Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a plantation on a large tract of land near present-day Charlottesville, Virginia - near the western edge of Great Britain's American Empire, into one of the most prominent families of Virginia's planter elite. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a successful farmer as well as a skilled surveyor and cartographer who produced the first accurate map of the Province of Virginia. His mother, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was a member of the proud Randolph clan, a family claiming descent from English and Scottish royalty. She raised two sons, of whom Jefferson was the eldest, and six daughters. There is a reason to believe that Jefferson’s relationship with his mother was strained, especially after his father died in 1757, because he did everything he could to escape her supervision and had almost nothing to say about her in his memoirs. According to family lore, Jefferson’s earliest memory was as a three-year-old boy “being carried on a pillow by a mounted slave” when the family moved from Shadwell to Tuckahoe. When his father later died in 1745, Jefferson inherited 5,000 acres, including Monticello.
As a young child, Thomas Jefferson was an enthusiastic student often spending up to 15 hours a day studying. He was to retain a lifelong interest in reading. He had both a keen intellect and also a wide range of interests. His interests ranged from philosophy and architecture to the natural sciences.