Thomas Willis … A Descendant of the Quaker Family of Richard and Frances Willis

Another researcher recently asked if I had any information to help connect Thomas Willis to any Willis family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She knew Thomas had purchased land in Dorchester County, and his son William had sold land in Caroline County prior to relocating to Guilford County, North Carolina. I believe Thomas Willis to be part of the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis, for two main reasons:

For four generations the Dawsons and Willises, including Thomas Willis and two sons, conducted land transactions among themselves. Frances Willis connected to the Dawson family through her first marriage to Richard Dawson.

Additionally, Frances’s will proves relationships supporting Thomas Willis’s inclusion as part of her family.

Richard Willis Family

The Richard Willis family is a Quaker family of Richard Willis who married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson. They had three children, Richard, John and Frances.[1] Thomas is a likely son of either Richard or John.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – First Two Generations

Real estate deals in the Colonies often involved family members. Land transactions for the Willis extended family fit that pattern. For example, Richard Willis’s will left land to his sons, who later sold it to a son from their mother’s first marriage. Richard Willis patented a tract called Rondley on the Transquakin River in 1687.[2] His 1689 will devised Rondley to sons Richard and John.[3] In 1699, widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher, who resided on the Nanticoke River.[4] He died about a year later leaving all his land to Frances.[5] In 1718, widow Frances Fisher conveyed some of her land on the Northwest Fork of the Nanticoke to her sons Richard and John Willis, with the proviso that they convey their ownership in Rondley to John Dawson, a son from her first marriage.[6] In 1721, Richard Willis and his wife Ann sold another tract to John Dawson.[7] This pattern of family deals continued after Frances Fisher died in 1729.

Frances Fisher’s Will

Frances Fisher’s 1724 will proved several family relationships including five identified grandchildren.[8] The will named other people without clearly defining the relationship. For example, the will named Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth as children of Richard Dawson, but did not state Frances Fisher’s relationship to either Richard Dawson or to his three children. Were these children from her first marriage to Richard Dawson, or were they her grandchildren?

Quaker records show the births of Obediah, Anthony, and Elizabeth Dawson, along with others including Richard and John.[9] Some were likely children of Frances and Richard Dawson, although the parents were not named in the register. The record also shows Obediah Dawson died in 1694.[10] Assuming these records refer to the same Obediah (and I have found no other), Frances’s likely son Obediah died 29 years before she made a will. Clearly, Frances Fisher’s will was providing for her grandson Obediah. This means Obediah Dawson’s father named in the will was Frances’s son Richard, born 1674. That fact helps explain other relationships in the land transactions set out below.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Next Generation

A generation after the earlier real estate deals, the pattern of family transactions continued. A Thomas Willis bought one tract from “John Dawson, son of Richard Dawson” in 1757[11] and another in 1765 from “John Dawson, son of Richard.”[12] The John Dawson in those deeds was not Richard and Frances Dawson’s son John. According to a 1730 deed, their son John died earlier.[13]

That begs the question: who was “John Dawson, son of Richard?” First, a clarifying term such as “son of” following a name almost always meant more than one person in the vicinity shared that name. The clarifying phase specified the exact person involved in the record. The best candidate for “Richard” in this clarifying phase is Richard Dawson named in Frances Fisher’s will, implying that John Dawson is another grandchild of Frances.

But wait, you say! If John were Richard Dawson’s son, why did the will not mention him with Richard’s other three children? For that matter, if Thomas Willis were part of this family, why was he not named in Frances’s will? I think the answer is the same for both men … neither was born before Frances died.

“John Dawson of Richard” was likely a son of Richard Dawson, Frances’s son from her first marriage. Thomas Willis was likely a son of Richard or John Willis, sons from her second. The evidence suggests John Dawson and Thomas Willis were about the same age. Both likely were born in 1730 or later, after Frances had made a 1729 codicil to her will. Further, each must have been at least 21 to execute their first land deal in 1757, so each must have been born by 1736. If correct, they were born between 1730 and 1736 and became the third generation involved in these intra-family land transactions.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Last Generation

The families’ fourth generation continued the tradition of land transactions. The record proves that Thomas Willis had at least two sons, William and Elijah.[14] In addition to several deals between just Thomas and his sons, in 1780, William Willis rented land to a John Dawson.[15] In 1793, Thomas’s son Elijah bought land from a “John Dawson (of Richard).”[16] The record proves the Willis sons in these transactions were from the next generation. It is reasonable to think that the John Dawsons in these deals might have been as well.

Conclusion

I believe direct and circumstantial evidence provide a strong case that Thomas Willis descended from Richard and Frances Willis. The land transactions over two generations between various people named John Dawson and the Thomas Willis family continued a pattern of Willis-Dawson family land deals begun two generations earlier. The evidence in Frances’s will coupled with the land transactions strengthens the case. It is highly likely that Thomas Willis was a child of one of Richard and Frances Willis’s sons, either Richard or John Willis. I have not found record evidence as to which.

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Timeline – Key Events

Est 1682 –        Richard Willis married Frances (LNU), widow of Richard Dawson.

1683 – 1684 –   Richard Willis, Jr. born to Richard and Frances, based on young Richard’s deposition in 1732-3.

1687 –              Richard Willis patented “Rondley” in Dorchester County.

21 Oct 1689 –   Richard Willis made a will leaving “Rondley” to his minor sons Richard and John when they reached 21 years of age. The tract would descend to his daughter Frances if the sons died without issue.

1 Oct 1699 –     Widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher of Dorchester County at the Quaker Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek.

25 Oct 1700 –   Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, made a will leaving personal property to his brother William Fisher and family. Edward left all real property to his wife Frances. There is no mention of any children. I assume there were none.

26 Jul 1718 –    Frances Fisher conveyed her land, except for her home planation, to sons Richard and John Willis with the proviso that they convey “Rondley” to John Dawson, a son of Frances and Richard Dawson.

7 Aug 1721 –     Richard and wife Ann Willis sold two tracts of land on the Transquakin River to John Dawson.

29 Feb 1723 –   Frances Fisher made a will leaving half her home plantation to son Richard Willis and half to his son Richard, her grandson. The will said some unstated accommodation had been made with her son John Willis. The will identified five grandchildren; three others are proved by analysis.

14 Apr 1729 –   Codicil to Frances Fisher will, proved 7 May 1729.

Before 1730 –    John Dawson son of Frances died. On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson, likely son of John Dawson, sold land on Transquakin that John Dawson, deceased, had bought from Richard Willis in 1721.

1730 – 1736 –   Thomas Willis likely born during this period to either Capt Richard Willis or his brother John Willis. John Dawson likely born during this period to Richard Dawson.

1732 – 1733 –   Deposition of Capt Richard Willis, age 49, mentions deponent’s mother Frances Fisher, about 29 or 30 years ago.

6 Nov 1741 –     Will of Capt Richard Willis proved 20 Jan 1742.

17 Jan 1757 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard Dawson” of Dorchester sold to Thomas Willis a tract called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck.”

29 Oct 1765 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard” sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Thomas Willis.

5 Dec 1773 –     Caroline County formed. The Willis lands are now located in the new county.

25 Feb 1779 –   Gift Deed: Thomas Willis gave to son Elijah Willis the part of “Timber Tree Neck” that Thomas owns. Son William owns the other part.

16 Jun 1780 – Deed of Lease: William Willis rented 6 acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to John Dawson for 75 years at a fee of 6 pence per year.

23 Oct 1783 –   Thomas Willis and son William sold 7½ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” to Elijah Willis.

23 Oct 1783 –   Elijah Willis sold “Levin’s Folly Enlarged” to William Willis.

16 Jun 1784 –   William Willis sold 59¼ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and 18¾ acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

23 Nov 1785 – William Willis sold the rest of his holdings of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck,” “Levin’s Folly Enlarged,” and “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Levin Wright. William then moved to North Carolina.

5 Feb 1793 –     John Dawson, of Richard, sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

[1] Henry C. Peden, Jr. & F. Edward Wright, Colonial Families of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Volume 5, (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 1999), V: 312.

[2] Peden, Colonial Families, V: 312, and Calvin W. Mowbray & Mary I. Mowbray, The Early Settlers of Dorchester County and Their Lands, (Self published, 1981), I: 171. A patent issued to Richard Willous for a tract in Dorchester County called “Roaley” (Rondley), 260 acres.

[3] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 3 (Libers Old 4 ½ – Old 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1961), III:1. The will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, proved 8 Jan 1689/90, devised to his sons Richard and John Willis at age 21 the 300 acre plantation called “Rondly.” His daughter Frances Willis would inherit if sons died without issue. Dorchester County Deed Book 4½ Old 1.

[4] Lucy Kate McGhee, Maryland Quaker Record of Third Haven (Tred Avon), Talbot County, MD, Marriages, Volume 3, pt 1, p. 60, 1 Oct 1699, Marriage of Edward Fisher of Dorchester County and Frances Willis, widow and relict of Richard Willis, at the Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek, which was a sub-meeting of Third Haven.

[5] Jane Baldwin (Jane Baldwin Cotton), The Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, Publishers, 1904, and reprinted Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications) 1988, V. II p 223, 11: 117, Will of Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, dated 25 Oct 1700, proved 4 Mar 1701, To brother William, sister in law Thomasin, Thomas, James and Mary, sons and daughter of brother William Fisher afsd, personalty; To wife Frances (formerly wife of Richard Willis), executrix, and heirs, home plantation, 50 acre “Western” (Weston), and 50 acre “Fishers Landing.” Witness: Jno Rawlings, Dan’l Cox, Thos Peterson.

[6] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD), 1962, 7 Old 63, 26 Jul 1718, Frances Fisher of Dorchester County sold to Richard Willis and John Willis, her sons, “Weston,” 50 acres; “Addition to Fishers Landing,” 53 acres; “Bartholomews,” 200 acres, and “Fishers Landing, 50 acres. Richard and John Willis to convey “Roadley” (“Rondley”) to John Dawson. Witness: J. Rider, Levin Hicks, acknowledged the same day

[7] Id., at 8 Old 26, On 7 Aug 1721, Richard Willis and wife Ann of Dorchester County, Gentleman, sold to John Dawson, planter, of Dorchester, “Maidens Choyce” on Transquakin River adjoining “Exchange,” 100 acres and White Lady Field” adjoining “Maidens Choyce,” 100 acres. Witness: Cha. Deane, John King. Acknowledged 9 Aug 1721.

