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.

Part 3 of ?: Identifying John Burke’s Children and Other Matters

This article continues an apparently never-ending series on John Burke, born in Virginia in about 1785 and died in 1842 in Jackson County, Tennessee. This Part Three contains information from two very dissimilar sources: (1) two family histories written by grandchildren of John Burke and (2) newspaper and court records. As to the histories, John’s great-grandson Victor Moulder wrote one of them. Victor and his brother George B. Moulder collaborated on the second. Images and information from both are ubiquitous on Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, some of the information about John Burke’s children from the histories is wrong, particularly regarding their migration history.

I do not mean to denigrate the Moulders’ histories, for which I am grateful. The brothers probably had no information other than oral family history handed down for three generations – over a century. I don’t know about you, but I can rarely tell the same story exactly the same every time. Inaccuracies due to the distance of time and fading memory creep in, and occasional, um, embellishments are introduced to keep the conversation lively. Some of the Moulders’ information was probably incorrect two generations before they wrote it down, and the oral tradition guarantees that new errors were introduced over time. Obviously, the Moulders didn’t have easy access to census records, court filings and tombstones to supplement their information. Fortunately, we do.

With that in mind, let’s begin with some more information from the Moulders before we get on to the other sources. This deals with “lite” facts and easily-resolved issues. If you need to get up to speed, here are links to Part One and Part Two of the John Burke series. And here is some of what the Moulders’ history said about their great-grandfather:

John Burke was born … in 1783 (died 1853) … took up a claim on War Trace Creek at Cumberland River near Gainesboro, Jackson Co. Tenn.; married Elizabeth Graves, who was born 1786 of Irish extraction (died 1831) … second wife [was] Janie Lamb.

John Burke’s dates of birth and death. As noted in Part Two, a birth year of 1783 is consistent with John’s age ranges according to the 1820 and 1830 federal censuses. He died on June 6, 1842, not 1853, according to his widow and several court filings reciting the month and year. John’s widow appeared in the 1850 census for Jackson Co. as Jane D. Byrk. Her household included her five children by John Burke and a sixth child named Burke who was too young to have been fathered by John.[1]

John Burke’s wives. Yes, John Burke’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves, daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott. Elizabeth could have been born in 1786 since the 1820 census shows her as having been born during 1775–94. An 1831 date of death for her is wrong, because there is no female the right age to be Elizabeth in the 1830 census. Her last child was born in 1828.

Whether Elizabeth was “of Irish extraction” may be unprovable. I haven’t been able to prove her paternal line any earlier than her grandfather, John Graves. He was born in Virginia about 1735 (a rough guess based on his eldest son’s age) and lived in at least Spotsylvania and Halifax counties, Virginia.[2] Many, if not most, of the Graves found in colonial Virginia were descended from Capt. Thomas Graves, who arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s. Y-DNA tests prove that Elizabeth’s line wasn’t descended from Thomas Graves, but don’t (so far as I know) provide evidence of her Graves line’s country of origin. Elizabeth’s maternal line, the Parrotts, had been in the colonies since the 1650s, and they were from England.

John Burke’s second wife was Jane D. Basham, not Lamb, as she herself stated on her widow’s application for pension for John Burke’s War of 1812 service. That was almost certainly her maiden name.

The identity of John Burke’s children.

Let’s switch gears in terms of source material. No more “facts lite,” we are now into dense legal language. There are two documents which conclusively establish the identities of John Burke’s children: a newspaper ad[3] and a chancery court complaint.[4] They are a veritable genealogical gold mine. One of them even names a number of grandchildren (including my great-grandfather William Logan Burke, an early sheriff of McClennan Co., TX) and states the locations of many of John’s heirs. Let’s look closely at each document.

The Newspaper Ad. The first document concerns Jane D. Basham Burke’s application to a Jackson County court for a “writ of dower” to allot her dower portion of John Burke’s land. The law required her to give notice of her petition to John’s heirs. Requisite notice could be accomplished by taking out an ad or ads in local newspapers.[5] The notice, dated August 19, 1842, was published in the September 8, 1842 issue of The Republican, a local newspaper, and apparently reprinted in The Smith County Democrat.[6] It has the benefit of being contemporaneous evidence, which is inheritantly more reliable and persuasive than evidence provided at a later date. Furthermore, two very good witnesses – John’s widow Jane and his son John Carroll Burke, one of the estate administrators – undoubtedly provided the names of the heirs for the notice. The notice names only fifteen children. Jane was pregnant at the time with their daughter Matilda, who was born after the date of the notice.

Here is an image of the Newspaper Ad.

Note that John Burke’s two sons-in-law are identified in the notice. Until the twentieth century, a married woman in most states had no legal existence apart from her husband. Thus, a son-in-law, rather than a daughter, was actually the party to any lawsuit and was the designated recipient of any notice. Fortunately, the notice also names John’s married daughters. Note also that the children are not named in birth order: the last two were sons of Elizabeth Graves Burke.

Here is a transcription of the first paragraph of the article, with some additions. I have numbered John Burke’s children, added punctuation and spacing for clarity, and included some annotations in italics:

To

(1) Henry F. Burke,

(2) William G. Darwin and his wife Polly (formerly Polly Burke, a nickname for Mary),

(3) Alva Graves and his wife Parmelia (formely Parmelia Burke),

(4) James Burke (this is James W. Burke),

(5) John Burke (John G. Burke),

(6) William C. Burke (middle name Carroll),

(7) Elizabeth Burke and

(8) Paresiba (usually spelled ParesiDa) Burke by their guardian William G. Darwin (Darwin was the guardian of Elizabeth and Paresida, the only two in the preceding list who were still minors),

(9) Esom L. Burke (middle name Logan),

(10) Elvira Burke,

(11) James F. Burke (sic, this should be Jonas Burke),

(12) America O. Burke,

(13) Milly Jane Burke,

(14) Francis M. Burke (middle name Marion), and

(15) Franklin P. Burke (middle name Parrott),

by their guardian pendente lite, Richard P. Brooks (the guardian of children 9 through 15, all still minors in 1842), heirs of John Burke, deceased, and [notice is also given to] Richard P. Brooks and Carrol C. Burke (sic, William Carroll Burke), administrators of said John Burke, dec’d.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print from the Newspaper Ad.

