Humdinger of a lawsuit in King George, VA: estate of Thomas Turner Sr.

If you trace your family back to Turners and/or Dixons in King George County, Virginia during 1740-1760, there is a virtual gold mine waiting for you in the county court order books. These particular court records are unusual because the pleadings, depositions, and an estate accounting in a suit in chancery are all entered verbatim in the order book. Usually, those juicy details are squirreled away in obscure files in the county courthouse. Many have not been filmed.

My reading of film of the original records didn’t do the suit justice. I was skimming. Half the pages are extremely faded, difficult to read, and require close attention. I gave the suit short shrift because my research mission in King George concerns Rankins (plus Berrys, Marshalls, Woffendalls, and Harrisons) rather than Turners. But even a brief glimpse made it clear that Thomas Turner Sr., the deceased whose estate was in dispute, was probably the richest man in the county. Thomas owned thousands of acres in King George and Prince William Counties. More than 100 enslaved persons are mentioned in the lawsuit records. He left a will, a codicil, some statements and promises relevant to his testamentary intent, and a conflict among his descendants.

Even skimming, here is some of what jumped off the pages

  • Thomas Senior had a son Thomas Junior who, I think, married Elizabeth Smith. One of his sons or grandsons married an Elizabeth Smith.
  • Thomas Senior also had a son Harry who evidently managed his property poorly. Harry was described by his father as a fool, according to one deponent.
  • Thomas Sr. had a grandson Edward Dixon. Edward had a brother whose name did not make it into my notes.
  • The suit mentions numerous King George inhabitants, a number of whom were justices or who gave depositions. The list includes Joseph Berry, an Arnold, Thomas Jett, John Triplett, Charles Carter, Benjamin Robinson, Nathaniel Harrison, Caleb Lindsay, George Rankin, and many others.
  • The accounting lists all of the names of the enslaved persons Turner owned as of 1743 and possibly later.

You can find the suit recorded in the King George Order Book entry for 6 May 1762. The images of the originals are available online at FamilySearch.org. You must have a membership to view them, but membership is free and does not involve advertisements or solicitation emails. It is the best deal in genealogical research, bar none.

The chancery suit records are on FamilySearch Film # 4145191 at images 414 through 436, inclusive. Those images contain pages 992 through 1012 of the Order Books for 1751-1765.

I hope a Turner or Dixon whose roots reach back to King George County in the mid-eighteenth century reads the court records and finds new information. Maybe she or he will find something comparable about a King George Rankin, Marshall, Harrison, Berry, or Woffendall and will share it with me. Or perhaps he/she will transcribe the court records concerning the suit, in which case I would be happy to post it on this website for other Turner/Dixon researchers.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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