Henry and Conrad Bolton, 240th Immigration Anniversary, 52 Ancestors #71

anniversaryEvery once in a while, the genealogy Gods smile on you and grant you a cousin.  Not just any cousin, but a cousin with a kindred spirit.  That’s Pam Bolton, on my Bolton side – without any doubt.  Pam is even more committed than I am to finding the parents and history of our common ancestor Henry Bolton and his brother, Conrad, who arrived exactly 240 years ago, today, May 8th, 1775.  In celebration, we’d love to confirm their parents and we’re hoping that someone who reads this article will be a Bolton, will know a Bolton, or will have some suggestions for how we might proceed to solve or at least further research this mystery.  And it’s a doosey!

In honor of Henry and Conrad’s 240th immigration anniversary, Pam has researched and written most of this article.  Thank you Pam!  You can contact Pam through this blog or though the Bolton DNA Project at Family Tree DNA.  In fact, if you’re a Bolton descendant, we encourage you to test and join.  We welcome autosomal testers and transfers from other testing companies, along with the traditional Y line tests, of course.

Henry and Conrad aka “Condery” Bolton landed at Baltimore, Maryland on May 8, 1775, on board the ship HMS Culvert aka Calvert.  Two days later, on May 10, The Second Continental Congress met, elected John Hancock president, raised the Continental Army under George Washington as commander, and authorized the colonies to adopt their own constitutions.  Henry and Conrad arrived on the very eve of the Revolutionary War.

The Captain of the ship Culvert was William Sewell, who later, in 1777, captained the HMS Dolphin, the first ship to circumnavigate the world twice.

Upon arrival in Baltimore with Henry and Conrad, Captain Sewelll went before the “Baltimore Committee.”  The Baltimore Committee in March 1775 had prepared an oath to be taken by all masters of vessels entering that port, swearing that they had not imported any products of the British Isles or British Colonies.

It read: You XX do make Oath on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God, that you have not Imported in the Ship or Vessell called the [blank] whereof you are Master during this present Voyage, except necessary Stores for A the use of the said Vessell, which are not for Sale, any Goods Wares or Merchandize whatsoever from Great Britain or Ireland or — of the growth or Manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, or any Goods exported from them or either of them, or any East India Tea, or any Molasses Syrups, Paneles Coffee or Piemento of the Growth of the British West India Islands or Dominica or any Wines from Madiera or the Western Islands, or Foreign Indigo, or any Slave or Slaves.”

In the Baltimore Committee notes of May 8, 1775, it reads that “Captain William Sewell, of the Ship Calvert, from London, appeared, and made oath agreeable to the rules of the Committee, of his having imported no goods or merchandise whatsoever, excepting thirty-one Servants.”

Below, a map from that time period of the Baltimore docks where they must have landed.

Baltimore DocksSo, here is what we know.

Henry and Conrad, or Condery, Bolton left the port of London between March 13th and 20th, according to the document shown below.  They arrived on May the 8, 1775 in Baltimore.  According to the passenger list, Henry was 15, so born in 1760, and Conrad was 16, born in 1759, and both were listed as indentured servants for 7 years, meaning they would have to work off the cost of their passage.

Henry Bolton Immigration

Family history tells us that the boys were either tricked or abducted onto the ship.  One version tells us that an evil step-mother wished to be rid of them, “arranging” their departure.  Another family tidbit tells us that they lived “on London bridge.”  The interesting aspect of this second tidbit is that indeed, at one time, there were actual houses on London bridge itself.

London Bridge pano

That London bridge was destroyed in 1831, so no one in the past 185 years or so would have known about the historical houses on London Bridge.  Henry himself was alive until 1846 and his children would certainly have known who his parents were and the story of his arrival.  His son Joseph, Roberta’s ancestor, lived until 1887 and his daughter Elyann lived until 1903, so it appears that information we so desperately seek was only lost in the past 100 years or so.