The Chancery Court Complaint

The second piece of fabulous evidence is an original complaint filed in the Jackson County chancery court in 1884 concerning John Burke’s estate. Briefly, some of John’s heirs alleged that Richard P. Brooks, one of the administrators of the estate, defrauded them regarding John’s land. I have no idea how the suit turned out, although there might be records to be found among the Jackson County microfilm. That film is a tough slog.

Like the application for dower allotment, all of John Burke’s heirs had to be named as parties to the lawsuit — because all had an interest in the estate. If one of John’s children had died by that time (in fact, several had died by 1884), then their children were heirs to the estate and had to be named. For this, we can be grateful that John Burke died without a will.

The list of heirs in the Chancery Complaint was obviously not contemporaneous with John Burke’s death in 1842. Because it is forty years later, it is obviously less reliable than the newspaper notice. The Complaint contains errors and omissions, as well as “blanks” where the complainants didn’t know the facts. Most of the “holes” can be filled with other evidence, though. Just the locations are worth their weight in gold for tracking this family.

Here is the Chancery Court Complaint’s list of John Burke’s children: Henry F. Burke, John G. Burke, Polly Burke, Permelia Burke, William C. Burke, James W. Burke, Esom L. Burke, Francis M. Burke, Parazidia Burke, Franklin P. Burke, Elisabeth Burke, Elvira Burke, America Burke, Matilda Burke, Jonas Burke, & Jane Burke, his only heirs at law. This list is closer to birth order than the other list, but still not quite accurate.

I am going to reproduce my transcription of the Chancery Court Complaint in its entirety, below. In the next article in this series, I will (finally!) take up information about the children themselves.

_________________

Transcription of the Original Complaint dated July 28, 1884 in the suit John G. Burke et al. vs. R. V. Brooks et al., Chancery Court of Jackson County, Tennessee. Transcribed from original document on TSLA Microfilm, Jackson Co., TN Roll No. 53, folder titled “Burke John G. & others vs Brooks R. V. & others, Chancery 1884.” Xerox copy made from FHL Film # 985,278.

“To William G. Crowley, Chancellor, holding the chancery Court at Gainsboro, Tennessee:

The Bill of Complaint of John G. Burke, Leonidas Darwin, William H. Darwin, Hiram C. Darwin, George C. Darwin, Mary A. Suite, Elizabeth Kelly & her husband Miles Kelly, Mary Carter & her husband William Carter, Milton E. Burke, John M. Burke, Sarah E. Hornbuckle & her husband [first name struck through] Hornbuckle, Angelina McCarry & her husband _______ McCarry, Elizabeth Padgett & her husband James Padgett, Ella Buhler & her husband Alexander Buhler, Adda Bettis & her husband William Bettis, Lucy Moore, Parazidia Lipscomb & her husband ______ Lipscomb, Permelia Lipscomb & her husband ______ Lipscomb, William L. Burke, John P. Burke, Franklin P. Burke, James P. Burke, Uhley Woollard & her husband Henry Woollard, Sally B. Burke, Francis M. Burke, Franklin P. Burke Sr., Elizabeth Simpson & her husband Thomas D. Simpson, W______ P. Hopkins, M_____ B. Hopkins, John O. Hopkins, M______ E. Hopkins & her husband Sydney Hopkins [additional interlining unreadable], Andrew L. Hopkins, Mary Ann Hopkins, Nannie B. Hopkins, John Anderson, Juda Anderson & her husband ____ Gibson?, Henry Burke, Jno R. Burke, Thomas Burke, Elizabeth Parker & Marion Burke, complainants

against

V. Brooks, personally, and as Executor of the last will of Richard P. Brooks, deceased, Caleb Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown, & Asa Denson,

of Jackson County, Tennessee,

and Matilda Long & her husband Lane (?) Long of the State of Kentucky,

Defts. [sic, Defendants]

Your complainants, aforesaid, complaining, state that they are heirs at law of John Burke who died intestate in Jackson County, Tennessee where he resided about the year 1842, leaving surviving him a widow named Jane Burke and the children whose names follow to wit:

Henry F., John G., Polly, Permelia, William C., James W., Esom L., Francis M., Parazidia, Franklin P., Elisabeth, Elvira, America, Matilda, Jonas & Jane Burke, his only heirs at law.

Richard P. Brooks was appointed and acted as administrator of his personal estate and he has lately died and deft R. V. Brooks is his Executor appointed less than two years & six months ago. There are no debts against the estate of said John Burke.

Said John Burke the common ancestor of complainants, at his death owned several valuable tracts of land lying in Jackson County, Tennessee, on one of which he resided at the time of his death, and about 200 acres of it, the homestead, was duly allotted and assigned by the Circuit Court of said County to his said widow as her dower, and a decree of said court duly entered to that effect, and she took possession of it as such and resided on it for a considerable time and until she conveyed it or transferred it in some way as such dower and estate for her life to said Richard P. Brooks who went into possession of and held it as such during her natural life, which terminated on the ____ of _______, 1881, less than seven years before the filing of this bill; and it has been less than seven years since the right of action of the heirs of John Burke dec’d accrued for said dower land.

Said dower tract lies on the Cumberland River on the south side of it and is bounded North by Cumberland River, East by the lands of Joshua Haile Jr., South by the lands of R. A. Cox & Hoover and West by __________________ and lies in White’s Bend of said river. The lines cannot now be given by complts but reference is to be had to the lines of said dower as laid off by the Court, the records of which were destroyed & burned up some years ago without the intention or knowledge of complts.

It is believed and so charged from belief that deft Brooks or if not he some of the other claimants under his testator the defts have a copy of the decree allotting the said dower. If so let them answer as to it & produce it & file it with their answer.

Complts further allege that some time after the death of John Burke their ancestor said Richard P. Brooks the admr procured some of the heirs to join him in filing a bill or petition in the Circuit Court of Jackson County against others of the heirs to procure a sale or partition of the lands of said John Burke not covered by the dower and under it they were sold in or about the year 1843, as now remembered, by the clerk & commissioners of said Court and they were purchased in by said Richard P. Brooks or at least part of them were bought by him, including that part of the home tract not covered by the dower. There was a large quantity of the lands & quite valuable.

At the same time of the sale of the other lands outside of the dower said Richard P. Brooks fraudulently procured a pretended sale of the remainder in the land covered by said dower allotted to the widow, and pretended to purchase it in himself at the grossly inadequate price of three hundred dollars, or thereabout, although there was no application in the bill or petition to the court for a sale of it and under the law the court had no jurisdiction to sell it – the widow being then living.

