I recently visited the Local History room at the Arlington County public library just to see what might be available there. The area of North Carolina in which Miles Bembry lived was originally the Albemarle District of Virginia. Many of the residents came from what now call Virginia to North Carolina. So, I checked the indexes of a few books about early colonial Virginia for any mention of a Bembry.
Lo and behold, I did find a John Bemberry. He arrived in 1646 to York County, Virginia, “transported” by George Ludlowe of Wiltshire, England along with 14 other people. Ludlowe received a “headright” grant, meaning that he could claim 50 acres of land for each individual that he brought to the colony.
I checked Family Search for Bembrys or Bemberrys in that area, and found that indeed there were Bemberrys (and variant spellings) living in neighboring Somerset and Dorset in the 18th century. In fact, a John Bemberry married Ann Coldburt on 16 Aug 1724 in Crewkerne, which is close to the intersection of Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. This could easily have been the grandfather or great-grandfather of the immigrant John Bemberry.
More searching reveals several Bembrys, with that exact spelling, living in these west country counties by the early 19th century. The same period in which Miles’ name settled into the spelling “Bembry.” It is a very rare name, though, even in the English records.
If this original John Bemberry was a transported settler. He had no property of his own, at least to start with, and therefore would not have left much of a paper trail. This may explain why I can find no Bembrys in land or tax records before Miles.
Was Miles John Bemberry’s great-grandson, perhaps? The first in his family to become a man of property? After all, I have no evidence that he actually owned his land in 1790. I am virtually certain that he didn’t in Bertie county in 1800. Maybe he was a longtime overseer for the Bryan family, and like his sons after him, “married up,” when he married the boss’ daughter.
Well, that is something to chew on, as they say. I’ll be looking further into colonial Virginia records to see if I can find out more.