The Famous… and the not so famous Lees of Virginia


When I married my late, former husband and became a Lee by marriage, my first question was if he was related to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The family resemblance is astounding. John was unsure, not really being into genealogy. John’s grandfather, Richard, was a man after my own heart, a dedicated ancestor hunter, but he had spent his whole life trying to tie their line to the famous general. The connection was finally made – four generations before Robert E. Lee, before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. These lines also connect to Francis Lightfoot Lee, who signed the Declaration, and his brother, Richard Henry Lee, a president of the Continental Congress – cousins of Robert E. Lee’s line, and of my husband’s.
The Lees of Virginia were dashing men who forged a nation, and held their dignity through rough times. The line is traced back into Shropshire, England, and a baronetcy, but I only have the pedigree, or line of direct descent, for Robert E., and for my two daughters.
For many years now, I have been tracing one William Lee, who is buried with his wife in the Edmunds Cemetery at Beckton, KY. Local legend, or one of the Edmunds descendants, proclaimed him an uncle of General Robert E. Lee, but that was just wishful thinking on somebody’s part. This William Lee I traced back eight generations to a William Lee, born 1588 in James City, VA. Robert E. Lee’s line goes back five generations to Richard Henry Lee II, born 1618 in Shropshire, England. Now, I’m not going to count out they aren’t related, somewhere back in the Middle Ages, but this William Lee is definitely not Robert E. Lee’s uncle!
There are numerous Lees in the United States today, and many of them can trace their family back to ancestors who were already established here when they stood at Plymouth Rock and welcomed the Mayflower into port. Richard Henry Lee II came from a baronetcy in Shropshire, and their property in England was sold back to the Crown. Of this William Lee of James City, VA, I know next to nothing.
The William Lee buried at Beckton was an uncle to numerous Edmunds descendants. He and his wife, who was a Penn by birth and a sister to one of the Edmunds’ wives, only had one daughter, who married and went to Texas. No matter, I’ll adopt him anyway!
I sincerely was disappointed to not tie him to those famous Lees who helped form this nation. But may he be remembered fondly. The Edmunds Cemetery at Beckton is hard to reach now, as the ancestral home, Liberty Hall has been gone for many years. You have to have four-wheel drive to get to it, and it is quite badly overgrown. Such is the case with alot of old family cemeteries.
Until next time…


About Gclee

I am a long time genealogy and local history hunter from Barren Co., KY. I have many stories to share that may be of interest to other local genealogists and history buffs. I enjoy this as a hobby and hope I can be of encouragement to others. I also hope everyone enjoys my stories as much as I have enjoyed learning about them.
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2 Responses to The Famous… and the not so famous Lees of Virginia

  1. bob perkins says:

    have manuscript of the lees you are in reference to ,can be found on powells of barren more information contact bob at

    • Gclee says:

      Thank you for this link. I’m sure someone is curious about it. I followed the direct descent before doing the article, and found it interesting that they actually weren’t tied to “Light Horse Harry”.

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