The Dorsey’s Of Norfolk & Annapolis

Edward Dorsey

Much of the information contained here was gleaned from a book on The Dorsey Family, originally published in 1947. Additional information came from a book on the Founders of Ann Arundel and Howard Counties, published in 1905.

My father’s family stretches back to many of the first settlers of America (a.k.a. “First Immigrants” or “Planters”). The roots of his family tree spread back to the early 1600’s in the Norfolk area of Virginia, Port Tobacco in Charles County Maryland, Middletown in Connecticut, and Annapolis in Maryland. Since there are so many roots reaching back to so many places, the number of ancestors who helped found this nation is incredibly large.  The links above list my posts on just three of these branches (Adam Thoroughgood, Gustavus Brown and William Cornell, respectively).

This post highlights a fourth branch back to an American First Immigrant – one Edward Dorsey. Edward was born in England and arrived in the Norfolk Virginia area of around 1637-1642. It is not clear if Edward Dorsey came to America as an indentured servant or not. The first record of him is found in Lower Norfolk County and refers to the sale of cattle in 1642. If he was an indentured servant and served out his 5 years of servitude, he may have began to build is estate in 1642 – thus bringing him to America 5 years earlier. Or Edward Dorsey could have immigrated as a free man of some wealth, enough to begin purchasing land and assets. In any event, there are quite a few records mentioning him as one of the inhabitants who established themselves somewhere between Sewell’s Point and Tanner’s Point.

The following image shows this region from a 1907 map:

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Elphinstone Part 1: Connecting Dr Gustavus Brown To Clan Elphinstone

Elphinstone Coat of Arms

It took a lot of sleuthing and investigating, but I was finally able to identify the branch of Clan Elphinstone from Scotland that married into the Mitchelson and Brown families, from whence the Browns would land upon America’s shores in 1708 in the person of one Gustavus Brown. Dr. Gustavus Brown’s life story is incredible and worthy of its own biographical movie. But for the purposes of this topic, his story is a stepping stone for all those American families who can tie their ancestry back to this fascinating man and his royal Scottish roots.

Gustavus Brown’s ordeal in coming to America is briefly described in Virginia Genealogies” by Horace Edwin Hayden, 1891:

When a youth of 19 he became a Surgeon’s mate, or Surgeon, on one of the royal or King’s ships that came to the Colony in the Chesapeake Bay, 1708. While his ship lay at anchor he went on shore, but before he could return a severe storm arose, which made it necessary for the ship to weigh anchor and put out to sea. The young man was left with nothing but the clothes on his back. He quickly made himself known, and informed the planters of his willingness to serve them if he could be provided with instruments and medicines, leaving them to judge if he was worthy of their confidence. He began his practice of medicine at Nansemond, Md. He soon gained respect and succeeded beyond his expectations.

How such random events (a landing, a storm, a hasty departure etc)  led to Scottish royal blood taking root in America is truly wondrous. Dr. Gustuvas Brown went on to become a wealthy and influential man, whose offspring married into other families who shaped this country and fought for independence. But those stories are for another posting.

This post begins with a family Bible handed down to Dr. Brown by his mother (who remained in Scotland, where Dr Brown briefly returned before settling back in America). In this bible are notations to his heritage. And one key entry provides the connection not only to Clan Elphinstone, but also to which branch [click to enlarge]:

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Elphinstone Part 2: Connecting Isobel Elphinstone of “Selims” to Clan Elphinstone

Elphinstone Coat of Arms

In Part 1 of this post I laid out how a probable transcription error from the family Bible of Dr Gustavus Brown had made it difficult for his ancestors (like us) to trace back into a specific branch of the Elphinstone Clan of Scotland. Assuming this theory to be true, we can assume Dr. Gustavus Brown is descended from the Elphinstones of Selmys (a.k.a. Selims, Selmes, Selms). The question then becomes: can we find evidence of this connection with his grandmother Isobel Elphinstone – wife of George Mitchelson?

I believe I have. But first, a quick recap of the main branch of Clan Elphinstone is in order since it bears on the path of the Selmys branch as well.

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