Dorothy Durham (1663 – after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

Dorothy, born in 1663, was the wife of Thomas Durham by sometime in 1685, because their daughter, Mary, was born on June 5, 1686 in what was then Rappahannock County, Virginia, now referred to as Old Rappahannock. We don’t know if Mary was Dorothy’s first child, but Mary was the first of Dorothy’s children recorded in the North Farnham Parish church records which are known to be incomplete.

We also know that Dorothy had two more children that lived, Thomas Durham born on June 17, 1690 and John Durham on November 23, 1698. By that time, Richmond County had been formed and Rappahannock County was dissolved.

Dorothy appears to be somewhat younger than Thomas Durham, her husband, who was probably born sometime before 1649 based on the fact that he was exempted from paying levies by the court in September of 1699 “by reason of his great age.” Dorothy was all of 36 years old at that time. It wasn’t uncommon for second wives to be significantly younger than their husbands and it looks like Thomas was probably at least 25+ years older than Dorothy, if not more.

Thomas died before June 1, 1715 when his will was probated, leaving Dorothy with children still at home. Dorothy did what colonial wives did, she remarried quickly, in February 1715, before Thomas Durham’s will was probated. Probate of a will generally happened no later than 90 days after the person died although in this case, Thomas had obviously died sometime prior to February when Dorothy remarried. Someone had to manage the plantation, plant the crops, maintain tobacco which necessitated a lot of manual labor and TLC at just the right time, and harvest the tobacco when ripe. Dorothy married Jeremiah Greenham, a well-respected gentleman who had been involved with the family and neighborhood for years.

Jeremiah Greenham died in 1753 and we know that his wife at the time was named Mary. Dorothy was last recorded in a document in 1725 and died sometime between then and 1753, a span of 28 years. Dorothy died between the ages of 62 and 90.

It’s possible that Dorothy had passed away by January 13, 1726 when Jeremiah Greenham sold his Stafford County land to brothers Thomas Dodson and Greenham Dodson. No wife signed a release of dower, so we can’t tell if the lack of a signature was because Jeremiah was unmarried at the time, or it was an oversight. I think this at least suggests that Dorothy might have been deceased by this date.

However, Dorothy was alive a year earlier on February 9, 1725 when Ann Chinn Fox Chichester, Dorothy’s niece who had no children wrote a will wherein she left “my suit of silk crape clothes and a suit of muslin head clothes, with apron, rufels and —“ to her Aunt Dorothy Greenham. Ann’s will was probated on December 10, 1729 but we can’t tell if Aunt Dorothy was alive to collect her suit of silk crepe.

Clothes were expensive in colonial Virginia, and silk crepe, by whatever spelling, would have been a very nice gift that Aunt Dorothy surely would have appreciated.

We don’t know when Dorothy died, but we do know that Jeremiah retained a close relationship with John Durham, Dorothy’s grandson through her son Thomas Durham. Jeremiah Greenham left John Durham his “Great Bible.” Sadly, Jeremiah had no children of his own.

Dorothy Durham had two known sisters, Alice who married first to John Chinn and second to John Stretchly and Thomazin who married first to Abraham Marshall and second to William Goodridge. Dorothy could have had more siblings, but those are the only two mentioned in 1701 and 1725 wills.

The oft-repeated story about Dorothy’s parents is that she is the daughter of William and Jane Smoot, but working with the records, I can tell you that I’m nearly positive that Dorothy is not William Smoot’s daughter, although she is clearly somehow related to William Smoot. I even have some idea about who Dorothy’s parents might have been, but there is no smoking gun yet today. Maybe in due time, utilizing advanced DNA methodologies. Or maybe someone’s “great Bible” will turn up on e-Bay or records from another location will be found. There is always hope!

Colonial Northern Neck Virginia

What was life like in the Northern Neck of Virginia when Dorothy would have lived there?

This area was still suffering from Indian warfare in 1676 when Bacon’s Rebellion gained a foothold. Servants and slaves took the opportunity to escape. Plantations were burned, as was Jamestown, depicted in the engraving below.

Armed men gathered, eager to fight and emotions ran high. In 1677, the Northern Neck settlers dared not venture from their plantations for fear of their lives. If Dorothy’s family lived in tidewater Virginia then, it would have been a frightening place. Dorothy would have been about 13 at that time.

