Indices to Administration Accounts of Caroline County, Maryland

As many of you know, Family Search publishes online scans of original documents such as wills and probate record books. Some of those original volumes contain at least a partial index in the front or back. You must look at each book to discover if you are lucky enough to find one with an index, and further, whether the surviving pages contain names you seek.

I recently discovered that the Caroline County, Maryland Administration Accounts Books available on Family Search do not have any such index. Finding anything related to my ancestors meant I had to page through every image. I felt like I was back in front of a microfilm reader scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling, forever.

Knowing that I would never know every name to capture on the first run through the volume, I decided to make an index. Then, I could come back later and pick up people I had missed the first or second time through the record.

There are seven volumes of Admin Accounts from 1703-1850. Initially, I completed an index for the volumes for 1790-1805 and 1805-1817. I asked the Upper Shore Genealogical Society of Maryland (USGSMD) to publish them on their website free of charge to all interested parties, and they have gladly complied. Here is a link … http://usgsmd.org/research-links.html#wills  

I recently finished the index for 1703-1776 and have sent it to USGSMD. I expect them to post it soon. Most of this particular record, of course, is for Dorchester County, prior to the formation of Caroline. By the way, this record contains data not included in the books previously indexed. Many of these accounts indicate surviving children of the deceased, sometimes noting those of age and those who are minors. If your ancestor did not leave a will, an administration account containing children’s names might be the only direct evidence available of those relationships. You will want to check out the result to see if you are among the lucky ones!

Once you have found a name in the index at usgsmd.org you will need to find that item at Family Search. This link goes straight to the page in Family Search containing the Administration Accounts (and many other records)  https://www.familysearch.org/search/image/index?owc=SNYC-K68%3A146535101%3Fcc%3D1803986

However, the link may not work unless you are already signed in to your (free) account at Family Search. Therefore, here is the step-by-step approach.

1) Login to Family Search. If you do not have an account, create one for free.

2) Select “Search” and then “Records” from the pull down menu.

3) At the Research By Location page, click on the US map and select “Maryland.” 

4) On the Maryland Research Page scroll below the section titled Indexed Records to “Image-Only Historical Records.”

5) Scroll down to the fourth subsection, “Probate and Court.”

6) In that subsection, click on “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999.”

7) When the next page comes up, click on “Browse through 1,933,787 images.” Browsing through 2 million records really sounds like fun doesn’t it? Don’t worry … press on.

8) Select “Caroline.”

The next page will display all the available records including the seven volumes of Administration Accounts from 1703-1850. Unfortunately, the records from 1776-1790 are missing.

Again, the indices for the first, second, and third volumes are available at Upper Shore Genealogical Society of Maryland. I will get to the other four in due time.

The Heirs of Joshua Willis Sr. – Proved by Petitions, Patents, Depositions, and Deeds

John Willis bought land on Marshy Creek in 1717 in what became Caroline County, MD. One of his sons Joshua was born about 1720 and died in 1797. Joshua left a 1790 will that has not been located. However, several legal documents … petitions, patents, deeds, and depositions … combine to identify accurately Joshua’s children and provide other details about the family. These records emphasize the need in genealogy to “Follow The Land.”

Joshua acquired during his lifetime several hundred acres of land. He devised all the land he possessed at the time he made his will. Thankfully for us, Joshua did not amend the will to devise the tracts he acquired subsequent to 1790. The tracts not disposed of in the will fell to Joshua’s heirs at law under the law of intestate descent and distribution. This led to petitions, patents, deeds and depositions that identify those heirs. Since the will is lost, those other records relating to two specific tracts of land are the only evidence we have. Luckily, they are all we need.

Willis’s Landing

Joshua acquired land he called Willis’s Landing in two transactions in 1793. On 8 Jan 1793, John Nicolls assigned to Joshua 7½ acres of a 26-acre tract that Nicolls had acquired under a special warrant. Pursuant to a special warrant dated 20 Apr 1793, Joshua surveyed 69 ¾ adjacent acres, and named it Addition to Willis’s Landing. Petitions and subsequent land sales prove that Joshua’s will did not devise these parcels acquired after 1790. Further, his will clearly did not contain a “residuary clause” whereby property not specifically devised or bequeathed would fall to an identified beneficiary. In effect, Joshua’s estate was “intestate” as to this particular land.

