Saturday, July 9, 2011


WATSON / WATTS 
FAMILY HISTORY
*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.


History of the
Watson (Watts) Family,
AD 1 – Present

Ancient Origins
At the time of Christ, the earliest Watson ancestor with our DNA type (R-L48) lived in the forests and plains of northern Germany & southern Denmark.  When the Romans came into contact with our people for the 1st time, they referred to them as “germani”, and distinguished them as people living east of the Rhine River.  The ancient Germanic people based their societies on elected chieftains who only exerted total control in times of crisis.  The Roman historian Tacitus indicates that they were fiercely independent, and social status was achieved through personal military success.  Unlike the Romans, the Germanic people were monogamous, and women often enjoyed high status in society, especially as seers.  Their religion was very similar to the Norse pantheon of Odin, Thor, and the Valkyries, along with a reverence for oak trees.  Physically, they were described as having strawberry blonde hair & pale skin.  When the Romans attempted to conquer all of them in 9 AD, the ancient Germanic warrior Hermann (Arminius in Latin) defeated the legions of Emperor Augustus at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, guaranteeing the independence of Germania during all of Rome’s existence.
Homeland of the Germanic tribes in northern Germany & southern Denmark

The Teutoburg Forest, northern Germany

Routes to Britain
At some point during our family’s history, a male ancestor crossed the North Sea from N. Germany/S. Denmark to Britain.  The 2 most likely scenarios are presented here:

1.     Anglo-Saxon migration: In the 5th century after Christ, the Roman Empire abandoned the British Isles (Britannia in Latin) due to constant attacks against Rome itself.  When this occurred, the native Celtic Britons came under attack from the Scots (Picts), who led crippling raids throughout the country.  To save his nation, the Celtic Briton leader Vortigern invited people with our DNA type, the Anglo-Saxons, to come to Britain as mercenary soldiers.  The first two Anglo-Saxon kings to come from Germany & Denmark to Britain were Hengest & Horsa, and they led a powerful military coalition against the Scots (Picts) invasion.  Due to their service, they were rewarded with lands, title, and privileges in their new country, and quickly began encouraging entire families of Anglo-Saxons to come to Britain.  Due to population pressure & cultural conflict, the Anglo-Saxons then fought the Celtic Britons, pushing them to the fringes of Britain in Wales.  By AD 638, the Anglo-Saxons had conquered the Scottish Lowlands & Edinburgh, setting the framework for the rise of Scots English & the mixing of the Germanic Anglo-Saxons with the Celtic Scots.
Anglo-Saxon migrations from Germany & Denmark to Britain 

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, including Northumbria in the Scottish Lowlands



2.     Danish Viking Invasion: Unlike the other Vikings from Norway & Sweden, the Danish Vikings’ DNA is virtually indistinguishable from the Anglo-Saxons, as their homeland was in northern Germany and southern Denmark.  Beginning in the year AD 793, the Danes invaded Anglo-Saxon England constantly, focusing especially on northeast England.  The lands that came under complete Danish influence became known as the “Danelaw”, and today it is centered around modern day Yorkshire, founded by the Danes as “Jorvik”.  By AD 1014, the Danish king Canute the Great created an empire including Denmark, England, and Norway.  The only 2 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that remained independent were Wessex in the south and Northumbria in the north.  The influence of Danish Viking settlement in northeast England was therefore profound as a foreign population influx. 
Territory of the Danelaw, with major settlement in Yorkshire

Canute the Great's Danish Empire 

Early Modern History
By the early 17th century AD, the Watsons were living primarily in the Scottish Lowlands & the north of England, where they can be found to this day.  The surname Watson has historical importance with the “Border Reivers”—a group of Anglo-Scottish warriors who defended their territory against the kings of England & Scotland, preferring to be completely independent of either country.  While it is unknown if our family descends directly from the Border Reivers, it is likely that we are at least related to a few.  With the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, Europe and the British Isles were torn apart by war.  Atrocities were committed by all sides, and Protestants even fought other Protestants for control of territory.  By the time of King James I (1566-1625), the Anglo-Scottish border region had become a hotbed of lawlessness and rebellion against the Church of England.  A brilliant tactician, James decided to kill two birds with one stone—he sent the Border Reivers across the sea to Northern Ireland, thereby emptying the border of rebels, and at the same time, gaining skilled Protestant soldiers against Catholic Irish rebels.  As the Watsons were Presbyterians, they settled in County Cavan, Northern Ireland before 1690, where the first named Watson in our line was born, Christopher Watson.  Once in Northern Ireland, families like the Watsons faced terrible warfare against the Irish, persecution by Church of England landowners, frequent famine, and expensive rents.  As a result, 200,000 people in Northern Ireland decided to try their luck in the 13 Colonies between 1710-1775, and the Watson family made the trip around 1710.
Landscape in the Scottish Lowlands 

