Given the time in which she lived, we know quite a bit about Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, but we only have hints, and a mystery, about her parents.
Dorothy was born in 1663 – that much we know for sure, or within a year either way, based on a deposition she gave in 1704 regarding the will of one James Gilbert. She died sometime after early 1725 and before 1753 when her second husband, Jeremiah Greenham, died.
Dorothy and Thomas Durham had interactions with several people over the span of their lifetimes that tell us the names of two of Dorothy’s sisters. Other documents tell us that Dorothy was probably closely related to William Smoot, but the fact that Dorothy’s son married William Smoot’s daughter pretty much eliminates the possibility that William Smoot was Dorothy’s father. William could have, however, been her brother or uncle or some other relative.
And then there’s poor James Gilbert. A man so beset by epilepsy that he didn’t remember what was in his will a year or two after signing it. Either he or his wife are also somehow connected to William Smoot as well, because that same William Smoot quit-claimed a deed when Mary Gilbert, widow of James, sold land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham after James Gilbert’s horrible death.
The script of these families living in the Northern Neck of Virginia reads something like the thriller TV series, Dallas, with equally as much intrigue – but without the ability to tune in next season to discover the outcome. It’s like never knowing who shot JR Ewing!
If you’d like to read more about these Northern Neck families that intermarried, along with the history that formed their life and times in the century or so following the settlement of Jamestown, I would suggest the following articles:
The Parents of Charles Dodson, Jamestown Unraveled, 52 Ancestors #163
Anne (probably not) Elmore (c1650/2-c1721), Wife of Charles Dodson, 52 Ancestors #159
Charles Dodson (1649-1706), Forcible Entry, 52 Ancestors #157
Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory, A Tallow Sort of Fellow, 52 Ancestors #153
Thomas Dodson (1681-1740), Planter on Totuskey Creek, 52 Ancestors #151
George Dodson (1702-after 1756), Disappeared Without a Trace, 52 Ancestors #145
Raleigh Dodson (1730-c1794) of Dodson’s Ford; Ferryman, Surveyor and Stone Dresser, 52 Ancestors #143
Dorothy Durham (1663-after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164
Thomas Durham (before 1649-1715), A Governor’s Son?, 52 Ancestors #161
Mary Durham (1686 – c 1746), Scandals and Scoundrels, 52 Ancestors #152
Henry Dagord or Dagod or Maybe Doggett (c 1660/1683 – after 1708), 52 Ancestors #150
Margaret Dagord (1708-?) of North Farnham Parish, 52 Ancestors #147
This article about Dorothy’s parents is the last in this series.
There are several players in our Northern Neck family drama as we try to unravel who Dorothy’s parents were, and weren’t, so let’s talk about each person briefly, then take a deep dive into the details. What you’ll discover is that we don’t have individual stories, we have a tapestry of interwoven lives in tidewater Virginia when it was Rappahannock County and then after 1692 when it became Richmond County.
William Smoot Sr.
William Smoot does play a prominent role in the life of Dorothy Durham, but it most assuredly is not as her father. It’s easy to see how the confusion arose though, because in August of 1700, William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy and her children for “the great love I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham.” This does indeed sound fatherly, but it surely wasn’t, because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr. marries Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot Sr., as proven by William’s 1716 will. Clearly, Dorothy’s son did not marry his mother’s sister, meaning his aunt. However, William Smoot is surely somehow related, as he also mentions Dorothy’s niece through her sister in that same land transaction. We will take a look at the Smoot family to see what gems we can unearth.
James and Mary Gilbert
James and Mary Gilbert are tied into this tapestry by some colorful thread. These families spend a lot of time together, argue like families do, and after James Gilbert’s death, Mary sells her land to Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming his interest in that land. Unfortunately, we don’t know what interest William Smoot held in Mary’s land nor his relationship to Mary.
Thankfully, James Gilbert’s will was contested and we find half a dozen depositions that discuss the circumstances involving his will. Unfortunately, none of them tell us exactly who is who, but there are clues to be gathered.
Fortunately, depositions are juicy and make great reading! These remind me of the board game Clue – the butler did it in the kitchen with the candlestick!
John Mills and John Mills Jr.
Somehow, for some reason, James Gilbert leaves his estate to John Mills Jr. Even before James Gilbert’s death, there are extremely hard feelings between the families – so much so that James Gilbert and his wife appear to live apart as a result. This has to be something more serious than hen dung on James Gilbert’s chest. Wait until you hear this story!
Alice and John Chinn
Dorothy’s sister, Alice, married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 in Lancaster Co, VA and her will is found recorded in will book 8 page 105/106. Her children named in the will were Ann Fox, wife of Capt. William Fox, Catherine Heale and Rawleigh Chinn. We’ll look to see what, if anything we can find about John Chinn and Alice that might suggest who Alice’s parents are.
Thomazin and Abraham Marshall
Dorothy’s sister, Thomazin married Abraham Marshall. We find Abraham also woven into the tapestry of Northern Neck families, in particular, with the Gilberts and Mills. Thomazin is such a beautiful name. I do wonder if it’s the feminine version of Thomas, perhaps in a family who had no male children? I’m very surprised that there is no Thomazin or Alice found in Dorothy’s children, although it’s certain that Dorothy had children that died.
Elizabeth Grady left her entire estate to Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot? Why, and how was Elizabeth related to Mary Smoot?
Charting the Relationships
When doing both Appalachian and Acadian genealogy, one of my favorite sayings is that it’s not a family tree, but a family vine. I think that’s very true of this time period in Virginia, as well, especially in regions that were for some reason rather isolated – like on the Northern Neck peninsula of land. Granted, new people settled there, but the families who owned land adjacent to each other along a creek were destined to interact and intermarry for a generation or two. There wasn’t anyone else close enough and available, so you married your neighbors who may also have been your kin.
I’m not going to kid you – this is one of the most difficult evaluations I’ve ever done. There are partial records and a lot of players that are obviously somehow connected, but the “how” is not obvious. Maybe you’ll have some thoughts after reading the details – and I’d love to hear from you.
If this is not your family line, you may not revel in the details, but if you have a difficult problem of your own to unravel, you might be interested in how I approached this problem and what I was able to glean.
Now, not to scare you, but the chart below represents the players in this drama and the defining events that connect them together, aside from the relationships implied in the pedigree chart used as the base for the activity grid. Please click to enlarge this or any graphic.
Let me explain how this works. The pedigree chart in the top half of the graphic shows how the various individuals are connected through known/proven relationships. The three individuals in dark rose are Dorothy Durham and her proven sisters, connected to their unknown parents at the top. It’s very likely that their parents are also interacting in the neighborhood. We know that both of Dorothy’s sisters married local boys, so it makes sense that Dorothy’s parents lived there too. You can’t marry someone if they aren’t close enough to court. In fact, Dorothy’s parents may be some of the people at the bottom of the chart – the ones not connected to the people at the top through known relationships.
The green boxes include data, detailed in the extracted records in the next section, but too detailed to include in the person’s pink or blue box in the chart above without making the box too large for the chart.
For example, the green box below James Gilbert details his activities and interactions with others on the grid. The red arrows point from the person who is interacting with someone else. James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr., so a red arrow points from James Gilbert to John Mills Jr.
The above chart is meant to be utilized with the extracted records to form a visual of the complex relationships. The red arrows do NOT include what I would consider to be normal activities, such as land transferred between parents and children, wills, etc. In other words, the red arrows only show the interactions between people who are not directly related and whose relationship to others is not immediately obvious based on the pedigree chart itself.
Anyone who does read this entire document, I welcome your thoughts as to how the various individuals are or might be related to Dorothy Durham. Conversely, if you feel something precludes a specific relationship, I’m interested in that as well. And of course it goes without saying that if anyone has additional information, I’m all ears and would be very grateful for anything missing! There may be additional information in other counties that I’m not aware of.
Not living in or near the Northern Neck of Virginia, I utilized the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana to access the extracted records for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, but plus select others. In addition, I utilized a site called “Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia’s Northern Neck Counties.” I don’t know who compiled this information, and their conclusions are sometimes incorrect, often suffering from generational confusion, but when they provide notes, they always include sources, which is a very valuable contribution. I’m very grateful for all their hard work.
Some records below that involve two parties are included in the information for both people. I couldn’t really see a better way to handle the information, presented in timeline format, without some level of duplication.
The Smoot Family
Somehow, the Smoot family is related to Dorothy. There is no other reason for William Smoot to give Dorothy land with “great love and affection” and name her sister’s child as an alternate beneficiary if they are not family. The question is, of course, how are they related? In order to attempt to answer this question, I stepped back a generation to William Smoot’s (possible) parents and began there.
My initial perspective was that Dorothy was either a child to William Smoot, as is widely reported in people’s family trees, or a sister. That’s where I began my search.
According to the book, The Smoots of Maryland and Virginia by Harry Wright Newman, William Smoot(e)(es)(s) immigrated in 1646 with his wife Grace Wood, Wood being her previous husband’s name, along with their children: Thomas, Richard, Elizabeth, Anne and Ales (Alice) and Elizabeth Wood his wife’s daughter along with Anne Woodnot, William Smoot’s servant. William patented land for his headrights, naming family members noted above individually, on the west side of the Wicohomico River in Charles County, Maryland in 1652.
William Smoot and family settled in Maryland, across the Potomac from the Northern Neck area. He died sometime after his son, Thomas, died in February 1667/68. Grace died on January 14, 1665/66 according to the Archives of Maryland, Vol 60, page 116.
There is a land record for William Smoot in 1683 in Charles County, MD transferring land to Humphrey Warren and also to William Hungerford. There is no estate record for William Smoot of Maryland.
Based on information I was able to find, mostly from the Newman book, I constructed a tree of William Smoot’s known children.
You will notice that there is no William Smoot Jr. listed in known descendants. This means that William Smoot of Rappahannock County, if he is the son of William Smoot of Maryland, had to be born after 1646 when the list of children for which William Smoot Sr. received a headright was documented, meaning William Jr. (the second) would have come of age no earlier than 1667 if he was born after 1646.
Let’s look at the dates and see if that is possible.
First, Grace Wood Smoot had already borne 6 children who lived, so spanning about 12 reproductive years. Let’s say she first married at age 20. That means that in 1646, she would have been no younger than age 32 and possibly older. If Grace was age 32, she had about 10 years more to bear children, so possibly bore 5 additional children, until about 1656. She could also have been past child-bearing age, but she had no more than 10 reproductive years left.
We know for sure that Dorothy Durham was born in 1663, according to her own deposition, so Dorothy Durham could not have been the child of Grace Wood Smoot. Therefore, if Dorothy and William Smoot are brother and sister, it’s not through William Smoot of Maryland and his wife, Grace.
William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records as a witness in 1672, in a location where William Smoot of Maryland did not live. He was likely at least 21 by this time. His son, William Smoot Jr. first appears in records about 1700, so this makes sense.
