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Original Immigrant of Southern Clevelands

Children of Roger/Alexander Cleveland

  • John Cleveland
  • Elizabeth Cleveland
  • Alexander Cleveland

After months and pages of family history correspondence, the debate over the Southern line's original immigrant rages on with Cleveland genealogists split evenly between Roger Cleveland and Alexander Cleveland. Adding to the controversy is the frustrating fact that both sides can offer substantiating evidence.

Roger and Dorcas Cleveland

Roger arrived in Virginia before 16 Nov 1670, originally in Gloucester County (Records of Gloucester, VA, Vol. II, 1948). He purchased land in Old Rappahannock County, which became Essex (which became Spotsylvania). Roger is mentioned in the Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia on 16 Nov 1670 (Vol. 58, p. 254). George A. Martin in "Virginia Cleveland Ancestor Discovered" (National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 46, Sep 1958, p. 152) showed that Roger was the ancestor of the Southern Clevelands.

His children (John, Elizabeth, and Alexander--who married Milly Presley and advanced the Southern line) were all born in Gloucester County. Abingdon Parish records show that Alexander was baptized 31 Jul 1687.

Some dispute Roger as the original immigrant because there were no immediate descendants named after him in a time when family names were always passed along. The late June Rayfield Welch, a Cleveland genealogist and history professor with Dallas University, offered this explanation: "While Roger was a good name in England when our ancestor got it, by the time his children were old enough to name their offspring, roger had an unfortunate meaning in the Virginia colony. William Byrd, the ancestor of Admiral Byrd and Senator Harry Byrd and other sturdy Virginians, was a great man of Virginia. In his diary, where he recorded more than he should have probably, on many occasions he writes, 'I rogered her.' For instance, on 5 Feb 1712, he wrote: 'I rose about 8 o'clock, my wife kept me so long in bed where I rogered her...At night I read some Latin. I said my prayers and had good health, good thoughts, and good humor, thank God Almighty. I rogered my wife again.' [William Byrd, The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, Richmond, VA: The Dietz Press, 1941, p. 481]. So a Cleveland would be reluctant to use that name for several generations in the same way I would not name a child Gay now although I would have 30 years ago."

Alexander and Lady Axminster Cleveland

Moses ("Moises") Cleveland (b. c1577 in Ipswich, County Suffolk, England) had at least four children: Aaron (b. c1606 in Ipswich, immigrated to Plymouth, MA, 1635), Elizabeth (b. c1610 in Ipswich, rumored to be the mistress of Lord Oliver Cromwell), Moses (b. 1624 in Ipswich; emigrated from London to Plymouth, MA, in 1635; m. 26 Sep 1648 in Woburn, MA, to Ann Winn; d. January 1700/01 in Woburn; a direct ancestor of President Grover Cleveland and original immigrant of the Northern line Clevelands), and Alexander (b. 1617 in Ipswich; m. c1643 in Prince William County, VA, to Lady Axminster; emigrated before 1629 from Leicester, Laughboro Parish, England; d. in Prince William County, VA). Some genealogists claim that this Alexander was the father of the Alexander who married Milly Presley. However, as documentation there is only the written word of PL Gwynn Jones, MA Bluemantle Pursuivant, Queen Victoria Street, London, and Edmund Janes Cleveland in The Cleveland Family Genealogy, c1899. While the name Alexander does show up frequently in subsequent generations of the Southern line, there are no Moses Clevelands of note on this branch. If the passing along of a family name is to be considered as evidence against Roger, it can also work against Alexander, who chose not to pass along his father's name (Moses) to his offspring.

The concern of the "Alexander people" is that Roger seemed to appear, says R. Chris Cleaveland, "from nowhere" with no trace of him showing up in records back in the mother land of England. English records, however, do list an Alexander Cleveland as a son of Thomas de Cleveland of the Cleveland line established firmly in England.

The debate over the original immigrant of the Southern line will continue until some irrefutable evidence comes our way--a circumstance that seems unlikely to occur considering the scarcity of older records. In the meantime, those of us who spend a lot of time sharing genealogical information with other researchers have agreed that the fairest way is to present both sides and let each genealogist decide for himself.

c1993 by Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland and Cleveland Family Chronicles
All rights reserved.

Updated Information, Summer 2001

Descendants of Jacob and Mildred White Cleveland have, for many years, embraced the traditional opinion that Jacob's line was from Jeremiah < Alexander < Roger/Alexander. Recent research and educated genealogical supposing by Grace Lee Smith Green has provided other interesting and, in many cases, more logical possibilities about the early origins of this line of Clevelands. Because Grace is a careful, thorough, and meticulous researcher, her theories are not to be taken lightly.

