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.

Virginia Winns Part 4: Samuel Winn, Scoundrel, and a Famous Creek

We are all, dear readers, related to so-called “black sheep.” Every family tree has some criminals, KKK members, people who deserted their children, and just plain ol’ ne’er-do-wells among its branches. When you find a compiled genealogy extolling the inherited family virtues of thrift and hard work, all of them wealthy and hugely respected in the community, judges and war heroes as far as the eye can see – these abound in published family histories, believe it or not – you know you’re reading fiction. Or, at best, half-truths. In my own direct lines, I have a Civil War deserter and a ne’er-do-well named Benjamin Winn, grandson of both Daniel Winn and Col. Thomas Winn.[1]

Benjamin stayed out of the records, leaving no proof of his character other than his father Joseph’s will. The will provided for Benjamin’s support, but made sure that Benjamin’s bequest was subject to neither his debts nor his control.[2] I actually like Benjamin, who probably did not set out to disappoint his father.

On the other hand, Samuel Winn of Lunenburg/Amelia left plenty of evidence that he was a worthless scoundrel – at best. And he probably belongs on the tree we’ve been discussing.

Let’s recap. The prior three articles in this Winn series (read them at this link, and this link, and this one)  concluded that  Col. Thomas Winn of Lunenburg County, Daniel Winn of Lunenburg, John Winn of Amelia, Phoebe Winn Holland of Amelia, and Susanna Winn Irby of Amelia were siblings. Further, those five were sons and daughters of Richard Winn of Hanover County. We haven’t established yet that Richard’s wife was Phoebe (probably née Wilkes) Pledger Winn, but we will address that shortly.

Samuel Winn may be another sibling of those five Winns. Lunenburg land records establish a definite connection between Samuel and at least Col. Thomas and Daniel Winn. First, in 1740, Samuel patented 150 acres which were then in Brunswick, then in Lunenburg after it was created.[3] Samuel’s tract was on the south side of perhaps the most famous creek in Virginia genealogical research. This requires a slight digression, during which we will attempt fruitlessly to tap dance around a common obscene gerund.

Winn researchers on message boards sometimes refer to this watercourse as “Tucking Creek.” This artless dodge so clearly calls to mind the actual creek name that it seems a waste of time. Even better, some cartographer with a well-developed sense of irony renamed it “Modest Creek” at some point. It appears by that name on current maps. The original deed books, modesty not yet in vogue, just call a spade a spade and identify it as “F_cking Creek.” (I’ve omitted one letter, also an artless dodge, hoping to avoid complaints.)

Wouldn’t you love to know how the creek got its name? Was it shaded and full of algae-covered rocks, making people likely to slip when crossing it? Once home, did the victim explain his soaking clothes by saying “I slipped and fell into that effing creek again!” Or perhaps a couple was caught in flagrante delicto down by the creek? There is surely a good story there.

Back to Samuel. He next appeared in 1746, selling his Modest Creek patent to Thomas Wynne of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover.[4] That, as you know, is Col. Thomas. In 1752, Samuel sold Daniel Winn of Prince George Co. 100 acres on Hounds Creek.[5] He is Col. Thomas’s brother. Sales of land among family members were so common that they are generally deemed evidence of a familial relationship. These two deeds, however, are the only evidence I have found that Samuel was related to Col. Thomas and Daniel, other than the fact that Samuel’s eldest son was named Richard Winn (suggesting, in turn, that Samuel’s father was named Richard in accord with the Anglo naming tradition). Pretty thin stuff.

Lunenburg court records provide the first hint that Samuel wasn’t a model citizen. In 1748, a Lunenburg grand jury indicted him for a crime, probably assault.[6] The order book for the same court session also mentioned a civil suit against Samuel for trespass and assault.[7] In all fairness to Samuel, he was ultimately fined just a token 5 shillings in the criminal case and the civil suit was dismissed.

Nevertheless, I’ll bet no one reading this has been indicted by a grand jury for assault, even an obviously minor one.

A number of Lunenburg suits against Samuel sought to collect money. The July 1750 order book alone records three attachments against Samuel’s personal estate. In all three cases, the court records say Samuel “absconded,” meaning he had already gotten the hell out of Dodge when the sheriff came to collect on the judgment.[8] “Absconded” probably also means he took with him property subject to attachment. There are more such records, but I quit taking notes.

Samuel’s financial irresponsibility extended to support for his family, which he probably abandoned. In February 1756, the Lunenburg court ordered the church wardens of Cumberland Parish to bind out Ann, Sarah, Richard, and William Wynne, Samuel’s children.[9]

A few months later, in September 1756, Samuel Winn’s wife Sarah tried to sue him in Lunenburg. The court order book (I looked at the original) doesn’t specify the nature of the complaint, which was dismissed “for reasons appearing.”[10] If Sarah and Samuel were still married, she had no legal standing to sue anyone in her own behalf. Divorces were notoriously difficult for colonial women to obtain, except for impotence (not possible here). I haven’t a clue what this was all about, or how Sarah managed to get a case far enough for a dismissal. Curious. It’s clear, though, that Sarah had no use for Samuel.

Earlier Amelia County records provide a good reason. The Amelia County order book for April 1750 has this entry:

For examination of Samuel Wynne, committed for rape on the body of Mary Wynne, his daughter … Prisoner brought to bar on arraignment and pled not guilty. Mary Wynne, the prosecution and witness for the King, was called, but failed to appear. She had entered bond with John Ellis for £50 that she would appear and give evidence. No other evidence appearing, the prisoner was discharged.[11]

It is just barely possible that the Samuel Wynne who was accused of raping his daughter in Amelia was not the same man as Samuel Wynne of Lunenburg who abandoned his children. Note that the Lunenburg court didn’t name a Mary in the list of Samuel’s children six years after this rape charge (which might just mean that Mary wasn’t living in Lunenburg, or she was already of legal age by 1756).

What are the odds, though, that there was a worthless Samuel Winn with wife Sarah in both Amelia and Lunenburg counties? Amelia records establish that the mother of the non-appearing witness Mary Wynne was named Sarah. John Ellis of Amelia County, the man who provided security on Mary’s court appearance bond, definitely had a daughter Sarah who married a Winn. And Sarah Ellis Winn’s husband didn’t provide for her, which is consistent with the Samuel we’ve come to know. Here is the evidence: John Ellis’s 1762 will included a provision for his “son Richard Ellis to provide proper support and maintenance for my daughter Sarah Winn.”[12]

There is probably more information about this sad family in the Lunenburg and/or Amelia County records. But I was fed up with Samuel, and decided to move on to some fun issues. Getting the Lunenburg/Winn family further back in time definitely qualifies. Next, we will finally look at the Hanover Winn records in Part 5 of this Winn series.

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] Benjamin was a son of Joseph Winn, a son of Daniel, and Elizabeth Winn, a daughter of Col. Thomas. See the prior articles in this series discussing Lunenburg Order Book 17: 134. For an article about John Allen Rankin, the Civil War deserter, see this link.

[2] Joseph’s will took care of Benjamin’s support, but provided that Benjamin’s legacy would not service his debts or be within his control. Lunenburg Will Book 5: 20-22, will of Joseph Winn dated 28 Mar 1800 proved 12 Jun 1800, bequeathing “to executors for support of son Benjamin Winn, 2 negroes but not liable for payment of any of his debts, and after son’s death … [enslaved persons] to be divided equally among son’s children by present wife Creasy [sic, Lucretia] Winn when they are 21 or marry; at wife’s death, property lent her by this will divided between eight children Minor Winn, Daniel Winn, Jos Winn, Bannister Winn, Mourning Gunn, Elizabeth Brown, Sarah B. Winn, and children of Benjamin Winn by his wife Cressey.”

