J.K. Rowling – Who Do You Think You Are – “Bravery Against All Odds”

JK Rowling

Famed Harry Potter author and philanthropist JK Rowling is eager to trace the  French roots of her maternal side, having always been very close with her mother who’s passed away. She knows that her great-grandfather, Louis Volant, received the Legion d’honneur for his WWI efforts, and she has the medal, but she doesn’t know why.

At the National Archives of Paris, Jo pours over Louis Volant’s Legion d’honneur records. She finds a fascinating tale of bravery, but is surprised and confused to realize the man in this account is actually not her ancestor. Since there are no other “Louis Volant”s in the National Archives database, Jo travels to the Military Archives outside of Paris to see if her great-grandfather did, in fact, win a Legion d’honneur award.

At the Military Archives, Jo finds the correct war records for her Louis Volant. She learns that in WWI he found himself caught unexpectedly, and with barely any training, in a battle when Germans attacked his regiment in France. Louis Volant heroically took command of his troop and killed several German soldiers to save his regiment. Jo is overcome with tears and receives a very special gift.

Enthusiastic to continue tracing Louis’s line even farther back, Jo heads to the Paris Hospital Archives to learn about Louis’ early years and his mother, Jo’s 2x great-grandmother, Salome Schuch.

At the Paris Hospital Archives, Jo discovers that when Louis was born, Salome was an unwed servant working nearby in Paris. As an illegitimate son, Louis’ given last name was “Schuch,” making Jo wonder how he became a “Volant.” Jo sets off to meet with a historian at Salome’s former home where she worked as domestic help to see what else she can uncover about both of her ancestors.

It’s amazing to watch Jo climb all those sets of circular stairs and realize that her ancestor, Salome, did as well, as a pregnant servant, likely carrying heavy loads, and trying to hide her pregnancy.

A historian shows Salome’s workplace to Jo, and reveals that Salome would have been out of employment upon having a child. But documents reveal that some years later, Salome moved up in the world, becoming a dress maker and marrying Pierre Volant, who took on Louis as his own son.  It’s unclear whether or not Louis is his biological child.  Y DNA testing could resolve that question, if there were male Volant descendants of both Louis and one of his “brothers” available to test.

Next, Jo travels from Paris to the village of Brumath by the German border in France, to learn more about Salome and where she grew up.

At the Brumath Town Hall, a census reveals that Salome had five other siblings and that the family was rather poor.

Salome’s mother’s death certificate creates new questions for Jo as she sees it is written in German and not French; a result of the area changing hands from France to Germany during wartime. To learn more about the German occupation of Brumath, Jo meets with a historian to uncover new information.

Jo visits the house where Salome grew up in the small village of Brumath, and learns that during the Franco-Prussian war, Salome and her family endured an invasion of thousands of German soldiers, and found their lives in upheaval as the land, once French territory, became German. Jo learns that townsfolk were given the choice to remain in their homes and become German citizens or move to France to retain their citizenship.

What did Jo’s family do?  You’ll have to watch to find out.  Sunday, August 2 at 9/8c on TLC, The Learning Channel.



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John Harrold (c1750-1825), Forger?, 52 Ancestors #82

My earliest identified Harrell ancestor is John Harrold (also spelled Harrald, Harald, Harold, Harrell, Herrell, Herald, Herrald, Herrold and any other way they could think of to confuse me) who died in Wilkes County, NC in about 1825. His wife, Mary died in 1826. His known children were born beginning in 1782 or 1783, so he had to be born before 1760 or even earlier.  The 1800 census shows John to be over the age of 45, so that tells us he was born before 1755.  Given the information I found in his Revolutionary War service records, I’m betting be was born around 1750.

It’s a good thing we have John’s death year and the census information, because much of the other information about his life is quite murky.  It has been quite a journey with more than one very unexpected crook in the road.  Come on along for the ride!

Visiting Wilkes County, NC

I visited Wilkes County in 2004 and asked my cousin, George McNiel, a local historian and avid genealogy researcher, to take me on a tour of all of my family lands.  There is a mountain named Harrold Mountain today.  I would never have put Herrall or Herrell, the surname in Hancock County, Tennessee and Harrold Mountain in Wilkes County together were it not for George and his knowledge of the area and families.

Harrold mountain

Cousin George took me to the grave of old John Harrold only to discover the single grave is gone and a chicken house stands in its place.  I don’t mean a cute little chicken house like grandma had, but a huge factory chicken house that stinks to high heaven.  How sad.  For both my ancestor and the poor chickens.  My cousin said this isn’t unusual because the only flat place large enough for a chicken house (40×100 feet) is often old graveyards, so off go the stones and in goes the chicken house. I wonder what old John Harrold thinks about that.

John Harrold burial

According to cousin George, this is the location where old John Herrell’s (Harrold, Herrald) grave used to be.  The chicken house is on the left, just out of sight.  This is on the top of Harrold Mountain.  John lived here during his lifetime and was probably buried in his own backyard.

This is either the same place or very near where his son John is also buried, known as the Brown Family Cemetery, shown on the map below.

Brown Harrold Cemetery map

FindAGrave has photos of the cemetery, before and after a cleanup effort.

Brown Harold cemetery before

Above, the Brown/Harrold cemetery before, which makes me wonder if the cemetery really did still exist but we missed it.  Although having said that, if anyone would know, it would be George.  He and his late wife spent more than 20 years surveying, inventorying and documenting every grave and graveyard in Wilkes County.

Brown Harold cemetery after

There is a family legend that says that John Harrold died in 1783 and was buried up on Harrold Mountain with all of his money and someone dug him up and robbed the grave. Of course, the speculation was that the culprits were his kids.  I guess that’s one way to take it with you – but I’ve always had these comical visions of several adult children sneaking up the mountain and running into each other at the grave in the dark. After the fight that would surely have ensued – who knows how many are actually buried in that grave:)

The story is interesting, but the 1783 death date is incorrect (because John wasn’t yet in Wilkes County in 1783 and he didn’t die until 1825) and would lead us to believe that maybe it was John’s son, John Harrald (Jr.) who was born in 1783.  We know he was buried on Harrold Mountain.  Regardless of the specifics, which we will never unravel now, the story is charming and there is surely some nugget of truth in there someplace, or the story wouldn’t exist at all.

So, John’s grave may have been twice insulted – once by grave robbers and once by a chicken farmer.  I don’t think John is resting in peace.

The fact of the matter is that the original John Harral (the name in Wilkes County is typically spelled Harrold and Harrald) didn’t die in 1783 and appears on the 1800 census with a male and female over 45, one male under ten which is probably son William, one male 10-16 and one daughter 10-16.  In addition, his presumed son, John Harrold Jr. is also enumerated with one male age 16-26, a female the same age and one female under the age of 10.  John (the elder) also appears in the 1810 census with his wife and only one child, the son who was 10-16 in 1800 in 1810 is listed as age 16-26.

The Church

Zion Baptist Church is a very old “primitive Baptist” church on Harrold Mountain and guess what the names are on probably 80% of the graves – yep – you guessed it – Harrold/Harrald.

Zion Baptist Church

A local cousin is a member of the Primitive Baptist Association, of which Zion Baptist is a member as well.

According to the cousin, this church was established in 1861. The white church above is the second building and the remnants of the original log cabin are found in the woods.  I suspect there was a church here long before 1861 given the remoteness of the area – simply that the church wasn’t a separate building and probably met at someone’s home before the log cabin.  It’s the only church on Harrold Mountain, so it’s a good bet that old John Harrold was a Baptist.  At least one of his children was married by a Baptist preacher.  John’s descendants were and are members of this church, that’s for sure.

The articles of faith upon which this church operates are posted on the wall.

1)       We believe in one only true God, Father Son and Holdy Ghost, and these three are One.  1st Timothy 2:5, Eph 4:6, 1st John 5:7

2)       We believe that the scriptures of the old and new testament are the word of God, and the only rule of Faith and practice. St. John 1:14, 2nd Timothy 3:16, 1st Peter 1:21

3)       We believe in the doctrine of election by Grace.  St. John 1:14, 2nd Timothy 3:16, 1st Peter 1:21

4)       We believe in the doctrine of original sin and in mans importency (sic) to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature, by his own free will and ability.  St. John 6:44, Romans 5:12-18

5)       We believe that sinners are called, converted, regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and that all who are thus regenerated and are born again by the Spirit of God shall never fall away.  St. John 6:63, 10:28, 2nd Peter 1:10, 2nd Timothy 1:9, 1st John 3:9, Revelation 22:17

6)       We believe that sinners are justified in the sight of God only by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.  Romans 5:1, 10:4, Ph. 3:9

7)       We believe that Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and feet washing are the ordinances of Jesus Christ and that true believers are the only subject of these ordinances, and we believe that the only true mode of Baptism is by immersion. Mark 1:9, 16:16, John 13:8-17, I Cor. 11:23-26

8)       We believe in the Resurrection of the dead and in general judgment, and that the joys of the righteous and the punishing of the wicked will be eternal.   Mat. 25:31:32, John 5:28-29, 1st Timothy 4:16.

9)       We believe that no minister has a right to administer the ordinances of the gospel except such as the regularly called and come under the imposition of hands by the presbytery.  Mark 3:14, 2nd Cor. 3:6, 4:1, 5:18, 1st Timothy 1:12, 4:14.

You can see the location of the church in proximity to the Harrold lands.  In order to help judge distance, it’s about 500 feet from the church to Yellow Banks Road, so less than a mile to John Harrold’s land above Harold Mountain Road.

Zion Baptist map

My cousin George, quite a history buff, said this was the last one of the old local churches to flatten the top of the graves for mowing. Apparently this particular denomination believed in rounding the tops of the graves – and keeping them mounded up. I don’t know why. They also had an outside eating area because they don’t believe in having food inside the church. These are still common practices of this particular sect of Baptists apparently, but most of the churches have modernized a bit.

You can see in the photos below, there were still mounds on a few graves.

Harrald at Zion Baptist

Zion Baptist cemetery

The photo below is standing at the church looking across the road and at the beautiful view of Harrold Mountain.  This is the exact view John Harrald would have seen, well, minus the silo.

Harrold Mountain across from Zion

John Harrold’s wife was named Mary. She is credited with saying that when she died, she wanted to but put up on the bluff on top of Harrold Mountain and to let her fly back to sweet old Ireland. I guess we know where she was from, if the story is true, but we have no idea who she was. Given that my cousin only said something about one stone where old John was buried, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had in fact put her on the bluff. I don’t know how they could find the bluff though, as it is very overgrown.

Harrold Mountain bluff

Above is the bluff of Harrold mountain, pieced from two photos, visible behind the tree and fence rows.

Tracking John Harrold

I will be spelling John’s name in the way it was spelled in the various documents that I’ve found.  Clearly, with a name like Harrold, it was quite likely to be spelled however the clerk decided it was to be spelled at that moment.  There was little consistency.

We first find John Herold in Deed Book C-1 in Wilkes County, on page 334, on July 6, 1794 a transaction between Robert Powers of Rowan County, NC and  John Herold…negro winch and mulatto child called Pink and Rose…property lately purchased in Camden…but if Robert Powers returned 75 pounds of indigo (sample whereof is in Herolds house) to Herald the above obligation to be null and void.  Signed by Robert Powers, witnessed by David Baxter.  Proven in open court February 1802 by comparison of hands writing by oath of Betsy Herald and William Young. Proven in open court July term 1804 hand writing of David Baxter by William Young, Esq.  The fact that this took place in 1794 but wasn’t registered until 1802/1804 suggests that indeed, the indigo was not returned and that Robert Powers either wasn’t cooperating or had died.

This of course begs the question of who was Betsy Herald.  John Herald (born in1782/1783) married a Betsy McKinney and that is likely the Betsy who gave her oath.

I have to wonder what caused John to be in possession of 75 pounds of indigo dye in the first place.

John Harrold appears in the Wilkes County court records on November 3, 1796 with an order from the court for the sheriff to sell 100 acres of property of Thomas Adams taken by execution to satisfy a judgment recovered against him by John Harrold, which judgment obtained by plaintiff in Iredell County execution issued by George Brown, Esq.

This is the first hint we have as to where John was “from” before we find him in Wilkes County.  Am I very grateful for this tie.

Iredell was formed from in 1788, so I checked the Rowan County records which begin in 1753 and found no John, with the exception of tax lists.  There is an early Hugh Herrill there as well, but his Y DNA line is not the same as John’s.  John Harrell is found on a 1785 tax list in James Crawford’s Company with one white poll and no land.

Extracting Iredell County records, specifically the minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions from 1789-1800 transcribed by Shirley Coulter we find a little more information about John.

On page 46, on August 24, 1792, a list of men is given who took the oath of allegiance and Jno Herril is included.  Of course, this might not be our John.  I wonder why he had to take the oath if he was a veteran and why this late.  The Revolutionary War had been over for years.

On February 17, 1796, a jury was ordered to lay open a road on part of Brush Mountain Road to go around a field of Robert Bogles, agreeable to his petition.  John Harrold was one of the men to lay out this road.  The Brushy Mountains are found in the northwest part of Iredell County.

The Deed Book from 1797-1802 shows a sale on October 5, 1798 from John Meadows to George Roberts on the waters of S. Yadkin on which John Harreld and David Roberts are listed at witnesses.  This deed was recorded on January 21, 1802.

An 1802 record from Rowan County Will Abstracts on page 113 shows the probate of the will of Stephen Roberts on January 9, 1802.  His wife is listed as Phebe and he lists children Warren, Joshua, Thomas, William, daughter Polly Harold, daughter Molly Noreton, daughter Judith Egmond, daughter Phebe Richmond, daughter Nancy Roberts and Betsy Roberts daughter of son William.  Polly is a nickname for Mary, but none of the sibling names look familiar, nor did John and Mary Harrold name a child Stephen, so this is likely not our John Herrald’s wife.

The 1800 census of Wilkes County shows Michael McDowell, Jacob McGrady (the minister who married William Herrell and Mary McDowell), and both John Herrell Jr. and Sr. (spelled Harrall) on adjoining pages.  Based on this evidence, pending further investigation, it is presumed that Michael McDowell is the father of both Mary and John McDowell and John Herrell Sr. is likely the father of William Herrell.

John Herral appears on the Wilkes County tax list in Captain Carltons District in 1800 with 1 white poll and no land.

In 1805, J? (smeared) Herrell had 550 acres and no polls, and James Herrell had 180 acres and 1 poll.  It’s interesting that John had no polls in 1805.  This could be because he was elderly, because he was an official, like a sheriff, although there is no evidence of that, a minister, but again, no evidence, or because he was disabled.  We know that by 1790, John had 6 children, so had been married a minimum of 13 years.  If he was 25 when he married, that means he was born about 1752.  He could have been born earlier.  If he was born in 1752, he would have been 53 or older in 1805, so possibly “elderly.”  The age where one didn’t have to pay polls varied by state and time and I’ve seen it range from age 45 to age 70.

In 1802, on page 345 of Deed Book F-1, John is mentioned in a land grant to Reuben A. Carter for 100 acres on Chathis Quemin Branch, the waters of Haymeadow and on John Herold’s line.  This is probably Chinquepin Branch.

This is followed on page 353 of the same book by a transaction on July 31, 180(blank) from Richard Allen, late sheriff and John Fletcher, Sr., land lost by Reuben A. Carter, court action brought by James Fletcher, 100 acres part of 200 acre tract on the waters of Cathinquemin Branch of Haymeadow on John Herold’s line.  Witnessed by John Saintclair and Hugh Brown.

John’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Reuben Carter in February of 1803.  This had to be a very upsetting time for the family, possibly in multiple ways.  Why did Reuben lose his land?  Was he irresponsible or unlucky?  Did he lose his land before or after he married Elizabeth?  Did they move in with her parents whose land abutted Reuben’s?

In 1803, in Deed Book F-1, on page 87, Charlotte Harrold witnesses a deed between Reuben Carter and William Sabastian for $10, 100 acres on Rock Creek, on Henry Carter’s corner and the road.  Also witnessed by William and Nancy Carter.  Charlotte was John Harrold’s daughter and married Coonrod (Koonrod) Dick in 1806.

John’s Land

Land grant entry number 1246, file number 2421 for 200 acres was filed for John Herrold on November 16, 1801 and states that the land is on the Chinquepin Branch of the Hay Meadow Creek on the waters of Mulberry beginning near the head of the said branch and that it is against Michael McDowell’s line.  The survey was entered November 16, 1801 and was actually recorded in February 1802.   Chainers were John Roads and Michael McDowall.  There is a drawing of the survey but it just looks like a square and there are no watercourses noted.  The fact that the land was at the head of the branch tells us it was high up on the mountain.

Note that John Harrold’s son, William, would marry Mary, the daughter of Michael McDowell, in 1809.

John Herrold grant

The grant of land was not actually made until December 5, 1811 and it is grant 2817.  It’s odd that John would not own land until this late in his life.  He was approximate age 50 in 1800.

The name is spelled variously Herrild, Herrald, Herrold.  John paid “4 pounds” for this survey in 1804.  I find it interesting that they are still using the old English money measures and not dollars.

In 1811, in Wilkes County Deed Book G-H we fine a David Harrill of Surry County, NC selling land to Jesse Allen for 200 pounds, 550 acres on Joshua Mizes line, the waters of Hunting Creek, witnessed by Richard Alley and Hugh Riley.  Hunting Creek is not near John Harrold’s land, more than 5 miles distant as the crow flies, southeast of Wilkesboro.

There is no known connection between David and John Harrell, but just because a connection isn’t known doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Furthermore, we don’t know how David obtained this land, because he isn’t listed in the deeds or grants.



John’s land is located on Haymeadow Creek.  You can see Mulberry to the lower left on the map above.

Haymeadow and Harrold

Haymeadow Creek runs right up beside the Zion Church and on up paralleling Harrold Mountain Road until you reach the beginning.  As we know  from the land grant, the beginning or headwaters of Haymeadow is where John’s land was located.

John’s land is very likely where his son, John’s land was located, where the cemetery is, or rather, was located, which is between the Harrrold Mountain Extension and Waddell Drive, above and below.

John's land

John’s land was about as far up as you could go on Harrold Mountain, which of course, wasn’t yet named Harrold Mountain at that time.  200 acres would have been just about all of the land above the Harold road U on the map above, including the central extension.  The original homestead was likely on the left near the cemetery.  Michael McDowell’s land abutted John’s at the southwest corner where they shared a stake and eventually, Reuben Carter’s would abut John’s land too.

John Harrold satellite

If you look at this picture, all of that treed land above John’s land is too mountainous to do anything with.  Very steep and wild.  That one little road you see is a two-track that leads to nothing.

A Willliam Herrell was witness to a will of Benjamin Sebastian in 1818 in Wilkes County.  John Harrold was a witness also.  This is likely not William, John Senior’s son, because John’s son, William, went to Claiborne County, Tennessee about 1810.

By the time John Harrold Sr. died in 1825, his son William had been gone for 15 years.  I wonder if John ever saw William again.  Did he know when William was pulling away in the wagon that it was their final goodbye?

William wasn’t the only one of John’s children to leave.  In fact, the only child we know of that stayed in Wilkes County was son John, who likely lived on John Sr.’s old place.

Harrold goats

These two photos were taken on Harrold Mountain on a beautiful spring day with the goats frolicking to celebrate the fresh spring grass.  It probably looks about the same today as it did when John Harrold lived there.

Harrold goats2

John died sometime in 1825, because in October of that year, in Will Book 3-4, on page 78 is recorded the account of sale of the estate of John Harrold.

In January 1826, an allowance was made to Mary Harrold, widow and in October of 1826, the estate sale of Mary Harrold was held.

John Herrell was born in roughly 1750 or before and died in 1825 in Wilkes County NC.  He is buried someplace on Harrold Mountain, probably on his own land.  Today this mountain remains very rugged and remote.  His grave is either marked with a chicken house or he is buried in the same cemetery as his son John.

John’s Children

What we know about John’s family is somewhat limited, but at least some of his children have been identified.

Of John’s known sons, one, John, stayed in Wilkes County and is the progenitor of the family there today.  William went to Claiborne County, Tennessee and the family surname is generally spelled Herrell or Harrell,  Alexander went to Breathit Co., KY where the name is Harrold and Herald.

  • William Harrell, born 1790 in NC married Mary McDowell, daughter of John’s neighbor Michael McDowell, in 1809 in Wilkes Co.  They were married by the Baptist Preacher, Jacob McGrady. They moved to Claiborne Co. shortly thereafter. They lived for a short time in Lee Co. Va. before purchasing land in Claiborne Co. in 1812. This is my ancestor.
  • John, born 1783, died in 1879 in Wilkes Co.  He married Elizabeth, “Betsy” McKinney about 1797.  Most of the Wilkes Co. Harrold’s seem to be descended from this man. John also lived on Harrold Mountain, probably on his father’s land, and is buried in the Harrold/Brown Cemetery.