Militia units were formed and frontier patrols were maintained in this region until about 1700 to protect the families from Indian attack from hostile northern Indians. These patrols were reinstituted in 1704 across the Rappahannock River in Essex County. Plantations were distant from each other, and although the area was sparsely settled, it was still in many ways a frontier.

Bacon’s Rebellion resulted in the courts removing the ability for men without land to have a vote. It would be more than 200 years before non-landowners recovered that right. Dorothy’s husband, Thomas Durham, wouldn’t have been able to vote until 1700, when William Smoot deeded land to Dorothy, if indeed Dorothy’s land would have been considered Thomas Durham’s land for purposes of voting. Furthermore, to sit on a jury, one had to be a landowner, so the lack of land was a handicap and detriment to Civil liberties we all take for granted today. Serving at court and voting was reserved for the more successful male residents, in essence creating a defacto class system. While Thomas and Dorothy don’t appear to be poor, based on Thomas’s estate inventory and the fact that they eventually owned land, they certainly had to work their way up the social and economic ladder.

There is no record of Thomas Durham ever purchasing or patenting land although in 1723, Thomas Durham’s son, Thomas Jr. sells land that looks for all the world like it might have originally belonged to his father. If indeed this was Thomas Durham Sr.’s land, the deed was never filed at the courthouse, just passed down by hand.

Deed Book Page 240 Dec 4-10, 1723 – From Thomas Durham of Richmond County to Thomas Dodson Sr. of same 5000 pounds tobacco parcel of 100 acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date of Nov. 25th 1692 situate in Richmond Co and bounded by Charles Dodson, being part of the pat formerly granted to William Thatcher by the main branch of Toteskey. Signed Thomas and Mary Durham. Wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham. Recorded May 6, 1724 and Mary Durham appeared in court to relinquished dower.

Abraham Marshall is Dorothy Durham’s sister’s husband. By 1723, Thomas Durham Sr. had died and Dorothy was married to Jeremiah Greenham.

Thomas Durham Sr.’s will is confusing. He directly addressed the 50 acres of land deeded to him in 1707 by Mary Gilbert, but he also makes indirect reference to additional land in this statement:

“If said Thomas Durham doth refuse and will not release the said 50 acres of land nor pay the tobacco aforesaid, I do will and bequeath the said plantation whereon I now dwell with all my lands unto my son John Durham and his heirs.”

Was the land Thomas and Dorothy dwelt on the Abraham Marshall land of 100 acres or the 62 acres deeded by William Smoot?  By all rights, Thomas should not have been willing the Smoot land, because Dorothy owned that land severally.  However, I was never able to discover what happened to Dorothy’s 62 acres. Dorothy did not have a will.

Unruly Virginia!

Dorothy and Thomas Durham began their married life at what was economically, probably the worst time possible. Beginning in the early 1680s, too much tobacco caused a glut in the market and tobacco prices plummeted. Planters called for the Virginia government to limit planting and restore prosperity, and when that didn’t happen, plant cutting riots erupted. If the governor wouldn’t help them, then they would take matters into their own hands, literally.

In May of 1682, rioting spread up and down the Rappahannock River and the Northern Neck peninsula, resulting in militias from other counties being called in to keep the peace. This was about the time that Dorothy and Thomas would have been courting and marrying.

One burgess blamed the time of year and cider brewing for the riots, according to the History of Essex County, Virginia, by James Slaughter, stating that, “All plantations flowing with cider, drunk so unripe by our licentious inhabitants that they allow no time for its fermentation but in their brains.”

According to Slaughter, half the tobacco crop was destroyed in Rappahannock County that summer and tensions ran high. Thankfully, tobacco prices rose in 1683 but the specter of “renewed rebellion hung over an unruly Virginia until the end of the century.”

Unruly Virginians, indeed – but the specter of those angry frontiersmen brings a smile to my lips. Yep, those would be my ancestors.

In 1684, a French visitor to Rappahannock County did us the favor of recording his travels and attendance at a wedding celebration, thus:

“The Virginians eat almost no bread, seldom drink during meals, but they did nothing afterwards for the rest of the day and all night but drink, smoke, sing and dance. They had no wine. They drank beer, cider and punch, a mixture of beer, three jugs of brandy, three pounds of sugar and some nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix these well together and when the sugar has melted they drink it and while making away with the first, they prepare another bowl of it.”

