The surname Willis is relatively common, which means I struggle to keep unrelated Willis families from infiltrating my research. Until now, I have never tried to research a Jones family – a surname that occurs ten times more frequently than Willis. However, a recent comment on this blog led me into the morass.
The comment arose because an article “The John Willis Family of Dorchester and Caroline Counties, Maryland” mentioned Andrew Willis, son of the immigrant John Willis, and Andrew’s wife Jennet Jones. She was the daughter of William Jones and his wife Jennet LNU. The commenter wondered if I had any information about the migration of the Jones descendants from Dorchester County, Maryland to Amherst County, Virginia. I did not, but offered to help — with some trepidation. As it turned out, a paper trail of deed and probate records identified the correct family, traceable through four men named William Jones. The record indicates, however, the Dorchester County Jones family went to North Carolina, not Virginia. For clarity in this article, I numbered these men the First through the Fourth. Here are the provable facts about this family.
William Jones the First was an early inhabitant of Dorchester County.
Dorchester County deed records show that a William Jones sold two 100-acre tracts of land in 1674, which establishes him aas one of the early settlers of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. One tract was on the Hungar (now Honga) River; the other was in the same vicinity. The Hungar River is in far western Dorchester County. Based on information in other deeds, Jones probably acquired the land via grants from the colonial proprietor.
William Jones the First’s wife was “Jone,” who married John Kimball after Jones died.
In 1676, William Jones and his wife “Jone” LNU sold a 50-acre tract called “Sealvas Choice” on Hungar River to Richard Kemball and John Early. William Jones apparently died a year or so after that sale, and his widow Jone married John Kimball. In 1678, the same 50-acre tract, identified by its name, was the subject of a duplicate deed to the same two men. However, the sellers in the second deed were John Kimball and his wife Jone, identified as “formerly the wife of William Jones.” This second deed confirmed that Jone did not claim or retain any dower interest in the land.
William Jones the First and wife Jone had two sons, John and William the Second.
In 1690, a John Jones gave his interest in 200 acres of land at the head of Hungar River to his brother William Jones the Second. The deed stated that the land had previously been owned by their now deceased father William Jones, who died without a will. It states further that the land was then in the possession of their mother and “their father-in-law” John Kemboll.
William Jones the Second moved from the Hungar River region.
In 1691, John, William the Second, and his wife Jennet (LNU) sold their interests in several parcels of land in western Dorchester. The deed states the sale excluded the tract and plantation house chosen by their mother Jone Kemball in lieu of dower during her life. The deed recites that all the tracts were originally laid out as land grants, one dating back to 1670.
This sale establishes that John and William the Second were the only surviving children of the first William Jones family. Having died intestate, William the First’s property would have been shared equally by all his children, with his widow entitled to a third during her life. Any sale of land inherited in this manner required the agreement of all the heirs. Since only sons John and William participated in this sale, we can conclude they were the only children.
William Jones the Second lived on Shoal Creek adjacent Andrew Willis
There does not seem to be a deed in which William the Second acquired land on Shoal Creek, which flows into the Choptank River at a point several miles east of Cambridge, Dorchester’s county seat. However, a probate record proves he was there. A will written in 1722 involving parties not related to this search mentioned a 50-acre tract of land on Shoal Creek, describing it as a plantation where Andrew Willis lived on a branch lying between Andrew Willis and William Jones. Apparently, Willis was or had been renting from the land owner. The Jones family may have lived on Shoal Creek for 28 years. Possibly, it was from about the time William and Jennet married – before mid 1691 – until they moved further east in the county. In any event, it was long enough to raise a daughter Jennet who wed their neighbor Andrew Willis, as we will see later.
William Jones the Second and his wife Jennet moved to Cabin Creek.
In 1718, William Jones bought 101 acres of land called “Goodriches Choice” on Cabin Creek, which flows into the Choptank River to the east of Shoal Creek. About two years later, he bought an adjoining 150 acres. The Cabin Creek property remained in the Jones family for more than 60 years.
William the Second and Jennet Jones had a son and a grandson named William Jones, the Third and Fourth, respectively.
In 1729, William Jones the Second died. He left a will naming his wife Jennet, a son William the Third, and four daughters. His daughters Sarah and Elizabeth were unmarried at the time; a married daughter was Rebecca Vearing. The fourth daughter was Jennet Willis, already deceased. Jones’s will divided his land among son William the Third and the two unmarried daughters. It left one shilling each to his four grandchildren, identified only as children of Jennet Willis.
