About Roberta Estes

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

Native American: Is She or Isn’t She?

Many people have an oral history that a specific female ancestor is Native American.

Autosomal DNA results may or may not show some percentage of Native American ancestry. If your results DO include a percentage of Native American, you still need to figure out which ancestors were Native. Where did that piece of your genetic heritage come from?

If your results don’t include Native ancestry, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a Native Ancestor. Sometimes you just didn’t inherit a discernable segment of DNA from that ancestor, or maybe the vendor you tested with didn’t pick that up.

Be sure to upload your raw DNA file to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage for free to gain another perspective. Here’s my free step-by-step guide for downloading and uploading your DNA files from and to all the major vendors.

FamilyTreeDNA provides painted segment information as well that shows you which segments are Native American.

One of my challenges is that I do have Native American autosomal DNA segments. Determining where they came from has been challenging, although the ethnicity chromosome painting at FamilyTreeDNA has been very useful in confirming the source of those segments.

Is there a way to augment autosomal results and be more specific and directed in my search? Can I focus on an individual ancestor? Especially females who are particularly difficult to research, given name changes in each generation?

Yes, you can.

Chasing the Truth

Sometimes, especially historically, when a female ancestor’s genealogy wasn’t known, people presumed that they must have been Native American. I’ve come across this several times now.

The good news is that using mitochondrial DNA, you can find out conclusively if you test someone who descends from that woman through all females to the current generation, which can be male.

I had Native American oral history connected to two ancestors, both of whom I was able to confirm or refute by finding a cousin who inherited that ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA and agreed to test. Women give their mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of their children, but only daughters pass it on. In the current generation, males or females can test.

I also found an unexpected ancestor who was Native. I had no oral history about her – so you just never know what you’ll discover.

Sarah Faires

Oral history in some descendant families indicated that Sarah Faires’s was Native American, possibly because her ancestors were unknown. There was a supposition that “she must have been Native.”

We were able to obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Sarah whose haplogroup turned out to be H49a1, so clearly not Native.

If Sarah’s direct maternal line (her mother, her mother, her mother, on up her tree) had been Native American, she would have fallen into subclades of haplogroup A, B, C, D or X, although not all of those subclades are Native.

You can view the entire list of Native American mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, here and you can view H49a1 on the public mitochondrial haplotree, here.

H49a1 is most frequently found in Germany, followed by Sweden, England and Denmark.

Elizabeth Vannoy

My father’s grandmother, Elizabeth Vannoy, was reported to be Cherokee, both orally and in several letters between family members.

One of my first genealogy goals was to prove that history, but I wound up eventually doing just the opposite.

Elizabeth Vannoy’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is J1c2c, not Native.

Haplogroup J1c2c is found most often in England, France, Sweden and Hungary.

I was able to connect Elizabeth to her parents. Then, eventually, thanks to mitochondrial DNA, working with a cousin, we connected another four maternal generations conclusively, and I’m still working on the fifth generation.

Anne Marie Rimbault

My cousin had no idea that her ancestor, Anne Marie, born about 1631, in Acadia, wife of Rene Rimbault, was Native American when she tested her mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA results explained why Anne Marie’s parents had never been identified in the French records. She was Native American – a member of the Mi’kmaq tribe that intermarried with the French men in the Acadian settlement, proven by her A2f1a haplogroup.

Haplogroup A2f1a is shown on the mitochondrial haplotree as First Nations in Canada and Native American in the US, plus one French flag reflecting a tester who only knew that her ancestor was French-Canadian and believed she had come from France.

Her mitochondrial DNA matches are scattered across the Northern US and Canada, but her closest matches are found in the Acadian and French-Canadian communities.

Is She, or Isn’t She?

Testing your own mitochondrial DNA if you think your direct maternal ancestor may be Native will unquestionably answer that question. Finding a mitochondrial DNA candidate for each of your ancestral lines will reveal which ancestor is Native, or you can target test to see if any specific ancestor is Native.

Unlike autosomal DNA, mitochondrial DNA never loses its potency and doesn’t mix with the DNA of the father. The segments aren’t divided in each generation and don’t wash out over time.

Do you have oral history about female Native American ancestors? Do you have ancestors whose parents are unknown? Mitochondrial DNA testing will resolve that question, plus provide matching with other testers. You don’t know what you don’t know.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to find your Native American ancestors, you might enjoy my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy. There’s lots of information there, including search tips, ancient DNA, maps and known tribes by haplogroup.

Do you have female ancestors who might be Native American?


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The Ancestors are SPEAKing: An 18-Year Y-DNA Study That Led Us Home – 52 Ancestors #381

In 2004, 18 years ago, I founded the Speak(e)(s) Family DNA Project at FamilyTreeDNA. I descend from Nicholas Speaks through his son, Charles Speaks.

Some two decades before, I had met my wonderful cousin, Dolores Ham, by snail mail. We were introduced by Mary Parkey (1927-2000), a genealogist in the Cumberland Gap region who seemed to know something, if not everything, about the early settler families.

Mary wasn’t my cousin through the Speaks line, but she knew who was researching each line, and put me in touch with Dolores.

I met other researchers and discovered that a Speaks Family Association (SFA) had been formed in 1979.

I had a young family at the time, so I joined, but never attended any of the annual meetings, known as conventions, until 2005. I did enjoy the newsletters, however. It was always a good day when a newsletter or a letter from a cousin was waiting in the mailbox.

The goal of the Association was to share research and to determine if, and how, the various Speak lines in America were related. The “rumor” was that the family was from England, but no one knew for sure. We didn’t even know who was actually “in” the family, or how many different families there might be.

In 2004, when I established the Speaks DNA Project in collaboration with the SFA, our goal was stated, in part, as follows:

This project was begun to determine the various Speak(e)(s) lines around the world. According to family legend, the original ancestor came to England with William the Conqueror and his last name then was L’Espec. It was later spelled Speke and then the derivatives of Speake, Speakes, and Speaks carried by descendants today.

We knew that there was a Speak family in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

Did our ”Nicholas” line descend from Maryland, or not?

We knew there was a Thomas Speak (c1634-1681) who settled there by 1661 and had two sons, John the InnKeeper or InnHolder (1665-1731) and Bowling (c1674-1755), named after his mother’s birth surname.

Fast forwarding two or three generations, our Nicholas Speak or Speaks was born about 1782 and was first found in Washington County, Virginia in 1804 when he married Sarah Faires. That’s a long way from Maryland. Who was Nicholas? Who were his parents? How did Nicholas get to Washington County, Virginia? There aren’t any other Speaks men, or women, in Washington County. Was he dropped fully grown by the stork?

In 2005, I attended my first Speaks Family Association Convention, held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and met my lovely cousins who I’m quite close to. I gave an introductory talk about Y-DNA, and several Speaks males volunteered to test, including a descendant of Nicholas.

I was ecstatic, but within a year, we had a, well, “problem.”

In 2006, the Convention was held in Alabama, in the heat of summer. Not only did we have technology issues and lose power during the presentation, part of me hoped it wouldn’t come back on.

At that point, we had 8 Y-DNA testers.

At first, everything was fine. Two testers each from Thomas the immigrant through sons John and Bowling.

  • Thomas, Bowling and then two different sons. They matched.
  • Thomas, John, and his son Richard. They matched too.
  • All four men above, match each other.

Everything’s good, right?

Not so fast…

Then, a father/son pair tested who were also supposed to descend from the Thomas, Bowling, and Thomas line. Thankfully, they matched each other, but they did NOT match the other descendants of Thomas the immigrant.

Because we had multiple men through both of Thomas the immigrant’s sons, we had confirmed the Y-DNA STR marker signature of Thomas – which means that the father/son pair had experienced a genetic disconnect, or, they were actually descended from a different Speak line.

That wasn’t all though. Two more men tested who believed they descended from Thomas the immigrant through John and then Richard. They didn’t match each other, nor any of the other men either.

This was a difficult, painful situation, and not what was anticipated. Of course, I reviewed the results privately with the men involved before presenting them at the convention, and only did so with their permission.

In an effort to identify their genealogical lines, we discovered seven other mentions of early colonial Speak immigrants, including one named Thomas.

Over time, we would discover additional Y-DNA genetic Speak lines.

Bonus Cousin

Y-DNA also revealed an amazing new cousin, Henry, who didn’t know who his father was, but thanks to DNA, discovered he is a genetic Speaks AND identified his father.

Unfortunately, his father had recently passed away, but Henry contacted his uncle and was welcomed into his immediate family, as well as our broader Speaks family. Talk about life-changing! I will never, ever forget Henry’s emotional journey, or the small role I was privileged to play. For a long time, I couldn’t even tell his story without tearing up.

I met Henry in person for the first time at the convention last week. Lots of hugs all around!

In 2006, our Y-DNA haplogroup was known only as I1b1. We knew it was fairly rare and found in the rough Dinaric Alps border region between Bosnia and Croatia.

By User:Doron – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1551217

We weren’t wrong. We were just early. Our ancestors didn’t stop in the Alps.

Today, the migration path into Europe-proper looks like this.

In 2009, the convention was held in the Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church founded by the Reverend Nicholas Speaks, in Lee County, Virginia.

My dear cousin, Lola Margaret Speak Hall descends from Nicholas through two of his children and visited us as Nicholas’s wife, Sarah Faires, describing their lives together.

I can’t even begin to describe how moving it was to hear “Sarah” read from her Bible and recall her life with Nicholas and each of their children, especially those she buried across the road in the cemetery.

The cemetery was visible through the door as Sarah was speaking, describing Nicholas preaching their children’s funerals, and the sound of the clods of dirt hitting their coffins.

That reunion in Nicholas’s church was memorable for another reason, too. I was baptized, surrounded by my family, in my ancestor’s church.


More Speaks men were taking Y-DNA tests, but we still had no idea where the Speaks line originated overseas.

The Association had been working with John Speake in Cambridge, England, above, who had been assisting the American Speak family by obtaining British records. We had hoped that we would match his Y-DNA, because that would mean that we shared a common ancestor, probably from Priestweston, Shropshire in the 1500s. Plus, we really liked John and wanted to be related.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, so we knew one English family we did NOT descend from, but we still didn’t know where our family line was from. We are, however, eternally grateful to John for his amazing research and the critical role he would play.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of Y-DNA testing is often a match with a man either from the “old country,” wherever that is, or someone who unquestionably knows where their ancestor is from. Through a match with them, it allows other testers to jump the pond too.

In early 2010, John Speake in Cambridge reached out to me and said that he had found an anonymous man in New Zealand who was agreeable to taking a DNA test.

By this time, I wasn’t terribly hopeful, but John sweetened those waters by telling me that this man’s family had only been in New Zealand for two generations – and he knew where his ancestors “back home” were from.

I ordered a test for our anonymous tester.

I had nearly forgotten about this man a few weeks later when I suddenly received what seemed like a slot machine jackpot clanging when an entire series of emails arrived, one for each of our Y-DNA testers, saying they had a new match. Yep, our anonymous NZ tester.

Suddenly, I cared a whole lot about his genealogy.

Where was his paternal ancestral line from?


Gisburn? Where the heck was Gisburn?


Gisburn is a tiny village in Lancashire, England.

This antiquarian map shows “Gisborn” located along the Ribble River. Gisburn is ancient, located on the old Roman road, appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ghiseburne, and is believed to have been established in the 9th century.

This was beginning to get serious. This is no longer speculation or unsourced oral history, but actual evidence.

Another cousin, Susan Speake Sills, a DAR Chapter Regent, started digging immediately. Nothing motivates genealogists like the imminent hope of breaking down a brick wall.

Susan and I shot emails back and forth, night and day, for three or four days, and confirmed that our New Zealand cousin’s ancestor, James Speak, had been born in Gisburn between 1735-1749.

We knew, or though we knew, that Thomas Speake, the immigrant, was Catholic. Maryland was a safe haven for Catholics hoping to escape persecution in England.

Thomas was rumored to have been born to a John, but we had no idea where that rumor arose.

Was our Thomas born in Gisburn too?

Susan discovered that St. Mary’s Church in Gisburn held 50 marked Speaks burials.

In 1602/03, William in Gisburn had a son named John.

We found men named Richard, Stephen, John, William, Thomas and more.

And, there were many unmarked graves and unreadable stones.

Susan was just getting started.

Next, Susan discovered that the records of St. Mary’s and All Saints Church in Whalley held pages and pages of Speak family records.

The earliest Speak burial there was in 1540.

During this timeframe, people did not have the right to come and go freely. They were vassals, tied to the land.

Whalley is 11 miles from Gisburn.

Susan and I were fairly quiet as we worked, because we did NOT want to start any unfounded rumors by speaking too soon in the heat of our excitement. We were desperately trying to connect elusive dots.

In 2011, the Convention was held near Thomas and Bowlng Speak’s land in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, our ancestral homeland in America.

Thomas the immigrant settled in Port Tobacco sometime before 1661 and would have attended St. Ignatius Church at St. Thomas Manor where he was probably buried after his death in 1681, in what is now an unmarked grave.

I wonder if Thomas stood in the churchyard, perhaps during funerals, and gazed out over the Port Tobacco River which of course empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and wondered about the family members he had left behind, across the expansive ocean.

Thomas willed his land to his eldest son, John, who was an InnKeeper in Port Tobacco.

His younger son, Bowling Speak had to secure land on his own. He obtained land generally known as Zachia Manor.

This portion of the grant was specifically called “The Mistake,” although we have no idea why, which is owned in part today by St. Peter’s Catholic Church.

The land where the church actually stands was not owned by Bowling, just the attached land beginning about where the bus is parked and extending into the woods beside Jordan’s Run.

The old St. Peter’s cemetery, where the original church stood, is located nearby, just outside the boundary of Bowling and his son, Thomas of Zachia’s land.

It’s likely that our ancestors, Bowling and his son, Thomas, who died in 1755, within days of each other, and their wives, are buried here.

We gathered on Bowling’s land called Speaks Enlargement, adjacent The Mistake. It felt like Nirvana to have located his land and obtained permission to visit both parcels.

Me, Susan Speake Sills, Lola-Margaret Speak Hall and Joyce Candland, a descendant of John the InnKeeper, standing on Bowling’s land. We laughed so much that day as we explored Bowling and Thomas’s land, cherishing our time together.

Lola-Margaret’s heart-felt kiss of gratitude for this discovery says it all – for all of us. The only difference is that she actually had the hutzpah to do this!

Cousins on the prowl. What would we discover?

Susan found old, unmarked graves in the woods.

Lola-Margaret and I found rocks that had once been owned by Thomas and Bowling.

In 2011, my Convention presentation contained a surprise – the information about our Gisburn match, and what we had found. Church records, and graves.

I showed this cemetery map from St. Mary’s in Gisburn, where our New Zealand cousin’s family was buried.

It felt like we were so excruciatingly close, but still so far away.

We knew unquestionably that we were in the neighborhood, but where was our Thomas born?

Who was his family?

I closed with this photo of St. Mary’s in Gisburn and famously said, “I don’t know about you, but I want to stand there.”

It was a throw-away comment, or so I thought, but as it turned out, it wasn’t.

2013 – The Trip Home


Cousins Susan and Mary Speaks Hentschel left no stone unturned. Two years later, our Convention was held in Lancashire, and indeed, I got to stand there.

So did our Speak cousin from New Zealand whose Y-DNA test bulldozed this brick wall for us.

We were then, and remain, incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity.

Of course, I couldn’t resist the St. Mary’s cemetery, nor the cemeteries at the other churches we would visit. It must be something about being a genealogist. There are still Speak family members being buried here.

There are many ancient and unmarked graves as well.

With abundant rainfall, cemeteries overgrow quickly.

It’s common for stones to be moved to the side, or even built into a wall, in order to facilitate maintenance of the grounds.

St. Mary’s church itself was built as a defensive structure sometime before 1135 with these arrowslits for archers in many locations, including the tower.

The Stirk House

During our visit, we stayed at the beautiful Stirk House in the Ribble Valley, a 17th century manor house and the only local lodging available for a group.

We discovered after we checked in that the Speak family had owned this property in the 1930s and had converted it into a hotel. How lucky could we be? Talk about synchronicity!

The Stirk House was originally built in 1635 using stone from the dismantled Sawley Abbey during Henry VIII’s reign and the resulting dissolution of the monasteries. Our Catholic ancestors would have witnessed this devastation, and probably grieved the destruction deeply.

For some reason, I was incredibly moved as we passed the remains of Sawley Abbey during our visit, and grabbed a shot through the rain-speckled window. At this point, I had no inkling of the historical connection that would emerge.

Whalley Abbey

Whalley Abbey, above, was destroyed as well in the Protestant attempt to eradicate Catholicism. Instead, they succeeded in driving it underground.

As our ancestors’ lives revolved around churches and religion, so did our visit as we retraced their steps through time.

While the stones of Sawley Abbey were repurposed to build local structures after its destruction, the Whalley Abbey and cloister walls, above, still stand, albeit in ruins.

The Abbey, formed in 1178, is shown in ruins here in this 1787 drawing. The village of Whalley is visible in the background, at right, with the church tower evident.

The Abbey spring, believed by some to be sacred, is fenced for protection today.

This trip was truly the opportunity of a lifetime and we tried to take advantage of every minute, absorbing everything our ancestors would have experienced, walking in their footsteps.

I didn’t fully grasp at that time that we weren’t hunting for “the” location or locations where our ancestors trod, but that they trod everyplace here. Wherever we walked, it was in their footsteps.

St. Mary’s Church in Whalley

Our next stop was St. Mary’s Church in Whalley, not far from the Abbey, where Henry Speke was granted a lease in 1540.

This church is ancient, build in the 1200s, replacing an earlier church, and stunningly beautiful.

Our trip group photo was taken inside St. Mary’s.

As we sat in the choir, our guide explained the history of the church, which is our history too.

The little green men carved into the wooden choir seats are a wink and a nod to an earlier pagan era. Our ancestors would have known that era too.

We sat in the pews where earlier generations of Speaks families sat. The boxed, enclosed pews were for the wealthy manor owners. Our family wouldn’t have been sitting there.

The original St. Mary’s church, shown in this painting, looked different than today. The church in the painting would have felt quite familiar to the early Speak families who sat in the pews here each Sunday.

In addition to the churches in Gisburn and Whalley, we visited St. Leonard’s Church in Downham which is a chapelry of the church in Whalley.


The tower is original to the 1400s, but the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1909-10. Lord Clitheroe graciously brought a drawing of the old church as it looked when the Speak family attended.

This church, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, proved to be quite important to the family.

Pendle Hill from the cemetery outside St. Leonard’s church, where Thomas was baptized.

Pendle Hill can be seen across the roofs of the village houses.

Downham, on the north side of Pendle Hill was small then, and remains a crossroad village today with a population of about 150 people, including Twiston.

Twiston is located less than 3 miles away, yet it’s extremely remote, at the foot or perhaps on the side of Pendle Hill.

What’s left of the stocks at Downham, beside the church cemetery, just waiting for those who needed to be punished, like those reviled Catholics hiding out in the wilds over by Pendle Hill.

During our visit, Lord Clitheroe provided us with a transcription of the Downham church records wherein one Thomas Speak was baptized on January 1, 1633/34, born to Joannis, the Latin form of John, in nearby Twiston.

Is this Thomas our Thomas the immigrant who was born about that same time? We still don’t know, but there are clues.

The problem is that there is a marriage record for a Thomas Speak to Grace Shakelford in 1656, and a burial record in 1666 for Grace recorded as “the wife of Thomas Speak of Twiston.” But there is no burial record for Thomas, and no children recorded either during that time, which is very strange.

So, is that our Thomas, or a different Thomas? Those records don’t align well. It’s certainly a Thomas of the right age, in the right place, and born to a John as well.

However, our Thomas was in Maryland by at least 1661 and probably earlier. Would he have left a wife behind? Would she still have been noted as his wife and him recorded as “of Twiston” if he was in America?

Records in this area are incomplete. A substantial battle was fought in Whalley in 1643. Churches were often used for quartering soldiers. Minister’s notes could well have been displaced, or books destroyed entirely.

In Downham, the years of 1608-1619 are missing, along with 1638-1657, inclusive which would hold records vital to our family for nearly two critical decades.

We know, according to probate records, that the Downham families originated in Whalley based on research by John D. Speake, of Cambridge, contained in the recently published book, The Speak/e/s Family of Southern Maryland

Probate files show that in 1615, “John Speake of Twiston, husbandman” mentions his son William and William’s children, including John who was the administrator of his will. For John to be an administrator, he had to be age 21 or over, so born in 1594 or earlier. Some John Speak married Elizabeth Biesley at Whalley in 1622 and is believed to be the John Speak Sr. recorded in Downham Parish Registers.

However, John seemed to be the Speak given name of choice.

The existing Hearth Tax returns for 1666-1671 that recorded, and taxed, the number of hearths observed in each home during an inspection shows the following Speak households, none of which were too impoverished to have a hearth:

  • 3 in Twiston
  • 2 in Gisburn (Remington)
  • 1 in Stansfield, near Halifax

Of the above entries, 5 were named John, and one was Ann.

There were two additional Speak families in Newchurch, near Pendle, which is more distant, as is Stansfield, maybe a total of 30 miles end-to-end.

There were no Thomas Speaks listed.

One final hint may be that there are three tailors mentioned in the Gisburn church registers over time, one of whom was Thomas, a tailor, who died in 1662. Did our Thomas the immigrant come from a long line of tailors? If so, how could he have supported himself as a tailor in the remote Lancashire countryside? Is that, perhaps, part of why he immigrated, in addition to being Catholic?

Or, maybe our Thomas apprenticed as a tailor in Maryland as an indentured servant and tailors in Gisburn are simply a red herring.

The Whalley, Gisburn and Twiston families are closely connected. The difference may well be that our Thomas’s line remained secretly Catholic, so preferred the “uninhabited” areas of the remote Twiston countryside. Even today, Gisburn is described as being “rural, surrounded by hilly and relatively unpopulated areas.” And that’s Gisburn, with more than 500 residents. Downham is much smaller, about 20% of the size of Gisburn.

What do we know about Twiston?


Twiston is too small to even be called a hamlet. These ghostly buildings are what’s left of the former Twiston Mill, built after an earlier mill burned in 1882. The original farm and corn mill was owned originally by Whalley Abbey at least since the 1300s. Twiston is near an old lime kiln, probably in use since Roman times, and the Witches Quarry, a steep, vertical rocky outcrop popular with hikers and rock climbers.