Anyone want to try that recipe?

The Frenchman then reported that the next morning he “did not see one who could stand straight.” Guests spent the night at parties in colonial Virginia because travel was difficult. Probably also because people were highly intoxicated. Ladies slept on beds and men on the floor.

The French visitor also mentioned that one “could not enter a house without being served venison. It is very good in pies, boiled and baked.” This tells us that hunting was an important part of the culture of colonial Virginia, and domestic livestock had not yet taken the place of wild game on the tables of the planters and their families.

At least twice, the Rappahannock court sponsored county-wide parties. In 1683, the county declared a public feast to celebrate the birth of a son to King Charles II and in 1689, the birth of a Price of Wales in England.

More than 100 gallons of “rum or other strong liquors with sugar proportionable” so that the party could “be done with all the expressions of joy this county is capable of” were ordered by the court and consumed – mostly on the north side of the Rappahannock River, now Richmond County, where court was in session at the time. I bet that was one very interesting court session!

(Sir Walter) Raleigh’s First Pipe in England, an illustration in Fredrick William Fairholt’s Tobacco, its history and associations

Tobacco smoking was also quite in vogue, according to our traveling Frenchman:

“Large quantities of it are used in this country, besides what they sell. Everyone smokes while working and idling. I sometimes went to hear the sermon. Their churches are in the woods and when everyone has arrived the minister and all the others smoke before going in. The preaching over, they do the same thing before parting. They have seats for that purpose. It was here I saw that everyone smokes, men, women, girls and boys from the age of seven years.”

I must say, I knew that adult men smoked tobacco as a social pastime, and to some extent, it doesn’t surprise me that some women smoked. However, I was taken aback to think about my 7-year- old ancestors, both boys and girls, smoking. It would be another 300 years before we understood how harmful that habit is, and how difficult to break once established. At that time, it was not only popular, tobacco smoking conveyed that one was of the upper class. Tobacco was also believed to have medicinal and curative properties.

Education, if it happened at all, was a private matter. Public schools did not exist in this part of Virginia until after the Civil War, and most people could not read or write. In fact, according to Slaughter, Governor Berkley (1642-1677) said, “I thank God that there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience and heresy and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both.”

Wealthy planters sent their sons to England to be properly educated, but the Durham family certainly did not fall into that category. Dorothy in her 1704 deposition where, among other things, she gave her age as “about 41 years,” signed with a “P” for her mark. Thomas Durham signed his will with a mark as well.

The Deed

In 1700, something quite unusual happened.

William Smoot Sr. deeded land to Dorothy Durham in her own right, meaning the land was in her name only. Her husband could not sell it or otherwise control that land. This is an extremely unusual circumstance and begs the question of why. Unfortunately, any clue we might have is entirely mute.

Richmond County VA 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 dau 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.

It’s also obvious that somehow, William Smoot is related to Dorothy. Not only does he convey this land for “the great love that I beare unto Dorothy…and her children,” but he also reverts the land ownership to Anne Fox, who just happens to be Dorothy’s niece through sister Alice, if Dorothy dies without heirs.

The Deposition

James Gilbert died in 1704, having made a will in January 1701/02 leaving his entire estate to John Mills Jr., instead of his wife and family. James suffered from “fits,” as seizures were called at the time, and based on the 1704 depositions of various neighbors and (possibly) family members, he verbally revoked his will, but didn’t seem to believe that he needed to do so in writing, officially.

Therefore, as you might imagine, there was quite a hullaballoo after his death regarding his will and estate.

Dorothy Durham gave a deposition about the matter in 1704, which is how we discover her age. From the Richmond County, VA Miscellaneous Record Book, we find the following:

Page 27 – Deposition. 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

Furthermore, in 1707, after James Gilbert’s estate is (presumably) settled, Mary Gilbert, James Gilbert’s widow sells 50 acres of land to Dorothy and Thomas Durham, with William Smoot quit-claiming the deed.

How are Dorothy, her sister Alice, William Smoot and Mary Gilbert related? We don’t know exactly, but we’ll discuss the various options and data in a separate article about Dorothy’s parents.

