Common Misconceptions Concerning the Nansemond Bass Genealogy
By Fred Bright, Tribal Genealogist
First things First In the infant days of the current Nansemond Indian Tribe, tribal genealogy was much about who was family, and who wasn’t, and I am talking about local family, that group living in what is now Chesapeake and Portsmouth, Virginia. It wasn’t really about genealogy because the tribe was trying to reestablish itself with the State of Virginia. Membership was mostly a matter of knowing who your people were, and at that time, it was enough because the tribe was made up of family members who all lived in the same area and knew each other and their extended families. As the tribe became reestablished and began to show a presence as an organized entity, people living at a distance began to take an interest in the tribe for various reasons. As time progressed, more and more people began to seek membership and as a result, it became evident that a tribal genealogist was needed. I joined the tribe in 1996 after discovering that the Nansemond Tribe had been recognized by the State of Virginia along with several other tribes. Prior to that, I had become engaged in genealogical research after I returned from service with the US Army. At that time, I had the opportunity to interview many of my relatives who were Nansemond, however the tribe was not at that time seeking recognition nor had it been chartered with the state, being mostly a large family organization, which is what being tribal is all about. The present land whereupon the Indiana Methodist Church is erected, was given to the Nansemond by Joseph Bright and Elizabeth Bass, my 3d great grandparents. They donated the land and erected an Indian School for the Indians because they did not want to be schooled with the black population for fear of loosing their identity, not to mention the strict laws placed upon black people after the Nat Turner rebellion. In an interview with Sabrey Bright White, a great granddaughter of Sylvester Bright, son of Joseph Bright, much information about the tribal people was given to me which I recorded, stored and forgot about Later when I was accepted into membership of the tribe, and it was learned that I was the Family History Director for the local Mormon Church and had information about the tribe, I was asked to be the tribal genealogist, so I took the job. Since that time, much has changed.
I agree with my co-genealogist, Lea Dowd, that, “any family in this country before 1650 has a very good chance to have an American Indian tie somewhere. It would be very wrong to make it an either/or situation. However, proving it, is something else and then being able to actually get the right Tribe is again something else. Lea Dowd, with assistance from Patty Sylvestry and Shelia “Firehair” Stover have been a great help with establishing the true genealogy of the Nansemond Indians. These three genealogists have collectively spent more time doing genealogy on the Nansemond people than most people have lived. And you don’t want to know how much money they have spent doing it Many heads are better than one and I owe much to them for their input and assistance when I need help. It would be rude of me to forget the work put forth by my close friend, Dr. Helen Rountree, professor extraordinaire, retired from Old Dominion University (formerly known as the extension of William and Mary). Her labors have provided the Nansemond with firm footing in the realm of history.
I think Lea might be right when she says most people want to be a Nansemond because it is probably one of the only Virginia Tribes that can actually prove some of their families all the way back without a shadow of doubt So, it seems everybody wants to tie into this Tribe. That’s a double edged sword. As the current Nansemond can prove who they are, they can also reasonably prove who isn’t Nansemond. Many may have Nansemond blood, but proving it is something else. It is that proof that separates the Nansemond from everyone else. As for Ivan Bass and Albert Bell’s “Bass Families of the South”, they didn’t do the Tribe any favors. They knew what they were writing was wrong, but didn’t want to offend anyone. Many of us took their work seriously and depended upon it, however, we later found that doing so was pure folly.
Bell’s “Bass Families of the South’ has been a standard for many people when dealing with the Nansemond Indian genealogy. However, there are some serious problems with his work. Much of the information concerns John Basse and Elizabeth, Edward Basse and Mary Tucker, Richard Basse and the crossing over and mixing of genealogical lines. And to make matters worse, the advent of the internet has multiplied the problems a hundred times over. There is so much erroneous information located there about the Nansemond; it will probably never be straightened out.
In order to deal with some of these problems without having to go over it again each time we receive an application for membership, I decided to put together some information which should help others with their research. This was originally intended to be sent with returned applications, but it has progressed into something else as time has gone by and requests for genealogical information come to the tribe.
