The Early Derreberry Family
The Derreberry Family 


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 unknown.

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 Carolina: Johannes Adam Biffle, possibly Adam Butner, Lorenz Bieber, Peter 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.


This Site

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 others.

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[1] is a different person from Jacob[2], and Michael[1] is different from Michael[2]. No relationship is implied between people with the same number, such as Jacob[1] and Michael[1].

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.

  1. Hannah the widow of John[1]. Two Derreberry widows appear in the 1790 census in Burke Co.: Ann and Hannah. A John[1] 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[1].
  2. Andrew[1] the son of Ann. An Andrew[1] 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).
  3. 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[1] since he is part of Ann's family): Jacob[1], Michael[1], Adam, Ann, and John[1]/Hannah. (I further assume, as outlined in points (4) and (7), that Jacob[1], Michael[1], and Adam were brothers, meaning there were in effect only 3 independent families.)
  4. Three geographic groups in 1790. Derreberrys lived in three geographic groups in 1790, all in Burke Co., NC: in 2nd Company were Michael[1] and Jacob[1]; in 7th Company was Adam; and in 13th Company were Ann and John[1]. I assume the families within each group are closely related. John[1] could have been either a son or a younger brother of Ann's late husband. Michael[1] and Jacob[1] appear to have been of similar ages based on the sizes of their families and were probably brothers.
  5. 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[1].)
  6. 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 NC.
  7. Michael[1] leaves NC. Michael[1] 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[1], and by inference, Jacob[1], were brothers.
  8. Adam and Michael[1] leave VA. Both Adam and Michael[1] 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.
  9. Jacob[1] leaves NC. Jacob[1] 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.
  10. Daniel[1] the son of Ann. Based on point (5), the Daniel[1] Derreberry who appears in the 1800 census in Burke Co. near Ann was Ann's son, and therefore Andrew[1]'s brother.
  11. Andrew[1] and Daniel[1] leave NC. According to his Revolutionary War pension file, Andrew[1] was born about 1765, married in 1795, and left Burke Co. between 1805 and 1810. Neither he nor Daniel[1] 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 NC.
  12. 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[1]. 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[1], Michael[2], and John[2]. (See point (13) for the identity of George[1] and Michael[2], and points (14) and (15) for the identity of John[2].)
  13. George[1] and Michael[2] sons of John[1]/Hannah. The George[1] (a.k.a. William) and Michael[2] 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.
  14. John[2] of Burke Co. the son of John[1]/Hannah. A John[2] 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[2] probably moved to that area after marriage, possibly to a McKinney. John[2] was born 1784-1794, too old to have been a son of George[1] or Michael[2], and too young to have been a son of Ann. Jacob[1], Michael[1], and Adam all had sons named John, so by process of elimination, John[2] must have been a son of John[1] and Hannah, meaning his birth must have been about 1784 (see point (13) for why).
  15. Edey the widow of John[2]. John[2] 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[2] 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[2]'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[1] having lived there at least 25 years earlier.
  16. John[3] of KY the son of Michael[1]. A John[3] 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[1] had lived, and there is no evidence for Adam having lived there, I assume that John[3] was Michael[1]'s son. John[3] must have been born in 1791 at the very latest based on the date of his marriage.
  17. John[4] of Maury Co. the son of Adam. By process of elimination by points (10) and (16), the John[4] Derryberry born in Virginia ca. 1796 living in Maury Co., TN in the 1850 census must have been a son of Adam.


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[1]. It is entirely possible that the two unknown fathers were in fact the same man, and/or that John[1] was a son or younger brother of "unknown father 2".

[unknown father 1] Derryberry

Adam Derryberry (b. 1840/50)
John[4] Derryberry (b. ca 1796 Virginia)

Jacob[1] Derryberry

John[5] Derryberry (b. ca 1790)

Michael[1] Derryberry

John[3] Derryberry (m. 1806 in Warren Co., KY)

[unknown father 2] Derryberry m. Ann

Andrew Derryberry (b. ca 1765, moved to Perry Co., TN)

Daniel Derryberry

John[1] Derreberry (d. bef 1790) m. Hannah

George[1] Derreberry (a.k.a. William, b. ca 1774)

Michael[2] Derreberry

John[2] Derreberry (d. bef 1820) m. Edey