About Roberta Estes

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

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Charles Hickerson (c1724 – 1790/1793) High Drama on the Frontier – 52 Ancestors #263

We first find Charles Hickerson in Surry County, North Carolina on January 11, 1771 when he witnesses a will by Lydia Stewart.

Charles isn’t on the 1771 tax list, but he is there by 1772. He was not a young man – about 48 years old with children of marriage age.

Where did Charles come from?

We don’t know, but there IS a long-standing theory that Charles and family came from Virginia. At the end of this article, I’ll share what DNA has revealed.

Where did that Virginia theory come from?

Happy Valley

In the book Happy Valley, written by Felix Hickerson (1882-1968) and published in 1940, Felix discussed his research, looking at multiple possible ancestral lines.

First, Felix documents the Rev. Francis Higginson (1587-1630) who arrived from Claybrooke, Leistershire, England and was the first minister in Salem, Massachusetts.

Felix states that the Higgison’s of New England are connected with the Higginsons and Hickersons of Virginia on pages 4 and 24 of The Higginsons in England and America.

He notes that:

The name Hickerson in Virginia was first spelled Higginson then Higgason, Higgerson and Hickerson, dating to 1645 or earlier when Capt. Robert Higginson, the Indian fighter, commanded at the Middle Plantation, a palisaded settlement in York County.

Robert Higginson was a son of Thomas and Anne Higginson of Berkeswell, Warwick England.

Robert had two brothers, Humphrey and Christopher, mentioned in James City family records.

Felix then says, “The Higgisons later settled in old Stafford County, VA as is shown by wills, deeds and inventories, among which is an inventory of the estate of Thomas Higgason who made a will that was probated in February 1743.

Felix goes on to state that after 1778, we find Charles Hickerson and his wife Mary Lytle on the Yadkin River along Mulberry Creek.

I found Charles slightly earlier, on the 1772 Surry County, NC tax list – a portion of which became Wilkes County in 1777.

Felix descended from Charles Hickerson through his son David, and his son Lytle (1793-1884). Felix lived on the family home place on the Yadkin River at Wilkesboro owned by Lytle called “Round About,” originally owned by Col. Benjamin Cleveland of Revolutionary War fame.

I spent time this past summer in the Allen County Public Library searching through all of the Hickerson/Higgason and related books and records from New England and elsewhere, to no further avail. Felix was a thorough researcher.

Where Did the Information About Stafford County, Virginia Come From?

Years ago, before DNA testing, when I was trying to figure out which of John Vannoy’s sons my ancestor Elijah Vannoy descended from, I asked people descended from all 4 candidate-sons to send me information about their wives. Sarah Hickerson was married to Daniel Vannoy.

In the Hickerson packet sent by my Good Samaritan cousin, we find a partial letter, as follows:

Nacogdoches, Texas
May the 20th, 1877

Dr. Hickison (sic)

Dear Sir,

I write you in regard to a business matter.

You will doubtless be surprised to hear from one of Elizabeth Hickison’s daughters. My mother was daughter of Charles Hickison of North Carolina. He was buried at the Mulberry Fields on the Yadkin River, Wilkes County, North Carolina. My grandmother’s maiden name was Mollie Little. She was from Scotland. Grandfather was from England. I write you the particulars so you will know who I am. My mother married a Stuart. I was 3 years old when we left that country. My age is 86 years. I have been a widow 34 years.

(remainder of letter is missing)

Comments by Felix Hickerson:

I think it is undoubtedly true that the Charles Hickison here referred to was the father of David Hickerson and the grandfather of Litle (Lytle) Hickerson.

Whether Hickerson was originally spelled “Hickison” is doubtful, as an old lady, aged 86, living so far away, could easily become careless about the spelling when perhaps others adopted the simplified spelling.

“Mulberry Fields” was the original site of the town of Wilkesboro. It was the central meeting place for a large neighborhood.

Mulberry Fields is shown on the map below.

Hickerson Mulberry Fields 1752.jpg

On this map from 1752, North is at the bottom, so Mulberry Fields is actually north of the Yakdin.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the name of the letter’s author was on the portion that is missing.

What other documents do we have?

Pioneers of Coffee County

Alice Daniel Pritchard states in this 1996 Coffee County book that:

Charles Hickerson, the progenitor of the lineage presented here, came from Virginia to settle in the New River Basin of North Carolina, about 1772. He and his son, David were on the 1774 tax list of Benjamin Cleveland. In 1778, that part of Surry became Wilkes County. Information from the unpublished manuscript of William Lenoir, lists Charles Hickerson with the names of Wilkes County Revolutionary War Soldiers. He served on a jury for the State of North Carolina Wilkes County court in 1779. In July 1784, Charles Hickerson was over age 60, as recorded in the Wilkes County Court Minutes when he was listed as being exempt from paying Poll Tax. On July 29, 1788, Charles Hickerson sold 150 acres of land on Mulberry Creek, Wilkes County to David Hickerson for 75 pounds, “Being survey Charles Hickerson lives on,” signed by Charles Hickerson and Mary Hickerson. In her nuncupative will, Dec. 5, 1793, probated February 1794, Mary Little Hickerson did not mention her husband, leaving the impression that he had preceded her in death. He was not on the 1800 Wilkes County, census.

Before this verbiage, Alice discussed the fact that Charles was rumored or suspected to have been from Fauquier or Stafford County, Virginia and that Stafford County was formed from Fauquier.

Charles Hickerson’s son, David Hickerson, moved to Tennessee before 1812 where one of his sons served in the War of 1812.

We don’t think of letters being written and travel occurring between those locations, about 350 miles across the mountain range, but both seemed to happen more than we might have expected. Thankfully, at least a few letters survived.

Coffee County Letters

When David Hickerson moved to Tennessee, his son, Little, also spelled Lytle Hickerson remained behind and lived the rest of his life in Wilkes County.

David Hickerson died in 1833, but his sons still communicated back and forth and apparently visited from time to time. These letters show what life was like in the 1830s.

Letter from John Hickerson to Major Little Hickerson

Coffee County, TN
January 25, 1836

Major L. Hickerson
Wilkesboro, NC

Dear Brother:

I have been looking for you in this county for some time but have been disappointed. Have concluded to write you a few lines to inform you of our misfortune in losing our daughter Sally. She was taken sick on Tuesday the 15th of December. Her child was born on Friday and she died on Sunday the 20th. The child is living. We have it here. I hope we can raise it.

I was in Nashville when Sally died and had been there for some time. No person known that never had the misfortune to lose a child how much it will grieve them to have one taken so suddenly. But when death comes we must submit. Sally’s mother didn’t get to see her until Friday evening after which she never spoke again.

I hope when you receive this letter if you are not coming to this county soon you will write and let me know when you expect to come and when Ely Petty is coming.

Our crops of corn and cotton are light in this county. My corn crop is up to the average. Before the frost I expected to make between 40 and 50 bales of cotton but only made 10. The early frost last fall almost put me in the notion to hunt a warmer climate. I will try it another season.

We have got our new county at last after a struggle of 6 or 7 years with the strongest kind of opposition. I have no doubt but the county seat will be at Stone Fort. On the first Monday in February next, the commissioners are to meet to select a place for the county seat. I had the appointing of the Commissioners. I among of them and can venture to say the Stone Fort will be the place. It will make the people’s land valuable in the neighborhood.

If you have a disposition like mine I hope you will never undertake anything without you are sure of success. Am sure I have spent $500 about the new county. Maybe I have made 200 or 300 enemies that used to be my friends. Ever since our election I have been out on the new county business. We lost our election by a few votes and rascality. In one instance the sheriff had to case the vote. The Hillsborough people when they beat us in the election made sure they would get their new county and have the county seat at Hillsborough. They bragged and boasted and said many things that they had better left unsaid. They said the Hickersons had lost their election and the new county was dead and buried. About that time I would have feely given $1000 if it would have insured our success. I got busy in a few days and went to see a number of people in the adjoining counties who were newly elected and in a good humor and ready to promise anything that was right and reasonable. I made the necessary arrangements with them and employed a surveyor and had our county run out and complied with every letter of the constitution. I have been at Nashville most of the time since the Legislature met, but we never got our new county bill past into a law until the 8th of January. The victory was – – much talked about as the battle of New Orleans.

When the new county bill was first introduced in the Senate the vote was nearly equally divided. By the time it came to the third reading there was but one vote against us. In the House, the majority vote was in our favor at the first reading, and only one opposing vote at the third reading.

I got acquainted with most of the members of both houses. Some of them I fear cannot be repaid for their kindness.

You can tell ___ Allen I met a son of William Allen in the legislature from ___ County. His name is Jared S. Allen. He was a good friend of mine.

Didn’t intend when I began this letter to make it so long drawn out. Will write again when the commissioners select the place for the county sea of Coffee County.

All our friends are well.

Yours with respect,
Jn. Hickerson.

Letter from John Hickerson to Major Litle Hickerson

Coffee County, Tennessee
April 29, 1837

Dear Brother,

I received your letter on the 26th of March a few days ago. Was truly glad to hear from you and family, and that all are in good health, plenty to eat, a fine son, etc. You mentioned writing a few days after the presidential election was over. The letter didn’t reach me. There are so many Van Buren postmasters in this State it is difficult for a letter to pass, or even a newspaper is the editor does not belong to the party. My paper, the Banner, that never used to fil don’t come now more than half the time. The editors tell me they never fail to send it, and I have no doubt for they are honest. I believe some of the Van Buren postmasters intend to make the people quit taking any paper that tells the truth. They like darkness better than the light because their deeds are evil.

Myself and family are all well and so are all our friends and neighbors I saw mother a few days ago. Her health was as good as could be expected of one of her age.

A great many commission merchants in Nashville and New Orleans have failed. Produce of every description has fallen very much since you were here. Cotton that opened last fall at 12 to 14 cents in Nashville is now worth only 6 to 7 cents. Plenty of negroes for sale in this county but no buyers. Corn and bacon are plentiful Corn is $2 per bushel on credit. Bacon is 10 cents but the Wagoners are buying it up fast and hauling it to Mississippi to sell for 25 cents per pound.

The town of Manchester is improving very fast. Three stores there now, all doing good business. We have had one circuit court since you were here. AT the next, two negroes will be tried for killing their mistresses.

I wish to be remembered to all my old friends. Best wishes to yourself and family.

Jn Hickerson

You mentioned in your last letter that Col. Waugh spoke of taking a long trip through the west this spring. Tell him to be sure and call on me without fail. Please write me real often and I will be sure to answer.

To Major Litle Hickerson
Wilkesboro, NC

Now that we’ve seen what life was like in the 1800s, let’s look at the earliest records pertaining to Charles. What can we discover about his life?

Was Charles a Patriot?

Charles Hickerson lived in Wilkes County during the Revolutionary War.

Charles is not listed on the DAR website as having served as a Patriot, meaning no one has yet joined based on his service but according to the DAR criteria, since he served as a juror in 1779, he would qualify.

He may have actively served as well.

William Lenoir, a soldier from Wilkes County kept a diary that incorporates details about his Revolutionary War service – which of course includes information about other Wilkes County men too.

The William Lenior Diary shows the following two pages:

Hickerson Lenoir list.jpg

The first page indicates that the men on this list were involved in an expedition against the Indians on May 31, 1776.

Leonard Miller, listed, either was then or would become Charles Hickerson’s son-in-law.

Hickerson Lenoir list 2.jpg

This page simply lists “soldiers” and included is Charles Hickerson, with his name scratched through, along with Andrew Vannoy, my ancestor’s son, who we know served.

Additional information is provided on page 258 in the Journal of Southern History.

Hickerson Journal Southern History.png

Lenoir’s diary in an article in the Journey of Southern History tells us that:

In the spring of 1776, the Cherokee Indians, inhabiting a large area in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, inspired by the efforts of John Stuart and Alexander Cameron, the British Indian agents, began a series of attacks upon the white settlers of the frontier. They further agreed to attack when the English fleet reached the port at Charleston – a plan that was thwarted. However, the militia determined to stop any further plans.

A North Carolina force of 2800 men in addition to 1500, 1150 from South Carolina and more from Georgia were placed under commanders that entered and destroyed the Indian towns along the Tugaloo River. These consisted of the Cherokee Lower Towns with 356 gun men, the Middle and Valley Towns with 878 men and the Overhill Towns with 757 men. Outlying towns had another 500 warriors, totaling about 2000 in all.

The Rutherford expedition passed along the Island Ford Road, a few miles south of Morganton, and moved on to Old Fort. The Wilkes County and Burke County forces joined with this group.

Rutherford’s instructions were direct, according to the State Records of North Carolina. He was to move into the Indian country and, “there act in such a manner as to you in your good sense and judgment may seem best so as effectually to put a stop to the future depredations of those merciless Savages.” Rutherford was an experienced Indian fighter and was trusted to know what to do.

On July 16, 1776, we find the following passage written by the North Carolina Council of Safety:

The Troops Brigadier Rutherford carries with him are as close Rifle Men as any on this continent and are hearty and determined in the present cause. We have every expectation from them. With pleasure we assure you that they are well armed and have plenty of ammunition in short they are well equipped.

William Lenoir recorded his experience in his diary.

August 1776 – After ranging sometime on the head of Reddeys River with 25 men Capt. Jos. Herndon was ordered to raise as many men as would be equal to the number of guns in his district and perade at the general place of rendezvous at Cub Creek.

Does this entry actually mean that there were only a total of 50 guns in the entire county? Surely not. On the 1787 tax list just a few years later, there were a total of 12 districts with 1003 total entries ranging between 45 and 120 entries per district with the average of 83. This makes far more sense.

The next day, on the 13th, the militia paraded.

On Wednesday the 14th I took 30 men out of our company and as Lt. of the same joined Capt. Ben Cleveland with 20 of his men.

On Saturday the 17th marched from the Mulberry Field meeting house to Moravian Creek 6 miles. On Monday the 18th to Bever Creek 10.

The men continued to march towards the Cherokee towns through August and into September when the fighting began on the 12th with the killing of 3 Indians and the scalping of one Indian squaw. On the 19th and 20th, they killed more Indians, took prisoners and began burning towns.

Lenoir notes several times how difficult the terrain was.

His account is painful to read, understanding that the settlers thought they were within their rights, and the Indians felt invaded, especially after having ceded a large amount of land in 1775, supposedly to buy peace and no further settler incursions. You can read about the Cherokee Wars here.

Indeed, the militia laid waste to the Cherokee towns, with amazingly minimal loss of life on either side – at least compared to what could have occurred. Thirty-six towns were completely destroyed, along with their stores and crops. The Indians faced the prospect of starvation. The Cherokee survived the winter using their knowledge of the land on which they lived, eating nuts and what they could hunt and gather. They signed peace treaties the following year. Those treaties, like the rest, didn’t last long. The westward land push continued.

Today, the path taken by the soldiers is known as Rutherford’s Trace.

Hickerson Rutherford's trace

By Learn North Carolina – Map by Mark A. Moore, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives & History. Based on research by Charles Miller, Waynesville, North Carolina. From brochure Rutherford Expedition, 1776 produced by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. – http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/maps/nc/rutherford-trace-450.jpg, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52491123

Lenoir closes by noting that he arrived back home on Monday, October 7, 1776. If Charles Hickerson was with these men, he returned home then as well, as did his son-in-law, Leonard Miller.

Did any of these men collect a Revolutionary War pension or land based on this service? Unfortunately, this campaign didn’t last long enough – from August 12th through October 7th. Not even 60 days. In various pension requests submitted after the Pension Act of 1832, it’s noted that the application was denied because the man did not serve a minimum of 90 days.

Leonard Miller’s Revolutionary War pension application confirms the dates and many of these events, although clearly not in as much detail as Lenoir, nor at the time they happened.

In 1776, Charles Hickerson would have been 52 years of age. I don’t know whether he would have been considered seasoned and wise, or “too old,” especially given the difficult terrain and physical demands of the march through the mountains.

No place is there any explanation about the men whose names are lined through.

However, I counted.

  • 58 total names
  • Of those, 2 are lined through and listed as providing a horse.
  • 2 have a note – “h found” and I’m wondering if that means not found.
  • 9 are lined out, in addition to the two who provided horses
  • That leaves a total of 45.

In Lenoir’s commentary, he states that there were 20 men from his company and 30 from Benjamin Cleveland’s which totals 50. He also mentions that there were about 25 men at Reddies River, but he doesn’t say if that 25 is part of the 50.

There’s no way to correlate between these numbers and list to arrive at the actual number of men who went on this expedition, or to know who they were.

I was hoping to find at least one of the men whose name was lined through applying for a pension or land, but I was not able to do so. They would have been more than 76 years old by 1832, assuming they were only 20 in 1776, and this campaign didn’t last long enough. However, I was hopeful that perhaps one of the men served later, perhaps during the Battle of King’s Mountain, in addition to the 1776 Expedition to the Cherokee – which would have told us that the men lined through did in fact serve.

What did I find?

  • Nathaniel Gordon is mentioned in Chapman Gordon’s wife’s pension application as being an officer, but Chapman served in 1779 and 1780.
  • John Sheppard enrolled in 1777.
  • In 1833, Timothy Holdaway did apply for a pension from Bent Creek, Jefferson County, Tennessee, stating he was one of the first settlers there 50 years earlier, just a few years after the War. He describes more of the march against the Cherokee in his application. His name is listed twice, once under “h found.” However, he’s not lined through.

Therefore, we don’t know if Charles Hickerson signed up and then didn’t actually go on the expedition, or what, exactly. We do know that Leonard Miller did march in the expedition, as proven by his 1832 pension application, but he was also charged, not once, but twice, with being a Tory.

One man’s pension application describes marching against Tories at the Moravian Town in Wilkes County, along with other places. Apparently, there was at least a small Tory population there. It was even smaller after the soldiers hung several Tories.

Early North Carolina Records

Aside from the Revolutionary War records, what can we discern about Charles in early records?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Lydia Stewart’s Will

Charles Hickerson witnessed the will of Lydia Stewart on January 11, 1771. Lydia’s will provides us with Charles’ signature, or in this case, his mark.

This is the only remaining personal item of his own making on this earth, other than his DNA passed on to his descendants, of course.

Lydia Stewart will.jpg

In the name of God Amen I Lydia Stewart of Rowan County in North Carolina being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God do dispose of my worldly estate as followeth

Imprimus I will that out of my estate a title to be obtained for a certain tract of land on the southside of Yadkin River adjoining Benj ? and James Persons land and if such title can be obtained the same to be sold of the value thereof to eb equally divided unto my beloved sons David, Samuel, John and Isaiah Stewart.

Item I give and bequeath unto my granddaughter Lydia (the daughter of my son David) my bed and furniture thereunto belonging.

Item I give unto my son Samuel the bed and furniture usually called his bed.

Item I give unto my son Benjamin an iron pot now in his possession

Item I give unto my son Joseph’s daughter Lydia a good heifer or young cow

Item I bequeath unto my beloved sons David, Samuel, Isaiah and John Stewart all the rest of my estate to be equally divided amongst all their heirs I do nominate and appoint my said sons David Stewart and Samuel Stewart exec of this my last will and testament ratifying allowing if confirming this to be my last will and testament I do utterly dismiss all former wills by me made in testimony whereof I have set my hand and seal Jan. 11th, 1771

Signed sealed and published and pronounced in the presence of us

Christopher Stanton, jurat, his mark

Charles Hickerson his mark

Edw Hughes, jurat (signed)

Lydia’s will was probated in Surry County in November term 1772, proved by Edward Hughes and Christopher Stenton.

Lydia’s husband, Samuel died about 1770.

It’s interesting that Lydia’s property was on the Yadkin in 1771, suggesting that’s where or near where Charles lived as well. A few years later, we know that Charles lived just north of Wilkesboro, which is located on the Yadkin River in an area called Mulberry Fields at that time.

Even more interesting, we know that Charles Hickerson’s daughter, Mary, married a Stewart and one Samuel Stewart filed suit against Daniel Vannoy, husband of Charles Hickerson’s daughter, Sarah, in 1781.

Mary Hickerson Stewart’s son, Samuel Hickerson, used the alias of Samuel Stewart.

(Thanks to cousin Carol for finding Lydia’s will.)

Surry County Tax Lists

Charles Hickerson is first found on the Surry County tax list in 1772, but is absent in 1771. However, based on Lydia’s will, we know he was already living there in January 1771.

Benjamin Cleveland’s 1774 tax list shows:

  • Francis Vannoy with Leonard Miller, in all 2
  • Charles Hickerson, David Hickerson, in all 2
  • Daniel Vannoy 1

The 1774 list is important because it shows an early affiliation between the Vannoy and Hickerson family. Leonard Miller either was at that time or became the son-in-law of Charles Hickerson by marrying daughter, Jane.

By the 1790 census, Leonard Miller had 8 family members and lived 19 houses from Daniel Vannoy who married Leonard Miller’s wife’s sister in 1789. Six living children suggest a marriage of at least 12 years, so married perhaps between 1774 and 1778 – right about the time of the 1776 Expedition. It appears since Leonard appears on the tax list with Francis Vannoy in 1774 that he was not yet married at that time.

Finding Charles Hickerson and his son, David, together on the tax list may suggest that David isn’t then married either.

1775 John Hudspeth list of taxes:

  • Charles Hickerson 1

The War

While military events aren’t reflected in the tax records, they were very much a part of the lives of these Appalachian families – for six long years during which time Wilkes County was formed from Surry in 1777. What residents didn’t fear from the Indians, they feared from the British and Tories, not to mention the fear of battle taking place and destroying their homes.

The first Cherokee Expedition occurred in 1776, and the famous Battle of King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780. The last battled listed, here, was another Cherokee Expedition that ended in October of 1782 following a total of 28 known battles in which Wilkes County men participated plus 4 earlier battles, here, when Wilkes was Surry County.

Perhaps the best known battle was the Battle of King’s Mountain, often credited with turning the war.

Hickerson King's Mountain.png

Colonel Cleveland commanded forces at the Battle of King’s Mountain too, along with many Wilkes County men. I do know that some men were older at that battle. Specifically, the Rev. George McNiel was 60 and went along as the chaplain, of sorts.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive list of the OverMountain Men who fought at King’s Mountain.

In the intervening years, Tories were despised and were hung from the Tory Oak in Wilkesboro in 1779, and from a tree at RoundAbout, the plantation of Col. Benjamin Cleveland.

Land!

On March 4, 1778, Charles Hickerson entered a claim for 320 acres on both sides Mulberry Creek including his own improvement. Entry 14

Hickerson 320 acres.jpg

This tells us that this is where Charles has been living. He couldn’t claim land until the Revolutionary War was over so that the United States government actually had land to give.

Just a few weeks later, on April 21, 1779, Leonard Miller entered 50 acres on Mulberry Creek joining Charles Hickerson’s lower corner. (Leonard Miller marked out, David Hickerson written in.) Entry no 977

This tells us that Charles’ son-in-law, then his son owned adjacent land.

September 24, 1779 – Granted Charles Hickerson 320 acres both sides Mulberry Creek, page 96

Oct 16, 1779 – William Fletcher entered 100 acres at the first big branch of Mulberry that runs into Mulberry Creek above Charles Hickerson’s called the Hay or Mead Branch below improvement that the Tolivors made (William Fletcher marked out and Aaron Mash written in). Entry 1247

Aha – there’s probably the Tolivor family whose daughter David Hickerson likely married!

I love stream names, because they provide us with intersection points.

Hickerson Hay Meadow.png

Intersection of Hay Meadow branch and Mulberry Creek. About 3 miles north of the Yadkin.

Beginning in 1779, we find Charles Hickerson in the court notes, often serving as a juror, probably as a result of becoming a land owner.

Sept term 1779 – State vs William Alexander indict T.A.B. 13 jury impaneled and sworn: including Nathaniel Vannoy, Daniel Vannoy, Charles Hickerson. Not guilty

Daniel Vannoy is Charles Hickerson’s son-in-law, or at least he would become his son-in-law on October 2nd.

Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson were probably married at the bride’s house – so in the cabin of Charles Hickerson. Except – we have to wonder why Charles Hickerson didn’t sign for his daughter’s marriage. Was he not in favor?

December 6, 1779 – Charles Hickerson is a juror

January 24, 1780 – Joseph Herndon entered 200 acres upper long branch Mulberry Creek above path leads from Mulberry Fields to Charles Hickerson’s. Entry 1555

You can see several landmarks mentioned on this first map of North Carolina, created by John Strother in 1808. Mulberry Fields is shown with the red arrow, with Charles Hickerson’s land nearby marked with the red box. If this branch isn’t Charles Hickerson’s then it’s the branch just below, at the rear of the red arrow. The point here is that the location of “Mulberry Fields” is to the left of his land, where Charles is described as being buried. This makes sense, since his land was considered to be in or at the Mulberry Fields.

Other landmarks mentioned in various documents are Mulberry Creek, Roaring River, Fishers Creek, Cub Creek which runs by the courthouse, Moravian Creek, and Beaver Creek – all of which we see below.

Hickerson Strother map.png

Using the actual survey portion of Charles Hickerson’s grant, plus a little math, we can determine a lot.

Hickerson survey.png

A pole is 16.2 feet, so the top to bottom measurement is 2,592 feet, or about half a mile. The left to right distance is 4,860 feet, or just under a mile, which is 5,280 feet.

Looking at Mulberry Creek on Google maps, we can see a section that looks almost exactly like this drawing.

Hickerson land map.png

Looking just north of this, in fact, we can see Hay Meadow Creek, referenced in another deed.

Hickerson map Hay Meadow.png

This is where Charles lived.

Hickerson land aerial.png

The path referenced is probably either Mulberry Creek Road or Mountain View Road.

Unbeknownst to me, I’ve driven this road, oblivious that it was literally through my ancestor’s land.

Let’s take a drive!

Taking a Drive

On the road just about where Charles’ land would begin, let’s drive north on Mountain View Road.

Hickerson road.png

Fields hang precariously on the sides of hills, placed wherever there’s a few feet available to cultivate.

Hickerson field.png

Charles’ cabin stood someplace along this route.

Hickerson barn.png

Above, driving through the hills before we descend a bit to cross Mulberry Creek, below.

Hickerson Mulberry Creek.png

Charles owned the land on both sides of the road and both sides of the creek. Mulberry Creek isn’t terribly wide.

Hickerson Mulberry bridge.png

Of course, no bridge existed in those days. Charles and his neighbors would have forded the creek with a wagon or his horse would just have walked across.

Hickerson Y.png

The Y where Mulberry Creek Road goes to the left and Mountain View Road to the right – both roads skirted a mountain or large hill.

We’ll go to the right, first.

Hickerson Mountain View Road.png

We immediately start climbing as we move away from the Creek.

Hickerson hill.png

It’s pretty much straight up on the left.

HIckerson field 2.png

Fields dot the landscape to the right.

Hickerson curve.png

As we drive further, it’s wooded on both sides, not farmable, then or now.

Hickerson wooded.png

We’ve reached the boundary of Charles’ land, so I’m “turning around” and going back to the intersection with Mulberry Creek Road.

Hickerson at Mulberry Creek Road.png

I’m turning right onto Mulberry Creek Road, with the bridge over Mulberry Creek on the curve, above.

Hickerson Mulberry Creek Road.png

The first thing I see is the S curve sign!

Oh NO! I can’t “Google” drive down that road. Apparently, it’s too curvy for the Google car.

Hickerson Mountain.png

Here’s what I’ve missed. For perspective, in the upper left-hand corner of the picture is the intersection of Hay Meadow Creek with Mulberry Creek.

Hickerson logging.png

Now, looking northeast to southwest, the roads skirt this mountain or hill that clearly can’t be cultivated. In the upper left-hand corner, we see the bridge over Mulberry Creek. It looks like this mountain is being logged now. That’s probably the only way to make this land productive – but it wasn’t when Charles Hickerson owned this land and its mountain. I wonder if this mountain or “hill” had a name.

Where did Charles Hickerson actually live on this land from 1772 until his death between 1790 and 1793, and his son David after that?

How did Charles earn a living? Did he clear and farm the lowlands, or did he perhaps build a mill on Mulberry Creek?

Where are Charles and wife Mary, buried?

FindAGrave shows several cemeteries in this area.

Recalling that Charles’ granddaughter said he was buried at Mulberry Fields, I‘d wager he’s buried on his own land, in a cemetery marked only by a wooden cross at the time, or fieldstones, lost now.

Hickerson cemeteries.png

The cemeteries with brown pins are family cemeteries. The brown question marks are “lost” cemeteries that families know exist, or existed, but not exactly where. The green cemeteries are church cemeteries, none of which existed at that time.

I’d wager that there’s a lost cemetery someplace on Charles Hickerson’s land. Both he and his wife, Mary, died in the 1790s and you know his children had children that died. They likely would have been buried in the family cemetery too.