ELIZABETH AND JOHN
First, there are the errors dealing with our ancient ancestor, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the daughter of a Nansemond chief. She was baptized and according to the prayer book, her name is given as Elizabeth. And it is a prayer book, not a bible as many think. Everyone seems to refer to her as Keziah Elizabeth Tucker, as it is stated in Bell’s book. However, John’s prayer book makes no mention of the name Keziah (an explanation of how this came to be follows later). John’s brother, Edward, married Mary Tucker, a Chowan Indian, and there is genealogical information available about the Tucker family, several Tuckers later married Nansemond, but there is no evidence that Elizabeth had the name of Tucker. Since Mary Tucker was specifically mentioned with a Christian surname, logic prescribes that if Elizabeth were a Tucker, it would have been stated. Where Bell got this Information is sketchy, but we do know the following; her name is given only as Elizabeth, she was the daughter of a Nansemond chief, she was baptized and was married to John, apparently in a Christian ceremony. Legend says it happened at St. Lukes Church in Smithfield, VA, formerly known as the Old Brick Church, built in 1632. it now maintains a website, www.historicstiukes.ora What the prayer book says is:
“John Basso married ye dafter of ye of ye King of ye nansemond nation, by name, Elizabeth, In holy baptism and In holy matrimony ye it day of August In ye year of our Blessed Lord; 1638 Dyed 1699 AD.”
Note that there is no mention of the Keziah or Tucker name. There has been some circulation of a certificate signed by a clerk of court stating that Elizabeth was a Tucker and daughter of Robin the Elder, a Nansemond Chief or head man. There is an explanation how this erroneous statement came about. Robin the Elder had another name.... He is also written as Robin TUCKER. He was the brother to Joan TUCKER, wife of Symon LOVINA. As for John Bass marrying Elizabeth Tucker, it is true, there was a John Bass who married an Elizabeth Tucker, however, saying this, the story of John BASS marrying Elizabeth TUCKER IS correct, but researchers have just picked the WRONG John Bass. it SHOULD have been John BASS born 1723, son of William Bass and Sarah LOVINA. That then makes him married to Elizabeth (TUCKER), his great Uncle’s daughter, being a second cousin....
To further this preponderance, Great Peter would be the right age to be a brother to the first Elizabeth (John Basses’ Elizabeth), daughter of the King of the Nansemond. Great Peter is more than likely related as he would have to inherit his title and Elizabeth was the daughter of “The King” (to be sure, the idea of Kings and Queens came from the Europeans, not the Indians). Elizabeth was born ca 1624 and Great Peter was born before 1650 for sure.
Nansemond Certificate 17 May 1797
Norfolk Co., VA 17 May 1797
This doth certify that William Bass, son of John Bass and grandson of William Bass is of English and Indian descent and Is not a Negro nor yet a Mulattoe as by some falsely and maliciously stated. His late Mother Sarah Ann Bass, was a virtuous woman of Indian descen4 a daughter of Symon Lovina and Joan Tucker lawfully begotten. Said Joan Tucker was a sister of Robin Tucker, a Christian Indian of ye Nansemond nation. The said William Bass, the elder, was a son of Mary Bass and William Bass, Sr. Mary was a daughter of Great Peter King of ye Nansemond. These are of common knowledge.
All of the Basses of this County descend from Capt Nathaniell Basse as satisfactorily proved by the records presented. Test Wm Portlock, Jr.
(William Portlock was clerk of court and a landowner, hence the Portlock area of South Norfolk bears his name.)
Some sources in Bell’s work were listed as little scraps of paper” given to him by some of the Bass family members; however, every trained genealogist knows that such things can never be included as primary or secondary sources. And, one should ask, where are those papers and why were copies not made and Included, who wrote them, etc.
