A Brief History of the Cumbo Family

Here is the family history I presented on July 16th at our 2016 Cumbo Family Reunion in Williamsburg, VA, where over 200 Cumbo descendants from across the nation and around the world gathered reuninting branches and generations of the Cumbo Family tree.


A Brief History of the Cumbo Family

The origins of our Cumbo family in America begin with Emanuell Cambow, a black man from Angola, Africa who arrived in Jamestown, VA sometime in the 1600s likely on a Portuguese slave ship pirated by the British and re-directed to the Virginia Colony.  He first appears in Jamestown documents in September 1644 when he is made an indentured servant by the Virginia Assembly. He was freed from indentured servitude in 1665, granted 50 acres of land in James City County on April 18 1667 and started a family.  People who can trace their Cumbo ancestry to the Colonial period in America (1607-1763) likely descend from Emanuell.

Emanuell Cambow’s descendants lived on as free people of color and intermarried with whites and Native Americans throughout the Virginia and coastal North Carolina areas through the colonial period of America. As a result, over successive generations, many Cumbo family branches either maintained black or mixed race identities, passed as white (Melungeon or Portuguese) or fully embraced Native American (Lumbee or Tuscarora) identities.  Additionally, as the Cumbo family grew, so did variations of the name which expanded to Cumba, Cumbee, Cumby, Cumbia, Cumboe, Cumbow, Combo, Cumber and others.

The Cumbos are recognized throughout American history.  Cumbos fought in the Revolutionary War.  The names of Daniel Cumbo, John Cumbo, Michael Cumbo, Peter Cumbo and Richard Cumbo are memorialized on a commemorative headstone located in Jamestown, VA, dedicated to “Men of Color…Patriots who served in support of our nation’s war for independence.”  The story of Edith Cumbo, as a free woman of color born in 1735 to Richard Cumbo, the grandson of Emanuell Cambow, is featured in Colonial Williamsburg.  Native American Henry Berry Lowery born in 1848 to Mary Polly Cumbo is considered by many as a pioneer in the fight for civil rights and Native American tribal self-determination.

This weekend’s Cumbo Family Reunion is reuniting family branches literally  separated by hundreds of years.  This weekend brings together at least two distinct family branches who trace their ancestry all the way back to Emanuell Cambow – the Cumbees of Brunswick County North Carolina and the Cumbos of Northampton County North Carolina.

The Brunswick Cumbees are represented here by Denise Cumbee Long, whose great-great grandfather was Isom (Isham) Cumbo (Cumbee), born a free man of color in 1802. Isom lived in the Green Swamp area of Brunswick County where he had over a hundred acres of farmland and started a family. Isom’s grandfather was Cannon Cumbo of Roberson County, a great-grandson of Emmanuell Cambow.

The Northampton Cumbos are represented by most of the rest of us here who trace our ancestry back to Britton Cumbo born a free person of color around 1825, who was orphaned as a young boy in 1837, and who died in 1898 as the Cumbo family patriarch and who owned 50 acres of farmland.   Britton Cumbo and his wife Mary had 7 children James Henry, Junius Matthias known as “Bug”, Sarah Frances known as “Puss”, Virginia Ellen, Hezekiah Thomas, William Britton known as “Shine” and Mary Ann known as “Mollie”..  Most of us descend from one of these 7 branches and this reunion connects many of our branches for the first time.

Educational achievement is a strong Cumbo family value and has only grown stronger with successive generations. The Cumbo family has produced family members with college and advanced degrees from a wide range of both historically black colleges and majority institutions.  The Cumbo family represented here at this reunion includes entertainers, entrepreneurs, politicians, military officers, medical professionals, scientists, IT professionals, educators, ministers, law enforcement officers, civil servants, social workers, business executives, non-profit sector executives and athletes; professionals and workers across a wide range of career areas; all are successful in their chosen field and contribute to their communities and society according to their talents and abilities.

As Emanuell Cambow looks down on all of us today, surely he is proud of the contributions his descendants have made throughout American history and is thankful for the accomplishment, prosperity and strength of faith exhibited by our family represented here today.  Cumbo Family History is American History.  May God continue to bless our family.

Cumbo Family Reunion Photo


  1. I am a descendant of Elizabeth Cumbo/Cumber, the daughter of Anderson Cumbo/Cumber. She lived in Charles City, Virginia which is approximately 20 miles west of Williamsburg, Virginia. Eliezabeth married John Matthew Jones in Charles City. We have a monument in Charles City, Virginia in the Elam Baptist Church cemetery with names of Cumbo who fought in the Revolutionary War.
    Daniel Cumbo, Richard Cumbo, John Cumbo, Michael Cumbo and Peter Cumbo.
    Please share with me information on the Cumbo family. Would like to be notified of family reunions also. Thank you.

    1. Susan, Pleasure to meet you and thanks for sharing history on your Cumbo branch. I hope to visit the Revolutionary war monument at some point this year. I share my Cumbo family research primarily through this blog. Also let me know if you are on facebook and how to connect with you so I can add you to our family page on there as well.

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