Civil Matters

Thank goodness for court records that allow us a distant peek into life at the time Charles Hickerson lived.

Charles would have traveled to town, Mulberry Fields then, Wilkesboro now, to the courthouse where he would have remained until after the several-day court session was concluded. Not only did he have a civic responsibility, but court was the entertainment of the day.

Until Charles Hickerson owned land, he would not have qualified to be a juror.

September 1779 – Charles Hickerson, juror

December 1779 – Charles Hickerson, juror

March 1780 – Charles Hickerson, juror

May 5, 1780 – Alexander Holton entered 50 acres north side Mulberry Creek between John Robins and Hickersons (Alex Holton marked out, Gervis Smith written in), entry #1804

Apparently, Charles got a new neighbor.

1782 tax list: Charles Hickerson 320 ac, no slaves, 3 mules or horses and 4 cattle.

No slaves. I’m greatly relieved.

April 1784 – Charles and David Hickerson summoned to court as jurors next session.

July term 1784 – Ordered David and Joseph Hickerson, William Johnson, Thomas Robins, George Barker, Leonard Miller, John Robins Sr, Andrew Vannoy, John Nall, Phillip Johnson and George Wheatley, Lewis Piston, Francis Brown or any 12 of them be a jury to lay out and view a road from Thomas Robins to the main road near Robert Chandlows and that John Robins Sr. appointed overseer of the same

July 29, 1784 – The following person be exempt from paying a poll tax on account of their age and infirmities: Charles Hickerson

The list of exempt people included Charles. In 1784, Charles was either age 60, or infirm. If he was 60, that puts his birth in 1724, which seems about right.

April 25, 1785 – court at George Gordon’s – Charles Hickerson appointed juror to next court

July 27, 1787 – Andrew Vannoy, William Viax, Nathaniel Burdine, Owen Hall, Jesse Hall, John Hawkins, David Hickerson, John Chandler, Robert Chandler, Joseph Hickerson, Leonard Miller, James Brown, Walter Brown, Timothy Chandler, Henry Adams, John Townzer and Stephen Hargis jury to view and lay out road from Andrew Vannoy’s to Timothy Chandlers.

We know that Andrew Vannoy lived further north on Mulberry Creek, near the town of McGrady today, probably on Vannoy Road. This also tells us that Joseph Hickerson, Charles’ other son, lived nearby too.

July 29, 1788 – Between Charles Hickerson and David Hickerson 75 pounds 150 acres Mulberry Creek being survey Charles Hickerson now lives on. Witness Philip Goins, Nathaniel Gordon and Charles Gordon. Signed Charles X Hickerson and Mary X Hickerson, page 35

Charles patented 320 acres. This 150-acre conveyance leaves 170 acres unaccounted for. What happened to that?

July 30, 1789 – Deed from Charles Hickerson and Mary Hickerson to David Hickerson 150 acres on oath of Charles Gordon

To assure the legality of a land transfer, the seller also appeared in court to testify and generally, one of the witnessed gave oath that they witnessed the conveyance, meaning the money pass hands.

In the 1790 census, Charles Hickerson has 3 males over 16 and 1 female. David who lives next door has 1 male over 16, 4 males under 16, 3 females and 2 slaves.

This is interesting, because Charles Hickerson only has 2 sons, David and Joseph, who are both adults. Who are those 2 additional males?

By 1790, Charles’s son, Joseph is also serving on juries and David serves often.

The 1790 census is the last official sighting of Charles Hickerson.

Charles died sometime in the 40 months between the 1790 census which recorded the population as of August 2, 1790, and December of 1793 when his wife Mary published her nuncupative will.

Had Charles not been dead by that point, Mary would not have been able, legally, to will possessions such as furniture to her children. Had Charles been alive, the rug, linen, chest and bedstead would have belonged to him, not his wife. Until the husband’s death, his wife owned nothing personally.

Just the fact that Mary had a will at all is the confirmation we need that Charles had passed. Given that Charles had no will or probate, or if he did, it was somehow lost in the records, he likely sold his land before his death – including the 170 missing acres.

However, the deaths of Charles and Mary were the starting shot for a war between their children.

Had Charles been alive, he would likely have been devastated at this turn of events. In all likelihood, his steady hand and mere existence probably prevented this flareup and family feud since 1781 when we see our first hint of a disagreement when Samuel Steward aka Hickerson sued Charles’s son-in-law, Daniel Vannoy.

What happened?

Arson, Robbery, Slander and Drama

In reality, this drama began a few years before Charles’ death. Let’s take a look as this unfolds, like pages in a really good book.

Let’s start with a bombshell.

In April 1786, Braddock Harris was prosecuted in court for attempted rape and was carted through the town for an hour as a spectacle with a sign pinned to his forehead saying, “This is the effects of an intended rape.”

We don’t know who the female in question was – but we do know that sometime in 1786, Braddock married Charles Hickerson’s daughter, Rachel, and in 1787, she had their first child. It’s possible that the female was Rachel, and it’s also possible that the rape wasn’t simply attempted, or perhaps it wasn’t a rape at all.

There are no further records about this, and we simply don’t know. One thing is clear – everyone but everyone in the county would have known about Braddock’s humiliating punishment – and Rachel married him anyway.

But there’s more.

According to court records, on March 1, 1789, at 10 in the night, John Roberts robbed the house of Braddock Harris and burned it to the ground. In 1792, Braddock filed suit about this arson and in 1793, the suit was heard, with Roberts being found guilty.

However, the drama doesn’t end there either, because Jane Hickerson Miller, Rachel Hickerson Harris’s sister is accused of concealing goods from the robbery that preceded the fire. Yes, Jane, at some level, participated in the robbery and torching of her sister’s home.

It’s no wonder this family was at war.

July term 1791 – Deed from Braddock Harris to Henery Carter for 120 ac land proved in open court by oath of James Fletcher Esqr

Braddock sold his land in 1791 and the family moved to South Carolina not terribly long after Mary’s death in 1793. I’ve wondered if one of Rachel’s children died in that fire, but there’s no way to know.

Jane Hickerson Miller was the wife of Leonard Miller.

Leonard served in the Revolutionary War in 1776, 1779 and 1780.

We don’t know exactly when Leonard married Jane, but in 1788, Leonard and his wife were being sued for slander.

October 29, 1788 – Mourning Wilkey vs Leonard Miller and his wife case for words #7, jury called and finds for plaintiff and assess her damage to 50 shillings and costs

Mourning Wilkey was a widow by 1787 when she was listed on the tax list with 4 females and an underage male. She apparently wasn’t just going to stand by and take whatever Leonard and Jane were dishing out.

On October 7, 1792, we discover in the Morgan District Superior court that both Joseph Hickerson and Samuel Hickerson are subpoenaed and required to attend the March 1793 court to testify for the state against John Roberts and his wife, and Jane Hickerson Miller, their sister and aunt, respectively, in the robbery and arson of the cabin of Braddock Harris and Rachel Hickerson Harris, his wife. They are both bound for 70 pounds, but released on their own recognizance for 20 pounds.

In March 1793, not only was John Roberts found guilty of burning Braddock Harris’s house down after robbing it, Jane Miller was convicted too.

State of North Carolina Morgan District Superior Court March Term 1793, Jurors for the state present that John Roberts late in the Morgan district labourer not having the fear of God but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil on the first day of March 1789 about the hour of 10 in the night of the same day with force and arms in the County aforesaid did a certain dwelling house of Braddock Harris there situate feloniously voluntarily and maliciously did burn and consume against the form of the statute in such case made and provide and against the peace and dignity of this state. Indt. Arson. Signed by the attorney general. Witness Joseph Hickerson, Samuel Hickerson, Rachal Harris.

While Roberts case was recorded in the Wilkes County and Morgan records, Jane’s was found in the Morgan district only.

March term 1793 – State of North Carolina Morgan District Superior Court of law – The jurors for the state upon their oath present that Jone Miller late of the County of Wilkes in the Morgan District labourer being a person of evil name and fame and of dishonest conversation and a common buyer and receiver of stolen goods on the 10th day of March 1789 in the county aforesaid one feather bed of value of 15 pounds of the goods and chattels of one Braddock Harris by a certain ill disposed person to the jurors aforesaid as yet unknown then lately before feloniously stolen of the same ill disposed person unlawfully unjustly and for the sale of Wicked gain did receive and have (she the said Jone Miller) then and there well knowing the said bed to have been feloniously stolen to the great damage of the said Braddock Harris and against the peace and dignity of the state . J. Harwood Atto. Genl. State vs Jone Miller Ind. Misdemeanor, Braddock Harris, John Roberts (name marked through) prosr. And witness. Joseph Hickerson. Witness Rachell Harris. Sworn and sent.

(Hat tip to my friend, Aine Ni in Fort Wayne for finding the March term 1793 entry for Jane, for me.)

This suggests that Jane (Jone) Miller is not living in Wilkes County at that time.

This verdict is quite damning – making reference not only to this instance where Jane was involved with secreting the bed stolen from her sister, but states that she is “a common buyer and receiver of stolen goods.” For good measure, they also say that she’s “a person of evil name and fame and of dishonest conversation.”

Wow – “evil name and fame.”

Just wow!

And a bed? A bed isn’t exactly small and can’t be easily hidden.

From the Wilkes County court notes.

April 1793 – David Hickerson, Joseph Hickerson, Samuel Hickerson on jury

April 1793 – David Hickerson vs John Roberts and wife, slander deft and enqu #8, jury impaneled and sworn, find defendant guilty in manner and form as charged in plaintiffs declaration and assess his damage to 50 pounds, 6 pence and costs. Plaintiff releases 48 pounds of his judgement.

Ordered R. Wood to show cause why David Hickerson should not pay witness in suit.

John Roberts is the man who burned down Braddock Harris’s house and David Hickerson was the bond for Jane Hickerson Miller, who was charged alongside of him. This suit occurred one month after the suit in which Roberts was found guilty. Samuel Hickerson and Joseph Hickerson in additional to Rachel Harris were witnesses.

This implies that David Hickerson sided with the man who burned his sister’s house, but also sued him for slander? Then forgave him?

I have no idea WHAT to think. Why aren’t there actual court notes? This is killing me.

Note the difference between the 50 shillings found for Mourning Wilkey and 50 pounds found for David Hickerson, both for slander. What was the difference between those two cases?

Fifty pounds was a HUGE fine for people in that place and time – enough to purchase a significant amount of land. However, David Hickerson then forgives John Roberts 48 pounds of the fine. Why would he do that when this is the man who torched his sister’s house after robbing it? Why wouldn’t he keep those funds and if nothing else, give them to his sister to help compensate her family?

How confounding!

Charles Hickerson was likely dead by this point, April 1793, but Mary was still living. I’d not be surprised if all of this turmoil hastened her death. Maybe hastened Charles’ passing too.

Mary died sometime between December 5, 1793 and February 1794 when her will was probated.

The fight over her few meager possessions started almost immediately in a family that was already over the brink.

In Mary’s will, Jane Miller and Mary Stewart were mentioned specifically, along with Mary Stewart’s son, Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart. The balance of possessions after what was left to those two daughters and David and Joseph Hickerson were to be divided among Mary’s daughters. The problem may have been that Mary didn’t name all of her daughters, and she left the contents of the chest to Mary Stewart. It’s possible that the contents of the chest were in dispute. Mary doesn’t say what was in the chest, and it would have been easy for contents to be changed. Even if they weren’t, suspicions in a family so terribly torn would be rampant.

And of course, what the court said about Jane Miller, “a person of evil name and fame and of dishonest conversation.” That dynamic along Jane’s involvement with the robbery and burning of her sister’s house are certainly factors.

How many daughters did Mary Hickerson have? We’ve identified at least two that were previously unknown, Sarah and Rachel. There could be more, possibly an Elizabeth. If a daughter was deceased, does that mean her children would inherit? No matter, the will was in dispute and the family was embattled – complete with aliases.

May 7, 1794 – Samuel Steward alias Little Dr Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy, slander #3 jury impaneled, jury find for defendant.

May 7, 1794 – David Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy – same jury, Leonard Miller forfeit his appearance as witness in case.

May 7, 1794 – David Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy slander #4, jury sworn, same as jury 3, finds for plaintiff and assess his damage to 40 pounds and 6 costs.

Not only were they fighting, publicly, they were taking their battles to court.

May 7, 1794 – Leonard Miller has forfeited according to an act of assembly for his nonappearance as witness in the suit of David Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy he being lawfully subpoenaed.

Where was Leonard? Did he leave?

May 7, 1794 – Order by court that attorney McDowal show cause tomorrow 8th why new trial not be granted in the suit Samuel Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy.

May the 7th seems like a circus in the courtroom in Wilkes County. The entire family appears to have been present except for Leonard who didn’t show up, and the gallery was probably full of spectators too. This was juicy stuff that would fuel the grapevine for months, if not years.

August term 1794 – On motion of attorney McDowell on behalf of Daniel Vannoy complainant ordered that a sci facias issue to Samuel Hickerson alias Stewart alias Little and his bail to appear at next court to show cause why execution is not satisfied.

November 2, 1794 – On motion of attorney McDowell on behalf of Daniel Vannoy, complainant, a sci fa issued to Samuel Hickerson alias Steward Hickerson Litle.

Scire facias is a writ requiring a person to show why a judgment regarding a record or patent should not be enforced or annulled.

November 6, 1794 – State vs Daniel Vannoy, indicted assault and battery, fined 1 penny.

November 7, 1794 – State vs Samuel Hickerson indicted assault and battery #7, submitted to court and find 5 pounds and costs, fine remitted to 1 d by order of court.

November 7, 1794 – State vs William Curry, indicted assault and battery, jury called.

Ordered fine 5 pounds be remitted in State vs David Hickerson.

Ordered by the court that the fine of 5 pounds state vs David Hickerson be remitted to 1 d.

It sounds like November 6th and 7th were potentially another circus performance. You can almost hear the judge calling everyone up before the bench, telling them to stop fighting, go home and work out their differences. Kind of like colonial adult time-out chairs.

Nov term 1794 – Capt. Joseph Hickerson mentioned as collecting taxes in his district.

Apparently, Joseph Hickerson was trying, and succeeding, in staying out of the fray, although he was called to testify against John Roberts and his sister, Jane Miller. He’s apparently the only one that manage to escape the rest of the drama. Or at least kept it out of court.

We don’t really know how all of this actually ended up, other than both John Roberts and Jane Miller were convincted – in pretty damning terms.

We know for sure that Charles was alive in 1789 when this took place. He may or may not have been alive in 1792 when Braddock first filed the complaint, but Charles’ wife, Mary, was. He might still have been alive in 1793 when the orders were given for the 1794 court appearances, but neither he nor Mary were alive in 1794 when this played out.

This family was in terrible turmoil, even before Mary’s will. Her death and will was simply fuel on the flames.

We do know that Mary Stewart, Samuel Hickerson and Rachel Harris moved away. Leonard Miller winds up in South Carolina, then Georgia. Jane Miller appears to remarry in 1806, with David Hickerson signing her bond.

Daniel Vannoy bought land several miles away in 1779, so he would not have been nearby daily. He sold his slaves on November 8, 1794, the day after this court episode, and sold his land two months later in January 1795, disappearing altogether.

David Hickerson sells out and leaves by 1809 for Tennessee, although two of his sons remain in Wilkes County.

Of Charles’ children, only Joseph Hickerson and Sarah Hickerson Vannoy positively remained in Wilkes County – although Sarah somewhat disappears too.

I know in my heart that there is far more to this story – and I know just as well that I’ll never know what it is. Daniel’s disappearance is somehow connected and it’s impossible to tell how from the distance of more than 200 years.

Well, What Does the DNA Say?

While attempting to confirm the Stafford County, Virginia connection, I’ve probably proven the theory that Charles descends from the Stafford County Higgerson line false, thanks to Y DNA.

Whoo boy.

I was excited several years ago to find a cousin who was a Hickerson male descended through Charles’ son, David, born between 1750 and 1760 who died in 1833 in Coffee County, Tennessee. Our descendant took Y DNA and autosomal DNA tests. And, thankfully, his Y DNA matches another descendant of David through son Lytle who remained in Wilkes County.

The bad news is that our Hickerson Y DNA:

  • Does not match the Higgerson DNA line from Stafford County, VA.
  • Does not match the Thomas Higgison (1761-1834) line that descends from King William and Hanover County, VA and has multiple testers
  • Does not match the John Higgison (1654-1720) line from King William County, VA that has multiple testers
  • Does not match the Thomas Hickerson (1736-1812) line from Stafford County, which is the line that was suggested. Two of Thomas’s sons’ lines have tested, and possibly more, although not everyone has posted the information as to which son they descend through.

Charles Hickerson had one other son, Joseph, who, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t have any Y DNA testers. We need a Y DNA test from a Joseph Hickerson descendant.

It’s possible that the Y DNA of David Hickerson and Joseph Hickerson don’t both match the Y DNA of Charles Hickerson.

If David’s two descendants match Joseph Hickerson’s Y DNA descendant, then we know that Charles Hickerson was not descended from the above lines.

However, and here’s a BIG however, our Hickerson men do match 4 descendants of a James Henderson born in Hunterdon, New Jersey in 1709 and died on Nov. 21, 1782 with a distance of 6 mutations at 67 markers. That’s not exactly close, but given that many of the families from Hunterdon settled in Rowan County in the Jersey Settlement and moved to what became Wilkes County, it can’t be discounted either, at least not yet.

Autosomally, David Hickerson and Sarah Hickerson Vannoy descendants have matches to:

  • Descendants of Joseph Hickerson
  • Descendants of Samuel Hickerson (whose mother was Mary Hickerson who married a Stewart)
  • Other descendants of David Hickerson
  • Other descendants of Sarah Hickerson who married Daniel Vannoy
  • Descendants of Jane Hickerson who married Leonard Miller
  • Descendants of Rachel Hickerson who married Braddock Harris

If you are, or know of, a Hickerson male who has descended from Joseph Hickerson, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you. We need you.

Y DNA of Joseph’s descendant who carries the Hickerson surnames is critical information necessary to solve one more mystery of Charles Hickerson.

The story of the first half-century of Charles’s life still needs to be written! We can’t do that until we resolve the question surrounding Charles Y DNA, and in doing so, figure out who Charles DOES descend from.  Are you the key?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Making Sense of Ethnicity Updates

In the last few days, Ancestry completed a rollout of an ethnicity update. For many customers, this is the first update since they tested – and the shocked, surprised, happy and unhappy commentary began immediately.

I’m receiving a lot of questions, including people who are doubting paternity based on  ethnicity. In a word – DON’T.

Ethnicity is the tool that encouraged many people to test via ads promising to tell you who you are. Consumers perhaps had unrealistic expectations about their results.

I was seriously upset when Ancestry posted my first ethnicity results in 2012 stating that I had 12% Scandinavian, when I don’t have any. 12% isn’t “noise,” it’s equivalent to one great-grandparent – and I know who all of my great-grandparents are, confirmed by DNA, and where they were. No Scandinavians among them.

Make no mistake, I used to get excited, upset, or both. I was outraged in 2012, here, but not any longer. I’ve adjusted my expectations.

I understand what’s really going on, meaning that ethnicity is a great feel-good sales tool (queue up the music), but does not have the ability to predict ethnicity accurately beyond the continental level (Europe, Africa, Asia), plus Native American and Jewish.

New Results

Companies continually try to refine ethnicity estimates by:

  • adding reference populations
  • mining their own customer data
  • taking advantage of academic research that may provide more and better tools

Consumers crave country or region-level specificity, but the technology today can’t deliver that, and maybe never will.

I discussed this in the article, Ethnicity is Just an Estimate – Yes Really!, which I illustrated by showing states in the US overlayed over Europe. No one would expect a company to be able to tell the difference between Indiana and Illinois residents, but for some reason, we expect differentiation between Germany and France. Or maybe we’re just hopeful!

Ethnicity states over Europe

That said, here is the graphic of my new Ancestry ethnicity results.

Ancestry ethnicity 2019.png

Along with the percentages.

Ancestry ethnicity percents 2019.png

I remember the first time I received an ethnicity result. I was INCREDIBLY excited – even though it turned out to be highly inaccurate.

Now, as then, ethnicity is ONLY AN ESTIMATE.

Let me say that again.

ETHNICITY IS ONLY AN ESTIMATE

Your ethnicity percentages at all the vendors are going to change, sometimes for the “better” and sometimes for the “worse.”

Of course, better and worse are terms defined by every person individually based on family stories, research or even just perceptions.

How Can You Determine Accuracy?

Years ago, I assembled a chart of what my expected ethnicity would be based on my known and proven family tree. You can read about how I did that in conjunction with my search for my Native American heritage in the article Revealing American Indian and Minority Heritage Using Y-line, Mitochondrial, Autosomal and X Chromosomal Testing Data Combined with Pedigree Analysis.

Understand that while each person inherits half of their DNA from each parent – we don’t inherit exactly half of their ancestor’s DNA that our parents carry. We might get 20% from one grandparent and 30 from another – totaling the 50% of our DNA inherited from one parent. So population level DNA isn’t going to be passed down in equal chunks in every generation either – but determining where your ancestors are actually from is the first step in setting expectations realistically.

Of course, this only works for genealogists who have already invested time into creating and documenting a family tree.

Comparing Ethnicity

Comparing expected ethnicity to ethnicity estimates can be enlightening for everyone.

Here’s the chart I created showing various Ancestry updates beginning in 2012 through the current 2019 update, today. My “expected” percentage of DNA is shown in the Genealogy % column.

Ancestry ethnicity over the years.png

Note that my Scandinavian is “worse” at 15% than the original 2012 estimate at 12% – especially given that I have no Scandinavian ancestors. It had dropped to 0 in 2018.

The British Isles is about right. Western Europe is low, but if you combine Scandinavia with western Europe, that would be about right.

Ancestry vacillates back and forth on my Native. Now you see it, now you don’t. Those segments are proven through 23andMe’s ethnicity segment painting along with Y and mitochondrial DNA from those ancestral lines.

It’s worth noting that many companies provide ranges of DNA, with what’s expected to be the “most accurate” shown.

In a few days, I’ll share my results from all of the companies so you can take a look at the differences between companies.

Ok, so what now?

Ethnicity IS

  • Interesting
  • Fun
  • A great discussion at the holiday table (and much safer than politics)
  • An entry level test that will hopefully encourage at least some people to become interested in genealogy
  • Cousin-bait
  • Not to be taken terribly seriously, seriously
  • To be taken with a very large grain, up to the entire lick of salt
  • A wonderful way to introduce the topic of family stories to people who might not otherwise be interested
  • A great way to distinguish between continental level DNA, and matches, if you’re lucky enough to be admixed in this way
  • NEVER to be used to doubt parentage
  • To be viewed as an “entertainment value” test

Ethnicity IS NOT

  • Ever a reliable predictor of parentage
  • Confirmation of minority ancestry without additional research
  • Disproof of minority ancestry without additional research
  • A shortcut in lieu of genealogy research
  • A reason to dismiss, or believe, a family story

Ummm – About Parentage

Regarding parentage – ethnicity testing can’t tell you any more about your parentage that your eyes looking in a mirror. People with known Italian parents, for example, show no Italian ethnicity – even when the matches to their Italian family are confirmed.

If you have ethnicity from multiple continents, by the time you can no longer see that visually – the percentage is too low for ethnicity to be able to help you reliably. Keep in mind that we can visually see continental admixture at the 25% level, and Ancestry gave me 15% Scandinavian ethnicity which I don’t have in reality. That’s more than the expected 12.5% of a great-grandparent.

Also remember that we often see what we are looking for. If I look long enough and hard enough in the mirror, I could see those Vikings😊

Why Do the Companies Produce Ethnicity Estimates?

If these results need to be taken with a grain, or maybe a lick of salt, then why do the companies continue to produce ethnicity estimates?

  • Plain and simple, because consumers want them
  • Ethnicity sells DNA tests (have you seen those ads?)
  • Testers are enchanted with the results
  • Ethnicity results engage consumers, making more people want to test “just to see”
  • Ethnicity updates bring people back to sign in to their account and check their results again

For some companies, ethnicity is the gateway (drug) for selling subscriptions to search for those ancestors whose tales are told, or hinted at, through ethnicity results. Don’t think “gateway drug” like it’s a bad thing.

For all of us, ethnicity is a way for many people to stick their collective toes in the genealogy water – in a place where we can see that they exist. Even if they never create a tree or answer a message – for some, who can figure out who they are – just the fact that they are IN the data base helps us to place other matches accurately.

There’s always hope that we can introduce ethnicity testers to the wonderful world of genealogy. I always offer to share. I was a beginner once too, as we all were.

Testing

You can obtain ethnicity results from any of the major testing vendors, including:

You can also transfer your DNA to GedMatch to obtain other estimates using their admix tools.

Instructions for downloading your files from the vendors in order to transfer can be found here.

Resources

If you’d like to read more about ethnicity results, I recommend the following article that explains what goes on under the hood, so to speak, and how estimates are created:

Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Sarah Hickerson (1752-1760 – before 1820), Silent Member of a Feuding Family – 52 Ancestors #262

Sarah Hickerson was nearly invisible, and she would have been lost forever to history were it not for her marriage to Daniel Vannoy on October 2, 1779 in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

Daniel Vannoy marriage

Why didn’t Sarah Hickerson’s father, Charles Hickerson, or brother, David Hickerson sign her bond? This is a bit unusual. Her husband, Daniel signed, along with Francis Reynolds who has no known connection at all.

Given her marriage date, Sarah Hickerson would have been born about 1758 or 1759, or perhaps slightly earlier. Daniel was born in 1752.

While Sarah’s father, Charles Hickerson, did not have a will, her mother, Mary Lytle Hickerson, did. At least a nuncupative will that served as the catalyst for dissention between Daniel Vannoy and Sarah’s family members, particularly her brother, David Hickerson, and her sister’s son, Samuel Hickerson aka Samuel Steward.

The Feud

In fact, this “disagreement” turned into a full-fledged feud. Think Hatfields and McCoys.

The problem, I think, was that Sarah wasn’t mentioned in her mother’s December 5, 1793 will, but the will did say that the remainder of Mary’s property was to be divided among her daughters.

As they say, that’s when the fight began.

In the name of God Amen, I Mary Hickerson of the County of Wilkes and State of North Carolina, being of Sound mind and memory, blessed be God, do this the fifth day of December in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following, that is to say – First, I give my son Joseph Hickerson one purple rugg. I also give my daughter Jane Miller my chest and tea ware. I also give my daughter Mary Stewart and her son Samuel Hickerson one feather bed and also my daughter, Mary Stewart, all the goods in the above mentioned chest. And all the balance of my property to be equally divided amongst my daughters. I also leave my son David Hickerson three yards of white linnin. Also this is my last Will and Testament and Desire. Delivered in the presence of us Amy Hickerson Jane Miller.

No signature and no executors.

I suspect that Amy Hickerson is actually Ann, wife of Joseph Hickerson, Mary’s daughter-in-law.

This presents an interesting quandry – because we don’t know if Sarah was alive or dead at the time her mother died.

The only thing we know for sure about Sarah Hickerson, other than the fact that she married Daniel Vannoy in 1779, is that she was definitely alive in 1784 when her son, Elijah, was born. That’s been proven via DNA results.

It’s probable that Sarah was alive in the 1790 census as well, because there is no record in Wilkes County that Daniel married anyone else and the census reflects a female of her age in the household of Daniel Vannoy.

In 1790, Daniel and Sarah had 2 male children and one female child. We don’t know who either of those two individuals were.

Sarah and Daniel are reported to have had another son, Joel, born in 1792 and I also have a DNA match with a man who descends from Joel – although in all fairness, Joel was clearly a Vannoy and if he was assigned to the incorrect parents, I could still match Joel’s descendants. I’d love to know if this man matches any Hickerson descendants directly. He doesn’t match any of the people I match who are descended from Charles Hickerson.

I match a total of 17 descendants of Charles Hickerson and Mary Lytle, 6 of them being through Elijah Vannoy, my ancestor, but 11 being through Sarah’s siblings:

  • David Hickerson
  • Jane Hickerson who married Leonard Miller. Leonard Miller was reported to have been a Tory, “having joined the Biritish a second time” reported by author Alice Pritchard, source Criminal and Civil Action Papers, C.R. 104 325, found in the NC State Archives.
  • Joseph Hickerson
  • Rachel Hickerson who married Braddock Harris around 1786 in Wilkes Conty. (Rachel born 1765-died 1822 Franklin, GA)

Rachel Hickerson?

Who was Rachel Hickerson? Another daughter that wasn’t mentioned in the will, apparently, judging from multiple DNA matches.

