Norfleet Family Genealogists
by Phil Norfleet
There are several individuals who have devoted substantial time and effort to unearth the real story of the early generations of the Norfleet family in America. People such as Antoinette Rebecca Norfleet Smallwood (1864-1926), Marilou Burch Smallwood, John Bennett Boddie, Doctor Claiborne T. Smith, Jr. and Doctor Ben E. Norfleet, Sr. have significantly contributed to Norfleet genealogy. During the 1940s and early 1950s, Claiborne T. Smith, Jr. provided invaluable assistance to Fillmore Norfleet in identifying the eleven children of John Norfleet (1699-1753) of Chowan County, North Carolina. In the 1980s, Ben E. Norfleet, Sr. edited and published the newsletter of the Thomas Norfleet: 1666 Society and thereby made Norfleet genealogical information available to a nationwide audience. In addition to the aforesaid individuals, there are two people who deserve very special mention for their basic research among the primary documents of Colonial Virginia and North Carolina.
Stuart Hall Hill (1876-1948)
The son of North Carolina jurist, Thomas Norfleet Hill (1838-1904), Stuart Hall Hill attended the University of North Carolina from 1893 to 1896. He subsequently settled in New York City and, in 1910, worked as the private secretary to Theodore Roosevelt. He married Madeline Blossom of New York, but they had no children. He was a great-great-grandson of Reuben Norfleet (1730-1801) of Bertie County, North Carolina. In the 1920s and 1930s, Stuart prepared a series of typed manuscripts pertaining to the genealogy of many northeastern North Carolina families, including the Hill, Smith, Whitmel, Blount, Pugh, Urquahrt and Norfleet families.
With respect to the North Carolina Norfleets, instead of being satisfied just with input from family members, Mr. Hill reviewed most of the early wills and some of the land records of the North Carolina Norfleets. It was primarily through his work that the three sons of Thomas Norfleet, Jr. were identified. His work includes one major error, in that he concluded that John Norfleet (1699-1753) of Chowan was a son of James Norfleet (d. 1732) of Perquimans County, North Carolina and a grandson of Thomas Norfleet, Jr. of Nansemond County, Virginia. This conclusion was later proven to be wrong by Fillmore Norfleet and Clairborn T. Smith, Jr. John Norfleet of Chowan was the son of John (who was cited in the 1704 Nansemond County, Virginia Quitrent Roll) and, thus, was almost certainly the grandson of the original Norfleet immigrant to Virginia, Thomas Northfleete.
Several versions of Mr. Hills typescripts are located in major public and university libraries around the country. The versions vary significantly in the size and scope. The copy at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the most complete version. In this version, the discussion of the Norfleet family is found in Volume 5. The following table identifies the principal locations of the Stuart Hall Hill documents:
Table Locations of the Stuart Hall Hill Manuscripts
Robert Fillmore Norfleet (1903-1987)
Unquestionably, the foremost genealogist of the Norfleet family is Robert Fillmore Norfleet, known to most people as Fillmore Norfleet. Fillmore was born in the heart of Norfleet country, at Suffolk, Virginia in 1903. He descended from Norfleets on both his fathers and his mothers side of the family. He also was related to President Millard Fillmore, from whence he obtained his middle name of Fillmore. By education he was admirably suited to perform serious genealogical research, holding a law degree from Washington and Lee University and a Doctorate in French Literature from the University of Virginia. By profession, he was a teacher at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. In about the year 1940, he took up the study of Norfleet family genealogy. Over the years he published six books concerning local history and genealogy. They are:
Fillmore was a prodigious writer. There are twenty-two boxes of his papers on file at the Virginia State Library; there are also seventeen boxes of his materials at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond! During his lifetime, Dr. Norfleet probably reviewed every Colonial Virginia document that makes any mention of the Norfleet family. Perhaps his most important contribution to Norfleet genealogy was his work in publishing the Bible record and establishing the identity of the eleven children of John Norfleet (1699-1753) of Chowan County, North Carolina. This Bible record is the oldest known original document concerning the Norfleet family in America. Unfortunately, the current location of this Bible record is now unknown, at least to me!