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Kirtley Genealogy
Francis Kirtley & Margaret Roberts of Virginia

Historical Narrative
Descendant Listings
Documentary Sources
Discussion Groups
Other Links
DNA Research


Many of the Kirtley families in the USA trace their ancestry to this couple, who were married in or near Spotsylvania County, Virginia by the year 1722. This web site is intended to be a compendium of the research done on Francis and Margaret and their descendants. 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 Kirtley family and to allow us Kirtley 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.

Historical Narrative

Francis Kirtley (born around 1690) is believed to have come to Virginia from Great Britain in about 1710. The place of his origin is not known, but a good probability is northeast England near Durham or Northumberland Counties, where the Kirtley surname is most common. After his arrival in Virginia, he was a merchant in Falmouth (near Fredericksburg), in partnership with Robert Rea. In 1722, he received a gift of 100 acres of land from John Roberts, his father-in-law (presumably a wedding gift?). This land was along a creek called the Mountain Run, a tributary of the Rappahannock River in what was then St. George Parish in Spotsylvania County, Virginia.

The parish and county boundaries in that part of Virginia were to undergo major changes in the coming years. Spotsylvania County (formed about 1721) was much larger then compared to today. St. George Parish was divided in 1730 such that Francis Kirtley's land ended up in newly-created St. Marks Parish. In 1734, that part of Spotsylvania County was broken off to form Orange County. Again, in 1748, a new county (Culpeper) was formed from that same part of Orange County. The western part of Culpeper County (where Francis was to later move and establish extensive holdings of land) became Madison County around 1793. Therefore, when researching the Kirtley family during the 1700s, it is necessary to examine the records of Spotsylvania, Orange, Culpeper, Madison, and surrounding counties, keeping in mind the boundaries for particular years and subsequent county formations. These county changes give the appearance that Francis and Margaret Kirtley moved around more than they actually did during this time.

One artifact from Francis Kirtley's life that has survived to this day is the pine chest he used to bring his belongings to America. See FrancisKirtley-PineChest.pdf (courtesy of Steve Kirtley).

Francis Kirtley's pine chest
Francis Kirtley's pine chest

In 1729, Francis Kirtley took an oath as an officer (probably Lieutenant) serving under Captain Robert Slaughter and Major Goodrich Lightfoot in the Spotsylvania County Militia.Upon the formation of St. Marks Parish in the following year, Francis was one of 12 vestrymen elected to serve the parish. (A vestryman is similar to today's county commissioner, managing the civil affairs of the parish.) He was to serve in that capacity a number of times in subsequent years in the parishes of Spotsylvania, Orange, and Culpeper Counties. He was also instrumental in laying out several of the important roads in that area, including the Kirtley Road. (See photos of Kirtley Road (also called Kirtley Trail) near restored James City.)

Francis and Margaret had at least six children: sons William, Thomas, Francis, and James, and daughters Sarah Frances (married Jonathan Cowherd) and Mary (married James Collins).

Francis eventually settled a bit further west in the part of Culpeper County that later became Madison County. He accumulated significant land holdings within about five miles of Kirtley Mountain (see below), which was named after this family. The home place is believed to be in the area just northwest of Wolftown (as indicated by the oval in the lower right corner of the map):

Francis Kirtley died around the beginning of 1763 in Culpeper County (later Madison County), Virginia. His wife Margaret survived him, and lived there until her death around early 1781. His extensive holdings of land, as well as a number of slaves, were bequeathed to his wife and children. (See Will of Francis Kirtley.) See also Kirtley Land in Madison County, Virginia (by Steve Kirtley, 2003).

Descendant Listings

Many of their descendants lived in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and then moved westward and southward into Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and beyond. The largest proportion of Kirtley families, as of 1990, is in Kentucky:

  Kirtley Surname Distribution

A study of this family shows how the population of post-Revolutionary America increased so quickly. Francis Kirtley and Margaret Roberts had at least six children, 48 grandchildren, and 139 great-grandchildren.  Here are listings of known descendants (through six generations):

[Note: To view the Adobe Acrobat files, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. This can be downloaded free from You can download the files to your disk to view them, or use your web browser with the appropriate plug-ins.]