[3] Dennis Ray Hudgins, Cavaliers and Pioneers Volume IV: 1732 – 1741 (Richmond: Virginia Genealogical Society, 1994), Volume 4: 238, abstract of Virginia Patent Book 18: 905, Samuel Wynne patented 150 acres in Brunswick (now Lunenburg) on the south side of F_cking Cr. adjacent Read/Reed, 1 Dec 1740.

[4] Original of Lunenburg Deed Book 1: 71, deed of 8 Apr 1746 from Samuel Winn of Brunswick to Thomas Wynne of Hanover, 150 acres in Brunswick adjacent Read. Witnesses John Winn, John Stone, Richard Stone.

[5] Original of DB 3: 226, 4 Nov 1752 deed from Samuel Winn of Lunenburg sold Daniel Winn of Prince George 100 acres on the south side of Hounds Cr., David Stokes, Hampton Wade, and Thomas Winn, witnesses.

[6] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia Order Book 1, 1746-1749 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1999), abstract of Order Book 1: 425, May 1748, grand jury returned an indictment against Samuel Wynne, venire facias to issue for him to appear at the next court to answer the King’s indictment.

[7] Id. at 428. Ebenezer Shearman v. Samuel Wynne, action in trespass/assault was continued until the next court.

[8] Id. at 300-302. The Order Book states that Hampton Wade obtained a judgment against Samuel for £16.15.8. The sheriff attached sundry goods and chattels and sold them at public auction to collect that debt. Second, Drury Allen obtained a judgment for £2.5.6, plus 40 lbs tobacco, and also obtained an attachment. Third, William Dobbins obtained an attachment for a judgment of £13.9.9.

[9] Original of Lunenburg Order Book 4: 82.

[10] Id. at 204, entry of 9 Sep 1756, Sarah Wynne, complainant, v. Samuel Wynne, defendant in chancery, dism’d.

[11] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Amelia County Virginia Court Order Book 2, 1746-1751 (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1997), abstract of Order Book 2: 159.

[12] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Will Book 2X Amelia County, Virginia Wills 1761-1771 (Amelia: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1979), abstract of Will Book 2X: 21, will of John Ellis of Nottoway Parish executed and proved in 1762.

Jessie Sensor Willis – The Blizzard Baby

My grandmother Jessie Sensor (1881-1937) was born this date 136 years ago during one of the worst blizzards in Nebraska history. Her parents were the Reverend George Guyer Sensor (1852-1913) and Julia Frances Mendenhall (1857-1941). George’s Methodist ministry took the family eventually to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was there in Somerset County that Jessie at age 18 married Dr. Henry Noble Willis (1865-1926) who was almost twice her age. Henry had a daughter and a son by his first wife, Mary E. McMaster (1867-1898), who were only 10 years and 12 years, respectively, younger than his new bride. Henry and Jessie had two children of their own, Grace (1904-1909) and Noble (1916-1968), and adopted a third, Kathryn (1905-1972).

The family moved to Wilmington, Delaware where Dr. Willis established his practice. By 1930 with her husband deceased, Jessie still lived in Wilmington with her son Noble. Living in her household were Kathryn and her husband William New. Jessie worked as Assistant to the Pastor of Harrison Street Methodist Church. Shortly after Jessie’s 39th birthday, her mother Julia wrote a letter describing the blizzard that occurred during the winter of Jessie’s birth. Julia says in the letter that the current year’s weather had reminder her of the winter of Jessie’s birth and inspired her to write.

Below is my transcription of that letter followed by a few explanatory comments:

1373 Park Boulevard, Camden – N.J.,                                            Jan 29th 1930

My Dear Jessie –

“Once upon a time”, many years ago there lived on the plains of Nebraska a young couple. They were far from childhoods home and loved ones. Many times they had been homesick and longed for familiar faces. ‘Twas in the month of January – a great blizzard was on. The worst storm, ‘twas said, that was ever known in that part of the country. Snow was piled high, roads were drifted so that one could not find the familiar path. Many, on account of the blinding snow that bewildered them, perished within a few rods of home. Houses were so completely covered with snow that it was impossible to get in or out. A coal famine, caused by snow drifted railroads, made more terrible the suffering of those without fuel. Many perished from cold and lack of food. When relief came it was [Page 2] found that all furniture in many homes had been burned and that partitions were being torn down for fuel to keep the inmates from freezing – food was exhausted and had help been delayed a day longer many would have been added to the victims who had already perished. In the midst of this dreadful storm and suffering there came to this young couple a darling baby girl to bless their lives. She was warmly welcomed and how thankful they were for her safe arrival in the storm – also that there was coal in the bin to protect her little life. $26.00 per ton was what it cost but they were too thankful to get it to consider the cost and while the fire did smell like greenbacks they were not deterred from using it for, did not a new young life need to be protected? And no expense must be spared for the comfort of the mother and babe – now you may go on with the story. Rather a cold reception after months in that cozy little nest provided for the little stranger by the dear heavenly father. Whose tender [Page 3] care for many years has shielded that life midst storm and sunshine and today we pray that the same care and protection may follow her the balance of her life – Blessing her and making her a blessing each day. The present snow storm and suffering in the west has made me rather reminiscent. They tell me this is a sign of old age but I don’t believe it.

Have just had a nice letter from Aunt Maggie which has somehow renewed my youth. She has just passed her 76th birthday and writes a beautiful hand and such a cheery letter. Here [sic] daughter Anna is living in California and has located Annabell your Uncle Will’s daughter. She has not met her yet but has met the lady she with whom she lives a Miss Brown who is supervisor of music in the schools and who told her that Annabell has specialized in music and art and is now a teacher and a very fine girl. She [Page 4] also told her that Emma her mother had died last Jan. her brother Edward is in Chicago. I was glad to get this bit of family news. I would love to see these children. Dear Maggie thinks I should undertake the trip to see her. Well maybe we will some day when your ship and mine come in.

I must now hurry to a close as it is getting late. I came in to Grace’s today to keep house while she went to buy her coal. Began this letter yesterday was interrupted so am finishing it here. My chair came last evening. It is beautiful, my couch is also in place and now I have a really fine sitting room.

Oh! I must not forget to tell you that Glennie Davis of Woodetown is living near me and we have an invitation to take dinner with her when you come as she [Page 5] is very anxious to see you.

 Another item still – the burglars tried again to get here this week but as Doc has so completely fastened all windows and doors they did not make it. He and Grace watched them as they worked and saw them leave. He thinks he has discovered who they are.

Tell Kitty I say “Thank you” for getting my chair and to come see it. Grace joins me in love.

            Write or come up when you can.

                                    Goodnight –

                                                Mother

 What a wonderful story of the first days of Jessie’s life. I love Julia’s writing skill and sense of humor … the coal was so expensive the fire smelled like greenbacks. And what wonderful additional clues about the family’s current life are embedded in this letter. See the following explanatory comments regarding certain statements in the letter:

“Many times they had been homesick and longed for familiar faces.”

Reverend Sensor was assigned to Grand Island, Nebraska when he married Julia Mendenhall in Pennsylvania on Christmas Day, 1879. Both had been born and raised in central Pennsylvania. The Mendenhall family had been established there as early as 1685. The Sensor family, George’s father Frederick and grandfather George, moved to Pennsylvania from Maryland in 1805.

“‘Twas in the month of January – a great blizzard was on.”

This was January 1881. Records available on the web indicate this winter was known as the winter of the great snows.

“Many, on account of the blinding snow that bewildered them, perished within a few rods of home.”

A rod is 16 ½ feet, a common unit of measure of the period, and one still used in land surveying.

“A coal famine, caused by snow drifted railroads, made more terrible the suffering of those without fuel.”

An article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat dated February 24, 1881 stated that between February 2 and February 19 there were no trains on the Pacific Extension of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern line.

“In the midst of this dreadful storm and suffering there came to this young couple a darling baby girl to bless their lives.”

Jessie was born in Grand Island, Hall County, Nebraska, January 16, 1881.