[8] Baldwin, Calendar of Wills, V. VI, p. 109; 19: 679, Will of Frances Fisher, Dorchester County, dated 29 Feb 1724, proved 7 May 1729, To son Richard Willis, ½ home plantation on Nanticoke River; To daughter Frances Newton, personalty; To grandson Richard Willis other ½ of said plantation pursuant to an agreement lately made with son John Willis, and personalty at age 21. Son Richard Willis to have charge of estate during minority of said grandson Richard; To granddaughters Frances and Mary (daughters of Edward Newton), personalty; To Elizabeth (daughter of Joseph Thompson), personalty to be delivered to her by her uncle Edward Newton when 18 years of age; To Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth (children of Richard Dawson), personalty; To sons Richard Willis and Edward Newton, executors, residue of personal estate. Witness: Thomas Griffith, Samuel Long, William Burn (dec’d at date of probate). Codicil: 14 Apr 1729. To granddaughter Elizabeth Thompson, son [sic] Richard and his sister Mary Willis, personalty.

[9] McGhee, Quaker Record of Third Haven, Volume 1, p. 50, Birth dates Obediah 13 Apr 1672, Richard 13 May 1674, Elizabeth 19 Nov 1677, Sarah 15 Sep 1678, John 7 Jun 1681, Anthony 13 Apr 1683.

[10] Id., at 73, Obediah Dawson died 21 Nov 1694.

[11] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), 1963, 15 Old 449, On 17 Jan 1757, John Dawson (son of Richard Dawson) of Dorchester County, planter, to Thomas Willis of the same, part of a tract on the east side of the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River, called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck”, located near John Brown’s home plantation and containing 134 ½ acres. Witness: Henry Hooper, Edward Tripp, Justices.

[12] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 16 (Liber Old No. 20), 1964, 20 Old 384, On 29 Oct 1765, John Dawson (son of Richard) and Sarah his wife of Dorchester Co, planter, to Thomas Willis of same: part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke, 32 acres. Wit: Edward Trippe, Wm. Haskins, Justices.

[13] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), 1962, 8 Old 405, On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson of Dorchester sold to Joseph Ennalls, of the same, 100 acres, part of lands bought by John Dawson, dec’d, from Richard Willis, on the west side of main branch Transquakin River. Witness: Jno Pitt, Jno Anderton, Richd Dawson. Acknowledged the same day.

[14] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 348, Deed of Gift dated 25 Feb 1779 – Thomas Willis to his loving son Elijah Willis a tract of land called “Timber Tree Neck” or “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and all to the westward of a ditch in the middle now between myself and my son William Willis – has a life clause for he and wife Rebekah to use land.

[15] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 487, Deed of Lease – A Deed of Lease dated 16 Jun 1780 between John Dawson and William Willis, rent a tract of land called “Addition to Miles Swamp” containing 6 acres for 75 years at a yearly rent of 6 pence.

[16] Caroline County Deed Records, Deed Book D: 285, John Dawson (of Richard) to Elijah Willis: for £21.19.4, 17 acres, part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on east side of Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River. John Dawson and Sarah his wife each acknowledged before TW Loockerman, Jos. Douglas, Justices.

New Info – Wm Willis of Dorchester, MD

 

I recently discovered additional information about William Willis, born about 1694. William was the son of the immigrant John Willis who inherited the 50-acre tract in Dorchester County named “Wantage.” William and his wife Judith sold the land in 1734 to Richard Seward, very likely Judith’s brother. The couple then relocated to the Neck Region of Dorchester County, where Judith’s parents John and Mary Seward owned property.

I concluded that William and Judith moved to the Neck Region because they each gave a deposition between 1745 and 1752 about land boundaries in the area. Such testimony would not have been credible unless they were familiar with the property, probably as nearby residents. However, I had not located any deed or other record that placed them in the area. Now we have one: a 1764 deed clearly states that a William Willis was living on Hudson’s Creek at the head of Willis’s Cove.[1] Since there is no record of any other William Willis in the vicinity, this was surely the residence of William and Judith.

Furthermore, we now have circumstantial evidence that William and Judith had a child. A Thomas Willis gave a deposition in 1784 about the boundaries of a tract called “Bridge North,” owned by William Seward. (That land had previously been owned by John and Mary Seward and sold by them to Mary’s sister.) At the time of the deposition, Thomas Willis was 70 years old, meaning he was born about 1714. He testified to being shown the boundary markers in about 1754. He was definitely the right age to have been a son of William and Judith Willis and to have come with them to the Neck Region of Dorchester County as a young man in 1734. If so, he had been a resident of the area for 50 years at the time of his deposition.[2] With no evidence of another Willis family in the area, it is highly likely that Thomas was a son of William and Judith.

I have updated the article previously posted about the second generation of the John Willis Family to reflect this information. You can read the revised version at this link.

[1] McAllister, James A., Jr., Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19, (Cambridge, MD, 1964). 19 Old 343, 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester Co, Merchant, to Nicholas MacCubbin of Annapolis, Merchant: ½ of “Rosses Chance” containing 42 A. Also 200 A, being part of “Addition to Rosses Chance” on Hudson’s Creek, laid out to said John Taylor for 400 acres. Also “Littleworth” on east side of Hudson’s Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives, 49 A. (Mortgage). Wit: Thomas Taylor, Thos. Harwood. Ackn: Robt. How and Jno. Anderson, Justices.

[2] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 27 (Liber NH No. 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1967), 5 NH 259, 12 Oct 1784 – 8 Oct 1785, Commission to Charles Eccleston, Nathaniel Manning, Stanley Byus and John Trippe of Dorchester Co, Gent., to perpetuate the bounds of Wm Soward’s land called “Bridge North”, and Return. Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70 years, concerning a bounder on a cove of Hudson’s Creek, shown about 30 years ago by Joseph Blades who had possession of the land. Mentions Henry Claridge who was also present when Blades showed the bounder, and who has died in the last two years. The land where the said Joseph Blades lived 30 years ago is the same land where Wm. Lee now lives, called “Bridge North”.

The Mysterious Robert Rankin of Gibson County, TN

© Robin Rankin Willis

I spent some time in early 2017 at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, where I wound up mucking about in Gibson County. I stumbled over a passel of Rankins there. They are my favorite line for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that I was nèe Rankin.

What got me enmeshed in the Gibson County Rankins was the Revolutionary War pension application of one Robert Rankin among the court records. Let’s call him Mystery Robert because his family of origin is a puzzle. He applied for a pension in Gibson in September 1832. His sworn statement is replete with military details. Unfortunately, he did not say where he enlisted, which would likely have led us to his family of origin without much difficulty

I cannot find anyone who claims descent from Mystery Robert among online family trees. This is unusual. The general rule is that, whenever one finds a Revolutionary War soldier, one finds many descendants. I have found no one claiming a revolutionary war soldier ancestor who applied from Gibson County in 1832.

If you know who this man’s family is, please let me know. I’ll send you a box of chocolates, provided that you have proof other than some online tree which cites as sources other online family trees.

Here is what the Gibson records reveal about Mystery Robert, which is precious little.

  • Mystery Robert was 84 when he applied for a pension under the Act of 1832. That was the first Congressional act in which the applicant did not have to prove that he was destitute in order to be eligible for a pension. Since Robert had not applied earlier, we know that he wasn’t destitute. He was born about 1748. He was in the North Carolina militia, which means he almost certainly lived in NC when he enlisted. His pension allowance was $50/year, and the 1835 roll of Tennessee pensioners says that he had received $150 through June 1834. Here is a transcription of his pension application.
  • Robert appeared in the 1830 census for Gibson County in the 80 < 90 age bracket (born 1740 – 1750), consistent with the stated age in his pension application. There is a female 40 < 50 (born 1780 – 1790) listed with him and a male 10 < 15 (born 1815 – 1820). This could be a young wife and son, or a widowed daughter or daughter-in-law who was his caretaker (and her son). The 1830 census only gives names for the head of household, and I haven’t been able to identify the other members of Robert’s household.
  • The 1830s tax records in Gibson County occasionally list a Robert Rankin, although not consistently every year. It is fairly clear that he owned no land. His only taxable item was “one white poll,” which was undoubtedly himself. However, he was charged no tax, which probably means he was exempt from taxes on account of his advanced age. I don’t know when he died, although he did not appear as a head of household in the 1840 census. I found no probate records for him in Gibson Co.

The thing about Mystery Robert that caused me to sit up and take notice was this: his pension application says that his brother, not named, was killed by Tories at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. So I did some online research about that battle (also spelled Ramseur or Ramsaur). It took place in June 1780. About 40 patriots (Whigs) died there, although it was not easy to ascertain which bodies fought for which side. The combatants wore no uniforms. The loyalists (Tories) stuck a spring of greenery in their hats; the patriots had a piece of white paper in theirs. These identifiers were sometimes missing from the bodies. The largest portion of the patriot troops were from Iredell County, NC. About thirteen of the dead patriots were from Capt. Sharpe’s 4th Creek Company, Statesville, Iredell County. Here is a piece about Ramsour’s Mill.

Family history research rarely involves absolute certainties, especially when one is dealing with facts from more than two centuries ago. Sometimes one must play the odds. The obvious odds were that Mystery Robert and his dead brother were from Iredell County, so I went digging among the Iredell records for Rankin families.

What I found in Iredell was the will of a David Rankin who died in 1789. The original will, dated 1781, is located in the Raleigh Archives in File Box No. C.R.054.801.11 and recorded in Iredell Will Book A: 200. David’s will names his wife Margaret and son Robert. David also named three grandchildren: (1) David McCreary, a son of David’s daughter Mrs. _______ Rankin McCreary, (2) James Rankin, who David expressly identified as a son of Robert Rankin, and (3) David Rankin. Grandson David Rankin’s father was not identified, so David wasn’t another son of Robert. He was a minor, under age 21 in 1781, when his grandfather David wrote his will.

The express language of David’s will – with a Rankin grandson whose father wasn’t Robert – raises the inference that David and Margaret had another son who may have died before David wrote his 1781 will.

The next step was to cast about in Iredell and nearby records to find a candidate for grandson David Rankin whose father may have died before 1781. As it turned out, David was in Lincoln County and was the son of a James Rankin. Here are some relevant Lincoln County records:

  • July 1783, a lawsuit styled the Executors of James Rankin vs. Reuben Simpson. So there was a James Rankin who had died before July 1783.
  • The lawsuit resulted in the public sale of defendant’s land to satisfy the plaintiff’s judgment. See Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 756, deed dated 21 Sep 1784 from Joseph Henry as Sheriff of Lincoln Co. to Francis Cunningham of same, levy on Reuben Simpson in suit of James Rankin. A witness to the deed was Robert Rankin, who was almost certainly kin to the dead James Rankin. The only Robert Rankins who lived close enough to witness a Lincoln County deed were (1) Robert, son of David and Margaret of Iredell, and (2) Robert, son of Samuel and Eleanor of Lincoln, who was only 19, and whose brother James was still a child.
  • There is a Lincoln county promissory note (or possibly a guardian’s bond, as my notes aren’t clear) from Francis Cunninghan and Daniel McKissick to John Alexander, guardian of minors David Rankin, Jane Rankin, Margaret Rankin and William Rankin, orphans of James Rankin. Such records usually named children in order of age, so David was probably the eldest. Source: Anne William McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers 1771-1806 of the Court of Ps & Qs, Lincoln County, North Carolina (1989).