The ancient homesteads were clustered along the bubbling Twiston Brook, a branch of Pendle Brook that originates on Pendle Hill, watering the farm and powering the original corn mill. It was actually a smart place to settle, because the stream was fresh, given that there were no upstream homesteads to pollute the water.

These buildings stood, huddled together, probably for safety, in a field carved out of the wilderness, surrounded today by hundreds of sheep grazing on the hillsides and high moors.

Stone walls divide pastures and line the steep hillsides, with gates allowing shepherds and now, farmers to pass through. Eventually, the sheep venture high enough to graze and shelter on the moorland.

At the higher levels of Pendle Hill, the forest gives way to moors and the sheep roam freely.

The sheep also have the right-of-way, so vehicles travel slowly. The heathered moor is quite stark and incredibly beautiful.

The fields along the Ribble River with its feeder brooks and settlements, running through the valley beneath Pendle Hill are lush, green, and timeless. The land surrounding the River is relatively flat, beckoning settlers and encouraging farming.

This is one of those places where the ancient voices call out and pluck the strings of your heart.

And your heart answers in recognition.

Where you know the earth holds the DNA of your ancestors, and their blood watered the landscape in the Ribble Valley.

By Beacon Hill overlooking the Ribble valley by Bill Boaden, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106624444

Beacon Hill overlooks the Ribble Valley, with Pendle Hill in the background.

Our ancestors lived, and loved here and because of that, we live now.

Their descendants are scattered across the world, on many continents, yet we reunited here in our homeland – like birds following their sacred compass, guiding them across the oceans home again.

When the Speak family lived here, it was considered a “wild and lawless region” by local authorities, probably due in part to its remoteness – and also the rebellious nature of the inhabitants. We have never submitted easily to pressure.

Twiston is nestled at the base of Pendle Hill.

If you were a Catholic, living in a hotbed of “recussants,” and trying to be invisible, Twiston would be a location where you might be able to successfully disappear among those of like mind.

The road to Twiston was too twisty, rock-lined and narrow for our bus to navigate, causing us to have to back up down a one lane road with rock walls on both sides for some distance.

These ancient moss and fern-covered walls have stood for centuries, some with gateway passages to neighboring houses in small hamlets.

Others stand sentry along the old cartways where they’ve been for centuries.

The stone walls keep sheep and cattle in, and today, wayward vehicles out.

The walls have been tended and repaired by generations of stewards. Generations of our Speaks men probably placed some of these very stones, having removed them from their fields.

The footpaths, now roads, pass within inches of old stone homes and barns, dissecting farms in many places. That’s exactly how the old cart road traveled, and how you got to your neighbor’s farm. In fact, that old road took you right to their door.

Pendle Hill always serves as your guidepost.

If you’re lost and don’t know which way to turn, just find the hill and reorient yourself.

Its stark beauty is ever-present. Pendle Hill always looms someplace in the distance.

Since the bus couldn’t get to Twiston, a few adventurous cousins somehow found a taxi to rent and a brave driver willing to take them to Twiston, after he finally figured out where Twiston actually was.

I’m still REALLY mad at myself because I took a hike in the forest instead, although I enjoyed connecting with the land.

It had been a very long day and I didn’t really realize the significance of Twiston at that time. Plus, space in the taxi was limited and I suffer from motion sickness. I should have taken Dramamine, sat on the roof, and gone anyway.

The road to Twiston, now called a lane, grows increasingly narrow. Who knew there was such a remote region in the hill country of Lancashire?

Finally, Twiston appears where the forest ends and the road widens a tiny bit.

If only these ancient buildings and rock walls could speak, share their stories and reveal their secrets. Old documents, however, do provide some insight.

This document, originally penned in Latin, was provided by the Lancashire archives.

John Speak, in 1609, was a farmer, with a house (messauge), garden, orchard, 10 acres of farmland, 5 of meadow, and 10 acres of pasture.

Even orchards were walled to prevent unwanted visitors.

Indeed, Twiston is where John Speak lived. If the Thomas born in Twiston to Joannis, Latin for John, in 1633 and baptized on January 1, 1634 in old St. Leonard’s Church in Downham is our Thomas, this is his birth location.

For our family, this is, indeed, hallowed ground.

Catholics weren’t the only people sheltering in the shadow of Pendle Hill.

The accused Pendle Witches, probably women who were traditional healers, lived here too, persecuted and executed in 1612, as did Quakers, all vilified along with Catholics.

No wonder Thomas, along with the Catholic Bowling family, found a way to make his way to the safety of Maryland.

It’s ironic that in 1670, after being persecuted themselves for their Catholic beliefs, in this same valley, the Speake men were reporting Quakers.

Records of Speak men in Twiston persist into the 1800s, and one of our local testers descends from Henry Speake, born about 1650 in Twiston.

Local Testers

Prior to our visit, we published small ads in local newspapers and contacted historical societies. We found several Speak(e)(s) families and invited them to dinner at the Stirk House where the after-dinner speaker explained all about DNA testing. You probably can’t see them clearly, but there are numerous DNA kits laying on the table, just waiting for people to have a swab party.

Our guests brought their family information and photos and we had an absolutely lovely evening.

One of those families traced their line to Twiston. Be still my heart.

Five men from separate Speak families tested. None of them knew of any connection between their families, and all presumed they were not related.

I carried those men’s DNA tests back in my hand luggage like the gold that they were.

They were wrong. All five men matched each other, AND our Thomas Speake line. Susan and I got busy connecting the dots genealogically, as much as possible

  • Two of our men descended from Henry born in 1650, married Alice Hill and lived in Downham/Twiston.
  • Two of our men descended from John Speak born about 1540, married Elina Singleton, and lived in Whalley.
  • Two of our men, including our New Zealand tester, descend from John born sometime around 1700, probably in Gisburn where his son, James, was born about 1745.

We knew indeed that we had found our way “home.”


Today, the Speaks family DNA Project has 146 members comprised of:

  • 105 autosomal testers
  • 31 Speak Y-DNA testers
  • 24 of whom are Thomas the immigrant descendants
  • 8 Big Y tests

Over the years, we’ve added another goal. We need to determine how a man named Aaron Lucky Speaks is related to the rest of us. Autosomal DNA confirms that he is related, but we need more information.

Aaron Lucky is first found in 1787 purchasing land and on the 1790 Iredell County, NC census. We finally located a Y-DNA tester and confirmed that his paternal line is indeed the Lancashire Speaks line, but how?

After discovering that all 5 Lancashire Speaks men descend from the same family as Thomas the immigrant, we have spent a great deal of time trying to both sort them out, and tie the family lines together, with very limited success.

Can Y-DNA do that for us?

The Y-DNA Block Tree

When men take a Big Y-700 DNA test, they receive the most detailed information possible, including all available STR markers plus the most refined haplogroup possible, placing them as a leaf on the very tip of their branch of the tree of mankind. The only other men there are their closest relatives, divided sometimes by a single mutation. Eight Speaks men have taken or upgraded to the Big Y test, providing information via matching that we desperately needed.

This Big Y block tree is from the perspective of a descendant of Nicholas Speaks and shows the various mutations that define branches, shown as building blocks. Each person shown on the Block Tree is a match to the tester.

Think of haplogroups as umbrellas. Each umbrella shelters and includes everything beneath it.

At the top of this block tree, we have one solid blue block that forms an umbrella over all three branches beneath it. The top mutation name is I-BY14004, which is the haplogroup name associated with that block.

We have determined that all of the Speak men descended from the Lancashire line are members of haplogroup I-BY14004 and therefore, fall under that umbrella. The other haplogroup names in the same block mean that as other men test, a new branch may split off beneath the branch.

Next, let’s look at the blue block at far left.

The Lancashire men, meaning those who live there, plus our New Zealand tester, also carry additional mutations that define haplogroup I-BY14009, which means that our Thomas the Immigrant line split off from theirs before that mutation was formed.

Thomas the immigrant’s line has the mutation defining haplogroup I-FTA21638, forming an umbrella over both of Thomas the immigrant’s sons – meaning descendants of both sons carry this mutation.

Bowling’s line is defined by haplogroup I-BY215064, but John’s line does not carry this mutation, so John’s descendants are NOT members of this haplogroup, which turns out to be quite important.

We are very fortunate that one of Thomas’s sons, Bowling, received a mutation, because it allows us to differentiate between Bowling and his brother, John’s, descendants easily if testers take the Big Y test.

Aaron Luckey Speak

As you can see, the descendants of Aaron Lucky Speak, bracketed in blue above, carry the Bowling line mutation, so Aaron Luckey descends from one of Bowling’s sons. That makes sense, especially since Charles, the father of Nicholas, my ancestor born in 1782, is also found in Iredell County during the same timeframe.

Here’s a different view of the Big Y testers along with STR Y-DNA testers in a spreadsheet that I maintain.

Thomas the immigrant (tan band top row) is shown with son, Bowling who carries haplogroup BY215064.

Thomas’s son John, the InnKeeper, shown in the blue bar does NOT have the BY215064 mutation that defines Bowling’s group.

However, the bright green Aaron Lucky line, disconnected at far right, does have the mutation BY215064, so this places Aaron Luckey someplace beneath, meaning a descendant of, Bowling. We just don’t know where yet.

Sometimes we can utilize STR marker mutations for subgrouping within haplogroups, but in this case, we cannot because STR mutations in this family have:

  • Occurred independently in different lines
  • Back mutated

Between both of these issues, STR mutations are inconsistent and entirely unreliable.

In some cases, autosomal DNA is useful, but in this case, autosomal doesn’t get us any closer than Y-DNA due to record loss and incomplete genealogy above Nicholas. An analysis shows that Aaron Luckey Speak’s descendants match each other closer than they match either John or Bowling’s descendants.

We have a large gap in known descendants beneath Thomas of Zachia, other than Nicholas’s line.

Combining genetic and genealogy information, we know that both Charles Beckworth Speak and Thomas Bowling Speak, in yellow, are found in Iredell County. The children of Thomas of Zachia, shown in purple, are born in the 1730s and any one of them could potentially be the father of Aaron Luckey.

The men in green, including William, Bowling’s other son, are also candidates to be Aaron Luckey’s ancestor, although the two yellow men are more likely due to geographic proximity. They are both found in Iredell County.

We don’t know anything about William’s children, if any, nor much about Edward. John settled in Kentucky. Nicholas (green) stayed in Maryland.

There may be an additional generation between Charles Beckworth Speak (yellow) and Nicholas (born 1782), also named Charles. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this part of the tree.

Aaron Luckey’s descendants may be able to search their matches for a Luckey family, found in both Iredell County AND Maryland, which may assist with further identification.

It seems that Aaron’s middle name of Lucky is likely to be very significant.

Connecting the Genetic Dots in England

What can we discern about the Speak family in the US and in Lancashire?

Reaching back in time, before Thomas was born about 1633, what can we tell about the Speak family and how they are connected, and when?

The recently introduced Discover tool allows us to view the Y-DNA haplogroups and when they were born, meaning when the haplogroup-defining mutation occurred.

The Time Tree shows the haplogroups, in black above the profile dots. The scientifically calculated approximate dates of when those haplogroups were “born,” meaning when those mutations occurred, are found across the top.

I’ve added genealogical information, in red, at right.

  • Reading from the bottom red dot, Bowling’s haplogroup was born about the year 1660. Bowling was indeed born in 1674, so that’s VERY close
  • Moving back in time, Thomas’s haplogroup was born about 1617 and Thomas himself was born about 1634, but it certainly could have been earlier.
  • The Lancashire testers’ common haplogroup was born about 1636, and the earliest known ancestor of those men is Henry, born in Twiston in 1650.
  • The common Speak ancestor of BOTH the Lancashire line and the Thomas the immigrant line was born about 1334. The earliest record of any Speak was Henry Speke, of Whalley, born before 1520.

The lines of Thomas the Immigrant and the Lancashire men diverged sometime between about 1334, when the umbrella mutation for all Speaks lines was born, and about 1617 when we know the mutation defining the Thomas the Immigrant line formed and split off from the Lancashire line.

But that’s not all.


As I panned out and viewed the block tree more broadly, I noticed something.

This is quite small and difficult to read, so let me explain. At far left is the branch for our Speaks men. The common ancestor of that group was born about 1334 CE, meaning current era, as we’ve discussed.

Continuing up the tree, we see the next haplogroup umbrella occurs about 1009 CE, then the year 850 at the top is the next umbrella, encompassing everything beneath.

Looking to the right, the farthest right blocks date to 1109 CE, then 1318 CE, then progressing on down the tree branch to the bottom, I see one name in three blocks.

What is that name?

I’m squinting!!!

Here, let me enlarge this for you!


The name is Standish, as in Myles Standish, the Pilgrim.

Miles is our relative, and even though he has a different surname, we share a common ancestor, probably before surnames were adopted. Our genetic branches divided about the year 1000.

The Discover tool also provides Notable Connections for each haplogroup, so I entered one of the Speaks haplogroups, and sure enough, the closest Speak Notable Connection is Myles Standish 1584-1656.

And look, there’s the Standish Pew in Chorley, another church that we visited during our Lancashire trip because family members of Thomas Speake’s wife, Elizabeth Bowling, are found in the church records here.

Our common ancestor with the Standish line lived in about the year 850. Our line split off, as did theirs about the year 1000, or about 1000 years, or 30-40 generations ago.

Our family names are still found in the Chorley Church records

Ancient Connections

The Discover tool also provides Ancient Connections from archaeological digs, by haplogroup.

Sure enough, there’s an ancient sample on the Time Tree named Heslerton 20641.

Checking the Discover Ancient Connections, the man named Heslerton 20641 is found in West Heslerton, Yorkshire and lived about the year 450-650, based on carbon dating.

The mutation identifying the common ancestor between the Speak men and Heslerton occurred about 2450 BCE, or 4500 years ago. Those two locations are only 83 miles apart.

Where Are We?

What have we learned from the information discovered through genealogy combined with Big Y testing?

  • We found a Speek in Whalley in 1385.
  • Thomas Speake was baptized in Downham and born in Twiston in 1733.
  • Our New Zealand tester’s ancestor was found in Gisburn about 1745.
  • All of these locations are within 15 miles of each other.

  • Chorley, where the Standish family is found in the 1500s is located 17 miles South of Whalley. Thomas Speak’s wife, Elizabeth Bowlings’ family is found in the Chorley church records.

What about the L’Espec origin myth?

  • The Speak family clearly did not arrive in 1066 with the Normans.
  • We have no Scandinavian DNA matches.
  • No place is the surname spelled L’Espec in any Lancashire regional records.
  • The Speak family is in Whalley/Chorley area by 1000 when the Speak/Standish lines diverged
  • The common ancestor with the Standish family occurred about the year 850, although that could have occurred elsewhere. Clearly, their common ancestor was in the Chorley/Whalley area by 1000 when their lines diverged.

The cemetery at Whalley includes Anglo-Saxon burials, circa 800-900.

The Speak men, with no surname back then, greeted William the Conqueror.

And lived to tell the tale, along with their Standish cousins, of course.

Are our ancestors buried in these early Anglo-Saxon graves? I’d wager that the answer is yes. We are likely related to every family who lived in this region over many millennia. Little is known of Lancashire during this time, but we do know more generally that the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people, arrived in the 5th century and integrated, eventually, with the Native Britons, the Celts. These carvings certainly do have a Celtic feel.

This family photo, standing in the church in Whalley where it all began, is now imbued with a much deeper significance.

Little did we know.

And this, all of this, was a result of Big-Y DNA tests. We could not have accomplished any of this without Y-DNA testing.

Our ancestors are indeed speaking across the ages.

We really have found the road home, the path revealed by the DNA of our ancestors.


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Free WikiTree Symposium & Special Events – November 4 & 5

Did you know that November 5th is WikiTree Day and WikiTree is celebrating its 14th anniversary? Personally, I love WikiTree.

Here’s why, in three bullets:

  • WikiTree is a “one-world tree,” which generally makes me somewhat uncomfortable, but WikiTree has addressed the issues that concern me in general and provides MANY wonderful tools.
  • It’s easy to interact and make changes. There are often LOTS of sources, and there’s even a discussion board and conflict resolution process.
  • But the best part is that WikiTree is free, public, readily available, and includes DNA information linked to other researchers. Did I mention that it includes DNA information?

I always check WikiTree and update my ancestor’s profiles.

For example, in my tree, here, John Younger Estes is noted as having a confirmed Y DNA connection.

Let’s take a look at his profile, here.

You can see lots of information about John, including that there are two men whose Y DNA confirms this line, one that descends from his father’s line, and one from his own line.

You can also see that four people have listed themselves as descendants of John, along with autosomal test details. Hey, I see two new cousins I don’t know about…

Scroll on down to see sources. Lots of sources. What genealogist doesn’t love sources?

Free 36-Hour WikiTree Symposium

WikiTree provides lots of features, and you can learn about genealogy and how to utilize WikiTree resources at their celebration Symposium that’s coming up this week, beginning Friday, November 4, at 8 AM EDT. The Symposium runs nonstop for 24 hours, followed by a 12-hour WikiTree Day event.

You can view the list of speakers, session descriptions, and  WikiTree Day special events, here. A big shout out and thank you to all of the speakers and contributors who are generously donating their time to make the event fun and successful.

Here’s the schedule for November 4th, and schedule for November 5th.

Join Me – Twice

Please join me for a pre-recorded session, “DNA for Native American Genealogy” at 2:30 PM EDT on Friday afternoon, here.

Why pre-recorded, you ask? Well, I have a not-so-minor problem. I was already having internet provider issues before the hurricane, and now, they are much worse due to infrastructure damage. And I mean MUCH, as in my screen intermittently freezes every 3 or 4 minutes. It’s one of those long stories, and it won’t be resolved anytime soon.

Of course, that makes live presentation impossible right now, so I’ve done the best I can under the circumstances. I think you’ll enjoy it if you have any oral or confirmed history of Native American ancestry in your family.

I will be joining a Panel Discussion live (I hope) on Saturday, November 5th at 9 AM EDT about the future of genetic genealogy with several of my geneapeeps, including WikiTree’s founder, Chris Whitten.

If my screen freezes, someone else can hop in with no problem, like Mags Gaulden who can talk about mitochondrial DNA all day long. Or Tom MacEntee who provided hundreds of webinars and sessions on a wide variety of topics to genealogy societies during Covid lockdowns.

Panelist Amy Johnson Crow is responsible for the 52 Ancestors idea, which was to publish something, somehow, about an ancestor every week – which could be updating their WikiTree profile. Trust me, I think of Amy every single week and have for about 380 weeks now, but who’s counting? I can’t wait to hear how she utilizes WikiTree.

I’m also EXTREMELY pleased to see panelist Daniel Loftus, one of our younger genealogists who just began college. However, no moss is growing under this young man’s feet. He’s already making a difference as the founder of Project Infant, dedicated to identifying and documenting the victims of the Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland. Come join us and give a hearty welcome to Daniel. His generation IS the future of genealogy.

Here’s the YouTube link for the panel discussion.


You can register for the events here – it’s totally free.

The sessions will remain on YouTube for 30 days if you can’t make it this weekend, your internet service provider is related to my internet service provider, or you can’t manage to stay up straight for 36 hours straight anymore. That would be me!

If you have questions, here’s the Facebook page too.

I made a list of sessions that I’m planning to watch. Which ones are you excited about?


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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

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

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Charles Speake, (c 1731 – 1794), But Which Charles? – 52 Ancestors #380

We are certain that Charles Speake (spelled a variety of ways including Speak, Speaks, and more) is the father of the Nicholas Speak (or Speaks) who was born in 1782 in Maryland, married Sarah Faires in 1804 in Washington County, Virginia, and founded the Speaks Chapel Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia around 1820.

However, the question is, “which Charles?”

We know about early and later chapters of Charles’ life. What’s missing is a positive identification.

It’s rare that we have an intermediate gap in a lineage. We know the identity of the Catholic immigrant, Thomas Speak (c 1634-1681), along with the next couple of generations. Thomas married Elizabeth Bowling and their son was Bowling Speak (1674-1755).

Bowling married Mary Benson, whose mother is unknown, and their son, known as Thomas (Speake) of Zachia, died within days of his father in 1755. Their wills were probated the same day, September 13th. Nothing confusing there, right?

Both men, thankfully, did write wills. I do have to wonder what took them both. Dysentery or typhoid would be my first guess. I wonder who else in their families died.

Thomas of Zachia’s will reads, in part:

Also I give and bequeath to my two sons Charles Beckworth Speake & Nicholas Speake all the remaining part of that tract of land called Speakes Enlargement & my remaining part of that tract called Mistake containing both together ninety acres to them & their heirs and assigns forever after the Decease of my wife Jane Speake to be equally divided between them by a line drawn from Jordan Swamp to the opposite line & my son Charles Beckworth Speake to have first choice;

There is and remains debate about whether the actual word is or should be Beckworth, Becworth, or Beckwith, but for this purpose, it doesn’t matter. Long-time researcher and Washington DC Family History Center manager for 25 years, Joyce Candland, truly researched the Maryland families to death, and she reports that while there are no Beckworth families living in Charles or surrounding counties in Maryland, there are several Beckwith families. I’m calling him Charles Beckworth for consistency and because that’s how it was transcribed into the will book by the clerk at the time.

Charles Beckworth Speake was born about 1731 or 1732 in Charles County, Maryland. His mother is unknown, but a betting person would say it’s a female Beckwith – just saying. His siblings were:

  • Elizabeth (b c 1725)
  • Edward (b c 1727)
  • Thomas Bowling (b c 1729)
  • John (b 1732 or 1733)
  • Nicholas (b c 1734)
  • Anne (b c 1736)
  • Eleanor (b c 1738)

What’s particularly important here are the names of people NOT among Charles Beckworth Speak’s siblings – specifically Martin and Richard.

Maryland Records

Twenty-three years later, Charles appears in Montgomery County, MD in 1778 where he signed an oath of fidelity along with Martin Speake and Richard Speake.

Those men would have been age 21 by 1778, so born before 1757. The men may well be the grandsons of Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, or possibly descendants of other related Speak(e)(s) men in this part of Maryland.

The Charles on this list could have been and probably was Thomas of Zachia’s son, but Thomas didn’t have sons named Martin or Richard. Martin and Richard could potentially have been sons of Charles Beckworth. Charles Beckworth would have been about 46 years old by this time, give or take.

No Charles Speak by any spelling is found in Maryland again, not on the 1783 tax list nor is he found on the 1790 Maryland census. No estate either.