Brown Harrold cem

You can see it closup here, the trees in the middle of the field to the right side of the photo.

John Harrold Cemetery closeup

John’s gravestone says he was born in 1782 and died in 1879.

John Herrald b 1783 stone

  • Elizabeth, born in 1785 married Reuben A. Carter in 1803 in Wilkes Co. No more is documented about this couple, but they may have gone to Maury County, TN. by 1815 and then on to Crawford County, Missouri.
  • Alexander Herrell born about 1785 in North Carolina, died about 1860 in Breathit Co, KY, married Elizabeth Turner before 1812 and moved to Breathit County shortly thereafter. The 1850 census where the name is spelled Herrald shows that he was born in North Carolina.
  • Charlotte, born about 1790 married Koonrod Dick in 1806 in Wilkes County. She and Koonrod or Conrad moved to Simpson Co. KY before 1825.
  • James, possibly a son of John, listed here because of his residence in Wilkes in 1805. This is speculative and may be inaccurate. There is no further information about this man and he does not fit on the census.
  • Sarah “Sallie” Herrell born about 1784 and died in 1845, probably Breathit County, KY.  Married Jessie Turner before 1805 and had 9 children.

We are left with a couple of burning questions about John Harrold or however the surname was spelled.

Where was John from?

We know John (the eldest or first’s) son John (Jr., the second) was born in or about 1782 or 1783, that he stayed in Wilkes County.  Because John Jr. (the second) lived past the 1850 census, we can tell something about where John Sr. was living in 1782 when John Jr. was born.

The 1850 Wilkes County census tells us that John Herald was a 67 year old farmer born in Virginia.  His wife was apparently deceased and he had 5 children living at home. This would be John Jr. (the second).

The 1860 census shows us that John Harold Sr. (the second,) who lived beside John Jr. (the third) was a 78 year old farmer born in Virginia. He still had 4 daughters living at home with him, ranging in age from 22 to 31.  The Jr. and Sr. have transitioned.  The John Jr. (the second) became John Sr. when his son John (the third) reached adulthood.  John Sr. (the first) had already died by this time.  John (the second’s) son, John, became John Jr. at that time.  Jr. and Sr. can be very deceptive because of this type of transition, and also because they may not indicate a direct relationship.  Sr. and Jr. can mean “older” and “younger” in two men with the same name who are not related or not father and son, but live in the same location.

John (Jr., the second) is not shown in the 1870 census, although according to his grave marker, he was still living.

In 1880, John Jr. (the third) is still living, age 75 and he shows that both he and his parents were born in North Carolina.  His wife shows that her parents are born in Virginia, so it’s not a matter of unthinking ditto marks.  This would indicate that his father, John (Jr. the second) born in 1782, was born in North Carolina, although we have three census records where John (born in 1782) presumably gave the information himself and said he was born in Virginia – in all 3 records.

According to the census, in 1800 we find John (the eldest) with his children in Wilkes County.  In 1790, we find only a couple of candidates in North Carolina or for that matter, anyplace in the eastern half of the US.  The Virginia 1890 census does not exist and has been replaced by tax lists which I have thoroughly scoured from 1782-1787.

One candidate is John Harrald in Iredell Co NC.  He is not listed in Iredell in 1800, so this could be our John, especially with the 1794 court record referencing Iredell County where John obtained the judgment.  In 1790, this John had enough children to be our John, which is one of the qualifiers to be a candidate.  He had 1 male age 16+ (himself), 3 males under the age of 16 and 4 females.

The second burning question is related to the first, and the question of where John came from is at least somewhat unraveled as we peel the onion of the mystery of the multiple John Harrold’s who served in the Revolutionary War.

Which John Served in the Revolutionary War?

A fellow Harrell researcher sent me the following two scanned pages a couple of years ago.  They found these years ago in a Virginia library.  We don’t know what books they are from, aside from the information at the top of the page, but it does tell us that there are two Johns who served.

One John Harrell applied for a pension from Nansemond County, VA where he was born in 1761.

We know that this is NOT our John because that John applied for a pension in 1833 in Nansemond County, VA and our John lived in Wilkes County and was dead by this time.

John Harrold Rev War

The second page, below, shows a John Harrill from NC, a private, who received or applied for a land grant on July 29, 1820, for 228 acres that went to his heirs.  Unfortunately, this entry raises far more questions than it answers.  Does this mean he served out of North Carolina or only that he lived in NC in 1820 when he applied for land?

John Harrold rev war2

I found this book at the Allen County public library, and it was Revolutionary War Records of Virginia Vol 1.  by Marcus Brumbaugh.  The book explains that these records are of bounty land warrants for the military district of Ohio from the federal and state archives.  This record for John is for a private and for 228 acres.

From the article “Military Bounty Land” by Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, we find the following.

North Carolina was the most generous, giving 640 acres (a square mile) to a private in the Continental line. The tract was in Tennessee; no bounty land warrants were located within the present-day boundaries of North Carolina.

An extraordinary flood of Revolutionary War bounty-land warrants poured from Richmond, partly because Virginia had the largest state population and partly because it granted warrants not only to its Continental line but to its state line as well. The distinction rests on who paid the soldiers—Congress or Virginia.

The first military reserve was created south of Green River in Kentucky and subsequently expanded west of the Tennessee. There were no bounty lands within present-day Virginia or West Virginia. In 1784, Virginia ceded its claim to the area north of the Ohio River, reserving the 4 million acres between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers for redemption of its bounty-land warrants. This Virginia Military District in Ohio was federal land for which first-title land grants were reserved solely for the Virginia warrants of veterans of the Continental line. A series of ever more liberal acts broadened where warrants could be used and by whom until, in 1852, Congress agreed that all Virginia Revolutionary War warrants could be exchanged for scrip accepted at any GLO land office. Large numbers of these assignable warrants were sold; an estimated one-quarter of the Virginia Military District was acquired by twenty-five men.

The paperwork flow was: (1) warrant application to Richmond; (2) warrant issued to warrantee; (3) selection of desired land in Kentucky or Ohio reserves and survey by official surveyor; (4) paperwork for Kentucky lands to the Virginia Land Office or, from 1792, the Kentucky Land Office, or the federal capital for Ohio lands; and (5) patent for Kentucky land sent to patentee or federal patent sent to Richmond for relay to Ohio patentee.

Fold3.com Records

Next, I checked http://www.fold3.com, finding several service records.

Service Records – Company pay rolls

John Harrold’s (Herrald, Harreld) Revolutionary War pay records.

Served in the late Capt. Williams Company of the 8th Virginia Regiment commanded by Col. James Wood:

  • Pay roll of Capt. John Nevils Company of the ? Virginia commanded by James Wood for the month of June 1777 – John’s pay is noted, along with a note “Deserted July 7th”.  Others who deserted the same day were Travis Chambers, William Hutcherson and John Waters.
  • Deserted July 1778, joined April 17, 1779
  • April 1779 Camp Middlebrook
  • Virginia 8th Regiment – Late Captain Wallace’s Company of the 8th Va Regiment, commanded by Col. James Wood – private June 1779 Camp Smith’s Clove to July 1
  • Same as above but dates June 1, 1779 commence pay at 6 2/3 dollars per month – for one month amount of pay 2 pounds
  • July 1779 Camp Rampo – private – enlisted May 1, 1777 for 3 years – Each one of the pay records shows this he enlisted at this date which is how you can be sure it’s the same man.
  • Aug 1779 – Camp Smith
  • Oct 1779 Camp Ramapough
  • April 1779 – 3 days pay – not drawn for since June 78
  • March 1779 – Capt Smith’s Clove’
  • June 1779 – private, Capt Smith’s Clove, Capt. Wallace’s Company commanded by Col. James Woods
  • John Herrold, Capt Wallaces Company, appears on a list of the absentees of the 12th Virginia Regiment with the sum due each: not dated, 11 48/72 dollars, absen
  • Roll of Captain Wallaces Company of the 8th Virginia for the month of August 1779 – paid for one month as a private.

Smith’s Clove is in Suffern, NY, State Route 17.  Camp Rampo was in Ramapo, New York as well, and both of these locations were headquarters of George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

This is an entirely separate record at Fold3 as follows:

John Harald – private, Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick’s Co in a detachment of the 2nd Virginia Brigade commanded by Col. Febiger – Dec, Jan, Feb and March 1780, pay is 6 2/3 per month, subsistence is 10 per month, amount of pay and subsistence 50 dollars.

John Harold – Soldier Infantry – appears in a book under the following heading:

“A list of soldiers of the Virginia Line on Continental Establishment who have received certificates for the balance of their full pay agreeable to an act of assembly passed November session 1781.”

Signed by Mr. Hancock, June 4, 1782 for 36 pounds


John Harrold – 1 NC Regiment – Capt. John Summer’s Company of the 1st NC Batallion commanded by Colonel Thomas Clark – roll dated Sept. 8, 1778, enlisted April 4, 1776 for 2 and one half years.

There is also a service record for John Harrold who served in the 1 NC Regiment.

John Harrolds of Frederick Co., VA and Botetourt Co. VA

VA State Library, Archives Division, Military and Land Warrants Records for John Harrold show he served 3 yrs as a sergeant in VA Continental Line, 8th VA Regiment from Botetourt Co. He was discharged June 1777 near Valley Forge then served a 2nd time for 18 months in the 8th VA Regiment and was discharged near Salisbury, Feb 1782. In 1819 he lived in Wilkes Co., NC and in 1828 was still there when he received bounty land warrant #6718 for 200 acres.

The above record drove me nuts, because while someone was kind enough to send me the info, and I was very grateful, there is no source or context, so I couldn’t reproduce it nor did I know where to go from here.

Another contributed record tells us the following.

One John Harrold was born circa 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia.  The first record of him is from a Register of Description of Noncommissioned Officers and Privates enrolled at Albermarle Court House dated 23 December 1781 in which he is described as:  “John HARRELL, age 20, born in Frederick Co., VA, 5 ft. 10 in. tall, brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion, occupation planter, residing in Montgomery Co. VA, engaged as a substitute from Montgomery Co.”

The John Harold of Frederick County born in 1761, so only 20 when he enlisted in 1781, cannot be the John Harrold who was a sergeant when discharged in June of 1777.  That just doesn’t work.  A 16 year old is not going to be a sergeant.  He also cannot be the man whose pay records were found from 1777-1779 at Fold3.com.

Now we know we have at least three John Harrold’s serving out of Virginia, and possibly more:

  • John of Frederick County, age 20 when enlisted in December of 1781, so born 1761
  • John of Nansemond County who served from there and requested a pension from there in 1833
  • John of Botetourt County, reported to be a sergeant who eventually lived in Wilkes County, NC.  Served twice, once discharged near Valley Forge in either 1777 or 1779 and discharged the second time in 1782 from Salisbury NC.  Received a bounty land grant.
  • John who enlisted on May 1, 1777 for 3 years who is probably the same man who deserted in 1778 and rejoined in 1779.  This could be John of Nansemond but the dates seem to eliminate John of Botetourt and does eliminate John of Frederick.  After reading John of Nansemond’s pension application, he is also eliminated.
  • Possibly another John who served under Capt. Abraham Kirkpatrick in the Virginia 2nd from Dec 1779-March 1780 according to pay records – although this could be  John of Nansemond.

I requested the records for John Harrold from Botetourt County from NARA, and they replied that they had no records for him.  How could that possibly be when Fold3 digitized NARA’s records?

I think the genealogy gremlins are out to get me.

Library of Virginia to the Rescue

It pays to recheck earlier sources.  The Library of Virginia continues to digitize their records and to them, a huge, HUGE, THANK YOU!!!  I had written to the National Archives and received nothing, so this information documents three years of John’s life for me.  These records prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Botetourt County John is the John Harrold of Wilkes County.

John Harrold rev war3

Downloading the images, I found the entire packet including John’s discharges and affidavits regarding his service.  A literal goldmine.  The motherlode.

john harrold rev war 4 jpg

This is to certify that the bearer herof John Harreld (or Harrold) formerly a sargent in the 8 Virginia Regiment has duly and faithfully served the term of three years for which he was enlisted for and in and at his own request is her by discharged from any further service in the Army of the Younited Stats and is permitted to pas to his home in Botod County fre and un milisted give under my hand at Camp near the Valley Forge this 12 Day of June in the year 1779.  Signed Charles Scott B G (Brigadier General)

The bearer John Hareld Sergeant is here by entitled to ? akers of land for his three years service in the Army by the Younited Stats to ?? on the ?? waters by a nek ? assembly their troups.  Given under my hand at camp near the Valley Forge these 12 June in the year 1777.  Signed Charles Scot B.G. (Brigadier General)

I originally believed the year would be 1777, not 1779.  This discharge was probably written in the commander’s tent on the battlefield, so it’s amazing that the penmanship is as good as it is

However, based on the last paragraph, for John to have been enlisted for 3 years, the discharge date would have had to have been in 1779, because that dates John’s enlistment to June of 1776.  The war had not yet begun two years earlier, in June of 1774.

Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 during the American Revolutionary War. It is approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Starvation, disease, malnutrition, and exposure killed nearly 2,500 American soldiers by the end of February 1778.

John Harrold apparently served through this time and survived


Interestingly enough, Will Graves, a revolutionary war historian, transcribed this document as well, and questions whether it is a forgery based on General Scott’s signature.  Although Scott is described elsewhere as somewhat illiterate.  That’s certainly an interesting conjecture and raises unpleasant questions that need to be answered.  I must admit that the service record dates we have don’t mesh entirely with the discharge papers, nor is there ever a pay record for a John who is a sergeant.  We might shed some light on this if we knew where General Scott was, exactly, on these two different dates in 1777 and 1779, but I have been unable to do so.

Will’s transcription suggests that he believes 1779 date is accurate.

Some Fold3 pay records for John Harrold state that he enlisted on May 1, 1777.  If these are all the pay records for the same John Harrold, the enlistment date of May 1777 and the discharge date of June 1779, given that he was AWOL for part of the time might make sense, although it certainly doesn’t total 3 years.  I hate it in these types of situations when I start using the words might and could, because I know I’ve crossed that speculative line.

If John enlisted for 3 years, in June of 1776, then the May 1, 1777 enlistment date doesn’t work either.

Now, I’m left with even more questions.  If one discharge was a forgery, was the second one too?  If one or both were forged, was it simply because the original was lost, or was there something more sinister and unethical afoot?  Many men stated that their discharges were lost, but then they had to produce witnesses to vouch for their service record.  Was John ever a sergeant?  Did he even serve?

Or maybe those documents aren’t forgeries at all and I’m doubting a 3 year patriot’s service record.

The 8th Virginia

The 8th Virginia Regiment, in which John Harrold reportedly served for 18 months, was raised beginning on January 11, 1776 for service with the Virginia State Troops.

If John was discharged in June of 1779 after serving three years, then it couldn’t have been our John who joined in May of 1777.  Unfortunately, these records don’t fit together perfectly.  Furthermore, the John who joined in May 1777 was a private, not a sergeant.

The Virginia 8th’s first commanding officer was patriot leader and German Lutheran pastor Peter Muhlenberg, who became a militia colonel in 1775 at the request of General Washington. In his last sermon from the pulpit, Muhlenberg read from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray; but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” He removed his clerical robes to show that he was wearing his uniform as a militia colonel. He quickly enlisted 300 men from his congregation in the unit that became the 8th Virginia.

Muhlenberg was appointed colonel on March 1, 1776. The 8th Virginia organized at Suffolk County Court House between 9 February and 4 April 1776. The unit’s 10 companies came from Augusta, Berkeley, Culpeper, Dunmore, Fincastle, Frederick, and Hampshire Counties, plus the District of West Augusta. On May 25, 1776 the regiment officially became part of the Continental Army.

In 1776, Virginia regiments were typically organized into 10 companies, of which seven carried muskets and three carried rifles. The regiment’s 792-man roster had three field officers, and a staff that included an adjutant, quartermaster, surgeon, surgeon’s mate, chaplain, sergeant major, quartermaster sergeant, and drum major. Each company consisted of one captain, two lieutenants, one ensign, four sergeants, four corporals, one drummer, one fifer, and 64 privates.  John Harrold was one of the sergeants if his discharge is accurate, but he is not listed as a sergeant in this unit or in any unit.

The 8th Virginia marched south to Charleston, South Carolina and was there in time for the Battle of Sullivan’s Island on 28 June 1776, but it was not in action. On 21 January 1777, the regiment received orders to join George Washington’s main army at Valley Forge.

On 11 May 1777, the unit was assigned to the 4th Virginia Brigade, together with the 4th and 12th Virginia Regiments, Grayson’s Additional Continental Regiment, and Patton’s Additional Continental Regiment. Charles Scott, who signed John Harrold’s discharge, above, was appointed to lead the brigade.

It was a long way home for John from Valley Forge regardless of when he was discharged – about 350 miles.

John Harrold valley forge

John may have returned home in June of 1779, but he wasn’t finished with the Revolutionary War.  He enlisted again by August of 1780.

John Harrold Rev War5 jpg

I do here by sertify that the bearer here of John Harrald formerly a seargeon (or sergeant?) in 8 Virginia reagiment has faithfully served the term of 18 months for which he was in listed and is permitted to pass to his home in Bottatot County in Virginia he behaving as a good citizen I fother certify that he has received no pay for his eighteen months service in the Southern states given under my hand at Camp ner Salisbuary this 16th day of February 1782.  Signed Samuel Sned (Snead) MC

If John was discharged on February 16, 1782, by subtraction, this tells us he re-enlisted no later than August of 1780.  The pay records for John Harrold in 1779 are obviously not for this John Harrold.

The 8th Virginia was absorbed into the third Virginia brigade in May of 1779, then became part of the 4th and 12th.  The discharge says he was formerly a sergeant in the Virginia 8th, but it says nothing about the unit he was serving with that was discharging him.

Assuming this service record is legitimate, this may be how John Harrold came to be acquainted with the Wilkes County area.

The Salisbury District of North Carolina, was originally one of several colonial judicial districts established in 1766. Immediately preceding the onset of the American War of Independence, these six regions, in 1775, were broadened into “de facto” militia districts.

The Salisbury District was based in the village of Salisbury, North Carolina, in Rowan County, about 60 miles from present day Wilkesboro.

The Salisbury District originally included Anson, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Surry, and Tryon counties. A later addition was the Washington District (also known as the original Washington County, North Carolina) which covered most of the present day State of Tennessee. Eventually, as new settlements were carved out of the wilderness, the Salisbury District encompassed the counties of Lincoln, Montgomery, Richmond, Rutherford, Wilkes (all in present day NC), and Sullivan (in present day TN) as well.

It was almost 200 miles from Salisbury, NC to Botetourt County, VA.  I hope John wasn’t on foot, but I bet he was.  Horses were at a premium.

John Harrold Salisbury

Bounty Land

John appoints a power of attorney to collect his land grant based up on his service record..

John Herrald rev war 6 jpg

Know all men by these presents that I John Harrald of the County of Wilkes and State of N. Carolina have constituted and appointed Alex. ? McKenzie of the county of Wilkes and State aforesaid my true and lawful attorney for me and in my name and stead to procure and receive from such officer person or persons or shall be legally authorized to grant this same a land warrant to which I am entitled for my services rendered the United States during its revolutionary war as my original discharge certified and I hereby further empower my said attorney to give such receipts as shall be required in obtaining said lands. Patent in my name in as full and ample a manner as I myself could do were I personally present and I hereby certify and confirm whatever my said attorney shall lawfully do in the premises given under my hand and seal this 30th day of January 1819.

Signed, John Harrald

Witnessed by George W. Smith and Joshua Shumate (his mark

I believe this is John’s actual signature.  Whether or not the discharges themselves are forgeries is irrelevant to these signatures being authentic.  Note that this affidavit states that this is his original discharge.

John acknowledges the power of attorney in open Court on Febnruary 5th, 1819.

John Herrald Rev war 72 jpg

Next, John sells his claim.

John Herrald Rev War 8 jpg

Know all men by these presents that I John Harrald Sr. of the county of Wilkes and the State of N. Carolina have bargained and sold unto Alexander McKenzie my claim for 330 acres of land to which I am entitled for services rendered by me in the Revolutionary army and I have bargained and sold unto said McKenzie my claim of 18 months pay for services rendered by me during the revolutionary war in the southern states and I bind myself my heirs assignees executors and administrator to have no recourse on said McKenzie  on the claim? of said claims by ? one hundred and fifty dollars the amount in full for my said claims.  Signed under my hand and seal this the 3rd day of January 1819.