“Have just had a nice letter from Aunt Maggie which has somehow renewed my youth. She has just passed her 76th birthday and writes a beautiful hand and such a cheery letter. Here [sic Her] daughter Anna is living in California and has located Annabell your Uncle Will’s daughter.”

Aunt Maggie is likely Margaret Hoyt who married Julia’s brother Judson Phineas Mendenhall, and Anna is their daughter. Uncle Will is probably Julia’s brother, William Henry Mendenhall and Annabell his daughter.

“She also told her that Emma her mother had died last Jan. Her brother Edward is in Chicago.”

William H. Mendenhall married Emma Muttersbach. Emma apparently died in January 1929, Will was still alive at the time, and they had at least two grown children … Annabell living in California and Edward in Chicago.

“I came in to Grace’s today to keep house while she went to buy her coal.”

Grace Sensor Miller (1882-1966) is Jessie’s sister who lived in Collingswood, New Jersey. She was Julia’s second daughter, born July 15, 1882, also in Nebraska. Reverend Sensor was assigned to Grand Island in 1879 and to St. Paul, Nebraska in 1882, but shortly after that appointment had to return east for health reasons, according to his official Methodist obituary.

“I must not forget to tell you that Glennie Davis of Woodstown is living near me and we have an invitation to take dinner with her when you come as she is very anxious to see you.”

I have not identified Glennie (Glenda?) Davis. Woodstown, New Jersey is about 20 miles south of Camden. Reverend Sensor was assigned to Woodstown, NJ, where Julia likely met Glennie Davis, sometime late in the period between 1886 an 1899. In 1899, Sensor transferred from the New Jersey Conference to the Wilmington Conference and served four years at Pocomoke City and Crisfield, Maryland and Chincoteague, Virginia (all on the Delmarva Peninsula). During that time, Dr. Henry Willis met and married Jessie Sensor.

“Another item still – the burglars tried again to get here this week but as Doc has so completely fastened all windows and doors they did not make it.”

Doc is Dr. William Edwin Miller (1870-1947), Grace’s husband.

“Tell Kitty I say “Thank you” for getting my chair and to come see it.”

Kitty is Kathryn Willis, adopted daughter of Jessie Sensor and the late Dr. Henry Noble Willis.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a trove of letters between Jessie and Noble during the last three years he was a student at Duke. I will share some of these in the future, although they are heartbreaking as Jessie was slowly dying during Noble’s senior year but did not want him to know it.

Thanks for reading …

 

 

Surname DNA Projects: Protecting Your Tree From a Meddling Administrator

The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent.

Here’s what happened to me as a member of a family surname DNA project. I have taken the “Family Finder” (autosomal) DNA test with FTDNA, and have joined several surname DNA projects.

  • On January 9, I received an email from FTDNA telling me that I had been added to the family tree of (let’s call him) John Doe. I was already aware that John Doe and I are an autosomal match. The co-administrator of the Doe Surname DNA project had pointed the match out to me in recent email correspondence about other issues.
  • I checked out John Doe’s tree that he has posted at FTDNA. I can do that from my FTDNA account by going to my Family Finder matches, locating John Doe in the list, and clicking on the chart icon to the right of his name. Lo and behold, there I was on John Doe’s tree — a living person, not supposed to be shown to the public on MY tree. My Doe line was also on John Doe’s tree.
  • I emailed the man who manages John Doe’s account — let’s call him Younger Doe — and asked him to please remove my name from John Doe’s tree since I am, last time I checked, alive. I didn’t ask him to remove my entire Doe line. I did point out one misspelled name in the line.
  • He replied, saying, in essence, “huh?” He hadn’t checked John Doe’s account lately. He had NOT added my Doe line to John Doe’s tree.
  • I emailed the co-administrator of the project. I told her Younger Doe and I hadn’t a clue what was going on, and could she please fill us in as to how my Doe line might have found its way into John Doe’s family tree at FTDNA?
  • She (in my opinion) ducked and ran for cover. She said perhaps the Doe project administrator might have added my line to John Doe’s tree. She copied the administrator on her email to me and Younger Doe.

I replied and said I was outraged that a DNA project administrator would alter a project member’s posted family tree.

The reply from the administrator said my line “has been removed” from John Doe’s tree. Don’t you just love passive voice? It’s as though some ghostly apparition removed my info, rather than an identifiable person. Although I have some suspicions about who both added and deleted that stuff. She also suggested that, if I didn’t like what happened, I should change my privacy settings. She was using the sarcastic AND disingenuous font, since changing my privacy settings wouldn’t have prevented what happened.

I began checking this matter — and the issues of control and privacy that it raises — with genealogy friends. I also got help from a friend who is a member of the Rankin project. She let me fool around with her account to find out what I could do, and what I could not do, as an administrator. Her account has strict privacy settings, so I didn’t learn much from that exercise.

Here’s what I did learn from conversations and online experimentation.

  • There is no way to prevent a project administrator from looking at your posted FTDNA tree, no matter what your privacy settings may be. The most restrictive setting to prevent administrator meddling is “read only.” (See advice on settings below). Thus, there is no way my settings would have prevented the Doe project administrator from getting information about my Doe ancestors. Obviously, if there is a problem with privacy settings in this particular saga, it is on John Doe’s account, not mine.
  • What she did with the ancestry information she obtained from my account was completely out of my control. Administrators are, of course, subject to FTDNA guidelines for administrators and the FTDNA privacy policy.
  • None of my friends were comfortable with what happened here. No one was sure whether FTDNA’s guidelines for project administrators might have precluded the revision of John Doe’s tree. No one was sure whether the privacy policy precluded it, either. I’m also not sure about either of those things.

Finally, here’s some concrete advice: if you belong to a DNA project, you need to make sure you are comfortable with the amount of control your privacy settings give to project administrators. Here’s how to check. In your FTDNA account, look on the left side of your home page at the bottom of your “profile” information, and go to….

Manage Personal Information → Contact Information → Privacy and Sharing → Account Access. 

“Contact Information,” “Privacy and Sharing,” and “Account Access” are all tabs — easy to find at the top of each subsequent page after your home page. When you get to “Account Access,” you will see the question “how much access do administrators have?” If you have maximum protection, it should be set to “READ ONLY.” If you click on the “READ ONLY” link, you can view the “complete permission list” and give an administrator limited access if you wish.

While you are in your FTDNA account, CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD. It is possible that the administrator in this case unaccountably felt that it was acceptable to modify John Doe’s tree (without telling Younger Doe) because she had the account password. I am told administrators are sometimes given passwords by the test kit owner if he or she needs help. That’s all well and good. Get whatever help you need from a project administrator, then CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD.

That’s something akin to the First Commandment of the digital age, isn’t it?

I cannot identify anything in the “complete permission” list that might limit an administrator’s authority to revise a member’s family tree. Likewise, I can’t identify anything specific in the guidelines for administrators that either prohibits it OR allows it. I plan to contact FTDNA and suggest they might want to look at this issue.

That said, it’s hard to imagine that anyone involved in DNA testing for family history purposes would find it acceptable to modify someone else’s family tree without getting express permission to do so. Written guidelines and policies shouldn’t be necessary here. Common sense and thoughtfulness should work just fine. 

Another option is to withdraw from a project altogether, which is what I did with the Doe family surname project.

Virginia Winns, Part 3: Col. Thomas of Lunenburg, John of Amelia, and Richard of Hanover

This series of Winn articles is about identifying the family relationships among several Virginia Winn families whose descendants are genetically related. We started with Col. Thomas Winn of Lunenburg, looking at his will in the last post on this website. The will provides a partial list of his children along with good clues about his extended family. Col. Thomas named as an executor “John Winn of Amelia County” (hereafter, “Amelia John”). Witnesses to the will included Charles Irby, John Winn, Jr., Charles Winn, Susannah Irby, Lucy Irby, and John Winn.