On this map, from about 1300, we see that London Bridge, the Tower of London and St. Katherine’s, to the right, were all relatively close.  How would relatively illiterate pioneers in Virginia and Tennessee know these details, or enough of these details, to construct accurate stories about London?

London map 1300

Who were Henry and Conrad’s parents?  They obviously lived in London, or that’s at least where Henry and Conrad left from, so that is the first place to look for their records.

Indeed, Pam did come up with several documents.  Not a smoking gun, mind you, but several very interesting puzzle pieces.

Pam found a marriage bond for Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry.  It’s interesting that Henry is noted to be a “widower” in 1754, prior to the births of Henry and Conrad, in contrast to the family lore that their mother died and their father Henry remarried.  Of course, their mother could yet have died, and their father remarried, yet again.

Henry Bolton 1754 marriage

Henry Bolten [sic] and Sarah Corry were married at St. Botolph Aldgate in the parish of St. George in 1754, which was just Northeast of St. Katherine’s.

A Bolton family researcher and descendant of Henry’s son, Peter Bolton, wrote that it was family tradition that there always must be a “Sarah” in the Bolton lineage, as that was Henry’s mother’s name.  Both Henry and Conrad had daughters named Sarah.

Henry Bolton 1754 marriage 2

The St. Katherine’s area of London is very interesting.  At that time, it was the dock area in the oldest part of the city.  It was also an area where a great number of people were housed together.  In essence, it was the ghetto, the poorest section of the city.  According to Peter Ackroyd, in his book, “London,” the area smelled of too many people in too close of quarters, with their chamber pots being emptied into the streets.  If you just went, “Ewwwww,” then you’ll understand why everyone left their cramped quarters as soon as they could each morning and only returned when they had to in the evenings.  In other words, you could see why two teenaged boys would be out and about, hanging out on the docks and seeing what kind of mischief they could get into.

On the other hand, as an adult, Henry Bolton could write a letter, like the one below authorizing his daughter’s marriage, in sophisticated language and handwriting – which does not suggest he was a child of poverty.

Henry Bolton French marriage auth

The map below of London marks where Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry were married, where a son “Conrath” was baptized and where son Henry was baptized.

London Bolton map

Their residence, shown as “Ship Alley” is shown on the map above and enlarged, below.

London Ship Alley

Pam found what could well be Henry’s baptism record – meaning our Henry who immigrated – although the date on the ship’s manifest is off by 2 years.  However, if the two boys were indeed kidnapped, I doubt a lot of care was taken in giving correct ages.  The Captain might also have obtained more money for older boys, since indentured servants were often auctioned to the highest bidder.

London 1762 Henry Bolton baptism

Pam also found a baptism for a “Conrath” Ditirnick Bolton, son of Henry and Sarah.

London Conrath Bolton birth 1765

Conrath’s Baptismal record of February 24, 1765 indicates his birthdate would be February 18, 1765.  This would mean Conrad was 5 years younger than stated in the ship manifest.  Henry’s birthdate from his baptism record would be Aug 1, 1762, making Henry older than Conrad.  This actually makes a bit of sense, as Henry married before Conrad.  This means that instead of ages 15 and 16 as stated in the manifest, the boys would have been 10 and 13.  This certainly could be correct.  The Bolton men were notably large in stature, and the boys may have been large for their ages.

Pam found what could be Henry Bolton Sr.’s death record, but there is no way (that we know of) to be sure.

henry bolton death 1806

Accessing the actual record, we find that this Henry was indeed married to a Sarah, but that in 1806 he had two children under the age of 21, Sarah and Henry William Bolton.

Henry Bolton 1806 will crop

This tells us that Henry William Bolton or his sister, Sarah, or both were born after 1785.  This strongly suggests that this Henry who was married to Sarah who died in 1806 was not the Henry who was married to Sarah and had sons Henry in 1762 and Conderith in 1765.

If this is the Sarah who married in 1754, it would be extremely unlikely that she would be having children after 1785 when her age would have been approximately 50.