I was utterly shocked to discover that Braddock Harris was married to a Hickerson female because I literally stumbled over Braddock last week in the North Carolina State Archives BEFORE I discovered who his wife was.

Serendipity strikes!

Ok, so what’s so interesting about Braddock Harris?

Braddock Harris

I was researching Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson. In an every-name index book, Daniel Vannoy was listed as a court juror on April 26, 1786. The case heard before the one in which Daniel sat as a juror is transcribed below, simply because I found the topic and entry so unusual.

State vs Bradock Harris – indicted assault, jury called, jury find guilty. Ordered defendant fined 5 pounds and be CARTED up and down the court yard from Humphries to Smothers with this inscription wrote in large letters on paper and fixed to his forehead and read loudly by the sheriff at each place. THIS IS THE EFFECTS OF AN INTENDED RAPE and the last part of the punishment be inflicted between hours of four and five o’clock this evening.

Court was adjourned for one hour and following were present: Charles Gordon, Russell Jones and William Nall, Esquires.

The caps are in the record and are not mine.

I’d wager that the court adjourned so everyone could go outside and watch the procession.

Now you understand my utter shock when I discovered Braddock Harris’s wife was Rachel Hickerson.

I checked Ancestry on my laptop at the archives and found it interesting that in the 1790 census, Bradock was married with 2 children. At the time, I thought to myself that it appeared that someone was willing to marry Braddock, so he wasn’t entirely ostracized in the community. Or maybe, maybe, he was already married and was a married man attempting to commit rape.

But wow!

I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA that Braddock would marry or maybe had already married Rachel Hickerson when he was tried in 1786. It’s also possible that this charge of attempted rape was “upon the body” of Rachel Hickerson before they married.

But there’s more, far more, to this story.

Robbery and Arson

Court notes are so amazing!

In 1792, David Hickerson, Sarah and Rachel Hickerson’s brother, was a bond when John Robards was accused of burning Braddock Harris’s house down in the fall of 1790. Not to mention robbing it.

This day complained Bradock Harris to me a subscribing Justice of the Peace for said county of Wilkes on oath that he had just cause to believe that some time in the fall of 1790 that John Robards did rob his house and then burn it and Jain Miller did conseal part of said property all contrary to the lawes and good government of said state. These are therefore in the naim of said state to regular and command you to apprehend the said John Robards and Elizabeth his wife and Jain Miller and bring them before some Justice of the Peace for said county to answer the above complaint and that they may be further delt with as the law directs bearing fail not (now?) given under my hand and seal this 13 day September 1792 James Fletcher (seal). Memorandum of recognizance at March term 1 day Bradock Harris bound to prosecute in the sum of 50 pounds, Arson (Anson?) Gipson his security bound in the sum of 50 pounds. Jain Miller bound in the sum of 50 pounds and gives David Hickerson security bound in the sum of 50 pounds Joseph Herndon, Rachel Harris bound a witness for the state in the sum of 25 pounds. Joseph Herndon, James Fletcher, State vs John Robards and wife and Jan Miller. Warrant. Executed by Andrew Bryont.

Jane Miller is Sarah Hickerson’s sister, but more importantly, Jane Miller is the sister of Rachel, whose house was burned. David Hickerson posted her bond. The court entry states that Rachel Harris is testifying for the state, so that implies thta Jane Miller and Braddock Harris are not.

In other words, Jane Miller is accused of hiding items from her sister Rachel’s house after John Robards robbed and burned her house. David posted bond to guarantee that Jane would show up in court.

Holy Cow, what was going on in this family?

A year later, in March 1793, John Roberts (not Robards) was convicted of that crime with Joseph Hickerson, Samuel Hickerson and Rachel Harris as witnesses.

State of North Carolina Morgan District Superior Court of Law March term 1793 jurors for the state upon their oath present that John Roberts late of the County of Wilkes in the district of Morgan labourer not having the fear of God before his eyes but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the Devil on the first day of March in the year of our Lord 1789 about the hour of ten in the night of the same day with force and arms in the county and district aforesaid  a certain dwelling house of one Braddock Harris there situate feloniously voluntarily and maliciously did burn and consume against the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of this state . J Haywood Att. Genl. State vs John Roberts, Indt., arson, Braddock Harris pros and witness. Joseph Hickerson, Saml. Hickerson, Rachel Harris Witnesses. Sworn and sent. William W. Erwin Clerk, J. Haryood Att. Gnl.

What happened to Jane Miller? In relation to this suit, we don’t know. It’s possible that I missed the entry. However, Jane has an interesting situation too.

Jane Miller appears alone in the 1800 Wilkes County census with 4 males and a female child. In 1806, Jane Miller married James Reynolds in Wilkes County, with David Hickerson signing for her marriage. It surely looks like Jane remarried.

I’d say Leonard died, except that one Leonard Miller was a Revolutionary War pensioner from Georgia and stated that he served under Capt. Cleveland. Capt. Cleveland lived in Wilkesboro. Did Leonard Miller just leave?

A Family Divided

So far, the family appears to be divided, as follows.

Side 1 Comment Side 2 Comment
Braddock Harris House robbed and burned in 1790
Rachel Hickerson Harris House robbed and burned in 1790, testified at trial Her sister, Jane Miller, accused of consealing stolen items
Jane Miller Accused of consealing part of stolen items
David Hickerson Signed bond for Jane in 1792 and for her marriage in 1806
Joseph Hickerson Testifies as trial
Samuel Hickerson Testifies at trial

This entire family is confounding!

War

Obviously, this family is at war with one another.

Sarah’s father, Charles Hickerson, died sometime between the 1790 census and her mother’s death after December 5, 1793. Given the information above, I originally thought that the theft might have had something to do with Charles’ possessions, but given that the robbery and fire appears to have happened on March 1, 1789, that theory is out the window – unless Charles’ possessions had already been mostly distributed.

Death and property brings out the worst in people it seems. Sometimes the battles begin even before the person dies.

However, this feud didn’t seem to be entirely new. As far back as 1781, just two years after their marriage, Daniel Vannoy, Sarah Hickerson’s husband was in conflict with Samuel Hickerson aka Samuel Steward who also had several other aliases.

September 4, 1781 – Court entry for Samuel Steward vs Daniel Vannoy.

We don’t know what that suit was about, but we do know it was filed by Samuel. Another suit was filed in 1794, just three months after Mary Lytle Hickerson’s will was probated.

Obviously, this feud heated up again. Like, to a full boil.

On May 7, 1794 we find this in the court notes:

Samuel Stewart alias Little D. Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy – slander – jury called.

This tells us that Samuel Stewart is probably of age, so born before 1773. In fact, he was probably of age by 1781 when the first suit was filed, meaning he was born about 1760, pushing his mother’s birth year back to about 1740 or so. However, based on the letter from Mary (Elizabeth) Hickerson’s daughter, dated May 20, 1877, where she states that she is 86 years old, so born in 1791, Mary may have been quite young when she had Samuel.

This 1794 court entry suggests that the man was then or sometimes called Samuel Steward but his legal name is Little D. Hickerson – suggesting that he was illegitimately born to his mother, Mary Hickerson, before she married a Stewart/Steward/Stuart man.

This next entry appears on the same day:

David Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy – same jury, Leonard Miller forfeit his appearance as witness in case.

Now David, Daniel’s brother-in-law, gets in the picture and he too files suit against Daniel.

It sounds like Leonard Miller, Daniel’s brother-in-law, husband of Jane Hickerson Miller, didn’t show up for court. He probably didn’t want to be in the middle, but if he was a witness, it’s likely he was there when whatever happened, happened.

Court ordered attorney McDowal to show tomorrow why a new trial shall not be granted in Samuel Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy.

Here, he’s actually listed as Samuel Hickerson.

Court ordered R. Wood to show cause why David Hickerson should not pay witness in suit.

I’m guessing that R. Wood is an attorney for David Hickerson.

In today’s parlance, everyone is lawyered up.

On November 2, 1794 – On motion of attorney McDowell on behalf of Daniel Vannoy, complainant, a sci fa issued to Samuel Hickerson alias Steward Hickerson Litle.

This is the fourth name for Samuel, aka whatever, which may imply that he also uses the surname Litle.

Scire facias is a writ requiring a person to show why a judgment regarding a record or patent should not be enforced or annulled.

In this case, the scire facias filing suggests that Daniel argues that Mary’s will should be set aside as pertains to Samuel, the son of Mary Steward to whom Mary Hickerson left a feather bed and everything in that trunk. It’s also questionable based on the language if Mary meant a feather bed “each” for Mary and Samuel, or one for the both of them.

In essence, this probably included much of Mary’s, worldly goods except the purple rug, chest, feather bed, tea ware and 3 yards of white linen.

Or maybe the confusion wasn’t over the bed and there an allegation that additional items were added to the chest that hadn’t been in there before.

Of course, Mary Hickerson was Daniel’s mother-in-law.

As the leaves were turning and the first anniversary of Mary’s death was approaching, things deteriorated further.

November 6, 1794 – State vs Daniel Vannoy, indicted assault and battery, fined 1 penny.

This is one of those verdicts where it appears that the court (no jurors were mentioned) had to find Daniel guilty based on the evidence, or even his own admission, but fined him as little as possible. This is what I refer to as a wink and a nod. Yep, you did it Daniel, as they patted him on the back and said, “yea, I would have too.”

November 7, 1794 – State vs Samuel Hickerson indicted assault and battery.

Unfortunately, no outcome is listed for this trial. It looks like Daniel and Samuel plus William Curry had an old-fashioned brawl. David Hickerson was probably involved too.

State vs William Curry, indicted assault and battery, jury called.

William Curry is the man for whom Daniel witnessed the deeds. I wonder if he’s somehow related too or maybe just a neighbor in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m not sure how William Curry is mixed up in this, but he clearly is based on the distribution of the costs.

Court ordered a fine of 5 pounds be remitted in State vs David Hickerson.

If a fine was ordered, David was found guilty. It’s worth noting that the fine, unlike Daniel’s, is more than a penny. This suggests that David was the aggressor or instigator – at least THIS time.

Ordered William Curry pay Joshua Souther, John Love and the prosecutor in suit State vs William Curry, and Daniel Vannoy pay other witnesses – def found not guilty.

William isn’t found guilty, but for some reason Daniel has to pay the witnesses. This is a mess.

I have a mental image of these men rolling around scuffling on the barroom floor. That might not have been the case at all, It could have been in the churchyard, or at the mill, or maybe at one of their houses. I guess it’s a good thing none of them had a knife or gun at the time, or the charges might well have been much more serious than assault and battery.

Daniel was on a tear. He was obviously furious about something and feeling very wronged. Was he? Was Sarah? Was he righteously indignant, protecting his wife and family? Or was he simply out-of-control?

November 8, 1794 – Bill of sale from Daniel Vannoy to Nathaniel Vannoy for negro woman named Wille, oath Isaac Parlier.

The next day, Daniel sold his slave, probably to pay the costs and witnesses. I don’t know if this case was a matter of money or of principle, or both, but clearly Daniel was “all in.”

This was the third slave Daniel sold in 1794, all to his brother Nathaniel.

Was Daniel preparing to leave? That seems a bit extreme – but tensions, testosterone and passion was clearly running quite high.

January 16, 1795 – Between Daniel Vannoy and Patrick Lenin Cavender, 50 pounds, 100 acres on South Beaver Creek branch South fork of New River below his spring branch…gap between Frenches and Querrys Knobs. Wit David X Fouts and David Burket. Signed Daniel Vannoy pages 390 and 391.

Two months after those suits and after selling his slaves, Daniel sold his land – the land where he and Sarah lived.

Daniel Vannoy land

Daniel disappears in the records at this time.

Daniel Vannoy's land from Blue Ridge Parkway

Overlooking Daniel and Sarah’s land from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Scorecard

What’s been added to the scorecard?

Side 1 Comment Side 2 Comment
Robbery and Arson
Braddock Harris House robbed and burned in 1790
Rachel Hickerson Harris House robbed and burned in 1790, testified
Jane Miller Accused of concealing part of stolen items
David Hickerson Signed bond for Jane in 1792 and for her marriage in 1806
Joseph Hickerson Testifies as trial, although we don’t know in what capacity
Samuel Hickerson Testifies at trial, although we don’t know in what capacity
After Mary’s Estate Comment Side 2 Comment
Samuel Steward 1781 – Sues Daniel Vannoy Daniel Vannoy 1781 – Sued by Samuel Steward
Samuel Stewart alias Little D. Hickerson alias Samuel Hickerson alias Samuel Steward Hickerson Litle 1794 – Sues Daniel Vannoy Daniel Vannoy 1794 – Sued by Samuel Steward
David Hickerson 1794 – Sues Daniel Vannoy Daniel Vannoy 1794 – Sued by David Hickerson
State vs Daniel Vannoy Nov 6, 1794 – Assault and battery, fined 1 penny Daniel Vannoy
State vs Samuel Hickerson Nov. 7, 1794 – Assault and battery Samuel Hickerson
State vs William Curry Nov. 7, 1794 – Assault and battery, not guilty, Daniel Vannoy ordered to pay several witnesses William Curry, Daniel Vannoy
State fined David Hickerson Nov. 7, 1794 – 5 pound fine David Hickerson

Many times when slander suits are filed, a counter suit is filed as well – but all of these suits are against Daniel Vannoy. None filed BY Daniel Vannoy.

It appears that David Hickerson, Samuel Hickerson Stewart and Jane Miller are found on one side, with Daniel Vannoy on the other. We don’t know where Rachel and Braddock Harris fell in this feud. They may have already left for Laurens County, SC where they are living in 1800.

Leonard Miller simply decided not to appear and preferred to pay a fine. He was probably out of favor, having been a Tory and was either dead or gone by 1800.

Given that David Hickerson sided with Jane Miller in the arson, one might also presume that Jane and Daniel were at odds too, especially since Jane was present when Mary spoke her will.

Ann Hickerson, Mary’s other witness of her will appears to be the daughter-in-law, the wife of Joseph Hickerson, the brother who seems to have escaped this melee. Joseph is also a Captain of Militia, so perhaps he actively avoided the family ugliness.

The long and short of this is that it appears that Daniel Vannoy, Sarah’s husband, is at odds one way or another with every known sibling in Sarah family, except possibly Joseph.

But what we don’t know is anything about Sarah herself. Why doesn’t she testify, or maybe she did and she’s one of the unnamed witnesses. Why is there no mention of her, anyplace?

Where Was Sarah?

I wish I knew!

Sarah appears to be living in the 1790 census, and if she gave birth to Joel Vannoy in 1792, she was clearly alive then. She is not mentioned by name in the 1793 will that her mother spoke on December 5th. But then again, neither was Rachel and we know positively that Rachel was Mary’s daughter because I match the DNA of her descendants and we share no other common ancestors. Not to mention the lawsuits between the various members of the Hickerson family. They feud far too much not to be related.

Following the 1794 suits, Daniel Vannoy sells his slaves and then two months later, in January of 1795, sells his land, without Sarah’s signature.

Sarah may have been dead by this time. That would be the logical conclusion – but is it accurate?

Daniel disappears, but given the family war, “disappears” might mean that he left, might mean that something “happened” to him and he was simply never heard from again.

It’s very obvious with the following events that this was not a calm well-mannered brood:

  • Attempted rape (Braddock Harris)
  • Robbery and arson abetted by Jane Hickerson Miller.
  • Slander and assault accusations involving Samuel Hickerson Steward, son of Mary Hickerson Stewart/Steward/Stuart and Daniel Vannoy.
  • Slander and assault accusations involving David Hickerson and Daniel Vannoy.
  • Something involving William Curry.

This is probably but the tip of the iceberg. Most of the drama probably never made it to court.

Which of course leads me to wonder about violence against Daniel. The land in Wilkes County is mountainous, rough and remote – even today. Wilkes and Ashe County both include sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway that twists and turns its way along the summit of the Appalacian range. It would be very easy for a body to disappear, never to be found.

Sarah Hickerson Appalachian range

Daniel is Gone

It seemed probable that Daniel Vannoy was gone, one way or another, after 1795.

Until recently, I thought it equally as probable that Sarah had died, simply because if she had left with Daniel, she would not have left her two sons behind at the ages of 3 and between 9 and 11.

If Daniel had left Sarah high and dry, then the court would have bound the boys to someone in order to learn a skill.

Typically, if both parents died and the boys were orphaned, they would have been bounds out too. Maybe a family member took them.

Sometime around 1809, Sarah’s son, Elijah Vannoy married Lois, the daughter of William McNiel, their neighbor on Beaver Creek in neighboring Ashe County, the land that Daniel sold in 1795 where he and Sarah had lived since their marriage in about 1780. Elijah would only have been about 10 years old, so he had to have lived close to Lois after that time.

Did Sarah Hickerson Vannoy live with William McNiel and family in Ashe County until William McNiel moved back to Wilkes County in about 1810? It’s possible.

Did Sarah die and William McNiel raised the boys? That too is possible.

One thing is for sure, both Elijah Vannoy and Joel Vannoy married in Wilkes County. Joel married in 1817 with Little Hickerson, Sarah’s nephew through her brother David, signing his bond.

In 1810, there is a census entry in Wilkes County for one Sarah Vannoy, but that woman appears to be too young, age 26-44. Sarah Vannoy had three females living with her, and no males. Sarah Hickerson would have been at least 50 years old and possibly as old as 58 if she was Daniel’s age.

Sarah’s children or other people living in the household were:

  • Female 16-25 so born 1785-1794 – this could well be the daughter reflected in the 1790 census
  • Female 10-15 so born 1795-1800
  • Female 10-15 so born 1795-1800

Sarah Hickerson 1810 census.jpg

This could be Sarah with an incorrect age. I have no other candidates for who this Sarah Vannoy might be, but if it is Sarah, son Joel, age 18, is not living with her.

Regardless, by 1820, Sarah had not remarried, nor is she listed in the census. One way or another, Sarah appears to be gone by then, at about age 60.

Just when I thought I had this figured out, a rogue piece of evidence popped up, causing me to reevaluate what I thought happened to Sarah.

Dang! I love/hate it when this happenes!

Sarah’s Daughter

I can only positively confirm one child of Sarah’s, Elijah Vannoy, with significant evidence of a second son, Joel. We know positively that another son and one daughter was born before 1788, but we don’t know her name, if she lived or what happened to her.

I corresponded by letter with another researcher, now deceased Joyce Dancy McNiel (1937-2003), for about 20 years. Joyce believed that Susan Vannoy (c1804-c1883) who married George McNiel (1802-1878) was the daughter of Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson, and stated that she had disproved Andrew Vanoy (1742-1809) as Susan’s father. Joyce stated that she also disproved another Vannoy male, but didn’t specify who. I would add that Nathaniel Vannoy’s Bible records do not show a Susan.

There are only 4 Vannoy sons of John Vannoy in Wilkes County who were candidates to be the father of Susan: Andrew, Nathaniel, Daniel and Francis.

Francis Vannoy, who lived beside the McNiel family had a daughter Susannah born in 1774 who married Edward Dancy in 1793, so Susan who married in 1806 is not the daughter of Francis.

That leaves only Daniel of the four sons in Wilkes County. The only other dark horse is that Susannah could potentially have been the daughter of Abraham Vannoy, a fifth son of John Vannoy, whom we know little about, although he never appeared in any Wilkes County records or census. In other words, it’s very likely that Susan is the daughter of Daniel Vannoy. If that’s true, then it appears that Sarah lived at least until Susan’s birth in about 1804.

My now deceased cousin, George Franklin McNiel (1934-2018), husband of Joyce Dancy McNiel, descends from the McNiel line, but also descends through Susan Vannoy. He has no Hickerson ancestors, unless of course, Susan is the daughter of Sarah Hickerson.

George’s DNA matches two descendants of David Hickerson who moved to Tennessee. This isn’t proof, but it’s certainly suggestive evidence, especially since David moved away from the area and there is no evidence of other common ancestors in the tester’s lines.

If it’s true that Susan Vannoy is Sarah’s daughter, then where was Daniel? Clearly by 1810 he’s gone, but where was he between 1795 and 1810? Is it possible that this child is Sarah’s and not Daniel’s? If so, there would surely be a bastardy bond, and I saw nothing in the court notes to suggest such years ago, but then again, I wasn’t looking for something in the 1800s – I was searching for Elijah in the 1780s. The early bastardy bonds are not published or available on FamilySearch, at least not that I could find.

If Susan is Sarah Hickerson’s child, then probably so is that other female child in the 1810 census, meaning that Sarah Hickerson has three children we can’t identify – a daughter and son born before 1788, and a daughter born between 1795 and 1800.

I wish the census ages lined up better with Sarah in 1810. Susan Vannoy McNiel consistently gave her birth information in later census documents as 1804, but the 1810 census shows the females living in the house as having been born between 1795 and 1800.

Let’s look at the three children of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy .

Sarah Hickerson’s Children

Elijah Vannoy was born about 1784 and married Lois McNiel about 1809 in Wilkes County before moving to Claiborne County, TN in about 1812 with Lois’s father, William McNiel. They had children:

  • Permelia Vannoy born 1810 married John Elijah Baker, Jr.
  • Joel Vannoy born 1813 married Phoebe Crumley
  • Mary Vannoy born about 1815 married Isaac Gowins
  • William Vannoy born in 1816 married Harriett McClary
  • Elizabeth Vannoy born in 1817 married Elisha Bishop
  • Elijah Vannoy born in 1818 married Isabella Holland and Mary “Polly” Frost
  • Nancy Vannoy born in 1820 married George Loughmiller
  • Sarah “Sally” Elizabeth Vannoy born in 1821 married Joseph C. Adams
  • Angeline Vannoy born about 1825 Sterling Nunn
  • Lucinda J. Vannoy born in 1828 married Col. Joseph Campbell

Col. Joel Vannoy was born about 1792 and married Elizabeth St. Clair in 1817 in Wilkes County, having children:

  • Joel Alfred vannoy born about 1818
  • Elizabeth Caroline Vannoy born about 1819 married Horatio Nelson Miller
  • John Hamilton Vannoy born about 1821
  • Emily Amanda Vannoy born about 1822 and married Edward Welsh
  • Alford Vannoy born about 1824
  • REbecca Elvira Vannoy born about 1826
  • Adeline Amelia Vannoy born in 1827 married Willis S. Parker
  •  Ann Mariah Vannoy born 1829 married Rololph McClellan

Secondly, Joel Vannoy married Emily Lemira Suddworth about 1832. They lived in Burke County, NC and had children:

  • Abraham McClean Vannoy born about 1832 married Martha James
  • William Wiley Vannoy born in 1834 married Susan Elizabeth Crowson
  • Sarah Martha Vannoy born 1835 married Joseph Preston Shields
  • Catherina A. Vannoy born about 1837 married Vance Taylor
  • James Vannoy born about 1838
  • Washington Alexander Vannoy born about 1839
  • Harvey Suddeth Vannoy born in 1840 married Catherine Welborn
  • Thomas Irvin Vannoy born in 1843 married Louvina Leona Gandy
  • Elijah Ross Vannoy born about 1844
  • Anderson Mitchell Vannoy born in 1855 maried Lennie Lo Davielia Ball

Susan Vannoy, born about 1804 married George McNiel on November 21, 1822 and lived in Wilkes County. She had children:

  • James Harvey “Jimmie D.” born in 1823
  • Jesse A “Tess” born 1825
  • Rebecca Mariah Vannoy born 1830 married James Harvey Taylor and had children including 3 daughters:
    • Alice Taylor born 1857 married John Stansberry
    • Ellen Taylor married Jacob Lewis and had children including daughters
      • Virginia Bellee Lewis married Arcillas Calloway and had children including daughter
        • Evelyn Virginia Calloway
      • Ada Malinda Lewis
    • Maggie Taylor married Joe Warden
  • John G. “Blind John” born 1832
  • Delilah Vannoy born 1834 married the Reverend William W. White and had children including daughters
    • Mary A. White born 1864
    • Deborah Ann White born 1868 married Albert Dodamead
    • Lillie White born 1871 married James Henry Shaw and had two daughters,
      • Irma Shaw born 1897
      • Wynell Shaw born 1904
    • Thomas Winslow born 1836
    • Polly Vannoy born 1838 married Alexander Boone Miller on January 27, 1859 had children including daughter:
      • Theodocia Miller married Simeon William Eller and had daughters
        • Mary A. Eller born 1880
        • Opie Delilah Eller born 1882 married William B Owens or Owings and had children including daughters
          • Mamie Gladys Owings born 1908
        • Fanny Ruth Eller born 1892 married Robert S. Loughridge
    • Nancy A “Aunt Nan” Vannoy born in 1845 married Jesse Harrison McNeil including daughters:
      • Mary Ida NcNiel born 1869 married John E. Rector and is not reported to have had daughters
      • Margaret Susan “Maggie” McNiel born 1871 married John Calvin McNiel and had children, including daughters:
        • Nellie G. McNeil born 1895 married Nell Kerley and had daughter:
          • Wanda Kerley born 1925 married Frederick Clifton Miller
        • Nannie Jeru McNeil born 1909 married Edwin Warren Hastings
      • Rachel Julianna McNiel born 1874 married Gaither Alonzo Canter and had children including daughters:
        • Rachel Edna Canter born 1905 married Conrad Joseph Whittington
        • Nonnie Estelle Canter born 1905 married Arvel Everette Parsons
          • Mary Nell Parsons born 1929 married Wayne Gilbert Church and had daughter:
            • Lisa Dawn Church born 1963
          • Mary Louise Canter born 1917 married Claude Royal Elledge and had daughter:
            • Julia Anne Elledge born 1940
          • Delilah Kate McNiel born 1878 Francis Alexander Shober Church and had daughter:
            • Ella V. Church born 1908 who married Ruff Dockery
          • Sallie Emmaline McNiel born 1883 married John Sylvester Church and had children including daughters:
            • Georgia LaVaughn Church born 1906 married Daniel Dewitte Waisner and had children including daughter:
              • Mary Josephine Waisner born 1924
            • Blanche Bell Church born 1913 married Howard Preston Elliott
            • Gladys Nora Church born 1918 married Thomas W. Banks
            • Nannie Beatrice Church born 1920 married Irvin G. Catlin
            • Ella Mae Church born 1925 married Charles James McCarson
          • Noble Blanche McNiel born 1888 married Robert Jesse Foster and had children including daughters;
            • Mary Margaret Foster born 1923 married Frank Jackson Wallace
            • Jessie Marie Foster born 1924 married Robert Lee Hutchinson and had daughter
              • Danna Hutchinson 1959-2016

Can We Find DNA Proof?

There are three possible ways to obtain proof or at least evidence of Susanna’s parentage. Of course, as genealogists, we always ask ourselves how much “proof” is enough? Fortunately, we have DNA tools to gather information. In this case, there are three avenues that we can pursue.

Mitochondrial DNA to prove that Susanna Vannoy was the daughter of Sarah Hickerson.

Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of children, but only their female children pass it on. That means that in the current generation, both males and females can test. Mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the father’s DNA, so the mitochondrial DNA of Susan’s descendants is the same as her own.

If we compare Susan’s mitochondrial DNA with that of her mother’s sisters’ descendants – meaning the daughters of Mary Lytle Hickerson, then we will know whether Susan Vannoy is the daughter of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy, or not. If so, Susan’s descendants through all daughters (to the present generation, where males can test too) will match the descendants of Mary Lytle Hickerson through all daughters (to the present generation, where males can test too.)

Under Susan Vannoy, above, I’ve listed her descendants, focused on the direct matrilineal descent. All of the people bolded are deceased, but their descendants carry the mitochondrial DNA of Sarah Vannoy. In the case of people like Dana Hutchinson whose children are likely to be living, either a son or daughter could test – because all children inherit their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

If this is you, and you’ve either tested or are interested, please get in touch!

Autosomal DNA to prove that Susanna Vannoy is the daughter of Sarah Hickerson.

If the descendants of Susan Vannoy McNiel don’t descend from the Hickerson family in any other way, and they match descendants of Charles Hickerson, the Hickerson progenitor in Wilkes County through any of his children who aren’t related to the tester through another line – then there is a good possibility that Susan Vannoy is the daughter of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy.

The more Hickerson descendants a Susan Vannoy descendant matches, the better. Matching someone from David Hickerson’s line through the children who migrated to Tennessee would be preferable simply because they are less likely to have intermarried with the Wilkes County families.

If Susan’s descendant triangulates on a proven Hickerson segment, even better!