The Heirs were all then young and most of them, including several of complts & their ancestors, under 21 years of age, and all ignorant in matters of law and conveyancing etc, and all relied on and confided in said Brooks, the admr., who was a shrewd person, versed in such matters, and, afterward, if not then, a lawyer.

They objected at the time of the sale, in the presence & hearing of said Brooks & others there to the sale of the dower land, and contended that there was no application to sell it; but, Brooks fraudulently & wrongfully went on and had it sold & bought it in, over their objections, and, as they now believe, & so charge, for the purpose of cheating the heirs out of it; for, among other badges of fraud, he afterward admitted to friends, at times, that he had no title to it, and that it was really the rightful property of the said heirs.

He, soon after this sale, purchased of the widow her life estate in dower and took possession of it as such, and held it up to her death, & to his own death about two years past, acknowledging the rights of the heirs to the remainder.

Complts charge that during the time said R. P. Brooks so held and occupied said land, he committed and permitted great waste and injury to it, and to the injury & damage of the heirs, by permitting it to dilapidate, by bad cultivation and husbandry of himself & tenants, by taking down & removing the fences & houses, etc., from it to his other lands; by cutting down & removing & deadining (?) & destroying the valuable timbers of which there was much; by destroying and permitting to be destroyed & injured the valuable orchards, to the damage of the heirs to large amounts. He also took the rents & profits of said land to large amounts, after the death of the widow, to which the heirs were entitled. And the other defts R. V. Brooks, Caleb Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown & Asa Denson have continued all these wrongs since, to the damage of the heirs. But the amounts of the rents & damages for which each or any of them is liable cannot be stated or ascertained without an accounti[ng] thereof; it being a matter of complicated account, fit, & fit only, to be ascertained by a court of chancery, and not fit or considerable in a court [remainder of this page is missing. The complainants are just asserting that the case must be tried in the chancery court, that the county court of law doesn’t have jurisdiction.]

They all claim under the title of John Burke the common ancestor of complts whose title papers are supposed to be in possession of deft Brooks, or if they are not they are so unintentionally lost or mislaid or destroyed that complts cannot find them & that the registration of them is also so unintentionally destroyed.

Said R. V. Brooks, Caleb Roberts, Nathan Roberts, Josiah Roberts, Meredith Brown & Asa Denson are the present occupants of said land, and claim it wrongfully, and refuse to give it up or, surrender the possession of it to the heirs of said John Burke, dec’d, or pay the rents & damages; though the heirs have duly demanded the same of them, and said rents and damages, with the interest thereon, are due and unpaid to the heirs.

Your complainants are informed & believe, and, so, charge, that Richard P. Brooks did not pay any thing for the said remainder interest in the land covered by said dower; and, therefore, he is not entitled in any event to any reimbursement. Yet, if it turn out that any of the heirs did in fact get any part of its proceeds, they are, respectively, willing to refund it & do justice, upon the land being surrendered or decreed to be given up to them; and they have offered this to the present occupants. But they refuse, as aforesaid, to surrender & pay. So, complts must sue for their rights.

At the death of said John Burke the common ancestor of complts his said lands descended to his aforesaid children, then living, equally. After his death some of them died and some of them died leaving issue who inherit through them their portions of said lands, and they are as follows: Polly, a daughter of said John the common ancestor, married William Darwin, and died leaving children to wit: Leonidas Darwin of Texas, William H. Darwin of Arkansas, Hiram C. Darwin of Texas, George C. Darwin of Jackson County, Tennessee, Mary A. [might be Ann] a daughter who married a man by name of Suite, but he is dead and she is a widow & resides in Texas; Elizabeth, who married Miles Kelly, and they reside in Kansas; Granville Darwin who died leaving one daughter Mary who has married ___________________ Carter & they reside in Jackson County Tennessee; Parasidia, a daughter, who married Alexander Taylor, & they reside in Arkansas; and Polley, a daughter, who died without issue after her mother died and her share descended to her brothers and sisters the children of Polly Darwin, aforesaid, equally.

Henry F. Burke, a son of the common ancestor, died about Nov., 1845, leaving four children, to wit: Milton E. Burke, John M. Burke, Sarah E. a daughter who has married _____________ Hornbuckle, all of the state of Missouri, and Angelina a daughter who has married _____ McCary who resides in Kansas.

Parasidia, a daughter of the common ancestor, married W. W. More [sic, Moore] and afterward died intestate, leaving the following children, to wit: Elisabeth a daughter who has married James Padgett of Wilson County, Tennessee; Ella, a daughter who has married Alexander Buhler of Wilson County, Tennessee; Adda(?), a daughter, who has married William Bettis of Wilson County, Tennessee; & Lucy Moore, a daughter, of Wilson County Tennessee;

Permelia, a daughter of the common ancestor, married Alva Graves, and they are both dead, leaving two children, daughters, to wit, Parasidia, who married _____ Lipscomb, and Permelia, who married ____________ Lipscomb, all of the state of Missouri.

Esom L., a son of the common ancestor, died, leaving the following children, all of whom reside in Wilson County, Tennessee, to wit: William L., John P., Franklin P. & James R. Burke, sons, and two daughters, to wit Uhley, now wife of Henry Woolard and Sallie B. Burke, the said F. P., Sallie B., & Jas R. are minors without guardians and sue by their brother & next friend William L. Burke.

The following children of the common ancestor are living to wit John G. of Wilson County, Tenn., Francis M. of Texas, Franklin P. of Missouri, sons, & Elizabeth the wife of Thomas D. Simpson of Texas, and Matilda, the wife of Lone(?) Long, of Kentucky.

Elvira, a daughter of the common ancestor, married Otey Hopkins, and died, leaving the following children, her only heirs, to wit: W.____P., M_____ D., John O., M_______ E., Sydney, Andrew L., Nannie B. & Mary Ann Hopkins. Sidney Hopkins Andrew Hopkins Naney B. Hopkins & Mary Jane Hopkins (John Anderson & Frances) Anderson minors who sue by their next friend George C. Darwin. [Note: I have transcribed this paragraph exactly as it appears in the original, so far as I can tell. The draftsman was clearly getting tired.]

America, a daughter of the common ancestor, married _______________ Anderson, and died, leaving the following children surviving her, to wit: Judey & John Anderson, who reside in Jackson County, Tennessee.

