A Winn Story: Henrietta Winn Robertson of Sumner Co., TN

Time for a quick detour from the Rankin families of Frederick, VA and southwestern PA …

One of the nice things about family history and DNA tests is that you  meet a lot of nice people. Many of them are relatives, do good research, and are happy to share information and great family stories.

My distant Winn cousin Terri Works of Jackson, California emailed just such a story. Terri is descended from Daniel Winn of Lunenburg County, Virginia, who died there about 1799. Her ancestors are Orsamus Winn, one of Daniel’s nine sons, and Orsamus’s son Woodson Winn. Her Winn line includes a great-great-great-aunt Henrietta Winn, born in 1832 in Sumner County, TN. Henrietta and her brothers Richard and William Winn were children of Woodson Winn and his wife Jane Wilkes.

Here is Terri’s story about Henrietta.

In October 1848, when she was 16, Henrietta Winn married William T. Robertson in Sumner County. He is the bad guy in this story.

Henrietta’s father Woodson died in 1852, leaving his estate in equal shares to all his children. Henrietta sued her brothers Richard and William Winn, executors of Woodson’s estate, AND her husband, for her share. Since she had no standing in a court of law as a married woman, a male friend sued in her behalf. In the pleadings, William Robertson is described as “clever but improvident.” The suit ended in her favor: the court ordered that she was to receive her share of her father’s estate free from any liabilities of her present or any future husband. The brothers, however, claimed that they didn’t have the money in hand but had plans to pay her.

In September 1853, Henrietta sued her husband William Robertson for divorce. Here are some excerpts from her suit (unclear words or phrases are noted):

“She would further show, that they have two children. The oldest named Isaac is about three years old and the other named Edward is about twelve months old….

… she was on a visit to her sister and while there, the [defendant William Robertson] took the child to his mother against her wish and request. Shortly after he carried the child to an examination (? word is unclear) in the neighborhood and while there became intoxicated and on his …(transcript unclear) … drunk, the child in some way had his thigh broke; and the defendant rode up to a (???) … in the road, with the child before him, with its leg dangling about and the child suffering the most excruciating pain. The [defendant], being too drunk to feel or appreciate the [pain] of this child. A physician was called in and the conduct of the defendant was most shameful while the broke limb was being set…..

… since the settlement of the property upon her (from her father’s estate) he has done any thing in his power to aggravate her and render her unhappy. …..(the following is struck out: He accused her of having taken medicine to produce an abortion) and also accused her of a (lack) of chastity and of being too intimate with her brother-in-law. He has also cursed her and used the most insulting languages to her -….the [defendant] has taken the oldest child and refuses to give it up…he also has a bed and clothing given to her by her father which he refuses to give up.

The court granted Henrietta’s divorce from William Robertson in October 1853. She had also sought custody of the children, asked to have her maiden name restored, and requested the names of her two sons be changed to Winn. You’ve got to admire that kind of courage and determination in an era when women had so few rights.

Henrietta won the divorce battle. Unfortunately, she lost the war concerning her two children: the 1860 census shows her son Isaac F. Roberson [sic], age 10, in the household of his father, W. T. Roberson. William then had a new wife named Mary, two small children with the surname Roberson, and two older children with the surname Mungall, presumably Mary’s by an earlier marriage. There was no sign of Edward, who had apparently died.

 There is nevertheless a modestly happy ending. Henrietta married G. S. Barnett, a neighbor who gave a deposition in the lawsuits against Richard Winn concerning Woodson’s estate.  Henrietta and Mr. Barnett went on to have two daughters. Henrietta most likely died between 1868 and 1870, probably in Montgomery County, Tennessee.

Note: all of the research is Terri’s. She found the information about Henrietta’s suit to obtain her inheritance and the divorce proceedings among the records in the Sumner County archives in Gallatin, Tennessee. Thanks again to Terri for the research and for sharing the story!

Part 1: Some Rankin Families of Virginia and Pennsylvania

Yes! Getting back to researching and writing about Rankin families feels like coming home. Even better, it turns out there are several Rankin lines in the counties where I’ve been poking around: Frederick Co., VA, Washington Co., PA and Fayette Co., PA.

Here are the Rankin families we’ll talk about, as well as one I will leave for another day …

Not part of this researchthe line of Robert Rankin of Northumberland County, VA and King George County, VA. This line apparently began to scatter after they left King George. Some of them may have appeared in Frederick Co., VA. One record reportedly involving several of them is a Frederick Co. lease dated August 13, 1792 to Benjamin Rankin of Loudon County, VA. The term of the lease was for the life of Benjamin’s brothers Moses and Robert Rankin.[1]

I know nothing about this Rankin family. The early line is covered at this website. The site is unusual because it provides citations to source records, inspiring confidence. If this is your line, and you are a Rankin male, please take a Y-DNA test and join the Rankin family DNA project! So far as I can tell, no member of the Rankin project from this line has tested.

Is part of this researchthe line of David and Jennet McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, VA. Two of their four proved children moved to Washington County, PA. We will follow the David/Jennet line from Frederick to Pennsylvania and wherever the evidence points thereafter.

Also part of this research – the line of Thomas and Eleanor Rankin of Washington County, PA.

Finally, we will also cover the Rankin family of Fayette County, PA. Some researchers think this family is from the line of David and Jennet. I am not so sure.

It looks like this will be a multi-part series.

David and Jennet Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia

Let’s dive right into the Frederick County Rankins. The patriarch of the family was a David Rankin Sr. who had at least four children: Hugh, Barbara, David Jr., and William Rankin. All four are proved by David’s will.[2] County court records establish they were born no later than the 1720s.[3] David’s Sr. wife was Jennet (or Jennett) Rankin, whose given name is also proved by his will.

That brings us to the first two issues in this line, both concerning David Sr.’s wife.

First, Rankin researchers usually identify her as Jennett McCormick. That seems highly likely because of the connections between David Sr. and several McCormicks (or McCormacks, as the name is spelled in David Sr.’s will). David named a McCormick as one of his executors, and two McCormicks were witnesses. Also, David appointed a McCormick to divide land between his sons William and David Jr. and to set off his widow’s dower.[4] All of that is strong evidence that the McCormicks were related to the Rankins.

I haven’t found a marriage record for David Sr. and Jennet, but I haven’t done any research in Ireland or Scotland. Given their ages and location, David Sr. and Jennet may have been the original immigrants to the Colonies in this line of Rankins. Like most Rankins in that general time and place, they were probably Scots Irish from the Ulster Plantations in the northern part of Ireland.

Second, many family trees give Jennet’s name as “Jennet Mildred.” There is no evidence for the middle name in the Frederick records. The only proof of her given name is David Sr.’s will and a deed, both of which called her simply Jennet.[5] However, confusion about her name is understandable because another David Rankin in Frederick County had a wife named Mildred. Fortunately, the records are clear that Jennet and Mildred were married to different David Rankins. David Sr. died before August 2, 1768, when his will (naming his wife Jennett) was proved. In March 1769, a David Rankin of Frederick County executed a lease for the term of his own life, his wife Mildred, and his brother Smith Rankin.[6] David Sr. and Jennet Rankin were clearly a different couple than David and Mildred Rankin. So … who were David, Mildred and Smith Rankin?

Hugh Rankin and wife Jane

That conveniently leads us to the next question: what do we know about David Sr. and Jennett’s son Hugh Rankin? He may have been their eldest child, although I found no evidence for a precise birth year. Hugh was the first of David Sr. and Jennet’s children to appear in the Frederick court records.[7] He was born no later than 1723, possibly earlier.[8] He left no will in Frederick, although he was a landowner. That suggests he probably didn’t die there.

The last record I found for him in Frederick was a November 1767 lease and release from him to William Rankin. The release was signed by Hugh and Jane Rankin and witnessed by David and Solomon Rankin.[9] Rankin researchers give his wife’s maiden name as Smith, probably because Hugh’s 412-acre tract was adjacent to a Smith family and there were several county records involving both Smiths and Rankins.[10] Smith as Jane’s surname sure makes sense in light of the Smith Rankin who witnessed the 1769 lease from David and Mildred Rankin.

