First Pettits in American Series #6 –William Pettit of Louisa Co., VA -Possible French Irish Immigrant ~1720

By Brandon

Editor’s Note: I want to extend a special thanks to researcher William Sharp for providing excellent references for a number of the source documents used in this article.


When it comes to William Pettit of Louisa Co., VA, primary sources are hard to come by.  In this brief article we will look at those scarce sources and examine those unsubstantiated records reported by others.  If you know of someone researching this family (or one of the allied families) who might have something to add, please leave a message.

Alas, what we currently know for certain could probably be covered in one simple paragraph but we will not leave it at that.  Nevertheless, it is not the author’s intent to propagate false stories and, as usual, anything not proven will be noted as such.  Essentially, this article will serve as a placeholder for early immigrant, William Pettit, with the hope that it will be revised as more facts come to light.  Defining this genealogy is especially important when one considers the large number of living descendants which came from this man.


William Pettit Irish or French Huguenot Immigrant to Virginia

It is said that a William Pettit (born around 1697) migrated to Louisa Co., VA around 1720.  Some researchers claim William Pettit’s land of nativity was Ireland while others state that he came from France.  Though vastly different countries, these two origins need not be mutually exclusive.  It is very possible he (or his parents) came to Ireland after leaving France in one of the protestant migrations.  Indeed Ireland had intentionally poised herself to take on fleeing French pilgrims.  This is described in Researching Huguenot Settlers in Ireland, where Vivien Costello wrote:

In 1662 An Act encouraging Protestant Strangers and Others to Inhabit Ireland was passed in the Irish parliament. Foreign Protestants were offered a seven-year tax exemption, with the possibility of becoming freemen of Dublin upon payment of a £20 fine, along with free admission to their relevant trade guild. Thereby the newly appointed Viceroy of Ireland, James Butler, the first Duke of Ormond, hoped to attract to Ireland skilled Protestant artisans, tradesmen and merchants fleeing from religious persecution.

In Men of Mark in Virginia: Ideals of American Life; a Collection of Biographies of Leading Men of the State, Volume 5 by Lyon Gardiner Tyler an entry for William Beverley Pettit can be found which gives a brief biography of his great grandfather William Pettit —the son of William Pettit the immigrant.  Tyler stated that “William Pettit was a school-master and surveyor; and was sprung from that vigorous stock of French Huguenots which made its mark wherever it went from its native country, whether in Great Britain or America.”

Some of the details in the account supra harmonize with the information said to be found in Volume 1, p74, of a book written by Miller called Thomas Ballard Family.   This was summarized on an old genealogy website for the Ballard family (located here) which stated the following of William Pettit (son of William the immigrant) while discussing his daughter Susanna:

Susanna, was living 10 October 1773 in Trinity Parish, Louisa county; was living 30 June 1779; married William Pettit of Louisa county, who was born c.1736, a schoolmaster and official surveyor, who died in 1805 (the son of William Pettit born c.1697 in Ireland, emigrated c. 1720 to America, buried in Louisa county and Ann Baker of Spotsylvania and Louisa counties). They had eight children.

The Ballard account distinguishes between the two William Pettits (father and son).  The senior was said to have been born in 1697 in Ireland and came to America in 1720 where he died and was buried in Louisa Co. VA.  His wife was purported to be Ann Baker.

It should be noted that we are hard pressed to find a source at this time which draws a connection between William the son and William the father.  Nor does the record at this time indicate that there was two different Williams who resided in Louisa Co., VA.  Though the connection seems quite probable, it is inconclusive to say the least.


Irish Source

Perhaps the most compelling source for an Irish origin can be found in The Louisa County Historical Magazine, Vol 2, “Revolutionary Soldiers in Louisa County,” on  p. 75 which says:

Pettit, William, Louisa, E. age 49, 5′ 10″ planter b. Ireland Drafted from Louisa for 1 yr. 6 mo., Rev. Army Register, Vol. 1 (I).
This researcher has not actually seen a copy of this record or the “Army Registry” from which it was derived.  However, if it does indeed state that William Pettit was from Ireland, that would at least settle the question of his nativity.  It would not, however, settle the question of an earlier possible French origin which may have predated a move to Ireland.  A diligent search for the “Louisa County Army Registry” for the Revolutionary period has yet to produce the source record.  His home location in Ireland has also not been located.  (If you have a copy of this record, please contact this researcher so it can be posted on this page.)

The William Pettit Family Land Location

Though the information has not been verified by this researcher, it appears the William Pettit family (son of the immigrant) produced a number of Pettit descendants stemming from his sons James Pettit (b1762), Samuel Baker Pettit (b1763), William Pettit (b1766), Thomas Pettit (b1768), Hugh Pettit (b1770) and Ira Whitlaw Pettit (b1775) as well as two daughters Nancy (b1766) and Elizabeth (b1775).  There are several Pettits scattered across the country today who can trace their lineage back to one of these children.
Of these sons, it was James Pettit who inherited the land which belonged to his father William Pettit.  It is from his later land sales that we learn the location of the homestead.  In a deed registered in Louisa County Deed Book J on pages 660-1 we read the following:
…all that tract or parcel of land whereon William Pettit formerly resided lying and being in the said county of Louisa on the waters of Long Creek containing by estimation the quantity of thirty three acres…
… conveyed by the said William Pettit to Thomas Ballard in a deed… which Thomas Ballard devised to the said James Pettit…

Deed describing William Pettit’s land on Long Creek in Louisa Co., VA. Thomas Ballard mentioned. Louisa Co., Deed Book J, pp660-1. (Click to enlarge)

The rough location of that land can be found on a 1755 map of the interior of Virginia as seen below:

Fry, Joshua, Approximately, Peter Jefferson, and Thomas Jefferys. A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. [London, Thos. Jefferys, 1755] Map.

This can be seen on a modern map as shown below:

Summary and Conclusion

A William Pettit born around 1697 in Ireland immigrated to Virginia around 1720.  He had a son named William Pettit who lived on Long Creek in Louisa Co., VA.  These Pettits married into the Sharp and Ballard families.  Many of their descendants populate the United States today.

It would be research-worthy if a male descendant from this branch of Pettits could be located for a y-DNA test. This would tell us how closely related the William Pettit family is to other well known families like the Spartanburg Pettits.  Pettits who were related to the William Pettit family include:
Alvin Gilderoy Pettit Jr.
John Dillard Pettit Sr.
William Albert Claude Pettit
and many others.
If you have source records concerning this family that are not listed here, please contact The Pettit Research Project to help contribute to the search.