Edward Basse, the brother to John Basse, married Mary Tucker, a baptized Chowanoac (Chowan) Indian and, according to the prayer book, went to live with her people. Edward and Mary had three (3) daughters and one (1) son, John (born 1650, Chowan Precinct), that we know of. Their son John, had two (2) sons that we are able to determine, John Jr. (born 1673) and Edward (born abt. 1675). John married Love Harris and they produced eleven (11) children. Due to Incorrect information placed on the Internet, many applicants connect John Bass and Love Harris to William Bass and Catherine Lanier, William being the descendent of John Bass and Elizabeth. William Bass and Catherine were raising a family in Virginia (St. Brides Pa and Old Norfolk, which became Norfolk County later the City of Chesapeake in what is now the Deep Creek area along the Dismal Swamp) long before John and Love Harris married in North Carolina. The Indian lineage of Edward’s descendents comes through his wife, Mary Tucker, the Chowan Indian and not through John and Elizabeth. Documents show William and Catherine in Norfolk County with children when John and Love Harris were getting married, to wit:
Norfolk Co., VA Certificate 17 Mar 1726/27
An Inquest p ‘taming to possession & use of Cleared & Swamp lands In and adjoining ye Great Dismal by William Bass, Sr (h/o Catherine Lanyere) & His kinsmen who claim lndian. privileges, Sheweth by the testimony of White Persons & sundry records of great age & known to be authentic That said. William Bass, Sr., his sons Wm. Bass (h/o Mary), Thomas Bass and Joseph Bass & spinster daughter Mary Bass, are persons of English and Nansemond Indian descent with no Admixture of negro, Ethiopic blood, & that they and all others In Kinship with them are freeborn subjects of his Majesty, living In Peace with His Majesties Government, entitled to possess & beam Arms, as permitted by Treaties of Peace by & btw Charles ye land of blessed Memory & ye Indians of Virginia in ye Anno DomL 1677. Ye inquest sheweth further that ye cleared Lands & Swamps held and used by the said Will Bass, Sr. & his are in Rightful & Lawful possession thereof & are not to be further Molested by any pson orpsons whomever under any Pretended authority; under Penaltles etc., etc., whilst ye sd Bass & his kinsmen claim Indian privileges psuant to the afsd. Treaties of Peace & c. Solo. Wilson CL Cur.
(Solomon Wilson was the clerk of court)
The Nansemond Tribe split about 1650. The group known as the Christianized group began moving toward the Deep Creek area along the Great Dismal Swamp. In June of 2002, Lea Dowd and I made a trip to the area of the old Nansemond Indian Town along the Chowan. We found the location of the old tribe where Great Peter lived and was Interviewed by the surveyors who were surveying the area in 1711. A commissioned survey was taken at that time to clear up boundary disputes and errors in the original Carolina Charter. The surveyors found the Nansemond and Meherrin Tribe located along the Chowan River. The party was escorted by three Nottoway men who guided the survey party into the Chowan area. The surveyors recorded latitude and longitude readings and while there “examined” Great Peter, chief of the Nansemond and spent several nights with the Nansemond and Meherrin Indians. Two trips were made because the first trip was unsuccessful due to the fact that the North Carolina Commissioners were unable to meet with the surveyors because of some military problems and an uprising of some kind. They finally met again this time meeting with the commissioners and relating a more complete diary that the first meeting. The following is a copy of the diary left by the surveyors. It is quite lengthy, but very interesting:
(The section consists of one item, a diary 18 July-10 October 1710, of Philip Ludwell II The diary was kept on their travels at Williamsburg, in Surry and Isle of Wight (now Southampton) counties, Virginia, and in Chowan (now Hertford) County; North Carolina, while Ludwell and Nathaniel Harrison were serving as Virginia commissioners to settle the boundary disputes between Virginia and North Carolina. The diary Includes correspondence, 1710, of Ludwell and Harrison with John Lawson and Edward Moseley. }
Section 13, Ludwell, Philip (1672-1 72 7), Diary 1710
“... The 1st of October was very cloudy, so that we could take no observation, and the sky threatening bad weather, we resolved to stay no longer (at the mouth of the Weyanoke Creek), but to go back to the Maherine Indians to examine them again In Mr. Moseley’s presence & on our way thither we took the examination of John Brown.
The 2” The Maherine Indians not being at home we proceeded to the Nansemond Indian Town, in order to take the latitude at Nottoway Rivers mouth, & to examine those Indians; but when we came there, most of the Indians were gone abroad to get Chincopens & it being a rainy day we could take no observation. I (Philip Ludwell) came up Chowan River almost from Wicocon Creek by water with Mr. Beverley & set the Courses of the River as we came up, £ guessed the distances, by which we might be enabled to compute how near our observations at the two places agree4 & we found them to agree very near.