Based solely on the 1767 and 1769 deeds, one might reasonably infer (at least as a starting point) that Hugh and Jane Rankin had sons named David, Solomon, and Smith. I haven’t found evidence of any other children, or proof regarding where Hugh’s family moved after Frederick County. The conventional wisdom is that Hugh went to Fayette County, Pennsylvania. I don’t think so, although we will get to that later in this series.

Here is a chart of what we have so far about this Frederick County Rankin family:

1 David Rankin Sr., d. Frederick Co., VA before Aug. 1768, wife Jennet (probably McCormick)

2 Hugh Rankin, b. by 1723, wife Jane (probably Smith)

3 Probably David Rankin, b. by 1748, wife Mildred MNU

3 Probably Smith Rankin, b. by 1748

3 Probably Solomon Rankin, b. by 1748

2 Barbara Rankin

2 William Rankin, more on him later.

2 David Rankin, ditto.

And that’s enough for this installment. See you on down the road!

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] Family History Library Microfilm No. 31, 379, Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 22: 303.

[2] Family History Library VGS No. 7,644,624, Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443, will of David Rankin “the elder” of Frederick County dated 5 Nov 1757, proved 2 Aug 1768. Wife Jennett Rankin, life estate in 1/3rd of 775 acres. Sons David Rankin and William Rankin, 2/3rds of real property in fee simple, plus remainder of wife’s life estate, all to be divided equally. Sons’ land to be divided by Dr. John McCormack and Thomas Provence of Frederick, who are also to set aside wife’s life estate. Son Hugh Rankin and daughter Barbara, 10 shillings each. Grandson David Rankin, son of William, a calf. Executors wife and James McCormack. Witnesses Edward McGuire, John McCormack, Fr. McCormack, and Thomas Provence.

[3] John David Davis, Frederick County Virginia Minutes of Court Records 1743-1745 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2001). Abstract of July 1744 court record, p. 139, mentioning a suit against Hugh Rankin, who must have been of legal age to appear as a lawsuit party in his own behalf; Sept 1744 court record, p. 196, Barbara Rankins testified as a witness for Leonard Harper; March 1744/45 court record, p. 328, William Rankin served on a jury; Frederick County Deed Book 2: 48, David Rankin Jr. witnessed a deed in Nov. 1749 along with his brothers Hugh and William.

[4] See Note 2.

[5] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 5, 6, 7, 8 1757-1763 (Nokesville, VA: 1990), abstract of Deed Book 5: 398, deed of lease and release dated 2 Mar 1760 from David Rankin Sr. (wife Jannet (sic)) and William Rankin (wife Abigail) to David Rankin Jr., 463 acres of a branch of Opeckon Cr., part of 778 patent of 30 Oct 1756 from Lord Fairfax to David and William Rankin; see also Note 2.

[6] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 12, 13, 14 1767-1771 (Nokesville, VA: 1991), abstract of Deed Book 13: 8.

[7] See Note 3.

[8] Id.

[9] Gilreath, abstract of Deed Book 12: 46-48.

[10] See, e.g., Gilreath, abstract of Frederick Co. Deed Book 5: 343, lease and release dated 3-4 Sept. 1759 from William Ranken of Frederick to John Smith, same, 15A, part of a tract of 778 from Lord Fairfax to William and David Rankin dated 30 Oct 1756 on a branch of Opeckon Creek called Turkey Spring. Release signed by Wm Rankin and Abigel Rankin.

Westward Ho the Willises

A Willis family moved from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Ohio in the early 1800s. Another moved first to North Carolina then to Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. A third migrated to Missouri. The underlying incentive to migrate was almost always to find cheaper land. But why these places? The chosen destinations pointed to the Land Acts related to the Northwest Territories.

Great Britain ceded millions of acres of land to the United States after the Revolutionary War. Most of the land was west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River, which Congress established as the Northwest Territory in 1787. The territory encompassed all or part of what would become six states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

The government took several steps to entice new settlers to the area. First, it surveyed the area into a standard grid of 640-acre sections. This survey aided the organized pricing and sale of the land to individual settlers or to groups of investors. Next, Congress passed a series of Land Acts providing for land sales. The Territory’s representative to Congress, the future President William Henry Harrison, presented one of the early proposals, which Congress adopted as the Harrison Act of 1800.

The Harrison Act required buyers to purchase at least 320 acres at a price of $2.00 per acre. The buyer had to pay at least half the purchase price at the date of purchase with the balance due in equal annual installments over four years.

The required upfront payment was pretty steep for most settlers. Therefore,  Congress created the Land Act of 1804, which kept the other purchase terms but cut the minimum acreage in half, reducing the upfront payment by 50%. Settlers could better afford this arrangement, and most were able during good economic times to keep up with their payments.

The economy suffered in the late 1810s when peace came to Europe. The warring nations had been a strong market for agricultural production from the United States. That demand disappeared when armies disbanded and returned to their farms in France, Germany, and England. As a result, many farmers in the Northwest Territories could not sell their crops and could not make payments on their loans. Congress responded with the Land Act of 1820 and the Relief Act of 1821. The Relief Act let existing settlers give back land they could no longer afford to finance, and it extended the installment period an additional eight years.

The Land Act of 1820 cut the minimum purchase acreage for new settlers to 80 acres and cut the price to $1.25 per acre. The act required the total cost to be paid at the time of purchase. Settlers found this acceptable as most could afford the $100 minimum purchase under the new act without a time payment plan. The Act also applied to lands in the Missouri Territory.

These government programs helped people from the Eastern Shore acquire property in far away places just as headright incentives helped populate Maryland and other colonies 100 years earlier. Maryland residents also benefited from one of the easiest routes into the lands beyond the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. The Cumberland Narrows in Maryland’s Allegheny County (not to be confused with the Cumberland Gap near the border of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia) provides the best east to west access in the mountain range for potential settlers from the northern tier of states. Beyond The Narrows, emigrants soon found the Ohio River and a watery highway to the West.

We know that some Willis families took advantage of these purchase opportunities. Foster Willis of Caroline County, Maryland died in Missouri. Tilghman Willis of Dorchester County, Maryland died in Ross County, Ohio. And Shelah Willis, a son of William from Maryland, was probably born in North Carolina, married in Warren County, Ohio, and died in Berrien County, Michigan. We will look in depth at Foster, Tilghman and Shelah Willis at a future date.

“Same Name Confusion:” Edward Buxton Lindsey(s)

This article is about two men named Edward Lindsey. They’ve been conflated with each other because they purportedly share the unusual middle name Buxton. Talk about understandable confusion!

If you’ve landed on this website via a search on a “Lindsey” name, you may have already seen the post on Edward Buxton Lindsey (“EBL”), my great-great grandfather (link provided below). I did a lousy job in that article of proving that EBL was who I said he was. Specifically, I failed to prove that EBL of Nash County, NC lived in Barbour Co., AL after he left Nash, and then moved further west.

Fortunately, a nice lady who read the EBL article posted a comment which made me aware I had goofed. Here is her comment, edited a bit:

Hi, Robin.

I am a direct descendant of Edward Buxton Lindsey myself, or so I thought. Have you found any information to back this lineage up?

According to my tree, and to many others on ancestry.com, my lineage is as follows: William Lindsey of Nash Co., NC (d. 1817) m. Mary (“Polly”) LNU. They were the parents of Edward Buxton Lindsey (1797-1872) who married as his first wife Rachel Murphy (1803-1830).

End of comment. Bad on me, and thanks to Jessica Richmond for her question. When someone asks, have you found any information to back this lineage up,” you’ve obviously done a lousy job of proving your case. To make amends, I’m writing now to address this question:

Where did Edward Buxton Lindsey of Nash Co., NC, son of William Lindsey, go after his father died in 1817?

