Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory, A Tallow Sort of Fellow, 52 Ancestors #153

We met Thomas Dodson in his original article, and we know that he was born in 1681 and died in 1740. What we didn’t have then, and have since acquired, is Thomas’s estate inventory.

On April 6, 1741, the estate inventory was submitted to the Richmond County, Virginia court for Thomas Dodson who had died on November 20th of the previous year, and whose will was probated on February 6th, 1740/41.

Estate inventories are very often overlooked resources, with just the date of the inventory being recorded. Many books that transcribe records don’t include the details, but those details are so very important. Don’t presume that the records don’t exist because they weren’t transcribed because that’s exactly what happened with Thomas Dodson.

I was fortunate that the original records remain in Richmond County and the clerk’s office was willing to make me a copy. I didn’t know that there was a detailed inventory until the envelope arrived.  I was doing the happy dance by the mailbox in the snow, once again.  Not everything is online, and some of the best records aren’t! You’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Why Estates?

When a person dies, the items that they own must be filed with the court. In some locations, the only record is that the inventory was filed, and in others, or at other times in history, the entire estate inventory is copied into the record book.

In some locations, the estate sale, including who the items were subsequently sold to, and how much they paid, are also included, which helps immensely to determine relatives based on who attended the estate sale, and to track important items forward in time. For example, the family Bible.

At this time in history, and throughout the entire colonial era and beyond, when a man died, everything owned by the couple was considered to be owned by the man. The very few exceptions are when something was willed or deeded specifically to the female in her own stead, generally after she was married, and prohibiting her husband was having influence or control over the item. That rarely happened, so when a man married a woman, everything that was previously hers became his, including anything she actually owned from a previous marriage. He could not sell land without the wife releasing her dower right, meaning her right to 30% of the value when he died – but otherwise, he could do anything he pleased with whatever he wanted.

The good side of this situation is that when a man died, his estate inventory literally included everything except his actual land. Therefore, the woman’s spinning wheel, loom, pots and pans…everything…was listed, except for her clothes.

This provides us with a view of the entire family at that point in time. Rather than skimming over the estate, take time to really become one with it. By this, I mean, analyze it, look things up, and research. What did an ox cart or a pewter plate look like in 1740?

You can learn information about your ancestor through their estate inventory that you could never learn any other way – unless you’re lucky enough that they kept a journal.  Raise your hand if your ancestors kept a journal?  Mine neither!

I utilize Google extensively, as well as Wikipedia. I enter the item I’m searching for, with the word “antique” included. This often gives me sites on e-bay and antique dealers. So for stillyard I would enter “stillyard antique 1700s.” In the case of colonial Virginia, I often add the word colonial, or try different word combinations in different order. By the time I’m done, I discovered a lot about my ancestor’s world just from the items he owned. I found a lot more than is included here, but when I’m writing for my blog, I have to worry about copyright.  When you’re just researching for yourself, you don’t have to worry about that.

After you’re finished, you can then figure out a lot more by what kinds of items were missing. Let’s do this for Thomas Dodson, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Thomas Dodson’s Estate Inventory

Thomas Dodson’s estate wasn’t particularly large and includes the following bulleted items with their estimated values in pounds, shillings and pence. Spelling preserved as it was in the original.  You can click to enlarge any image.

I don’t know what some of the items are, so any help is appreciated.

  • 4 cows and 4 yearlings – 4.8.0
  • 3 heifers and 1 stear – 1.10.0
  • 8 cows and young stear – 4.0.0
  • 1 cow and calfe 0.10.0

I noticed that commas were not used in the inventory, as there should be a comma between oxen and cart in the item below.

  • 1 yoke of oxen cart and wheels – 4.15.0

Teams of oxen were rarely split as they learned to pull together and were most effective as a team. In this case, they were sold with their cart and wheels and were a relatively high value item. You can read about oxen, carts and wagons in this Colonial Williamsburg article, complete with pictures.

  • 32 hoggs and 8 pigs – 4.0.0
  • 14 sheep and 3 lambs – 2.0.0

Slavery

I don’t even know what to say about the next inventory entries. I try very hard to simply review my ancestors lives and attempt to understand them in the context of the timeframe in which they lived, from their perspective – but the vile institution of slavery rails against everything I believe in. I realize that perspectives were much different then, and I realize that had the slaves not been sold into slavery, they would probably have died at the hands of their tribal captors in Africa, but nothing can justify the institution of slavery – especially not in hindsight. I can only hope that Thomas was a kind and gentle man and that he had a caring relationship with the humans over whose lives he exercised complete control in every way possible.

  • 1 negroe man named Harry – 22.0.0
  • 1 old negroe woman named Sue – 12.0.0
  • 1 negroe woman named Bess – 23.0.0
  • 1 negroe child named Joe – 7.0.0
  • 1 negroe lad named Dick – 22.0.0
  • 1 negroe girl named Sarah – 16.0.0
  • 1 negroe girl named Nan – 14.0.0

In 1726, the North Farnham parish register shows Thomas Dodson as a slave-holder, but it doesn’t say whether Thomas Dodson is Jr. or Sr. Slave births were not recorded by the name of the slave, but by the master to whom the slaves belonged.

We know based on a 1733 deed entry that Thomas’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr. was to own at least one slave “as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold.”

There simply weren’t enough slaves, or indentured servants, to go around for the labor-intensive tobacco crops.

The chart above is compliments of the Jamestown/Yorktown Foundation educational material.

Slaves were heavily utilized in the production of tobacco on the Virginia plantations, as shown by this advertisement showing tobacco workers in Virginia.

It wasn’t until Thomas Dodson’s will that we knew for certain that he too was involved in the slave trade. His will sets forth negroes named Sarah, Harry, Bess, Joe, Sue, Dick and Nan and Thomas’s children to whom the slaves were to descend.  I was relieved not to find my ancestor, George, among those receiving slaves.

From the time Thomas wrote his will on February 17, 1739/40 and when his estate inventory was probated 14 months later, the negroes he owned had not changed. I chafe at even using the word “owned” in context of humans.

Bess and Joe were to descend to the same heir, suggesting perhaps that Joe was Bess’s child. Bess’s value suggests that she is of an age to have additional children, which makes me wonder if Harry is Bess’s husband since their value is almost equal and they live on the same plantation. Clearly both are in the prime of their lives. Let’s say they are age 30, which means they would have been born about 1710.

Sue and Dick were also supposed to go together. In the inventory, Sue is referred to as an old woman and Dick as a lad, where he is referred to as a boy in the will. His inventory value suggests he is older and capable of hard and productive field work almost equal to that of an adult.

I’m left wondering what would have been considered “old” at that time.

Perhaps the history of slavery in Virginia would lend some perspective here. I’d wager, in general terms, someone 60 or older would have been considered old.

In 1741, a 60 year old person would have been born in about 1681.

In 1650, there were only about 300 Africans living in Virginia. Originally imported Africans were treated as indentured servants. Some Africans did complete an indenture, were freed, purchased land themselves and later, purchased slaves as well.

By 1640, at least some Africans were slaves and by 1660 slavery had become part of the culture, at least in practice if not in law. In 1662, a Virginia suit ruled that children would carry the status of their mother, regardless of their race, paternity or if they were of mixed heritage. The 1660s begin to show signs that Africans were clearly slaves. For example, one African servant who attempted to escape with white servants could not have his indenture time extended, as the white indentured servants did, so he was punished by branding. The only reason an indenture could not have been extended is if the man could never have become free.

If the slave Sue was considered old and was born about 1680, she could have been born into slavery in Virginia, or she could have been born in Africa and imported as either a child or adult.

By the end of the 1600s, Africans were being imported in quantity for sale by the Dutch and English, in particular, and by 1750, it is estimated that there were 300,000 African slaves in Virginia, although many were not first generation. We know that in 1733, there was more demand for slaves than there were slaves available and there was a waiting list to purchase slaves.

More of Thomas’s Estate

  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 5.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 3.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 6.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 5.0.0
  • 1 feather bed and furniture – 2.10.0

We don’t know anything about Thomas Dodson’s plantation, including whether or not his slaves lived in the house with the family or whether they had their own quarters.

A document produced by Colonial Jamestown tells us that small planters typically had 5 slaves or less, including children, and indicated that slaves on small farms often slept in the kitchens or an outbuilding or sometimes in small cabins near the farmer’s house. This document shows some reproduction photos of slavery in colonial Virginia, including slave quarters. Thomas Dodson owned 7 slaves, of which 4 were children, one was old and 2 were adults. Maybe he was slightly larger than a small farmer, but if so, not much.

One thing is for sure, the feather beds and furniture were not for the slaves.

Does this means that Thomas Dodson’s house had 5 bedrooms? That’s unlikely for the timeframe, especially given that children of that time were expected to share bedrooms, and often, to share one bedroom. And sometimes, that bedroom was the attic loft.

However, the fact remains that Thomas Dodson owned 5 feather beds and furniture and they had to fit someplace. Poor people slept on straw beds on the floor.

Thomas Dodson clearly wasn’t poor.

  • 2 chists (chests) table and forum – 1.0.0

A chest in this context probably means a chest of drawers, but I don’t know what forum would be.

  • 1 chist trunk – 0.8.0

A chest in this context probably means a chest like a trunk, probably wooden.

  • Cash – 6.8.2

Given that almost all of the transactions in Northern Neck Virginia were paid using tobacco, it’s amazing that Thomas actually had this much cash on hand.

Here’s the second half of the first page of Thomas’s estate.

  • 2 mares and 1 horse – 8.15.0
  • 1 cubbord – 1.0.0
  • 1 old rugg – 0.2.6

In colonial Virginia, rugs were not used on floors, but hung on walls or used on beds for warmth. Bed rugs, according to the “History of Quilts,” in the 1700s, were of a low grade wool and manufactured in England. In 1755, Samuel Johnson described them as “course, nappy coverlets used for mean beds.” They may have been knotted shag, although no examples remain today.

  • 6 qll? (pounds?) Best puter – 8.9.0

There is no way for us to know if the best pewter and the other pewter is a function of quality, decoration, or wear, or maybe some combination. The pewter plate above, for sale by an antique dealer, is from the 1700s and actually has scratches on the surface from usage.  Lead was originally used in the production of pewter.

  • 3 yll? Of puter – 0.17.0
  • 1 old oval table – 1.0.0
  • 9 old chairs – 0.9.0

Given that there is no other table, this had to be the kitchen table and chairs.  Thomas Dodson had 9 children, so the family had 11 in total.  No spare chairs, that’s for sure.

  • 1 large Bible – 0.15.0

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for this Bible. I’m guessing that this Bible may have originally belonged to Thomas’s father, Charles Dodson. Thomas couldn’t read, but his father could. It would not be unlikely that the Bible was given to Thomas by his father, or by his older brother, Charles at or before his death in 1716, if father Charles had left the Bible to son Charles.

The Bible was probably oversized and leather bound as was the custom with Bibles of the time. It was also worth as much as some of the pewter and more than the 9 old chairs, not quite as much as the oval table, but exactly as much as a pair of cart wheels with the parts to finish.

I have to wonder, if Thomas could not read, and we know he signed his name with a “T” mark, what did he do with a Bible? Perhaps it was sentimental in nature.

  • A parcel of tools – 0.18.0
  • 1 chist 2 small cask – 0.7.0

Wooden boxes during that time were called caskets. Given the chest context above, I suspect that’s the kind of cask being referenced. However, the 13 lid of cask below probably references lids to tobacco casks, which were used to pack full of tobacco and roll the tobacco down the road, termed rolling roads, to the docks where the casks would be loaded for England.

  • 13 lid of cask – 2.12.0

A tobacco cask was called a hogshead, shown below and was often quite large, almost 3 feet wide holding 1000 pounds of tobacco.

  • 1 still and tub – 6.0.0

There’s no doubt about the meaning of a still. Alcohol at that time was believed to be medicinal as well as recreational. You can read a fun article by Colonial Williamsburg here about drinking and distilling in colonial America. George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon is wonderfully preserved, although certainly much larger and involved than a single still.

People regularly drank beer, because typhoid was passed in water contaminated with fecal matter. Beer was much safer, and was often consumed in place of water. Oh, and by the way, cider at the time was alcoholic too, so don’t think your ancestor drinking “syder” was a teetotaler. He wasn’t..

All things considered, it’s amazing that fetal alcohol syndrome wasn’t rampant with the estimate that people of that time drank roughly 8 ounces of alcohol daily. Maybe women didn’t consume as much alcohol as men.

This photo below is the copper pot from a still displayed in the Museum of Appalachia.

And the still itself.

The still was obviously considered quite valuable, as much so as a feather bed and furniture or the smallest slave child.

  • 2 raw hides and side of leather – 0.9.0

I wonder if these hides were from domestic animals or from wild animals. My suspicion is that they were domestic. Nothing was wasted. A hide would have been untanned and leather was ready for working.

  • 2 pr cart wheels part to finish – 0.15.0
  • 1 pr spoon moulds grasp (or prasp or trays) and pinchers – 0.8.0

I looked for spoon molds and found molds for spoons. I doubt that is what was meant. Anyone have any ideas?  There are no candle molds in the inventory, but spoon molds aren’t candle molds, are they?

