Wynne Mythtakes & Wynn Winners


Rev. February, 2003 - M. Johnson

I. Wynne Mythtakes: Some errors commonly found in genealogies.

   a. That Peter, Thomas, Edmund, and Owen Wynne/Winne came to Va. among the earliest settlers.

Each of the above does appear in the Records of the Virginia Company but Captain Peter Winne and a Hugh Winne are the only ones known to have arrived in Va. before 1620. Peter Winne, who had unknowingly been named as Deputy Governor, arrived in September 1608 after a long delay caused by a shipwreck. He died in the Spring of 1609, with no known issue. His family in England has not been established. This Hugh Winne is listed in the group arriving with Peter Winne; he is dsescribed as a tradesman, but nothing more is known of him. Thomas, Edmund, and Owen all appear only on the roll of "adventurers" (ie, investors).
[Capt. John Smith, Travels...in Virginia, v.I; A.Brown, Genesis of the U.S., p.1055]

Thomas Wynne appears as "Captaine Thomas Winne" on a List of Adventurerers to Va., in 1620 having paid 25, but this means only that he was an investor, as were hundreds of other men. The identity of this Thomas Wynne is not known with certainty but his title of Captain suggests that he was the Sir Thomas Winne who was killed in the seige of Breda in 1625.
[Kingsbury, Records of the Va. Company v.III.]

Edmund Winne, also appearing as an adventurer, is the only Wynne recorded as having received a patent for land [Kingsbury,v.I:632] but while he was still in England; there is no record of him living in Va.. Brown identitfies him as a "merchant-tailor" and the son of a George Wynne [Brown, Genesis - p.1055]. His patent was in the Southampton Hundred (Charles City Co. area). George Wynne was servant & Draper to Queen Elizabeth I and Edmund was involved in several of the overseas trading ventures of the time.
[Robert Wynne, "A London Wynne and The Virginia Company", Wynne News No.7 (March 1999).]

Owen Winne, or "Captaine Owen Winne", is also in the Va. Company List of Adventurers, but again there is no record of his coming to Va., despite the fact that many books say so. It is possible that he was Owen Wynn, the son of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, since Owen was in London about 1620 and could have invested in the new Va. project, but he is more likely associated with one of the various other Wynn/Wynne families of the time. His title of Captain also suggests he was not Sir John's son, as that Owen had no such title. [Kingsbury, v.III].

   b. That Sir Owen Wynne (or Gwynn), son of Sir John Wynn, came to Va. and left issue in Virginia.

This is the most frequently published error. There is no record of an Owen Wynne or Gwynn in Virginia. Sir John's son, Owen, spent his life managing the Gwydir properties for his father, then for his older brother, Sir Richard, who preferred life in London, and finally on his own after he became the 4th Baronet of Gwydir in 1649. He had only two children: a daughter who died early and a son, Richard Wynne, who succeeded him as the 5th Bart. [There are several recent historical accounts of Owen and of the family of Gwydir, esp. J. G. Jones, The Wynn Family of Gwydir (1995)].

Several standard published accounts say Owen came to Va., had issue, and returned to Wales on becoming the 4th Baronet. His issue are sometimes given as Hugh Gwynn, the settler of Gwynn's Island, and sometime as John Winn, found later in Westmoreland Co. See the accounts on these below. One frequently cited "source" is F. Virkus, Compendium of American Genealogies, which is composed of individually submitted, unverified, amateur genealogies. As might be expected, of any undocumented compilation, it is a mixture of fact and fantasy.

   c. That a Winn/Wynne family of Va. descends from Sir John Wynn of Gwydir.

Sir John Wynn (d.1626, aet 73) is famous as the author of 'The History of the Gwydir Family' and one of the most prominent Welshmen of his day. Although he had twelve children - ten of whom were sons - his line ended with a grandson, Sir John Wynn (d.1719) who had no issue. No child or grandchild of this family ever emigrated to Va. Due to the prominence of Sir John Wynn, the common assumption was that any "Wynn/Wynne" had to be connected to him. In fact, there were a plethora of Wynn lines in Wales and England (usually 'Wynne' in England) by the early 1600's.
[See John E.Griffith, Pedigrees of Anglesey & Caernarvonshire Families.]

   d. That a John Winn and Elizabeth Minor founded a Winn line in Virginia.