Pam then found what looks like William Henry’s birth (not Henry William), in 1783….to mother Ann.

William Henry Bolton birth 1783

So it looks like this entire episode of chasing Henry Bolton who died in 1806 was, well, a wild goose chase….unless he married Sarah, Ann and then another Sarah, named a second child William Henry or Henry William…and neglected to mention sons Henry and Conrad in his will, unless he assumed they were dead.

Unfortunately, we have nothing to tie these disparate records together with each other, meaning the 1754 marriage of Henry to Sarah Corry and the births of Henry and Conrath – or these later records.  We also can’t tie any of these English records or people to Henry and Conrad (by any name spelling) Bolton in the US.

Was it the same Henry Bolton and Sarah Corry marrying in 1754 and having children baptized in different churches in the area near the docks where they lived?  Were this Henry and Sarah the parents of our Henry and Conrad who set foot on colonial soil in Baltimore 240 years ago today?  Was the Henry who died in 1806 related to the Henry who married Sarah in 1754?  Is he the son, Henry, who was born in 1762?  If so, then that son Henry obviously did not immigrate with Conrath.  Is Conrath born in 1765 the same person as Conrad who was listed as Condery on the ship’s manifest?  So many questions and no answers.

What we do have is Henry’s Y DNA, so we are very hopeful that these may not have been the only Bolton males born to Henry and Sarah, although Pam was unable to find other birth records.  Obviously, this family had to come to London from someplace else at some point, probably in the English countryside, so we are hopeful that male Boltons from the United Kingdom will take Y DNA tests.

One rumor within the Bolton family was that Henry’s family was from Lancashire.  Indeed, there is a town named Bolton in Greater Manchester, not far from Lancashire.  We’d love to test a Bolton from Bolton or Lancashire.

Furthermore, we’d really like to figure out where to look next, for paper records.  Let’s just say we dream of finding an old letter, Bible or will, maybe that says something about my “sons Henry and Conrath, now living in Virginia.”  Indeed, to identify the parents of Henry and Conrad would be the best 240th anniversary gift we can imagine.

Suggestions from people experienced in British research gratefully accepted!



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Proving Your Tree

With all the recent discussion about Ancestry’s new “New Ancestor Discovery” feature rollout, and some wrong individuals being assigned as my ancestors, some people have been asking the question, “How do you know your tree is right?”  In other words, how do I know those ancestors are not my genetic ancestors?  As they correctly pointed out, NPEs and adoptions do occur.

And they are right, absolutely right.  It’s a legitimate question, one that every one of us needs to answer for our own trees.

I answered their question briefly by saying that I have a combination of both paper genealogy and DNA for all ancestors through the 6th generation, which is true, but I want to share more than that.  Plus, I wanted to take the time to really evaluate every single line individually to be absolutely positive of what I was saying, and to weigh the evidence.  All too often, it’s not a handy-dandy yes or no, it’s shades of grey.

It’s important for all of us to treat this, the study of our ancestors, like a big mystery with clues for us to find and decipher.

In some cases, there isn’t much mystery.  For example, unless you’re an adoptee, you probably know your grandparents and their birth and death information is relatively easy to obtain.  First, you’re a family member, and second, relatively complete records exist in the past century.  There are lots of sources – birth and death certificates, obituaries, tombstones still remain, hopefully houses with Bibles haven’t all burned, etc.

But as you move back in time, there are fewer sources available, fewer records, if any, exist and eventually, you’re so far back that there is no “institutional memory” in the form of Aunt Marybelle’s or Uncle Jehosiphat’s stories.

Before DNA, we spent a lot of time compiling information about our families, fitting the pieces together, assembling old wills and estate distributions to figure out who the children were, and so forth.  But we had no avenue to verify for example, that William Jr. was really the biological son of William Sr.  Nor did we have the tools to figure out that William Sr. and his wife had taken a child to raise on a wagon train whose parents had died, and that child really wasn’t the biological child of either William or his wife.  None of that existed before, but does now, at least in certain circumstances.