Signed John Harrald


Joshua X Shumate
George (W his mark) Smoot

John Herrald Rev War 9 jpg

In this document, John swears that he has not drawn the warrant for his land and that he authorizes Alexander McKenzie to do so.

This is the third example of John’s signature.

At this point, John would have been about 70 years old

Botetourt County, Virginia

Now we know that John was from Botetourt County, Virginia and that is where he considered home.  He was returning there when he was released from Valley Forge.  He also returned there in 1782 when he was released, which just happens to be the same year (or just before) that John Harrold Jr. was born.  Even if both of these discharge records were forged by (or for) John, it gives his home location as the same place in both.  That much would be accurate.

Now, we have a new problem.  There are other Harrold men in Botetourt County, leading one to the presumption that they are the same family line…but they aren’t.  There is a James Harrold there as early as 1770 living on Harolls Creek but the Y DNA of James’ line (that went to Warren Co., KY) does not match the DNA of our John’s line.

However, there is another very interesting record found in the Botetourt County records.

Botetourt County Virginia USGenWeb Archives – Court held for Botetourt County the 11th day of March, 1779.

This court doth allow Mary O’harrell, wife of John O’harrell, a soldier in the Continental Army, thirty pounds for the support of herself & two small children.

This would imply that Mary and John have been married at least 5 years.

If this is our John, then the June 1779 discharge date would be the correct one, not 1777.

Is this our John and is O’Harrell misspelled?  Are there any other instances of O’Harrell?  There are no John O’Harrell Revolutionary War service records at Fold3.com – yet this court entry clearly says he was serving and we know the records for the Virginia 8th, the unit in which he would be serving out of Botetrout County, are intact.

And then, there is this Augusta County record…

Augusta County, Virginia

Another Harrell researcher sends the following:

John Harrold (? Harrell) became an indentured servant in Augusta County, Virginia April 15, 1773. His master was Edward Cather, as the record indicates: April 15th.1773 John Harrold (? Harrell), servant to Edward Cather of Augusta Co. Virginia. Edward Cather’s parents were from Ireland and Scotland. He was born about 1740 when his parents were listed just married in Ireland. Though they say Edward was born in Virginia, his parents are listed as coming to America about 1777. Thus it is only a guess but I would believe this John Harrold also came from Ireland/Scotland and perhaps his way over were paid by the Cather’s. He was only assigned to work for two years for Edward Cather, which I would assume would reimburse his transport to America. Edward Cather quickly left Virginia for Kentucky about the time of at least the mid 1780s. Not sure if John Harrold followed.

If this is our John, this would explain why his DNA does not match with the other Botetourt or Frederick County, Virginia Herrell lines.

What Next?

It has been a long journey finding John.  The most difficult part was actually getting my hands on his Revolutionary War records.  Once I did, so many questions were answered.  We have added another chapter in the puzzle of “where was John?” and have pushed the brick wall back a little further.  We know that he was living in Botetourt County, VA in either 1779 when he was discharged after a 3 year service commitment, so he was likely living there in June of 1776 when he would have enlisted.

And of course, now we have the added mystery of whether or not John’s discharge papers are forgeries, which begs a whole new set of questions.  That was a sucker punch – and it doesn’t help that the pay records we have do nothing to corroborate John’s discharge papers.  Of course, they don’t disprove them either.  So frustrating with no clear way to obtain answers.

In all the years I’ve been doing genealogy, I have never, not once, actually seen a discharge letter of one of my ancestors, let alone two.  Maybe I still haven’t.

We are left to wonder if the Botetourt County John and Mary O’Harrell is the same as our John, in 1782.  No John Harrold, O’harrell or any similar surname appearing on the Botetourt tax lists in 1782 or as late as 1787.

We know that by 1779, John in Botetourt, based on the court record, assuming it’s our John, already had 2 children, if they survived.  The depth of their destitution is demonstrated by the fact that Mary had to ask for money to simply survive.  This is actually a very unusual occurrence and may indicate that her own family is either dead or not living locally.  John’s 1782 discharge record indicates that he had not been paid, and even had he been paid, he had no way to get the funds to Mary.

I am still very anxious to discover more about John Harrold, although short of a DNA match to another Harrell or Harrold or Harrald overseas or from earlier colonial times, I don’t quite know how I’ll ever connect the dots.  Of course, I can always pray for that Bible on e-Bay.

The good news about the Harrald Y DNA is that at 25 markers, the three descendants of John Harrold who have tested match only one other man, a Todd from Ireland with 1 mutation difference.  The three John Harrold descendants are group 7 in the Harrell DNA project.

Harrell group DNA

Thank goodness for Y DNA, because I know that we don’t descend from any of those other Herrell groups – so no need to bark up those trees.

I checked one last possibility.  There are several known descendants of John who have tested autosomally.  I checked each of them for matches to other Harrold/Harrell/Herrell lines in case we’re dealing with an undocumented adoption or illegitimate birth to a Harrold female.  So far, only one match and that person of course could match that individual on a completely unrelated line.  That match goes back to a George Troup Harrell who is attributed to a line descending from Josiah Harrell (1733-1773) and Mary Ann Gardner out of Bertie County.  Since it’s a male Harrell that we match, I’m hopeful that I can talk him into Y DNA testing.  I’m sure he’ll likely match the large Harrell Group 1 which is the eastern Virginia, eastern North Carolina group…but I’d still like to know for sure.   Y DNA doesn’t lie and it’s not ambiguous.  No forgeries or questions about forgeries.

Harrell group 1

I think today, we’ve done all with the records we can do for now.  So, now we wait, because someday, another Harrold or man with a similar surname will test and will match, and we’ll continue to chip away at that brick wall.



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Ginnifer Goodwin – Who Do You Think You Are – “Not What I Expected”

My favorite genealogy series, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? returns this summer on Sunday, July 26th at 9/8c on TLC with a heart-wrenching episode with actress Ginnifer Goodwin who you probably know from her “Big Love” HBO series and ABCs “Once Upon A Time” where she stars opposite her husband.

Ginnifer in the archives with books behind her.

Ginnifer in the archives with books behind her.  Courtesy TLC.

Ginnifer Goodwin knows nothing about her paternal grandfather’s family because he refused to talk about his parents. She goes on a journey to uncover the truth behind her great-grandparents’ story, and is shocked at what she discovers.

I’ll just warn you now, get the Kleenex box.  You’ll need it.

Ginnifer never knew her paternal grandfather, John Barton Goodwin, who died when she was an infant. She’s been haunted by the lack of information surrounding his family line; he never talked about his parents to her father, Tim. Understanding the generations that laid the foundation for her has grown more important to her since becoming a mother herself. The birth of her son Oliver has reignited her desire to know why her grandfather never spoke of his mother and father.

Ginnifer starts her search for information with her dad, who recalls that his father John Barton Goodwin’s parents were named Nellie Barton and John “Al” Goodwin, and that for some unknown reason, John Barton Goodwin was abandoned or left home when he was just 11 years old, making his own way in life in Memphis, Tennessee.

The last time he did any research, Tim found a 1910 Census return in which Nellie, Al and John Barton are living in Batesville, Arkansas, along with John’s older sister, Pearl.  Ginnifer wonders what could have happened for Nellie to have let 11 year old John leave her home, and heads to Arkansas to see if she can find some answers.

Local records in Batesville reveal, surprisingly, that Nellie’s maiden name was Haynes, not Barton, and a search for her marriage record returns a result for Nellie and a man named J.D. Williams, not Ginnifer’s great grandfather, Al Goodwin! Can this be right?

What happened with Nellie’s first marriage that she eventually married Al Goodwin? Was Nellie a young widow?  The local genealogist explains that death records of this time are incomplete and advises that Ginnifer visit the Independence County Courthouse to search for evidence for the other alternative to the end of a marriage: divorce records.

Next, Ginnifer meets with a historian, who has found a case for Nellie suing J.D. Williams (a.k.a. “Duff”) for divorce. Ginnifer discovers that Nellie successfully sued for divorce when Duff abandoned Nellie while pregnant for their daughter Pearl just months after their marriage.

Ginnier discovers that Duff Williams sued Nellie for divorce first, and only married Nellie to avoid jail time for having sex with her outside of matrimony. But the tables were turned when he falsely accused Nellie in court of adultery, and his lies sent him to prison.  Three years later, Nellie finally files for divorce.  Shortly thereafter, Nellie marrys Al Goodwin, Ginnifer’s great-grandfather, hoping for a fresh start.

Continuing her search for Nellie and Al Goodwin, Ginnifer finds that between 1906 and 1911, Al racked up 18 indictments for bootlegging and gambling, and served two years in prison.  She has to ask herself….was Nellie involved?

It’s about this time that my heart truly goes out to Ginnifer.  She’s finding out, but as she says at one point, ‘somehow this is not what I expected.’  Ginnifer’s tears are not cried by an actress.

In Al’s own penitentiary records, Ginnifer is shocked to see her great-grandfather’s mugshot.  She can see her father’s face in Al, and I can see Al’s face in Ginnifer as well.

Then Ginnifer discovers Al had syphilis in 1906, 2 years after her grandfather was born, while married to Nellie, and was being visited by a woman other than his wife while in prison.  It comes as little surprise that Nellie filed for divorce while Al was behind bars.  Obviously Nellie’s life was challenging, at best, and possibly much, much worse.  From later records, it appears that Nellie had another son by Al Goodwin.

In 1911, it was almost impossible for a woman to support herself, let alone with 3 children, without a husband.  Ginnifer’s grandfather would have been about 6 or 7 at this time.  It would be another 5 years until he left home at age 11, choosing to fend for himself against almost astronomical odds.  Why would he do this?  What happened?

Ginnifer forges on to see what happened to Nellie after her second divorce. She finds Nellie and her daughter Pearl in a Memphis, Tennessee City Directory… but Nellie is listed as Mrs. Nellie Wyllie – next to a third husband, Hugh Wyllie! Next, Ginnifer is surprised to discover that Nellie moved again – this time, to Louisiana! Curious why she ended up there, Ginnifer follows her great-grandmother’s trail south to Shreveport.

In Louisiana, Ginnifer pulls local newspapers which reveal the 1925 headline: “12 Alleged ‘DopeLaw Violators Indicted” – and among the indicted is Hugh Wyllie.

Ginnifer is heartbroken as she realizes what this means for, and possibly about, her grandmother.

Next, Ginnifer is stunned to find an article in the newspaper about her great-grandmother Nellie, titled “Woman to be tried on Morphine charge.” In 1935, at age 54, Nellie plead guilty to purchasing and possessing morphine, and was sentenced to two years in federal prison. Saddened to learn her great-grandmother served time in prison, Ginnifer wonders why Nellie would be involved in drug dealing.

Was she an addict just supporting her own habit?  It’s hard to say based on these documents, but if Nellie and Hugh were addicts, they might have been treated at the most famous clinic of the time, which just happened to be in nearby Shreveport, and may be the reason they ended up there.

Ginnifer meets with a drug historian, who has located the extensive records from the Shreveport drug clinic. Ginnifer comes across her great-grandmother’s entry, which states that she became addicted as a result of using morphine to treat “a heart condition and syphilis.” Ginnifer recalls Al Goodwin’s prison record in which he too suffered from syphilis. Jim informs Ginnifer that Nellie was probably introduced to morphine by a doctor as it was liberally prescribed to syphilis patients for pain associated with the early stages of the disease.  That disease was not cureable until the discovery of antibiotics.

Medical addiction was, in the words of the historian, “ubiquitous among women” during that timeframe.  Doctors prescribed cocaine, heroin and morphine for a wide variety of medical conditions.  Realizing that people were becoming addicted by the hundreds of thousands, the government stepped in to regulate and then prohibit the sale of these drugs beginning in 1914 and extending through the 1920s and 1930s.  Each step which tightened the legal noose created an ever-growing underground market for thousands of already-addicted patients with no avenue for drugs or cure.  Women were disproportionately represented in the number of addicted victims, and in 1923, 75% of the women in federal prisons were there due to violations of the Harrison Act which prohibited the sale of opiates.

Ginnifer discovers that Nellie’s addiction stretched back 11 years to a time when John Barton Goodwin was just 6 years old, finally revealing the most likely reason he was eventually abandoned or left home so young. Finally, Ginnifer is dismayed to find an additional entry for Nellie’s daughter Pearl, who also suffered from morphine addiction and entered the clinic on the same day as her mother.  Nellie checked the box that indicated that she wanted to be cured, but obviously, judging from the court records another dozen years later, she wasn’t.  Sadly, the clinic closed the following year, and Nellie was once again on her own.  In another 11 years, she too would become one of those women in the federal penitentiary, serving two years.  Ironically, that’s probably when her addiction was cured.  Given her advanced age at death, I’m guessing she was also cured of syphilis when antibiotics became available after WWII.  Amazingly, Nellie lived to age 82.

Nellie’s obituary from 1963 shows that she was only survived by her two sons.  Pearl had gone before her mother.

Minden Cemetery

At the end, Ginnifer heads to Minden Cemetery outside Shreveport to pay respects to her great-grandmother who lived to be 82.  At Nellie’s gravesite, Ginnifer considers this woman she’s come to know, who suffered through a string of terrible relationships and more. Understanding that her great-grandparents weren’t necessarily model citizens, Ginnifer empathizes with Nellie and Al, who battled internal demons.  In many ways, especially for Nellie, this is a story of tragedy.

Through bittersweet tears, Ginnifer is glad to have finally learned the story of her great-grandparents and hopes it will open up her family’s hearts and let healing begin.

Come see for yourself this Sunday evening, July 26th at 9/8c on TLC – and bring Kleenex, lots of Kleenex!



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Some Native Americans Had Oceanic Ancestors

This week has seen a flurry of new scientific and news articles.  What has been causing such a stir?  It appears that Australian or more accurately, Australo-Melanese DNA has been found in South America’s Native American population. In addition, it has also been found in Aleutian Islanders off the coast of Alaska.  In case you aren’t aware, that’s about 8,500 miles as the crow flies.  That’s one tired crow.  As the person paddles or walks along the shoreline, it’s even further, probably about 12,000 miles.

Aleutians to Brazil

Whatever the story, it was quite a journey and it certainly wasn’t all over flat land.

This isn’t the first inkling we’ve had.  Just a couple weeks ago, it was revealed that the Botocudo remains from Brazil were Polynesian and not admixed with either Native, European or African.  This admixture was first discovered via mitochondrial DNA, but full genome sequencing confirmed their ancestry and added the twist that they were not admixed – an extremely unexpected finding.  This is admittedly a bit confusing, because it implies that there were new Polynesian arrivals in the 1600s or 1700s.

Unlikely as it seems, it obviously happened, so we set that aside as relatively contemporary.

The findings in the papers just released are anything but contemporary.

The First Article

The first article in Science, “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans” by Raghaven et al published this week provides the following summary (bolding is mine):

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model.

This article in EurekAlert and a second one here discuss the Science paper.

Raghaven 2015

Migration map from the Raghaven paper.

The paper included the gene flow and population migration map, above, along with dates.

The scientists sequenced the DNA of 31 living individuals from the Americas, Siberia and Oceana as follows:


  • Altai – 2
  • Buryat – 2
  • Ket – 2
  • Kiryak – 2
  • Sakha – 2
  • Siberian Yupik – 2

North American Native:

  • Tsimshian (number not stated, but by subtraction, it’s 1)

Southern North American, Central and South American Native:

  • Pima – 1
  • Huichol -1
  • Aymara – 1
  • Yakpa – 1


  • Papuan – 14

The researchers also state that they utilized 17 specimens from relict groups such as the Pericues from Mexico and Fuego-Patagonians from the southernmost tip of South America.  They also sequenced two pre-Columbian mummies from the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico.  In total, 23 ancient samples from the Americas were utilized.

They then compared these results with a reference panel of 3053 individuals from 169 populations which included the ancient Saqqaq Greenland individual at 400 years of age as well as the Anzick child from Montana from about 12,500 years ago and the Mal’ta child from Siberia at 24,000 years of age.

Not surprisingly, all of the contemporary samples with the exception of the Tsimshian genome showed recent western Eurasian admixture.

As expected, the results confirm that the Yupik and Koryak are the closest Eurasian population to the Americas.  They indicate that there is a “clean split” between the Native American population and the Koryak about 20,000 years ago.

They found that “Athabascans and Anzick-1, but not the Greenlandis Inuit and Saqqaq belong to the same initial migration wave that gave rise to present-day Amerindians from southern North America and Central and South America, and that this migration likely followed a coastal route, given our current understanding of the glacial geological and paleoenvironmental parameters of the Late Pleistocene.”

Evidence of gene flow between the two groups was also found, meaning between the Athabascans and the Inuit.  Additionally, they found evidence of post-split gene flow between Siberians and Native Americans which seems to have stopped about 12,000 years ago, which meshes with the time that the Beringia land bridge was flooded by rising seas, cutting off land access between the two land masses.

They state that the results support all Native migration from Siberia, contradicting claims of an early migration from Europe.

The researchers then studied the Karitiana people of South America and determined that the two groups, Athabascans and Karitiana diverged about 13,000 years ago, probably not in current day Alaska, but in lower North America.  This makes sense, because the Clovis Anzick child, found in Montana, most closely matches people in South America.

By the Clovis period of about 12,500 years ago, the Native American population had already split into two branches, the northern and southern, with the northern including Athabascan and other groups such as the Chippewa, Cree and Ojibwa.  The Southern group included people from southern North America and Central and South America.

Interestingly, while admixture with the Inuit was found with the Athabascan, Inuit admixture was not found among the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The researchers suggest that this may be why the southern branch, such as the Karitiana are genetically closer to the northern Amerindians located further east than to northwest coast Amerindians and Athabascans.

Finally, we get to the Australian part.  The researchers when trying to sort through the “who is closer to whom” puzzle found unexpected results.  They found that some Native American populations including Aleutian Islanders, Surui (Brazil) and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans, such as Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquian and South American Purepecha (Mexico), Arhuaco (Colombia) and Wayuu (Colombia, Venezuela).  In fact, the Surui are one of the closest populations to East Asians and Australo-Melanese, the latter including Papuans, non-Papuan Melanesians, Solomon Islanders and hunter-gatherers such as Aeta. The researchers acknowledge these are weak trends, but they are nonetheless consistently present.

Dr. David Reich, from Harvard, a co-author of another paper, also published this past week, says that 2% of the DNA of Amazonians is from Oceana.  If that is consistent, it speaks to a founder population in isolation, such that the 2% just keeps getting passed around in the isolated population, never being diluted by outside DNA.  I would suggest that is not a weak signal.

The researchers suggest that the variance in the strength of this Oceanic signal suggests that the introduction of the Australo-Melanese occurred after the initial peopling of the Americas.  The ancient samples cluster with the Native American groups and do not show the Oceanic markers and show no evidence of gene flow from Oceana.

The researchers also included cranial morphology analysis, which I am omitting since cranial morphology seems to have led researchers astray in the past, specifically in the case of Kennewick man.

One of the reasons cranial morphology is such a hotly debated topic is because of the very high degree of cranial variance found in early skeletal remains.  One of the theories evolving from the cranial differences involving the populating of the Americans has been that the Australo-Melanese were part of a separate and earlier migration that gave rise to the earliest Americans who were then later replaced by the Asian ancestors of current day Native Americans.  If this were the case, then the now-extinct Fuego-Patagonains samples from the location furthest south on the South American land mass should have included DNA from Oceana, but it didn’t.

The Second Article

A second article published this week, titled “’Ghost population’ hints at long lost migration to the Americas” by Ellen Callaway discusses similar findings, presented in a draft letter to Nature titled “Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas” by Skoglund et al.  This second group discovers the same artifact Australo-Melanesian DNA in Native American populations but suggests that it may be from the original migration and settlement event or that there may have been two distinct founding populations that settled at the same time or that there were two founding events.

EurekAlert discusses the article as well.

It’s good to have confirmation and agreement between the two labs who happened across these results independently that the Australo-Melanesian DNA is present in some Native populations today.

Their interpretations and theories about how this Oceanic DNA arrived in some of the Native populations vary a bit, but if you read the details, it’s really not quite as different as it first appears from the headlines.  Neither group claims to know for sure, and both discuss possibilities.

Questions remain.  For example, if the founding group was small, why, then, don’t all of the Native people and populations have at least some Oceanic markers?  The Anzick Child from 12,500 years ago does not.  He is most closely related to the tribes in South America, where the Oceanic markers appear with the highest frequencies.

