Posted on


The House of Burnett is a wonderful organization preserving the heritage of the Burnett House of Leys regardless of what BURNETT DNA line you might belong to, it is something we all should be proud of and support.

This is especially true for me and Mary Nell BURNETT considering the current research on John BURNETT who married Lucretia in Essex County VA not being connected to the House of Leys. John BURNETT it turns out was an indentured servant imported from England in 1653. John might not be House of Leys, but we could not be prouder of this man who left everyone and everything he knew to go on a dangerous voyage to an uncharted new world. John was a man of courage and adventure for sure.

Below is an excerpt from our research paper copyrighted this year. The full paper is 32 pages long fully documented with primary source documentation. If you ask the question were there two John Burnetts in the area? The answer is no, the records of Essex County VA are intact, and it is clear there was only one John Burnett there. If you would like a copy of the full research paper, please email either myself or Mary Nell BURNETT

John Burnett and Lucretia MNU

In George BURNETT’s book, “The Family of Burnett of Leys with Collateral Branches” there is no mention of John BURNETT, tobacco merchant in Virginia or of any John BURNETT living in Virginiai.

In a previously published work, there is an unexplained missing twenty-year gap from the 1637 sailing to 1657 land purchase in the timeline of John’s life. It does not make sense that a man would go from being a “Wealthy Tobacco Merchant”, drop off the radar then show up 20 years later in 1657 as a land co-owner farming 200 acres.

The first Rappahannock County, Virginia generally known as “Old Rappahannock” County was founded in 1656 from part of Lancaster County, Virginia which became extinct in 1692 when it was divided to form Essex County and Richmond County, Virginia.”ii

John first appears in a court record in October 1653 in Lancaster County, Virginia. “Certificate of Land is granted unto Abraham WEEKES for Transportacon of 3 persons into this colony vizt, himselfe, John BURNETT & Tho. CHATTIN.iii

This record was granting Abraham WEEKES a headright for land for the transportation for himself and John BURNETT and another man Tho. CHATTIN.

The law at the time stated that any person under the age of 18 who entered the colony was required to be indentured unless they were accompanied by a parent or guardian. This record provides a clue as to John’s age (probably born circa 1634/1636) since he did not come with a family member. Was he related in some way to the men named in this record with him?  At this point we do not know if they are related, further research is ongoing. To learn more about indentured servants during this time, we recommend the following article.

“Indentured Servants in Colonial Virginia”

John’s next appearance is in Nov 1656 in this record in Lancaster County, Virginia.

It is ordered that Corne & Clothes according to the Custome of this Country bee paide out of the estate of Nich. FERMAN deceased unto John BURNETT he having served his full time.iv

Servants whose contracts had expired typically received freedom dues, loosely described as a quantity of corn and clothing. John having served his time was now free to make his own way in the world.v

His next appearance is in the following record; it reads as if he is working and being paid for his labor. Further research is needed on the contents of this record.

Dr. ANNO 1656. To John BURNETT per order: To Ann WELLINGTON for order; To Mr. GRIFFIN pr order; (missing) to pack the crop & men to carry them (missing) days to stick tobacco; (missing) Hams for order parcel of (missing) per order for fees (missing) for 3 persons; for costs of Suit 74lbs to the clerk pr pet; pr Commission Admrston Inventory & Copy; To Peter JOHNSON in part of his order; to ditto JOHNSON excucon served upon corn;To salary, To My Expense and loss of time; To expense in maintaining suit; To John BURNETT 3 barrils, To James COGHILL 3 barrils, To Peter JOHNSON 3 barrils, to loss in measure & rotten 1 bar (missing), Pr Contra- By Appraisment of goods, By the Cropp, by James CHRISTY; By do CHRISTY for Rent; By an old bed & rug not appraised. By 10 Barrels of corne paid to servants as menconed under the Debts.”vi

Indentured servants could not marry without the permission of their owner, nor could they own property. From the following record it appears that John was determined to make something of him- self. Very shortly after his service ends, we find him in the following deed record.

These Presents Witnesseth that I William JOHNSON for a consideracon do confirm a Bill of Sale unto Richard STEPHENS & John BURNETT for a parcel of land as it is marked out beginning upon the land of Richard STEVENS upon the North East side of PATATON CREEK(this is Piacataway Creek) & Westward to the land of Daniel JOHNSON the land containing the breadth of 100 hundred acres for breadth upon the land of Richard STEVENS this land here menconed I Will JOHNSON do confirme unto the aforesaid Richard STEVENS & John BURNETT to them & their admrs. Of assignes for ever in Witness I have hereunto setting my hand 18th of January 1657.”     Will JOHNSON

Witness Francis BROWNE Willin (W) HARPER

This Witnesseth that I Richard STEVENS do assigne & pass over unto David THOMAS & Richard MACKERBONE all my right & title of this Pattent with a parcel of land more that I bought of Mr. William JOHNSON as specified by conveyance dated 18th of January 1657 unto them their heirs for Ever & to acknowledge it in Court according to the law Witness my hand


           JOHNSON                                                                                                   Richard (RS) STEVENS


Mauldin (m) STEVENS

On 13 FEB 1660 John, Sr. and James FULLERTON are listed as neighboring property owners in the following deed.vii

