Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Thursday, December 18, 2014

George Brewer of Brunswick Co., Virginia: Some Published Sources

To my knowledge there are no published accounts of the descendants of George Brewer of Brunswick County, Virginia that are complete. By that I mean, the sole purpose of the book or journal article, is to present a complete genealogy of George Brewer's descendants. There certainly are no such published accounts that would meet today's standards for genealogical research. To remind any readers of this post, the purpose of this series of posts at Brouwer Genealogy into this Brewer family of colonial Virginia (and North Carolina) is not to compile a complete genealogy of George Brewer's descendants. The purpose is only to find at least one, and hopefully a few, verifiable pedigrees for those who are believed to be descendants of George Brewer and have taken a Y-DNA test with the Brewer DNA Project. Without a basis of a verifiable pedigree, Y-DNA testing of any individual for the purpose of determining their direct paternal ancestry to a shared ancestor is useless.

This post will address some of the published sources that include at least a partial account of George Brewer's descendants and have, apparently, been relied upon in the past by those seeking to prove their own ancestry back to George Brewer.

Edward Denton Brewer, The House of Brewer (Tulsa, Oklahoma: E.D. Brewer. 1947). This work is still under copyright and a free digital copy is not available online. The Family History Library (Family Search) has a digital copy that can be accessed through one of their Family History Centers, but cannot not be accessed by anyone from their own home. A digital copy can be accessed through Heritage Quest Online, but you must go through the account of a subscribing institution (generally a library or genealogical society). For those interested I have cobbled together a few sections of the book into a PDF and this is available online. This will be brief. Edward Denton Brewer can trace his ancestry back to Henry Brewer of Bedford Co., Pennsylvania. To those who are descendants of Henry Brewer, a.k.a. Henrich Brauer, The House of Brewer may be of some use. E. D. Brewer, however, made the claim, and he seemed pretty certain of it (see pages 5-7) that Henry was the son of George Brewer of Brunswick Co., Virginia. He is not. While many recent researchers of their Brewer-Lanier ancestry have realized this, apparently some earlier researchers did not. We now have the Y-DNA test results of another confirmed descendant of Henry Brewer of Bedford, Pa., that demonstrate that the tested descendant, and therefore Henry, are not related to those who claim descent from George Brewer of Brunswick Co., Virginia. The House of Brewer is of no use to anyone researching their possible line back to George Brewer.

Louise Ingersoll, Lanier; A Geneology of the family who came to Virginia and their French ancestors in London (Washington, D.C.: L. Ingersoll. 1965). A free digital copy can be accessed through the Family History Library's online catalog. The primary subject of this work is the Lanier family. George Brewer's first wife was Sarah Lanier, a daughter of John Lanier as proved by his will dated 5 January 1718. I have not seen a copy of the complete original will. To my knowledge the earliest abstract, or mention of it, is found in "Lanier Family," Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 3 (1922), pp. 130-31. Ingersoll follows the earlier Tyler's Quarterly piece and links John Lanier and his family to a Lanier family of London, England. Apparently there is some debate among Lanier researchers as to the accurate ancestry of John Lanier, and whether or not there were one or two John Laniers (a father and son) in Virginia. Although the account presented may be correct, I'll only say that I see no suitable proof that would allow the claim to be stated as fact, and will leave it at that. This is a problem for interested Lanier researchers to work on, and really does not effect the problem of finding a verifiable Brewer pedigree.
Louise Ingersoll's account on the Brewers begins on page 378 with Sarah Lanier. Her estimate of Sarah's birth date, and her claim that Sarah died between 1724 and 1729, are not explained. These dates have apparently been relied upon by later researchers despite the fact that they are not verifiable or supportable. Ingersoll's method for presenting the genealogy is awkward and anyone using this book needs to be careful. It is easy to confuse generations. She counts the ten children named in George Brewer's will, but claims all ten as children of Sarah Lanier, which is not certain and is likely incorrect. Her claim that George Brewer had a son Burwell, by his second wife Alice, is unproved and most likely incorrect. Her listing of the descendants of George and Sarah's children is not supported by references or sources. After a few weeks of working on the children of George and Sarah myself, I would conclude that Ingersoll's account has serious problems. In particular are the accounts of the descendants of George and Sarah's sons Lanier and Howell, which evidently have been relied upon by those who may be descendants of either of these two sons, as proof that they in fact are descendants. Unfortunately, finding proof for any children of either Lanier or Howell has been unsuccessful. More on that in a future post. Louise Ingersoll's, Lanier..., may be of some use as a beginning point for those looking for better proof of the Lanier ancestry, however, those researching the descendants of George Brewer and Sarah Lanier should avoid this work.