James B. Burke [sic, should be James W. Burke], son of the common ancestor, who died, leaving the following children & heirs to wit: Jno R. Burke, Thos. Burke, Elizabeth Parker, widow of ___________ Parker, and Marion Burke, citizens of the state of Kentucky.

Wm. C. Burke, son of the common ancestor, who died, leaving one child & heir Henry Burke, a citizen of the state of Kentucky.

The common ancestor had one son named Jonas at his death and a daughter born in lawful time a few months after his death whose name was Jane, as now remembered, who both died intestate & without marriage or issue many years ago, before the death of the widow and their shares descended to the other surviving heirs of the common ancestor to wit those herein stated in the same proportions as the other parts of the estate descended to them from said common ancestor. One error about John Burke’s sixteen children: Milly Jane wasn’t the afterborn child, who was named in the Newspaper Ad. The afterborn child was Matilda Burke Long.

Your complts further state that the said land sued for is not susceptible of partition among the owners of it owing to the number of owners being so great, for want of timber & water and being bounded and hemmed by adjacent owners’ lands and by the natural obstructions so that roads & ways for ingress & egress could not be had to & from it by reason of all which & perhaps other good reasons the value would be much diminished so that it is not susceptible of such partition in kind without manifest injury to the owners and it would be manifestly to the interest & advantage of the owners that the land be sold and the proceeds partitioned among them.

Prayer. The premises being considered, your complts pray that this bill be filed in said court, on behalf of Complts and of said Matilda Long & her husband, if they shall choose to avail themselves of its benefits under the rules of law & practice; that the persons named in the caption as defendants be made such by proper process & orders of publication etc; that they be compelled to answer fully, not on oath; that they answer as to the said copy of the decree & other title papers aforesaid and file with their answers if they have them; that upon hearing decrees be entered declaring the rights & title of complts & Long & wife and setting up their title to be complete in & to said land and vesting the same in them according to their several rights and that they be put in possession thereof; that the defts in possession & claiming the lands be held liable for the rents, waste & damages of the lands with interest thereon; that deft R. V. Brooks as Executor of the will of said Richard P. Brooks, deceased, and the estate of said Richard P. Brooks be held liable also for the same; that all proper & necessary accounts thereof be taken and reports made and all proper & necessary decrees entered to declare & enforce the rights of said heirs or if complts have mistaken their relief that such other and further relief be granted them as may seem right & lawful.

As the rental is quite valuable and some of the defendants not solvent complts pray that a Receiver be appointed to rent out the lands and secure the rents pending the litigation and such orders made & proceedings had as may be necessary & proper.

Complts also pray that defts be injoined from committing further waste or damage to the lands.

This is the first application for an injunction in this matter.

A. Swope

A. Witt? or Mott? Solicitors for complts

State of Tennessee              Personally appeared before

Jackson County                    me H. W. Winn? Clerk & Master of the

Court of said county G. C. Darwin Jr.? one of the complainants in the foregoing bill and made oath that the facts stated in said bill are true as stated according to his information & belief. And those allegations made from information he believes to be true & subscribed this affidavit? before me on the 28th day of July 1884.

Sworn to                               G. C. Darwin [signature]

Test M. W. Winns? Clerk

[1] 1850 federal census, Jackson Co., TN, Jane D. Byrk, sic, Burke, 35, with Jonas Burke, 13, Elvira L. Burke, 12, America Burke, 10, Milly Burke, 9, Matilda Burke, 8 and Margaret Burke, 1. Margaret was not a child of John Burke, who died in June 1842. Nor was she a grandchild of John Burke’s.

[2] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume II (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1991), abstract of the pension application of Reuben Graves, who testified that he was mustered into VA militia between age 15 and 16 as a substitute for his father John Graves; soldier lived in Halifax County, Virginia at enlistment, and was born 23 May 1760 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia; in 1805 he moved to Wartrace Creek in Jackson County, TN and he applied there 2 October 1832, aged 72. See also Catherine Lindsay Knorr, Marriage Bonds & Ministers Returns of Halifax County, Virginia 1753-1800 (1957), 11 Jan 1787, Esom Graves and Judith Parrott were married by Rev. James Watkins; 27 Nov 1786, Reuben Graves m. Elizabeth Yarborough. See also Halifax Co., VA Plea Book No. 14, Aug. Term 1789 to July Term 1790, original viewed by the author at the Halifax courthouse, an April 1790 road order tithables included both Reuben Graves and Esom Graves and established that they lived in the same fairly limited area. Finally, see Smith County, TN Deed Book B: 295, deed dated 3 Jun 1805 from Rencher McDaniel of Wilson to Reuben Graves, 250 acres on the waters of War Trace Creek on the north side of the Cumberland River adjacent Easom Graves, deed witnessed by Easom Graves. Reuben and Easom/Esom were brothers.

[3] Issue of The Republican dated Thursday, Sept 8, 1842 printed in the September 8, 1842 issue of the Smith County Democrat, page 3, column 5. A copy of the article is also available in the vertical files at the TLSA, filed under “Burke.”

[4] TSLA Microfilm, Jackson Co., TN Roll No. 53, folder titled “Burke John G. & others vs Brooks R. V. & others, Chancery 1884,” Original Complaint dated 28 July 1884. See also Family History Library Film # 985,278.

[5] Notice of Jane’s application for dower was required because every heir at law had an undivided ownership interest in John’s land. Because John died without a will, his estate was subject to the Tennessee law of intestate descent and distribution. Such laws provided that property was distributed to all heirs, with different treatment among the states between real and personal property and between children and the widow. Here is an article about legal issues relevant to genealogy.

[6] I obtained a copy of the ad via snailmail back in the pre-internet era. The TSLA staff had a really hard time finding it, and the librarian who mailed it to me wasn’t exactly clear about which newspaper she found the notice in. Here’s to the good ol’ days.

Part Two of Several: John Burke, b. abt. 1785, VA, d. 1842, Jackson Co., TN.

I need help with John Burke. The problem with John calls for the ability to look at facts in creative ways and do some outside-the-box critical thinking. I’m more of a two-plus-two-equals-four kind of person, and my linear logic is not working well. I hope anyone with ideas will leave a comment. The issue is what to make of a family legend saying that John Burke’s older brother and his family, with whom John was migrating, were killed by Native Americans. It matters because it is part of a larger issue: where was John Burke’s family of origin, and when?