At the Nansemond Town the Interpreter told us that when he went down to Wicocon Creek with a Nansemond Indian celled Robin Tucker who was sent by the Indians to shew us the Creek on which the Wyanoakes formerly lived, he called at one William William’s house, where he met with one Mr. Maul and that being sometime In the House and the Indian left without, as soon as he (the Interpreter) came out, the Indian told him, That man (meaning Mr. Maul) was not good for he had been (persuading) him to deny that the Weyanoakes had lived on Wicocon Creek, & promised him two bottles of powder and a thousand shott to do it.. This Mr. Maul is Mr. Lawson's Deputy Surveyor....”
Sept 22-23, 1710
The 22nd we want to ye Nottoway Indian Town. . . but the Nottoway old men being gone to get Chincopens we differed taking their examinations till our return and went to the Nansemond or Potchiack Indian Towne;... Ye 23rd we took the examination of Great Peter ye great man of ye Nansemond Indians, who told us that a little while before our come he was sent for to Collo Polluck’s house where was Governor Hyde, Mr. President Glover, Mr. Arden & others and they examined him concerning the Wyanoke Indians and Wyanoke Creeke; that he gave them the Same relation he has now given us, and that Collo Polluck was angry with him and said that such stories would do the proprietors mischief; he answered that he did not come of himself to tell him any stories but was sent for & if he desired to hear it he would tell him the truth, but If that would not please him, he would not tell him a lye; that Mr. Hyde said he was in the right that Cello Polluck (sic) urged him very much to drink, but he thought ye Collo had some designe upon him and would not
Sept 23, 1710
The Exam: of Great Peter, ye Great man of ye Nansemond Indians, aged above 60:
Sayth that he hath formerly heard from the old men of his Nation that ye Wyanoke removed from James River for fear of ye Engi. . . . from thence they removed to Ware Keck being under apprehension of danger from other Indians with whom they had quarrellec4 . . . and afterwards ye potkiak Indians killing theyr king the English carryed them to J. R. (James River, . . . (no mention of Weyenokes’ retaliation against Pochicks). He also saith that he hath had the same relation concerning ye Wyanoke Indians from Patop & James, 2 very old Wyanoke Indians which lived at ye Nansemond Indians (sic town, both which dyed last Spring.
May 17-23, 1711
17th. After having ordered 3 old men of the Nottaway Indians to meet us at the Nansemond Town on the 20th in order to be Examined before the Carolina Comissrs we sett out....
23d. . . .and took the Examination of great Peter the great man of the Nansemond Indians complete survey is located in the library of the College of William and Mary in
There is more about the Tuckers if one only does some research:
Norfolk Co., VA
Thomas Tucker of Norfolk County, Original Will, dated 19 March. 1734. Proved 16 Apr. 1736, by Solomon Cherry & Jon Ludgall & Swore to by the Exit . . . Appoint my Dearly beloved wife and my Son Thomas Tucker to be my whole and Sole Executrix.... Unto my Son Thomas Tucker one hundred acars of Land more or Less part of a tract of Land which I bought of Henry Bright that part of the Said Land which Binds on William Bass and Richard Tucker and So by anew made line of markd Trees which I made my Selfe for bounds between my Said Son Thos. Tucker and my Son Marmaduke Tucker and So from that said line by a Strait Cone to the head or Extent of the Said Land.... To my Son Marmaduke Tucker the Remainder part of that Tract of Land which I bought of Henry Bright but if my Said Son Marmaduke Die without Law full issue then the Said. Land to goe to my Son James Tucker. .. . Unto my Son James Tucker. . . one Rape and If he die before he Come to the age of one and twenty all to be Equally Divided among all my other Children. ... Unto my Daughter Darkes Tucker one year old heifer... to Run on for her till She Come to age. . . my Seven Children. His mark Thomas Tucker. Wax Seal
So In conclusion, a “John Bass” did marry Elizabeth Tucker, but it was NOT Nathaniel’s son, it was William and Sarah Lovina’s son John Bass. This proves the previous Robin Tucker certificate 100% correct when placed with the correct people. That was the one thing that Bell and Ivan Bass couldn’t do. They couldn’t make that certificate fit their way it fits perfectly if you do the research and put it all together correctly. it also helped explain the HODGES Bible records if you are familiar with them. The TUCKERS are a whole other story unto themselves. Like the Basses, when put together correctly, it fits like a glove
The Nottoway, Meherrin and Blackwater Rivers originate in the southern part of Virginia and all join at some point with the Chowan River In North Carolina, in what is now Gates County. There is no mention of the Chowan tribe in those records which leads most researchers to believe that the tribe ceased to exist prior to that time, had moved on or were absorbed by one of the other tribes. However, until there are primary sources to prove such speculation, the tribes are treated as separate entities. The descendents of John Bass and Love Harris are to be found today in the same regions of North Carolina in great numbers. Later descendents of Edward and Mary were Jacob, Moses, Aaron and many Edwards and Johns. Because of the misinformation on the Internet, many applications for tribal membership are returned because of the crossing of lines between John and Edward Basse. There is much speculation about the nature of the tribes living along the Chowan. They may all have been cousins, but until such documentation Is discovered, it Is only speculation. The Traditional Nansemond living at Nansemond Town on the Chowan later settled in Southampton County (now Franklin, VA) where they secured a reservation which was sold in 1790 for $300.00. The traditional tribe became known as “Pochicks”. When they split in the late 1600s the other group known as the Christianized group moved to the Deep Creek area along the Great Dismal Swamp. The Traditional group later ceased to be a tribal entity. The existing Nansemond Indian Tribe is that same Christian group.