Children of Francis Kirtley & Margaret Roberts

Descendants of William Kirtley (#1) & Sarah Early
Descendants of Thomas Kirtley (#2) & Judith Calloway (?) & Dorothy Jones?
Descendants of Francis Kirtley (#3) & Elizabeth Powell
Descendants of James Kirtley (#4) & Jemima Roberts
Descendants of Sarah Frances Kirtley (#5) & Jonathan Cowherd
Descendants of Mary Kirtley (#6) & James Collins

GEDCOM (Kirtley, Generations 0-6)

Index of Names

Explanation of Format of Descendant Listings

There are a number of Kirtleys who have not yet been placed in this Kirtley family. If you know where they belong, please let me know.
Miscellaneous Kirtley Descendants

Documentary Sources

USA Federal Censuses:


USA State Censuses:

1885 Nebraska

USA Notes (Vital Records, Wills, Deeds, Tax Lists, Cemeteries, etc.):

North Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

World War 1 Draft Registrations
World War 2 Draft Registrations (Old Mens')

Will of Francis Kirtley (Sr.) (# )
Will of Margaret Kirtley (#/1)
Will of William Kirtley (#1)
Will of Thomas Kirtley (#2)
Will of Francis Kirtley (Jr.) (#3)
Will of Jemima (Roberts) Kirtley (#4/1)

Discussion Groups

GenForum - Kirtley
RootsWeb - Kirtley

Other Links

DNA Research

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 Kirtley to Kertley). Standard tests are available (based on a cheek swab) to identify 12, 37, or 67 markers on the Y-chromosome. (The more the markers, the more precise the idenfication; I strongly suggest 37 or more markers, in order to be useful for genealogical purposes.) All direct male descendants of Francis Kirtley would have a very similar, if not identical, set of markers (or haplotype). Someone with a surname of Kirtley (or some variation), whether or not they had done in-depth genealogical research, could compare their haplotype to known Francis Kirtley direct male descendants to see if they were likely to be a direct male descendant of Francis Kirtley. Likewise, the Francis Kirtley haplotype could be compared to haplotypes of other families to see if these families were closely related in the British Isles. I would like to establish a confidential database of haplotypes of Francis Kirtley's direct male descendants to give us a tool to identify possible Francis Kirtley descendants and to find closely related Kirtley families from the British Isles (and confirm if he originated in northeastern England or elsewhere). Ideally, we would need several samples from direct male descendants of each of Francis'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-$248, depending upon the number of markers, when ordered from Family Tree DNA as a part of the Kirtley DNA project.

To help defray the cost of the testing, I have set up a Kirtley DNA Project fund that will allow those of us without the Kirtley Y-chromosome (such as females born with the maiden name of Kirtley) to jointly share in the cost of this project. If everyone interested in this avenue of research can contribute a little from time to time, it will greatly help to increase the level of participation by direct male descendants with the "right" DNA. If you would like to take advantage of the fund for your test, let me know. Those of us not fortunate enough to have the Kirtley Y-DNA chromosome may help others out by contributing.

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.,, reference materials (maps, books), supplies (paper, ink, binders, folders), time, and travel.

Amount to Contribute

This web page is a result of my own research 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 would like to comment on any information contained within, or wish to correspond with me about this family, please send me an e-mail message at: Additions and corrections are greatly appreciated. I am especially interested in receiving information obtained from primary sources (census listings, Bibles, cemeteries, vital records, probate and land records, etc.) and photographs and digital images relating to this branch of the Kirtley family so that I can incorporate them into this page. Also, I would like to provide links to other pages on the Internet that deal with Kirtley genealogy.

Mark B. Arslan

Last updated on 6 July 2014