  • 7 old books – 0.75.0

I looked at this two or three times. Seven old books were worth more than a gun? And maybe the reason they were old books is because they had belonged to Thomas’s father, given that Thomas was not literate. Did he keep his father’s books for sentimental reasons? Why did a man that couldn’t read own old books?  I’d love to know the titles.

  • 1 gun – 0.10.0

Would the gun have been a pistol? If so, this tells us distinctly that Thomas wasn’t hunting. I suspect by the time that the Northern Neck had been settled for 50 years or more, by the time Thomas was born, the wildlife was pretty well hunted to extinction in that region.

This flintlock pistol was from circa 1700-1730.

  • 1 box iron heaters and spit – 0.8.0

I’m not sure what iron heaters were at the time, but a spit would have been used to turn meat in the fireplace (or in an outside kitchen) while cooking. You can see photos of lots of colonial American furniture here, as well as fireplace apparatus.

  • 2 pair tongs and candle sticks 2 pottacks 2 narrow ? – 0.19.6

I wish they had said what the candlesticks were made of. Obviously, some kind of metal but they were not included with the pewter. Perhaps brass?

  • 1 cross cut saw wrost? and file – 0.10.0

A cross-cut saw is designed to cut across the grain of wood and is usually quite heavy duty. This example is a two man saw with a springboard.

By Eugene Zelenko – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8452686

  • 4 broad hoes and 2 narrow do (ditto, meaning hoes) 1 frying pan 13 old hoes 2 old axes – 0.16.0

An ax from the 1700s. Men forge fond alliances with their long-time favorite tools.

A story from the farm where I grew up was about the old ax. There are only 2 parts to an ax, the handle and the blade. At some point, the handle got replaced, and at another point, the blade got replaced, but it’s still considered and referred to as the same “old ax” even though neither of the original ax parts remain.

  • 1 womans saddle and bridle 1 old saddle pistols holsters and bridle – 1.0.0

I notice that there is one less saddle than horses in the inventory.  In colonial times, horses were not used in the fields.  Oxen were.

At that time, women rode sidesaddle, with the pommel being located to the left of the saddle instead of in the center.  This would have been Thomas’s wife’s saddle and probably also used by his daughters from time to time.

I do wonder if it was the woman’s saddle that had the pistol holsters, or if this just happened to be listed together. All sorts of thoughts flew through my head.

This article by Colonial Williamsburg shows a saddle pistol holster at the bottom, along with saddles and bridles from The Saddler’s Shop.

And this fellow, being the original gun collector, apparently, sports several holsters as this year’s new fashion look on the front of Pirates Illustrated:)

  • 1 pair hand irons 1 frying pan 4 roap hooks 8 ½ brass 1 lavie? Pam (pan?) – 0.18.9

I have absolutely no idea what a lavie? Pan might be, but I know what a frying pan is!

This item, below, found at an antique shop and now sold is a plantation size frying pan. I swear, it’s large enough to make paella for everyone, although paella wouldn’t have been on the menu in early Virginia.

I had presumed that a frying pan would be cast iron, but obviously, I was wrong.

  • 2 tin pans kittle and lanthorn 127 lb? pott iron – 18.6

I’m thinking this probably was not a tea kettle.

Lanterns were the only form of lighting other than candles. Many lanterns were designed to be carried outside and were sometimes hung outside. Lanterns enclosed the flame to reduce the risk of fire.

The second page of Thomas’s estate begins, below.

  • 1 basting ladle 1 iron Do (ditto) and flesh forks pr stillyards 1350 nails – 1.0.6

A stillyard is a weighing and balancing device. This picture actually shows a stillyard from Pompei, but they changed very little over the years.

Nails were individually hand forged on plantations by blacksmiths. Each nail, at this time, was square headed and nails were valuable commodities. There is no evidence of blacksmith tools, so Thomas would have purchased or traded for these nails. I wonder if he was planning to build something.

This photo is not from Thomas Dodson’s property, but it’s from a restored Virginia property built around the same time, using square nails and construction probably similar to that found in Thomas Dodson’s home.

  • 2 punch bowls 1 earthen dish 2 pieces earthen ware – 0.12.0

I wonder if a punchbowl suggests entertaining.

  • 2 tubs 3 pails 1 piggin 6 trays 1 moal tubb – 0.12.0

A piggin is a small pail with the handle on the side used for measuring grain.

These items all look to be for maintaining livestock

  • 2 old sefters? 1 old rundlet 1 old dripping pan 2 meal bags 1 leather wallet – 5.0

This leather wallet is from the 1700s. When open, it contains pockets much like wallets today.

A rundlet is a small barrel which may contain from 3 to 20 gallons. As a measure for wine, it often contains 18.5 gallons.

  • 1 grinding stone and some triflets 12 lb? wool 1.5 lb? yard 1.5 lb? cotton – 0.13.6

A grinding stone would have been something used on the farm, like a grinding wheel, or something closer to the Native American grindstone which consisted of a smaller stone to be used with the hand and a larger stone that the smaller stones crushed or pounded corn or grain against.

A triflet is another name for trinket or trifling item.  I sure would like to know what those triflets were.

  • Looking glass 1 slate a parcel knives and forks – 0.6.0

A looking glass, another term for mirror, was most definitely a luxury item, but it’s the only luxury item in Thomas’s estate. We don’t know if this was a handheld item or a larger wall-mounted mirror.

I sure would like to know how many knives and forks were in that parcel. Often estates had fewer silverware pieces than people, which makes me wonder at the mealtime protocol.

Does a slate infer education of children, perhaps? I believe, but am not sure, that George Dodson, my ancestor who was the son of Thomas could write.

  • Old spinning wheel 1 old shoot – 0.3.0

Spinning wheels were essential to colonial households. Everything had to be spun into thread or yarn before it would be woven or made into something else. You can read an article about weaving, spinning and dyeing at Colonial Williamsburg, here.

I don’t know what a “shoot” is.  Any ideas?

  • 10 lb? taoller (tallow?) 6 bottles 2 dunking glasses – 0.4.8

Does anyone know what a dunking glass is?

Women made candles of tallow using cotton or linen wicks. However, tallow candles were odiferous, given that they were made from rendered animal fat, and not odiferous in a good way. I’m surprised that there are no candle molds given that he has tallow, although wicks could also be dipped in liquid tallow to form candles. However, this methodology was generally for those too poor for candle molds, and Thomas’s doesn’t seem poor.

Wealthier people could purchase candles made of beeswax. Apparently Thomas Dodson was a tallow sort of fellow.

  • 10 cups and salt seller – 0.2.8

A salt seller, today termed a salt cellar, is quite close to my heart. I’ve been infatuated with salt cellars since I was young and have a small collection today. Salt cellars are items of tablewear used to hold and dispense salt. In the 1800s, each individual person had a cellar set at their place beside a pepper shaker, but earlier, everyone shared one cellar, dipping salt with a small spoon or pinching with their fingers the amount of salt they wanted. Family sizes cellars were maybe 2 inches across, with personal cellars being an inch or so. We don’t really know what this “seller” was made of, but since it is listed separately from the pewter and with the cups, I’d wager it was glass or china and not silver or metal. Salt is corrosive, so glass was a much more utilitarian device. This beautiful English salt cellar is from about the 1720s.

  • Old broad ax 1 iron wedge 1 goudge – 0.3.0

A gouge is a type of woodworking chisel, shown below, being utilized to make a dovetail joint.

By Aerolin55 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8266918

Contemporary gouges of different shapes and sizes and a wooden mallet used to strike the gouges.

Thomas’s inventory was dated April 4th, and signed and recorded by the court on April 6th, 1741.

Charles Dodson, John Hightower and William Everett were the appraisers.

The Charles Dodson listed would not have been Thomas’s son, Charles, as heirs were never appraisers. Thomas’s brother, Charles was deceased already, so the Charles Dodson in question was Thomas’s nephew, Charles Dodson.

Tobacco

By now, you’re probably wondering where the entry for tobacco was on Thomas Dodson’s inventory.

On August 3rd, 1741, apparently Thomas Dodson’s tobacco crop had been picked and appraised at a value of 3,986 pounds and was further registered with the court.

The most interesting information is that we now know about how much tobacco Thomas’s plantation produced in a year. This tobacco crop had to support the entire household for the entire year.

If one adult male could work about 3 acres of tobacco, let’s say that 2 children could work the same as one adult. We know that Thomas Dodson had 3 adult or nearly adult slaves and 3 slave children, plus one old woman slave. Let’s say that was equivalent to 4 or 5 adults, we know then that Thomas had 12 or 15 acres of tobacco under cultivation. If we divide 3986 pounds of tobacco by 4 people, roughly 1000 pounds of tobacco was produced by each adult. If we divide 3,986 by 5, then about 800 pounds of tobacco produced per person, or about 266 pounds per acre under cultivation.

Of course, we don’t know if Thomas Dodson’s youngest sons were also working in the fields. I would wager than any male living at home was expected to do just that, so Thomas’s two youngest unmarried sons may have also been working the crops. A third son was reported to be blind.

What’s Missing?

Notice there is no entry for corn on Thomas’s inventory, nor was there an additional inventory filed, at least not that made it into the record book and was transcribed.

Corn, hay and grains would have been required to overwinter cows, pigs, sheep and horses. While some cows and pigs would be slaughtered each fall, farmers couldn’t slaughter all of them or there would be none left to reproduce for the following year. Furthermore, horses were extremely valuable and utmost care would be taken of the horses.

Speaking of horses, there weren’t many, and there was no buggy or wagon – which is kind of odd considering this was a plantation.

How did the women get to town or to court, or is this one of the reasons why we seldom see their names in court records? Men rode horses to court and there were no wagons or buggies? There was, however, a woman’s saddle in the inventory. Almost every time a female releases her dower rights in the Richmond County records during this timeframe, she appoints a male power of attorney to represent her in court. Perhaps this tidbit shines additional light on why.

There were no trade tools, such a carpenter’s tools, blacksmith’s tools or cobbler’s tools. This tells me that Thomas had to trade for all of those items and services. His only commodity to trade, other than livestock and perhaps corn, although there was none listed in his inventory, was tobacco.

There were no weaving looms, so cloth would have to be purchased.

There was no table other than the old oval table and no chairs other than 9 old ones.

There were no couches or other furniture that would suggest any sort of aristocracy or that Thomas was anything more than a general farmer in today’s vernacular.

Growing up on a farm, the farmer was always at risk; from insects, from weather, from equipment breaking down, from the markets crashing. Never, ever was the farmer not at risk and never, ever did he not worry incessantly about the crops.

Cost of Goods in Colonial Virginia

Thomas had available cash, meaning sterling. It’s difficult to understand how much items cost, so let’s take a look at the pricing for standard items that was set by the Richmond County court on March 6, 1727.

  • One gallon good syder (cider) – 12 pence or 10 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of punch made with good sugar and lime juice one third rum – 12 pence of 10 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of Madeira Wine – 2 shillings or 20 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon of French Brandy – 14 pence of 14 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of French Brandy Punch made with white sugar – 2 shillings or 20 pounds tobacco
  • One quart of French Clarret – 3 shillings or 30 pounds tobacco
  • One good dyet (diet) – 1 shilling or 10 pounds tobacco
  • Pasturage for a horse – 24 hours 6 pence or 5 pounds tobacco
  • One night’s lodging – 6 pence or 5 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon Indian corne – 7 and one half shillings or 6 pounds tobacco
  • One gallon rum – 8 shillings or 80 pounds tobacco
  • One quart bottle of English beer – 12 pence or 10 pounds tobacco

It seems most of these items had to do with alcohol, but that’s OK, because we know our colonial ancestors consumed a lot. And look, now we have a recipe for two kinds of punch that were likely in that punch bowl in Thomas’s inventory.

I equalized the sterling currently of the time and then calculated how much Thomas Dodson had at his death.

A pence was equal to roughly a pound of tobacco, according to the court order, so 2,402 pence would have been equal to about 2400 pounds of tobacco. Therefore, it appears that Thomas had a little more than one half of a year’s worth of cash on hand, assuming that 3.986 pounds of tobacco was a year’s income.

Extrapolating from that, it looks like it took about 10 pounds sterling for Thomas Dodson to run the plantation for a year, and feed everyone, assuming the 3,986 pounds of tobacco was a representative year.

What We’ve Learned

Based on Thomas’s estate inventory, it appears that he wasn’t poor, but he certainly wasn’t rich, considering that he didn’t own any luxury items other than a looking glass.  He didn’t own a buggy or wagon or even beeswax candles. He had one gun and fewer saddles than horses. He didn’t own enough chairs for his entire family to sit at the table at once, and there is no bench listed in the estate.  There is only one table and no couches or anything else suggestive of anything beyond a relatively spartan farmer lifestyle other than 5 feather beds.

The family story was that the Dodsons of Richmond County were wealthy plantation owners.  Maybe not so much – at least not Thomas. Thomas’s wealth, sadly, was in the value of his slaves which were valued at 116 pounds as compared with approximately 94 pounds for the rest of his estate, less the tobacco crop, which of course could not have been produced with only the labor of family members. It was in the best interests of a small farmer to treat his slaves and indentured servants well.  I hope Thomas did.

I think I’ve milked every iota of information out of Thomas’s estate records by this point. If you can think of something I didn’t, I’d welcome your input.

It’s amazing what can be discovered by systematically and carefully analyzing your ancestor’s estate inventory, especially in conjunction with Google search to see similar items of that date and time, and understanding the history and customs of the time and place where your ancestor lived.

