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French Surname

By tradition, the French name is Scottish in origin. Apparently, some kind of economic depression in Scotland caused the original French family to move away from Scotland to the English colonies in the late 1600’s. Early records of the family are scant and there is no proof or connection to the family in Scotland. The earliest French family settled at Westmoreland County, Virginia by 1690.

1st Generation:

John French was born circa 1715 in Virginia. He died after 1750 in Hampshire Co., Virginia (now West Virginia).

John is the earliest known member of the family in America. According to tradition, John was married “to a lady of Welsh extraction.” According to records we know that her name was Martha. Some records indicate that her surname may have been Upshur/Upshire, but proof has yet to be found. Their marriage occurred in about the year 1737 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. They had four known children: Matthew (see next generation), William, James, and Esther.

John French and his family were apparently enthralled by stories of the wilderness of what was then the frontier of America. In about 1750, the family moved out west and settled at “French’s Neck” in an area that became Hampshire County, Virginia (now in West Virginia). John French apparently died not long after arriving here. His widow afterwards married to a Captain Cresap.

John married Martha in about 1737 in Westmoreland Co., Virginia. She was born about 1710.

They had the following children:

1 Matthew French
2 William French
3 James French
4 Esther French

2nd Generation:

Matthew French was born in about 1737 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. (Some sources give a birth date of February 2, 1737, but I do not know its validity). He died in 1814 in Giles Co., Virginia.

Father: John French
Mother: Martha

In about 1750, Matthew moved with his family to what is now Hampshire County, West Virginia. His father died in his youth and mother remarried to a Captain Cresap. Matthew became estranged from his step-father and before reaching adulthood (late 1750’s?) Matthew sold his interest in his father’s estate to his step-father and left his family. At that time it is said he went to Culpeper County, Virginia. There, he married to Sarah Payne, the daughter of John and Sarah Payne in about 1758. (One source gives a date of January 10, 1758).

Matthew and Sarah (called “Sally”) continued living in Culpeper County, which is probably where there seven known children were born: John, James, Martha, Mary (see next generation), Isaac, Anne, and David. In about 1775, Matthew and his family moved again, this time they settled at what became called “Boyd Place” off of Wolf Creek in what is now Giles County, Virginia (was then in Fincastle County). While living in Giles County, Virginia, Matthew and his son John both served in the American Revolution. They were at the battles of Wetzell’s Mills (March 6, 1781) and at Guilford Court House (March 15, 1781). According to a recollection by Matthew’s granddaughter in 1895: “Matthew French was a small made man [with] light hair and blue eyes; his wife was a large woman, quite fleshy [with] fair complexion, light hair and blue eyes.” Matthew and Sally spent the rest of their lives at Boyd Place in Giles County, Virginia. Matthew apparently died at this place in 1814, his wife died in about 1810. Both were buried in a cemetery at their farm (called Boyd or French Cemetery) where a Revolutionary Marker has been placed to commemorate Matthew’s service.

Matthew married Sarah Payne on January 10, 1758 in Virginia. She was born about 1740 and died about 1810 in Giles Co., Virginia.

They had the following children:

1 John French was born circa 1760 in Culpeper Co., Virginia. He married Obedience Clay on January 16, 1787 in Montgomery Co., Virginia.
2 James French was born circa 1763 in Culpeper Co., Virginia.
3 Martha French was born circa 1765 in Culpeper Co., Virginia.
4 Mary French
5 Isaac French was born circa 1770 in Culpeper Co., Virginia.
6 Anne French was born circa 1772 in Culpeper Co., Virginia.
7 David French was born circa 1772 in Culpeper Co., Virginia.

3rd Generation:

Mary French was born circa 1767 in Culpeper County, Virginia. She died between 1823-1830 in Cabell (now Lincoln) Co., Virginia (now West Virginia).

Father: Matthew French
Mother: Sarah Payne

In about 1775, when she was a young girl, Mary moved with her family to what is now Giles County, Virginia, where they remained. On May 13, 1788 at Montgomery (now Giles) County, Virginia, Mary was united in marriage with Isaac Hatfield, who had moved to the area with his family in the early 1770’s. The couple began living at what is now Giles County. They had eleven known children: Lasher, James, Andrew, John, Anna, Sarah, Isaac, Mary, Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Elisha.

It is said that Mary moved with her family out west in the year 1800 and they settled in Guyandotte River Valley of Virginia. They eventually settled near a place called “Ranger Ridge.” At that time, this area was a part of Kanawha County, Virginia. In 1809, it became Cabell County, Virginia. Then in the 1860’s it became Lincoln County, West Virginia. Mary and Isaac resided here for the remainder of their lives. Isaac died prior to March 1823, when his estate was inventoried and his assets were sold. Mary purchased a variety of items from her husband's estate including most of the household items and some livestock. She probably died before 1830, when she does not appear to be enumerated on her own or with any of her children.

Mary was married to Isaac Hatfield on May 13, 1788 in Montgomery (now Giles) Co., Virginia 1.
For further information on their children, see his page.


1. Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850.