Monday, August 1, 2011

There Were Five Brothers

"My great-great-grandfather came to Georgia in the 1700's. June's got that he must have been the first Patterson to come to Ga. He came from N.C. That's where my Dad said 5 brothers came from the old country landed in N.C. They went to different places. Dad said they were Scotch Irish."
~ Aunt Nellie Patterson Mason, September 1982

I was fourteen years old when I received this second letter from Aunt Nellie. My grandpa Patterson had died in 1975 when I was seven years old, so I had missed out on any opportunities to discuss my Patterson heritage with him. My parents were missionaries in the SE Asian country of Bangladesh (beginning in 1979), so living 12,000 miles away from any other family members only added to my thirst for knowledge concerning my Patterson heritage.

At my dad's urging, I had written Aunt Nellie, the younger sister of my Grandpa. I had met her in person a few times and have fond memories of her to this day. Where Aunt Nellie said "Dad", she was speaking of Elijah Patterson (b 1871). Where she said "great-great-grandfather", she was speaking of John Patterson (b 1765 and married Margaret Black). It seems impossible that it's been 29 years since I received the above letter. And yet, I now feel as though I've come full circle.

The last 15 years have changed everything. Many brick walls in our on-going family tree search have come tumbling down. We know that old John Patterson that my Aunt Nellie referred to, was born in 1765 in what is now York Co SC. But at the time of his birth, it was considered Mecklenburg Co NC.

We know that John's father was Thomas Patterson, oldest son of Robert and Sarah Patterson. We know that Robert was born in the early 1700's. Some say 1705-10, I like to say circa 1711, but both are possible dates for reasons I won't entertain here. Robert was living in Sussex Co DE in the 1730's where some of his oldest children were born, perhaps. Most of his children were born in the Shenandoah Valley of VA, where all of them were raised.

In the early 1760's it seems that most of this Patterson clan and other relation migrated to the Kings Mountain region of the Carolinas - modern day York Co SC. But again, it was North Carolina at the time, so Aunt Nellie's version of the story is accurate.

They were Scotch-Irish (aka Scots-Irish, aka Ulster Scots), so again, Aunt Nellie's recollection was spot on.

For years now we only knew of four sons of Robert and Sarah Patterson. Recent developments have proven there was at least a fifth, James Patterson, who died in 1774 or 1775 just before Robert Patterson penned his Last Will & Testament in July 1775, leaving James out of the Will for obvious reasons.

So, there were five brothers. Aunt Nellie was right.

My chief goals in life (in regards to genealogy research, that is) when I first began this quest some 30 years ago were to find out 1) how many brothers there were, 2) what their names were, 3) which one I descend from, 4) when they "arrived", and 5) where they went.

Many stories I heard about these brothers listed different states they moved to, but there was always one that was a mystery. They weren't sure what happened to the fifth brother. While Aunt Nellie didn't say anything to that affect, I heard this from more than one relative.

This blog post is a special one for me. It's post #100 for this blog. Nothing earth-shattering, mind you. But still a special one. That's why I'm writing about this 29 year old letter. That's why I'm remembering Aunt Nellie, and the stories I heard as a youngster about my Patterson heritage. I'm returning to my roots - MY roots. My early years growing up in the 1970's and '80's.


1) There were five brothers.

2) Their names were Thomas, James, Robert Jr, Peter and William.

3) I descend from Thomas, the father of old John Patterson who moved to GA.

4) Thomas may have been born in DE or VA, I'm not yet sure which. The rest were born in VA near Harrisonburg on Linville Creek. That is where they and their sisters were raised. There were no less than five sisters, as well.

5) Thomas eventually ended up in North Carolina. James died a young man in South Carolina. Robert Jr died in Tennessee. Peter died in South Carolina also. And William? Well, we still don't know what happened to him. Last known record shows he was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War, in South Carolina. He may have died during that war. He may have moved away as so many Loyalists did. We just don't know.

So, while the five brothers didn't immigrate from the "old country" per se, they did migrate to the Carolinas (from VA) in the 1760's.

And, while John Patterson didn't actually move to GA in the 1700's, he did move to NC in the 1790's and then moved down into GA "from N.C." in the 1820's.

Aunt Nellie passed away in 1996. It's taken almost 30 years for final confirmation on many pieces of her story, but I'm just grateful to have had her story, in her own writing. Thank you, Aunt Nellie. And, thank you June Walker Brown, another Patterson cousin whom Aunt Nellie was quoting at one point. Sometimes family legends can be right after all!



  1. I have a William Patterson, b. abt 1800 in NC. found in TN, married and a son in 1833. He & family moved to So. Illinois abt 1839. I find him in 1850 census, not is 1860 and his wife as a widow & living with a 2nd son in 1870. Might there be a connection here....I hope?
    Thank you. Yvonne Tibbetts

  2. Yvonne,

    Do you know what part of NC your William was born in? I'm not sure if or how your William would connect, but it's always possible. There are other Pattersons from this group (based on census records) that have yet to be identified.



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