One of the things people, for some reason, believe is that they are going to take a DNA test and somehow, with the wave of a magic wand, or maybe the click of a leaf, their ancestry is going to be revealed to them.  Needless to say, that’s not how it works.

What we do is continue to use a variety of types of DNA testing to prove various lines of our ancestry – and sometimes disprove them – in conjunction with other types of traditional records.  By now, you’ve probably all heard the story of my brother, who I searched for, for years, only to discover he was not my biological brother.  For me, there is peace in knowing and I love my brother regardless.  I’m so glad I found him before he passed away – regardless of the DNA results.  But before DNA, we would never have been able to know, for sure.  What we believed with all of our hearts was not the truth.  The DNA results were undeniable.

When I started working with DNA for genealogy, I was simply curious.  I did not set forth a goal to “prove my lines,” nor, for a long time, did I really think about that.  I was always just excited when someone from one of my ancestral lines would test, because their mitochondrial or Y results were relevant to my ancestors too – assuming we connected in the correct fashion.  I cherished the ability to discover that my ancestors in that line were from the British Isles, Africa, Scandinavia or were Native American, for example.  Mitochondrial and Y results allow us to extend what we know about that ancestral line back in time, beyond the time of surnames.  These tests help us to answer the question, for each ancestral line, “where did I come from?”  Because, after all, “I” am the combination of all of my ancestors.

In my article, The DNA Pedigree Chart – Mining for Ancestors, I talk about how to create pedigree charts that include Y and mtDNA for each ancestral line.  Obviously, I can’t test for all of these myself.

DNA Pedigree

This is part of the answer to how I know that some parts of my tree are correct.

For example, let’s say my Estes cousin, Buster, tests to represent my Estes Y line, and he matches many Estes men, all the way back to Abraham Estes, the immigrant into Virginia.  That unquestionably proves the Estes line he carries is the ancestral Estes line.  However, since I don’t carry the Estes Y chromosome, I have to utilize autosomal DNA to prove that I am related to Buster and other Estes descendants on the Estes side.  Those two pieces of information combined prove that my Estes line is confirmed back beyond the 6th generation – even though I don’t carry the Estes Y chromosome and I have no one  in my immediate family to “sit proxy” for me.

Why am I focused on the 6th generation?

When Ancestry rolled their new feature that gives people “New Ancestors,” they graciously gave me two that were not only wrong – I can’t figure out any connection at all.

I wrote about this in the article, “Ancestry DNA Gave Me A New DNA Ancestor – And It’s Wrong.”

In order for Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte, spouses, to be my ancestors, they would have been born in about the 6th generation, given their birth dates, and reproduced in the 5th generation.  The problem is that I have my tree documented solidly back through both of those generations, and John and Diedamia are not my ancestors.

This caused someone to ask how I knew that an NPE hadn’t happened and that one of my ancestral couples, who I believe are my ancestors, aren’t really – and Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte are instead – or at least John.  Like, perhaps a baby swap, or a wagon train parental death/child adoption or some other form of NPE (nonparental event.)

Good questions.  I want to know the answer too, for my own benefit.

In order to begin to address this, I looked at the years John and Diedamia were born and the locations where they are found.  Diedamia Lyon was born in Wilkes County in 1804 and she and John Curnutte married in 1822 in Lawrence County, KY, according to the Ancestry story attached to this couple, and she died there in 1866.  I can’t vouch for any of this, because it’s taken from Ancestry’s compiled trees.  What I can tell you is that I have no family at all in or near Lawrence County Kentucky, not in this or any other timeframe.

I do have family in Wilkes County, however, which is where I began the comparative search.  Both John Curnutte and Diedamia’s parents came from Virginia and I have lots of ancestry there, including several unknown lines – but not in any generation where John and Diedamia could be my ancestors.  However, these common locations would be the most likely places for an adoption, in whatever form, to have occurred – if one did.