Dorothy Was No Shrinking Violet

Women don’t appear much in county records, except for an occasional release of dower rights when their husbands sold land. Even then, most women appointed a male as her power of attorney in order to release her dower right so she did not have to attend court in person.

Dorothy was unique in a couple of ways. She not only owned land in her own right, she also personally appeared in court in a rather controversial case. I can just imagine Dorothy waltzing before the burgesses, in spite of the gasps of the assembled men because of her audacity, showing up in court like that…and taking care of business

The drama that unfolds in 1708 casts Dorothy in quite a different light than any other colonial women I have ever encountered in the records.

The drama didn’t begin as anything unusual. Ann Kelly’s indenture to Thomas Durham begins like normal in 1699 when she was determined to be 14 years old. The court determined Ann’s age so that the length of her indenture could be determined and so that she could be taxed appropriately. In 1704, Ann gave her age to be 20, which would have put her birth in 1684. If she were 14 in 1699, then she would have been born in 1685.

Court Order Book Page 406, June 7, 1699 – Ann Kelly servant to Thomas Durham being presented to this court to have inspection into her age is adjudged 14 years old and ordered to serve her master or his assigns according to act.

However, by 1708, nine years later, Anne was 23 and circumstances had changed.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – Anne Kelly, servant to Thomas Durham, being brought before the court by her master for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and said Anne refusing to confess who was the father of the child, the court have ordered she be committed to the county goale there to remaine until such time as she shall confess who is the true father of her child and it is also ordered that she serve her master or his assignes after her time by indenture custome or otherwise shall be fully expired according to law in compensation for the trouble of his house during the time of her childbirth.

Imagine how intimidating this must have been for Ann. Not only did all those men, dressed in their finery and powdered wigs “know what she had done,” they were pressuring her for the name of the child’s father. Ann, a servant with nothing of her own, probably dressed in hand-me-down clothes, if not rags, didn’t even have the right to direct her own body.  Ann faced them down and stood firm, probably shaking with fear, even when sentenced to goale (jail.)

Having none of this, Dorothy steps in.

Court Order Book Page 372, July 7, 1708 – This day Dorothy Durham for on the behalf of her husband Thomas Durham confessed judgement to the church wardens of Northfarnham parish to the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco the same being the fine of Anne Kelly for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child which is ordered to be paid with costs.

I can’t even begin to explain how unusual this was. Not only did Dorothy appear at court, of her own volition, she clearly defied her husband to do so. Not only that, but Dorothy apparently controlled some financial aspects of the household, because there seemed to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Dorothy was capable and authorized to pay the 500 pounds of tobacco – even though Dorothy did say she was acting “on behalf of her husband.” In every other similar case, some male community member steps forward and posts bail, or not, but no female ever steps forward like Dorothy did.

I’m convinced that posting bail, in most cases, wasn’t so much to help the poor woman who had the child as it was to retain the services of the woman and not be inconvenienced by her absence. In Dorothy’s case, we’ll never know what motivated her to attend court alone, step up in place of her husband AND pay the fine for Anne Kelly. But she did!

Furthermore, in most cases, the female willingly named the child’s father. In this case, we do discover the name of the father the following March, and I wonder if Dorothy knew all along.

Court Order Book Page 4, March 2, 1708/9 – Anne Kelly came into court and made oath that Thomas Durham Jr. is the true father of 2 bastard children borne of her body in the time of her service with his father, Thomas Durham the elder. Upon motion of the Queen’s attorney ordered that Thomas Durham Jr. be summoned to next court to enter into bond with security for the indemnification of the parish and what charge may acrew to the parish for or by reason of the children aforesaid.

In March of 1708/09, Anne Kelly was dragged before the court a second time. This time, however, she named the father of the children – Thomas Durham Jr., the son of Dorothy and Thomas Durham Sr. While Thomas was summoned to post bond to the churchwardens so they would not incur future costs on behalf of the children, Thomas Jr. was not fined for fornication nor did he have to pay Anne Kelly’s fine for fornication and having a bastard child. Men were never fined, prosecuted for the sin of fornication, nor treated with or sentenced to “goale.” I guess those women somehow managed to get pregnant all by themselves!