In 1786, there were only about five or six Nansemond still living on the reservation and they petitioned to sell the land or it was decided by whites that they needed the land more than the Nansemond. Be that as it may, the Legislative Petition of 1786 contains a transcript in which the last five Nansemond asked to sell off the Reservation, the petition was signed by Simon Turner, John Turner, Celia Rogers, and Molly Turner; there was a fifth person who didn’t sign. These are the only Traditional Nansemond, other than Great Peter who was on the Chowan in 171 0, that are known by name. After the reservation was sold (for about $300.00) the remaining Nansemond went to live with the Nottoway Indians, who later dispersed and ceased to be a tribal entity like the Traditional Nansemond. Court records have been searched diligently and there have been no later records of any Nansemond Indian in those court records.
The Laws of Virginia, First Session of the Legislature, a copy of the Statutes at Large, !volume XIII by William Waller Hening contains a transcript dated October 16, 1791 where Several men, James Wilkinson, Edwin Gray, John Thomas Blow, Thomas Edmunds, Benjamin Kirby and Josiah Vick and Robert Goodwyn, gentlemen, were appointed trustees to convey the lands belonging to the Nansemond. A Trustees’ letter of 1808 (in the Executive Papers, in the state archives) says that when the last Nansemond, Celia Rogers, died in 1806, nobody among the Nottoway came forward to take care of her young relatives, Alexander Rogers (h. cc. 1 797) and his half-siblings [ their unnamed mother] Solomon Barlett (b. Ca. ) arid Fanny Bartlett (b. cc. ), who had a Nottoway identity. All three children subsequently went to live with the “female chief,” Edy Turner, who spoke at least some Nottoway. The Bartletts disappear from the records after 1820. In the 1820s Rogers went to prison for 2nd degree felony-cutting, hut was released by governor’s pardon. His subsequent whereabouts are unknown, for he, too, disappears from the Southampton Co. records.
After that, the Traditional Nansemond ceased to he a tribal entity. The existing Nansemond Indian Tribe of today is the Christianized group who split in the late 1600s..
The Problem With Richard Basse (also know as Bazze)
(Note: Sometimes the surname Basse was written so that it appeared as Bazze due to the way the
English used what appeared to be double” Es or elongated “s”s which would make it appear as Bazze.
Even the” Rosse” surname sometimes appeared as Basse or Bazze(and vice-versa) and can be
contusing to researchers.)
Listed among the generations of John and Elizabeth is a son, Richard. Richard was born in 1658 and according to Bell’s book, he married Jane Bryant in 1680 and they had 6 children. Jane is said to have died February 1689/90. The book then lists Richard as marrying Mary Burwell (August 1696) and they had 7 children. Mary died after 1719. Sounds reasonable enough, Jane died, he needed someone to help out, he married Mary. Unfortunately, there exists a document in the courts that give the following information:
Henrico Co., VA Deeds 1677-1705 31 Feb 1703/4/ 1 Mar 1703/4
“Richard Bass, Sr. of Henrico Co. for 1700 pads tobacco to William Lewis of same I OOA land on the north side of White Oak Swamp next to William Ferris, Richard Ferris, Nicholas Amoss and William Porter; pane of 403A.
