The first known Henderson to arrive in the American Colonies was Thomas Henderson, who emigrated from Scotland in 1607 and settled in Virginia. His son was Samuel Henderson and his son William Henderson. There followed a five-generation gap in the family until about the beginning of the eighteenth century when data began to be more accurately recorded.
The first Henderson of certain direct lineage in the family was John Lee Henderson I, who was born about 1780 and married Ann Sample on April 5, 1808, in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. It is believed that he came as a child from Virginia to North Carolina.
Since records are sparse and incomplete, it is not certain that the Hendersons of North Carolina, Alabama and Texas are direct descendants of Thomas, but the repeated names in succeeding generations, even though they are mostly common names—William, John, Thomas, Joseph—indicate that the family heritage is accurate.
On the Shelby side of the family, connections to earlier generations are more complete. They date from 1734 when Evan Shelby migrated from Wales to the Colonies. His family included Moses Shelby, who was then 7 years old. They lived for a time in Pennsylvania, then moved to Maryland and later settled in Clear Creek, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Moses married Isabel Alexander and they had eleven children, nine of whom lived to adulthood, married and produced families. The oldest was named Thomas, who married Sarah Helms. Thomas and Sarah’s oldest son was Moses II, named for his grandfather. This Moses grew up to wed Mary Ann Knox. Moses II and Mary Ann Shelby had nine children between 1807 and 1820. Their third was James Madison Shelby, who wed Ann Amanda (or Amanda Ann as some records state) Henderson, and their seventh was Eleanor Ann Selina, who married William Lee Henderson.
The children of Eleanor and William are fifth certified generation American on their mother’s side of the family—their mother Eleanor to Moses II, to Thomas to Moses I—and a third certified generation on their father’s side of the family—their father William Lee to John Lee I. They are quite possibly a seventh or eighth generation Henderson if the gaps from Thomas to John Lee I can be closed.