My Grandma Cross was born a Vessels in Kentucky. Her mother, known as Granny Vessels, was born Sarah Catherine Ray. The Ray family is a prominent ancestor line in our family.
The Rays also started in Maryland in the early years, before the Revolutionary War. In the late 1700s they moved to Kentucky. There was a large group of Catholics, many families, mostly our ancestors, that moved from Maryland to Kentucky. Why did they move? Many reasons, it turns out.
The Rays also had lots of land in Maryland, grew tobacco on plantations, and had slaves. Many of our ancestors were Catholic, and Maryland was a place of religious tolerance. But, when we were colonies, the British monarchs sometimes hated Catholics and sometimes tolerated them. Often, the Catholics were double taxed for the only reason that they were Catholic. It was a financial hardship to be Catholic. Also, Catholics were often prohibited from having public office; to be elected or to hold any public office meant to take an oath denying the pope and the Catholic faith. This goes back to Henry VIII who wanted a divorce, the pope said no, so Henry started his own church and called it the Church of England, sometimes called the Anglican church. To this day, the monarch is the Head of the Church of England. No pope, no one else ever, will tell the sitting monarch what to do when it comes to religion. Also, to this day, if a prince or princess is in line for the throne, if they marry a Catholic, they are disinherited and are no longer in line for the throne. No monarch can have any affiliation with the Catholic church. There is much hatred there. Which is why Maryland as a colony of religious tolerance was so appreciated.
Also, the British tried to swing a deal to sell Maryland tobacco to France, but the deal fell through. But Britain still enforced a monopoly on the Maryland tobacco, after all Maryland was a British colony. If the tobacco plantations could sell their tobacco to the highest bidder, they could make more money on the open market, but Britain prohibited that.
So, the Rays, and many of our other ancestors, left Maryland for Kentucky for many reasons.
Some of these pressures were relieved when America won the Revolutionary War. But many of our ancestors already had it in their mind to move to Kentucky. Several of our Ray ancestors had already made several trips to Kentucky in the late 1700s, and sometimes even owned land in Kentucky while still living in Maryland. Some were surveyors, who determined whose land belonged to whom. In Maryland, the land was pretty much all eaten up by the large tobacco plantations and there was no more available land. In Kentucky, there was abundant land available.
The trip from Maryland to Kentucky was a long and winding journey. No interstates, no freeways, no railroad. They went by land, with sometimes unmarked roads, to Pittsburgh. This took 5-9 days. From there they got on a flatboat to travel down the Ohio River to Kentucky. This took another 9 days. Right about Louisville they came to “the falls” and the boat could not travel downstream any more do to a rocky falls area, which is a big reason Louisville exists where it does. They then travelled, by land or by flatboat, on smaller rivers, inland from the Ohio River, to the part of Kentucky where our ancestors lived for generations in Kentucky, and where Grandma Cross, born Virginia Vessels, was born.
Lots of other researchers have been stumped by who was the immigrant ancestor who came to America. Our earliest Ray ancestor is William Ray, my 8th great grandfather. He died in Maryland in 1760. Other details are unknown; don’t know when or where he was born or where he came from. His son was also William Ray, he was born in 1705, likely in Maryland, and died in 1782, also in Maryland. But where did they come from? That’s the next research question to answer.
This kind of research is fun, and I’m learning a lot about our ancestors!
I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.