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William Howard Westray

Westray Clan in Colonial America

by Cdr. William Howard Westray, U.S.N. Ret., and wife Margaret October 5, 1985 (Rev. May 1986)


     The earliest positive record of the WESTRAY family in America that we have been able to find occurred in 1647 in the Isle of Wight County, Virginia, record book of "Wills and Administration", Vol. 1 1623-1750.(5) In it William WESTWARY was recorded as witness to the will of a Richard DEATH on March 3, 1647. In this same volume we find William WESTRAY as a witness to the will of William JEWRY on January 1, 1651 and to John VALENTINE on May 8, 1652.


     While WESTRAY appears clearly to be the preferred and correct spelling of the family name, we find a number of variations of the spelling that consistently occur in various records and documents; these are:




     Two other similar names, WESTON and WEST, appear to us to be inconsistent with WESTRAY, but it is possible that at least some WESTON's could be WESTRAY's; we did not pursue this conclusively one way or another.


     Possibly the earliest occurrence of a WESTRAY in Colonial America is contained in the book "Passengers to America" (3), which has an entry: "27 July, 1635 in the (ship) HOPE HUGH WESTON, William WESTLIE (age) 40". Could this be the William WESTRAY or WESTWRAY who witnessed documents for others in Isle of Wight County in 1647, 1651, and 1652, and received a large land grant in 1664? There is also an Elizabeth COTE (age) 22, whom William would have known and might have married, although other information indicates William WESTRAY married Elizabeth NELMS. All these are possibilities of happenings 350 years ago.


     An early colonial record that came to our attention is contained in "Cavaliers and Pioneers, Patents and Grants, 1622-1666" (1). In it we found a patent by Sir William Berkley, Governor of Virginia to William WESTWRAY, 750 acres of land in Isle of Wight County, September 26, 1664: "Upon a branch of the Blackwater, beg. on the brow of a hill by a great poplar by the swamp side, E. by Mathew TOMLIN's land, then SSE and SE, then WSW and WNW, then N to the beginning." We physically inspected this site in September 1985 and found a great poplar by the swamp NE of the Blackwater River. We talked to the present residents and learned that members of the TOMLIN family had visited the area in the last year, endeavoring to learn something of their ancestor Matt TOMLIN. We later found the microfilm of the original handwritten patent in state archives at Richmond, Virginia with more specific metes and bounds. However, in a record of "Wills and Administration" Isle of Wight County (5), we found the record of the will of William WESTRAY, leaving his estate to his relict (widow) Elizabeth WESTURAY (nee NELMS) on August 9, 1664, 45 days before the date of the land grant. Thus it would appear that William died before receiving the land grant patent, but that it likely went to his widow. We find Elizabeth still in possession of this land a few years later, when she deeded a part of it to a John Marshall and his son Humphrey in 1666 (6). And on January 20, 1712, 44 years later, we find neighbor Mathew TOMLIN conveying land to his brother John, and still describing it as having a common boundary with Will WESTRAY's land (5). One explanation of the above might be that Elizabeth ands Will WESTRAY had a son named William who was considered the male owner of the land (with his mother) after his father died.


     We found a record of an Elizabeth WESTRAY's death in 1750, and she lists as legatee's son William, daughters Eunice and Martha, and sons Robert and Benjamin. (5) We conclude two possibilities from this record: (1) That this would be the second Elizabeth, wife of the second William, (2) and that legatee William is the grandson of the first William. We also find for the first time a Benjamin WESTRAY, and a Benjamin married an Elizabeth SAWYER in 1763, and they (according to our sketchy records), became the parents of Simon and Levi WESTRAY, completing the direct line decendency to the present. In "Wills and Administration", Vol. 2 (5), we find reference to a Will WESTRAY being witness to the wills of John TURNER (1705), Rich WORRELL (1716), and John MACKMIELL (1730). We find no record of Will's death but he could have died between 1730-1750 and this period would be consistent with the decease of Elizabeth in 1750.