David Rankin was still in the area on 14 Oct 1800, when he witnessed a deed from James Alexander to Horatio Gates Alexander adjacent the land of David’s guardian John Alexander. See Lincoln Co. DB 22:65. John Alexander was almost certainly David Rankin’s uncle, so John was probably either (1) married to a Rankin or (2) the brother of David’s mother, Mrs. ___?___ Alexander Rankin.

Here is a crucial piece of evidence. The Iredell County Genealogical Society has a collection called the “Philip Langenhour papers,” which were Mr. Langenhour’s collections of stories about local families. His papers mention a Miss Alexander (no given name stated) who married a Mr. Rankin (ditto) who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. Given the fact that the guardian of James Rankin’s children was John Alexander, it is as good a bet as you can find in genealogy that it was James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. This is the only piece of evidence I have found that a Rankin died in that battle … other than the pension application of Robert Rankin, whose patriot brother was killed there.

The pieces of this puzzle fall together quite nicely. It seems reasonable to conclude that David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell had two sons named Robert and James. James married a Miss Alexander, sister of John Alexander, and died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780. James and Miss Alexander had children named David and Margaret (for their Rankin grandparents), as well as Jane and William. Their uncle John Alexander became their guardian.

Here is where we take a plunge off the high diving board without, we hope (as my friend Jody McKenney Thomson, a descendant of these Lincoln County Alexanders, puts it) “forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit.” Please forgive the mixed metaphors.

I think Mystery Robert is Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, and a brother of a James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill.  Jody, does the shoe pinch?

Please also note that Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret, disappeared from the Iredell and Lincoln county records after 1826 without leaving any probate records. Jody and I have long wondered where the heck he went.

There is a bit more to this story. Robert had two sons who remained in the Iredell/Lincoln area: Denny, born in 1775, and James, born about 1778. Denny and James married sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth McMinn. Two of Denny and Sarah’s proved children were named Robert A. Rankin and Samuel Rankin.

Robert A. Rankin appeared in the Gibson County records starting in 1838. Samuel Rankin began appearing in Gibson in 1837, acting as security on the bond of the administrator of a John McMinn. The fact that known members of the Iredell Rankin family and a McMinn appeared in Gibson along with Mystery Robert provides additional circumstantial evidence regarding Mystery Robert’s identity.

I believe the shoe fits quite nicely.

Finally, please note that there were other distinct Rankin lines in Gibson County beginning in roughly the mid-1800s. However, I found no evidence to connect any other Rankin line to Mystery Robert. In the 1840 census for Gibson, there was no listing for either of the two Roberts or for Samuel. Robert A. Rankin and his brother Samuel moved to Shelby County, where both died; Samuel was Robert’s administrator.

Briefly, here are some other Rankins who lived in Gibson County:

  • David F. C. Rankin (1823 – 1885) and his wife Susan Young. David was a son of David Rankin and Anne Moore Campbell of Rutherford County, TN. The senior David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC.
  • Jesse Rankin, who was born in Kentucky about 1795, and his wife Cynthia Sellers. Some researchers think Jesse was a son of Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC and Caldwell Co., KY and his second wife Leah. Other researchers think that Jesse was a son of “Shaker Reverend” John Rankin of Guilford, NC and Logan Co., KY and his wife Rebecca. Both Robert of Rutherford and Shaker Reverend John had sons named Jesse. See an article about Jesse here.

Some Rankin researchers think that Robert Rankin and his wife Isabel (maiden name Rankin) of Guilford Co., NC, McNairy Co., TN and Pope Co., AR may have also lived in Gibson County. I don’t think that is the case, and one of their descendants tells me she has no evidence for that theory, either.

Onward! Meanwhile, as my cousin Roger Alexander likes to say, “Nobody has more fun than we do!”

Part 3 of 5: James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC by 1789

This post doesn’t really deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange, notwithstanding the title. Rather, it concerns the line of James Trice of King William County, VA, whose estate was appraised there in 1769. Two Louisa County chancery court files in the Library of Virginia contain documents about a dispute among two grandsons of James Trice of King William. I relied on evidence from those files in Part 2 of this Trice series, which did deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange. I also promised to provide abstracts of these files.

This article contains two things: (1) a summary of the Louisa County chancery court dispute and (2) abstracts of the documents contained in the two files, indexed by the Library of Virginia as Louisa County #1804-006 and #1804-011.

The chancery files contain some duplication; I did not abstract any document twice. I have omitted many documents that do not appear to have useful genealogical information concerning the Trice family. I also omitted lists of items in estate inventories. There are several in those 2 files, including the estates of William Anderson (Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice’s first husband), James Trice of King William (Dorothy’s second husband), and Dabney Anderson (a son of Dorothy and William Anderson and a stepson of James Trice). You know where to find them if you’re interested in details: see links provided in Part 2. Finally, I’ve also omitted most of the testimony and allegations in pleadings specifically concerning the slaves at issue in the two cases – Bess and her son Dick. I may have omitted some relevant documents. There are 116 pages in the two files, some of which are written in an almost incomprehensible hand. Attorneys also succumb to MEGO.

I have numbered and titled the documents, see below, although they are neither numbered nor titled in the actual Library of Virginia files. These are therefore my own numbers and descriptions. My comments are in italics and do NOT reflect what is in the actual file – the italicized comments contain my own clarifications or conclusions.

Summary of the cases

The dispute concerns the ownership of a slave named Dick, who was the son of a slave named Bess. Dick was convicted of a felony in Hanover County and hanged. Under the colonial law of Virginia, if a slave was executed by the state, Virginia compensated the owner for his or her value. Learning this set me on my heels, since I still recoil whenever I see something involving the equation “human = property.” That’s the way it was, America’s original sin.

The court cases divide into two procedural parts. First, William Trice, son of John Trice and grandson of James Trice of King William, sued Charles Crenshaw in Charles’ capacity as executor of his father, Joseph Crenshaw. Joseph had been the administrator of the estate of James Trice, who was Joseph’s father-in-law. The parties to these cases – William Trice and Charles Crenshaw – were first cousins, both being grandsons of James Trice and his wife Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice.

William apparently filed his claim in 1799, or perhaps late 1788. William sought an accounting of the estate of James Trice from Charles, saying that he (William) hadn’t received his share of the estate. Charles responded that the claim was old and stale and should be dismissed, an equitable defense known as “laches.” William won, and the court ordered an accounting of James Trice’s estate.

Sometime after that, Charles turned up what appeared to be new evidence (it was, it just turned out not to be relevant). He asked that the earlier order be set aside and the case reheard. Charles also filed a cross-claim against William, saying that William had received more than his fair share of James Trice’s estate. The court allowed a rehearing, and the case was tried. William Trice won, and the court ordered an accounting of the estate of James Trice, with the entire value of Dick (plus interest) to be credited in William Trice’s favor.

The archivists at the Library of Virginia created two files for these cases, one reflecting William Trice’s original claim and the other reflecting Charles Crenshaw’s cross-claim. As a practical matter, the two cases concern a single dispute and set of facts, and one needs to review both files to get the entire story.

Here is a summary of the general facts.

In 1720, Dorothy Dabney Anderson, widow of William Anderson, deeded a slave named Bess to her son William Anderson, a minor. The deed provided that ownership of Bess would revert to Dorothy if William died without issue and Dorothy were still alive. William did die as a child, with no children of his own. Ownership of Bess thus reverted to Dorothy.

Dorothy married secondly James Trice of King William County. James apparently did not consider Bess or her children to be his property in fee simple, although that would have been the case under colonial Virginia law. In a lawsuit after Dorothy died, James claimed only a life estate in Bess and her issue. James apparently considered them the property of Dabney Anderson – the only other son of William and Dorothy Anderson, presumably with ownership to revert to Dabney after the expiration of James’ life estate.

Dabney Anderson must also have thought the slaves were his, because he devised them in his will to his stepbrother John Trice. John Trice died intestate. William Trice was John’s only child, so William inherited John’s entire estate. James Trice, Dabney’s executor and the administrator of John Trice, apparently considered the slaves William’s property, as he reportedly said at one point that he wished William would come get his slaves.

William Trice based his claim for Bess’s child Dick (or his value as determined in the wisdom of the Colony of Virginia) on (1) Dabney Anderson’s devise of Bess to John Trice in Dabney’s will and (2) William’s inheritance of all of his father John’s estate. Charles, bless his heart, threw lots of factual issues at the court – e.g., Bess wasn’t listed in the inventory of James Trice’s estate, nor was she listed in the inventory of Dabney’s estate, and other matters, all to no avail. He lost. When the facts are on your side, pound the law; when the law is on your side, pound the facts; when neither is on your side, pound the table. Charles Crenshaw was in the unenviable position of having neither the facts nor the law on his side.

With that introduction, here are the abstracts. They contain more genealogical information than included in the above summary.