First, let’s talk about Jessica’s ancestor Edward Lindsey (1797-1872), who married as his first wife Rachel Murphy. He arrived in Benton Co., TN by at least 1836, and apparently lived there until he died. Since Benton was created in December 1835 from Henry and Humphrys counties, it is possible that Edward appears in the records of one of those counties before 1836. I haven’t looked in either county’s records, although the Edward Lindsey enumerated in Henry Co. in the 1830 federal census is probably the same man. Here are some Benton Co., TN records for Edward, all available at Ancestry.com and/or FamilySearch.org:

  • 1836 Benton Co. , TN tax list, Edward Lindsey. John, William and James Lindsey were also shown on that tax list.
  • 1837 Benton Co. tax list, Edward Lindsey, ditto.
  • 1838 tax list, ditto.
  • 1840 federal census, Benton Co., Edward Lyndsey, age 40-49.
  • 1850 federal census, Benton Co., Edward Lindsey, 52, b. NC (with second wife Levisa, whose name has various spellings).
  • 1860 federal census, Benton Co., Edward Linsy, 63, b. NC (wife Lavicy).
  • 1870 federal census, Benton Co., E. Lindsey, 73, b. NC (wife Lavinia).
  • Tombstone in the Edward Lindsey cemetery in Big Sandy, Benton Co., TN: “Edward Lindsey, b. 31 Jan 1797 d. 5 Mar 1872.” Here is the findagrave website with a photo of Edward’s tombstone. The findagrave site (but not the tombstone) shows Edward Lindsey with the middle initial “B.” And a monument erected by descendants also uses the middle initial “B.”

Benton County Edward was kind enough to stay in the same place for more than three decades. It’s a good bet that there is some record there containing a middle name or middle initial, if he ever used one. I haven’t found any. A descendant of his with whom I exchanged emails a number of years ago also found no record of him ever using a middle name or initial. That doesn’t prove Benton County Edward’s middle name wasn’t Buxton. It does cast some shade on the possibility.

OK, let’s shift our focus from Benton County Edward and go back to the  Nash County, NC will of William Lindsey. Here is a link to a post containing a complete transcription of the 1817 will.

William left his widow Polly (a common nickname for Mary) a life estate in his home “plantation.” It was located in Nash County on Sapony/Sappony Creek. After Polly’s life estate expired (i.e., after she died), the land went to William’s son Edward Buxton Lindsey. The will used Edward’s full name.

EBL appeared in Nash County for several years after his father died. His older brother Asbury Lindsey became guardian of EBL and his siblings William Ray and Polly Mintz Lindsey in February 1819.[1] The court recited Edward’s middle name in the guardian appointment. Subsequently, EBL’s brother John Wesley Lindsey became Edward’s guardian, posting the requisite annual guardian’s bond on Feb. 16, 1825. John Wesley also filed his annual accounting of EBL’s estate that month. The originals of both the bond and the accounting are available in the “Search Room”[2] at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh. The Search Room makes hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions?) of records available to the public in the form of both original records and microfilm.[3]

Back to the point: in order to need a guardian, the ward must have been less than age 21 (or non compos mentis, which isn’t an issue here). Since EBL had a guardian in February 1825, he must have been born sometime after February 1804.

And there is the first problem with the theory that Benton County Edward was the same man as EBL of Nash County. Benton County Edward’s tombstone says that he was born in January 1797. He would have been 28 in 1825 and in no need of a guardian.

Meanwhile, my ancestor Edward B. Lindsey appeared in four consecutive federal censuses (1850 through 1880) as having been born in North Carolina about 1811 – 1812.[4] He would have still been underage through at least 1831.

That’s not enough to prove that the Edward B. Lindsey in those census records was the same man as EBL, son of William Lindsey of Nash County. For proof of that, we need to look at additional Nash County records – and some records in Pike and Barbour County, AL.

EBL’s last appearance in Nash County in person was in March 1827 at the estate sale of his brother, William Ray Lindsey.[5] Edward purchased a bedstead and linens, a pocket knife, a man’s saddle, a razor, an arithmetic book, a “cypering book,” and an ink stand. The last three items suggest that his brother and guardian John Wesley was seeing to Edward’s education, as William Lindsey’s 1817 will instructed. The purchases also prompt an image of a young man teetering on the brink of adulthood, in need of his own razor … but still engaged in schoolwork.

The 1830 census for Nash County does not have a listing for EBL, although his brothers Asbury and John Wesley both appear as heads of households.[6] EBL was still around Nash, though, because the county court tried to find John Wesley in early 1832 in connection with his annual guardian’s bond and accounting.[7] EBL’s guardian’s file contains the original of a summons dated February 2, 1832, ordering the sheriff to summon John W. Lindsey to appear at the May court to “show cause why he has not renewed his bond and returned his accounts as guardian to Edward B. Lindsey.” The order was dated Feb. 2 and issued April 10, 1832. On the reverse side of the summons it says this: “The Court vs. John W. Lindsey, gdn Edward B. Lindsey, May Term 1832. Not to be found in the County of Nash … the Deft [sic, defendant, i.e., John Wesley] has moved himself to the Mississippi.”

And that is the last record I have found in Nash County for John Wesley Lindsey. He and EBL clearly left Nash by early 1832, possibly together.

I found only one more Nash County record concerning EBL, a deed dated Nov. 21, 1836:

Charles Livingston of Barbor Co., Alabama (sic, Barbour) to Jeptha Lindsey of Nash, NC, 200 acres in Nash on the south side of Sappony Cr., “it being the lands left to Edward B. Lindsey by his father William Lindsey.”[8]

Moving on to Alabama … there is a marriage record in Pike Co., AL for Edward B. Lindsey and Elizabeth J. Odom dated June 30, 1832.[9] Barbour Co. was created in Dec. 1832 from the Creek Cession of 1812 and part of Pike County. There are a number of records for Edward B. Lindsey in Barbour County, including the state census of 1833. Here is the most important, because it proves that his full name was Edward Buxton Lindsey:

Deed dated Sept. 29, 1838 between Isaac Wilkins of Barbour Co. and E. Buxton Lindsey, also of Barbour Co., signed Edward B. Lindsey.[10]

There is no listing for Edward in the 1840 census, although he and Elizabeth Jane were clearly still in Barbour County. In 1842, EBL and his wife of Barbour Co. sold four tracts in Barbour County to Hubbard S. Odom.[11]

In short, a man named Edward Buxton Lindsey lived in Barbour County during at least 1833 through 1842. In 1836, a man who also lived in Barbour County sold Edward B. Lindsey’s tract on Sappony Creek in Nash County, NC, which Edward inherited from his father William.

I have not yet found a deed in which EBL conveyed his interest in his father’s Sappony Creek tract to Charles Livingston, but that would just be icing on the cake. If the other two deeds don’t convince you that EBL of Nash was the same man as EBL of Barbour Co., AL in 1838, then you’re a tough nut to crack. It’s good enough for me.

Also in 1838, Benton County Edward Lindsey appeared on the Benton County tax list, and he was still there in 1870. He was not the same man as Edward Buxton Lindsey of Nash and Barbour counties, who inherited his father’s tract on Sappony Creek.

EBL, son of William Lindsey of Nash, moved west from Barbour County. In 1845, his daughter Amanda Adieanna Lindsey was born in Mississippi. I don’t know where in Mississippi she was born, but I’m betting it was somewhere en route between Barbour Co. and Drew Co., AR. That is where EBL and his wife Elizabeth Jane Odom Lindsey were listed in the 1850 census, see footnote 4. Elizabeth Jane died in Drew County in October 1854 at age 42. Her obituary identifies her as the daughter of Jacob and Nancy Odom, “who emigrated to south Alabama.”[12]

There is no reasonable doubt that Edward Buxton Lindsey and his wife Elizabeth Jane Odom Lindsey of Drew Co., AR were the same people as the couple by those names who previously lived in Barbour Co., AL.

Edward wasn’t lucky in marriage. Elizabeth Jane Odom, the first of four wives, died leaving 9 or 10 children.[13] His second marriage to Ruth Crook in Drew County ended in divorce. In Claiborne Parish, LA (where his daughter Amanda Lindsey Rankin and his son William Lindsey both lived), he married wife number three, Elizabeth J. Marshall. She died in Tyler Co., TX, leaving Edward with an infant son. Marriage number four to Permelia Dean in Tyler County also ended in divorce. Edward returned to Claiborne Parish, where he last appeared in the 1880 census with his 10-year old son, Edward Lindsey Jr.

Edward’s story of four marriages, and his daughter Amanda Rankin’s story of love at first sight, are my two favorite oral family legends. You can find Edward’s legend and Amanda’s legend in articles on this website.