     One of the great difficulties in all this research is the almost total absence of birth records, ages, and except for wills, absence of death records; even these lack age information. What few such records one finds are usually found in church records and family bibles. A group of ladies in Isle of Wight County tried to tabulate these, including tombstone information, but we found no WESTRAY's among these records.


     We were particularly concerned with trying to determine the origins of Simon WESTRAY, father of John WESTRAY, and grandfather of Willis WESTRAY. We found the record of Simon's marriage to Mary SAUNDERS in Isle of Wight County, by Rev. William Hubard on May 28, 1787. She was the daughter of John & Elizabeth SAUNDERS, but his parentage is less sure. We have recently secured the sketchy group record that shows Benjamin WESTRAY and Elizabeth SAWYER as being married in 1763, and begetting Simon and Levi. Of course we have the Benjamin as legatee of Elizabeth WESTRAY in 1750 noted above. The confidence level of the group record is not high, but it is not inconsistent with other information we have reliance on.


     Besides visiting the site of the original WESTRAY land grant on the Blackwater River in Isle of Wight County, we identified and attempted to visit two other land sites with seeming WESTRAY connections. The first is called BURGH WESTRA, located in Gloucester County about 13 miles north of Yorktown across the York River. One reaches it by going to Gloucester Courthouse, and then proceeding exactly 2.5 miles east on Route 3/14 where one finds a country road to the right marked to "Dundee". Proceed to the end of this road through the woods. There you will find a beautiful white brick mansion on a bluff overlooking the bay, which was built and owned by a family called TALIAFERRO. It is presently occupied by a family named BOYD (Laurel Barnett). Apparently the mansion was copied from a Scottish mansion selected by the architect and built on the site for the TALIAFERRO's about 1855. It was used as a hospital during the Civil War. It apparently has no direct connection to the WESTRAY family in America, but the coincidence of names is remarkable, and further investigation might be rewarding.


     The other landsite was called WESTERHAUS in Northampton County on Cape Charles. It is, according to the description we read in "Historic Virginia Landmarks Register", "...in an advanced state of deterioration, (but) this compact farmhouse remains an outstanding and significantly rare example of the Stuart-period southern vernacular architecture". We did not have time to visit this site, but were we to do so we would proceed to the county seat at Eastville and make inquiries as to its precise location from whatever historical agency we might find there. WESTERHAUS is listed in the "National Register of Historic Places", and would seem to warrant further investigation as a WESTRAY (WESTER) family connection.


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     This document narrates the results of investigations conducted by William H. and Margaret S. WESTRAY (Bill & Marge) during September and October 1985. We visited libraries in Asheville, Richmond, and Smithfield, courthouse at Isle of Wight, Virginia, Hillsborough, North Carolina, and various other depositories of records of the colonial period. Our searches were limited by time constraints and are not to be considered exhaustive. This revision was updated in May 1986 by bits and pieces of additional information supplied by Wilbur WESTRAY in Louisville, Wanda WESTRAY in Georgia, and Lloyd WESTRAY in Dayton, Ohio. We were disappointed at not being able to find certain specific information that we were looking for, but were pleased to find other information concerning the 17th century WESTRAYs that we had not expected to find. We hope that our efforts may provide clues for others to pursue and for that reason are provided at the end, tabulations of vital statistics that may be useful to others. Peter WESTRAY in Canyon Country, California is known to be working on WESTRAY history in Britain prior to 1600, and at some time we hope to incorporate his information in this record. Wanda's daughter Carolyn is also doing research on early British WESTRAYs and has incorporated a lot of it in their WESTRAY book of 1985.