Charles Hickerson’s children include:

  • David Hickerson born about 1760, probably in Virginia, married Sarah or Nancy Taliaferro/Toliver, lived in Wilkes County, NC and moved to Franklin County that became Coffee County, Tennessee before 1812. David’s two sons, Lytle (Little) and Charles remained in Wilkes County.
  • Joseph Hickerson married Ann Green, had children and lived his life in Wilkes County.
  • Rachel Hickerson married Braddock Harris about 1786, removed to South Carolina before 1800 and eventually to Whitfield County, Georgia, having several children.
  • Jane Hickerson was born about 1762 and married Leonard Miller, having several children. She remarried to James Reynolds in 1806 in Wilkes County.
  • Mary Hickerson married a Stewart/Steward/Stuart and left Wilkes County about 1794 according to a letter from a woman who lived in Nacogdoches County, TX in 1877, claiming to be the granddaughter of Charles and Mary Lytle Hickerson. Mary’s unnamed daughter who wrote the letter referred to her mother as Elizabeth who had married a Stuart. The 1790 Wilkes census only shows us a James Steward with a total of 3 males over 16, 5 under 16 and 4 females. Mary Hickerson also had a son named Samuel Hickerson who used the name Samuel Steward whose whereabouts are unknown.
  • Sarah Hickerson, of course, married Daniel Vannoy. Her proven son, Elijah Vannoy married Lois McNiel and moved to Claiborne County, TN about 1812. Her likely son, Joel Vannoy married in 1817 to Elizabeth Elvira St. Clair, living in Wilkes County until in 1832 when he married Emily Lemira Suddworth and lived the rest of his life in Burke County. And then there’s probable daughter Susan, of course.

Autosomal DNA to prove that Daniel Vannoy is the father of Susan Vannoy.

If Sarah Hickerson Vannoy is Susan’s mother, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Daniel Vannoy is Susan’s father – especially given that Daniel literally disappears from the records after he sells his slaves and land in 1795. He’s not in the 1800 census either, yet Susan is born about 1804 according to the later census records in which she is recorded.

If Susan’s descendants who are not related to Vannoys through other lines match known descendants of Vannoys, particularly Elijah, and are not related to those matches through other common lines (like McNiel, Shepherd or Rash), then there’s a good possibility that Daniel was indeed Susan’s father.

Of course, the more matches the better, especially if the matches triangulate on a proven Vannoy segment.

Summary

Rebuilding the life of an ancestor who only appears in one record is very difficult. I’m very thankful for that one record, or Sarah Hickerson would be another one of those nameless dead ends. A vacant spot on my tree.

The researchers who lived in the decades before us didn’t have the benefit of DNA testing. I surely hope that with the focus of multiple descendants, plus more people testing every day, that before long we will be able to confirm Susan’s parents.

Additionally, it would be wonderful to be able to identify the at least two and possibly three missing children of Sarah Hickerson Vannoy, assuming they lived and had families.

We may never know much more about Sarah’s life, but it would be heart-warming, as a mother, to be able to restore her children to her memory.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

FamilyTreeDNA Thanksgiving Sale + New Comprehensive Health Report

FTDNA Thanksgiving.png

FamilyTreeDNA’s Thanksgiving Sale has begun. Almost everything is on sale. I don’t know about you, but I like to have all of my holiday planning and purchasing DONE before Thanksgiving. Some of the gifts I wanted for people this year are already sold out or backordered – but DNA testing is always available. The gift of history, and now of health too.

I wrote about the Big Y test and upgrades just a couple days ago, here, including the restructuring of the Big Y product resulting in a permanent $100 dollar reduction, in addition to sale prices.

FamilyTreeDNA has made a few product changes and introduced the new Tovana Health test.

I’ve included a special section of frequently asked questions (and answers) about tests and when upgrading does, and doesn’t, make sense.

Individual Tests

Let’s start with the sale prices for individual tests.

Test Sale Price Regular Price Savings
Family Finder (FF) $59 $79 $20
Y DNA 37 $99 $169 $70
Y DNA 111 *1 $199 $359 $160
Big Y-700 *2 $399 $649 $250
Mitochondrial Full Sequence *3 $139 $199 $60

*1 – You may notice that only the 37-marker and 111-marker tests are listed above. The 111-marker test was reduced to the 67-marker sale price, so, at least during the sale, the 67-marker test is not available. In other words, you get 111 markers for the price of 67.

*2 – The Big Y-700 test includes the Y 111 test plus another 589 STR markers (to equal or exceed 700 markers total) plus the SNP testing. You can read about the Big Y here.

*3 – The mitochondrial full sequence (FMS) aka mtFullSequence test is now the only mitochondrial DNA test available. I’m glad to see this change. The price of the mtFullSequence test has now dropped to the level of the less specific partial tests of yesteryear. Genealogists really need the granularity of the full test.

Bundles save even more – an additional $9 over purchasing the bundled items separately

Bundles

Test Sale Price Regular Price Savings
Family Finder + mtFullSequence $189 $278 $89
Family Finder + Y-37 $149 $248 $188
Family Finder + Y111 $249 $438 $189
Y-37 + mtFullSequence $229 $368 $139
Y-111 + mtFullSequence $329 $558 $229
Family Finder + Y-37 + mtFull $279 $447 $170
Family Finder + Y-111 + mtFull $379 $637 $258

When Does Upgrading Make Sense?

Y DNA Q&A

Q – If I have several Y DNA matches, will upgrading help?

A – If you need more specific or granular information to tease your line out of several matches – upgrading will help refine your matches and determine who is a closer match, assuming some of your matches have tested at a higher level.

Q – If I have tested at a lower level of STR markers and have no matches, will I have matches at a higher level?

A – Sometimes, but not usually. If your mutations just happen to fall in the lower panels, you may have matches on higher panels that allow for more mutations. If you do have matches on a higher test in this circumstance, the person may or may not have your surname. You can also join haplogroup and surname projects where thresholds are slightly lower for matching within projects.

If you don’t test, you’ll never know.

Q – If I have no matches on STR markers, meaning 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111, will upgrading to the Big Y be beneficial?

A – Possibly to probably – and here’s why, even if you don’t initially have matches:

  • The Big Y-700 provides multiple tools including matches at the SNP level, not just the STR level, so you are matched in two entirely different ways.
  • You may have same-surname matches at the SNP level that you do not have at the STR level which are further back in time, but still valuable and relevant to your family history.
  • You may have SNP matches that aren’t STR matches that are not your surname, but reflect your family history before the advent of surnames. These matches can tell you where your family came from before you can locate them in records. In fact, this is the ONLY way you can track your family before the advent of surnames.
  • Even if you don’t have matches, you’ll receive all of your SNP markers that allow you to view your results on the Block Tree, which is in essence a migration map back through time. You can read about the Block Tree here.
  • Your test contributes to building the phylotree – meaning the Y DNA tree of man – which benefits all genealogists. In just the first 10 months of 2019, 32,000 new SNPs have been placed on the tree, resulting in about 5,000 new individual branches. All because of Big Y-700
  • New people test every day and your DNA tests fish for you every minute of every day.

Mitochondrial DNA Q&A

If you’ve previously taken lower level mitochondrial HVR1 and HVR2 tests, now is the perfect time to upgrade.

Q – I have 5,000 <or fill in large number here> HVR1 level matches. Will upgrading reduce the number of matches to those that are more meaningful?

A – Absolutely! Your most genealogically relevant matches, meaning closest in time, are those that match you exactly at the full sequence level.

Q – I don’t know where my ancestor was from. Can a full sequence test help me?

A – Yes. You can use the Matches Map and see where the ancestors of your closest matches were from. That’s a huge hint. You can also utilize your haplogroup, which, in some instances, will point to a specific continent such as Africa, Europe, Asia or Native American and Jewish populations.

Q – If I have no matches at the HVR1 or HVR2 level? Will an upgrade help me?

A – Possibly. Both the HVR1 and HVR2 (now obsolete) tests only allowed for one mutation difference to be considered a match. The full sequence allows for many more differences. If you were unlucky and your mutations just happened to fall in the HVR1 or HVR2 levels, it would prevent a match which will occur at a higher level. Either way, you’ll receive information about your rare mutations – which may well explain why you don’t have matches (yet)! You’ll also receive a full haplogroup which will be useful, allowing you to use the mitochondrial haplotree to track back in time, which I wrote about here.

There are so many ways to obtain useful information. I wrote a step-by-step guide to using mitochondrial DNA, here.

Upgrade Options

Please note that if you are considering an upgrade, it maybe beneficial to upgrade to the maximum test available for either the Y or mitochondrial DNA, especially if you cannot obtain more of the sample. Of course, if it’s your own sample, you can always swab again, but others can’t.

Every time a vial is opened for testing, more DNA is used, until there is none left. Additionally, DNA degrades with time, depending on the quality of the original scraping and the amount of bacteria in the sample. Generally, the sample is viable for at least 5 years, but not always. Some older samples remain viable for many years. There’s no way to know in advance.

Test Sale Price Regular Price Savings
Y-12 to Y-37 $79 $109 $30
Y-12 to Y-67 $149 $199 $50
Y-12 to Y-111 $169 $359 $190
Y-25 to Y-37 $49 $59 $10
Y-25 to Y-67 $119 $159 $40
Y-25 to Y-111 $149 $269 $120
Y-37 to Y-67 $69 $109 $40
Y-37 to Y-111 $119 $228 $109
Y-67 to Y-111 $69 $99 $30
Y-12 to Big Y-700 $359 $629 $270
Y-25 to Big Y-700 $349 $599 $250
Y-37 to Big Y-700 $319 $569 $250
Y-67 to Big Y-700 $259 $499 $240
Y-111 to Big Y-700 $229 $499 $270
Big Y-500 to Big Y-700 $189 $249 $60
HVR1 to mtFullSequence $99 $159 $60
mtDNA Plus to mtFullSequence $99 $159 $60

Tovana – A New Limited Availability Exome Medical Report 

Recently, FamilyTreeDNA did a limited announcement about a medically supervised health exome health test for a subset of customers, specifically customers who:

  • Don’t live in Pennsylvania, New York, California or Maryland, due to state law restrictions.
  • Took the Family Finder test since October 2015 – meaning no transfers. The Family Finder test is used in conjunction with the exome chip to generate the customer report.

If you took the Family Finder test before October 2015, you are eligible but the rollout is being done in stages and your kit will be eligible in December.

This Tovana Genome Report is focused towards people who are health and wellness conscious. Meaning those who don’t want to die a premature death that might be preventable.

All genetic health tests focus on predispositions. You may or may not develop the condition, with a few notable exceptions, but forewarned is forearmed.

You might, however, be VERY interested in intervening, one way or another, BEFORE you develop potentially life-threatening conditions, or taking preventative actions to avoid developing those conditions. At the very least, you can be aware and monitor your health to catch them early, when they are treatable, manageable or potentially curable.

It only takes one, ONE, terrifying experience to convince you that health testing might make a difference.

Once you’re embroiled in that health nightmare, there is no going back in time to take a test and enact preventative measures.

My mother might still be with us had we known she was susceptible to blood clots. My sister had metastatic breast cancer.

Let me show you something from a Tovana report.

FTDNA Tovana.png

This portion of a page from an actual customer report shows this individual is positive for a mutation for a clotting disorder where clots are formed that can cause strokes, pulmonary embolisms and DVTs (deep vein thrombosis).

I’d give anything, any amount of money – to have had advance warning so we could have watched my mother more vigilantly and taken simple proactive measures that might have prevented her stroke and resulting death.

What would another 10 or 15 years with her have been worth?

We could have and would have discussed this with her doctors and asked about preventative measures, like taking aspirin or other measures as indicated by her health and other medications. (Please do not self-diagnose or medicate without discussing with your physician as drugs interact in ways patients may not be aware of.)

Compared to hospital (or funeral) bills, not to mention the sheer agony…the cost of this test at $799 is irrelevant. What better way to say, “I love you”?

I would pick up bottles by the side of the road, if I needed to, to be able to purchase this test for my Mom 15 years ago. Sadly, this type of testing wasn’t available then, but it is now.

Ignorance is not bliss.

I want to know if I or my children carry these predispositions so that we can take action.

The Tovana Test is Different

The Tovana test is different from and much more comprehensive than the tests offered by Ancestry, MyHeritage and 23andMe that utilize only your autosomal genealogy test.

To begin with, the Tovana test is run on an exome chip that tests over 50 million locations in addition to the 700,000+ locations tested in the Family Finder test.

The completed report that I viewed was 128 pages in length, with lots of graphics. This  explain explains autosomal dominant inheritance.

FTDNA Tovana autosomal dominant.png

The report is very user-friendly, including drawings, a risk-meter for polygenic conditions that involve more than a simple yes or no answer, explanations and recommendations for each condition reported.

FTDNA Tovana risk meter.png

And yes, in case you’re wondering, the report also includes the fun traits like ear wax and such that you can discuss if you’re bored beyond imagination at a cocktail party.

Each report is centered around and tailored to the family information you provide, such as known Jewish heritage, or known cases of cancer.

FTDNA Tovana Table of Contents.png

Comparisons

I’ve compiled a chart with some comparison details – although this test is in a class by itself where the other three tests compete directly with each other.

I’ve personally taken the other tests, except for the Ancestry upgrade. I also took an early exome test a few years ago, but THAT ONE CAME WITH NO REPORT OR EXPLANATIONS.

  23andme Ancestry Health Core MyHeritage Family Tree DNA Tovana Test
# DNA locations tested About 700,000 About 700,000 About 700,000 >50 million plus the 700,000 in the Family Finder test
# Results Provided to Customer 78 health + polygenic diabetes +34 traits such as freckles 84 88+ polygenic heart, diabetes, breast cancer 3000+ including many polygenic diseases including heart, diabetes & 35 genes associated with breast cancer
Physician Oversight No PWNHealth PWNHealth Tovana
Personal Clinical Analysis No No No Yes
Analysis, Interpretation by board certified geneticist No No No Yes
Genetic Counseling No Yes, limited Yes, limited $50 for 30-minute session
Updates Yes, episodic depending on test level, may not receive, sometimes have to purchase new test No, one time results only Yes, free for first year then with $99 per year subscription Not at this time, but under consideration
Cost – Initial Purchase $149 upgrade only after DNA test $199 new purchase -combined health plus ancestry $799 introductory price
Upgrade if Already Tested No $49 upgrade if have already tested $120 to upgrade if already tested, plus $99 year subscription after year 1 Not relevant
Requirements None This is an upgrade from an existing Ancestry test Must test with MyHeritage, not a transfer kit

Are You Eligible?

To see if you are one of the customers eligible to purchase the Tovane Genome Report, sign in, here, and then check your personal page under “Additional Features” to see if the Tovana Genome Report is available. If so, click for more information or to order.

FTDNA Tovana order.png

You’ve probably guessed what my family is receiving for Christmas😊. No one else is going to suffer from or die from something preventable if I can help it.

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Big Y News and Stats + Sale

I must admit – this past January when FamilyTreeDNA announced the Big Y-700, an upgrade from the Big Y-500 product, I was skeptical. I wondered how much benefit testers would really see – but I was game to purchase a couple upgrades – and I did. Then, when the results came back, I purchased more!

I’m very pleased to announce that I’m no longer skeptical. I’m a believer.

The Big Y-700 has produced amazing results – and now FamilyTreeDNA has decoupled the price of the BAM file in addition to announcing substantial sale prices for their Thanksgiving Sale.

I’m going to discuss sale pricing for products other than the Big Y in a separate article because I’d like to focus on the progress that has been made on the phylogenetic tree (and in my own family history) as a result of the Big Y-700 this year.

Big Y Pricing Structure Change

FamilyTreeDNA recently anounced some product structure changes.

The Big Y-700 price has been permanently dropped by $100 by decoupling the BAM file download from the price of the test itself. This accomplishes multiple things:

  • The majority of testers don’t want or need the BAM file, so the price of the test has been dropped by $100 permanently in order to be able to price the Big Y-700 more attractively to encourage more testers. That’s good for all of us!!!
  • For people who ordered the Big Y-700 since November 1, 2019 (when the sale prices began) who do want the BAM file, they can purchase the BAM file separately through the “Add Ons and Upgrades” page, via the “Upgrades” tab for $100 after their test results are returned. There will also be a link on the Big Y-700 results page. The total net price for those testers is exactly the same, but it represents a $100 permanent price drop for everyone else.
  • This BAM file decoupling reduces the initial cost of the Big Y-700 test itself, and everyone still has the option of purchasing the BAM file later, which will make the Big Y-700 test more affordable. Additionally, it allows the tester who wants the BAM file to divide the purchase into two pieces, which will help as well.
  • The current sale price for the Big Y-700 for the tester who has taken NO PREVIOUS Y DNA testing is now just $399, formerly $649. That’s an amazing price drop, about 40%, in the 9 months since the Big Y-700 was introduced!
  • Upgrade pricing is available too, further down in this article.
  • If you order an upgrade from any earlier Big Y to the Big Y-700, you receive an upgraded BAM file because you already paid for the BAM file when you ordered your initial Big Y test.
  • The VCF file is still available for download at no additional cost with any Big Y test.
  • There is no change in the BAM file availability for current customers. Everyone who ordered before November 1, 2019 will be able to download their BAM file as always.

The above changes are permanent, except for the sale price.

2019 has been a Banner Year

I know how successful the Big Y-700 has been for kits and projects that I manage, but how successful has it been overall, in a scientific sense?

I asked FamilyTreeDNA for some stats about the number of SNPs discovered and the number of branches added to the Y phylotree.

Drum roll please…

Branches Added This Year Total Tree Branches Variants Added to Tree This Year Total Variants Added to Tree
2018 6,259 17,958 60,468 132.634
2019 4,394 22.352 32,193 164,827

The tests completed in 2019 are only representative for 10 months, through October, and not the entire year.

Haplotree Branches

Not every SNP discovered results in a new branch being added to the haplotree, but many do. This chart shows the number of actual branches added in 2018 and 2019 to date.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches.png

These stats, provided by FamilyTreeDNA, show the totals in the bottom row, which is a cumulative branch number total, not a monthly total. At the end of October 2019, the total number of individual branches were 22,352.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches small.png

This chart, above, shows some of the smaller haplogroups.

Big Y 700 haplotree branches large.png

This chart shows the larger haplogroups, including massive haplogroup R.

Haplotree Variants

The number of variants listed below is the number of SNPs that have been discovered, named and placed on the tree. You’ll notice that these numbers are a lot larger than the number of branches, above. That’s because roughly 168,000 of these are equivalent SNPs, meaning they don’t further branch the tree – at least not yet. These 168K variants are the candidates to be new branches as more people test and the tree can be further split.

Big Y 700 variants.png

These numbers also don’t include Private Variants, meaning SNPs that have not yet been named.

If you see Private Variants listed in your Big Y results, when enough people have tested positive for the same variant, and it makes sense, the variants will be given a SNP name and placed on the tree.

Big Y 700 variants small.png

The smaller haplogroups variants again, above, followed by the larger, below.

Big Y 700 variants large.png

Upgrades from the Big Y, or Big Y-500 to Big Y-700

Based on what I see in projects, roughly one third of the Big Y and Big Y-500 tests have upgraded to the Big Y-700.

For my Estes line, I wondered how much value the Big Y-700 upgrade would convey, if any, but I’m extremely glad I upgraded several kits. As a result of the Big Y-700, we’ve further divided the sons of Abraham, born in 1747. This granularity wasn’t accomplished by STR testing and wasn’t accomplished by the Big Y or Big Y-500 testing alone – although all of these together are building blocks. I’m ECSTATIC since it’s my own ancestral line that has the new lineage defining SNP.

Big Y 700 Estes.png

Every Estes man descended from Robert born in 1555 has R-BY482.

The sons of the immigrant, Abraham, through his father, Silvester, all have BY490, but the descendants of Silvester’s brother, Robert, do not.

Moses, son of Abraham has ZS3700, but the rest of Abraham’s sons don’t.

Then, someplace in the line of kit 831469, between Moses born in 1711 and the present-day tester, we find a new SNP, BY154784.

Big Y 700 Estes block tree.png

Looking at the block tree, we see the various SNPs that are entirely Estes, except for one gentleman who does not carry the Estes surname. I wrote about the Block Tree, here.

Without Big Y testing, none of these SNPs would have been found, meaning we could never have split these lines genealogically.

Every kit I’ve reviewed carries SNPs that the Big Y-700 has been able to discern that weren’t discovered previously.

Every. Single. One.

Now, even someone who hasn’t tested Y DNA before can get the whole enchilada – meaning 700+ STRs, testing for all previously discovered SNPs, and new branch defining SNPs, like my Estes men – for $399.

If a new Estes tester takes this test, without knowing anything about his genealogy, I can tell him a great deal about where to look for his lineage in the Estes tree.

Reduced Prices

FamilyTreeDNA has made purchasing the Big Y-700 outright, or upgrading, EXTREMELY attractive.

Test Price
Big Y-700 purchase with no previous Y DNA test

 

$399
Y-12 upgrade to Big Y-700 $359
Y-25 upgrade to Big Y-700 $349
Y-37 upgrade to Big Y-700 $319
Y-67 upgrade to Big Y-700 $259
Y-111 upgrade to Big Y-700 $229
Big Y or Big Y-500 upgrade to Big Y-700 $189

Note that the upgrades include all of the STR markers as yet untested. For example, the 12-marker to Big Y-700 includes all of the STRs between 25 and 111, in addition to the Big Y-700 itself. The Big Y-700 includes:

  • All of the already discovered SNPs, called Named Variants, extending your haplogroup all the way to the leaf at the end of your branch
  • Personal and previously undiscovered SNPs called Private Variants
  • All of the untested STR markers inclusive through 111 markers
  • A minimum of a total of 700 STR markers, including markers above 111 that are only available through Big Y-700 testing

With the refinements in the Big Y test over the past few years, and months, the Big Y is increasingly important to genealogy – equally or more so than traditional STR testing. In part, because SNPs are not prone to back mutations, and are therefore more stable than STR markers. Taken together, STRs and SNPs are extremely informative, helping to break down ancestral brick walls for people whose genealogy may not reach far back in time – and even those who do.

If you are a male and have not Y DNA tested, there’s never been a better opportunity. If you are a female, find a male on a brick wall line and sponsor a scholarship.

Click here to order or upgrade!

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Daniel Vannoy (1752 – after 1794) Embattled, then Disappeared – 52 Ancestors #261

Daniel Vannoy Blue Ridge Parkway.png

Daniel Vannoy is the father of Elijah Vannoy who was born about 1784. This seems like such a simple statement, but believe me, identifying Elijah’s father was anything BUT simple. In fact, without DNA testing, we would never have been able to know which of the 4 sons of John Vannoy was the father of Elijah.

Fortunately, we know the identity of the wives of the 4 Vannoy sons. It was through matching the descendants of the ancestors of Daniel’s wife, Sarah Hickerson, that we identified Daniel.

I wrote about that here and here.

In a nutshell, Y DNA proved that Elijah was indeed a Vannoy male, and autosomal matches to Sarah’s siblings’ descendants proved that Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson were Elijah’s parents.

Birth and Baptism

Daniel Vannoy was born on February 22, 1752 in Rowan County, North Carolina, according to family Bible records.

The location of Daniel’s birth in Rowan County has been widely reported as Potts Creek, but Potts Creek, today, is about 90 miles southwest of the Jersey Church where we know positively that Daniel’s father was living. There may have been a different Potts Creek at that time, but it’s unlikely that Daniel’s father, John Vannoy moved away from the Jersey Settlement, and back again, especially given that settlers were even less safe further west. I’d love to know the source of the Potts Creek information.

Daniel Vannoy may have been named after Daniel Gano, one of the men who lived in Hopewell New Jersey and whose son, John, migrated not long after the Vannoy family settled in the North Carolina Jersey Settlement. The Reverend John Gano was the eventual minister of the Jersey Settlement church, at least until he high-tailed it back to New Jersey because of the unsafe conditions in North Carolina.

It’s worth noting that Gano recorded that the trip from New Jersey to the Jersey Settlement in North Carolina was 800 miles and took him 5 weeks – and he was riding a horse, not pulling a wagon which would have taken much longer – about 10 miles per day on average. That means that John Vannoy’s trip to North Carolina took about 80 days – if nothing broke and everything went well.

Gano returned to New Jersey in 1760 due to Indian trouble in North Carolina, but clearly John Vannoy and his sons remained. In February 1760, the Cherokee attacked Fort Dobbs and the white settlements along the Yadkin and Dan Rivers. War with the Cherokee lasted until August 1761 when a peace treaty was reached.

Daniel Vannoy was baptized into the Dutchman’s Creek Church on August 17, 1774 at 22 years of age.

August the Seventh 1774, there was added to the Church by baptism:
Daniel Vannoy

Dutchman’s Creek Church became Eaton’s Ford on the Yadkin in 1790. The Mulberry Fields Baptist Church, where Daniel was baptized was a more distant branch of Dutchman’s Creek.

Daniel was baptized as an adult and the family had clearly moved to the area known as Mulberry Fields, today known as Wilkesboro, by 1774.

Moving West

Daniel’s father, John Vannoy, owned land near Lick Creek Road Church when Daniel was born. The Jersey Church where Daniel would have first attended is a few miles up the road. Eaton’s Baptist Church is at the middle red arrow on the map below. The Mulberry Fields church was located at what is now Wilkesboro, about 75 miles northwest of the Jersey Settlement.

Nathaniel Vannoy lived at Mulberry Fields, but Andrew Vannoy eventually lived near McGrady, up on the mountain, another 17 miles further north. Daniel’s other brother, Francis, lived on Reddies River, in between Andrew and Nathaniel.

Daniel Vannoy Jersey to Wilkesboro.png

It’s interesting that Daniel Boone’s parents lived on Mulberry Fields on the Yadkin as well, and that Daniel Boone’s brother, Edward Boone was baptized the same day as Daniel Vannoy. In fact, the Boone family seems to be a presence in Daniel Vannoy’s life, with Squire Boon also found in the court notes with Daniel Vannoy.

Daniel Vannoy lost his father when he was about 25 years old, in approximately 1788, and shortly thereafter, Daniel married.

Wedding Bells

Like many young men, we don’t hear much about Daniel until he marries, but we do find Daniel on the Surry County tax list in 1774 and 1775 with 1 poll. That portion of Surry County would become Wilkes county a few years later.

Wilkes County was formed in 1777, and in Wilkes County, Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson were married on October 2, 1779.

Daniel Vannoy marriage.jpg

On his marriage document, we have Daniel’s only known signature. This tells us that he could read and write.

After Daniel’s marriage, he began farming and we find him in a variety of typical records for the next few years.

Court Minutes 1777-1788 – September 6, 1778 – page 3 – Court ordered that George Wheatley, Edmund (blurred), Jeffrey Johnson, Francis Vannoys, Jonathan Stamper Jr., William Johnson, Thomas Stubblefield, Francis Reynolds, James Reynolds, Moses Toliver, David Hickerson, Daniel Vannoys, Charles Burns, Andrew Vannoye, Joseph Pourter, Joseph Fannel (?), view road from end of road at Roaring River to court house.

Francis and Andrew Vannoy are Daniel’s brothers, and David Hickerson is Daniel’s brother-in-law.

Daniel Vannoy Wilkesboro Roaring River.png

Assuming the courthouse then was in present-day Wilkesboro, and the “end of road at Roaring River” is about at Elkin Highway today, this was about a 10 mile stretch of road. This length explains the next entry that divides the length into more manageable segments for maintenance. Daniel’s brother, Nathaniel, was responsible for opening and overseeing a section of the road.

The next day, Francis Reynolds was appointed as the overseer of the new marked road from the court house to Francis Reynolds Ridge Road, Francis Vannoy overseer of the road from Francis Reynolds Ridge Road to Roaring River, George Wheatley overseer of the road from Roaring River to Little Bugabo Creek, and William Warrel over seer of the road from Little Bugabo to the County Line.

Land

March 27, 1778 – James Fletcher entered 400 acres on the South side of the Yadkin River including an island at Moravian Lower line to John Prophets claim including improvement said Fletcher lives on (Caveated by Daniel Vannoy) – entry 47.

A property caveat is a legal document lodged to provide notice of a legal claim to a property. Lodging a caveat allows time for both parties to claim their interest in court. No other transactions can be registered against the title until the caveat is resolved.

Moravian Creek is south of the Yadkin River, while at least some of the rest of the Vannoy family settled several miles North of the Yadkin, although Nathaniel lived in the Mulberry Fields area.

We don’t know for sure if Daniel received this grant, but based on the next entry, it appears that he might well have.

October 7, 1779 – Charles Gordon entered 100 acres east corner east and west line Mulberry Fields tract joining Daniel Vannoy’s tract, entry 1236.

Let’s see if we can find this land.

Daniel Vannoy Moravian River.png

This land would be in Wilkes County near present-day Wilkesboro. The mouth of Moravian River is shown intersecting with the Yadkin at the upper red arrow, with what was then Mulberry Fields to the right.

Of course, in the intervening 221 years since Daniel tried to claim those 400 acres, roads were constructed, as well as many floods having occurred. I don’t see an island today, but that doesn’t mean much if the island was small.