Do you have some estate inventories that you could look at again? Hope you didn’t have anything else planned today!

Mary Durham (1686 – c 1746), Scandals and Scoundrels, 52 Ancestors #152

Mary Durham, daughter of Thomas Durham and Dorothy Smoot was born June 5, 1686 in North Farnham Parish in what was then Old Rappahannock County, Virginia.

Most of what we know about Mary Durham is related to her husbands, mostly her first husband by whom her children were born, Thomas Dodson.

Mary grew up along Totuskey Creek, red pin below, on the peninsula of land in Virginia known as the Northern Neck, surrounded on three sides by water; the Rappahannock River, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was then and remains rather insular. At that time, the economy was driven by tobacco.

Neighbors Married Neighbors

Based on deeds of her father as well as her brother, husband and husband’s father, it appears that Mary’s parents were neighbors with her husband’s parents, and she married the boy from across the fence. Mary and Thomas probably saw each other during their daily life, and on Sunday’s dressed up for church at North Farnham Parish, although the current church wasn’t built until 1737. Mary and her family would have attended the original church, located a few miles north of the present-day church, in a now forgotten location.

We don’t really know how Mary dressed or much about her lifestyle, but in general, the colonial Virginians attempted to keep up with the styles in England. The Durham family was not poor, but they also weren’t aristocratic. The lady above is fashionably dressed in 1700 in England. All I can say is that I hope it was winter with all of that fabric. She would have sweat to death in the summer, and washing machines were still an invention of the future.

Mary was quite young when she married Thomas Dodson. Their marriage was recorded on August 1, 1701 in the North Farnham Parish parish register. Mary was all of 15 years old, specifically 15 years and almost 3 months. That’s awfully young to marry, even in colonial Virginia. Thomas Dodson was all of 20 years old, young for a colonial male to marry too.

Of course, that raises the question of why they married so young. The first thought would be pregnancy. We can’t really rule that in or out, but here’s what we do know.

The first child recorded in the Farnham Parish Church registry for Mary and Thomas was George, born on October 31, 1702, a year and almost 3 months after their marriage. That means Mary did not get pregnant until they had been married 6 months. That too is unusual, as effective birth control did not exist at that time and there was no reason in that time and place not to begin a family immediately.

However, there’s son Thomas Dodson Jr. whose birth is not recorded in the Farnham Church register, which is known to be incomplete. Typically, the first male child is named after the father. If Thomas Jr. was the first child born to Mary and Thomas, then Mary would have to have been VERY pregnant when she married Thomas, in order for there to be enough time to have Thomas Jr., conceive George and give birth to him in October of 1702.

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705.

If Thomas was the second born, who was the first born, George, named after, and why?

Land

In February 1702/03, Thomas Dodson’s father, Charles Dodson, deeded land to Thomas. A month earlier, Charles had written his will and included that same land for Thomas. He apparently decided to go ahead and deed the land before his death. On the same day, he also deeded land to son Charles Dodson and indicated that Charles was already living on his land – so it’s likely that Thomas was too.

The land deeded to Thomas was half of Charles Dodson’s 300 acre tract and the half that brother Charles lived on was called Rich Neck. The other half is the land Thomas received, separated from Rich Neck by a branch of the creek.

In the article about Thomas Dodson, we identified where Rich Neck was located.

At age sixteen and a half, with a four month old baby, if not two children, Mary was now the mistress of a plantation.

Scandal

In 1708 and 1709, and probably somewhat before and after, the Durham family was embroiled in a whopper of a scandal. In 1699, Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, had “purchased” an indentured servant named Anne Kelly. She was almost exactly Mary Durham’s age, 14 at that time, as judged by the court. I don’t know if the girls would have been allowed just to be girls, at least part of the time, or if their class difference would have kept them apart, even though they lived under the same roof.

However, Anne Kelly and Mary’s brother, Thomas Durham Jr. had no problem with class differences, it appears, at least not initially. In 1708, Anne was brought before the court, presented by her “master, Thomas Durham Sr.,” charged with fornication and bringing a bastard child into the world. Keep in mind that indentured servants were prohibited from marrying before their indenture was complete, so if they engaged in any intimate activity and a child resulted, the child was legally prevented from being legitimate because of their mother’s indentured status.

Anne refused to reveal the name of the father, and was fined and sentenced to jail. We’ll never know of course, if Anne was protecting someone, or if she was fearful. One way or another, she was certainly vulnerable.

Dorothy Smoot Durham, Thomas Durham Sr.’s wife came into court that same day and paid Anne’s fine, preventing Anne from having to spend time in jail. Why Dorothy performed this brave feat is unknown. It could have been out of the goodness of her heart. It could have been because she knew the identity of the father, or it could have been because she did not want to have to deal with an infant whose mother was in jail, and a servant who couldn’t serve. Regardless, Dorothy did what she needed to do – and reading between the lines, what her husband would not..

Just 10 months later, Anne Kelly was back in court again with another “bastard child,” but this time she told the court that both children were begotten by Thomas Durham Jr., Mary’s brother – although he would only have been 17 or so when the first child was conceived, if not younger. Given that there was only 10 months between Anne’s first court appearance the her second, for the second child, it’s feasible that the first child was born perhaps a year before she was actually brought into court initially. If so, then Thomas Durham Jr. would have been 16.

The second time Anne was fined, it wasn’t Dorothy that intervened, but Thomas Dodson, Mary’s husband. He paid Anne’s fine, and it appears from the court record that Anne was already serving at Thomas Dodson’s house. In any event, after her original indenture, Anne was obligated to serve additional time working for Thomas Dodson because he paid her fine. The added time to an indenture for each child was 5 years, typically, and the indenture for the fine might have been 5 years as well.

So, in addition to her own family, Mary had Anne living with them with her two children that were Mary’s nieces or nephews. In 1710, this means that Mary had at least 4 children under the age of 10 in the household and possibly as many as 8.

What is that Chinese blessing/curse? “May you live in interesting times.” Certainly these days were, especially in light of the fact that Thomas Durham Jr. married the neighbor girl, Mary Smoot about 1710 while Anne Kelly was still indentured to the family, serving extra time and raising HIS two children to boot. I’d wager Anne was none too happy for various reasons which would have added more drama to Thomas Durham’s wedding when he married Mary Smoot, related to his mother.

So 1708, 1709 and 1710 would have been very interesting years in the Durham family as well as at the Dodson’s plantation next door.

Mary’s Father Dies

In 1711, Mary’s father apparently became ill and wrote his will on August 4th, 3 days after Mary would have celebrated her 10 year wedding anniversary. In Thomas Durham’s will, among others, he mentions daughter Mary Dodson and her son, Thomas Dodson. We now know unquestionably that Thomas was born before August of 1711 and probably named after Thomas Durham, his grandfather.

We can guess, based on the average of one child every other year that Mary had born 5 children by this time. However, given what we know about the rest of her children, and who was living in 1739 when Thomas Dodson made his will, the children born between the first two sons and 1710 or 1711 died. There would have been three children whose names are unknown today that Mary gave birth to and buried, if not as children, then within her lifetime, before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739. Many children died in an age with no inoculation’s and no antibiotics.

Daughter Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729, she married William Creel who was born in 1712, so we’ll count her as being born about 1712 as well.

Thomas Durham, Mary’s father, did not die until 1715, with his will being probated in June of that year. This suggests that he was ill from 1711, 4 years. Thomas would have been about 55 when he died, certainly not old by today’s standards.

Mary would have been 5 months pregnant for daughter Mary when she buried her father. She would have stood at her father’s grave beside her mother with at least three living children, if not more. It would have been a sad day in later winter or spring.

I wonder if Anne Kelly joined the family, bringing Thomas Durham Sr.’s two illegitimate grandchildren, if they were still living, to his funeral.  If so, I’d bet you could cut the tension with a knife between Anne Kelly, Thomas Durham Jr. and his wife who probably had at least one child herself by this time.

Births and Remarriage

Daughter Mary Dodson was born a few months later on October, 5 1715. We know she lived because her father’s will in 1739 mentions her as Mary Oldham.

In February 1716, just 8 months after Mary’s father’s will was probated, her mother, Dorothy remarried to Jeremiah Greenham. This marriage was apparently not a negative turn of events, because the Dodsons and Durhams and Greenhams appear in many documents together. Even more telling is that Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson named a son Greenham, so obviously Jeremiah Greenham was much loved. Greenham Dodson was born sometime between the 1716 marriage and 1720, so let’s assign him to the 1717 slot, given that he was married by 1740.

That means that son David, who wrote a will with a possibly pregnant wife in 1740 would have likely been born about 1719.

A child who would have been born about 1721 is missing, so was probably born and died at some point before Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739.

Son Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County where he died in 1768.

The Next Generation

Mary’s son, Thomas Dodson Jr. was apparently married in 1724, because on February 21, 1725, Mary’s first grandchild, a grandson, Joseph was born to Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth Rose. Mary was pregnant herself at that time, so her grandson Joseph would be older than her own two youngest children.

Son Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish, three months after her first grandchild was born.  Joshua was living in Faquier County in 1762 with wife Ruth when the Broad Run Church was constituted.

On April 30, 1726, George Dodson left the fold and married Margaret Dagod. That December, a daughter, Mary, named after her grandmother of course, was born to George and Margaret. I wonder if Mary felt particularly close to her namesake granddaughter.

Mary’s last child, Elisha, was born in 1727 when she was 41 years old. Mary had been bearing children for 25 years, a quarter century, risking death with each birth, for herself and the child as well.

Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett.

Four days apart in October of 1728, Mary’s second and third grandchildren arrived, son Lazarus to George Dodson and Margaret Dagod and son Thomas to Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. What a week that must have been!!! Babies and toddlers everyplace in the Dodson family, as the next generation had begun in earnest.

The Westward Movement Begins

In December 1733, Thomas Dodson Sr, wife Mary, Thomas Dodson Jr. and his wife Elizabeth sold land on the main swamp of Totuskey to Johnathan Lyell. That land sale is actually very helpful, because just below Rich Neck, today, there is a Lyell Church and about 3 or 4 miles northwest of Rich Neck is a Lyells crossroads. This deed which was originally the Thomas Durham Sr. land helps us to locate where this family group lived. You can click to enlarge the map below.

Mary signs this deed with her mark, an M, indicating that she cannot write her name. Education for women in terms of reading and writing was deemed unimportant and unnecessary for women in colonial America.

After this land sale, Thomas Dodson Jr. moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier County in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762.

The Broad Run Church was about 105 miles from Rich Neck, but 100 miles in a wagon was about a 10 day journey, or a couple days if you were just riding a horse. By stage, at least two days, if not 3. Mary may not have seen Thomas’s family again. Perhaps he returned for an occasional visit by horseback. I hope so, for Mary’s sake, but it was very unlikely that his family came along.

Daughter Alice married William Creel about 1729 and by 1746, they too were buying land in Prince William County.

Blindness

About this time, Mary’s son Elisha experienced a devastating eye injury that blinded him for life. We don’t know exactly what happened, but we do know from the Reverend Elias Dodson who wrote about the Dodson family about 1860 that Elisha was blind from an accident or event dating from Elisha’s childhood. I have to wonder what could have been so devastating as to blind him entirely, not just in one eye. Measles, uevitis and trachoma are all 3 diseases known to cause blindness. Some type of accident could have as well, but I suspect an accident would have been more likely to only blind one eye.

Death, Death and More Death

Daughter Mary would probably have married about 1735 and son David, about 1737 or 1738, given that he had one child in 1739 when Thomas Dodson wrote his will.

On February 7, 1739/40, Thomas Dodson penned his will saying he was sick and weak of body. He left Mary the plantation along with all of the negroes and moveable estate during her natural life. He does not say anything about reducing her inheritance to one third or a child’s portion that if she remarries. Clearly, he loved Mary dearly and provided for her as best he could.

Thomas leaves land and other items to their children. Thomas’s will is the only way we know about son David, because David’s birth is not found in the North Farnham Parish register, nor is his marriage, and he lives in another county.

Thomas does not pass away immediately after writing his will. His death is shown in the North Farnham Parish register as occurring on November 21, 1740. Thomas was apparently ill between February and the end of November when he died. Mary would have cared for him for these nine months. Ironic, nine months to bring a child into the world and nine months to usher Thomas to the other side.

Mary’s heart must have been sick with worry and grief. Her son, David, living in Prince William County, wrote his will on April 27, 1740, just 2 months and 20 days after his father wrote his will. David’s will was probated three months later on July 28th, so before Thomas’s death. In February, when Thomas Dodson wrote his will, he left 20 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but two months later, when David wrote his will, the daughter was apparently deceased, because David leaves his slaves to his wife during her lifetime and then to his child, “if my wife should prove to be with child.” I wonder what caused the deaths of David’s child, and David himself, and if they died of the same thing. I wonder if wife Amey was with child, and if so, what happened to Amey and the child.

Of course, communication at that time was by letter, and if the people involved did not read and write, they would have had to have someone write the letters for them, as well as read them when received. News traveled slowly, so the granddaughter may have already died when Thomas Dodson wrote his will. Regardless, that child was dead by the time David Dodson wrote his will, and we don’t know if David’s wife was with child, nor what happened to her. Clearly, Mary couldn’t go to help, had she known, because she had her hands full at home. Mary’s youngest child would have been 12. At least the children were old enough to be of assistance. I would wager that during this time Mary spent many tearful nights alone by the fireplace after everyone else went to bed.

