Barbara was at least the second wife of Abraham Estes who was born about 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to Virginia in October of 1673, a recent widower. Abraham’s first wife, the widow Ann Burton, whom he married in December of 1672 had apparently died by the time he immigrated less than a year after his marriage.
Abraham probably settled in New Kent County, which, in 1691, part became King and Queen County, Virginia, where we first find records of Abraham. You can see New Kent, above, between the N and I in Virginia, and in the closeup below.
On the map above, you can also see the three Indian towns and Dragon Swamp, which is today in both Essex and King and Queen Counties. This is the area where Abraham Estes lived.
Both New Kent and King and Queen Counties are burned counties, meaning the county records went up in flames at one point or another. The New Kent records were intentionally burned, set afire in 1787 by one John Price Posey who was hanged for his dastardly deed. Certainly, Barbara and Abraham’s marriage license was among those records that burned.
Sadly, few early records of any type remain for this part of early Virginia since New Kent was the founding county for much of this region.
What we do know about Barbara, Abraham’s (at least) second wife, is mostly due to Abraham’s will which was revealed in a 1769 chancery suite from the Amelia County, filed by Moses Estes, the youngest son of Abraham and Barbara, against his brother Elisha as executor, regarding the distribution of their father’s estate some 40 years earlier. One can’t say that Moses was not a patient man.
Sometimes it’s just hard to grasp how early these people settled in the colonies. Jamestown was settled in 1609 and wasn’t stable until after 1622. Jamestown became the capital until it was burned for the third time during Bacon’s Rebellion, really our first Civil War, in 1674. Barbara would have lived through this insurgency and her father likely fought for one side or the other – and maybe not by choice. She may have been too young to remember.
1687 marked the 100 year anniversary of the first experimental colony established on Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh, which eventually came to be known as the Lost Colony.
In 1699, the capital was Jamestown and burned for the 4th time. Williamsburg was then established as the capital. George Washington wouldn’t be born for another 33 years nor the infamous Patrick Henry for another 37. This nation was still in its infancy. All of the colonies had a total population in 1660 of 75,000 people, in 1670 of 112,000 and by 1700, just slightly over a quarter million European people lived in what would become America.
In 1700, King and Queen County had a population of 4,206 people, was the most populous and based on its tobacco production, also the wealthiest. Barbara’s parents had selected a good place to settle.
Most Virginians loved their horses and rode them proudly to church, court and horse races where much business as well as gambling, was transacted. Drinking was also a part of that culture. In another generation, gambling, horse racing and drinking would be the undoing of more than one Estes man.
Early agriculture in Virginia was primarily tobacco farming, with the tobacco being shipped back to England.
Slavery in Virginia was not yet institutionalized. It wasn’t until 1720, about the time Abraham and Barbara died, that Virginia passed a law relegating slaves to “personal property” status, meaning they could be bought and sold and were never free.
Abraham died on November 21, 1720 or 1721. There is a discrepancy in the year within the documents themselves. At that time, Abraham’s wife, Barbara, was living, and made her will as well, apparently 4 days later. We don’t know if she made her will at that time because she too was ill, which was the typical reason or if other forces were at play. For example, she could have made her will simply because there was a lawyer available and she was already involved in settling her husband’s estate, or she could have made her will because someone was afraid if she didn’t, they wouldn’t get their fair share. She could also have made her will because she wanted to be positive that her youngest children would be taken care of, especially Barbara who was clearly a very dependent “special needs” child. The only clue we have is that Abraham’s wife, Barbara, apparently died very shortly thereafter. This must have been exceedingly difficult for their children, especially those who were still at home, Moses and Barbara (the daughter) who may not have had the capacity to understand – to lose both parents, possibly in a matter of days.
From the chancery suit:
Your orator Moses Eastis that in the year of our lord 1721 on the 21st day of Nov your orator’s late father Abraham Eastes departed this life after making and constituting in writing his last will and testament and thereby after specifically leaving? part of his estate did give or further lend his who personal estate to his wife Barbara during her natural life and to be disposed of amongst his children then living as she might think proper.
Note that it says two things. First, “his children” and second, “as she might think proper.”
Here’s what Barbara’s will said, again, from the chancery suit:
He further stated? that the said Barbara Eastes agreeable to the trust and in the presence aforesaid reposed in her by your orator’s father on the 25th day of Nov. 1720 she made in writing her last will and testament in writing and surety? after giving an inconsiderable part of her aforesaid husband’s estate to several of her children therein mentioned directly that the remainder should remain in the hands of her executor Elisha Eastes, Thomas Poor and Susana his wife for the sole benefit of your orator and Barbara Eastes your orator’s sister whom she concluded were incapable of getting their living. But with a precise that they should become an ? in their leave? or either of them should die then the same to be equally divided amongst Sylvester, Thomas, Elisha, Robert, Richard, John, Moses Eastes, Martha Watkins, Susana Poor and Sarah Eastes or the survivors of them as by the said last will and testament will more fully appear reference being that there to and to which your orator for greater certainty refer and on the day of <blank> departed this life without altering or revoking the will.
It’s hard to know why Barbara made her will, but what we do know is that Moses and Barbara, her two youngest children began living with Thomas Poor and his wife, Susanna, in 1721, per the depositions in the chancery suit.
This tells us that Barbara died not long after Abraham, perhaps within a few days. She was only about 50. She may have had the same illness as Abraham. We do know that there was a severe smallpox epidemic in Boston in 1721, killing upwards of 6000 and causing the entire population of the city to flee, bringing smallpox to the rest of the thirteen colonies.
