Oh, so many brick walls, so few records. My battle with them make sgenealogy both exciting yet frustrating. I have conquered several of my brick walls over the past few years. Sometimes once I smash through, the records are plentiful and I can keep researching. Others are met with another brick wall or two immediately after my success.
But, there are others, like Sarah H. Hill, who just refuse to yield their secrets, leaving me stuck (at least, at the moment). I know quite a bit about Sarah, but not enough to be able to place her in a family group with certainty.
Here is what I know about Sarah’s background, family, and origins:
Sarah was born in 1827. This date is on her tombstone.
Sarah was born in Tennessee. All of the census records agree on this point.
Sarah’s maiden name was Hill. The death certificates of her sons, Lyndol and Richard, and daughter, Addie, both give her name as Sarah Hill. This is also supported by her marriage record Nathan C. Davis. Her name is recorded as Sarah H. Hill.
Sarah was possibly married twice. There is a Sarah H. Hill who married Alvin A. Johnson on 17 September 1844 in Marshall County, Tennessee. Oddly, if this was indeed her first marriage, I would think that her name would be Sarah Johnson in her marriage record to Nathan, rather than Sarah Hill.
Both of Sarah’s parents were born in North Carolina. Unfortunately, many Hills in Marshall County were born in North Carolina, so this is helpful but it also doesn’t really narrow down anything.
In 1880, a Betsy Glenn is living with Nathan and Sarah. She is recorded as Nathan’s sister-in-law. None of Nathan’s siblings married a Glenn, and like Sarah, both of Betsy’s parents were born in North Carolina. It is possible that Betsy is Sarah’s sister.
As you can see, there are many clues to her origins but so far, those clues haven’t produced information about her parents.
Wills in Marshall County, Tennessee
Unfortunately, few Hill family members left wills in Marshall County. The five wills written in 1909 and before were of particular interest to me – John Hill, Richard Hill, Emily Hill, A. W. Hill, and John F. Hill – but sadly, none of them contained any reference to my Sarah Hill or Sarah Davis.
I did, however, find who I believe are the parents of the Betsy Glenn living with Nathan and Sarah in 1880. In 1857, Samuel Glenn wrote his will, naming wife Frances Ann and daughters Elizabeth M. Glenn, Mary N. A. Glenn, and Susan S. A. Glenn. His son, Samuel A., and son in law David Nix, husband of Samuel’s daughter Frances, were named administrators.
Like the Besty Glenn living with Sarah and Nathan, she was born about 1819 or 1820 in Tennessee, she never married, and both parents were born in North Carolina. After looking at the evidence, Betsy Glenn and Elizabeth Glenn, daughter of Samuel, are definitely the same person. Going back to the 1880 census, it seems that the label of “sister-in-law” in relation to Nathan Davis is probably incorrect. Betsy Glenn was not Sarah H. Hill’s sister, and so far, I have not been able to find a connection between the Glenns and the Davis family. However, I have not yet had the chance to research deeds and court cases in Marshall or Lincoln Counties as of yet. These records often reveal familial relationships when wills are missing or vague.
Possible Hill Relatives
Often, when I do not know where to turn, I look at the names of a couple’s children for inspiration. Sarah and Nathan had six children: Richard E., Steel C., Albert E., Richard Lee, Addie E., and my ancestor, Newton Harrison. Of all of these names, Steel was the most unusual.
I began searching on Findagrave.com using the names Steel and Hill, and I found a family cemetery in Lewisburg in which was buried the family of Isaac H. Hill and Margaret (Steele) Hill. At first, I was very hopeful that this Isaac and Margaret Hill might be my Sarah’s parents.
My Sarah named one of her sons Steel, which was Margaret (Steele) Hill’s maiden name.
Isaac and Margaret Hill’s children were born in the 1820s and 1830s, making them the correct ages for Sarah’s siblings.
Their last name was Hill, and they lived close to the Davis farm.
Isaac Hill’s father’s name was Richard, and two of Sarah’s sons were named Richard.
Sadly, this hunch was also wrong. Isaac and Margaret did have a daughter named Sarah, and like mine, she was born in 1827. However, that Sarah Hill married Andrew Bryant, and their family is well-documented. I was so close!
So far, my investigation into Sarah H. Hill Davis has been fruitless. Every time I believe I have made progress, I find documents that prove just the opposite. I suppose that failure is also progress because failure helps to eliminate possible immediate family members. I still believe that even if Sarah doesn’t fit into the Isaac/Margaret Hill family as one of their children, she might be related to them in another way.