By 1678, William Smoot in Rappahannock County is purchasing land, 150 acres on the Moratico Path, adjoining John Ingoe.
In March 1683/84, William Smoot in Rappahannock County with wife Jane transfers land to Richard Ellett, so William is married by that time.
Over the next many years, William Smoot of Rappahannock County appears repeatedly with Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and Peter Elmore – families and neighbors all intertwined one way or another.
These records suggest that William Smoot of Rappahannock County was born no later than 1651, so he could potentially be a son of William Smoot of Maryland, but not if Dorothy is his sister.
William Smoot of Rappahannock County died in 1715, mentioning his grandchildren by daughter Mary who married Thomas Durham Jr., son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. He left everything to his son-in-law, Thomas Durham, and his Durham grandchildren. William Smoot had two other daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, twins, born on March 16, 1698, according to the North Farnham Parish register, but they apparently died, as they are never mentioned elsewhere.
William Smoote and his wife Jane are having children in the 1690s, at the same time as Dorothy and Thomas Durham, so they appear to be about the same age, not offset by a generation.
I have found absolutely nothing to tie William Smoot of Rappahannock County to William Smoot of Maryland other than the same name and living across the Chesapeake from each other.
If William Smoot of Rappahannock County was NOT the son of William Smoot of Charles County, Maryland, then it’s possible that Dorothy was the sister of William Smoot of Rappahannock County.
Given that William Smoot of Rappahannock County’s daughter, Mary, very clearly married the son of Dorothy Durham, Dorothy was assuredly not the daughter of William Smoot of Rappahannock County. If Dorothy had been the daughter of William Smoot, that would have meant that Dorothy’s sister married her son. Ewwww…
However, if Dorothy was the sister of either William Smoot or William Smoot’s wife, and their children married, that would have means that Mary Smooth and Thomas Durham were first cousins. That’s not an unusual marriage in colonial times.
Of course, the speculation about the relationship between Dorothy and William Smoot is all caused by the 1700 deed that reads thus:
Richmond County Deed Book August 2, 1700 – Deed of gift. William Smoot Sr. of N. Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for consideration received and for the great love that I have and beare unto Dorothy Durham wife of Thomas Durham of same county and her children do give unto her and her children a 62 acre parcel of land bounded by Thomas Durham, branch of Morattico Creek, land of the same William Smoot Sr., land of Rowland Lawson, line of Mr. Grimes and line of Clare. If in case the said Dorothy Durham die that then the land shall come to Thomas Durham eldest son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that then the land shall come to John Durham second son of the said Dorothy and in case that he die without issue that the land shall come to Mary Durham eldest daughter of the said Dorothy Durham and in case she shall happen to die without issue that then the land shall come to the fourth, fifth, sixth and c children of the same Dorothy, but in case of want of issue that the land shall descend to Ann Fox wife of William Fox of Lancaster Co., gent. Wit John Simmons, Thomas Mackey, ack Aug 7, 1700 Book 3 page 57
Aug 2, 1700 – Power of attorney Jane Smoot wife of William Smoot Sr. having appointed Edward Jones my attorney to ack the above gift to Dorothy Durham and her children. Wit Thomas Mackey, Edmond Overton. Book 3 page 58
Court Order Book Page 56, August 7, 1700 – Ordered that the deed for land ack in this court by William Smoot Sr. unto Dorothy Durham, wife of Thomas Durham, be recorded.
This deed indicates that the land is bounded by Thomas Durham, which suggests that he already owned the neighboring land. If so, that would likely have been the Abraham Marshall land referenced in the 1723 sale of this land by Thomas Durham Jr. No deed exists for the sale from Marshall into the Durham family, although the date of 1692 is provided in the 1723 sale.
This 1700 deed is quite interesting and somewhat perplexing. Just to keep the players straight, William Smoot is the father of Mary Smoot, to whom Mary Grady also leaves land. Clearly there is a very close connection between William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.
- First, this deed is to Dorothy, not Dorothy AND her husband, Thomas Durham together and not to Thomas Durham alone as most land would typically be deeded. This meant that Thomas Durham exercised no authority over this land and could not sell the land. It was Dorothy’s and Dorothy’s alone until her death.
- Second, William Smoot is also somehow related to Ann Fox, daughter of Dorothy’s sister, Alice who married John Chinn. Alice died in 1701 but Dorothy’s other sister, Thomazin/Thomasin lived until after 1713.
- Third, this deed names Dorothy’s living children that are documented in the North Farnham Parish registers. The deed was written in August 1700 and John Durham was born on November 23, 1698.
This deed tells us that of Dorothy’s children, Mary is the eldest living daughter and John and Thomas are the eldest living sons. Given John’s birth date, they have to be the only living sons. What we don’t know is whether or not the children referenced as 4th, 5th and 6th are living or are speculative in case they exist in the future.
It’s certainly unlikely that between 1686 and 1700 and Dorothy only had 3 children. Six or 7, assuming they all lived until weaned, would be normal. If the children numbered 4-6 noted in the will, were living, they were assuredly females or they would have been listed ahead of daughter Mary in the inheritance order. If they were living in 1700, they weren’t by the time Thomas Durham Sr. wrote his will in 1711.
Furthermore, I can’t find any record of where William Smoot received this land, unless it’s part of this patent found in the Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants, 1694-1742, Vol 1:
2-315 – William Smoot Sr., 262 acres in Richmond Co. adjacent his other land, Bryary Swamp, James Gilbert, Mr. Leuson, Mr. Grimes line, line of Clears, April 29, 1700
This deed indicates the 262 acres are bounded by James Gilbert – but the 62 acre deed to Dorothy says it is adjacent Thomas Durham, so William Smoot’s land grant may not be the same land that he deeded to Dorothy, or the land of William Smoot, James Gilbert and Thomas Durham may all be adjacent each other. The neighbors, except for Thomas Durham, appear to be the same in William Smoot’s deed to Dorothy as his land grant – so the 62 acres must surely be part of his grant.
Why did William Smoot deed land to Dorothy just a little over three months after he patented the land?
In addition, we find the following deed with William Smoot quit-claiming any right he has to 50 acres of land sold to Thomas and Dorothy Durham by Mary Gilbert.
26 Apr 1707 Richmond County, Virginia Deed Book 4, 1705-1708 page 109a-110a – This Indenture made the six and twentieth day of April anno Domini 1707 and in sixth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Anne by the Grace of God of England, Scotland, France and Ireland Queene, Defender of the faith Between Mary Gilbert of the parish of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia, Widdow of the one part, and Thomas Durham of North Farnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion aforesaid, Planter and Dorothy his wife of the other party. Witnesseth that the said Mary Gilbert for good and valuable consideration in hand payed the receipt whereof the said Mary doth hereby acknowledge and of every part and parcel thereof doth requitt consrate and discharge the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires by these presents do give grant, bargaine sole alienate entaile and confirme unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife theire heirs and assignes a certain plantation tract or parcele of land scituate lying and being in the parish of North Ffarnham in the county of Richmond and Dominion of Virginia upon a Branch of Ffarnham Creeke called and knowne by the name of the Buory (Briery) Swamp, containing by estimation fifty acres, now in the tenure and occupation of Walter Wright and bounded as followeth: …corner along land of William Smoot… the said Mary Gilbert for her self, her heires, Exors. and Admns. doth covenant promise, grant and assign to the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes In manner and form as followeth, That is to say, that the said Mary Gilbert att the time of the ensealing and delivery hereof hath true title, full power and lawful authority to grant and convey the said bargained land and premisses as aforesaid and allso from time to times and att all times hereafter …… doth hereby grant unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and their heires and assignes with all the rights members and appurtanances thereunto belonging or appurtaining without…..and do Execute and acknowledge any other or further deed or deeds which shall be advised, devised or required by the said Thomas Durham, Dorothy his wife or theire Counsel learned in the law or theire heires or assignes for the better and more sure settlement of all and singular of the premisses hereto granted and every part and parcel of the said land unto the said Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife and theire heires and assignes forever, In Witness whereof the said Mary Gilbert have hereunto put her hand and seal the day and month and year above written. Signed, sealde and Delivered in the presence of: William Smoot, Mil. Walters Mary M Gilbert (signed with M mark) (seal) Recorded 15 May 1707, Teste: J. Sherlock (Supplement to the History of the Dodson-Dotson Family of Southwest Virginia. Compiled and edited by the Rev. Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr. N.p: the author, 1966., pp. 106-107)
Five items of interest:
- Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for importing one person. Someone would receive this for paying their own passage.
- Does the fact that Walter Wright is living on this land imply that Mary Gilbert is not living on the land? Does this perhaps mean this land was “family land” and not the farm where she lived with husband James Gilbert?
- Mary does not specify the nature of the “valuable consideration” she received, which is rather unusual. It could have been that the Durhams agreed to take care of her in her old age.
- Mary clearly retained this land outside of her husband’s will, which means either she owned is separately from him, inherited it after his death, or his will was overturned. Even so, Mary Gilbert would have been entitled to no more than 30% of his estate and we have nothing to indicate that James Gilbert owned this land.
- William Smoot is somehow involved with Mary Gilbert and has some unspecified interest in this land, which he releases.
P 110a – William Smoote planter, Farnham Parish, consideration to Thomas Durham of same, planter, quit claim a certain plantation and tract or land situate in upon a branch of Farnham Creek called the Bryery Swamp and bounded (same description as deed between Mary Gilbert and Thomas Durham above) April 20, 1707 signed. Wit Anne Kelly and Mil. Waters
Note Anne Kelly is Thomas Durham’s indentured servant. This land is on the same swamp as the land that William Smoot conveyed to Dorothy Durham in 1700.
Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – Mary Gilbert acknowledge deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.
Court Order Book Page 299 September 3, 1707 – William Smoot acknowledge release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.
The only reason William Smoot would be quit-claiming this land is if he had some sort of real or legally perceived interest in the land. That interest would most likely be by inheritance. In other words, we know that William Smoot is not the son of Mary Gilbert, at least not by her Gilbert husband, or their surnames would be the same, so if William Smoot holds an interest in Mary’s land, it would perhaps be because his wife, Jane, is the daughter of Mary Gilbert, he is Mary’s son from an earlier marriage, or because Mary Gilbert and Jane or William Smoot both inherited this land from a common ancestor.
Possibilities for the relationship between William Smoot and Dorothy:
- Father and daughter – This is discounted because Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., married William Smoot’s daughter, Mary.
- Parent and siblings – meaning that Mary is the mother from an earlier marriage to a Smoot man to Dorothy, William Smoot and Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. This is improbable because Thomasin, still living in 1707, does not quitclaim the land to Thomas Durham along with William Smoot.
- Siblings – meaning that Dorothy, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are all siblings. This is possible.
- Siblings in law – Meaning that Dorothy is the sister of William’s wife, Jane. This is also possible.
- Uncle and niece, meaning that William Smoot is Mary Durham’s uncle, which suggests that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy Durham’s aunt or mother. This is also possible.
