Friday, March 12, 2010

My longest standing brick wall

My longest standing brick wall is the origins of my 6th great-grandfather, Philip Dowell who died in Maryland in 1733. I have known about Philip since the 70s when my dad took me to visit a distant cousin of his who turned out to have a typescript copy of a Dowell family history done by an even more distant cousin. Over the ensuing years I have been able to uncover a lot of information about his adult life as a tobacco planter in Southern Maryland. I've visited the church that is on the site of his 1702 marriage to Mary Tydings. I've walked on 80 acres of land still owned by a sixth cousin-once removed which was part of 320+ acres that Philip purchased in 1722. However, in all the ensuing years, I have, yet to find convincing evidence about the origins of Philip and how he got to Ann Arundel County, Maryland in the 1690s.

On Wednesday another Dowell researcher, in sorting through his files, came across a reference to Philip and made the following post on the Dowell Family History site at
"Scottish Immigrants to North America.1600s - 1800s........Phillip Dowell the collected works of David Dobson: on a CD
Posted for Dave Dowell
Hey Dave~
BK 1485 - Directory of Scots Banished to The American Plantations 1650-1775 - page 176
This tells me that Philllip was probably the first Dowell to America, and evidence of that event taking place.........................
any comments from"

When J.E. Dowell speaks, I listen. He has been researching the Dowells several years longer than the four decades that I have been. He is the one that I was trying to match when I first DNA tested in 2004. We had been exchanging information for years and knew that his earliest documentable Dowell was in Virginia in the early 1700s. It was so logical that we had a common ancestor. One could have easily sailed down the James River in Virginia and up the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland or vice versa. That was the way that goods were brought in from England and tobacco was exported back to England to pay for it. So, after decades of futile efforts to find our missing link, we decided to DNA test to prove we were on the right trail.

Wrong!! According to DNA evidence J.E. and I have not had a common biological ancestor on our paternal lines for at least 3,000 years! However, we remain research colleagues and help other Dowells sort out from which branch they descend.

So when J.E. made that post, I paid attention. I went to and discovered that Google has digitized that book but only the first 23 pages can be searched online. I then turned to and found that the closest library to me which owned the book was about 45 minutes away in Santa Maria. I induced my wife to accompany me by promising her a nice lunch and the possibility of visiting a mall that is not often on our path.

Turns out that the reference was to an event about which I already knew--Philip's "purchase" in 1716 of an indentured servant by paying for his passage when the ship arrived in Maryland. I did learn one small detail about that event that I had not previously known, but my brick wall remains firmly in place.

1 comment:

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