File # 1804-006

  1. Cross-complaint of Charles Crenshaw dated April 1802?
  • Charles Crenshaw was the executor of the will of Joseph Crenshaw.
  • Slave Bess was a gift (sic, a devise in a will) from Dabney Anderson (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson and William Anderson) to John Trice (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice and James Trice).
  • There is a gift deed in King William Co. by Dorothy Anderson giving Bess to her son William Anderson. However, if William died without children, and Dorothy was still alive, then Bess reverted to Dorothy. Deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • William Anderson died without children in Dorothy’s lifetime.
  • Asserts that William Trice (named as defendant) has received more than his just share from the estate of James Trice.
  • Joseph Crenshaw married the sister of John Trice. Plaintiff Charles Crenshaw, “in right of Joseph, being entitled to one moiety thereof” (e., one half of the estate of James Trice), because “the said James Trice, the father of them both (i.e., both John Trice and Joseph Crenshaw’s wife) died intestate.”
  • Seeks an accounting of James Trice’s estate.
  1. Deposition of Henry Edwards and wife Mary Edwards dated 14 Sep 1802.
  • John Trice died at less than twenty years old. Summary of this deposition in the other case says that he died less than age 21.
  • James Trice was John Trice’s father.
  • William Trice of Louisa County was a son of Mary Edwards and John Trice. William was their only child. Mary LNU Trice remarried to Henry Edwards after her husband John Trice died.
  • Mary Trice is age 77. She met James Trice when she was 9. Some researchers believe that Mary was probably nèe Anderson, a daughter of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. For what it’s worth, I agree.
  • Henry Edwards (Mary’s husband) was guardian of William Trice. Henry once sued James Trice on William’s behalf in a dispute concerning slaves. Henry did not recover Bess, because James Trice prevailed on his claim that he owned a life estate in Bess.
  • James Trice’s wife had died before that suit.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was the administrator of James Trice when James died.
  • Bess, the slave into dispute, came into the estate of James Trice by virtue of his marriage to Dorothy Anderson.
  1. Deposition of Susanna Crenshaw, 28 Oct 1802.
  • Dorothy Anderson who married James Trice was living in King William County about December 1742.
  1. Appraisal of the estate of James Trice, dec’d, dated 22 Feb 1769 and recorded in King William Co., April 1769.
  • Appraisers were Thomas Crenshaw, George Dabney Jr., and Thomas Baker.
  1. Answer of Defendant William Trice to Charles Crenshaw’s Cross-Complaint dated 11 May 1802.
  • Admits to 1720 gift deed of a slave from Dorothy Anderson to William Anderson and that William Anderson died without issue.
  • James Trice married Dorothy Anderson and took possession of the slave during his life.
  • About five years before William Trice was born, Dabney Anderson died leaving a will that was proved in Caroline County, James Trice, executor. Dabney Anderson’s will was presented for probate by the executor James Trice (Dabney’s stepfather) on 13 Feb. 1735/36, see Caroline Co. Order Book 1732-40 at 319.
  • Dabney Anderson’s will devised a slave to John Trice, the son of James Trice.
  • William Trice is the only child of John Trice, who died intestate at less than age 21.
  1. Gift deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • Deed signed by Dorothy D. Anderson, widow of William Anderson, dec’d, of St. Johns Parish, King William County.
  • Gift of slave to son William Anderson, a minor.
  • If William dies without issue and Dorothy survives him, then the slave reverts to Dorothy.
  1. Deposition of Dorothy Hicks in Albemarle Co., 23 Sep 1799.
  • Dorothy lived with James Trice from the time she was a child until a grown woman.
  • Her parents were Godney Trice and Judith Trice. Judith Trice was nèe Anderson (see receipt from Godney and Judith in File #1804-011) and was a child of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. Some researchers speculate that Godney Trice was a son of James Trice. However, Godney (who also appears in records as “Goodwin”) was not one of the heirs of James Trice, which means either (1) he wasn’t a son of James or (2) he did not survive James and left no children. However, Godney’s father was definitely not James Trice of King William because Godney left at least one child – Dorothy Trice Hicks – who survived James Trice. If Godney had been James’ child, Dorothy (and any other children of Godney) would have been heirs of James Trice since James died intestate. I don’t know who Godney/Goodwin’s parents were and can’t even speculate intelligently.
  • Dorothy was about 10 – 12 years old when Dabney Anderson died. That would make her b. abt. 1722-23. She is now about 67. That would make her b. abt. 1732. There is clearly some inconsistency in her testimony.
  1. Deposition of Gravet (?) Edwards, 25 Oct. 1802. Dorothy Trice was alive 5 or six years after 1727. Another deponent testified she was still alive in 1742. Another deponent testified that she died before James Trice, so she clearly died by 1769.

File #1804-011

  1. Complaint of William Trice v. Charles Crenshaw as Executor of Joseph Crenshaw
  • Plaintiff William Trice (called William Trice Sr. in various other records in these two files) was the only child of John Trice, dec’d, who was the son of James Trice.
  • Dabney Anderson of Caroline County died sometime in 1735, will dated 16 Dec 1735. Dabney appointed James Trice (the father of John Trice and grandfather of William Trice) executor of his will.
  • Dabney Anderson devised to John Trice 3 slaves in fee, including Bess. John Trice died intestate and William Trice claims the slaves under Dabney’s will.
  • James Trice administered the estate of his son John Trice.
  • John Trice, father of William, died under age (less than 21) and intestate, so that William Trice became entitled as John’s heir at law to the slaves bequeathed to John.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was administrator of James Trice’s estate. Joseph Crenshaw died and Charles Crenshaw was Joseph’s executor.
  • William Trice names Charles Crenshaw the defendant in this lawsuit.
  1. Sale, estate of James Trice.
  1. Answer of Charles Crenshaw to the complaint of William Trice dated 12 Mar 1799.
  • Admits that he is the executor of Joseph Crenshaw, who was the administrator of James Trice, who was the executor of Dabney Anderson.
  1. Inventory of the estate of Dabney Anderson dated 13 Feb 1735.
  • Signed by Joseph Woolfolk, Jos. Martin, Jacob Burrus, and James Trice. Recorded 12 Mar 1735.
  1. Two receipts on one piece of paper, both dated 25 Feb. 1736
  • Godney Trice and Judy Trice acknowleded receipt from James Trice of a slave who was a legacy given them by Dabney Anderson. Evidence that Judith Trice was Dabney’s sister.
  • Joseph Ashburn and Sarah Asburn acknowledged receipt from James Trice of “our part of Dabney’s estate,” a slave who was a legacy from “our brother Dabney Adnerson dec’d.” Evidence that Sarah Ashburn was Dabney’s sister. 

 

Part 2 of 5: James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC by 1789.

Yesterday, I posted an introduction to a series of articles about the James Trice who first appeared in the Virginia records in a 1733 road order as a resident of Caroline County. James married as his second wife Ruth Booth (widow of Daniel Booth), and moved to Orange County, NC, where he died in late 1788 or 1789. We’re calling him James Trice of Caroline/Orange for short.

In that introduction, I posed several questions about James, all of which address what I think are misconceptions/misinformation about James Trice of Caroline/Orange. The questions begin with these two:

  1. Was Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson married to James Trice of Caroline/Orange? The answer is “NO,” beyond any doubt. Dorothy was married to a different James Trice. 
  1. Was the James Trice who was married to Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson the father of James Trice of Caroline/Orange? Again, the answer is “NO.” There is no doubt about that, either.

Here is one initial note before we get to the evidence. Writing this article reminded me again of some of the rules of genealogical research, to wit …

Rule #1: follow the land. If there is one thing British common law is finely honed to accomplish, it is to keep track of who owns which piece of earth. If you want to prove, e.g., that Dorothy Dabney married William Anderson about 1700, Virginia land records will do it for you.

Rule #2: keep track of county creation history. If an ancestor suddenly disappears from the records of, say, Pike County, Alabama, it might be because he moved away. Or it might be that he begins appearing instead in the records of Barbour County, which had been created from Pike County.

Rule #3: if you find a chancery court case involving your research targets, consider it golden. Cherish it. Almost everything in this article is conclusively proved by two chancery court files located in the Virginia State Library in Richmond. A very nice researcher named Rubyann Thompson Darnell pointed me toward them.

Rule #4: you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a charming prince.

OK, back to the Trice questions. Let’s start with Dorothy Dabney Anderson’s family of origin and husband.

Dorothy was the daughter of Cornelius Dabney, who acquired land on Pouncey’s Swamp (or Pownce’s, or several other variant spellings) in the Pamunkey Neck of what was then St. John’s Parish, King & Queen County, Virginia. A committee of the Virginia Assembly “confirmed” this land to Cornelius in 1699, and also named four children who apparently claimed it under Cornelius Dabney’s will.[1] The Dabney children were James, George, Dorothy and Sarah Dabney.

In April 1701, official Virginia land patents were issued for that land to the four Dabney children.[2] By then, Dorothy had married William Anderson. The Anderson patent names both William Anderson and his wife Dorothy in a grant of land in Pamunkey Neck, St. John’s Parish, Pownce’s Swamp, adjacent land of Sarah Dabney. Sarah’s patent expressly states that her tract was adjacent to James Dabney and “land of her sister Dorothy.”

Those particular land records prove, among other things, that Dorothy Dabney, daughter of Cornelius, married William Anderson some time between 1699 and 1701, and that they owned land in St. John’s Parish in what was then King & Queen County. See Rule #1.

By early 1720, Dorothy was a widow. In February that year, she signed as “Dorothy D. Anderson” a deed of gift to her son William. The deed, which was the gift of a slave,[3] was recorded in St. John’s Parish, King William County. Dorothy Anderson had probably not moved. Instead, the county in which she and William lived had just changed when King William was created from King & Queen County in 1700. See Rule #2.

This deed, as well as numerous other records on which this article relies, can be found in two chancery court case files from Louisa County, VA. Both files concern essentially the same controversy, a claim and cross-claim between first cousins. The subject of the controversy, originally filed (as nearly as I can tell) about 1798, was the son of the slave named in the 1720 gift deed from Dorothy to her son William. The Library of Virginia, bless its heart, has digitized those records and made them available online. See Rule #3.

I will summarize my abstracts of relevant records from those files in the next article in this Trice series. If you are interested in them and can’t wait for abstracts, the files are designated Louisa County Chancery cases, index number 1804-006 and 1811-011. Be advised that you will wade through a considerable amount of dross while searching for the gold. See Rule #4.

The files are available online here: #1804-006. And here: #1804-011

Here are two things the chancery court dispute conclusively proves.[4]

  • Dorothy Dabney Anderson, widow of William Anderson, married as her second husband James Trice of King William County. Let’s call him James Trice of King William.[5]
  • Dorothy’s husband James Trice died intestate and his estate was appraised on 22 February 1769 in King William County.

There is no doubt that James Trice of King William was not the same man as James Trice of Caroline/Orange, who died in Orange County in 1788-89.[6] James Trice of Caroline/Orange had left Virginia some time in 1756, when he last appeared in the Caroline County records.[7] He was definitely a resident of North Carolina by no later than 1759.[8] He was still living in North Carolina when the other James Trice died in Virginia.

To turn this into a syllogism:

  1. James Trice of King William (d. by 1769) was not the same man as James Trice of Caroline/Orange (d. by 1789);
  2. James Trice of King William was indisputably the husband of Dorothy Dabney Anderson;
  3. Therefore, James Trice of Caroline/Orange did not marry Dorothy Dabney Anderson. The answer to Question #1 is “NO.”

There is more that the chancery court records prove.

  • James and Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice had two, and only two, children who have any descendants: John Trice and a daughter, probably Martha Trice.
  • John Trice married Mary LNU and died intestate before age 21. John and Mary had only one child, William Trice, who was one of the claimants in the Louisa county chancery court dispute.
  • James and Dorothy’s other child was a daughter, possibly named Martha, who married Joseph Crenshaw. Joseph and Martha’s son Charles Crenshaw was the cross-claimant in the Louisa chancery court case.

