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The Legend of Katherine Brent Marsham

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Stafford County, Virginiamap
Surnames/tags: Brent Marsham Kittamaquund
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An Analysis by Jackson Day, March 29, 2015


The Problem

Katherine, wife of Richard Marsham, has multiple origin legends, all attempting to connect her to the couple Giles Brent and Mary Kittamaquund or to the Brent family through Edmund Brent, a theorized brother of Giles. Is there evidence to support the claim that she was a child of Giles and Mary? Is there evidence to support the claim that she was a child of Edmund?

The First Legend: Descent from Giles Brent

The legend of Katherine Brent as daughter of Giles has these features:

  1. Katherine Brent was the oldest child of Giles and Mary, born c. 1650, Aquia, Stafford County, Virginia Colony.
  2. Katherine was sold as an indentured servant into the household of Thomas Brooke in Maryland, c. 1654, around the time of her mothe's death and father's second marriage.
  3. Katherine Brent then married Richard Marsham, possibly before December 26, 1663, certainly before March 11, 1664/5 [1] and became the mother of Richard Marsham's children.

History of the Legend

The legend has persisted for at least eighty years and possibly longer.

  • Anonymous article, "The Brent Genealogy" in Colonial Families of the United States of America, Vol VII, Nelson Osgood Rhoades, ed. Genealogical Publishers Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1920. On page 112 of Volume VII, the unidentified compiler (over 250 years after the lifetime of the subjects) atributed to Giles Brent and Mary Kittamaqund..six children, of whom "Katherine married Richard Marsham, whose second wife was her cousin, Mrs. Ann Brooks" (sic) but he did not state if Katherine had any children. The myth of a daughter, Mary Marsham, who married Charles Beaven, seems to have been a deduction from this statement. [2]
  • J. W. S. Clements, Origins of Clements-Spalding and Allied Families of Maryland and Kentucky, 1928 [3] stated that Katherine Brent Marsham was a daughter of Giles and Mary (and that Mary Marsham Beaven was her sister.) [4]
  • Writing in 1934, Elizabeth Rigby stated, "and here his wife bore six children, of whom four lived. The eldest, a daughter Mary, later married the Englishman, John Fitzherbert..... The others were named Giles, Richard, Katherine, Henry and Margaret. Henry and Margaret died young. Katherine married Richard Marsham." [5].
  • In 1972, Lois Green Carr, Maryland Historian at the Maryland State Archives, published Margaret Brent -- A Brief History. In this work, though detailed in other respects, she did not name any children for Giles and Mary. However, in her notes, released with all of her career files, there is an index card on which she connects Katherine Marsham and others as the daughter of Giles and Mary. Proponents of the legend have suggested these notes are primary sources, "information gleaned from provincial court records, probate records, and quitrent rolls, identify sic children of Mary and Giles, including Katherine Brent (who married Richard Marsham). It must be observed that (1) it is impossible to determine which records (if any) formed the basis of this index card, and (2) why in the thirty years of her active career after 1972, Dr. Carr never saw fit to publish on this topic.

Factual Difficulties with the Legend

  • On December 26, 1663, Margaret Brent in her will [6] names three children of her brother Giles -- Giles, Richard and Mary. If there were three other children, why were they not named?
  • On August 31, 1671, Giles Brent in his own will [6]names two children, Giles and Mary. Again, if there were other children, why were they not named?
  • The 1679 will of Giles Brent, Jr, son of Giles and Mary, names his sister Mary, but no other sisters. It also mentions his cousins George, Nicholas, Robert and Henry, as well as "my younge horse in "the woods which I had of my father-in-law Francis Hamersley." [7] This was his step-father.