In the Harvard study, the scientists fully genome sequenced 63 individuals without discernable evidence of European or African ancestors in 21 Native American populations, restricting their study to individuals from Central and South America that have the strongest evidence of being entirely derived from a homogenous First American ancestral population.

Their results show that the two Amazonian groups, Surui and Karitians are closest to the “Australasian populations, the Onge from the Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal (a so-called ‘Negrito’ group), New Guineans, Papuans and indigenous Australians.”  Within those groups, the Australasian populations are the only outliers – meaning no Africans, Europeans or East Asian DNA found in the Native American people.

When repeating these tests, utilizing blood instead of saliva, a third group was shown to also carry these Oceanic markers – the Xavante, a population from the Brazilian plateau that speaks a language of the Ge group that is different from the Tupi language group spoke by the Karitians and Surui.

Skoglund 2015-2

The closest populations that these Native people matched in Oceana, shown above on the map from the draft Skoglund letter, were, in order, New Guineans, Papuans and Andamanese.  The researchers further state that populations from west of the Andes or north of the Panama isthmus show no significant evidence of an affinity to the Onge from the Andaman Islands with the exception of the Cabecar (Costa Rica).

That’s a very surprising finding, given that one would expect more admixture on the west, which is the side of the continent where the migration occurred.

The researchers then compared the results with other individuals, such as Mal’ta child who is known to have contributed DNA to the Native people today, and found no correlation with Oceanic DNA.  Therefore, they surmised that the Oceanic admixture cannot be explained by a previously known admixture event.

They propose that a mystery population they have labeled as “Population Y” (after Ypykuera which means ancestor in the Tupi language family) contributed the Australasian lineage to the First Americans and that is was already mixed into the lineage by the time it arrived in Brazil.

According to their work, Population Y may itself have been admixed, and the 2% of Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian Natives may be an artifact of between 2 and 85% of the DNA of the Surui, Karitiana and Xavante that may have come from Population Y.  They mention that this result is striking in that the majority of the craniums that are more Oceanic in Nature than Asiatic, as would be expected from people who migrated from Siberia, are found in Brazil.

They conclude that the variance in the presence or absence of DNA in Native people and remains, and the differing percentages argue for more than one migration event and that “the genetic ancestry of Native Americans from Central and South America cannot be due to a single pulse of migration south of the Late Pleistocene ice sheets from a homogenous source population, and instead must reflect at least two streams of migration or alternatively a long drawn out period of gene flow from a structured Beringian or Northeast Asian source.”

Perhaps even more interesting is the following statement:

“The arrival of population Y ancestry in the Americas must in any scenario have been ancient: while Population Y shows a distant genetic affinity to Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations, it is not particularly closely related to any of them, suggesting that the source of population Y in Eurasia no longer exists.”

They further state they find no admixture indication that would suggest that Population Y arrived in the last few thousand years.

So, it appears that perhaps the Neanderthals and Denisovans were not the only people who were our ancestors, but no longer exist as a separate people, only as an admixed part of us today.  We are their legacy.

The Take Away

When I did the Anzick extractions, we had hints that something of this sort might have been occurring.  For example, I found surprising instances of haplogroup M, which is neither European, African nor Native American, so far as we know today.  This may have been a foreshadowing of this Oceanic admixture.  It may also be a mitochondrial artifact.  Time will tell.  Perhaps haplogroup M will turn out to be Native by virtue of being Oceanic and admixed thousands of years ago.  There is still a great deal to learn.  Regardless of how these haplogroups and Oceanic DNA arrived in Brazil in South America and in the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska, one thing is for sure, it did.

We know that the Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian people studied for these articles is not contemporary and is ancient.  This means that it is not related to the Oceanic DNA found in the Botocudo people, who, by the way, also sport mitochondrial haplogroups that are within the range of Native people, meaning haplogroup B, but have not been found in other Native people.  Specifically, haplogroups B4a1a1 and B4a1a1a.  Additionally, there are other B4a1a, B4a1b and B4a1b1 results found in the Anzick extract which could also be Oceanic.  You can see all of the potential and confirmed Native American mitochondrial DNA results in my article “Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups” that I update regularly.

We don’t know how or when the Botocudo arrived, but the when has been narrowed to the 1600s or 1700s.  We don’t know how or when the Oceanic DNA in the Brazilian people arrived either, but the when was ancient.  This means that Oceanic DNA has arrived in South America at least twice and is found among the Native peoples both times.

We know that some Native groups have some Oceanic admixture, and others seem to have none, in particular the Northern split group that became the Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquian, and Chippewa.

We know that the Brazilian Native groups are most closely related to Oceanic groups, but that the first paper also found Oceanic admixture in the Aleutian Islands.  The second paper focused on the Central and South American tribes.

We know that the eastern American tribes, specifically the Algonquian tribes are closely related to the South Americans, but they don’t share the Oceanic DNA and neither do the mid-continent tribes like the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The only Paleolithic skeleton that has been sequenced, Anzick, from 12,500 years ago in Montana also does not carry the Oceanic signature.

In my opinion, the disparity between who does and does not carry the Oceanic signature suggests that the source of the Oceanic DNA in the Native population could not have been a member of the first party to exit out of Beringia and settle in what is now the Americas.  Given that this had to be a small party, all of the individuals would have been thoroughly admixed with each other’s ancestral DNA within just a couple of generations.  It would have been impossible for one ancestor’s DNA to only be found in some people.  To me, this argues for one of two scenarios.

First, a second immigration wave that joined the first wave but did not admix with some groups that might have already split off from the original group such as the Anzick/Montana group.

Second, multiple Oceanic immigration events.  We still have to consider the possibility that there were multiple events that introduced Oceanic DNA into the Native population.  In other words, perhaps the Aleutian Islands Oceanic DNA is not from the same migration event as the Brazilian DNA which we know is not from the same event as the Botocudo.  I would very much like to see the Oceanic DNA appear in a migration path of people, not just in one place and then the other.  We need to connect the dots.

What this new information does is to rule out the possibility that there truly was only one wave of migration – one group of people who settled the Americas at one time.  More likely, at least until the land bridge submerged, is that there were multiple small groups that exited Beringia over the 8,000 or so years it was inhabitable.  Maybe one of those groups included people from Oceana.  Someplace, sometime, as unlikely as it seems, it happened.

The amazing thing is that it’s more than 10,000 miles from Australia to the Aleutian Islands, directly across the Pacific.  Early adventurers would have likely followed a coastal route to be sustainable, which would have been significantly longer.  The fact that they survived and sent their DNA on a long adventure from Australia to Alaska to South America – and it’s still present today is absolutely amazing.

Australia to Aleutians

We know we still have a lot to learn and this is the tip of a very exciting iceberg.  As more contemporary and ancient Native people have their full genomes sequenced, we’ll learn more answers.  The answer is in the DNA.  We just have to sequence enough of it and learn how to understand the message being delivered.



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The 1 Million Mark and Effective Matches

one million

Last week, Ancestry.com announced the millionth customer in their autosomal data base.  On January 18th, 23andMe did the same.  I don’t have exact numbers from Family Tree DNA, but they can’t be terribly far behind.  So, let’s look at the effectiveness of these matches at the roughly 1 million mark between the various vendors.

comparison chart

Black bold highlights the vendor’s positive aspects and red bold notes the drawbacks and places where each vendor could stand improvement.  I’ve underlined the two red issues I feel are the most serious.

*1 – Both 23andMe and Ancestry provide communications with others whom you match through internal message systems.  However, you have to request permission at 23andMe with anyone you match to communicate with them, and then additionally to share their DNA.  The 23andMe the 1404 number is how many people I match and the 162 number is the number of people that have accepted communications from me.  Not all of those 162 are sharing DNA.

*2 – At 23andMe, this would be the number of people sharing DNA results with me.  Ancestry has no tools that allow comparison of DNA segments.  At Family Tree DNA this would be all of my matches.

*3 – 23andMe cuts your matches off at 1000 unless you are communicating with your matches or you have an outstanding “introduction sent” request.  Of the 1404 people I match, 138 are sharing genomes, 24 have accepted communications but have not shared genomes, and 12 have declined.  The balance of my 1404 are either those to whom I’ve requested an introduction and they haven’t replied at all or some that I haven’t gotten around to inviting yet.  Ironically, my last of 1404 matches (in percentage of shared DNA order) is my known cousin who would have been purged had we not been sharing genomes.  You don’t have to send introductory invitations to those you match at either Family Tree DNA nor Ancestry and neither of those companies have an arbitrary cutoff, although Ancestry.com did a massive match purge when they implemented phasing.

*4 – At 23andMe, I can request to communicate with all 1404 people I match.  Of those, 162 have agreed to communicate or share genomes.  I can only communicate with those 162 people.  That doesn’t compare very well to either 1040 nor 5481 – and it shows how much genealogical benefit I’ve derived from 23andMe as compared to both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

*5 – At Ancestry, a minimum level subscription is required at $49 per year to see matching trees.  Not all participants have trees uploaded, and many trees aren’t public, so are not available for tree matching.  Otherwise, all trees connected to DNA results are included in matching function.

*6 – At Family Tree DNA, testers are encouraged to upload GEDCOM files or create trees in their account, and matching surname hints are given, but no actual ancestor matching in trees is performed.  Each participant must look at the tree of their matches, if provided.

*7 – 23andMe no longer hosts family trees on their site.  They have entered into collaboration with subscription service, MyHeritage.  Family Tree DNA is the only one of the vendors who hosts their own trees and does not require an additional subscription for that service, or for tree matching.

*8 – I have fewer matches at Family Tree DNA now than I did in November of 2014 when I had 1875 matches.  I have submitted a query to Family Tree DNA and they assure me this match number is accurate.


The disparity between the 23andMe and Ancestry match numbers, since both vendors have 1 million autosomal results in their data bases, is suggestive of how many matches may have been pared from my match list at 23andMe.

The number of effective matches that can be usefully utilized, and how they can be utilized, are quite a bit different than the total number of matches implies without further analysis.

Both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry have unique strong points that make them stand out as vendors.

23andMe, since I can only work with or communicate with about 10% of my matches, is the least useful, for me, for genealogy.  I found their health services, which 23andMe is no longer allowed to offer following a dust-up with the FDA, very beneficial.

The tree matches and DNA Circles at Ancestry are very useful, but the fact that Ancestry provides absolutely no tools such as a chromosome browser or the other comparison tools that both 23andMe and Family Tree DNA provide makes Ancestry’s tree matches terribly frustrating eye candy in the candy shop behind a hermetically sealed window we can’t get through.  Tree matches and Circles are suggestive of an ancestral connection, but without comparison and triangulation tools, your match to an individual could be through a different, potentially unknown, line, and you have no tools at Ancestry to confirm or deny.  People are left to assume that the tree matches and Circles are proof, and unfortunately, they do in droves.

Thankfully, Family Tree DNA accepts transfers from Ancestry, V3 chip transfers from 23andMe (not the V4 chip since Dec. 2013) and GedMatch accepts files from all 3 vendors.  Those are the only avenues to actually compare the DNA of those who tested at Ancestry to triangulate and prove ancestral matches.

The great news in all of this is that more than 1 million people have tested, and probably more than two million in total – although there is clearly some overlap between vendors.  With every person that tests and that we match in one place or another, it increases our odds as genealogists to confirm our genealogy or break through those pesky brick walls.

Footnote:  The prices for the tests are the same, at $99, unless a sale is taking place at one of the vendors.  Both 23andMe and Ancestry also sell the aggregated anonymized DNA data for other purposes.  Both 23andMe and Ancestry will request that you sign (digitally authorize by clicking a box) an informed consent agreement for your non-anonymized (or less anonymized) data to be utilized or sold as well.  Family Tree DNA is the only one of these three firms that does not sell your DNA data in any form.



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First Peoples Series on PBS

first peoples

If you missed the First People’s series on PBS, all 5 episodes are available in full on YouTube.

The 5 are:

  • Episode 1: The Americas
  • Episode 2: Africa
  • Episode 3: Asia
  • Episode 4: Australia
  • Episode 5: Europe

These are well worth your time and include very interesting DNA results from ancient people and how they are related to us today.



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.

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Jotham Brown (c1740-c1799), Maybe a Dissenter, 52 Ancestors #81

Blue Ridge

I love it when I tie into a line that has been well researched.  It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s definitely time for that happy dance.

I also love it when my ancestor has a really unique name.  Enough already with these Johns and Williams. I love the name Jotham.  I had never heard it before, outside of the Bible, before I found Jotham Brown, or better put, before I found Stevie Hughes who helped me find Jotham Brown.

We believe Jotham was born about 1740, but we don’t find any records until Jotham is in his late 30s, in 1778.  He could have been born somewhat earlier, probably in either Pennsylvania or Virginia, given the migration history of the other families where he is first located.

When Jotham was a child, the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, took place from 1754-1763 and involved both Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Not only was the land involved where Jotham most likely lived, but the conflict was protracted and often involved raids and attacks on settlers.  In many places, it was a time of fear and uncertainty.

French and Indian war

“French and indian war map” by Hoodinski – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:French_and_indian_war_map.svg#/media/File:French_and_indian_war_map.svg

Of course, without knowing exactly where Jotham lived during that time, we can’t tell what he might have seen or how involved his family might have been.  Most healthy men in that timeframe served in the local militia, at least, which was then drafted for more active service during times of conflict or war.  Depending on his age, he could have served and his father most assuredly would have in some capacity.

Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia)

The very first record we find of Jotham is in the Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants.

“Jotham Brown researchers may be interested in several deeds in Hampshire County Virginia, all of which can be found on line at the Library of Virginia. Jotham was very busy on Oct. 8, 1778.  He helped survey three tracts of land.  One can be found by looking up Frederick Royce 1789, (land surveyed earlier) and another is on surveys no. 21788-1794 page 87, and a third was on page 87 same survey no. 2.  Jotham Brown is named in a deed and survey done for John Berkeley grants R, 1778-1780 P. 170-171.  In the John Berkeley survey Jotham bought his land from John Royce. They lived on Spring Gap Mt.  John Royce was from Frederick county.  A John Brown from Frederick and a John Brown from Philadelphia are around the same community.  Hampshire records are not intact but an order book that starts around 1762 is at Library of Virginia.”

Thank you Mark Sampson for posting that information.  It’s very useful and helps us locate Jotham’s land.

A 1788 Hampshire County deed mentioned Frederick Royce (Rice’s) land on Great Capechon which is close to Spring Gap Road, as we’ll see in a minute.

Little Capecon (left arrow below) and Great Capecon (both right arrows) are both tributaries of the Potomac River.

Hampshire map

Although they are maybe 4 miles as the crow flies, the crow has to fly over a mountain range between the two, so while they are close, they aren’t direct.

Hampshire map 2

It’s pretty rough country.  Jotham Brown was obviously not intimidated by challenges.

You can see above and below that this area is also very close to Maryland, so it’s possible that Jotham’s family originated in Maryland.

hampshire map 3

In 1779, Jotham is mentioned as owning land adjacent to John Berkelery’s grant on Spring Gap Run in Hampshire County.  This also tells us that Jotham owns land.  I checked all of the Northern Neck land grants but I was unable to find the deeds mentioned online at the library of Virginia.  So if Jotham wasn’t granted land, he bought it from someone who was, like John Royce.  Clearly, Hampshire County deeds need to be checked, but they are not in existence.  Bummer!.

Virginia Land Grant Jotham

This land is close to the current Virginia/West Virginia border, bordering Berkeley County.  Spring Gap Mountain Road extends along Spring Gap Mountain running parallel to Little Cacapon.  The map below shows Spring Gap Road, end to end.

Spring Gap road

I cannot find a present day Spring Gap Run, but often a “run” was a creek that ran alongside the road.  Roads of course followed the easiest access, often carved by creeks through the landscape.  This land description mentions a fork, and on the northern end, there is indeed an unlabeled creek that includes a fork and runs along Spring Gap Mountain Road and dumps into Little  Cacapon.  This road is dirt today, so no Google street view available.  The top end of the blue line is at the fork in the creek branch near Little Cacapon.

Spring Gap Run

The Revolutionary War

Try as I might, I could find nothing at all about Jotham Brown during the Revolutionary War which lasted from 1775-1783.  Perhaps if the court records for Hampshire County were perused, there might be a mention of a contribution or a public claim.  It’s hard to believe he neither served nor contributed.  Many of the men from this area served in Augusta County units.  He did move during this time, so he could have potentially served out of Frederick or Botetourt County, but I’m sure that the Frederick County records have been thoroughly perused by earlier researchers.  Hmmm…I think I need to put this on my ever-growing “to do” list.

Most of the existing Hampshire County records begin in 1788.  Both fire and war have destroyed most Hampshire records.  Many of those not burned were carried away during the Civil War.  To make matters even worse, the remaining pre-1866 records from Hampshire are illegible.  Well, sadly, that part came off of the to-do list in record time.  There is nothing at Fold3 or at the Library of Virginia about Jotham Brown and military service, so this will likely fall in the “forever unknown” category.  During that timeframe in Virginia, all able-bodied men were minimally expected to participate in their local militia.  That was the only form of local protection.

Frederick County, VA

Jotham apparently moved from Hampshire County between 1779 and 1782 when he is found on the 1782 Frederick County Virginia census.  If he lived near the Johnson and Crumley families in Frederick County, VA, then he lived near White Hall, shown on the map below.  This is no hop, skip and a jump.  It’s 50 miles more or less from Spring Gap and not on flat land.

Spring Gap to Frederick

Stevie first finds Jotham in Frederick County, Virginia in the 1782 Virginia census in Col. Holmes district with 10 whites and no slaves, with the following neighbors:

Johnson, Topper Sr. – 8 whites
Johnson, Topper Jr. – 2 whites
Johnson, Moses – 6 whites
Brown, Jotham – 10 whites

On the same list and in the same district, but not a neighbor, we also find Catherine Crumbley with 1 white male and 3 blacks.  Catherine is the great grandmother of William Crumley (the third) who marries Lydia Brown in 1807 in Greene County, TN, the daughter of Jotham and Phebe Brown.

Crumley Brown connection

The 1782 census implies that Jotham and Phebe, assuming she is his only wife, have been married at least 15 years, given that they have 8 living children.  It’s unlikely that all of their children lived, so their marriage date is estimated as 1760 although it could have been as late as 1767.  Jotham’s eldest daughter Jane Brown Cooper was born in 1768 in Virginia according to the 1850 census.

Jotham is in Frederick County in 1782 along with Zopher (spelled Topper) Johnson “the elder,” who Stevie believes may be the father of Jotham’s wife, Phebe.

If Phebe, Jotham’s wife, is Zopher Johnson’s daughter, as has been theorized, then the Brown and Johnson families had to meet about 20 years before the 1782 Frederick County tax list for Jotham and Phebe to have married between 1760 and 1767.  In fact, in 1761 and 1762, Zopher Johnson, according to Stevie’s work, was living at the “Forks of Delaware’ in Northampton Co., PA.  Zopher was first found in Frederick County in 1771 on a tax list, so he apparently lived in Northampton County, PA for a significant time.  If Jotham Brown wasn’t in that vicinity in 1760/1765, then Phebe, his wife, can’t be Zopher Johnson’s daughter.  We need to look for Brown families near Zopher in Northampton County, PA.

If Jotham lived near the Crumley family in Frederick County, VA, who would, along with the Johnson family, migrate to Greene County, Tennessee about 5 years before the Brown family would do the same thing, then Jotham may have lived about 9 miles north of Winchester, near where the Crumley home remains today as the Crumley-Lynn-Lodge House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, near White Hall, shown on the map above.  We know, according to Zopher Johnson (Sr.,) Revolutionary War veteran, son of Zopher the Elder, that he was living “near Winchester, Virginia” in 1781, per his Revolutionary War pension papers.  Since Jotham Brown was neighbors with Zopher, he too lived “near Winchester, VA” in 1782.

Botetourt County, Virginia

Apparently, Jotham Brown didn’t stay long in Frederick County, because in 1783, Jotham and Phebe purchased 233 acres of land in Botetourt County, Virginia on Brush Creek, a branch of Little River.  Jotham would have been about 43 by this time, having been born about 1740.  We don’t know where he was before 1778, but from 1779 to 1783 he moved at least twice – and not just the next ridge over – substantial moves.

Botetourt County was not close to Frederick County, but it was right down the wagon trail that eventually became US11, then later paralleled by the construction of I81.  I shudder to think how rough this journey was, and how long it took them to travel the 215 miles.  I just hope Phebe wasn’t pregnant during this chapter in their lives – but she likely was, because their son Jotham was born October 2, 1783.

Journey to Botetourt

Brush Creek runs for about eight to ten miles, as the crow flies, (certainly much longer as the stream zig-zags), about 4 miles southeast of but parallel with I81 in present day Montgomery County, Virginia.