So, let’s take this one parent’s side at a time and look at the proofs I have and how I know, beyond a doubt, that these two people are not my ancestors.

new ancestor mother tree

I’ve divided my ancestors into my mother’s side and my father’s side and created a proof table for each one in the 6th generation.  The Proof column, in this case, means proof that Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte cannot replace these ancestors in my tree, confirming that these are my ancestors and John and Diedamia are not.

Let’s look at my mother’s side first.  It’s easy.  Hendrick Jans Ferverda, born in the Netherlands about 1806, so about the same time as John and Diedamia, was not in this country at that time.  We have documentary proof from the Netherlands.  We have further evidence of when his son did immigrate in the 1860s.  So, Diedamia and John cannot be clandestine ancestors, replacing Hendrick Jans Ferverda and his wife, Lijsbert Baukes Camstra in my tree.  They weren’t even on the same continent when the begetting would have occurred.

As we assemble the proof for each ancestor, we consider birth and death years and locations, whatever documentation we have, and DNA evidence.

Ancestor Birth/Death Location Facts Proof
Hendrick Jans Ferverda 1806-1874 Born and died in the Netherlands Proof from documents in Leeuwarden and Blija, Netherlands Not in the US at the time
Lijsbert Baukes Camstra 1806-1856 Born and died in the Netherlands Proof from documents in Leeuwarden and Blija, Netherlands Not in the US at the time
Harmen Gerrits de Jong 1803-1866 Born and died in the Netherlands Proof from documents from Oosterlittens and Leeuwarden, Netherlands Not in the US at the time
Angenietje Houtsma 1802-1866 Born and died in the Netherlands Proof from documents from Leeuwarden, Netherlands Not in the US at this time
David Miller 1781-1851 Born Washington Co., MD, died Elkhart Co., Indiana Marriage documents in Warren Co., Ohio, estate in  Elkhart Co., Indiana Miller Y DNA from this line matches to other sons’ descendants of Johann Michael Miller b 1692, autosomal matches to several Miller descendants including mother’s first and second cousins.
Catharina Schaeffer Circa 1775 – 1826 Born Berks Co, PA, died Montgomery Co., PA Marriage document 1799 Berks Co., Marriage document 1805 Warren Co., Ohio Schaeffer males have tested Y and autosomal.  They match the Schaeffer Y upstream of Catharina’s father and match cousins autosomally.
Jacob Lentz 1783-1870 Born in Germany, died in Montgomery Co., Ohio Citizenship papers and census show birth, tombstone and estate papers show death Multiple males have tested Y DNA and they match each other.  They also match other Lentz men, but we can’t figure the common ancestor in Germany.  The Y testers and other cousins match mother autosomally.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Frederica Moselman 1788-1863 Born in Wurttemburg, Germany, died Montgomery Co., Indiana Was married before immigration Born in Germany, not in US at the time.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Honore Lore 1766 – 1834 Born in New England during Acadian removal, died Quebec, Canada in Acadian community Church records Y DNA of descendant matches Y DNA of other Lore males upstream of Honore, autosomal DNA matches mother.
Marie Lafaille 1767-1836 Born in New England during Acadian removal, died in Quebec Canada in Acadian community Church records including marriage to Honore Lore in 1789 in Canada Not in right place, married to Honore, autosomal DNA of descendants matches both Lafaille and Lore family members.
Joseph Hill 1790-1871 Born Barrington, NH, died 1871, Lake Co., Ill Hill family from NH and Vermont where he is first found in records, death records in Illinois Autosomal DNA matches with other descendant of Joseph and his parents.  His father is Ancestry DNA Circle.
Nabby Hall 1792-1874 Birth record in Mansfield City, CT town records, death record in Lake Co., Illinois Family moved to Addison Co., VT where children were born and where they are in the records, ancestor daughter’s birth Autosomal DNA matches with other descendants of Nabby and her parents, Gershom Hall and Dorcas Richardson.
Phillip Jacob Kirsch 1806-1880 Born Fussgoenheim, Germany died Ripley Co., Indiana Church birth records, death recorded in cemetery records Not in US at the time
Katharina Lemmert 1807-1889 Born Mutterstadt, Germany, died Aurora, Indiana Church birth records and death recorded in cemetery records Not in US at the time
George Drechsel 1823-1908 Born Speichersdorf, Germany, died Aurora, Indiana German church birth records, death recorded in cemetery records Not in US at the time
Barbara Mehlheimer 1823-1906 Born Goppmansbuhl, Germany, died Aurora, Indiana Germany church birth records, death recorded in cemetery records Not in US at the time