The recently published book, The Speak/e/s Family of Southern Maryland by the Speak/e/s Family Association, with John S. Morris, III, as editor, reports that a 1924 letter from A. Howard Speake (born 1867 in Maryland) to Charles Washington Speake (born in 1850, great-grandson of Thomas of Zachia), stated that, “In 1787, 6 or 7 of the Charles County Speakes moved to North and South Carolina.”

The western Carolinas were the frontier that had opened after the Revolutionary War. There wasn’t much settlement there as you can see on this 1770 map of Rowan County, except Fort Dobbs.

You can view photos of reconstructed Fort Dobbs and life on the frontier, here.

Of course, no settlers meant there was land and opportunity following the Revolutionary War, something that was in short supply in Maryland. Too many sons and not enough land encouraged migration to the frontier.

Next Stop – North Carolina

This is where it gets confusing.

In 1787, Charles Speak or Speaks, I’m not differentiating between the various spellings at this point, is found on a tax list in Rowan County, North Carolina.

The next year, Iredell County was formed from Rowan,

In the 1790 census, there is a Charles Speak living in both counties.

Pardon me while I facepalm.

That’s certainly possible given that we know that Thomas of Zachia had several sons. He also had a brother, William, whose descendants, if any, are unaccounted for.

Charles Beckworth Speake, born about 1731, could have had a son, also named Charles, born after 1752 who could have been in his 30s by 1790 and could well have been found on the census. While they may have been in different counties, they could have both lived very close to the county line.

I know there’s a lot of “could” in that paragraph, but what we do know is that there are two men named Charles among the Maryland Speake family members who migrated from Maryland. We also know that there was only one Charles Speak in 1787, so perhaps the younger man was either not yet there, not married, or living in another household.

Maryland Evidence

The 1850 census of Lee County, Virginia confirms that Nicholas Speaks was indeed born in Maryland in 1781 or 1782.

Which of course means his father came from Maryland too.

Nicholas is tied to the Charles in North Carolina. But which Charles is which?

Speak Families of Rowan County, NC

Thomas Specks/Speeks is listed on the 1779 Rowan tax list. He then purchased land in 1782. In 1785 he applied for a patent on Brush Creek

On August 13, 1779, Richard Speaks entered a land grant on both sides of Bear Creek which included a small improvement, which was issued in May of 1789, when the land fell into Iredell County.

In 1784, Richard was paid for NC Revolutionary War military service.

Iredell County was formed in 1788 from Rowan.

On July 16, 1789, Charles Speaks obtained a license to marry Jane Connor. This man is Nicholas’s father.

Clearly, Charles’s first wife who would have been the mother of Nicholas Speaks had died sometime after his migration from Maryland to North Carolina. He wouldn’t have made that journey with small children and no wife.

In the 1790 census, Charles Speaks of Rowan County is shown with 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16 and 3 females, which included his wife. At most, one child would have been born to that marriage by this time, which means that there were at least 5 children born to his first wife. I’d wager several more were born and died or were perhaps already adults.

Four males under 16 suggests that the youngest son was born about 1780. If that is the youngest child in the family, and his first wife was his same age, then she would have been born no earlier than 1735. That’s possible. If those sons were the eldest, then their mother would have been born about 1754, which means this Charles could be a generation offset from Charles Beckworth Speake who was born in the early 1730s.

Charles is enumerated 6 houses away from Martin Speaks with 1, 3 and 3 in his family, who is, in turn, 22 houses from Richard Speaks with 2, 2 and 4.

Susan Sills, another long-time researcher, DAR Chapter Regent (among other positions,) and president emeritus of the Speaks Family Association, tracked Martin and feels he was born 1750-1755. He was still living in 1812.

In 1790, we also find an Ann Speaks with 2 males under 16 and 3 females, living beside one Asa Martin which may or may not be relevant given the first name of Martin Speak. Adam Speeks (sic) is 14 houses away with 1, 2 and 3. Is Ann the widow of Thomas who was on the 1779 tax list? Susan Sills feels that this Thomas is probably Thomas Bowling Speake, brother of Charles Beckworth Speake, given that they both disappear at the same time from Maryland. There is no proof one way or another.

By 1800, only Martin Speak is left in Rowan county, with 12 family members, including 3 older boys 16-25.

Speak Families in Iredell County

The 1790 census in Iredell County shows Charles Speaks with 1, 3, and 2 in his family. This man appears to be younger than the Charles in Rowan County, although that could be an errant assumption if some or all of the other Speaks men nearby are his adult sons or, perhaps, his other children died.

We do know, based on the number of children, that this Charles in Iredell in 1790 is not the Charles Speak who dies in 1794. What happened to the Charles in Iredell in 1790? Is the Charles in Iredell Charles Beckworth Speak, and the Charles in Rowan his son?

Also, in the same county in 1790 we find Luke (probably actually Lucky) Speaks with 1, 2, and 3, and Thomas Speaks with 1, 2, and 2.

On October 26, 1793, Charles purchased 200 acres of land on Hunting Creek in Iredell County from James Maiden, but that deed was not filed until 1795, after Charles’ death. Witnesses were Christopher Houston and Mary Hughes, and the deed was proven by Howard Barker.

Locating Hunting Creek in Iredell County was challenging. I found it above Iredell, but the portion within Iredell seems to intersect with the South Yadkin and is called the South Yadkin today. Regardless, it’s not far from the Wilkesboro area. The other Speaks men owned land nearby.

I found this lovely Iredell County map on WikiTree, here, with some of the early landowners mapped. You can see Hunting Creek meandering across the northeast corner of the county. A HUGE thank you to whatever anonymous person created this.

John Maiden, the man Charles purchased land from, is shown in the upper right corner living nearby other people that Charles interacted with, including Christopher Houston and Andrew Mitchell – so we know we have the right neighborhood.

Settlements at that time were located along rivers and streams for easy access to water.

This current map helps us locate both Long Branch and Hunting Creek, now the South Yadkin.

Even today, much of this land is still heavily wooded.

Today, Powell Bridge Road approaches and crosses the South Yadkin near where Charles Speaks lived.

The land along Hunting Creek appears to be flat and fertile – a perfect place to homestead.

In 1800, we find Thomas Speaks, with 1 male 26-44, 1 male under 10, 2 males 10-15, 2 males over 45, 1 female over 45, 2 females under 10, and 2 females 10-15.

We also find Luckey Speaks two houses away with 11 people in his household, including 5 sons and two women 26-44, the same age category he falls into. We know from land grants that Aaron Luckey Speeks applied for land on a branch of Hunting Creek in August of 1787, and later also obtained land on Brush Creek. Aaron Luckey died in 1825 when his wife, Lucretia petitioned the court to have her dower land set off.

Thomas and Aaron Luckey seem to be in the same age bracket and clearly live very close to each other, which suggests they may be brothers.

They may be the nephews of Charles Speak. It’s clear that they are somehow related.

Charles’ Death

Charles Speak died before August 26, 1794 when his estate was probated in Iredell County court and administration granted to his wife, Jane. This would be the same Jane who he married in 1789 in Rowan County. Charles was enumerated in Rowan County in 1790, but clearly, by 1794, he was living in Iredell. Based on his known children and their ages, he cannot be the Charles in Iredell in 1790.

Charles had probably died within 90 days of when his estate was probated, and quite unexpectedly, based on the fact that he had no will. On September 24th, his personal property was sold.

Purchaser Item
Jean Speakes 1 woman’s saddle and bridle
Jean Speakes 1 quantity pewter
Jean Speakes 1 bed and furniture
Jean Speakes 3 beds
Jean Speakes 1 flare (flax?) Wheel
Jean Speakes 1 pot of hooks
Jean Speakes 1 Dutch oven and hooks
Jean Speakes 1 bay mare
Jean Speakes 1 pail
Jean Speakes 1 pair cotton cords
Jean Speakes 2 hogs
Jean Speakes 1 cradle
Jean Speakes 1 table
Jean Speakes 1 pig
Jean Speakes 1 ? brake
Susana Speaks 1 bed
Susana Speaks 1 flare wheel
Susana Speaks 1 coter ?
Susana Speaks 2 books
Claiborne Howard Chisels?
Claiborne Howard 2 plains
Claiborne Howard Crooked links?
Claiborne Howard 2 ax
John Maiden 1 bare mattock
John Maiden Quantity tobacco plough and shire
John Maiden ?
Will Gill 1 bay more
Larriner Maiden 1 handsaw, draw knife
Jeremiah Gaither 1 ? sole leather
Willl Howard 1 lath?
Robert Luckey 1 cow and heifers
Robert Luckey 1 ? edge and draw knife
Arch. Young 1 pair bowl ?
James Gibson 1 pail and churn
Solomon Hays 1 ? iron
John Harvey 1 quantity tobacco
Thomas Bill 1 jug
Francis Holing? 1 loom
James Holman 1 G stick 1 ?
Thomas Morgan 1 looking glass and stoole?
Thomas Bill Sr. 1 grindstone and cow
James McCord 3 lythes
Francis Barnard 1 loin and shote
Solomon Parker 1 shire
Halbert Hobart 1 flat wheel
James Lovelace 1 cow
Edward Jacobs 2 sheep
Will Anderson 2 ewe?
John Hudson 2 ewe
James Maiden 1 colt
Will Partrick 1 sheep
Katy Holman 2 sholtes
James McCord 1 bay hide
Jean Speaks 1 clock

That cradle just tugs at my heart. Did Jean have a baby? She did purchase her cradle from his estate, given that the husband legally owned everything.

This family wasn’t poor. There were 5 beds, a looking glass, and a clock.

I find it very interesting that a man named Robert Luckey is purchasing, and we have a mystery person by the name of Luckey Speak, also written on his land grant as Aaron Luckey Speak. This leads me to think that some Speaks man was married to a Luckey woman, pardon the pun.😊

A land grant in 1778 to Robert Luckey shows his land on the “waters of Hunting and Bever Creek and Burr Creek” which also places him in the same proximity. I wonder if he came from Maryland.

The writing on the original estate sale document was difficult, at best, so if you can correct or figure out anything that I missed, please let me know.

Susanna Speak purchased immediately after the widow. Was Susannah a daughter that was of age, so not listed as an orphan two years later? If so, what happened to her? If not, who is she?

On November 16, 1794, the court ordered Burgess Gaither, Christ. Houston and William Young, Esq., to settle Charles’s estate. I would LOVE to see that estate settlement, but it’s not in the estate packet nor are settlements detailed in the court notes.

On March 14, 1795, Charles’ widow, Jane, purchased 5 acres on Hunting Creek from James Maiden including the house where she lives. Was the house that Charles built not built on his property? Or, somehow, did Jane wind up not living on his property? Normally, Charles property would have been managed by the children’s guardians and she would have remained living there as well – at least until the children were of age. We don’t know because there’s no record of the disposition of Charles’ land. Furthermore no guardian had been appointed for the children, which suggests she is filling that role.

More than a year later, in May of 1796, Richard Speaks was appointed guardian for Charles’ orphan sons Joseph, Thomas, Nicholas, John, and James Speaks. Charles’ only daughter mentioned, Elizabeth, was put under the guardianship of Elizabeth Speaks. We have no idea who Elizabeth was, but she could have been the widow of one of the other Speaks men who had arrived or died since 1790.

If any of these children were born to Charles’ second wife, Jane Conner, they weren’t living with her after May of 1796 – or – if there were additional children that were living with Jane or Jean, they weren’t mentioned in the estate, which is entirely possible.

Something must have happened to Jane, or in her life, to keep those children for more than a year, then for the court to assign guardianship.

Jane bought the few acres with her house, but what happened to the rest of Charles’ land?

Clearly, Jane was not doing well, because on November 2, 1799, she allowed Aaron Butler to have her property if he would support her forever. Neither Aaron nor Jane are found in the 1800 census. My heart aches for that woman.

Charles’ Estate Packet

Fortunately, we find Charles’s signature on promissory notes in his estate packet. I’ve never been so grateful for debts owned!

I sure would like to know what he purchased from Anthony Bitting.

This note is for carpentry services to William Howard in 1789, witnessed by Thomas Prather. Did Charles spruce up the house for his new bride when he remarried?

Another transaction in December of 1792 was to John Larkin Hodgson(?) for wool hats – 2 for boys and 1 woman’s, probably for his wife or perhaps his daughter. They were finished two months later, in the dead of winter when they would have been sorely needed. It snows in Iredell County. That brandy might have been to keep warm too!

This receipt submitted in May of 1796 for payment shows Charles’ wife paying taxes for 1793 and 1794. Does this mean that he died in 1793, or were taxes simply paid the following year?

One promissory note in August of 1793 for a yard of linen and something else was submitted by William Taylor to Charles’ estate for payment. It appears that this might be a merchant account.

Another note is for blacksmith work at “sundry times” and mending a “riffle,” or is that roofe, in 1792. Looks like he may have traded a cow at one point for payment of part of the account. It also appears that he might have been building a cabin, given that it looks like there is a reference to logs. That would make sense given his land grant in 1793 on Hunting Creek.

Two more payments are to James Maiden and Isaac Holeman for bushels of corn.

Another is paid to James Gaither from the estate, but the receipt doesn’t say what it’s for.

Another to Elias Lovelace (constable) for what appears to be stud service for a horse?

A bill submitted to his estate for payment in 1795 was dated October 26, 1793 from Charles Speak to Andrew Mitchell for making one pair of leather breeches. We know Charles was still living at that time. We also know the leather breeches weren’t in the estate sale.

Andrew Mitchell is shown on the Iredell County early settler map, also along Hunting Creek.

There are other payments to or from William Taylor and James McCord, but no note is included in the packet. This could be from the estate sale.

Richard Speak

We don’t know who Richard Speaks was, but it’s clear that he was a relative of some sort, and it’s tempting to presume he’s Charles’ brother. However, there are problems with that assumption.

To begin with, if this Charles is Charles Beckworth, then he has no brother, Richard.

If we are a generation further down the tree, then indeed, this Charles could be the son of Charles Beckwith, and Richard could be his brother. Another possibility, of course, is that these men are uncle/nephew, or, that Richard is Charles’s oldest son.

We do know that Charles, Martin, and Richard all appear together in North Carolina, and that they all sign the Maryland oath before leaving.

In 1796, Richard sold his land on Bear Creek in Rowan County, along with another parcel in 1797, which gave his residence as Washington County, TN, which was essentially most of the eastern portion of Tennessee upon Tennessee’s formation.

Bear Creek is now in Davie County, formed in 1836 from Rowan, adjacent the eastern border with Iredell, and very near where Hunting Creek intersects with the South Yadkin, also near Beaverdam Branch. In 1791, Martin Speaks bought land on Beaverdam and in 1800, on the South Yadkin. This locates Richard, Martin and Aaron Luckey all together in this area.

This area is called Cooleemee Junction in Davie County, today.

While Google Maps calls this entire stream system the South Yadkin, other topo maps still call it Hunting Creek and Bear Creek.

Richard and Aaron Luckey probably lived within 1000 feet of each other, but it’s several miles up Hunting Creek from Cooleemee Junction to the area where James Maiden owned land.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that James Maiden didn’t own additional land further south in what is today Davie County that he sold to Charles Speak and his widow. However, I don’t think that happened, because we find the neighbors, including James Maiden, purchasing at Charles Speak’s estate sale – which pretty much tells me Charles lived several miles upstream of Richard on Hunting Creek. Of course, that new cabin could have been closer to Richard. There’s just no way of knowing today.

What we do know is that Richard moved on, to Washington County, TN, with Charles’ orphans in tow.

In 1804, we find Nicholas Speaks, then 22, marrying Sarah Faires in Washington Co., VA.

There is absolutely no further record of any of Nicholas’s siblings, nor of his guardian, Richard. It’s like they just disappeared off the face of the earth. Perhaps they did during a time of significant churn or their disappearance is due, in part, to record loss.

It’s worth noting that Charles’ son, Nicholas, named his children, in birth order as best I can group them:

  • Charles
  • Sarah Jane
  • Samuel Patton (Where did that middle name come from?)
  • John
  • Joseph
  • Thomas
  • Jane V.
  • Jesse
  • James Alan
  • Frances “Fanny” J.
  • Rebecca

The names bolded are the same names as Nicholas’s father and brothers. Only sister, Elizabeth is missing and there’s certainly room for a baby to have died.

And, ironically, there is no Richard, which certainly begs the question of how Nicholas was related to Richard, and what happened.

Sanity Grid

I’ve completed a grid that, I hope, helps sort these North Carolina relationships.

Ann seems to be Thomas’s widow. Adam is only found once and could be Thomas’s son. We know that Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife’s name was Ann from the Maryland records.

Richard, Charles, and Martin, in blue, are together in Montgomery County, MD, then arrive together in North Carolina.

There are two Charleses enumerated in 1790, one in both Rowen and Iredell County. The Charles in Rowan in 1790 and earlier seems to be the man who died in Iredell in 1794, which begs the question of what happened to the Charles enumerated in Iredell in 1790. Was he Charles Beckworth Speak?

The blue group and last three grouped together with a black border overlap.

Martin, Luke (Lucky) and Thomas are all three found in very close proximity, as is Richard, before he leaves.

I strongly suspect that Thomas who arrived in 1779 was Thomas Bowling Speak, and that he was accompanied by his brother Charles Beckworth Speak, which is why we have two Charles in 1790. One could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speak, or the son of Charles Beckworth Speak.

Who Was Charles, the Father of Nicholas?

I surely wish I had the answer to that question.

  • Charles could be Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks, son of Thomas of Zachia named in the 1755 will.
  • Charles could be the son of Charles Beckworth or Beckwith Speaks.
  • Charles could be the son of Thomas Bowling Speake who disappears from Maryland records after selling his land in 1766 and is likely the Thomas who appears in Rowan County in 1779.

Whoever Charles is, he seems to have left Maryland with both Martin and Richard – and all three men were of age in 1778.

Given that we don’t have a will for Charles Beckworth Speak, it’s possible that Richard was his eldest son, which is why he was appointed as the guardian of the younger children. If this is the case, then Richard would have been born in the 1750s and the youngest children, as late as 1780. For a guardian assigned in 1796, the children would all have been under 21, so born after 1775. That means that Charles would probably have had two wives before Jane Conner if he was having children from 1755-ish through 1780.

We have no indication of this, but it’s also possible that William Speak, son of Bowling Speak, brother to Thomas of Zachia might have had children and one of the Charles might have belonged to him or been his grandchild.

One thing we do know, positively, thanks to Y DNA is that Nicholas Speaks, Charles’s son, does indeed descend through the Bowling Speak line and not the John the InnKeeper line, both sons of Thomas the immigrant.

Given that Bowling only had two sons, Thomas of Zachia who died in 1755, and William whom we know nothing about, that limits the options.

Of Thomas’s sons, we believe that both Thomas Bowling Speak and Charles Beckworth Speak migrated to Rowan County in 1778, right as the Revolutionary War was ending.

Thomas of Zachia did have two other sons, Edward and Nicholas who stayed in Maryland, so the Charles who appears in Rowen County is less likely to be their son.

My bet is that Charles, the father of Nicholas and the other orphans is either:

  • Charles Beckworth Speak himself, although I’m inclined to think that perhaps the Charles who disappears after the 1790 census may have been the elder Charles who settled in close proximity to his sons.
  • Charles Beckworth Speak’s son by the same name. Probably the most likely option. This man might well be brothers with Martin and Richard found in Maryland. This would also explain the Richard who is appointed guardian of the orphan children in 1796.
  • Charles, a son of Thomas Bowling Speak whose widow was Ann found on the 1790 census.

Next Steps

How might we proceed? The best bet would be to search the DNA matches from Nicholas’s descendants to find any matches with Beckworth or Beckwith families. Of course, multiple lines of descent are certainly possible, so caution would be in order. This would be especially useful if the tester has painted their segments and identified which ones descend through the Speaks line.

Of course, the lack of those matches wouldn’t prove a negative, but multiple matches within the Beckwith/Beckworth family to multiple people in Nicholas’s line, preferably triangulated matches, would be an incredible piece of evidence suggesting not only that Nicholas’s father is Charles Beckworth/Beckwith Speaks, but also might point the way to the correct Beckwith family.

Another possibility is to search the autosomal DNA matches of the Nicholas Speaks descendants to see if they have any matches with the Luckey family, either in Maryland or early in Rowan/Iredell County.

We don’t know who Charles Beckworth Speak married, nor do we know the surname of Thomas Bowling Speak’s wife, Ann.

Could I be lucky enough to find this information in Nicholas’s matches’ trees?


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New: In Search of Unknown Family Resource Page

When I started the “In Search of” series, I expected it to be 4 or 5 articles for people searching for unknown family members. It’s taken on a life of its own and expanded quite a bit.

As I progressed with the series, I realized that, in some cases, foundational articles were necessary before progressing to the “how to find” articles.

I’ve also added related articles – like how to sort through unexpected close matches when you don’t recognize the match and didn’t even know they existed before they appeared on your match list.

New Permanent Resource Page

I’ve created an In Search of Unknown Family Resource Page, here, to give these articles a permanent home and make them easy to find for:

  • Adoptees
  • People who discover they don’t match their family as expected
  • People dealing with endogamy
  • People who need to determine whether a sibling is a half or full sibling
  • People seeking an unknown parent
  • People seeking unknown grandparents
  • People who receive a relatively close unknown match

I’ll be adding several more articles over the next few months, but to date, I’ve published 8 articles in the series.

In Search of…Articles

The articles are listed in order of publication. I suggest reading them in order because the information presented and skill set is cumulative and provides you with the tools to make your search experience the most productive possible.

  1. I introduced the “In Search of” series in the article, DNA: In Search of…New Series Launches.
  2. In DNA: In Search of…What Do You Mean I’m Not Related to My Family? – and What Comes Next?, we discussed the discovery that something was amiss when you don’t match a family member that you expect to match, then how to make sure a vial or upload mix-up didn’t happen. Next, I covered the basics of the four kinds of DNA tests you’ll be able to use to solve your mystery.
  3. In In Search of…Vendor Features, Strengths, and Testing Strategies, we discussed testing goals and strategies, including testing with and uploading to multiple autosomal DNA vendors, Y DNA, and mitochondrial DNA We reviewed the vendor’s strengths and the benefits of combining vendor information and resources.
  4. In DNA: In Search of…Signs of Endogamy, we discussed the signs of endogamy and various ways to determine if you or your recent ancestors descend from an endogamous population.
  5. In DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings, we discussed how to determine if a sibling match is a half or full sibling.
  6. In Connect Your DNA test, and Others, to Your Tree, I explained how to optimize your DNA tests to take advantage of the features offered by each primary DNA testing vendor.
  7. In How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry, I wrote step-by-step instructions for providing access to another person to allow them to view your DNA results, AND to share your tree – which are two different things. If you have a mystery match, and they are willing to allow you access, in essence “to drive,” you can just send them the link to this article that provides detailed instructions. Note that Ancestry has changed the user interface slightly with the rollout of their new “sides” matches, but I can’t provide the new interface screenshots yet because my account has not been upgraded.
  8. In In Search of…How Am I Related to That Close Match, we step through the process of narrowing down the possibilities of how an unexpectedly close match is related to you – and what to do next.

Yet to come are articles detailing the steps to identify unknown parents and grandparents. I’ll add them to the resource page when they are published as well.

Please feel free to share the resource page link, here, or this article with anyone who is searching.


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Elizabeth (born c 1711), Frontier Wife of John Dobkins Jr.: Warfare, Conflict and Uncertainty – 52 Ancestors #379

We know very little about Elizabeth Dobkins. Most of what we know is told through the lens of her husband, John Dobkins Jr. who was born around 1708 and died sometime after 1788.

We know that Elizabeth was Protestant, and having her children baptized was important to her. A baptism record is one of only two places where we find Elizabeth’s name.

Thank goodness for the baptism of Elizabeth’s child by the Lutheran minister, Reverend John Stoever, in the Shenandoah Valley.

  • John Dawbin (Shenandoah.) – Dawbin, Thomas, b. Nov. 8, 1736; bap. June 8, 1737. Teste: James Gill

John Dawbin and his wife Elizabeth also witnessed the following baptisms, children of James Guill:

  • John Dawbin testis, June 8, 1737, baptism of Thomas Guill, son of James.
  • Elizabeth Dawbin, testis, June 8, 1737, baptism of James Guill, son of James.

These baptisms tell us that Elizabeth’s son, Thomas, was born on November 8, 1736, one of the early European children born in the Shenandoah Valley to the 49 original settlers.

We don’t know if Thomas was her first child.

We do know that Elizabeth and her husband, John, were in the Shenandoah Valley on September 24, 1735, when Benjamin Borden issued her father-in-law, John Dobkins Sr. a bond stating that he would be able to obtain a patent on his land. The two families had already arrived together by that time.

Based on Thomas’s birth date, Elizabeth would have become pregnant for him in mid-February, 1736, during their first cold winter on the frontier.

It gets downright cold and snows in the Valley. Their tiny cabin would have only been heated by the fireplace, assuming they even had a cabin, with a door, and a fireplace, that first winter. They probably didn’t mind keeping each other warm.

When John and Elizabeth first arrived, this part of the Shenandoah Valley fell into Orange County, VA. The Shenandoah Valley was far from the county seat, more than 60 miles, across the Blue Ridge mountains, probably through Swift Run Gap. I find it hard to believe that anyone would be heading there for a marriage license.

More likely, people simply got married when the first minister of whatever denomination rode through. Stoever performed marriages when he baptized children. In one case, he married a couple and baptized their children at the same time. If there wasn’t a minister, there wasn’t a minister, and people are going to be people with or without an official blessing. Blessings can be deferred, life can’t. Life on the frontier was tenuous.

Given that we don’t find any marriage for John and Elizabeth Dobkins in Stoevers journal, the courthouse was days away across the mountains, almost as far away as they had come from Maryland, and Orange County marriage records don’t begin until 1757 – I’m going to make a leap of faith here and presume that Elizabeth married John before they arrived in the remote Shenandoah Valley.

If Elizabeth already had a child, that child would have been about 18 months old when she got pregnant for Thomas. That pushes the date of that child’s birth back to about August of 1734, which means Elizabeth would have gotten pregnant for that baby in about November of 1733.

Now, of course, this is assuming that no child was born and died during that period, which means the mother would get pregnant again a month or two after she stopped nursing the baby.

John Dobkins Jr., along with his father, John Dobkins Sr., migrated from Prince George’s County, Maryland between August 1734 and September of 1735 when we find the bond between Borden and John Dobkins.

Young men in the colonies didn’t set up housekeeping until they married, so the fact that in 1733, John Dobbins Jr. and Sr. were both listed on the Prince George’s County, MD tax list individually tells us that John Jr. was married by 1733.

Unfortunately, Prince George’s County marriage records don’t begin until 1777, so we aren’t going to find Elizabeth’s marriage record there, either. Complicating things even further, Prince George’s County seems to have been both a destination and a jumping-off place for more distant locations. Prince George’s was full of people from Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Many, if not most, were immigrants, so the neighborhood would have been interesting with a plethora of languages being spoken.

We don’t know If John Dobkins Jr. and Elizabeth were married in Maryland, and if so, when and where.

What else do we know about Elizabeth?

She had two more children, Jean and John, who were baptized by the Presbyterian minister in 1741.

That makes at least 3 children by 1741.

Assuming that John Dobkins only had one wife, we know that Elizabeth had additional children – some that we know about, and some that we probably don’t.

There is also rumored to be a Moore connection.

The Moore Connection

The only other definitive record that we have of Elizabeth is when she signed as John Dobikin’s wife on a June 1753 deed where they sold their land on Holman’s Creek to Thomas Moore.

Family oral history, with no source, indicates that Elizabeth was Thomas Moore’s daughter, but there are two Thomas Moores. Elizabeth, born about 1711, is NOT the daughter of Thomas Moore, the son of Riley Moore who was born in the 1730s.

It’s very unlikely that she is the daughter of the Thomas Moore who arrived with Riley Moore and appears to be the uncle of the Thomas Moore to whom they sold their land. Sorting the two Thomas Moores’ land transactions is quite difficult.

Thomas Moore, brother or half-brother of Riley Moore, was born sometime between 1707 and 1720, depending on which type of calculation you use, and died in 1790. He did have a daughter named Elizabeth. However, if she was married, he didn’t state her married name.

The problem is that Elizabeth Moore is born about the same time as both Thomas Moore and Riley Moore, so she is more likely to be their sister than their daughter. However, their father, William Moore, is not shown with a daughter, Elizabeth, so this jury is still out. We’ve eliminated several possibilities, but we still have no idea who Elizabeth actually was.

There are many common first names in the Moore, Allen and Dobkins families – including Reuben, Jacob, Thomas, and John. Both the Moore and Allen families accompanied the two John Dobkins’s and their families from Prince George’s County, MD. Both Riley Moore and Thomas Moore named sons Reuben, probably in honor of Reuben Allen, the father of Mary Allen who married the older Thomas Moore. That doesn’t explain why Riley named a child Reuben, though.

Elizabeth and John Dobkins named one of their sons Reuben too, as did their son Jacob. Reuben is clearly clue, a family name of some sort, but how and why?

These families seem to be somehow intertwined before arriving in the Shenandoah Valley – and became moreso in the next several generations.

Life on Holman Creek

Most of Elizabeth’s children were born here, in this log cabin in the tiny 3 or 4 house hamlet known as Moore’s Store today.

We know they were living here before 1746 when the men surveying the Fairfax line camped in their field and pastured their horses in their meadow.

Elizabeth would have carried water from Holman Creek, behind the cabin, obscured by the underbrush behind the house today. The road, such as it is, would have been a horse path along the creek, and nothing more.

It looks like the original cabin was only half this size and the second story was added later. Imagine trying to cook in your one or two pots, in the fireplace, with more than half a dozen children running around.

If John and Elizabeth had a bed, it would probably have been one bed, or two at most. The cabin had one room, so very limited space. Their trip from Maryland was made on foot and by horseback, because the trail wouldn’t be widened for numerous years to accommodate wagons. Furniture would have been built from the trees being cleared after arrival.

Only metal items like pots, and maybe seeds for planting, would have been brought along.

The Holman family and Thomas Moore, along with John Dobkins Jr., settled along Holman Creek, beginning at the mouth of the Shenandoah River in about 1735. This location is about 5 miles upstream, probably in a somewhat isolated settlement.

The stone mill across the road wouldn’t have existed at that time, at least not as a mill. In fact, this might have been the stone structure originally built by John Dobkins to protect his family and function as a frontier fort, later being expanded with a second story, and being retrofitted as a mill.

We know the early “forts” were made of stone and were often just one home in which the neighbors congregated in times of danger on the frontier.

Regardless of which house they lived in, both were quite small, and both were located on their property.

John and Elizabeth sold this land on Holman Creek to Thomas Moore in 1753 when they moved about 15 miles north to Stony Creek, which is probably where the assumption that Elizabeth is Thomas Moore’s daughter arose.

They may have lived to regret that move.

Elizabeth’s Children

I assembled Elizabeth’s children, estimating their birth years based on the few clues we have.

Name Estimated Birth Records Marriage Comments
Thomas Dobkins Nov. 8, 1736 Chainer In 1753 Baptized by Lutheran John Stoever, nothing after 1753
Jean Dobkins Estimate 1738 March 6, 1741 baptism Baptized at Presbyterian Rockish, nothing more
John Dobkins Estimate 1740 March 6, 1741 baptism Maybe married Rachel Johnson, dau of Peter Baptized at Presbyterian Rockish
Jacob Dobkins 1751 Birth year in his Rev War pension app, family of 8 in 1783, 1784 Shenandoah Tax list March 11, 1775 to Dorcas Johnson, dau of Peter Johnson On 1775 militia list, Wash Co. (NC) by 1785 with Evan and Reuben in Wash. Co., NC
Evan Dobkins Estimate 1752 1778 Constable, on Rockingham tax list in 1782, 83 and in Shenandoah 1784 Jan. 30, 1775 to Margaret Johnson, dau of Peter On 1775 militia list, by 1785 in Washington Co., NC
Reuben Dobkins Estimate 1754 1782 tax list – in 1783 has 4 family members, 1784 in Shenandoah, 1788 Martin’s Campaign Elizabeth Holman – married about 1777 On the 1775 militia list, In Jacob Holman’s will in 1784, in 1786 voted in Wash. Co., NC (TN)
Rebecca Estimate 1756 Married Patrick Shield(s) Feb. 21, 1783 Marriage bond signed by John Dobkins

Elizabeth probably had more than seven children, given that she would have been of child-bearing age for approximately 22 years. That equates to 14 or 15 children, assuming none died at birth and there was an average of 18 months between children. Just looking at the spread of those dates, we have about 6 missing children.

That means that someplace, probably in the family cemetery on their farm, or maybe buried beside his parents, there are six little crosses, plus one for Thomas who died sometime after the age of 17.

Elizabeth’s son, John, may have married Rachel Johnson, according to Johnson family recollections, or, John too may have perished, one way or another. Half of the children born in this era didn’t live to adulthood. The frontier was a dangerous, treacherous place to live.

Massacre at Stoney Creek

Elizabeth’s son, Thomas, died after they moved up the road to Stony Creek. Why would they leave a perfectly good farm and begin all over again, just a few miles away?

We know that there were Indian attacks and massacres along Stony Creek, and we know Thomas was assisting a surveyor along this Creek, on land adjoining his father’s in 1753.

I still wonder if Thomas was one of the fatalities of the French and Indian War when warfare broke out in an attempt to push the settlers off of Indian land. Thomas was nearly a grown man. While women and younger children were often captured and adopted into Indian families, men were not. At that age, Thomas would have been killed if he was caught outside and unprotected.

Calculating Elizabeth’s Birth

Rebecca Dobkins married Patrick Shield(s) in February of 1783, with John Dobkins signing for her.

If Rebecca Dobkins married when she was 21, her birth year would have been in 1761 or 1762. She could have been born earlier, but probably not later.

We know that Elizabeth was married by 1732. Let’s assume that she was age 20 or 21 on her wedding day, so born about 1711.

If she was born in 1711, her last child would have been born no later than 1756 when she would have been 45. Given that, Rebecca would have been born no later than 1756, not in 1761.

In 1756, the Dobkins family was living in this small cabin along Stoney Creek.

Life Along Stoney Creek

This cabin too was stone, indicating a fortified structure.

The settlers really needed the protection. The Indian raids associated with the French and Indian War began soon after they moved.

On September 17, 1757, a band of Shawnee Indians descended on the settlers living on Cedar Creek and Stoney Creek. Historians report that 34 people were killed or captured, but we have no names. Thomas would have been 21.

Elizabeth would have faced the depredations with a house full of stair-step children, including a baby. John, as part of the militia may or may not have been home. I’d bet Elizabeth, as a frontier wife, could wield a gun and shoot with the best of them.

We don’t know when Elizabeth died, only that it was after 1753 when she signed the deed, and probably after 1756 when Rebecca would have been born.

And she probably eventually died right here, in this house, hopefully peacefully, quietly, warm, and near the fireplace – not in one of the Indian raids.

Wild Child

Every mother has a wild child, and Jacob Dobkins appears to have been the one Elizabeth would have worried about – especially if she had lost Thomas as a result of those Indian raids. They would have lost neighbors and other family members, too.

Warfare and death were a reality on the frontier, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the mothers who lost their children and other family members.

And who knows, Thomas’s death and the raids upon the settlers might have been what spurred three of her sons, Jacob, Reuben, and Evan to serve in the militia in 1775.

Jacob, however, might have been her wild child, with a lust deep in his soul for the unknown. Or, maybe revenge for his brother’s death.

Jacob Dobkins apparently struck out on his own early, then enlisted to serve in the Revolutionary War.

In 1773, Fincastle County, VA included the land west to the Mississippi that would become Kentucky. Jacob had apparently been living there because he is listed as “not found” on the delinquent tax list.

A young man, and not burdened by marriage, he had already moved on.

In 1774, Jacob fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant in Lord Dunmore’s War.

The Battle of Point Pleasant pitted the Virginia Militia out of Augusta County against the Shawnee and Mingo warriors at Point Pleasant, VA, along the Ohio River.

Did Elizabeth know? How she must have worried. She clearly knew Jacob was marching off to engage the Indians – into unknown danger, through wilderness unfamiliar to the Augusta men, but quite familiar to the Indians. That just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

You can read about that day, here, but thankfully, Elizabeth would only have known about this deadly battle after it happened, and after Jacob returned.

Jacob returned home and married in Dunmore County in 1775. So did his brother, Evan. Maybe Elizabeth heaved a sigh of relief – thinking Jacob would settle down to farming – but that sigh was premature. Adventure was infused in Jacob’s blood, seared into his being.

All three of Elizabeth’s sons, Jacob, Evan, and Reuben appear on the 1775 militia list. The Shenandoah Valley was bracing for what would evolve into the Revolutionary War.

Elizabeth’s grandchildren began arriving in late 1775 or 1776. Maybe THAT would keep her sons close to home.


The War Cometh

In May of 1779, Jacob enlisted and served for two incredibly dangerous years. The Battle of Point Pleasant was only boot camp. Jacob pushed even further into the wilderness, was at what would become Harrodsburg, KY, built Fort Harrod, marched across Kentucky, then against the Shawnee in Ohio, and joined with George Rogers Clark in the Piqua Campaign. By now, he was a seasoned soldier at 28 years old.

Clearly, Jacob was getting more than a taste of life beyond civilization. Jacob, of course, had helped his father establish their home on the frontier as well, so he had lots of backwoods survival experience.

Some John Dobkins claimed land on the frontier in what became Kentucky, not too far from where Jacob was serving, so maybe John and Elizabeth were considering setting out once again.

Jacob fought at the brutal Battle of Pickaway where the soldiers faced more than 450 braves on their own territory in a battle that lasted three and a half hours. Jacob reported that he did not receive any wounds, but there were several bullet holes through his clothes.

Of course, these close calls are the fodder of legends, but only for the survivors who live to tell those tales. And of course, they are every mother’s worst fear. Jacob came just that close, over, and over, and over again.

Jacob returned home to Shenandoah County after the war, in May of 1781, having walked more than 450 miles. He’s still in Shenandoah County in 1782 and 1783 showing as a head of household, with a family of 8, meaning they had 6 children by that time, or someone else was living them. Jacob never owned property, so I’d wager he built a cabin on his father’s land. His parents were getting up there in age anyway, in their 70s, and probably welcomed the help.

Elizabeth’s daughter, Rebecca married in 1783 to Patrick Shields and left immediately for Kentucky where they are found in 1784.

Apparently, Jacob had the itch too, and by 1785, he was testing the waters in Washington County, NC in the area of the fledging State of Franklin near Jonesboro, TN. In 1785, no one knew for sure if they lived in NC or Franklin, but everyone had an opinion.

By 1788, the conflict within and surrounding the State of Franklin escalated into a war with the Cherokee, and Elizabeth’s son, Reuben set off with General Martin to settle that score in a Campaign against the Cherokee.

If Elizabeth was still living, and still in Shenandoah or Frederick County, VA, she may not have known about this. She would, however, have known her sons and daughter were living on the dangerous frontier, with her grandchildren.

In November 5th, 1787, there’s a court record indicating that John Dobkins had joined his sons on the frontier. If Elizabeth was still living, she would have been there to see Reuben march off to war, following another massacre, not knowing if she would ever see him again. Men return from war changed people – but Elizabeth probably already knew that – in spades.

John and Elizabeth’s Land on Stoney Creek

What happened to John Dobkins’ land on Stoney Creek has always been a mystery, but recently, in the land patent book, I discovered a 1788 land patent transfer where John Dobekin assigned his land patented in 1755 to Joseph Pugh. Since it wasn’t a sale, I’m unclear whether Elizabeth would have needed to sign.

However, as the wife of the patentee in 1753, she signed when they sold the land on Holman’s Creek.

  • June 23, 1753 – John Dobikin, grantor, Elizabeth Dobikin, grantor’s wife, from Fairfax August 7, 1750, 400 acres on Holman’s Creek.

Therefore, one might, and I stress *might*, interpret the lack of her signature or any mention of her to mean that Elizabeth had died by 1788. She would have been roughly 77 years old, and my guess is that after she died, John decided to accompany his sons rather than stay in Frederick County, Virginia, alone.

Or, perhaps they were both still living and neither of them wanted to stay in a location with no help after all of their children had set out for the next untamed frontier.

Elizabeth might have wondered, “What got into those boys anyway?” Oh, wait…that’s how we brought them up and the example we set, raising them on the frontier and all. Never mind.

If Elizabeth joined them in body on this next journey, not just spirit, she would have accompanied John and her sons as they bumped and bounced 300 miles down the rough old wagon road to join other adventurous souls in the land that would one day become Washington County, Tennessee. Of course, that would be after they suffered through the failing of the State of Franklin.

I can’t help but wonder if the lure of establishing a new state was part of the attraction – plus plenty of land to be homesteaded of course. The Dobkins boys were settling smack dab in the middle of yet another war, this time between John Sevier and John Tipson. The Seviers were their neighbors back in Shenandoah Valley, and from the lawsuits filed, my guess would be that their alliances fell with John Tipton. It’s difficult to tell. Let’s just say it was very “messy” from 1784 through 1788, when Franklin imploded. The Battle of the State of Franklin would be fought in February of 1788.

If Elizabeth wasn’t dead by then, she might have wished she was. That had to be a miserable journey if you were nearing 80, followed by more warfare, conflict, and uncertainty. That seems to be a repeating theme in her life.

Elizabeth homesteaded on either two or three treacherous frontiers; colonial Maryland, the Shenandoah Valley, and, possibly, the State of Franklin.

She lived either during or through three or four wars in which her husband and/or sons were involved; The French and Indian War, Lore Dunmore’s War, the Revolutionary War, and the State of Franklin. That’s assuming the family didn’t get caught up in Cresap’s border war back in Maryland. Living in a war zone stretched across more than three decades of her life, beginning not long after they arrived in the Shenandoah Valley. I can’t help but wonder if Elizabeth ever regretted leaving Maryland.


Can DNA help answer the question of who Elizabeth’s parents were?

The answer is, “possibly.”

It would be very helpful if we could obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Elizabeth. She received her mitochondrial DNA from her mother, and passed it to all of her children, but only her daughters passed it on.

The challenge is that her daughter Jean appears to have perished before reaching adulthood, which only leaves Rebecca, assuming Rebecca is Elizabeth’s daughter. I really dislike that “assume” word.

I can find one Patrick Shields who received land grants in Jefferson County, Kentucky in March of 1784 and Fayette County in June 1784. His wife apparently died, and he remarried in 1792 in Lincoln County, Kentucky to Mary Ann Worthington.

Patrick died in 1797 in Henry County, leaving his wife, but no mention of children in his will.

If he and Rebecca were married for 9 years before he remarried, they likely had 3 or 4 children. Unfortunately, we don’t know who they were, if any survived, and if any were female. To obtain Elizabeth’s mitochondrial DNA through Rebecca, it would have to be transmitted female to female in every generation to current, where the present generation can be a male.

Clearly, this isn’t going to happen.


Can autosomal DNA help?

The answer is “potentially,” but the problem is that Elizabeth is 8 generations back in time for me. That’s beyond the reach of either ThruLines at Ancestry, or Theories of Family Relativity at MyHeritage. I would love to see these tools extended back another couple of generations, but I doubt that will happen at all, and certainly not anytime soon.

I need to do one (or more) of three things:

  • Search my DNA matches by ancestor, not just surname. I want to search for people who I DNA match and have Riley Moore, a Thomas Moore, or Reuben Allen in their tree as a direct ancestor.
  • Identify segments descending from the Dobkins line, then search by segment to find other testers with whom I triangulate on those segments. At that point, I need to look for Moore and Allen families in the trees of people who match my “Dobkins” segments.
  • Search for commonalities in the trees of the people I match on those segments attributed to my Dobkins line, even if the common people in their trees aren’t in my tree. That may be the only way I’ll ever figure out who Elizabeth’s parents were.

Unfortunately, I can’t do those things at any of the vendors.

I can triangulate my segments and download my matches at 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage, but I can’t search by ancestor, nor automatically look for common people in multiple trees.

23andMe does not provide or support trees, so there’s no possibility for an ancestor search there.

GEDmatch, a third-party tool, allows me to triangulate and do segment searches, but GEDmatch users seldom upload trees, and there is no direct tree comparison tool. However, GEDmatch does provide AutoKinship, licensed from Genetic Affairs.

Genetic Affairs

I touched bases with EJ Blom at Genetic Affairs and he said he’s considering working on a tool similar to what I’ve described for his customers who use FamilyTreeDNA.