Brush Creek Road, also labeled 617, runs alongside the creek for most of the distance until it intersects with 612 near Pilot.  Brush Creek itself continues along 612 to near Huffville where Brush Creek turns south, again crossing 612, and then ends, or more accurately, begins, before running its length and dumping it’s water into the Little River, at far left.

Brush Creek Botetourt Co VA

These two arrows show the headwaters, at right, of Brush Creek and at left, where it joins with Little River.  I would show you on Google maps, but not only is Brush Creek Road unpaved, so are all the roads for miles in any direction.  Google maps does “street view,” not “dirt road view.”  This is rough, mountainous, country.  Brush Creek is the area at Pilot, right of Riner Road, left of Check and above Tindall.

Brush Creek Satellite

As I looked at the larger map, I realized, I’ve been here – or at least close.  In March of 1993, a devastating blizzard hit Appalachia, known as “The Superstorm” and “The Storm of the Century.”  It truly was an inland cyclone and this part of Appalachia received about 45 inches of hurricane force driven snow.  I was snowed in for days in a truck stop motel north of Mt. Airy, NC, having gotten the last room available, and believe me, I was grateful to be there, no matter how smokey and roach-eaten, because most people were sheltered in the high school gymnasium eating sea rations as one big “happy” family.  By the end of that very long week, people had probably become engaged and gotten married, or at least begat children.  I had just read several books and done some genealogy.  Much less drama in the hotel room, not to mention hot showers!  And I found a little grocery with food.  With that and a microwave, I was all set.  I bought enough supplies to last a couple weeks if necessary.  Campbell’s soup can taste VERY good!

Brush Creek at I81

This area represents some of the roughest terrain in all of Appalachia.

brush creek in the fall

Why did Jotham select this area?  It makes you wonder if this is where his wagon broke down, so it’s where he stayed.  One thing about I81 – it actually runs along the crests of the mountains, which was part of the problem when they had that terrible blizzard.  They couldn’t get heavy equipment up to the interstate to clear it.  Originally, all of the paths and the wagon roads, such as they were, would have been twisty turny pathways through valleys and along streams and rivers.

brush creek road sign

Let’s take a tour along Brush Creek Road, thanks to the Brush Creek Facebook group.

Brush Creek road, creek, mountains

You can still follow those old roads today, like Brush Creek Road, above, if you get off of the main road and follow US11 as is slithers back and forth across and under I81, like a drunken snake seeking shelter in the mountain hollows.  Venture a mile away and you’d never know a modern road exists.  It’s a quick ticket back in time.  In the photo above, you can see Brush Creek to the left of the road.

brush creek mountain from the creek

This photo is looking at the mountains from Brush Creek.  The Brush Creek area is still very remote today.  This contemporary bridge is still wood.

Brush Creek mouth

This is Brush Creek where is drains into the New River.

Brush creek at New River

One thing you have to concede is that no matter how rough the terrain, and how difficult to eke a living out of this mountainous land, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Brush Creek fall

Fall would be a stunning time of year in this heavily treed and mountainous terrain.

Brush creek fall mountains

I love old roads, because I know that my ancestors, Jotham, Phebe and their daughter, Lydia, traveled up and down these very same roads, more than 200 years ago.

Brush creek yellow tree

Jotham and Phebe lived on Brush Creek and Terry Creek in Botetourt, which became Montgomery County, for just under 20 years, near the Christopher Cooper family.

Brush creek old home place

This old homeplace on Brush Creek was known to be home to many families over the decades and probably across centuries.  Jotham’s early homestead probably looked much like this.

Brush creek farming2

Farming on Brush Creek was done with horses and plows, before tractors. Jotham might have used oxen rather than horses.

In Botetourt Co., VA in 1783, Jothem Brown Sr. bought land, located near William, Moses, James, Hezekiah and George Brown, Moses Johnston, Robert Foster and Christopher Cooper.

In 1783, 1784 and 1785, Jotham is listed in Capt. Eason’s District on the tax list in Botetourt County, VA with one white poll.

Jotham’s oldest daughter, and probably his oldest child, Jane would marry Christopher Cooper Sr., a Revolutionary War veteran, on October 20, 1786, in Montgomery County.

In 1788, in James Reynold’s 100 acre Botetourt County land grant, Jotham is mentioned as an adjoining neighbor on “Brush Creek, a branch of Little River.”

It was also about that time, in 1785, that two of Jotham’s sons-in-law, Christopher Cooper and William Stapleton, both Revolutionary War veterans, signed petitions to establish a “Reformed Church of Scotland” in Botetourt County.  This leads Stevie to suggest that if Jotham’s sons-in-law were Presbyterian, Jotham probably was too.  She is likely right. The Presbyterian church was the hallmark of the Scots-Irish and the Scots-Irish were the guardians of the frontier.

Fincastle Church

The Fincastle Church may have been the result of this petition.  The history of Fincastle Church tells us the following:

“After the Act of Religious Freedom was passed in 1785, the Established Church building in Fincastle came to be used by dissenters rather than by its former Anglican members. Since the tithe was no longer collected by the state, the church was destitute. Fincastle was largely populated by dissenters, chiefly Presbyterians, many of whom were member of the Sinking Springs congregation. This congregation was formed in 1754 when Robert Montgomery and Patrick Shirkey granted a tract of land about two miles east of Fincastle on Sinking Springs Creek for the use of the Presbyterian congregation. The community was interested in its own form of worship and was willing to provide for it. This was the meeting place for the inhabitants of the whole region and the beginning of the flourishing Presbyterian congregation that succeeded the Established Church in the present building.”

This tidbit may actually be part of the answer as to why Jotham Brown would choose to set forth on the Great Wagon Road and move his family to the frontier.  The official church of colonial America was the Anglican Church.  In Virginia, prior to the Revolutionary War, dissenters were jailed and worse, although, having said that, the Crumley family in Frederick County was originally Quaker.

Eventually, dissenting ministers were licensed, but still often mistreated.  The separation of church and state as we know it did not exist.  For example, tithes, meaning taxes, were levied and collected by the church.  Both Anglican church membership and attendance were required – and you were fined if you skipped church without a good reason.  What was and was not a good reason was determined by the church after you were summoned to explain yourself.

However, people were needed on the frontier to settle and to act as a buffer between the newly established settlements and the Indians, in essence, for protection.  If anyone was going to do that, well, then who better than a bunch of dispensable “dissenters” who weren’t terribly compliant anyway.  Troublemakers!  Best to ship them out where they could be useful.  As long as they paid their taxes, who cared?  So, the established church turned a blind eye, allowing the Scots-Irish or Scotch-Irish to establish Presbyterian churches on the frontier.  In fact, the colonial government offered a “bounty of lands” to the Scotch-Irish who would settle on the frontier.  And Winchester, in Frederick County, Virginia, was the gateway to the “Great Wagon Road,” ticket to the next step in freedom for those with a taste for adventure or for those unruly and unrulable dissenters. The flow westward began after the French and Indian War, which ended in 1763 and in essence opened the lands east of the Proclamation Line of 1763.

Line of 1763After the French and Indian War ended, the Great Wagon Road was the most heavily traveled road in America.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, the settlers treated the Proclamation line as if it didn’t exist, and settled where they wanted.  Needless to say, the Native people who lived on those lands were very unhappy with this turn of events – and with the settlers who were squatting without permission.  Conflict was inevitable.

1751 Jefferson map

This 1751 Fry-Jefferson map depicts “The Great Wagon Road to Philadelphia.”  For Jotham Brown, and thousands of others like him, it was the Great Wagon Road to the frontier, land and opportunity, with no guarantees.  In fact, the trip was risky, the new locations were risky, and frontier life was risky – which is one reason why families and neighbors traveled in groups.  It’s always good to have some assured help. It’s also why some people left – who wants to be the only one left behind.  By the time Jotham set forth on the Wagon Road, he knew that there were already pioneers established there – he wouldn’t be the first – and it was certainly safer than it had been during the French and Indian War or during the Revolutionary War when the Indians were fighting in alliance with the British to retain their lands and prevent further encroachment of settlers.  But settlers poured in, by the wagonloads, running like an endless stream into the backcountry.  The great tide of settlers was unstoppable.

Church on the Frontier

According to “The Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom, A Study of the Church and her People 1732-1952” written by Howard McKnight Wilson, ThD, the Tinkling Spring minutes indicated that the Sinking Spring Church had been established, on the Catawba and James River, located across Sinking Creek from Fincastle, and continues today as the Fincastle Church.  In 1785, the Abington Presbytery was formed and these churches fell under its jurisdiction

It’s interesting to peek a bit into the time and place and workings of the frontier churches of this time.  While from an outside perspective, and looking back, they seem to be united in their desire to establish new churches and carry on the traditions of their church from the old country, that wasn’t necessarily the entire story if you looked from inside.

In 1936, Goodridge Wilson, Jr, delivered an address before the Abington Presbytery in connection with the Diamond Jubilee Celebration, and in it he said the following about controversy within the early church.

From the earliest days of its history Presbyterianism in America has been characterized by convulsive internal struggles over questions of doctrine and polity, and those struggles from the beginning were enacted in Abingdon Presbytery.

The infant Presbytery in the wilderness was hardly out of its swaddling clothes before figurative fists began to fly over the issues involved in Dr. Hopkins’s theological teachings. Even before the Presbytery was born some of its churches were rent asunder over the matter of psalmody. Revivalism had its advocates and its outspoken opponents. The complicated issues that brought on the great split of the eighteen thirties divided the Presbytery, and the bitter feelings involved in the issues of slavery and sectionalism profoundly affected its churches. All of these ancient controversies, and others of a more local character, made their impress upon the character of Presbyterianism within the Presbytery’s area, arid many of their effects are still with us, although the causes may he long forgotten.

The spirit in which these controversies were fought out is well illustrated in the dispute other whether Watts’s hymns should be used in worship or Rouse’s version of the Psalms be given exclusive recognition. In 1780 this issue came to a head in the congregations of Sinking Spring and Ebbing Spring, and probably in others. In these two it was brought before Hanover Presbytery and on complaint of Rev. Charles Cummings almost half of his members were dismissed from the membership of these two churches because they refused to use Watts’s hymns, insisting that only the inspired psalms should he sung in the worship of God.

The dismissed members proceeded to organize themselves into separate congregations, which accounts for the origin of Rock Spring Church and probably of Green Spring Church, the former certainly and the latter probably having been psalm singing congregations in their beginnings. As another sequel to this affair Rev. Charles Cummings asked to be released from the pastoral charge of his churches, and his request was granted by the Presbytery. Attention is thus particularly called to these intense and continuous internal conflicts because, while the bitterness and strife they engendered is to be deplored and the waste of energy that might better have been used for the saving of souls and ministering to human needs in the name of Christ is to be mourned, there are lessons of value in them that may well be pondered now.

These forefathers of present day Presbyterianism in Southwest Virginia were men of intelligence, men of courage, men of conviction. They believed what they believed, and counted their religious convictions worth fighting for, be the consequences what they would. They have thereby left us in sacred trust a hard bought heritage of truth to be maintained and passed on as new wine in new bottles. Viewing their record from the distance of many years they may seem to have been lacking in tolerance, and to have displayed more of zeal for non-essentials than of Christian charity, more of eagerness to vindicate their own opinions than of earnestness in reaching and saving men. But with our vision dimmed by the lapse of years we need to be very careful lest in our judgment of them we sin against Christian charity, and, even if these grave charges be sustained against them, their imperfection stands as a warning to us against falling into similar pitfalls, while their stubborn standing for the truth as they saw it demands that this generation be faithful to its trust, their essential faith, won by travail and held by struggle and passed from their hands to ours. This generation must not fail in that trust. If we were to put the wine of our day into bottles of theirs the result would be disastrous, hut it will he even more disastrous if we put milk and water, or even vinegar, in our bottles instead of wine

Men of courage, men of conviction, …a sacred trust, a hard-bought heritage…won by travail, held by struggle…counted their convictions worth fighting for – religious and otherwise.  He said it so well.

Jotham’s Death

As the sun sets over Brush Creek, below, the sun set on Jotham Brown’s life on Brush Creek as well.

Brush Creek sunset

In 1803, the Christopher Cooper family would move on to Greene County, another 170+ miles in a wagon.  Several more of Jotham’s children would either accompany them, or follow, including daughter Lydia, my ancestor, who would have been about 12 or 13 at the time.   In 1807, in Greene County, she would marry William Crumley (the third) who also came with his family from Frederick County, Virginia.

Botetourt to Greene County

But Jotham wouldn’t be with them.  In 1797, Jotham began to sell his land.  He was either preparing to move, or die…I guess we’ll never know which it was that he anticipated.  He would have been about 57 at that time, give or take a few years.  Certainly not old by our standards, but perhaps his body was just worn out.  The pioneer men worked exceedingly hard and had no health care, as we know it.

On March 6, 1797 in Montgomery Co., VA Jothem and Phoebe Brown sold a plot of their land to Joseph Moore.

I was able to find Terry’s Creek and Moore Road, adjacent, in what is now Floyd County, VA.

Terry's Creek from Brush Creek

Moore Road (686) runs left of but parallel to Terry’s Creek.  Dobbins Farm Road runs to the right of Terry’s Creek.  Since Jotham sold his land to a Moore, Moore’s Road is likely where Jotham’s land lay.  However, his homeplace was likely not on this piece of land, or he wouldn’t have sold it first, in 1797.

Moore Road and Terry's Creek

On the map above, Moore’s Road is at the left arrow and Terry’s Creek is indicated by the right arrow.

Moore Road only runs a short distance, maybe 4 miles, from Christianburg Pike to 679, although Terry’s Creek continues along 679 and then 673 for another couple miles.

Moore Road satellite

Looking at the satellite view, this land looks a little more farmable, judging by the fact that more has been cleared.

Floyd County farm

This picture was taken in Floyd County, VA which was taken from Montgomery County in 1831.  Floyd joins with Montgomery in the area of Brush Creek – between Terry’s Creek and Brush Creek.  Jotham’s land probably looked something like this beautiful rolling-hilled farm with the mountains in the background.

Sometime between when Jotham sold land in 1797 and when Phebe and his heirs sold the remainder of his land on Terry’s Creek, another branch of the Little River, on May 16, 1800, Jotham died.  Stevie indicates that the deed in Montgomery County deed book C, page 326 provides a complete roster of his children.  Jotham left his widow, Phebe and eleven children, six of whom were underage, although several were nearing adulthood.

May 16, 1800, Montgomery Co., VA, Deed book C, page 326. Heirs of Jotham Brown, deceased convey 104 acres lying in that county on Terry Creek, a branch of Little River to Benjamin Craig. Heirs listed as: Wife Phoebe Brown, Christopher Cooper (husband of Jane Brown), Salvanes (Sylvanus) Brown, John Willes (John Willis, husband of Esther Brown), David Brown, John Brown, Mary Brown, Lydia Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Jothem Brown, Mirey Brown, and William Brown.

Jotham Brown stone

We don’t know where Jotham was buried, but it is probably someplace on his land.

Some years ago, a descendant set this stone after researching in the area.  Unfortunately, that researcher isn’t sharing their information, so, we’re left to hope that indeed, they correctly located Jotham’s land and set this stone on the land he owned.  Tracy, a FindAGrave contributor, photographed the stone and was kind enough to send me the location.  A big thank you to Tracy.

Jotham stone location

This stone is located on Laurel Church Road in Floyd County, which used to be Montgomery, which used to be Botetourt County.

Jotham stone Laurel Church Road

The exact location of the stone is shown on the map above with the red arrow.  This is further north than Moore’s Road, but also on the upper reaches of Terry’s Creek – so this certainly could be Jotham’s last piece of land, the homeplace.  Would they have buried him here if they knew they were moving?  Might he be buried at the Fincastle church instead?  It’s possibly, but it’s more likely that in the 20 or so years that they lived in Botetourt County that there were other deaths and burials as well – so Jotham isn’t alone in the cemetery, wherever it lies.

On the map below, you can see the Laurel Church, the 608 marker which is where the stone is located, and the upper end of Terry’s Creek at the bottom of the view.

Jotham Laurel Church Terry Creek

I know this is the “hard way” to locate land, but sometimes, it’s the only option we have.  It’s rather amazing, if you think about it, that we can do it at all.

Jotham Terry Creek Moore Road Church

On this map, you can see the entire Terry’s Creek area, with Moore’s Road on the left, Terry’s Creek on the right and the location of Jotham’s stone at the top.

If this is the location of Jotham’s actual land, you’ll note that it’s equidistant between the headwaters of Brush Creek, at the top, and Terry’s Creek, at the bottom (red arrows).

Jotham Brush and Terry

We don’t know for sure if Phebe went with her daughter, Jane, and Christopher Cooper to Greene County, but most of her children did.  If Phebe did not move with them, then she too rests beside Jotham in the lost Brown cemetery, possibly located on their land between Brush Creek and Terry’s Creek in Montgomery, now Floyd, County, Virginia.

The DNA Message

When DNA testing first began, Stevie stepped up to coordinate DNA testing for the various male lines of Jotham Brown’s sons.  Not only do they match, which is always a good thing, but they established what the DNA of Jotham himself looked like.  You can see the Jotham clan in Group 34, from the Brown DNA Project page at Family Tree DNA.

Brown DNA Project

Furthermore, DNA testing provides us with the Jotham Brown haplogroup.  In old style notation is was R1a1 and new style, it’s R-M512.

In Greene County, it just so happens that another Brown family also settled early, although in a bit of a different area, near Carter’s Station, about 5 to 7 miles west of the Cross Anchor area where the Jotham Brown children are found.  However, Y DNA testing of the two groups proved unquestionably that they are not connected, at least not by sharing a common Brown direct line paternal ancestor.

Let’s see if we can use DNA matching to answer the question of whether or not the Brown family is Scots-Irish.  Looking at the matches map for one of the Brown descendant men, at 25 markers, we see that there is a proclivity of matches in England at one and two mutations difference.  His two exact non-Brown surname matches are brickwalled in the US.

Brown DNA European matches

This is not at all what I expected to see.  Hmmmm…..doesn’t look very Scots-Irish to me.  I do believe we have more yet to learn about this family.

At 37 markers, the only Brown matches are to Brown descendants.  The Brown men have a very specific haplotype, or DNA signature, which does them the very big favor of acting as a personal DNA filter, eliminating non-relevant DNA matches at 37 markers and above.  Unfortunately, there are no Brown men with known ancestral locations in the UK.

Taking a look at Haplogroup Origins, there are no matches at 37 markers, so looking at 25, we see the various haplogroup subgroups into which the Brown matches fall, and their locations – mostly England.

Brown haplogroup origins

Another tool, Ancestral Origins, which shows us the location where the Brown matches indicate that their most distant ancestors were from shows us that we have an overwhelming number of English, 61 compared to 8 in Ireland and Scotland, combined, at 25 markers.

Brown ancestral origins 25

I got excited for a minute, when I saw several 37 marker matches with Ireland and Scotland, until I realized, that’s the Brown men AND they aren’t united about where they think they are from.  The truth of the matter is, of course, that no one knows.

Brown ancestral origins 37

What we need is to find one of two things, or preferably, both.  One, a solid Brown match overseas and/or Jotham’s parents.  You know with a name like Jotham, he probably was not the first to carry that name.  He certainly wasn’t the last.

For now, but hopefully not forever, Jotham’s origins still remain a mytery.


We think Jotham was born about 1740 and we know he died between 1797 and 1800, but in between, it’s pretty foggy.

Unfortunately, we only have snippets of Jotham’s life, beginning when he was probably in his late 30s.  Before that, he saw first hand and up close both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.  Both of those events had to make a profound impression on Jotham, but since we don’t know where he lived during that time, we can’t even made an educated guess as to how they affected his family.

By the 1770s, he is in Hampshire County, VA, now West Virginia, and by 1782, he had moved to neighboring Frederick County where he is found as a neighbor to the Zopher Johnson family.  Stevie suspects Jotham’s wife might be Zopher Johnson’s daughter.  I’m looking for evidence of that, but have found none so far.  We’ll visit that question more specifically in Phebe’s article, yet to be written.  DNA may be able to help answer that question.

By 1783, Jotham was off again to Botetourt County, which was more than 200 hundred miles distant – in a rough wagon with no shocks.  He settled there and lived the balance of his life.

The only clues we have about Jotham’s possible religious leanings come from Botetourt where his two sons-in-law signed petitions supporting the formation of a Presbyterian church, which was at that time, a dissenting religion.

Jotham was apparently preparing to move again in 1797 by selling land.  Instead, he died.  His family sold the balance of his land and moved on to Greene County, Tennessee.