I did find something humorous about Jane Smoot, William’s wife.
In the Richmond County Court Order book, one page Page 83, January 2, 1722/23, the court ordered the sheriff to summon to court Jane Smoot, widow, of Northfarnham Parish to answer the presentment of the grand jury for common and notorious swearers.
Jane was in good company, however, because this list of swearers also included Doctor Robert Taylor, so it wasn’t just peasant people who swore and were reprimanded.
Apparently, William Smoot’s estate wasn’t divided until several years later.
Court Order Book, Page 297.298 July 7, 1735 William Smoot’s estate to be divided. Dominick and Joseph Durham by their petition setting forth that William Smoot, decd, did by his will order his estate should be equally divided between Thomas Durham, Margaret Durham, Joseph Durham and Sarah Durham only that his wife Jane Smoot should have it during her natural life which said Jane Smoot is likewise deceased, thereupon pray that persons maybe appointed to divide the same, whereupon John Woodbridge, William Glascock and George Glascock appointed to divide the estate according to the will of the said William Smoot decd and to settle the accounts between the partys and make report to the next court.
Page 298 July 7, 1735 Upon motion of Sarah Durham, Mary Durham is admitted her guardian giving security whereupon the said Mary Durham together with Jeremiah Greenham, her security, entered into bond and acknowledged same.
The North Farnham Parish church registry tells us that Jane Smoot died on October 4, 1726.
Aside from these land transactions, Dorothy and Thomas Durham were clearly very close to the Smoot family.
Court Order book Page 218 Dec. 3 1702 – Nonsuite is granted to Thomas Durham and Dorothy his wife for the nonappearance of William Smoote Jr which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.
One thing I do find unusual is that William Smoot Sr. who died in 1716 does not leave anything to his son, William Smoot Jr. who is mentioned in earlier records. Because he also does not ever deed land to William Jr., and doesn’t mention him in his will, I would presume that William Jr. died sometime before 1716. It appears that William and Jane Smoot had no living children other than Mary Smoot who married Thomas Durham Jr.
Another William Smoot
If two William Smoots at the same time, one in Maryland and one in Rappahannock County weren’t bad enough, there’s a possible third one in the records too.
In the Northumberland County records, we find a William Smoot functioning there, owing corn between 1648 and 1652. There is no William Smoot on the 1652 Northumberland Oaths of Allegiance list.
William Smoot of Maryland was clearly in this area, but William Smoot of old Rappahannock County would likely have been underage at this time, so either this is William Smoot of Maryland or perhaps a third William Smoot.
Now, to make things every more complex, we have another unusual inheritance.
In a will written by Elizabeth Grady on March 10, 1693/94 and probated on Nov 4, 1702, Mary Smoot daughter of William Smoot is left all of Elizabeth Grady’s land. Mary Smoot is a child at the time.
Is Elizabeth Grady perhaps a sister of William Smoot or his wife, Jane? If so, Elizabeth could also be a sibling of Dorothy Durham.
Elizabeth Grady’s will was written March 10, 1693/94 and probated Nov. 4, 1702: Mary Smoot dau of William Smoot all land, ex: William Smoot; wits Thomas Durham, Richard Draper, John Rankin
The executor of the estate is William Smoot, and the witnesses are Thomas Durham, Richard Draper and John Rankin. Generally, a son, son-in-law, brother or brother-in-law perform executor functions.
Court Order Book Page 184 July 1, 1702 – Will of Elizabeth Grady proved by oaths of John Rankin and Thomas Durham.
This question of Elizabeth’s identity has further reaching implications than it appears, because the people involved are intertwined.
I extracted every Grady record in both Rappahannock and Richmond Counties, and came up exactly empty handed. In other words, we don’t know where Elizabeth Grady obtained this land, who her husband was, nor why she left the land to Mary Smoot, a very young child.
I was not able to discover any land transfer to a Grady in a timeframe in either Rappahannock or Richmond County that would account for how Elizabeth Grady came to own this land which, unfortunately, does not have a description.
Clearly, somehow, Elizabeth Grady was related to Mary Smoot through one of her parents.
Elizabeth Grady and Mary Gilbert both own land that cannot be accounted for.
James and Mary Gilbert
Somehow, James and Mary Gilbert are in this mixture too. One researcher suspects that James and Mary are the parents of Dorothy Durham, and that may in fact be the case. I extracted every single Gilbert entry for Rappahannock and Richmond Counties.
James Gilbert apparently suffered from epilepsy and had for several years according to a deposition sworn in 1704 in conjunction with the contested probating of his will. He may have been “not in his right mind,” as they would say. We know today that untreated epilepsy leads to progressively more brain damage with every seizure. We also don’t know what caused the epilepsy. The testimony indicates he had it for years, but doesn’t say that it was a lifelong problem. It’s possible that a closed head injury resulting from an accident of some type was the beginning of epileptic seizures for James.
Let’s look at what we know about James and Mary Gilbert.
Court Order Book March 5, 1689/90 – Antho: Montades entered his information in this court against James Gilbert for concealing one tithable this last preceding year.
In other counties, I have found that concealed tithables often means that the wife was of mixed race. Anyone not “white” was taxed differently, meaning that white wives were not taxed, but wives of color, or mixed race, were taxed. Therefore, sometimes men refused to pay tax on their wives and were subsequently convicted in court of concealing tithables. Of course, not reporting any taxable person would be concealing tithables, including white males over a certain age (generally 16) and any non-white person, regardless of relationship. Regardless, James was found in 1690 to have more taxable people than he paid taxes for.
In 1690, James Gilbert was assigned jury duty 3 times. If James Gilbert was impaired, he would not have been summoned for jury duty, so we can presume his seizures began or worsened sometime after 1690. This also tells us that James owned land in 1690, because only free white landowners were allowed to sit on juries.
Court Order Book Sept. 2, 1691 – Order granted against sheriff to John Morgan for the nonappearance of James Gilbert according to declaration.
Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Morgan, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.
Court Order Book May 5, 1692 – Nonsuit granted to James Gilbert against John Thomas, he not appearing to prosecute to be paid with costs.
Court Order Book Sept 8, 1692 – Reference granted between John Morgan plt and James Gilbert deft till next court.
Court Order Book Oct. 6, 1692 – Judgment granted to John Morgan against James Gilbert for 1000 pounds tobacco according to declaration to be paid with costs of suit.
Court Order Book Nov 2, 1692 – John Morgan brought his action to last August court against James Gilbert and complained against him in a plea of the case for that Nathaniel Browne of the county of Lancaster some time in the year 1690 did receive and marke with his own proper marke one hogshead of tobacco at the house of the said James Gilbert and did by noat under his hand transfer the same unto the complainant or his assignee and that the complainant upon the said noat sending for the said hogshead of tobacco the said James wholy refused to deliver the same and that he still doth refuse to the complainants damage 1000 pounds of tobacco and caske for this prayed judgment but the deft not appearing either by himself of his attorney to answer the said suit, a conditional order passed against him for the sum aforesaid, returnable to this court where the said James Gilbert also not appearing the court have confirmed the above recited order and do order that the said James Gilbert do pay unto the said John Morgan the said 1000 pounds of tobacco, damage with all costs of suit.
Colonial planters were quite litigious. The above type of court cases were quite typical, although this suit makes me wonder if his seizures had begun by this time, along with his apparent cognitive decline.
Court Order Book June 7, 1693 – In the suit depending between William Smyth Plt and William Richardson def for the better decision thereof, it is ordered that Mr Edwin Conway together with a jury to be impaneled by the sheriff of this county or his deputie and sworn by Mr Thomas Glascock who is requested to be present at the time here under expressed on the 2nd Tuesday in July do meet on the land of the said William Richardson and survey a patent granted to Thomas Madison for 250 acres in Rappahannock now Richmond now bearing the date of of November 17, 1670 having regard to the antient reputed bounds of the said patent and that they make report of their proceedings herein to the next court held for this county. Also ordered that James Gilbert do produce the said patent unto the jury and surveyors at the time and place aforesaid.
The Northern Neck land patents suggests that James Gilbert wound up owning some of the patent land, which would explain why he might be holding the original patent itself.
Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery dismist, the plt not prosecuting.
Court Order Book Nov 4, 1698 – The action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt. not prosecuting
Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Suit between James Gilbert and Edward Geffery deft upon reading the declaration, the deft. Pleads not guilty in manner and form as in the said declaration. Jury returns after evidence heard find for the plt 550 pounds tobacco with cost of suit and 500 pounds tobacco in cask damage, and that Geffery pay to Gilbert 1050 pounds tobacco together with cost of suit
Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.
Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that Willliam Lawson be paid for 12 days attendance according to act by James Gilbert being by him subpoenaed an evidence in the suit between said James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery def.
Court Order Book Sept 7, 1699 – the action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris dismist, the plt not prosecuting.
Deed Book P 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.
This tells us that James Gilbert’s land is adjacent to John Mills land. Extreme hard feelings develop between James Gilbert and the Mills family. James Gilbert, for some reason, leaves everything in his estate to John Mills Jr. which causes a huge rift with his wife, Mary Gilbert.
Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Edward Geffery is dismist, the plt not prosecuting.
Court Order Book Nov. 4, 1702 – Appearing to this court that Elinor Hughes has by her own confession fugitively absented herself out of the service of her master, James Gilbert, the space of 23 days, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes the space of 46 days after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired.
Elinor Hughes, servant to Gilbert Jones (sic) being presented to this court for having a bastard child, the court have ordered that she serve her said master or his assignes according to act in consideration for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.
This day James Gilbert confessed judgement to the church wardens of North Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco it being the fine of Elinor Hughes for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child to be paid with costs also.
Ordered that Elinor Hughes servant to James Gilbert by and with her own consent do serve her said master of his assignes the space of one whole yeare after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired in satisfaction for his paying her fie for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child.
Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.
Court Order Book June 3, 1703 – Action brought by James Gilbert against William Norris is dismist the plt not prosecuting.
James Gilbert wrote his will on January 31, 1701, with the will being probated January 7, 1704. I actually ordered a copy of the original will, hoping it would be more complete or hold clues that the extracted version did not.
In the name of God, Amen…..I James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish in the County of Richmond being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God…that I be buried in a Christianlike and decent manner, at the Resurrection I shall receive the same againe by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate where in the power of God, and, as touching such worldly estate where it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and forme:
I suspect the paragraph above was probably standard verbiage for anyone drawing up a will, BUT, I’ve included the verbiage at this time for two reasons. First, in following depositions, people testify that he was not “of perfect mind and memory” and that he told people he was not at all sure that there was a Resurrection. James apparently wasn’t terribly ill, because he lived another three years. James goes on to say, in his will:
I give and bequeath to Mary, my deare beloved wife the summe of twenty shillings of lawful money of England to be raised and levyed out of my estate.