These, then, are the three documented children:

  1. Giles, born 5 April 1652 and named in both the 1663 will of his aunt and the 1771 will of his father.
  2. Richard Brent, who died young, presumably between Margaret's 1663 will and Giles' 1771 will.
  3. Mary, named in both the 1663 will of her aunt and the 1771 will of her father, who married John Fitzherbert

No documentation, however, attests to the existence of these children:

  1. Katherine
  2. Margaret
  3. Henry

Circumstantial Difficulties with the Legend

  • Placing a daughter in indentured servitude is surprising for a family which was prominent and wealthy in both Maryland and Virginia. Also unexplained is why indenture would be seen as appropriate for one child of a family but not for the others.
  • Mary Kittamaquund was born about 1633, since she was aged 7 when placed in the home of Margaret Brent as her co-guardian. She would have been aged 11 when she was married to Giles Brent, sometime between May 8, 1644, and January 7, 1644/5, presumably too early for childbearing. Giles was away from the family from February 1644/5 when he was captured in Ingle's Raid and taken in chains to London, until 1647 when he returned and shortly thereafter, moved with his wife and sisters to "Peace" Plantation in Aquia, Stafford County, Virginia. This would have left the time period 1648 to 1654, six years, in which to bear the theorized six children -- theoretically possible but most unlikely.
  • That a Katherine married Richard Marsham is not in dispute. They appear as man and wife beginning with the deed previously mentioned on March 11 1664/5. That the Katherine who married Richard Marsham served a time of indenture is not in dispute. In fact, the Brooke family had an indentured servant named Katherine Fisher who had crossed the Atlantic with them in 1650. Another servant of the Brookes who accompanied them across the Atlantic was David Bowen, and this David Bowen was the recipient of the property deeded by Katherine Marsham, with her husband Richard as witness on March 11, 1664/5.

Expert Conclusions

  • In 1946, Charles Horton Brent stated that "no authority can be found for these three children given to the first Giles Brent: Katherine, Henry and Margaret. They are not named in the father's will, nor in that of his sister, Margaret. Katherine is given as marrying Richard Marsham. [8]
  • In 1995, writing in the Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, James Maloney and others similarly concluded that Katherine Marsham was not Katherine Brent, and that it is unlikely there was a Katherine Brent. [9]
  • Douglas Richardson in Magna Carta Ancestry (2011) and Royal Ancestry (2013) shows Giles, Richard and Mary to be the children of Giles and Mary. [10]

There were multiple associations between Richard Marsham and the Brent family. His last wife Anne Calvert was a widow of Henry Brent, and Richard Marsham as her husband ended up acting as administrator of Henry Brent's estate. It's not unreasonable that Richard was a friend of Henry's when he was living and grew closer to his widow after Henry's death. Nor is the thought that Richard's first wife was a Brent that hard to entertain.

The family of Giles Brent has an illustrious history reaching back to Magna Carta Sureties. Mary Kittamaquund is widely regarded as an "Indian Princess". The temptation for family historians to attach colonial ancestors to such illustrious family trees is a common problem.

The Second Legend: Descent from Edmund Brent

The second legend [11] assumes the same facts presented in the first with these exceptions:

  1. the father of Katherine Marsham is now asserted to be Edmund Brent.
  2. Edmund Brent is asserted to be the brother of Giles Brent.
  • Edmund Brent, did have a daughter Katherine. Katherine of Edmund, however, married John Dynel between 1662 and 1668, and was therefore Katherine Dynel during the time that Katherine Marsham was married to Richard.
  • Edmund Brent did have numerous business dealings with Giles Brent. Edmund obtained acreage on the "Peace" Plantation in Aquia, Stafford County, Virginia. This does suggest a close family relationship, but there is no documentation that Edmund is a brother of Giles.

The Third Legend: Mary Brent becomes Mary Beaven

A recent and attractive book by Shawn and Lois Potter, "Daughters of Princess Mary Kittamaquund", full of documentation and full color DNA graphs has acquired an enthusiastic following. [12] The book studies the DNA of descendants of Katherine and Richard Marsham, and the descendants of Charles Beaven and his wife. It determines that both sets of descendants share common Native American DNA. Employing the DNA results to link Katherine Marsham to the Brents, it creates a new legend:

  1. Mary Brent, the documented daughter of Giles Brent and Mary Kittamaquund, divorced her husband, John Fitzherbert.
  2. Mary Brent then married Charles Beaven and became the mother of his children.