I don’t think there is any doubt whatsoever in any of my mother’s lines that Diedamia Lyons and John Curnutte whose families were from from VA, NC and KY can possibly be substituted for any of these ancestors.

Now let’s move to my father’s side of the family, who were indeed from VA and NC.

new ancestor father tree

In the chart below, I’ve starred the ancestors who I feel have a weak or unknown parental connection, meaning with their parents, based on the facts.  In many cases, this is an unknown mother or unknown mother’s surname or lack of solid DNA proof.  My goal for each ancestor is to have both the genealogical and the DNA proof, supporting each other.

For example, let’s look at Nancy Ann Moore.  Nancy is starred because her mother’s surname is unknown.  This means I can’t prove or disprove any ancestral line through her mother, Lucy.  In other words, while it’s clear that John and Diedamia cannot replace John R. Estes and Nancy Ann Moore as ancestors, one of them might be related to Nancy’s mother.  Therefore, based on the evidence, we do have proof that John and Diedamia are not clandestine ancestors in place of John and Nancy, but what we can’t know is if they are related upstream to Nancy’s mother.

Ancestor Birth/Death Location Facts Proof
John R. Estes 1787-1885 Born Halifax Co., Va, died Claiborne Co., TN Birth and death from War of 1812 pension app Estes Y DNA proven beyond John R. Estes, autosomal DNA from descendants and other Estes descendants triangulate.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Nancy Ann Moore* Circs 1785-1860/1870 Born Halifax Co., VA, died Claiborne Co. TN Marriage doc in Halifax Co in 1811, husband’s War of 1812 pension app Moore DNA tested to Nancy’s grandfather’s generation, descendants match other Moore testers autosomally, Nancy’s mother’s surname unknown.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Lazarus Dodson* 1795-1861 Parents living in Hawkins Co in 1795, Pulaski Co., KY death records Father-in-law John Campbell estate records for marriage to Elizabeth Dodson Y DNA beyond Lazarus, many Dodson autosomal matches, Lazarus’s mother’s surname unknown.
Elizabeth Campbell C1802-1827/1830 Parents living in Claiborne County TN per tax and court records, death in Claiborne per her children’s guardian records Her father, John Campbell’s estate records regarding her children, guardianship settlement Campbell DNA from this line matches Campbell clan DNA, autosomal matches to many Campbell cousins.  Her parents are Ancestry DNA Circles.
Elijah Vannoy 1784-c1850 Parents lives Wilkes Co at that time, death from Hancock Co. TN census Elijah found in Wilkes Co deed records in 1807, in Claiborne court records by 1812 Vannoy Y DNA from his line matches lines earlier than Elijah, autosomal DNA matches cousins.  Son is Ancestry DNA Circle.
Lois McNiel c1786-c1839 Parents living in Wilkes at time of her birth per tax and deed records, died before census in Claiborne Co., TN Parents also moved to Claiborne Co., TN, family history records Elijah’s wife as Lois McNiel Y DNA matches back to Rev. George, 2 generations beyond Lois, autosomal matches Lois’ descendants as well.  Son is Ancestry DNA Circle.
William Crumley III* 1785/1789 – 1852/1860 Born where parents lived Frederick Co., VA proven by 1789 tax list, death in Appanoose Co., Iowa by census Was in Lee Co by 1820 census, marriage documents in 1807 in Greene Co., TN Crumley DNA from this line proves back to James, 3 gen earlier, autosomal matches to cousins, William’s mother unknown.  Daughter is Ancestry DNA Circle.