Those witnesses were almost certainly part of Col. Thomas’s extended family. So … how were they related to him? Amelia John’s will, probated in early 1781, provides clues. Amelia John named his wife Susannah, daughters Susanna Winn and Jane Epes, and sons Richard, John and Charles Winn. Executors were his wife Susanna Winn, Truman (possibly Freeman?) Epes and Charles Winn.[1] Witnesses included Giles Nance, John Irby, Elisha Winn, Joseph Winn, Jane Epes, and William Gooch.

Amelia John and his son John Jr. were the only John Winns of legal age in Amelia County when Col. Thomas wrote his will in 1779. They must have been the executor and witnesses in Col. Thomas’s will.

We will have to delve further to establish the relationships among this crowd, though. In Amelia John’s will, two witnesses stand out: Elisha and Joseph Winn. They were from Lunenburg County and they were the sons of Daniel Winn. They were the only Elisha and Joseph Winn of legal age in the Virginia Southside at that time.[2] The “family as witnesses” rule suggests that Elisha and Joseph – who lived on the other side of the Nottoway River from Amelia John – were Amelia John’s close family. Standing alone, Amelia John’s will and Col. Thomas’s will constitute powerful evidence that both Col. Thomas Winn (who named Amelia John his executor) and Daniel Winn (two of whose sons witnessed Amelia John’s will) were connected in a close family relationship to Amelia John Winn.

A reasonable hypothesis is that Col. Thomas, Amelia John and Daniel were brothers. Charles A. Winn Jr.’s book A Family History of the Wynns agrees, at least in part.[3] Mr. Winn concluded that Col. Thomas and Amelia John were brothers. He also believed that Daniel was from the line of Robert Wynne of Charles City County, which has since been disproved by Y-DNA testing. In contrast, Naomi Giles Chadwick’s book about Daniel Winn’s family asserts that Col. Thomas was Daniel’s only proved brother. Ms Chadwick says the relationship is established by a Lunenburg deposition.[4]

The records offer additional information about the family connections among Col. Thomas, Amelia John, and Daniel Winn:

  • The Revolutionary War pension application of a Richard Winn, who enlisted in Amelia County, identifies Amelia John as his father. Richard testified that he was born in Hanover County, VA and later moved to Amelia.[5]
  • Thomas moved to Lunenburg from Hanover County.[6] Of the three (Amelia John, Col. Thomas, and Daniel), evidently only Daniel did not live in Hanover. He came to Lunenburg from Prince George.[7]
  • An Amelia County deposition in 1764 by John Nance established that Michael Holland’s wife was neé Winn.[8] An earlier deed proves Michael Holland’s wife’s given name was Phebe, making her Phebe Winn Holland.[9] She was from the same generation as John Winn.[10]
  • The Winn, Holland, Irby and Nance families, plus a Philip Pledger, owned land and lived near each other in Amelia County on the south side of the Little Nottoway River. [11]
  • The 1763 will of John Irby of Amelia County identifies his children Charles and Lucy, proves his wife Susanna was John Winn’s sister.[12]

In light of these records, let’s go back to the question posed earlier: who were the witnesses and executor to the will of Col. Thomas of Lunenburg, namely, Charles Irby, John Winn, Jr., Charles Winn, Susannah Irby, Lucy Irby, and John Winn?[13]

  • The witness Susanna Irby was Amelia John’s sister, Susanna Winn Irby, wife of John Irby;
  • The witnesses Charles Irby and Lucy Irby were children of John and Susanna Winn Irby; and
  • John Winn the witness was the same man as Amelia John Winn, and John Winn Jr. was Amelia John’s son.

To summarize the evidence thus far, Amelia John Winn, Susanna Winn Irby, and Phebe Winn Holland, all of Amelia County, are proved as siblings. Col. Thomas Winn and Daniel Winn are also established as their siblings by the evidence provided by their wills.

On to the next question … who were the parents of Amelia John et al.? The answer, as many Winn researchers agree, is Richard and Phebe Wilkes Pledger Winn of Hanover County. If you don’t want to take that on faith, as I didn’t, here’s the evidence.

  • Begin with a 1744 conveyance of 388 acres in the “fork below the Little Nottoway River and Lazaritta Creek” (Lazaretto on current maps) to Richard Winn of Hanover County.[14] Call him “Hanover Richard.” A Richard Winn who began appearing in the Hanover County records in 1733 is almost certainly the same man.[15]
  • The 1746 Amelia County tax list included “Richard Winn’s list,” a designation meaning Richard did not live in Amelia. He was taxed on two enslaved persons, but no white tithes.[16] Richard Winn of Hanover, who acquired a tract on Lazaretto Creek in 1744, is surely the same man as the Richard Winn on the 1746 tax list who did not reside in Amelia.
  • The 1749 tax list includes “Richd: Winns list, John Wilke” (or Wilkes, perhaps?) with enslaved tithes Harry and Flowery?[17] The film for that year was very hard to read. John Wilke, or Wilkes, may have been Richard Winn’s overseer.
  • The 1750 tax list includes “Richd Winn’s List, Harry, Florey, Jeany,” a total of three tithes.[18] No overseer appears in Richard’s list this time, just enslaved persons.
  • The 1751 tax list has this entry: John Winn, Joseph Wilks, Harry, Flora, Jean.[19] Again, this is undoubtedly the same man as Amelia John. That tax list is conclusive evidence, in my view, that John Winn acquired the slaves of Richard Winn, almost certainly through inheritance. There is no deed, bill of sale or other record that I have found in Amelia County recording the transfer of those tithables from Richard to John.
  • In 1753, Amelia John’s tithable list expands to include David Webb, Caty, Hanover, Harry, Nan, Laney, Dennis, Philis, Flora, Jean and Venus, for twelve tithes total (including John). Note that the number of enslaved persons listed with Amelia John jumped considerably between 1751 and 1753. I found no deed of purchase for them in the Amelia deed records. That unexplained increase raises the inference that Richard died in the interim, and John acquired ownership of more of Richard’s slaves (including some who were previously living elsewhere, presumably Hanover).

In short, the Amelia County evidence raises an inference that Hanover Richard (who probably died about 1752) was Amelia John’s father.

A Family History cites Charles Hughes Hamlin, identified as a “professional genealogist of Richmond.” Anyone who has done any research in Virginia has heard of Mr. Hamlin. Charles Winn quotes Mr. Hamlin as follows: “[w]hen Prima Facie proof is known to have been destroyed and therefore unavailable then substantial circumstantial or secondary type evidence is both legally and genealogically admissible and acceptable.” Mr. Hamlin was off base legally, since circumstantial evidence is always admissible in court if it is otherwise proper, whether or not direct evidence has been destroyed – but we get his genealogical drift. Since the Hanover probate records are burned, the Amelia County tax lists are the only available evidence that Amelia John was an heir of Hanover Richard Winn.

If it is correct that Hanover Richard Winn was the father of Amelia John Winn, then Hanover Richard would also be the father of Phebe Winn Holland, Susanna Winn Irby, Col. Thomas of Lunenburg, and Daniel Winn.

Next up: the Hanover County Winns.

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Deed Book 2, Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1742-1747 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1982), abstract of WB 2: 360. I haven’t seen the original, but suspect that the abstractor incorrectly named Freeman Epes as Truman.

[2] Elisha and Joseph Winn are both proved sons of Daniel. E.g., Lunenburg Deed Book 13: 376, gift deed dated 8 Feb 1781 from Daniel Winn to son Elisha Winn, for love and affection, 300 acres; Lunenburg Will Book 4: 264, will of Daniel Winn leaving residue of estate after payment of debts to his son Joseph. I’m not going to attempt providing sources for my statement that Elisha and Joseph were the only related men of legal age by those names in the Virginia Southside in the 1780s. I’ve been all over that area looking at county records concerning Winns ad nauseam, ad infinitum, and I’m just going to rest that assertion on my research experience.