One of the most frequently seen references is to a John Winn of Westmoreland Co., Va. who allegedly married an Elizabeth Minor and had various different sets of sons, depending on the writer's imagination. No such marriage is recorded. Elizabeth Minor was far too young and socially elevated to have been John Winn's wife. John Minor's will of 1699 does menion a daughter Elizabeth as his youngest daughter and clearly not yet married as she is given land in her own name. No evidence of any kind has been found to identify the English/Welsh family of John Winn, and, in fact, only a few documentary reference to him have been found at all. They begin with his appearance as a headright for a patent claim by Robert Vaulx in 1657 in Westmoreland. None of the few references to a man of this name testify to a family, marriage, children, or land ownership. This marriage was, in my view, created to provide a family of origin for those Winn lines where "Minor" was used.

W. Avery Miner's book The Desc. of John Minor (1983) is frequently cited as a source for this Winn-Minor marriage but its origin is much older. W.A. Miner, in his source listing, clearly acknowledges that this information came from others with no documentation and refers the reader to Dennis R. Wynn, erstwhile head of The Wynne Family & Kinsman Assn. In fact, this alleged marriage probably originated with one Mame E. Wood (Phila.,Pa.). In Ms. Wood's correspondence with Dr. W.W. Smith in 1934-35 she describes her speculations about these early Wynne/Winns and it is clear she is not drawing her ideas from any earlier researcher. It was this Ms. Wood who proposed the idea (she admits it is unproven) of four sons ---- Thomas, John , Richard, & Obed --- were the sons of, first, an immigrant Thomas Wynne, then later, of John Winn of Westmoreland whom she believed married a "Miss Minor" to account for another son, Minor Winn. This speculation was taken in by Dr. Smith and passed on to many of his correspondents. It is noteworthy that this John Winn=Eliz. Minor family does not appear in any publication before 1935.

One early writer (J.L.M. Curry, 1899) begins his account of the "Wynne or Winn" family of Va. with Minor Winn and suggests he was the immigrant founder of that line. This possibility probably should be explored further.

II. What We DO Know About Winn/Wynnes in Virginia.

   a. Why the surname appears in various spellings.

In the 1500's and into the 1600's, the Welsh culture increasingly came to reflect that of England, in part because of repressive anti-Welsh laws and in part because ambitious Welshmen began to adopt English ways to gain favor at Court. The traditional naming practice, based on identifying one's father [e.g, John ap Evan], was gradually shifting to the use of a family surname. "Wynne" seems to have appeared as early as the 1300's in England but, in that case, is probably not connected to the later Welsh "Wynn" at all.

"Wynn", or Gwynn, became used as a surname by several Welsh families in the 1500's. One Welsh surname authority [Morgan & Morgan, Welsh Surnames] explains the variation from 'Gwynn' to 'Wynn' as a softening in Welsh usage. Collateral lines, even members of the same line, are found using either spelling. Robert Wynn (d.1598) of Conway is recorded as using Gwynn, Wynn, and Wynne all at various, successive points in his career. Because Welsh pronounces each letter, the "Wynne" form is not used in a Welsh-speaking context. It represents an anglicization of the surname used by those either living in England or wishing to identify themselves as allied with English customs.

"Winn" does not normally appear in Wales because the "y" is a particular vowel in Welsh, with a unique pronunciation; the "i" is a different sound in Welsh. "Winn" does appear later in South Wales and is still more common there. But the subtle difference of the Welsh "y" would be lost in Virginia, and 'Winn' became the most common way to spell the surname in America. Only a few lines chose to retain the "Wynne" or "Gwynn" forms.

   b. Wynn Winners: Wynn/Wynne immigrants to Virginia known to have left descendants?

Robert Wynne, usually called Col. Robert Wynne, was born ca.1622, Canterbury, Eng. His ancestry has been traced back several generations in Canterbury. He was in Va. by 1658 when first named to the House of Burgesses from Charles City Co., which at that time included land on the south side of the James River (later, Prince George Co.). Col. Robert Wynne married Mary Frances (Sloman) Poythress, a widow, and had four children whose descendants spread south and west in Va. Robert Wynne's descemdamts form one of the largest, if not the largest, group of Wynne descendants.
[See Ogburn, As I Was Told ... ,1958].

Hugh Gwynn, arrived in Va. in 1621, settling in Charles River (later, York) Co. but by 1642 patented 1700 acres in Gloucester Co. His immediate issue are believed to include two sons, Hugh Gwynn and Rev. John Gwynn. There are several Gwynn lines that claim descent from this Gloucester/Mathews Co. family. His Gloucester co. land was what became known as "Gwynn's Island, and for some time as Governor's Island because Gov. Dunmore, who made the island a Loyalist bastion to fight American militia in 1775-76. No full account of this interesting family is known to me. There is a short article in Wm & Mary Quarterly, v.18:60.]. It is possible that he was the same Hugh recorded by Capt. Smith but more likely not; there would have been many 'Hugh Wynns' around at that time.