This time, it wasn’t Dorothy who paid Anne Kelly’s fees, nor Thomas Durham Sr. or Jr., who should have by all rights paid her fines – but Thomas Dodson who was married to Mary Durham, Dorothy’s daughter.

No place in any of this does Thomas Durham Jr. step up – not once.

I’m proud of Dorothy and her chutzpah in defiance of the social norms of the day and for her courage to do what was right, in spite of whatever the personal consequences.

I can just hear the conversation:

Dorothy: “Thomas Durham, if you won’t pay the fine for Anne Kelly, I’ll just go to court and do it myself.”

Thomas: <Chuckling> “Thou will, will thou?”

Dorothy: “Indeed, I will.”

Thomas: “I think not.” <Frowning, not chuckling anymore.>

Dorothy: “The Hell I won’t. You watch.”

Thomas: “Bet me? I forbid it.” <Menacing>

Dorothy: “Bloody Hell. Hold my beer!”

Thomas: <Calling after Dorothy’s back as she whooshes out the door, climbing on their only horse and not bothering to ride side-saddle, as becoming to a respectable gentlewoman.> “Dorothy, it’s not nice to swear.”

Thomas: <Drinks Dorothy’s beer.>

Dorothy, you go girl!!!

Dorothy’s Children

Dorothy had three children that lived and very likely many more that didn’t.

All three of Dorothy’s children’s births are recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register.

  • Daughter Mary Durham was born June 5, 1686 and married Thomas Dodson, the neighbor lad, on August 1, 1701. She would only have been 15 years old. Their first child, and Dorothy’s first grandchild, was George Dodson, born on October 31, 1702. With mother and baby both safe, the Durham and Dodson households were both celebrating!
  • Son John Durham was born on November 23, 1698. John was somewhat of a challenging child. He may have been troubled by the death of his father in 1715, because in 1716, John and his brother, Thomas sued his mother, Dorothy, who had remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. Custody of John was awarded by the court to his brother, Thomas, and John’s share of the estate was distributed. What the heck does a teenage boy need with a bedstead? Regardless, John went to live with his brother Thomas, taking with him all of the items his father left him in the will. It could be argued that perhaps brother Thomas coveted some of those items along with brother John’s labor and hence, encouraged the suit against their mother. John never married and was dead by 1722.
  • Son Thomas Durham was born on June 17, 1690 and died on December 3, 1734. He would have been 44 years old. He married Mary Smoot, daughter of William Smoot and wife Jane sometime around 1710, when his “bastard children” by Ann Kelly would only have been a couple years old and when Ann would still have been indentured to his father, probably serving her additional time for fornication with Thomas. Talk about awkward!

1734 was a terrible year for Mary Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Jr.’s wife. She gave birth to her youngest child, Millicent on August 4th, buried daughter Wilmoth, 4 years old on October 2nd and her husband, Thomas Durham (Jr.), died on December 3rd, leaving Mary with a 4-month-old baby and 8 other children, although it appears that daughter Margaret was already married by this time and some of the other children may have died.

The Silent Spaces

Understanding that women are typically married and fertile for about 24 years, and presuming all children live to the age of weaning, approximately 12 children are born to each woman before the days of birth control. If some children die at birth or before they are weaned, then more than a dozen children can be born.

We know that Dorothy was born in 1663, so we can presume she would have begun having children about the time she married, with the first child arriving probably about 1684. Therefore, we have many spaces in which she probably had children that died and were buried at the Farnham Parish church in the old location, lost today, with only a general location known.

In the cemetery in the now-lost churchyard, we would find several of Dorothy’s children born in about the following years:

  • 1684
  • 1688
  • 1692
  • 1694
  • 1696
  • 1700
  • 1702
  • 1704
  • 1706
  • 1708 possibly

That’s an awful lot of babies to have died. Nine, maybe ten. Some may have lived long enough to smile, to play, even to talk and run in the warmth of the sunshine. Then they died, taking a piece of their mother’s heart with them. Every single one.

Every child was buried in a tiny grave, probably with a small wooden cross. Each one had a name.  Dorothy probably held each one as they died, cleaned their tiny body and dressed them in the best way she could afford.