Wit: VV1/liam Blackman & C. Evans.
Richard (RB) Bays, Sr. Jane, wife of richard relinquished dower rights
This document creates a problem. Jane appears to have signed away her dower rights to the property her husband was selling, this at a time when she was supposed to he dead (1689/90). If the record is true, Jane was still Richard’s wife while he was supposed to he married to Mary. Either he was a bigamist or there were two Richards, which is apparently the case, Either Bell did not see this document (and one wonders why he did not since it was right there where the other records were) or he chose to ignore it since it presented a problem he did not want to deal with. There is the possibility that neither of these two Richard Basses were the sons of John and current research being done on this line seems to show neither of the Richards found in the records are John’s descendents.” Though there are no records to prove so, it is possible that Richard died as a young man and therefore left no descendents. The Nansemond Tribe will not accept applications generated through the genealogical lines of Richard until there is proper source information to indicate the lineage of the Nansemond Richard Bass. The current preponderance of the evidence does not point to either Richard. When the tribe was first organized, it lacked a trained genealogist and as a result, some Bass lines were allowed to gain membership. As a result, some of our current members were previously accepted through this line and the tribe has elected to allow them to keep their membership since it was no fault of theirs that membership was allowed. However, additional membership applications will not be accepted until the problems has been solved.
Nathaniel Basse, John Bass’s father, was not the Nathaniel Bass who was the son of Humphrey Buschier. Nathaniel Basse was a merchant seaman. Though much has been written that tries desperately to connect the two, It Is an exercise in futility. Nathaniel, the son of Humphrey (a merchant) died without issue, according to the London Registrars office and his will left his estate to his brother, Luke, who was a bachelor and also died without issue. His estate was divided among other family members. This is well documented in the London Registrars Office. Nathaniel Bass, father of John Basse, was a merchant seaman, involved with the transport of indentured servants Into the fledgling nation of America from the Indies. A manuscript about Nathaniel Bass is available from the tribe. The attempt to tie the Nansemond Indians to the Buschier line apparently comes from Albert Bell trying desperately to find a Huguenot connection for the man who paid him to do so. The research was to provide membership in the Jamestown Society, but that society does not offer membership through the Nathaniel Basse lineage because of the problems associated with the problem of the two Nathaniel’s. The early records show a Nathaniel Basse as a member of the House of Burgesses. As a footnote, since the upcoming Jamestown Commemoration, there have been numerous applications to the tribe trying to accomplish the same, though they have been in vain since the society will not allow them to become members even If they could show a connection to the real Huguenot Humphrey Bass (who came from Normandy) and his son, Nathaniel.
There is no substitute for original research. Original research takes time and money. That is why genealogical researchers charge anywhere from $20 to $30 per hour for their work. The advent of the internet has launched a mass interest in family lines, much of it originating from a public broadcasting system program series about tracing one’s family tree, after the infamous “Roots” TV special. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in a wave of incorrect and false information. And like telling a lie, the further it goes, the worse it gets. As a former Family History Director for the Mormon Church, I can vouch for the fact that most of the information on their vast storehouse of genealogical information is without sources to back it up. The Church has the largest storehouse of genealogical Information In the world, but it also, like the Internet, has a gross amount of information that has been put there by well meaning people who thought they were doing the world a favor. If incorrect information it placed on the web, in just a few months, It will show up on hundreds of other sights, thereby multiplying the problem. That is why original research is so important Thanks the valuable assistance from genealogists like Lea Dowd, Patty Sylvestry and Firehair, along with myself, the lines of the Nansemond Indian Tribe are secure with sourced primary references which will pass the legal requirements of preponderance of the evidence. We have spent years doing research and thousands of dollars as well. This has been brought about because of the tribe’s quest for Federal Recognition. To withstand the legal requirements for recognition, the tribe must have all its “ducks in a row” and be able to satisfy the stringent requirements for recognition. One of the most stringent requirements deals with genealogical information. On that, the tribe is secure.
This document was prepared by Fred Bright tribal genealogist for the Nansemond Indian Tribe. He can be reached on the Internet at [email protected] supposed errors can be directed to him.