If James and Dorothy Trice had any children besides John and Martha, that child (or children) must have died before 1769 and cannot themselves have had any children who were still alive as of 1769. James Trice’s 1769 King William estate was equally inherited by Joseph Crenshaw (“in right of his wife” Martha) and John Trice’s son William. Because James Trice died without a will, the Virginia law of intestate descent and distribution required that all of his children (or children of a deceased child) share in his estate. Thus, Joseph and Martha Crenshaw (daughter of James Trice) and William Trice (son of John Trice and grandson of James Trice), the only heirs, were James Trice’s only surviving heirs.

Because James Trice of Caroline/Orange was not one of the heirs of James of King William, James Trice of Caroline/Orange cannot have been a son (or grandson) of James Trice of King William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. The answer to Question #2 is also “NO.”

And that’s all the news that’s fit on print on the first two Trice issues. Please don’t go away, though. As far as Trice controversies are concerned, we have just begun to fight.

[1] Louis des Cognets, Jr., English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records (Princeton, NJ: 1958).

[2] Marion Nell Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers Volume 3: 1695-1732 (Richmond: Virginia State Library,1979) at 46 (abstract of VA Patent Book 9 at 350, 351 and 352).

[3] It pains me considerably to type words showing that some human beings were considered property and could be given by one owner to another.

[4] State Library of Virginia, online chancery court records, Louisa County files indexed as #1804-006 and #1804-011. Records in the two files include the complaint of William Trice and the cross-claim of Charles Crenshaw, William’s answer to the cross-claim, Charles’ answer to the original complaint, 1720 gift deed from Dorothy D. Anderson to her minor son William Anderson, inventory and appraisal of the estate of William Anderson dated 25 Jun 1719, deposition of Henry Edward and his wife Mary (who married John Trice, son of James Trice of King William, and was the mother of William Trice, the plaintiff), appraisal of the estate of James Trice (22 Feb 1769, King William County), 1735 Caroline County inventory of the estate of Dabney Anderson (James Trice, executor), and numerous other deposition notices and the usual detritus of lawsuits.

[5] In addition to the Louisa Co. chancery files, there is other proof that Dorothy Dabney Anderson married James Trice. See will of Susanna Anderson (widow of Cornelius Dabney who remarried to a Mr. Anderson after Cornelius died) dated 4 Mary 1722 and recorded 5 Feb 1724, Hanover Will Book I: 632. The original will book was lost, but a copy of the will was re-filed in 22 Dec 1868. Susanna’s will names her grandson William Anderson (the donee in Dorothy’s 1720 gift deed), William Anderson’s stepfather James Trice, and Susannah’s children Cornelius Dabney, Dorothy Trice (identified as the wife of James Trice), and Mary Carr (wife of Thomas Carr).

[6] Feb 1788 or Feb 1789 (year not clear) entry in Orange County, NC Minute Book IV: 98, original viewed by R. Willis at the NC Archives.

[7] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1755 – 1758, Part One, 1755 – 1756 (Washington, D.C.: 1976), abstract of 8 Apr 1756 entry mentioning lease and release from James Trice and wife Ruth, at p. 160 of the Order Book.

[8] Weynette Parks Haun, Orange County, North Carolina, Court Minutes 1752 -1761, Book I (Durham, NC: 1991), abstract of Sep 1759 court minutes, jury ordered to lay out a road from the Great Road to Cape Fear where James Trice lives. Jury included James Trice, Edward Trice and John Trice.

 

James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC 1789: Part 1 of 5

 

Not long ago, a man who learned from his FTDNA “Family Finder” autosomal DNA test that we are related through our Trice lines contacted me. It turned out that we have the same Trice great-great-grandparents, so we are (as they say in north Louisiana) gen-u-wine cousins. Because of him, I have to cast yet another vote in favor of DNA testing, if for no other reason than to meet very nice relatives who were previously unknown to you.

Meanwhile, email conversations with my newfound cousin caused me to look again at the Trice family. My own last conclusively proved Trice Ancestor is the James Trice who first appeared as a resident of Caroline County, VA in a 1733 road order, married as his second wife Ruth Booth (widow of Daniel Booth), and moved to Orange County, NC, where he died in 1789. Let’s call him JAMES TRICE of Caroline/Orange to distinguish him from at least one other James Trice who made a brief appearance in the records of Caroline County.

There is a great deal of bad information floating around the internet about this man. This isn’t surprising. Trices began appearing in Virginia in the 1670s, and they did not choose their locations wisely. They appeared in New Kent, King & Queen, King William, Hanover, and Caroline counties. All of those counties have suffered serious losses of records. Moreover, “Edward” and “James” were favorite Trice given names from the time they started appearing in the colonies, which makes the job of distinguishing among them – with few records available – even more difficult.

Here are a few issues that jump out …

  1. Was Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson married to James Trice of Caroline/Orange? The answer is “NO,” beyond any doubt. Dorothy was married to a James Trice whose estate was appraised in February 1769 in King William County, VA.
  1. Was the James Trice who died in King William County and who was married to Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson the father of James Trice of Caroline/Orange? Again, the answer is “NO,” and there is no doubt about that, either.
  1. Who were the two wives of James Trice of Caroline/Orange? Answer: (1) I don’t know, but wish I did; and (2) Ruth Booth, nèe May.
  1. James Trice of Caroline/Orange had a son by his first wife named Edward Trice (b. abt. 1737, Caroline Co., d. 1800, Orange Co.). Edward’s wife was named Tabitha. What was her maiden name? The conventional wisdom is that she was nèe Harrison. I cannot find any evidence for that assertion, nor can I find anyone who is willing to share any evidence they have on the issue. On the other hand, there is some convincing circumstantial evidence that Edward’s wife Tabitha was Tabitha Booth, the daughter of Ruth May Booth Trice and her first husband, Daniel Booth.

Addressing these issues with references to actual evidence in county and other records is going to require more than one post in order to avoid inflicting the MEGO syndrome on the reader: “my eyes glaze over.”

Please stay tuned. There is considerably more information about these Trices to come shortly. And Happy New Year, y’all!!!

Who Was Jarvis Willis

Introduction

The name Jarvis Willis appears only a few times in the 18th century civil records of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland. In one instance, a 1764 will names a Jarvis Willis as a son of John and Elizabeth Willis.[1] In a second, a 1768 land valuation records where a Jarvis Willis is living.[2] Third, the 1783 Maryland Supply Tax assessment lists a Jarvis Willis in the upper district of Dorchester County heading a household of eight and a Jarvis Willis in Caroline County with a family of four.[3] Fourth, a Jarvis Willis appears as a head of household in the 1790 federal census for Dorchester County.[4] Further, a 1798 deposition proves that one Jarvis Willis was born in 1735 (“Jarvis/35”),[5] while church records establish that another Jarvis Willis was born in 1758 (“Jarvis/58”). The latter was a son of John and Nancy Willis.[6] Finally, the name Jarvis Willis appears several times in records related to Maryland’s role in the Revolutionary War.

It is not immediately apparent how many different men named Jarvis Willis are represented in this handful of records. However, it is clear that at least two men named Jarvis belonged to different generations of the Willis family: Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58. It is also clear that two different Willis couples had a son named Jarvis: John and Elizabeth, and John and Nancy. To learn more about these men, we need to correlate other information with the records mentioned above.

The Connection to an Original Immigrant

Two of the Willis men named Jarvis were descended from John Willis (“John #1”). John #1 was very likely the original immigrant to the Eastern Shore of Maryland of one ancestral Willis line. John #1 had several proved children, and two of his sons had proved children of their own. One such son is John (“John #2”), whose proved children include a son Jarvis. Consequently, at least one Jarvis Willis is a proved grandson of John #1.

The other son of John #1 having proved descendants was Andrew, who had a son John (“John #3”). Several researchers have suggested that John #3 is the same man as the John Willis who was the father of Jarvis/58. In fact, DNA evidence indicates that Jarvis/58 is descended from John #1. Thus, the notion that Jarvis/58 was a son of John #3 is, on its face, a reasonable theory. The purpose of this paper is to provide documentary proof of that theory. The evidence will also establish some other Willis family relationships.

Specifically, the evidence will show that Jarvis/58 was the great-grandson of John #1 through John#1’s son Andrew and Andrew’s son John #3. Further, the records will establish that Jarvis, son of John #2, was very likely the same man as Jarvis/35, and was, therefore, the uncle of Jarvis/58.

John #1 Was the Father of Andrew Willis

The records establishing that Andrew Willis was a son of John #1 are fairly straightforward, despite the fact that the 1712 will of John #1 failed to name a son Andrew.[7] Records filed during probate of the will at the Perogative Court of Maryland plainly identified Andrew as a son of John #1.[8] Thus, John #1 was clearly the father of Andrew Willis.

Andrew Willis Was the Father of John #3

At this point, the record trail becomes more interesting. Fortunately, records concerning a tract of land called “New Town” (or, “Newtown”) prove that Andrew Willis was the father of John #3. The New Town record trail starts with Andrew Willis, who was born in 1690[9] and died in 1738.[10] Andrew married first Jennet Jones, and they he had four children: sons William, Thomas, and Andrew and daughter Sarah.[11] Jennet had died before April 1728, by which time Andrew had married Rebecca Goostree. By 1733, when Andrew wrote his will, he and Rebecca had four children: sons Richard, George and John and another daughter Sarah. The following transactions concerning New Town, inherited from Rebecca’s father, establish the relationship between Andrew Willis and John #3:

1728 – Richard Goostree devised 100 acres called Newtown to his daughters Elizabeth, wife of Robert Johnson, and Rebecca, wife of Andrew Willis.[12] Thus, Rebecca and Andrew inherited fifty acres of land from her father.

1730 – the Maryland Land Office granted a warrant for forty-five acres called New Town to Andrew Willis. The tract was located in Dorchester County on the west side of Blackwater River, east of Cattail Swamp, and west of Andrew’s dwelling plantation.[13] This appears to be acreage that Andrew added to the fifty acres inherited from Richard Goostree with the combined acreage still known as New Town.

1733 – Andrew Willis devised New Town to his sons Richard and George to be divided equally. Andrew’s will provided if either son died without issue, then the deceased son’s part would go to Andrew’s son John #3.[14]

New Town can, therefore, be tracked from Rebecca’s father, to her husband Andrew Willis, and then to their sons Richard and George, with a contingent right to the land held by their son John #3. Thus, Richard and George each received about forty-seven acres, half the ninety-five acres Andrew held. Subsequent records confirm Richard’s possession of the land. However, the record shows that by 1784 Andrew’s son John #3 held an interest New Town, rather than George. Apparently, George had died without issue, triggering John #3’s contingent right. These records are as follows:

1759 – the Maryland Land Office granted a special warrant to Richard Willis to resurvey New Town. The resurvey certified a total of eighty-seven acres.[15]

1773 – Richard Willis devised Newtown to his daughter Mary Meekins. If she were to die without heirs, the land would descend to Richard’s daughter Sarah.[16]

1782 – Mary (Willis) Meekins sold land, including New Town, to Levin Hughes of Dorchester County.[17]

1784 – John #3 sold his ownership in New Town to Levin Hughes, ending the Willis family’s ownership of any part of the tract.[18]

In short, the Willis family’s transactions involving New Town began in 1728 when Andrew and Rebecca first acquired ownership and ended in 1784 when Andrew’s son John #3 sold the final parcel of the land. Tracking this ownership conclusively proves that Andrew was the father of John #3.