[3] Charles Arthur Wynn, Jr., A Family History of the Wynns (Winn, Wynne) of Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia (Decorah, IA: Amundsen, 1991)

[4] Naomi Giles Chadwick, Winn – Daniel and His Nine Sons (Riverside, CA: 1976). At page xiii, Ms. Chadwick says, “Thomas Wynne, the Elder (there were many) was the only known brother of Daniel … for he spoke of Daniel’s son Joseph as his nephew in a deposition (Thomas’s daughter was the wife of Joseph).” Ms. Chadwick provided no citation to any record. I haven’t found that deposition, but I haven’t yet been through all the Lunenburg court minutes.

[5] Virgil White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing County, 1991).

[6] Proof that Col. Thomas Winn moved from Hanover to Lunenburg is provided by a deed dated 8 Apr 1746, see Lunenburg Deed Book 1: 71 (original viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse), deed from Samuel Wynne of Brunswick Co. to Thomas Wynne of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover, 150A on what is now Modest Cr. in Lunenburg.

[7] Lunenburg County Deed Book 3: 226, Samuel Winn of Lunenburg to Daniel Winn of Prince George Co., 100 acres in Lunenburg, witnessed inter alia by Thomas Winn. Original deed viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse in 2004.

[8] Gibson Jefferson McConnaughey, Deed Book 7 and Deed Book 8 Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1759-1765 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1990), abstract of DB 8: 314. One interesting aspect of that deposition is that it was given by John Nance, who names his son Giles Nance, one of the witnesses to Amelia John’s will. I haven’t attempted to analyze the Winn-Nance connection, but the facts that (1) Giles witnessed Amelia John’s will and (2) the Nance family was privy to the discussion of valuable gifts by Michael Holland, a Winn in-law, to his children, certainly suggest that there was a family connection of some sort.

[9] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Deed Book 5 and Deed Book 6, Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1753-1759 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1989), abstract of Amelia Co, Deed Book 5: 309.

[10] Phebe Winn Holland’s son Joseph Holland was a tithable in 1763 (white males were taxable at age 16 in Virginia from 1706 through 1777), so Joseph was born by at least 1747. That puts Phebe’s probable birth date in the 1720s. FHL Film #1,902,616, 1763 tax list for Nottoway Parish, listing Phoebe Holland with tithable Joseph Holland. Joseph is proved as a son of Phebe by an Amelia County deed dated 26 Feb 1767, Joseph Holland of Nottoway Parish to Charles Irby, same, acreage in a fork of the Nottoway River, part of which Philip Pledger conveyed to John Nance in 1759; Phebe, the mother of Joseph Holland, released dower. Amelia Co. Deed Book 9: 105.

[11] Gibson Jefferson McConnaughey, Amelia County, Virginia Deed Books 12, 13 & 14 (Deeds 1773-1778) (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1992), abstract of DB 14: 64, deed dated Feb 1774 from Pheby Holland, widow of Michael Holland, dec’d, and his son Joseph Holland, heir-at-law (and Mary his wife), to Medkip Tomson of Amelia, £100 for 100 acres on the south side of Little Nottoway adjacent Col. Winn and Crenshaw, the Horse Branch, lines of Irby, Sneed, Richard Tomson and Wm. Crenshaw, witnessed by James Crenshaw, Keturah Holland, and Robert Sharp Sneed.; Gibson Jefferson McConnaughey, Deed Books 9, 10 and 11, Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1766-1773 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1990), abstract of DB 9: 105, deed dated Feb 1774 from Pheby Holland, widow of Michael Holland, dec’d, and his son Joseph Holland, heir-at-law (and Mary his wife), to Medkip Tomson of Amelia, £100 for 100 acres on the south side of Little Nottoway adjacent Col. Winn and Crenshaw, the Horse Branch, lines of Irby, Sneed, Richard Tomson and Wm. Crenshaw. Witnesses were James Crenshaw, Keturah Holland, and Robert Sharp Sneed.

[12] Amelia County Will Book 2X: 45, will of John Irby dated 28 Jan 1763, proved 27 Oct 1763. Witnesses included Henrietta Maria Irby. Will named wife Susannah Irby, her brother John Winn, and testator’s brother Charles Irby. Children Charles, Lucey and John Irby, all under age 21. Susanna and John only married in 1757, so all three children were less than five years old. See Kathleen Booth Williams, Marriages of Amelia County, Virginia 173-1815 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1978, originally published Alexandria, VA, 1961), marriage bond for John Irby and Susanna Wynne, surety John Winn, dated 29 Jan 1757.

[13] A Family History incorrectly identified the two Winn witnesses to Col. Thomas’s well. Specifically, the book identified the witness John Winn as a son of Col. Thomas, and the witness John Winn Jr. as John’s son (Col. Thomas’s grandson). Furthermore, John Winn Jr., son of John (Sr.), was born after his father died in 1768. See prior article discussing the 1768 will of John Winn, son of Col. Thomas, and the lawsuit in chancery establishing that John had an afterborn son named John. Thus, neither Col. Thomas’s son John, nor Col. Thomas’s grandson John Jr., could conceivably have witnessed the 1779 will of Col. Thomas: John was dead, and John Jr. couldn’t have been more than eleven.

[14] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Deed Book 2, Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1742-1747 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1982), abstract of Deed Book 2: 82.

[15] Rosalie Edith Davis, Hanover County, Virginia Court Records 1733-1735: Deeds, Wills and Inventories (1979), abstract of court minutes (p. 19) of 2 Jan 1733, deed from John Winn of St. Pauls Parish, Hanover Co., carpenter, to Benjamin Hawkins, 140 acres purchased by said Winn of Richard Leak. John signs. Witnesses Richard Winn, Phebe (X) Winn, John Winn.

[16] Family History Library Film #1,902,616.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id. That should be five tithes, but it looked like a “4” on the film.

Virginia Winns, Part 2: Colonel Thomas Winn of Lunenburg

This article continues the saga of five genetically related Winn families of eighteenth century Virginia: (1) Col Thomas Winn of Lunenburg, b. circa 1720, d. 1781,[1] (2) Daniel Winn of Lunenburg, d. 1799, (3) Minor Winn Sr. of Fauquier Co., d. 1778, (4) John Winn of Lunenburg, d. 1795, and (5) Richard Winn of Middlesex.[2] Thanks to Y-DNA test results (see the prior article at this website), it is certain that the descendants of these five men share a common Winn Ancestor. It is also certain that they are not genetically related to Robert Wynne d. 1668 in Charles City County, despite a long-standing belief held by many Winn researchers that Robert was the progenitor of many Southside Winns.

The Winn Family DNA project (the “Project”) published the relevant Y-DNA results for those families. The “News” tab at the Project also purports to identify immigrant Winn ancestors for this line and says they descend from a Puleston line in Wales. The Project provides no sources. I didn’t spot any participants in the Project who identified their last known ancestor as one the immigrants or the Puleston line.[3] So … what is the basis for the Project’s claims? Hmmm … when you join the website, you are asked to provide a GEDCOM. Perhaps those GEDCOMS are the basis for some of the claims about immigrants and Welsh ancestry? Ergh. Quoting a friend, “family history without sources is fiction.” While DNA obviously isn’t fiction, drawing conclusions about ancestry without providing some kind of evidence undermines one’s credibility.

Notwithstanding the Project’s claims, I’m going to assume that the published Winn Y-DNA results prove nothing more and nothing less than what it says in the boldface summary in the first paragraph, above. Let’s address the relationship among those five men the old-fashioned way, beginning with Col. Thomas. He was a fairly wealthy man who lived a high profile life in Lunenburg: he was a Colonel in the county militia, vestryman of Cumberland Parish, and justice of the county court.[4] While we are searching for his family of origin, we will also look at his children and grandchildren. For more detail, and citations to county and other records, please check out the footnotes.