 Ben R. Brewer, The Long Brewer Line, Colonial Family Genealogy, with Ancestors, Descendants and Connecting Families - Research and General Information- (Knoxville, Tennessee: Tennesee Valley Publishing. 1993). Free access to a digital edition of this book can be found through the Family History Library catalog. This same page has a link to the 2008 supplement, Across Generations, Supplement to The Long Brewer Line. It should first be noted that Ben R. Brewer has participated in the Brewer DNA Project. He has taken a Y-DNA test. Ben's pedigree, as he submitted it, is found online at the FTDNA Project Page for George Brewer/Sarah Lanier Descendants. This page hosts pedigrees for the "Lanier - Brewer" group and was originally set up a few years ago. Many of the pedigrees on this page are incomplete in that they do not extend back to George Brewer. Some pedigrees are in error, and one such pedigree is Ben's (see below)*. Ben's claim that his ancestor is George Brewer of Brunswick Co., Virginia may well be correct, but that will only be confirmed through Y-DNA matches, and only after we have established complete and proved pedigrees for at least a few of those claiming George Brewer as their ancestor. Ben's "paper trail," arrived at by traditional genealogical research methods, has been broken, and is not complete back to George Brewer.
 The Long Brewer Line is useful for those researching an ancestry back to George Brewer, but it needs to be used with caution. Ben R. Brewer's book is well written, it is clear, and the author uses a slightly modified Register style for presenting the genealogy (see the section titled Register System here). He sites his sources using footnotes that appear at the bottom of the same page, which is much appreciated. There is no need to flip back and forth between the current page and an appendix. The citations are correctly styled, however, they lack any elaboration or comment. There are times when a cited source needs to be explained or questioned, and that is missing here. Ben does a nice job of linking the immigrant to Virginia, who he refers to as John Brewer I, to his family in England, that being the family of William Brewer of Chard (see pp. 7-15). Most importantly, the notion that George Brewer of Brunswick Co. is a son of John Brewer III (grandson of John Brewer I), is shown to be unsupportable (pp. 26-27). The parents and ancestry of George Brewer are unknown, and that is clearly stated on page 27, although a suggestion to his ancestry is made at page 38. Coverage of George Brewer begins with Chapter IV at page 37, where Ben acknowledges the earlier work of Marvin T. Broyhill, whose work I will discuss in the next post in this series. Unfortunately Ben R. Brewer begins his genealogy of George Brewer's descendants with the first generation as taken straight from Broyhill. It will be shown that this account of the family of George Brewer is flawed and needs to be revised. Ben provides a transcription of George Brewer's will at pp. 39-40**. The core of the genealogy, the second and third generations, contains numerous errors. There appear to be insertions of many names that cannot be supported by records. The source citations for specific statements, that appeared in the earlier chapters, disappear, although vague mention to numerous Deed and Court Order books is incorporated into the text. These references appear to come directly from Broyhill but are not properly cited (I doubt Ben looked at each and everyone of these records in their original himself). Chapter IV, which covers the children and grandchildren of George Brewer, cannot be relied upon as evidence or proof of a descent from George Brewer for any pedigree that accompanies a Y-DNA test result with the Brewer DNA Project. I have not had the chance, nor do I intend to take the time, to look at Ben's work for the later generations (fourth generation and on). My advise here, to those looking to compile a provable pedigree, would be to use this work as a guide and seek to verify, independently, with original records, any claims and relationships.
The 2008 supplement, Across Generations repackages the descendants of George Brewer into a more compact and concise presentation. More descendants are added, but sources are few and it does not appear that the errors of the earlier edition are corrected. As mentioned above, the connection of Lewis Brewer (generation 4) with James Brewer (generation 3), at page 19, is in error. There is a section claiming a lineage to Charlemagne and then to Clovis I, which may be entertaining to some. The section, Descendants of Lewis Brewer, Sr., begins at page 45. Here we find better verification of claims and other descendants of Lewis Brewer should find this section useful. As with The Long Brewer Road, the supplement, Across Generations should be used as a guide and with caution. It is not a substitute for a provable pedigree.

More useful sources will be considered in the next post in this series.

*The problem with Ben R. Brewer's pedigree was pointed out to me by Diane Daniel. And after about only a half hour of research using online resources, it is clear that Diane is correct. In Ben R. Brewer's defense, easy access to these records and indexes online was not at all available in 1993, and only to a limited degree in 2008. Ben's pedigree is under kit 29505. The problem is with the link between generations 3 and 4. Ben's ancestor Lewis Brewer (4) is not a son of James Brewer (3). James Brewer did have a son named Lewis as mentioned in his 1815 will, but he remained in Brunswick Co., Virginia, married his cousin Dorothy/Dolly Brewer there in 1821, and died there in 1853. He did not move to Tennessee as Ben's ancestor, Lewis Brewer, did. Hopefully, Ben R. Brewer's ancestor, Lewis Brewer, will eventually get correctly placed.

** the name of the witness that I had trouble with in George Brewer's will is shown to be Middleton Shaw. See the post of Dec. 16, 2014


  1. Is it known which of George Brewer and Abigail Wyche's children migrated to South Carolina? I found a William Brewer, who married Susannah “Ann” Cato, in the 1778 Camden District South Carolina Census. There is also a William Brewer in the 1800 Federal Census for Lancaster, South Carolina. Then there is an Ann Brewer in the 1810 Census for Lancaster, South Carolina; whom I assume to be William Brewer’s widow as his death was 1801.

    William's sister, Elizabeth, is thought to have married William Horton in Lancaster, South Carolina.

    A William Brewer and William Horton lived near one another on Little Lynches River as verified by land records. They also appear next to each other on the 1800 census. Going back further, George Brewer and Amos Horton (who is William Horton's father) appear next to each other in the 1748 Brunswick County, VA Poll List. The Brewers, Wyche’s and Hortons appear together in SC land records and also the 1748 Poll List.

    All of which seems to support Elizabeth Brewer, daughter of George and Abigail, as William Horton's wife.

    I just wondered if you had any further knowledge as I’ve hit a brick wall trying to figure out whether William Horton’s wife is Elizabeth Brewer, daughter of George and Abigail.

    Thank you

  2. Brandi, I don't have any further insight into the people you've mentioned. My own research has pretty much been limited to what you find here and in the Brewer-Lanier Database. But perhaps someone else out there researching this family will know something more and take the time to answer your post.


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