At this time, I am optimistic that records in Marshall County that I have not yet perused might provide some answers. I suppose I need to plan another genealogy trip!
When searching for immigrant ancestors who came through New York, I have found that checking The Evening Post for ships lists sometimes gives additional information about the ship, its progress, and its passengers. The marine lists in later papers tend to be more detailed, but that doesn’t mean earlier ones should be forgotten!
My 5th great grandparents, Martin Krieg and Barbara Mörch, left their home in Opfingen, Baden to begin a new life outside of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1837. Martin and Barbara sold their house, land, and moveable property to pay for the passage of themselves, 5 of their children – Barbara, Johann Georg, Salome, Johann, Johann Jakob – and their 2 grandchildren – Eva and Johann Martin. The family made the journey from Opfingen to the French port, Le Havre, where they boarded the ship Magestic in late June and early July.
Below is the Marine List printed in The Evening Post on 14 August 1837.
This small article reports what ships left and arrived from the Post of New York on that day. The ship that concerns my research is in the section “arrived since our last.” It reads:
Ship Majestic, Purrington, of Bath, from Havre, 2d July, in ballast to C & J Barstow. 33,000 francs to T & G Patton of Bath. Left, ships Equator, Bisson, of Boston, for New York in 5 days: Havre, McKown, for Baltimore or New York the 10th, and others before reported. 150 passengers.
This article tells us a few things. The Majestic carried 150 passengers, of which the Krieg group was a part. However, if you read the entire passenger manifest, there are actually 156 people recorded.
The ship was originally from Bath, England. As the ship was traveling “in ballast,” it likely means that the only passengers were on board and no cargo. Ballast, or heavy material like stones, brick, slate, or flagstones, was used to weigh the ship down and keep it balanced. So, when the ship Majestic reached its destination, it dropped the passengers in New York, and the ship’s master, Joseph H. Purrington, traded their weight and the ballast for actual cargo that would be then transported back across the Atlantic.
The article also gives the departure date – 2 July. It took about 6.5 weeks for the Majestic to reach New York. This is a very long time for a family to be stuck on board with 148 other passengers plus crew. Fortunately for the passengers on this ship, no deaths were reported and all of the Kriegs arrived in New York safely.
Below is another article that appeared in The Evening Post on 15 August. It gives some information about the prices of certain goods sold in Le Havre, including cotton, coffee from Havana, Indigo, and copper from Peru. Products like cotton could have been collected in New York to be sold in France on ships like the Majestic.
Before the passengers could disembark, the master of the ship, Purrington, had to record the name, age, gender, occupation, former place of residence, and destination of each passenger. Sometimes the master wrote down incorrect or vague information rather than obtaining details from the passengers that genealogists would deem very important. Everyone is listed as a laborer, from Baden, and going to Ohio. Here is a partial list showing the Krieg family:
Listed are: Martin and his wife Barbara, daughter Salome, Jean, Jean, Jean, Eva, Martin, and Barbara. Jean of course is the French version of Johann, the three boys being Johann Georg, Johann, and Johann Jakob. After disembarking, the family left New York and made their way to Cincinnati and Martin and Barbara’s oldest son, Martin, who was already living in the U.S.
This wonderful photograph was taken in June 1948 to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my great-great grandparents, Bailey Peyton and Clara Dona (Christian) Upton. They are seated in the middle of the photograph. The couple had married on 18 June 1898 in Overton County, Tennessee, and their union created the large, beautiful family you see in this photo!
Clara Dona was the tenth of eleven children born to Moses Elian Christian and Louisa Margaret Jane Hooten. She was the great granddaughter of educator, surveyor, and author Moses Fisk and the great-great granddaughter of Revolutionary War officer Gilbert Christian. She came from a well-known and well-educated family, which was in direct contrast with the family of her husband, Bailey Peyton Upton. Bailey was the son of Turner Mike Upton and Martha Daughtery. Martha’s parents had quite a scandalous past, and their story was highlighted in this post. Mike’s parents were Riley and Martha Upton, and evidence points to Riley being the illegitimate son of Turner Johnson, a close neighbor and friend.
My granddad once told me a story about Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton. According to him, Bailey Peyton either couldn’t read or write, or he couldn’t read or write very well, and Clara Dona said she wouldn’t marry him until he learned. She then taught him how to read and write (or at least improved his skills), and then they were married.
