The Upshaw Family Genealogy Page

UPDATE: IN April 2018, I have uploaded a new update to three of the family trees. I've added many more Upshaws and descendants to the database since 2002. A great deal of good information has been put on the Find-a-Grave website by many dedicated volunteers and it is a rich source of information on many Upshaw families. My database now has over 7700 people in it and the online tree of Captain William Upshaw's descendants (link below) has 4399 people in it (the difference being mainly people who are or may be still living). I have omitted the footnoted sources this time, due to privacy issues some of them have expressed in the past, but can share them selectively for particular ancestors. Also see below under Resources for a new massive 2498-page compendium of Upshaw descendants generously provided by Ted Brooke, including the primary and leading secondary sources. Ted has also now made all issues of the Upshaw Family Journal available in PDF format in addition to the print issues available by mail.


This website is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Morel Carter, who generously provided me with the massive initial family tree database which I have been adding to over the past 20 years. Her dedication in researching all the Upshaws was inspiring. Sadly, Nancy lost her battle with cancer in 2010, and she is always in mind when I turn to working on Upshaw genealogy.


This page is offered as a home base for genealogists researching the Upshaw and related families. I have plenty of room to share if you have related records or pictures to include here. If you have questions about your ancestors, please note that the web family tree (see below) contains all the names and dates for individuals in my database as of April 2018. Also, due to the large volume of e-mail I receive, I regrettably cannot promise to reply in a timely fashion.

More information will be posted at a future date. Please send me any information that I don't have already on individuals in the Upshaw and related families, their siblings, children, ancestors or descendants!

And please join the UPSHAW-L mailing list for ongoing sharing of genealogy information (see below).

Finally, please send any info you have on the Upcher/Upsher/Upshere family in England, which I am collecting in a database in the hope that the overseas link from Essex, England to the Upshaw family of Virginia can eventually be proven.

I have also begun collecting information on the African-American Upshaws (see family tree below), but the information so far is scant and is not connected together well. Progress is slow; any such information you could share on family trees of African-American Upshaws would also be helpful. The same comments apply to the Native American Upshaws (Cherokee, Navajo, etc. tribes and clans).

Graphic courtesy of Malcolm Felmingham
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Origins of the Upshaw Surname

"The name Upshaw may possibly have been derived from the hamlet of Upshire, in the Parish of Waltham, County of Essex, England. Bishop Meade mentions the Upshaw family as one of the leading families in Eastern Virginia in Colonial times and immediately following the Revolution."

-- Lenora Higinbotham Sweeny, "The Upshaw Family of Essex,"
William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 18, Series 2, 1938, p 64.

The first Upshaw in the United States arrived in Virginia around 1660, and the Upshur family may be descended from the same lineage. Early families living in the same areas of pre-colonial England and colonial Virginia with similar names include Upcher, Upshur, Upsher, Upshott and Upshall. Less than two centuries ago, there were still Upshaws, Upchers and Upshers living in Essex Co. England and London. However, no proof of the connection to the Upshaws of early Virginia has yet been found.

Upcher Sheringham Hall, Sheringham, Norfolk, England
(courtesy of Malcolm Felmingham)

There is some speculation that the Upchurch or Abshire/Absher families may derive from the same origins. At least one English genealogy of the Upchers indicates that some generations may have spelled their name Upchurch. The Abshires may have originated in the same area of England (Essex).

It is also remotely possible that the Upshaw surname is related to the Welsh name ApShaw - a family that is of Scottish origin. I think this increases in likelihood if there is a connection with the Abshire family.

Old family legends have the family originating in France in the 1500's, and also designate Abel Upshaw as the first North American progenitor, his brother Arthur apparently giving rise to the Upshur family. The existence of Arthur Upshott/Upshur has apparently been documented as progenitor of the Upshurs. However, none of the many researchers of Upshaw family genealogy have to date found any confirming evidence to support the existence of Abel Upshaw, nor for a North American (i.e. recent) connection between the Upshaw and Upshur lineages.

The progenitor of all native Upshaws of European descent in North America appears to be Capt. William Upshaw (for early family details, see The Upshaw Family of Essex, by Lenore Higginbotham Sweeny, in "Genealogies of Virginia Families, From the William & Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine", Vol. V) and his father, probably named Jeremiah. There is unsupported speculation that Abel Upshott/Upshur's brother John, who came with him to Virginia, was the likely progenitor of the Upshaws.  Considering the time frame, this would make John the hypothetical father of Jeremiah and grandfather of Capt. William. This naming pattern would at least be consistent, as Capt. William named his first two sons Jeremiah and John. The documented ship's headright for "Jeremy Upshott" might then be for Jeremiah coming across from Europe to join his father John (to speculate).  Since all known Upshaws descended from Capt. William, who had no known siblings, it is a mystery as to why neither John nor Jeremiah left children. It is possible they died young and/or returned to Europe at some point.

If you are familiar with any of these family names in England or have information on the possible overseas ancestry of the Upshaws of North America, please !