I give to my well beloved friend John Mills Jr. whome I likewise constitute make and ordaine my only and sole executor of this my last will and testament all singular my estate both personal and reall excepted before excepted by him and his heires freely to be possessed and enjoyed and I do hereby utterly disallow revoke and disannul all every other testaments wills legacies and executed by me in any ways before time named? willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament.
In witness whereof I have herunto sett my hand and seale the day and year abovementioned.
James Gilbert, his mark
Witnessed by Edward Welch, his mark
Jone Williams, her mark,
Probated ? sacrament White and Welch in ? Richmond 7th die Jany 1704 and recordeded 12 die ?
Unfortunately, James Gilbert’s land is not described in detail.
There are two very important aspects of this will that were not in the published extracted form. First, Gilbert states that is wife’s name is Mary, which helps assure us that the Mary Gilbert mentioned later is his wife. Second, he states that John Mills Jr. is his friend, not his grandson, not his son-in-law, not his nephew, his friend. The relationship between the two men was that of friend. That’s important because it removes speculation about the nature of their relationship.
Based on this language, it seems that James Gilbert and John Mills Jr. expected problems – so the fact that this was James only will and everything else was revoked was stated multiple times in various ways. I do wonder at the motivation of James Gilbert’s choices. Clearly, something is unstated.
My understanding of colonial law is that James Gilbert was unable to summarily cut Mary Gilbert out of her share of his estate, deemed to be minimally 30% by law, unless he left her more.
The book, Brabbling Women: Disorderly Speech and the Law in Early Virginia by Terri Snyder says:
Virginia’s intestacy statutes guaranteed a widow’s dower as one third – or, if childless, to one half – life interest in real estate and absolute interest in personal property, which until 1705 included increasingly valuable slaves. Husbands who wrote wills, of course, could give more than the amounts specified by intestacy statutes, but not less.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been as estate inventory for James Gilbert filed in Richmond County, which is unusual. There is no inventory listed in the book of extracted records that I utilized nor did the clerk return an estate inventory with the copy of the will. I wish the clerk had SAID there wasn’t an inventory so I don’t have to wonder if it was overlooked. An estate inventory is also not noted in the court notes, so I suspect, for some reason, there was none. There is nothing normal about James Gilbert’s estate.
James Gilbert died sometime between June of 1703 and June of 1704. That’s when things get quite juicy!!! The will is probated and Mary is quite unhappy, as one might expect. For us as genealogists, that’s when the good stuff begins.
Court Order Book June 7, 1704 – Last will and testament of James Gilbert being presented to this court by the executor therein named for proofe, the same was proved by the oaths of Thomas White and Edward Welsh and order for probate granted thereon.
Thomas White appears to be the uncle of John Mills Jr.
Court Order Book Page 332 June 7, 1704 – Ordered Charles Dodson, William Smoote and George Devenport or any 2 of them appraise estate of James Gilbert. Sworn plus Mary Gilbert executrix.
Often, or when possible, the appraisers were the largest creditor, someone from the wife’s family and a totally disinterested party. A child or someone who benefitted from the will was never appointed an appraiser.
Court Order Book Aug 2, 1704 – Petition of Mary Gilbert setting forth ye last will of her decd husband James Gilbert, was only proved in common forme and that the same ought to have been proved in dur forme of law yt: ye executr of the said decd be summed to the next court held for this county to prove y said will in due forme of law.
Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Order for proving the last will of James Gilbert is continued till morning.
Court Order Book Nov 1, 1704 – Pursuant to an order of court Aug 3, 1704 granted upon the petition of Mary Gilbert for the (C???) of John Mills, executor of the last will and testament of James Gilbert, decd, to prove the will of the said James according to due form of law, it only being proved in (____) form, the said Mills accordingly appeared and Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge, not insisting on any further proofe by ye said Will than already made but did by his pleading make voyd the same and all dependence and evidences in order to prove the said James in his lifetime revoked and said will. The court on ye consideration of ye whole matter are of judgement that the will of said James Gilbert is a good will and duely proved and that the evidences produced to prove the revocation thereof are not sufficient in the law to prove the said revocation from which judgement (upon reading the order) the said Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge did appeale to the 5th day of the next general court and upon the motion of the said Mary Gilbert by her aforesaid attorney George Eskridge (the evidence produced to prove the abovesaid revocation being put into writing and severally sworne to in court) are ordered to be recorded.
From which judgment Mary Gilbert by her attorney George Eskridge appeals to the 5th day of the next general court.
This day Samuel Samford and Edward Jones acknowledge themselves indebted to the justices of Richmond county in the full and just summe of 20,000 pounds tobacco and caske to be paid to the justices their exrs and admrs in case Mary Gilbert do not prosecute an appeale by her made from an order of this court this day obtained against her by John Mills exr of James Gilbert to the 5th day of the next general court.
The general court was held at Williamsburg each April and October, and I have been unable to find any references to specific cases or James Gilbert’s among the reported decisions. In 1799, the general court was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
A call to the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, a part of the Colonial Williamsburg, confirms that indeed, the general court records from the time period including 1704 have burned. Very unfortunately, this seems to be the end of our information about this case, except for the following depositions which were clearly given in preparation for the general court case.
The following depositions were found in the Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 by TLC Genealogy.
Page 26 – Deposition. Thomas Langdale, aged about 24 years, says that one and a half years before James Gilbert’s death, John Mills came over to James Gilbert’s where your deponent then lived and when the said John Mills went away, said Mills told your deponent that James would make his will, meaning your deponent’s master, and sometime after that, John Mills Jr. came to your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent’s master, James Gilbert, went along with the said John Mills Jr. and when the said James Gilbert came back again, your deponent asked him whether he had finished his business and the said James Gilbert answered, yes, and some time after that, your deponent asked John Mills Jr. who your deponent’s master has left his estate to and the said John Mills Jr. answered that he had left it all to him, only 20 shillings and that he had left to his wife, and sometime after that, your deponent met with Thomas White and he told your deponent that his master has set him free when he died. Signed Nov. 2, 1704. Thomas (U his mark) Langdale
This deposition raises far more questions than it answers. We know that James Gilbert’s will was dated January 31, 1701/02. If we calculate his actual death based on this date, this deposition tells us that James Gilbert actually died in about June or July of 1703. Not included in this deposition, but through genealogy, John Mills Sr.’s wife, Hester, was the daughter of Richard White. Therefore, we know that John Mills Jr.’s mother was not a child of James Gilbert. This is in addition to James Gilbert’s will referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend.
Page 26b Deposition. Ann Kelly, aged 20 years or thereabouts, says that on last New Year’s Day, Thomas Durham, your deponent’s master, sent her to James Gilbert’s to desire him to come down to pipe it, and as your deponent and said James Gilbert were coming back, by John Mills his plantation, James Gilbert asked your deponent whether his old woman was at your deponent’s master’s house and your deponent answered, yes, she was, and said James Gilbert held up his 2 hands and said, God’s Curse Light upon that family naming John Mills and all his family and said that if it were not for John Mills and his wife, he and his wife would never have lived at variance as they did, and your deponent told said James Gilbert that it was his own fault, living so, and asked him why he had not fought away his chest and confound that will which he made, and the said James Gilbert said that John Mills and his family had robbed his chest so that they would not agree upon any means that he should fetch it away, and that they were ashamed of it, and the said James Gilbert said that there was a will made but swore by God that he knew not what was in it no more than I did, and your deponent asked said James Gilbert whether he was no sent for to sign his will, but said Gilbert answered, swearing by his God, that he did not sign it, and told your deponent that he had not the sense to make a will, and that John Mills was a rogue for making a false will and that made him and his wife live so discontentedly and further your deponent says that she saw said Gilbert last Feb. count 15 head of cattle for 40. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by mark
Since this deposition was given in November of 1704, I would presume that “last New Year’s Day” would mean New Year’s of January 1704, not January of 1703.
Clearly, the damage from James Gilbert’s seizures, and perhaps whatever caused them to begin with, is taking its toll.
If there is a smoking gun, this might be it relative to Dorothy being the daughter of Mary and James Gilbert, although it alone is very weak evidence. On New Year’s Day, a day of celebration, James Gilbert’s wife was already at the home of Dorothy Durham. By this time, January 1704, James Gilbert was already very angry with the Mills family for some reason. This occurred between one and two years after James Gilbert made his will and left everything to John Mills Jr. By this time, James also claims he doesn’t know what is or was in the will and that he didn’t sign.
Page 27 – Deposition. Lawrence Callahan aged about 21 years says that your deponent being at John Simon’s house on a Sabbath Day, sometime last summer, he heard John Mills and Thomas Landale talking together, and that Thomas Langdale told John Mills that he did not know that he was to be set free by his master’s will until he had met Thomas White coming from Moratico Mill and the said John Mills said that he should be free nevertheless. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 Lawrence Callahan by his mark
James Gilbert had at least one indentured servant, Thomas Landale.
Page 27 Dorothy Durham aged about 41 years says that sometime before James Gilbert’s death, being in company of said Gilbert and William Smoote, amongst other discourse, she heard said Gilbert say to said Smoote that he did not know that there was any Resurrection or not, and that had made a will to John Mills, but that it signified nothing, and that your deponent did, several times, hear the said Gilbert say that John Mills was a rogue and that he nor any of his should ever be the better for what he had. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 – Dorothy (P her mark) Dureham
Clearly, William Smoot is involved with this family, one way or another. One would think that if James Gilbert was Dorothy’s father that Gilbert would not have informed a daughter, namely Dorothy, that he was left his estate to John Mills Jr. by allowing her to overhear a discussion with another person. Not only does this deposition not state a relationship to James Gilbert, the discussion about the will suggests that Dorothy is not the child of James Gilbert.
Page 27b – Deposition. John Ingo, aged about 29 years, says that James Gilbert, a small time before his death, was at his house and did declare to him that he did intend to fetch away his chest from John Mills’ house, for he said that it lay in such a nasty condition, with hen dung and such like nastiness, that he could not well come at his chest for it and that he was afraid that the chest and goods both would be damnified with the nastiness, and that he did intend to fetch the chest home to his own house and did swear bitterly that John Mills, nor any of his family, should ever be the better for anything of his estate, and that the will that he made did signify nothing, and the said John Ingo further says that a little before James Gilbert was burnt, he asked him whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drunk when he did make it, and the said James Gilbert answered that he was not, but was as sober as he was at that time, and then the said James Gilbert was sober. Signed Nov. 3, 1704 John Ingo
This deposition, along with the next is disturbing. It appears that James Gilbert burned to death.
Page 28 – Deposition. Martha Ingo says that some small time before James Gilbert’s death, said Gilbert being at your deponent’s house, she asked said Gilbert why he did not alter his will, and Gilbert answered that he would, and at the same time, your deponent heard Gilbert swear, by God’s blood, that John Mills nor any of his family should ever be the better for anything that he had, for he was a very rascal or a rogue, and further, said Martha Ingo says that a small time before the said James Gilbert was burnt, she heard her husband, John Ingo, ask said Gilbert whether he was not persuaded to make a will or made drink when he did make it, and that the said Gilbert answered him and said that he was not drunk, but that he was sober. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 by her mark
Apparently James Gilbert drank, and got drunk, but denied being drunk when he made his will.
