England itself was in turmoil. Religious differences between the established church and the Puritans had taken on political overtones. The Civil War of the 1640s brought Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans/roundheads to power, and King Charles I was beheaded. Some of the Royalists or cavaliers needed to leave.Virginia was an inviting possibility. Sir William Berkeley who had been knighted by the king on a battlefield was made Royal Governor of Virginia in 1641. When he arrived here, Jamestown had 8000 poor residents. Berkeley quickly set out to reproduce the privileged society he had known in the West Country of England. He attracted many ‘second sons’ who could not inherit land in the UK, but having grown up on an estate, this kind of farming was all they could do.
All counties in England are represented in the wave of migration but again a majority came from two areas – the West Country including the counties of Gloucester, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Wiltshire and Hampshire; and London and its surrounding counties. George Washington’s great grandfather, John Washington, immigrated to Virginia in 1656. John’s father had been an Essex clergyman. Essex although usually considered part of East Anglia borders on the city of London.These families, not those of the earlier, original settlers, are known as the ‘first families of Virginia.’
Sources:Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8
Smith, J.R. Pilgrims and Adventurers: Essex (England) and the Making of the United States of America. Chelmsford: Essex Records Office, 1992.