As the months and years rolled on, after Thomas’s death, more grandchildren were born in the rhythmic two year cycle of pregnancy and birth. I hope Mary enjoyed those children in the bright sunshine of the Northern Neck summertime.

Was Robert Galbreath A Scoundrel?

Mary’s life seems to have taken a downturn after Thomas’s death. Thomas’s will was probated on March 2, 1740/41 with Mary and son, Greenham, as executors.

Mary received the plantation with son Elisha inheriting it after her death. We don’t have any record of what happened to that plantation, unfortunately.

Thomas Dodson’s estate inventory should be interesting, if it is detailed, because all items were deemed to have been owned by the man when he died. Therefore all kitchen items, bedding, cloth, spinning wheels, and anything owned by the “couple” or the “woman,” except her clothes and unless it was specifically deeded to her, without him, was legally the mans and inventoried as part of his estate. Even though this practice of exclusive male spousal property ownership, by today’s standards, is barbaric, it does serve to give us a peephole into their lives.  Looking at a man’s estate inventory tells us how the entire household lived.

Eighteen months after Thomas’s death, on September 29, 1743, Mary Durham Dodson married Robert Galbreath and sure enough, lawsuits followed – just 10 months later. Robert Galbreath or Galbraith is not a known name in the neighborhood. One wonders where he came from and how Mary met him and became familiar enough to marry.

On July 3, 1744, in chancery court, Greenham Dodson files on behalf of himself as executor of the estate of Thomas Dodson, and others, against Robert Galbreath. (Court Record Book 11-406)

On May 7, 1745, the suit was resolved and the court decided that the petitioner, Greenham Dodson, should “take possession of the coverture, according to the intention of the testators will” and that he should use it for the benefit of Mary Galbreath during her coverture. Robert Galbreath refused to give security and was ordered to pay costs. (Court Record Book 11-458)

I checked the Virginia Chancery Suit index site for Richmond County, and either those records never made it to the State Library, or they aren’t online yet. I would love to see the entire case file for this suit. More specifically, I want the juicy tidbits. What was the problem? Was Mary in danger, and if so, why? The court’s position is rather extreme, as these judgements go in early Virginia – especially given that women in essence lost rights and property to their husbands when they married. The only saving grace was that at least the land owned by Thomas Dodson wasn’t owned by Mary in fee simple, so Galbreath couldn’t dispose of it, as it was a life estate to go to Elisha at Mary’s death. The balance of the moveable estate that Thomas left, not so. Galbreath would have had the legal right to do anything he wanted with everything not left to someone other than Mary. For the court to remove that right from a colonial male would have been a decision not reached lightly and only due to a serious problem.

That suit doesn’t sound friendly at all, and it wasn’t resolved between July of 1744 and May of 1745 by the parties involved, as is often the case. The term coverture means the legal status of a married woman, considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Perhaps the Dodson children felt that Robert Galbreath was utilizing the estate of Thomas Dodson for himself, not for Mary. Mary would have been 57 years old.

This entry is the last record of Mary. After that, the screen goes dark. I worry, posthumously of course, that Mary was in danger or ill and not taken care of in the last months of her life.

I feel good about the fact that Greenham took a stand and was sticking up for his mother, whether it was for the benefit of his mother or whether it was to preserve his father’s estate. Regardless, someone was looking out for Mary’s interests, which were the same as the Thomas Dodson estate’s interests, and was willing to go to court to do so.

We don’t know what happened next. Divorce was unheard of, but Greenham could have “had a man to man talk” with Robert, as it appears that Robert might have hightailed it back to Lancaster County. Mary could simply have continued to live on the land in Richmond County, until she died and the land fell to Elisha, as Thomas’s will indicated. Son Elisha would have been 13 when his father died, so a young man that within just a few years would have been able to run the plantation quite effectively.  By 1744 Elisha would have been 17 and in 1745, 18 years old.  He didn’t need Galbreath to run Thomas Dodson’s plantation.

Following the Trail to Prince William County

In 1746, both Greenham Dodson and William Creel, husband of Alice Dodson Creel are buying land in Prince William County. I feel that Mary likely died about this time, being the impetus for several of Mary’s children to pull up stakes and move west, with nothing holding them in Richmond County any longer.

Elisha would have turned 20 in 1747. Apparently moving west was more attractive than living on the family plantation, because he too moved to Prince William County, although we don’t know when, other than it was before 1762.

Galbreath’s Death

Robert Galbreath died 4 years after Greenham filed and won the suit, but with no mention of a wife. Does that indicate that Mary had died by this time? Did Mary move with Robert to Lancaster County? Or maybe after the suit, she moved with her children to Prince William County? Or did she live with George Dodson in Richmond County, or remain on her own plantation? We’ll never know.

Abstracts of Lancaster County, Virginia Wills 1653-1800 by Ida J. Lee

Galbreath, Robert. Will. 10 Oct. 1749. Rec. 9 March 1749. Cousin, Richard Weir; Ezekiel Morris; Margaret Carter. Extr. Cousin Richard Weir. Wits; Isaac White, Michael Dillon. W.B. 14, p. 274.

Inventory of above, returned by Isaac White, admr 11 May 1750. W.B. 14, p. 285.

Suit: Isaac White, Pltf. vs Katherine Jones, Defd. Robert Galbreath had made a gift to his daughter-in-law Katherine Carter, since intermarried with Humphrey Jones. Dated 29 Sept. 1752. Rec. 18 June 1753. W.B. 15, p. 139.

The end of Mary’s life may have been difficult, at best. I hope her children sheltered her from whatever storms she encountered.

Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s Children

Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham were married on August 1, 1701. Some of their children are well documented, and others are virtually unknown.

George Dodson had a son, Rawleigh born in 1731. The name Rawleigh was shared in Richmond County by Rawleigh Travers, a family member of the Travers family that Charles Dodson, father of Thomas, bought land from, Rawleigh Downman, neighbors of the Dodsons, and Rawleigh Chinn, the son of Alice Smoot born in 1642 who married a Chinn. Alice Smoot was Mary Durham’s aunt. Sir Walter Raleigh may have popularized this name in the early 1600s. I’ve always wondered where the name Rawleigh came from in the Dodson family. Perhaps this is a clue.

  • Thomas Dodson Jr.’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married before 1725 to Elizabeth Rose, suggesting he was born before 1705. About 1733, Thomas moved to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759 and was a founding member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762. In 1766, Thomas moved to Halifax County, wrote his will in 1779 and died in 1783. In later years, in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties, the records of various Thomas Dodsons are intermingled and confused.
  • Alice Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but about 1729 she married William Creel, born in 1712. They had children, one being John Creel born in 1732. Daughter Alice Creel was mentioned in Thomas Dodson’s 1739 will. By 1746, William Creel was buying land in Prince William County and in 1757, William died with Thomas Dodson (Jr.) being one of the men to appraise his estate. His wife was listed at that time as Anne, with Alice apparently having died sometime between 1739 and 1757.
  • Mary Dodson born October 5, 1715 had married an Oldham by the time her father wrote his will in 1739. Nothing more is known about this line.
  • David Dodson’s birth is unrecorded. His wife’s name is Amey, surname unknown. David died in Prince William County in 1740, his will dated April 27th that year and probated in July. He left his wife the use of his slaves and then to his child if his wife should prove to be with child. Thomas Dodson left 30 shillings to his granddaughter, the daughter of David Dodson, but nothing more is known of this child. She probably died between the time that Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and David Dodson’s will in 1740. Either that or David omitted his daughter from his will, or the David who died in 1740 is not the son of Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson.
  • Greenham Dodson’s birth is unrecorded, but he was married to Eleanor Hightower by 1740, meaning he was probably born 1715-1720. In 1746, Greenham sold his land in Richmond County and moved to Amelia County. He had moved to Halifax County by 1772 and in 1777, a Greenham Dodson signed a loyalty oath.

I have always wondered about the genesis of the name, Greenham. Jeremiah Greenham married the widow Dorothy Durham in 1716, probably not long before Greenham Dodson’s birth to Thomas and Mary Durham Dodson. Jeremiah would have been Greenham Dodson’s step-grandfather and possibly also his godfather.

  • Abraham Dodson was born April 4, 1723 in North Farnham Parish. He married Barbara, surname unknown and moved to Faquier County by 1762 where he died in 1768.
  • Joshua Dodson was born May 25, 1725 in North Farnham Parish and was living in Faquier County with wife Ruth in 1762 when the Broad Run Church was constituted. Joshua may have lived in Halifax County on his way to Surry County, NC where he settled and may have died there before 1790. It’s also possible that he moved on to South Carolina.
  • Elisha Dodson was born February 22, 1727 in North Farnham Parish. He married Sarah Averitt (Everett) whose parents were William and Margaret Everett. He was left land after his mother’s death, by his father’s will, but there is no record of the disposition of the land. By 1762, he was in Faquier County when his brother, Thomas, released his claim on his father’s estate. In 1774, Elisha moved on to Halifax County where he died in 1796 or 1797. According to the manuscript of the Reverend Elias Dodson, Elisha was blind due to an eye injury as a child.

All of Mary’s sons eventually moved from Richmond County. Thomas Jr. first in 1733 when he sold his land and move to Prince William County, the part that became Faquier in 1759. His siblings would follow over the years.

David left before 1740. Greenham left in 1745, after he filed and won the suit against Robert Galbreath on behalf of his mother and his father’s estate. Did Mary perhaps die at this time or shortly thereafter? Was her ill health what caused Greenham to file suit? Was Robert not caring for her properly? Did Mary’s death free Greenham to move to Prince William County in 1746 along with Mary’s daughter Alice Creel as well? Did Mary’s three youngest sons move with their siblings at this time, or did they stay in Richmond County until later? There is no record of land ownership to help unravel that question.

Given the 1745 lawsuit and the fact that both Greenham, who was obviously looking after his mother’s interests, and daughter Mary left for Prince William County in 1746, I suspect Mary died between 1745 and 1746.

Mary’s son George sold his land in 1756 in Richmond County and appears to have been the last to leave, although we don’t know what happened to George and Margaret after that sale, because they are never recorded elsewhere.  Their children, by virtue of who they married, had to have been living nearby their Dodson cousins. Two of George’s children married other Dodson family members..

In 1762, Thomas Dodson of Faquier County, released his right to his claim on the estate of his father, Thomas, to his brothers; Greenham Dodson of Amelia County, Abraham, Joshua and Elisha of Faquier County. Brother George is notably absent and is not found again after selling his Richmond County land in 1756. One could presume that Mary has died by 1756 – otherwise it’s unlikely that George would have sold and left his mother. By 1762, when Thomas relinquished his right to his share of his father’s estate, and with all of her sons gone from Richmond County, Mary was assuredly buried in the churchyard beside Thomas Dodson.

In 1745, Mary would have been 59 years old, in 1756, age 70 and in 1762, 76 years old.

Where is Mary Buried?

Both Mary and Thomas Dodson died after the new Farnham Parish Church was built in 1737, although their children died before the new church was constructed.

They could have been buried where earlier family members rested but the most likely location for their burial is the cemetery behind the church.  There are no marked graves from this early date. The other possibility of course is that there was a family cemetery, now lost to time, although family cemeteries did not seem to be prevalent in this part of Virginia at this time.

It looks like there is room for lots of unmarked burials in this location.

Mary’s Grandchildren

Eventually, Mary’s 9 children that lived to adulthood would give her a total of 47 known grandchildren, and probably many more. We don’t know how many children Alice Dodson Creel or Mary Dodson Oldham bore. Furthermore, we know that more than 47 had to have been born. Using the known children’s births and a reproductive span of 24/25 years for each woman, giving them the opportunity to have approximately 12 children, spaced 2 years apart, assuming all children lived long enough to nurse for the first year (in many cases, effectively preventing conception of another child,) we calculate that at least 37 additional grandchildren were born and died.

If you add the 47 grandchildren we know about, the 37 that had to have been born and died, and 20 additional births through Alice and Mary, if they survived beyond 1739 when they were recorded in their father’s will, that’s 104 grandchildren.

Of the 34 grandchildren for whom we have documentation, 21 were born in Mary’s lifetime. Two of Mary’s children didn’t begin having children until about the time she died, or after. Mary’s son, George remained in Richmond County and had several children that Mary would have been close to, as he lived on land adjacent to Mary.

Son Thomas left in 1733, taking his grandchildren, aged 8 and under, along with him. That must have been difficult for Mary, seeing her grandchildren leave and knowing she might well not see them again. Mary’s daughters Alice and Mary would have been marrying about that time though, so perhaps those grandchildren that we don’t know about helped to sooth the ache in Mary’s heart. We also don’t know if Alice and Mary remained local or left as well with their husband’s while Mary was still living.

What we do know is that son George stayed, with his children who were probably very close to Mary. Son Greenham stayed until between 1745 and 1746. Mary would have known his children as well. Abraham, Joshua and Elisha were only just beginning their families in the mid-1740s when Mary was aging and probably died.

Mary’s grandchildren’s births spanned roughly half a century, from 1725 to about 1772.

Mary probably had at least one great-grandchild when she died, although she wouldn’t have known the child. Grandson Joseph who was born in 1725 had son Thomas in about 1746, beginning the next generation. Unfortunately, Thomas Jr. had moved to Farquier County in 1733, so unless Mary went along as her sons moved westward, she would never have gotten to hold her great-grandchild.