Page 28 – Deposition. William Smoot says that James Gilbert was not in his perfect senses by reason of fits, which had followed him for several years, and I having some discourse with him about a will which he had made to John Mills for to had him altered it, and he said he had made a will to John Mills, but it signified not, for it was good for nothing and I advising him to prepare for his end and to make his peace with God and to be reconciled with his wife, and he giving very foolish and cross answers, I told him that if he had a mind to have the Sacrament given to him, that no minister would give it to him if he did not change his mind, and likewise, I asked him if he thought there was a Resurrection or not, and he said he did not know and that he did not go to church nor would not yield to have any reading to him in his sickness, nor at other times did not care for it, as ever I could understand, but it was his delight to be in the woods with his sponsor(?) on the Sabbath day. Signed Nov. 2, 1704
This deposition gives us a possibility of what happened to James Gilbert, and perhaps how he burned to death. He may have had an epileptic seizure and fallen into a fire. Furthermore, the testimony about his “foolish and cross answers” would well signify increasing brain damage as a result of the seizures that he had been enduring for several years. That might also explain why he felt that his will meant nothing, when ultimately, it would be upheld by the court.
The fact that William Smoot does not specify a relationship to James Gilbert certainly suggests that they were not closely related by blood.
Page 28b – Deposition. John Rankin, aged about 38 years, says that about 3 years ago, your deponent being in the woods with Mr. George Devenport, near your deponent’s plantation, John Mills Sr. met there with your deponent and said to your deponent that James Gilbert, late decd, was going to live up in Stafford and the said Mills did request your deponent to persuade said Gilbert not to go. Immediately while the said Mills was in your deponent’s company, and your deponent did, by his advice at that time, persuade said Gilbert not to go, nor did said Gilbert ever go, and further, your deponent some short time after, met with the said Mills and the said Mills said that the aforesaid Gilbert did intend to get your deponent to write the said Gilbert’s will, but your deponent never did. Some considerable time after your deponent met with said Gilbert and after some discourse, the said Gilbert said to your deponent that that will that had made to young Mills, signified nothing, and some time before said Gilbert’s death about 10 days, your deponent went to see said Gilbert at his house and amongst some other discourse said Gilbert told your deponent that the aforesaid will signified nothing. Signed Nov. 2, 1704 John Rankin
I wonder why James Mills Sr. did not want James Gilbert to move to Stafford County in 1701.
This ends the depositions. The court apparently found that James Gilbert’s will held, given that John Mills Jr. continues to be the executor, which then begs the question of how Mary Gilbert later sold land to Thomas Durham. She must have owned it fully in her own right or inherited it after James Gilbert’s death. Otherwise the land would have been part of James Gilbert’s estate.
Court Order Book October 4, 1705 – Action brought by Mary Gilbert against John Ingo dismissed, the plt not prosecuting.
Court Order Book Feb. 7, 1705/06 – In action of case between John Dalton and Mary his wife, admin of William Brockenbrough decd plt and John Mills, Jr., exec of James Gilbert decd, deft for 334 lb tobacco, the deft being returned by sheriff by copy left and no appearing upon the motion of the plt an attachment is granted to him against the estate of the deft for the summe aforesaid
Court Order Book March 7, 1705/06 – Judgment granted to John Dalton and Mary his wife admin of William Brockenbrough decd against John Mills Jr. exec of James Gilbert decd for 335 lb tobacco due by account which is ordered to be paid with costs of suit.
Deed Book Page 109a-110a April 26, 1707 – Indenture between Mary Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, widow and Thomas Durham and same and wife Dorothy – that Mary Gilbert for consideration sell tract of land upon branch of Farnham Creek called the Briery Swamp containing 50 acres now in occupation of Walter Wright bound by corner along land of William Smoote. Signed with mark, Witness William Smoot and Mil. Walters
This deed tells us that Mary Gilbert’s land bordered that of William Smoot. We don’t know how Mary or James Gilbert came into possession of this land. Generally, the widow does not inherit land, only a percentage of the estate, so Mary must have owned this land individually. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for one headright.
Deed Book P 110a William Smoote planter, Farnham Parish, consideration to Thomas Durham of same, planter, quit claim a certain plantation and tract or land situate in upon a branch of Farnham Creek called the Bryery Swamp and bounded (same description as deed between Mary Gilbert and Thomas Durham above) April 20, 1707 signed. Wit Anne Kelly and Mil. Waters
Court Order Book Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 Mary Gilbert acknowledges deed to Thomas Durham, ordered recorded.
Page 299 Sept. 3, 1707 William Smoot acknowledged release of right and title of parcel of land sold by Mary Gilbert to Thomas Durham and ordered to be recorded.
It appears we need to look at the Mills family to see if there any clues to be found.
John Mills Family
John Mills, the elder, who died in February of 1710/11 was married to Hester White as proven by the will of Richard White probated in July of 1708 in Richmond County naming his children, including Hester Mills. Hester’s brother, Thomas White was continuously involved with the John Mills family.
When John Mills Sr. died in 1711, son John Jr. was of age and inherited the “land where I now live” from his father, but several other children were still underage.
John Mills (Sr.) is first mentioned in January of 1686/87 when he posts bond for Elizabeth Lincolne to administer the estate of her deceased husband, John Lincoln. Charles Dodson is listed as the administer of that estate. John Hill married John Lincoln’s widow and after her death. Charles Dodson’s widow, Ann, later marries John Hill, evidently after the death of Elizabeth Lincoln.
In 1691-1694, John Mills and wife Hester are buying and selling land on Tostuskey Creek.
Court Order Book March 3, 1698/99 – Ordered that James Gilbert pay unto John Mills 12 days attendance according to act being by him subpoenaed as evidence in the suit between James Gilbert plt and Edward Geffery deft.
Deed Book, Pages 117-119 Oct 30, 1699 between John Mills, planter and Easter Mills, wife, Richmond Co., to William Richardson 20 acres in Farnham Parish begin at corner white oake in a branch joining upon Thomas Duzin line running along the line SW or thereabouts until the dividing line between James Gilbert and the said Mills, along the line of William Smyth until he comes to the said marked white oak. Mills bought it of George Vincent. Signed by both with their marks. Witness Samuel Jones mark, John Browne.
I John Mills have nominated and appointed William Smoot Jr. my true and lawful attorney to deliver to Mr. William Richardson a deed of land to him and his heirs. October 1, 1700. Witness Thomas Mackey, William Smoot Sr. signed by John Mills with his mark
I Hester Mills nominate William Smoot Jr. (same as above) including witnesses.
This deed is quite interesting, because it proves that Gilbert did own land and locates the land of James Gilbert adjacent to John Mills.
In March of 1700, John Mills is ordered by the court to be paid for 8 days attendance in a suit where Francis Moore, a ship’s captain who is also a merchant versus William Smoot Jr. and again in 1701 where John Mills attends court 10 days for the same suit.
Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, the plt not appearing to prosecute
This is extremely interesting, because Thomasin Marshall is the sister of Dorothy Durham.
In August and October of 1700, John and Hester Mills both give power of attorney to William Smoot Jr. the son of William Smoot Sr., in order for them to prove a land sale to William Richardson and save them a trip to the courthouse.
In July of 1706 when neighbor Charles Dodson dies, and his widow, Ann, married John Hill, John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard White or any 3 of them are ordered by the court to meet and appraise the estate of Charles Dodson. These men all lived in the vicinity of Charles Dodson – and each other. Richard White is the father-in-law of John Mills. We don’t know who the wife of Charles Dodson was, but she is very possibly a local woman.
Court Order Book, Page 40 June 2, 1709 – Action brought by Jeremiah Greenham against John Mills is dismissed plt not prosecuting.
Jeremiah Greenham would one day marry Dorothy Durham, but in 1709, Dorothy’s first husband, Thomas Durham Sr. was still living.
Richmond County Will Book P 37 – John Mills, Farnham Parish, will Dec. 30 1709, probated Feb. 7, 1710/11, son John land where I now live, daughters Hannah, Hester, Elizabeth Green, other sons Richard 50 ac, Thomas 50 ac, George (under 21), James (under 21), wife Hester, exec wife, wit Winifred Southern, John Rankin, Thomas White.
The birth of Elizabeth to John and Ester Mills is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.
Court Order Book Feb 7, 1710/11 – Will of John Mills, late of this county, decd, proved by oathes of John Rankin and Thomas White, 2 of the witnesses, admitted to record and Hester Mills executrix. Probate granted.
It’s unlikely that James Gilbert left his entire estate to John Mills Jr. because John Jr. was James Gilbert’s son-in-law. Understanding that James Gilbert’s will says John Mills Jr. is a friend, I still had to work through this possibility, because clearly James Gilbert had to have some motivation for leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr.
If John Mills Jr. was the eldest son of John Mills Sr., given that John Sr. had 2 underage sons at his death, suggesting that the rest of his children were of age, that would put the age of John Mills Jr. at about 30 or 32 when his father died in 1711. If he was 32 in 1711, he would have been about 22 or 23 in 1702 when James Gilbert wrote his will. This would put the birth of John Mills Jr. about 1679.
We know that James Gilbert first shows up in the records in 1690. If Gilbert’s daughter is indeed Dorothy Durham, which is as yet only speculation, she was born in 1663 and was married in the 1680s, as were her sisters. Therefore, James Gilbert would have had to have been in the area, if not in the records, by the mid 1680s.
While women have children for generally 20-24 years, it’s likely that John Mills Jr. is a generation younger than James Gilbert and his wife, Mary – although it would not be impossible for John Jr.’s wife Mary to be the daughter of James Gilbert and his wife Mary, although I think it’s extremely unlikely given James Gilbert referring to John Mills Jr. as his friend and not as anything more.
John Mills Jr. is first mentioned in any records in the will of James Gilbert wherein all of the drama begins.
North Farnham Parish Wills, Richmond County, Virginia – f69r – James Gilbert of North Farnham Parish, will dated 31 Jan 1701/02, probated 7 June 1704 wife Mary; executor: friend. John Mills Jr; wits: Edward Welch, Jane Williams, Thomas White.
Please refer to the James Gilbert section for the depositions and proceedings having to do with James Gilbert’s will.
We don’t know when John Mills Jr. married, nor who his wife was, other than her first name was Mary, but we do know that he was married before March of 1719 when his son George was born. George died in January of 1721. A second child is recorded as Mills Mills (sic) born in 1722.
Court Order Book Page 38, April 4, 1722 – George Davenport, John Mills, Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Thomas Welch. All sworn and also Elizabeth Welch, executrix.
This order would have been John Mills Jr, as John Mills Sr. was deceased by this time.