Here’s the bottom line: Col. Thomas is almost certainly a son of Richard and Phoebe Wilkes Pledger Winn of Hanover County. That is what the DNA Project claims, as well. Further, John Winn of Amelia County (wife Susannah Irby), Phoebe Winn Holland of Amelia (husband Michael Holland), and Susannah Winn Irby of Amelia (husband Charles Irby) were Col. Thomas’s siblings. Daniel Winn of Lunenburg is surely also their sibling. A rogue named Samuel Winn may be another sibling.

I wish this were a simple analysis proved by a few records. It is not. In fact, it will probably take several posts to cover the evidence. The records establish a compelling web of family relationships among several Winn families and their extended family “cluster” in three Virginia counties. They also provide a great deal of information about this family. So hang on to your hats …

Here are some basic records concerning Col. Thomas: (1) the 1768 will of his son John, who predeceased his father; (2) Col. Thomas’s 1779 will; and (3) a 1795 lawsuit in Lunenburg over the estate of Col. Thomas’s son Washington Winn.

First, the will of Col. Thomas’s son John was dated March 28 and proved May 12, 1768 in Lunenburg.[5] John’s will named his wife Susannah and his children Harrison, Betty and an unborn child. John named as his executors Thomas Winn (specifically identified by the testator as his father) and Joseph Winn, no relationship stated. Although the identity of John’s children is not critical, the timing of John’s death will (eventually) be important to this narrative. Col. Thomas’s son John obviously died in 1768.

Second, the will of Col. Thomas, dated Sept. 18, 1779 and proved April 12, 1781. Col. Thomas named these beneficiaries:[6]

  1. Son-in-law John Hix and his wife Mourning Winn Hix;
  2. Daughter Henrietta Maria Winn;
  3. Son Bannister Winn;
  4. Son Edmund Winn, who was less than twenty years old in Sept. 1779;
  5. Son Washington Winn, who was also less than twenty; and
  6. Col. Thomas’s wife Sarah.

His estate was substantial. The 1782 real property tax list for Lunenburg shows his estate was taxed on 1,400 acres.[7] The will devised twenty-four enslaved persons, although the inventory of his estate names eighteen.[8]

Here’s the best part: Col. Thomas named as executors his wife Sarah, William Winn (a son), Lyddal Bacon, and John Winn of Amelia Co. The witnesses were Christopher Dawson, Charles Irby, John Winn, Jr., Charles Winn, Susannah Irby, Lucy Irby, and John Winn.[9] The executor and witnesses whose names are in boldface are a key to identifying Col. Thomas’s family.

Meanwhile, the list of beneficiaries raises at least two issues: (1) whether Col. Thomas named all his children (he did not) and (2) whether Sarah, his widow, was his first wife (she was not). The rest of his children, and the fact that Col. Thomas had more than one wife, are proved in a lawsuit in Lunenburg over the estate of his son Washington, who died in late 1793 or early 1794.[10]

Despite assertions to the contrary in a compiled Winn family history, Washington was still less than twenty-one when he died, he was unmarried, and he left no will.[11] Washington’s estate reimbursed his mother Sarah in 1794 for expenses for doctors and for his coffin, expenses she incurred in her capacity as his guardian.[12] Thanks to his inheritance from his father, Washington had a personal property estate valued at £ 324.[13] Since he died without a will, his estate was divided according to the Virginia law of intestate distribution. A lawsuit ensued, which is a very happy circumstance for family history researchers two centuries later.

I am going to reproduce below the court’s distribution order dated Nov. 10, 1797, including the style of the case.[14] It is the most important evidence I have found regarding Col. Thomas’s family. Also, an abstract incorrectly transcribed the word “coheirs” in the style of the case as “cousins,” a great example of how one word can make a world of difference in family history research!

I grouped the parties in the style of the case by typeface and color to help keep them straight in the long list of complainants. The people in the first group – in red – are children of Col. Thomas except for two men who married two of his daughters, including (1) Joseph Winn who married Elizabeth Winn and (2) John Hix, who married Mourning Winn. Elizabeth and Mourning were daughters of Col. Thomas. Joseph Winn and John Hix had to be included as named parties because a married woman had no legal existence whatsoever apart from her husband, so that she could not be a party to a lawsuit on her own behalf.

The second group – shown in blue italics – names the three grandchildren of Col. Thomas through his dead son John, two of whom were named in John’s will (Harrison and Elizabeth “Betty” Winn Heart). See the discussion of the 1768 will, above. Note that we now know John’s afterborn child was named for his father.

The third group –  in black italics – identifies some more of Col. Thomas’s grandchildren, the children of his daughter Henrietta Maria Winn Bacon.[15]

Finally, the fourth group of people – green regular typeface – also names some of Col. Thomas’s grandchildren, the children of his daughter Keturah Winn Hardy.

Please note that a lawsuit concerning an estate of a person who died without a will must, as a matter of law, name all the heirs at law (meaning all the heirs under the law of intestate descent and distribution). This one lovely lawsuit therefore conclusively proves all of Col. Thomas’s heirs, i.e., his wife, his children or – if a child predeceased him – the children of the dead child (i.e., grandchildren). You can’t beat that in family history research absent a family Bible.

Here is the style of the lawsuit and order of distribution. Quote:

John Hix and Mourning his wife, Joseph Winn and Elizabeth his wife, Thomas Winn, Richard Winn, William Winn and Banister Winn, Children and Coheirs of Thomas Winn, dec’d, and Harrison Winn, Beasley Heart and Elizabeth his wife, and John Winn, children and legal representatives of John Winn, dec’d, who was the son of the last mentioned Thomas Winn, dec’d, and Susanna Bacon, Sarah Bacon, Lyddal Bacon, and Thomas Winn Bacon, infants, by Edward [sic, Edmund] P. Bacon their guardian and Keturah Hardy, Armstead Hardy, Sally Hardy, Edmund Hardy, and Jeane Hardy, by Alexander Winn, Gentleman, their next friend,

 Complainants in Chancery,

v. 

Edmund Winn, administrator of Washington Winn, dec’d, and Sarah Winn,

Defendants.”

End of quote. We now know all the heirs – but which ones were Sarah’s children, and which were children of an earlier wife or wives? Fortunately the order specified how much money was to be distributed to each party. That tells us which were Sarah’s children (parties “of the whole blood,” i.e., Washington Winn’s siblings), and which were the children of Col. Thomas’s earlier wife or wives (parties “of the half blood”). The court was required to make that distinction because the Virginia law of intestate distribution provided that half siblings received only half as much as siblings of the whole blood. Here is the language of the payment ordered by the court, with my comments in italics:

“To Sarah Winn, complainant [sic, Sarah, Col. Thomas’s widow, was a defendant, not a complainant ], £97.9.8

To Mourning Hix of the half blood £61.14.10 [her husband John Hix had died by then][16]

To Joseph Winn of the half blood ditto [in right of his wife Elizabeth, a daughter of Col. Thomas]

To Thomas Winn of the half blood ditto

To Richard Winn of the half blood ditto

To William Winn of the half blood ditto

To Bannister Winn of the half blood ditto

To Harrison Winn, Beasly Hart & Elizabeth his wife and John Winn, heirs of John Winn, dec’d, son of Thomas Winn, dec’d, ditto amount above. The order doesn’t say so, but the amount clearly makes John Winn a sibling of Washington of the the half blood.

To the children of Keturah [Keturah’s name is struck out in pencil and “Henrietta” is written in the order book, presumably by a researcher; Henrietta is correct] Bacon, dec’d, Susanna Bacon, Sarah Bacon, Lyddall Bacon, Thomas Winn Bacon, of the whole blood, £123.9.8

To the children of Keturah Hardy, dec’d, Keturah Hardy, Ann Hardy, Sally Hardy, Edmund Hardy & Jeane Hardy of the whole blood, £123.9.8

To Edmund Winn his part £123.9.8.” Edmund, who was a defendant in his capacity as administrator of Washington’s estate, was clearly a sibling of the whole blood based on the amount he received.