Jotham’s DNA suggests that his family was English, although what we really need for location proof is a very close Brown Y match who can document their ancestral location in England.  That indeed will be a red letter day.

Acknowledgements:  I would like to thank Stevie Hughes for her years of research and taking the lead on the Green County Brown DNA initiative, because without her, I would have a big blank spot on my pedigree chart where Jotham Brown’s name now resides.  If you would like a downloadable “everything you ever wanted to know about Jotham Brown’s family, and more” document, written by Stevie Hughes, click here.

Update 12-19-2015

Recently, the Jotham Brown line had a Y match to a Sylvanus Brown/Esther Dayton family from Long Island, NY who was found there in the early 1700s.  Sylvanus is such an unusual name that along with the Y DNA match, it’s quite compelling.  We know they do share a common Brown ancestor, we just don’t know where or when.

In addition, another long-time researcher tells me that the Cooper family was already established in Montgomery County when Jotham Brown and Phebe moved there in 1783.  Jotham and Phebe’s daughter, Jane, married Christopher Cooper, son of James, whose will was contested, and whose brother was named…Sylvanus.  So we have two families that include the very unusual name of Sylvanus meeting (again?) in Montgomery County, VA.

According to “Annals of Southwest Virginia”, Christopher and John Cooper were the first to acquire land on Brush Creek of Little River (Feb. and Nov., 1782). Jotham acquired land there August 20, 1783.  Moses Johnson acquired 200 acres on Brush Creek August 20, 1783, the same day Jotham Brown acquired his land.  James King (another Long Island and New Jersey surname) acquired 300 acres on Brush Creek September 2, 1782, so he was there early with Christopher Cooper.

Furthermore, the Zopher Johnson line that went to Illinois carries a story that Zopher Johnson Jr. (the grandson of Zopher Johnson the Elder) had an inheritance on Long Island but never pursued it due to lack of money.  True?  We don’t know, but that’s a very odd location for oral history out of Illinois.

Is this coincidence?  We don’t know, but if anyone has any information about the Johnson, Brown or Cooper families that can unite them on Long Island (or elsewhere) or provide an explanation for what is today, circumstantial evidence, I would be exceedingly grateful.

Update January 2019

A very kind cousin, Rita, who is even more obsessed with genealogy than I am, if that’s possible, found the signature of Jotham Brown in the marriage record of his daughter, Esther Brown and John Willis on January 1, 1793, extracted as follows:

John Willis and Jotham Brown of the County of Montgomery are firmly bound…for 50 pounds current money of Virginia…this 1st day of January 1793. John Willis has this day obtained a license for his marriage with Esther Brown daughter of Jotham Brown. Now if there should be legal cause to obstruct this said marriage then the above obligation to be void else to remain in full force.

Teste (witness) Charles Taylor

John Willis his Mark

Jotham Brown

As you can see in the actual signatures below, it does not appear that the signatures were signed by the clerk, meaning that we have Jotham’s actual signature. Thank you so very much cousin Rita!!!

Jotham Brown signature



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Irish Catholic Church Records

baptismal font

If you have Irish Catholic ancestors, you’re in luck.  Well, at least you might be.  Are you feeling lucky?  Is the luck of the Irish with you today?

One of the wonderful things that can happen with Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA is that you match someone who does have a direct ancestor connection overseas to a place and time.  In my case, my McDowell line matches a McDowell line in King’s Moss, Northern Ireland.  Of course, that doesn’t mean my Murtough McDowell who died in 1752 was born in the same place in Ireland, but it’s more information that I had before and it gives me a place overseas to search.  Where to begin that search?  Well, the church records make the most sense, if they exist, and now many are newly available.

Irish Catholic record images are now online back through 1740 where the records are available.  Catholics, in general, keep fastidious records and they are often full of great genealogical information.  Plus, you have more than one opportunity.  It’s not just births/baptisms, marriages and deaths that are recorded.  Often confirmations are included as well.

Furthermore, these are indexed, just not in the same online location.  The bad news…unless I’ve missed something, which is certainly possible as I only did a quick look-see, you have to check each parish individually.  I hope that sometime in the future they can provide a single index since many of us don’t know where our ancestors were from in Ireland or exactly when they were born.

Also, I noticed in the Irish Ancestors search that they note “all known copies excluding originals in local custody.”  Hmmm.  So maybe this isn’t quite everything.

You can read more about the project here and access the registers here.  You can inquire by surname here and here.

Dare we hope for Protestant records to be indexed and brought online as well?  That would help a lot with those Scotch-Irish families.



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William Crumley the Third (1788-1859) and The Crumley Curse, 52 Ancestors #80

Did I mention about the Crumley Curse when I wrote about William Crumley (the third’s) father, William Crumley (the second)?  It’s started out being kind of cute and was originally called “The Crumley Conundrum.”  Then it devolved into “The Crumley Curse,” and that’s one of the nicer names.  And believe me, it’s not cute at all anymore.

I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get these William Crumleys and their wives sorted out.  And just when you think you’re making headway, boom, it all blows up, making one, as the quilters say “lose their religion.”  If you don’t know what that means, well, then – let’s just say it has to do with swearing.  Yep, the same thing that got more than one of my ancestors kicked out of church – so let’s just say I come by it honestly!

I just know the ancestors are practical jokers and they’re someplace saying to each other, “Hey, watch this….” as we discover once more that what we thought we knew isn’t really what we thought at all.

Some ancestors are worked on in three stages.


The first stage is the euphoria that comes with initial discovery.  There’s just nothing like that feeling of seeing your ancestor’s name for the first time and knowing that they are YOUR ancestor, YOUR flesh and blood, and their history is YOUR history.  Which brings me to stage two.

Information Gathering

The second stage is information gathering.  You go through the census, through the deeds in the county where they lived, through the court records, through everything you can find including what others before you have written.  I extract every record for that surname….well…I do now.  I wasn’t always that wise which meant many times that I had to go through the same records multiple times.  Families, do, indeed, fit together and it’s the total picture that tells the story.  Which leads me to the third stage.


Unraveling what I’ve woven together.  Yep, picking it back apart strand by strand.  This is the stage where I realize what I think I know is not at all what it seems.  Maybe it’s that you discover what previous researchers stated or surmised is incorrect.  Maybe you find another puzzle piece they didn’t have.  Maybe something just seems wrong to you, causing a re-evaluation.  Regardless of what it is, it’s more like ripping out a seam with a seam ripper, and the joining seams too, than building.  In my quilt group – we call it reverse sewing.  It is indeed, reverse genealogy, but sometimes you have to unbuild in order to rebuild.  Sigh.  At least you can salvage the pieces and reassemble them in a different way.

The Crumley family has been like that – and I’m still not positive I have it right.  Welcome to genealogy where at least 4 men, 4 generations in a row, have the same name, with additional men carrying the same name in brothers’ and uncles’ lines….and no wills…and wives names either unknown or unproven. Oh yes, and owning land on two forks of the same creek, with the same name that spans two states.  In fact, it appears that the land may actually span the state line.  I guess that makes it easy to avoid the revenuer, the tax collector, the sheriff, etc.  Hide and seek.  Welcome to the Crumley family.

Frederick County, Virginia to Greene County, Tennessee

William Crumley, the third, was born sometime around 1789 in Frederick County, Virginia to William Crumley, the second, and his unknown wife.

William (the third) moved as a child to the Territory South of the River Ohio sometime after his father’s name appears on a 1789 tax list in Frederick County, Virginia and before 1796 when his father’s name is found on a document in the Territory South of the Ohio, soon to be Tennessee.  In 1797, when William (the third) was about 8 years old, his father, William (the second) was a founder of the Wesley’s Chapel Methodist Church in Greene County, TN, so we know positively that William (the third) was raised in Greene County from that time forward.

Traveling to what was then the frontier was probably a great adventure for a 7 or 8 year old boy.  To give you an idea of what the area was like, Tennessee was nicknamed “The Squabble State.”  Still, the brave and the squabblers flocked to this region, then the westernmost edge of the frontier, for land and opportunity.

Unfortunately, the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 censuses are missing for Greene County, Tennessee.  This confirms that God does have a sense of humor.

We know that his father, William the second, reportedly a miller by trade, purchased land in 1797 and 1805 on Lick Creek in Greene County, TN and reportedly proceeded to build a mill, near or at Carter’s Station.  I say reportedly, because I can find no actual documentation that he was a miller, nor can I prove that he wasn’t.  There is oral history from a number of different sources, some within and some outside of the family.  Furthermore, I can’t confirm his land at Carter’s Station either.  For all the world, the evidence looks like his land was several miles to the east – but I haven’t been able to do a deed “puzzle type” reconstruction of the area.

For purposes of comparison, here is a map showing the Wesley’s Chapel Church and the location of Carter’s Station. At the opposite end of the blue route.  In-between we find both Hardin Chapel Methodist Church and Mt. Pleasant Church, the location of Cross Anchor Cemetery.  All of these locations play a part in the life of William Crumley, the third.

Wesley to Carters

Assuming that William Crumley (the second) was a miller, it’s very likely that William (the third) learned this trade as well – if for no other reason than to be able to help his father and it was the most readily available trade to learn.  However, the only documentation we have of what William (the third) did for a living is from the 1850 Hancock Co., TN census where he says he is a carpenter.  He does live 2 houses from a miller though, so there may be some significance to that.  But, back to Greene County.

We know as a child, at least from 1797 on, William Crumley (the third) attended the Wesley’s Chapel United Methodist Church.  The original building burned in 1880, but the newer church dating from that timeframe stands beside the church cemetery.

Wesley's Church

There are Crumley’s buried here yet today as well as Browns.  Lydia Brown was the wife of William Crumley (the third) and the daughter of Jotham Brown and his wife, Phebe, whose maiden name has remained elusive, but is speculated to be Johnson.

Wesley's cemetery

One Brown burial is William, a fourth generation descendant of Jotham and Phebe Brown, the parents of Lydia Brown, who would marry William Crumley, the third, in 1807.  Roots here run deep and there are no family trees, only entwined and knotted up family vines – with the leaves all having the same names…over and over.  Naming your child “after” someone is an absolutely lovely way to honor your ancestors and your siblings, parents and grandparents – unless you’re the genealogist 100 years or so later trying to unravel all of those people with the same name!

Wesley's William Brown stone

The next peek we have of William Crumley (the third) is on October 1, 1807 when he marries Lydia Brown in Greene County, TN.  The Brown family had arrived in Greene County beginning in 1803 with more members arriving in  1805.  The Browns lived about half way between Hardin Chapel and the Mount Pleasant Church, at the intersection of Spider Stines Road and Baileyton Road.

The Browns, Johnsons, Babbs and Crumleys were all living in Frederick County, Virginia and all migrated to this part of Greene County, although the Brown family took a detour to Montgomery County, VA first.  They were probably already related.  We don’t know who the mother of William Crumley, the third, was.

In 1808. William Crumley Jr. (the third) was listed as a witness, but beyond that, he doesn’t appear in the court records.

The Crumley Land

Truthfully, the Crumley land is a mess.  Let me give you an example.

William (the third, we think) purchased 126 acres of land on a branch of Lick Creek on June 12, 1811 from John Campbell.  This land lay between John McCurry and Mary Gass and the transaction was witnessed by Benjamin McNutt and Joseph Lackey.  Lick Creek runs the entire distance from Northeast of Wesley’s Chapel Church to Southwest of Carter Station, transecting the entire county.  However, one hint is that Crumley Road, Northeast of Wesley’s Chapel, is on Lick Creek.

In 1811, William Jr. (the third) is listed on the tax list for the first time, signifying that he is age 21.  If this is accurate, he was born about 1790, which would be about right.  He is listed with no land and one poll, but the list could have been taken before be bought land in June.  In 1812, William Jr. is specifically listed with 126 acres, which is why we think he is the William who bought the land.

Yet, in 1813, William Crumley, with no Sr. or Jr. designation, is taxed with 326 acres, which would be the 200 acres owned by William Sr. (the second) and the 126 owned by William Jr. (the third.)  Confused yet?  Me too.  Remember – the Crumley Curse…

The tax lists, shown in the William (the second) story contradict each other.  In order to try to straighten this out, I entered all of the land transactions into a spreadsheet.  This includes all land transactions in Greene County, TN and later Lee and Hawkins Counties on the Virginia/Tennessee border.  (Click once to see spreadsheet in a separate window and click a second time to enlarge.)

Crumley land grid

The best I can tell, it looks like William Crumley Sr. owned the 126 acres, because that land is sold in 1819 for $230 and seven months later, William Sr., specifically stated as Sr., purchases land in Lee County for $230.  So who knows which William actually purchased that 126 acres. It’s possible that the two Williams transacted a sale between themselves that was never recorded.

In 1820, William (Sr. – meaning the second) sells part of his land in Greene County to son Abraham, 54 of his 200 acres and six months later, sells 134 acres to Joshua Royston, which equals 188 acres.  Where is the other 12 of the 200 acres owned by William Crumley and the 50 acres purchased in 1797, not to mention the 10 and 20 acre grants he obtained in 1820?

No place does either the buying or the selling deed tell us how many acres William Crumley Sr. bought in Lee County, but if Isaac sold all of his father’s land in 1837, then it was 100 acres. However, he sells it for $50 after purchasing it for $230 – so this doesn’t make sense.  I would say the acreage is probably more like 460 acres if 100 of those acres sold for $50.

However, the purchaser, Polly (Brown) Stapleton, was his mother’s sister, so who knows if this is what would be considered an “arms length transaction” or if he sold the entire tract.  However, in 1852, Isaac did sell what appears to be all of his land before packing up and leaving with his father for Iowa.  Part of that is probably the balance of his father’s land.  I have not read those actual deeds.

The War of 1812

Much of the rest of what we know about William Crumley (the third) is by inference – because he had no will and none of his children are specified as children in any document.  Thankfully, he moved away from Greene County, TN where the Crumley group settled, or we would have had no prayer of figuring out which children were his.

By the time William (the third) enlisted to serve in the War of 1812, he and Lydia had 2  children.  John Crumley was born about 1808 or 1809 and William (the fourth), if William was his son, was born in 1811.

William (the third) served in the War of 1812 in Capt. Jacob Hoyal’s Company of Col. Ewin Allsion’s Regiment of East Tennessee Militia.  William enlisted January 10, 1814 to serve until May 23 but was discharged “on account of sickness and arrived at home March 28, 1814.”

However, this affidavit of power of attorney filed in Greene County in August of 1814 tells us something slightly different.  In this, he says he joined on January 6th to March 15th, 1814.  So, according to this document, he was discharged, ill or not.  I initially thought this would not be his signature, because of the “seal” and because the clerk signed most of these types of documents, but if you look at the signature, it’s significantly different than that of the clerk’s handwriting.  For example, look at the capital C in the signature and in the text.

William Crumley poa

Did William Crumley (the third) march to Alabama?  Here’s a brief regimental history of Colonel Ewen Allison’s unit provided by the Tennessee State Library.

This regiment was also designated as the First Regiment of East Tennessee Drafted Militia. The unit was part of General George Doherty’s brigade, along with Colonel Samuel Bunch’s Second Regiment. Doherty’s brigade participated in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) where they were part of the right line of attack on the Creek fortifications. There were casualties in many of the companies, especially in those of Captains Everett, King, Loughmiller, and Winsell. The Nashville Clarion of 10 May 1814 has a complete listing of the dead and wounded from this climactic battle of the Creek War.

The principal rendezvous point for this regiment was Knoxville. From there they traveled to Ross’ Landing (present-day Chattanooga), to Fort Armstrong, Fort Deposit, Fort Strother, Fort Williams, to Horseshoe Bend, and back by the reverse route. Captain Hampton’s company was ordered to man Fort Armstrong in mid-March 1814. Arms were scarce in this unit and rifles often had to be impressed from the civilian population along the line of march.

William’s brothers Samuel and Aaron also served in the same militia Company.  It might be useful to check their service records as well, although they have not yet been digitized at www.fold3.com.  Hmmm, order from NARA for $75 each, or wait???

William’s illness may well have saved his life.  This unit participated in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27th, and many casualties were sustained.  William didn’t know it when he left, but Lydia was pregnant with their third child, Jotham, who would be born in October of 1814.


In 1814, Aaron Crumley, brother of William (the third), marries a different Lydia Brown, a cousin of his brother’s wife.  Now are you confused?  I told you this family was a vine!

William (the third), styled as William Crumley Jr. in Aaron’s marriage document, signs for him as his bond.  This should be the signature of William Crumley Jr. (the third) and not Sr. (the second.)

Note that this signature looks different than the one on both the 1807 and the following 1817 marriage document.  However it looks identical to the 1814 power of attorney document.

Aaron Crumley 1814

Also in 1816, William Crumley Jr. (the third) signs for the bond of his brother, Isaac Crumley who married Rachel Brown.  Note that this marriage record was not returned for almost a year, the bond being taken in September 1816 and the document not returned until August 1, 1817 by Christopher Kirby, likely the minister who married the couple.  This signature looks different, but there are no other known William Crumleys in Greene County.  The Crumley Conundrum strikes again!

Isaac Crumley 1816

Who Got Married in 1817?

Things get even more confusing in 1817.

Because there is a marriage record for a William Crumley in 1817 in Greene County, it has been assumed (you know about that word) that Lydia, wife of William (the third,) died in 1817 following the birth of Clarissa, and that William (the third) was the William Crumley who married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson, believed to be the daughter of Zopher Johnson, Sr., and his unidentified wife, and a cousin to William (the third’s) first wife, Lydia Brown.  By now, I’m positive you’re confused.

However, there is evidence to suggest that William Crumley (the third) was not the William who married Betsey Johnson.

For example, William (the third) and Lydia are reported to have had a daughter, Clarissa, born in April of 1817.  My ancestor, Phebe Crumley was born to William (the third) and his wife, whoever she was, on March 24, 1818, in Lee County, VA as reportedly by later census records, eleven months after Clarissa’s birth, according to Phebe’s tombstone.  Needless to say, if William (the third) married Betsey Johnson in October of 1817, he had a newborn child from Lydia (who would have been being nursed by someone) and had gotten Betsey pregnant about 3 months before their marriage and no more than 3 months after Lydia’s death (if she died).  Yes, that is certainly possible.  But did it happen?

The 1817 marriage bond clearly says that William Crumley Sr., married Betsey Johnson, and William Crumley Sr. was William (the second), the father of William  (the third) who would have been styled as William Jr. at that time in Greene County and clearly was styled as such on other documents from the same time period.

William Crumley Betsey Johnston marriage

It’s no help at all that Jotham Brown signed for both bonds.  Jotham was the father of Lydia Brown, the first wife of William Crumley (the third).  Lydia’s father died in 1799, so the Jotham who signed with an X was Lydia’s brother.

Keep in mind that Betsey Johnson was said to be the cousin of Lydia Brown.  If they were cousins, meaning first cousins, they would have shared grandparents.  Unfortunately, we don’t know who Lydia’s grandparents were, on either side.

If they are cousins, and if Jotham Brown’s wife is Phebe Johnson, daughter of Zopher Johnson, as theorized, but not proven, then indeed Betsey Johnson could have been a cousin of Lydia Brown, but, and this is a really important but – they could not have shared the same mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to both genders of her children, but only the female children pass it on.  Everyone carries their mother’s mitochondrial DNA and it is not mixed with any DNA of the father.

If Zopher Johnson had daughter Phebe that married Jotham Brown, Zopher’s unknown wife would have given her mitochondrial DNA to Phebe and then to Lydia Brown, Jotham and Phebe’s daughter.

Betsey Johnson would have been born to a male child of Zopher Johnson by his unknown wife.  Betsey would have inherited the DNA of that male child’s unknown wife, NOT of Zopher Johnson’s wife.  So, unless Zopher Johnson’s wife and his son’s wife shared a common matrilineal ancestor, the DNA of Lydia Brown could not match that of Betsey Johnson.  This is important because the DNA of both Clarissa, born in 1817, before William’s marriage to Betsey Johnson, and Phebe born in 1818 after William’s marriage to Betsey, is a match.  Furthermore, both women also match to another descendant of Phebe, Jotham Brown’s wife.

Zopher wife mtdna path

So, it’s very unlikely that Betsey Johnson is the mother of Phebe Crumley, which eliminates William Crumley (the third) as the William who married Betsey Johnson in October, 1817 in Greene County, TN.

Because I simply could not let this go, I asked Stevie Hughes, a Brown/Johnson researcher, to review the possibilities for Betsy Johnson’s identity and here is what she said, in probability order.

#1 Betsey is the daughter of Zopher Johnson, Revolutionary War Soldier.  I believe this is probable, given he is the ONLY one in Greene County by 1809.