One last comment, stated as gently and kindly as I possibly can. Family trees posted at Ancestry.com don’t prove anything, even if there are dozens of them saying the same thing. Mostly, they prove how easy it is to import other peoples’ trees. Family trees posted at wikitree, FamilySearch.org, findagrave websites, surname DNA projects, and other websites have the same failing. If you find a tree with an unproved possible ancestor on it, contact the author and ask nicely for relevant evidence. I’ve met a bunch of nice people (and good researchers) that way!

See you on down the road … I’m heading (figuratively speaking) for Virginia and Pennsylvania on the trail of some Rankins.

* * * * * * * * * * *

[1] Timothy W. Rackley, Nash County North Carolina Court Minutes Volume IX 1818 – 1821 (Kernersville, NC: 1996), abstract of p. 235, entry of 8 Feb 1819 appointing Asberry (sic) Lindsey guardian of William Ray Lindsey, Polly Mintz Lindsey, and Edward Buxton Lindsey, orphans of William Lindsey, dec’d.

[2] The first banner at the Archives’ website has a picture of the search room showing its red upholstered chairs and a woman searching through one of the fibreboard boxes containing original records. https://archives.ncdcr.gov

[3] State Archives of North Carolina, fibreboard box designated C.R.069.510.7, “Nash County Guardians Records Horn, Henry – McDade, Drucilla 1784 – 1874,” file folder labeled “Lindsey, Edward B. 1832.”

[4] 1850 federal census, Drew Co., AR, E. B. Lindsey, 39 (born about 1811), b. NC, with Elizabeth J. Lindsey (wife #1), 28, and 8 children; 1860 federal census, Drew Co., AR, E. B. Lindsey, 48 (born about 1812), b. NC with Ruth Lindsey (wife #2) and 4 children (the Lindsey children are missing in that census); 1870 federal census, Tyler Co., TX, Edw. Lindsey, 59 (born about 1811), b. NC, with wife Eliz. Lindsey (wife #3) and 1 child; 1880 federal census, Claiborne Parish, LA, Edward B. Lindsey, 69 (born about 1811), b. NC, with a son, Edward B. Lindsey, 11, born in Texas.

[5] State Archives of North Carolina, fibreboard box designated CR.069.508.47, Nash Estate Records, file folder labeled “Wm. Ray Lindsey 1827.”

[6] 1830 federal census, Nash Co., NC, p. 186, household of Asberry Lindsey; p. 188, household of John W. Lindsey.

[7] State Archives of North Carolina, fibreboard box designated C.R.069.510.7, “Nash County Guardians Records Horn, Henry – McDade, Drucilla 1784 – 1874,” file folder labeled “Lindsey, Edward B. 1832.”

[8] State Archives of North Carolina, Film Box No. C.069.40006, microfilm of Nash Co. Deed Book 16: 206.

[9] Family Adventures, Early Alabama Marriages 1813 – 1850, (San Antonio: 1991), marriage record for Edward B. Lindsey and Elizabeth J. Odom, 30 Jun 1832, Pike Co., AL.

[10] Alabama Department of Archives and History, microfilm of Barbour County Deed Book F: 54; see also FamilySearch.org Film No. 7,897,788, digitized images of Barbour Co., AL Deed Book Volumes E-G 1842-1846, at Deed Book F: 54.

[11] Alabama Department of Archives and History, microfilm of Barbour County Deed Book E: 114. Hubbard Stubbs Odom was Elizabeth Jane Odom Lindsey’s brother. For some reason that is beyond me, EBL bought those same four tracts back from Hubbard in 1843. Microfilm of Barbour County Deed Book F: 45.

[12] E. M. Tipton, Marriages and Obituaries from the New Orleans Christian Advocate 1851-1860, Vol. 1 (Bossier City, LA: Tipton Printing & Publishing,1980). Elizabeth Jane Odom Lindsey’s obit appeared in the New Orleans Christian Advocate issue of 25 Nov. 1854, No. 3, Page 3, Col. 1.

[13] Jennie Belle Lyle, Marriage Record Book B, Drew Co., Arkansas (Little Rock: Democrat Printing & Lithography Co., 1966)marriage record for E. B. Lindsey and Ruth B. Crook, 16 Sep 1856; Willie Huffman Farley, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana Marriage Records, 1849-1940 (Shreveport: J & W Enterprises, 1984), marriage of E. B. Lendsey and E. J. Marshall, 15 Nov 1865; and Frances T. Ingmire, Marriage Records of Tyler County, Texas 1847 – 1888 (St. Louis: 1981), marriage of Ed. B. Lindsey and Permelia Dean, 20 Nov 1872.

 

Poking a Snake With a Stick

OK, I’m a city girl … if you count Shreveport, LA, located in northwest Louisiana (aka East Texas) as “city.” I learned some good rural stuff, though, at Camp Fern, Marshall, Harrison Co., TX. I was a camper or a counselor there for a decade.

FYI, Harrison County, Texas is home to all four poisonous snakes resident to the US of A: water moccasins, rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes.

In my ten summers at Camp Fern, I saw them all. Nobody was ever bitten in all that time. I came to accept snakes as fellow occupants of God’s good green earth. Sometime in the late 1950s, a copperhead was hanging around on a rock near my cabin. I reported it to my counsellor. “Honey,” she said, “it won’t hurt you if you just don’t poke it with a stick.”

Live and let live: a good piece of advice.

But a snake is still a snake.

I actually remembered my counsellor’s advice with respect to the administrators of a certain FTDNA family DNA project. I failed to follow my gut hunch. Instead, I poked the snake, and wound up being defamed in an email (sent to gosh knows how many people), and two good friends of mine were tossed out of that DNA project for totally meretricious reasons. My friends are understandably upset.

That is a sad story that is probably about power and control. The project administrators in this case are (in my personal opinion) snakes, and they are out of control. That’s a damn shame.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS POST: if you are a member of a family DNA project, make sure that your administrators remain kosher. There are a zillion DNA projects, and FTDNA cannot possibly monitor everything the administrators do (although I think FTDNA does its best). The administrators are all volunteers, and most (in my experience) are committed to furthering family research in their particular family line. Most don’t punish people they don’t like by making up phony reasons to kick them out of a project. However, it is primarily up to us, as project members, to make sure that administrators do their jobs. There is no excuse for administrators to violate FTDNA ethical standards and/or to abuse their power over their members. So please keep an eye on ’em. Poke the snake, if need be. Report them to FTDNA.

Virginia Winn Series Part 7: Portrait of Mrs. John Winn of Hanover County

My friend and cousin Sandra Wynne Irwin sent to me an image of this wonderful oil painting.

She’s absolutely charming, isn’t she, despite the poor quality of this reproduction?

The Smithsonian catalog identifies her as Mrs. John Winn of Hanover County, Virginia. The portrait was painted during 1735–1740. The artist reportedly lived in Hanover at one time during that period (more on that below). Thus, this lovely woman’s husband was almost certainly one of the two John Winns who appeared in two 1733 Hanover County deeds. If you’ve forgotten the two frustrating John Winns in those deeds, check out Part 6 of this Winn series.

The conventional wisdom is that Mrs. Winn’s maiden name was Mary Pledger, per the Middlesex Theory (see also Part 6). That’s what you will consistently find online, although there are still a few holdouts who believe that Mary Pledger married John Winn of Amelia County as his first wife. He was a son of Richard and Phoebe Winn of Hanover County: Richard, according to the Middlesex Theory, was John Winn’s brother.

None of the trees I have looked at offer any evidence that Mary Pledger married John Winn. So far as I know, the only evidence is the fact that she witnessed those two John Winn/Richard Winn deeds in Hanover. That’s good, so far as it goes, but … is that all we’ve got?

Undeterred by my inability to uncover conventional evidence, I have been deep-diving into an odd combination of sources, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum Catalog, an old issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, and a compiled family history writen in 1932 titled Ancestors and Descendants of John Quarles Winn and His Wife Mary Liscome Jarvis. All in an effort to find proof of Mrs. Winn’s identity. No luck, but it was fun looking, so I’m sharing the deep dive.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum Catalog says this  in relevant part about the painting

“Portrait of Mrs. John Winn of Jassamine Lawn, Hanover County, Virginia, (painting).

Artist:                     Charles Bridges, active circa 1735-1740, painter.

Dates:                      Circa 1738.