At least 8 grandchildren died within Mary’s lifetime, meaning that except for David who lived distantly, she would have stood at the funerals and gravesides of 7 grandchildren, and probably 5 of her own children as well. Plus her parents, in-laws, husband and probably at least some of her siblings and their children as well.

Not an easy life, by any means.

Life and Death in Colonial America

I created the chart below to visualize what the “typical” family looked like, in terms of birth, survival and death of children. Mary Durham and Thomas Dodson’s children are listed across the top. The ones in red died or are slots in which we know children would have been born. Mary’s grandchildren are listed in the columns under each child, the red ones known to have died or are unfilled slots – silent sentinels to children who were born and died with no record that they existed except for the blank spot on the chart.

Mary’s two daughters married, but their descendants have never been traced. If the daughters lived after their father’s 1739 will, they would have had additional children as well, not shown below. You can click to enlarge the image.

  • ? Before the name means I’m uncertain if this child is in this family. If not, another child would have filled that slot.
  • ? After the nickname means I’m uncertain if that is this person. For example, there are multiple candidates for “Second Fork” Thomas and the various George nicknames are confused.
  • ? After a first name means that the person’s surname is unknown.
  • Reverend Silas Lucas was unable to differentiate between the later generations of George Dodsons – there is a significant amount of confusion regarding who married whom.
  • Green = my lineage
  • Red = young deaths or children unaccounted for in the birth order, probably born and died
  • No birth years are known for Greenham’s children – placed at 2 year intervals based on estimated marriage and birth dates of their childen, and continued for 25 years.
  • Thomas Dodson wrote his will in 1739 and died in 1740.
  • Mary Durham Dodson was living in 1745, but in 1749 when her second husband Robert Galbreath wrote his will, she is notably absent, although they may have been living separately.
  • Grey = children who married cousins

Just looking at the amount of known red – that’s a lot of death. At that time, it was considered normal to lose roughly half your children before they reached adulthood.

Looking at this another way, the death of 6 of the children of Mary Durham Dodson reduced the number of descendants a few generations downstream by half, which is literally thousands. Just in the first generation, had those children lived to fully reproduce, that would have been another 72 grandchildren for Mary.

Taking a look at this phenomenon in a chart, you can see the potential in the reduction of descendants with just one missing child, or conversely, the potential addition of descendants in a few generation with just one added child. I stopped around 1900, because that’s the timeframe that birth control became popular and family sizes began to shrink.

Five surviving children per generation is certainly reasonable. Ten is likely too optimistic.

It’s no wonder, though, with that number of descendants in just one generation why people with heavy colonial ancestry have high numbers of autosomal DNA matches.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA, which could tell us a great deal about Mary’s heritage on her direct matrilineal line is MIA. Why is it MIA? Women pass their mitochondrial DNA to each of their children, but only female children pass it on. In order to find Mary’s mitochondrial DNA, we would need to test a descendant of Mary through all females to the current generation, when males are eligible as well.

And of course, it’s the two daughters that we don’t know anything about.

If anyone has done research on the daughters, Alice Dodson married to William Creel, or Mary Dodson who married an Oldham, please speak up. Not only can we update their information, but we may be able to find an appropriate person to test for Mary’s mitochondrial DNA. I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first eligible person.

Summary

Mary’s was probably a typically colonial wife, albeit marrying very young. Depending on the family social standing, Mary’s life could have ranged from helping in the fields to overseeing the household and the “domestics” inside. We do know that at least by the time Thomas Dodson died, he did own slaves in addition to at least one indentured servant during his lifetime. Most of the labor would have been for the growth and harvesting of tobacco, and not for household labor. Their “plantation” was probably modest. The Northern Neck was not Tara and they did not own one of the mansion houses.

Mary’s life was probably defined by church and children. While church attendance was mandatory, and men were fined for non-attendance, religion seemed to sooth the heart of those who endured devastating losses. And pretty much everyone who had children experienced devastating losses. In Mary’s case, probably 5 or 6 children died in her lifetime, possibly more, not to mention several grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and her husband. Death is a part of the cycle of life, but that’s an awful lot of death to endure, at least by today’s standards.

Yet, Mary continued to function. She had more children. She went to church and when necessary, she went to the cemetery which was certainly a place far too familiar.

The early cemeteries, whether on plantations or in churchyards are lost to time. Few stones exist on the Northern Neck for people who were born before the mid-1800s. The location of the early Farnham Parish Church is lost to us today, too, and that may have been where family members were buried before the present church was built in 1737. Plantations, and all farms then were considered plantations, may have had their own cemeteries, now reclaimed by Mother Nature or development.

In many ways, the fact that the Northern Neck is a peninsula and not easily accessible has protected it from development, so the unmarked and unknown graves of the colonial planters may still remain unmolested as they rest in peace on one of the first American frontiers.

Thomas Dodson (1681-1740), Planter on Totuskey Creek, 52 Ancestors #151

Thomas Dodson’s birth on May 15, 1681 to Charles Dodson and wife, Anne, is recorded in the North Farnham Parish register. At the time of Thomas’s birth, this part of Virginia, now Richmond County, was Old Rappahannock County.

Thomas’s birth was just 74 years after the founding of Jamestown, and Jamestown was still the colonial capital of the colony of Virginia – very early in the history of America.

The part of Virginia where Thomas was born, the Northern Neck began to be settled in about 1735.

In 1792, Old Rappahannock County was dissolved and the portion of Old Rappahannock where the Dodson family lived became Richmond County where Thomas spent his life. Fortunately, the Richmond County records are for the most part, intact.

I must say that these records, especially the court orders, have been key into not just identifying Thomas by his birth and death dates, and maybe marriage and children’s births thrown in for good measure – but by the rhythm of daily life in colonial Virginia. All males attended court which was, other than church, the only entertainment in pre-electronic America. Church every Sunday was mandatory. The regular births of children and deaths of neighbors and family members. The plantations, the tobacco, the spats recorded in those old notes. Life was much richer than those birth and death dates.

I’ve grouped items in a few cases, but mostly, I’ve used these records to walk through Thomas’s life in order, to give us a flavor today for what his life was actually like. Oh, how I wish we had something, anything, that he actually wrote that would shed light on how he thought and what he was like. But Thomas couldn’t write. The closest we can get is to create our vision of Thomas by his actions and those he was closest to.

Thomas’s Mother

Thomas’s mother’s name was Ann or Anne, but her surname is unknown, although I have seen it listed several times as Elmore. However, I have never seen any documentation behind the Elmore surname. Sometimes, surnames attached to trees are copied and pasted so many times that people just assume that they have to be accurate because they are “all over the place,” but copying a tree repeatedly has absolutely no bearing on the accuracy of the fruit of the tree. Copying it 1000 or 2000 times doesn’t make it any truer – just more plentiful.

Because I was bound and determine to end the mystery of Elmore, if it was at all possible, I embarked on a research trip and indeed, I solved the mystery. I’ll tell Ann’s story in her own article, but suffice it to say here that her surname was not Elmore. Thomas Dodson’s mother’s surname remains a mystery.

Nancy the Cow

The first record involving Thomas Dodson occurred when Thomas was 12 years old, which is a bit unusual. However, this recorded deed seems to be a preemptive strike or a reaction perhaps to criticism for the exchange of one cow for another. Yes, a cow.

1692-1694 Richmond County, VA, Deed Book 1; Antient Press: (Page 165)

I Charles Dodson do give & convey unto & with my beloved Son, Tho: Dodson, one brown Cow called by the name of Nancy marked with a crop & swallow forke on the left Eare, & a crop on the right tare, together with all her female increase being in Exchange with him my sd Son, Thomas, for One Cow given him by his Godfather, Peter Elmore, To have & to hold unto him the said Thomas his Executrs: Admstrs: or assignes together was aforesaid from me my heirs forever, And I do hereby warrant the sd Cow together with all her female increase unto him the sd Thomas his Executrs: &c. of & from the claimes of me the sd Charles, my Executrs; &c. & all & every other persons what so ever, In Witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand & seale this 31st day of July Ano: 1693 Sealed & delivered in presence of us Wm Ward, Charles Dodson Wm. Colston Record Richmond Co. 31st die Julii 1693

I do have to wonder why they traded cows, and why the trade was recorded and not just done without fanfare. I’m sure there’s more to this story that we’ll never know. Recording deeds was not free, nor convenient, so there had to be something else.

This deed probably explains where the Elmore surname attached to Anne originated, but Godfather does not mean that Thomas’s mother was an Elmore. Godfather simply means that Peter Elmore, who it turns out, was another neighbor, stood up with Charles and Ann Dodson when baby Thomas was baptized in the North Farnham Parish church in 1681.

How Many Thomas’s Were There?

Seldom do we find records of children in court or land records, unless their parents die or the transaction is unusual, like Nancy the cow.

The early mention of Thomas caused me some concern, because I began to wonder if there was more than one Thomas. Was Thomas really a minor, or were there two Thomas Dodsons?

Two or more Thomas Dodsons in the same records at the same time might become intermixed. I assembled the early records and was greatly relieved to see that in spite of that fact that there were several Charles Dodsons, other than Thomas Dodson Sr.’s son, Thomas Jr., there were no other Thomas Dodsons during this timeframe to muddy the waters. Charles Dodson and Thomas Durham were neighbors, and I do wonder if perhaps Thomas Dodson was named for Thomas Durham. Ironically, if so, Thomas Dodson married Thomas Durham’s daughter, Mary.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

On the pedigree chart above, the individuals in green are my ancestors. The ones in tan are the various Charles Dodsons. Fortunately, there was only one Thomas in the records before his son, Thomas Jr., came of age in about 1725 when he married Elizabeth Rose.

Marriage

Twenty years and three months after his birth, on August 1, 1701, Thomas Dodson married Mary Durham, daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Smoot Durham, their neighbors in what had become Richmond County, VA. Age 20 is on the young side for a male to marry at that time, but perhaps the fact that his father was willing to give him land helped secure the deal.

According to a 1723 deed, the land of Thomas Durham conveyed to Thomas Dodson was marked by the corner tree of Charles Dodson. This tells us that the Dodsons and Durhams were neighbors and Thomas Dodson literally married the girl next door.

The book, “Virginia Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800” found on Ancestry provides us with additional information.

Thomas Received Land From His Father

When Thomas first appears in deed records as an adult, he had recently married and would have been looking to establish a homestead.

Thomas Dodson’s father wrote his will on January 11, 1702/1703 in which he leaves to Thomas “a plantation seated in a neck formerly called the Rich Neck with 150 acres of land to him and the male heires lawfully begotten of his own body forever and if the above said Thomas Dodson should dye without any male that then the land should returned to the next heire of the Dodson.“

Just a few days later, Charles deeded adjacent tracts of land to Thomas and his brother Charles. It might appear that Charles was rushing to get his affairs in order. Was Charles ill, thinking he would die soon?

P 210-212 Feb. 2, 1702 Deed of Gift. Charles Dodson of North Farnham Parish Richmond Co. for natural love and fatherly affection that I have and bear towards my son Thomas Dodson of the same county and parish, and for divers other good causes and to the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten plantation and tract of land whereon he now lives in the same county and parish 150 acres formerly known by the name or called Travers’s Quarter it being the one half of the tract of land purchased by me of the said Capt. Samuel Travers containing 300 acres and bounded by a branch that runs up between the said plantation and track of land known or called by the name Rich Neck that Charles Dodson Jr. now lives on. Grant to Charles Dodson or to any of the heires male of me that the said Charles Dodson or to the lineally descend from him the said Charles Dodson Jr to the heires male that shall be next of kin by consanguinity so that the same and every part thereof may be and remain and endure in the tenure occupation and possession of the relacons and male issue of the Dodson forever. I do by these presents debar and forever make voyd any manner of sale lease mortgage or conveyance that my said son Thomas Dodson or his heires male as aforesaid or the heires male of any or either of them shallmake of any part or parcel of the premises to any person or persons whatsoever (expect it be one of his brothers to whom it shall and maybe lawfull for him to sell and convey the same in case he shall want such issue as it aforesaid) according to the provisions and limitation herein before mentioned and reserved, but to no other use intent of purposes whatsoever. Signed. Wit William Fitzherbert and William Noris by mark Ack Feb. 3, 1703 Book 3 page 105

Court Orders Page 221 Feb. 3, 1702/3 Charles Dodson ack deed of gift of land to Thomas Dodson and ordered recorded.

Sons Born

The first child born to Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham recorded in the parish books, which are known to be incomplete, is George Dodson born in October of 1702. However, it makes more sense that son Thomas Dodson, whose birth is unrecorded, would have been born first and named after his father. If that is true, then Thomas would have been born almost immediately after their marriage, August 1, 1701, for Mary to have gotten pregnant again and had George in October of 1702. The more reasonable scenario is that Thomas was born about 1704, but that begs the question of who George Dodson, firstborn, was named after?

Given that we don’t know who either Charles nor Ann’s father was, George could have been a family name on either side.

Church Non-Attendance

During this time, the court order books are full of people being “presented” to the court for not attending church. The Anglican church was the official church of the crown in Virginia and attendance was mandatory. Non-attendance was prosecuted and fines levied. One would ask themselves why a man would not attend church, knowing the consequences. When you find groups of men, known to be associated, one wonders if their non-attendance was a religious or a political statement, or something else perhaps – but what?

