Origins of the Name
The Derreberry surname and its variants, belonging to what is now
a very large American family, have been traced back to Burke Co.,
North Carolina to about 1778. It is spelled numerous ways by
different branches of the family, with the most common being
"Derryberry". I tend to use the spelling "Derreberry" when speaking
of the family as a whole since that is the spelling commonly used in
early North Carolina records and retained by that branch of the
family that remained in North Carolina when others migrated west.
The origins of the family were speculative for many years, but in
recent years, thanks in large part to research by Teresa Jones and
Bob Derryberry, a connection to the Dürrenberger family was
proposed, given its similarity to other variants of the
Dürrenberger name found in 18th century America such as
"Terryberry". Thanks to recent DNA test data, this connection has all
but been proven, and I consider Derryberry, Derreberry, etc. to be
derivatives of Dürrenberger.
I know of only two Dürrenberger families to come to America
prior to 1778, both from the village of Mertzwiller, Alsace, and both
settling in New Jersey: that of Peter Dürrenberger and at least
3 of his sons (Stephan, Jacob, and Michael) who came in 1738, and
that of Georg Dürrenberger who came in 1750. Georg's one son,
John, has been accounted for, as have the descendants of Stephan.
This leaves Peter's sons Jacob and Michael. Jacob died in New Jersey
in 1794, and no children are mentioned in his will. This leaves the
most likely candidate as Michael, whose whereabouts after 1749 are
Other Gemans who immigrated with Michael and his brothers in 1738
on the ship Robert and Alice from Rotterdam, landing in
Philadelphia, are known to have made their way to western North
Adam Biffle, possibly Adam
Heyerick, and maybe others. Alternatively, the Derreberrys could
be descended from Dürrenbergers who came directly from Alsace or
Switzerland to the Carolinas. Ship records from that time are far
from complete, so this cannot be ruled out.
As a branch of the Dürrenberger family, the Derreberry family
belongs here with all other branches of the larger family, whether in
Europe or America. In addition, my goal is to help find a link
between them, following up on the research begun by Teresa. I hope to
be able to add a few connections to the research already done by
As an aside, I would like to thank Teresa for helping inspire this
website. She was one of the first contacts I made as I began my
search for one of my own lost Dürrenberger ancestors. In
addition, she put me in touch with Bob Derryberry, author of The
Derryberry Families In America and one of the leading researchers
in this family. A second edition of that book is now in preparation,
and on the off chance you have not been in contact with him, please
get in touch with him if you have any research to contribute.
Assumptions Made with Early Derreberry Records
Because of the loss of so many early census records, the lack of
vital records from that period, and the repetition of so many given
names in the family, it is often difficult to determine which of the
earliest Derreberrys are descended from whom. In many cases there are
no documents to tell us "X was the son of Y", so we have to use as
much circumstantial evidence as possible to reconstruct the
relationships. In particular, it is important to establish who was
living where and at what time.
I will use the following chain of inferences and assumptions to
help myself in this regard. Because there are so many Jacobs,
Michaels, Georges, and Johns in the family, I will distinguish
different individuals with the same name by a bracketed number. Thus
for example, Jacob is a different person from
Jacob, and Michael is different from
Michael. No relationship is implied between people with
the same number, such as Jacob and Michael.
Of course, these assumptions are based on the limited number of
primary source documents to which I've had access so far. I know
there are many researchers out there who have worked on the
Derreberry and Derryberry families over the years who have amassed
much more evidence than I have. These assumptions hold only until
there is evidence to refute them, so please, if you find fault with
any of what I have presented, do not hesitate to contact me.
- Hannah the widow of John.
Two Derreberry widows appear in the 1790 census in
Burke Co.: Ann and Hannah. A John Derreberry appears in
land records ca. 1778 but not in the 1790 census, and a "widow
Derreberry" is mentioned in land records ca. 1778, so I assume one
of these women was the widow of John and the other was widowed
before 1778. Because Hannah's children were younger than Ann's
based on 1790 and 1800 census records, I assume Hannah was the
widow of John.
- Andrew the son of Ann.
An Andrew Derreberry is listed in the 1790
census near Ann. Given that he is of similar age to Ann's other
children, I assume he was a son of Ann (rather than of Hannah, who
was also nearby).
- Five families only. I
assume all Derreberrys (of whatever spelling) are descended from
one of the 5 Derreberry families listed in the 1790 census (not
including Andrew since he is part of Ann's family):
Jacob, Michael, Adam, Ann, and
John/Hannah. (I further assume, as outlined in points
(4) and (7), that Jacob, Michael, and Adam
were brothers, meaning there were in effect only 3 independent
- Three geographic groups in 1790.
Derreberrys lived in three geographic groups in 1790,
all in Burke Co., NC: in 2nd Company were Michael and
Jacob; in 7th Company was Adam; and in 13th Company
were Ann and John. I assume the families within each
group are closely related. John could have been either
a son or a younger brother of Ann's late husband.