Based on the following entry, John Mills Jr. is dead by 1728 and Mary Mills, his widow, appears to have married Thomas Livack.
Court Order Page 435 October 2, 1728 Action of debt between Frances Hill executrix of will of John Hill, decd, plt and Thomas Livack and Mary, wife, executrix of will of John Mills, decd, for 16,000 pounds tobacco due by bond, the def being called and not appearing the motion of the plt judgement is granted her against the defts.
Yes, this is the same John Hill that married Elizabeth, the widow of John Lincoln and Ann, the widow of Charles Dodson, and who was married at the time of his death to Frances.
We know who two of Dorothy’s sisters are due to the fortuitous listing of relatives in four wills.
- The first will belongs to John Stretchley, second husband to Dorothy’s sister, Alice.
Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee
Stretchley, John – probated 6 Dec. 1698. Recorded 14 Dec. 1698.
Wife: Alice. Daughters-in-law: Catherine Chinn, Anne Chinn. Son- in-law: Raw. Chinn. Cousin: Edwd. Audley. Sister: Sarah Bambridge. Extrx: Wife. Wits: Wm. Ball, Rich. Ball, Geo. Haile. W.B. 8, p. 87.
In this case, daughters-in-law means daughters by law, or step daughters in today’s vernacular.
- The second will that of John Stretchley’s wife, Alice, from the same source. Alice’s first husband, John Chinn had been married previously and died in 1691.
Alice died with a will in 1701.
Stretchley, Alice, wife of Jno. Stretchley of St. Mary’s White Chappell. 29 Aug. 1701. Rec. 8 Oct. 1701. Daughters: Anne Fox the portion bequeathed her by Jno. Chinn, her father, and by Jno. Stretchley, her father-in-law; Catherine Heale. Sisters: Dorothy Durham and Tomassin Marshall. Son-in-law: Capt. Wm. Fox. Son: Rawleigh Chinn “all money in the hands of Mr. Jno. Pemberton, Mercht. of Liverpool.” Cousin: Mary Dodson. Wits: Jas. Taylor, Lewis Pugh, David Smith. W.B. 8, p. 106.
- The third will is by Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece, mentioned above, who first married William Fox who died in 1718, then Richard Chichester. John Fox’s will mentions wife Ann and daughter Mary, but sadly, according to Ann’s will, Mary has apparently died.
Ann’s Will is dated February 9, 1725, and was recorded December 10, 1729 in Clerks Office, Lancaster County, Virginia – Will book no. 12, pg. 123
In the name of God I am Ann Chichester, wife of Richard Chichester of the County of Lancaster…
Item – I give to my Aunt Dorothy Greenham, wife of Jeremiah Greenham of Richmond Co. Planter, my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes – with apron, rufels and —
Item – My will and desire is that my Mulatto girl name Mary which is now in possession of Jeremiah Greenham and my aunt Dorothy Greenham his wife remain with my Aunt Greenham until the said mulatto girl Mary shall rise to the years of twenty and one if my Aunt Dorothy Greenham shall live so long and in case my Aunt shall die before Mary shall come to 21 years then my will is that my niece Ellen Heale have ye said mulatto until she arrives to 21 years and at the expiration of 21 my will and pleasure is that mulatto Mary be free from all persons whatsoever.
Item – I give unto Capt. George Heale Junr, William Heale Junr. Ann Heale, Catherine Heale, twenty shillings each.
Item – I give unto Joseph Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn, my Negro woman Moriah and her three children viz: namely Hannah, Nanny, Ruth, to him ye said Joseph Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten but if he shall die without such heirs then my will and desire is that the said Negro woman Moriah and her three daughters, namely Hannah, Nanny, and Ruth and their increase be equally divided amongst my brothers children namely, Thomas Chinn, Chichester Chinn, Ann Chinn, and Sarah Ellen Chinn and their heirs forever.
Item – I give to my brother Rawleigh Chinn my two Negro lads namely Dublin and Cefis until such time my nephew Christopher Chinn shall come to the age of twenty one years and then my will and desire is that Christopher Chinn have and enjoy my two negros Dublin and Cefis to him the said Christopher Chinn and the heirs of his body lawfully begotten forever, but in case he die without heirs then my will is that John Chinn have ye Negro Dublin and Rawleigh Chinn have and enjoy Cefis to them and their heirs forever.
Item – I give to Rawleigh Chinn, son of my brother Rawleigh Chinn twenty shillings.
Item – I give unto Ann Chinn all my plate hereafter mentioned, viz: one large silver tankard market or engraves ISA (?), half a dozen silver spoons and silver ladle marked ACA and one silver tumbler to her and her heirs.
Item – I give to Ann Chinn one suit of my clothes and half a dozen new Rusia Leather chairs.
Item – I give unto Eliza Heale all the remainder of my clothes of the better sort.
Item – I give unto Catherine Lindsey and Catherine Kirk all my usual wearing clothes to be equally divided between them.
Item – I give to Sarah Heale three silver salts and my side saddle.
Item – I give James Atchison six hundred pounds of tobacco to be paid him out of the crop made on the hills plantation.
Item – I give unto my brother Rawleigh Chinn ten Pounds Sterling I have in the hands of Mr. William Dawkins, merchant in London.
Item – I give unto my brother all residue of my estate in what nature forever.
Item – I appoint my loving brother Rawleigh Chinn my sole executor of this my last will and testament, revoking all former wills and deeds by me made and do publish and declare this the last as witness my hand and seale this ninth day of February, One Thousand Seven Hundred twenty and five/six.
Signed, sealed and published in presence of Edmond Carroll, Eliza Heale, Catherine Quick (Kirk?). Rawleigh Chinn audited her est. Feb. 13, 1729, amt. 250 pounds.
- The fourth will is that of Abraham Marshall, husband of Tomazin, sister to Dorothy, found in Richmond County, VA.
Will of Abraham Marshall, blacksmith written November 3, 1708 and probated July 6, 1709 – Wife Thomasin use of plant. and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Campbell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the Kingdom of England, and if he has no heirs to go to John Durham of North Farnham Parish; son in law Alexander Cambell; exec: wife; witnesses: Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson, [Mil.] Walters
Based on the various wills, plus a few birth years from the parish register, we have the following tree for Dorothy and her sisters.
What’s obviously missing are the parents of Dorothy, Thomasin and Alice.
Thomasin was married to Abraham Marshall by the time their daughter was born in 1699. She may have been married to him many years previously, but that is the first record of Thomasin. Abraham Marshall died in 1709 and Thomasin remarried to William Goodridge. Goodridge died in 1713, mentioning her in the will written May 12, 1713 and probated on September 2, 1713, along with his children from a prior marriage. William’s will was proven by Thomas and Dorothy Durham – Thomasin’s sister and brother-in-law.
North Farnham Parish Register – Mary Marshall daughter of Abraham and Thomasin Marshall, January 7, 1699
Court Order Book April 5, 1700 – Action brought by John Mills against Abraham Marshall and Thomasin his wife is dismist, theplt not appearing to prosecute
Court Order Book July 2, 1701 – Katherine Thatchill servant to Abraham Marshall by and with her own consent is ordered to serve her master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time by indenture custome or otherwise be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.
This day Abraham Marshall confesed judgemtent to the churchwarden of Farnham Parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds good tobacco in cask which this court have ordered to be aid with costs of suit. Exo. Being the fine ode from Katherine Thatchill for committing the sin of fornication.
Ordered that Katherine Thatchill do serve Abraham Marshall her present master according to act for the care and trouble of her childbirth of a bastard child.
It being evidenctly made appear to the court that Catharine Parry, servant to Abraham Marshall did fugitively absent herself from her said master’ service the space of 15 days and that her said master hath expended 300 pounds of tobacco for percuring her againe, the court have ordered that the said Katherine do serve her said master or his assignes the full terms of one years after her time and be fully expired being for the payment of her fine for committing the sin of fornication.
Court Order Book May 6, 1702 – Capt. John Tarpley one of the churchwardens of the parish of North Farnham certifying to this court that Thomas Tatchall being a parish charge and Abraham Marshall being willing to discharge the said parish of ye said Thomas, the court have ordered that the said Thomas Tatchall do serve the said Abraham Marshall and Thomazin his wife their heires and assignes until he shall attaine to the full age of 21 years.
Court Order Book Nov. 6, 1702 – Action brought by James Gilbert against Abraham Marshall is dismist the plt not prosecuting.
Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Motion of Abraham Marshall by his attorney Daniel McCarty setting forth that James Dooling servant to the said Abraham hath by ye persuasion of some of his neighbors absented himself from his said masters service and doth refuse to return home with him. It is heretofor ordered that the said James do forthwith returne home to the service of his said master and that he continue in the same will further order from the court.
Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Especiall impll. Is granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall blacksmith, plt and Robert Renolds deft, until next court.
Court Order Book Aug. 3, 1704 – Daniel McCarthy entered attorney for Abraham Marshall.
Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Upon petition of James Dolling for his freedome ordered that the said James to returne home to the service of his said master, Abraham Marshall, and that Mr. Francis Moore who imported the said James make oath that he has indentures for the terme of 9 years according to the certificate produced to this court under the hand of the Mayor of the Citty of Dublin.
Court Order Book October 4, 1704 – Imparlance granted in the suite betweene Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, plt and Robert Reynolds deft until next court.
Richmond County Wills by Robert Headley Jr. – F131t – Abraham Marshall, blacksmith, will Nov 3, 1708, July 6, 1709, wife Thomasin use of plantation and lands in North Farnham Parish, after her death to daughter Mary Cam(p)bell, if she has no heirs, to brother John Marshall of Bradfield in Berkshire in the kingdom of England and if he has no heirs, to go to John Durham (son of Thomas Durham) of NFP; s-i-l Alexander Cam(p)bell; exec wife, wit Thomas Morgan, Alexander Thompson (Mil.) Walters.
The birth of Mary Marshall to Abraham and Thomas in was recorded on Jan 7, 1699 in the North Farnham Parish Register (page 126), yet apparently she had married Alexander Cam(p)bell by November 1708. One or the other entries has to be incorrect. The Parish Register is known to have been copied into a new book at least once.
Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr., 5 shillings 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bounded by Spanish Oak corner tree of Charles Dodson part of patent formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Totoskey and then (metes and bounds.) Signed Thomas and Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker and Jeremiah Greenham
Deed Book Dec 10, 1723 between Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr. of Richmond Co. 5000 pounds tobacco received by Thomas Dodson Sr. certain parcel of land formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date 25th of 9ber, 1692, containing 100 acres bounded (same as lease above). Signed Thomas Durham, Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham
Mary Dodson appeared in court May 6, 1724 and released her dower
Deed Book Page 12 Lease and release Dec 6-7, 1733 from Thomas Dodson Sr. and Mary his wife and Thomas Dodson Jr. and Eliza his wife all of NFP to John’n Lyell of same in consideration of a negro woman to be delivered to said Dodson as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold as the said Dodson Jr. wished about 130 acres in North Farnham Parish and bounded by Charles Dodson by the main swamp of Totuskey. The other 30 acres of land is bounded by old Cone path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneal, a line of trees that divides the land of Mr. Spencer and the land of Thomas Dusin, corner oak formerly belonging to William Matthews, along Matthews line the land formerly belonging to John Jenly. Of the 130 acres, 100 acres formerly belonged to Abraham Marshall by a deed dates 25 9ber 1692 and from thence conveyed to Thomas Durham and by the said Durham sold to Thomas Dodson Sr. The other 30 acres was formerly sold by Thomas Dusin to Thomas Southern by deed dated 21 7ber 1687. Signed Thomas Dodson Sr. his mark T, Mary her mark M, Thomas Dodson Jr., Elizabeth her mark, witnesses Robert Reynolds and George Gibson and William Creel, Recorded April 1, 1734
John Chinn’s (Chynn) family was involved in transporting people to Virginia in order to receive headrights. Alice was John Chinn’s second wife, marrying sometime before the birth of their first child in 1682 which puts Alice’s birth about 1662, or earlier. John died a decade later, in 1692, with a will listing his children.
John Chinn is obtaining patents as early as 1664 for land upon Morrattico Creek, by the Dragon Swamp and at the head of Morrattico. In his adult life, he appears to live in Lancaster County, adjacent Richmond County. Given that John was already patenting land about the time Alice Chinn was born, he was probably at least 20 years older than Alice.
Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 4; Pg 436 – John Chinn, 100 acs. Lancaster Co., 24 Aug. 1664, p. 125, (630). Upon Morrattico Cr., adi. his own & land of Henry Davis. Trans. of 2 pers: James Potter, Thomas Coate.
Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn, 370 acs. upon a br. of Moratico Cr., adj. land’ of Edward Miles; 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Granted is David Fox, Gent., assigned to Lambeth Lambethson, who assigned to Alexander Portus, by him assigned to Thomas Williams, who assigned to John Chynn & Henry Davis, & sd. Davis assigned his title to sd. Chynn.
Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 31 – John Chynn & John Gibson, of Lancaster Co., 550 acs. in Rappa. Co., 17 Mar. 1667/8, p. 113. Beg. by the Draggon Swampe & adj. land of John &c. Trans. of 11 pers: John Johnson, James Johnson, Henry Woodbridge, Anne Wilson, Wm. Harman Flering, Francis Dolphin, Rich.Jno. Medler (?), Wm. Baker, Rick. Parker.
Cavaliers and Pioneers Patent Book No. 6; Pg 70 – Mr. Thomas Wright & John Chynn; 220 acs. N. side of Rappa. Co., near the head of Moratticoe Cr., by the Mill Dam, &c; 26 Apr. 1670, p. 276. Trans. of 5 pers: Ralph Hall, Ben. Davis, Cutberth Taylor, Lyddia Gates, Edward Jones.
Today, we find on Family Search that Edge Hill, nearing Downings Virginia is listed as being the home of the Chinn family, and nearby, we find Chinn’s Pond. This correlates with the location of the above grants and deeds. Edge Hill Road is shown with the red balloon, below. Chinn’s Pond is the body of water to the right of the red balloon.
The two inlets to the north are Farnham Creek and Totuskey Creek, both locations documented in the various deeds. We know that are allied families are living between Chinn’s and Rich Neck, north of 360, near the Haynesville Correctional Center, shown below.
Where Are We?
Ok, we have lots of data, but where are we really?
Good question. I wondered the same thing.
Here’s what we know.
William is NOT Dorothy’s Father
William Smoot is not Dorothy’s father, as proven both by his interactions and his will where he leaves all of his estate to his grandchildren through daughter Mary who married Dorothy’s son, Thomas Durham Jr., highlighted in yellow.
Further evidence of this is that William Smoot’s daughter, Mary, married Dorothy’s son. If Dorothy was William Smoot’s daughter, then Dorothy’s son would have married her sister.
William Smoot and Mary Gilbert are both Related to Dorothy
William Smoot is related to both Dorothy and her sister, Alice, given that William deeds land in 1700 to Dorothy and in the case that Dorothy dies without heirs, Dorothy’s sister’s daughter receives the land.
After James Gilbert’s death, Mary Gilbert sells 50 acres to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, NOT just Thomas Durham. William Smoot quitclaims the land that Mary Gilbert sells to the Durhams. This suggests that the relationship between both William Smoot and Mary Gilbert is to Dorothy Durham, not her husband, Thomas. Otherwise, the deeds would have been to Thomas Durham, not to Dorothy alone in 1700 and Thomas and Dorothy in 1707.
Therefore, William Smoot is probably a sibling of Mary Gilbert. If Mary Gilbert is of the age to be the mother of Dorothy, then Mary Gilbert would have been born no later than 1643 and possibly as early as 1620. That would make Mary between the ages of 64 and 87 in 1707 when she deeds the land to Thomas and Dorothy Durham, and William Smoot quitclaims the land.
William Smoot of Rappahannock County is first found in the records in 1672, so of age and born no later than 1650. He and his wife are having children in the 1680s and his son, William Smoot Jr. comes of age by 1701.
Scenario 1 – Is William Smoot the Son of Mary Gilbert?
Given the ages involved, William Smoot could possibly have been the son of Mary Gilbert by a previous marriage.
If William Smoot is the son of Mary Gilbert and the brother to Dorothy, then Thomasin and Alice’s heirs would both have had to quitclaim the land that Mary sold to Dorothy and Thomas Durham in 1707. This didn’t happen, so I doubt that Mary Gilbert is the mother of both William Smoot and Dorothy Durham.
If William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham, with Mary Gilbert being their mother, then Mary was married to a Smoot before she married James Gilbert.
This would mean that James Gilbert was the step-father of Dorothy Durham and William Smoot, along with Dorothy’s sisters, Alice and Thomasin. That means that William Smoot is also the brother to Thomasin Marshall and Alice Chinn. Not impossible.
It’s also possible that Mary’s child is Jane Smoot, not William. If so, the same laws would apply, given that a husband owns his wife’s land unless she holds the land separately from him.
However, either scenario, William or Jane as the brother to Dorothy, causes me to question why William Smoot would have quit-claimed that 1707 deed, but the other living child known to be Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, did not quitclaim the deed. Also, Dorothy’s sister Alice mentioned her two sisters in her 1701 will, but did not mention a brother. Unusual, since William Smoot was generous in the 1700 deed towards Alice’s daughter.
Therefore, I find it very unlikely that William Smoot is the brother of Dorothy Durham.
Scenario 2 – Mary Gilbert, sister to William Smoot and Dorothy’s Parent?
Another possibility is that Mary Gilbert, William Smoot (or his wife) and Dorothy’s parent are all three the children of unknown parents. This means the reason William deeded land to Dorothy was because he was her uncle. The reason Mary Gilbert deeded land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham was because she was Dorothy’s aunt and the reason William Smoot quitclaimed the deed was because he owned an interest in that land as Mary’s sibling. This does not explain why Dorothy’s sister, Thomasin, still living in 1707, along with the heirs of Dorothy’s deceased sister, Alice, didn’t also have to quitclaim that deed since ownership would have passed through their parent’s generation. If this is the case, it makes the next scenario more likely.
It’s also possible that ownership of that land was not to all three siblings, meaning Mary Gilbert, William Smoot and Dorothy’s parents, which means that Thomasin and Alice would not need to quitclaim that land if Dorothy’s parents did not own any interest. We would need to know how the land that was conveyed in 1707 was obtained by Mary Gilbert and exactly why William Smoot had an ownership right in that land. A part of that story is also why Mary Gilbert managed to retain that land after James Gilbert’s death and his entire estate being left to John Mills Jr.
This is one of the two most likely scenarios, the second being shown below.
Scenario 3 – William Smoot as the Brother of Mary Gilbert – Mother of Dorothy
In this scenario, William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, and Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham, Alice and Thomasin, all known to be sisters.
If William Smoot is the brother of Mary Gilbert, or Jane Smoot is Mary Gilbert’s sister, with Mary Gilbert inheriting land from their common parent(s), or even another sibling, then William would have been quitclaiming his interest in his parent’s land. Given that Mary Gilbert deeded this land in 1707, and that William Smoot’s apparent only son, William Smoot Jr., had probably died, William Smoot Sr. would have had no objection to the land from his parents going to his niece who was also a grandmother to his grandchildren through his daughter Mary and Dorothy’s son Thomas. Dorothy Durham was also William’s neighbor, so he had lived beside her for his entire life. The land sold by Mary Gilbert abutted William Smoot’s land as well as Thomas and Dorothy Durham’s land, so it was a perfect fit.
The other possibility is that William is not, himself, the brother of Mary Gilbert, but that his wife, Jane, was Mary Gilbert’s sister. The same laws would apply since William Smoot would have been the person selling his wife’s land. Jane did sign a release of dower. If Jane Smoot was Dorothy’s aunt, would William have said in the 1700 deed that he was transferring land for the “great love” he has for Dorothy? I don’t know.
If he had only added two words, “my niece,” or whatever Dorothy was to him.
In my opinion, the most likely scenario is that Mary Gilbert was originally a Smoot, or is the sister of Jane Smoot through unknown parents, and that William Smoot is not the father of Dorothy Durham, but her uncle, which explains the various relationships in a satisfactory manner that makes sense – including the omission of Thomasin’s quit-claiming the 1707 deed. She held no interest.
Tracking Neighborhood Land
In an act of utter desperation, I created a grid in Excel of all of the land transactions that included anyone with any of the family names I’ve worked with in early Rappahannock or Richmond County. These families were all neighbors. Mary Gilbert had to acquire that land she sold in 1707 in some fashion – and given that it was bounded by William Smoot’s land, it had to have originated in these early families.
By anyone, I mean anyone mentioned as having land that bounded Smoot or Gilbert, anyone who acted as a witness, and of course, the buyer and seller.
The following grid shows only the first 12 columns of approximately 35, but it does show all of the Gilbert, Smoot or 50 acre involved transactions, highlighted in yellow.
Names on the left with nothing in their rows have entries in the columns not displayed that reflect land sales to and from Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and others who are neighbors but not directly involved. My goal was to perhaps find some common links to a neighbor whose land touches Charles Dodson, Thomas Durham and William Smoot – early – before Mary Gilbert obtained the land in whatever manner.
William Smoot’s land that he obtained in 1700 may have been in his hands as early as 1684 and surely was by 1694. The neighbors are given in the patent bounds as:
- Rowland Lawson (Leuson)
- James Gilbert
- Mr. Grimes (probably John, from other grants)
- Clears who is probably Ambrose Clary
William Smoot’s land, and that of his neighbors, appears to be complex, based on these 4 entries in the book, Virginia Northern Neck Land Grants (1694-1742) Vol I:
Only two other 50 acre transactions occurred, both in 1694, one from John Mills Sr. to Thomas Dusin and one from Thomas and Susanna Dusin to William Richardson for the same land.