John #3 Was the Father of Jarvis/58

As we already know from church records, a man named John Willis was the father of Jarvis/58. Compelling circumstantial evidence proves the father of Jarvis/58 to be John #3.

The Old Trinity Church Birth Register confirms the birth date of a “Jarvey” (Jarvis) Willis born 6 Dec 1758, son of a John and Nancy (a common nickname for Ann) Willis.[19] The parish records, however, do not directly prove that the John Willis who was named in that register was John #3, i.e., the son of Andrew. Nevertheless, we can reasonably come to that conclusion from other entries in the record. First, the register also contains the record of birth of “John,” another son of John and Ann (Nancy) Willis.[20] Second, the parish record contains names of other Willis parents who were of the same generation as John Willis. During the period 1754-1775, a couple named Richard and Rachel Willis had six children, while a couple named Andrew and Sarah Willis had three.[21] There were, therefore, three Willis men – Richard, Andrew and John — who attended the same church during the same time period. We know from the will of Andrew Willis that he had sons named Richard, Andrew and John. It is reasonable to conclude that these men who attended Old Trinity Church were all sons of Andrew Willis. Consequently, the John Willis named in the church register as father of “Jarvey” was almost certainly John #3.

It follows that Jarvis/58 was a son of John #3, a grandson of Andrew Willis who owned New Town, and a great-grandson of John #1, the original immigrant.

 Additional Relationship

We can also conclude that the Jarvis Willis who was born in 1735 — Jarvis/35 — was the son of John #2 and an uncle of Jarvis/58. Several facts make that likely.

First, we know from his will that John #2 and his second wife Elizabeth had a son named Jarvis.

Second, Jarvis/35 was born at the right time to have been a son of John #2. John #2 would have probably been 45 and 50 years old when Jarvis/35 was born.[22] That age for a new father is not uncommon, especially since Jarvis was a child of his second wife.

Third, the name Jarvis was extremely rare in the Willis line. The instances named at the beginning of this paper are almost the only record of that name in Dorchester and Caroline Counties during a 100-year period. We can safely conclude there were few men with that name.

Fourth, the 1790 federal census shows only one Jarvis Willis in the region, while the 1800 census shows none. That record agrees with the fact that Jarvis/35 lived in the region until at least 1798 when he gave a deposition in Caroline County. Furthermore, as will be shown later, Jarvis/58 had moved to North Carolina by 1790.

Finally, a 1799 estate administration in Caroline County for a Jarvis Willis names a Joshua Willis, Jr., as administrator. John #2 had a son named Joshua, who also had a son Joshua. Thus, the administration records indicate a possible connection to the Willis family that included John #2.[23]

We can reasonably surmise that the Jarvis who died in 1799 was also the Jarvis who was deposed in 1798 at age 63, that is, Jarvis/35. Furthermore, by process of elimination, there are no good candidates other than John #2 to be the father of Jarvis/35. The indirect evidence, therefore, indicates it is highly probable that Jarvis/35 the Jarvis Willis who was the son of John #2. Consequently, we can say with a large degree of assurance that Jarvis/35 was the grandson of John #1, the original immigrant, and that Jarvis/35 was an uncle of Jarvis/58.

 The Military Service of Jarvis Willis – Jarvis/58 or Jarvis/35

One last issue to clarify is the military service of Jarvis Willis. Some researchers have confused the military records of these men. However, analyzing the military records in conjunction with census data clearly distinguish the two. To begin, other researchers indicate that both men served:

Dora Mitchell states that Jarvis Willis (son of John #2, i.e., Jarvis/35) served in the Revolutionary War.[24]

William Hunt states that Jarvis Willis (son of John #3, i.e., Jarvis/58) served in the 1st Carolina [sic] Company … under Capt. Joseph Richardson, citing The History of Caroline County, p. 75.[25]

The History of Caroline County states the company in which Jarvis Willis served was one of seven formed by various counties in Maryland during the period July to September 1776. These units were designated as part of the “Flying Camp,” a militia regiment from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware tasked with operating from Maryland to New York. In that role, the Caroline County contingent fought in the Battle of Harlem Heights. The soldiers were then discharged according to their enlistment terms on 1 Dec 1776 after only a few months service.[26]

Background

A little background is helpful in understanding the various military records of Maryland. Initially, the state organized militia companies from each county. These were generally “Minute Men,” called to duty for defense of their local area. Subsequently, the states abandoned the Minute Man concept, opting for organized militia committed to larger operations and centralized control, i.e., the Flying Camp. While the Flying Camp was an improvement over previous organizations, the limited enlistment term of just a few months significantly hindered its effectiveness. Finally, the Continental Congress determined that the war effort required a standing army with longer-term enlistments. Thus, Congress directed each state to organize and field a certain number of battalions. Each county in a state supplied one or more companies depending on the size of the county. In addition to these actions, Maryland required men age 18 and older to sign an oath of fidelity. That endeavor not only induced a pledge of loyalty to the state, but also provided a list of potential future recruits for the war effort.

Appearance of Jarvis Willis(es)

The records generated by these activities provide information about many of the men in the region, including both Jarvis Willis/35 and Jarvis/58. The name Jarvis Willis first appears in Joseph Richardson’s company of militia assigned to the Flying Camp. Thomas Wynn Loockerman enrolled a Jarvis Willis in that company by at least 17 Jul 1776.[27]

Second, that name appears twice in companies of militia organized by 13 Aug 1777 in Caroline County as part of the 14th Battalion. Company Captain Joseph Richardson enlisted one Jarvis Willis.[28] At the same time, Captain Joseph Douglass enlisted a second Jarvis Willis in a different company.[29]

Also, the name Jarvis Willis appears three times in the 1778 loyalty oaths of Caroline County. The evidence suggests those three occurrences represent two different men. Various officials in the county collected signatures of men who swore allegiance to the state. The Constable for each political district, or “Hundred,” then combined the names collected by these officials into a consolidated list and submitted it to the county court. Charles Dickinson, Justice of Caroline County, prepared one document indicating that a Jarvis Willis signed the oath with his mark (signifying he could not read or write).[30] On 28 Feb 1778, Thomas Wynn Loockerman, Constable of Great Choptank Hundred, a district in the southwest part of Caroline County, submitted to the court a consolidated list for the Hundred, incorporating names collected by others including Dickinson.

The name Jarvis Willis appears twice on Loockerman’s consolidated list, with one occurrence presumably coming from Dickinson, and the second occurrence indicating another Jarvis Willis. That second instance provides an additional piece of information. That listing indicates Jarvis Willis lived in Forke Hundred, a district neighboring Great Choptank to the east.[31] Thus, the record establishes two men named Jarvis Willis: one who lived in Choptank Hundred of Caroline County, and the other who lived in Forke Hundred. One researcher from Caroline County states that “Jarvis Willis (Forke)” was Jarvis Willis, son of John #2.[32] Meanwhile, the name Jarvis Willis does not appear on any loyalty oath list from Dorchester County. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the Caroline County list contains the names of both Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58.

In addition, the name Jarvis Willis appears on the Muster Rolls as a corporal in Williams’ battalion, having enlisted 17 Feb 1777 and serving until discharged 14 Feb 1780.[33] This unit was part of the Maryland Continental Line. Significantly, only one Jarvis Willis appears in that record. It is logical to conclude that this man was Jarvis/58 rather than Jarvis/35. While both men would have signed loyalty oaths and likely served in the local militia, when the state began recruiting for the Maryland Line it would have sought soldiers the age of Jarvis/58, not Jarvis/35.

Federal Pension Records

Finally, only one Jarvis Willis appears in the Federal pension rolls. He can be clearly identified as Jarvis/58 and as the corporal who served in the Maryland Continental Line. In that regard, the first pensions were only for veterans disabled during the war and unable to earn a living. Neither Jarvis/35 nor Jarvis/58 qualified under that criteria. Congress loosened the criteria in 1818, but by that time Jarvis/35 had died. However, Jarvis/58 was able to apply under the 1818 act, and is, therefore, the man who appears in the record. His pension application indicates the following:

Jarvis Willis (#S39128) of the Maryland Line applied for a pension 24 Nov 1823 in Franklin County, TN, at age 60. In 1837, he had moved to Alabama because his children had moved there (his P.O. address was Moulton, AL).[34]

There is an age discrepancy in this application. The 60-year age Jarvis gave at the time he applied is not correct. That age indicates he was born in 1763 not 1758. A five-year error in estimated age is not terribly significant. However, the error was perpetuated in the Pension Roll of 1835. That listing shows the following:

Jarvis Willis, Corporal, was entitled to $96.00 per year and had collected thus far $1,050.93. He served in the Maryland Continental Line. He was placed on the Pension Roll on 9 Jun 1824, and his pension commenced 25 Nov 1823. It states his age as 71.[35]

The information for this publication was gathered in 1834. Therefore, a stated age of 71 would again indicate Jarvis Willis was born in 1763 not 1758. Despite the age discrepancy, I am convinced that Jarvis/58 is the Jarvis Willis who appears in the Muster Rolls and the Pension Rolls.

Federal census data provide further proof that the man in the pension records is Jarvis/58. Those data confirm that a Jarvis Willis lived in the places mentioned in the pension records, and also that he was inconsistent in estimating his age. Researchers have identified him in the census at the following locations: Stokes County, NC, in 1790 and 1800; Franklin County, TN, in 1820; and Lawrence County, AL, in 1840 and 1850. The birth years indicated in those census data range from 1750 to 1765. Regardless of the birth year discrepancy, it is clear from the record that this pensioner was the Jarvis Willis born in 1758 who served in the Maryland Continental Line.