Five years later, William’s widow Jennet Jones gave some livestock and home furnishings to four named grandsons: William Jones the Fourth, the son of her son William Jones the Third; and William, Thomas and Andrew Willis. The Willis grandsons were three of the four children of her daughter Jennet, deceased, and Andrew Willis.
William Jones (probably) the Fourth sold the land on Cabin Creek.
In 1780, a William Jones of Cabin Creek, Dorchester County, and wife Delitha sold 209 acres of “Goodriches Choice,” where they lived at the time. This sale was most likely by William the Fourth. William the Third was possibly 25 years old at the time the widow Jennet Jones gave his child personal property in 1734. If so, he would have been 71 in 1780. That is pretty late in life to be pulling up stakes and moving to new territory.
On the other hand, William the Fourth may have been less than 50 years old in 1780 and more likely to move. The opportunity to cash out (the sale of “Goodriches Choice” netted 313 pounds in gold and silver) and move the family to better land would have been tempting. Further, the Cabin Creek land, if used for growing tobacco, may have been played out. That crop was notorious for rapidly depleting soil nutrients. The 1780 deed gives no clue as to the family’s destination, however, a lost deed helped track them to North Carolina.
William the Fourth and Delitha Jones moved to North Carolina.
In about 1790, the new owner of the Cabin Creek land decided to sell the property. At the time, apparently, a copy of the original deed could not be immediately located in the Dorchester County records. The owner got in touch with William Jones at his new residence and asked him to sign a duplicate, which William did. This was possible because William and Delitha had planned their move carefully.
Before selling the Cabin Creek land, William applied for a 150-acre land grant in Guilford County, North Carolina.His application was entered in the record and a survey ordered on 3 May 1780. With this new acreage awaited their arrival, William and Delitha sold the Cabin Creek land six months later and left Maryland. They undoubtedly told friends and neighbors where they were going.
While the Joneses took up residence in North Carolina immediately, the land grant took time to be formally completed, a normal occurrence. The county surveyor did not conduct the survey until 1787. By that time, the land was located in Rockingham County, which was created from part of Guilford in 1785. The grant was fully executed and filed in Rockingham in 1788.
When the new owner of the Cabin Creek property decided to sell and could not locate the original deed, he knew where to find Jones. Their destination had been no secret. The buyer contacted Jones and asked for a duplicate deed. William and Delitha complied, and appointed two Dorchester County attorneys to represent them in acknowledging the sale. That replacement deed recites that William Jones was then of Rockingham County.
And here is where we got really lucky …
In a final twist to the story, during the slow, long distance communication between Maryland and North Carolina, the original Dorchester deed apparently turned up. The original and the new deeds are recorded sequentially in the Dorchester land records. It is just lucky for our research that the original deed had been lost or misfiled and not quickly located. Had it not been lost or had it been found sooner, we would not have the replacement that identified Jones’s new location.
The Jones family appears in Rockingham in the 1790 and later censuses and in the deed and marriage records into the 1800s. However, I did not review those later records. Having kept up with the Joneses thus far, I did not want to press my luck.
Gary N. Willis
 Deed Book 3 Old 98 and 3 Old 100 – 10 July 1674 – William Jones, planter of Dorchester County, sold a 100-acre tract called “Keenes Rest” and a 100-acre tract called “All Three of Us” to Raymond Staplefort.
 Deed Book 1 Old 187 – 16 April 1676 – William Jones and wife Jone of Dorchester County sold 50 acres called “Sealvas Choice” on Hungar River to Richard Kendall and John Early.
 Deed Book 1 Old 187 – 1 April 1678 –A sale to Richard Kimball by John Kimball and his wife Jone, formerly the wife of William Jones, deceased, of Jone’s dower interest in the 50 acres called “Sealvas Choice” on Hungar River.
 Deed Book 4 Old 69 – 27 February 1689/90 – John Jones of Dorchester County, carpenter, grants for love and affection to his brother William Jones of Dorchester County, Planter, John’s interest in two tracts of land adjoining one another at the head of Hungar River, containing about 200 acres. The land belonged to their father the late William Jones, deceased who died without a will. It is now in the possession of grantor’s mother and father-in-law John Kembell.