Below is the 1880 census record. Both Bailey Peyton’s parents could read and write, and he, his older sister Minnie, and his older brothers Montee and Dennis attended school within the year. The census taker recorded that Bailey Peyton, Dennis, and Minnie could not read or write, and Montee could not read, yet they all went to school! This evidence seems to prove granddad’s story correct: although Bailey Peyton attended school, he might have only gone some of the time and he was only partially literate.
Interestingly, the 1900 census shows Bailey Peyton and Clara Dona living in their own home soon after their marriage, and Clara is recorded as illiterate! This is an error of the census taker, as I have seen examples of her ability to read and write. However, all of Clara’s tutoring paid off, and Bailey was recorded as literate.
I do recognize quite a few people in this family photograph, but I will just point out a few. The photo features Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton, their children, their spouses, and their grandchildren. My grandfather is standing fourth from the left, between two of his cousins wearing white dresses. His parents, Audrey Vonda (Upton) Davis and Lyndol Davis are standing on the opposite side of the photograph. Vonda, Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton’s oldest daughter, is in a white dress, standing in the front row, fourth from the left. The lady just behind her turned her head and is laughing. Lyndol Davis is standing two over from Vonda, with a young boy in front of him.
It is a sweet photograph, and it really shows what a close-knit family they were. Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton celebrated their 60th anniversary ten years later, but she died the following year, and Bailey six years later. What a fortunate couple to live such long, happy lives together!
Love is a very complicated emotion. Although this is Valentine’s week, this story deals with how love can sometimes go wrong and how love can change over time.
My 6th great grandfather, Thomas Harvey, married his first wife, Sarah Ann (probably Williams) in about 1761. I have no idea if they were in love when they married, but I assume that they probably were. That is the challenge with our ancestors, isn’t it? We don’t really know their inner thoughts or their true feelings about anything. I would love to believe they were in love when they first got married.
Thomas and Sarah Ann were certainly married by 10 October 1765 when they both signed a deed selling 150 acres in Halifax County, North Carolina. Over about a fifteen year period, Thomas and Sarah Ann had seven known children: William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Caty, Sarah, Hannah, and Oney Scyprett.
Elizabeth, my 5th great grandmother, appears in several records while she was a child. On 10 Dec 1783, Thomas sold, or more likely gifted, a young enslaved girl to his daughter, Elizabeth, or Betty.
Know all men by these presents that I Thomas Harvey of the county of Halifax No. Carolina for and in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds current money to me in hand paid by Betty Harvey have bargained sold and delivered and by these presents do bargain sell and deliver in plain & open market to her the said Betty Hervey one negro girl about 16 years old named Lucy and the said negroe girl Lucy unto her the said Betty Harvey her heirs and assigns will well and truly warrant and for ever defend witness my hand and seal ye 10th day of Decem’r 1783.” Thomas Hervey <seal> Signed seal’d and deliv’d in the presence of William Harvey senr. William Harvey, Halifax County dst. Feb’y Court 1784. Then this bill of sale was exht’d in open court ack’d by Thomas Hervey Esq. the party thereto and on mo’n ord’d to be rd. Registered” Wm Wooten C.Co. Registered Jno Geddy P Regr.
Later, another entry in the deed books shows what happened to Lucy, though the wording to me is a bit odd. It does show, however, that this Betsey/Betty was the same as Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hervey.
Betsey Hearvey of Halifax Co. gives a Negro girl Lucy given to her by her father T. Hearvey to a Negro girl Minny given to her by virtue of a bill of sale from her father aforementioned.
Around the same time as Thomas was presenting gifts to one of his children with his wife, Sarah Ann, he had also taken a mistress. Interestingly, her name was also Elizabeth, though she was known as Bettie. Bettie Pritchett at some point caught the eye of Thomas, and again, though I can’t say whether or not they were in love, they certainly had enough affection for each other to carry on a relationship for years that produced at least 6 children. The earliest birth date of any of their children I have been able to find is 1781, though some children could be born before that. Either Gideon, born in 1781, was the oldest, or possibly his sister Polly. Thomas and Bettie’s other children were named Peyton, Nancy, Betty, and Judith.
