On October 3, 1793, Peter Kivett, Sr., of Randolph County, North Carolina, wrote his last will and testament, thereby recording the names of his wife and living children for posterity:
...my son Henry Kivett...my son Peter Kivett...my son John Kivett...my son Jacob Kivett...my beloved wife Anna Barbary Kivett...my daughter Charity Foust...my daughter Elizabeth Scotton...my daughter Barbary Foust...[and] my daughter Ann Margaret Wolfe....
It is unlikely that it occurred to Peter that this simple ordering of his personal affairs would serve later generations eager to learn about their heritage. Yet this official document was for many years the single most conclusive document shedding light on the linage of the American Kivett's.
To be sure, other tantalizing scraps of information about the origins of Peter Kivett have circulated down through the years, but the snips and bits were as so many puzzle pieces waiting to be fitted together. Now, thanks to the ease with which researchers can now access a multitude of repositories and to the convenience with which they can communicate their theories and conclusions to one another, the puzzle is slowly coming together. The preponderance of circumstantial evidence, gathered by a plethora of Kivett descendants, validated by the Kivett YDNA Project is leading us finally to draw irrefutable conclusions about the origins of Peter Kivett, Sr.
According to the Peter Kevit tombstone in the McMasters Cemetery near Liberty, North Carolina, Peter was born in July, 1726, and died September 28, 1794, in Randolph County. That he was an immigrant, and not English, is positive: The record of Peter's naturalization has been preserved in colonial Rowan County, North Carolina documents. On September 22, 1763, Peter, along with 33 others, appeared in Salisbury District Court of Colonial Rowan County, North Carolina to swear their allegiance to the British Crown:
"This day came into Open Court the following persons Natives of Germany and were Naturalized according to Law by the Oaths appointed for that purpose...to wit...Peter Kevett."
As we shall see, this evidence is extremely convincing that Peter was, in fact, a "native of Germany."
The earliest records place Peter Kivett in Colonial Rowan and Orange County (now Randolph County, North Carolina). The recorded history reveals that the central Piedmont area of North Carolina, which includes Randolph County, was largely settled by those whose first home had been Pennsylvania, where they disembarked from their sailing ships. They migrated south, using the Great Wagon Road established from old Indian trails from eastern Pennsylvania in Philadelphia through Lancaster, York and western Maryland to across the Potomac River at a ford leading into Old Colonial Fredrick County, Virginia. Then these migrants turned south down the Shannon Dora Valley, across Natural Bridge, through the Appalachian Mountain range at Roanoke Virginia to take up new lands in central North Carolina. beginning in the late 1740s, and mid 1750's. The primary four groups were the Quakers, the Scots-Irish, English and the Germans.
We also have a much-cited, brief family history authored by Lester and Katherine Kivett in 1937 that suggests a German origin. Their story begins with the following lines:
Peter Kivett, originally of Dutch descent of French Huguenot through Germany and Holland, came to the town of Lancashire in Lancaster County, England, in 1743. From there he came to the Colonial Orange County of North Carolina in 1753, settling near Liberty, North Carolina, the section now known as Randolph County in the north eastern section on Mount Pleasant Creek.
The late and most respected Mrs. Carolyn Hager of the Randolph County, North Carolina, Genealogical Society convincingly argued, the foregoing assertion that Peter was "originally of Dutch descent" points directly to a German heritage. Mrs. Hager wrote:
The Kivett family were not Dutch. The word "Dutch" is the English translation of the word "Deutsche" or the German's word for Germany...
Mrs. Hager continues, providing pertinent history to illuminate the phrase "of French Huguenot":
William Penn offered [the Protestants being persecuted by King Louis of France] a place to migrate to and religious freedom. Their route of escape was up the Rhine river to Holland/the Netherlands where some were sent to various parts of England or Ireland but the vast majority were sent to Pennsylvania.
Kivett could have been Huguenot because both sides of the Rhine (now France and Germany) were then Protestant instead of Catholic [and] so [they] were persecuted. The Lancaster they referred to was not in England but, rather, Lancaster (city & county), Pennsylvania...As more emigrants came [to Pennsylvania] they spread west, so ca. 1728 Lancaster County was formed...New land was opening up in Piedmont North Carolina [in] about [the] 1750s so many of these Germans migrated south where they could get free or cheap land. They never moved alone. They always moved with other Germans and usually of the same religious faith: be it Lutheran, Mennonite, Moravian, etc.