Joshua Willis Jr. cited those facts in a petition seeking a patent for the land in the names of the heirs. He showed that his father properly acquired and paid for the tracts and that he died intestate as to those lands, leaving “Elizabeth Everngham, Joshua Willis (your petitioner), Frances Baker, Deborah Lucas, Charles Willis, Peter Willis, Thomas Willis, James Willis, John Willis, Annaretta Fleming, and Mary Willis his only children and heirs at law.” The filing stated that Charles Willis and Thomas Willis had died without issue and that Annaretta also died, leaving Mary Fleming and Robert Fleming her only children and heirs at law. Note that Joshua Sr.’s wife must have predeceased him, otherwise the petition would have named her as an heir.[1]

Joshua Jr. filed this petition on 14 May 1805, and an order issued the same day naming the living heirs. The order called for a patent to be issued to the ten named individuals, with the first eight (the living children of Joshua Sr.) each having an undivided one-ninth interest in the property and Mary Fleming and Robert Fleming to share the remaining ninth.[2]

An earlier deposition also names Joshua’s eleven children and notes that four of the five daughters had married, identifying their husbands:

  • Elizabeth married William Everngham
  • Frances married Charles Baker
  • Deborah married Joshua Lucas
  • Annaretta married Silas Fleming

That deposition also stated that Charles and Thomas Willis had died intestate and without issue, and that Annaretta and Silas Fleming had died leaving children Mary and Robert.[3]

A short aside … Annaretta’s husband made a will dated 1 Feb 1804 naming his brother-in-law Peter Willis executor. This will reveals that Annaretta predeceased Silas because she was not named, as well as the fact that the two Fleming children were minors.[4]

On 17 Jun 1805, the heirs sold Willis’ Landing and recorded the sale in Dorchester County (the tract fell partly in Caroline and partly in Dorchester). The signatories were William Everngham and his wife Elizabeth, Joshua Willis, Frances Baker, Joshua Lucas and his wife Deborah, Peter Willis, and John Willis.[5]

We are missing a few signatories in this list: Frances’ husband Charles Baker; James Willis; the two Fleming children; and Mary Willis. What does this tell us? Likely the following:

  • Frances’s husband Charles Baker must have died before this sale. A husband represented a wife’s interest in legal transactions. Frances would only represent herself if no longer married.
  • James Willis made up for his absence by filing in the Dorchester County Court acknowledging and recording the sale on 9 Dec 1805.[6]
  • Regarding the Fleming minors, we can assume that Peter Willis probably signed on their behalf. I have not found a record of an official guardianship, but the children lived in his household.
  • The mystery is Mary Willis. Where is her signature? I believe that Mary was still a minor at the date of this sale (therefore born after 1784). I find no official guardian appointed, but there is not one for the Fleming children either. The lost will of Joshua Sr. may have designated one of the siblings to be her guardian.

The record related to Willis’s Landing proves the children of Joshua Willis. However, we can learn a bit more by examining the documents surrounding a second tract called Willis’s Luck.

Willis’s Luck

Joshua Sr. acquired 229½ acres he named Willis’s Luck under a special warrant in 1763. He sold 100 acres shortly thereafter, simultaneously buying a small tract named Bank of Pleasure that provided access to Hunting Creek for the larger tract. A 1793 resurvey of his land defined 136½ acres that he called Addition to Willis’s Luck. The resurvey included 25 vacant acres, which turn out to be genealogically significant.

Joshua Sr.’s 1790 will devised Willis’s Luck, Addition to Willis’s Luck, and Bank of Pleasure to his son Charles. Sons Joshua and Peter were contingent beneficiaries and would share the land if Charles died without issue. Several records confirm this provision of the lost will.