Know All Men that I Francis BROWNE and Elizabeth BROWNE do acknowledge to have sould unto William RICHARDS his heirs or assignes one parcel of land beginning upon the land of James FULLERTON and John BURNETT at a marked white oak and to a marked Gum so into the woods for his length the said land I the said Francis BROWNE & Elizabeth do acknowledge to have sould to the said RICHARDS his heirs or asignes from us the said Francis & Elizabeth BROWNE our heirs & asignes for ever the said RICHARDS to pay his due of Fee rents due to the King. In Witness the parties sett their hands & seals this 13th of February 1660 in presence of

Tho. HARDING                                                                                                        Francis BROWNE

Thomas (X) HARPER                                                                                                 Eliza. (X) BROWNE

In presence of Will JOHNSON

We know that James FULLERTON and John BURNETT are neighbors as they bought land together in DEC 1659.viii

This indenture made the (missing) day of December in the year of our Lord 1659, witnesseth that we Daniel JOHNSON & Anne JOHNSON of the County of Lancaster for & in consideracon of certain service to be paid by James FULLERTON & John BURNETT from the 25th of this instant December till the land (sic) of November which shall be in the year of our Lord 1660 as by indenture bearing date the 5th of May 1659 will more at large appear do by these presents sell unto the said James FULLERTON & John BURNETT a parcell of land containing about two hundred acres more or less lying on the North side of Piscataway Creek bounded by an Oak Swamp & joining on the land of Robert YOUNG & on the S. E. side joying on the land of Richard STEPHENS to have and to hold the said land with all houses & whatsoever priviledges thereto belongth to them and their heirs & assignes forever they having first satisfied the above mentioned service & we do hearby warrant the quiet possession and injoyment of the aforesaid land & assignes and also we do bind ourselves (missing) such further conveyance as is needfull & as lyeth in our power to do at all times hereafter whensoever the same shall be required & likewise to acknowledge the Deed in Court within six months after the date hereof. In witness of the premises we have hereto set our hands & seals the day & year above written in presence of us George MARCH, Robert HILL.                Daniel JOHNSON, Ann JOHNSON

On 3 JUN 1660, Anne JOHNSON gave William JOHNSON power of attorney to acknowledge a deed that was sold to John BURNETT & James FULLERTON jointly.ix

I Ann JOHNSON do hereby authorize my Loving Brother Mr. William JOHNSON my true & Lawfull Attorny for me & in my name to acknowledge a parcell of land lying in Piscataway Creek sold unto James FULLERTON & John BURNETT. In witness of the premises I have hereto set my hand & seal this last day of June 1660 in presence of us George MARSH, Simon DORRELL”                                                                                             Ann JOHNSONx

John and his family lived on that land for many decades, 46 years after the above purchase, on 12 FEB

1705, John’s son, John Jr sold his father’s 100 acres back to the JOHNSON family, as listed in the

following deed, “John BURNETT, son & heir of John BURNETT deceased sold to William JOHNSON, 600 pounds of tobacco for 100 acres adjacent to Richard STEVENS, now William HUDSON’s on the northeast side of Piscataway Creek then to the land of Daniel JOHNSON.” xi

At this point in the analysis we feel the need to pause and address another problem with John concerning his wife Lucretia. Since John was an indentured servant and born about 1635 it is highly unlikely that he married a Lucretia JOHNSTON born in Scotland 25 years his senior.

Given the interaction in the above deeds with the JOHNSON surname and John, some people are going to be quick to make the claim that it was his wife’s family he was dealing with. Again, we have no proof that her surname was JOHNSON. There are no documents in Virginia that support JOHNSON as being her maiden name. Research is ongoing to try and determine her maiden name.

In Summary

John BURNETT came to Lancaster County, Virginia sometime in late 1652 or early 1653 as an indentured servant. A man by the name of Abraham WEEKS paid his passage. Apparently, John was indentured to a man by the name of Nicholas FERMAN aka FIRMAN who paid John his corn and suit of clothes when his indenture time was up late in 1656. John was apparently working for himself and forming bonds within his community. In 1657 and 1659 John purchases property jointly with two different men, Richard STEVENS and James FULLERTON. Subsequent land deeds show that John settled on Piscataway Creek in Rappahannock County, which later became Essex County.

Sometime between 1657 and 1660 he marries Lucretia and starts a family. From the records of John’s family, we know that for over 110 years his children and grandchildren continued to live in the same community where John first settled.

i Burnett, G., Allardyce, J. (1901). The family of Burnett of Leys: with collateral branches. From the mss. of the late George Burnett, Aberdeen: Printed for the New Spalding club.

ii,_Virginia .

iii Lancaster County Deeds & Wills 1652-1657”, Antient Press; Page 28.

iv Lancaster County Deeds & Wills 1652-1657”, Antient Press; Page 122.


vi “Old Rappahannock County Deed Book 1656-1664 Part 1”, pg 53 SPARACIO, Ruth. McLean, Va.: Antient Press, 1989.

vii “Old Rappahannock County Deed Book 1656-1664 Part 1” pg 105, SPARACIO, Ruth. McLean, Va.: Antient Press, 1989.

viii Ruth SPARACIO, Deed Abstracts of Old Rappahannock County, Virginia 1656-1664 (Part 1 of 1656-1664 Transcript): Records, Deeds, Wills and Settlements of Estates, (Part 1) 29 Sept 1656 to 1 July 1662 (1320 Mayflower Drive, McLean, Virginia: Antient Press, Ruth & Sam SPARACIO, 1989), Pgs.76, 77.

ix Ibid.

x Ibid.

xi Essex County Will, Deed & Order Books: Deed Book 8, pg 124. Essex County Courthouse 305 Prince Street, Tappahannock, Virginia 22560.