It won’t work at 23andMe because they have no customer trees, and his AutoCluster tool is already built in at MyHeritage, so he can’t use his external tools there. Ancestry served him a lovely cease-and-desist letter some time back, so Ancestry customers can’t utilize his tools there either, which is truly unfortunate.

However, this potential new tool would be wonderful news for FamilyTreeDNA customers, and maybe, just maybe, it will encourage more people to upload their results (and trees) there as well.

So, I have my fingers crossed for a “common ancestor” tool soon for matches at FamilyTreeDNA, hopefully accompanied by segment reporting. That would make a wonderful Christmas present, don’t you think, Santa EJ! 😊

I’m desperate to find Elizabeth’s parents – and knock down a few other brick walls too.


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In Search of…How Am I Related to That Close Match?

My friend recently reached out to me for some help with a close match at Ancestry. Which vendor doesn’t matter – the process for figuring out who my friend is related to her match would be essentially the same at any vendor.

My friend has no idea who the match is, nor how they are related. That match has not replied, nor is any of her information recognizable, such as an account name or photo. She has no tree, so there are literally no clues provided by the match.

We need to turn to science and old-fashioned sleuthing.

This eighth article in the “In Search of…” series steps you through the process I’m stepping my friend through.

This process isn’t difficult, per se, but there are several logical, sequential steps. I strongly recommend you read through this (at least) once, then come back and work through the process if you’re trying to solve a similar mystery.

The “In Search of…” Series

Please note that I’ve written an entire series of “In Search of…” articles that will step you through the search process and help you understand how to unravel your results. If you’re new, reading these, in order, before proceeding, would be a good idea.

  • I introduced the “In Search of” series in the article, DNA: In Search of…New Series Launches.
  • In the second article, DNA: In Search of…What Do You Mean I’m Not Related to My Family? – and What Comes Next? we discussed the discovery that something was amiss when you don’t match a family member that you expect to match, then how to make sure a vial or upload mix-up didn’t happen. Next, I covered the basics of the four kinds of DNA tests you’ll be able to use to solve your mystery.
  • In the third article, In Search of…Vendor Features, Strengths, and Testing Strategies, we discussed testing goals and strategies, including testing with and uploading to multiple autosomal DNA vendors, Y DNA, and mitochondrial DNA testing. We reviewed the vendor’s strengths and the benefits of combining vendor information and resources.
  • In the fourth article, DNA: In Search of…Signs of Endogamy, we discussed the signs of endogamy and various ways to determine if you or your recent ancestors descend from an endogamous population.
  • In the fifth article, DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings we discussed how to determine if you have a sibling match, if they are a half or full sibling, and how to discern the difference.
  • In the sixth article, Connect Your DNA test, and Others, to Your Tree, I explained how to optimize your DNA tests in order to take advantage of the features offered by each our primary DNA testing vendors.
  • In the seventh article, How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry, I wrote step-by-step instructions for providing access to another person to allow them to view your DNA results, AND to share your tree – which are two different things. If you have a mystery match, and they are willing to allow you access, in essence “to drive,” you can just send them the link to this article that provides detailed instructions. Note that Ancestry has changed the user interface slightly with the rollout of their new “sides” matches, but I can’t provide the new interface screenshots yet because my account has not been upgraded.

Sarah – The Mystery Match

My friend, who I’ll be calling the Tester, matches Sarah (not her name) at 554 cM. At that close level, you don’t have to worry about segments being removed by Timber at Ancestry, so that is an actual cM match level. Timber only removes segments when the match is under 90 cM. Other vendors don’t remove cMs at all.

Ancestry shows the possible relationships at that level as follows:

Some of these relationships can be immediately dismissed in this situation. For example, the Tester knows that Sarah is not her grandchild or great-grandchild.

Our tester does not have any full siblings, or any known half-siblings, but like many genealogists, she is always open-minded. Both of her parents are living, and her father has already tested. Sarah does not match her father. So, this match is on her mother’s side.

It’s obvious that Sarah is not a full sibling, nor is she a half-sibling, based on the cM values, but she might be a child, or grandchild of a maternal half-sibling.

Let’s begin with observations and questions that will help our Tester determine how she and Sarah are related.

  1. It’s clear that IF this is a half-sibling descendant match, it’s on her mother’s side, because Sarah does not match our Tester’s father.
  2. The tester’s mother has six siblings, none of whom have tested directly, but three of whom have children or grandchildren who have tested.
  3. By viewing shared matches, Sarah matches known relatives of BOTH the maternal grandmother AND maternal grandfather of our tester, which means Sarah is NOT the product of an unknown half-sibling of her mother. Remember, Ancestry does not display shared matches of less than 20 cM. Other vendors do not restrict your shared matches.
  4. Ancestry does not provide mitochondrial DNA information, so that cannot be utilized, but could be utilized if this match was at FamilyTreeDNA, and partially utilized in an exclusionary manner if the match was at 23andMe.


DNAPainter’s Shared cM Tool provides a nice visual display of possible relationships, so I entered the matching cM amount

The returned relationships are similar to Ancestry’s possible relationships.

The grid display shows the possible relationships. Relationships that fall outside of this probability range are muted.

The color shading is by generation, meaning dark grey is through great-great-grandparents, apricot is through great-grandparents, green is through grandparents, grey is through one or both parents, and blue are your own descendants.

Based on known factors, I put a red X in the boxes that can’t apply to Sarah and our Tester after evaluating each relationship. I bracketed the statistically most likely relationships in red, although I must loudly say, “do not ignore those other possibilities.”

Let’s step through the logic which will be different for everyone’s own situation, of course.

  • Age alone eliminates the great and half-great grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They are all deceased and would be well over 100 years old if they were living.
  • The green half relationships are eliminated because we know via shared matches that Sarah matches BOTH of the Tester’s maternal grandparent’s sides.
  • We know that Sarah is not a second cousin because second cousins match only ONE maternal grandparent’s ancestor’s descendants, and Sarah matches both of the tester’s maternal grandparents through their descendants. In other words, Sarah and our Tester both match people who descend from both of the Tester’s maternal grandmother AND grandfather’s lines, which, unless they are related, means Sarah’s closest common ancestor (MCRA – most recent common ancestor) with our Tester are either her maternal grandparents, or her mother.
  • Therefore, we know that Sarah cannot be any of the apricot-colored relationships because she matches BOTH of our Tester’s maternal grandparents. She would only be related through one of the Tester’s maternal grandparents to be related on the apricot level.
  • Sarah cannot be a full great-niece or nephew, or great or great-great niece or nephew because the Tester has no full siblings, confirmed by the fact that Sarah does not match the Tester’s father.
  • We know that Sarah is not the great-grandchild of the Tester, in part due to age, but the definitive scientific ax to that possibility is that Sarah does not match our Tester’s father. (Yes, our Tester does match her father at the appropriate level.)

We know that Sarah is somehow a descendant of BOTH of Tester’s maternal grandparents, so must be in either the green band of relationships, the grey half-relationships, or the blue direct relationships. All of these relationships would be descended from the Tester’s maternal grandparents (plural.)

We’ve eliminated the blue direct relationship because Sarah does not match the Tester’s father. This removes the possibility that the Tester’s children have an unknown great-grandchild, although in this case, age removes that possibility anyway.

This process-of-elimination leaves as possible relationships:

  • Grey band half niece/nephew and half great-niece/nephew, meaning that the Tester has an unknown half-sibling on their mother’s side whose child or grandchild has tested.
  • Green band first cousin which means that the tester descends from one of the Tester’s maternal aunts or uncles. Given that Sarah is not a known child of any of the Tester’s six aunts and uncles, that opens the possibility that her mother’s sibling has a previously unknown child. Three of the Tester’s mother’s siblings are females, and three are males.
  • Green band first cousin once removed is one generation further down the tree, meaning a child of a first cousin.

Using facts we know, we’ve already restricted the possible relationships to four.

Hypothesis and Shared Matches

In situations like this, I use a spreadsheet, create hypothesis scenarios and look for eliminators.

I worked with the Tester to assemble an easy spreadsheet with each of her mother’s siblings in a column, along with their year of birth. All names have been changed.

The hypothesis we are working with is that the Tester’s mother has a previously unknown child and that Sarah is that person’s child or grandchild.

Across the top of our spreadsheet, which you could also simply create as a chart, I’ve written the names of the maternal grandparents.

The Tester’s mother, Susie, is shown in the boxes that are colored red, and her siblings are listed in their birth order. Siblings who have anyone in their line who has tested are shown by colored boxes.

The Tester is shown in red beneath her mother, Susie, and a potential mystery half-sibling is shown beneath Susie.

This is importantthe relationships shown are FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE TESTER.

This means, at far left, with the red arrow, these people at the top, meaning the mother’s siblings are the Tester’s aunts and uncles.

The next generation down are the Tester’s first cousins, followed by the next row, with 1C1R. The cell colors in that column correspond to the DNAPainter generation columns.

In the red “Mother” group, you’ll see that I’ve included that mystery half-sibling and beneath, the relationships that could exist at that same generation level. So, if the mystery half-sibling had a child, that person would be the half-niece/nephew of the Tester.

The cM value pointed to by the arrows, is the cM value at which the TESTER matches that person.

In this case, Ginger’s son, Jacob matches our Tester at 946 cM, which is exactly normal for a first cousin. Ginger’s son, Aaron, has not tested, but his daughter, Crystal, has and matches our Tester at 445 cM.

Three of the Tester’s aunts/uncles, John, Jim, and Elsie are not represented in this matrix, because no one from their line has yet tested. The Tester has contacted members of those families asking if they will accept a testing scholarship.

Analysis Grids

Some of the children of our Tester’s aunts/uncles have tested, and their matches to Sarah are shown in the bottom row in yellow, on the chart below.

Of course, obtaining Sarah’s matching cM information required the Tester to contact her aunts/uncles and cousins to ask them to look at their match to Sarah at Ancestry.

For each set of relationships with Sarah, I’ve prepared a mini-relationship grid below Sarah’s matches with one of the Tester’s aunts/uncles’ descendants.

  • If Sarah is related to the Tester through an unknown half-sibling, Sarah will match the tester more closely than she will match any of the children of the Tester’s aunts and uncles.
  • If Sarah descends through one of the Tester’s aunts’ or uncles’ lines, Sarah will match someone in those lines more closely than our Tester, but we may need to compensate for generations in our analysis.

I pasted the DNAPainter image in the spreadsheet in a convenient place to remind myself of which relationships are possible between our Tester and Sarah, then I created a small grid beneath the Tester’s match to Sarah, who is the yellow row.

Let me explain, beginning with our Tester’s match to Sarah.

Tester’s Match to Sarah

The Tester matches Sarah at 554 cM, which can potentially be a number of different relationships. I’ve listed the possible relationships with the most likely, at 87%, at the top. I have not listed any relationships we’ve positively eliminated, even though they would be scientifically possible.

I can’t do this for our Tester’s Uncle David, because the Tester has not yet heard back from David’s son, Gary, as to how many cMs he shares with Sarah.

Our tester’s aunts, Ginger and Barbara do have descendants who have tested, so let’s evaluate those relationships.

Ginger and Sarah

We know less about Ginger and Sarah than we do about our Tester and Sarah. However, many of the same relationship constraints remain constant.

  • For example, we know that Sarah matches both of Ginger’s grandparents, because Ginger is our tester’s aunt, Susie’s full sibling.
  • Our tester and all of the other family members who have tested match on both maternal grandparents’ sides.
  • Therefore, we also know that the 2C relationships won’t work either because Sarah matches both maternal grandparents.
  • Based on ages, it’s very unlikely that Sarah is a great-grandchild of Ginger’s children, in part, because I’m operating under the assumption that Sarah is old enough to purchase her own test, so not a child. Ancestry’s terms of service require testers to be 18 years of age to purchase or activate a DNA test. Also, Sarah’s test is not managed by someone else.
  • We don’t know about great-nieces and nephews though, because if one of Ginger’s sibling’s children had an unknown child, that person could be Sarah or Sarah’s parent.

Ginger’s son Jacob

Using the closest match in Ginger’s line, her son Jacob, we find the following possibilities using Jacob’s match to Sarah of 284cM.

The DNAPainter grid shows the more distant relationship clearly.

You can quickly determine that Sarah probably does not descend from Ginger’s line, but let’s add this to our spreadsheet for completeness.

You can see that the MOST likely relationship, of the possible relationships based on our known factors, is 1C2R, which is the least likely relationship between our Tester and Sarah. It’s important to note that our Tester and Jacob are in the same generation, so we don’t need to do any compensating for a generational difference.

Comparing those relationships, you can see that the least likely relationship between Sarah and Jacob is much more likely between Sarah and our Tester.

Therefore, we can rule out Ginger’s line as a candidate. Sarah is not a descendant of Ginger.

Let’s move on to Barbara’s line.

Barbara’s Daughter Cindy

This time, we’re going to do a bit of inferring because we do have a generational difference.

Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary, has tested and matches Sarah at 230 cM. While we know that Sarah probably wouldn’t match Mary’s mother, Cindy, at exactly double that, 460 cM, it would certainly be close.

So, for purposes of this comparison, I’m using 460 cM for Sarah to match Cindy.

That makes this comparison in the same generation as Ginger and our Tester to Sarah. We are comparing apples to apples and not apples to half an apple (an apple once removed, technically, but I digress.) 😊

You can see that this analysis is MUCH closer to the cM amounts and relationship possibilities of Sarah and our Tester.

Here are the possible relationships of Sarah and Cindy, with the most likely being boxed in red.

Where Are We?

Here is my completed spreadsheet, so far, less the two DNAPainter graphs for Ginger and Barbara’s lines.

To date, we’ve eliminated Ginger as Sarah’s ancestor.

Both Susie, the mother of our Tester, and Susie’s sister Barbara are still candidates to have an unknown child based on DNA, or one of their children possibly having an unknown child.

Of course, we still have one more sister, Elsie, and those three silent brothers sitting over there. It’s much easier for a male to have an unknown child than a female. By unknown, in this situation, I mean truly unknown, not hidden.

What’s Needed?

Of course, what we really need is tests from each of Susie’s siblings, but that’s not going to happen. What can we potentially do with what we have, how, and why?

Our Tester can refine these results in a number of ways.

  • Talk to living siblings or other family members and tactfully ask what they know about the four women during their reproductive years. Were they missing, off at school, visiting “aunts” in another location, separated from a spouse, etc.?
  • Check to see if Sarah shared her ethnicity results (View match, then click on “Ethnicity.”) If Sarah has a significant ethnicity that is impossible to confuse, this might be significant. For example, if Sarah is 50% Korean, and one of Susie’s brothers served in Korea, that makes him a prime candidate.
  • If possible, ask John, David, Jim, Ginger, Barbara, and Elsie to take DNA tests themselves. The best test is ALWAYS the oldest generation because their DNA is not yet divided in subsequent generations.
  • If that’s not possible, find a child or grandchild of Elsie, Jim, and John to test.
  • The Tester needs to find out how closely David’s son, Gary matches Sarah, then perform the same analysis that we stepped through above.
  • Ask Ginger’s son, Jacob to see if Sarah also shares matches with the closest family members of the known father of Ginger’s children. One of Ginger’s children could have had an unknown child. This is unlikely, based on what we’ve already determined about Sarah’s match level to Jacob, but it’s worth asking.
  • Ask Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary, to see if she and Sarah share matches with the closest family members of the known father of Barbara’s children. This scenario is much more likely.
  • If the answer is yes to either of the last two questions, we have identified which line Sarah descends from, because she can only descend from both Barbara AND the father of her children if Sarah descends from that couple.
  • If the answer is no, we’ve only eliminated full siblings to Ginger and Barbara’s children, not half-siblings.
  • If our Tester can make contact with Gary, ask him if he and Sarah share matches with David’s wife’s line. One of David’s children could have an unknown child.
  • If our Tester can actually make contact with Sarah, and if Sarah is willing and interested, our Tester can create a list of people to look for in her matches – for example, the spouses’ lines of all of Susie’s siblings. If Sarah matches NONE of the spouses’ lines, then one of Susie’s siblings (our Tester’s aunts/uncles,) or Susie’s mother, has an unknown child. However, if Sarah is a novice tester or genealogist, she might well be quite overwhelmed with understanding how to perform these searches. She may already be overwhelmed by discovering that she doesn’t match who she expected to match. Or, she may already know the answer to this question.
  • It would be easier if Sarah granted our Tester access to her DNA results to sort through all of these possibilities, but that’s not something I would expect a stranger to do, especially if this result is something Sarah wasn’t expecting.

I wrote instructions for providing access to DNA results in the article, How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry.


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Tracking John Dobkins or Dobbins to Maryland – 52 Ancestors #378

Scientist Dr. David Resnik discusses the concept of consilience of evidence with his students. In essence, consilience of evidence isn’t a brick wall falling in one fell swoop, but chipping away at that wall with all sorts of different types of evidentiary tools. That’s what we’re going to do.

This article provides the next chapter in the life of John Dobkins Sr. and his son by the same name. Or maybe I should say it’s an earlier chapter, because we are stepping back in time. I said stepping, but it’s more like mountain climbing, except you’re not even sure you’re on the right mountain.

After the last few articles about the Dobkins family, I’ve received several inquiries asking, “How do you do this?” Today, I’m sharing the methodology with you in this article, but every question has different types of evidence, in different places. Those pieces will, cumulatively, inform our conclusion – which – by the way, may need to be reevaluated at any time due to new evidence emerging.

I should probably state the obvious. Genealogy is a series of moving from one roadblock to the next – after doing the happy dance, of course.

One of the most difficult tasks in (American) genealogy is to advance an ancestor back in time and space when you have no idea where they came from. For example, we found John Dobkins Sr., wife Mary, and their son, John Dobkins Jr. with his wife Elizabeth, in Shenandoah Valley on the Virginia frontier in 1735. Just one of 49 settlers. That’s it. John, 49 other people, and that’s all we knew.

Unless there’s some type of record, how do you figure out where they came from?

In our case, not only do we have that issue, we also have the problem of an uncertain surname.

It’s written variously as:

  • Dobkins and Dobkin in Virginia and on into Tennessee
  • Dobikins and Dobekins, with and without the s, in Virginia, but that “i” or “e” between the b and k may be an early handwriting artifact
  • Dobbin and Dobbins in Virginia and into Tennessee
  • Dobin and Dobins
  • Dawbin and Dawbins in Virginia

Neither John Sr. nor John Jr. could write, so their names were written by those who could. English spellings weren’t standardized, but when you add in the fact that the person doing the writing might have been German or Scots-Irish or Welsh, or something else, they would have written that name the way they heard it, filtered by the language their ears were used to.

I have found our Dobkins men, and guess what, their surname where I found them was spelled Dobbins. Now that doesn’t mean it was actually Dobbins, it just means that I found them and that’s how it happened to be spelled this time.

Hopefully, there will be more records to unearth. Unfortunately, VERY little is online, and much no longer exists, or never did.

This chapter in their lives is the story of how I found them. Make yourself a cup of tea!

That Danged FAN Club

I accidentally discovered the power of the “fan club” about 30 years ago when I compiled an “everything” document about my Halifax County, Virginia families, then entered it into a spreadsheet, and looked for patterns of people associated with various Estes men. I “knew,” or thought I knew that my John R. Estes and his wife, Nancy Ann Moore were from Halifax County, VA, but I needed more. I needed proof, but first, I needed evidence. I visited Halifax County, in person, three different times.

I did find my evidence, and then my proof, confirmed by deeply buried dusty documents in the courthouse basement, then by DNA connections.

FAN, friends, and neighbors, was named as such by Elizabeth Shown Mills. She provides an example, here

In essence, it’s spreading the net in an ever-broader circle to evaluate everyone around your ancestor.

  • Who did they marry?
  • What church did they attend?
  • Who were their neighbors on census and tax lists?
  • Who signed as their deed witnesses?
  • Who witnessed their wills?
  • Who provided bond for them?
  • Where did they live, down to the plot?
  • What was the history of the area when they lived there?

Let me translate. You can’t find this stuff in any quick search. If you’re lucky, VERY lucky, someone will have thoroughly researched your line and documented it, with sources. You’ll also find some of this research electronically, but most of it is still in courthouse basements and libraries. I use the FamilySearch catalog for county resources religiously.

If you’re unlucky, you’ll find hundreds of wrong trees that have been copied and copied and copied, perpetuating inaccuracies and bad information. Look for sources, and verify.

Look for what’s not there too. What records aren’t mentioned? What does your ancestor’s absence in records indicate or suggest? Why are they NOT on a tax list, or in a census?

Reread records you already have. Let me say that again. Reread records you already have. You may see with new eyes what you missed before, or understand something differently.

Furthermore, read histories and journals of the area you are researching.

Look for obscure resources, such as petitions in state archives, etc.

Write what you know, or think you know, in chronological order. You’ll spot holes, inaccuracies, and conflicts. You’ll wind up asking yourself those tough questions. Write this like you’re explaining the situation to a novice, because someday, you’ll be gone and the person reading it will be a novice.

Let’s begin where I was stuck.

Shenandoah Valley History

I was stuck. I “think” I’m at the end of the available records, although I do still need to peruse Orange County Court notes. During the process of writing this article (which is why I tell people to write everything down, in order), I also discovered that I need to read about 40 years of Frederick County, VA records too. That’s great because they hold possibilities.

An earlier researcher who provided a great deal of information about John Dobkins included many original sources. Cecil Smyth reported that “John was a Scotch-Irishman from Ulster, Northern Ireland. We do not know the year he emigrated or anything about his wife. They settled in what was Orange County, VA in 1731 or 1732.”

Unfortunately, Cecil did not explain where he obtained that information. Over time, I came to believe that he surmised that information based on several factors:

  • John Dobkins had two children baptized by the Presbyterian minister in 1741. Cecil missed the fact that he also had one child baptized by the Lutheran minister, Reverend John Stoever in 1737. Those records were probably unknown back then.
  • The first settlers arrived with Jost Hite in 1731. Cecil reported John’s arrival as “1731 or 1732.” What evidence is there that John Dobkins was there this early?
  • Cecil found and reported that “John Dobikin Sr. (b c 1685) received a bond from Benjamin Borden on 24 September 1735 for “150 pounds Sterling to make patent in full and ample manner as the King gives me” on 150 acres, part of Benjamin Borden’s 3,300 acre tract. The 6 January 1735/36 Morgan Morgan/Peter Woolf census listed John Sr. as a settler on the McKay, Hite, Duff and Green 100,000 acre Colony of Virginia grant land.” The Bordon Grant was primarily settled by the Scots-Irish.

Initially, I didn’t realize this 1735 transaction was a bond, not a grant. In essence, Borden promised John that he could get a patent on that land.

Because the two men, John Dobkins Jr. and Sr. had the exact same name, their records were intermixed and I’m not clear that other researchers understand or understood there were two men. One would have to analyze the records closely.

I came to be suspicious of Cecil’s Scots-Irish statement, as well as the date, as I found conflicting information.


John Dobkins was VERY CONFUSING!!!

If it feels like I’m shouting that, I am.

My first problem, as I assembled the big picture involving land and neighbors, was that I realized that the FAN Club didn’t seem to be Scots Irish.

Then, I found this:

Van Meter, a trapper, held a 10,000-acre tract in the Shenandoah Valley which he had acquired from Lord Fairfax. A condition of this sale was that one hundred German families were to settle in the Valley. Van Meter sold this land to Joist Hite of eastern Pennsylvania in 1727. Hite proceeded to search for one hundred German families, and, in 1731, the group headed for the Valley.

Aha, maybe this is where Cecil got the 1731 date, but John Dobkins Sr. did not seem to be among the Germans.

Was John Dobkins German?

John Dobkins Jr. on the other hand, eventually lived right in the middle of the German families on Holman Creek. But that wasn’t until the mid-1740s.

These men are getting even more confusing.

But wait, there’s more:

Enroute, they encountered Robert McKay and his group of Scotch-Irish settlers from the coast. They perfected a plan to pool land and money so that they could eventually obtain more land from Lord Fairfax. They purchased 70,000 more acres over the next two years and determined a plan for dividing it. The Scotch-Irish were to settle the eastern half from Winchester to Luray and Hite’s Germans would occupy the western portion from Winchester to beyond what is now Strasburg. Hite erected a house five miles south of Winchester along what was to become the “Valley Pike” (U.S. Route 11).

And then:

Other settlers were soon to follow. Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White arrived from the Monocacy Valley in Maryland and settled in the area of what is now Mt. Jackson.

And there’s more.


Henry Scarborough in an article about Quaker Pioneers of Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties reported that he had discovered the original Quaker Meeting House on the land of Jacob Neff, near Holman’s Creek near where it flows into the North Branch of the Shenandoah River. That’s exactly where the Holman and Moore lands were located. In the 1800s, Samuel Moore still owned the adjacent land.

Today, the Corhaven Cemetery is a cemetery of enslaved people on the land of Sam Moore, maybe 1000 feet from the present day Liberty Church.

Based on the Cemetery photos this is on the border of the Jacob Holeman and Daniel Holeman 1749 land grants, and it’s on the Fairfax Survey line. So was John Dobkins Jr.’s land, just slightly further west. In the 1770s, John Dobkins Jr.’s son, Reuben,  married Elizabeth Holman, daughter of Jacob Holman.

Elizabeth Holman’s father, Jacob, owned slaves, which pretty much precludes Quaker, Mennonnite and Brethren. Reuben Dobkins inherited some of his slaves, which probably excludes those religions for the Dobkins family too.

According to the Holman Y DNA project, Holman appears to be English. Rev. Stoever said he married two English couples in his journal when he visited the Shenandoah Valley and he married Thomas Holman, so this makes sense.

Liberty church replaced the original Quaker church that was located a mile or so closer to the Shenandoah River, adjacent an old cemetery. Neither the church nor the cemetery exists today, but it was between the Neff Mill (Neff’s were Swiss) on the Shenandoah River on the road that is now Quicksburg Road. Early residents stated that people came on horseback from Mt. Jackson to New Market, on horseback, to attend the Quaker Church that was on Neff’s land.

John Dobkins Sr.’s land was 4 or 5 miles southeast of the church, and John Dobkins Jr.’s land was about the same distance northwest. Additionally, rumors of other meeting houses, especially in connection with the Allen family, have never been confirmed, but they assuredly could have existed. So, there were Quakers living in close proximity to John Dobkins.

Scarborough also mentioned that early Shenandoah Valley settlers followed the practice of some of the early settlers in Pennsylvania of not securing patents for their lands, but assigning their warrants and surveys from the pioneers to those who wished to purchase land from them. This may explain, in part, what happened to the original land of John Dobkins Sr. just south of the Fairfax line. It is what happened to the land of John Jr.

The author closes with this paragraph which will assuredly send me down a very deep rathole for days. This is exactly why I never seem to finish anything!

Ok, so we have Quakers, Lutherans, Mennonite, Brethren and the Scots-Irish Presbyterians all mixing it up in the valley. But they assuredly did not arrive all together and they established their own communities.

People almost NEVER traveled alone. Most often, a group of family members, or at least community members traveled together. Given that this valley was unsettled at the time they arrived, they had full agency in terms of picking their neighbors, meaning where someone lived and who their neighbors were might well be a clue as to who they arrived with. Which, in turn, might tell us more about them.

However, I can’t tell who John Dobkins arrived with.

Who did he settle near? Who were his neighbors?

Who did he have direct contact with?

Oh, and there’s one more thing too.

The Moore Family

John Dobkins Jr.’s wife has been reported to be Elizabeth Moore, daughter of Thomas Moore – but once again, I’ve found NOTHING to support this. That doesn’t mean it’s not true though, especially since we have no factual idea of where that family came from.

There is one clue.

In 1751, John Dobkins Jr. sold his land on Holman Creek to Thomas Moore.

That’s it – the sole contact between those two men. Well, at least on the surface. Let’s dig deeper and spread our net wider. It’s always about this time that I’m VERY irritated with Elizabeth Shown Mills – probably also because it’s generally about 2 AM and I’m beyond exhausted and frustrated.

Why do these ancestors have to hide?????

The Lawsuit and Peter Wolf’s List

Thankfully, we have a 22-year-long lawsuit, Hite vs Fairfax, a deposition and a list.

Peter Wolf’s deposition in the lawsuit taken 6th March 1754 and witnessed by Isaac Parkins, Ger’m Keys and Thomas——–(?).

Peter Wolf being first sworn…Deposeth as followeth, That he is now in the fifty fourth year of his age that he came into this Colony from the Jerseys some time in the year 1733, and that he settled upon a tract of Land which was supposed to belong to Joist Hite and as this Deponent believe the same was in Dispute That sometime in the year of our Lord 1736 this Deponent was sent for by the Lord Fairfax who was then as Samuel Timmands’s to Pilot him up to Joist Hite’s which accordingly he did.

There are also a couple of references to Peter Wolf’s list that he took known as “the number of Settlements upon the Grant granted to Robert McCay Jost Hyte and their Partners in the forks of Shannando and the several Branches thereof.”

This is the 100,000-acre grant given to Jost Hite and his Quaker partner Robert McKay. They needed to seat 100 families to fulfill their obligation under that conditional grant to seat 1 family per 1000 acres.

Note that some historians state that McCay is Quaker, not Scots-Irish.

They list the 49 names, as follows:

    • Robert McCay Senr.
    • John Funk
    • Henry Johnston
    • Thomas Parmer
    • John Denton
    • Jonah Denton
    • Henry Falkenburg
    • Edward Wormwood
    • Andrew Falkenburg
    • Jacob Falkenburg
    • David Carlock
    • Benjamin Allen
    • Reiley More
    • John Lewis
    • William White
    • John Dobikin Senr.
    • James Gill
    • Andrew Bird (Burd in 1770)
    • John Nichols
    • William Bridges
    • Charles Smith
    • Daniel Holeman
    • Charles Robinson
    • William Linviel
    • John Gorden
    • John Wood
    • John Cannaday
    • Robert McCay Jr.
    • Joseph Whites
    • William Oldham
    • William Barke
    • William Anns (?)
    • Barnel Hegin
    • Samuel White
    • Joshua Jobe
    • George Robinson
    • James Sickles
    • William Barnett
    • James Leeth
    • John Calbreth
    • John Edmondson
    • Isaac Howell (Houser in 1770)
    • John Read
    • Joseph Tindell
    • Michael Brook
    • Joseph Read
    • David Keath
    • William Goodwin
    • George Leeth

Whereas the said Robert McCay, Jost Hyte and their Partners have requested of us George Hobson and Morgan Morgan two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace at Opeckon in the County of Orange to view the Settlements within their said Grant and that Mr. George Hobson went part of the Way with me in order to view the same the weather proving bad he returned and there being no other Magistrate over the Ridge Mr. Jost Hight appointed Peter Wolfe in his room to go with me to view the said Settlements within the said Grant.

I the said Morgan Morgan do hereby certify that the said Peter Wolfe and myself have viewed and that we seen the above Settlement being in number forty-nine and that the same are now improving by the above named persons within the said Grant Given under my hand this 26 day of January A:Dom: 1735/6.

Morgan Morgan

This is followed by Peter Wolf, on January 26th, 1735/36, stating that he “had in fact viewed the settlements in the Fork of Shannando and the several Branches thereof and that he did see forty-nine Settlements in number and that the same were now improving by the Persons named in the list.”

The red names are the original plats, and the blue names are 1770 landowners. What happened to the rest of those people???

I can’t help but notice that the name Morgan Morgan looks Welsh to me. Hmmm.

Welsh, tuck that away in some corner of my mind.

The Neighborhood is Established

This list establishes the earliest neighborhood.

I noticed James Gill on that list. He is the person who, with his wife, in 1737, John and Elizabeth Dobkins stood up with each other when their babies were baptized. Note that James Gill was killed by Indians 22 years later on April 24, 1758. This must have struck terror into the hearts of the Dobkins family members. James was their neighbor and friend.

Is the proximity of James Gill to John Dobkins on that list circumstantial? Did they stand up for each other just because they were neighbors? Were they actual neighbors? Was there something else? Were they related?

Using the maps provided in the Smyth book, above, and the accompanying names from the location where we believe that John Dobkins Sr. lived, just beneath the Fairfax line in what would become Augusta County, then proceeding north, I’ve combined the information by plat, as best I could. The properties between the two maps aren’t the same shape and don’t exactly fit, but I’ve come close. The people are listed in the “closest to furthest” proximity to John Dobkins.

Note that the date is the patent date, NOT the date the families settled on the land.

Tract Date Name 1770 Name Acres Origins
98-873  Z Burd, Andrew 210 Chester Co, PA
45-870  Y Hodge, John 210 Poss PA
Neighbor to Y, drawn but not listed Dobkins, John Sr. Not shown 150
X Harrison, Burr 3 Poss Long Island, NY
G-228  Q July 21, 1749 Hodge, John Hodge, John 126
G-229  P July 21, 1749 Scholl, Peter Schell, Peter 420 in 1749, 110 in 1770 NY or NJ
G-230 July 21, 1749 Schene, Jane (widow of Matthew Skeen) On map but no name 301 Midlothian, Scotland
G-231  M July 21, 1749 Looker, Thomas Looker, Thomas 431 in 1749, 182 in 1770
N Cutlip, George and Skeen, Matthews 64 + 108 in 1770
G-232 July 21, 1749 Sevier, Valentine Includes New Market, long tract, no 1770 designation 370 in 1749 London, England
G-237 July 21, 1749 Seahorn, Nicholas Above Valentines, not shown in 1770 399 in 1749 Germany
G-234 K, L July 21, 1749 Newman, Mary (widow of Samuel) John and Walter Newman 216 in 1749, 26 and 66 in 1770 St. Stephen Parish, Cecil Co., MD
G-235  I July 21, 1749 Carroll, William Carroll, Joseph 600 in 1749, 300 in 1770 Prob MD
G-244 July 21, 1749 Carroll, William 143 Chester Co., PA
G-236 July 21, 1749 Newman, Samuel Houser, Henry 400 in 1749, 140 in 1770
G-233 F, G July 21, 1749 Lusk, Samuel Chester Co., PA Alderson, Curtis & John 404 in 1749, 74 & 80 in 1770 Alderson – Yorkshire, England to NJ to PA
G-393  99 July 10, 1735 Holman, Daniel Holman, Daniel 891 in 1749, 395 in 1770 see G395 England or VA
G-395 Aug 2, 1750 Holman, Daniel Holman, Daniel 130 in 1770, can’t determine 1749 lines Poss Kent Co., MD
G-394 Aug 2 1750 Holman, John Holman?, 420
G-238 lower E July 21, 1749 James, William Kagey, Henry 315 in 1749, 309 in 1770
G-238 upper D July 21, 1749 James, William James, Thomas & Joseph Can’t tell in 1749, 184 in 1770
G-239  B, C July 21, 1749 Ruddle, John Ruddle, George & Harrison, George 412 in 1749, 174 & 35 in 1770 Chester Co., PA
G-390  99 Aug 2, 1750 Naffe, John Henry Sherill, Adams, Neave, J.H. 470 in 1749, 200 in 1770 Neff – Bonfield, Germany
N-96 Aug 5, 1766 Harrison, Burr Not drawn 200
G-241 A July 21, 1749 Ruddle, Cornelius Kingree, Daniel 393 in 1649, 197 in 1770
H-710 Oct 20, 1756 Neff, John Henry Not marked 404
M-94 Dec 18, 1762 Clark, William Not marked 187
G-240 July 21, 1749 White, William Not marked 410 Monocacy, Maryland
158 June 29, 1739 White, William Not marked 400
G-269 Aug 12, 1749 Clark, William Clark, William & Carleck, David 462 in 1749, 400 in 1770, shown as pat in 1737 Carleck- Germany
157 June 29, 1739 Allen, Benjamin (Barnstable, Mass) (Reuben’s uncle) Not shown 400 Reuben Allen, Cecil Co., MD (Quaker)
Forestville on Holman Creek
H-135 1752 Brock, Henry Not shown 268 NY
G-367 1749 Brock, George Not shown 224
H-113 1752 Funkhauser, Christian Not shown 444

It’s clear that these maps and land plats are not equivalent. It’s also worth noting that this is not a list of all the settlers, especially not in 1770. It’s a history of these specific land plats. We know that this isn’t a complete list, because John Dobkins Jr. owned land west of Forestville by 1751 and the Fairfax Line surveyors found him already there and farming in 1746.

This is only Benjamin Bordon’s 3300-acre tract. We also know that many of these men, if not all, had settled here in the 1730s. Their land just wasn’t granted until years later.

The early settlers’ plots and plats are shown in approximate order, south to north. I wish John’s land had been shown and labeled, but it wasn’t. However we know, based on the size of the original 3300 acres, and the fact that exactly 150 acres are missing, and there’s one plat drawn but not identified that it’s probably his. We can probably find some confirmation based on other documents – and who he interacts with. Plus, his will was probated in 1746 in Augusta County, not Frederick, which tells us he HAS to be one of the three plots below the Fairfield Line.

We also know that the Hite-Fairfax dispute delayed or caused land to be granted without being resurveyed. The grants were passed and assigned hand to hand, and the ownership was questionable for the next 35 years. This probably explains why there is no record of John Dobkins Sr.’s land being disposed of by his widow, Mary.

What else do we have?


Besides John Dobkins and James Gill, who else had children baptized in 1737 by the German, Lutheran Rev. Stoever?

  • Andrew Bird father of Rebecca Bird born in 1732, witnesses James Gill and Sarah Moor.
  • William Breedyes, father of James born 1733 and Hanna born 1734
  • Rilie Moor father of Terkis Moore born 1731, witness Catharine Gerlach
  • Rilie Moor father of Thomas Moor born 1732, witness Theobaldt Gerlach and wife
  • Rilie Moor father of Jacob born 1734 witness Andrew Bird
  • Rilie Moor father of John born 1736 witness Charles Ehrhardt and wife Clara
  • John Hodge’s 3 children
  • William White’s 3 children
  • Daniel Hoolman’s (Holman) son Isaac, witness James Guill (Gill)
  • John Leenwill’s son Lewis, witness Stephen Lewis
  • Frederich Gebert father of Susanna baptized in 1736, witness Clara Strubel
  • Nicolaus Brintzler, sponsor John Frederick Strubel.

By 1738 and 1739, Stoever was baptizing German children in the Valley, so Germans had clearly arrived by then.

In a different portion of Stoever’s book, we find what look to be marriages. Based on the reference to Orange County, we know it was before 1743.

  • June 8 – John Hodge and Elisabeth Windseeth, Jacob Thigh and Mary White, Daniel Hoolman and Elizabeth Cartlay, North River, Shenandoah, vulgo, Cockel Town in Orange County, in the Colony of Virginia.

I also noticed that Stoever had several Monocacy baptisms too. Some of those surnames are the same as those found in the Shenandoah Valley, including Gerlach. Hmmm…

Did Stoever travel to the Valley to service some of the same families he knew in the Monocacy area?

Dobkins Children

Sometimes first names matter.

We know that John Dobkins Jr. had children with the first names of:

  • Thomas
  • John
  • Jean
  • Jacob
  • Evan
  • Reuben
  • Rebecca

Fortunately, at least two of these children had rather unusual names – Evan and Reuben. Jacob isn’t terribly common either. I need to keep my eyes open for families with these names, especially in one family.

I searched for Evan in the early books and found Evan Jones who lived in the Shenandoah Valley. Evan Jones was said to be Welsh. He lived near the county line on Back Road, formerly known as Zane’s Road.

FAN Club

Ok, now I’m off to my spreadsheet. I have a love/hate relationship with spreadsheets. The data entry feels like wasted time and is mind-numbing, but the results are often quite fruitful because you can see relationships in ways that don’t require you to remember things.

Plus, when you are forced to go back through original documents, you find things you missed.

I couldn’t figure out what happened to the land belonging to John Dobkins Jr., which would bracket his death for me – and might give me a clue whether or not he actually did go to the western waters, Washington County, in what would become Tennessee after it struggled, then died on the vine as the rebel State of Franklin.

Did he actually homestead two frontiers? One when he was maybe 30 or 35, and another when he was 70, or older?

I entered all of the data I have for John Dobkins Sr, John Dobkins Jr. and their children into the spreadsheet. I went back to sources, such as Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia series and the Northern Neck Virginia Land Patent books. No, you wouldn’t think of Shenandoah Valley as the Northern Neck, but there we are.

Click to enlarge images

I’m showing the first 7 rows of my spreadsheet as an example. I have a total of 362 rows, and 77 items. An item is not equivalent to a row.

You can see items 1 and 2, above. I create a separate row for every person named in the item.

In item 1, which is John Dobkins’ Sr.’s land grant, which was actually a bond, so I need to fix that, two people were mentioned. Both John and Benjamin Borden have a row. I neglected to add that William White stated that he saw the transaction.

Giving everyone their own row allows me to filter for all occurrences of Benjamin Borden, for example.

Assigning an item number lets me select all people mentioned in item 1.

Using filters, I can select any surname(s) and see the various people who interacted with John Dobkins by that surname.

For example, here’s Moore.

In the last book I rechecked, I found something in the index which led me to an entry that, somehow, I had missed previously.

Here’s the answer to what happened to John Dobkins Jr.’s land, and when. Glory be!!!!

Name spelling is not standardized, AND, the search feature does not always work correctly. I actually consult the index, then look on each page. That’s how I found this entry which answered this perplexing question.

John did not have an estate in Augusta County, Virginia, so apparently when he assigned his survey, S-374, he was living, which increases the probability of the man in Washington County in November of 1787 being our John Dobkins. April 1, 1788 is when this was recorded. Not surprising given winter roads and weather.

However, now I need to check the Frederick County,VA records for John, because until I saw this, I didn’t realize he had moved across the county line from the part of Augusta which became Shenandoah. It’s VERY obvious now.

However, this still is a bit confusing because the acreage doesn’t agree. This is 200 different acres than we previously knew about on Stoney Creek.

I asked Cousin Carol to check and see what she could find. Carol and I have been researching our family for decades together, and she often finds things that I haven’t.

Cousin Carol

Cousin Carol found something more.

John’s original survey on Stoney Creek that was assigned to William Bean. This is the land documented earlier by Jeffrey LaFavre, here and here.

Carol found John Dobekin’s 400 acre survey. Thomas Gill is his chainer, providing one more connection to the Gill family. In fact, this Thomas Gill is the child whose baptism John Dobkins witnessed in 1737, the same day as Thomas’s father, James Gill witnessed the baptism of John’s son, Thomas Dobkins.

Both men had sons named Thomas baptized the same day, and stood up for each other’s baptisms. Hmmm…

The front of the survey shows that the survey was done for John Dobekins, but I can’t read the word after his name. Then William Bean is written in.

Then, “assigned to Cap. Cornelias Ruddle in presence of William White and John Ruddle, deed to issue inthe name of William Bean by desire of Cornelias Ruddle.”

The survey jacket confirms the chain of ownership.

No wonder the titles to these lands are confused and were for decades. This land wasn’t conveyed and recorded, the warrant and survey were just assigned. Not surprising since it was a long ride to the courthouse.

I swear, John is playing hide and seek with me.


I’m a big fan of “History of” books, especially ones that were written quite early. Some of those books include the memories of people born in the early 1800s, and they tell us what their grandparents, born in the 1700s, told them.

Those are absolute goldmines.

The History of Shenandoah County is searchable, including by first name only.

I searched for Reuben, and among others, discovered both Reuben and Jacob Moore. Hmmm…

“About the year 1734, as noted in the preceding chapter, Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White settled in this neighborhood,” referring to the Smith Creek corridor.

Then, “In 1734, Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White came from the Monocacy Valley in Maryland and took up some of the fertile lands at or near the site of Mt. Jackson.”

“Fertile lands” might be a clue as to why they settled in that specific location.

It appears, based on a 1782 journal of a Quaker minister that Grifith Dawbin (Dobbin), Thomas Moore and the Allens were Quakers. It’s interesting to note that the women from the Hopewell Friends church accompanied the minister to Shenandoah, 55 miles distant. On the road, they met a contingent of Friends from York County, PA.

Searching for Evan produced references to Evan Jones and a few others.

Why is John Dobkins never mentioned anyplace in these histories? I’m going to assume it was because he was a simple, quiet, yeoman farmer, just plowing his fields and harvesting his produce.

Additional Resources

There are also other resources that I use as well.

One is WikiTree and another is WeRelate. WeRelate has profiles of ancestors grouped usefully. Here’s the list of Early Settlers on the North Branch of the Shenandoah River.

I also have a friend, Maree, who is relentless in digging through obscure resources. I think she views these missing folks as a personal challenge to uncover the truth. Most of what she finds doesn’t hit that mark, but that’s the price one pays for the ONE that does. Bless her patient heart!

This time, I had to laugh because Maree kept finding my Dodsons out of Virginia. DNA confirms that they are not the same family, but those names do sound alike. Too much alike.

In any event, between my research, Maree, and my cousin, Carol, we are making halting progress. I probably ran down 200 blind alleys. Did I mention we were having, literally, a hurricane during this research adventure too?

I’m not going to bore you with every alley, but I do want to share relevant information from my “everything” document. .

Riley Moore

Riley Moore, a near neighbor of John Dobkins Sr., is listed in the Register of Old Augusta Families at WeRelate.

Remember the unsourced rumor that John Dobkins Jr.’s wife was the daughter of Thomas Moore. For that to be true, she would have been born around 1710, which means Thomas Moore would have been born in the 1680s or earlier.

She cannot be the daughter of Riley’s son, Thomas, who married Phebe Harrison, the granddaughter of an entirely different ancestor of mine, Isaiah Harrison that I didn’t expect to find here. What this means, though, is that if I match descendants of this Thomas Moore, it could be through my Harrison line, not because of Dobkins/Moore DNA.

We are at least one generation offset, because this Thomas Moore would be the same age as John Dobkins Jr, not a generation older. The older generation was Riley Moore. If he had a daughter, Elizabeth, she’s not mentioned in his will, and the other children are.

However, Riley Moore had a brother or half-brother named Thomas Moore as well, who also immigrated to Shenandoah from Monocacy Hundred in 1733. Born about 1717, he married Mary Allen, whose father was Reuben Allen, which connects the Allen and Moore families.

Reuben is not a common name. Now it’s in two families who are found with our Dobkins folks.

This Thomas Moore died in 1790 and did have a daughter Elizabeth, but apparently did not mention his daughter, Elizabeth’s married name in his will. I think I need to review his estate documents, in particular, the settlement if there is one. If indeed, Elizabeth is Thomas’s daughter, she would have married John Dobkins before he arrived in Shenandoah Valley, or at least by 1735, the birth year of their first child baptized in Orange County. This means Elizabeth would have been born 1710ish.

Given that Thomas Moore’s birth date is given as “after 1717,” this seems to eliminate this connection too, or maybe his birth date is simply wrong.

However, given the common first names, such as Reuben and Jacob, not to mention Thomas, there easily could be some connection, someplace. Or, maybe it’s further back a generation.

Riley Moore died in 1760 on his land in the Shenandoah Valley which then fell into Frederick County, VA. He only named his wife and sons James and Reuben. Witnesses to the will were Evan Jones, Amos Lewis and Susan Lewis. There’s the name Evan. Evan is the Welsh name for John.

Riley Moore was clearly English, given that his children were born and baptized at St. Barnabas Church, Queen Anne’s Parish, Prince George Co., MD between 1700 and 1712. There was no child named Elizabeth.

There seems to be a connection before Shenandoah Valley, and there assuredly is one after arrival.

In the road orders, on May 22, 1750, “Thomas Moore and Riley Moore are hereby Appointed Surveyors of the High Way in the room of Daniel Holdman and it is Ordered that they set up posts of Directions and Clear & keep the same in repair According to Law.”

Posts of direction. The earliest road signs. Clearly, more settlers were passing through on their way south and, eventually, on into the Carolinas.

Benjamin and Reuben Allen

Benjamin Allen never married. Reuben Allen was his brother. The following information is provided by Mike, here.

Reuben Allen I – Although there is no record of surveys or patents for land near Mt. Jackson owned by Benjamin Allen’s brother Reuben, Reuben Allen I appears to have been by far the larger landowner of the two. Reuben Allen I died in 1741. As his sons were too young to have acquired much wealth on their own, the various Fairfax Grants in 1749, issued to Reuben Allen I’s widow Mary and her sons Reuben II, Jackson and Joseph, appear to be for lands previously owned by their father. These Fairfax Grants of 625, 400, 270, and 202 acres, all four of which joined Benjamin Allen’s land, were no doubt for lands once owned by Reuben Allen I, brother of Benjamin.

Dr. Wayland in writing his “History of Shenandoah County, Virginia” makes no mention of Reuben Allen I, brother of Benjamin. However, Reuben evidently followed Benjamin to the Valley, as he had in Cecil County, Md. Reuben Allen I died intestate in 1741 and records of his estate are found in Orange County, Va. The deed in Dartmouth in 1721 shows he had a wife Mary at that time. No marriage has been found in either Quaker or Civil records. The Carleton Genealogy states Mary was Mary Jackson, dau of Samuel Jackson of Baltimore Co., Md, but this has been proved incorrect. Samuel Jackson died in Baltimore County in 1719 and his dau Mary was willed 90 acres of “Carter’s Rest” and 100 acres of “Jackson’s Outlet” (Md. Calendar of WiUs, Vol. 5, p 2). This same 100 acres of Jackson’s Outlet was leased to James Taylor by Mary Forster. Taylor, in turn leased the land to Mary Forster’s brother-in-law, Rowland Kemble. No record of Reuben Allen is found in Deed Records and Rent Rolls in Baltimore County, which at this time period bordered on Cecil Co., Md. However, the possibilities are good that Mary’s maiden name was Jackson as this name appears many times among the descendants. Reuben and Mary may have married before he left N. J. to move to Cecil Co., Md. in 1719.

Mary survived Reuben Allen I, as did five known children. Reuben and Mary had been married over twenty years and there were undoubtedly other children, some of them minors when Reuben died in 1741, but no Guardianship records were found, nor dower rights for his widow. With the distance to the Courthouse it is not surprising that none of these records exist. In fact, it is a sign of the hardiness of these Allens that we do have in Orange County, the petition for letters of Administration, made by Reuben Allen II, shown in the Court Order Book as “eldest son”; the Administration Bond of Reuben Allen II, made with Benjamin Allen and Thomas Moore as Sureties; and a full and complete inventory of his goods and chattels made by Peter Scholl, William White and Abraham Collett. The inventory shows it was made February 2, 1741/42 and was filed for record the 27th day of May 1742. The Administration Bond is dated November 26, 1741, and the record shows Reuben Allen II, Thomas Moore, and Benjamin Allen acknowledged this Bond in Court. Reuben Allen II was a Quaker, as evidenced by his affirmation in lieu of the oath of Administration (Orange County Va. Will Bk 1, pp 179, 180, 219, 221). Thomas Moore, one of the sureties for the Bond, was the son-in law, husband of Mary Allen.

A comparison of household articles in the inventories of both Reuben Allen I and Mary Allen shows many items still in the possession of Mary when she died in 1751 (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 p 423). Jackson and Joseph Allen were named Administrators of the Estate of Mary Allen, deceased on the 29th of May 1751 (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 pp 336 337). Thomas Moore and John Dobekin were sureties for Jackson and Joseph Allen’s Administration Bond (Aug. Co. Will Bk 1 p 356). Reuben Allen II, son of Reuben and Mary Allen died within a day or two of his mother. Whether their deaths were the result of an Indian raid, or perhaps an epidemic is not known. Ingaborg Allen, widow of Reuben II was granted letters of Administration on 28 May 1751, with Cornelius Ruddell and John Dobiken as Sureties (Aug. Co. Will Bk I p 335).

It’s very clear that these families were close, and likely intertwined.

Evan Jones

From the VAGenweb site:

In 1791, Evan Jones was high sheriff of Shenandoah County. In 1785 he had been one of the census enumerators, and he was prominent as a magistrate and otherwise. His home was on the Back Road (Zane’s Road?) in the southwest part of the county, one mile from the Fairfax (Rockingham) Line. It is probable that in every generation of his descendants there has been an Evan Jones. The old homestead today (1927) is owned by one of them, Evan Jones, and his brother, J.A. Jones. The old farm has never been out of the hands of the Jones family. The present Evan Jones is one of the men prominent in county affairs.

I have been unable to determine where Evan Jones came from.

Backtracking Up the Great Wagon Road

The Dobkins family seems very connected to the Moore family. Furthermore, John Dobkins arrives at the same time, and lives close to the Monocacy men – Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White.

I think it’s time to look in the Monocacy and see what I can find. Based on Riley Moore’s information, it looks like Prince George’s County, Maryland might be a good beginning.

This also makes sense on another level too.

In the book about Life on Holman Creek, I find my Millers, Zirkles, Garbers, Wines and a very large number of my Brethren family members literally surrounding John Dobkins land. Where did they come from? Frederick County, Maryland, near Hagerstown, land that was once part of Prince George’s County. In other words, the Monocacy.

By Tim Kiser (w:User:Malepheasant) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1951953

The Monocacy River runs south out of Adams County, PA into Frederick County, MD, above, where it dumps into the Potomac River, below.

By G. Edward Johnson – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93635068

An old Indian trail, probably the first “highway,” was found along the river.

The Great Wagon Road eventually connected these places. Of course, what began with a trickle when those first 49 settlers arrived on horseback or walking, became a steady stream of wagons carrying families with dreams, especially after the Revolutionary War.

What does Maryland have to offer?

Found Him!!!

The book, Pioneers of Old Monocacy is chocked full of historical information, including an index entry for both John Dobbins Sr, and John Dobbins Jr.

Doggone, there he is, plus his son in 1733 and 1734. This means that John Dobkins Jr. would have been married by this time, and probably pushes his birth year back to about 1708 or earlier.

Clearly, based on this document, I need to find the Maryland State Papers and see what else is there.

The second list, in 1734, tells us that John Dobbin got into a bit of trouble. Poor quality tobacco plants were to be burned in order to preserve the quality of the cured and finished tobacco product. If a man didn’t have some tobacco to be burned, generally in a central location, witnessed by others, that simply meant he had failed to comply with the order. This transgression, of course, could affect the price that all the farmers could command for their combined tobacco crop.

This event could have had something to do with why the two Dobkins men decided to pack up and strike out for the frontier. No one could tell them what to plant and grow there, or how to do it. Wheat, corn, and, eventually, apples were the primary crops in the Shenandoah Valley. Not all fields had to be cleared either. Some were already open prairie, the Indian “old fields,” now abandoned, but ready to be utilized again with much less effort than felling mature trees across an entire forest.

Prince George’s County is where the Van Meters were from too. They were involved in the earliest settlement of the Shenandoah Valley, so John Dobkins likely knew them and had heard the tales.

Thomas Cresap was living in Prince George’s County as well. Cresap was a land speculator, Indian trader, and explorer. His questionable methods and “loose” transactions caused so much angst between Pennsylvania and Maryland settlers, and governments, that he literally started Cresap’s War, named not in honor of him, but because of him.

All I can say is that John Dobkins, or Dobbins, needed to be very grateful he teamed up with Van Meter and not Cresap.

It’s hard to think of Maryland as the wild west, but at one time, it clearly was.

Maryland in the 1730s

I don’t exactly know where John Dobbins and his son lived, but it’s likely someplace in this region.

We know that they were in the “Monoccosea Hundred,” shown below, in the Catoctin Valley in western Frederick County. Cacoctin Mountain, the eastern-most reach of the Blue Ridge, about 15 miles east of Hagerstown, is where Camp David is located today.

Many of the surnames, such as Friend, found in this area when John Dobkins lived there are also found in the early Shenandoah Valley settlement.

The settlers likely congregated, perhaps at Richard Touchstones, in preparation for beginning the journey “from Monocacy to Shenandoah Mountain,” today’s South Mountain.

The Valley led directly from Maryland, across the mountains and into the Shenandoah valley, further south.

Many of the Quakers at Hopewell in Fredrick County, VA came from Monocacy, as did Benjamin Borden – the man who initially gave bond to John Dobkins in 1735, promising that John could patent his land. A list of early Frederick County wills can be found here.


I don’t know what kind of thought and preparation went into the decision to leave Maryland and embark not only on a journey, but a journey into the complete unknown. The Shawnee Indians had all been massacred by the Catawbas in that very valley, probably between 1650 and 1700, so the Shenandoah Valley was at that point, uninhabited. The Warrior path that would become the settlers’ trail, then the Wagon Road, and now Highway 11 ran directly along the North Fork of the Shenandoah and Smith Creek.

John Dobkins was a farmer. He and his son wouldn’t have left Maryland until after the crops were harvested. They would have planned to arrive in the springtime in time to, hopefully, prepare the land for even a small first-year crop in the Shenandoah Valley.

Fall was a preferred time to migrate anyway. Not wet like the spring. Not the heat and humidity of the summer, and not frozen and slippery in the winter.

Perhaps the hardest part was leaving family behind.

John Dobkins the elder, and Mary, his wife, were clearly old enough to have adult children. Did some of those children stay behind? Daughters maybe, who married, and we will never know who they are?

Did they have siblings, or parents, that they would never see again? What and who were they leaving behind?

Did they visit tiny graves, taking flowers and explaining that they would see those children in Heaven one day?

If they didn’t leave living children behind, they surely wept as they said goodbye beside those graves one last time.

If they left living children behind, what became of them? Did John and Mary also leave weeping grandchildren behind?

Did they give them mementos to remember them by? Would they ever see any of them again?

The Trail to Shenandoah

This map shows the old Philadelphia Waggon Road at its beginning near Opequon Creek and Antietam Creek on the Potomac River.

Opequon Creek, shown above at the red arrow, at the Potomac where the wagon road to Shenandoah Valley left from.

This journey would take them about an hour and a half, maybe two, today. Just an afternoon drive – down and back in one day. It would have taken at least two weeks, and probably more since many people were probably on foot, and the terrain was rugged.

It was “only” 80-100 miles. Only. A paradigm shift away from anything resembling safety or life as they knew it.

Crossing the Potomac from the border between Maryland and West Virginia. Of course, they would have had to ford the river or take a rope ferry.

You can see the Blue Ridge in the distance.

About 10 miles later, the Shenandoah River empties into the Potomac River. Our pioneers turn left and head upstream, into the mountains.

The Valley from above shows the mountains on both sides. John and the other families continue to follow the river, between the mountain ranges. Maybe the wives said to each other, when the men were out of hearing, that they could go back if they wanted. Several would have been pregnant.

Crossing from present-day West Virginia, into Virginia, directly into Frederick County. These buildings wear the patina of age. John passed here, but of course, there was nothing more than a path.

Mountains rise on both sides of the road.

If they traveled in the late fall, it would have been stunningly beautiful as they, day by day, approached the land where they would stake out their claims and build the cabins that would be their new homes.

A little further south, the valley widens a bit, offering more tillable land, and the Shenandoah River splits into the North and South Branches at present-day Front Royal.

Our group of settlers continue down the North Fork. They were halfway by now. Without Hite or Van Meter, someone who could “pilot” the way, they would have been entirely lost.

The group would have passed and made note of occasional Indian mounds, sad sentries to the villages that were destroyed, with all their inhabitants, a generation earlier. Ghost villages.

Today, the Old Valley Pike is marked by sleepy villages with beautiful homes built before automobiles, standing close to the present-day roads.

The settlers’ path brought them closer to the Blue Ridge to the east, paralleling the North Fork of the Shenandoah.

South of Mt. Jackson, the caravan would have forded the Shenandoah one last time, trying to keep at least some things dry. Just east of that location, the mouth of Smith Creek deposits its water into the North Fork of the Shenandoah, dividing the waterway once again.

The horse train continued its path south, on to the Borden grant. They would have wanted to find headwaters of creeks to assure clean water for people and livestock.

The settlers are now threading the needle, with the North Fork of the Shenandoah behind the tree line at right, and Smith Creek behind the trees below the escarpment at left. This valley looks relatively flat, beautiful, and fertile.

Better yet, it was uninhabited, theirs for the taking and working the land.

One of the settlers would, unwittingly, settle on the land where the Shenandoah Caverns would be discovered on Neff land in 1884. Endless Caverns, the longest cave system in Virginia, was discovered about a mile from John Dobkins Sr.’s land in 1879. For all we know, and John never knew, that cave labyrinth might run right under his land.

Questions – So Many Questions

Indeed, we managed to push the needle about 100 miles, back into Maryland. That seems so much further than 100 miles. It seems like a lifetime, a different world. It assuredly was for those brave settlers.

Why did the Monocacy men continue to travel beyond the other settlers? As each of the other families stopped and claimed land, why did they settle, together, so far south on Smith Creek? Was that considered the best land? Were they late arrivals? Did it cost less, to Borden, because it was more remote and therefore, more dangerous?

We know that Daniel Holman built a fort house at the entrance of Holman Creek where it intersects with the Shenandoah River for the protection of his family and nearby settlers, probably in the red area above, about 200 X 300 feet. Three sides would have been protected by water. Holman’s Fort would have been about 5 miles north of where John Dobkins settled.

What records can be found in Prince George’s County, Maryland?

Is the original name Dobbins, Dobkins, Dobikins, or something else?

Did John arrive in Maryland from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York like some of the other Prince George’s County families?

Was John Dobkins or Dobbins an immigrant? If so, when did he arrive, and from where?

Was he married when he arrived?

Who was his wife, Mary?

Is John, his wife, Mary, or his son John’s wife, Elizabeth, related to the Allen and Moore families? My bet is yes.

Is the Dobkins family related to the other Monocacy families?

What about James Gill and the two sons named Thomas? Is that significant?

What does Y DNA tell us?

Dobkins Y DNA – What Does It Say?

We have two men descended from Evan’s son, Thomas Dobkins, who was born in 1781 in East Tennessee and died in 1822 in Missouri.

The high-level haplogroup of these two men is I-M253, but unfortunately, they don’t match any other men of the same surname.

At 37 markers, the highest they tested, they do match one man who is from Scotland, and one man living in Sweden. That’s it!

Unfortunately, haplogroup I-M253 is about 4500 years old and most frequently found in Scandinavia and Northwest Europe.

Of course, with sea travel and Vikings, it could have traveled anyplace in that region.

I am attempting to find another male to take a Big Y test, as the DNA of the original tester was not sufficient to process.

Viewing the Dobkins 12-marker matches, the correlation with the British Isles, northwest Europe, and Scandinavia is reinforced/

All I can really say with a high degree of confidence is that the Y DNA of the Dobkins line is rare. That’s much better than being common, but we need more markers and the Big Y test.

If you are a Dobkins male descended from this line, please reach out. I’d love to provide a Y DNA testing scholarship for you.

We still need more evidence.


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How to Share DNA Results and Tree Access at Ancestry

There are two types of access you may want to share with other users at Ancestry, and specific times when you’ll want to do each.

If you have set your privacy selections to allow DNA matching, and tree sharing, your DNA matches will have access to that information. If not, they won’t.

Let’s check.

Click the down arrow to the right of your signon page, then Account Settings.

Click on DNA.

Then, click on the little right arrow waaaaayyyy over there.

Scroll down until you see Tree Link, and be sure your test is linked to yourself in your tree.


Next, the Privacy section displays your selections in effect for both matching and your ethnicity estimates. Click on the little down arrow labeled “Change” to view other options.

If you do NOT have matching enabled, you won’t see matches and they won’t see you.

Granting DNA Sharing Access

If you don’t match with someone, they won’t be able to see whether you’ve tested your DNA or not.

  • You can still share access to your DNA, even if you don’t match.
  • If you do match, and you’re collaborating with someone, you can share more with them, in essence, letting them “drive.”

Here’s how.

Next, click on Sharing Preferences.

You’ll click the down arrow to see who you’ve shared your DNA results with. These people may or may not be your DNA matches. For example, there are a few people that I’ve collaborated with for years that I’ve shared my DNA results with because I’m really, really HOPING they will make a breakthrough for both of us.

Plus, not to be morbid, but you just never know when you’ll be meeting the ancestors and I want my DNA to go on working for my genealogy partners and family members after I’m no longer doing the work myself. That’s also why I write my 52 Ancestors stories, but I digress.

You might be wondering what kind of information other people could be looking for. Let me give you an immediate example. Even though we don’t personally match, my cousin Greg has been looking for people that he matches, and I match too, that he knows descend from our common ancestor, Peter Johnson.

Any tests you own are listed first here, along with anyone you’ve granted access to your DNA results.

If you click on “Add a person,” you can add someone else to your share list.

You always get to select the level of access people you share with have.

If your cousin George tested for you, has no interest himself, you’ll want to ask him to grant you the ability to manage his results. Just understand that manage means just that – entirely.

Typically, I grant view because they can see everything I can see, but they can’t change things.

Sharing DNA does NOT mean you’re automatically sharing your tree.

Sharing Trees

Sharing trees is important for three reasons.

  • DNA matches
  • For people who don’t match your DNA but are researching the same ancestors and find your tree through hints or ancestor searches
  • People you specifically want to provide access to your tree

One of my cousins kindly shared his DNA results with me, but he did not share his tree and now I can no longer get in touch with him. Unfortunately, he’s not well, so it’s unlikely that I will ever be able to contact him.

Let’s look at Tree management, sharing and invitations.

Your Tree Privacy Settings

Go back to Account Settings and select “Trees.”

Next, you’ll see your trees and trees that others have shared with you.

Select your tree you wish to view, share or work with.

Then, select Privacy Settings at the top of the page.

You can review your tree privacy settings. As you can see, mine is public. I firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. I realize that this is a controversial topic, but I share my work freely and hope others will as well. I’m providing quality breadcrumbs. At least my research and information is available among the copy/paste misinformation abominations.

My cousin who shared his DNA with me has a private tree, and even though I can see how he matches people, I cannot view their common ancestors because his tree is private and he didn’t realize he needed to grant me separate access to his tree in addition to his DNA results.

Furthermore, if your tree is private, your DNA matches can’t view your tree and the DNA match has limited utility without tree access.

Invite People to Your Tree

My tree is public, so it’s available for viewing in searches and by DNA matches. However, I still need to grant specific access to people to directly access my tree without them having to search around to find my tree in their ancestor search hints and matches.

Click on “Invitations.”

You’ll be able to see who you’ve granted access to, their Role, and if they can see living people.

To invite someone to your tree from here, click on “Invite People.”

Don’t forget to click “save” at the bottom of the page.

You can generate a one-time link for the person you’re inviting, meaning the link can only be used by one person, or have Ancestry send them an email invite or use their Ancestry Username.

An Easier Tree Invite Location

There is no easier way to invite people to view your DNA results, but there is an easier way to share your tree.

On your main Ancestry page, click on Trees, then on the down arrow by the name of the tree you wish to share. Select “Invite” which will take you to the same Invite page as above.

Now is a good time to review your settings and be sure they are the most beneficial to your genealogy goals.