The massacre legend comes from the second of two written family histories about John Burke. I posted an article on 8/11/17 about the first history, a document written by John Burke’s great-grandson Victor Moulder — Part 1 of this series. The second history is titled “Burke Family in Tennesse [sic] and Kentucky by Victor and Geo. B. Moulder 1946.” George and Victor were brothers who had a good bit to say, most of which I will defer for a later article.

The massacre story – if taken literally with respect to time and place – is not consistent with historical facts. Of course, every genealogist who has dealt with oral family history legends knows that they are rarely 100% factually correct. Nevertheless, they virtually always contain an element of truth, or at least point toward some truth. So far, I have been unable to figure out the “true facts” to which the massacre story points.

Here is the relevant part of the Moulders’ story:

“John Burke … migrated [from Virginia] at the age of 14 to the Upper Yadkin River Country, North Carolina with an older brother and family who were killed by Indians … joined a company of immigrants to Tennessee, walked and worked his way as a cobbler.”

To place the timing of the story, the Moulders say John Burke was born in 1783. That date is consistent with the 1820 and 1830 censuses, which show John as having been born during 1780 to 1790.[1] A birth date in 1783 would put the date of the Burke family migration at 1797. Glossing over the precise dates, the gist of the story is that a teenage John Burke’s older brother and his family were killed by Native Americans in the late 1790s in the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

Either the date, the location, or both must be incorrect, because there weren’t any hostilities between Native Americans and European settlers in the Upper Yadkin River Valley in the 1790s. At least I haven’t been able to find any.

At this point, we need briefly to address some geography and Native American history. This is emphatically not a scholarly treatment by any stretch of the imagination, so please alert me to anything that doesn’t jibe with what you know.

First, location: the Upper Yadkin River Valley

The Yadkin River roughly bisects North Carolina, flowing generally from north to south into South Carolina, where it becomes the Pee Dee River. Here is a map of some colonial migration routes in North Carolina which highlights in the upper gray circle the “Yadkin River Settlements.”

The area includes parts of current NC counties of Wilkes, Surry, Yadkin, Forsyth, Davie, Iredell and a sliver of Alexander. As of 1790 (before several of those counties were created), the relevant counties would have been Wilkes, Surry, Iredell and Rowan.

Native American players

Google was unable to answer my simple-minded question, “what hostile Native American tribes lived in the Upper Yadkin River Valley in the late 1700s?” Deprived of an easy answer, I started at the very beginning, with a map of Native American tribe locations in North Carolina before European settlers appeared.

The map shows three tribes whose range probably included part of the upper Yadkin River valley, although not necessarily during the 1790s: the Catawba, Cheraw, and Keyauwee. The map also shows the Cherokee in western NC in the area of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just a bit west of the Yadkin River Valley.

None of those first three tribes threatened settlers in the Upper Yadkin Valley in the late 1700s, so far as I have been able to find.

The Catawba, who were friendly to European settlers, lived prior to the Revolution in the Catabaw River Valley around Charlotte, NC and into South Carolina. They were virtually extinct by the end of the 18th century, decimated in large part by smallpox.[2]

By the 1720s, the Cheraw (or Saura) were located on the upper Pee Dee near the NC/SC border, well south of the Upper Yadkin. By 1768, the Cheraw numbered about 68 people.[3]

After 1716, the Keyauwee were located along the NC/SC border.[4]

All three of these tribes were either decimated or not located in the Upper Yadkin River Valley – or both – well before the Revolution. None of them threatened the Upper Yadkin River Valley at any time after John Burke was born, so we need to look for other possibilities among Native American tribes in North Carolina.

I found one: the only Native American tribe which continued to wage war into the 1790s, anywhere within range of the Upper Yadkin River Valley, were the Cherokee – especially the Cherokee who came to be called the Chickamaugua. Let’s talk about their history in some detail to get the big picture for you out-of-the-box thinkers, whose creativity I badly need.

The Cherokee and Chickamauga[5]

At the start of the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Cherokee joined the British and colonists in fighting the French. However, when some Cherokee were killed by Virginia settlers, they began attacking European settlements along the Yadkin and Dan Rivers. Although that is decades too early to play a part in the Moulders’ massacre story, it shows the Cherokee’s range beyond their hunting grounds in the mountains of western North Carolina.

In any event, the Cherokee attacks were short-lived. An army of British regulars, American militia, and Catawba and Chickasaw destroyed fifteen villages and defeated the Cherokee in June 1761. This ended Cherokee resistance, at least temporarily. The tribe signed a peace treaty in 1761 ending their war with the American colonists.

Two years later, King George III issued a proclamation purportedly defining the permissible western edge of European settlement. The so-called “1763 Proclamation Line” ran from north to south through western North Carolina at the eastern foot of the Appalachian mountains. European settlement was limited to the east of the line. To the west was the so-called Indian Reserve. Here is a map of the proclamation line.

Despite King George (who did not, in the end, get much respect on these shores), western settlement proceeded. In the face of continued encroachment on their hunting grounds, the Cherokee announced their support for the Loyalists at the beginning of the Revolution and began waging war on the colonists. In July 1776, a force of 700 Cherokee attacked Eaton’s Station and Ft. Watauga, two U.S.-held forts now in east Tennessee that were then in North Carolina (which at the time extended west to include all of Tennessee). Both assaults failed, and the tribe retreated.

During the spring and summer of 1776, the Cherokees joined with a number of other tribes to raid frontier settlements in North and South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia in an effort to push settlers from their lands. The response to these raids was immediate and brutal. A large force of South Carolina militia and Continental Army troops attacked the Indians in South Carolina, destroying most of their towns east of the mountains. They then joined with North Carolina militia to do the same in NC and Georgia. Captured warriors were sold into slavery.

By 1777, Cherokee crops and villages had been destroyed and their power was broken. The badly defeated tribes could obtain peace only by surrendering vast tracts of territory in North and South Carolina at the Treaty of DeWitt’s Corner (May 20, 1777) and the Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 20, 1777).[6] Peace reigned on the frontier for the next two years.

Cherokee raids flared up again in 1780. Punitive action by North Carolina militia (led inter alia by Col. John Sevier, the first governor of the short-lived state of Franklin and 6-term governor of Tennessee) soon brought the tribe to terms again. At the second Treaty of Long Island of Holston (July 26, 1781), previous land cessions were confirmed and additional territory ceded. The terms of the 1781 treaty were adhered to by all but the Chickamauga branch of the Cherokee. Here, apparently, were the only Native Americans who may have been involved in the Moulders’ massacre story in the 1790s.