In support of these claims, the Potters offer the following:

  • On April 26, 1672, Charles Calvert wrote to Cecelius Calvert[13] in which Charles writes, "Major Fitzherbert's brother who maryed the Indian Brent, has civilly parted with her, and (as I suppose) will never care to bed with her more; soe that your Lordship needs not to feare any ill consequence from that match, butt what has already happened to the poore man, who unadvisedly threw himself away upon her in hopes of a great portion which now is come to little."
  • Charles Beaven died married to a woman named Mary as attested by his will and other documents late in his life.

If these two propositions are affirmed, the Potters are able to conclude that since Mary Beaven's descendants are shown to be cousins of Katherine Marsham's descendants, the two are sisters; and since the descendants carry American Indian DNA, Mary Kittamaquund must be the source.

This legend, too, however, encounters difficulties:

  • In his 1671 will, Giles Brent leaves property to Mary Fitzherbert.
  • The 1672 Calvert correspondence certainly alludes to marital tensions, but it does not prove a divorce.
  • On May 20, 1673, according to a file documenting property origins in the Maryland State Archives, is the following entry: “Mary Brent Fitzherbert, daughter of Giles Brent and his Indian wife, and her husband, John Fitzherbert, were living at West St. Mary’s Manor on May 20, 1673 when they sold Kent Fort Manor on Kent Island to Richard Moy.” [14]
  • Writing on the Brent family in the Virginia Historical Magazine in 1905, W. B. Chilton states (p. 442) that " Mary, the daughter of Giles, the son of Richard Brent, who married Captain John Fitzherbert...died childless." [15]

A review of the parallel facts in Charles Beaven's biography reveals similar difficulties.

  • In 1672, Beaven married Martha Paca who mothered all his children until her death which took place before December 8, 1688. [16]
  • In 1688, Charles Beaven, by then aged 52 based on a birth date of 1636, did marry Mary -- but in this case a Mary often reputed to be the sister of Richard Marsham. "On 12.8.1688 Mary Beaven, with Thomas Greenfield and Martha Greenfield, witnessed the will of Basil Waring, whose wife was Sarah Marsham, the daughter of Richard Marsham." [16]
  • Other documents showing a close Marsham-Beaven relationship must be viewed in that context. These documents include the will of of Charles Beaven, signed June 20, 1698, proved June 21, 1699, [17] the will of Mary Beaven, signed April 18, 1712, proved June 13, 1713, [18]

On March 15, 1696/7, [19] Richard Marsham transferred 600 acre grant called The Hickory Thickett to Charles Beaven by assignment.

It would seem there is as little room for a Brent-Beaven marriage in Charles Beaven's life as there is in Mary Brent Fitzherbert's.

Questions for Further Research

  • Lois Green Carr's note card begs further study. Does it simply reflect known publications referenced above, as a "to do" list for further research? Upon what sources did she base a note card showing six children for Giles and Mary Brent? What did she feel about the reliability of these sources? Or did she actually find some evidence of the extra children? And as a well-known historian and prolific writer, why did she never write about the descendants of Mary Kittamaquund?!
  • DNA Analysis is a new field. In publishing their work on Princess Mary Kittamaquund and her Daughters, the Potters have offered up their DNA analysis for review by experts in the field. Quite apart from their historical arguments, what are the strengths and weaknesses, as well as correct and erroneous conclusions of their DNA analysis? The Potters' previous attempt to show a relationship between Katherine and the Brents via Edmund Brent suggests that they began their research with a desired conclusion. To what extent can such a research bias skew the results of a DNA study? Such an analysis will be of increasing importance and the Potters may have usefully offered up an important case study.
  • Assuming that the Potters' DNA analysis is correct, but rejecting the thesis that the analysis proves descent of Katherine Marsham's and Mary Beaven's descendants from Mary Kittamaquund, the question of what relationship they actually had remains unanswered.