#2 Betsey is the daughter of Moses Johnson, BROTHER to Zopher, the Rev War Soldier.  I THINK….but cannot prove Moses went to adjacent Hawkins Co BEFORE 1809.  I KNOW Moses was gone from Greene Co as of 1809.  He never appears in ANY Greene Co tax list or court record after 1809.  It is POSSIBLE he left Greene County as early as 1800 since there are no tax lists for the north part of the county between 1800 thru 1804 and 1806 thru 1808.  He is NOT in the 1805 list, however, neither is Zopher; so obviously the 1805 list is incomplete or for some reason Zopher (and Moses??) were “missed.”  NOTE the half brother, Harrison Johnson (son of Zopher “the elder” and a much younger, 2nd wife) IS in the 1805 list.  And, in 1809, there is a one-line entry in a Court record stating Harrison is executor of Zopher Johnson “deceased.”  I believe 1809 is the “magic” year where after the death of Zopher “the Elder,” the brothers wanted to go “seperate ways” and the family farm was split among the heirs, with Harrison and his mother going to western TN, Moses goes into Hawkins Co, and Zopher the Revolutionary War soldier is the only one who stayed in Greene Co.

#3 It is POSSIBLE, but very unlikely Betsey was a WIDOW of one of the Johnsons.  Reason being is I have “accounted for” all of our Johnsons in the tax lists from 1790 (arrival) thru 1798 (last complete tax list) until the tax lists resume in 1809 thru 1817.  Also, I have studied ALL Johnson marriages (brides and grooms) from inception of the marriage records up through 1868 (Burgner’s book).  I have an extensive “chart” of all these Johnson marriages, both male and female; and to a large degree, I have cross-indexed those acting for bondsmen (marriages, wills, deeds, etc.)  There are no other Johnsons –male or female– of our family who are in the northern part of the county during these years.  Also, there is no Orphan Court Record (if she was a widow and had children); nor does she appear in a tax list (if she was a widow and her husband’s land went to her).  There is no remarriage for her where one of our greatly intermarried “kin”….or neighbor….acted as the bondsman.  EXTREMELY unusual for our group….. and in my mind it would not have happened for an “outsider” to have been the bondsman for a 2nd marriage.

However, there is one possible fly in this ointment.  Zopher Johnson, the Elder, was born in the early 1700s. It’s very unlikely that he was still having children in 1770-1780 which is when Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson would have been born, by a first wife.  However, if by some fluke Elizabeth is the daughter of the same mother who had Phebe born about 1745 who married Jotham Brown, then their mtDNA would have been the same.  Jotham the Elder has children from about 1745 to about 1780, so Elizabeth could have been his daughter, but not likely by the same woman as Phebe born in 1745.  Plus, family history says they are cousins, not sisters.

I have to tell you, all of this uncertainly and what-iffing makes my head hurt.  I’m reminded of this cartoon, found on the internet from Pardon My Planet.

Signature Composites

Stevie, sent me this signature composite from various documents in an effort to sort through the various William Crumleys.

Crumley signature comparison

The signature of William in 1817 is showing signs of being unsteady.  The loop on the W wobbles.  William (the third) would have been about 28 and his father, William (the second) would have been roughly 50 at that time.  That’s really not terribly old.  Maybe someone bumped his arm.

To add to the signature confusion, we also have this 1825 receipt from the court in Hawkins County.  We don’t know which William Crumly this is, the second or the third, but it is his signature.

William Crumley 1825 signature

Do you think you have this figured out?  If you’re like me, you think that the 1807 and 1817 signatures are the same, the two 1814 signatures are the same, and the others are different – although how to account for that difference without any more William Crumleys mystifies me.  But just as you get your mind all comfortable with that, I want to share one more signature with you.

William Crumley Civil War signature

Which signature do you think this looks like?  If you said either the 1807 or the 1817 signatures, you would be wrong.  Below is the full document.

William Crumley civil war document

This document is from the Civil War from the National Archives in a document series titled “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865,” after BOTH William Crumley (the second) and (the third) were long dead.

This William Crumley could be William (the fourth) son of William (the third,) as he was born in about 1811. Signatures can be both confusing and deceiving.  I jumped like I had been shot when I saw that curly W signature signature (pardon the pun.)

The most reasonable explanation I can find, with the least amount of stretch, is that if William Jr. – meaning the third, was born in 1788 or 1789 as the 1850 and 1852 censuses indicate, he would have been underage when he married in 1807, only 18 or possibly 19 years of age.  His father, William (the second) would have had to have signed for him, which is why the 1807 and the 1817 signatures look alike.  The 1807 William Crumley signature itself doesn’t say Jr. or Sr.  The document only says that William Jr. is getting married.  In 1811, the first year William Jr. (the third) is shown on the Greene County tax list, he would have been age 22,, born in 1789 – so this is very likely the answer.  Otherwise, where was he on earlier tax lists?

Someone Died

Regardless of whether William Crumley (the second) or William (the third) remarried in 1817, someone died.  William (the third) likely lost his mother.  If it wasn’t his mother, then he lost his wife, leaving him with a newborn infant.  I believe it was William (the third’s) mother that died, in part because of the matching mitochondrial DNA evidence between descendants of Clarissa Crumley, Phebe Crumley and Phebe Brown, their grandmother.

If the family was still attending Wesley’s Chapel, William’s wife might have been buried there, although the cemetery appears to date from the “new” church built after the church burned in 1880.  William’s wife might also have been buried at the Cross Anchor Cemetery although at that time it was likely still the Gass Family Cemetery.  Another possibility is that William’s wife is buried in the Kidwell Cemetery which was begun about 1800 when the Kidwell Meeting House stood on that land.  She could also be buried at Carter Station.  A great-grandson, Thomas Crumley, born in 1852, in a letter said that the early generations of Crumley’s were buried at Carter Station.  William (the second) was the first generation to settle in Greene County, so his wife would have been the first of the founding generation to pass over.  The other information provided by Thomas in his letter has proven to be accurate.

The Move to Lee County

Then, in 1819, for some reason, nearly the entire family decided to up and move to Lee County, VA.

Greene co to Lee co

William Crumley (the second) along with two of his sons, William (the third) and Isaac set about in 1819 making preparations for moving to Lee County, VA on the border with Hawkins County, TN.

On April 5, 1819, just before moving to Lee Co., VA., William sold his 126 acres of Lick Creek land to Humphrey Malone.

“The Early Settlers of Lee Co., VA” says that a William Crumley Sr. from Greene Co. bought 250 acres of land from William Sparks on November 11, 1819 for $250.  It was witnessed by William Crumley Jr.  The William Sr. in this case must be William (the second) and Jr. must be his son William (the third.)  Therefore, we now know that William the second did in fact move to Lee Co. along with William (the third.)  However, he is entirely missing from the 1820 census.  Where the heck was he???


11 NOVEMBER 1819 – 100 acres – DBK 9, p 6, Lee County, Virginia]

This Indenture made this 11th November 1819, between William Sparks of Lee County and state of Virginia of the one part, and William Crumley of the County of Green and state of Tennessee of the other part; Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and 30 dollars lawful money of the state aforesaid to him in hand paid by  The sd  Crumley at or before the sealing and delivery of these present the recipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and ……therewith fully satisfied and paid ….bargained sold and deliveres with the said Crumly a certain parsel or tract of land, lying and being in the County of Lee situated on the west fork of black water creek and bounded as followeth to wit:  Beginning at a Poplar and two Beeche’s thence North 35 degrees West 50 poles to a Poplar and Burch on the side of Powell Mountain  Thence with the lines of the original patent so as to include one hundred acres by running straight along 1st survey having the last and to sd William Crumly senior together with its appertenances.  To Have and To Hold The sd delivered parsal of land with all and singular the appertenances belonging as in any anywise to sd premises free from the claim or claims him the sd Sparks or his heirs or assigns forever In Witness whereof  I have herewith set my hand and seal

Sealed, signed, dated and delivered in the presents of}          William x Sparks    {Seal}

Joseph Baker,  mark
William Crumly Junr
Thomas Anderson

Note that the Anderson Cemetery is just a mile or so north of the Lee County line on Blackwater Road and this deed is witnessed by Thomas Anderson.

By 1820, William Crumley (the third) was living in Lee County, Virginia with one male under age 10 (Jotham), 1 male age 10-16 (William or John), one male 26-46 (himself), 3 females under 10 (Clarissa, Phebe and Sarah), one female 16-26 (unknown) and one female 26-45 (presumably his wife.) It’s problematic that one male is missing and one female, Belinda, supposed to have been born in April 1820 is missing as well.

This census raises troubling questions.  Who is the unidentified female?  Only two sons are listed, one son believed to be William (the fourth) is missing.  He is not found in any public record until his 1840 marriage to Rebecca Malone in Greene Co. whereas son John married in 1828 and is found in Hawkins Co. in 1836 and in the 1840 Claiborne Co. census beside William (the third).  Jotham married in 1834 and is found in the 1840 Lee Co. census.  Is William (the fourth) really the son of William (the third) and if so, who raised him and why is he never found in Lee, Hawkins or Claiborne County?

The youngest daughter, Belinda, may actually not have been born until after the census.  Her absence is easier to explain, at least hypothetically.

William Crumley Sr. (the second) who bought the Lee County land is back in Greene County finishing up a lawsuit in October of 1821 and selling his land, preparing to remove entirely from Greene County.  Actually, we don’t know positively that the lawsuit is William Crumley (the second) and not (the third,) as the document never says.  William (whichever) petitions the court to transfer the venue for an appeal of the lawsuit to Hawkins County stating that he doesn’t feel he can get a fair trial in Green County, and that some people, obviously meant to imply the defendant, Johnson Frazier, were “fomenting” hard feelings towards William. He was obviously very troubled by this turn of events.

We’ll never know the details, but it’s certainly possible that William (the second) never meant to remove when he bought the Lee County land in 1819.  He could have been purchasing that for his son, William (the third,) whose wife’s sisters already lived there, but then decided to sell out and move on during the 1821 trial.  Regardless of why, that is exactly what he did.

In 1824, William Crumley obtained a 50 acre land grant on Blackwater Creek in Hawkins County.  This part would become Hancock County in 1845.  We are not sure which of the Williams owned this land, but I suspect it was William (the second.)

In 1834, in Lee County VA Deed Book 15 page 162, a deed from William Crumly  to Peter Louisey (sic) is registered on December 22, 1834 but dated October 31, 1831. William Crumley of Lee County. VA and Peter Livesay of Hawkins County TN, for $300, land in Hawkins County on Blackwater bounded by the Reis (probably Rice or Rheas) line, 47 acres signed W M Crumley.

We believe this 1834 land sale was by William Crumley (the second) since William (the third) had moved to Pulaski County by 1830.  But, we’re not positive since we don’t actually know which William applied for the land grant for this tract of land.

Crumley 1824 land grant

Blackwater Creek

Blackwater Creek is extremely remote, so remote that just getting there requires one to navigate a quagmire of maze like back roads, any one of which could lead to an unexpected problem.  It’s still dirt and one lane and feels more like someone’s long driveway than a road.  Cell phones nor satellite navigation systems work there due to the tall, steep mountains.

Today, bootleggers or under-the-radar farmers who don’t know you and certainly don’t want their crop discovered can be lurking on these desolate back roads.  The locals warn you about this and I was more than a little nervous.  In earlier times, Indian attacks and buffalo stampedes were the worry of the day.  Yes, there were buffalo on Blackwater Creek at one time.  And Indians too.

Blackwater road lee co border

In fact, Blackwater Creek, it turns out, was very desirable property and a very busy place at one time.  Believe it or not.  You’d never know today.

Reading the actual deeds is just so critically important.  In this deed, Isaac Crumley, son of William Crumley (the second) sells land to Polly Stapleton, the sister of Lydia Brown Crumley, the wife of his brother, William Crumley (the third.)

Lee County, VA, Deed Book 7, page 241 – January 15, 1837

Isaac Crumley to Polly Stapleton, 100 acres lying on the west fork of Blackwater, just above Blackwater Salt Works, for $50, adjoining land of John Williams.

Notice the comment about the Blackwater Salt Works.  In this next deed, the salt works aren’t mentioned, but the land granted to John Neill and William Roberts is.

Lee County, VA, Deed Book 12, page 77 – April 25, 1852

Isaac Crumley and his wife Mary of Lee County to William Chandler, Jeff Chandler and William Howe, all of Lee Co, 3 tracts of land on Blackwater Creek, 150 acres, 50 acres granted to James Fletcher, 837 acres, balance of 937 acre tract survey granted to John B. Neill and William Roberts by the commonwealth of Virginia, for $1000.  Signed by both Isaac and Mary B. Crumley

1832 Rhea map salt works

This 1832 Matthew Rhea Map, the first Tennessee map taken from surveys clearly shows the salt works.  In 1832, this is one of the few features noted, so it was obviously well known and important.  And guess who owned this land…

The Sullivan County, TN Department of Archives and Tourism tells us the following:

Blackwater is located at the crossroads of the old trading route from the Cumberland River to the Cherokee nation in East Tennessee and the old hunters trace from the New River to Kentucky. Today, Blackwater is an isolated community as to commerce and transportation, but it was not so isolated in the mid eighteenth century due to the large buffalo lick. Over the eons of time, herds of buffalo had carved out trails radiating out from the lick to the grazing meadows in Powell Valley, Rye Cove, and south to the Clinch River valley. Herd animals would travel great distances to a salt lick to replenish their need for salt, an essential mineral in their diet. A salt lick is a site where the soil and rocks contain a natural deposit of salt and was called a lick because the animals would lick the soil or rocks to a depth of several feet to satisfy their need for this essential element.

A salt lick was the favorite hunting site of the Indians and long hunters. The hunters would position themselves at strategic points along the trails the animals traveled to the lick and make their kill. Numerous historical records of the frontier give accounts of the well-known licks such as the Bledsoe lick in Sumner County Tennessee, the Blue lick in central Kentucky and the French lick in southern Indiana, but little is known about the large lick at Blackwater. Perhaps this is because the Blackwater lick was discovered at least a quarter of a century before the licks in Sumner County in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana and by the time of their discovery the pressure of hunting at the Blackwater lick had depleted the size of the herd animals to near extinction; however, the trails carved out by buffalo remained and were used by the hunters as the choice route leading from the frontier to Kentucky. The long hunters knew about the lick as early as 1761, and it was a landmark on the old hunters path from the New River to Powell Valley.

Land records tell us much about the route the hunters took to seek game around the large salt lick and the grazing grounds in Lee County. The Hunters path is well defined until it reaches the little salt lick, Duffield, but from this point little is known about the route to Powell Valley; however, the land surveyors made notations on their surveys that give clues as to the route of the path. A land grant to Arthur Campbell [LO 45-325] describes the location of the grant as being at the Hunters Gap in Lee County and on both sides of the Hunters path. This tells us that the Hunters path ran along the south side of Powell Mountain from Duffield to Blackwater and crossed the mountain at Hunters Gap. The path ran down Wallen creek to near its mouth on Powell river where again the land surveys pick up the route of the Hunters path.

Another grant to Arthur Campbell [LO Q-318] is described as being on the south side of the Powell River and on both sides of the Hunters path. This grant is located about one mile west southwest of where Wallen Creek flows into Powell river. The Campbell grant [LO Q-318] is adjoined on the west side by a land grant to Robert Preston [LO 27-57]. The Preston grant is described as lying on both sides of the Hunters path. From this information, we know that the Hunters path ran from near the mouth of Wallen Creek across the area known as the Rob bottoms and crossed the Powell River at White shoals. Again, the surveys tell us that the path ran in a north or northwest direction from White shoals as a grant to Robert Preston [LO 27-41]is described as lying on the west side of trading creek and one of the survey points is described as “white oak south side of the old Kentucky trace on John Ewing line with same”. From this point, the path or trace ran to Martins station but the exact route cannot be proven by land records.

Records show that Elisha Wallin and William Newman hunted around the Blackwater buffalo lick as early as 1761. Wallins Ridge and Newman Ridge were named after them.  (Note that Wallin’s Ridge and Newman’s Ridge border Blackwater Creek on either side.) Other long hunters surely knew about the lick. Evidence of the buffalo trails remains on modern maps by the names of geographic features such as Hunters Ford, Hunters Valley, Hunters Gap and Hunters Branch. No doubt the long hunters in quest of game followed the herd animal paths from their favorite grazing grounds to the salt licks. There were many small licks in the area used by deer and other small game, but needs of the herd animals would require the mineral deposits of a much larger lick such as the Buffalo Lick at Blackwater.

The importance of the Blackwater lick is clearly pointed out by the claims of the land speculators. As early as 1775, Thomas Osburn had settled on land adjoining the Buffalo lick and obtained a land grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia by virtue of Right of Settlement.

“Washington County Survey Book 1,Page 389 Commissioners Certificate – on the forks of black water a north branch of Clynch River – beginning at the foot of Powells Mountain on the west side of the Buffalow Lick – at the foot of Newman’s ridge on both sides black water joining Powells Mountain, includes improvements, actual settlement made in 1775 – August 22, 1781”.

The name Blackwater appears in land claims as early as 1775, and the name was known far and wide. Claims were filed in the Virginia Land Office and the North Carolina Land Office for land at Blackwater so hunters from North Carolina and Virginia had spread the word about the large buffalo lick at the Blackwater.

From the North Carolina Archives, we find that Walter and Robert King filed an entry with the North Carolina Land Office for 250 acres that was to include an old buffalo lick.

“Recorded in North Carolina Land Office File No 28 Hawkins County records. Walter King & Robert King make entry No 1947 entered 12 Oct 1779,250 acres near the foot of Powell mountain by the name of Black Water: Beginning near the creek at a poplar, white oak, poplar s;150 poles to a stake, then W;280 poles to a stake, then n;150 poles to a   stake, to include an old Buffalo Lick, surveyed 16 Sep 1793. Thomas Church assigned his interest in the Wilkins land to William Hord and Hord assigned it to Walter King & Robert King 1 Nov 1792”.

In the meantime, Walter Preston was issued a land grant from Virginia that bordered the Thomas Osborne grant and included the buffalo lick. To further complicate the issue Arthur Campbell also obtained a grant from Virginia that included the buffalo lick, all of the Thomas Osborne grant and much of the Preston grant. Apparently Preston ended up as the legitimate owner as he sold his grant to James White. The heirs of Campbell made an effort to reclaim their Blackwater grant, but I find no record that they were successful.

Blackwater buffalo lick

Osborn and Preston land grants at Blackwater, Virginia. Copyright 2009, W. Dale Carter.

The Thomas Osborn grant ended up under the ownership of James and Stephen Osborn. A deed recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 189:

“Stephen Osborn & Comfort & James Osborn & Mary to William Roberts, 31 Jul 1810, DB 3-189. 400A by survey only the 1/2 of the Buffalo lick excepted for James Osborn the same being the west side of the said lick running through the middle thereof with the conditional line made by John Osborn & Roberts from thence marked around the lick on or near the bank of the same $650”.

This deed shows that James Osborn reserved for himself ½ interest in the salt lick when the Thomas Osborn grant was sold to William Roberts. Apparently the lick site was developed as a salt works as a deed made 29 December 1817 and recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 399, shows that William Roberts and his wife, Catherine sold ¼ part of a tract known as the Blackwater tract, to Jessee G. Rainey.

“Being a part of tract said Roberts purchased of James & Stephen Osburn. Including the lick premises and well, now occupied by said parties together and including 100 acres”.

The deed shows that by the year 1817 a well had been dug at the salt lick site. On 5 June 1818 William Roberts and wife sold 1/8  part including the lick premises and well recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 405, and on 12 May 1818 William Roberts and wife sold ½ interest of the lick tract to Joseph and James McReynolds of Bledsoe County, Tennessee for $3,000. Recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 406. The McReynolds deed shows that something of great potential lay within the boundary of the tract. At that point in time, land in and around Blackwater was selling for $1 to $2.50 per acre. The McReynolds paid $60 per acre.

From this time forward, the land records do not show what happened as to the ownership of the salt lick tract; however, on 19 January 1835, by order of the Lee County court, Jacob V Fulkerson, commissioner of the court, sold one moity of the Blackwater salt lick to Dale Carter of Russell County, Virginia. Carter was a large land owner and land speculator who owned large tracts in the Elk Garden and in present-day Wise County, Virginia.

Why all the interest in the buffalo lick? Most likely these early land speculators had visions of developing the site as a salt works much like the one at Saltville. In fact, a salt works was operated at Blackwater for a period of time.

There are two further pieces of information that have a bearing on the land and the road where William Crumley (the second) and probably (the third) lived.