     For those WESTRAYs who are descended from Willis Calvin and Candice Lafayette Morgan WESTRAY, you will be pleased to note the seeming direct line back to Brigadier General Daniel MORGAN, hero of the American Revolution, who beat the British forces under Carleton at Cowpens, South Carolina in January 1781. This victory led to General Nat Greene's seeming victory over Cornwallis at Guildford Courthouse two months later, and to Cornwallis' surrender to General George Washington at Yorktown in September 1781. Candice's father was Archilus MORGAN, probably born in Hillsborough, North Carolina in 1781, apparent illegitimate son of General MORGAN. The General died at Winchester, Virginia in 1802, but his wife died in Russellville, Kentucky in 1816 at the home of her grand daughter Matilda O'BANNON. Her daughter was Betsy HEARD who also died near there in 1813.


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(1) CAVALIERS AND PIONEERS, Abstracts of Va. Land Patents and Grants, Volume 1, Nell Marion Nugent, Va. Land Office, Richmond, Va., published by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Md.

(2) EARLY AMERICAN EMIGRANTS, 1623-1666, by George Cabel Greer, 1979.

(3) PASSENGERS TO AMERICA, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Md.

(4) MARRIAGES IN ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, 1628-1800, Chapman, Blanche Adams, 1895, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Md.

(5) WILLS AND ADMINISTRATION, ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, 1647-1800, Volumes I & II, Chapman, Blanche Adams, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Md.

(6) SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, BODDIE, John Bennett, 1938, Chicago Law Printing Co., Chicago, Illinois.

(7) MICRO-FISCH RECORDS OF MARRIAGE BONDS, 18th century Buncombe County, Ashville, North Carolina, Public Library.



The following is the history of the family of William Howard Westray


The Westray Family Tree


     The Westray family name appears to be derived from the islands of Westray and Papa Westray which lie off the northern coast of Scotland in the Orkney Island group. Westray is the northernmost and westernmost of this group. Other Islands in the group include Ronaldsay, Sanday, Hoy, Shapinsay, Stronsay, Rousay, and Mainland. The principal settlement on Westray is the town of Pierowall, a small seaport of several hundred people. The island also contains Balfour Castle on the side of a hill about a mile outside of Pierowall, which is the ancestral home of the Earl of Balfour. It is a small stone castle with strong defenses, but in excellent, almost completely preserved condition. It is a National Trust Property, open to the public, tended by a farmer and family who live in a separate home nearby.


     A principal landmark is Westray Lighthouse which lies high on a cliff near the northwest point (Noup Head) overlooking the North Atlantic. Although several hundred feet above the sea, we found many rocks and shells that had been thrown up from the sea onto the plateau around the light, attesting to the violence of storms that occur there from time to time.


     There were several old churches with graveyards, and although we searched diligently, we could not find the Westray family name on any of the many tombstones or headstones. We did find many English given names, that have appeared to occur in the Westray family over the years.


     The principal industry appears to be cattle and sheep herding. There is also fishing, and many of the Westraymen were seafaring men. The captains of both the interisland steamers we rode were Westraymen.


     Westraymen also seemed to have family ties to the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Some of the earliest Western settlements appear to occur in the Orkneys. The settlement of Skara Brae on the West coast of Mainland is actually a subterranean village on slight rise overlooking the sea. It is now a National Trust (NT) property, open to the public and well preserved and maintained. The people who occupied it several millennia ago, are believed to have come there by sea from the Eastern Mediterranean, probably Crete or Cyprus.


     The provincial capitol of the Orkney Islands is Kirkwall on Mainland. It has a magnificent ancient Cathedral, another NT property. The great British naval base of Scapa Flow is located at the South part of Mainland. We reached Kirkwall by the Island steamer St. Olaf, from Scrabster, Thurso, Scotland. We were able to take our car along on this part of the journey, which was loaded into the ship's hold by cargo sling. On the day trip we occupied the first class lounge, a simple salon with benches around the walls and with the following plaque on the wall: "This lounge is certified for use by 30 passengers, unless occupied by sheep, cattle, or other encumbrances." We literally found out what this meant on our return journey a week later, when we were displaced for one night by a herd of sheep.