One baby girl was probably named Dorothy, her own namesake. Other baby girls would likely have been named Alice and Thomasin, after Dorothy’s sisters. Two more would have been named after her parents and two more after Thomas Durham’s parents as well.

Dorothy probably visited the graveyard to tend the graves of her children, then to visit Thomas, for the duration of her life. She is probably buried beside them. Knowing in her heart she would be reunited with them one day is probably the only thing to relieve her grief, even a little, and only for a short time.

Those children’s birthdays and death days are never forgotten, even if they are unspoken.

Dorothy’s DNA

Dorothy only had one daughter, Mary, that lived. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both genders of their children, but only females pass it on. Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA would have been passed through daughter Mary to her daughters, and so forth on to the current generation, where male children carry it as well.

Mary Durham Dodson had the following daughters:

  • Alice Dodson married William Creel about 1729. It’s unknown what happened to Alice Creel after her father, Thomas Dodson’s death in 1739.
  • Mary Dodson was born in 1715 and married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known of this line.

It Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA was passed on, it was through Mary, through one of these daughters.

Dorothy’s and her two sisters both carried their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.  Dorothy’s sister’s mitochondrial DNA was the same as hers, so we can look at descendants of Dorothy’s sisters who descend through all females to view Dorothy’s mitochondrial DNA.

Sister Thomasin who married Abraham Marshall had only one known daughter, Mary, who married Alexander Campbell in 1708. I have not traced this family thoroughly, but what I have found shows only two male Campbell children. If this is the case, then Thomasin’s mitochondrial DNA is no more. Perhaps Mary Marshall did have additional children by Alexander Campbell and daughters would be discovered if the line was thoroughly researched.

Dorothy’s sister Alice who married John Chinn had two daughters. Anne Chinn had no children, but Catherine Chinn married William Heale and had several, including daughters:

  • Ellen Heale married David Ball
  • Anne Heale
  • Catherine Heale married John Canaday
  • Sarah Heale married Lindsay Opie
  • Elizabeth Heale married William Davenport and had 2 daughters, Judith Davenport born April 4, 1747 and Elizabeth Davenport born Dec. 27, 1749, both in Richmond County, Virginia. Nothing more is known about Judith or Elizabeth. Hopefully there are descendants through all females living today.

The females who could have passed Dorothy or her sister’s mitochondrial DNA to currently living descendants are shown in the chart below.  You can click to enlarge.

If anyone (male or female) descends from these females through all females from Dorothy or her sisters to the current generation, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you through Family Tree DNA. You carry the mitochondrial DNA of Dorothy Durham and her mother, whoever she was. Perhaps you carry the answer to the secret of her mother’s identity too!

I’d love to hear from you.



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25 thoughts on “Dorothy Durham (1663 – after 1725), No Shrinking Violet, 52 Ancestors #164

  1. Fascinating read! I’m an Aussie adoptee, unknown paternal heritage, however I do know that I have ancestors that can be traced back to colonial Virginia. The social history of this era makes for very interesting reading for this Antipodean; it gives me insights into what life might have been like for my forebearers. My closing comment is: thank goodness for women’s liberation and the feminist movement 🙂

  2. I haven’t worked very much on my extended Durham line. Do you have anything about the North Carolina Durhams?
    My third Great grandmother was Margaret Peggy Durham b. Abt. 1794 in Iredell County, NC married to Thomas Wood, Sr. of Wilkes County, NC. Their daughter Jane Wood married William Caudill and their son Thomas B. Caudill was the father of my grandmother Nannie Alice Caudill, Caudle.
    I haven’t proved but have been told that Margaret was the daughter of James Durham and Drusilla Tomlinson of Johnston, North Carolina>Humphrey Durham and Ursula Unknown of Brunswick County, Virginia>George G. Durham 1723 and Winefred Lindsey>Thomas Durham

    I would be very grateful for any information about this Durham family.