Lydia Brown* 1787/1790-1830/1849 Born where parents lived in Montgomery Co., VA, death by census in Lee Co., VA and husband’s remarriage Married in 1807 in Greene Co., TN, in Lee Co. Va by 1820, in 1830 census, 1850 census shows husband has been married within the year to new wife Brown Y DNA confirms Jotham and matches other Browns without common ancestor identified, autosomal DNA matches to cousins, Lydia’s mother surname unknown.
Henry Bolton* 1759-1846 Born England, died Giles Co., VA Birth location unproven except by family stories, marriage records, death by local documents and census Bolton DNA confirms Henry and there are other matches but common ancestor unproven.  No Y matches to Curnutte or Lyons. Many descendants autosomal match but cannot go beyond Henry with proofs.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Nancy Mann* c 1780/1783 – 1841 Born where family lived, Botetourt Co., VA, died Giles Co, VA Birth from census and inferred from marriage document 1799, death from family Bible Parents are unconfirmed but believed to be James Mann and Mary Cantrell.  Not Y DNA confirmed to Mann line.  No known Manns from this direct line have tested.  Autosomal matches to James Mann’s brother Moses.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
William Herrell* 1789/1790 – 1859 Born in NC, probably Wilkes Co, died in Hancock Co., TN Birth from War of 1812 pension and bounty land apps, death from his wife on pension app Herrell confirmed back to John, William’s father on Y, match Y cousins autosomally, mother’s surname unknown.
Mary McDowell* 1785- after 1872 Born where in Wilkes Co., NC where parents lived at the time per tax records, died Hancock Co., TN Marriage in 1809 in Wilkes Co., lived in Claiborne & Hancock, death per pension docs and census McDowell Y DNA proven to Michael, her father, via multiple lines, autosomal matches to cousins, mother’s surname unknown.
Fairwick Claxton 1799/1800 – 1874 Birth in Russell Co., VA by census in location where parents lived, death Hancock Co., TN according to his mother’s War of 1812 pension app after his father’s death, death by chancery suit Born in Russell Co., VA, lived in Claiborne which became Hancock Co., TN entire life, chancery suit provides significant info, plus census. Claxton/Clarkson DNA proven to James via Y with additional matches from NC with earlier unidentified common ancestor, autosomal matches between entire group of cousins.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Agnes Muncy* 1803 – after 1880 Born where Lee Co., VA parents lived according to tax and deed records, dead via census Hancock Co., TN Census and chancery suit show family in Hancock Co., TN Muncy Y DNA confirmed beyond Agnes, cousins matching autosomally.  Would like additional triangulated matches.  Ancestry DNA Circle.
Charles Speak 1804 – 1840/1850 Born Washington Co., VA where parents lived according to tax and deed records, death by census Lee Co., VA Marriage in 1823 in Washington Co., VA, later records in Lee Co., VA having to do with Speaks church Speak Y DNA confirmed back to Gisburn, England, many autosomal matches in this line.  Parents are Ancestry DNA Circles.
Ann McKee* 1804/1805 – 1840/1850 Birth in Washington Co., VA where parents lived according to father’s will, death from census Lee Co., VA Married in 1823 Montgomery Co., VA, moved to Lee Co., VA, her father’s will names her as daughter Have not found McKee Y to test, but match several McKee descendants on autosomal.  Ann’s mother’s surname is unknown.  Father Andrew was Ancestry DNA Circle, but disappeared.