     Sometime, several centuries ago, a group of Westrays, along with a family of Morgans, migrated from Northern Scotland into Wales. They apparently came from the Loch Ness area. They appear to have been supporters (septs) of Clan Urquhart. On the west bank of Loch Ness at about midpoint of its 30-mile length, there are the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the side of a hill overlooking the loch. This is the low side (low road) of the loch. The east side is quite mountainous and constitutes the high side (high road). Loch Ness, of course, is the home (?) of the fabled Loch Ness Monster, "Nessie".


     Not much is known about the occurrence of the Westrays and Morgans in Wales, and we did not visit there. However, it was learned from our cousin Barbara Morgan who did some research on the subject, that the families of Westray and Morgan immigrated to America sometime in the 17th Century and settled somewhere in southern Virginia, probably around Okracoke or Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, near Pamlico Sound. Sometime later, according to my father Vernon Kennerly Westray, they migrated westward in North Carolina, thence to Tennessee, thence to Kentucky, where they settled around Lewisburg and Russellville in Logan County near Bowling Green. There they remained where they operated a tobacco plantation. They probably were slave owners before the Civil War. The Morgans and Westrays retained close ties and intermarried during this period. My grandfather was Willie Calvin (Tom) Westray and he married Candice Morgan, my grandmother, probably sometime around the middle of the 19th Century. I never knew Tom Westray, but did know Candice Westray, a frail old lady with black hair and wonderful eyes, who could read her bible without glasses until she died in about 1932 at the age of 100. The tobacco plantation that Tom and Candice managed was near Lewisburg. Russellville was the Logan County seat where records are kept. Tom and Candice begat at least three sons, John the oldest, Vernon, and one other (possibly a Tom who may have been older than John), who died young; he served as an entertainer with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish American War, and reportedly wrote the song "When You and I were Young Maggie", at that time.


     Grandpa Tom had a brother who begat a son named Herbert, whom I knew. Herbert was about 40 in the early 30's when I knew him. He was small and wiry, and had the nickname of "Stick". He was very devoted to my grandmother, his Aunt Candice. He used to bring her "white mule" (corn likker) to drink, and uncut tobacco to chew, a habit she undoubtedly acquired while she and Tom were plantation owners. There was a saying in Logan County that something was as clean as, or as white as "Tom Westray's white shirt". Candice has a brother named Benjamin Rice Morgan. They were very close, and he use to bring her gifts. When I knew them, they all lived in Louisville, Kentucky. We used to visit there on Derby Day. Grandmother Candice lived with my Uncle John Westray and his wife Pernella (Pernie) in Louisville and died in their home about 1932. Pernie and John had one child, a son named Herbert, born about 1920. Note the Herbert name again.


     My father Vernon Kennerly Westray, was born in Louisberg on April 30, 1880. At about age 20, still unmarried, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri with his cousin Benjamin Rice Morgan, Jr., who was known as Harry. Vernon also acquired the nickname "Dick" which he used in those days. He was a milkman, and he loved to run. He ran long road races, 10 miles or more, and at times ran Marathon races (26 miles, 385 yards). In 1904, at the St. Louis World's Fair, he is reported to have run in the Olympic Marathon, from Granite City, Illinois to the fairgrounds in St. Louis, and was reported to have finished 7th. When I was a young boy I remember seeing newspaper clippings and a medal to that effect - since lost. Vernon married for the first time about that time. Do not know his wife's name, but they had a daughter named Cecilia. I met Cile once or twice when I was about 5. She was probably born about 1905, but died at age 21 of pneumonia. I did not know her married name. Vernon apparently divorced his first wife and married again about 1907. We believe her name may have been Gladys. He had one son by that marriage, who was named "V. K." after his dad. V. K. was born in about 1910. V. K. has a daughter, Nancy and two sons named Pete and Mike. Pete served in the Navy in nuclear submarines, but now lives in Southern California and works as a technician for an electronics manufacturing company near Pomono. Mike is a policeman with the Davey, California Police Department.