The great irony is that when I visited Wilkes County in 2004, my favorite coffee shop, the Coffee Tavern, was located on the Yadkin River, quite near this location.

Daniel Vannoy coffee tavern.jpg

Now a dental office, this was about a mile and a half as the crow flies from the mouth of Moravian Creek on the Yadkin. Daniel’s land would have been more than half a mile wide by a mile long – but of course it might not have been rectangular. The Coffee Tavern is likely further east, but not by far.

I struggled to find this property today, but finally succeeded.

Daniel Vannoy Moravian to coffee tavern.png

I knew I was close, but the Coffee Tavern was actually further east at 1409 Willow Lane. Still, I stood on the back deck with my coffee and looked out over the Yadkin not far from where Daniel and his brother, Nathaniel lived. I had no idea then how close I was, but I clearly remember feeling moved.

The Yadkin was smaller than I expected, but it was clearly the lifeblood of, and responsible for, the settlement of this part of North Carolina.

Finally, I found the actual survey itself, and the island mentioned. There’s an important clue, “just below the mouth of Cub Creek.”

And North is down, not up.

Daniel Vannoy Cub Creek.jpg

I wasn’t far from this location at the Coffee Tavern – although it appears that Daniel only attempted to own this land but didn’t succeed. His brother Nathaniel lived close by.

Daniel Vannoy Mulberry Fields.png

This area in Mulberry Fields was clearly the early stomping ground of the Vannoy men.

Beaver Creek

Daniel then entered land further west. The descendants in Wilkes County have always said that “Elijah’s people” were from “over in Ashe County” – and it was true.

October 18, 1779 – Daniel Vannoy entered 100 acres on a branch of the New River called South Beaver – entry 1248.

Daniel Vannoy 1780 survey.jpg

Next in the file was the survey drawing which helped immensely in locating Daniel’s actual land.

Daniel Vannoy Beaver Creek survey.jpg

Daniel’s brother, Nathaniel would be his chain carrier for the survey.

This land would be in future Ashe County when it was formed in 1799.

Daniel Vannoy South Beaver.png

New River in Ashe county shown by the green arrows, and the South Beaver is shown by the red arrows. It’s about 5 miles long.

Daniel Vannoy South Beaver to Wilkesboro.png

The closest portion of South Beaver was not close to Wilkesboro – about 24 miles distant.

Andrew Vannoy was claiming land on Mulberry Creek by 1780, and Francis was living on the Reddies River by Lewis Fork by 1783. Nathaniel claimed land in Mulberry Fields.

Daniel Vannoy Beaver to McGrady.png

The closest points between Vannoy Road in Wilkes County and South Beaver Creek. Daniel’s brother Andrew lived close to McGrady near the Old North Carolina 16 location, known as the “Old Wilkesboro Road” which snaked its way through the mountains.

On December 6, 1779, Daniel was again serving as a juror in Wilkes County.

While things appear calm in the courtroom up until now, keep in mind that the country is in the middle of the Revolutionary War and many men from Wilkes County served. Nathaniel Vannoy was a Sergeant Major and Daniel’s brother Andrew was a Captain, but there is no suggestion that Daniel served.

The Feud Begins

September 4, 1781 – Court entry for Samuel Steward vs Daniel Vannoy.

A jury was called – no trial outcome is listed. This looks to be the official beginning of a feud between the Hickerson family and Daniel Vannoy – not even 2 years after his marriage to Sarah. By this time, their first child had probably been born.

This suit is likely a foreshadowing of things to come a decade later.

It’s worth noting that on the 1782 tax list, there are no Stewarts or Stewards and in the 1790 census, there is only one Steward family in Wilkes County, James Steward.

Three pages later in the court transcriptions, another suit involves a near neighbor.

Nathaniel Jud vs Daniel Vannoy.

Another jury is called, with no outcome listed.

I would like to have been a fly on that wall.

Court would have been quite interesting on April 26, 1786. Daniel was a juror in court that particular day, although not for this specific trial. The trial where Daniel served immediately followed this case.

State vs Bradock Harris – indicted assault, jury called, jury find guilty. Ordered defendant fined 5 pounds and be CARTED up and down the court yard from Humphries to Smothers with this inscription wrote in large letters on paper and fixed to his forehead and read loudly by the sheriff at each place. THIS IS THE EFFECTS OF AN INTENDED RAPE and the last part of the punishment be inflicted between hours of four and five o’clock this evening.

Court was adjourned for one hour and following were present: Charles Gordon, Russell Jones and William Nall, Esquires.

The caps are in the record and are not mine.

I’d wager that the court adjourned so everyone could go outside and watch the procession. Interesting that in the 1790 census, Bradock is married with 2 children.

The next entry for that day in the Wilkes County court is a case where Daniel Vannoy is a juror, so he would have witnessed the case above, including the punishment. Court in the 1700s was the soap opera entertainment of the day.

The fact that Daniel is serving in Wilkes County tells us unquestionably that he was living in Wilkes County and was a property owner at this time.

The 1782 Wilkes County tax list shows that Daniel had 100 acres of land, 1 negro, 1 mule or horse and 4 cattle. This implies that he did not obtain the 400 acres in Wilkesboro and was probably living on the South Beaver Creek land.

A few months later, we find Daniel in the records again. It appeared that he applied for another grant on Beaver Creek.

October 23, 1782 – NC grant no 274 – Daniel Vannoy 100 acres on Beaver Creek branch South fork New River page 229.

I thought this was a second piece of land, but it wasn’t. The first document is the entry for the grant, and this document, below, is the actual granting of the same land.

Daniel Vannoy 1782 grant.jpg

In 1787, Daniel is found on the tax list with a wife, 2 sons and a daughter.

We know now that one of those sons is Elijah Vannoy, but we don’t know the identity of the other son, nor of the daughter, assuming they survived, of course.

November 11, 1788 – Petition of the back inhabitants of this state humbly sheweth that there are many small pieces of land in the upper or back parts of this state now lieing vacant and the price of entering of land being high and the inhabitants in general low circumstances causes many families to live on rented lands whereas if the price of entering was reduced they might be in a capacity of getting land on their own. We pray that you would reduce the price of entering land so as to put poor men in a capacity of getting land to maintain their families on.

These petitioners look to be men from Wilkes County, NC. I recognize many of the names such as Vannoy, Shepard, Cleveland, Hickerson and McNiel.

We find Daniel Vannoy listed among the petitioners.

In 1790, Daniel is found on the census with his wife, 2 sons, a daughter, and a slave.

Daniel Vannoy 1790 census.jpg

Viewing the neighbors on the census list is often useful. Unfortunately, Daniel is the last person in the second district, but the people listed above him are likely recorded in some form of neighbor order.

In this case, Leonard Miller is married to Daniel’s wife’s sister, Jane. Does this mean that Daniel and Leonard are living not terribly far from Charles Hickerson, Sarah’s father, in Wilkes County?

July 28, 1790 – Daniel is a court juror.

November 12, 1792 – Daniel Vannoy witnessed a deed for William Curry Sr. and Jr, on the Middle Fork Fisher’s Creek.

November 7, 1793 – Court ordered Isham Harvell, William Chambers, William Mitchell, Charles Johnson, William Curry, Daniel Vannoy, Charles Foster Jr. James Harvil, William Hendren, John Hendren, John Howard view road from road leads from Old Store to Samuel Nicholsons to the Meeting House at road between Fisher’s Creek and Cub Creek.

Cub Creek intersects with the Yadkin in Wilkesboro, but Fisher’s Creek, now Fisher’s River, is about 35 miles East.

Daniel Vannoy Cub Creek to Fishers Creek.png

November 8, 1793 – Bastardy bond 50 pounds Reuben Carter charged with begetting bastard child on Mary Brewer, Daniel Vannoy and John Johnson bondsmen, page 383.

This bastardy bond for Reuben Carter makes me wonder if Daniel is related to either Reuben Carter or Mary Brewer, the mother of Reuben’s child. Note that on the census, Henry Carter is listed three houses above Daniel Vannoy.

April 6, 1794 – Between Daniel Vannoy and Nathaniel Vannoy 160 pounds for negro women named Winnie formerly property of Col. Charles Gordon and her child, Reubin. Wit Rowland Judd and Isaac Parlier. Signed Daniel Vannoy page 190

This hurts my heart to know that Daniel owned slaves. There’s no clue as to how or when he obtained those slaves.

Daniel’s In-Laws

Before the end of 1793, Daniel’s father-in-law, Charles Hickerson had died and is reported by his grandchildren to have been buried at Mulberry Fields.

We know Charles Hickerson had died because Daniel’s mother-in-law, Mary Hickerson died on or about December 5, 1793. Mary “published” a nuncupative will that was probated in Wilkes County at the February court term 1794 and recorded in Will Book A, page 386.

As they say, that’s when the fight began.

In the name of God Amen, I Mary Hickerson of the County of Wilkes and State of North Carolina, being of Sound mind and memory, blessed be God, do this the fifth day of December in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety three make and publish this my last Will and Testament in the manner following, that is to say– First, I give my son Joseph Hickerson one purple rugg. I also give my daughter Jane Miller my chest and tea ware. I also give my daughter Mary Stewart and her son Samuel Hickerson one feather bed and also my daughter, Mary Stewart, all the goods in the above mentioned chest. And all the balance of my property to be equally divided amongst my daughters. I also leave my son David Hickerson three yards of white linnin. Also this is my last Will and Testament and Desire. Delivered in the presence of us Amy Hickerson Jane Miller.

No signature and no executors.

I suspect that Amy Hickerson is actually Ann, Mary’s daughter-in-law.

The problematic words in this will are likely “the balance of my property to be equally divided among my daughters.” Mary doesn’t name the daughters, nor does she say if that includes any deceased daughters who might have children. Or, maybe there wasn’t any other property left, based on how this will read, so any daughters not specifically remembered would have received nothing at all.

Mary Steward who had a Hickerson son, Samuel, is the probable the source of the alias of Samuel Steward in the 1794 slander case with Daniel Vannoy as well as the 1781 court suit.

It’s also of note that Mary did not leave anything to her daughter, Sarah, Daniel Vannoy’s wife, and that too may have been a source of conflict.

Was Sarah Hickerson Vannoy deceased before her mother? If so, Sarah clearly had children and Daniel would obviously have felt they should have inherited something from their grandmother.

If Sarah wasn’t deceased, why was she not specifically remembered. Did her only inheritance fall into the “balance of my property to be equally divided among my daughters,” but there was no property left to divide?

Slander and Assault!

Obviously, someone was very unhappy. That someone was apparently Daniel Vannoy and by inference, his wife, Sarah, assuming she was living. I do presume she was alive, because Daniel Vannoy never remarried, at least not that we know of. The Wilkes County marriage records exist prior to and after this date.

On May 7, 1794 we find this in the court notes:

Samuel Stewart alias Little D. Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy – slander – jury called.

This tells us that Samuel Steward is of age, so born before 1773. In fact, he was probably of age by 1781 when the first suit was filed, meaning he was born before 1760, pushing his mother’s birth back to about 1740 or so.

This entry suggests that the man is now called Samuel Steward but his legal name is Little D. Hickerson – suggesting that he was illegitimately born to his mother, Mary HIckerson, before she married a Stewart/Steward man.

David Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy – same jury, Leonard Miller forfeit his appearance as witness in case.

It sounds like Leonard Miller, Daniel’s brother-in-law, didn’t show up for court. He probably didn’t want to be in the middle, but if he was a witness, it’s likely he was there when whatever happened, happened.

Court ordered attorney McDowal to show tomorrow why a new trial shall not be granted in Samuel Hickerson vs Daniel Vannoy.

Here, he’s actually listed as Samuel Hickerson.

Leonard Miller is Daniel’s wife’s sister Jane’s husband.

David Hickerson is Daniel’s wife’s sibling.

Court ordered R. Wood to show cause why David Hickerson should not pay witness in suit.

I’m guessing that R. Wood is an attorney for David Hickerson.

In today’s parlance, everyone is lawyered up.

On November 2, 1794 – On motion of attorney McDowell on behalf of Daniel Vannoy, complainant, a sci fa issued to Samuel Hickerson alias Steward Hickerson Litle.

This is the fourth name for Samuel, aka whatever.

Scire facias is a writ requiring a person to show why a judgment regarding a record or patent should not be enforced or annulled.

In this case, the scire facias filing suggests that Daniel argues that Mary’s will should be set aside as pertains to Samuel, the son of Mary Steward to whom Mary Hickerson left all of her furniture and everything in that trunk. In essence, this probably included all of Mary’s worldly goods except the purple rug, chest, tea ware and 3 yards of white linen.

Or maybe there was an allegation that additional items were added to the chest that hadn’t been there before.

Of course, Mary Hickerson was Daniel’s mother-in-law.

As the leaves and seasons were turning and the anniversary of Mary’s death was approaching, things deteriorated further.

November 6, 1794 – State vs Daniel Vannoy, indicted assault and battery, fined 1 penny.

This is one of those verdicts where it appears that the court (no jurors were mentioned) had to find Daniel guilty, but they fined him as little as possible. This is what I refer to as a wink and a nod. Yep, you did it Daniel, as they patted him on the back and said, “yea, I would have too.”

November 7, 1794 – State vs Samuel Hickerson indicted assault and battery.

Unfortunately, no outcome is listed for this trial. It sounds like Daniel and Samuel had an old-fashioned brawl.

State vs William Curry, indicted assault and battery, jury called.

William Curry is the man for whom Daniel witnessed the deeds. I wonder if he’s somehow related too.

I’m not sure how William Curry is mixed up in this, but he clearly is based on the distribution of the costs.

Court ordered a fine of 5 pounds be remitted in State vs David Hickerson.

If a fine was ordered, David was found guilty. It’s worth noting that the fine is more than a penny.

Ordered William Curry pay Joshua Souther, John Love and the prosecutor in suit State vs William Curry, and Daniel Vannoy pay other witnesses – defendant found not guilty.

William isn’t guilty, but for some reason Daniel has to pay the witnesses. This is a mess.

Daniel was on a tear. Today, this is referred to as “going full southern.” I can’t help but think of Julia Sugarbaker.

Daniel was obviously furious about something and feeling very wronged. Was he actually?

November 8, 1794 – Bill of sale from Daniel Vannoy to Nathaniel Vannoy for negro woman named Wille, oath Isaac Parlier.

The next day, Daniel sold his slave, probably to pay the costs and witnesses. I don’t know if this case was a matter of money or of principle, or both, but clearly Daniel was “all in.”

This was the third slave Daniel sold in 1794, all to his brother Nathaniel.

Was Daniel preparing to leave?

January 16, 1795 – Between Daniel Vannoy and Patrick Lenin Cavender, 50 pounds, 100 acres on South Beaver Creek branch South fork of New River below his spring branch…gap between Frenches and Querrys Knobs. Wit David X Fouts and David Burket. Signed Daniel Vannoy pages 390 and 391.

Two months after those suits and after selling his slaves, Daniel sold his land.

This land sale document held the clue to actually locating Daniel’s land.

Daniel Vannoy Beaver Creek land.png

Frenches Knobs is the red balloon, above, and the area being pointed to with the red arrow looks very much like Daniel’s survey. Noticing the road to the right of the Beaver Creek Primitive Baptist Church holds another potential clue. It’s named Bob McNiell Road.

Daniel Vannoy land.png

This is roughly the area of Daniel’s land.

The Cemetery is named the Peter McNeill Family Cemetery according to FindAGrave. The Beaver Creek Primitive Baptist Church was founded in 1785, which clearly suggests that both Daniel Vannoy and the McNiell family were involved. This church was on Daniel’s land, which makes me wonder if he was actually one of the founders himself. He owned this land from 1780 when he staked the claim until 1795 when he sold it.

The oldest McNiell family burial is Peter Gaither McNeill born in 1827.

Daniel Vannoy Blue Ridge.png

Note that Daniel actually moved across the top of the Appalachian Range. Frenches Knob is shown with the red pin. The two arrows beneath show the Blue Ridge Parkway which runs in dog-leg fashion along the top of the ridge. I’ve also noted McGrady and Wilkesboro.

Visiting Daniel’s Land at Frenches Knobs

Let’s take a drive and visit Daniel’s land!

Daniel Vannoy Frenches Knobs.png

The beautiful valley between the knobs where Daniel lived. I can’t help but drink this in. This is heading Northwest on 163 right about at the east boundary of Daniel’s land.

Daniel Vannoy Frenches Knob view.png

The infamous Frenches Knobs, above, and an old barn in a field.

Daniel Vannoy Beaver Creek Church Road.png

The intersection of Beaver Creek Church Road and Bob McNiell Road with North Carolina 163.

Daniel Vannoy Beaver Creek Church cemetery.png

There’s a cemetery back behind Beaver Creek Church, shown at right above, but we know that William McNiel sold out and moved on, with Elijah Vannoy, to Claiborne County, Tennessee about 1811. This appears to be a related McNiell family, as William McNiel’s children left with him when he packed up his wagon.

I do wonder if Sarah Hickerson Vannoy might be buried here.

Daniel Vannoy land 163.png

This was Daniel’s land. I’ve now “turned around,” because Daniel’s land seems to end about here, and am driving back southeast.

Daniel Vannoy land knob and barn.png

I wonder if this was the location of the original homesite. Note the ancient tree in the front yard, and the old barn out back. Not to mention, it’s relatively flat and has a source of fresh water nearby.

What Happened to Daniel?

And then, after Daniel sold his land in 1795, in the next 4 years before Ashe County was formed…silence. Nothing in any Wilkes County Records.

Daniel is not found in the 1800 Wilkes or Ashe County census, but in Ashe County, only the census for the Morgan district still exists. He’s not found anyplace else for that matter either.

Daniel Cavender who purchased Daniel’s land in 1795 is not listed in the census either, but he could have died or sold the land in the intervening years.

Given that Elijah Vannoy married William McNiell’s daughter in 1809, let’s see if he’s listed in the 1800 census.

William McNiel is listed in the Morgan District of Ashe County with:

  • 4 males under 10 (Niel McNiell born about 1792, other 3 males unknown)
  • 1 male 10-15 (George McNiell born about 1788)
  • 0 males 16-25
  • 1 male 26-44 (William McNiell born c 1760)
  • 2 females under 10 (Mary McNiell born about 1792, Nancy McNiell born 1794)
  • 1 female 10-15 (Lois McNiel born about 1786)
  • 1 female 16-25 (Sarah McNiell b 1784)
  • 1 female 26-44 (Elizabeth Shepherd born 1766)
  • 1 female over 45 (unknown)

It’s possible that we found Sarah Hickerson Vannoy. Although this doesn’t fit exactly either. Sarah could be the woman over 45, as she would have been about 48. The extra male under 10 could be Joel Vannoy born in 1792, but Elijah, born about 1784 is missing.

In 1810, William McNiell is again living in Wilkes County, 5 houses from Andrew Vannoy. I find William still in the Ashe County court notes in 1809, but not in the Ashe County 1810 census, so it would appear that these families are moving together back to Wilkes County.

In 1810, Daniel Vannoy is still missing in the census, but there is a Sarah Vannoy who might be the widow of Daniel living in the Wilkesboro District, in Wilkes County, with no males, 2 white females 10-15, 1 white female 16-25 and 1 white female 26-44. Sarah would have been about 58 at this time, so whether this Sarah is the widow of Daniel is unclear. The ages don’t match, but the census is notorious for those types of issues.

There doesn’t seem to be another candidate for this Sarah Vannoy.

If this woman is Daniel’s wife, Sarah, then Daniel and Sarah had two more daughters between 1794-1800, but son Joel born about 1792 is missing. If this woman is Sarah, then the woman with William McNiell in 1800 might not be Sarah, as she has 2 additional small children not accounted for in 1800.

In 1810, when Elijah, Daniel’s son, then about 26, emerges on the census, it’s not in Ashe county which was formed in 1799, but in Wilkesboro District in Wilkes County which extends north of Wilkesboro, not far from McNiels and David Hickerson.

No Vannoy or McNiel (by any spelling) is on the Ashe County 1815 tax list either.

Daniel is most likely dead by 1817, because his son, Joel Vannoy who was born in 1792 married Elizabeth Saint Clary (Claire?) on March 18, 1817, and his marriage license was signed by Little Hickerson as bondsman. Surely, if Daniel was alive, he would have signed himself.

This may also suggest that Sarah was not estranged from her family – at least not in 1817, although her brother, David, Little’s father, had been in Tennessee by that point for several years – and so had Sarah’s son, Elijah Vannoy.

If Sarah was alive, it’s apparent based on where her 2 sons emerged that she moved back to Wilkes County.

Many Wilkes County families moved on to Tennessee around the 1810 timeframe, and maybe if Sarah was living, she was finding her family shrinking.

The only children of Daniel Vannoy that we know of, for sure, are my Elijah born about 1784, proven through DNA, an unnamed son and daughter born before 1788 according to the tax list, probable son Joel born about 1792 and a rumored daughter Susan, courtesy of long-time Wilkes County researcher, now deceased, Joyce McNiel. Susan was reported to have been born about 1804 and married George McNiel, born about 1802. Joyce proved that two other sons weren’t the father of Susan, but she was never able to prove who her parents actually were. DNA could probably do that today.

Of course, if the Sarah in Wilkes County in 1810 is Daniel’s wife, then Daniel had 2 additional daughters.

Possibilities

Daniel was quite active for years in Wilkes County, serving in court as a juror, which means he was a citizen in good standing.

This all seemed to come unraveled in 1793 and 1794 with the death of his wife’s parents and resulting conflict when he would have been in his early 40s. From that point on, Daniel simply disappears.

By 1799, when Ashe was formed, Daniel would have been living there, based on his land grants, that is, if he still owned land. However, Daniel had sold his land in 1795.

There are no further land transactions for Daniel Vannoy in either Wilkes or Ashe County.

Daniel’s son Elijah was born about 1784. Son Joel is reported to have been born in 1792 according to the book, “George Michael Eller and Descendants of his in America”, so he could not have been one of the males in the 1790 census. This also means that it’s unlikely that Sarah in 1810 in Wilkes County is Joel’s mother, because Joel would have been 18 and still living at home – or working on a farm someplace.

Furthermore, the fact that Elijah married Lois McNiel in 1809 or earlier, fully 14 years after Daniel Vannoy sold his land and disappeared suggests that Elijah was living someplace in Ashe County. How else would he have been courting Lois McNiell? Their first child was born 11 months after a court entry in Ashe County with William McNiell appearing as a court justice. You have to be in physical proximity to court.

Knowing that William McNiel was Daniel Vannoy’s neighbor in Ashe County, I can’t help but wonder if William McNiell raised brothers, Elijah and Joel Vannoy.

When Daniel was last in the records, Elijah was about 11 and Joel about 3.

Did Daniel die, intestate, in either Wilkes or Ashe County before 1800? If so, he would not have owned property at that time, because the Wilkes records are complete and there is no mention of Daniel after 1795. If he didn’t own property, he may have had no estate to probate.

If that’s the case, he went from being a slave-owning land-owner to not owing slaves or land without enough assets to probate. That would be unusual but certainly not impossible.

Did Daniel die in Ashe County sometime between 1799 when the county was formed and 1806 when the court records began? That’s certainly possible. A significant number of records were destroyed in the Ashe County courthouse fire in 1865.

If Daniel died sometime after 1806 in Ashe County, some of the court records exist. I’m reading them page by page, in the hope of catching a glimpse of Daniel. Currently I’m working on 1810, and no Daniel Vannoy. I don’t think he’s there. That’s 15 years after he sold his land and disappeared.

It is interesting that William McNiel, the father of Lois McNiel whom Elijah Vannoy would marry in 1809 lived in Ashe County, also owning land on the north side of the South Fork of New River.

William McNiel still owned land in Wilkes County that he sold to his new son-in-law, Elijah Vannoy, in 1810.

Daniel Vannoy and Sarah Hickerson were married in 1779. If Sarah was age 20 at the time, she would have been born about 1759. In that case, she could have borne children until about 1802. If she was slightly older, Daniel’s age, born in about 1752, then Sarah would have been giving birth until about 1795.

It’s certainly possible that the Sarah that appears in 1810 in Wilkes County is indeed Daniel’s wife, but there’s no record of her other than the census in Wilkes County.

The 1810 census exists for both Wilkes and Ashe Counties, and it’s apparent that Daniel is living in neither county at this time.

It’s possible that Daniel and family moved on when Daniel sold his land in 1795, except that Daniel and Sarah would not have left their son Joel, born in 1792, only 3 years of age, behind.

It’s also possible that Sarah and Daniel both died and the Vannoy boys were raised by one of their uncles, or someone else, in Ashe or Wilkes County.

On the census records, we do find that Andrew Vannoy has an unexplained male in both 1800 and 1810, but not two unexplained males. In 1787, both Joseph and Benjamin Darnell, born about 1780, were bound to Andrew Vannoy until they were 21 because their father had died. This extra male in 1800 could have been one of the Darnel boys.

Marital Strife?

The situation between Daniel and the Hickerson family had to take a toll. It obviously unraveled Daniel, because he is being sued for slander and assault by a number of people.

I can’t help but wonder if this situation caused his relationship with Sarah to deteriorate as well. At that time, extremely few people got divorced. In fact, divorces were only granted at the state level – and yes, I checked.

What was more common was for the man to simply “leave,” to move on to another place and perhaps remarry.

I have no evidence that this is what happened to Daniel, but I also have no evidence, not one shred, that Daniel remained in either Ashe or Wilkes County – even though his minor sons did.

The fact that Daniel sold his land as well as his slaves suggests he left. I can’t find any additional land transactions. I can’t find his wife. I can’t find a probate record, or his children being assigned guardians or bound out like the Darnel boys.

Yet, Daniel’s 2 sons emerge in Wilkes County in 1809 and 1817, respectively.

Did Daniel literally just disappear in life too?

I find his two known sons, both in Wilkes County, with Elijah’s marriage occurring in 1809 or before and purchasing land from his father-in-law, William McNiel, in 1810.

Perhaps the reason Elijah was willing to leave with the McNiel family for Claiborne County within the next couple of years is because both of his parents were gone, and his parent’s two families were estranged from each other.

Daniel’s son, Joel Vannoy, is found in Wilkes marrying in 1817 with Little Hickerson signing as his bondsman. Daniel probably rolled over in his grave – assuming he was in a grave someplace and not blissfully married in another state.

This certainly suggests that Joel Vannoy was close to the Hickerson family.

There’s are also other possibilities – more nefarious.

It’s not unheard of for vigilante justice to occur.

Maybe Daniel disappeared up in those mountains.

It’s rough, really rough, terrain. A body would never be found.

But given that Daniel sold both a slave and land, that looks like the less likely option – unless, of course, it was known that he had cash.

It’s apparent that Daniel was preparing to not live there anymore. What isn’t apparent is why his sons, ages 11 and 3, were left behind.

Daniel could also have committed suicide. I don’t ever recall people discussing things like that – but surely, they happened. Perhaps they were couched as accidents – suicides and murders both.

We know that Daniel’s grandson, Joel Vannoy, was mentally unstable and confined to an institution for some time. Was Daniel mentally ill too? Is that perhaps what happened to him in 1794 when he was in his early 40s? Are we witnessing a psychotic break from the distance of two+ centuries?

One thing is for sure, Daniel was one unhappy man in the last records we have of his life.

Then, he was simply…gone.

Daniel Vannoy's land from Blue Ridge Parkway

Overlooking Daniel’s land from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Triangulation in Action at Family Tree DNA

Recently, I published the article, Hitting a Genealogy Home Run Using Your Double-Sided Two-Faced Chromosomes While Avoiding Imposters. The “Home Run” article explains why you want to use a chromosome browser, what you’re seeing and what it means to you.

This article, and the rest in the “Triangulation in Action” series introduces triangulation at Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, GedMatch and DNAPainter, explaining how to use triangulation to confirm descent from a common ancestor. You may want to read the introductory article first.

What is Triangulation?

Think of triangulation as a three-legged stool – a triangle. Triangulation requires three things:

  1. At least three (not closely related) people must match
  2. On the same reasonably sized segment of DNA and
  3. Descend from a common ancestor

Triangulation is the foundation of confirming descent from a common ancestor, and thereby assigning a specific segment to that ancestor. Without triangulation, you might just have a match to someone else by chance. You can confirm mathematical triangulation, numbers 1 and 2, above, without knowing the identity of the common ancestor.

Boundaries

Triangulation means that all three, or more, people much match on a common segment. However, what you’re likely to see is that some people don’t match on the entire segment, meaning more or less than others as demonstrated in the following examples.

FTDNA Triangulation boundaries.png

You can see that I match 5 different cousins who I know descend from my father’s side on chromosome 15 above. As always, I’m the background grey and these matches are all being compared against me.