The Chickamauga story began in 1775, when a land speculator named Richard Henderson convinced a group of Cherokee leaders to sell the tribe’s claim to twenty million acres, an area that included a large part of Kentucky and Middle Tennessee (a deal called “Henderson’s Purchase”). The area was an important hunting ground for the Cherokee and other tribes. For perspective, that is slightly more acreage than contained in the entire state of Sorth Carolina (19.2 million acres).[7] It encompassed that part of Middle Tennessee north of the Cumberland River and south of the Kentucky border – including Jackson County, where John Burke first appeared as a grown man in 1811.

One powerful Cherokee chief named Dragging Canoe and his followers strongly objected to the sale. Under the Cherokee system of government, anyone who disagreed with cessions of tribal territory was not expected to abide by the terms of the deal. Soon thereafter, Dragging Canoe’s towns, originally located in East Tennessee, moved father southwest due to military raids. In 1779, they settled on Chickamauga Creek: thus their name. Their location was near present-day Chattanooga, on the Tennessee River at the Georgia/Tennessee border and about 40-50 miles west of the western tip of North Carolina.

An early attempt to settle the Middle Tennessee area of Henderson’s Purchase occurred in late 1779. It ran headlong into the Chickamauga. A group of men led by James Robertson went overland from East Tennessee to French Lick (i.e., Nashville), which is on the Cumberland River. Another group led by a John Donelson – made up largely of the families of the men in the Robertson group – went by boat down the Tennessee River heading for the Cumberland River, planning to go upstream on the Cumberland to join Robertson. Donelson’s party came under heavy fire from Chickamauga towns on the Tennessee River. One boat was captured along with 28 people on board, although most of the settlers eventually reached their destination at French Lick in the spring of 1780.

That, of course, took place before John Burke was born in the 1780s (or 1783, according to the Moulders). However, for the next fourteen years – 1780 through 1794 – the Chickamauga and their Creek allies continued attacks on Cumberland River settlements. Chief Dragging Canoe died in 1792, but his followers continued to fight against the Cumberland settlers for two more years.[8] Hostilities finally ended with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse in 1794, ending the long so-called “Cherokee Wars.” Peace followed.

Peaceful Cherokee remnants stayed in the eastern TN/western NC area until the 1830s, when the U.S. government forced most of them to move to Oklahoma. You may know this relocation as the “Trail of Tears,” when 17,000 Cherokee were removed by federal troops and marched to Oklahoma. A quarter of them didn’t survive the journey. Where and when I went to school, history books didn’t mention either the Trail of Tears or the Jim Crow lynchings of black men, women and children. The victors — white, in this instance — wrote the history books.

Summary, of sorts

At this point, I can think of only limited alternatives for interpreting the Moulders’ massacre story:

  1. Take it at face value, and assume a renegade batch of still-hostile Native Americans killed some settlers (including some Burkes) in, perhaps, Surry or Wilkes Co., NC in 1797-ish. This flies in the face of the history that I have read. I readily acknowledge that the information I have seen is only about an inch deep.
  2. Toss out the entire story as a tall tale. This flies in the face of the fact that oral family histories/legends almost always contain some element of truth. I have a hard time discarding the legend altogether, although it is quite possible that John Burke was a teller of tall tales. More on that later.
  3. Imagine an alternative story in which some Burkes were killed some time other than the late 1790s in the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

Somebody please come up with a viable idea …

And that’s all I can do with the Moulders’ massacre story. Next up: John Burke’s children by his wives Elizabeth Graves and Jane D. Basham.

[1] I give John Burke’s year of birth as “about 1785,” because the 1820 and 1830 census records (both showing that he was born during 1780-1790) are the only evidence of his date of birth in any official records.

[2] Historically, the Indians who came to be called “Catawba” occupied the Catawba River Valley above and below the present-day North Carolina-South Carolina border in the southern part of the Piedmont. Disease, especially smallpox, decimated the tribe. The tribe abandoned their towns near Charlotte, NC and established a unified town at Twelve Mile Creek in what was then South Carolina but is now Union County, NC, southeast of Charlotte. They also negotiated a land deal with South Carolina that established a reservation 15 miles square. By the time of the American Revolution, the Catawba were surrounded by and living among the Europeans settlers, who did not consider them a threat. In September 1775, the Catawba pledged their allegiance to the colonies, and fought against the Cherokee and against Cornwallis in North Carolina. Upon their return in 1781, they found their village destroyed and plundered. By the end of the eighteenth century, it appeared to most observers that the Catawba people would soon be extinct. By 1826, only 30 families lived on the reservation. See http://www.ncpedia.org/catawba-indians, http://catawbaindian.net/about-us/early-history/ and http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/united-states-and-canada/north-american-indigenous-peoples/catawba.

[3] Around 1700, the Cheraw were located near the Dan River on the NC/VA line. About 1710, they moved southeast and joined the Keyauwee (see the next footnote). Between 1726 and 1729, they joined with the Catawba (see the prior footnote). Although the Cheraw were noted later for their persistent hostility to the English, they were not in locations in the Yadkin River Valley. By 1768, surviving Cheraw numbered 68 people. See

http://www.carolana.com/Carolina/Native_Americans/native_americans_cheraw.html, http://www.sciway.net/hist/indians/cheraw.html, and http://www.ncpedia.org/saura-indians.

[4] Around 1700, the Keyauwee lived around the junction of Guilford, Davidson, and Randolph Counties in north-central North Carolina near the city of High Point – a bit east of the Yadkin River Valley. They ultimately settled on the Pee Dee River (i.e., the Yadkin after it flows into SC) after 1716 and probably united with the Catawba. In a 1761 atlas, their town appears close to the boundary line between the two Carolinas. They were no threat to the Upper Yadkin River Valley.

http://www.carolana.com/Carolina/Native_Americans/native_americans_keyaunee.html

[5] https://www.britannica.com/event/Cherokee-wars-and-treaties. I read several other sources on the web, trying to seek out scholarly articles. I did waaaay too many clicks for me to record in an orderly fashion, but the one source to which I’ve linked here is a good one.