Michael and Jacob appear to have been of
similar ages based on the sizes of their families and were
- Those born before 1775.
Only Ann had any children in her household in 1790 over
15 years of age, so anyone not found in the 1790 census but born
before August 1774 was a child of Ann. (The sole exception to this
is Hannah, who had one son over 15, but this son can safely be
assumed to have been George.)
- Adam leaves NC. Adam left
NC, ending up in Russell Co., VA by 1794 or 1795. It is possible
he was in Kentucky by about 1792 prior to going to VA. I assume
all his children left NC with him and that he never returned to
- Michael leaves NC.
Michael left NC for Russell Co., VA in 1795
or 1796. I assume all his children left with him and that he never
returned to NC. Because he settled near or with Adam, I assume
that Adam and Michael, and by inference,
Jacob, were brothers.
- Adam and Michael leave VA.
Both Adam and Michael left Russell Co., VA
in 1796 or 1797 for Kentucky. Michael is known to have been in
Warren Co., KY by 1797, and Adam in Garrard Co., KY by 1800.
- Jacob leaves NC.
Jacob left NC between 1800 and 1810 and
seems to have gone straight to either Kentucky or Tennessee, as he
does not appear in VA tax lists. I assume all his children, with
left with him and that he never returned to NC.
- Daniel the son of Ann.
Based on point (5), the Daniel Derreberry
who appears in the 1800 census in Burke Co. near Ann was Ann's
son, and therefore Andrew's brother.
- Andrew and
Daniel leave NC. According to his
Revolutionary War pension file, Andrew was born about
1765, married in 1795, and left Burke Co. between 1805 and 1810.
Neither he nor Daniel appear in the 1810 census in
Burke Co., and I assume both men left NC together for Kentucky or
Tennessee with all their children and that they never returned to
- Constraints on birthplaces.
Based on points (6) through (9), anyone born in
Virginia ca. 1795-1797 or in Kentucky ca. 1797-1800 was a child of
either Adam or Michael. Furthermore, anyone born in NC
after 1810 was a descendant of one of the 3 men listed in the 1810
census in Burke Co.: George, Michael, and
John. (See point (13) for the identity of
George and Michael, and points (14) and (15)
for the identity of John.)
- George and
Michael sons of John/Hannah. The
George (a.k.a. William) and Michael
Derreberry who appear in the 1800 census in Burke Co. adjacent to
Hannah were her sons because of their ages and the geographic
grouping outlined in (4). These two men remained in NC, and all
Derreberrys in NC in later years are attributed to them. Hannah
had a third son (born 1774-1784) still unmarried and living with
her in 1800. Ann also had a still unmarried son (born 1756-1774)
still living with her in 1800.
- John of Burke Co. the son
of John/Hannah. A John Derreberry
appears in the 1810 census in Burke Co. near the McKinney family,
whose members did not live near any of the Derreberrys in the 1790
census. Therefore, John probably moved to that area
after marriage, possibly to a McKinney. John was born
1784-1794, too old to have been a son of George or
Michael, and too young to have been a son of Ann.
Jacob, Michael, and Adam all had sons named
John, so by process of elimination, John must have been
a son of John and Hannah, meaning his birth must have
been about 1784 (see point (13) for why).
- Edey the widow of John.
John must have been the John Derriberry who
served in the War of 1812 in Capt. Stevilie's NC company, as he
was the only John in NC old enough at that time. John
does not appear in the 1820 census, but an Edey Derreberry appears
in his place in Burke Co., and I assume she was his widow. I
assume John's descendants went to Russell Co., VA after
1820 because of continued association with the McKinney family.
This may be coincidental with Adam and Michael having
lived there at least 25 years earlier.
- John of KY the son of
Michael. A John Derryberry was
married in Warren Co., KY in 1806 and continued to live there and
in neighboring Simpson Co. through 1820. As this is where
Michael had lived, and there is no evidence for Adam
having lived there, I assume that John was
Michael's son. John must have been born in
1791 at the very latest based on the date of his marriage.
- John of Maury Co. the son
of Adam. By process of elimination by points (10) and
(16), the John Derryberry born in Virginia ca. 1796
living in Maury Co., TN in the 1850 census must have been a son of
Selected Members of the Earliest Three Families
The following chart shows the relationships outlined above. I
present 3 independent families below, namely those of "unknown father
1", "unknown father 2", and John. It is entirely possible
that the two unknown fathers were in fact the same man, and/or that
John was a son or younger brother of "unknown father
[unknown father 1] Derryberry
Adam Derryberry (b. 1840/50)
John Derryberry (b. ca 1796 Virginia)
John Derryberry (b. ca 1790)
John Derryberry (m. 1806 in Warren Co., KY)
[unknown father 2] Derryberry m. Ann
Andrew Derryberry (b. ca 1765, moved to Perry Co., TN)
John Derreberry (d. bef 1790) m. Hannah
George Derreberry (a.k.a. William, b. ca 1774)
John Derreberry (d. bef 1820) m. Edey