Bettie Pritchett was not Thomas’s second wife, as has been asserted in the past. Sarah Ann was still living when Thomas wrote his will in 1806, and Bettie died in 1802. As far as I have seen, Thomas and Sarah Ann never separated, so I am quite curious how this arrangement worked. Did Thomas live with his wife and legal children, or did he live with his mistress and his illegitimate children? Or did Bettie and her children live on property that Thomas provided for them? I also wonder what Sarah Ann thought of this. After all, Thomas had an entire other family. His affair with Bettie was long standing, not a one time mistake. Maybe he loved her, maybe she saw a good opportunity to be taken care of by a man with some wealth. Did Thomas love both women at once? I will never know the answers to these questions, but the possible ones are fascinating to think of.
By 22 December 1802, Bettie Pritchett had died, and Thomas decided it was time to do something in a legal sense for his illegitimate children.
Be it known to all people to whom these presents may come that I Thomas Harvey Senr for divers good causes & reasons as well as the good will and respect I bear unto the children of Betty Pritchet decd, Gideon Harvey Pritchet, Payton Harvey Pritchet, Nancy, Betty, Judah Harvey Pritchet I freely & absolutely give unto them & their heirs lawfully begotten forever as follows.
Five negroes named thus Cary, Redick, Sampson, Nat & Jacob and all that tract of land that I hold by virtue of a deed that I hold from Willis Alston Esq. with three feather beds and a good riding horse apiece, all to be equally to be divided amongst them at my death to them and their heirs forever.
Likewise I lend to their sister Polly Williams during her natural life one negro named Isaac with proportionable part of above mentioned land and after her death to be equally divided amongst her children lawfully begotten of her body for them to be possessed with at the time as above mentioned to them & theirs forever. And if any of the above mentioned children should die before they have an heir lawfully begotten of their body then their part of the above mentioned legacy to be equally divided amongst the rest of the surviving children.
This deed gives some possible answers to the above stated questions. Likely, Bettie died very soon before this deed was drawn up, and this was Thomas’s way of ensuring that his children with Bettie were taken care of.
It also gives a possible explanation of where his children were living before Bettie’s death. As he gave a tract of land, personal possessions, and slaves to his children, it is quite possible that all of this was already in their possession and that this was Thomas’s formal way of giving them their inheritance.
Another interesting observation concerns the children’s surnames in the deed. They are all called Hervey Pritchett, using the surnames of both their parents and demonstrating their status as illegitimate. However, it seems that Thomas did not object to his children using his surname and their mother’s interchangeably as on a deed in 1804, Peyton Hervey Pritchett signed as Peyton Hervey alongside his father’s name.
Thomas lost another whom he loved in the early 1800s other than his mistress, Bettie. Thomas visited William Hervey, his son, along with his daughter Elizabeth, when he was close to death and heard what William intended to do with his estate. A few days later, he died. Undoubtedly, Thomas was quite sad over the death of his son.
Thomas Hervey’s Will
On 12 February 1806, Thomas Hervey wrote his will. The majority of the bequests in the will focus on his five children with Bettie Pritchett, but he did have enough respect for his wife and legitimate children to name them first.
First Item I lend my wife Sarahann Hervey the plantation I now live on and three negroes namely Billy Jesse and one more negroe woman which my Exors is to purchase of equal value of my negroe woman Polla out of money raised out of my estate with a sufficiency of horses and stock and kitchen and Household furniture sufficient for her comfortable support during her life.
2nd Item I give and bequeath to my Seven children which I had by my wife Sarahann Hervey, Betty Sullivan (sic Sullivant), William Hervey, deceased (?), Caty Christie, Sally Smith, Thomas Hervey, Hanna Beele (sic Bull) and One Hervey, all that property of negroes land & that I have heretofore given, devised, and delivered to them & their heirs for ever.
So it seems that his children with Sarah Ann had already been provided for, and he wished his wife to have what she needed during the rest of her life.
He then used the rest of the will to outline his illegitimate children’s inheritance. He reiterated what he had already laid out for them in the deed of 1802 – land and slaves – along with two other tracts of land. He also gave his grandsons by Gideon and Peyton land, and he instructed that the residue of his estate should go to Gideon, Peyton, Betty, Nancy, Judith, and the children of Polly to be divided among them. He also gave Sarah Ann’s share to his illegitimate children after her death.
Lastly, he appointed his two sons by Bettie Pritchett – Gideon and Peyton – the executors of his estate, and not his sons by Sarah Ann who were still living – Thomas and Oney.