These lands appear to have been in the early Thomas Madison grant or grants. Madison partnered with Richard White whose daughter Hannah was the wife of John Mills Sr. Furthermore, James Gilbert in the 1693 court case appears to be in possession of the land grant in question. It appears that the Madison grant(s) and the Griffin grant abutted, based on 3-79, above.
Further research on the various people involved and whose land abutted these transactions produced the following information:
- Richard White had a will and named two daughters, both of whom were married in 1708 when he died and none were named Mary, Jane, Dorothy or Thomasin.
- Thomas Madison died in 1674 leaving everything to wife Katherine, mentioning his brother but no children.
- Thomas Dusin died in 1704, which is after James Gilbert, but leaves his entire estate to his wife, Susannah, mentioning no children. Dusen, according to a will he witnessed sometime before 1677 was about age 29, so born about 1648 or earlier.
- John Henley, mentioned as the 1694 purchaser was alive yet in 1709, witnessing a will.
- Madison also sold land to William Matthews whose daughter, Alice, married William Thacker, another gentleman patenting land in the Northern Neck of Virginia and who sold land to Charles Dodson in 1685. William Thacker was also William Smooth’s neighbor, according to Smoot’s 1694 land patent awarded in 1700.
- William Matthews sold land to both Abraham Marshall and Charles Dodson. William Matthews died before 1686, his widow married Peter Elmore, long associated with Charles Dodson.
- William Thacker died in 1698 leaving an underage son, Gabriel and 2 daughters, Catherine and Susanna.
- Thomas Southern died in 1704, leaving sons James and William and 3 unnamed daughters. However, daughters Susannah (1691), Winifred (1693) and Thomas (1695) are recorded in the North Farnham Parish register for this couple, so they were having children too late to me Dorothy’s parents.
- Ambrose Clary disappears from the records entirely.
- Daniel O’Neal is clearly present in the community, but I was unable to find a will after 1699, nor is he present in the Maryland Families data base. This actually may be he could be a candidate worthy of further research.
- The Grimes family continues to appear in the records, but I was unable to find anything for John Grimes. Further deed research would be in order, as well as early wills.
- I was also unable to find anything further in a cursory search for Edward Riley, meaning that I have not returned to the library to search court records and all deeds.
- Richard Fowler died in 1718.
- John Ingo, Sr., died in 1701 leaving sons John, James and daughter Elizabeth Ascough.
- Rowland Lawson’s father was also apparently named Rowland. One of these men was importing headrights in the 1660s. Rowland Jr. lived and died in 1706 in Lancaster Co., VA, naming sons Henry and Rowland in his will. His brother may have been Epaphro.
Needless to say, I’ve struck out with finding any other likely connection for Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin among the neighbor families – at least among the families involved most consistently or with a 50 acre land conveyance.
One possibility yet remaining would be to search for land transactions from both Thomas Madison and William Fauntleroy, husband of Katherine Griffin Fauntleroy, for 50 acre sales to attempt to find the land that was eventually conveyed by Mary Gilbert to Dorothy and Thomas Durham and quitclaimed by William Smoot.
This land may yet be the key to unlocking the identity of Mary Gilbert and her relationship to Dorothy Durham and William Smoot.
Revisiting James Gilbert
What remains is the question of why James Gilbert willed his estate, except for 20 shillings, to John Mills Jr. It’s possible that the reason is because he and Mary Gilbert had no children and he was the step-father to her children. This act would have upset his wife terribly, which it obviously did, but could be logically explained in this manner, although clearly this is speculation. Of course, the other possibility is that the cumulative brain damage caused him to become either irrational or confused. This is certainly a valid possibility, given that one of the depositions indicated that he couldn’t successfully count cows, mistaking 15 for 40.
It’s also possible that Mary Gilbert had no children and was the sibling of William Smoot and Dorothy’s parent – so James Gilbert felt he had no one to leave his estate to – meaning no children. Although that still doesn’t explain why he attempted to omit his wife.
In some way, Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife) came to own land jointly, probably from common parents, which is why William quitclaimed his interest in the land when Mary sold the land in 1707 to Dorothy and Thomas Durham. This also suggests that there were no additional invested property-owners in that land, because no one else conveyed or quitclaimed that land. We know that if William Smoot was Mary’s child, he would have had no vested interest in the land unless he was left that land by James Gilbert, and James Gilbert only left land to John Mills Jr. If Mary Gilbert has previously been married to a Smoot who left land to William, Mary Gilbert would not have been able to sell that land, because she would have had no interest. Widows only obtained life estate and did not own their husband’s land in fee simple. We also know that if William Smoot was Mary’s son, and Dorothy’s brother, that the third living sibling, Thomasin should also have quitclaimed that deed, and she did not, nor did the heirs of Alice, Dorothy’s other sister who had previously died.
If Mary Gilbert is William Smoot’s sister, and the mother of Dorothy and her two sisters, then Mary Gilbert had to be born before 1643, given that Dorothy was born in 1663 and may not have been the oldest of the three daughters.
If Mary Gilbert was born in or before 1643, and was the sister to William Smoot, then neither William Smoot nor Mary could have been the children of William Smoote who settled in Maryland, because we know that in 1646, when he immigrated, he did not have a daughter named Mary.
William Smoot could be the son of William Smoot of Maryland if Mary Gilbert is not his sister, but is instead the sister of his wife Jane. If that is the case, then who William Smoot descends from is irrelevant to the search for Dorothy Durham’s parents.
It’s possible that William Smoot’s wife is the person related to Mary Gilbert, and that Jane Smoot and Mary Gilbert’s parents are also the grandparents of Dorothy Durham through an unknown parent.
Having sifted through all of the available information, the best fit is that William Smoot (or his wife) and Mary Gilbert were siblings, and that Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were the daughters of Mary Gilbert, possibly through an unknown first husband, given James Gilbert’s discussion about his will with Dorothy within hearing. That’s not exactly how you want to inform your daughter that she has been disowned. Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin could have been the daughters of James Gilbert as well, although it seems somewhat doubtful.
If Dorothy and her sisters were step-daughters, that might be one reason why James Gilbert felt no compunction to leave any of his estate to Dorothy, Alice or Thomasin – but it does not explain why he only left 20 shillings to his wife and the balance of his estate to a friend. How was his wife supposed to survive after his death? If Dorothy, Alice and Thomasin were his children, we’ll just have to chalk James Gilbert’s decision up to cumulative brain damage due to epilepsy.
The other scenario that fits equally as well is that Mary Gilbert had no children, William Smoot had only one living daughter, Mary, who married Thomas Durham Jr., and that Dorothy’s parent was the sibling of both Mary Gilbert and William Smoot (or his wife.)
I am still hopeful that someday more information will emerge, such as previously undiscovered records out of Williamsburg from the general court or early chancery suits from Richmond County.
Until that time…this is the best we can do.
My opinion, barring further evidence, is that the most likely scenario is Scenario 3 and that Mary Gilbert is the mother of Dorothy Durham and that James Gilbert may or may not have been her father – and that either William Smoot or his wife Jane and Mary Gilbert were siblings.
My second choice would be Scenario 2 where Mary Gilbert is the sibling of William Smoot or his wife Jane, and both are siblings of Dorothy’s parent, whoever that was.
Unfortunately, the only way to prove the theory that Mary Gilbert is Dorothy’s mother would be to utilize the mitochondrial DNA DNA of Mary Gilbert through her daughters, but since we have no idea if Mary Gilbert had any children – there are no known daughters for us to track their descendants to current.
Dorothy and her sisters had the following female children whose descendants may be candidates for testing.
If Jane Smoot’s daughter, Mary Smoot that married Thomas Durham Jr. is the sister to Dorothy’s mother, or to Dorothy, the mitochondrial DNA of her daughter, Mary, through all females to the present, would match the mitochondrial DNA of the lines shown above.
Mary Durham Dodson had two daughters, Alice born in 1711 that married an Oldham and Mary born in 1715 that married William Creel. Nothing more is known about these lines.
However, if Mary Durham Dodson’s mtDNA matched that of Dorothy Durham’s daughter’s descendants or that of Dorothy’s daughter’s descendants – we would then know that the relationship of William Smoot to Dorothy was through his wife and not him. Conversely, we would also know that if the mtDNA did not match, then the relationship was not directly matrilineal and probably through William Smoot and not his wife.
We can’t verify William Smoot’s Y DNA line because he had no surviving sons.
Unfortunately, we can’t use autosomal DNA in this instance to universally search for Smoot, because the descendants of Thomas Durham Jr. will match a Smoot line. The descendants of Thomas Dodson who married Mary Durham MAY show a Smoot line, because Dorothy Durham is shows in so many trees to be Dorothy Smoot.
Smoke or Fire?
However, searching at both Family Tree DNA and Ancestry for matches with the Smoot surname has produced what I would classify as smoke. But you know that old saying about smoke and fire. The question is, do we have fire?
At Ancestry, Smoot matches break down as follows:
- 38 total
- 10 are private
- 10 are either the Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
- 9 lines are too late to be useful
- 9 descend from the Charles County, Maryland Smoots. One of these lines matches me on a known line that is not related to the Northern Neck families.
Those from the Charles County Smoot line share from 6.1cM on one segment to 18.7 cM on two segments. The person with 18.7 cM on two segments is known to be related through another line, although they could be related through two separate lines. Five have shared matches, but none of the shared matches are useful meaning we don’t share common ancestors in trees and there are either no common surnames, they don’t have trees, or the surnames in common don’t seem to be from the same lines.
Unfortunately, Ancestry has no chromosome browser.
Those 11 matches to people who descend from the Smoot line in Charles County, Maryland are an awful lot of smoke for there to be no fire. Because of the interrelated families and because of the distance in terms of generations and time, we would need to carefully triangulate any autosomal DNA matches to Smoot and they would have to NOT be related to me through any other line – meaning the testers would need to have a pretty complete pedigree chart.
At Family Tree DNA, Smoot matches break down as follows:
- 8 total
- 2 no tree BUT they are assigned to my father’s side through family match phasing
- 4 are from Thomas Durham/Dorothy line
- 2 are from the Charles County, Maryland Smoot line with longest blocks of 8 and 9 cM
Fortunately, I have more tools to work with at Family Tree DNA, including a chromosome browser that allows me to view the matching DNA segments of the 8 people who match me. Unfortunately, neither of the two Charles County matches match me on the same segment as another person from my known Durham line, nor do they match anyone else is the Smoot group using the matrix tool.
So, if the matches to Smoot descendants of the Charles County, Maryland group is fire and not smoke, we still need proof. That means we’ll need more testers to match and some to triangulate on my known Dodson segments.
Let’s hope that in time, between additional DNA testers, advances in technology and perhaps more genealogical records becoming available, that one day we’ll be able to solve the mystery of the relationship of William Smoot and Mary Gilbert to Dorothy Durham, and identify Dorothy’s parents!
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