[6] http://teachingushistory.org/lessons/treatyofdewittscorner.htm

[7] http://www.statemaster.com/graph/geo_lan_acr_tot-geography-land-acreage-total

[8] http://www.nativehistoryassociation.org/dragging_canoe.php

Part 1 of Several: John Burke, b. VA abt 1785, d. 1842, Jackson Co., TN

Who says there is no humor in genealogy? It’s everywhere you look, from ol’ One-Eyed Sam Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC to my second favorite watercourse in Virginia, “Soak Arse Creek.”[1]

My favorite watercourse in Virginia is in Lunenburg County, where my Estes, Winn, Bacon and Andrews lines came together in the mid-1700s. There are deeds, land patents and court orders referencing land on “Effing Creek,” except that the records expressly spell out the Anglo-Saxon gerund.[2] I am not making this up. Thomas Winn (or Wynne), my common ancestor with my friend and cousin Bill Lindsey, owned land on that creek.[3] At some point, some wimpy-arsed cartographer changed its name to “Modest Creek” – conclusive proof that there is also irony in genealogy.[4]

Here’s a fine example of some more contemporary genealogical humor…

A film of Wilson County, TN loose chancery records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives is preceded by a filmed page titled “How the Records Are Filed.”[5] The explanation was signed by Linda Granstaff, a friendly and helpful woman who can evidently still be found most days at the Wilson County Archives in Lebanon, TN. Here’s a link to Ms. Granstaff at the Wilson County Archives.

Ms. Granstaff had this to say by way of explanation for “how the records are filed:”

“The Chancery Court Loose Records have been microfilmed beginning with Box 1 and going through Box 122. Boxes 1 through 108 were done and then files that should have been filmed earlier were found in places under and behind things that could not be found in time to film in the order used first. These boxes are filmed following Boxes 1 through 108 beginning with Box 109 through 122.”

This nicely captures the difficulty of organizing old county records that have been “filed” willy-nilly. At the state Archives, it doesn’t get any easier. I cannot begin to explain the byzantine process required in order to find the microfilmed records concerning a court case in which, say, Esom Logan Burke – a proved son of John Burke – was plaintiff.

Yes, that was a long way to get around to John Burke. It may have been a subconscious delaying tactic: I am still trying to postpone writing about my Burke line, something I have been doing for roughly 20 years. There are several reasons for my reluctance to tackle the Burkes.

  • I cannot prove the identity of John Burke’s parents. He was definitely born in Virginia. As luck would have it, there are a plethora of Burkes in that colony/state, in a dizzying number of counties. Many of them are in so-called “burned” counties with lost records.
  • There are two extant family legends in the form of documents handwritten by John’s descendants that purport to identify his parents. Unfortunately, I have not found any supporting evidence. One of the legends contains at least one obvious whopper. Both contain errors about names, dates and locations, a couple of which are fairly significant. This puts them in the same category as all family legends: they always contain some truth, or at least a grain of truth, and they are always wrong about some stuff. The obvious problem is separating the wheat from the chaff. Here is an article about unpacking another family legend.
  • John Burke’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves, whose family came to Tennessee from Halifax County, Virginia. The Graves Family Association website identifies John’s birthplace as Albemarle County, Virginia and his father as William Burke – without, of course, providing proof for either assertion.[6] We will look at this theory in a later post. However, it just complicates the situation. What to believe?

In short, John’s family of origin hides somewhere amidst obfuscating clouds of dust and hails of gravel. The search has been frustrating. I hope somebody who reads this can help me out.

Until that happens, let’s look at the two written family legends, starting with the shorter, less colorful version. It is a one-page document apparently written by John Victor Moulder.[7] Victor, who lived from 1867 – 1949, was a great-grandson of John and Elizabeth Graves Burke, so Victor presumably acquired his information through family oral tradition.[8

Here is the first part of Victor’s document verbatim.

“1793. John Burk Sr. was born on the James River in Virginia and then married Elizabeth Graves who bore him 10 children. He migrated to Tenn. and settled on Flinn’s Creek, on Cumb. R., where he had a large plantation and a number of Negro slaves. His first wife died there and he married Jenny Lamb who bore him 6 children. He died in 1853. His father was James Burke.”

Let’s try to separate the wheat from the chaff in that paragraph.

  • Year of birth: wrong. The document seems to say John was born in 1793, although the 1830 and 1840 federal censuses for Jackson County, TN put John in the age group born during 1780-1790. There doesn’t seem to be evidence for a more precise date. The first time he appeared in the records is an 1811 entry for fifty acres on Bullard’s Creek “to include where John Burke now lives.”[9] His eldest child was born that same year. I have settled on “about 1785” for his date of birth because my observation has been that 18th and 19th-century men tended to marry about age 25.
  • Born in James River, VA: partly correct, partly unknown. John Burke was definitely born in Virginia. Some of his children lived until 1880, when the federal census included information about the birth states of a person’s parents. His children usually responded that John and his wife were born in Virginia.[10] Whether John was born “on the James River” is another matter entirely. I just don’t know whether that is correct. Counties along the James River in the latter 1700s included Isle of Wight, Prince George, Chesterfield, Suffolk, Surry, York, James City, Charles City, Henrico, Goochland, Elizabeth City, Nancemond, and possibly others. Do note, however, that birth in a county along the James conflicts with the Graves Organization website’s claim that John Burke was born in Albemarle Co. The Rivanna River, a tributary of the James, flows through Albemarle. The James River does not.
  • Wife Elizabeth Graves, mother of 10: partly true. John Burke’s first wife was undoubtedly Elizabeth Graves, daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott.[11] She was the mother of eleven children, not ten.[12]
  • John and Elizabeth married in Virginia and then migrated to Tennessee: The Victor Moulder document seems to suggest that the family moved to Tennessee after John and Elizabeth Graves married. The Graves family lived in Halifax County, VA before they moved to Jackson County, TN.[13] Esom Graves had moved to Tennessee by no later than 1805, when he was a party to a deed reciting that he was a resident of Smith County.[14] John and Elizabeth Graves Burke’s eldest child, Henry F. Burke, was born in 1811.[15] Given the couple’s well-demonstrated ability to produce offspring, it is a good bet they were married in Tennessee in 1809 or 1810.
  • John settled on Flynn’s Cr.: probably incorrect. John Burke did own land on Flynn’s Creek, but it is doubtful he lived there.[16] In 1811, his first appearance in the records, John was living on Bullard’s Creek, on the south side of the Cumberland.[17] By a year later, he had left that tract.[18] On the 1836 tax list for Jackson County, John is listed with a 289-acre tract on the north side of the River near War Trace Creek, and a 250-acre tract on Bullard’s Creek on the south side of the river. Esom Graves and some of his family lived on the north side of the River, and I’m betting that is where the Burke homestead was, too.[19]
  • Large plantation and slaves: more or less correct. As noted above, the 1836 tax list for Jackson County showed John owning a total of 539 acres. The 1840 census shows 6 slaves. He clearly wasn’t a poor man, although dividing that estate among a widow and 16 children would not produce much of an inheritance. John died intestate, so his estate would have been divided among all of those heirs.
  • John had 6 children with second wife Jenny Lamb: mostly incorrect. The Victor Moulder paper is the only reference I have seen to a given name of Jenny. Both written legends give her surname as Lamb. The widow’s War of 1812 pension application, however, says that John’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves and his second wife (the applicant) was Jane D. Basham. Jane and John Burke had five children, not six.[20]
  • John died in 1853: wrong. Jane Basham Burke’s widow’s application for a pension states that John died on 6 June 1842. Several court filings also recite that he died in June 1842.[21]