  • On 28 Feb 1799, Joshua Jr. sold to Peter Willis 150 acres, part of Bank of Pleasure and part of Addition to Willis’s Luck. The record states this was half the land that fell to them at the death of their brother Charles.[7]
  • On 7 Aug 1804, Joshua Jr. sold to Peter Willis 150 acres, parts of Bank of Pleasure, Willis’s Luck, and Addition to Willis’s Luck. This record recites that the land fell to Joshua by the demise of his brother Charles.[8]

Charles clearly received this land through the will, and when he died without children, Joshua and Peter inherited under the terms of the will. Absent such a contingency provision, the death of Charles would have entitled all his heirs — his siblings — to a share of the land. An 1800 petition confirms those facts but with an interesting twist. The vacant land added through the 1793 resurvey was notcovered by Joshua Sr.’s prior ownership of the tracts. The will could not devise those added acres. Here we go with another petition, since these “intestate” acres descend to Joshua Sr.’s heirs at law.

In 1800, Joshua Willis and Peter Willis petitioned for a patent related to the vacant land. They cited their father’s acquisition and patent history of the tract. They specifically stated their father Joshua made his will in 1790. They stated that the land was devised to their brother Charles and fell to them divided equally should Charles die without issue. Finally, they noted that the vacant land added to the tract in 1793, subsequent to the date of the will, was not covered by the devise of land in that document. The estate was intestate as to that extra 25 acres. They therefore asked that a patent issue for that land in the name of the heirs at law. On 10 Dec 1800, the Chancellor of Maryland ordered the patent issued as requested, which happened on 20 Feb 1801.[9]

Nine years later the heirs sold that small acreage for $87. William Everngam and his wife Elizabeth, Deborah Lucas, Peter Willis, James Willis, John Willis, and Matthew Hardcastle and his wife Mary signed the 25 Jan 1810 deed of sale. The deeds and petition related to Willis’s Luck reveal some details about these people other than just their names:

  • Charles Willis obviously died before the first sale from Joshua Jr. to Peter in February 1799.
  • In the 1810 sale, only six of the nine shares appear to be represented. The three missing shares are as follows:
    • Joshua Willis did not participate in the 1810 sale. Joshua must have died before 1810 and left no issue, or he transferred his interest to one of the other heirs. There is no record of a conveyance from Joshua to an heir or anyone else. Since there is no such record, Joshua must be deceased.
    • Frances Willis Baker did not participate and was likely also dead.
    • The Fleming children did not sign. If alive, they must still be minors and therefore born after 1789. In that case, Peter still represented them.
  • Mary Willis was by then married to Matthew Hardcastle.[10]Her absence as a signatory on the 1805 sale of Willis’s Landing established she was born after 1784. She might have married Hardcastle as early as age 16, which would mean she was born by 1790, when her father wrote his will. I put her likely birth range at 1785-1789.

It would have been nice if Joshua Sr.’s 1790 will survived and had been updated over time to cover all his property. Had that occurred, however, we might not be privy to these additional details about this family. The lesson, as always, is “Follow The Land.

[1]Joshua outlived two wives, Susannah LNU, mother of his first three children, and Deborah Greenhawk whom he married 20 May 1774.

[2]Maryland State Archives Online, Dorchester County Circuit Court, Patented Certificates, MSA_S1196_3662

[3]This deposition by Captain William Haskins states the will was made in 1797. The petition seeking a patent in the name of Joshua’s heirs at law filed in 1800 gives the date as 1790. The earlier date is correct based on the subject matter of the petition, that is, to provide proper title to lands acquired in 1793. If the will were made in 1797, it likely would have devised those lands making the new patent unnecessary.

[4]Keddie, Leslie and Neil, Caroline County, Maryland, Register of Wills, 1800-1806, Liber JR Bi, Transcript& Liber LR C, i,(The Family Tree Bookshop, 2001), 48.

[5]Maryland State Archives online, Dorchester County Land Records, MSA_CE 46-48,(Liber HD No. 23: 181

[6]IdatHD 23:183

[7]Leonard, R. Bernice, Caroline County Maryland Land Records, Volume F, 1797-1799, (St. Michaels, MD: Helen E. Seymour), F:448.

[8]Leonard, Volume I, 1804-1809, I:090.

[9]Maryland State Archives Online, Caroline County Circuit Court, Patented Certificates, MSA_S1192_18.

[10]Marriage records indicate she married in Caroline County on 17 Sep 1806.

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.

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.

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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