I wonder if this action demonstrated some favoritism for his illegitimate sons over his legitimate ones. Were his sons by Sarah Ann not on the best terms with their father? Also, Thomas clearly names Gideon and Peyton as his sons, which I don’t believe he does in any other document.
Thomas is also very careful to use both Hervey and Pritchett as their surnames, not just Hervey, but not just Pritchett either. To me, this signals that he was not at all ashamed that he had fathered other children out of wedlock, but that he very openly claimed them as his own.
Using Hervey/Pritchett Surnames
After their father’s death, the Hervey Pritchett children stopped using Pritchett in many official documents and instead used only Hervey. Many, but not all. Take a look at Gideon’s census records. In 1810, 1830, and 1850, his name is Gideon Hervey. But in 1840, it is Gideon P. Hervey. P is undoubtedly for Pritchett. As for Peyton, in every census record except 1810, his name is either listed as Peyton P Hervey or P. P. Hervey. Again, the P is for Pritchett.
When both sons wrote their wills, they styled themselves as Gideon P. Hervey and Peyton P. Hervey. Although they used Hervey as their official surname, they wanted Pritchett to be a part of their name and were not ashamed to hide it. I think that shows love for both of their parents.
Thomas loved many people in his personal life: a wife, his seven children with his wife, his mistress, and his natural children with her. Thomas may have loved all these people, but how did they tolerate each other? Sarah Ann likely bore little love for Bettie and Bettie for her. Did the two sets of children get along or did they resent the existence of the others? There was quite an age difference between Sarah Ann’s oldest children and Bettie’s youngest, so maybe they had little to do with each other. Whatever their true feelings, Thomas seems to have put everyone in a rather interesting, if not uncomfortable, situation. I just wish I knew how everyone handled it! Love is complicated.
I have shared a few stories about my Father’s Father’s side of the family on this blog. In some recent posts, I highlighted the Althausers, Prestons, Sears, Robinsons, and Dixons, all of whose stories have plenty of interesting turns and surprises. For me, one of the most exciting surprises, and earliest genealogy victories, was finding a great uncle that I didn’t know existed on that side of the family.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that my Dad is a fourth generation only son, so there are very few relatives on that side of the family. On the wives’s sides, many of their siblings either stayed single or never married, so no cousins were produced. Therefore, I was very familiar with the names of the odd great aunt or uncle.
All of my life, I heard about my great great grandmother, Jessie (called grandmother Robinson by my Dad) and her sister, Bertha (called Aunt Bert). Aunt Bert married but never had children, and after Jessie’s husband died, she moved in with Aunt Bert. My grandmother and my Dad knew them both, so I’ve heard plenty of stories about the sisters and their husbands.
My family also has lots of pictures of Jessie, Aunt Bert, and their parents, Charles and Cora Preston. While sorting through some of these family pictures, I found several of a very handsome young man who greatly resembled Charles, but I had absolutely no idea who he could be as all the other males relatives were accounted for. What made the photos even more tantalizing were that many of them were taken at photography studios in Nashville around the same time that Jessie, Bert, and their parents were having their photos taken in Nashville. Who WAS THIS?!
As I began going though other Preston documents, I found two letters written by Cora to Charles in 1882. Charles was living in Nashville and in the process of moving Cora and Jessie down. Cora made a mention of “the children” and what they were up to. Now this was very odd. In 1882, Jessie was six years old, but Aunt Bert wasn’t born until 1886. So, either I had Aunt Bert’s birthday completely wrong, or there was another child born between the two sisters, one I had never heard of before. Was this child the mysterious boy and man in the photographs?
This mystery is one of the reasons I first signed up for Ancestry.com. I wanted to search the census records to see if there was anything that I didn’t know or that my family didn’t know or had forgotten. The first census year I checked was 1880. With any luck, the mystery child was born prior to the census date. Here is what I found:
As you can see, the Prestons are living in Zanesville, Ohio: Charles, Cora, Jessie, and….Walter? Who is Walter? According to the census, Charles and Cora had a 1 year old son named Walter. He is very likely the other child to whom Cora was referring to in her letter. Surprise 1: Cora and Charles had a child named Walter who was completely unknown to me and my parents.
Now I had more questions. Did this Walter die young? Is that why we didn’t know about him? Or did he live, and was he the mystery man in the photos?