Court Order Book Page 18 December 6, 1704 Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Dodson and Thomas Durham summoned to court for not going to church for two months together.

Court Order Book Page 34 February 7, 1704/05 Peter Elmore, Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson Jr. and Thomas Durham summoned to court to answer presentment of grand jury against them for not going to church for 2 months together and not appearing, ordered they be fined according to law and pay same with costs.

Thomas’s Father Dies

Charles Dodson’s will was proven in court on February 6, 1705/6, two years after he wrote it.

Thomas Can’t Write

Aside from Thomas’s noncompliance with church attendance, his life appears to be very “normal” for the time and place, with Thomas occasionally being summoned, along with other men, for occasional civic duty.

Court Order Book Page 111 February 6, 1705 Petition of Christopher Petty that he might build or erect a mill on a run or water course of Totuskey and having only and on one side it was ordered by the aforesaid court that Peter Elmore and Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson should layout and value one acre of land on the opposite side which accordingly we the subscribers have done to the best of our judgements and do value said acre to be worth 20 shillings. Signed Peter Elmore, his mark, Charles Dodson his mark and Thomas Dodson his marke,

This record tells us that Thomas Dodson cannot sign his name, and therefore, very likely cannot read. One record extractor recreated the “marks” of the people who signed, and Thomas always signed with a “T.” Thomas’s father, Charles Dodson always signed his name – so probably was literate. The Charles Dodson in this record is Thomas’s brother, Charles, who also signed with a mark.  The Dodson boys never learned to read or write.

Thomas’s Mother Remarries

We know that Thomas’s father died around January of 1705/06, because Charles’ will was probated on February 6th of that year. Generally, wills were probated between 30 and 90 days after the individual died, meaning at the next county court session.

Estates and remarriages are almost always interesting, and thankfully, produce records when conflicts arose. Thomas’s mother, Ann, remarried not long after Charles death, to John Hill, according to court records.

On July 3, 1706, the court ordered that John Hill and his wife Anne, executrix of the last will and testament of Charles Dodson dec’d meet at the house of said John Hill and ordered that John Rankin, William Smoote, John Mills and Richard White inventory and appraise all the estate of the said Charles Dodson. Court Order Book 4-171.

This would suggest one of two things. Either John Hill moved into the home of Charles Dodson and Ann when he married widow Ann Dodson, or someone else is living in the Charles Dodson home and Charles’ remaining estate had been taken with Ann to John Hill’s house. Lambeth Dodson, the son to whom Charles leaves his new plantation would only have been 16, not old enough to work the plantation alone.

Thomas is Ill

Court Order Book Page 198 Oct. 2, 1706 Thomas Dodson summoned to appeare as one of the last grand jury and not appearing was fined according to law and it now appearing to this court that Thomas Dodson was sick at the time when the grand jury made their appearance it is thereupon ordered that the fine be remitted.

Apparently, not long after his father dies, Thomas is ill as well. Charles Dodson died when he was 57 and when Thomas was 25. A sad time with a father gone too soon.

By the spring of 1707, things got interesting.

Ejected

Court Order Book Page 261 April 3 1707 Ejection firma depending in this court between James Greenehead plt and Thomas Dod deft is dismissed plt not prosecuting.

Plt is short for plaintiff and def or deft for defendant.

This record is copied exactly from a transcript, not the original. I believe this is Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson. There is a John Dodd in Richmond County, but never did I encounter a Thomas Dod.

An ejection firmae, according to “A Law Dictionary” by Henry Campbell Black, is an ejection of ejectment of farm. The name or a writ or action of trespass which lay at common law where lands or tenements were let for a term of years, and afterwards the lessor, reversioner, remainder-man or any stranger ejected or ousted the lessee of his term, terme or farm. In this case the latter might have his writ of ejection, by which he recovered at first damages for the trespass only, but it was afterwards made a remedy to recover back the term itself, or the remainder of it, with damages. It is the foundation of the modern action of ejectment. Ejectment is the action which lay for the recovery of the possession of land and for damages for the unlawful detention of its possession.

This certainly sounds like an adversarial situation. Ironically, Thomas Dodson’s mother-in-law, as a widow in 1715, would marry Jeremiah Greenham.

Thomas Dodson Sues His Step-Father

On April 3rd in 1707, Thomas Dodson was having a particularly bad day, because in addition to the ejectment, above, he files suit against his step-father as executor of his father’s estate after marrying Thomas’s mother, then apparently drops the suit.

Court Order Book Page 262 April 3 1707 Action brought by Thomas Dodson against John Hill marrying the executrix of Charles Dodson is dismissed, plt not prosecuting.

This probably means that there was some issue with Charles Dodson’s will or estate and after filing the suit (although we don’t have the filing itself) the parties came to an agreement. Charles Dodson’s estate was fairly straightforward, as he left land to sons and conveyed that land to Thomas before his death, making this suit very curious. Charles left the rest of his “moveable estate” to his wife and daughters, who did not file suit.

Trespass

On June 2, 1708, Thomas (X) Dodson and Bar’t Rich’d Dodson witnessed a complaint of damages on trespass of land involving James Toone, John Fan and John Miller.

At that time, trespass generally meant that one man was somehow infringing upon the land or resources of another, as in cut down his tree in the forest, not trespass as we think of it today. The men generally disagreed about where the property line was located, which were much less defined then than they are now.

Fornication

Not only was a family squabble occurring in the Dodson family between Thomas and his step-father and maybe his mother, but it appears that Thomas’s wife’s Durham family was having some high drama of their own as well that spilled over to Thomas Dodson. Keep in mind that the Durhams are neighbors of Thomas Dodson, in addition to being his in-laws.

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

Note that the county goale was how jail was spelled at that time.

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

So Anne Kelly won’t tell who the father is, but Dorothy, Thomas Durham’s wife, won’t let her go to jail. Hurray for Dorothy – stepping up. I’d love to have been a mouse in that house.

Anne Kelly was indentured to the Durham family when she was just 14, in June of 1699, and fresh off the boat, literally. She was brought into court to have her age adjudged to determine the length of her indenture.

Nine years later, Anne is still indentured, now with a child, and 23 years old. Generally, servants are required to serve an additional 5 years if they have a child while indentured. Plus they are fined for fornication, even though they are not permitted to marry, and if they or someone can’t pay the fine, they are jailed. She was brave to not tell, but who was she protecting? Or was Anne afraid?

Eight months later, we discover the identity of the father.

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

Thomas has to enter into a bond, but not pay a fine. A bond is only confiscated if the child becomes a financial burden to the church. So, in colonial Virginia, the woman is fined and sentenced for fornication, but the man is not. Apparently the fact that “it took 2” didn’t matter, or perhaps a certain level of morality was expected of women but not men.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2, 1708/09 Anne Kelly servant to Thomas Dodson being this day brought before this court for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child the court have ordered Anne Kelly to serve Thomas Dodson or his assignes according to law after her time by indenture or otherwise is fully expired, in consideration of his paying her fine for committing the offence aforesaid.

Court Order Book Page 5 March 2 1708/09 Thomas Dodson confest judgement to the churchwardens of North Farnham parish for the use of the parish for 500 pounds tobacco being the fine of Anne Kelley for committing the sin of fornication and having a bastard child and it ordered that he pay the same with costs.

I had to read this twice. It appears that while Anne Kelly is indentured to Thomas Durham Sr., she is working for Thomas Dodson going to work additional time for Thomas Dodson after her indenture to Thomas Durham is completed because Thomas Dodson paid her fine.

So, I have to ask, where the Hell is Thomas Durham Jr. in all of this????? Why isn’t he paying the fine? Why isn’t he stepping up?

As it turns out, Thomas was a minor, although that’s clearly not an excuse.

Thomas Durham Jr. was born on June 27, 1690, meaning that in 1708 he was 18 years old. Anne was 5 years older than Thomas Jr. who had been 17 (or younger) when Anne got pregnant, the first time, depending on when she actually had the child. The second time, in March 1709, when Anne had borne 2 children by Thomas, he was just shy of 19 and she was about 24 – and by then she was facing at least 10 more years of servitude to Durham (plus whatever was left of her original time) plus some servitude time to Thomas Dodson as well – probably another 5 years. This means that Anne Kelly would have served at least until she was 39 if not 44, adding in the first fine that Dorothy Durham paid.

Indeed, the crime of fornication was expensive…for the woman. The male involved, as we will see shortly, was free to live his life unencumbered.

Back to Boring Old Land

After all that fornication excitement, these land records are just outright boring!

Court Order Book Page 55 B – In obedience to an order of court dated June 2, 1709 wherein it was ordered that a jury should go upon the land in difference between James Tone by his nearest friend John Fan, plt and John Miller, def, to survey according to the most known and reputed bounds thereof the land aforesaid, we by the named jury underwritten met upon the land and find the def a trespasser and that said deft has committed damage upon the said land to the value of 5 shillings sterling. July 5, 1709 signers include Bar: Richd Dodson, Thomas (T his mark) Dodson

Court Order Book Page 14 April 2, 1712 Christopher Petty and Thomas Dodson, processioners appointed for one of the precincts of Northfarnham Parish have made returns that Robert Downeman has refused to procession the land of William Downeman Sr. and Hugh Cambell being undecided, it is ordered that the sheriff summon a jury of the most able and antient freeholders to lay out and survey the land of William Downeman and Hugh Cambell.

Processioners were men appointed to periodically review the property lines with all parties concerned within the parish. This was to reduce conflicts and gain agreement by all to the location of those lines. Antient is an obsolete spelling of ancient.

I can just see these men tromping around in the swamps.

Thomas’s Dodson’s Father-In-Law Dies

Thomas Durham, Thomas Dodson’s father-in-law, wrote his will in 1711, but did not pass away until 1715, when his will was probated in June.

Will Book page 210 – Thomas Durham, North Farnham Parish, will August 4, 1711, probated June 1 ,1715, wife Dorothy the plantation, after her death to son Thomas and Mary his wife, son John, dau Mary Dodson, grandson Thomas Dodson, ex: wife; no witnesses.

In Thomas Durham’s 1711 will, he specifically mentions his daughter, Mary Dodson and her son, Thomas Dodson, which would be the son of Thomas Dodson and Mary Durham.

Alice Dodson Born

Daughter Alice was probably born about 1712.

Thomas’s Brother and Wife Die

In addition to Thomas Dodson’s father-in-law’s death in May of 1715, Thomas’s brother was ill, apparently for several months, and died as well. Sadly, Charles’s daughter, Anne was born on July 16, 1715, 8 days after Charles wrote his will but before his will was probated in May of 1716 by his widow.  They had a newborn child, a very sick husband and a questionable wife, as she wrote her will in 1718 and died in 1719, leaving several orphans. It appears that daughter Anne died too, because nothing more is known of her and she is not mentioned in her mother’s will.

We don’t know who raised Thomas’s brother’s children, but given that there were several Dodson siblings, they along with the wife’s siblings were the most likely candidates.

Court Order Book Page 250 – Charles Dodson, Farnham Parish, will July 8, 1715, probated May 2, 1716, son Charles all land between spring branch and the branch that parts by land from the land of Thomas Dodson, son Furtunatus all land below by spring branch. Wife Anne, ex: wife; wits Bartholomew R. Dodson, George Petty

The Thomas Dodson family would have been greatly aggrieved and making regular trips to the cemetery, wherever that was.

Mary Dodson Born

Daughter Mary Dodson was born October 5, 1715, in the midst of the Durham and Dodson deaths.

This must have been a terribly emotional time.

Thomas’s Mother-In-Law Remarries

In February 1715/16, Thomas Dodson’s mother-in-law remarries to Jeremiah Greenham.

David and Greenham Dodson Born

Sons David and Greenham Dodson were both probably born between 1715 and 1720. Greenham, probably named for Jeremiah Greenham would have been born sometime after Jeremiah married Dorothy in February of 1715/16.

Thomas as Appraiser

Court Order Book Page 143 Oct. 7, 1719 Ann Ayes formerly Ann Elmore and made oath that Peter Elmore Jr. departed this life without making any will and giving security for her administration of the estate.

John Harris, Hugh Harris, Christopher Petty and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Peter Elmore. All sworn plus Ann Ayres.

Will Book Page 135 Peter Elmore estate appraised and signed by John Harris, Thomas Dodson (T his mark) Hugh Harris Nov. 4, 1719

While all we see here are the court records, keep in mind that Peter Elmore was Thomas Dodson’s godfather and the Dodson neighbor, probably for his entire life.

Ann Elmore, Peter’s daughter had married Robert Ayres, so she is clearly not Ann Dodson, wife of Charles.

John Hill

Court Order Book Page 36 March 7, 1721/22 Frances Hill wife of John Hill relinquished right of dower in piece of land sold by her husband unto Thomas Creele and ack last Jan court.

We have no way of knowing if this John Hill is the same John Hill as Ann Dodson married in 1706, but the Dodson family involvement with this John seems to suggest so. If that is the case, then between 1706 and 1722, Ann Dodson Hill died and John remarried to Frances.

John Hill and Frances Hill, relict of Robert Reynolds, decd came into court and made oath that Robert Reynolds departed this life without making any will so farr as they know or believe and on their petition and giving security for their just and faithful administration of the decds estate, certificate granted them for obtaining probate.

John Hill, Frances Hill, Caron Brannon and James Neale came into court and ack bond for John Hill and Frances Hill admin of estate of Robert Reynolds, decd.

Thomas Dodson, Christopher Petty, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Thomas Scurlock or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Robert Reynolds decd. All sworn plus John and Frances Hill, the admins.

Jeremiah Greenham

Court Order Book Page 38 – April 4, 1722 George Davenport, John Mills, Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Thomas Welch. All sworn and also Elizabeth Welch, executrix.

Thomas Dodson and his wife’s step-father Jeremiah Greenham apparently get along well, as they are paired numerous times in various affairs.

Bridle Road

Court Order Book Page 40 April 4, 1722 Upon motion of Thomas Dodson and others ordered that Mr. Travers Downman forthwith cause a sufficient bridle road to be cleared round his plantation into the Ridge Road.

That bridle road is probably a real road today, if we just knew where the Ridge Road was, we might be able to find some candidates along Totuskey Creek.

On the map below, the Ridge Road is marked with the red pin. Downman’s land may have been towards Moratico, at the bottom of this picture, below the red pin. Today, Ridge Road, Richmond Road and History Land Highway are paved, and the rest of the roads are still dirt.

Totuskey Creek is the spider-like structure to the upper left of the red pin on the left side.

There are several small roads intertwined with Totuskey Creek.

This picture is facing Totuskey Creek at its closest point to Ridge Road. I don’t know if this was the Dodson land, but Thomas was assuredly familiar with this land.

More Estates Appraised

As men aged, they were perceived to be wiser, or just perhaps more experienced. When possible, estate appraisers consisted of the deceased person’s largest creditor, a person related to the widow to represent her interests and someone unconnected with the deceased but a county resident familiar with prices of goods. Finding someone “unconnected” in a community where everyone knew everyone well, and many families were intermarried must have been challenging. I suspect that many times the third man was really a respected member of the community. These three men would agree, with their various interests, on the value of the estate, so the process was deemed to be fair to all involved.

Court Order Book Page 202 Robert Reanolds estate inventory signed by Christopher Petty, Thomas Dodson and Thomas Skourlock April 4, 1722

Court Order Book Page 209 Inventory of Thomas Welch signed by Jeremiah Greenham, George Devenport and Thomas Dodson May 2, 1722

Court Order Book Page 124 Nov. 6, 1723 Thomas Dodson sworn on grand jury.

Abraham Born

Son Abraham Dodson was born in April 1723.

Thomas Buys Land From His Brother-in-Law

1720-1733 Richmond Co VA Deed Book 8; Antient Press: (Page 240

This indenture made the Tenth day of December Anno Dm. 1723 Between Thomas Durham of County of Richmond of one part and Thomas Dodson Senr. of County aforesaid of other part; Witnesseth that Thomas Durham in consideration of sum of Five shillings of lawfull money of England to him in hand paid by Thomas Dodson Senr., do by these presents bargaine and sell unto Thomas Dodson Senr. his heirs a parcel! of land containing One hundred acres formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall sitaute in County of Richmond and bounded; Begining at a Spanish Oak corner tree of Charles Dodson, being part of a Pattent formerly granted to Wm: Thatcher by the Maine Branch of Totoskey, and extending thence S. 12 degrees W. 122 perches to a Mulberrie tree, thence S. 54 degrees E. 98 by a red Oak, corner tree, thence E. N. E. 34 perches by a red Oak, thence No, 24 degrees E. 104 perches to a Poplar in said Maine Branch, thence down said Branch its severall courses to the first station; Together with all Timber trees and other trees with all prof itts comodites and priviledges; To have and to hold the hundred acres of land and premises unto Thomas Dodson Senr, his heirs dureing the full term of one year paying therefore the Rent of one Eare of Indian Corn on the Feast Day of the Birth of our Lord God next ensueing if lawfully demanded, to the end that by vertue of these presents and of the Statute for transferring uses into possession, Thomas Dodson Senr, may be in the actuall possession of the land and premises and thereby enabled to take a grant of the inheritance thereof to him and his heirs; In Witness whereof the parties abovesaid to these presents interchangeably have set their hands and seals the day and year first above written

Signed Thomas and Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker and Jeremiah Greenham

Dec 10, 1723 between Thomas Durham to Thomas Dodson Sr of Richmond Co. 5000 pounds tobacco received by Thomas Dodson Sr certain parcel of land formerly belonging to Abraham Marshall bearing date 25th of 9ber, 1692, containing 100 acres bounded (same as lease above). Signed Thomas Durham, Mary Durham, wit John Hill, William Walker, Jeremiah Greenham

This land appears to be the same as above, but the payment amount/method is different. The extractions are taken from two different sources.

Dec. 10, 1723 Mary Dodson appeared in court and released her dower

This deed or deeds provide a lot of information. First, the deed locates the land on Totuskey Creek for Thomas Dodson, Charles Dodson and Thomas Durham Sr. Second, this tells us that Thomas Durham Jr., the man who impregnated the indentured servant, twice, did not marry the servant, but instead married Mary Smoote in about 1710, a year or so after the second child was born of Anne Kelly.

Thomas Durham’s involvement with Anne Kelly and her two children was apparently done. By 1723, Anne might have been raising those children, now teenagers and serving several more years to Thomas Dodson in payment for her “sin” and his payment of HER fine for fornication, but Thomas Durham skated free, married and is living the life of his choice while living very near to Anne Kelly, probably next door, as she suffers the permanent consequences of their “fornication.”

At a Court held for Richmond County the sixth day of May 1724, Thomas Durham came into Court and acknowledged this his Deed unto Thomas Dodson Senr. which was admitted to Record

The mouth of Totuskey Creek is shown above, where it intersects with the Rappahannock River. We know that the Dodsons lived someplace on the main branch of Totuskey Creek. Farnham, to the right down 3 (History Land Highway) is the location of the North Farnham Parish Church.

Much of the area remains low and swampy today.

The photos above and below are Totuskey Creek near its intersection with highway 3, named the History Land Highway. Minus the houses and modern reminders, this area probably didn’t look a lot different then. Swamp where it was too wet for trees, then woods and fields where they could be cleared.

We don’t know exactly where Briery Swamp was located on the Totuskey, but we do know that there was a North Branch. Other family names with deeds reflecting Briery Swamp were Mills, Goad, Headley, Lawson, Downman and Griffin.

Judging Workmanship

It appears that perhaps Thomas Dodson was selected for a peacekeeping role, perhaps reflecting a respected position within the community. At age 43, he had already outlived the average life expectancy for that time of 37 years old.

Court Order Book Page 154 May 7, 1724 In action between Robert Schofield plt and Mary Dalton deft by consent of both parties that Thomas Dodson and William Hanks appointed between now and next court and view the work done by the plt for the deft and report whether in their opinion it be done in a workmanlike manner and the suit continued.

Court Order Book Page 173 Sept 2, 1724 Thomas Dodson Sr and Jeremian Greenham sworn on jury.

Joshua Born

Son Joshua Dodson was born in May 1725.

Stafford County Land

Stafford County, Virginia Deed Book J, 1722 – 1728; {Antient Press}: pp 340-346

This indenture made 13th January and Last day January 1726 between Jeremiah Greenham of County Richmond and Parish of North farnam sawyer of one part and Thomas Dodson and Greenham Dodson, Planters of the above said county Witnesseth Jeremiah Greenham in consideration sum ten shillings of good is lawfull money of great Britain by deeds of lease release hath granted all that tract of land between the Branches of Potomack and Accakeek runs in the Parish Overwharton containing 316 acres being the Moyety of 632 acres of land granted in Joynt Tenancy to one Thomas Leechman and one William Williams and the said 316 acres was also made over by less & reless dated 9th July 1714 unto Jeremiah Greenham the aforesaid 632 acres granted to Leachman & Williams was by a deed from the Proprietors office dated 21st July 1710 and the aforementioned 316 acres is bounded … beginning at a corner marked red oak standing by the Path that leads from the head of Accakeek run to Capt. Mountjoys Mill being one of the corner trees mentioned in the said Deed .. to corner marked gum tree standing by the said Path .. to corner marked Pine standing in the line of land survey’d for James Harvey thence along Harvey’s line .. thence East to the stony lick branch to corner marked black oak standing in the said bank being marked for a Dividing tree between Leechman and Williams by Mr. George Crosby Sr.. & Mr. John Addams persons well acquainted with the said land Indifferently chosen by the said Leechman and Williams to make a division between them in manner may appear by an agreement Division in writeing duly executed dated 13th June last past ..

Presence Thos. Humston, Jere: Greenham

Rawleigh Travers

At Court held for Stafford County 8th February 1726 Jeremiah Greenham acknowledged this deed lease and release’.. admitted to record.

I wonder why Jeremiah Greenham sold this land to the Dodson brothers. Furthermore, I wonder if Dorothy was now deceased, because she did not relinquish her dower right in the land.

I could find no record of children for Jeremiah Greenham.

Stafford County was north of Richmond County, along the Potomac, but not far.

This area appears to be a Nature Preserve today, unless their land was further inland.

The head of Accokeek Creek seems to be in the area just Northwest of Ramoth in the upper left corner of the map below, and the branches of the Potomac are just below that location, so perhaps this is where Thomas’s land fell.  There is no record of what happened to this land.

Back in Richmond County

Clearly, Thomas Dodson never lived on the land in Stafford County, as he continued to function in Richmond County, often serving on the jury or appraising estates for neighbors that have passed away.

Court Order Book Page 272 March 3, 1725/26 Thomas Dodson action of debt against Adam McLeroy dismissed the plt not prosecuting.

This is the only record where Thomas sued for debt, which compared to other planters, was rather amazing.  However, he obviously wasn’t averse when necessary.

Page 308 October 5, 1726 Will of Peter Elmore decd presented by Charity Elmore his executrix who made oath and proved by Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Thomas Dodson, two of the witnesses.

Bartholomew Richard Dodson, Thomas Dodson, John Oldham and James Oldham or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Peter Elmore. All sworn plus Charity Elmore, executrix.

Elisha Born

Elisha Dodson was born in February of 1727.

Another Estate

Court Order Book Page 338 April 5, 1727 Thomas Scurlock, Thomas Dodson, William Everitt and Abraham Goad or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Petty, decd. All sworn.

This William Everitt is probably the father of Sarah Everett who married Thomas’s son, Elisha. When Thomas’s son, George sold the land in 1756 that his father, Thomas, left to him, it abutted the land of a William Everett.

John Hill Dies

Court Order Book Page 399 April 3, 1728 Last will of John Hill decd presented by Frances Hill, executrix and oath of James Wilson and John Hightower, two witnesses.

Frances Hill, John Hightower and Lambert Dodson came into court and ack bond for Frances Hill’s administration of will of John Hill decd.

Thomas Scurlock, Thomas Dodson, John Hightower and Bartholomew Richard Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Hill. Oaths admin to all 3 plus Frances Hill.

Is this the same John Hill that was married to Ann Dodson? Given the family association with Thomas Dodson and two of his brothers, I would guess so. He obviously remarried.

More Jury Duty

Court Order Book Page 599 Sept. 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 602, 603 Sept. 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury to hear case for “tending of second for tobacco.”

I’m not entirely clear was “tending of second” was, but Hening’s Statutes discuss it in 1730 and it seems to be related to practices involving the pruning and care of plants to increase the quality of the tobacco as opposed to the yield. Thomas wasn’t accused of this, but obviously someone was and it wasn’t a trivial offense.

Court Order Book Page 603 September 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury, twice.

Court Order Book Page 604 September 2, 1731 John Dodson is security for John and Ann Elmore.

Court Order Book Page 605, 606 September 2, 1731 Thomas Dodson and Charles Dodson on jury, twice.

Court Order Book Page 644 May 3, 1732 Thomas Dodson, Sr, Jeremiah Greenham and John Hill on grand jury.

Family Squabble

Court Order Book Page 625 March 2, 1731/32 Thomas Dodson Jr. pl vs Lambert Dodson deft 2747 pounds tobacco due by account, the def being called and not appearing on the motion of the plt judgement is granted him against the def and John Gibson his security for the aforesaid sum and costs unless def appears at next court and answers the action.

Court Order Book Page 5 Nov. 7, 1732 Thomas Dodson Jr. vs Lambert Dodson continued till next court.

Court Order Book Page 12 Nov. 7, 1732 Thomas Dodson Jr. plt vs Lambert Dodson def for 2747 pounds tobacco due by account being called and not appearing the judgement of the March court is again confirmed.

It looks like the family has another squabble between Thomas Jr. and his uncle. This is the first mention of Thomas Dodson Jr. in the record books. Ironically, it isn’t the uncle claiming his nephew owes him, but the other way around.  Furthermore, Lambert never shows up in court and the case is found for Thomas Jr.  This one is a head scratcher too.  Thomas Jr. would have been about 32 at this time, so clearly old enough to be farming or functioning as a “planter” and conducting business.