Back to our original issue, i.e., the extended family of Col. Thomas. Take heart: we will get there eventually.

In that regard, there is one thing in the will that should catch our attention. One of the most solid bets in genealogy is that witnesses to a will will and/or executors are close family most of the time. Thus, we need to discover the family relationship among Col. Thomas and his executor John Winn of Amelia Co., and witnesses Charles Irby, John Winn, Jr., Charles Winn, Susannah Irby, Lucy Irby, and John Winn. The fact that Col. Thomas appointed as an executor someone from a county across the Nottoway River – John Winn, to whom I will refer as “Amelia John” – gives him special importance.

Well, this is already too much for this installment. I will open the next article with Amelia John’s will. See you then, I hope!

Footnotes:

[1] The “circa 1720” date of birth for Col. Thomas is based on when he appeared in certain records. So far as I have found, his first appearance was in a St. Paul’s Parish vestry book entry dated 3 Mar 1743, It identified Thomas as “Page’s Overseer,” see The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786, C. G. Chamberlayne, 1940. The overseer position was frequently a sort of “training” position among wealthy families; it suggests that he was in his early to mid-twenties. His next appearance in the records was as a grantee in a deed dated 8 Apr 1746. See Lunenburg Deed Book 1: 71 (original viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse), deed from Samuel Wynne of Brunswick Co. to Thomas Wynne of St. Paul’s Parish in Hanover, 150A, witnessed by John Winn, John Stone and Richard Stone. The land Samuel conveyed was on F*cking Creek, subsequently renamed “Modest Creek” in a fit of incredibly ironic cartography. In any event, Col. Thomas was born no later than 1725. His birth year was probably somewhere between 1715 and 1725, hence “circa” 1720 as a plus-or-minus estimate. He reached his public “peak” about 1765, when he became a militia Colonel, was a county court justice, and became a parish Vestryman. See note 4. He would have been about 45.

[2] The death years for four of the five men are based on the year each one’s will was probated. I have found no basis to estimate a death date for Richard Winn of Middlesex.

[3] Id. The only evidence cited in the “news” summary at the link in the prior footnote is the Christ Church Parish register, which is not without its problems. I’ll address those, or try to, in another article in this series.

[4] Lloyd Bockstruck, Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1988), Thomas Wynne took the oath as Colonel in the Lunenburg militia on 14 Jun 1765; Lunenburg County, Virginia, Order Book No. 12, 1766-1769 (Miami Beach: TLC Genealogy, 2002), abstract of Order Book 12: 67, entry of 11 Jun 1767, Thomas Winn, Justice, was present at county court; Landon C. Bell, Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County, Virginia, 1746-1816, Vestry Book (Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1930), Thomas Winn was a vestryman from 1766 through 1780.

[5] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County Virginia Will Book 2 1762-1778 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications, 1999), abstract of Will Book 2: 326, the will of John Winn, son of Thomas.

[6] Original of Will Book 3: 75, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse.

[7] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia Land Taxes 1782 – 1787 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications, 1990).

[8] Original of Lunenburg Will Book 3:75, 82.

[9] Id. at 75.

[10] Original of Lunenburg Order Book 16: 348, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse, court order of 9 Jan 1794 granting administration of the estate of Washington Winn to Edmund Winn.

[11] Charles Arthur Wynn, Jr., A Family History of the Wynns (Winn, Wynne) of Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia (Decorah, IA: Amundsen, 1991) incorrectly asserts that Washington was married and that he had a will. Washington did not have a will: (1) none can be found among the relatively intact Lunenburg probate records, (2) his estate had an administrator (rather than an executor), and (3) the court divided Washington’s estate according to the law of intestate descent and distribution – which only applies in the absence of a valid will. Further, it is certain that Washington had no wife who survived him, or his mother Sarah would not have been Washington’s guardian when he died and Washington’s widow would have been one of the distributees of his estate. Distribution to a surviving parent is a standard provision in most laws of intestate distribution. In fact, had both of Washington’s parents been alive, they would (if the VA law at that time was like current TX law) have been entitled to the whole estate and his siblings would have received nothing.

[12] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia Guardian Accounts 1791-1810 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications, 1995). Washington would not have had a guardian had he been of full legal age.

[13] June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County Virginia Will Book 4 1791-1799 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1991), abstract of WB 4: 45a, inventory and appraisal of the estate of Washington Winn, dec’d.

[14] Original of Order Book 17: 292, 293, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse.

[15] The style of the case incorrectly names the guardian of the Bacon children as Edward P. Bacon. I have a Bacon ancestor, also a Lunenburg resident, so I’ve scrubbed the Lunenburg records on the Bacons. In fact, I looked through the original deed grantor-grantee index, as well as the individual deed book indices for a number of years, trying to find an Edward P. Bacon. The Bacon children’s guardian was undoubtedly Edmund Parkes Bacon, who is all over the Lunenburg records at the turn of the century.

[16] Lunenburg Will Book 4: 149A, original viewed by author at Lunenburg courthouse, will of John Hix dated 19 Feb 1795, proved 8 Dec 1796. The will names wife Mourning and children.

 

Virginia Winns Part 1: YDNA and Some Colonial Virginia Winn Families

Y-DNA continues to be an amazing boon to family history researchers, and some of the Winn (Wynne/Winne/Wynn) families of colonial Virginia are no exception. This article summarizes Y-DNA results for a few Virginia Winn lines:

  • Daniel Winn (b. by 1723, d. 1799) of Lunenburg County, Virginia, whose wife was probably Sarah Tench.[1] Call him Daniel Winn, because there is no one else with that given name in this article with whom we might confuse him. He had 10 children, nine sons and one daughter.
  • Thomas Winn (b. abt. 1715, d. 1781), also of Lunenburg County. He had children by at least two wives, according to an 1797 chancery lawsuit there.[2] Let’s call him “Col. Thomas,” his militia rank, because that is how Winn researchers usually refer to him.[3]
  • John Winn (d. 1795),[4] also of Lunenburg. The conventional wisdom is that his wife was Anne Stone, although I haven’t found conclusive proof of his wife’s identity. Call him “John Winn d. 1795.”
  • Minor Winn Sr. of Fauquier County, VA. No nickname is needed, let’s just call him Minor Winn.
  • Richard Winn of Middlesex County, VA, whose childrens’ births were recorded in the register of Christ Church Parish in the 1690s and first decade of the 1700s. Call him “Richard of Middlesex.”
  • Robert Wynne (d. 1687) of Charles City County, VA, who was the Speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses during the “Long Parliament” of 1664-1674. His grandfather was a Mayor of Canterbury, Kent, England. Call him “Speaker Robert.” No wonder that many, many Winn family trees on the web and at Ancestry.com claim him as an ancestor.

To begin with, this article summarizes the Y-DNA results for descendants of these men. After that, we will take a big leap from science into old-fashioned county records to see what we can conclude (if anything) about the relationships among them.

I have taken Y-DNA results from a public post (there is no personal information) at the Winn Surname DNA Project. Here is the chart of DNA results at the project website.

Here, briefly, is what the chart tells us (assuming I have read it correctly).

  1. The modal allele (marker) values for 9 test participants descended from Daniel Winn are a perfect 67-marker match with the following: (1) the only test participant descended from Col. Thomas; (2) the modal values for the six participants descended from Minor Winn; and (3) the modal values for the four participants descended from Richard of Middlesex. We can conclude with considerable confidence that the descendants of Daniel Winn, Col. Thomas, Minor Winn, and Richard of Middlesex share a common Winn ancestor.
  2. The modal values for the two test participants descended from John Winn d. 1795 are a 67-marker match, genetic distance = 1 (only one mismatching marker), from the descendants of the four men listed above. It is safe to say that John Winn d. 1795 is also a very close genetic relative of Daniel, Col. Thomas, Minor and Richard of Middlesex.
  3. I must put this in red boldface type: the Y-DNA profile of descendants of Speaker Robert conclusively establish that he was NOT a genetic relative of Daniel, Col. Thomas, Minor, Richard of Middlesex, or John d. 1795.