Previously the concept was that there were two main Caucasian Cleveland lines in the United States: the Northern Line and the Southern Line. According to Grace's theory, however, there are actually two Southern lines, sired by half-brothers John and Alexander Cleveland, both sons of Roger Cleveland.

Those holding with the idea of Roger Cleveland as the original immigrant of the Southern Line are already familiar with the fact that he had three children, supposedly by only one wife (Dorcas): John, Alexander, and Elizabeth. John, though, seemed to slip into genealogical oblivion with only a parish notation that he had a daughter named Elizabeth. Roger's daughter, Elizabeth, did not warrant even a notation. Alexander assumed the sole responsibility for advancing the Southern Line of Clevelands.

Grace's research has fleshed out John's role in our early history. Roger's son by a marriage previous to his marriage to Dorcas (?Alexander), John was probably the son of a Miss Rowzee/Rousey, whom Roger had married in England c1650. John was born c1675. Roger later married Dorcas (?Alexander), by whom he had Elizabeth (1684) and Alexander (c1687).

Alexander's wife was previously thought to be Mildred/Milly/Mary Presley. However, Grace's research indicates that there was no Mildred/Milly Presley and that Alexander's wife was Mary, surname unknown.

Alexander's children had been thought to be Jeremiah (supposedly the father of Jacob and his brother Reuben), Alexander, John, Grace, William, Benjamin, Jane, Elizabeth, and Micajah.

Grace's research, however, indicates that Alexander had no son named Jeremiah and that the Reuben previously indicated as a son of Jeremiah did not exist. The confusion about Jeremiah Cleveland, which eventually was printed as fact in the 1899 Cleveland genealogy, may have happened when a Cleveland descendant, Peter Cleveland, stated that his great-grandfather was named Jeremiah, a fact that was true because his maternal great-grandfather was Jeremiah White (Mildred's father), not a Jeremiah Cleveland. The first son of Jacob and Mildred was also named Jeremiah since in that period, the English custom was to name the first son after the mother's father (contrary to the Irish custom of naming the firstborn son after the father's father).

The last three children previously attributed to Alexander (Jane, Elizabeth, and Micajah) also had different histories, according to Grace's research:

Elizabeth, who married James Coffey, was probably the illegitimate daughter of Grace Cleveland, according to research by Allen Poe, a North Carolina researcher who found a Deed of Gift from Alexander Cleveland. Since Grace eventually married Edward Coffey, he may have been Elizabeth's natural father, but there is no proof. (Edward Coffey's will is needed here.) If Elizabeth was indeed illegitimate, someone had to put up bond (probably her parents). Otherwise Grace would have been forced to reveal the name of the father, or she would have gone to jail. This record should be among Virginia County records somewhere, unless the bond was destroyed ~ or not yet filed and still in someone's attic or basement.

Micajah, according to Grace's research, was actually the son of John (son of Roger). Jane (who married Chesley Coffey) was actually the daughter of another son of this John, also named John.

This second John (son of John, grandson of Roger) had two children by a Miss Rhyse/Rice: Jane and the Jacob who married Mildred White.

The differences are outlined in the following charts:

Parents: Alexander or Roger and Dorcas Cleveland
*John Cleveland
*Elizabeth Cleveland

Parents: Alexander and Milly Presley Cleveland
*Alexander Cleveland
*John Cleveland
*Grace Cleveland
*William Cleveland
*Benjamin Cleveland
*Jane Cleveland
*Elizabeth Cleveland
*Micajah Cleveland

Parents: Jeremiah and Sarah Mimms Cleveland
*JACOB CLEVELAND (m. Mildred White)
*Reuben Cleveland

New Information

Parents: Roger and --?-- Rowzee/Rousey (?) Cleveland

Parents: Roger and Dorcas (?Alexander) Cleveland
*Elizabeth Cleveland

Parents: John and --?-- Cleveland
*Elizabeth Cleveland
*Micajah Cleveland
*William Cleveland

Parents: Alexander and Mary Cleveland
*Alexander Cleveland
*John Cleveland
*Grace Cleveland
*William Cleveland
*Benjamin Cleveland

Elizabeth Cleveland, who married James COffey, was actually the illegitimate daughter of Grace Cleveland.

Parents: John and --?-- Rhyse/Rice Cleveland
*Jane Cleveland
*JACOB CLEVELAND (m. Mildred White)

(No Reuben Cleveland here at this time.)

