Saturday, July 9, 2011


*The following represents roughly 15 years of research from myself and other genealogists, to whom I am incredibly indebted, along with the magic of DNA, which has matched Watson & Watts families from around the United States.

The earliest known ancestor of the various Watson & Watts families of the southeastern United States is Christopher Watson from County Cavan, Ireland.  Christopher came to Ireland from either the Scottish Lowlands or the north of England as a part of the larger Plantation of Ulster--the resettling of British Protestants on lands in Northern Ireland by King James I.  This process began in the early 1600s and had exploded by the 1690s, with thousands of Scottish & English settlers working the lands formerly occupied by Irish Catholic nobles.  Due to often terrible warfare, famine, expensive rents, and religious persecution, scores of such families decided to try their luck in the new British Colonies of North America.  Between 1710 & 1775, over 200,000 people arrived in the colonies from Northern Ireland, and thereafter became known as the "Scotch-Irish", even though "Ulster Scots" is a more historically-accurate term.  The Watsons were a part of this exodus at an early date.

Like most other Ulster Scots families, the Watsons first landed in Pennsylvania.  My direct line came from Adams/York/Lancaster counties Pennsylvania, and then followed the Appalachian Mountains to western North Carolina.  Another Watson line went south to Virginia, before turning west to Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas.  These 2 major Watson lines reflect the "normal" settlement pattern of Ulster Scots families, who tended to favor frontier land still occupied by Native Americans.

The possibility of Native American ancestry has always been a controversy in my direct line, as has the sudden appearance of the surname "Watts" in many Watson families.  Watts was historically a very important surname associated with the Cherokee, due to the leadership of Chief John Watts, son of a white trader named John Watts.  Some families switched between Watson & Watts several times in the various censuses, with a few using Watson in national government documents & Watts in personal documents.  Based upon 1800s war documents describing the complexion of various Watts, along with the physical appearance of several living descendants, I believe that my direct line reflects undeniable Cherokee admixture from the female side, and that the name Watts reflects that Cherokee ancestry.  In the 1890s Cherokee application of James Britton Watts of Oklahoma, the judge even conceded that he believed James's line was of Cherokee ancestry, though unable to prove a relationship with a living, enrolled member of the tribe.  (The other major Watson line that went to Kentucky consistently used Watson, and has no known association with the Cherokee.)

From Rutherford/Macon/Haywood/Buncombe counties in the mountains of North Carolina, my ancestors traveled west to northeast Georgia, southeast Tennessee, and my direct line, to St. Clair/Etowah counties in northeast Alabama around 1830.  Though my family remained in Alabama until 1959, several Watson & Watts families continued west to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and finally California in the early 20th century.  Like most other Ulster Scots families, the Watsons were Presbyterians when they arrived in North America.  Many in the major line from Kentucky became Baptists, and most in my direct line became Methodist Episcopalians.  Today, they are of all persuasions, and I myself am a Roman Catholic--which probably made my ancestors turn over in their graves. ;)  The Watsons & Watts also have a long history of military service, especially on both sides of the Civil War. 

Pedigree Chart  
*Christopher Watson from County Cavan, Ireland is the oldest known Watson ancestor.  One of his grandsons, Josiah Watson (1748-1828), was born in Philadelphia, and my John Watson (1728-1803) was from the Adams/York/Lancaster counties region of southeast Pennsylvania.  John was likely a brother, cousin, or uncle to Josiah.  Though I have not determined the precise relationship, we know they were related thanks to the pinpoint accuracy of modern DNA matching, historical records, shared geographic locations, and unusual family names like "Tarlton".
John Watson (ca.1728-1803)
*from Adams County, Pennsylvania
*buried Rutherford County, North Carolina 
John Watson, aka "Old John" Watts (ca.1760-1840)
*1/2 Cherokee per family affidavits
*from Rutherford County, North Carolina
*buried Wills Creek, Alabama
Eli Watson/Watts (1795-1875)
*from Rutherford County, North Carolina
*buried Whitesville, Alabama
Daniel Dodson Watts (1820-1901)
*48th Alabama Infantry Regiment, CSA
*from Buncombe County, NC
*buried Boaz, Alabama 
Daniel Oscar Watts (1867-1951)
*aka "Pap"
*from Sand Mountain, Alabama
*buried Haleyville, Alabama
Huey Britton Watts Sr. (1910-1994)
*WW2 Veteran
*from Haleyville, Alabama
*buried Union City, Tennessee 
Huey Britton Watts Jr. (b.1931)
*Korean War Veteran
*born Haleyville, Alabama
Perry Britton Watts (b.1958)
*Lifetime employee of Delta Airlines
*College Football Fan
*born Anniston, Alabama
Matthew Britton Watts (b.1986)               Zachary Henderson Watts (b.1993) 
*French Teacher                                            *Psychology Student 
*University of Alabama Alumnus                 *Pro Drummer
*born Atlanta, Georgia                                  *born Atlanta, Georgia

DNA Testing & Surname Location
The Watson & Watts DNA (direct male line only) is R-L48.  This marker is most common among the Dutch & Belgians, English & lowland Scots, Germans & Danes.  In terms of ancient ancestry, it is typically associated with the Germanic tribes who inhabited the North Sea coast of Germany around 1 A.D.  For those of us with Scottish Lowlands & northern English ancestry, it is typically associated with the Anglo-Saxon migrations of the 5th century A.D., along with the Danish migrations of the 8th & 9th centuries A.D.  The surname Watson is most common in the cities of Newcastle England, Glasgow Scotland, and Edinburgh Scotland.