Unanswered Questions

A few questions not answered in this analysis are as follows:

  1. Why did Jarvis/58 join a Caroline County militia company? I thought at age 17 he would still be living at home with John #3 in Dorchester County. That county, of course, fielded its own company of soldiers for the Flying Camp under Captain Thomas Burk[36] and for the subsequently organized Maryland Line. Why did he not join Captain Burk’s company?
  2. Or, am I mistaken that John #3 and Jarvis/58 resided in Dorchester at this time? Even though John #3 held an interest in New Town until 1784, he certainly could have lived elsewhere, possibly in neighboring Caroline County.
  3. In that regard, Jarvis/58 and his brother John (born 1762) were the only births John #3 and Nancy/Ann recorded at the Old Trinity Church in Dorchester Parish. Is this a sign that the couple had no additional children, or moved away after 1762, or just stopped going to church?
  4. And what about Jarvis/58’s age as a corporal? During his years of service, 1777-1780, he would have been only 19 to 22 years old. I thought that more mature men held these noncommissioned officer ranks.
  5. Finally, is there a third, younger, Jarvis Willis indicated in the 1790 Federal Census for Dorchester County, or does Jarvis/35 head that household? In 1790, Jarvis/35 may have been living in Caroline County with someone else or, maybe, the census taker missed him. After all, the deposition Jarvis/35 gave in 1798 indicates he a resident of Caroline County not Dorchester. If there is a third Jarvis Willis, how is he related to Jarvis/35 and Jarvis/58?

These questions will just have to wait.

[1] Jane Baldwin Cotton, Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn and Pollock, 1904, reprinted Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1988), XIII:58. Will of John Willis proved 23 Jan 1764. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 33:27

[2] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, (Cambridge, MD, 1964), XIX:21. Report recorded 26 Nov 1768 stated Jarvis Willis was living on land called Richardson’s Choice owned by Peter Edmondson. Dorchester County, MD, Deed Book 23 Old 184.

[3] 1783 Maryland Supply Tax, http://www.mdssar.org/membership/marylandtaxlists, Dorchester County Upper District, p. 21, and Caroline County, p. 58. Neither is shown as owning land. Presumably, each lived on rented land, possibly rented from a relative.

[4] Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790, Maryland, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1908, reprinted Bountiful, UT: AGLL, Inc., 1977), 57.

[5] Irma Harper, Heirs and Legatees of Caroline County, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1989), 20. Deposition of Jarvis Willis given at age 63 in 1798. Caroline County, MD, Deed Book B:105.

[6] Katherine H. Palmer, Birth Register of Old Trinity Church, Protestant Episcopal, Dorchester Parish, Church Creek, MD, 19.

[7] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, IV:23. Will of John Willis dated 18 Sep 1712, proved 24 Nov 1712, naming sons William and John (John #2) and daughters Grace and Eliza. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 14:12.

[8] V.L. Skinner, Jr., Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Perogative Court (Westminster, MD, Family Line Publications, 1994), X:33. June 1714 inventory of John Willis of Dorchester County named Andrew as John’s son. Liber 36A:203.

[9] McAllister, Land Records, V:145. 1730 deposition of Andrew Willis, age 40. Dorchester County, MD, Deed Book 8 Old 404.

[10] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, VII:259. Will of Andrew Willis dated 24 May 1733, proved 23 August 1738. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 21:918.

[11] Id. at 259.

[12] Id. at 80. Will of Richard Goostree dated 30 Apr 1728, proved 12 Nov 1728. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 19:501.

[13] FHL Film No. 13086, Maryland Land Office Records of Warrants, Surveys and Patents, Book EI 2:164.

[14] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, VII:259.

[15] FHL Film No. 13102, Maryland Land Office Records of Warrants, Surveys and Patents, Book BC 14:350. On 23 Mar 1759, the Maryland Land Office granted a special warrant to Richard Willis of Dorchester County to resurvey New Town. The resurvey certified 39 original acres and 48 acres of vacant land for a total of 87 acres in Dorchester County on the west side of Blackwater River, east of Cattail Swamp and west of Willis’s plantation.

[16] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, XV:141. Will of Richard Willace dated 4 Jun 1772, proved 13 Oct 1773, devised a tract called Newtown to daughter Mary Meekins, but if she died without heirs, then to daughter Sarah. Dorchester County, MD, Will Book 39:692.

[17] McAllister, Land Records, XXVI:11. On 25 Sep 1782, Mary Meekins, widow of Benjamin Meekins, sold to Levin Hughes 87 acres on Blackwater River at Cattail Swamp, and all lands devised to her by her father Richard Willis. Dorchester County Deed Book 2 NH 88.

[18] Id. at 60. On 13 Oct 1784, John Willis sold to Levin Hughes land on west side of Blackwater River, east side of Cattail Swamp, called New Town, devised to John Willis by his father Andrew Willis. Dorchester County Deed Book 2 NH 546.

[19] Katherine H, Palmer, Birth Register of Old Trinity Church, Protestant Episcopal, Dorchester Parish, Church Creek, MD, 19.

[20] F. Edward Wright, Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records, 1751-1775, (Silver Springs, MD: Family Line Publications, 1984). John Willis was born 21 Apr 1762, 34.

[21] Id. at 33-39.

[22] Cotton, Calendar of Wills, IV:23. John #2, named in the will of John #1, was the eldest son. He was, therefore, born before 1690, the birth year of his brother Andrew.

[23] Sandra Willis, Caroline County Original Inventories, Box 9450 (1792-1799), http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mdwillis/CCInventory.htm Inventory filed 26 Jun 1799 in the estate of Jarvis Willis mentions the following: Joshua Willis, Jr., administrator; next of kin, Ann Trice, John Carrol; creditor, Peter Willis. Note: Sandra Willis collected data directly from the Maryland Archives and posted it on her website prior to her death in 2007.

[24] Dora W. Mitchell, A History of the Preston Area in Lower Caroline County, Maryland, (Caroline County Historical Society, Inc., 2005), 123.

[25] William P. Hunt, “A Documentary History of One Branch of the Willis Family of the State of Maryland, c.1680-c.1805,” (New York: Copyrighted as an Unpublished Manuscript, 1975), 2.

[26] Caroline County School Teachers and Students, The History of Caroline County, (Baltimore: Regional Publishing Company, 1971), 70-75.

[27] Maryland Archives, Muster Rolls and Other Records of Service of Maryland Troops in the American Revolution, 1775-1783, (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1900, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1972), XVIII:69.

[28] S. Eugene Clements and F. Edward Wright, Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War, (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1987), 154.

[29] Id. at 156.

[30] Bettie Sterling Carothers, 1778 Census of Maryland, (Chesterfield, MD), 1.

[31] Id. at 6.

[32] Mitchell, History of Preston, 123.

[33] Maryland Muster Rolls, 254.

[34] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume 3: N-Z, (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Company, 1992), 3876.

[35] United States Senate, Pension Roll of 1835, (Washington, DC: GPO, 1835, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1992), III:543.

[36] Maryland Muster Rolls, 70.

1817 Will of William Lindsey, Nash Co., NC

I just sent another Lindsey researcher my transcription of William Lindsey’s Nash County will, dated 16 Feb 1817 and proved in May 1817. After hitting “send,” it occurred to me that other Lindsey researchers might like to see that will, so I’m including it in this post.

I made the transcription from the original will, which is available to the public at the NC Archives in Raleigh. The original will is contained in a file box numbered CR.069.801.6 and labeled “Nash Co. Wills 1778 – 1922, Keith – Owen.” The box contains a manila folder labeled “William Lindsey 1817” in which the will is filed. My transcription is verbatim from the original, including spelling errors.

It is a charming will, not least because of the spelling errors – although they are undoubtedly the fault of whomever actually put William’s wishes on paper. The will clearly reveals a man who cared deeply for his children, concerned that the young ones “mind thare stepmother” and be kept out of all “dissepated cumpany.” He also wanted them to receive enough education to at least allow them to read the Bible for themselves. His signature is a big quavery – he was apparently sick – but it features a large “W” and “L,” suggesting to me a man who was comfortable in his own shoes.

To take out the mystery, the will names William’s wife “Polley” (there is no evidence of her maiden name) and seven children, including three daughters and four sons. Polley was his second wife. The evidence, although not conclusive, suggests that William’s first wife and the mother of all or most of his children may have been a Miss Longbottom or Long Bottom, given name unknown. There are many myths on the web (including some misnamed “vital records” available at Ancestry.com) about William Lindsey’s family of origin, but I will save that issue for another day.

Here are the names of William’s children and a little bit about them. The names leave no doubt whatsoever that William Lindsey was a serious Methodist. In fact, he had been ordained by John Wesley himself. Also, he owned no slaves, which wasn’t uncommon among Methodists. Good for him.

  1. John Wesley Lindsey, b. abt. 1794, Nash Co., NC, d. between 1850-1860, Leake Co., MS. Wife Zany Rogers, daughter of Robert and Ann Rogers. John Wesley and Zany left Nash after November 1830, when he last appeared in the Nash records, acknowledging a deed for the sale of his land. He had appeared in Leake County by 1835.
  2. Asbury Lindsey, b. abt. 1796, Nash Co., NC, d. 1854, Nash Co., wife’s name unknown. Lived in Nash his entire life.
  3. Jerusha Lindsey, b. abt. 1798, Nash Co., NC, no further record.
  4. Elizabeth “Betsy” Mary Fletcher Lindsey, b. between 1798-1800, Nash Co., NC. No further record.
  5. Wiliam Ray Lindsey, b. between 1802-1804, Nash Co., d. abt. 1827, Nash Co. He never married and had no children, although some Lindsey researchers have confused William Ray with another William Lindsey in Nash who married Nancy Pridgen and had children named Bennett Lindsey and Nancy W. Lindsey. The latter William died in 1825 and was the son of Jeptha Lindsey. The estate records for Jeptha conclusively prove that Bennett and Nancy were not the children of William Ray Lindsey. Rather, they were Jeptha’s grandchildren and were the children of Jeptha’s son William. The confusion about the children’s father is understandable: at one time, the NC Archives estate records for William Ray, son of William, were mixed with those for William, son of Jeptha — and the guardian records for Bennett and Nancy W. were mixed in with both of them. I think the archivists have now sorted out those files.
  6. Mary “Polly” Mintz Lindsey, b. 24 Aug 1805, Nash Co., NC, d. 30 Jul 1880. Married Hudson Finch. Lived her entire life in Nash County.
  7. Edward Buxton Lindsey, b. 1811, Nash Co., d. Jan 1883 in Claiborne Parish, LA. Edward was my ancestor. He left Nash County about 1830 for Pike/Barbour County, Alabama (Barbour was created from Pike), where he married my ancestor Elizabeth Jane Odom, daughter of Jacob and Nancy Stubbs Odom. Edward and Elizabeth Jane moved to Drew Co., AR, where she died in 1854, after having 9 and probably 10 children. Edward soon married Ruth Belle Crook, wife #2. They divorced. Edward then moved to Claiborne Parish, LA, where he married wife #3, Elizabeth J. Marshall. Edward and Elizabeth moved to Tyler Co., TX, where Elizabeth died after having one child. Edward next married wife #4, Permelia Dean. They divorced, and Edward moved back to Claiborne Parish about 1870 with a small son in tow. There is a longish article about him titled “Edward Buxton Lindsey: one of my family legends” on this website.

