In the mid-1700s, two Harpers (Castleton and Henry) appeared in Albemarle County, Virginia. Castleton patented his first land there in 1743, a year before Albemarle County was formed (from Goochland and Louisa Counties). In 1744, Castleton was sworn in as undersheriff of the newly-formed county. He was granted two more land patents (in 1749 and 1769). Castleton's name appears as a witness to several deeds and wills during that time. He gradually sold of much of his land during the latter decades of the 1700s, last appearing on a record there in 1796.
Henry Harper's first appearance in Albemarle County was in 1762, when he purchased land. He was granted two land patents (in 1763 and 1764). He sold off each plot of land within a couple of years and had moved to Amherst County by 1771. (Amherst County had been formed from the southern part of Albemarle County in 1758. Nelson County would be formed from the northern part of Amherst County in 1807. Some of the land that Henry Harper owned in Amherst County would later fall within the boundaries of Nelson County.) In 1785, Edward Harper (son and "heir-at-law" of Henry Harper, deceased, of Amherst County) sold off Henry's remaining land in Albemarle County.
A review of the published information (in print and on the Internet) regarding Castleton Harper and Henry Harper reveals much inconsistency and confusion about their relationship and that of the other contemporary Harpers living in the same vicinity (presumably their sons). Castleton and Henry are clearly associated with each other in in land transactions in the 1760s and 1770s, buying and selling adjoining lands and witnessing each others' deeds. Some accounts place Henry as Castleton's son, but this is not very likely as there was another Henry Harper born in Albemarle County around the 1750s who was probably a son of Castleton. A more likely possibility is that Castleton Harper and Henry Harper who acquired and sold land together in Albemarle County in the 1760s and later were brothers. That is the hypothesis that will be explored through this web site, using all known primary documentary sources in which these men and their descendants appear. (DNA evidence will eventually provide even more definitive proof, or disproof, of these relationships.)
Many of the Harper families in Georgia and other southern states trace their ancestry to Henry Harper and Castleton Harper. This web site is intended to be a compendium of the research done on this Harper family. Much has been published on this family in various Virginia historical books and family histories, some of it accurate, some not so accurate. As is often the case with family histories, once something is in print, it often is considered to be "gospel". It is my hope that this web site will facilitate a critical examination and discussion of the facts, legends, and myths surrounding this Harper family and enable us Harper researchers and descendants to learn more about our origins and our relatives' contributions to early America. The best way to separate fact from fiction and to resolve conflicting information is to go back to the primary sources (see Documenting Your Genealogy Research - Guide to Citing Sources). These include records of marriages, births, deaths, and burials, census listings, Bible records, tax lists, probate and land records, etc. The information in the descendant listings on this web site will include documentation of the primary sources as much as possible, and transcriptions of many of those sources will be presented in links below. This is a working document and not necessarily definitive, since much of it is based upon information found on the Internet or in published secondary sources. It will be modified and (hopefully) improved as more researchers provide input and, most importantly, evidence.
[This section is under construction. I will add a lot more to it soon. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a published history of Albemarle County with a bit on Castleton Harper, as well as some other Harpers (probably not related) who arrived in the county later. No differentiation is made of Castleton Harper's son Henry vs. his brother Henry. - MBA]
Albemarle County in Virginia, by Rev. Edgar Woods (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1901)t
Much of what we know about Castleton Harper and his brother Henry Harper comes from early Virginia land records. The first appearance of Castleton Harper is in a 1743 land patent in Goochland County (VA, Land Patent Book 22, pp. 33-35). He patented 254 acres, located "on the upper Side of Epps's Creek [adjoining] James Lee's Corner . . . North Side Epps's Creek . . . Epps's Corner . . . at the mouth of Beaverdam Swamp . . . Epps's Line". The part of Goochland County in which this land was located was broken off to form Albermarle County in 1744. In the modern map of the southern part of Albemarle County (below), Eppes Creek can be seen flowing into South Fork of the Hardware River from the south, with its tributary the Beaver Branch (probably the vicinity of Beaverdam Swamp). Subsequent land transactions involving Castleton Harper are all in this part of Albemarle County. Assuming that Castleton was at least 21 years of age at the time of this transaction, that would place his year of birth as being prior to 1722.
Some recent accounts of Castleton Harper's biography give Ireland or Pennsylvania as his place of birth. None of the accounts provide a primary source, so those are likely to be unqualified guesses and should not be given much weight (in the absence of stronger evidence).
In early 1744, "Patrick Napier & Castleton Harper having first taken the Oaths etc. were on the motion of Joseph Thompson, Gen. Sheriff of this Co. sworn & Adm. as undersheriff" (VA, Albemarle Co., Order Book "1744-1748", 28 Feb 1744). This was one of the earliest acts undertaken in newly-formed Albemarle County to establish its government.
Here are listings of descendants
(through six generations).
