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DEVON, ENGLAND

Devon is a large county in Southwestern England, bordered by celtic Cornwall to the West, a narrow penisula to the East, the English Channel to the South, and the Irish Channel to the North. The county is also referred to as Devonshire, although that is an unofficial name, rarely used inside of the county itself and often indicating a traditional or historical context.  Devon's capital the cathedral/university city of Exeter, a Roman fort maintained by the Saxons when they chased the Celtic inhabitants out between 600-650.  The Normans and their French allies became the dominant landowners shortly after the 1066 invasion.  During the following five centuries, Devon was a relatively insular county, with poor roads and a population that rarely migrated or married out of the county.  Tin mining, wool, and farming were the principal industries for most of its history.

Devon has a long maritime history thanks to the port city of Plymouth.  It was the home of most of Queen Elizabeth's "sea dogs" or privateers, including Sir Francis Drake, Richard Grenville, John Hawkins, and Walter Raleigh.

Devon's most prominent son was Sir Walter Raleigh, who was born in Devon in 1552. In 1592, Raleigh was given many rewards by the Queen, including the position of Lord Warden of the Stannaries of Devon and Cornwall (i.e. the right to collect taxes on the valuable tin mines).  In 1585, he organized an expedition from Plymouth to found a settlement on Roanoke Island as a base for raiding the Spanish gold convoys.  Upon the failure of that venture, in 1587 Raleigh organized a larger venture to establish a permanent settlement on the Chesapeake Bay; a storm re-directed this trip back to Roanoke Island, where the settlers were left and "lost" (more in the Roanoke link above).  In the Spanish Armada year of 1588 Raleigh was employed as Vice Admiral of Devon, looking after the coastal defenses and militia.  Raleigh returned to the New World in 1594 in an expedition to Guianna and Venezuela; one of his ships was commanded by a Captain Leonard Berry.1

 

BERRY FAMILIES OF DEVON

“The Visitation of the County of Devon” was a Who's Who list of the landed gentry in Devon.  The Visitation was done in 1531, 1564, and 1620.  The 1620 version list several branches of the Berry family and provides their historical family trees.2  Most prominent is the Berrys of Berrynarbor.   Berrynarbor is a small picturesque town on the northern coast of Devon.  The Domesday Book of 1086, commissioned by William the Conqueror, mentions the town.  There are various theories for how it gained its name: (1) Westcote3 says it was originally called Bury, and afterwards Bury Herbert, from the family who held it immediately after the Norman Conquest; (2) from William Nerbert de Beri, Lord of the Manor in 1196; or (3) from the intermarriage of the Berry and Nerbert families in the Fourteenth Century.  (Under the latter two theories, the name probably arrived in Britain in 1066 through French allies of William the Conquerer who were named Barry).  Ralph de Biry or Berry owned the land after the time of King John (1199-1216), apparently adding land owned by John de Lidford, William Beckleigh, and Henry Annet. Berrynarbor remained in the Berry family until the male line (apparently) became extinct in 1708.  The property being sold by order of the Court of Chancery in 1712.

The Berrynarbor family branched into the Berrys of Crosscomb and Berrys of Chittlehampton. These families are significant to the current project because each contains a Henry or Richard who were old enough to have sailed with the 1587 Roanoke voyage (underlined below):

•The Berrynarbor Berrys included a Richard (c. 1520), the third son of James Berry of Estleigh.

•The Crosscomb Berrys began with Richard (c. 1430) whose son Thomas (c. 1460) had two sons, Richard (c. 1490) and John (c. 1490).  Richard (c. 1490) had four sons including: (1) John Berry (c. 1520) who named his son Richard (c. 1550); and (2) Richard (c. 1520).   

•The Chittlehampton Berrys began with John Berry (c. 1490, the younger son of Thomas (c. 1460)).  John had a son Henry (c. 1520) who had five sons including (1) his second son John (1545) who had a son named Henry (1560); and his third son Richard (c. 1550).

Interestingly, there is a strong pattern of names repeating from generation to generation.  As a result, the names Henry and Richard appear frequently. These two patterns re-appear in possibly related Berry families of early America. 

A second significant primary source is a history of the Devon militia composed by Herny Walrond in 1896.  This is summarized in the Burnett-Morris card index to Devonshire people, places, and topics held at the Devon Local Studies Library in Exeter.  The Burnett-Morris summary identifies the Richard Berry who sailed to Roanoke as a "gentleman" and a muster captain in 1572.5  The Walrond militia records confirm that Richard Berry served with the Devon militia.  The fact that he was a "gentleman" is significant because the gentility of Devon was a very limited and well-recorded section of the population.  Therefore, it seems likely that the Richard who sailed to Roanoke was one of the four Richards underlined above (probably one of the younger two, as a cross-Atlantic voyage might have been too rough for a 67-year-old man at the time).  Because younger sons did not inherit much of the family fortune during this period, the Chittlehampton branch (Henry and his uncle Richard) seem to be the most likely candidates.

 

BERRY ARMS

The Visitations identify coats-of-arms in addition to family trees.6  The arms given for the Berry family is "gules, tres bars or" (red, three gold bars): 



 


 


 

 


 

This pattern appears in the crest of numerous Berry family members, usually quartered with arms of the bearer's maternal line:


 

Thomas Berry6

Ireland

(1737-1815)


 


James William Middleton Berry7 

Ireland

(ca. 1848)
 


 

The "red, three gold bars" design survives to this day as that given by most mall-kiosk and internet sites as the "Berry family crest."  (This is only partially true; crests belong to individuals, not families). 

 

DESTINY OF THE DEVON BERRY FAMILIES

While the Berrynarbor and Crosscomb Berry families may have died out, there is evidence that the Chittlehampton Berry family members joined the Roanoke Colony and became the first English settlers in America:

(1) Richard Berry was born ca. 1550; his father was named Henry and may have had a son named Henry.  This would be the right age to sail to America.

(2) The log of colonists includes Richard Berry and Henry Berry.

(3) The Richard Berry who sailed to Roanoke was a "gentleman" from Devon.  This narrows the candidates significantly; In by process of elimination, it appears likely that he was the Richard of the Chittlehampton line.

(4) Devon was Raleigh's power base, and most of the participants in his colonial ventures were from there.

(5) Raleigh and Richard Berry were connected through the Devon militia.

(6) The oral history of the Lumbee Indians asserts that they descended from the Lost Colonists; this is supported by the fact that some Lumbees with the last name "Berry" tested for the R1b1b2 Y-DNA haplotype.   The first such Lumbee to enter documented history was named Henry Berry.  More on these connections is in the Roanoke and Carolina links above.

Therefore, there is strong evidence that two of the Berrys of Devon were those that sailed to Roanoke.