Migration of Lowland Scots to Northern Ireland

County Cavan, Ulster, Ireland 

Modern History
In the 13 Colonies, families from Northern Ireland with origins in the Anglo-Scottish border region became known as “Scotch-Irish”, even though “Ulster Scots” is a more historically-accurate term.  The Scotch-Irish became famous for their close-knit families, self-reliance, frontier lifestyle, and musical tradition, which had a profound impact on American culture.  Like the rest of the Scotch-Irish, the Watsons settled first in Pennsylvania, landing at Philadelphia around 1710.  From there, 2 major branches of the family split, one heading west to Adams, York, and Lancaster counties, Pennsylvania, while the other went south to Richmond, Virginia with Josiah Watson (1748-1828).  Our direct line followed the Great Wagon Road from York County, Pennsylvania with John Watson (ca.1728-1803).  Along with several other Watsons from York County, John settled in Rutherford County, North Carolina and recorded his will there.  These Watsons were Presbyterian and lived at the border of the Appalachians and Piedmont in western North Carolina.  John’s son, John Watson Jr. (ca.1756-1842), was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, and resided in the Nantahala wilderness by 1830.  According to family records, he also went by “Old John Watts”, and was said to be about ½ Cherokee on his maternal side.  Since the only Watsons who switched their name to Watts came from North Carolina (the Cherokee homeland), it seems that the name Watts was a tribute to their known Cherokee identity, and that one of John’s female ancestors was a Cherokee Indian. 
The Great Wagon Road used by the Scotch-Irish 

Fall Stream in the Appalachian Mountains 

While our line was in North Carolina, the other major Watson branch had moved west from Richmond, Virginia into Kentucky, eventually settling in Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas.  This line became Missionary Baptists primarily.  Our direct line from John Watson Jr. (ca.1756-1842) descends from two brothers, Levi Watson (1792-1862), and our line, Eli Watson (1795-1875).  Both brothers had explored and purchased land in northeast Alabama before 1819, when Alabama officially became a state.  The majority population of that region at the time was Cherokee, Creek, and other Native Americans, which seems to support the argument of our family’s mixed ethnic heritage.  Moreover, war records from other Watsons of the period describe them as dark-complexioned, with brown eyes and brown hair, and a judge determined in the 1890s that our family was “of Cherokee descent”.  By 1830, the entire family (including John Watson Jr.) had settled on Wills Creek, in modern Attalla, Alabama.  Their original land plot was deeded to Levi Watson and remained in the family’s possession for over a century.  (Today it’s located on a golf course).  After arriving in Alabama, Levi & Eli decided to join the Methodist Episcopal Church, and even gave money and land to construct churches.  Methodism quickly outpaced Presbyterianism along the frontier, as Methodist ministers required less formal education, and their message of forgiveness attracted converts who were troubled by austere Calvinism.  While Levi’s family continued west to Arkansas, our direct line from Eli remained in Alabama.  Eli was the first to use Watts in U.S. census records, though he still used Watson interchangeably.  Eli’s son, Daniel Dodson Watson/Watts (1820-1901) was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina before the migration to Alabama.  By the time of the Civil War, Daniel joined the 48th Alabama Infantry Regiment and fought at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he was hit in the groin during a charge led by John Bell Hood and disabled for life.  One of Daniel’s sons, James Britton Watts (1844-1907), fought in every major battle, including Gettysburg, and surrendered with Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. 
Daniel Dodson Watson/Watts (1820-1901)

Chickamauga Battlefield 

James Britton Watts (1844-1907)


Daniel’s younger son, and the next ancestor of our direct line, was Daniel Oscar Watts (1867-1951), the first Watts to reside in Haleyville, Alabama.  He was known as Oscar, Osco, and Papp, and began the tradition of using the middle name “Brittin” in honor of his brother, James.  After the Civil War, James continued west to Oklahoma and helped found Watts Community, where he was a Mason and supported a local school.  Oscar remained in Haleyville, Alabama until his death.  His son, Huey Brittin Watts Sr. (1910-1994), was the first Watts born in Haleyville, Alabama.  He married Elma McNutt and is buried in Union City, Tennessee.  His son, Huey Brittin Watts Jr. was born in Haleyville, Alabama.  He is a Marine Corps veteran of Korea, a lifetime employee of CSX, and an avid gardener.  He married Nell Mayhall, daughter of Walter Mayhall & Cloa Thomas.  Huey and Nell lived in several cities in the southeast, including Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Atlanta metro area.  They have two children, Rita (Watts) Lemons, and Perry Brittin Watts.  Rita is a schoolteacher, wife of Tony Lemons, and mother to Mark and Andrew Lemons.  Perry worked as a lifetime employee of Delta Airlines, is an avid Disney fan, married Chris (Henderson) Watts, daughter of Billy Henderson & Frances West, and is the father of Matthew and Zachary Watts. 

Modern Surname Distribution:
Top 5 Cities in Britain: 1.Newcastle, England  2.Glasgow, Scotland  3.Edinburgh, Scotland,  4.Aberdeen, Scotland  5.York, England
Top 5 Nations Worldwide: 1.Australia  2.Great Britain  3.New Zealand  4.United States  5.Canada
Top 5 States in USA: 1.Alabama  2.Arkansas  3.North Carolina  4.South Carolina  5.Tennessee
Distribution of Watsons in Britain