I triangulate with them in different ways, forming multiple triangulation groups that I’ve discussed individually, below.

Triangulation Group 1

FTDNA triangulation 1.png

Group 1 – On the left group of matches, above, I triangulate with the blue, red and orange person on the amount of DNA that is common between all of them, shown in the black box. This is triangulation group 1.

I’ve overlayed additional triangulation groups below, so you can compare the groups.

Triangulation Group 2

FTDNA triangulation 2.png

Group 2 – However, if you look just at the blue and orange triangulated matches bracketed in green, I triangulate on slightly more, extending to the left. This group excludes the red person because their beginning point is not the same, or even close. This is triangulation group 2.

Triangulation Group 3 and 4

FTDNA triang 3.png

Group 3 – At right, we see two large triangulation groups. Triangulation group 3 includes the common portions of blue, red, teal and orange matches.

Group 4 – Triangulation group 4 is the skinny group at far right and includes the common portion of the blue, teal and dark blue matches.

Triangulation Groups 5 and 6

FTDNA triang 5.png

Group 5 – There are also two more triangulation groups. The larger green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal people because their end locations are to the right of the end locations of the red and orange matches. The start location varies as well. This is triangulation group 5.

Group 6 – The smaller green bracketed group includes only the blue and teal person because their start locations are before the dark blue person. This is triangulation group 6.

There’s actually one more triangulation group. Can you spot it?

Triangulation Group 7

FTDNA triang 7.png

Group 7 – The tan group includes the red, teal and orange matches but only the areas where they all overlap. This excludes the top blue match because their start location is different. Triangulation group 7 only extends to the end of the red and orange matches, because those are the same locations, while the teal match extends further to the right. That extension is excluded in this group, of course.

Slight Variations

Matches with only slight start and end differences are probably descended from the same ancestor, but we can’t say that for sure (at this point) so we only include actual mathematically matching segments in a triangulation group.

You can see that triangulation groups often overlap because group members share more or less DNA with each other. Normally we don’t bother to number the groups – we just look at the alignment. I numbered them for illustration purposes.

Shared or In-Common-With Matching

Triangulation is not the same thing as a 3-way shared “in-common-with” match. You may share DNA with those two people, but on entirely different segments from entirely different ancestors. If those other two people match each other, it can be on a segment where you don’t match either of them, and thanks to an ancestor that they share who isn’t in your line at all. Shared matches are a great hint, especially in addition to other information such as Phased Family Matching which we’ll talk about in a minute, but shared matches don’t necessarily mean triangulation has occurred, although it’s a great place to start looking.

I have shared matches where I match one person on my maternal side, one on my paternal side, and they match each other through a completely different ancestor on an entirely different segment. However, we don’t triangulate because we don’t all match each other on the SAME segment of DNA. Yes, it can be confusing.

Just remember, each of your segments, and matches, has its own individual history.

Imputation Can Affect Matching

Over the years the chips on which our DNA is processed at the vendors have changed. Each new generation of chips tests a different number of markers, and sometimes different markers – with the overlaps between the entire suite of chips being less than optimal.

I can verify that most vendors use imputation to level the playing field, and even though two vendors have never verified that fact, I’m relatively certain that they all do. That’s the only way they could match to their own prior “only somewhat compatible” chip versions.

The net-net of this is that you may see some differences in matching segments at different vendors, even when you’re comparing the same people. Imputation generally “fills in the blanks,” but doesn’t create large swatches of non-existent DNA. I wrote about the concept of imputation here.

What I’d like for you to take away from this discussion is to be focused on the big picture – if and how people triangulate which is the function important to genealogy. Not if the start and end segments are exactly the same.

Triangulation Solutions

Each of the major vendors, except Ancestry who does not have a chromosome browser, offers some type of triangulation solution, so let’s look at what each vendor offers. If your Ancestry matches have uploaded to GedMatch, Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage, you can triangulate with them there. Otherwise, you can’t triangulate Ancestry results, so encourage your Ancestry matches to transfer.

You can find step-by-step transfer instructions to and from each vendor, here.

I wrote more specifically about triangulation here and here.

Let’s start by looking at triangulation at Family Tree DNA.

Triangulation at Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA has two different tools that can be used separately in different circumstances to determine whether or not your segments triangulate.

Phased Family Matching can be used for triangulation.

The Matrix tool can be utilized for people who aren’t designated through Phased Family Matching as maternal or paternal matches to suggest or eliminate triangulation.

First, go to the Family Finder section of your personal page.

We’ll be working with Matches, the Chromosome Browser, and the Matrix.

FTDNA triangulation page.png

Phased Family Matching

At Family Tree DNA, I’ve tested my cousins:

  • Cheryl, my mother’s first cousin (1C)
  • Charlene, my first cousin once removed (1C1R) on my father’s side
  • David, my second cousin (2C) on my father’s side.

I’ve linked the test results of those cousins to my tree in their proper location, which allows Family Tree DNA to do something called Phased Family Matching.

If you don’t have a tree and don’t link your DNA results and those of your family members, Family Tree DNA can’t perform Phased Family Matching.

I explained phasing in the introductory article.

Testing your parents is wonderful if that’s possible, but parents aren’t always available to test. At Family Tree DNA, you don’t need to have tested your parents in order to have phased matches.

In essence, Family Tree DNA uses the DNA of known cousins, third cousins or closer, to assign matches to maternal or paternal tabs, or sides, also sometimes referred to as buckets. I wrote about Phased Family Matching here and here.

FTDNA triang buckets.png

You can see that of my 4806 matches, 1101 are assigned to my paternal side, 884 to my maternal side and 4 are assigned to both.

FTDNA triang header.pngFTDNA triang Charlene.png

My cousin Charlene is assigned to my paternal side, as shown by the blue icon, because I linked her to the correct position in my tree, as is my cousin, David, below.

FTDNA triang David.png

Conversely, my cousin Cheryl is assigned maternally because I linked her as well.

FTDNA triang Cheryl.png

These specific people are assigned maternally and paternally because I linked them to their proper place in my tree. These matches will allows Family Tree DNA to link other testers to the proper side of my tree too, because they match me and my cousin on the same segments – in essence phasing a large number of my matches for me which facilitates triangulation.

Linking Matches on Your Tree

In order to cause Phased Family Matching, aka, “bucketing” to occur, I linked my own test and that of my known 3rd cousins or closer to their proper places in my tree at Family Tree DNA.

If you don’t create a tree or upload a GEDCOM file and link yourself and your known matches, your matches can’t be assigned to maternal and paternal sides.

FTDNA triang tree.png

By utilizing the matching DNA between you and known close relatives on your maternal and paternal sides, Family Tree DNA assigns other people who match both of you on those same segments to the same side of your tree.

If you select matches from the same side of your tree and they match on the same segments, they triangulate.

Of course, that’s assuming the person doesn’t match you on both sides of your tree.

You can also download your matching segments in a file and sort to see who matches on the same locations, but the parental side designation (bucketing) is not reflected in the segment download file. Bucketing is reflected in the match download file which is a different file.

There are two separate download files, but they can be merged.

Two Download Files

The first file, your match download file, provides information about your matches such as their haplogroups, surnames and contact information, including bucketing assignment, but not the actual matching segment data.

The match file tells you a great deal and is both sortable and searchable. You can search for any surname, for example, or you can sort for everyone in the Paternal or Maternal matching bucket. You can creatively combine parts of this file with the matching segments file in order to quickly flag the people on your paternal side. Knowledge about how to work with spreadsheets is a plus.

FTDNA triang match file

Click to enlarge

This download is available at the bottom of the Family Finder match page.

FTDNA triang match.png

You can download all of your matches, or just those in a filtered view, such as in-common-with or as the result of a surname search.

FTDNA triang download.png

The second file, your matching segments file, is available on the chromosome browser page.

The matching segments file includes the match name along with the matching chromosome segments and number of matching SNPs.

FTDNA triang segment file.png

If you click through to the chromosome browser from your main page, as shown below, with NO MATCHES SELECTED, you will be able to download ALL matching segments.

FTDNA triang browser.png

You’ll see “Download All Segments” in the upper right-hand corner.

FTDNA triang download all seg.png

From that Chromosome Browser page, you will also have the ability to select matches to show on the browser.

FTDNA triang browser select

If you select people on the match page before clicking on the chromosome browser or select matches on the chromosome browser page, then clicking on “Download Segments,” will only download the matching segments of the people that you have currently selected to match against in the browser.

FTDNA triang download seg.png

Combinations of Tools and Filters

  • The chromosome browser tells you if people match you on the same segment.
  • The in-common-with filter on the match page tells you who you match in common with a specific person, but not if those two people match each other.

Of course, if both people are assigned to your same parental side bucket, and they both only match you on one large segment – and it’s the same segment, then you must triangulate.

If they aren’t both assigned to a parental bucket, then you can’t make that determination using parental side designations.

Is there a tool that allows you to compare people against each other at the same time to see if your matches also match each other?

Glad you asked.

Yes, there is.

The Matrix

Let’s say that you want to see if a group of people who you match also match each other.

FTDNA triang matrix.png

Family Tree DNA provides a Matrix tool that allows you to select 10 (or fewer) matches in order to determine if your matches also match each other.

FTDNA triang matrix match.png

I’ve entered Cheryl, Charlene and David. You can see that David and Charlene match each other, and Cheryl doesn’t match either Charlene or David.

Of course, we know that’s accurate because:

  • I already know these people and their relationship to me and each other
  • These three people are already assigned to maternal and paternal sides or buckets, so the matrix is verifying what we already know
  • I know where they match on the same segment on the chromosome browser

FTDNA triang 3 browser.png

Even though they match on the same segment on the chromosome browser, the fact that they are bucketed to different parental sides, and that the matrix shows that Cheryl doesn’t match either Charlene and David, confirms that David and Charlene triangulate with me, while Cheryl is not a member of that triangulation group.

This is exactly why triangulation is important. Looking at the image above, the only thing you know is that they all 3 match you – but with the additional information about bucketing and the matrix, we know that only the two bottom people, Charlene and David triangulate with me. Note that I’ve added the maternal and paternal icons for clarity.

FTDNA triang match group browser.png

However, if I didn’t have this knowledge, or not everyone was bucketed, the Matrix tool would be extremely useful. The matrix tool uses the matching threshold of approximately 7.69 cM.

The matrix doesn’t tell you if these people match each other on the same segment where they match you,

However, there’s a good probability that they do, especially if only one matching segment is involved.

You can check the chromosome browser to see if they both match you on the same segment. It’s possible if they don’t match you on the same segment that they match each other on different segments, and possibly through a different ancestor. You may need to reach out to them to ask if they match each other, and if they have known genealogy if they aren’t bucketed.

By utilizing the Matrix tool, you can isolate people to maternal and paternal sides of your tree.

Other Resources to Identify Common Ancestors

Be sure to check other clues at Family Tree DNA such as:

Shared surnames, shown on your matches page, with common surnames that you share bolded

FTDNA triang surnames.png

Trees, indicated by the blue pedigree icon on the match page.

FTDNA triang pedigree.png

Y and mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and matching. You can view your matches haplogroup and other information by clicking on their profile picture on your matches page.

FTDNA triang profile.png

Advanced Matching can be utilized to see if you match on combined tests, or in common projects.

FTDNA triang advanced match.png

This article discusses the 9 different autosomal tools available at Family Tree DNA.

What About You?

Do you have a tree at Family Tree DNA?

Have you connected your test and any family members to your tree?

Can you test a family member, third cousins or closer, or have them transfer a kit from another vendor?

Here’s how to transfer:

How many people do you have on your paternal and maternal tabs on your Family Finder matches page?

You can paint every single one of the people who are designated as maternal or paternal at DNAPainter to your grandparents on the respective maternal or paternal side. DNAPainter Instructions and Resources will explain how, and why.

Join me soon for similar articles about how to work with triangulation at MyHeritage, 23andMe, GedMatch and DNAPainter.

Most of all – have fun!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

DNA File Upload-Download and Transfer Instructions to and from DNA Testing Companies

Upload download.pngSome of my most popular articles are the instructions for how to download your DNA files from the various vendors in order to upload and transfer your DNA files to other vendors to obtain more matches.

Now, I’ve put the instructions for all the vendors together in one place. Feel free to share with your friends, family and groups by posting the link to this article.

Why Transfer?

People test at multiple vendors or transfer their files in order to:

  • Take advantage of unique features at each vendor
  • Match against people in each database that haven’t tested elsewhere
  • Benefit from the lower cost of transfers as compared to testing at each vendor

Transfers themselves along with matching is free, but more advanced features require either a full subscription (MyHeritage,) a monthly subscription (GedMatch) or a one-time unlock fee (Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage without a subscription.)

Vendors who welcome uploads and have a full suite of products are:

GedMatch is not a testing vendor. Customers only transfer files from other vendors TO GedMatch to use their tools, not from GedMatch.

Vendors who don’t allow uploads, meaning you must test there, are:

Download and Upload Instructions

Transferring your DNA consists of downloading your raw DNA data file from one vendor and uploading the file to another vendor’s system.

This process does NOT delete your DNA file or results from the original system. That’s an entirely different process, not related to a file download.

Here’s how to transfer – with individual steps for downloading from and uploading to each vendor:

How many new matches will you receive by transferring to each vendor?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Michael McDowell Jr. (c 1747 – c 1840): Slanting Misery – 52 Ancestors #260

In the first article about Michael McDowell, Michael McDowell Jr., (c1747-c1840), Revolutionary War Veteran, Spy, Miller and Apparently, Rabble Rouser – 52 Ancestors #258, I told the story of Michael’s early years.

When Michael McDowell was about 63 years old, when most people are looking forward to sitting around a cozy fireplace on chilly mornings, Michael set out on yet another great adventure, lumbering along in a wagon pulled by his three horses and slowly making his way across mountains to the next frontier.

Michael McDowell Wilkes to Slanting.png

On average, wagons traveled approximately 10 miles a day. This journey, crossing the Appalachian Mountains through a pass someplace would have taken about 3 weeks, presuming that no wagon axles broke or anything else unforeseen happened to slow their progress during their bumpy trek.

Sometime in late 1809 or early 1810. Michael McDowell and most of his family left Wilkes County, North Carolina and settled on the border between Lee County, Virginia and Claiborne County, Tennessee, along the Powell River. They probably made the journey in the fall, after harvest, but before snow, or in the spring before planting – although mud would have been worse during that time.

We know that Michael had arrived in Lee County by mid-May of 1810.

Michael McDowell Powell River map.png

The 1810 tax list of Lee County, Virginia, located just across the county and state line from where Michael McDowell eventually settled in Claiborne County, Tennessee shows the following men on a tax list taken on May 12th:

  • Michael McDowell 1 poll, 3 horses
  • John McDowell 1 poll, 1 horse
  • Edward McDowell 1 poll, 2 horses
  • Luke McDowell 1 poll, no horses

A “poll” means this man is paying for 1 male over the age of either 16 or 21, depending on the time and place. They are listed separately, which indicates that they live in separate households. None of these men owned slaves over age 12 on this list, nor is there any indication they ever owned slaves at all.

Another indication that Michael lived initially in Lee County is that in 1812 when his son-in-law, William Herrell (Harrell, Harold, Herald) purchased land, Herrell was identified as “of Lee County, Virginia” in the deed. It’s also possible that the state line was indeterminate at that time. A Supreme Court case filed in 1893 sought to clarify the Virginia/Tennessee state line, as there had been disputes since the original surveys of the border between these two states. The Herrell/McDowell lands were only about half a mile, or less, from that eventual border.

Pushing Further Into Kentucky

A hundred miles further northwest, Pulaski County Kentucky Marriage Records transcribed by the Pulaski County Historical Society document the following marriages:

  • April 18, 1811 – Edmon McDowell married Lucy Haynes, Thomas Haines bondsman, Thomas Hansford present
  • November 7, 1811 – William McDowell married Anna Herrin, Wesley Short present
  • December 8, 1811 – Luke McDowell married Francis Fields, Wesley Short present

I find no documentation in these marriage records that these were Michael’s sons, but the 1810 tax list in Lee county is at least suggestive that Edmon (Edward) and Luke are connected with Michael McDowell Jr. Wesley Short stands with both William and Luke, connecting them. A William McDowell is later found with Michael where he lived in Claiborne County. However, for the William in Claiborne to have been the William who married in Pulaski County in 1811, he would have had to have moved back to Claiborne County sometime after his marriage.

What was the draw in Pulaski County, Kentucky? They aren’t the only men from this region to settle there.

Thompson Settlement Baptist Church

Michael McDowell’s Revolutionary War pension application in 1832 tells us that that he has a good relationship with the Baptist preacher, James Gullut (Gilbert), who he had known for 15 or 20 years which means they met roughly between 1812 and 1817. Now, we just need to find out which Baptist church James Gullut (Gilbert) was associated with.

At the Thompson Settlement Baptist Church, founded in 1800 and located across the Tennessee/Virginia border on Powell River in Lee County, Virginia we find records of James Gilbert being received by experience and baptized on April 23rd, 1815 by Reverend Andrew Baker.

“Received by experience” means that Gilbert was “saved” and subsequently baptized in this church, not transferred from another church. If he had transferred from another church, he would have been “received by letter.”

Michael McDowell Thompson Settlement.png

The Thompson Settlement church was located on Powell River, in Lee County, some 15 miles from where Michael McDowell lived on land aptly named “Slanting Misery.” And trust me, it is – I’ve been there.

Michael appears to have initially settled, at least temporarily, in Lee County, Virginia but that didn’t last for long, settling by 1812 in Claiborne County, Tennessee, just over the Lee/Claiborne line. He may not have moved very far, half a mile or so, or he may not have moved at all – believing that the area where he lived was actually in Lee County. The boundary was disputed and other settlers in Carter Valley in Hawkins County discovered they weren’t living in Virginia, after all. Maybe Michael did too.

Getting to the Thompson Settlement Church in Lee County from Michael McDowell’s land was no small feat, given that the wide Powell River probably had to be forded, at least once, if not twice, and there were mountains in the way. I’m not at all sure it wouldn’t have taken a day to get to church in a wagon – and you had to take the wagon in order to transport a family. In fact, probably the entire extended family. A day coming and a day going would make church a 3-day event – and that just wasn’t feasible every week for a farming family. Not to mention that trip in the winter would have been both miserable and perilous.

MIchael McDowell Thompson Settlement to Slant Misery.png

It’s no surprise that the Rob Camp Church was eventually formed about 3 miles away, just past the Clarkson’s, in the part of Claiborne County that became Hancock County, but not officially until 1844, after Michael McDowell’s presumed death.

McDowell Rob Camp Church

It’s likely that a group of church members had been meeting locally for a long time. In 1842, the church minutes stated that the members met at the home of Rob Parkey. Parkey Gap is in the ridge of mountains just south of Slanting Misery, so “church” might have been simply at a neighbors house.

If Michael hadn’t already died, his membership was never transferred to Rob Camp. He would have been 97 at that time.

Thompson Settlement Church

The Thompson Settlement Church records provide a few nuggets of information.

Events recorded reflect members being tried within the church and censured for activities like playing marbles, dancing and drinking, letting us peep into the rules and daily church life. We also gain insight into the lives of the membership, and the clergy.

On July 1, 1822, “Brother James Gilbert is licensed to use a public gift when he may think proper.” In essence, this means they are giving him the official nod to preach, whenever he is ready.

Then, on May 1st, 1823, “Brother James Gilbert is set apart for ordination, and Brother William Wells and Brother William Jones to be called as a Presbytery to ordain Brother Gilbert to the ministry.” Gilbert was ordained the following week.

In 1835 and 1836, James Gilbert is still with the church, so we know that in 1832 when he gave a deposition for Michael McDowell, he was indeed the minister. Based on the information provided in Gilbert’s autobiography, it sounds unlikely that he would have endorsed Michael if he were not a church member, because in that place and time, not being a church member equated to being an unrepentant sinner.

This tells us that Michael McDowell was a member of the Thompson Settlement Church – the first indication of any kind that he was a church member. James Gilbert was probably also Michael McDowell’s neighbor, because in 1845 when James Gilbert and others established the Rob Camp Church in what was then Hancock County, Michael McDowell’s neighboring families were among the first listed church members with James Gilbert among the parishioners. Rob Camp was an offshoot or sister church to Thompson Settlement and a lot closer.

A list of members who belong to the Thompson Settlement Church in Lee County, VA detailed members in the year 1835 and Mikel McDowell is noted, with no indication as to what happened to him. Nancy McDowell is listed as well, with “dismissed.” John McDowell’s wife, Nancy, died in 1841, per her gravestone. I guess death is one method of dismissal.

Another membership list dated Saturday, September 1, 1838, includes the name of Michael Macdowell, with a note beside the name, “dismissed.”  Is this someone other than the elderly Michael McDowell, or is dismissed recorded instead of deceased, perhaps? I don’t see deceased on the list for anyone, so I’d suggest that dismissed means “no longer a member.” Clearly, the disposition of these members was added later, not when the list was created. The fact that he was listed on this 1838 list means he was alive then.

We know that Michael was not in the census in 1840 under his own name, but he may have been living with family members.

Claiborne County, Tennessee

In Michael McDowell’s pension application in 1832, the good Reverend Gilbert states that he has known Michael for 15 or 20 years. This places Michael’s arrival in the area no later than 1812-1817, and perhaps earlier – but we knew that from the tax list.

Michael’s son, John, said in a deposition that a group of families migrated about 1810. That year is of course confirmed by the Lee County, Virginia, 1810 tax records.

Michael McDowell Wilkes to Claiborne.png

Three of Michael’s sons married in Pulaski Co., KY in 1811, although initially I wasn’t entirely convinced that these men were all Michael’s sons. We do find Edward signing that 1799 deed in Wilkes County as a witness for Michael McDowell Jr. and William is found later with Michael in Claiborne County. Y DNA adds evidence that indeed Edward and Luke were sons of Michael McDowell. To date, the only McDowell men matching this group above 12 markers are men who descend from those two sons of Michael.

Where was Michael McDowell in the 1810 census? The Claiborne County 1810 census is lost, as is the Lee County, VA Census. There is no McDowell in Pulaski County in the 1810 census.

In 1845, John McDowell, son of Michael McDowell, when giving a deposition on behalf of his sister, Mary McDowell, who married William Herrell, testifies that about 1810 a group of families moved to Claiborne County, and that both he and Mary McDowell Harrell were among those families. I’d wager that Michael McDowell was driving a wagon in that train, the back full of the family and a few of their belongings. They couldn’t have brought many things in a wagon that also had to transport the family. There were probably multiple wagons given that Michael and his sons had a total of 7 horses after arrival. Or maybe the sons rode horseback instead of in the wagons.

At least 4 of Michael’s younger children would have been riding. We know that Michael’s oldest son, Michael III, stayed in North Carolina, but the rest of his known children moved north with Michael. His daughter, Mary, was pregnant at the time with her first child.

I surely wonder what prompted Michael to uproot and leave, given that he was well-established in Wilkes County and had been for about a quarter century. Maybe with his children at marriage age, he knew if he didn’t relocate “now” he never would, because his children would be establishing their own homes and would be reticent to leave.

If Michael left Wilkes for Claiborne in 1810, he would have been 63 years old. Not a young man – older than I am today and I certainly would not want to undertake that journey, especially not under the conditions of that time and place in a wagon with no shocks or springs, over badly rutted roads, up and down mountains. Makes me ache to even think about that. Not to mention shudder when thinking about those cliffs and precipices. No thank you.

Michael would have had his youngest children riding behind the seat, in the wagon or walking alongside, perhaps encouraging a cow to keep up. In 1800, Michael had 4 children age 0-10, so they would be between 10 and 20 in 1810.

William Harrell’s first land purchase in Claiborne County was on October 10, 1812 and was witnessed by none other than his father-in-law, Michael McDowell.

May term 1813 – Oct. 10 1812 John Claypool and Eliza his wife of Claiborne and William Harrold of Lee Co Va. for the sum of $200 a tract of land lying in Claiborne on the N side of Powell River including a stripe of land on the opposite side of said river included in a tract of land conveyed to William Bails by James Allen bounded as follows: Beginning on the back line in a deep hollow at two hickories and at a dogwood, thence to a white oak marked AB (with the right side of the A the same as the back of the B) thence to the south line of said tract containing 100 acres more or less it being part of a tract of 440 acres conveyed to said William Bails by James Allen as above said conveyance bearing the date Jan. 20, 1809. Witnesses William Briance, Michael McDowel (his X mark), William Hardy. Registered Dec. 3, 1813.

Notice that Michael signed with an X, like he did every previous document. It appears that Michael was not able to read or write. That didn’t keep him from transacting business.

Land

In January of 1814, Michael was granted 15 acres plus 200 acres previously assigned to John Braham. Perhaps Michael had been living on John’s land ever since his arrival. Or maybe he settled on the land he eventually purchased, given that William Herrell’s land was right next door.

Michael McDowell 1814 land grant.png

The great thing about Michael’s land grant is that it tells us exactly where this land is located.

District 6, Powell River by 4 Mile Creek and it’s bluff adjoining Herrell’s line beginning on the north bank of Powell’s River above the mouth of 4 Mile Creek then up the rivers…to the east bank of 4 Mile Creek…

Michael also received another 25 acres in the same location.

Slanting misery panorama

During one on my visits, I took these photos which I’ve assembled as a panorama, taken from the top of “Slanting Misery,” Michael’s land, looking left to right from the Harrell land to the Clarkson grant. In the next 3 generations, these families would intermarry and become my ancestors.

On February 1, 1817, Michael McDowell witnessed a deed for the purchase of land by his son, John McDowell. Another witness was William McDowell. This is the first instance of William McDowell in any record, unless you count the 1811 marriage in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

Although the land that’s being surveyed below isn’t Michael’s, it’s the best overview of the area and property owners that I’ve ever found because the drawing includes all of the families along Powell River. Notice the survery is for a Parkey, the same family as where church was being held. The Parkey’s owned significant land along the Powell River, including south of the river.

parkey survey 2 cropParkey survey 3

A current map shows the following locations. Before GPS and Google Maps, this is how we found land and locations. It worked!

MIchael McDowell topo map.jpg

Additional information is recorded in the Claiborne County Court Notes from the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions 1819-1821:

Thursday Nov. 11, 1819, Page 31 – John McDowell appointed as a juror to the next session.

Wed. August 16 1820, Page 162 – Ordered by the court that Alexander Ritchie be appointed overseer of the new road leading from the 9 mile post at Doherty’s to the Powell Valley Road at John Hurt that is from the said 9 mile post to Powels River and have for hands the following bounds that is all Capt. Thoms McCarty’s company south of Wallen’s Ridge and the following named hands on the N side of said ridge – William Herrold, John McDowell, Joseph Baker, William Baker, William Medlock, William McDowell and Robert G. (or C.) Parks.

I suspect Parks was really Parkey.

In 1824 Michael McDowell granted a deed to John P. McDowell in Claiborne County, for “love”. A second transaction was the reverse. Did these men trade land?

In these records, we need to differentiate between John McDowell and John P. McDowell, who were different men.

John McDowell’s 1825 survey was located on the far northern end of “Slanting Misery.”

Michael McDowell John 1825 survey.jpg

William McDowell’s 1829 survey is shown below, adjacent William Herrell in the area that would be called Herrell’s bend of Powell River.

william herrell 2 survey

The 1830 census for Claiborne County shows:

Michael McDowell:

  • 1 male 80-90 (Michael 83)
  • 1 male 30-40 (unknown, born 1790-1800)
  • 1 female 70-80 (wife about 77)
  • 1 female 20-30 (unknown, possibly wife of male 30-40)

The unknown male could possibly be son William. Although William had land surveyed in 1829, he isn’t listed on the census.

Michael was living beside his son, John McDowell, age 40-50, so born between 1780-1790, with John’s 5 children.

They live less than a dozen houses from William Herald who married Michael’s daughter, Mary McDowell, in 1809 in Wilkes County.

Michael McDowell 1830 census Claiborne.png

Nathan McDowell is living in Claiborne County as well, but not close to Michael. He is age 30-40, so born between 1790-1800, as is John P. McDowell, age 30-40.

In 1832, we find another 50 acre survey for John and William McDowell, jointly.

Michael McDowell 1832 John and William

The John and William McDowell 1832 4 Mile Creek survey mentions Michael McDowell as a chain carrier. In 1832, Michael McDowell was 85 years old. He must have been a quite spry 85, or maybe this Michael was a grandson?

Michael McDowell 1832

John and William’s land was the north end of Slanting Misery, adjacent Michael McDowell’s land.

The map below shows the exact area as the survey above, including the location where the river is forded at McDowell Shoal with the red arrows. You can see the 2 tracks on the other side of the river, on Slanting Misery.