The Victor Moulder paper also identifies John Burke’s father as James Burke and has some information about John’s children, but let’s save a discussion of those matters for another article in this Burke series.

Next up: the second legend.

 

[1] I cannot recall the county in which I saw a reference to Soak Arse Creek, but I promise it is not a figment of my rather pedestrian imagination.

[2] E.g., June Banks Evans, Lunenburg County, Virginia Order Book 1, 1746-1749 (New Orleans: Bryn Ffyliaid Publications,1999), abstract of OB 1: 397, court order of 4 Apr 1748, Thomas Wynne appointed surveyor of the road across Fucking Cr.; Lunenburg Deed Book 7: 231 (my copy of microfilm), Thomas Winn to John Winn, 762 acres, part of grantor’s 2,959-acre patent on the south side of Fucking Cr.

[3] E.g., Cavaliers and Pioneers Volume VI: 1749-1762 (Richmond: Virginia Genealogical Society, edited by Dennis Ray Hudgins, 1998), abstract of 7 Aug 1761 patent by Thomas Wynne, 2,959 acres on both sides of Hounds Cr. and the south branches of Fucking Cr.

[4] E.g., Lunenburg Deed Book 32: 73 (viewed at Lunenburg Courthouse), John P. Winn and wife Elizabeth P. of Scott Co., MO to James W. Hudson of Lunenburg, 148.75 acres on Modest Cr. An online group claims the name of the creek was changed by “local gentry.” Search for “modest” at this website, a group apparently dedicated to the topic of “offensive names on maps” who clearly need to get a life: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.appalachian/MrukWgk_uwc

[5] Wilson County Microfilm Roll #B-1230 at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

[6] http://www.gravesfa.org/gen145.htm.

[7] An image of the document is available online at https://ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/tree/6832610/person/24678785473/media/82eb6aaf-46de-418a-80cf-9132e30d7d2b.

[8] Victor’s mother was Elizabeth Burke, a daughter of James W. and Matilda Richmond Burke. James W. was a son of John and Elizabeth Graves Burke.

[9] Jackson County Deed Book 25: 153.

[10] E.g., 1880 federal census, Wilson Co., TN, dwelling 76, John G. Burke, 61, farmer, born TN, parents born Virginia, with wife Lucy (Moore) Burke, 51 and two sons; 1880 federal census, Collin Co., TX, Marion Burke, 53, b. TN, parents b. VA, with wife, 5 children and 2 grandchildren; 1880 federal census, Harrison Co., TX, dwelling 147, T. E. and “Elezzie” (sic, Lizzie Burke) Simpson, born TN, father born VA.

[11] Jane Basham Burke’s widow’s application for War of 1812 pension states that John’s first wife was Elizabeth Graves. There is only circumstantial evidence that Elizabeth was a daughter of Esom Graves and Judith Parrott, but it is darn good: she named two sons Esom Logan Burke and Franklin Parrott Burke.

[12] The widow’s War of 1812 pension application states that John died on 6 Jun 1842 and that he had married Jane Basham in 1835. Among the proved children of John Burke, the eleventh child – Franklin Parrott Burke — was born in 1828 and was thus Elizabeth’s son. Jonas Burke, the eldest child of Jane Basham and John Burke, was born in 1837.

[13] E.g., Halifax County, Virginia Wills, 1792-1797 (Miami: T.L.C Genealogy, 1991), abstract of Will Book 3: 180, 11 July 1795, jury for coroner’s inquiry included John Parrot, Reubin Graves, and Easson [sic] Graves.

[14] Smith County Deed Book B: 294, Rench McDaniel of Wilson County to Easom Graves of Smith County, 250 acres on the north side of the Cumberland River adjacent the grantee. Jackson County was created from Smith County in 1801.

[15] Henry F. Burke’s tombstone in Platte Co., MO gives his date of death as 25 Oct 1845, aged 34 years, 6 months. It is hard to read. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=24041218&PIpi=122893512.

[16] See Tennessee State Library and Archives microfilm, Jackson Co., Roll No. 95, original complaint dated 12 July 1842 from the suit Sam E. Stone and Leroy B. Settle v. Henry F. Burke, Richard P. Brooks and William C. Burke. The complaint is misfiled in the folder titled “McClellan Andrew & others vs. Graves Alvey & others Chancery 1843 – 1845.” The complaint lists land owned by John Burke on Flynn’s Creek, the Cumberland River, and War Trace Creek.

[17] Jackson County Deed Book 25: 153, July 1811 entry for 50A on Bullard’s creek where John Burke now lives.

[18] Jackson County Deed Book 27: 350, August 1812 entry by Jonas Bedford on Bullard’s Cr. including part of the improvements where “John Burke formerly lived.”

[19] See Family History Library Film No. 985,334, file folder labeled “Hopkins John O. & others vs. Brooks R. P. & others, Chancery 1855,” answer of Esom L. Burke et al. noting that John Burke owned a large tract on the Cumberland River near the mouth of War Trace Cr. when he died.

[20] The 1850 federal census for Jackson County lists a Jane D. Byrk [sic] with Jonas, Elvira, America, Milly, Mitilda and Margaret Byrk, age 1. Since John Burke died in 1842, Margaret, born about 1849, cannot be his child.

[21] https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1133/miusa1814_114115-00803?pid=83087&backurl=http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26db%3DWarof1812_Pension%26h%3D83087%26tid%3D%26pid%3D%26usePUB%3Dtrue%26_phsrc%3DnSQ31%26_phstart%3DsuccessSource%26usePUBJs%3Dtrue%26rhSource%3D4281&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=nSQ31&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true