Why are there such major discrepancies? We eager researchers latch onto the 1899 genealogy and subsequent printed research gleaned from it, and in an excited genealogical rush, we are prone to accept everything as historical gospel. The fact of the matter is that the 1899 genealogy is indeed an extremely worthy resource, and Edmund Janes Cleveland and Horace Gillette Cleveland are surely to be thanked and commended for their Herculean work. However, there are definite omissions and errors in their work ~ especially as pertains to the Southern Lines. Edmund and Horace were Northern Liners, who in many cases relied on faltering memories and family rumors for their Southern Line information.

As the saying goes, however, faded ink is better than a weak memory. Grace Green is not one to accept traditional information when there is documentation available ~ documentation that may have been previously disregarded because it contradicted the 1899 genealogy. In some cases, she admits she has no actual proof ~ just a preponderance of circumstantial evidence that seems more in line with her thinking than with that of Edmund and Horace.

We shouldn't feel too guilty about our inclinations to accept the 1899 genealogy as the definitive authority on all Cleveland history. No less a respected historian as Lyman Draper did the same thing. However, now that Grace broken through the restrictive boundaries of traditional acceptance, I hope we all will shed our genealogical complacency and do some back-tracking and additional research to find the true histories of our ancestors.

Grace Lee Smith Green has made her research available for a very nominal fee of 50 cents a page. Those wishing to contact her may e-mail her at, or snail mail her at 8285 125th Place, Sebastian, FL 32958.

Copyright 2001 by Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland ~ All Rights Reserved

Deed of Roger Cleveland
Submitted by Grace Lee Smith Green

Old Rappahannock County Deeds & Wills 1677-1682 Part II pp 236-237 Nover Cort 79 Know all men by these prsents that I Symon Miller of the County of Rappae: Boatewright, for a valuable consideration already received have sold unto Roger Cleaveland of the Pish of Abington in the County of Glocester, Plantr, a parcell of land conteyning foure hundred and forty acres lying on the North side of Rappae: River and adjoyning to the land of Mr. Cornelius Reynolds on the East side of the said Reynolds his land, and soe running East to the River to two marked Beeches, from thence North into the woods to a marked red Oak, and from thence West to a marked red Oak, and from thence South to the place wherre it begins to a marked Locust tree in the line of the said Cornelius Reynolds, as the Pattent of the said Land at more large maketh appeare; To have & to hold the said Foure hundred acres of land and forty together with all woods Timber water profits and implements soever to the same belonging from me the said Symon Miller or my heires to the said Roger Cleaveland and his heires from time to time paying the rights and services to our Soveraigne Lord the King, And the said Miller doth hereby for himself his heires grant that he at all times hereafter shall possess & enjoy the said land wthout molestation of him the sd Miller his heires or assignes & whereas I the sd Miller have received bond or the said Cleaveland for ye payment of ye value of the sd Land upon paymt. whereof this convayance to remaine in full force & virtue and upon non paymt at the severall daies appointed, this to be void & of no force. In Witness wee have set our hands and Seales this 4th of Novembr: 1679
Signed sealed & delivd in prsence of us Cor: Reynolds, Jno Rowzie, Simon Miller, Margaret her (X) mark Miller
Recognitr in Cur com Rappae: 5 die Novis 1679

Know all men by these prsents that I Margaret Miller doe ordaine Cornelius Reynolds my lawfull attorney for me & in my name to acknowledge on Convayance of land granted by my Husband & me to Roger Cleaveland bearing date the 4th November 1679 to the said Roger Cleaveland his assignes as Witness my hand & seale this 4th of Novembr: 1679
Test Jno. Rowzie, Elizb her (X) mark Lawthland, Margaret her (X) mark Miller
Recordatr x3 die Novis 1679

Roger moved to that part of Spottsylvania Co VA, that in 1734, became Orange Co VA Ref: Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial VA, Vol 58, p 254, Virginia State Library, Richmond, VA. also Spottsylvania County VA Records by Crozier, p 17; Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Links to Other Clevelands
Cleveland Family Chronicles
Cleveland Family Forum
Edmund Janes Cleveland and Horace Gillette Cleveland
Original Immigrants of Northern Clevelands
In Memory of L. Jeanne Cleveland
The Cleveland Connection to Black Hawk Down: SSG William David Cleveland, Jr.
The Cleveland Coat-of-Arms
Colonel Benjamin Cleveland
"Sweet Lips: The Battle of King's Mountain"
President Grover Cleveland
Early History of the Cleveland Family
The Cleveland/Cromwell Connection
The Prevost Novel on "The Natural Son of Cromwell"
More Genealogical Links
Rooting Out Your AnceStory: A Primer for Beginning Genealogy

Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland at