About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.

Dorothy Durham’s Parents and the Mysterious William Smoot, 52 Ancestors #165

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

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.

Extracted Records

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:

  1. Fifty acres is the amount of land awarded for importing one person. Someone would receive this for paying their own passage.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Elizabeth Grady

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.

Signed:

James Gilbert, his mark

Witnessed by Edward Welch, his mark

Jone Williams, her mark,

Thomas White

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.

Dorothy’s Sisters

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

Tree

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.

Abraham Marshall

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

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 1794 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

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.

DNA

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!

Which Ethnicity Test is Best?

While this question is very straightforward, the answer is not.

I have tested with or uploaded my DNA file to the following vendors to obtain ethnicity results:

The links above provide product reviews of recently released or updated results.

Guess what? None of the vendors’ results are the same. Some aren’t even close to each other, let alone to my known and proven genealogy.

In the article, Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages, I explained how to calculate your expected ethnicity percentages from your genealogy. As each vendor has introduced ethnicity results, or updated previous results, I’ve added to a cumulative chart.

It bears repeating before we look at that chart that ethnicity testing is relatively accurate on a continental level, meaning:

  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Native American
  • Jewish

Intra-continent or sub-continent, meaning within continents, it’s extremely difficult to tease out differences between countries, like France, Germany and Switzerland. Looking at the size of these regions, and the movement of populations, we can certainly understand why. In many ways, it’s like trying to discern the difference between Indiana and Illinois.

What Does “Best” Mean?

While the question of which test is best seems like it would be easy to answer, it isn’t.

“Best” is a subjective term, and often, people interpret best to mean that the test reflects a portion of what they think they know about their ethnicity. Without a rather robust and proven tree, some testers have little subjective data on which to base their perceptions.  In fact, many people, encouraged by advertising, take these tests with the hope that the test will in fact provide them with the answer to the question, “Who am I?” or to confirm a specific ancestor or ancestral heritage rumor.

For example, people often test to find their Native American ancestry and are disappointed when the results don’t reveal Native ancestry. This can be because:

  • There is no Native ancestor.
  • The Native ancestor thought to be 100% was already highly admixed.
  • The Native ancestor is too far back in the tester’s tree and the ancestor’s DNA “washed out” in subsequent generations.
  • The testing company failed to pick up what might be arguably a trace amount.

Genealogy Compared to All Vendors’ Results

In some cases, discrepancies arise due to how the different companies group their results and what the groupings mean, as you can see in the table below comparing all vendors’ results to my known genealogy.

In the table below, I’ve highlighted in yellow the “best” company result by region, as compared to my known genealogy shown in the column titled “Genealogy %”.

British Isles – The British Isles is fairly easy to define, because they are islands, and the results for each vendor, other than The Genographic Project, are easy to group into that category as well. Family Tree DNA comes the closest to my known genealogy in this category, so would be the “best” in this category. However, every region, shown in pink, does not have the same “best” vendor.

Scandinavian – I have no actual Scandinavian heritage in my genealogy, but I’m betting I have a number of Vikings, or that my German/Dutch is closely related to the Scandinavians. So while LivingDNA is the lowest, meaning the closest to my zero, it’s very difficult to discern the “true” amount of Scandinavian heritage admixed into the other populations. It’s also possible that Scandinavian is not reflecting (entirely) the Vikings, but Dutch and German as a result of migrations of entire peoples. My German and Dutch ancestry cumulatively adds to 39%.

Eastern European – I don’t have any known Eastern European, but some of my German might fall into that category, historically. I simply don’t know, so I’m not ranking that group.

Northwestern Europe – For the balance of Northwestern Europe, 23andMe comes the closest with 43% of my 45.24% from my known genealogy.

Mediterranean and Southern European – For the Mediterranean, Greece, Italy and Southern Europe, I have no known genealogy there, and not even anyplace close, so I’m counting as accurate all three vendors who reported zero, being Living DNA, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage.

Unknown – The next grouping is my unknown percentage. It’s very difficult to ascribe a right or wrong to this grouping, so I’ve put vendor results here that might fall into that unknown group. In my case, I suspect that some of the unknown is actually Native on my father’s side. I haven’t assigned accuracy in this section. It’s more of a catch all, for now.

Native and Asian – The next section is Native and Asian, which can in some circumstances can be attributed to Native ancestry. In this case, I know of about 1% proven Native heritage, as the Native on my mother’s line is proven utilizing both Y and mitochondrial DNA tests on descendants. I suspect there is more Native to be revealed, both on her side and because I can’t positively attribute some of my father’s lineage that is mixed race and reported to be Native, but is as yet unproven. By proof, I mean either Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA or concrete documentation.

I have counted any vendor who found a region above zero and smaller than my unknown percentage of 3.9% as accurate, those vendors being Family Tree DNA, Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage.

Southwest Asia – I have no heritage from Southwest Asia, which typically means the Indian subcontinent. National Geographic reports this region, but their categories are much broader than the other companies, as reflected by the grey bands utilized to attempt to summarize the other vendor’s data in a way that can be compared to the Genographic Project information. While I’m pleased to contribute to the National Geographic Society through the Genographic Project, the results are the least connected to my known genealogy, although their results may represent deeper migratory ancestry.

Summary

As you can see, the best vendor is almost impossible to pinpoint and every person that tests at multiple vendors will likely have a different opinion of what is “best” and the reasons why. In some ways, best depends on what you are looking for and how much genealogy work you’ve already invested to be able to reliably evaluate the different vendor results. In my case, the best vendor, judged by the highest total percentage of “most accurate” categories would be Family Tree DNA.

While DNA testing for ethnicity really doesn’t provide the level of specificity that people hope to gain, testers can generally get a good view of their ancestry at the continental level. Vendors also provide updates as the reference groups and technology improves.  This is a learning experience for all involved!

I hope that seeing the differences between the various vendors will encourage people to test at multiple vendors, or transfer their results to additional vendors to gain “a second set of eyes” about their ethnicity. Several transfers are free. You can read about which vendors accept results from other vendors, in the article, Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

I also hope that ethnicity results encourage people to pursue their genealogy to find their ancestors. Ethnicity results are fun, but they aren’t gospel, and shouldn’t be interpreted as “the answer.” Just enjoy your results and allow them to peak your curiosity to discover who your ancestors really were through genealogy research! There are bound to be some fun surprises just waiting to be discovered.

If you are interested in why your results may vary from what you expected, please read “Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.”

If you’re interested in taking a DNA test, you might want to read “Which DNA Test is Best?” which discusses and compares what you need to know about each vendor and the different tests available in the genetic genealogy market today.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

The Last Father’s Day

The heat was oppressive. The air wasn’t moving, hanging like a hot wet blanket, engulfing you, making it difficult to breathe.

In the days before air conditioning, you woke up hot and sweaty, and that was before the sun was even on the horizon. You tended the livestock early, weeded the garden out behind the chicken house and picked whatever produce was ready by 7 AM or so, because the heat and humidity only got worse as the day progressed.

Home sweet home. The farm in Indiana.

In fact, it was so hot on the farm in summer that children were allowed to run around in their birthday suits except for their underwear, and play in the sprinkler or a tub outside, filled from the hose or the well pump. Sometimes the adults indulged in the hose too, putting their thumbs over the end to cause “spray,” or stuck their feet in a bucket of cool water. It was just that hot. 

This particular Sunday, June 20, 1993, just happened to be Father’s Day.

My life in 1993 was very different than it is today. Every June, I spent a week at Rockome Gardens, an Amish “park” in the countryside of heartland Illinois, at a Cross Stitch Festival, teaching and learning and enjoying the camaraderie of my friends.

A group of us met at Rockome from across the country every summer, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. Mind you, Arcola, the closest town, a few miles distant was so small that there was only a railroad crossing, a bowling alley and one small Mom and Pop motel. Of course, there were grain silos and an elevator along the railroad tracks, because after all, this is farm country.

By Daniel Schwen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3448414

The area around Rockome Gardens was much like the area in Indiana where I grew up, corn, soybeans and farm after farm, so I was quite comfortable driving between the fields and avoiding Amish buggies sharing the road. Everyone waved at each other. Life was simple. I loved it there – it felt and smelled so comfortable.

The needlework show ended on Sunday afternoon, but I packed up early and hit the road so that I could drive to central Indiana in time to see my step-father, the man I knew as Dad.

I knew he wasn’t expecting me, because he knew that I was busy at the show, but I wanted to be sure to get there in time to celebrate Father’s Day.

Dad was 72 years old and had been having health issues off and on for a couple of years. A lifelong smoker, he had been in and out of the hospital with COPD. He would give up cigarettes, certainly while he was in the hospital, and for awhile afterwards, but he always started again. He thought that we didn’t know, because he only smoked when he was at the barn. I know he always thought he’d have “just one” but that one always led to another, which led to another, which eventually led to another ambulance ride to the hospital. Up until this time, the EMTs and doctors had always managed to revive him, patch him back together and home he would come with new resolve among our fervent pleas to spare his own life.

I was so grateful that Dad was still with us, seemed to be doing as well as possible, and was excited to surprise him. I had arranged with my husband to celebrate Father’s Day with him the following weekend by planting two maple trees at our house, so hubby didn’t expect me home until very late on Sunday.

The only place that afforded air conditioned comfort was a car, store or a restaurant. No place else in farm country had air conditioning, including the farmhouse that was always “home” to me, even years after moving away.

As I drove cross country, enjoying the cool of my Mom-van, back road to back road, watching the shimmering heat waves rise up from the pavement, I relished the thought of how surprised Dad would be. I had a small gift of some sort all tucked away, even though I had already send a card and gift certificate to Red Lobster.

Dad’s favorite thing to do at Red Lobster was to order something, add a side of crab legs, which he dearly loved, and then see how many meals he could get out of that one meal via leftovers. Red Lobster was a luxury he never allowed himself unless he had a gift certificate – which is why I gave him one at every possible opportunity.

As people age, they are infinitely more difficult to buy for. First, they have most everything they need. What they want has far more to do with people they love, time and visits that any “thing.” I knew that, which is why I was going home, even though it meant arriving at my own home late that night and getting little sleep before work on Monday morning.

The look on his face would be worth it!

I knew Mom and Dad were going to Red Lobster to eat after church on Father’s Day, so I timed my arrival for after they returned home. That worked perfectly.

As I drove, the baking sun gave way to storm clouds gathering on the western horizon. Heat induced summer storms were mixed blessings, as they brought much needed rain for the crops and sometimes a brief respite from the heat, but they also brought tornadoes and this was tornado alley. We learned what to watch for, and when to run to the basement and dive for safety. Tornadoes were a fact of life and I’ve lived through several.

I watched the western sky as a wall cloud approached, rolling towards me, hoping the downpour that was sure to come would be swift and fleeting, because driving in blinding rain is difficult. Many summer storms were violent, but passed quickly, leaving the vegetation refreshed and beautifully green.

I drove in front of the wall cloud for quite some time, at about the same speed apparently, but when I turned north, it overtook me and I found myself in a hail-filled downpour. In the open country, there is no place to “go” and the best you can hope for is to find someplace to pull off the road so someone won’t hit you. No one can see.

Normally, I find summer storms refreshing. I woke up to so many storms, both during the night and to gentle early morning rains when I was a kid that rainfall feels soothing to me, and so do storms, unless they are particularly violent.

But this day, the storm and the greyness didn’t lift.

I arrived “home” in the mid-late afternoon and walked in, just like I had done for decades. I knew where the key to the back door was hidden, but I never had to use it. The door was never locked. I don’t even know if the key worked, truthfully. The lock probably would have been considered antique and there was only one key in existence for everyone to share. Generally, someone was home, and if they weren’t the dog wasn’t going to let anyone but family in anyway. The front door, not once in my entire recollection, was ever used. This was farm country and that’s how farm country worked!

Dad’s two favorite places, other than the barn, were at the kitchen table and in his recliner. Beyond any doubt, he could always be found in one of those three places. This day, he was seated in his chair in the kitchen wearing his ever-present overalls. He looked up to see who was walking in his back door, and I could see the surprise on his face turn to pure joy as he recognized me.

He had no other visitors.

I walked up to him and hugged him and declared, “Happy Father’s Day, Dad.” He beamed, thunked me on the head with his thumb and tousled my hair. All was right with the world. He may have been a quiet, soft-spoken prairie farmer that time passed by, but he was the most important person in the world to me that day.

He was infinitely strong in his silence, a granite pillar, a mighty example of kindness and good. He stood steadfastly for what he believed, even when it wasn’t convenient or popular. He believed in his family, equality and what was right.  In fact, he believed in me when no one else did.  It was Dad who told me, another hot summer day, years earlier, “You can be whatever you set your mind to – and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” He didn’t have to say any more. He had said it all and changed my life with one sentence.

Thanks Dad.

He asked what I was doing there and I told him I had come to see him on Father’s Day. He immediately began to worry about me driving home late at night.

Yep, that was Dad.

I told him I came to visit and the drive didn’t matter. I could tell, in spite of his protests, he was secretly pleased.

I’m not sure where Mom was. She was there, I’m sure, but these 24 years later, what I remember of that afternoon was sitting at the old kitchen table and visiting with him. I don’t remember what we talked about, except the storm (of course) because farmers always talk about rain, and about what he ate at lunch at Red Lobster. I think I brought him a mug or something like that as well, and he complained that I shouldn’t be spending my money on him.

That was always Dad.

That was the same man who would patch anything and everything together with duct tape until it simply could not be fixed again, and then begrudgingly purchase a used replacement, but gave me his last $20 when I left with my young children to move away – to pursue that career he encouraged me to follow. He desperately fought tears that day and asked if I was sure I didn’t need more money. I tried to refuse his $20, but he wouldn’t let me. I later found a $100 bill tucked in my purse, which he adamantly disavowed any knowledge of when I tried to pay him back.

That was Dad.

Dad’s sense of humor never failed him. Sitting at the table that day, I recalled that one year I gave him a hairbrush with no bristles for Father’s Day, because he was bald. He pretended to use that hairbrush for years, which would always cause peals of laughter.

Dad, smiling at me as I tried to get one of my kids ready for Halloween. He was wearing a wig, so I wouldn’t “recognize” him – and to let me know he wasn’t bald anymore!

Yea, that was Dad.

We laughed in the heat that day, sitting at the kitchen table with the whir of a very ineffective fan in the background, as we recalled many funny stories, some of which both of us didn’t agree were funny. But we laughed at all of them anyway!

That was Dad. Never malicious or hurtful with his humor, but always a practical joker.

At some point, Mom came in to fix dinner, called supper on the farm. Dinner was at lunch and the word lunch didn’t exist in that world. I told her I couldn’t stay to eat. I had many hours ahead of me, on those same back roads in the rain.

Dad walked me to the car and uncharacteristically told me how much he really appreciated me finding a way to stop. He told me he loved me.

That was not Dad. He was a man of very few words, and never “those” words. Never.

I looked at him a long time, in silence, and he looked at me too. Straight in the eyes. Tears welled up. I knew how much he loved me.

I had always known.

I know he knew how much I loved him too. I tried to tell him with my actions always. As Dad would say, “actions speak louder than words.” I’ve lived by his simple “farmer’s wisdom” my entire life. It never fails me.

I tried to speak. I couldn’t. My voice cracked as I told him I loved him and I simply couldn’t say goodbye. The tears streamed down my face, mixed with sweat, in spite of my attempts to stop them. I felt his rough thumb, calloused by decades in the fields, as he tried to gently wipe my tears away.

Dad was of course sweating, not crying.

I finally got into the car. Dad stepped back a couple steps, between the house and the old building that passed for a garage, and began waving to me, very slowly. He just stood there waving. He never did that.

I knew I had to leave, but for some reason, I was transfixed in that moment in time. Time simply stopped.

Finally, I backed out of the driveway and pointed the car north. As I passed the little white church at the crossroads, on the land he donated, I braked to look in the mirror, and I saw him, still standing there watching me disappear, still waving.

I saw the storm clouds gathering again, and I knew I had to hurry or they would overtake me. I wanted Dad to go inside, out of the storm. He had already weathered too many. I desperately wanted him to be safe, and to be there went I went back the next time, waiting for me at the kitchen table.

I drove away, down that lonely grey road as the storm began. I had no idea I was crossing a divide.

The day after we planted those maple trees, my life changed forever.

That was the last Father’s Day.

It was also the last Father’s Day my husband would be with me.

And the last time I ever visited Rockome.

A year later, I would be on the other side of that terrible divide, and all I could do was to look back in life’s rear-view mirror, longing to see Dad waving. Wanting desperately to turn around and go back. Aching inconsolably for what was forever lost.

I’m so incredibly glad that I found a way to make it home on that sticky hot Sunday for what would be the last Father’s Day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and thank you.

Eloise Lore, my grandmother’s sister, Barbara Jean Ferverda (at right) and Ralph Dean Long holding Spot. Garage, burning barrels and outhouse in the background.

LivingDNA Replaces Download Terms

Great news, and fast on the part of LivingDNA.

Yesterday, I wrote about indemnity language required when downloading your raw data file from LivingDNA.

LivingDNA said last night that the verbiage did not really reflect their intentions.

Today, they have modified their terms going forward and retroactively, according to David Nicholson, Managing Director of LivingDNA, and have simplified the content.

Below is the new download verbiage, as provided by David.

I am greatly relieved. The indemnification language is gone and is replaced by you agreeing to, in essence, be responsible for yourself and release LivingDNA from anything bad that happens resulting from your download. (Caveat – I am not a lawyer. This is only my personal opinion.)

As always, please read all language and be sure you understand the verbiage and ramifications to your own situation, with LivingDNA and all vendors. Seek legal advice if you have questions or concerns with any legal document.

Thanks, LivingDNA, for listening to the community and addressing our concerns so quickly.

Beware – LivingDNA Requires Customer to Indemnify Company to Download Raw Data

Update:  Please note that LivingDNA has replaced the Indemnity language referred to below.  You can read the update here.

Say what?

Yep, you read that right.

I discovered that LivingDNA now provides a raw data download for their customers, with a huge, and I mean HUGE, caveat – indemnification of the company (LivingDNA) if they are sued as a result of your download of your DNA data.

Yes, seriously! This is not April 1st.

While this may sound like a trivial complication, it’s not, given that one of the reasons genealogists purchase ethnicity tests is to download the data and transfer the results to other companies or services for additional ethnicity results or matches to other testers, a feature not provided by LivingDNA.

Let’s walk through the download steps and take a look.

At LivingDNA, your raw data is now available on the left hand side of your page. Click on “Download Raw Data” to view.

You will then see the following screen, captured in two graphics, below. Please note that you can click to enlarge any graphic.

Do NOT do anything else until you READ and understand the entire contents of the Download Raw Data page.

LivingDNA provides what I would consider typical verbiage and also some appropriate cautions about how you may or may not match people you expect to match, and you may match people you don’t expect to match. In other words, they are gracefully trying to say you may encounter a misattributed parentage, either in your line or the line of someone you expect to match. Given that LivingDNA doesn’t provide matching services, this is especially important for their customers to understand.

But then comes the (thankfully) bolded bombshell. Bolding is theirs, not mine, although I would also add the color red.

By choosing to download your data you agree to indemnify (which broadly means to reimburse) Living DNA and its related companies and their directors and employees for any losses, damages or costs they incur as a result of any claims being made against them which relate to you downloading your data and the use by you of your data, or as a result of you having shared your data with any third party.

Holy cow.

Not only are you indemnifying LivingDNA,  you’re also indemnifying their directors and employees and related companies.  Furthermore, “claims” could mean that someone doesn’t even need to file a lawsuit.  As I said, I’m not an attorney, but I’m a savvy enough consumer to know this isn’t good for me.

You must click the “consent” box in order to proceed.

The consent says very clearly that by downloading, you agree to provide indemnity to LivingDNA. Bolding and red, both mine, below.

I have read the information provided about gaining access to my genetic data, and in particular I understand that my use of my data is my responsibility and that by downloading my data, I am providing an indemnity to Living DNA.

Merriam-Webster says this about indemnify:

I’m not a lawyer, but let me explain one thing further about indemnification. It includes the costs of defense – meaning the lawyers, and the lawyers travel, etc. Lawyer fees alone can run into tens of thousands of dollars, and more. Currently intellectual property attorneys bill at the rate of $450 per hour, or did last year, and defense preparations take hundreds of hours. If this makes you shake in your shoes, it should!

So let me say this in plain English. If you upload your LivingDNA file to any third party site and you match someone who is angry that your match revealed (or helped to reveal) that their father is not their father (for example), but is instead your father, or uncle, or cousin, etc., and they decide to sue LivingDNA for running your test – you have to pay for LivingDNA to defend themselves against the lawsuit – no matter how frivolous and no matter the outcome. I would think this would also extend to someone utilizing numerous matches to discover a link to unknown parentage if someone is unhappy about the outcome. In essence, if anyone sues LivingDNA or make a claim over anything having to do with your test, you have agreed to pay for LivingDNA to defend themselves, affiliated companies, employees and directors, even if the suing party loses. And if the suing party wins, you get to pay for that too.

The bottom line is that you have to agree that you are responsible for whatever after downloading your DNA. “Whatever” means anything that you can think of, and probably several things you can’t. The example above is by no means a comprehensive list of what could go wrong and cause you a massive legal headache. If anything goes wrong after you download your DNA, you’re responsible.

Period.

Consider yourself warned.

There is absolutely no upside or benefit in this verbiage to you. None. Nada.

So what am I going to do with my LivingDNA results? Not one single solitary thing. The ante is just too large. Thankfully, I’ve already tested with the other vendors so I don’t need to upload my results from LivingDNA anyplace.

That’s exactly what I recommend you do too – nothing. Don’t even download. Personally, I would simply test elsewhere, all things considered.

You cannot control how your matches utilize the fact that you match and what they do with that information. It will be interesting to see if LivingDNA will require their customers to indemnify them against the results of matches at their own company if they add the matching feature as they have stated they plan to do.

Given that I’m not an attorney, if you are considering downloading your LivingDNA data and uploading elsewhere, I strongly, STRONGLY, recommend that you contact an attorney and obtain a professional opinion.

Today, as I write this, I know that Family Tree DNA and GedMatch don’t accept LivingDNA files as a standard upload because the chip LivingDNA uses is different than any other vendor.

Even if everyone accepted LivingDNA files, in my opinion, given the LivingDNA indemnity language, if you want to upload your results to any site, you would be far safer to test a second time with one of the three major vendors and avoid the potential indemnity headache.

Click here to read my LivingDNA Product Review that was written a month ago, before the data download become available.

You can see which vendors accept whose transfer files in the article, Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

Within the next few days, I’ll be publishing an article titled, “Which Ethnicity Test is Best?,” so stay tuned.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc. In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

23andMe’s “Your DNA Family” Feature

A few days ago, I received a message from 23andMe that a new feature, “Your DNA Family” was ready to view. I decided to take a look. You’ll find this feature under the Reports, then Ancestry Reports tab.

The first part of the screen shows how many matchs of different types that I have. This report includes only people who have opted in to share through DNA Relatives.

I have tested on both the V3 chip and the V4 chip. I’m utilizing the V3 results for this article, but it is interesting to note that I have 1436 V4 chip results, as compared to 1440 V3 results, above. The number of matches is almost exactly the same. However, the numbers in the various categories below between the two tests (V3 vs V4) are sometimes significantly different, so these are clearly not (all) the same people who have agreed to share on both platforms.  You can read more about the V3 and V4 comparison here.

On the page above, the “learn more” link explains about degrees of cousinhood.

Scrolling down, the next section shows you a map of the location of your DNA Relatives.

The part I find the most interesting is that the places where I have the most relatives do not include the state where I was born or where my parents were born.  My mother’s family was from the Netherlands and Germany before immigrating to Indiana in the US, except for one grandfather who was Acadian. In the Midwest, Indiana is darker than the rest on the map, but I only have 25 relatives there. My father was born in Tennessee with only 15 matches. Of course, the fact that my matches live in those locations today does not mean our common ancestor is one of my Hoosier or Tennessee ancestors, but it’s a good place to start looking.

Conversely, I have 110 relatives that live in California and 65 in Texas. Texas was a destination location for the people of Appalachia, so that makes some sense. My great-grandfather died in Texas in 1895, having walked from Tennessee, twice.

From the looks of things, California was a destination location for everyone! I have more matches in California than any another state, by almost double. I have to wonder if the fact that 23andMe is a California company has something to do with how many Californians have tested.

“Click here” shows you the top 10 locations in a table.

It’s interesting to note that my proven 39% German and Dutch combined is no place to be seen. The Dutch and most of the Germans were immigrants in the mid-1800s – so there is no question about the accuracy of these immigrants. 23andMe did not test outside the US for a very long time, and when they did, the shipping cost almost as much as the test itself which discouraged international testers.

Scrolling down again, we see the Ancestry Composition breakdown of my DNA Relatives.

For a minute I was all excited, hoping that I could then click on one of the ancestral regions and see which of my matches include that region, but that’s not the case. Believe me, I tried clicking everyplace☹

Of course, just because someone that I match also has some amount of Native American or other common ancestry, that doesn’t mean that’s how we match, but it might well be a clue.

Scrolling down again, we see how our DNA Relatives compare to the rest of the 23andMe data base in a few categories.

For me, this falls into a time-waster category and causes me to ask myself, “why do I care?” I suspect this is included in the hope that people will find it interesting and will therefore answer these rather innocuous questions posed by 23andMe, along with more that are health related.

Summary

There certainly isn’t anything wrong with this information. It’s not misleading in any way like the last feature to be released, their Ancestry Timeline.

The DNA Family information is at best lukewarm and leaves me more than a tad disappointed.

I think at least two aspects have potential, but today, it’s like 23andMe showed us the teaser to the movie with no way to see the movie itself.

I would like to see which of my DNA Relatives fall into the following two categories:

  • Location – state and country
  • Ancestry Composition category

In other words, I want to know which of my matches are from Indiana, and which have Native American ancestry, for example. I’d like to know if there is an intersection between those or any two groups too.

I could find absolutely no way to utilize the Ancestry Composition categories, but I thought I had figured out how to detect at least some of the location matches.

Going to my the DNA Relatives page, I entered the word “Indiana” into the “Search keywords” and pressed enter, which returned 36 DNA Relatives. Granted, that’s not 25, as shown on the map, but it does return information based on something and that something might be useful.  I wish we knew where 23andMe is retrieving this data from so we know how to interpret what it means.

Next, I tried the keyword “Germany.” The search returned 76 results, but Germany was not among the locations where my DNA Relatives were shown to live – so the answer is that whatever is being shown utilizing the search keywords, it’s not the tester’s location so does not connect to the map location results.

The DNA Family Report earns a shrug and a “Meh.” Now, if testers could view which of their DNA Relatives matched them in those categories, I’d have to upgrade the shrug and meh to something a little more exciting. I sometimes look at where and how the vendors invest their development dollars and wonder what the heck they were thinking.

For genealogy, this new feature simply isn’t useful.

______________________________________________________________________

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When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received. In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product. I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community. If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

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.