Without the 1890 census, I moved on to the 1900 census in Nashville, Tennessee. There, I found Charles, Cora, and Aunt Bert living together. No Walter. However, check out the last two columns. Either Charles or Cora reported to the census taker that Cora gave birth to 3 children, and ALL 3 CHILDREN WERE STILL LIVING. Wow, now wasn’t that a bombshell?!
So Walter WAS alive, but where was he living? He was not living with his sister, Jessie, and her family, so I assumed he must be living somewhere else in Nashville. After some searching, I found the following entry in the 1900 census:
This Walter was the best candidate for my Walter in Nashville. The birth year was about right and he worked as a moulder, the same line of work which his father and grandfather were in. They had been married for 3 years (about 1897) and had no children. A search of the Nashville City Directories showed Walter Preston in 1896 working as a moulder at the Phillips and Buttorf Manufacturing Company, the same company that Charles worked for as the foreman. In 1895, Walter was listed as living in the same household as Charles and Cora. I think I found their son. Surprise 2: Walter was still alive in 1900.
Walter, His Wives, and His Children
On 6 July 1897, Walter married his first wife, Clara Jackson, in Nashville. However, their marriage didn’t last. In April 1898, Clara filed for divorce from Walter. The newspapers cited failure to provide, but the divorce petition also listed not being faithful and cruelty.
The divorce was put on hold when Walter enlisted in the Spanish American War and was shipped off to San Fransisco for training. In October 1898, the First Tennessee Infantry left for the Philippines, where Walter saw action during the Philippine insurrection. Walter finally returned to Nashville in 1901 with the rest of the First Tennessee after 3 years in the army. During his service, Walter got into some trouble which resulted in a disease that contributed to health problems that he battled for the rest of his life.
In June 1902, Clara finally received her divorce from Walter. Clara moved back in with her parents, and Walter also returned to live in his parents’ house. In about 1905, Walter left Nashville and moved to Waterford, Ohio where he married his second wife, Nellie Shirk. Below is the marriage record:
The next year, Charles Preston died in Nashville, and named Walter as his son in his will. He left Walter a farm in Beverly, Ohio as well as some money.
The marriage record and the will showed that Walter was indeed the son of Charles and Cora McKelvey and was very much alive. Below is part of the 1920 census, which shows Water, wife Nellie, and two daughters Ruth and Cora, living in Cleveland, Ohio.
Nellie Preston died in 1923, and as Walter was in such bad health, he sent his two daughters to live with their maternal grandparents. Walter’s health continued to deteriorate, and he finally died in 1927 while living in a home for veterans.
After these revelations – Charles and Cora had a third child, Walter reached adulthood, Walter was married twice and had two children – I took another look at some of the family photographs. There were several photographs labeled Cora and Ruth, who I now knew were Walter’s children. The girls were very distinctive looking, which helped me identify a photograph of their mother, Nellie, standing with the same handsome man, though a bit older, holding a baby in his lap. This was most definitely a photograph of Nellie and Walter. This photograph helped me determine that the other photographs of the same man were in fact Walter, Jessie and Aunt Bert’s brother.
This photo shows Walter in his wool uniform from the Spanish-American War. (Knowing that he served also helped identify that this man was Walter) The original photo was cut in a circle, likely to fit into a frame. I assume this photo sat in either Charles and Cora’s house or in Jessie’s.
This photograph shows Walter as a very fashionably dressed young man. It was taken soon after Walter moved back to Ohio. I think this is my favorite photograph of him!
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Walter, the uncle I never knew about. I have a couple of theories as to why we never heard about Walter. First, he died in 1927, before my grandfather was even born. Second, he lived in Ohio for half of his life, and it is doubtful that he ever came back to Tennessee. Third, he lived a bit of a wild lifestyle, and maybe Jessie and Aunt Bert tried to hide that fact. They did a fairly good job of keeping family secrets under wraps. I found out that Jessie did keep in touch with Walter’s children, particularly Ruth, and that Ruth visited Jessie on a couple of occasions. But, for whatever reason or reasons, Walter’s memory just disappeared.
After I told everyone about Walter, they were all so astonished. But the funniest part was after I found all of this out, I asked my grandmother if she had ever heard that Jessie and Aunt Bert had a brother, and she said, “oh yes, I kind of remember that now.”
I worked at a county Archives for several years after finishing my Master’s degree. This job was fun for me for many reasons, not least of which was that I could do some genealogy work on my own family during my lunch break. I knew that part of my mother’s family, the Davis family, settled in Williamson County, Tennessee for a time before they moved on to Marshall County.