Medium:                Oil on canvas

Dimenensions:  49 x 40 (inches)

Subject:                  Portrait female – Winn, John, Mrs. (Mary Pledger) – full length

Owner:                    Anonymous Collection

Provenance:       Formerly in the collect of the family of Mrs. John Winn; Girard Burwell Lambert, Millwood, VA until 1948; Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Christopher, Millwood, VA, 1948; Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, NY Sale (Sept. 18, 1976), lot 279; Anonymous Collection; Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, NY Sale 4999 (Jan. 1983), lot 182; Craig & Tarlton, Raleigh, North Carolina until Nov. 5, 1985; Christie’s, New York, NY Sale Raleigh-6034 (Nov. 5-6, 1985), lot 261

Remarks:            Mary was the second wife of John Winn (baptised Jan. 20, 1707-died ca. 1789), a substantial landowner and planter in Virginia. Mary and John married in 1738 and lived on his Hanover County plantation “Jessamine Lawn.” They had five children, the eldest of whom was born ca. 1749. This portrait of Mary Winn is believed to be her wedding portrait painted in 1738. In 1738, the artist Charles Bridges also lived in Hanover County, Virginia. The painting descended through the family to Girard Burwell Lambert, “Carter Hall,” Millwood, Virginia, the great-great-great-grandson of the sitter. Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Christopher acquired the painting in 1948 when they purchased “Carter Hall.” The painting was listed as attributed to Charles Bridges in both the 1983 Sotheby Parke Bernet sale catalog and in the 1985 Christie’s sale catalog. IAP files contain additional information supporting Charles Bridges as the artist of the portrait.

References:      Sotheby Parke Bernet, Sale 499 (Jan. 27, 1983), lot 182;m Christie’s, Sale Raleigh-6034 (Nov. 5-6, 1985), lot 261; Winn, B. Meredith, Jr., 2011

The information offered in “remarks” obviously echoes the Middlesex Theory, identifying Mary, the subject of the portrait, as nèe Pledger, and as the second wife of John Winn of Hanover (see, again, Part 6).

“References” shows the Smithsonian’s sources. They include B. (Bernard) Meredith Winn Jr., who provided information to the Smithsonian in (apparently) 2011. Mr. Winn is presumably a descendant of John and Mary Winn of Hanover, or is surely from a related line. If he has taken a YDNA test, he is probably a decent match for the lines of Col. Thomas Winn and Daniel Winn of Lunenburg, John Winn of Amelia, and Minor Winn of Fauquier. I do wish he would upgrade his test to “Big Y” so all of his distant cousins, myself included, could pinpoint the location in the U.K. from which the Winns migrated. I especially wish he would share any evidence he might have about the Hanover Winns circa 1730–1789, because he might have something besides the Christ Church parish register and those three darn Hanover deeds. Perhaps he has a family Bible, or at least a family oral tradition.

I don’t have the nerve to track down someone who is probably about my age (i.e., old and increasingly cranky) and ask him to produce some proof about the identity of his ancestress. Even the most hardcore genealogist has her limits.

Please just keep in mind that what the Smithsonian Catalog says isn’t evidence of Mary Winn’s maiden name.

There is another Winn compiled family history which deems the identity of Mrs. John Winn unproved. Otherwise, it shares the Middlesex Theory, tracing John Winn’s ancestry to Richard and Sarah Winn of Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County. For that view, see Ancestors and Descendants of John Quarles Winn and His Wife Mary Liscome Jarvis (Baltimore: Lord Baltimore Press, 1932). The authors were David Watson Winn (1857-1926) and Elizabeth Jarvis Winn (1891-1965). Note that both of these authors were a century closer to these Winns than we are, and they had considerable documentary evidence.

The Jarvin/Winn book doesn’t identify the maiden name of Mary Winn, wife of John Winn of Jessamine Lawn, Hanover County.

The entire book can be downloaded here. Do read the Foreword, which talks about their remarkable sources. At one time, they apparently had an opinion written by John Marshall, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. See, e.g., Marbury v. Madison, a famous case I had to brief about 10 times in law school.

Finally, there is an interesting article about Mrs. John Winn’s portrait and the artist in a 1952 issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography[1]. It offers no opinion on Mrs. Winn’s identity, which is understandable: the article is primarily about the artist, Charles Bridges. Here is a link to the article.

It is a lonnnnggg read. It has reproductions of a number of paintings by the artist, mostly members of the Byrd family, which are fun. Here, edited somewhat, is what The Virginia Magazine has to say about the portrait of Mrs. John Winn. It also echoes the Middlesex Theory, except it does not identify Mrs. Winn as Mary Pledger, probably because the source for the family information was the Jarvis/Winn compiled history.

“Mrs. John Winn

Subject: The portrait is said to represent Mary, second wife of John Winn, of “Jessamine Lawn,” Hanover County. He was baptized Jan. 20, 1705, died c. 1789. The date of their marriage is unknown, but they had five children, the eldest born in 1749 or earlier. (See Ancestors and Descendants of John Quarles Winn, Ed. D. W. Winn, Baltimore, 1932).

The identification may perhaps be correct, although there seem to be no documents supporting it. If correct, the subject may have been painted as early as 1740, before her marriage, since she appears as a young woman in her early twenties and it is not certain that she had any children before 1740.

Description: The subject is a pleasing young woman shown standing full-front against a dark background beside a table on which her right hand rests … [t]he picture has been largely repainted, so that the costume does not show Bridges’ technique, but the tilt of the head and the rendition of the features so much resemble the painting of the heads of the young women of the Byrd family so as to make the attribution of this portrait to Bridges seem at least possible.

Owner: Mr. Frank E. Christopher, Carter Hall, Millwood, Va. The portrait was acquired before 1938 by Mr. Gerard B. Lambert who then owned Carter Hall, and was sold with the residence to Mr. Christopher in 1948. Its earlier provenance is not recorded.”

The author of the Virginia Magazine history was writing in the early 1950s, so the “Owner” information is clearly out of date.

In any event, I hoped you enjoyed a break from the usual post at this blog! Can’t beat a fabulous oil painting …

And that does it for me with the Winns, unless I recover sufficiently to elaborate on some of the Lunenburg or Amelia Winns, a crowd that doesn’t require so many speculative theories!!!

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] Henry Wilder Foote, “Charles Bridges: “Sergeant-Painter of Virginia” 1735-1740,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 60, no. 1 (1952), at 3-55. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4245816.

In Memoriam: Ron Lindsay

Lindsay/Lindsey researchers recently lost a genuine giant: Ron Lindsay of San Jose, California. Ron was a pioneer in the use of DNA in family history research for Lindsay/Lindsey families. He also created and continually updated the “Clan Lindsay” website, complete with YDNA results, powerpoint charts, and more information than you can shake a stick at. He connected Lindsay/Lindsey researchers with each other. He wrote and published a massive volume about his North Carolina Lindsay family. He shepherded, agonized over, and (as a practical matter) birthed the Lindsay/Lindsey Family DNA project, which features a co-administrator for each one of the distinct Lindsay YDNA groups. Ron recruited each administrator, and trained his own replacement when he realized that he hadn’t long to live. He was one darn fine family history researcher.

He was also a good friend. And a Lindsey cousin. I will miss our email exchanges.

Here is a link to his his obituary. 

And here is a link to the Clan Lindsay website.

RIP, my friend.

 

 

Virginia Winns Part 6: Competing Theories About the Hanover Winns

There is a lot of speculation about the Winn family of Hanover County, Virginia on the web. You can find it on trees posted at Ancestry.com, at the Winn DNA Project website, and Winn message boards. I get a perverse kick out of this, because there is very little that the few extant Hanover records (and records from counties between Hanover and the coast) actually prove about the Hanover Winn family in the first half of the 18th century.