This lawsuit also gives us hints as to Barbara’s age. Her youngest child was Barbara who was born about 1713. She was disabled and epileptic – perhaps a Downs child – very commonly found in the youngest child to older mothers. Barbara was the last child born, so if we presume Barbara, the mother, was about age 43, that puts her birth at about 1670, and her marriage to Abraham about 1690, give or take a couple of years.
Several children were mentioned in Barbara’s will, which is referenced in the lawsuit. Unfortunately, her will is missing and has been for years, along with Abraham’s from the Amelia County lawsuit. It was referenced in the 1940s by researchers, and fortunately, the pleadings in the suit summarize the contents of the will.
Barbara lists the following 11 children in her will. I’ve included a summary of what we know about each one.
- Sylvester – wife unknown, by 1722 owned land in King and Queen County, moved to Bertie Co., NC by 1734 and was in Granville Co., NC by 1744, Northampton Co., NC by 1754.
- Thomas – married Ann Rogers, died in Caroline County, VA in1745.
- Elisha – married Mary Ann Mumford, was the executor of his father’s estate in 1720, lived in Amelia County as late as 1770, died in Henry County, VA in 1782.
- Robert – married Mary “Millie” Smith, moved to Lunenburg County where he died in 1775.
- Richard – married Mary Yancy, died in 1741/1742 in Hanover County.
- John – married Elizabeth “Nutty” Pickett, died in 1765/1770 in Louisa County, VA.
- Moses – born 1701, was one of two minor children upon the death of Abraham, married Elizabeth, surname unknown by whom he had children, and died in 1787 in Halifax County, VA.
- Sarah – married James Young sometime after her mother’s death in 1721 – no further information.
- Barbara – died as a child.
- Martha Watkins – Also noted as Mary by some, husband Thomas Watkins. No further information.
- Susana Poor – husband Thomas Poore, had daughter Elizabeth, born about 1710, who married a Harris and Mary who married Zachariah Williams
The bolded children are females who may have had daughters that could have descendants today, through all females, who would be candidates for mitochondrial DNA testing.
The Estes family was very fortunate. According to the Virginia History series, if a child lived past 20, their life expectancy was about 40 years, but half of the children didn’t survive. This is one reason why the colonies were so dependent on immigration.
If Barbara married Abraham in 1690 and had a child every other year, this would be just about perfect, although the only two children appearing to be underage in 1721 were Moses and Barbara, which suggest the other 9 were age 18 by 1721, or born before 1703. Nine children born every two years suggests births beginning about 1785.
There are two other children believed to be Abraham’s, a son, Abraham, and a son Samuel. Evidence for Samuel being a son is somewhat sketchy, but evidence that Abraham was Abraham’s son is rather convincing, including the same first name and the fact that it appears that Abraham may have wound up with Abraham Sr.’s land. It was not unusual in that time and place for the eldest son to inherit all of the land, sometimes by conveyance prior to the parent’s death, and then not be mentioned in the will.
Regardless of why, neither Abraham nor Samuel were mentioned in Barbara’s will.
If Abraham and Samuel were Barbara’s children, they were probably the oldest males.
Given that Abraham immigrated in 1673, and was not married to Barbara until about 1690, it’s certainly possible that he was married in Virginia prior to marrying Barbara. In fact, it would be unlikely that Abraham remained single this entire time, even if he did serve an indentured servitude for 7 years, a possibility that has been debated within the Estes family for years.
What we don’t know from the lawsuit or any other documentation of any kind about Barbara, the wife who died in 1721 and the mother of most of Abraham’s children, is her surname.
Given that New Kent and King and Queen are burned counties, and there is absolutely no evidence that Abraham and Barbara ever lived in any other location, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, indicating Barbara’s surname or parents.
However, when you look on Ancestry.com, her surname is listed in all the trees as Brock, and that is absolutely incorrect. Or maybe better stated, there is not one shred of evidence anyplace that her surname is Brock. Nada – not one. If you find one, please, PLEASE send it to me! By the way, evidence is not someone else’s tree or contributed family information. Evidence is a Bible, a tax list, a deed, a will, a lawsuit – something of that nature. Personally, I’m still hoping for that Bible on e-bay:)
The Brock surname seems to have attached itself to Barbara in the 1980s when a historical fiction book that included the Estes family was published and assigned Brock as Barbara’s surname. It also doesn’t help any that Abraham’s probable son, Abraham, had a daughter, Barbara, who married Henry Brock, so indeed there was a Barbara Brock in the family, although she was Barbara Estes Brock, not Barbara Brock Estes – and two generations later. Those pesky details!!!
DNA evidence isn’t going to help us find Barbara’s surname, unfortunately.
However, there is one other possible DNA avenue to learn more about Barbara Not Brock Estes. She did have daughters, although we have no information about two of those daughters after they married. If they survived, they surely had children – and possibly daughters.
Anyone who descends through all females from Barbara carries her mitochondrial DNA. Her mitochondrial DNA will tell us about her heritage – where her people came from – England perhaps? Native American? If we can find her mitochondrial DNA, we will have that answer. Barbara had three daughters. Of those, we know little about 2, but the third daughter had at least 2 daughters, so there is hope that some descendant today descends from Barbara through all females. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first person with proof of their descent from Barbara through all females!!!
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