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What is the *real* origin of the WHITFORD family of Craven County, North Carolina?

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I’ll begin this post with the key question: Where do the Craven County Whitfords originate? 

Family tradition for at least the last several decades has claimed our WHITFORD family came from Scotland. That may turn out to be true, but for now, the facts seem to be pointing in another direction: Cornwall. 

Here are the first few generations of my WHITFORD line, along with facts that may shine some light on our origins: 

  • Thomas WHITFORD was born about 1706 in an unknown location. By about 1730 he was living in Truro Parish, Virginia and had married Sarah THOMAS, daughter of Evan THOMAS (abt 1690–1735).
    • Sarah had one brother named William THOMAS and a sister named Mary THOMAS who married Robert KING (b. ? in St. Paul’s Parish, Virginia, d. abt 1758 in Craven County, NC), son of Joseph KING, Sr. and his wife (unknown). He had brothers: Joseph, John, Thomas, and Benjamin. At least one of his brothers, Joseph, also moved to Craven County. (For more on the THOMAS family, visit this site: https://www.colonial-settlers-md-va.us/getperson.php?personID=I021872&tree=tree1 )
  • Thomas and Sarah WHITFORD had the following children:
    • Elizabeth WHITFORD (b. 24 Jul 1732) m. William SPEIGHT 
    • Thomas WHITFORD (b. abt 1733)
    • Martin WHITFORD (b. 1 Oct 1734) m. Mary PURIFOY (daughter of Nicholas PURIFOY). Martin and Mary had the following children:
      • Sarah "Sally" Whitford (1760–1809) m. Thomas SMITH, son of Samuel SMITH.
      • David Whitford (1764–1847) m. Nancy STILLEY, daughter of John STILLEY and Grace FOUNTAIN (I descend twice from this line, through John Martin WHITFORD, as well as through Narcissa "Dossie" WHITFORD)
      • John Whitford (1766–1829) m. Holland REEL
      • Elizabeth Whitford (1778–?) m. Elijah CALLOWAY
      • Mary "Polly" Whitford (1780–1833)
      • Nancy Whitford (1786–1826) m. Shadrach WHITEHURST (also spelled Shadrick WHITEHURST)
    • (Daughter) WHITFORD
    • John WHITFORD, Sr. (b. 1 Oct 1744–d. 23 Feb 1811) m. Sarah (LNU, possibly Sarah STROUD)
    • William WHITFORD (b. 21 Nov 1752–d. abt Dec 1804)

In a note handwritten by Col. John D. WHITFORD, he mentions that his father's family came from England. There is an error in the note, but I think it's from him conflating two of his grandfathers of the same generation. Here is the note:

John D. Whitford Note

 It says the following: 

My father was name Hardy for one of the Norfolk Hardys. His father David. His father Martin. And his father John, who came from England and located in Virginia & was a hunter and was ??? – then son Martin moved over into Maryland & located in Snow Hill than  & from there Came to North Carolina (illegible section scratched out refers to "... father Stilley though")

 It's true that John Dalton WHITFORD's father's name was Hardy, and that Hardy's father's name was David, and that David's father's name was Martin, but Martin's father was Thomas WHITFORD, not John. 

I think John D. WHITFORD has conflated information about his great-grandfather John STILLEY with Martin's father, Thomas. Nancy STILLEY's father was John and he did live in ​Maryland with his parents. His father, John Andersson STILLEY came with his family (including his own father, Anders Olofsson STILLE directly from Uppland, Sweden to America. They entered in to New Sweden, Delaware, then down into Maryland, through Snow Hill and over to Somerset, before coming down to Virginia. John Andersson STILLEY died in Virginia, but his son moved on down to North Carolina. It was there that his daughter, Nancy Stilley, met David Whitford and they married.

John D. WHITFORD didn't pull England out of a hat, and I doubt a descendant of a Scotsman would get this wrong. If the immigrant WHITFORD was from Scotland, he isn't going to accidentally confuse that with England. And I struggle to think a sincere family of Scots would have great-grandchildren mistakenly saying they're from England of all places. Great Britain, perhaps, but not England.

What about DNA?

This is what got me looking more closely at Cornwall a couple of years ago. I hadn't been paying much attention to my dad's Y-DNA results when my dad's first cousin mentioned that we had a close match with the descendant of a man from Cornwall. I'll be honest. I didn't even know where Cornwall was when he told me that. I had to look it up on a map!

Without going into a ton of detail (unless any of you want me to post more detail below... just ask), any DNA matches that we have both on FTDNA and AncestryDNA to WHITFORDs are either matches to the Craven County set or to one of two other sets: Rhode Island/New England area and Cornwall, specifically the area around Gwennap.

Since the earliest known WHITFORD in Rhode Island is Pasco WHITFORD, and PASCO or PASCOE is a very common Cornish surname, and WHITFORD is also a common Cornish surname, it doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to think that Pasco WHITFORD might've come from Cornwall. In addition, we have Cornish WHITFORD matches in our distant DNA and the closest Y-DNA relative my dad and his cousin have, again, is to the descendant of a man who came from Truro, Cornwall by the last name of ODGERS... but there were ODGERS/WHITFORD pairings in Cornwall around that time of history, so again, it suggests Cornwall.

I won't swear to our WHITFORD line being from Cornwall, but I think the evidence strongly suggests it. I also have a family that I'm speculating could be the family from whom our Thomas descends. If you're interested in more information about that, please comment below.