Although widely published genealogies rarely get corrected, an exception is the one by Stella P. Hardy in Colonial Families of the Southern States of America,("Gwynn Family" pp.248-251), which was reviewed critically in the Va. Magazine of History & Biog., v.19, p.442. Anyone interested in this line should read this article.

Richard Winn appears with a documented family in Middlesex Co. Christ Church records in the late 1600's. He m.(1) Sara (----)and had 7 chn. between 1698-1712 ; m.(2) Ann Cocke and had a son, Thomas. Though appearing late in the century, it is believed to descend from some earlier immigrant Wynne. This line has been traced and has a number of descendants today.
[See, D.W. Winn, Ancestors & Desc. of John Quarles Winn (1932);
Dean Winn, Notes on the Winn Family of VA, SC, & GA (1935)].

Thomas Wynne, son of a Thomas Wynne from a Montgomeryshire family, is documented as having "gone to Virginia and had issue" by the College of Arms in a pedigree of this family. [Privately held pedigree. Copy provided to writer.] Thomas was possibly born in Istanbul where his father lived briefly as a "Turkey merchant". He would have arrived in Va. about 1635-45. This family is the one cited in The Wynne Diaries by Anne Fremantle, although she erroneously links it to Sir John Wynn of Gwydir. A pedigree chart in Fremantle, exactly as in the College of Arms pedigree, says Thomas Wynne came to Va. So far no record has been found to document his life or family in Virginia. Some elect to cite him as the father of John Winn (Westmoreland Co.), Richard Wynne (Middlesex Co.), or others lacking an immigrant ancestor.

Recent evidence links this Wynne family to a Hill family that may have come to Virginia by 1620. Thomas' grandfather, Richard Wynne, moved before 1600 to Shrewsbury, and the Hill family were long residents of Salop (Shropshire) at the Court of Hills [Hiser website, 2002]. The heraldic Visitation of London (1664) records marriage between these families of one of Richard Wynne's daughters to John Hill, a London merchant from this Shropshire Hill family. An Edward Hill, believed to be related to John Hill, died in Elizabeth City Co., Va. in 1624 and is possibly the grandfather of the Capt. Thomas Hill (m. Mary Piersey, 1633) whose great-granddaughter, Lucy Hill Toplis, married John Wynne of York Co. about 1737. These links suggest that John Wynne (d.1772) could be a grandson of the Thomas Wynne who arrived about 1635-45. This Thomas Wynne, or possibly a son, would thus be the one who married a "Dorothea Vines or Hines" in York county. Research to verify or disprove these connections is being pursued.

George Wynne, born about 1675, possibly in Isle of Wight Co., Va. married Rose Bush and had 7 children. He moved early to Bertie Co., N.C., where all his children were born. George is often cited as having been born in Va. but no parents have so far been identified. He might also have arrived as a child but, in any case, clearly left descendants.
[J.B.Boddie, Historical Southern Families vol. II.]

Other Wynne/Winns appear in 17th century records but have not yet been linked to any descendant family. Information extending, or correcting, this record would be appreciated by the writer.

Alexander Brown, "Genesis of the United State" (Russell & Russell, NYC - 1890) 2 vol.

J.L.M. Curry, "The Wynne or Winn Family", pp. 906-908 in Genealogies of Virginia Families (1899). Also in Va. Mag. of History & Biography, v.6, p.203.

Ann Fremantle, The Wynne Diaries (Oxford Press 1935) 3. vols.

J.E. Griffith, Pedigrees of Angelsey and Caernarvonshire Families
(For author - 1914). Available in many genealogical libraries.

The Harleian Society, Publications of , vol. 92. "Visitation of London Pedigrees (1664)" (1940)

Linda Hiser, website: geocities/heartland/acres/5516.html. "The Hill Family of England" & "The Hill Family of Virginia" (2002).

Susan M. Kingsbury, The Records of the Virginia Company of London
(Gov. Printing Office, Wash. DC - 1906) 3 vols.

T.J. Morgan & Pryse Morgan, Welsh Surnames (Univ of Wales Press, 1985).

Rubyn R. Ogburn, As I Was Told About the Origin of the Ogburn & Wynne Families (Dietz Press, Richmond, Va. - 1988).

John Smith, The Travels, Adventures, & Observations of Captained John Smith (Franklin Press, Richmond, Va. 1819), Vol. I. This famous book is available in reprinted editions.

W. Avery Miner (comp.), The Descendants of John Minor. LDS microfilm927.273. A1 No.4028.

Mame E. Wood, Letters and papers, 1934-37. Xeroxed copies in possession of M. Johnson.

Myles Johnson
Washington, DC