    Nanalee (Caudill) Wrenn

  3. “If anyone (male or female) descends from these females through all females from Dorothy or her sisters to the current generation, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you through Family Tree DNA. ”

    I am sitting here thinking of all the surnames in my tree that match the surnames in your Dodson posts. I wish I knew my mother’s line back to 1700. I know it back to the very late 1700’s, and no farther. My son did the mt-DNA test, so I know my mother’s line DNA. I have exact matches whose ancestors were in America close to mine after 1800, but their genealogy research does not go back as far as mine. Evidence points to my mother’s line in colonial Virginia, and quite possibly in the northern neck, but there were women with no known maiden names, and a general lack of documents. My female ancestor who lived at the same time as Dorothy was probably similar to her. I like Dorothy. I hope someone is able to research their mother’s line to Dorothy and proves the mother’s DNA line.

    • I am the granddaughter of Alice Belle Dodson who is a descendant if Dorothy Durham and Thomas Dodson SR. I never knew any of my fathers family and am so happy to find this information. If I can be of any help in your study I would be happy to do a DNA test.

      Vivian Cox Hall

      • Hi Vivian. There’s no telling which person who tests will provide valuable information. Plus, you can discover a lot about your own ancestors based on who you match as well. If you test, please do so at Family Tree DNA, through their Family Finder test, then transfer for free to MyHeritage. There are also lots of people who test at Ancestry. If you test both places, you will be fishing in most of the available pools. Here’s the link to order the Family Finder test at Family Tree DNA.

  4. Pingback: Dorothy Durham’s Parents and the Mysterious William Smoot, 52 Ancestors #165 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  5. Pingback: Durham DNA – 10 Things I Learned Despite No Y DNA Matches, 52 Ancestors #167 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  6. I am also Dorothy Durham,granddaughter to these people, my mothers side is also Ball. A GG
    grandmother Frances Marshall & William Durham. The Chin name connects to Hannah Ball on
    Moms side.she married a Fox. What to do with this?? Its new to me Dorothy Diane Durham

  7. Alice Belle Dodson is my Grandmother in my father’s side descended from Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson SR. I never knew my dad’s family so this is all so interesting to me. You mentioned something about a scholarship for a DNA test. I’d like to know more about it.

    My email address is

    Thank you for this wonderful information.

    Vivian Cox Hall

    • Hi Vivian. What we need is a person who descends from Dorothy through all females to the current generation, because that’s how the mitochondrial DNA is passed. Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Because your father is in the line between you and Dorothy, you don’t carry her mitochondrial DNA. Does your father? Are there men between your father and Dorothea? If your father had siblings, they carry it too.

  8. Let me just say I’m happy to have you as a distant cousin, because these articles are wonderful. I’m a direct descendant of Thomas and Dorothy Durham through their daughter Mary. I now have my holiday reading plans laid out.

    • Hi Brett. Do you descend through all females from Mary? If so, you carry her mitochondrial DNA and we need to chat:)

      • Hi Roberta. No it’s unfortunately quite the opposite. I descend from Mary’s son Abraham Dodson, his son Enoch, his son William, his son Lemuel, etc. I would love to have the DNA that would help resolve this mystery.

        • Me too😟 Someday the right person will appear. If you have taken the autosomal test, I’m in all of the databases.

  9. I am descended from Thos. Durham & Mary Smooth. Mary Smoots’ parents were William Smoot & Jane Coleman if I’m correct. There are multiple “Smoot”, “Smute” ‘s throughout my family tree. I found it odd if not outright unsettling at the multi generational Smoot-Durham marriages.

    • Hi Mary. If you could share any documentation that you have, I would be very grateful. I was able to find no documentation at all.

  10. Donna Lynn Mills, descendant of Thomas Durham and Dorothy Smoot, through Thomas Durham — down to John Wesley Durham, my great grandfather.

  11. I descend from Alice (Gilbert) Chinn/Stretchly. I believe I have solved the problem of what the surname of Alice, Dorothy and Tomasin is. William Smoot m. Grace ? Wood. His sister was Mary Smoot who married James Gilbert and THEY are the parents of the 3 girls. I have a LOT of evidence – timelines – records-deeds-wills-purchases etc making enough of a positive trail that is all but 100% certain that is who they are. It has unofficially been accepted by Northern Neck researchers from the Library of Virginia. I have it in print and all the relative connections in my tree Janean Skiles Family Tree. Alice Gilbert Chinn was my 8th Great Grandmother. I descend from Rawleigh Chinn their son who married Easter Ball. Now THERE’s a story for ya! He was a horrible man. I can be found at jray2330@gmail

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