Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Henry and Dorcas Holt to America--1730

Henry Holt emigrated c1730 from Ireland with his new wife, Dorcas and her parents William and Jane Armstrong. This information is from Dorcas's obituary, however, it did not name either Henry or her parents, saying just, "with her husband and parents." A Mrs. Vashti Seaman, a descendant through their grandson, John Holt, gave data to the DAR suggesting that Henry came from Thames, England and was the son of Rowland Holt (and Priscilla Ballow) brother of Sir John Holt, Lord Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court, both sons of Sir Thomas Holt. There are two christening's recorded for the Henry Holt who is definitely of the the English family: Source, IGI Index c302, Event: Father: Rowland Holt, Mother, Lucretia, Christening 12 Oct 1701, Saint Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, England. #2: Event: Father. Rowland Holt, Mother, Presca or Persca, Christening, 12 Oct, 1701, Charterhouse Chapel, Finsbury, London, England. I have no explanation for the different names cited for the mother. There is no firm documentation linking our Henry to this Henry, but the circumstantial evidence is exceptionally strong.

Rowland, Henry's father, had Estates in both London and near Dublin, Ireland. The Armstrong family lived in County Monaghan, Ireland, so there was no more than 40 miles between them. And, as the story handed down through successive generation's goes, Dorcas was either working for the Holt family or living nearby when Henry and she married. Some believe they eloped. At least that story is extant within the family lore of their more modern descendants. Dorcas must have been both exceptionally beautiful and bright, as she could neither read nor write and Henry, wealthy and educated, had attended prestigious Cambridge University, and according to University records, matriculating there in 1720 at age nineteen. There is no record of his graduating, however.

Several family researchers, over the 280 years since their arrival in Colonial America, have made the statement that Henry was indeed an English gentleman. He is also supposed to have been a silversmith in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The first documentation I have of the family in America was the 27 September 1733 Christening of Henry's and Dorcas's son, Thomas, in the Episcopal Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As an interesting aside, Benjamin Franklin and his family were attending members of that church then. Franklin and wife are buried there.

Family lore indicates that, sometime between 1733 and 1735, Henry disappeared while on a business trip. There is no confirmation of that either. Another speculation is that Henry might have gotten tired of the frontier and looked for greener pastures elsewhere. It has also been speculated that he learned of his brother's death and realized that the home estate in England was now his and headed for England but his ship was lost at sea. Who knows. All we know is that in 1735, Dorcas was hauled into court in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and scolded for beating up a male who had beat up one of her female friends. Henry was not mentioned.The next documented incident in her life was her marriage to Arthur Buchanan, another Irish immigrant, in 1738 in Gloucester County, New Jersey.


  1. JUst found this site. I am a member of the Dorcas Holt family. I have the research completed many years ago by a Holt in MIchigan on the Holt family. They were completed years old. I was born in Tyrone, PA and passed through Lewistown, PA many times and have visited her grave there and Buchanan's. She is very famous for drowning many deer in the Juniata River that runs in the area. From Kenneth Walter Holt

    1. Dorcas is related to my father's side of the Buchanan side. I would love to have more info on her.

    2. Anonymous: I tried responding to your email but got an "address not found" response. If you are still interested in connecting, please write me at I will use the age card as an excuse for not responding sooner - just hit 91.

  2. I am descended from Col. John Holt. My family lived in Centre County and descend directly from William Holt whose father was James Patterson Holt of which I can't find much info on. Any info on him? Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your post. I am a descendent of Dorcas and her second husband, Arthur Buchanan. When i read what you wrote about her beating up a man who had beat one of her friends, i just had to laugh. There are so many women in the line between me and Dorcas who share that same feisty spirit. Now i know where the feistiness comes from.