 Deed Book 4 ½ Old 29, also at Deed Book 1 Old 135 – 1 June 1791 – John Jones, William Jones and Jennett his wife of Dorchester County, Planters, to Richard Tubman, Planter, for 3,000 pounds of tobacco: “Georges Point” 100 acres on the head of Slaughters Creek 100 acres, formerly granted to Thomas Newton, deceased, by patent dated 31 Aug 1670; “Jones Orchard” 50 acres on Hungar River; “Jones Chance” 4 adjoining acres on Hungar River; and “Matthews Vineyard” 46 acres on Hungar River. The last three parcels were formerly granted, surveyed and laid out for William Jones late of Dorchester County, deceased. The sale excludes the tract and plantation house taken by “our loving mother Jone Kemball in lieu of dower during her natural life.”
 Further, the two sons were probably minors at the time of their father’s death. Thirteen years elapsed after the father’s death before the sons’ land transactions began in 1690, which they could not have done without a guardian or “next friend” until they reached maturity. It is reasonable to assume they were no older than about ten when he died.
 Baldwin, Jane, The Maryland Calendar of Wills, Vol IV, (Baltimore: Koln & Pollock, Publishers, 1904, reprinted Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1988), 167-9 (Will Book 14:631) – 7 May 1718 –Will of Thomas Ennalls – to Thomas Hayward, 50 acres, part of “Ennalls Purchase,” a plantation where Andrew Willis lived, at head of Shoal Creek, and on a branch lying between William Jones and the said Andrew Willis. Filed for probate 13 August 1718.
 Deed Book 2 Old 16 – 2 February 1718 – Thomas Gray and his wife Mary sold to William Jones 101 acres part of a tract called “Goodriches Choice.”
 Deed Book 2 Old 27 – 15 November 1719 –Jacob Gray and his wife Isabell sold 150 acres on Cabin Creek, part of “Guttridg Choice” to William Jones. Philadelphia Williams assigned to Jones her “third part of ye within mentioned lands.”
 Baldwin, 127 (Will Book 19:765) – 10 May 1729 – Will of William Jones
 Deed Book 9 Old 257 – 18 February 1734 – Deed of personal property for love and affection from Janet Jones to her grandson William Jones, son of William Jones and to her three grandsons William Willis, Thomas Willis, and Andrew Willis.
 William’s will and Jennet’s gift deed establish even without a marriage record that their daughter Jennet married their earlier neighbor Andrew Willis and had four children with him before her death. Andrew remarried (Rebecca Goostree) and moved from Shoal Creek to land his second wife inherited from her father 1728.
 Deed Book HD 3:425 – 16 October 1780 – William Jones of Cabin Creek, Dorchester County, Maryland Planter sold to Benjamin Collison of Dorchester County for 313 pounds and 10 shillings in gold and silver a tract on Cabin Creek called “Goodridges Choice” where William Jones now lives containing 209 acres with all the houses, etc. Signed 16 Oct 1780 William X Jones. Wit: Jos Richardson, Thos Jones. Acknowledged in court 16 Oct 1780 with William Jones’s wife Delitha being questioned privately as to her agreement to the sale
 At Ancestry.com – North Carolina, US, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960, Image 225 of 1506 – Entry No 1990, entered for William Jones for 150 acres of land in Guilford County, NC, on Brush Fork of Great Rock House Creek. Entered 3 May 1780 at Guilford County Court House by Will Dent, entry officer. Survey of 150 acres adjoining Aaron Allen and Adam Baker dated 21 April 1787 by A. Philips, County Surveyor, Chain bearers: Robert Brown and Aaron Allen. Grant executed 11 July 1788
 Deed Book HD 3:428 – 22 Oct 1790 – Deed – Whereas William Jones of Rockingham County, North Carolina Planter sold to Benjamin Collison of Dorchester County, Maryland for 313 pounds and 10 shillings in gold and silver a tract on Cabin Creek called “Goodridges Choice” where William Jones formerly lived containing 209 acres with all the houses, etc, being all of the lands William Jones owned on Cabin Creek, Jones now authorizes trusty friends Henry Waggaman and Nicholas Hammond Esquires attorneys of the County Court to appear for him and acknowledge this deed. Signed 22 Oct 1790 William X Jones. Wit: Timothy X Corkran, Edwr Collison, Jonathan Bird. Acknowledged in court by two witnesses and by Waggaman and Hammond 22 March 1792.