Saturday, January 27, 2018

Kidnapped: 52 Ancestors

The ship sat along the coast of England, awaiting high tide. It would set sail in a few hours on the long journey to the Virginia Colony. Ashore, the sailors enjoyed the last taste of freedom that they would have for perhaps two months. In addition to looking for fun, they were looking for something else -- children to kidnap. Two young boys playing near the waterfront were just right. They were old enough to work, perhaps 13, yet small enough to be easily snatched.

Evan Ragland and his friend found themselves aboard ship, torn from home and family. When the ship reached Virginia, they were sold into indentured servitude. Evan was well educated and became a secretary to his master, a planter of the middle class. Eventually he married one of the planter's daughters and inherited, with his wife, 500 acres of land. Together they were the progenitors of the Ragland family that today spreads throughout the United States.

Is this family legend truth or fiction? It has been repeated in the family for over 300 years. It has also been discussed and debated for many years. Thousands of children were kidnapped and brought to the American Colonies in the 17th century, so it is certainly possible.

If I could invite an ancestor to dinner, it would be Evan Ragland. His story is unique, engaging and horrifying. I'd love to hear his tale in his own words. Was he the Evan born in 1656, the son of Thomas Ragland and Jane Morgan of St. Decuman's Parish in Somerset? Was he kidnapped or did he sign on willingly? How was the voyage? What was his education? How did he transition from servitude to marriage?

Evan Ragland's death was recorded in the records of St. Peter's parish, New Kent County, Virginia. He died in 1717, just over 300 years ago. Only Y-DNA testing may eventually be able to prove his ancestry. Unfortunately we'll never know the truth about the family legend of his kidnapping.


  1. Interesting story! Would be a good invitation to have filled.

  2. Family legends tend to be far from the truth in my family.