Furthermore, you’re going to need this article for my next “In Search of…” article in a day or so.


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John Dobkins Sr. (c 1685-1746) Wilderness Homesteader on Smith Creek in the Shenandoah Valley – 52 Ancsestors #377

We don’t know where John Dobkins was born, nor when he, or his ancestors, arrived in the colonies. We don’t know if he was born here, or overseas. If he was born in the old country, where was that? Was he married when he arrived, or did he marry here? We do know that his wife’s name was Mary, or at least, his wife when he died.

We aren’t even positive about the spelling of John’s surname. John wasn’t able to write, so others would have written his name as it sounded to them. There were Germans, Scots-Irish, Dutch and probably English settlers in the Shenandoah Valley, so they would have heard and written his name differently. It’s no wonder we find his surname recorded variously as Dobkin, Dobkins, Dobikin, Dobikins, Dobin, Dobins, Dobbin, Dobbins and more variations. Two generations later, my ancestor, Jacob Dobkins spelled it Dobkins, as did the descendants of his brothers, Reuben and Evan, at least most of the time.

I discovered a significant amount of information in an undated, uncopyrighted book that I think was written about 1978, The Dobkins Family in America, 1730-1978, by Cecil B. Smyth Jr. (1929-2014.) It was this book that showed me where to dig further. Cecil did an incredible amount of work on this family, including historical research on the ground and in the region. I communicated with Cecil before his death, and I think he’d be pleased that we’ve used his work as a foundation building block.

County Formation

Between 1720 and 1734, what would become Shenandoah County was a part of Spotsylvania County, Virginia. From 1734 to 1738, it was included in Orange County. In 1738, the area of Orange County west of the Blue Ridge Mountains was separated to become the new counties of Augusta to the south and Frederick to the north.

In 1753, the dividing line between Augusta and Frederick Counties was made to coincide with the Fairfax line. On March 24, 1772, a new county was formed from Frederick County which was to be known as Dunmore. In 1778, its name was changed to Shanando which eventually morphed to Shenandoah.

Early Settlement

In 1716, Sir Alexander Spotswood, the Royal Governor of Virginia, headed west with a small army along the Germanna Trail. Many in the exploratory party contracted German measles along the way, but Governor Spotswood and a few hearty souls continued on and crossed the Blue Ridge at Swift Run Gap.

The Governor forded the Shenandoah River and buried a bottle on the west bank. This bottle contained a note he had written which claimed all territory west of the mountains to “The River of the Spaniards,” now the Mississippi, in the name of and for King George I of England. After the French were driven out of the Ohio Territory, the claim lasted until the end of the American Revolution.

On June 17, 1730, John and Isaac Van Meter were issued “land orders” from Governor Gooch authorizing them to select 40,000 acres as a buffer zone against raids by the Indians and the French moving into the Ohio River Valley.

Van Meter, a trapper and Indian trader, held a 10,000-acre tract in the Shenandoah Valley which he had acquired from Lord Fairfax. A condition of this sale was that one hundred German families were to settle in the Valley. Van Meter sold this land to Jost Hite of eastern Pennsylvania in 1727. You can read more about the confusing details, here.

Hite proceeded to search for one hundred German families, and, in 1731, the group headed for the Valley.

Hite purchased the Van Meter’s rights for unpatented parcels within the 40,000 acres on August 5, 1731.

Hite personally migrated to the Shenandoah Valley in 1731. Local tradition holds that he brought 16 German and Scotch-Irish families in the initial settlement caravan. They lived near the Pack Horse Ford crossing over the Potomac River until completing their houses further south on Opequon Creek.

At the time, there were no roads crossing the Blue Ridge. Travelers on foot had passed through mountain gaps for 10,000 years, while colonial explorers using horses had been crossing the mountains since John Lederer in 1670. However, it took two decades after first permanent colonial settlers arrived in the Shenandoah Valley before the old trails were improved enough for wagons to make a reliable crossing over the mountains into the Piedmont.

In 1734, the Van Meters sold Hite the parcels they had previously patented, except for some parcels near Shepherdstown (then Maryland, now West Virginia) where John Van Meter had lived. Hite may have been John Van Meter’s cousin or nephew, a relationship that could have facilitated their dealings.

Enroute west, they encountered Robert McKay and his group of Scotch-Irish settlers from the coast. They perfected a plan to pool land and money so that they could eventually obtain more land from Lord Fairfax. They purchased 70,000 more acres over the next two years and determined a plan for dividing it.

The Scotch-Irish were to settle the eastern half from Winchester to Luray, in essence the South Fork of the Shenandoah. Hite’s Germans would occupy the western portion from Winchester to beyond what is now Strasburg, the North Fork of the Shenandiah. Hite erected a house five miles south of Winchester along what was to become the “Valley Pike,” U.S. Route 11.

Two of his grandsons built much larger homes along Cedar Creek near Strasburg a half century later. His son-in-law, George Bowman, settled along the south side of Cedar Creek in what is now Shenandoah County in 1731 or 1732.

Another son-in-law, Paul Froman, settled along the creek eight or nine miles northwest of Bowman.

Other settlers were soon to follow. Benjamin Allen, Riley Moore and William White arrived from the Monocacy Valley in Maryland and settled in the area of what is now Mt. Jackson, just a few miles north of John Dobkins’ land.

Jacob Funk bought 2,030 acres between Fishers Hill and Strasburg, including part of the present town of Strasburg, from Henry Willis in 1735.

By 1738, many people had settled what would become Shenandoah County forty years later, in 1778.

The first Indians encountered by the settlers were friendly, and the two groups lived together peacefully for about 20 years. Apparently, the Native people didn’t object to the Pennsylvania settlers due to the treaty William Penn had struck with the Native Americans on the banks of the Delaware. It probably didn’t hurt that Van Meter traded with the Indians, earning their trust, and some backcountry settlers had purchased land directly from the Indians. According to Wine, in Life Along Holman’s Creek, the Native people objected violently to any migration of the “long Knives,” which would be the English for the most part, from east of the Blue Ridge.

Jost Hite and Robert McKay advertised to residents of the Philadelphia, PA area that settlements of the land west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Northern Neck of Virginia were available. John Dobkins Sr. and his wife, Mary were among the takers.

Cecil reports that “John was a Scotch-Irishman from Ulster, Northern Ireland. We do not know the year he emigrated or anything about his wife. They settled in what was Orange County, VA in 1731 or 1732.”

I surely wish that Cecil had documented his source for either his arrival date in the Shenandoah Valley or John Dobkins’ origin in Ulster. The name Dobbins is found in Dublin and Sligo in 1848-51 when Griffins Valuation of Ireland was conducted. It’s also spelled Dobbyn around County Armagh. However, there are several early Dobikins in England, so the jury is still out on this one.

The Shenandoah Valley region, nestled between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountain ranges was extremely rugged, remote and stunningly beautiful. It still is.

There were no courts opened in Frederick County before 1743 nor in Augusta before 1745. Records for Frederick and Augusta counties were recorded in Orange County until 1743.

Found in Pioneers of Old Frederick County, VA by Cecil O’Dell.

John Dobikin Sr. (b 1685 c) received a bond from Benjamin Borden on 24 September 1735 for “150 pounds Sterling to make patent in full and ample manner as the King gives me” on 150 acres, part of Benjamin Borden’s 3,300 acre tract. The 6 January 1735/36 Morgan Morgan/Peter Woolf census listed John Sr. as a settler on the McKay, Hite, Duff and Green 100,000 acre Colony of Virginia grant land.

This grant proves critically important.

In the Hite/Fairfax lawsuit, William White stated that he was present when Benjamin Bordon gave a bond guaranteeing a good title to the land on Smith Creek that has been purchased by John Dobbin on September 24, 1735. Borden had received 100,000 acres along the branches of the James River in the upper part of the Shenandoah Valley from the Governor’s council in May of 1735.

This is noteworthy, because Borden’s land was supposed to be south of the Beverly Grant, outside of the area claimed by Lord Fairfax. The fact that Borden is guaranteeing John a good title tells us that his land should be south of what would become known as the Fairfax line. We will see in a few minutes why this is an important piece of data.

Clearly, based on that testimony, John Dobkins was physically in this location at that time.

Peter Wolf’s deposition in the lawsuit taken 6th March 1754 and witnessed by Isaac Parkins, Ger’m Keys and Thomas——–(?).

Peter Wolf being first sworn…Deposeth as followeth, That he is now in the fifty fourth year of his age that he came into this Colony from the Jerseys some time in the year 1733, and that he settled upon a tract of Land which was supposed to belong to Joist Hite and as this Deponent believe the same was in Dispute That sometime in the year of our Lord 1736 this Deponent was sent for by the Lord Fairfax who was then as Samuel Timmands’s to Pilot him up to Joist Hite’s which accordingly he did.

There are also a couple of references to Peter Wolf’s list that he took known as “the number of Settlements upon the Grant granted to Robert McCay Jost Hyte and their Partners in the forks of Shannando and the several Branches thereof.”

This is the 100,000-acre grant given to Jost Hite and his Quaker partner Robert McKay. They needed to seat 100 families to fulfill their obligation under that conditional grant to seat 1 family per 1000 acres.

They list the 49 names, as follows:

    • Robert McCay Senr.
    • John Funk
    • Henry Johnston
    • Thomas Parmer
    • John Denton
    • Jonah Denton
    • Henry Falkenburg
    • Edward Wormwood
    • Andrew Falkenburg
    • Jacob Falkenburg
    • David Carlock
    • Benjamin Allen
    • Reiley More
    • John Lewis
    • William White
    • John Dobikin Senr.
    • James Gill
    • Andrew Bird (Burd in 1770)
    • John Nichols
    • William Bridges
    • Charles Smith
    • Daniel Holeman
    • Charles Robinson
    • William Linviel
    • John Gorden
    • John Wood
    • John Cannaday
    • Robert McCay Jr.
    • Joseph Whites
    • William Oldham
    • William Barke
    • William Anns (?)
    • Barnel Hegin
    • Samuel White
    • Joshua Jobe
    • George Robinson
    • James Sickles
    • William Barnett
    • James Leeth
    • John Calbreth
    • John Edmondson
    • Isaac Howell (Houser in 1770)
    • John Read
    • Joseph Tindell
    • Michael Brook
    • Joseph Read
    • David Keath
    • William Goodwin
    • George Leeth

Whereas the said Robert McCay, Jost Hyte and their Partners have requested of us George Hobson and Morgan Morgan two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace at Opeckon in the County of Orange to view the Settlements within their said Grant and that Mr. George Hobson went part of the Way with me in order to view the same the weather proving bad he returned and there being no other Magistrate over the Ridge Mr. Jost Hight appointed Peter Wolfe in his room to go with me to view the said Settlements within the said Grant.

I the said Morgan Morgan do hereby certify that the said Peter Wolfe and myself have viewed and that we seen the above Settlement being in number forty-nine and that the same are now improving by the above named persons within the said Grant Given under my hand this 26 day of January A:Dom: 1735/6.

Morgan Morgan

This is followed by Peter Wolf, on January 26th, 1735/36, stating that he “had in fact viewed the settlements in the Fork of Shannando and the several Branches thereof and that he did see forty-nine Settlements in number and that the same were now improving by the Persons named in the list.”

The names in red, above, are shown on map 15, shown below, representing the original settlers. The blue names are found in 1770 and shown on map 15A. However, referencing other records, including grants, deeds, court and other records, and baptisms, we find many families who are clearly active in the community but not listed among the original grants along Smith Creek.

The fact that John Dobikin is noted as Senr., and his son by the same name is not listed tells us that they are homesteading together, as one family.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that, at least at first glance, these earliest settlers don’t appear to have Scots-Irish names.

In 1737, William Mayo surveyed this region and noted “Many families of forreign protestants are settled hereabout, under grants from his Majesty’s Governor.”

Where is Smith Creek?

Smith Creek runs for about 20 miles, as the crow flies, in the Shenandoah Valley along what is now Interstate 81 near New Market.

If you pan out, you can see the migration path directly down the valley from Pennsylvania, through the Hagerstown area, on down the valley to the newly minted Borden grant for settlement. On the early maps, this is called the “Waggon Road to Philadelphia.”

I found John’s land on Smith Creek, but what happened to it remains a mystery.

The land patented to his son, John, in 1750, which we had all assumed to be his father’s original patent land was found 8 or 10 miles away, on Holman Creek, not Smith Creek.

It was not this same land, but I spent a lot of time trying to make those pieces fit together. They don’t.

However, Holman Creek dumps into the Shenandoah River not terribly far from the intersection with Smith Creek.

The intersection between Holman Creek and the Shenandoah River is shown at left, and between Smith Creek and the Shenandoah at the right arrow.

The original grant owners were mapped in the book, Pioneers of Old Frederick County by Cecil O’Dell, and included in Cecil Smyth’s book, but John Dobkins is missing.

The Holman family was granted land at the intersection of Holman Creek and the Shenandoah River, and still owned that land in 1770. On those two property owner lists, no individual owned 150 acres, the amount granted to John Dobkins. But the entire grant of 3,300 acres is short exactly 150 acres when adding the total of the known property owners.

However, by studying the property owners, one can learn more about the neighborhood, and I found important clues.

The above drawing shows most of the earliest land grants and shows clearly where the grants lay along Smith Creek. Note the Fairfax line that divides Frederick County from Augusta County.

Map 15A shows the same parcels with their 1770 owners.

By 1770, John Dobkins Sr. had been buried for almost a quarter century, and his 150 acres is still missing.

John Dobkin Sr. became ill in 1743, sick enough to write his will on November 3, 1743, appointing wife Mary and son John Jr. as executors. This confirms that John Jr. was of age at that time.

In the name of god amen the 3rd day of Nov 1743, I John Dobikin of Orang County in the Colony of Virginia, farmer, being ? sick and weak in body but of a perfect mins and memory thanks be given unto god thereof caulling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is ? for all men once to dye do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of God that gave it and for my body I recommend it to the earth to be buried in a Christian like and decent manner at the discression of my executor not doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God and as touching such World by ? with it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I give my wife and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.

Imprimis it is my will and I do so order that in the first place all my just debts and funeral charges be paid and satisfied.

Item I give and bequeth unto Mary my Dearly Beloved Wife all my goods and chattles, tenements and lands and at her decase to dispose of as the shall think proper leaving her and my son John Dobkins executors of this my last will and testament and I do herby utterly disalow revok and disanul and ? all former tesament wills….

John signed his will with a somewhat fancy mark, not just an X. This suggests to me that he could not write. If he were simply too sick to sign, he would just have made an X, I would think.

Witnesses were William Jeames (James), William Galenbe and Samuel Brown (his mark.)

This will is unusual because he left his land to his wife. This means she would either have:

  • Sold or transferred the land
  • Had a will
  • Had an estate if she died without a will
  • Or remarried when the land would have become the property of her husband

There’s no evidence of any of those four things, but one of them had to have happened. His land didn’t just vaporize..

John Dobkins Sr.’s will was probated on May 12, 1746 in Augusta County where John Dobkins Jr. and Mary were appointed as executors.

Ten days later, on May 22, 1746, John Dobkin, Benjamin Allen and Tunis Hood are bound as sureties for Mary Dobkin and her son, John Dobkins, as executors of John’s estate.

On June 12, 1746, the estate inventory of John Dobkins Senior was filed and had been appraised by William White, William Carrell and William James. I absolutely love estate inventories, because they describe EXACTLY what was in the house, and barn, and I mean everything, Right down to hammers and dung forks. These inventories convey the story of how these people lived – both by what is present and what is absent.

  • Four milch cows
  • Two year-old heifers
  • One three-year-old steer
  • One three-year-old bull
  • Three two-year-old steers
  • Three yearling calves
  • One bay horse five-years-old
  • One bay mare and colt three-years-old
  • One sorrell mare and colt seven-years-old
  • One black mare four-years-old
  • One dunn horse fifteen-years-old
  • Twelve sheep
  • Two sows and ten piggs two barrows and a boar and three shoats
  • A plough and clevis
  • A cart and cart saddle
  • One feather bed and pair of sheets a pair of blankets and a rug
  • Two spinning wheals one small and the other bigg
  • A great Bible
  • A chest and trunk
  • A sithe and two sickles
  • A dung fork
  • A brand iron
  • Old iron
  • 2 axes
  • Old iron
  • A hammer and pinchers
  • A broad ax
  • Two augers and a drawing knife
  • One iron pot and a iron racing
  • Two iron potts
  • One iron hatchall
  • Three pewter dishes
  • A parcel of old brass
  • One brass candlestick
  • A bed a pair of sheets and blanket and covlet
  • A grindstone with an iron hasel
  • A side saddle
  • A suit of wearing cloaths
  • One gray horse two-years-old
  • One gunn

The total estate was valued at 72 pounds, 13 shillings, no pence, and had been appraised on March 18, 1746. I sure wish we knew who purchased items at his estate sale, or maybe there wasn’t a sale given that he had left everything to Mary.

I realize looking at this list that the 15-year-old horse would have been their pack animal over the mountains, lo those many years ago. That horse had been through the entire trip with the family. They depended upon one another. I wonder if the horse realized John had died, and pulled a wagon with his casket to the burying ground.

What I wouldn’t give to see that Great Bible. Clearly, his son John would have eventually taken possession of the Bible, but what happened to it after that? Hopefully someone penned John’s birth and death dates, as well as those of his children. Maybe his parents and wife’s name too, if we only knew where it was today.

John styled himself as a farmer, but many farmers had a secondary skill in addition to farming. We see evidence of that by finding carpenter tools, blacksmith tools, or similar craftsman items in their estate sale. John apparently truly was a farmer, because he owned 14 cattle of various sorts, 6 horses, 12 sheep, and 16 pigs of various ages. Interestingly, the side saddle would have been Mary’s, so where is his saddle?

The rug would have been a woven bed rug, not a floor rug.

That “snug as a bug in a rug” saying – yep – that was referring to a bedbug and a bed rug. That featherbed and bed rug was the most valuable item inside the house. Four times as valuable as John’s only gun, as hard as that is to believe on the frontier.

I can just see Mary insisting on having a feather bed. She probably plucked hundreds of chickens and geese before they went into the pot, saving the feathers. That was probably their only creature comfort, given that they only had one candlestick and three pewter plates, but no table or chairs. Yes, that feather bed was valuable indeed!

John had assuredly passed the half-century mark, and probably three-score, yet, other than the clothes he was buried in, he had one “suit of wearing clothes.” I surely would like to know if that has a meaning beyond the individual words. Is this a specific type of clothing, or a specific cultural saying? Since it was referenced as a suit, was it a jacket, breeches and waistcoat? If so, why would he have hauled that overland, on horseback, to the frontier? His dunn horse surely already had enough to carry.

John’s Land

Since John Dobkins’ will was probated in Augusta County, not Frederick County, this tells us that he was living in the area of the map below the county dividing line between Augusta County and Frederick County. The fact that Bordon provided his grant confirms the same.

Based on the map of the grants provided in the book, and the county dividing line, I attempted to reconstruct that area, today.

This area on Google maps is located just east of US11, known at Valley Pike, near the intersection with Greatview Lane. You can tell by the shape of the river. Note that Smith Creek to Thornton Gap Road on that original map is now 211.

John assuredly lived close to the existing grants. He wouldn’t have wanted to be by himself. That wasn’t safe. As it was, it looks like he might have been one of the furthest south homesteads, bordering on the untouched wilderness.

I’ve reconstructed this portion of the grant using the river and the approximate edges of the grants.

There is one grant that is not labeled. Y and Z are labeled. Z extends on both side of Smith Creek, apparently. Y is on the east side of Smith Creek but the parcel on the western side of Smith Creek, opposite Y, is not labeled.

Unfortunately, Craney Island Road, crossing this land is only one lane, and the Google vehicle does not drive down one lane roads, so we can’t view it more closely.

Still, we can look across the field, knowing that Smith Creek is just over yonder, below those mountains. I believe we’re looking across John Dobkins land here.

These plats are not shown on the original survey map with names, so it’s likely that one of these belonged to John Dobkins. Probably the one with the question marks since none of the accounted-for plots are 150 acres.

Plats Y and Z, along with the unlabeled plat to the west of Y are shown within the red arrows.

It’s very likely that John Dobkins Sr., with help from John Dobkins Jr. cleared these fields, built a log cabin, and set about farming.

When Was John Born?

The fact that John Sr.’s son, John Jr., had a child born in 1736 tells us he was married by at least 1735. Given the marriage age for men of about 25, John Jr. had to have been born about 1710 or maybe even earlier

That pushes John Sr.’s birth back to at least 1685, or perhaps earlier.

If John Sr. was born in 1685, he died at age 61. If Mary was the same age, they would have been having children from about 1705ish to 1727-1730ish. Of course, John Jr. could have been their youngest child, not their oldest, which means they would have been 20 years older, dying at 81. I find it doubtful, though, that a man of 71 would have homesteaded in the wilderness. It’s remarkable enough that a man of 50 or 51 did.

I can’t imagine doing something like that, knowing that one was literally starting over with absolutely nothing. He would have been manually felling trees to clear land and cutting logs to build what was necessarily a small cabin. Without wagons, how did they keep the wildlife at bay while they built their cabins?

Loose Threads

This also causes me to wonder if John and Mary had other children. They must have. If they had additional living children, why were they not mentioned in John’s will? There are no other Dobkins families in evidence, other than John Jr.

There is a James Dobbins in 1751 and 1753 in Augusta County, but he shows no connection to our Dobkins family and eventually moves to South Carolina.

Griffith Dobbins is a Quaker man, and I found no connection with him either, other than naming a child Thomas. In 1813, that Thomas obtained land from a former neighbor family of John Dobkins Jr., more than a half-century after John Sr. died, and a quarter-century after the last of our Dobkins family had loaded up the wagons and departed for the next frontier. Given that John Dobkins Jr. had a son, Thomas who is unaccounted for after 1753, that 1813 Thomas Dobbins sent me on a wild goose chase. Thanks so much to my cousin who found the actual deed record, allowing me to track him down, and putting me out of my misery:)

By all appearances, John Dobkins Sr. and Mary led incredibly difficult, challenging lives, fraught with danger daily, and filled with heartache if only one of their children lived to adulthood. Perhaps they were simply grateful that one child had survived – John’s namesake, John Jr.

I sure wish we knew more about their story.

Actually, I just made a new discovery, and we do, although this too creates more questions than answers…

Stay tuned.


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