Michael McDowell ford of river.jpg.png

The land at the mouth of 4 Mile Creek is the land Michael sold to his granddaughter, Margaret Herrell and her first husband, Anson Martin. After Anson’s death, Margaret married Joseph Bolton and they became my great-grandparents. They probably lived right here.

Michael McDowell 4 Mile Creek mouth.png

River Road runs alongside Slanting Misery, across Powell River from Slanting Misery. Michael owned land on both sides of the river. The yellow arrow is the mouth of 4 Mile Creek, and the green arrows mark the two fords of the river today.

Michael McDowell 4 Mile Creek ford and barn.png

This view shows 4 Mile Creek, the fords and the barns on Michael’s land. Michael’s house stood near the barns and cemetery. McDowell Shoals is to the far right on River Road, above.

Michael McDowell McDowell Shoals.png

This high area along River Road, looking across the Powell River to Michael’s land is called McDowell Shoals. You can see the island in the middle of the river that used to support a swinging rope bridge.

On May 16, 1832, the surveyor surveyed 50 acres of land on both sides of 4 Mile Creek for Michael and the chainer was John McDowell.

Michael McDowell 1832 survey

Today, driving along River Road, we cross 4 Mile Creek just before it dumps into the Powell River. Michael owned this land.

Michael McDowell River Road 4 Mile Creek.png

By this time, Michael was 85 years old, and he’s still amassing land!

We know his age due to his application in court on May 17, 1832 for his Revolutionary War pension. It was no small endeavor to travel to the courthouse in Tazewell, either. That journey began with fording the Powell River, as map shows, which runs high in the spring, sometimes VERY high.

Michael McDowell to court.png

That trip to town probably required a couple days and equally as long to return. Michael and whoever went with him probably stayed in town during the week to attend court. The entire adventure to appear before court probably took a week or more. Not to mention that “court,“ which occurred quarterly, was the entertainment of the day. If you went to all of the trouble and effort of attending court, you were surely going to stay for the entire spectacle. Who wants to leave the movie at intermission? Court was the soap opera of 1800s Appalachia, with adult beverages flowing freely. Not to mention that Michael would have gotten to mingle with the other Revolutionary War veterans who were also applying for pensions. I can just see those old men telling stories and “swapping lies,” as my Dad would have said. Maybe over some whiskey at the tavern.

In 1833, a deed was granted from Michael McDowell to S. and W. (Nathan S. and William) McDowell “for love,” confirming a close relationship. I wish he had told us the exact nature of those relationships.

The Claiborne County 1833 tax lists shows Michael living beside William McDowell and William Herreld who lived 5 doors from John McDowell.

Michael McDowell 1833 tax list.png

John McDowell obtained a grant in 1834 on the Powell River, just below the mouth of 4 Mile Creek.

Michael McDowell 1834 JOhn grant

And another grant in 1836. This family was a land baron! It’s just that the land was rough and not very productive.

1836 land grant.jpg

I thought surely that Michael was finished obtaining land, but not according to the Tennessee land grant books found in the Middlesboro, KY library. In 1836, when Michael would have been 89, he was granted another 40 acres. I have to wonder if a lot of this land was “scrub” by this time, or others would have already patented the land had it been productive farmland.

Last First Year Acres District Book Page Grant County
McDowell Michael 1836 15 E dist 8 669 70038 Claiborne
McDowell Michael 1836 25 E dist 8 669 70039 Claiborne

The 1839 Claiborne County Tax list is in alphabetical order, not house order, and it tells us that Michael had 40 acres valued at $100, taxed at $5. There is another 60 acres listed as school and valued at $50 and taxes at 2.5. He has no poll, due to his advanced age, and under the tax column, it shows .05, which does not add up to the total of the previous columns, but then neither do the rest so I’m apparently misunderstanding something.

It appears that at least part of Michael’s land is missing, although that simply might mean that others were farming the land and paying the taxes. Some deeds could have been conveyed by hand and not recorded as well.

In his lifetime, Michael was granted a total of 330 acres. He conveyed land to John P. McDowell in 1824 for “love” and to Nathan and William McDowell in 1833, although the acreage is not stated.

Given that Michael obtained yet another two land grants in 1836 for 25 and 15 acres, and was taxed in 1839 for 40 acres, this appears to be the amount of land that Michael has left.

Anson Martin and Margaret Herrell

On June 20th, 1840 Michael McDowell along with William McDowell sold 2 acres of land to Anson Martin at the mouth of 4 Mile Creek for $50. Anson had married Margaret Herrell, Michael’s granddaughter, about 1828. I have to wonder why they only purchased 2 acres. That certainly wasn’t enough to farm. Would they have established a mill at the mouth of a creek?

At this time, Michael would have been 93 years old and it is presumed he died shortly thereafter since he is not listed individually on the 1840 census, and not listed on the Rob Camp Church membership in 1844. He is probably buried on his own land on Slanting Misery, close to the confluence of Four Mile Creek and the Powell River in what is now Hancock County, but like most of the early pioneers in this area, there is no marked gravestone to identify the exact location in the cemetery.

The Claiborne County 1840 census shows us that there are a John and William McDowell, both living near William Herral, with William McDowell having a female aged 80-90, possibly his mother.

Additionally, the Reverend Nathan McDowell who had moved further east in Claiborne County has a male living with him, age 80-90. Are these two elderly people Michael McDowell and his wife?  Perhaps they both needed help, and two children each took one parent.

Or, maybe, just maybe, there was something else going on.

A Scandal

Michael McDowell’s son-in-law, William Herrell served in the War of 1812 not long after the family settled in Claiborne County. William came home, while many of their neighbors, including James Claxton, their neighbor who lived in the next river bend to the west, did not.

After the war, William Herrell and Mary McDowell Herrell continued to live on the land adjacent Michael, as they would until Michael’s death. From the distance of almost 200 years, life seems routine based on what few records exist. Deeds and court records, mostly, with a few tax records sprinkled in for good measure.

It’s in those tax records that we find the first hint of the scandal that must surely have enveloped the family, if not the entire community and possibly further.

William Herrell is taxed in 1836 and 1839 on land and a slave worth more than half the value of his land.

In the 1900s, the whispered story that William Herrell had two wives lived on, even into the late 1900s. Told in hushed voices so that children wouldn’t overhear. Of course, that made the savvy children strain to listen harder – thankfully – because it was one of those nearly 90-year-old children that heard her grandmother tell that story – and told me around the year 2000. Her grandmother KNEW the family involved, but wouldn’t say who, other than “William Harrell had two wives,” and then just clucked her tongue.

Of course, there were two unrelated Herrell families in the region during that time, our William Herrell who lived in the far north part of the county, and another Herrell family who lived in the far southern part of Claiborne County, bordering on Grainger County, about 30 miles distant. There was also a William Herrell in the Claiborne/Grainger group, my friend’s ancestors, but this rumor didn’t seem to pertain to him as he never owned slaves, which confused my 90+ year old friend. According to my friend, those two families didn’t realize they weren’t related back in time and (at least she) presumed they were because their names were the same.

It wasn’t until I discovered that “my” William had two wives that this persistently repeated story made sense. It was quite by accident that I discovered which Herrell family was involved.

I don’t mean that William had one wife who died and he then married a second wife, but that he had two wives at the same time. Technically, if not legally, bigamy. Not only that, but one wife was white and one was black. In that time and place, THAT might have been the bigger cluckable offense. Which also explains, of course, why this it wasn’t legally bigamy. Not only was it illegal for a white person to marry a black person, there was more to this story.

And no, William Herrell was not Mormon, so his actions were not religiously directed. In fact, not surprisingly, we don’t find any evidence of William in any church records.

Apparently, the white Herrell family and black Herrell family in northern Claiborne, the part that eventually became Hancock County, “always knew” they were somehow related, even though exactly how had been long forgotten, at least according to oral history from some of the family. Others, however, knew more. In fact, their oral history included the fact that Cannon, the son of Harriett, William’s slave, wound up owning some of William’s land via inheritance.

One thing is for sure – Cannon Herrell and the rest of the Harrell family all lived together, apparently harmoniously, along the Powell River for generations – including today.

Harriett Herrell was William Herrell’s slave, but at some point, as the story goes, she became his second wife according to my friend. Eventually, my elderly friend told me that when she was young, in the early 1900s, her grandmother, great-aunts and others still discussed the scandal of the William Harrell with the white wife and the black wife. She said that topic never got old, and all “those old women did was gossip about people.” Obviously a very interesting and unusual story to hold thier attention for so long.

William reportedly built Harriett a house on one side of his property, his wife Mary McDowell Herrell’s house on the other side, and he would live with one until she got mad at him and kicked him out. Then he’d live with the other until she got mad and kicked him out, when he’s go back and live with the other wife again as the circular scenario continued to repeat.

There is one part of the original story that doesn’t add up. That tidbit is that Harriett “had a whole passel of kids,” which she did not according to available records, or her descendants. There are no stories of Cannon having siblings other than Mary’s children. Of course, we don’t know how many children Harriet bore that might have died, or, God forbid, might have been sold.

A second problematic part from the Cannon family oral history is that William Herrell left Cannon land, which it appears that William did not. We know this in part because at the time William Herrell died, in 1859, intestate, Cannon was still legally a slave and William could not have bequeathed him land. That does not mean that in 1872, Mary McDowell Herrell couldn’t have left or given Cannon land. The deeds burned, so we’ll never know for sure.

However, Cannon did eventually own some of William’s land, living adjacent Alexander Herrell, his half-brother, although Cannon purchased the land outright. That deed occurred after the first courthouse fire.

Mary McDowell Herrell, William’s wife and Cannon’s step-mother, raised Cannon with her children after Harriett’s death and could certainly have left Cannon money when she passed, sometime after 1872. William did claim Cannon as his child, according to all parties, and Cannon carried the Herrell surname. Cannon is listed on the census with the family in 1870. In 1850 and 1860, he is listed as mulatto – one of only two people in that broad region. Cannon’s parentage was clearly no secret to anyone.

Cannon lived with Mary and her adult daughters until after Mary died. According to the census, Cannon seemed to be doing financially fine on his own – better than his stepmother and sisters combined. Mary owned the property, but Cannon owned more personal property than the women. It probably took the efforts of everyone, working in tandem, to farm and earn enough to survive, given the location of their farm.

How did I find Cannon?

In the 1830 census, William Herrell (spelled (Harold) did not own a slave.

In the 1840 census, William Herrell owned one female slave, with a male slave under the age of 10. That child was Cannon Herrell who was born between 1827 and 1838, depending on the record you reference. Keep in mind that slaves were taxed according to thier age, and younger males were taxed as a lower rate than older males.

On the 1850 slave census, Cannon is shown as age 12 and Harriett is gone.

On the 1860 slave census, Cannon is owned my “Mary Herrel and 5 others,” clearly her children as a result of William’s death in 1859, where Cannon is listed as age 33. That would put his birth in 1827, the earliest date we find.

In 1870, Cannon is living with Mary and his age is given as 35, putting his birth in 1835. In 1880, he has married and gives his age as 45.

Cannon Herrell death 1916.jpg

Cannon’s death certificate in 1916 says he was illegitimate and doesn’t name a father which is not unusual under the circumstances, meaning a white man fathering a child with a black woman. It does list Cannon’s mother’s name as Harriett Herrell.

I considered that there was one other possibility, which is that William Herrell’s eldest son, Alexander, fathered Cannon with Harriett. Alexander, born on Christmas Day, 1820, would have been 16 or 17 when the child, Cannon, was conceived IF he was born in 1838. At this point, I think it’s more likely that Cannon was actually born earlier, possibly in 1830, given that the family actually had a full birth date which is recorded on Cannon’s death certificate. Other records indicate 1834, 1835 and 1837. Any date before 1838 would likely exclude Alexander.

In 1829, William Herrell’s white wife, Mary, bore her last child, Malinda. I would suggest that many tears were shed by both Harriett and Mary during those years. Both would have been trapped in a situation neither one wanted and neither could control. I suspect they spent a lot of time together.

Furthermore, if William empregnated Harriett once, it’s nearly certain that behavior didn’t cease. The behavior clearly wasn’t “common and accepted” because in 1850, Cannon was only one of two mulattoes listed in that region.

It was 1838 when Margaret Herrell Martin, William’s oldest child, and her husband, Anson Martin, requested to be dismissed from the Thompson Settlement Church. There was no “other church” to join at that time, in this region, which suggests they left the church for other reasons. I’d can’t help but wonder if it had something to do with the scandal which may have just been occurring and assuredly was hotly debated for a variety of reasons.

Slavery in Claiborne County was unusual, and slavery in this part of the county was almost unheard of, although in 1830, the Bales family who is listed adjacent William Herrell had one slave, and John Parrott, another two properties away owns a few slaves including a female slave of the age that could have been Harriett. By1850, Peter Parkey owned slaves too.

Just a few years later, these families would fight for the north during the Civil War.

In this part of Claiborne County, there was no flat land to be cultivated. Plantations were impossible. Slaves were few and far between, and when a landowner was found with slaves, it was generally one, or at most, two. Poverty was a common thread. No one had enough money for anything, let alone slaves – so William’s purchase of a slave between 1830-1836 is mystifying – especially having been to see his land and his family’s hardscrabble existence clinging to the river banks.

The portion of this article titled “Roberta and Mary’s Great Adventure” shows the Herrell property.

Given these circumstances, it’s not surprising that what occurred between William and Harriett was so scandalous, not to mention the strong primitive Baptist regional leaning. And poor Harriett, caught up in all of this. I can’t help but wonder if she died in childbirth, but there is absolutely no evidence of that.

Two years later, in 1840, Margaret and Anson bought the two acres from Michael McDowell. Were they trying to live someplace away from Margaret’s father’s land and the family drama? Granted, the land at the mouth of 4 Mile Creek wasn’t very far from her parents – but maybe far enough.

Did Margaret ask her grandfather to sell her two acres? Margaret’s parents were William Harrell and Mary McDowell, Michael McDowell’s daughter. Margaret’s brother was Alexander Herrell. Everyone lived in close proximity to one another.

Regardless of whether William Herrell or Alexander Herrell fathered a child with Harriett, Y DNA confirms that one of them did – and it was most likely William. I’d say almost certainly.

Regardless of which male fathered Cannon, William’s wife, Mary and her family may have been ostracized, especially at church, as a result. Harrell Bend and surrounding area was already quite remote and remains so today – it’s own microcosm.

Michael McDowell, Mary’s father, was certainly alive in the 1830s when Harriett gave birth to Cannon. I’m guessing, given that Michael never owned a slave and neither did any of his sons in Claiborne County, that Michael was not one bit pleased when William Herrell who was both his son-in-law and neighbor purchased a slave between 1830 and 1836, then (presumably) proceeded to cheat on Michael’s daughter with that slave.

This is the same Michael McDowell who beat Betty Wooton in Wilkes County in 1790 and was prosecuted more than once for trespass. Michael apparently had something of a temper, so I’m guessing it had abated somewhat by the 1830s – or he was just too old to do anything about the situation.

The slave, Harriett, probably had absolutely no say in any of this and was also a victim, in more ways than one. Slaves controlled absolutely nothing, including their own bodies. In 1838, William would have been about 50 years old and she was probably young.

To make matters even worse, the fact that Harriett was possibly purchased as a second wife compounded an already difficult situation. When Cannon was born, if William’s fidelity was ever previously in question, all doubt was removed. If Alexander was the father instead of William, which is not what the original oral history on either side of the family indicates, scandal would still have spun around the family, especially in the church.

Making matters even more sticky, Nathan S. McDowell, Michael McDowell’s son and Mary McDowell Herrell’s brother, was a Baptist preacher, described as having a “very crabbed disposition.” He had already purchased land in Claiborne County, but in 1837 he began serving as moderator of the Big Springs Baptist Church south of Tazewell, 18 miles distant.

This family was probably torn from stem to stern, although Nathan was reported to have refused to swear an oath of fidelity during the Civil War. Still, adultery is adultery and sin is sin, regardless. Not to mention the human emotions of Mary, Harriett and all the family members other than William who caused this mess.

Mary McDowell Herrell, about 50 in 1838, was probably EXTREMELY unhappy with her husband, to put it mildly. Betrayal is incredibly painful – especially if Mary suspected that William bought Harriett with that plan in mind and she could do absolutely nothing. Regardless of the circumstanced under which this occurred, William bore sole responsibility for being intimate with another woman – and “how” could have been even worse if the act was not consensual. For that matter, can a woman held in bondage to a man actually give free consent? I don’t think so.

Michael McDowell was elderly and probably also very angry with his son-in-law, William Herrell. He had obviously been close to William since at least 1810 and had spent the time since as neighbors on the Powell River.

Mary lost her husband’s fidelity in the 1830s (if not before) when William fathered Cannon, lost her father about 1840, her son-in-law (Anson) in about 1845, gained an orphan half-sibling of her children between 1840 and 1850 when Harriett died, as well as losing her husband, William, in 1859. Mary may not have grieved William’s death on a personal level, we don’t know. They had children and shared a lifetime together. They were economically tied and more work would have fallen on Mary and her children’s shoulders after his death. That 20 years or so of Mary’s life must have been living hell – and Michael couldn’t have helped but notice his daughter’s pain.

In the 1870 census, after William’s death and Cannon was freed, Cannon is still living with Mary McDowell Herrell and her adult daughters. That smaller family unit was reported to be very close. I hope so. They deserve that.

Nope, no family drama going on at Slanting Misery. Nada. Nothing to see here folks! Move right along. This has all the makings of a good soap opera. Downton Abbey’s got nothing on the McDowell/Herrell clan living on the Powell River.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that Michael McDowell who roughed up Betsy Wooten in 1790 didn’t personally put William Herrell into a grave for cheating on his daughter. Maybe Michael was simply too old (90 in 1837), or maybe that’s why Michael may have been living with Nathan in 1840. Maybe he tried. It appears that Isabel, Michael’s wife was living with William McDowell in 1840, unless that female is William’s mother-in-law.

Perhaps Michael got sent to live with the preacher son 18 miles away because the entire family felt everyone was safer with some distance between Michael and William Herrell. Or maybe the family simply hid Michael’s gun(s), much like we hid my mother’s car from her for her own (and others’) safety during her last few months.

I understand that William Herrell is buried in the Herrell Cemetery although there is no marker. I’m sure he would not have been welcome in the McDowell Cemetery if in fact Cannon was fathered by William Herrell. Mary’s brother, John, owned the McDowell Cemetery land when William Herrell died. I don’t know whether Mary is buried with William in the Herrell cemetery, or maybe she was buried in the McDowell cemetery, with the rest of her family. That decision rested with her children, and the decision may have been predicated upon whether Cannon was fathered by William (probably) or Alexander Herrell (probably not), along with whether or not William “repented” and if Mary forgave him.

Cannon’s family certainly believed he was fathered by William, and Cannon lived beside Alexander on the land he purchased, for the duration of both men’s lives.

It’s possible that this stress contributed to Michael McDowell’s demise – although he was clearly elderly.

Let’s visit the McDowell Cemetery on Michael’s land where he most assuredly rests.

Where is the McDowell Cemetery?

Michael McDowell’s descendants helped me find the old McDowell Cemetery on Slanting Misery, which was no easy task, I assure you. By looking at this tranquil land today, you’d never guess it’s storied history.

Let me begin with a letter from Mary Kay, married to (now deceased) Les McDowell, Michael’s descendant through son Luke.

This is Mary Kay. Michael McDowell is my husband Les’s ancestor.

Twice we have waded the Powell River to the Old McDowell Farm, in 1997 and 1999. The first time I photographed the gravestones there. The second time we took a large crowbar over there to turn over a big stone in hopes of seeing scratchings indicating that it was for Michael. Unfortunately, it was just a plain stone; no evidence of it ever having had anything on it. However, in “witching” the graves, there are definitely at least three other bodies there – two men and one woman. We think that Michael has to be one of the men, but I guess we’ll never know.

Grave “witching,” also called dowsing, a technique using a rod or stick often made of hickory is a very old technique used traditionally to avoid digging up existing graves when new burials were being dug, and more recently to locate old graves. It sounds ominous, but it wasn’t and isn’t. I grew up with this tradition which is also used to find underground water when wells are being dug.

Back to Mary Kay:

Mary Parkey, the historian for the Claiborne County Historical Society at that time, had the original deed to that land, in Michael McDowell’s name. I wanted to purchase the deed from her, but Mary wouldn’t sell it, but did provide a photocopy. The original was in the house fire that took Mary’s life a few years later, along with many other irreplaceable documents.

Mary Parkey, now deceased, was descended from both Margaret Herrell and Anson Martin, and Alexander Herrell.

Mary Kay sent a list of the names of the people buried in this cemetery surveyed in 1994. The name of the cemetery is Speer-McDowell and the location is given as the Bill Brooks Farm, formerly Edd Breeding. Locally, it was just called “The Old McDowell Farm” and as late as the 1990s, Joe Herrell still owned the adjacent farm at that time.

For nearly 200 years this land had remained in the same family.

  • Hettie Greer (w/o R. L. Greer) b. 06-25-1892; d. 12-26-1918 (her mother was Mollie Thompson and her father was James Speer)
  • E. Speer b. 11-29-1845, d. 01-13-1923 (James Edward Speer, son of John Roe Speer and Rachel Denton)
  • Mary E. (Mollie) Speer (wife of J. E. Speer) b. 03-11-1873, d. 06-27-1914
  • Hettie Edds, (w/o J. E. Speer) b. 11-19-1829, d. 02-05-1888
  • R. Speer b. 1820, d. 18–?
  • Caroline McDowell b. 01-16-1830, d. 10-04-1899 (daughter of John McDowell, no record of marriage)
  • Surena McDowell b. 3-11-1826, d. 11-07-1893 (daughter of John McDowell, no record of her ever marrying)
  • John McDowell, aged 94, d. 10-17-1817 (This year is incorrect, he died in 1877. Clearly the 7 was misinterpreted.)
  • Nancy McDowell, aged 47, d. 12-03-1841 (means she was born in 1794 and is probably John’s wife)

Reconstructing the Family from a Letter

A letter from Mary Opal Herrell in 1997, when she was 80, said that her grandpa Jim Speers first wife was a McDowell and that he is buried in the McDowell cemetery between his first wife and second wife.

The 1880 census shows James Speer, age 33, living with Matilda, age 41, with daughter Elnora, age 7. Caroline age 47 is married to R.M. Tipton who works on the farm, and Bird Campbell, a male age 15 is a servant, along with Surena McDowell age 51, listed as a sister-in-law.

In the 1900 census, James Speers states that he is born in November 1846, age 52, and is married to Mary, born in March 1873, age 27. They have been married for 9 years, have 2 living children, Hettie born in 1892 and Leonidas born in 1893.

The second wife appears to be Mary Opal’s grandmother. Mary Opal’s mother died when she was just a year old in the flu epidemic. She said that John McDowell sold the land to Jim Speers. Mary Opal said that her Aunt Nora, Jim’s daughter from his first wife never accepted Jim’s second wife. Nora was “raised by the McDowell women.” Mary Opal Herrell appears to be the daughter of Hettie Greer who died in 1918.

In the 1870 census, James Spear, age 22, is living with John McDowell, who is age 89 (so born in 1781) and James apparently married John’s daughter, Matilda, by 1872. The Hancock County courthouse burned, twice, so the deed between John McDowell and James Speer which would have been conveyed probably between 1872 and 1877 when John died went up in flames.

Fortunately, between the cemetery records, the census and Mary Opal’s old letters, we reassembled the family, at least somewhat.

Visiting the Cemetery

Let’s visit the cemetery!

The first group of photos were provided by Mary Kay and show Mary Kay’s husband with a local gentleman crossing the Powell River and their discovery of the cemetery on Slanting Misery.

First, let’s look at an aerial view. The red arrow below marks the actual location where people drive or walk across the river when the water is low enough. It’s the only location accessible on both banks of the river.

MIchael McDowell ford and island.png

After Michael lived here, a swinging bridge was hung across the river someplace in the area of the green arrow. I believe the tiny white dot in the center of the river just above the green arrow is the old foundation of the bridge on an island. The bridge was washed away decades ago in one of the legendary floods.

The photo below shows the men wading the river, marked by the red arrow above, and the gate on the Slanting Misery side. When I waded the river, the water was higher.

Michael McDowell powell river.png

This next photo shows the group walking along Slanting Misery, roughly parallel with the river.

Michael McDowell shed.png

I had to visit the location twice. It couldn’t find the cemetery the first time, so Mary Kay sent instructions, which I’ve included below, although all of the buildings except the barn were gone when I visited.

The buildings are landmarks — if you didn’t see these you were not at the right place. You come to the shed first, and it will be on your left. Quite a ways further, the barn will be on your right. The cemetery isn’t far from the barn and will be on a hill on your left.

Michael McDowell barn.png

I never saw the barn the first time, and asked Mary Kay if she could provide additional instructions.

I’m wondering if you missed seeing it because you thought it was a more “structured” graveyard than just an area with stones. It is too bad that there wasn’t a fence around it, before the cows damaged the stones. The person who owns it has no connection with McDowells.

Mary Kay sent one photo of another landmark that I could use – assuming I could find the landmark.

The cistern and what looks like stones from a house foundation are “after” the shed, and I think, on the left on the way to the cemetery.

Michael McDowell well.png

I strongly suspect that the foundation is that of the original house which was probably nothing more than a log cabin. It looks very small, but that was common then.

Michael McDowell cemetery.png

Finally, the cemetery. It was overgrown in 1997 when she visited and in 2004 when I visited as well.

Michael McDowell cemetery 2.png

The current Google map shows Slanting Misery.

Michael McDowell Slanting Misery.png

The entire peninsula is between 2000 and 3000 feet long, and the Virginia/Tennessee border is about that far north of the northern tip of the Slanting Misery.

The next photo shows a closeup of the river ford and the barn.

Michael McDowell river ford.png

Last, I believe the area with the red arrow is the cemetery. It’s difficult to correlate from the air, and several years later.

MIchael McDowell cemetery location.png

Michael Gets the Last Laugh

Never in my life have I ever managed to go on a “normal” genealogy adventure. There is always some unexpected twist or turn of some sort, and this time was no different. Ancestors truly do have a sense of humor – I’m totally convinced.

My first visit attempting to locate the McDowell cemetery was extremely disappointing. It was the dregs of summer and the thermometer hit at least 100 degrees. We were miserable. Had I any idea of the difficulty involved, I would never have attempted this, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know.

After crossing the river, I walked up the two track for a short distance, then made the mistake of climbing UP Slanting Misery. I thought from that vantage point, I would surely see the cemetery – because I couldn’t see it, or a barn, or anything from where I was.

You can’t tell from the aerial, but the center of Slanting Misery is really quite high in comparison to the perimeter. The reason the river carved out a peninsula is because Slanting Misery is a granite mountain with a little topsoil – but very little.

After climbing UP Slanting Misery, I knew immediately why Michael had named it that. The question remains WHY he purchased this land.

We had been cautioned about the cows when we obtained permission to visit, which is why there is a fence on the 2-track road into Slanting Misery, after crossing the river. At least, I think that’s why the fence is there. Maybe the cows ford the river too.

Regardless, we closed the gate carefully so there would be no bovine escapees.

McDowell Powell river.jpg

My first glance of Slanting Misery gives no hint as to either slanting or misery. But across the Powell River lies both.

You can see the “driveway” on the other side of the river just beyond the tree branch, above. I was concerned about sinking in the mud and a rapid undertow. I can walk, and swim, so I didn’t want to risk driving and sinking.

This is literally the “front door” or “driveway” to this property. It’s the mountainous South – these kinds of things happen. The best or only way “in” is across the river. I was told there is an alternative, but it’s literally a half hour drive up and around and back down again – and it’s very difficult going. Better to ford the river.

Powell River McDowell shoals.jpg

Half-way across this river, looking upstream at McDowell Shoals, you can see what is left of an old island. The local people tell me that this was the location of an old swinging footbridge at one time. Apparently not everyone wanted to ford the river.

The words “swinging footbridge,” as in rope bridge, causes me to hyperventilate and sweat. I find that concept terrifying. The bridge washed out in a flood back in the 1970s, as I understand, but it had been there for years, as in decades, prior.

No one lives on this rather inaccessible land today – it’s used simply for grazing cattle.

The hill is high and the river over millennia has carved its way around the “bluff” made of granite. That’s the slanting part of Slanting Misery.

The misery part relates to the humans.

slanting misery hill

After climbing to the top of Slanting Misery, I naïvely thought I would be able to easily spot the cemetery. I mean, how difficult could this be?

The answer is – incredibly.

The photos below show a panorama of sorts, looking towards the Herrell lands to the left and then panning to the Clarkson land at the right.