Most of the research on the Davis family has focused on the male line; I was curious about the female sides of the Davis family, particularly Elizabeth “Betsy” Wood. She married Amos Davis, my 4th great grandfather, on 4 May 1809 in Williamson County Tennessee. Below is the marriage license:
As with most early marriage records in Tennessee, the parents of the bride and groom are not recorded on the licenses. All I knew at this point was that her last name was Wood, the license was dated 28 April 1809, they were married on the 4 of May, and that Betsy’s family likely also lived in Williamson County.
Williamson County Library and Archives Search
I began searching within the probate files located at the Library and Archives for testators with the last name “Wood,” hoping that I would get lucky and that either one of her parents would have left a will that named an Elizabeth or Besty Wood or Davis if she was married by that time. Most of the time, my blind searches don’t work out immediately, but in this case, it did! The first, realistic possibility of a family member was Johnson Wood who died in Williamson County in 1845.
Johnson Wood’s will was written on the 13 February 1845, and by May, he had died. I immediately began to read through the will, hoping to find any familiar names. The second bequest listed all of his children in this order: Thompson, Stephen, Johnson (deceased), Elizabeth Davis, Mary Sanford, Sary Wood, Fanny Sanford, and Jincy Fowlkes. Elizabeth Davis! How exciting! Elizabeth or Betsy Wood was the only woman of that name who married in Williamson County, so just on first glance it looked like I found the correct family.
Johnson Wood’s inventory was very long, almost 7 pages of items that were purchased by his children, relatives, and neighbors. Elizabeth purchased a set of knives and forks, but that was all from her father’s estate.
Elizabeth Wood’s Family Background
This was all very compelling evidence that Elizabeth Wood Davis was the daughter of Johnson Wood, but I wanted to find more evidence that this was the case. I then stated researching Johnson Wood’s background. I found the record for a marriage between Johnson Wood and Fanny Thompson in Lunenburg County, Virginia that took place on 21 November 1783. This was an appropriate date of marriage for a couple to have a daughter who was born in 1793 (Elizabeth’s birth year). Elizabeth also reported that her birthplace was Virginia, also consistent with a marriage between the parents in Virginia.
Johnson Wood was the son of Stephen Wood and Ann Johnson, the daughter of Joseph Johnson. Joseph Johnson wrote his will in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1761, in which he named his children: Michael, Isaac, Sarah Womack, Mary Weningham, Ann Wood, Joseph, Susannah Hudson, Elizabeth, Sisley, and Charity. After Joseph Johnson died, his son-in-law, Stephen Wood and his wife Ann, sued the executor. The spelled out the family relationships very well.
With these family connections in mind, it is easy to see how the naming patterns of Johnson and Fanny (Thompson) Wood’s descendants reflect their ancestry.
Stephen and Ann (Johnson) Wood’s children were: John, Sally, David, Patty, Johnson, and George. They named one son after Ann’s maiden name.
Johnson Wood, who married Fanny Thompson, had the following children: Thompson, Stephen, Johnson, Elizabeth, Mary, Sary, Fanny, and Jincy. Johnson and Fanny named a son Thompson after Fanny’s maiden name, a son Stephen after Johnson Wood’s father, a son Johnson after Johnson and his mother’s maiden name, and a daughter Fanny after Fanny Thompson.
Elizabeth Wood who married Amos Davis had the following children: Nathan, Stephen, Mary Elizabeth, John, Sarah Ann, Fanny T., Morgan A., Allen Johnson, and James. Stephen was named after his great grandfather, Stephen Wood, Fanny T. was named after her grandmother Fanny Thompson, and Allen Johnson was named after his grandfather Johnson Wood and great grandmother’s maiden name.
All the evidence shows that Johnson Wood and Fanny Thompson are the parents of Elizabeth Wood Davis.
More Records at the Library and Archives
It was so much fun to spend time with the original records and to see Johnson’s signature at the bottom of the will. Encouraged, I spent more time at the Library and Archives searching for other records pertaining to Johnson Wood and his family in Williamson County. I found deeds, court cases, tax records, and other documents that painted a clearer picture of their lives. Below are a few examples of records I found:
1. 1820 Census
1 male 45 years or over: Johnson Wood
1 female 45 years or over: Fanny (Thompson) Wood
1 male 26 to 44 years, 1 female 16 to 25 years: possibly Johnson and Fanny’s children or a child and a spouse
1 free black male 26 to 44 years: This is very interesting. I do not know the identify of this man, but he was living with the Johnsons on their farm along with 20 enslaved people.