Mrs. Hager makes an interesting point regarding the Huguenots, for many of them, to escape harassment by the French Catholics, did indeed flee from the Alsace region of northeast France across the border to the Palatinate along the Rhine River in southwest Germany. In The History of Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania historian, Isaac Daniel Rupp, wrote about their journey, telling of the many Huguenots who left France about 1650 to settle at Pfaltz (the German name for the Palatinate) on the Rhine in Germany and then emigrated around 1660 to New York.
Haller's erudite Across the Atlantic and Beyond, The Migrating of German and Swiss Immigrants to America helps to explain this early migration:
From the time of the Reformation early in the 16th century, there was a growing and nearly constant rebellion...against the rulers of the Catholic Church...The growing rebellion embraced both the Lutherans and the Calvinists, principally in the German States, as well as other, smaller groups in neighboring countries, most notably the Huguenots in France, the Anabaptists in Switzerland, and the Mennonites in the Lowlands.
Hundreds of thousands of Germans floated or sailed down the [Rhine] river...beginning in 1783 and lasting until the mid-1800s...This world famous migration and shipping route cuts through five countries: Austria, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Before 1830, the Rhine was the most obvious route of migration: by barge or boat down the Rhine to Rotterdam, and then across the Atlantic to the ports of New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore. Until 1783, the British navigation acts required an intermediate stop in an English port.
So what might we conclude in light of the foregoing? Perhaps we can untangle that unwieldy first paragraph of the Kivett family history to read more simply:
Peter Kivett, originally of French Huguenot descent, whose family settled for a time in Germany, came to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1743 from Germany, through Holland by way of England. From there he came to the Colony of North Carolina in 1753, settling near Liberty, North Carolina, in present-day Randolph County.
This revised version places Peter squarely in the company of hundreds of thousands of German- speaking people who joined the historical migrations down the Rhine to America. Geographically speaking, such a journey on the Rhine, from Germany to Holland (and the port of Rotterdam), is eminently plausible, and a stop in England, as required by British maritime law of the era, is evident in the following ships' lists of eighteenth century "Kivett" arrivals at the Port of Philadelphia, cited in Pennsylvania German Pioneers:
On Sept19th 1749, in the Ship Patience, from Rotterdam but last from Cowes in England, from the Palatinate & Duchy of Wirtenberg: Hans Peter Ciewits.
In the 22nd Nov 1752, in the Ship Phoenix, from Rotterdam and last from Cowes: Jacob Küwit.
On the 15th Sep 1749, in the Ship Edinburgh, from Rotterdam but last from Portsmouth in England...from the Palatinate: Peter Küwit.
On the 5th Sep1748, imported in the Edinburgh, from Rotterdam but last from Portsmouth: Vallentin Küwitz.
Indeed, the aforementioned Ship Edinburgh's passenger list of September, 1749, is of particular interest to Kivett researchers, for a review of the facsimile signatures on that list, published in Volume II of Strassburger's 1934 edition of Pennsylvania German Pioneers, produces dramatic evidence that the Palatinate Peter Küwit is, in fact, our Peter Kivett. Figure 1 is an enlargement of young Peter Küwit's signature to his oath of abjuration, made at his arrival in Philadelphia. Figure 2 presents an enlargement of the senior Peter Kivett's signature on his will of 1793. The trembling hand of an aged Peter clearly describes the "ü" and demonstrates several peculiarities that exactly match those of the earlier signature: the distinctive uppercase "K", the open, uncrossed "t," and especially the singular long, slanted left loop of the "w."
Plainly, mutations in the family name would have occurred on Peter's travels through Germany, Holland and England, shaped by the pronunciations native to those languages and the officials who documented his (or his forbears') progress; it is safe to assume, moreover, that the name continued to evolve on these shores, further altered by the phonetic efforts of officials in Philadelphia — possibly new Americans themselves — and yet again by their counterparts in North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois and points further west on the pioneer trail. This provides a plausible explanation for the creative variations this Kivett researcher has encountered, spellings which span a period of more than 200 years and a continent of 3000 miles: Kivet, Kevet, Kevit, Kivette, Kiviet, Civit, Cieviet, Cavat, Gevell, Gubrit and Kibit. Yet, in spite of the passage of time, when our Peter signed his last will and testament that autumn day in 1793, at the close of an eventful life and far from his native land, his wavering hand formed his name in the signature of his native tongue — Peter Küwit.
Extracted and revised from the website of:
Copyright © Donna W. Martin