     Vernon's second marriage broke up a few years later, but in about 1917 he married Margaret Evelyn Giedinghagen. Margaret was originally a Tucker from Poplar Bluff, Missouri but her parents died of smallpox in an epidemic about 1900 and she and her younger brother named Armin were adopted by Fred and Amelia Giedinghagen of Owensville, Missouri. Margaret was born about March 9, 1894, and died in Key West, Florida while living with us in March 1980.


     I was born in St. Louis, Missouri on March 9, 1918. I grew up in St. Louis, attended school there through high school (Roosevelt H. S.), and early college (Missouri U. extension in St. Louis). After high school, I worked at Emerson Electric Co., and at McQuay Norris Manufacturing Co. In February 1938 I enlisted in the Naval Reserve as an Apprentice Seaman. I was interested in flying and I was stationed at the Naval Reserve Air Base at Lambert Field, outside of St. Louis. I became a mechanic and rear gunner on various types of old biplanes.


     On June 10, 1939, Margaret Caroline Sandoe and I were married at Wright City, Missouri. We made our home in St. Louis. Margaret attended Lindenwood College, a girls school, in St. Charles, Missouri. I worked in a foundry as a lab assistant and attended college at night. World War II broke out in Western Europe in 1939, and in the spring of 1940, when the U. S. Navy began to expand I was called to active duty at Lambert Field where I helped service and maintain Navy Training planes. The Lambert Field Naval Reserve Base was being expanded to train Navy pilots and I became part of that operation. I also began to take flying lessons with civilian operators at Lambert Field. Margaret was still going to Lindenwood College, in nearby St. Charles, and I used to "buzz" her school when I flew early morning training flights.


     Our first son, Richard Howard was born on May 10, 1941. In the summer of 1941 I was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N. J. for parachute training. While I was at Lakehurst, Margaret's father, Clarence J. Sandoe, and my father Vernon Westray died suddenly. Lakehurst was the home of Navy Lighter-Than-Air operations. The dirigibles Shenandoah, Los Angeles, Akron, and Macon, all had been homeported there. The Hindenberg had burned there. The dirigibles had been destroyed or retired, but the U. S. Navy had started building large patrol blimps (K-ships) and began flying anti-submarine patrols for British merchant convoys sailing out of New York. I participated in some of these flights in the summer and fall of 1941.


     In November 1941, I reported back to the Naval Reserve Air Base at Lambert Field in St. Louis where new expanded facilities had been built. On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the U. S. was suddenly in the war with Japan, Germany, and Italy. I had learned to fly by then, and the Navy, needing pilots, gave me an officers commission as a pilot. I became a flight instructor for a while and later flew PBY and PBM patrol seaplanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean.


     We had duty in Trinidad, London, Norfolk, Dallas, Chicago, Monterey, California, Pensacola, and many other cities in our country and abroad. We all traveled throughout Europe, and I traveled in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the Far East.


     We moved around a lot during the war years and afterward. I was usually land based and Marge and the kids were usually with me wherever I was stationed. Barbara Ann, our daughter, was born in Dallas, Texas, in June 1945. Our youngest son, William Kenneth, "Ken" was born in Boston in November 1946.


     Our oldest son, Richard "Skip" is now a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, stationed at San Diego. He is an electronics engineer and a specialist in guided missiles. He has two sons. The oldest is Paul Westray, who recently completed training camp with the Marine Corps, and expects to soon be stationed in Washington D. C. with the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps. Peter, the youngest, lives with his mother Donna Westray, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attends high school there.


     Barbara Westray, is a school teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. She teaches physical education and science in a Christian School there.


     Ken is married and has two children. He is an industrial and chemical engineer and works as the new markets executive for the English China Clay Co., Ltd., with American offices in Atlanta. Ken's children are Sandra 13, and Timothy 9. Ken and his wife Linda make their home in Roswell, Georgia, a suburb north of Atlanta. W93.84West2


This information from:

William Howard Westray (FCAFC on main chart)

1401 Sunset Drive

Key West, Florida 33040


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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Revised: January 29, 2009.

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