mother, Mrs. Jane (Gibbons) Stuart who died the 14th of January 1749/50, Reverend William Stuart ceases to systematically record the deaths in Saint Paul’s Parish as had been the custom of his father for the twenty five years preceding.

This arrangement of Saint Paul’s Parish Register is my own although it is fashioned after an arrangement made by my late friend, Major John Bailey Calvert Nicklin (1891-1949) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who was for many years an ardent student of genealogy and many of the aristocratic families of Saint Paul’s Parish commanded his attention. It is to him that I affectionately dedicate this volume.

Attention is directed to the fact that many families mentioned in the presently presented Saint Paul’s Parish Register are also mentioned in the Overwharton Parish Register (1720-1760) which was published in 1899 by the late Reverend William F. Boogher, however, it must be noted that that publication is not without considerable error. That volume is long out of print and the present compiler has made a transcription of it preparatory to issuing it in a form similar to the presently presented Saint Paul’s Parish Register,

I am indebted to the Reverend Joseph S. Ewing, rector of South Farnham Parish, Essex County, Virginia, and to Ralph Happel, Esquire, historian, The National Park Service, for historical data which has not hitherto appeared in print.

In tm the historical sketch of Saint Paul’s Parish which follows, Mister Ewing supplied the information relative to the Reverend William Stuart being minister of South Farnham Parish 1747-1749 and Mister Happel told me of the derivation of the name of Overwharton Parish. I have also drawn information from the published works of Bishop William Meade, George Maclaren Brydon, D.D., (Historiographer of the Diocese of Virginia), and George Carrington Mason (Historiographer of the Diocese of Southern Virginia).

I wish to thank the Vestry of Saint Paul’s Parish for allowing me access to the original Register and also my many friends in the Parish and elsewhere for their encouragement in the preparation of this volume.

George H.S. King
1st of August 1960


Saint Paul’s Parish, The register of Saint Paul’s Parish, 1715-1798: Stafford County, Virginia, 1715-1776, King George County, Virginia, 1777-1798, Fredericksburg, Va.: 1960.


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