  1. This is the date that Katherine, now Katherine Marsham, signs property over to David Bowen, with Richard Marsham signing as witness.
  2. Mildred A. O'Brien, "Brent-Marsham-Beaven-Blanford: Myth or Mystery. Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, Volume 36, No 1, Winter 1994, pp 81-84
  4. Elizabeth Randolph, Discussion,
  5. Elizabeth Rigby, "Maryland's Royal Family", in Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume XXIX (1934), p. 221. (The table of contents of this magazine is shown at the following web site, but not the article itself.)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Virginia Magazine of Biography and History, XVI, July, 1908.
  7. Brent, Chester H., The Descendants of Collo. Giles Brent, Capt. George Brent and Robert Brent, Gent, Immigrants to Maryland and Virginia. (Pages 82-) [Rutland, Vt., Priv. print. by the Tuttle Pub. Co., 1946] accessed October 12, 2014
  8. Charles Horton Brent, The Descendants of Colonel Giles Brent, Capt George Brent, and Robert Brent, Gent, Immigrants to Maryland and Virginia (1946). Forward, p. 2
  9. James Maloney, Maloney, Hendrick & Many Others, Brent-Marsham-Beavan-Blanford, Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, Winter 1995, Volume 36, No. 1 Updated Aug 18, 2013, Accessed March 9, 2015
  10. Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, p. 305
  11. Source: Shawn and Lois Potter ( "Katherine Brent, was dau. of Edmund Brent (RD)", Fri, 19 Jan 2001,
  13. William Hand Browne, ed., Proceedings of the Council of Mayland: 1671-1682 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1896), xiv.
  15. W. B.. Childton, The Brent Family. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Apr., 1905), pp. 439-445. Published by the Virginia Historical Society. Stable URL: p. 442. Accessed: 27-03-2015 01:40 UTC.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Mary Louise Donnelly's "Beaven-Blanford-Clarkson-Mitchell, and Alllied Families of Maryland, Kentucky, U.S.A" Ennis, TX: Mary Louise Donnelly, 1997, page 2.
  17. Prerogative Court (Wills) Vol. 2, pp. 182-183, Liber 6, Folios 285-286.
  18. Prerogative Court (Wills) Vol. 3, p. 240, Liber 13, Folio 513.
  19. Maryland Land Patents, BB#37:374.

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Comments: 6

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Hi Jack! Could you take a look at Category: US Southern Colonies Family Studies? I think this profile would be a good addition to that category. If you agree, please add [Category:US Southern Colonies Family Studies]] (with the 2nd leading [ included).


posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Done. Actually, the category was already there! Must not have shown for some reason.
posted by Jack Day
Nice analysis, Jack! Interesting to read.
posted by Jillaine Smith
Beth, the short answer to your questions has to simply be, "yes, it was wrong." But people generally don't make mistakes intentionally. I wish we had the date that the notebook paper in the link was written. We know that the legend of Richard Marsham's wife Katherine having been born into the Brent family was current -- and probably the established narrative, at least from 1920 -- "history of the legend." So I would attribute no malice to the writer of the notepaper, she was simply passing on the established narrative of her day. What you have to do with a piece of paper like that is use it for clues. It has names and dates which can be further researched. Much of it is valid -- but the part about Katherine "Brent" is not!
posted by Jack Day
I had been convinced that Katherine "Brent" was the servant of the Brooke Family, and then today I came across these (undated) notations on the Queen Family that are held in the Brooke-Queen Family collection at Catholic University.

Samuel Queen married Katherine Marsham, who was the daughter of Richard Marsham and Katherine ?. Why is she identified as the daughter of Giles Brent Sr.? Could Brent have had another daughter other than his children with Mary Kittamaquund?

Are these notations simply wrong?

posted by [Living Hagan]