• Joyce Heritage

Joyce Origins: a Timeline from William Joass to Alexander and Thomas Joyce

Updated: Sep 10, 2018


1. William Joass (b. abt. 1640, Banffshire, Scotland):


The son of Thomas Joass, William was born in an environment of privilege. Little is known about his childhood; however, what is clear is that he would surpass his father's social status and wealth. In 1672, he was granted a coat of arms, and was bestowed with the title of Laird.

As part of the upper crest of society, he became involved with influential Scottish Clans such as the Frasers and Setons. Sharing the same cultural, economic, and political interests, they all invested in a business venture that bankrupted themselves and Scotland.

Known as the Darien Scheme, the Scottish Lairds donated funds to the Scotland Company. Founded to establish a trading colony, Caledonia, on the Isthmus of Panama, it ultimately resulted in failure. As a result, land values dropped forcing hundreds of Scots into poverty during a time of extreme famine. As a Presbyterian pastor, William Joass witnessed how his community suffered. So much so, that his third son, Thomas Joass, immigrated to County Down, Ireland for a better life.




The Countyside surrouding Banff, Scotland, the homeland of the Joass Clan

2. Thomas Joass (b. 1683, Banffshire, Scotland):


Born in 1683 in Banff, Scotland, to William Joass and Beatrix Fraser, Thomas Joass lived during a time of chaos and uncertainty. When the land values dropped due to the failure of the Darien Scheme, Scotland plummeted into bankruptcy. Left with no choice, Thomas immigrated to County Down, Ireland, where his surname changed to Joyce.

Genealogically important, Thomas Joass helped establish the Joyces of County Armagh and County Down, Ireland. As a Scottish planter in the north of Ireland, he encountered famine and political persecution. Already aware that he and his fellow Scotsmen were living on land previously owned by the hostile, native Irish, the situation had only worsened.

Unlike Thomas and Alexander who truly made a better life for themselves in the colony of Virginia, Thomas Joass's attempt to find peace in County Down failed. Even though he married Mary Blaikley and raised six children, the life he created was haunted by the troubles plaguing Ireland.

While Presbyterians, like Thomas Joass, were forbidden to marry, and to hold public office, this culture also influenced the future of Alexander and Thomas Joyce. Instilling a desire for religious freedom, it is because of Thomas Joass's wanderlust that his lineage traveled to the new world.



The Ruins of Cub Creek Church in Charlotte County,, Virginia

3. Alexander (1719-1778) and Thomas Joyce (1722-1780), County Down, Ireland:


Baptized in Ballyanhinch Presbyterian Church, County Down, Alexander and Thomas Joyce were accustomed to a hard life. Determined to find peace from the troubles surrounding Ireland, they sailed toward the New World, unaware of the complications that lay ahead.

Recent genealogical research has suggested they originally arrived in Pennsylvania or Delaware, but what is clear is that Thomas and Alexander first appear in Louisa County, Virginia, from 1747-1748. They are not; however, documented as owning any land, but rather, it is possible, they lived within a local Scots-Irish, Presbyterian community. 

As Presbyterians, Alexander and Thomas Joyce were considered religious dissenters by the Church of England. Absent from the Anglican Parish records, there is no doubt they refused to participate. This defiance; however, led to severe consequences. Because they did not attend Anglican Church services as required by law, they were fined and possibly jailed. 

Purchasing land in Lunenburg County, Virginia, in 1748, Alexander and Thomas Joyce's circumstances were about to improve. Having survived Louisa County, Virginia, they now lived in a region that attracted religious and political dissenters from all backgrounds. From Quakers to Presbyterians, Lunenburg County offered these pioneers new possibilities.

Joining a Scots-Irish, Presbyterian community known as Cub Creek, Alexander purchased 800 acres of land, and Thomas purchased 400 acres of land. Under the leadership of John Caldwell, a Presbyterian Elder, this settlement was granted unique privileges. As members, Alexander and Thomas understood they could worship as they pleased without interference from the Church of England.

During this time, Alexander Joyce became involved with the Presbyterians, so much so, that he participated in the struggle for religious freedom. Documented as an elder at the first meeting of the Presbytery of Hanover in 1755, he was recorded with the founders of the Presbyterian Church in Virginia.

During their twilight years, Thomas Joyce was living in Charlotte County, Virginia (formally Lunenburg County), and Alexander had moved to North Carolina, but their way of life was still the same. As farmers, they raised sheep, horses, and cattle, and grew and sold tobacco.

It is because of their successes and contributions to society that they were able to reclaim the wealth Thomas Joass lost in Scotland.  Most importantly, it is because of this that their lineages survived the harsh world of 18th Century Virginia, and that we are here today.

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