In fact, a mere three deeds contain a good bit of what we can actually prove about the early Hanover Winns. Here they are:

  1. 3 January 1733, John Winn of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover Co., carpenter, to Benjamin Hawkins, same, for 2,000 lbs. tobacco and £15 current money, 140 acres grantor purchased from Richard Leak of Hanover. Witnesses were Richard Winn, Phebe Winn, and John Winn.[1]
  2. 19-20 January 1733, deeds of lease and release from Richard Winn and his wife Phebe of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, to John Winn of the same, £82 for 517 acres with plantation on Chickahominy Swamp in Hanover purchased by said Phebe in her widowhood by name of Phebe Pledger from John Hogg of New Kent. Witnesses were John Winn, Ann Wheeler, and Mary Pledger.[2]
  3. 31 Jan – 1 Feb 1733, deeds of lease and release from John Winn of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, to Richard Winn of the same, £100 for 517-acre plantation on Chickahominy Swamp in Hanover purchased by Phebe Pledger from John Hogg of New Kent. Richard and Phebe Winn sold to John Winn 19-20 Jan. last. Elizabeth Winn, wife of John, relinquished dower. Witnesses were John Winn, Ann Wheeler and Mary Pledger.[3]

OK, what do these three deeds tell us?

  • the three Winn men (Richard, John, and John Winn) who appeared in these deeds were undoubtedly family.
  • all three men were of legal age by 1733, so they were all born by 1712.
  • the first John Winn, grantor in deed #1, may have been unmarried in 1733 because relinquishment of dower wasn’t mentioned.
  • the second John Winn, grantor in deed #3, had a wife named Elizabeth.
  • Richard Winn’s wife was Phoebe, and she was previously married to a Mr. Pledger.
  • the witness to two of the deeds, Mary Pledger, was surely related to Phoebe in some fashion.

We can consider these matters proved by these deeds, except perhaps for the question whether John Winn, the grantor in deed #1, was married.

With this information in our arsenal, let’s get down to brass tacks: where did these Hanover Winns live before they came to Hanover?

There are two competing theories among Winn family history researchers about the origins of the Hanover Winns. Please keep in mind that both theories are speculative, which is why we are calling them “theories.” If a statement in the remainer of this article has documentary proof, the statement has a footnote containing a citation to a source. If there is not a citation to a source, then the statement is speculative. Following the principle of “belt AND suspenders” (meaning you can never have too many safeguards), I will put FACTS in regular typeface, like this. I will put speculation in italics.

As a wise distant cousin likes to say: family history without proof is fiction. PERIOD. If you claim you were descended from President George Washington, that’s fine. But please be aware that Washington had no children with his wife Martha Dandridge Custis, so your DAR application will be a bit tricky.

Here are the competing speculative Winn theories …

The Gloucester Theory.

The Abingdon Parish Register of Gloucester County records the baptism of Richard Winn, son of John Winn and his wife Elizabeth, in 1704.[4] The Gloucester Theory (this is speculation!) is that the Richard born in 1704 was the same man as the Richard Winn of Hanover County who married Phoebe Wilkes Pledger some time before 1733. According to the Gloucester theory, Richard’s parents John and Elizabeth Winn were the grantors in deed #3, above. John, the elder of the two John Winns in the three deeds, died in Hanover without leaving any record. That is believable, because Hanover probate records prior to 1785 are virtually nonexistent. The younger John Winn, who was the grantor in deed #1 and the witness in deeds #2 and #3, was Richard’s brother. John’s birth wasn’t recorded in the Abingdon Parish register for any one of several plausible reasons.

The Gloucester Theory can’t account for the gap in the records between 1704 and 1733, instead pointing to the state of the Gloucester records and the burned counties between Gloucester and Hanover. The Gloucester Theory would chart the early Gloucester/Hanover Winn family like this:

1 John Winn and wife Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) lived in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County around the turn of the century. They moved to Hanover County some time before 1733.

2 Richard Winn was baptized in 1704 in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester. He married Phoebe Wilkes Pledger, widow of a Mr. Pledger.

2 John Winn’s birth year is unknown, although he was definitely born by 1712. He was in Hanover county, unmarried by 1733.

As a practical matter, the Gloucester Theory starts with known facts – the Abingdon Parish registry and the Hanover deeds – and simply weaves a plausible story to explain the provable facts. But it is nonetheless speculative. Absent a family Bible or other compelling evidence, it may be impossible to prove this theory. The Gloucester courthouse has burned three times, most recently in 1864. Colonial records for Hanover County are also sparse, and that’s putting it mildly. Records for King & Queen, New Kent, and King William counties (located between Gloucester and Hanover), where the family of John and Elizabeth Winn might have lived in the three decade gap between 1704 and 1733 – assuming the Gloucester Theory is correct – are similarly difficult.[6]

The Middlesex Theory

We don’t have to go far for this theory: just to the north of Gloucester County, across the Piankatank River, to Middlesex County. Christ Church Parish, which had the same boundaries as the county, has these entries for six children of Richard and Sarah Winn:

  1. Mary Winn born 16 Xember 1696-97.
  2. Sarah Winn born 17 January 1698-99
  3. Richard Win, son of Richd and Sarah Win, baptized 28 Sept 1701.
  4. Elizabeth Winn, dau of Richard and Sarah Winn, baptized 18 Apr 1703.
  5. John Winn, son of Richard Win and wife Sarah, baptized 20 Jan 1705.
  6. Jane Winn, dau of Richard and Sarah Winn, baptized 15 Feb 1707.

The Middlesex Theory (this is speculation!) is that the Richard Winn (b. 1701) and John Winn (b. 1704-05) in Middlesex are the same men as the grantors/grantees in Hanover deeds #2 and #3, above. The Middlesex Theory doesn’t account further for Richard, the father of those six children. The last entry I found for Richard in Middlesex (which has quite extensive colonial records) was in 1710, when he served on a jury, so he probably left Middlesex after that.[7] The Middlesex Theory doesn’t attempt to explain the gap between 1710 and 1733. The theory just postulates that Richard and Sarah Winn’s sons Richard and John migrated to Hanover County by 1733. Richard married Phoebe Wilkes Pledger some time before 1733. Also some time before 1733, John Winn married Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Elizabeth died, and then John married as wife #2 Mary Pledger, who witnessed deeds #2 and #3.

The Middlesex Theory would produce this chart:

1 Richard Winn and wife Sarah ______ who lived in Christ Church Parish, Middlesex County, in the late 1690s.

2 Richard Winn b. 1701 m. Phoebe Wilkes Pledger before 1733.

2 John Winn b. 1705 m. #1 Elizabeth LNU before 1733 and m. #2 Mary Pledger after 1733.

There is one glaring problem with the Middlesex Theory that I wish someone could explain satisfactorily. Who is the second John Winn who witnessed deeds #2 and #3? If you’re going to weave a credible story, you really need to account for all the players.

The Middlesex Theory says that Richard (grantor in deed #2) was born in 1701, and John (with wife Elizabeth, grantor in deed #3) was born in 1705. That would make Richard and John about 32 and 28, respectively, when they executed those 1733 deeds. Neither one of them was old enough in 1733 to have a son John who was able to write, much less witness a deed. There is nothing speculative about that: the second John Winn was unquestionably also of legal age.

The options are narrowing, aren’t they? The second John Winn was definitely not a son of either Richard and Phoebe or John and Elizabeth. The second John Winn wasn’t the father of Richard m. Phoebe and John m. Elizabeth & Mary, since the Middlesex theory identifies a Richard as the father of Richard and John father. But the second John was clearly family.

Cousin seems to be the last remaining reasonable possibility. Oh, boy … where did he come from? And where did he go? There was only one Winn family in the Christ Church Parish register and in Middlesex County. Somebody out there has to have some idea.

Which of the two theories is your pet? The vast majority of Winn researchers have adopted the Middlesex Theory. In fact, I can no longer find anyone with a tree posted on Ancestry.com who still claims descent from John and Elizabeth of Abingdon Parish, but my search skills stink. There were a few around on the web at one time. I suppose they have all been shouted down by the Middlesex Theory advocates.

In that regard, some Winn researchers state the Middlesex Theory as fact. This ought to merit the genealogical equivalent of the death penalty, or at least permanent loss of credibility.

Unfortunately, YDNA doesn’t help, if you look closely at the DNA results. There are (as nearly as I can tell) two participants in the Winn Family DNA Project who claim descent from Middlesex Winns. The others who are their matches apparently claim only provable ancestry (and good for them!), but not back to Middlesex. What is the proof of those claiming descent from Richard and Sarah of Middlesex? Gee, it would be nice to know, wouldn’t it?

