Powers Family Tree

The Power/Powers name appears to be French in origin. The name apparently started as le Poer, Povre, or just Pooer or possibly even Pohier.

oowers coat of armsIt is most likely our ancestors were not from the line that traces back to France but originated from Irish (and some transplanted English) serfs who worked the land on estates belonging to the le Poer (or Povre, Pooer or Pohier) family. It was common for the people who worked these estates to take the name of the estate owner.

Even though we most likely don't trace back to the French landowners, it is interesting to try and discover where the name originated. There seem to be at least two possibilities.

The le Pour, Povre and Pooer names derive from "the poor." That would be the name given to someone who was poor, or worked with the poor or even someone who took a vow of poverty. The Pohier name seems to indicate a person from Pois, a town in Picardy, North France, which got its name from the Old French "pois" which means fish. That area was known for well stocked rivers.

So, how did this French name get into England and later, Ireland? It was introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It entered Ireland in 1170 when a bearer of the name le Poer took part in Strongbow's invasion of Wexford. The name Power became one of the most completely Hibernicized of the surnames introduced at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. Today, it is principally found in and around County Waterford where that name is more numerous than anywhere else.

When King Henry II. invaded Ireland for conquest, in 1171, a chief command seems to have been given to Sir Roger le Poer, an "English knight", and, for "distinguished services rendered", large tracts of land were bestowed upon him by the crown.

In the "Doomsday of St. Paul's", a book published by the Camden Soc. of London, the name of William and of Walter Poer (Power) appears a number of times among those possessed of landed rights in 1222.

The Normans were given these huge tracts of land in Ireland with the permission of Pope Adrian in order "to enlarge the boundaries of the Church, to proclaim the truths of the Christian religion to a rude and ignorant people, and to root out the growths of vice from the field of the Lord."

So, let’s be honest, it seems most likely our ancestors were those "rude and ignorant people" and not the aristocracy.

The Power/Powers Family in America
Our Power/Powers ancestors were likely part of a migration of some 250,000 people who came to the "new world" in the 17th and 18th century. They were most likely Protestant.

Some were tenant farmers who had been settled in Ireland by the British government and arrived speaking English. They would later call themselves "Scotch-Irish" because they didn't want to be confused with the 19th century Irish immigrants who were largely Catholic and settled mostly in eastern cities.

There are numerous Power arrivals in America in the that time period. The best documented was Walter Power who arrived in New England 1654 and settled near Boston. I’ve not found any connection to the “Southern Branch” of the Power family.

The name of Walter Power appears on the Middlesex County records of 1654 as a boy 14 years old, and he was married, on "y e eleventh daye of y e first month, 1660," to Trial, daughter of Deacon Ralph and Thankes, or as sometimes written, Thankeslord Sheppard, at Maiden, Mass. Rev. Grant Powers of Goshen, Conn., has left a manuscript record, from information said to have been obtained from his gra'ndmother, the widow of Capt. Peter Powers of Hollis, N. H., that Walter landed at Salem in 1654, and that he married the daughter of a London gold-smith, which is probably correct, although she was born at Weymouth, Mass.

The Southern Branch
There is an oral history that there were three Power/Powers brothers who settled in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. It’s possible that our ancestor was one of those brothers but there is nothing beyond that story.
We have better documentation that what we believe is our Power/Powers line arrived in 1681 into what was called "Lower Norfolk," later Princes Anne County and now Virginia Beach. Our possible ancestor, Sampson Power, is one of 60 persons transported by Thomas Fenwick. Fenwick is rewarded with 3000 acres of land (his headright) in Norfolk County, on the Elizabeth River, on 28 Sep 1681.

Fenwick is a gentleman, son of Walter Fenwick of Atwick in York (England). Thomas Fenwick gets two pieces of land in the Norfolk area and a large parcel of land in Maryland, where he eventually settles and becomes a government official (Thomas Fenwick, by Edwin J. Sellers, Philadelphia, 1916). 

There are two notable factors involving Fenwick. First, the land he is given is similar in location to the land we see Sampson's son Samuel selling later. And second, all the names on the passenger list with Sampson Sr. sound more English than Irish. That fact, plus the wills and other legal paperwork he witnessed and the existence of books in his son's library at his death persuade the author that Sampson Power was likely English and quite possibly from the area around Atwick.

Immigrant Sampson Power (frequently shown as Powers) is a witness on several wills in lower Norfolk between 1697 and 1720. We believe Sampson Power married Elizabeth and died before 1730.

On the list of tithables (Lower Norfolk), starting in 1730, we see a Mrs. Elizabeth Powers with a group of slaves along the Elizabeth River. In 1733, the list includes Mrs. Elizabeth Powers and her son Sampson. If that is the year Sampson turned 16, the customary age to show a son on the list of tithables, this Sampson would have been born about 1717. Elizabeth is likely the emigrant Sampson Power's wife, and this younger Sampson (born in 1717) could be the emigrant Sampson's son.

The first entry that shows young Sampson: "A list of the Tithables is the Westron Branch taiken the 11th of June 1733 by Thomas Scott. Mrs. Elizabeth Powers & her son, Sampson & negroes Quoth, Sara, Miro & Thomas. 5" Sampson and his mother and various slaves are shown through 1736. That is Elizabeth's last appearance on the Norfolk County tithable list.

Sampson's land - along the Elizabeth River in Lower Norfolk - matches land we later see in the hands of Samuel Power. We believe that Sampson Senior (and wife Elizabeth) have at least two sons: Samuel (older and out of the home at Sampson Senior's death) and Sampson Jr.

Sampson Junior appears to have no sons. His will mentions only a daughter Elizabeth.

Samuel, son of the immigrant Sampson, has two wives, Amy Butt (a widow with considerable land), by whom he has several children, including a Sampson (grandson of the immigrant) and a Samuel Jr.; and wife Mary, by whom he has additional children. There are at least 12. We note that both Samuel Jr. & his brother Sampson (sons of Samuel & grandsons of the immigrant) are "Master Tailors" in Princess Anne County (carved from Lower Norfolk) around 1750-1752.

We believe Sampson (son of Samuel, and grandson of the immigrant Sampson) moves to Mecklenburg County, Virginia in 1780 and buys land from William and Thomas Powers, who we believe are his brothers or more likely, half-brothers.

From Sampson in Mecklenburg County we have a clearly documented line: Sampson, William (b. 1770), Henry (1809-1884), William Henry (1832-1911), Harvey Street (1882-1962), Claude Street (1908-1975) and then me - Harvey Wayne (1945- ). 

Sampson Power in Mecklenburg County
Sampson Powers was born before 1729 in Princess Anne County, VA. He died in Oct 1813 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. 

I believe this is the Sampson Power who is shown in the Princess Anne County Minutes Book as a "master tailor" who takes an apprentice on 15 February 1750 and again 19 February 1751. Those same records show a Samuel Power also a "master tailor" with apprentices in 1751 and 1752. I believe the dates suggest Samuel Powers, is Sampson's brother. 

In the first Census (The census of 1790), Sampson Power is living in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. By the standards of the day, he is prosperous, with three slaves and substantial property. On adjacent farms, there are two other Powers families. There is William Powers with a family of seven persons and Joseph Powers.
Sampson and his wife Sarah (we do not have her last name) have four children: William, Samuel H., Patsy and Sally Ann.  They are all named in his will.


Family Lines


There are several variations of the family crest or coat of arms for this family name. We've chosen one to show here but realize it is probably not appropriate to associate it with later generations of the family.

Created 21 November 2018 ---- (c) 2018. Harvey Powers. All Rights Reserved.