Lee County Order Book 2, page 364 27 Jan 1818; David Burk proposes an alteration in the road leading from the Blackwater salt works up Blackwater to the state line.

The above statement shows that “up” does not mean north, because the state line is south of the salt lick.  Therefore, the land description that says that the Crumley land was “above” the Salt Lick probably means between the lick and the state line.

Lee County Order Book 2, page 374, 29 Apr 1818: John B Neil, Elisha Rogers; Thomas Roberts; William Wallin and David Lawson view a road from the forks below the Blackwater salt works to John B Neils.

This would be the road where William Crumley lived.  His land abutted that of John Neils and William Roberts .

Today, the Roberts Cemetery is near the head of Blackwater Creek in VA, very near the salt lick, located on SR 70, 10 miles south of Jonesville, VA at the foot of Powell Mountain near a group of houses across the road from the Collingsworth Cemetery.  The Roberts Cemetery is where Polly Stapleton, aka, Mary Brown Stapleton, sister of Lydia Brown, wife of William Crumley (the third) is buried.  In fact, it may also be where Lydia Brown Crumley is buried as well.

Note also that William Crumley (the third’s) grandson, John Crumley’s son, James H. Crumley born in 1839 in what became Hancock Co, married on May 10, 1865 to Martha Anderson.

Anderson Cemetery Roberts Cemetery

On this map above, the Anderson Cemetery (left red arrow) is about a mile north of the Virginia/Tennessee border, and the salt lick is another 2-3 miles north of that.  The Roberts Cemetery (right red arrow) is near the salt lick.

You could say that all of Blackwater Road was the Crumley stomping ground.  They knew every nook, cranny and mountain ridge.  William Crumley the second lived his life from 1820 or so until his death after 1837 but before 1840 and his son, William Crumley (the third) lived here from 1820 or so until he packed up his wagon and left for Pulaski County before 1830.  In 1840 William Crumley (the third) had moved back and lived nearby, one ridge over, but by 1850, he was once again living on Blackwater, on the Tennessee side of the line.  For thirty years William Crumley (the third) trod and plowed this land and the land in this area…more or less…except when he moved to Kentucky.  William (the third) buried his wife, (step)mother and father here, not to mention his son Jotham…and those are only the family members we know about.  There were surely more.

I have to believe he would have been pleased to see me on Blackwater Road, looking for his land.  Seems that the Crumleys return here much as the buffalo returned to the salt lick.

Which William Lived Where?

The 1830 census becomes even more confusing, because William (the second) has apparently moved to Pulaski Co., KY., 80-100 miles west of Lee Co., Va. where he appears on the 1830 census age 40-50, one female 20-30 (unknown), one son 5-10 (Aaron), one son 15-20 (Jotham), one daughter 5-10 (Belinda), one daughter 10-15 (Phebe), one daughter 15-20 (Sarah or Clarissa) and one female 40-50, presumably his wife.

Again, son William (the fourth) and a daughter are missing, although Belinda, or at least a female that age, is present in this census.  There is also an extra female, age 20-30.

Pulaski County records have never been searched for William although many of their records were destroyed by fire in 1871.  William could have lived there for only a short time, around 1830, or he could have lived there nearly 20 years, from not long after 1820 to not long before 1840.  A volunteer searched the tax records from 1823-1839 and found no William Crumley, although three years were missing.  I’m guessing this means that he likely did not own land there.  I searched Pulaski County grantor indexes and found no William Crumley by any similar spelling, including Chumley.  The grantee indexes have not yet been imaged, but to buy and sell you have to be both a grantee and a grantor, so it’s unlikely that William owned land in Pulaski County.

Unfortunately, this was my last hope for discovering, positively, William (the third’s) wife’s name after the 1817 marriage.

However, in 1830, there is a William Crumley living in Lee County.  Lo and behold, it appears to be William Crumley (the second).  He is shown, aged 60-70, which would be accurate.  He was shown with 2 females in the household, his wife age 50-60 (presumably Betsey) and a girl age 5-10, possibly a grandchild, or maybe he and Betsy Johnson had one child after their marriage.

Sometime during the next decade William (the third) returned from Kentucky.  I think he returned before 1838 because his daughter Melinda (Malinda, Belinda) was married to James Hervey Davis in Claiborne County in 1838 – and you have to see each other to court.  He may have returned before August 1834 when his son Jotham was married in Lee County.

William (the third) appears on the 1840 Claiborne Co., TN census, age 50-60, possibly no wife, one son 15-20 (Aaron,) two daughters 20-30, (Sarah and Phebe) and one female 60-70 who is unknown.  The female age 60-70 could Lydia and the census date column information could be wrong.  Or Lydia could have died and the female could be Betsy Johnson Crumley, since it appears that William (the second) had died.

Wouldn’t it be a great twist of irony if William Crumley (the third) actually did wind up living in the same household with Betsey Johnson Crumley after his father’s death, even though he was not her husband, but her step-son, as well as her cousin by marriage.  Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Especially in this family line.

Finding William (the Third)

The Claiborne County residence in the 1840 census also suggests that William Crumley is living further west than his father who lived on the border of VA and TN on Blackwater Road, which was part of Hawkins County before Hancock was formed about 1845.  Blackwater Creek and Powell Mountain were originally the eastern boundaries of Claiborne County, where it intersected with Hawkins before the formation of Hancock.

Interestingly enough, I accidently discovered where William was living in 1840 – and it makes a great deal of sense.  This comes in the “truth is stranger than fiction category,” as I wasn’t looking for William Crumley at all when I made this discovery.

I had noticed that in 1840, William Crumley (the third) was listed on the census, along with his son John Crumley, living between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks.

William Crumley 1840 Claiborne

I was looking for where Elizabeth Shepherd McNiel lived in 1830, and she lived beside her son Niel McNiel.  I noticed in some documents that Niel’s land abutted that of Josiah Ramsey.  One of my very experienced genealogy cousins descends from the Ramsey family and I knew she had done a lot of research, so I contacted her to see if she knew the location of Josiah Ramsey’s land.

Cousin Dolores sent a map with land locations overlaid, which was of primary importance.

Josiah Ramsey land division

On the 1830 census, Elizabeth McNiel and her son Niel McNiel live between Josiah Ramsey and Eli Davis in the upper right hand corner of this map.

In 1840, William Crumley is living between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks and near the Hopkins, all shown on this map as neighbors.

In the lower left, Daniel Rice’s land is shown where it would abut Elijah and Joel Vannoy’s lands.  Why is this important?  Because in 1845, William Crumley (the third’s) daughter, Phebe, would marry Joel Vannoy, son of Elijah Vannoy.

So, not only do we now know how Phebe and Joel met, as near neighbors, we also know where William Crumley was living in 1840 after he returned from Pulaski County, KY.  Additionally, in 1848, William’s daughter Sarah would marry Edward Walker, who lived a mile or so beyond Elijah Vannoy’s land on Mulberry Gap Road.

Now, where is this land today?  On the map below, William Crumley likely lived just below the Turner Hollow label.

McNiel to Vannoy

I mapped the location where Niel McNiel would have been living next to Elizabeth McNiel and Eli Davis on present day Turner Hollow Road (on the right) and then where Joel and Elijah Vannoy owned land on Mulberry Gap Road at the red balloon on the left.  Keep in mind that they would likely have taken the “back way” since Rebel Hollow and Turner Hollow intersect and it looks like Joel and Elijah Vannoy probably owned the land between Mulberry Gap Road and the back side of Rebel Hollow Road.  Of course, at the time, it wasn’t called Rebel Hollow Road – a name it acquired during the Civil War.  The history of the Mulberry Gap church tells us that the name arose because a group of southern sympathizers lived there.  Hmmm….

William (the Second) Dies

In January 1837, William (the second) sold his land in Lee County to his son Isaac.  In 1841, Isaac had to prove the deed in court by the testimony of James Weston, Thomas Stapleton and Thomas Weston (husband of Hannah Crumley), the same men who witnessed the 1837 sale, and the deed was recorded October 18, 1841.  This, along with the fact that William (the second) is missing in the 1840 census, suggests that he died between 1837 and 1840.

Thomas Stapleton is the son of the sister of Lydia Brown, Mary “Polly” Stapleton.  In fact in an every larger twist of fate, Isaac, just a decade later, sells at least part of the William Crumley land on Blackwater to Polly Stapleton.

William (the third) lost his father about 1840.  This could have had something to do with why William (the third) returned to the area from Pulaski County.  His father may have been ill in the 1830s and needed help.

William Goes A-Courtin’

William (the third’s) children began marrying in 1828, when John, the eldest son, married a woman named Mahala, last name unknown.  In 1834, Jotham married Anne Robinette in Lee County.  Clarissa married John Graham in 1834 in Greene County and Melinda (or Belinda) married James Hurvey Davis in Claiborne County in 1838.  Aaron wouldn’t marry Anne Scofield until 1844 and Phebe married Joel Vannoy in 1845.  In 1848, Sarah, called Sallie, would marry Edward Walker, a widower who lived in Mulberry Gap Road just down from where Phebe and Joel Vannoy lived.  By 1848, William’s cabin would have been empty and quiet, so it appears that William went a-courtin’.

William (the third) married Pequa (Pya, Pqa, Paa) some time in 1849 or early 1850.  They are listed in the 1850 census of Hancock Co. as ages 61 and 53 and it’s noted that they were married within the past year.  Unfortunately, the Hancock County courthouse burned, twice, so there is no further information available.

It’s unlikely that Pequa had never been married before, given her age.  However, there are no children showing that would have been hers, so if she had children, they were already married and gone, although that is unlikely given that women generally have their last child in their early 40s.

Pequa’s name is extremely interesting.  In 1850, William Crumley (the third) lives in the middle of the Melungeon neighborhood.  John Crumley, his son, lived adjacent and very likely married into the population, as his wife’s name is Mahala, a name traditionally found in the Melungeon families, made particularly famous by legendary Melungeon Mahala Mullins, a very rotund and colorful bootlegger.

The Crumley land, on Blackwater, is also in the Melungeon neighborhood.  The name, Pequa, however, is not found in any other instance in this region to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve researched here for over 30 years now.  Pequa, is, however, a Shawnee word for Phoenix, or risen from the ashes.  There have been family rumors for years of this line being “Native,” but if this is true, and it’s through Pequa, then it’s not a direct line to any of the Crumley children, because by the time Pequa married William Crumley, she would have been too old to have children.

One More Move

Something nudged William to move on, even though he had already seen his 60th birthday.  Why William would want to pack up everything he owned, leave much of his family behind and rattle around in a wagon with no shocks, creaking and bouncing over dirt roads full of wagon ruts, or mudholes, depending on the season, is beyond me.  Appanoose County, Iowa is about 800 miles, on today’s roads, from the area where William lived in Hancock County.  At ten miles a day, the journey would have taken 80 days, or nearly an entire miserable summer.  What was this man’s motivation?

Hancock Co to Appanoose Co

Furthermore, Appanoose County is significantly further north than Hancock County, Tennessee.  I’m betting that William had no idea what was in store for him in terms of winter weather.  Genweb has a delightful page with frightening snow pictures of Iowa weather.  I doubt, if William had seen these, he would have been nearly so willing to depart.  It’s dramatically different than the South.

Appanoose snow

William and Pequa moved to Appanoose Co., Iowa in 1851.  William was shown as age 64 on the 1852 Iowa State census, so born about 1788, but did not appear on the 1860 Appanoose Co. census that listed Pequa as age 64.  William (the third) apparently died after the census in 1852 but before the census in 1860.  He did not die within a year of the census, because he is not listed in the 1860 mortality schedule.  Pequa’s death date is unknown but both are buried someplace in Appanoose Co., Iowa.  After William’s death, Pequa lived with a family in Unionville, a very small town of about 2 blocks in length.  Perhaps William is buried near here.

Unionville, Appanoose Co., Iowa

Iowa was a very different place than William (the third) had ever lived.  It was flat with a horizon that went on forever.  No hills, no mountains.  I wonder if he was happy.  I guess, in part, that answer might have something to do with why he left in the first place.  Perhaps he missed owning land and he apparently had none after returning from Pulaski County, KY.  Maybe he had never really owned land.  Or maybe he just had a case of wanderlust.

Appanoose co horizon

In the “Iowa History up to the 20th Century – History of Iowa from the Earliest Time to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century” Vol 3, in the “Early History of Iowa” section, page 349, Greene Co., it mentions William Crumley coming to Greene County in 1850-51.  This is the same time that the other Crumleys migrated to Iowa.  On the same page in the book, it mentions S.G. Crumley as county clerk and Isaac D. Crumley as sheriff.  The Crumley men apparently succeeded there.

“The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, its Cities, Towns” tells us that land opened for survey in 1850, was initially delayed a bit due to a boundary issue, but by 1860, nearly all of the land was claimed.  The availability of land may have been why William left for Iowa.  Maybe William found something he had chased his entire life.  A review of the Iowa records has never been done.

William’s Death

Several months after I wrote and published this article, cousin Keith, a descendant of William’s son, Aaron, contacted me and said that back in the year 2000, he had visited the Unionville, Iowa cemetery and had found William’s stone.  He took a photo and was kind enough to share with me.

William Crumley stone

I was there able to find the cemetery on Find-A-Grave and found another photo as well.

William crumley stone2

“From the collection of Rhonda L. (Atkinson) Johnson – Find a grave contributor #47027837 rhondabrent Ancestry Family Tree: Atkinson Family Tree:rhondabrent1”

Indeed, this cemetery is just within the village of Unionville, in the upper right hand corner by the T61 marker, to the right.  You can see the rectangle shaped area.

Unionville Iowa map

Here’s a closeup of the cemetery

Unionville Iowa cemetery

William’s final resting place has been identified now, thanks to cousin Keith, and along with it, a mystery has been solved.  The inscription of William’s stone not only tells us when he died, but how old he was, down to the day, so we can now calculate his birthdate as well.

William died on February 15, 1859 at the age of 70 years, 8 months and 13 days.  Utilizing a reverse date calculator, this gives us a birth date for William of June 2, 1788.

Many thanks to cousin Keith.

William’s probate record is shown below as well.  Perhaps eventually the wills of Appanoose County will be online as well.


William’s Children

Children of William (the third) assembled from family information, census and land information are as follows:

  • John Crumley born 1808 in Green Co, TN married Mahala born in 1812 and lived in Hancock County. He named a daughter Lydia. The 1870 census shows a John Crumley in Lee County VA, age 62 (born 1808) with Mahalia, 58, several children, with John stating he was born in Green Co., TN.
  • William Crumley (the fourth) who married Rebecca Malone in 1840 in Greene County was attributed to William (the third,) but I have my doubts, especially since William (the third) was “missing” a child in both census where William (the fourth) should have been listed. However, this William did name a child Jotham.  It also appears that Clarissa was raised by someone in Greene County as well.
  • Jotham (also noted as Sotha) Crumley born October 23, 1813 Greene Co., TN, died August 22, 1841, Lee County, VA, married Ann Robinette on August 14, 1834 in Lee Co., VA.
  • Sarah “Sallie” Crumley born 1814/1815 in Greene County, TN, married Edward Walker in 1848 in Hancock Co., TN. The Walker homestead, a log cabin, still stands.  The Vannoy and Walker households in Hancock County were on the same road and only a mile or so apart.

walker homestead

  • Clarissa Marinda Crumley April 10, 1817 married George Graham in Greene Co January 16, 1834, buried in the Cross Anchor Cemetery, Greene County, TN. There are no children named Lydia or Jotham, but the mitochondrial DNA of Clarissa’s descendants matches that of Phebe, indicating they share a common maternal ancestor.
  • Phebe Crumley born March 4, 1818 died January 17, 1900 married Joel Vannoy and in the late 1860s, moved down the road to Claiborne County where they lived in the Little Sycamore community in Vannoy Holler and had a large family.
  • Belinda Crumley born April 1, 1820 married James Hervey Davis in 1838 in Claiborne County. She died in 1905 and is buried in the Mulberry Gap Baptist Church Cemetery.  Of note, she also named a daughter Lydia.  I would very much like to have a DNA test from someone who descends through all females through one of her 4 daughters, Martha, Lydia, Nancy and Louisa.  This would confirm or refute the tests of Clarissa and Phoebe as being the children of Lydia Brown.
  • Aaron Crumley born in 1821 in Lee County, married Mary Ann Scofield on November 21, 1844 in Claiborne County, TN. Named a son Jotham.  Aaron moved to Iowa with William and Pequa.

Cousin Keith also provided a photo of Mary’s stone, also found in the Unionville, Iowa, Cemetery, so we know that Aaron lived close by as well.

Mary Scofield Crumley stone

She died November 1, 1862 at 38 years, 7 months and 1 day.  I would have expected that Aaron would be buried here as well, in an unmarked grave, but cousin Keith uncovered information in later census that Aaron went on to Missouri and Kansas.

Cousin Keith also provided an obituary for one of Aaron’s sons, which may provide some breadcrumbs for researchers on this line.  I notice that the Crumleys continues to move to new areas as Indiana, Pennsylvania and Houston, TX are mentioned.

Crumley, Aaron's child obit

Of William’s children, the ones I most question as belonging to William Crumley (the third) and his wife, Lydia, are William and Clarissa, both because they married in Greene County, TN.  Either they were raised there, or the family traversed back and forth quite a bit.

Crumley DNA

When I first began the Crumley DNA project, there was one burning question we wanted to answer.

In addition to this Crumley family, who at that time we presumed was connected to the Greene County group, there was one George Crumley in Sullivan County, TN.

For decades, the two families searched for a common ancestor or a link to prove they were related – or that they weren’t.  That link remained elusive, although both families did have children named William,  Unfortunately, William is such a common name that one really can’t draw any inferences from that alone.

The most difficult part of this comparison was finding the first Crumley males from each group to test.  DNA testing was in its infancy.  I formed the Crumley DNA Project and began to see who I could find to test to represent the two lines.

I’ll never forget the cousin, nicknamed Wildman, who made and sold possum skin bikinis for larger women on the internet, and would give a discount if the lady would send him a picture of herself in the bikini.  Wildman wanted to know if I wanted to clone him.

I told him no, and the possums don’t want more than one of him either:)

At that time, more than a decade ago, there was little understanding of any genealogical DNA testing, so the folks who tested did so simply out of trust and good grace.  Wildman represented the Sullivan County line and my cousin Jerry represented the Greene County line.  We just knew we were all from the same ancestral line.

Except… we weren’t.

Thank Heavens, the answer is definitive.  No maybe or ambiguity about it.  Not only are we not related, we’re not even in the same haplogroup.  We were disappointed, but so glad we could stop chasing that elusive connection document that didn’t exist.

The George Crumley line is haplogroup G-M201 and the Greene County line is haplogroup I-M223.

Crumley DNA project

But, are we sure?  Was there an NPE or undocumented adoption in one line or the other.  We needed a second male descended from a second son of each ancestral line to test, just in case.

We found another Crumley male for the Greene County group three months later, but it would be another year before we found another male for the Sullivan County group.  Even today, that group hasn’t grown beyond the original two.

We did in fact confirm that yes, the two groups are entirely separate.  Now the confusion is only genealogical when their descendants move into counties where their records are co-mingled – like, oh, say, multiple William Crumleys.

Yep, the Crumley Curse lives on!


Other contributing researchers to the Crumley family are Truett Crumley (deceased), Paul L. Nichols (deceased), Stevie Hughes, Larry Crumley, Irmal Crumley Haunschild (deceased), Jerry Crumley, and Nella Myers (deceased.)



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London DNA Sculpture Trail

I’m typically not a “things” person, but I’m telling you, I want one of these for my garden.  Oh yeah!!!!!  In fact, I think making one would be great fun!!!

helix sculptures

This summer (2015), you can take part in an extraordinary event across London, England, in support of Cancer Research UK.

This London art trail is made up of 21 beautifully designed giant double helix sculptures and runs until Sunday the 6th of September.  These sculptures have been designed by some of the biggest names in art and design. Check out the sculpture map, watch the video of how one sculpture was made, and start planning your trail now, at least if you’re going to be in London.  I surely wish they’d do a virtual tour for those of us who can’t visit in person.

helix sculpture map

At the end of the summer, these sculptures will be auctioned to raise funds to complete the Francis Crick Institute, the scientist of course who discovered DNA.

You can see the Individual sculptures here.

I personally love the Delft one.  And the cat one with the buttons.  And the orange tree from Spain.  And the helix ladder.  And the symbolic swallow with handprints.  Ok, I like them all.  Which one is your favorite?


Subscriber PB has sent two photos of the sculptures in London.  Thanks PB.  If anyone else sends photos, I’d love to add them too.

DNA Sculpture 1

DNA Sculpture 2



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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