This is a BIG DEAL FINDING from the Winn DNA project. Many (apparently most) Winn researchers continue to believe that Speaker Robert was the progenitor of numerous Winn families in the Virginia Southside in the 18th century, including some of the Lunenburg Winns.[5] In fact, all of the family trees I have found online show Daniel and/or Col. Thomas as descendants of Speaker Robert (if the tree identifies their ancestry at all).[6] I am sure there must be some researchers out there who have gotten the clear message from the Winn DNA Project about these relationships, but I haven’t seen them yet.

DNA doesn’t lie. Speaker Robert is simply not the ancestor of any of the other Winns in our list of five, all of whom were younger than Robert.

That’s all well and good, but where do we go from there? The other five Winns in our list are obviously closely related, but how?

For this, we have to do it the old-fashioned way: paper genealogy. This won’t be easy, so we’ll have to take it one at a time. Because this will undoubtedly be long-winded and difficult, I will wait to tackle it until the next article.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas, y’all, and Happy New Year!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

 

[1] Daniel’s birth date (born by 1723) is based on his first appearance in the records, as a witness to a Surry Co.,VA deed dated 13 Jun 1744; I’m assuming he was of full legal age as a witness. Surry Co. Deed Book 8: 831. Daniel’s death date is based on the probate date of his Lunenburg will, dated 23 Apr 1789 and proved 14 Feb 1799, abstracted by June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County Virginia Will Book 4 1791-1799 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1991).

[2] Lunenburg Order Book 17: 292, 293, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse in March 2004. See also FHL Film #32,410.

[3] The death date for Col. Thomas is based on the probate date of his will, dated 18 Sep 1779 and proved 12 Apr 1781. See the original of Lunenburg Will Book 3:75 (viewed by the author at the Lunenburg courthouse in March 2008). His birth date is based on his first appearance in the records in Hanover County in the vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, a procession order of 3 Mar 1743 listing Thomas Winn as “Page’s Overseer.” The Vestry Book of St. Paul’s Parish, Hanover County, Virginia 1706-1786, C. G. Chamberlayne, 1940.

[4] Will of John Winn dated 17 Aug 1793, proved 12 Feb 1795, Lunenburg Will Book 4:83b-84, viewed by the author at the Lunenburg Courthouse in March 2004.

[5] See, e.g., http://files.usgwarchives.net/va/charlescity/wills/w5000001.txt.

[6] See, e.g., http://www.thefourwinns.net/winn.html.

Samuel Rankin (abt. 1734 – abt. 1816) m. Eleanor Alexander — new post to replace two old ones

In August and September 2016, I posted a two-part article about the possible family of origin of Samuel Rankin (“Sam Sr.”) of Rowan, Mecklenburg and Lincoln counties, North Carolina whose wife was Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. Having just reread the two posts, I found them tedious, overlong, and packed with trivial information that is unlikely to be of any interest whatsoever to anyone. I apparently have an unattractive propensity to beat dead horses from time to time. Moreover, new Y-DNA information on the issue has come to light which moots a substantial part of the argument in one of the posts.

I am going to delete both posts from this website as soon as I figure out how to do that. Here is their replacement, which just cuts to the chase re: old theories of Sam Sr.’s possible parents. It also provides a brief description of the Y-DNA evidence to date.

Rankin researchers have had two main theories about the identity of Sam Sr.’s father:

Theory #1 — Sam Sr.’s father was Joseph Rankin of White Clay Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware (1704-1764). Let’s call him “Joseph of Delaware.” Two of Joseph’s proved sons who belonged to the same generation as Sam Jr. moved to Guilford County, NC. The primary source of Theory #1 is Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy.[1]

Theory #2 — Sam Sr.’s parents were Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC. Call them “R&R.” Before migrating to North Carolina in the mid-1750s, Robert appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester County, PA.

Here’s the bottom line. First, there is no evidence whatsoever that I can find in the actual records of Delaware, Pennsylvania, North Carolina or any other colony to support either Theory #1 or Theory #2. Second, Y-DNA tests conclusively prove that both theories are dead wrong.

Here is a bit about the DNA evidence.

The Y-DNA evidence re: Theory #1

There is a Rankin DNA Project which provides (anonymously, if desired) Y-DNA results online.[2] One member, Doug Rankin, has a solid paper genealogical trail proving he is descended from Joseph of Delaware. I located another proved descendant of Joseph of Delaware by conventional paper research – let’s call him “Mr. X.” Doug convinced Mr. X to test. Turns out that the two men are 37-marker matches with one mismatching marker, which genetic genealogists call a “37-marker match with a genetic distance of one” (or “GD=1”). That is a darn good match. Furthermore, the two men descend from different sons of Joseph of Delaware (John and William, both of Guilford Co., NC), so their close DNA match isn’t a function of a recent common ancestor: Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor.

With two closely matching Y-DNA samples and two very solid paper trails, there is a high degree of confidence that Doug and Mr. X provide a good picture of the Y-DNA of descendants of Joseph of Delaware – as well as those who aren’t his descendants.

The Rankin DNA project has two other members (call them Mr. A and Mr. B) whose paper trails prove them to be descendants of Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Neither of them is a match – not even remotely close – to Doug Rankin and Mr. X. Based on the tests from Mr. A, Mr. B, Mr. X. and Doug Rankin, the Y-DNA evidence proves conclusively that Sam Sr. cannot be a son of Joseph of Delaware.

The Y-DNA Evidence re: Theory #2

The Rankin DNA Project now has two participants whose genealogical paper trail shows they are descended from R&R – Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford.

The first is Mr. R, whose paper trail conclusively proves that he is descended from R&R’s great-granddaughter Isabel Rankin (her maiden name) and her husband Robert Rankin. Robert’s parents are not conclusively proved. The obvious problem is that Mr. R inherited his Y-DNA from Robert, not Isabel. So the question is: who are Robert’s parents? I believe the circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly establishes that Isabel’s husband Robert was her second cousin, a proved son of George (1767 Guilford, NC -1851 McNairy, TN) and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. George, in turn, is a proved son of Robert Rankin of Guilford County, who is, in turn, a proved son of R&R. Consequently, Mr. R. is almost certainly (at least in my opinion) a descendant of R&R.

The second relevant Rankin DNA Project participant is Mr. M, whose paper trail leaves no doubt that he is descended from R&R through their great-grandson John D. Rankin, a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

Mr. R and Mr. M are a 37-marker match with a GD = 2, a darn good match. For those of you who actually know something about the science of genealogical DNA, the two mismatched markers are at DYS 458 and CDY. My cousins Roger Alexander or Roberta Estes could undoubtedly appraise the quality of the match better than I can. I think it’s a good one.

Whatever. Neither Mr. R nor Mr. M – descendants of R&R – is a match with Mr. A or Mr. B, descendants of Sam Sr. and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Their Y-DNA profiles are not even close. Sam Sr. is not, therefore, a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford.

Case closed. I’m guessing we are going to have to find a Rankin on the other side of the Atlantic to have a clue about Sam Sr.’s family of origin.

[1] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

[2] http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/rankin/. This website has links to Y-DNA results (incomprehensible if you aren’t both a Rankin and Y-DNA expert) and to a “patriarch page” with lots of Rankin descendancy charts. For the most part, all participants provide their own ancestry and get to say from whom they are descended. Occasionally, they seem a bit farfetched. When two different people whose Y-DNA does NOT match claim descent from the same Rankin ancestor, the editors of the patriarch chart intervene to either make corrections or at least file disclaimers.