In my own family tree software, my Winn line ends with Richard and Phoebe Wilkes Pledger Winn of Hanover. The Gloucester Theory seems to me to weave a better story in terms of reconciling all the known facts. But … it’s still just speculation. Call me prissy and old-fashioned. Guilty!

I’m hoping somebody who reads this will post a comment with more evidence one way or another.

At least one compiled family history (Jarvis-Winn) has more to say on the Hanover family. It was written by a pair of descendants of John Winn of Hanover County. The authors were both born in the 1800s, and the evidence they compiled appears to have been substantial. I’ll get to that in the next post on the Winns, in which I’ll share a picture of a fabulous oil painting sent to me by my friend and cousin Sandra Wynne Irwin.

* * * * * * *

[1] Rosalie Edith Davis, Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories (1979), at 19.

[2] Id. at 13-14.

[3] Id. at 16-18.

[4] Robert W. Robins, The Register of Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, VA 1677-1780 (Arlington, VA: Honforn House, 1981).

[5] Here is a link to part 2, a link to part 3, a link to part 4, and a link to part 5. Whew! If you click on all of those, you will have opened a bunch of tabs. <grin>

[6] New Kent county deed books begin in 1865. King & Queen County deed books begin in 1864. The King William County clerk’s office burned in 1885 and most records were destroyed. This is where family lines go to become unprovable.

[7] Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Middlesex County, Virginia Order Book 1708 – 1710 (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1998), abstract of Order Book 4: 290.

Virginia Winns Part 5: Richard and Phoebe Winn of Hanover County

The issues in this post are either uncontroversial or I just don’t know the answer. This is a humbling thing to admit, but good for the soul. Let’s jump to the bottom line(s). Whatever evidence is available follows this list, if you like that kind of thing.

  1. Phoebe Pledger, a widow, definitely married Richard Winn of Hanover County before early 1733. The conventional wisdom says that Richard moved to either Amelia County or Caroline County, or he may have stayed in Hanover. The answer is uncertain.
  2. Phoebe was almost certainly a daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Wilkes of New Kent and Hanover counties.
  3. The identity of Phoebe’s husband before she married Richard Winn, Mr. Pledger, is tougher. Some researchers believe her husband was Joseph Pledger of Abingdon Parish, Gloucester Co. The slender Pledger evidence is interesting but inconclusive.
  4. Was Phoebe the mother of all Richard’s children, or did he have a prior wife? If there is evidence of an earlier wife, I haven’t found it. For a discussion of the siblings – Col. Thomas Winn and Daniel Winn of Lunenburg, and Phoebe Winn Holland, John Winn, and Susanna Winn Irby of Amelia, as well as (perhaps) Samuel Winn the scoundrel, see Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Now on to the proof … or lack thereof.

Phoebe Pledger, widow, married Richard Winn by 1733.

This one is a piece of cake. Here’s the evidence that Phoebe was married to a Mr. Pledger and that she subsequently married Richard Winn. It’s as solid as proof can get, especially in a burned county like Hanover where surviving 18th-century records are scarce as hen’s teeth.

On 19 and 20 Jan 1733, Richard Winn and his wife Phebe of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, executed deeds of lease and release to John Winn, also of Hanover, £ 82 for 517 acres with plantation on Chickahominy Swamp in Hanover, purchased from John Hogg of New Kent by Phebe in her widowhood by the name Phebe Pledger. Witnessed by John Winn, Ann Wheeler, and Mary Pledger.[1]

For future reference, note that there are two John Winns in this deed – the grantee and a witness. Also a witness Mary Pledger.

Did Richard and Phoebe Pledger Winn stay in Hanover? Or did they move to Amelia or Caroline county?

The odds are virtually nil that Richard moved to Amelia County. In a deed identifying him as Richard Winn “of Hanover,” he bought some land in Amelia County in 1744.[2] He never lived on it, because his tithables continued to appear in the Amelia County tax lists with the designation “Richard Winn’s list” or “Richard Winn’s Quarter.” “List” and “Quarter” both mean that Richard owned land and had tithables living on the property, although he didn’t reside there himself.[3] Instead, Richard’s son John began appearing on the tax list with Richard’s enslaved persons in 1751.[4] Richard probably died before that date, but not in Amelia. There is no will for him there. He never appeared in an Amelia court order book, served on a jury, or did anything constituting evidence that he was present in Amelia County. The Amelia colonial records are virtually intact. If Richard had lived there, we would not have been able to miss him.

As of November 1744, Richard Winn still lived in Hanover.[5] After that, he did not appear in the St. Paul’s Parish vestry book, which is the primary extant source for that county during the 1740s and 1750s. That suggests that Richard either died or relocated after 1744.

Some Richard Winn was in Caroline County in person by 14 Mar 1745/46, when he acknowledged a deed there.[6] A Richard Winn (the same or a different man? I don’t know) had acquired land in Caroline in 1735; a Minor Winn also appeared in the Caroline records that year.[7] I haven’t yet waded through all the Caroline order books, a tedious business, so I don’t have a good feel for the Caroline Winns.

The Richard Winn who lived in Caroline died there in 1748.[8] His will was witnessed by a Robert Durrett, and Richard Mauldin provided security for the executor. There don’t seem to be any connections between the Durrett, Mauldin and Winn families in Hanover County, but the Hanover records are so sparse that doesn’t prove much. Those two men may have been family, though. Has anyone found any Durrett/Mauldin/Winn connections anywhere? If so, that might be significant evidence about Richard Winn of Caroline.

Richard of Caroline had a son Benjamin, the only child identified by the Caroline records.[9] If Richard of Caroline is the same man as Richard of Hanover, then we could add Benjamin to Richard and Phoebe’s list of probable and possible children. Perhaps someone who reads this has some evidence whether Richard of Hanover is the same man as Richard of Caroline — and will let the rest of us know. I’m still uncertain.

Who were Phebe Pledger Winn’s Parents?

A Hanover agreement is the only evidence of Phoebe’s parents I have found. Here it is:

Court record of 6 Aug 1734, agreement between Joseph Wilks of Blissland Parish, New Kent, planter, to Richard Winn of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover, planter, £11.8.3 “in consideration of said Richard Winn finding him what land he shall have occasion to work during his natural life (and the life of Elizabeth his wife), which land shall be a part of the tract of land where … said Richard Winn now lives and shall build upon said land all the necessary buildings fit and convenient for him and also in consideration of the said Richard lending to said Joseph ……. slaves ……..etc.” Witnesses: John Bowles, Robert Mosby, John Winn. Proved 7 Nov 1734 by Jno Bowles and John Winn. Joseph Wilks gave £200 bond to perform his obligations, bond witnesed by John Bowles, John Winn, Robert Mosby, and John Winn.[10]

There may be several ways to interpret that agreement. I take it as indicating that Joseph Wilkes was old, Richard and Phoebe were taking care of him and his wife Elizabeth, and the Wilkes were Phoebe’s parents. Other Winn researchers see this agreement as evidence that Joseph Wilkes wife Elizabeth was Richard’s mother, who married Joseph Wilkes after her Winn husband died. Maybe so, although I disagree. The principle of Occam’s Razor suggests that the more complicated explanation is less likely than the more simple one.

The Amelia tax records establish another Wilkes-Winn connection, a plus for Occam’s Razor. Joseph Wilkes and John Wilkes were tithables on the Amelia property of Richard Winn and Richard’s son John at different times, possibly in a capacity as property overseer.[11] I don’t know how they were related to Phoebe, although I imagine they were related in some fashion. John Pledger married Patience Crenshaw, another family with several Winn connections.

I hope by now your interest has been piqued by the fact that there were two men named John Winn who were of legal age in Hanover County in 1733-34. See the 1733 deeds of lease and release (a John Winn party and a John Winn witness) and the Winn-Wilkes agreement (two witnesses named John Winn).[12] Who were the two John Winns? Let’s talk about them in the next Winn post in this series, when we will look at some records for various Winns in Goochland, Henrico, Middlesex, and Gloucester.

Who Was Phoebe Wilkes Pledger’s Husband before Richard Winn?

I don’t know. Some researchers think he was the Joseph Pledger who appeared in the vestry book Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, when the birth of his daughter Mary was recorded in 1719.[13]

That could be. Susanna Winn Irby, probably Phoebe’s youngest child, was born between 1730 and 1740. It’s possible that Phoebe was also a mother of a child born in 1719. What do you think?

