Powers Family History
By Harvey W. Powers

power coat of armsMy Power/Powers family, and nearly all the Power/Powers immigrants to Canada, the United States and Australia appear to have originated in Ireland, but the name is French. The name apparently started as le Poer, Povre, or just Pooer or possibly even Pohier. It is most likely our ancestors were not from the line that traces back to France but originated from irish (and some transplated English) serfs who worked the land on estates belonging to the le Poer (or Povre, Pooer or Pohier) family. It was common for the people who worked these estates to take the name of the estate owner.

Even though we most likely don't trace back to the French landowners, it is interesting to try and discover where the name originated. There seem to be at least two possibilities. The le Pour, Povre and Pooer names derive from "the poor." That would be the name given to someone who was poor, or worked with the poor or even someone who took a vow of poverty. The Pohier name seems to indicate a person from Pois, a town in Picardy, North France, which got it's name from the Old French "pois" which means fish. That area was known for well stocked rivers.

So, how did this French name get into Ireland? It was introduced into England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. It entered Ireland in 1170 when a bearer of the name le Poer took part in Strongbow's invasion of Wexford. The name Power became one of the most completely Hibernicized of the surnames introduced at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. Today, it is principally found in and around County Waterford where that name is more numerous than anywhere else.

These Norman (French) invaders were given huge tracts of land in Ireland by King Henry II with the permission of Pope Adrian in order "to enlarge the boundaries of the Church, to proclaim the truths of the Christian religion to a rude and ignorant people, and to root out the growths of vice from the field of the Lord."

So, lets be honest, it seems most likely our ancestors were those "rude and ignorant people" and not the aristocracy whose "coat of arms" we show on this page. (There several additional varriations of the Power/Powers crest).

Most of our Power/Powers ancestors were likely part of a migration of some 250,000 Irish people who came to the "new world" in the 17th and 18th century. They were likely Protestant. Some were tenant farmers who had been settled in Ireland by the British government and arrived speaking English. They would later call themselves "Scotch-Irish" because they didn't want to be confused with the 19th century Irish immigrants who were largely Catholic and settled mostly in eastern cities.

There are numerious Power arrivals in America in the that time period. The best documented was Walter Power who arrived in New England 1654 and settled near Boston. {More}

We believe our Power/Powers line arrived in 1681 into what was called "Lower Norfolk," later Princes Anne County and now Virginia Beach. Our ancestor, Sampson Power, is one of 60 persons transported by Thomas Fenwick. Fenwick is rewarded with 3000 acres of land in Norfolk County, on the Elizabeth River, on 28 Sep 1681.

On the list of tithables (Lower Norfolk), starting in 1730, we see a Mrs. Elizabeth Powers with a group of slaves along the Elizabeth River. In 1733, the list includes Mrs. Elizabeth Powers and her son Sampson. If that is the year Sampson turned 16, the customary age to show a son on the list of tithables, this Sampson would have been born about 1717. Elizabeth is likely the emigrant Sampson Power's wife, and this younger Sampson (born in 1717) could be the emigrant Sampson's son.

The first entry that shows young Sampson: "A list of the Tithables is the Westron Branch taiken the 11th of June 1733 by Thomas Scott. Mrs. Elizabeth Powers & her son, Sampson & negroes Quoth, Sara, Miro & Thomas. 5" Sampson and his mother and various slaves are shown through 1736. That is Elizabeth's last appearance on the Norfolk County tithable list.

Sampson and a Samuel Smith are shown in 1750 in the "tithables in the Borough of Norfolk and down the South side of Daniel Tanners Creek, Mr. Christopr. Perkins list." A Sampson Powers (with a negro Amey) is also shown in 1750 on a list of "Tithables taken in the Western Branch Persinkt, 10 Jun 1750, per Geo. Veale."

Sampson's land - along the Elizabeth River in Lower Norfolk - matches land we later see in the hands of Samuel Power. We believe that Sampson Senior (and wife Elizabeth) have at least two sons: Samuel (older and out of the home at Sampson Senior's death) and Sampson Jr.

Sampson Junior appears to have no sons. His will mentions only a daughter Elizabeth.

Samuel, son of the immigrant Sampson, has two wives, Amy Butt (a widow with considerable land), by whom he has several children, including a Sampson (grandson of the immigrant) and a Samuel Jr.; and wife Mary, by whom he has additional children. There are at least 12. We note that both Samuel Jr. & his brother Sampson (sons of Samuel & grandsons of the immigrant) are "Master Tailors" in Princess Anne County (carved from Lower Norfolk) around 1750-1752.

We believe Sampson (son of Samuel, and grandson of the immigrant Sampson) moves to Mecklenburg County, Virginia in 1780 and buys land from William and Thomas Powers, who we believe are his brothers.

From Sampson in Mecklenburg County we have a clear doccumented line: Sampson, William (b. 1770), Henry (1809-1884), William Henry (1832-1911), Harvey Street (1882-1962), Claude Street (1908-1975) and then me - Harvey Wayne (1945- ). The line from Sampson forward, with much more detail, can be found here.

(c) 2017. Harvey Powers. All rights reserved.