There were 20 enslaved people living on the Johnson’s property and working the farm. From the record, it looks like 3 generations of one family are living there. This is one of the hardest aspects of the Johnson’s life to come to terms with. It is one thing to read about slavery in textbooks and history books, but it is quite another to see it in official records that your own family contributed to the institution.
7 enslaved males under 14, 5 enslaved females under 14
1 enslaved male 14 to 25 years old, 3 enslaved females 14 to 25
1 enslaved male 26 to 44, 1 enslaved female 26 to 44
1 enslaved male 44 and over, 1 enslaved female 44 and over
2. 1830 Census
In the next census, only Johnson and Fanny were still enumerated in the same household. However, 25 enslaved people were now living on the farm. This time, they were split up by more specific age groups.
5 enslaved males under 10, 5 enslaved females under 10
6 enslaved males 10 to 23, 3 enslaved males 10 to 23
2 enslaved males 24 to 35, 1 enslaved female 24 to 35
1 enslaved males 36 to 54, 2 enslaved females 36 to 54
3. 1836 Tax Records
Johnson Wood paid taxes on 250 acres located in Williamson County and on 13 enslaved people.
I hope that another prompt will enable me to write more about Elizabeth (Wood) Davis herself! But for now, I am grateful for this stoke of luck one day while doing some research on my break. And it just goes to show how valuable it is to spend time researching the females in your line. In many cases, I have found the most interesting stories on the female lines. They can be much more difficult than the males sometimes, but the rewards for the efforts are priceless!
This post was a bit of a challenge! It was difficult to find an ancestor who had a life event that corresponded with my birthday, so I settled on one who was born two days before mine: Solomon Chapin (1733-1813).
I haven’t had a chance to do much research on Solomon, but the little I have done will be enough for a short post!
Solomon Chapin was born on June 4, 1733 in Mendon, Massachusetts to John and Dorcas (Wood) Chapin. The register of his birth is below:
The Chapins were a prominent family in Massachusetts. Solomon was the great-great grandson of Deacon Samuel Chapin and his wife Cecily (Penny) Chapin, early settlers of Springfield. By John Chapin’s time, the family had moved to Mendon, Massachusetts. The Chapin family made history in Mendon when John’s younger sister, Lydia Taft, became the first woman in to vote legally in colonial America at a town meeting in 1756.
In Mendon, Dorcas gave birth to her 8 children, including Solomon. When he was 20 years old, he married 24 year old Joanna White, also a resident of Mendon. Joanna was the daughter of Samuel White and Trial Rockwood. Poor woman, to be given the name Trial! It makes me wonder what was happening with her parents at the time of her birth. Puritans favored names like that, but perhaps some event gave them the idea to use it. Solomon and Joanna celebrated their marriage on 28 may 1754 in Milford, a town about 3.5 northeast of Mendon.
Shortly after their marriage, Solomon and Joanna moved to Uxbridge, Massachusetts, about 5 miles southwest of Mendon. Their oldest child, John (an my 6th great grandfather) was born there on 23 Spetember 1755. Eight more children followed: Darius, Samuel, Elijah, Phineas, Nathan, Joanna, Solomon, and Huldah.
In 1769, Solomon’s father, John, wrote his will and included Solomon in it. He left Solomon “one pound together with a Equal share in my clothes with ye Rest of my sons over & above what I have given him in another manner to him & his heirs forever.” He must have given Solomon money, land, or moveable goods at some point before his death, maybe before Solomon moved to Uxbridge.
Sometime between the birth of Solomon’s youngest child, Huldah, in 1773, and the start of the Revolutionary War, Solomon moved his family again, this time to New Marlborough, Massachusetts. For some reason, when the Revolutionary War began, instead of fighting, he sent a substitute in his place because he was the “chairman of class no. 1 in New Marlborough.” I will admit, I have no idea what that is referring to, so that is something else I will need to research!
In 1790, Solomon was still living in New Marlborough. He is presumably the one male above the age of 16 living in his household. There were also two females, one was his wife Dorcas. On 1 Feb 1805, Dorcas died and was buried in New Marlborough. Eight years later, on 13 May 1813, Solomon followed her in death and was also buried in New Marlborough. Like most of these posts, now that I am finished, I find I have so many questions, and I can’t wait to begin more research!