As you can clearly see, there is no question that Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte aren’t my ancestors.  There is no place for them to be born in 1801/1804, replacing two people here.  Plus there is no Canutte Y DNA matching downstream anyplace, nor any Lyon or Canutte matching at all that I can discover at Family Tree DNA where I can search for ancestral surnames among my matches.  At Ancestry, the only Curnutte surname DNA matches I have are the two individuals that are in the Curnutte “New Ancestor” circle.  Lyon is a more common surname, but nothing connecting matching people, the Lyon surname and any common ancestor or location – other than the two people who also match Curnutte.

I am 100% positive, bet on it and take it to the bank positive, that Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte are not my ancestors.  And anyone who knows me knows that I never, ever, bet unless I know it’s a sure thing.  So, if I ever say to you, “wanna bet,” think twice.  I wound up with a nice piece of jewelry because my husband hadn’t learned that yet.  Not once, but twice.  Unfortunately, he has learned now:)

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t share DNA with the descendants of Diedamia Lyon and John Curnutte.  One of two scenarios can be happening.

1. I do share DNA with two of the Lyon/Canutte descendants, but that DNA could be from two different, unidentified, lines, neither of which are John Curnutte and Diedamia Lyon. It just so happens that the two people I share DNA with happen to share the Lyon/Curnutte line between them. Therefore, the leap of faith has been made that I too share those ancestors. A triangulation tool would answer this question, because if I don’t match my two matches on the same segment, there is no proof of the same ancestor.  Lack of a triangulated match doesn’t mean that I don’t share those ancestors either. In other words, it’s not negative proof.  Lack of a triangulated match wouldn’t mean I don’t want to see this information.  I do. I just want to know how strong the evidence is, or isn’t. Without analysis tools, we’re left to flop around in the dark.

2. I share DNA with two of the Lyon/Canutte descendants because there is a common ancestor upstream of EITHER John Canutte or Diedamia Lyon whose DNA comes through that couple to their children who match me. If this is the case, then the common ancestor is most likely in one of the lines that are starred above where the parents are unknown.  If Ancestry provided chromosome matching and triangulation tools, I could see who else I match on that segment and perhaps find some common genealogy between others who match me (and my matches) on that same segment.


So, the answer to the question, “How do you know your tree is right?” is threefold.

First, genealogically, I’m a terribly anal, er, I mean thorough, researcher.  If you have any doubt, please feel free to read my 52 ancestor series and you can see for yourself the kind of in-depth research I do.

This isn’t to say everything is perfect or that I can’t make mistakes.  I clearly can, do and have.  But for the most part, my trees are solid and I know when they aren’t, where and why.  Plus, I’ve been doing this now for 37 years.  Experience is a wonderful teacher, so long as you learn and don’t just make the same mistakes over and over again.

And, yes, thank you, I did start when I was quite young – barely of age.

Secondly, I have been triangulating my autosomal DNA for several years now, proving segments through both known and previously unknown cousins to specific ancestral lines, and specific common ancestors.  But, I have to be able to see where we match to utilize those tools, and we can’t do that at Ancestry where it’s genetic genealogy wearing blinders.  I’m very thankful for GedMatch so I can compare DNA with the Ancestry cousins who will download their results.  If my two matches who descend from John and Diedamia downloaded their results to GedMatch, then I could see WHERE I match them and I might have that segment already mapped to a specific family line.  That would help immensely tracking backwards and finding the common link with my matches.

Third, I have been utilizing Y and mtDNA where possible and appropriate to learn about, prove and confirm various lines for nearly 15 years.

Often, I use combinations of these tools, like in my Buster example where Buster proved the Estes Y in my line, and I proved my relationship to Buster through autosomal DNA.

These combinations are powerful tools to prove, or disprove, family lines.

And now that you know how to do this, you can prove each one of your ancestral lines too!



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Barbara “Not Brock” Estes (c1670-1721), Abraham’s Wife, 52 Ancestors #70

1676 Virginia Map

Francis Lamb, Virginia and Maryland, in The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, 1676. Huntingfield Collection, MSA SC 1399-1-197.

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.

1676 Virginia Map New Kent

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 1711, 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!!!



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

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