Most Upshaws of European descent, and at least one family with African descent, living in North America today are descended from Capt. William's son John (and grandson Edwin) or from William's youngest son Forrest, whose line moved south to Georgia and Alabama. Some of Edwin's children (by his first wife Lucy Roane) moved West, taking the Upshaw name to Kentucky, Missississippi and Texas. Others stayed in Virginia, where Upshaws can still be found living today. Descendants of Forrest's sons LeRoy and John moved into Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri and Texas. Others stayed in Georgia and are found there still. In the subsequent six generations, Upshaws have spread throughout North America, although the largest families still appear to be located in the southern half of the United States, and Illinois.

If you are an Upshaw of African descent, I think you may be inspired by this photo essay about the Upshaws of eastern Texas: The Upshaws of County Line. Three brothers set up a settlement there after being freed from slavery and it has become an amazing, self-sufficient freedman settlement which has created quite a dynasty of sucessful African-American Upshaws, scattered across the continent, but many return there for their family reunions. Rumor has it that there is a similar settlement in Alabama. Let me know of other family trees, stories and histories of how African Upshaw communities formed after slavery, and I will do my best to preserve them and make them available.


UPSHAW-L Mailing List

I moderate an automated genealogy mailing list to discuss and share information on the Upshaw and other related/inter-married families, as well as families with alternate spellings such as Upshur, Upsher, Upcher, Upshar, Upshire, Upshot and Upshall, plus possibly-related names such as ApShaw and Upchurch. The various list subscribers collectively possess information to connect nearly every Upshaw in North America, or at least those born before 1900. The list is UPSHAW-L, it is hosted at the Rootsweb site, and you can subscribe to this low-volume mailing list by sending the simple message



Upshaw Family Journal

Back issues (and new ones being prepared now) are also available from the editor, Ted Brooke. If you have a serious interest in Upshaw genealogy, these journals are a must-have. Ted is editing a new volume of issues now in 2018. - NEW! PDF copies are free, there is a miminal charge for mailed copies. Both the PDF links and paper copy content list and pricing can be found at the below link.

  • Upshaw Family Journal PDFs, contents and pricing

  • - NEW! Descendants of Jeremiah Upshaw

    Ted Brooke has compiled a huge 2498-page report detailing the primary and secondary source information for many of the descendants of Capt. William and his father Jeremiah over 8 generations, and is making it available here in 2018 for all Upshaw researchers to use. The report can be downloaded in PDF format (HUGE FILE) right now. An RTF version, and separated portions of the report also in RTF format, are also available.

  • - NEW! Download the Report

  • They Met Challenges...With Memoirs - An Annotated Commentary" excerpted from The Upshaw Family Journal is available here for download. This document is an important correction to the erroneous lineage published in 1968 by Grace Jared. Read it in PDF or Microsoft Word RTF format.

  • - NEW!Upshaw Genealogies Index at WikiTree

  • Upshaw Family Message Board at, formerly GenForum

  • The Rice/Upshaw house in Randolph County, Arkansas

  • Descendants of Peter Upshaw

  • My Southern Family Website

  • Descendants of Middleton Knox Polk Upshaw

  • Jan Tucker Baldenweck's Upshaw Family Album web page (Andrew Jackson Upshaw family pictures)

  • My General Genealogy Links (Some are very out-dated!)

  • Abshire Family Message Board at, formerly GenForum

    Family Trees

    1. Descendants of Capt. William Upshaw of Virginia

    This is a huge linked family tree of all known (by me, anyway) Upshaw descendants in North America and can be used to find the ancestry and relationships between most Upshaws of European descent (last update April 2018). The original database was provided in 1998 by Nancy Morel Carter who had been working with Ted Brooke to compile a master database of Upshaw descendants. I revised my own branch of the tree and added some information for the Upshaws descended from Edwin Upshaw and Patsy Harrison, from the GEDcom file created by David Upshaw. More recently I added extensive information on the Peter Upshaw, Elizabeth Upshaw Starling, Betsy Upshaw Staples and Sarah Upshaw Markham lines of descent. Finally, a major update was carried out to add many descendants in 2018, mainly from new information posted at Find-a-Grave.

    Over the years since 1998, I have added many new descendants provided by a wide variety of individuals through e-mail and snail mail correspondence. The web database has grown tremendously, but many more recent generations are still missing. A comprehensive list of all the contributors is impossible here. Thank you all for your contributions to the overall Upshaw family tree.

    NOTE: For privacy reasons, I have also attempted to eliminate all possibly-living individuals from the web version. If you have any further ancestors or relatives not found in their proper place in this family tree, and whom you know to be deceased, please let me know and provide their birth, death and marriage dates, if known.

    2. Upshaw Family Fragments

    This tree (last update April 2018) is a small collection of Upshaws who have not yet been connected to the main family tree, from various sources. If you know how any of these people connect to other relatives or can help expand their familly links, please let me know the names, time and place of birth, death, marriage.

    3. African-American Upshaws

    This tree (last update April 2018) is a small collection of Upshaw families of African American descent. I have only these few family fragments. If you have further information to add on these families or have an extended family that should be aded (preferably in GEDcom format), please send it to me for inclusion. For families not listed here, try searching the Find-a-Grave site where there are many, many others.

    4. Upchers, Upshers and Abshawes

    This tree is a collection of families (primarily of England) with alternate spellings which are more or less likely related to the Upshaws. This family tree has not been updated in nearly 20 years. If you have further information to add, please send it to me for inclusion.


    Last updated on 28 Apr 2018 by Tom Upshaw