I have scoured records of counties between the York and Rappahanock Rivers for the late 1600s and early 1700s looking for Pledgers – any Pledgers. Here are ALL the records I have found prior to the time a Philip Pledger began regularly appearing in Amelia records:[14]

  • 26 Apr 1708 deed for land in York County, John Keene of New Kent to Hon. Daniell Park, witnessed by George Keeling, John Eaton, and Joseph Pledger. Joseph also witnessed Keene’s performance bond.[15]
  • 19 Nov 1708 processioning report in the St. Paul’s Parish vestry book, Hanover County: “The lands of Daniel Parke Esqr, Henry Chiles Gent … being made one precinct … Overseers … made this return on the back of yee Ordr, viz. November 19th 1708, … fully Executed … there were prest [sic, present] every of the within mention’d Persons, except Colo Parke; who was represented by Joseph Pledger. Vestry book at 163, Chamberlayne at 209.
  • 18 Oct 1719: Mary Pledger, daughter of Joseph Pledger (wife not named) was baptized in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester County, on 18 Oct 1719.
  • 19 and 20 Jan 1733, Mary Pledger witnessed the deeds of release between John Winn and Richard Winn.

The Joseph Pledger who witnessed Daniel Parke’s deed in New Kent (where grantor lived) was surely the same man as the Joseph Pledger who represented Col. Parke at the processioning of Parke’s land in Hanover. Is he the same man as Mary Pledger’s father, who lived in Abingdon Parish, Gloucester? Is this one or two Joseph Pledgers in these three records during 1708 – 1719? It’s a fairly limited geographic area, so my gut hunch is that these records were all the same man. Was he Phoebe’s husband? I don’t know.

How about Mary, Joseph’s daughter, born in 1719 … was she the same woman as the Mary Pledger who witnessed the 1733 Hanover deeds conveying Phoebe Pledger Winn’s former land? She would have been only 14 at the time, too young to prove a deed in court. Do we have one or two Mary Pledgers in these limited records? The Mary Pledger who witnessed the deeds was surely related in some fashion to Phoebe.

Many online trees and websites claim that a Mary Pledger married one of the two John Winns of Hanover County. One John Winn in the Goochland/Henrico/Hanover area did have a wife named Mary (more on them later). Somebody out there must have some evidence – something beyond a bare, unsourced claim – about a Mary Pledger marriage to John Winn, right? I’m still looking.

Was Phoebe Wilkes Pledger Winn the Mother of All Richard Winn’s Children?

I don’t know that, either! She was undoubtedly at least the mother of Susannah Winn Irby, born during the 1730s, and Phoebe Winn Holland. Was she also the mother of Col. Thomas, Daniel, and John Winn of Amelia? None of them named a daughter Phoebe, although Daniel, in all fairness, had only one daughter (Marticia). Was Phoebe the mother of Samuel Winn the Scoundrel and Benjamin Winn of Caroline County? I don’t know. If Phoebe was the mother of the Mary Pledger born in Abingdon Parish in 1719, then all of her Winn children were born after 1720. And that’s about all I can say for sure without speculating.

See you on down the road …

* * * * * * * * * * 

[1] Rosalie Edith Davis, Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories (1979), court records at 13-14, deeds of lease and release from Richard and Phebe Winn to John Winn.

[2] Amelia County Deed Book 2: 82-83, 15 Nov 1744 deed of lease and release from Stith Hardaway to Richard Winn of Hanover County, 388A in fork below Little Nottoway River and Lazaritta Creek adjacent Epes line.

[3] Family History Library Film 1,902,616, Amelia County tax list for 1746: Richard Winn “list,” 2 slaves, 2 tithes (so the enslaved persons were the only tithables); Amelia county tax list for 1748, Richard Wyns “Quarter,” the rest unreadable; 1749 tax list, Richard Winn’s list, John Wilkes, Harry, and Flowrey(?), 3 tithes (so there is presumably the overseer, John Wilkes, and 2 enslaved persons); 1750, Richard Winn’s list (adjacent Philip Pledger on the tax list), tithables Harry, Florey, Jenny, 3 tithes (enslaved persons only); 1751 tax list for John Winn, 5 tithes, listed with Joseph Wilks, Harry, Flora and Jean. The fact that the same enslaved persons appeared on Richard Winn’s list in 1750 and with John Winn’s in 1751 is powerful evidence that John Winn was a son of Richard.

[4] Id.

[5] See note 2.

[6] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1740-1746, Part Three, 1744 – 1746, (Washington, D.C.: 1973), abstract of Order Book 1744-46: 577, 14 Mar 1745/46, Richard Winn acknowledged his deed to his son Benjamin Winn.

[7] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1732-1740, Part Two, 1734/35-1737 (Washington, D.C.: 1966), abstract of Order Book 1732-40 at 300, 13 Jun 1735, Minor Winn was a defendant in a lawsuit (which means he resided in the county); at 316, John Martin and wife Rachel acknolwedged deeds of lease and release to Richard Winn, 14 Nov 1735 (Richard need not have been living there).

[8] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1746-1754, Part One, 1746/47-1748 (Washington, D.C.: 1968), abstract of Order Book 1746-54: 123, entry of 9 Dec 1748, will of Richard Winn presented by Benjamin Winn, executor, proved by Richard Mauldin who swore he saw Robert Durrett witness the will. Bond by Benjamin Winn, Richard Mauldin was his security. Based solely on the Amelia County tax lists, 1748 might be a bit too early: Richard of Hanover may have still been alive in 1750, when he was taxed in Amelia County. Had the Amelia County tax assessor known that Richard had died, the tithables would have been designated as Richard Winn’s estate.

[9] See note 6.

[10] Rosalie Edith Davis, Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories (1979), abstract of court record of 6 Aug 1734 at pp. 148-49, agreement between Joseph Wilkes of New Kent and Richard Winn of Hanover.

[11] See note 3.

[12] See notes 2 and 9.

[13] Vestry Book of Petsworth Parish, Glouchester County, Virginia 1677 – 1793, transcribed by C. G. Chamberlayne, Richmond, VA, 1933, entry of 18 Oct 1719: Mary, daughter of Joseph Pledger, was baptized.

[14] See, e.g., Amelia County Deed Book 2: 183, deed dated 18 Jul 1745 from John Ellis to Philip Pledger, for love and affection for Philip who married his daughter Nanny Ellis adjacent Irby. Recall that John Ellis was the father of Sarah Ellis Winn, the unfortunate wife of Samuel Winn the Scoundrel.

[15] Mary Marshall Brewer, York County, Virginia Land Records 1694 – 1713 (Lewes, Delaware: Colonial Roots, 2006), abstract of York Co. Deeds and Bonds 2: 282.

Kudos to FTDNA!

No, I don’t work for FTDNA, or get free stuff from the company, or have any stake in its success. My only connection is that I did my own autosomal (“Family Finder”) test with FTDNA, and convinced two of my male first cousins to Y-DNA test with the company. I have also encouraged other people to do the same.

I just want to say “good for you, FTDNA” about their ethical/privacy standards on a couple of issues. If you read this blog, you know I had a run-in with a family surname project administrator not long ago. I wrote about my experience on this blog and gave some advice about maintaining control of your FTDNA account. Several friends (project administrators) and I discussed the privacy/ethics issues involved, but we didn’t have hard and fast answers.

So I emailed the FTDNA help desk. I asked two questions:

(1) Is it ethical for a family surname project administrator to upgrade a participant’s test kit without first getting prior express written permission from the participant who tested?

(2) Is it ethical for a family surname project administrator to revise a test participant’s family tree without getting prior express written permission?

FTDNA’s prompt reply was “NO” and “NO.”  Here is FTDNA’s reply verbatim:

“1) Before ordering testing on any account, you must have express written permission from the test taker where they agree to further testing.

2) You are not allowed to make changes to a members tree without their express written permission.”

There is nothing equivocal about that. No exceptions, no caveats. FTDNA did not say “except it is OK to change a member’s tree if you have the account password.” Ditto on ordering further testing — unequivocally verboten, even if you have the account password.

So thanks, FTDNA. I’m glad to hear it.