Samuel Jordan, the "Ancient Planter" of Virginia is a fascinating character and much has been written about him, a great deal of which totally lacks any historical documentary foundation and some of which is downright misleading.
For such an important figure in the story of the foundation of the first permanent British colony in the Americas, there are in fact remakably few extant contemporaneous historical references to him, only a half dozen or so that I have been able to locate.
The present text is offered as an attempt to indicate and clarify some of the false claims commonly made about him and dispel some of the prevailing myths.
1. CAPT. SAMUEL SILAS JORDAN
I have never found him referred to as Captain in any of the historical sources, only as Mr. and Gent. The Captain appears to arise purely from speculation. Neither have I ever encountered his name as Silas in any of the historical source texts and I can only surmise that this arose as a mistaken attempt (possibly by Octavia Jordan Perry) to rconcile his name with the abbreviation "Sil." on the title-page of the Bermudas pamphlet of 1610, written by Silvester Jordan (but which one?).
2. BORN 1678 IN MELCOMBE REGIS
Melcombe Regis baptismal records start only from 1590 and the early records have not yet been transcribed on-line. Early researchers, such as George D. Phippen of Salem and Tristram Frost Jordan have only recorded a burial record in Melcombe Regis on Oct. 12 1589 for Robert Jordan, but this could apply to more than one individual and does not appear to have been verified by any recent researchers. There is (and cannot be) any baptismal record for Samuel or any record of his parentage, date, place and parents all being matters of speculation. That there was anciently a Jordan family in Melcombe Regis is attested by local place-names such as Jordan Hill, the River Jordan and Jordan Farm (probably now Jordan House Guest House on the Preston Road), but there is insufficient data to attest to the origins or genealogy of Samuel and no known historical or genealogical references to his supposed father or grandfather. No direct reference to his age has ever been cited to my knowledge.
3. SAMUEL'S FATHER WAS ROBERT (OR THOMAS) JORDAN, A PROSPEROUS MERCHANT OF MELCOMBE REGIS
Unless we can locate wills for this branch of the family, there appears to be no historical evidence for this line. There is plenty of historical and genealogical evidence for the Lyme Regis and Exeter branches of this family, who are amply recorded as merchants and adventurers as well as local officials, but none that can be found for Melcombe Regis.
Samuel's supposed father Robert is usually said to have been buried Oct. 12 1589 (like several other close family members), but this could be his 90 year-old grandfather. This would leave Samuel fatherless at 11 years of age.
4. SAMUEL'S MOTHER WAS SARAH WINTER(S) OF LYME REGIS
That there was a Winter family in Lyme Regis at about this time is clear from the Parish records which show the baptisms of 2 daughters of Thomas Winter, Mary in 1571 and Elizabeth in 1581. There is also a court reference to servants of Ynes Winter. But Sarah is also said to have married Robert Phippen (who is supposed to have married Cicely Jordan at the same date) and anyway almost all estimates of the date of her marriage to Robert Jordan postdate by several years the most commonly accepted date for the birth of Samuel and some even postdate the (same) burial date given for both Roberts. In view of this, it would seem that Robert Jordan must have had a previous marriage with an unknown wife and that Samuel was Sarah's stepson, if any of this can be in the least way substantiated. There is also the possibility that this Sarah Winter arises from confusion with the Sarah Winter who much later married the Rev. Robert Jordan of Worcester (b.1611 - different family) in Maine after 1637.
5. SAMUEL MARRIED FRANCES (A FRENCH WOMAN) ABOUT 1595 AND HAD n CHILDREN BY HER
I have never seen any sources cited for this information which I suspect to be entirely speculative. The names of Samuel's supposed first two daughters, Anne-Marie and Joanne (Jeanne?) do suggest French origins of the mother and Frances could be an anglcised corruption of the epithet "la française". Both Anne-Marie (reduced to Mary) Basse and Joane Palmer are recorded as living at Jordan's Journey in the 1625 Muster. The name together with the place does, in fact, suggest, but not prove family ties. In the case of the supposed sons, Robert,(Daniel?), Thomas and Samuel, I have seen no evidence to connect them to Samuel except the surname and that is not enough. There is a Daniel in the Jordan's Journey Muster list, but with no surname, highly improbable for a family member. Though it is said that Thomas lived at Pasbehayes on land that was due to, but not patented by Samuel, sources are never cited. Samuel Jr. was not the student at All Souls', Oxford of 1624, as can be verified in the Oxford Alumni records, or at least, this last was not the son of Samuel but of Thomas of Okham in Rutland county.
6. SAMUEL CAME TO VIRGINIA ABOARD THE SEA VENTURE (WRECKED IN THE BERMUDAS)
All we can say about Samuel's arrival in Virginia is that it occurred sometime in 1610, according to the text of his first land patent of Dec. 1620 (the second only recorded). He is not mentioned either by Silvester Jordan or William Strachey in the two accounts of the voyage and shipwreck, or in the Company or any other contemporary records. Apart from De La Warre's flotilla that saved the colony, several other ships arrived before the end of the year. The patent also tells us that Cecily, his wife, arrived a year later i.e. in 1611, rather than 1610.
7. SAMUEL WROTE THE LOG OR ACCOUNT OF THE SEA VENTURE'S VOYAGE AND SHIPWRECK
The title page of the 1610 edition of "A Discovery of the Barmudas ..... etc", reproduced in Wikipedia, clearly shows the author as "SIL. JOVRDAN", in other words Silvester and not Samuel. Which Silvester, the son of John or the son of William, for there were two in this family, is another question, but the known facts favour the latter. This Silvester could not possibly be the one who died in London in 1650 naming his brother John as his executor, for his brother John died long before, in 1628. There is no mention even of Silvester abord the Sea Venture, only his eye-witness account of the voyage. One of the owners of the Sea Adventure of Ipswich in 1610 was a Thomas Silvester, mariner of Ipswich.
8. JOHN SMITH GOT HIS ACCOUNT OF THE SEA VENTURE STORY PERSONALLY FROM SAMUEL JORDAN
John Smith, seriously wounded, left Virginia at the end of 1609, before the "Starving Time". The Sea Venture survivors arrived on the Deliverance and Patience in the early summer of 1610, at the end of the "Starving Time". Samuel Jordan arrived sometime in 1610 and there is no record or indication of his ever having returned to England. It is almost impossible that Smith ever met Samuel. His account of the Sea Venture he credits to Mr. Jourdan and is almost a verbatim copy or plagiarism of Silvester, owing nothing to Samuel.
9. SAMUEL HAD A (POSTHUMOUS) SON RICHARD CA. 1625
Samuel died, insofar as may be deduced from available data, in the spring of 1623. His daughter Margaret (or Margery) was aged one year in the Muster of Feb. 1625 and so must have been born about January of 1624, being the child Cicely was expecting when the Rev. Pooley proposed to her a few days after her husband's death. This leaves no room for another child by Samuel, except by the mythical resources of Isis! Richard could not be the child of Samuel and Cicely.
Michael Lutley Jordan