With that preamble, here is William Lindsey’s will:

“In the name of God amen I William Lindsey of the county of Nash and State of North Carolina cawlling to mind the near aproch of death but of disposing mind and memory blessed be God do make and ordain this my Last will and Testament In manner and form following to wit I render my Sole to God that gave it and body to be buried in usual manner –

First my will an desier is that all my Just debts be paid out of my bonds open accoumpts and personal Estate.

Item I give and bequeth to my loving wife Polley Lindsey hole of the property that she pursest before our marriage which part in money was severnty dollars, I also give to her all the bacon and lard and all the corn and small gran for the seport of her and the family that continue with her – and my desier is that my Eldest Son John Wesley Lindsey see that thay mind thare Stepmother and thare larning bisness and are kept out of all dissepated cumpaney and also to have sum chance of schoolling at least to know how to read the word of God,

I also lend to my wife Polley the house and plantation on which I live beginning at a lightwood stump in the midle run? thence a west corse to the middle branch to a popler, then down the meanders of sd branch to the run of? Saponey Creek to a Large corner cypres on the bank of sd creek then up the sd creek to Pridgen Manning’s line then south along sd Manning line to Nathan Joiners line a corner lightwood stump thence East sd Joiners line to a corner pine, thence south a long said Joiners line to Christipher Taylors line a corner pine in John Bisets line thence an east corse along sd Bissets line to Jacobs Swamp to a corner maple Joran Shurods line, then up sd swamp Sherods line to a corner pine thence a north corse along a line of markt trees to the road then up the road west to a hickrey thence along the path as the fence goes to the mouth of the long lane then down sd lane to the first station containing Two hundred acres more or less, during her natrel life or widow hood.

I also give to my beloved Wife Polley one gray horse Dimant and her riding saddle and one cow and calf or yearling Two yoes and lambs choice Two sows and piggs – my will and desier is that my son William Ray Lindsey shold continue with my wife five years and to go Equal in the proffits of the orchard and land on which thay live and his own land that I shall here after give to him, It is also my will that my wife Polley Lindsey and Edward Buxton Lindsey as soon as connvenent thay are to pay one hundred and fifty dollars for the purpose of paying of my land contracts. Now the land that I have above lent to my wife Polley after her death or marrige, I give to my Beloved son Edward Buxton Lindsey to him and his heirs for ever.

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved son John Wesley Lindsey the tract of land that I Bought of of Nathan Lindsey and part of a tract that I bought of Amos Hatcher Beginning at Jephtha Lindsey’s corner a cypres on the Sapony Creek thence up the various corses of sd creek to a corner cypres then up the midle branch to a corner poplar thence along the middle lane to a corner lightwood stump thence a long the long lane to the mouth then along the path and fence to the road a corner hickrey then down the road East to a pine then south along a line of markt trees to a corner pine Jurdan Sherods line then east to a corner pine sd Sherrods line then North to a corner pine Jepthah Lindseys corner then along sd Lindseys line to the first station containing one hundred and eighty acres more or less to him and his heirs for ever and also one bay mare Pol? bridle and saddle one cow and calf and two yoes and lambs and one bed and furnture to him and his heirs for Ever on conditions he pays three hundred dollars towards the lands that I am in debt for.

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved son Asbury Lindsey the tract of land I bought of Edward Ballard all lying on the North side of the road and one horse named doctor one cow and calf two yoes and lambs and one bed and furniture, to him and his heirs forever, upon condition he pays one hundred and fifty dollars twoards the land I am now in debt for.

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved son William Ray Lindsey all the ballance of my lands that I have not heartofore given away two hundred acres more or less and one gray mare called Spinnet and one saddle and bridle one cow and calf two yoes and lambs one sow and piggs and one bed and furniture to him and his heirs for ever – upon condition he pays one hundred dollars towards the lands that I am now in debt for.

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved daughter Jerusha Lindsey one bed without any furniture only a sted one cow and yoe and lamb and she furnished with cotton and wool soficent cloth her bed to her and her heirs for ever.

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved daughter Polley Mintz Lindsey one bed and furniture and fifteen dollars in money to her and her heirs forever

Item I give and bequeth to my beloved daughter Betsey Mary Fletcher Lindsey one bed and furniture and fifteen dollars in money to her and her heirs for ever.

Now my will and desier is that if either of my four sons to whom I have given my land shold dy with out a lawfull heir that the land to them given shold be equally divided between those that survive.

Now all the ballance of my Estate undevsd I leave to be sold for the purpose of paying my debts, now if thare shold not be as much money needed as I have left above for my sons to pay they are to pay in purportion to those sums above named.

And I do hereby nominate and appoint my beloved son John Westley Lindsey and Richard Holland executer to this my last will and testament signed and seled in present of us this 16th of February 1817.

William Lindsey

Barn Tucker [and] Nelson Bone [witnesses]

Madison’s “Remonstrance”

Here is what is essentially a petition, written by James Madison in 1785, arguing that the state of Virginia should not pass a bill which would have provided that the state pay the salary of Christian ministers. It is long and is not an easy read. It also has the names of the men who signed it, including my ancestor John Oakes of Orange County, VA, father of Isaac Oakes Sr. Perhaps your 18th-century Virginia ancestor signed it as well.

It’s also a good reminder of what one of the most prominent founding fathers thought about state involvement in religion. Enjoy.

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

James Madison’s 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Memorial and Remonstrance

We the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled “A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,

Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and viceregents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

Because the Bill violates the equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensable, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.” Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.

Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

Because the proposed establishment is a departure from the generous policy, which, offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an Asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer under this cruel scourge in foreign Regions, must view the Bill as a Beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthropy in their due extent, may offer a more certain repose from his Troubles.

Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.

Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed “that Christian forbearance, love and charity,” which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?

Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of Truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachments of error.

Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case, where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority?

Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens, and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. “The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly.” But the representation must be made equal, before the voice either of the Representatives or of the Counties will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.

Because finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the “Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the basis and foundation of Government,” it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis. Either then, we must say, that the Will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say, that they may controul the freedom of the press, may abolish the Trial by Jury, may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary Powers of the State; nay that they may despoil us of our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary Assembly or, we must say, that they have no authority to enact into the law the Bill under consideration. We the Subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his blessing, may redound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity and the happiness of the Commonwealth.

James Gordon, Jr.

John Watkins

William Sebree

Thomas Ballard

Bartlett Bennett

George Newman

Richard Sebree

Joseph Wood

Benjamin Johnson

William Terrill

Elijah Morton

George Waugh

[illegible] Bramham

John Henderson

[David Gillespy?]

Thomas Barbour

Uriel Mallory

Zachary Herndon

Richard Gaines

Moses Perry

Belfield Cave

George Morton

Joseph Bell

Joseph Smith

John Lucas

John Sutton, Jr.

John Sutton, Sr.

Moses Lucas

Thomas Lucas

Thomas Edwards

Martin [Collier?]

William [Tomlinson?]

James Marr

Vivion Daniel

Madison Breedlove

Martin [Shearman?]

William Watts

Benjamin Quinn

Thomas Watts, Jr.

William Wright

Joseph Spencer

James Coleman

John Oakes

Ambrose Madison

Robert Dearing, Jr.

Lewis Willis

William [Procter?]

Patrick Cockran

Andrew Bourn, Jr.

Edward Thompson

William Twyman

Jonathan Davis

Prettyman Merry

Pierce Sanford

John Willis

James Sleet

John Samuel

John Kendal

Nicholas Porter, Jr.

William Buckner

William Moore

Reuben Finnel

Miller Bledsoe

Samuel Brockman

Abner Porter

Henry Barnett

Camp Porter

Abner Shropshere

Samuel Porter

James Shropshere

Thomas Coleman

John Leather

Lawrence Gillock

Daniel Thornton

Thomas Briant

John Terrill

Henry Chiles

William Porter

Joseph Porter

William Bledsoe

William Leake

William Oakes

[illegible] Newman

John Oakes

Thomas Oakes

John Barnett

[William Ford?]

John [Keally?]

Docketed, November 3, 1785

The Case of the Unhelpful Mutant Marker

by Gary N. Willis

Rapidly mutating DNA markers can be extremely helpful for genetic genealogists. These mutations can identify sublineages that differentiate relatives within only a few generations and can sometimes solve mysteries where there are gaps in the written record. I recently thought I had discovered such a useful mutation. My Y-DNA test results differ from other members of the Maryland Group of the Willis DNA Project at position 439. That location is noted for being rapidly mutating. The genealogical paper trail indicates that seven of the nine members in the Maryland Group descend from Andrew Willis, son of John Willis the immigrant. The other two of us descend from John, Jr., another son of Immigrant John.

If the anomalous marker at 439 originated with John, Jr., it would clearly separate descendants of Andrew from descendants of John. However, the other group member who descends from John, Jr. does not share the anomaly. The mutation must therefore have originated in one of John, Jr.’s descendants rather than John himself. The paper trail shows that the line of the other John, Jr. descendant and my line diverge at Zachariah Willis, a great-great-grandson of Immigrant John. I am descended from Zachariah’s son Henry Fisher Willis, while the other Maryland Group member descends from Zachariah’s son Francis Asbury Willis. The mutation at 439 obviously occurred with Henry Fisher or his descendants, since Francis Asbury’s line lack the mutation.

Mutant Marker Chart

One of my brother’s test results are identical to mine, including the anomaly. The mutated marker at 439 therefore did not begin with my generation. It must have first occurred with one of three men: our father Noble Sensor Willis, his father Henry Noble Willis, or Henry Noble’s father Henry Fisher Willis. This conclusion is illustrated in the Mutant Marker Chart linked above. Unfortunately, this knowledge has limited value because there are so few male descendants of Henry Fisher. Henry Noble Willis was the only son of Henry Fisher, and Noble Sensor was one of only two sons of Henry Noble. The other son of Henry Noble was Harry McMaster Willis who had no sons. Absent actually digging up a dead relative, it is not possible to determine exactly where the mutation occurred. Thankfully, it is not necessary to be more precise. The remaining males in the entire line of Henry Fisher Willis are the three sons of Noble Sensor (my two brothers and I), plus our five sons and four grandsons. We should all share the mutant marker. No mysteries to be solved there.

Had the mutation occurred with Zachariah rather than further down the line, it would have been extremely useful in identifying kin. Zachariah had a number of sons including some who left the Eastern Shore of Maryland to establish families elsewhere in the country.

(For more information on this family, see “The John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland” and “The John Willis Family … The Second Generation” recently posted on this site.)