Teague Tracey (Trassey?)
Our Immigrant Ancestor
by Rosanna Ward
May 22, 2012
There are a few genealogists who have been trying for years to figure out how our branch of Tracey’s came to America and where they came from. We have pretty substantial evidence when tracing our line back to Teague Tracey born 1674 whose first appearance in Maryland, America was about 1679. There is also record of a Teague Trassey being transported to Virginia in 1655 who may be Teague jr.’s father as there is much to suggest that his father was also named Teague. Whether or not these two Teague’s are related has yet to be proven. Teague is an Irish form of Timothy. There are other records of Timothy Tracey in the area around the same time and these may have been one or both Teague’s or possibly a totally different person. Most of the records we have are land records, headright records, and a few church records of the time. The Teague Tracey born 1674 and coming to Maryland about 1679 may have had 3 brothers as there are three other Tracey’s that sprang up in the same area at about the same time; Thomas, Charles and Hugh. Teague married Mary James whose father owned land in the same area and they are listed in the father’s land records and will.
Here is my theory – and please keep in mind it is only a theory. I base this on the history of the time, what records there are, my DNA results, other researchers theories, and the name Teague itself. I believe the first Teague Trassey, born 1650 was sold as a slave or indentured servant for Head rights. It is known that Colonel Scarborough of northern Virginia at this time was buying children (it was a common practice) to claim Head Rights in the new world. Head rights was a system where a person could claim 50 acres for bringing a settler to the new world. It was meant to encourage people to settle the new land but was widely abused. A land owner would buy a person, many times children because they were easier to train and you could ship more of them, and count them as a head right for himself and claim the 50 acres for each one. It was slavery in every sense of the word, the children were treated as slaves and not counted on census or as citizens. The only real difference is that because their skin was white, there was a greater chance of escaping the system and blending in. Most of the children sold as Head Rights were Irish. At this time, Cromwell was in control of England and was pushing into much of Ireland. Ireland was predominantly Catholic which the Protestant Cromwellians hated. This was also a time of great depression and poverty in Ireland. In order to rid themselves of the Irish Catholics many of the children were either taken from their catholic parents or were already orphans and they were sold to transporters and shipped off to America, West Indies, and Australia. (There is a large contingency of Traceys’ in Australia).
So it is very probable that Teague Trassey, at age 5, was taken from his home, probably in Ireland as his name is Irish, and sold as Head right to Colonel Scarborough who brought him to Virginia in 1655. This Teague probably grew up as a slave on a plantation in Virginia and had children – they probably wouldn’t have had any records as they were considered property. Then in 1679, the son, Teague, and possibly his brothers, were transported as head rights into Anne Arundel county, Maryland by John Raven. But this time the children came out of slavery or perhaps weren’t treated as slaves but as indentured servants and were able to work out their time and become free. Landowners were beginning to rely more heavily on the African slaves and many of the Irish were escaping and starting a life of freedom in the New World.
Here’s an interesting story - “TRACEY’S LANDING is a locality in southern Anne Arundel county along with TRACEY’S CREEK a tributary of Herring Creek. These are located in the area inhabited by Richard James, and apparently where Teague and Mary (nee James) lived for a few years before moving to Baltimore County. Was the Creek and town named for Teague Tracey? One story I have been told, is that they were named for a man named Tracey who invented an improved tobacco prise. A tobacco prise was a press used to put tobacco into hogsheads. We know that Teague Tracey was a cooper by trade, and hence if the above story is true then the creek and locality were named after Teague Tracey.” (taken from http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/g/o/r/Stephen-John-Gore/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-1176.html)
Teague Trassey’s parents in Ireland were probably poor and there probably weren’t many records for them there. Our only hope, and it is slim, is to find a baptismal record. But many of the Catholic churches were desecrated at this time as well. There has also been stories that Teague and/or possibly his parents were first transported to the West Indies. I don’t know where this story originated or what source information there could be but that is a possibility as well, that Teague was born in the West Indies in 1650 and that his parents were slaves there.
Of course, maybe the first Teague Trassey in Virginia, wasn’t related at all to the Teague Tracey in Mayland in 1679 but even then the fact that this Teague shows up in Maryland, only 4 years old with no record of parents, is a pretty good indicator that he was transported as an orphan for head rights.
Now to the Irish vs the English Tracey name thing. This gets very confusing. The name Tracey has changed so much and there are so many variations of the name that it is almost impossible to determine where our branch originated from. Yes, I already said Teague was Irish but there were Tracey’s in Ireland that were originally English, came over from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066 and there were O’Treasaighs’ who popped up in Ireland around about 1008. We often think of these two countries as completely separate but Ireland and England mixed it up alot. They were constantly battling and the Irish and English were constantly intermarrying. The first Tracy in England was Le Sire de Tracy, de means “of”, so Le Sire was from “Tracy”, which is an area in Normandy which is part of France. But wait, that doesn’t mean we have French blood, because Normandy was given by the French king to the Vikings as a peace offering to keep them from constantly invading. The Vikings settled Normandy in the 10th century. Then William the Conqueror took his Norman army into England in 1066 and won at the battle of Hastings. He became ruler of England and brought his Norman subjects over and gave them land and titles to better subdue the English. So if we descended from this line of Norman, English, then Irish Tracey’s that would correspond with my DNA results (99% Scandinavian – land of the Vikings). On the other hand, the Irish were run over by the Vikings early on as well so we could just as easily be of Irish Viking descent. (BTW, I am having my DNA test verified because 99% is just crazy!)
In conclusion, I have every reason to believe that the Tracey’s came to America from Ireland and settled in Maryland in 1679. I believe Teague came here under impossible circumstances and worked hard to create an American legacy for his family and their descendants. I am proud to be a descendant of Teague Tracey!