Slanting misery pano 1

Slanting Misery pano 2

slanting misery pano 3

During the first visit, I didn’t know to look towards the barn for the cemetery, nor did I realize that the cemetery was entirely grown up in vegetation.

I left empty handed, knowing I was so close, yet so far away.

I can’t believe I actually did this twice, on two separate trips. In fact, I intentionally went back to try this a second time.

Second Time is “Charmed”

My second experience a year later was somewhat different. Not only did I have photos and more detailed instructions from Mary Kay, I also enlisted the assistance of a local gentleman with the historical society who is also my cousin, Boyd.

Boyd grew up in this area and knew it well. I was so grateful that he agreed to accompany me.

Once again, we crossed the river, except, this time I decided to simply drive my Jeep. The water was lower than before, about knee high and I didn’t see any reason NOT to drive the Jeep. After all, that’s what Jeeps are made for, right?

After arriving on the other side, I turned the Jeep around, pointing it back in the direction from which we had come. I parked in the river, because there wasn’t anyplace else. We got out of the Jeep, quite pleased with ourselves, waded a few feet to the shore, opened and closed the gate, and proceeded to walk towards the barn, up the 2 track, which I had been assured, was within easy sight of the cemetery. I knew I could find it this time, and I wasn’t leaving until I did!

Boyd had never been there before, but he was certainly game, and off we went, determined to succeed – chatting about history and ancestors.

This land is so breathtakingly beautiful.

Slanting Misery looking to Clarkson land

This is Slanting Misery, looking towards the Clarkson land.

On the way to the barn, I noticed what looked to be a historic trash pile and found a piece of metal, maybe from a tractor or piece of Oliver farm equipment.

Michael McDowell metal.jpg

I doubt this was Michael’s, but Michael lived here, near the well, near the cistern and near the barn. This was his domain for three decades.

The house had to be someplace very near this location. I think the stones beside the cistern from Mary’s photos were the house, but they were gone when I was there.

The green cedar tree on the far left, if you are approaching the barn, marks the cemetery.

McDowell Cemetery at left by barn.jpg

The cemetery is really not a on hill, it’s more of a knoll.

McDowell Cemetery tree.jpg

 You’d never know this is a cemetery if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

The condition was appalling, but it was sold outside of the family, AND, it’s very inaccessible. This photo was taken roughly 15 years ago, so the cemetery is probably in even worse condition today if it could even be located. The photos of the headstones below are a combination of Mary Kay’s photos and mine.

McDowell Cem Mary Speers.jpg

Mary Speers, wife of James.

McDowell Cem Mary Footstone.jpg

The footstone for Mary Speers.

McDowell Hettie Greer.jpg

The stone for Hettie Greer.

McDowell Cem John McDowell.jpg

John McDowell’s stone – barely legible.

Did you know that cows are really curious beasts?

Especially if they have come to associate humans with feeding time.

McDowell Cem Knoll.JPG

They noticed us in the cemetery and came to see what we were up to. Besides, in the cow’s world, it was THEIR cemetery and we were trespassing.

I grew up with cows and wasn’t the least bit worried.

Boyd, on the other hand, was getting increasingly nervous and said he thought we should begin walking back towards the Jeep.

I thought this was a bit odd because he was a farmer, but after all, he was the local person with experience. I was extremely reluctant to leave, because I wasn’t finished in the graveyard. Or at least I thought I wasn’t. I wanted to take a few more photos and I wanted to poke around and see if I could find a stone that might have been overgrown. Surely Michael was here someplace!

As it turned out, I really was finished.

Another cow approached Boyd, and Boyd started talking and backing. He shouted to me, “Come on, HURRY UP,” and he began to move quite quickly, then turned and ran. Then I began to run, because a cow had begun to chase us in a rather threatening way.

This cow had horns!!!

I realized that that was no cow, but was the bull, and he was protecting his harem from us.

At home, where I grew up – we borrowed a neighbor’s very happy bull. No one kept their own bull – and the neighbor’s bull was very happy because of that.

Worse yet, the bull was between Boyd and me, with Boyd in the lead and the bull following on his heels, which meant that when Boyd escaped, the bull would turn around, facing me and would be square between me and the fence.

Hopefully, Mr. Angry Bull just wanted to chase us off and meant us no harm. Hopefully! I really didn’t want to find out, AND you have to assume that any bull that is chasing you isn’t just wanting to say hello.

I had never been chased by a bull before…or since either for that matter. Not something I need to experience again in this lifetime – which I was just sure was destined to be ended momentarily.

It didn’t seem far from the river to the barn when we were walking IN and chatting, maybe a quarter to half a mile, but running back, being chased by a very large bovine, the distance to the gate seemed interminable. Worse yet, we had closed and latched the gate with a lock and chain.

I had absolutely no idea I could run that fast, or that far. Think of it as an impromptu stress test.

In 2005, I was looking at the half century mark and pole vaulting the gate wasn’t something I had in mind, but taking stock of my options, that suddenly seemed quite reasonable.

About 150-200 feet from the gate, Mr. Angry Bull veered off to the left into the brush – along what I now know is a second path. Boyd, somewhat older than me, but probably in much better shape, slowed down to a trot and I was extremely relieved. I had NO desire to turn around and go back. I did, however, desperately wish we had driven the Jeep inside the field instead of leaving it on the other side of the gate.

Boyd and I continued to trot and reached the gate. I, thankfully, was still holding my camera. The adrenaline still pumping, we sprinted over that gate and heaved a huge sigh of relief on the other side, seeing the Jeep waiting for us in the river near the edge, a few feet in front of the gate. We took a minute to catch our breath…until we realized Mr. Angry Bull was waiting for us, having taken a shortcut.

We were now trapped against the gate by the bull, with the bull between us and the Jeep, stamping his foot in the river, splashing the water.

I’m not sure if I actually audibly screamed, or if it was simply a silent scream of terror in my mind that happened.

I do know that the bull was MASSIVE and stomped angrily at us, having planted himself directly between us and the Jeep, expressing his disdain. I think he was drooling. His eyes might have been red and shooting flames too. Boyd and I began to play an insane game of ring-around-the-rosie with Mr. Angry Bull.

Swear to God on Michael McDowell’s grave – which I never found but am still sure is there.

Me, Boyd, my Jeep, the river and Mr. Angry Bull. Sounds like a country song. The only thing missing was a dog and a shotgun and we could have used the assistance of either or both at that moment.

The other problem is that once we reached the Jeep, we had to open the doors towards us, which means we had to step backward, with a bull in hot pursuit. Stepping backwards would have taken a second, or two, or three – but when you’re running away from a bull – seconds suddenly seem monumental.

In retrospect, I suspect that the bull was simply playing with us by this time. Irritated at the stupid humans. He clearly had chased people out of his field before, because he knew EXACTLY where the shortcut was located and how to gain the advantage at the gate.

The bull moved aside slightly, heading back for his shortcut. We dashed for the Jeep.

As we watched behind us for the bull to follow, charging again out of the overgrowth. The bull however, was already waiting for us, probably watching us watch for him – but he was watching us from BEHIND the gate already. If bulls can laugh, he unquestionably did. We surely looked as idiotic as I felt.

Make no mistake, that gate had absolutely NO EFFECT on that bull – he made that perfectly clear.

By the time Boyd and I finally got into the Jeep, I quickly turned on the ignition.

Thankfully, I had left the keys in the car, something I NEVER do. Thank Heavens, because there is no way on God’s green earth I was getting out and going back in that field to look for missing keys.

The adrenaline was rushing and I quickly threw the Jeep into drive and gunned the engine, heading across the river.

Too fast.

Yep, that river water sprayed right up into the engine compartment and drown out my engine. The Jeep lurched to a stop in a spray of water.

Dead!

Now, we’re sitting ducks in the middle of the river, and Mr. Angry Bull is going to have his way with us after all!!!!

McDowell stranded in the river.jpg

Not that I want to tell tales on my cousin Boyd, but let’s just say that we looked at each other and both said the same thing at the same time – something that is not repeatable in church and would assuredly have gotten us censured in the Thompson Settlement Church of our ancestors.

Lord have Mercy.

We braced for what we knew was coming.

I wondered if the glass in the Jeep would hold?

Would Mr. Angry Bull use those horns to break through the windows in the doors or bust out the windshield?

Would he come through?

How much of him?

His whole body or just his head and those terrible horns the size of a house?

Would it help to get in the back seat? Could we even climb over? I wasn’t getting out, that’s for sure.

For God’s sake, how can you defend yourself from a bull?

There is no training for this.

I’ve seen those ugly photos of matadors gored by bulls – although they certainly deserved that they got.

Us, on the other hand, we were only guilty in “bull court” of getting too close to the harem.

Does that infraction receive the death penalty?

We braced!

Then….

nothing

Absolutely nothing.

Silence.

Dare we look?

Boyd and I kind of sat in embarrassed, awkward silence for a minute. Realizing how ridiculous we surely looked – and grateful that the only witnesses to our folly were each other.

The bull, quite pleased with his prowess, I’m sure, turned his back on us and headed back into the pasture to brag to the girls how successfully he had protected them.

They were probably already telling him how wonderful he was, fanning him and feeding him the bull equivalent of grapes.

Mr. Now Very Pleased With Himself Bull wasn’t the least bit interested in us anymore. He’d had his fun.

Thankfully.

Pondering what to do next, given that cell phones certainly didn’t work there, I asked Boyd if we should get out and begin walking to his house.

The answer was an emphatic “No!,” followed by a much calmer, “you might want to try the engine again.”

It’s hard to think clearly when you’ve just come within inches of having your life ended by a bull.

Vroom!

I slowly, VERY SLOWLY, drove back across the Powell River, onto River Road along McDowell Shoals, pretending nothing embarrassing had happened at all, and away from Michael McDowell’s Slanting Misery forever.

Michael’s Children

Michael’s children remain a real conundrum. Let’s take a look at what we know and what we don’t.

A few we know with varying degrees of certainty, one is iffy, and then there are two that are unknown.

In order to compile as much as possible about his children and probable children, I utilized the various tax, census and other records available when creating this chart.

First appears Birth Year 1787 Wilkes 1790 Wilkes 1800 Wilkes 1810* 1820* 1830 1840
Michael Jr. himself Rev War 1777 1747 21-60 (40) >16 >45

Born before 1755

Lee Co tax 80-90 80-90

1750-1760 With Nathan

Isbel – wife Son born 1782, pos son 1778 1750-1755 female female >45

Born before 1755

70-80

1750-1760

80-90 1750-1760 with William Herrell
Michael III 1799 deed witness 1765-1778 <21 <16

Born after 1774

Gone? Wilkes Co. to 45, 4 kids
John (wife Nancy d 1841) 1810 in deposition 1782 <21 (age 5) <16

after 1774

Gone? Lee Co tax 40-50

1780-1790

50-59

1780-1790

Edward m Pulaski 1811 1799 deed witness, 1811 marriage 1774-1775 ? missing <16 after 1774 Gone? Lee Co tax Pulaski

>45 (<1775)

50-60

1770-1780

50-60 1780-1790
James* 1801 deed witness <1780 ? missing <16

Born after 1774

?
Mary 1809 Wilkes marriage to William Herrell 1785-1789 (m 1809) B After 1787 female 10-16 1784-1790 Clai-borne Clai-borne
Luke* m Pulaski 1811 1810 tax list 1792-1797 B after 1787   0-10 1790-1800 Lee Co tax
William* 1817 doc, or 1811 marriage 1795* B After 1787 Missing ? 30-40

1790-1800

40-50

1790-1800

Nathan S. 1833 deed from Michael to Nathan 1797* B after 1787 0-10

1790-1800

30-40

1790-1800

40-50

1790-1800

Female 1800 census 1790-1800 0-10 1790-1800
Female 1800 census 1790-1800 0-10

1790-1800

20-30

1800-1810

*Nathan is born in 1785 if oral history of him being 80 and refusing to take oath at Cumberland Gap is accurate. 1790-1800 if census is correct. Based on other records, I suspect the census is correct.

*William witnessed deeds in Claiborne from 1817 on. Born circa 1795 from census records. If this is the same William, he was married in 1811 in Pulaski County, KY.

*1810 Claiborne County, TN and Lee County, VA census lost

*1820 Claiborne County census lost

*Nathan McDowell, ‘precher” is found in Owsley Co., KY in the 1850 census, age 53, born in Tennessee and Easter McDowell, age 52 born in NC. This puts his birth in 1797.

*William born in 1795 is age 55 in 1850, born in NC wife Sally, age 50, is gone in 1860. Sally is not the wife of William McDowell married in 1811 in Pulaski Co., KY.

*Luke is found in DeKalb County, TN in both 1860 and 1870, placing his birth date in 1797.

*1833 Michael deeds land to Nathan and William, for “love”

*James witnessed a deed in 1801, but never appears in a record again.

The problem when trying to reconstruct Michael’s family is that two males appear to be missing from the 1787 census, along with conflicts in the 1800 census as well.

Were the records wrong? Were his sons living elsewhere? Or were these men not all Michael’s sons?

Let’s see what evidence we have for each child or potential child.

Michael McDowell III

Michael’s oldest son was probably his namesake, Michael.

Michael McDowell III, likely son of Michael McDowell Jr. is first found in Wilkes County signing as a witness for Michael McDowell, his father in 1799. In 1802, Michael McDowell III is noted as Michael McDowell Jr. when appointed as a constable with Michael McDowell Sr. providing his security. As late as the 1810 census, Michael III is present in the county with 4 children, but disappears from the records before the 1820 census.

James McDowell

If James is Michael McDowell’s child, he only appears in one 1801 record. I classify this as very weak evidence, but it remains a possibility. He may have died. James is not a name that repeats in Michael’s family.

Edward McDowell

There is genetic confirmation that Edward McDowell who was born probably after 1774 and before 1778 was the son of Michael McDowell Jr. Edward signed the 1799 deed for Michael Jr. along with Michael III. Edward serves as a juror in May of 1804 in Wilkes County,

Edward was noted on the 1810 Lee County Tax list beside Michael McDowell Jr. and Michael’s son, John. The next year, Edward married Lucy Harris in Pulaski County, KY where he is listed through the 1840 census. According to these documents, Edward was apparently born sometime between 1774 and 1781.

Edward’s children are:

  • Martin McDowell
  • Mariah McDowell b c 1812 Married Stephen Hail and then Moses Roberts
  • Sarah McDowell b c 1814 married Archibald Haynes
  • Michael McDowell b c 1816
  • Eliza McDowell b c 1818
  • Montgomery McDowell b c 1820
  • Son b c 1822
  • Thomas McDowell b c 1824 married Seleta McDowell (said to be his first cousin, the daughter of Luke McDowell,) then 2nd Vernettie Fisher
  • Franklin McDowell b c 1826
  • Son b c 1828
  • Son b c 1831
  • Son b c 1833

Edward is reported to be the brother of Luke McDowell and Edward’s son reportedly married his first cousin, Luke’s daughter.

Edward died in January 1858 in Pulaski County, KY.

Luke is confirmed to be Michael McDowell’s son via Y and autosomal DNA testing.

Edward’s descendant matches Luke’s on Y DNA and other known descendants on autosomal.

John McDowell

April 30, 1783 – October 7, 1877, according to his tombstone.

In the 1850 census, John’s birth state is shown as Tennessee, which we know cannot be correct. Tennessee wasn’t a state until 1796, to begin with, and we know that Michael McDowell Jr. was living in Virginia in 1783. John’s 1860 census shows his birth location as Virginia, 1870 shows that he was born in North Carolina.

Roll the dice, take your pick!

John McDowell filed an affidavit in 1872 stating that he was 90 years old and had been acquainted with both William Herrell and Mary McDowell before their marriage, stating that he was at their wedding in 1809 in Wilkes County.

John McDowell further states in his affidavit that he left Wilkes about 1810 and that Mary and William were married about a year before that. We have every reason to believe that William Herrell and Mary relocated about that same time (probably in the same wagon train) to Lee County or the Powell River area of what was then Claiborne County.

This puts John’s birth in approximately 1782. The census later shows his birth as 1781. His gravestone when it was still legible reportedly said he died October 7, 1877, age 94 years, 5 months, 7 days, which means his birth calculates to April 30, 1783.

John’s wife is reported to be Nancy, surname unknown, which is confirmed by the headstone in the McDowell cemetery.

In 1830, John is shown on the census beside a Henry McDowell. I wonder if this is another son of John.

In the 1850 census, John is shown with the following family members:

  • Hill McDowell (probably Hillary, male, age 25)
  • Surrena McDowell – 22
  • Matilda McDowell– 21
  • Caroline McDowell – 20
  • John McDowell– 18

John, age 18 in 1850 was born February 12, 1833 and died on February 17, 1895 in Lee County, Virginia. He married Susannah Jones and they had 7 children, including three males, below:

  • T. Clinton “Clint” McDowell who married Gertrude Smith in Kentucky in 1900.
  • James Hillary McDowell born 1861, married Nelly Flanary and died in 1959.
  • John Ervin McDowell born 1871, married Alpha Jesse and died in 1951.

James Hillary McDowell had 4 sons, Willie born 1892, Hubert born 1987, Walter born 1904 and Paul born 1911.

John Ervin McDowell had 8 sons, Fred born 1905, Rylie Columbus born 1906, James Elmer born 1908, Robert Lee born 1909, Marvin Richard born 1911, George Ervin born 1914, Albert Jesse born 1918 and Lawrence William born 1924.

The 1994 Hancock County family book includes an article by Lyle McDowell and reports that John McDowell’s daughters, Surena and Caroline never married and are buried on the farm with John and his wife, Nancy.

From Lyle McDowell, John McDowell’s children other than Hill, Serena, Matilda, Caroline and John include:

  • William Franklin McDowell who moved to Owsley County, KY about 1840, along with his brother Irvin. Lyle indicates that William Franklin is his great-grandfather.
  • Irvin McDowell (July 7, 1825-Octoer 9, 1882) Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton County, TN

Lyle also reports that John’s son, John, born 1833 moved to Lee County, VA, which is accurate.

John P. McDowell

John McDowell born in 1783 is not the same man as John P. McDowell who sells land in 1838 on Strait Creek in Claiborne County. That land in the deed is noted as where John P. McDowell lives. That deed is witnesses by a Capps male, suggesting a relationship with Nathan McDowell and his wife, Esther Capps.

In 1824, Michael McDowell deeds land to John P. McDowell “for love.” It appears that John P. is not Michael’s son, because Michael already has a son John, so this is probably Michael’s grandson. Furthermore, on the 1836 and 1839 Claiborne County tax lists, both John and John P. McDowell are listed, and they do not live close to each other. John lived adjacent Michael, but John P. does not.

John P. McDowell was born about 1799 in TN (according to the census) and died in Buchanan Co., MO, after the 1870 census but before 1880. He married Rebecca Capps in 1821 in Grainger County, TN, the neighboring county south of Claiborne. He had sons:

  • William McDowell born in 1825
  • John Pryor McDowell born in 1831
  • Jacob Y. McDowell born in 1836
  • David McDowell born in 1844

Given that the older John McDowell was the son of Michael McDowell Jr., this John P. McDowell was probably being raised by the McDowell family because he was closely related, probably Michael’s grandson.

John P. McDowell was clearly associated with Nathan S. McDowell but could not have been Nathan’s child given that they were only about 5 years different in age. My guess would be that John P. McDowell is the son of Michael’s son, Michael McDowell III who disappears from the records in North Carolina after 1810 but before 1820. Or, John P. could be the son of James McDowell who disappears in Wilkes County after 1801 – meaning that Nathan was John P. McDowell’s uncle. Given that Nathan had no children, he would be a good candidate to raise an orphan nephew. This is purely speculation but they had to be connected somehow.

What is certain is that Michael McDowell would not have deeded John P. McDowell land “for love” if he weren’t somehow closely related.

A Y DNA test on a male McDowell descendant of John P. McDowell would be quite interesting in that it would (hopefully) match one of the McDowell lines. I would love to compare the Y DNA of a John P. McDowell descendant to a male McDowell descended from John McDowell who died in 1877 in Hancock County or other McDowell males that have tested.

John’s Photo – But Which John?

Lyle McDowell provided the following photo, but as you can see, the 2 John McDowell’s are likely conflated, meaning John born in 1783 and John P. McDowell born in 1799. Many of the genealogy trees on Ancestry have done this as well.

1994 book John P. McDowell photo.jpg

I don’t know if this is the John P. McDowell who died in Missouri before 1880, or the John McDowell in Claiborne/Hancock County born in 1783 and who died in 1877. Given that this man’s hair is black, and the camera wasn’t even in use until after the Civil War, I question the providence of the photo. I’m suspecting that it came from the Hancock County McDowell line, given that’s the focus of Lyle’s research and that Lyle simply added the middle P. in error, not realizing that there were actually two separate men.

I wonder if this might be the older John’s son, meaning John McDowell born in 1833. If that John born in 1833’s photo was taken when he was ago 50 or 60, in 1883 or 1893, the black hair would be more readily acceptable than a photo taken of John McDowell born in 1783 who would have been about 87 in 1870, the first practical time for this photo to have been taken, and this John in the photo has entirely black hair. That’s hard to believe at about age 87. It’s also possible that the photo had been “restored” but his eyebrows don’t appear to have been modified.

Regardless, it’s probably the closest we will ever get to seeing Michael McDowell Jr. through the face of another McDowell male. If this is John born in 1833, he is Michael McDowell’s grandson.

Did Michael McDowell Jr. resemble this John? I’d wager that he did, at least somewhat.

Mary McDowell

Mary McDowell was born about 1787 and married William Herrel in 1809 in Wilkes County. You can read her story here.

William McDowell

William is presumed to be a son of Michael because William is found consistently with Michael in the Claiborne County records beginning in 1817. Of course, there is also a William marrying in 1811 in Pulaski County. If William was actually born in 1795, per the 1850 census, then the 1811 William marrying in Kentucky can’t be this William because he would have only been 14 at the time. However, if William was actually born in 1790 instead of 1795, then he could have been the male in Pulaski County in 1811.

Some William McDowell is married in 1811 in Pulaski County, KY to Anna Herrin. (Luke and Edmon are also married in Pulaski that same year.) We find nothing more about William in Pulaski County, but a William McDowell does appear back in Claiborne County TN about 1817. Of course, the William born in 1795 also comes of age that year, so what happened to the William who married in Pulaski County in 1811 is uncertain, as is his identity.

In 1828, William McDowell deeds his land grant in Herrell bend to William Herrell.

Michael McDowell deeds land to William and Nathan in 1833 “for love,” so there is little question that William is his son or at least very close kin.

One of the last documents signed by Michael McDowell is jointly signed with William conveying land to Anson Martin on June 20, 1840. We don’t know who William’s wife is, but in the 1840 census, he has a female of age 80-90 living with him. Chances are good that that female is either his mother-in-law or Isabel, Michael McDowell’s wife.

In 1850, William McDowell is noted as age 55, being born in NC and had no children living in the household. His wife is Sally, age 50, so not Anna, the name of the wife in 1811 in Pulaski County, TN. It does not appear that William had any children.

Luke McDowell

Luke was born about 1792 in North Carolina and died in 1879 in DeKalb County, TN. He is listed on the 1810 tax list of Lee County Virginia with Edward, Michael and John McDowell.

In 1811 in Pulaski County, Luke married Francis Field.

In 1850 in Dekalb County, Luke is noted as a blacksmith and age 58, placing his birth date as 1792 in North Carolina. In 1860, he is age 68 and also shows his place of birth as North Carolina.

Luke’s children are:

  • Curtis McDowell born February 1810 died 1882, married Margaret Jadwin
  • William Field McDowell born September 1811 died 1861 in Illinois, married Mary Gott and then Deborah Test
  • Cynthia McDowell born 1812 died 1890, married Joseph Cantrell
  • Kitty McDowell born circa 1814 died 1840-1850, married Thomas Rigsby
  • Son born circa 1816
  • Son born circa 1818 married Margaret
  • Seleta McDowell born circa 1825, married Thomas McDowell (son of Edward) circa 1848

Luke’s descendant through son William Field McDowell, son John Benjamin McDowell, son Luke Bradley McDowell, son John William McDowell and 2 more generations has confirmed Luke as the son of Michael using both Y and autosomal DNA.

Luke’s Y DNA matches that of Edward.

Luke and Edward’s descendants autosomal DNA matches that of Michael’s descendants in Claiborne County through John McDowell and Mary McDowell Herrell.

Nathan McDowell

Michael’s presumed son Nathan S. McDowell was born about 1797, according to the 1860 census.

Nathan married Esther Capps (born 01-19-1798 died 03-02-1892) of Grainger County, TN. She was the sister of John Capps. They are not known to have any children.

In 1833, Michael McDowell deeds Nathan land, along with William McDowell, “for love.”

Nathan was a school teacher and minister of the Baptist denomination. A sketch of his life appears in the book “Old Time Tazewell” by Mary E. Hansard.

In Mary Hansard’s book, she states that Nathan was reported to have refused to take an oath of allegiance to the North, at Cumberland Gap, during the Civil War. He was taken to a northern prison where he died shortly, about the age of 80. His wife was apparently very proud of his bravery and how he died. However, that doesn’t exactly correlate with the census research, given that he was already living in Kentucky prior to the Civil War and wouldn’t have been 80 until 1879, long after the Civil War was over. I don’t find him in the 1860 census.

Minutes of Davis Creek Church in Speedwell in Powell Valley 1797-1907

  • Nathan S. McDowell made application for letter of dismissal for Sister Hannah (no date)
  • 1840 received elder Nathan S. McDowell by letter

Prior to that, beginning in 1837, Nathan was the moderator at the Big Springs Baptist Church, south of Tazewell, shown today below at the intersection of Lone Mountain Road and Riddle Lane.

Big Springs Primitive Baptist Church

In the 1850 census, Nathan is living in Owsley County, KY, noted as a “precher” born in Tennessee, age 53, and his wife is Esther, born in NC.

It’s possible that Nathan was not Michael McDowell’s son, but his grandson. Nathan is closely associated with John P. McDowell who we know is not Michael’s son. These two men are about 5 years different in age. If Michael’s oldest son was Michael III, born in 1778 or earlier, Nathan born in 1797 could have been his son along with John P. McDowell.

Michael III disappears from Wilkes County after the 1810 census where he has 4 children, including 2 males under 10. The under 10 designation doesn’t fit exactly, but is a possibility.

Nathan S. McDowell and John P. McDowell are the only two McDowell men who are clearly connected with Michael who live in Claiborne County, but distantly. Both married Capps women. It’s possible that Nathan, who was childless, raised his nephew.

Children Summary

In summary, Michael’s confirmed or most probable children are:

  • Michael McDowell born between 1774-1778, either dead or gone from Wilkes County by 1820 (confident, but not confirmed)
  • Edward McDowell born circa 1774-1780 (confirmed)
  • John McDowell born 1782 or 1783 (confirmed)
  • Mary McDowell born 1787 (confirmed)
  • Luke McDowell born circa 1792 (confirmed)
  • William born circa 1795 (confident, but not genetically confirmed)
  • Nathan S. McDowell b 1797 (probably son, related in some way)
  • Daughter born between 1790-1800 (no further information)
  • Daughter born between 1790-1800 (no further information)

Possible children are:

  • James born before 1780 (unlikely)

The Unidentified Children

There are of course, two unknown daughters in the 1800 census. It’s possible that neither reached adulthood.

What Does DNA Say?

In 2004, Lewis McDowell, a now-deceased descendant of Edward McDowell who settled in Pulaski County, KY tested his Y DNA. Lewis was a long-time genealogist, then 93 years old, pictured here with his lovely wife the day he contributed his DNA, and welcomed the opportunity to participate.

Michael McDowell - Lewis.jpg

Lewis’s genealogy reflects that he descends from Edward, the son of Michael McDowell Jr. Amazingly, there were only two generations between Lewis and Edward McDowell who married Lucy Haines in 1811 in Pulaski County, Kentucky.

I wanted to compare Lewis’s Y DNA results with other McDowell male descendants of Michael through other sons.

Since Lewis McDowell’s death, he has since accrued Y DNA matches with three other McDowell males, all confirmed descendants of Luke McDowell.

Autosomally, many descendants of Michael McDowell Jr. who died circa 1840 in Claiborne County match each other, including Lewis, descendants of Luke, John and Mary McDowell Herrell, confirming their genetic connection.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for MIchael now is to find and confirm his children. I’m still looking for the children of his eldest son, Michael III, son William and potential son James, if in fact, James had children and was Michael’s son. We know that son Nathan didn’t have children, so we can’t confirm him genetically. There are no known children for William, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

If you descend from any McDowell that is or might be connected, please check your autosomal matches, especially at Family Tree DNA where several known family members have tested. If you are a McDowell male, please take the Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA.

I’d love to hear from you!

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