Explanation of Format of Descendant Listings
[Note: To view the Adobe Acrobat files, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. This can be downloaded free from http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html. You can download the files to your disk to view them, or use your web browser with the appropriate plug-ins.]
Descendants of Henry Harper [#1] & Judith Landrum (Adobe Acrobat document; 100 KB; 1 Feb 2010)
Descendants of Castleton Harper [#2] & Rebecah ----- (Adobe Acrobat document; 339 KB; 30 Jan 2010)
Index of Names (Adobe Acrobat document; 89 KB; 1 Feb 2010)
1800 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 9 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1810 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 13 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1820 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 27 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1830 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 45 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1840 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 51 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1850 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 180 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
1860 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 105 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1870 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 75 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1880 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 127 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1900 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 125 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1910 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 69 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1920 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 75 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
1930 US Census (Adobe Acrobat document; 83 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
Alabama Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 34 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
California Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 29 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
Georgia Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 318 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
Ohio Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 30 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
South Carolina Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 29 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
Virginia Notes (Adobe Acrobat document; 599 KB; 18 Jun 2007)
World War 1 Draft Registrations (Adobe Acrobat document; 51 KB; 31 Jan 2010)
Bible of Richard Harper (#212)
GenForum - Harper
RootsWeb - Harper
Jeremiah White (1695-1776) & Mary Martin of Virginia
Benjamin Head & Martha Sharman (of Orange County, Virginia)
A new tool in genealogical research is the use of genetic markers in DNA to establish family relationships. See Genetics, DNA and Health History. The Y-chromosome is passed down from father to son to grandson to great-grandson, etc. along the male line (as are surnames in many modern western societies). Occasionally, due to random mutations, one or more of the genetic markers may change in an individual and be passed down to his son that way (similar to a surname changing from Harper to Harpur). Standard tests are available (based on a cheek swab) to identify 12, 25, 37, or 67 markers on the Y-chromosome. (The more the markers, the more precise the idenfication; I strongly suggest 25 or more markers, in order to be useful for genealogical purposes.) All direct male descendants of Henry Harper or Castleton Harper would have a very similar, if not identical, set of markers (or haplotype). Someone with a surname of Harper (or some variation), whether or not they had done in-depth genealogical research, could compare their haplotype to known Henry/Castleton Harper direct male descendants see if they were likely to be a direct male descendant of Henry/Castleton Harper. Likewise, the Henry/Castleton Harper haplotype could be compared to haplotypes of other Harper families in the USA, Ireland, or elsewhere to see if these families were closely related. I would like to establish a confidential database of haplotypes of Henry Harper's and Castleton Harper's direct male descendants to (1) see if they match, and (2) give us a tool to identify other Henry Harper and Castleton Harper descendants and to find closely related Harper families. Ideally, we would need several samples from direct male descendants of each of Henry's and Benjamin's sons. The Family Tree DNA testing service is one of the most well-known. If anyone is interested, please contact me by e-mail. The tests range in price from $99-$269, depending upon the number of markers, when ordered from Family Tree DNA as a part of the Harper DNA project.
One of the descendants of Castleton Harper has participated in the Harper DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. We also have samples from two direct male descendants of Henry Harper (one from another testing service, Genebase) and you can see that their markers are very similar. The markers with headings in red (like DYS439 and DYS458) are known to be fast changing markers, so it is reasonable that we would see some variation in those values from colonial times until now. (A comparison at all 67 markers, http://arslanmb.org/harper/Harper-DNA-yResults.htm, shows strong similarity.)
They are predicted (based on their haplotype markers) to fall into the R1b haplogroup (a very common European one). The haplogroups will likely turn out to be identical, which can be confirmed by "deep clade" testing by Family Tree DNA, most likely R1b1b2 or a subclade. The markers that are different might turn out to be a way to differentiate the Henry branch of this family from the Castleton branch, once we determine (with additional samples from these two branches) where (in what individual in Henry's direct male descendant line) the mutations occurred. Results from the DNA tests of other Harpers with origins in colonial Virginia can show whether these families are closely related to Henry Harper's and Castleton Harper's family.
Here are the two lineages (of Henry and Castleton) that are included in the haplotype comparison above:
We would like to encourage anyone who is a direct male descendant of either Castleton or Henry Harper from Albemarle County, Virginia, or any other Harper male whose direct paternal line has Virginia roots, to join the Harper DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. Once we establish a database of y-DNA samples from each of the different Harper families from Virginia, it will allow us to sort out which families are closely related and which are not. This will help us be more productive with our research efforts into the historical documents. For the current status of DNA results for Harpers from Virginia, see:
This web page is a result of my own research over 41 years, and includes the collective works of many, many others to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. I would like to acknowledge them here.
If you find this information useful and would like to contribute a small (or bigger) amount to help fund this research, please consider selecting one of the options below. This helps me pay for subscriptions to web sites (e.g., Ancestry.com), reference materials (maps, books), supplies (paper, ink, binders, folders), time, and travel.