Descendants of the Great Dismal

Archives

As a Bass, I was born with one of the most recognizable “Nansemond names.” However, the Bass name was not associated with Nansemond ancestry until John Bass(e) (b. 1616), an English minister, married Elizabeth (b. 1618), a Nansemond woman and daughter of a Nansemond Chief, in 1638. Descendants of Elizabeth (my 9th great grandmother) have become some of the most researched Nansemond people; however, she was one of over a thousand who were… Read More

In genealogy, much of one’s time is spent learning the geographical and historical details of ancestral communities. I have written many articles about life on the Virginia/North Carolina state line, lifestyles, and infrastructure development that transformed the region–but researching these details was merely part of capturing evidence (knowing where to look and what type of records to look for). Throughout this process, I have learned many other details of personal importance that… Read More

When I first started researching my Camden County, NC ancestors it was clear that they had connections to the Nansemond community in Norfolk County, VA but it seemed like an impossible feat to demonstrate how the two groups of people were related. There were numerous individuals with the same names, same general places of birth and residence, and even the same approximate ages. Despite this complexity, I eventually learned to individuate conflated… Read More

The mid 1600s was a transformational period for the Nansemond people. After a series of violent conflicts between the Powhatan Chiefdom and English colonists, the Nansemond community was divided between those who chose to assimilate to a “Christianized” lifestyle and those who chose to remain “traditional.”1 As Nansemond people were displaced from their ancestral land (along the Nansemond River in present day Suffolk) through encroachment, the “Christianized” Nansemond shifted east toward Norfolk… Read More

This is my photo collection from the Nansemond Indian Pow Wow held at Mattanock Town on August 19, 2017. Kay Oxendine was the mistress of ceremonies with Dalton Lynch as arena director and Tatanka Gibson and Sierra Locklear as head dance staff. War Paint (Northern Drum) and Smokey River (Southern Drum) were the host drums for the event. It is worth noting the strong presence of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe (among event staff, singers, and dancers) at… Read More

The 29th Annual Nansemond Pow Wow is just a few days away and, though most Nansemond research is focused on the 1600s through the 1800s, I thought this would be a great time to share some insight on recent Nansemond history and the people, both inside and outside the community, who have been influential in the formation of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association (NITA). This article will include detail on Nansemond leaders,… Read More

The Great Dismal Swamp and its surrounding communities have an incredibly diverse history. As a near coastal region with numerous inland waterways, many different types of people traveled through, settled in, and migrated out of the area—including multiple indigenous groups and people from throughout Europe and Africa. Prior to the influx of newcomers, the identities of indigenous people were self-controlled. There were tribal differences between natives but there was no need for… Read More

This is my photo collection from the Nansemond Indian Pow Wow held at Mattanock Town (1001 Pembroke Lane, Suffolk, VA 23434) on August 20, 2016. The day before the event we visited Norfolk and Camden counties and, by traveling across U.S. Route 158 and up North Carolina Highway 32 (through Gates county), we were able to see all four corners of the Great Dismal Swamp before arriving in Suffolk for the Pow Wow.

The Nansemond are a Native American tribe whose ancestral land surrounds the Nansemond River in southeastern Virginia. During the early 1600s, the tribe was briefly part of the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom along with approximately thirty other Algonquian-speaking tribes in the area. The arrival of English settlers and the subsequent Anglo-Powhatan Wars led to land loss and displacement for thousands of native people. The majority of the tribe’s present membership traces its ancestry to the early intermarriage… Read More