Thomas Jr. Buys Land

Deed Book 8, p.660 August 6, 1733 Abraham & Winifred Daile and Ellinor Southorn to Thomas Dodson Jr. 30 acres formerly belonging to Daniel O’Neal. Rec. August 6, 1733

Father and Son Sell Land

Deed Book Page 12 Lease and release Dec 6-7, 1733 from Thomas Dodson Sr and Mary his wife and Thomas Dodson Jr and Eliza his wife all of NFP to John’n Lyell of same in consideration of a negro woman to be delivered to said Dodson as soon as any comes to Virginia to be sold as the said Dodson Jr. wished about 130 acres in NFP and bounded by Charles Dodson by the main swamp of Totuskey. The other 30 acres of land is bounded by old Cone path formerly belonging to Daniel Oneal, a line of trees that divides the land of Mr. Spencer and the land of Thomas Dusin, corner oak formerly belonging to William Matthews, along Matthews line the land formerly belonging to John Henly. Of the 130 acres, 100 acres formerly belonged to Abraham Marshall by a deed dates 25 9ber 1692 and from thence conveyed to Thomas Durham and by the said Durham sold to Thomas Dodson Sr. The other 30 acres was formerly sold by Thomas Dusin to Thomas Southern by deed dated 21 7ber 1687. Signed Thomas Dodson Sr his mark T, Mary her mark M, Thomas Dodson Jr, Elizabeth her mark, wit Robert Reynolds and George Gibson and William Creel Rec April 1, 1734

This hurts my heart. Until now, we had no evidence that Thomas Dodson was participating in the slave trade, but now we do. Raising tobacco was a very labor intensive endeavor. There weren’t enough people to do the work, and indentured servants, if they weren’t worked to death, eventually had to be freed. Not so with Africans, although there weren’t enough slaves arriving either. Native people were being enslaved by this time as well, as evidenced by a 1711 record in Richmond County, although not having to do with the Dodson family.

Court Order Book Page 170 Mary Dodson wife of Thomas Dodson Sr and Eliza Dodson wife of Thomas Dodson Jr both of NFP appoint friend Henry Miskell of same POA to ack 130 acres land which was sold by our husbands to Mr. John’s Lyell of same by deed dated today. Signed Dec. 7 1733 both by mark. Wit Robert Reynolds (Renold) and George Gibson, William Creele Rec April 1, 1734

Court Order Book Page 170 Thomas Dodson and Thomas Dodson Jr. came into court and ack their deeds of lease and release for land unto Jonathan Lyell.

Court Order Book Page 171 April 1, 1734 Henry Miskell by virtue of power of attorney from Mary Dodson and Elizabeth Dodson the wives of Thomas Dodson and Thomas Dodson Jr to him in that behalf made relinquished the said Mary and Elizabeth’s right of dower in the land conveyed in the deeds unto Jonathan Lyell.

Women often did not want to attend court, so they would appoint a male, who was going to attend court anyway, to be their power of attorney and give their word, on their behalf, that they did indeed relinquish their dower right in the land.

There is a Lyell church at Rich Neck in Richmond County, the green area just below Rich Neck on the map below.  A crossroads named Lyells if located about 3.5 miles, as the crow flies, to the northwest of Rich Neck, at the intersection of Oldham’s Road and King’s Highway (History Land Highway.) The Lyell family was certainly located in this area.

Another Neighbor Dies

Court Order Book Page 170 April 1, 1734 John Oldum, Thomas Dodson, Richard Brown and John Flynt or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Robert Mathews. All sworn plus Sarah Mathews and James Oldum, executors.

Every time we see an estate record, we know that one of Thomas’s neighbors, and probably his friends, has died. Thomas Dodson’s daughter, Mary, married an Oldham.

Thomas Buys Brother Bartholomew Richard’s Land

Deed Book 9 Page 21 May 5-6 1734, Bartholomew Richard Dodson and wife Elizabeth of Weecomoce (Wicomico) Parish in Northumberland County to Thomas Dodson of North Farnham Parish (NFP) in Richmond County for 4500 pounds tobacco, 150 acres lying between the Oke neck and Hickory Neck Branch in Richmond county which land (is part of 500 acres that) [part in parenthesis lines out in transcription] was formerly sold by Capt. Samuel Traverse to Charles Dodson, father to the said Bartholomew Richard Dodson. Land is bounded by Daniel Everit. Signed by him, her mark, Wit Thomas Legg, H Miskell, Jeremiah Greenham, Rec May 6, 1734 and Elizabeth Dodson relinquish dower.

Based on the 1702 will of Charles Dodson, Bartholomew inherited the land at Oak Neck and William inherited the land called Hickory Neck, from their father. I wonder if Oak Neck and Hickory Neck are near Rich Neck, the land inherited by son Thomas.

Charles Dodson Sr. obviously felt very strongly about the land that he left his sons. However, he made it very difficult for them to move on, because he stipulated that they could only leave it to heirs of their body, or sell it to their brothers, assuring that it would always stay in the family. The sons attempted to honor his wishes.

Court Order Book Page 181 May 6, 1734 Bartholomew Richard Dodson and Elizabeth wife ack deed for lease and release to Thomas Dodson.

Power of Attorney

Obviously, Thomas Dodson was already in court this day.

Deed Book 9 Page 25 Jane Lawson of Christ Church Parish in Lancaster County, Power of Attorney (POA) to Thomas Dodson to ack in Richmond County court a deed dated today for 450 ac to Robert Mitchell of St. Mary White Chapel in Lancaster County. Deed made my me, John Steptoe Jr and Joanne, his wife. Signed May 4, 1734 wit Tobias Phillips, John Brown rec May 6 1734

Court Order Book Page 182 May 6, 1734 POA from Jean Lawson to Thomas Dodson proved with oath of Tobias Phillips and John Brown, witnesses.

Court Order Book Page 182 Thomas Dodson by virtue of a POA from Jane Lawson to him ack the same Jane Lawson’s deed for land and the livery of seizen thereon until Robert Mitchell and John Steptoe Jr and Johanna his wife.

Court Order Book Page 186 May 6, 1734 Jeremiah Greenham and Thomas Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book Page 393 May 3, 1736 – Henry Miskell, William Deavenport, John Hightower and Thomas Dodson or any 3 of them to appraise estate of John Ogleby decd. Sworn along with Margery Ogleby admin.

Fortunatis Dies

Court Order Book Page 600 May 1, 1738 Thomas Dodson, William Everett, George Glascock and John Hightower or any 3 of them to appraise estate of Fortunatus Dodson, decd. All sworn, plus Alice Dodson admin.

Fortunatus was Thomas Dodson’s nephew, son of his brother Charles who died more than 20 years before.

Thomas must have thought to himself that the next generation was beginning to pass on. By this time, Thomas was 57 years old and Fortunatis would have been about 38, having married Alice Goad a dozen years earlier.

Page 622 July 3, 1738 Thomas Dodson on jury.

Surveyor

Court Order Book Page 632 July 4, 1738 Thomas Dodson appointed surveyor of the highways for this ensuing year of the Coach Road from Richard Oldums to the lower end of the county and ordered he clear the same according to law. A coach road would have had to have been a substantial road in good repair to be able to handle the width of a coach and team of horses without vibrating the passengers to death.

Court Order Book Page 638 July 4 1738 Thomas Dodson on jury.

Court Order Book 1738/1739 – Page 81 – Thomas Dodson, William Everitt, James Tarpley and Richard (B?) or any 3 of them to appraise estate of James Oldham decd. All sworn plus Juney and John Oldham, execs.

Again, we don’t know exactly where the Oldham family lived, but there is a location called Oldhams, just a mile or so from Rich Neck.

If Thomas was responsible for the road from Oldham’s to the southern end of the county, that would mean from Oldham’s on Road 600 to what is now 360, intersecting with Ridge Road, also road 600, and on south. There were only two roads that traversed the county north to south. Given that we know that this road, now 600, was called the Ridge Road, perhaps the Coach Road was the other road, running closer to the Rappahannock that is today called either the King’s Road, a holdover from colonial times, or History Land Highway.  Thomas was responsible for one or the other.

Thomas Dodson’s Will

Thomas Dodson wrote his own will on February 17, 1739/40 when he was only 58 years old. The will was probated on March 2, 1740/41.

In The Name Of God Amen I Thomas Dodson of North Farnham p’ish in Richmond County Being sick and Weak of Body but in Perfect since and Memory do make and ordain this to be my Last Will and Testam.t in manner and forme –

Impri I lend to my Wife Mary Dodson my Plantation whereon I now Live and the Land thereto Blonging with all my Negroes and Moveable Estate dureing her Natural Life –

Item. I give to my Son Thomas Dodson Five Shill’s to be Paid by Ex’rrs

I give to my Son George Dodson and his heirs for Ever one hundred and fifty Acres of Land whereon he ye sd George Dodson is now Liveing

I Give to my Son Greenham Dodson and his heirs for Ever the Whole Tract of Land I bought of Lambarth Dodson –

I give to my Sone Elisha Dodson & his Heirs for Ever the Plantation whereon I now Live and Land Land therto Belonging after my Wife Mary Dodsons Decease –

I Give to my Daughter Alice Creel One Negroe Girl named Sarah –

I give to my Daughter Mary Oldam one New Suit of calica Cloaths –

I Give to my Son Greenham Dodson one Negroe man Named Harry –

I GIve to my Son Abraham Dodson one Negroe Woman named Bess and one Negroe Boy named Joe –

I Give to my Son Josha Dodson one Negroe woman Named Sue and one Negroe Boy named Dick –

I give to my son Elisha Dodson one Negroe Girl Named Nan –

I give to my son Greenham Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Abraham Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Joshua Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I give to my son Elisha Dodson one feather Bed and furniture –

I Give to Granddaughter ye Daughter of David Dodson Twenty Shill’s

All the Remaining Part of My Estate be the same more or Less I give to be Equally Divided between three of my sons: Vist Abraham Dodson Joshua Dodson & Elisha Dodson

I Likewise ordain and Appoint my Wife Mary Dodson and my son Greenham Dodson to be the true and Lawful Exr.s of the my Last will & Tesatament as Witness my hand and seal this 17th Day of February 1739

(S) Thomas (T his mark) Dodson (Seal)

Wits: H. Miskell, John (X) Hightower, Charles Dodson

Thomas’s will removes all doubt about his participation in the slave trade. He owned at least 7 slaves, and potentially more.  While at the time, owning slaves was clearly a sign of prosperity for the slave owner and “normal” in that society, today, seeing these records causes no small amount of anguish.  All I can say is that I hope he was a kind and generous man.

The death of Thomas Dodson is recorded in the North Farnham Parish Records as November 21, 1740. Typically wills are probated within 90 days, at the next court, so the probate date of March 2, 1740/1741, which is the current year of 1741, makes sense. At that time, the new year did not begin until March 25, March 2 would have been considered 1740 at that time, but is 1741 today.

Richmond County Will Book 5 p.380 – Thomas DODSON, inv; 6 Apr 1741. p.387 – Thomas DODSON, f.inv; 3 Aug 1741.

Will Book 5 has not been transcribed.  I have written for a copy of Thomas’s inventory.  I hope it’s long and detailed! I will add it here when it arrives.

Thomas left multiple tracts of land:

  • To wife Mary, “the plantation whereon I now live and the land thereto belonging” and at the death of Mary, the plantation should go to son Elisha Dodson
  • To son George Dodson, “150 acres of land whereon the said George Dodson is now living
  • To son Greenham Dodson “the whole tract of land I bought of Lambarth Dodson.”

Unfortunately, there is no record of what became of the land Thomas left to Elisha, which would have informed us of where Thomas actually lived at that time.

One of the first two tracts, according to Reverend Silas Lucas, is the Travers land. That land, called Rich Neck, was sold by the heirs of Thomas Dodson to Charles Lovelace, date no specified but apparently in Richmond County. In later years, the heirs of Lovelace sold the land back to James Boothe Dodson, son of Charles.

If today’s Rich Neck is the same Rich Neck as the references on a contemporary map, I’ve found it!!!

It’s surrounded by Marshy Swamp, which could well have been the Briery Swamp of the 1600s and early 1700s. Marsh Swamp has mill ponds and we know that Briery did as well.

There certainly is a north branch of Marshy Swamp, so I’m thinking this fits the bill quite nicely and I don’t see any other candidate waterways that fit all of the criteria, including a location named Rich Neck and Lyell Church.  I do believe these dots are connected!

The satellite view shows that indeed, there is farmland surrounded by the Creek which is a branch of Totuskey.

Unfortunately, 619 does not have Street View, so I can’t “drive down” it remotely.

Here’s Richmond Road where it crosses Marshy Swamp

Thomas’s Estate Didn’t End With the Will

After Thomas’s death, his widow, Mary Durham Dodson married Robert Galbreath on September 29, 1743 and sure enough, lawsuits followed – just 10 months later.

On July 3, 1744, in chancery court, Greenham Dodson files on behalf of himself as executor of the estate of Thomas Dodson, and others, against Robert Galbreath. (Court Record Book 11-406)

On May 7, 1745, the suit was resolved and the court decided that the petitioner, Greenham Dodson, should “take possession of the coverture, according to the intention of the testators will” and that he should use it for the benefit of Mary Galbreath during her coverture. Robert Galbreath refused to give security and was ordered to pay costs. (Court Record Book 11-458)

That doesn’t sound terribly friendly. The term coverture means the legal status of a married woman, considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Perhaps the Dodson children felt that Robert Galbreath was utilizing the estate of Thomas Dodson for himself, not for Mary. Mary would have been 57 years old.

I checked the Virginia Chancery Suit index site for Richmond County, and either those records never made it to the State Library, or they aren’t online yet. I would love to see the entire case file for this suit.

Where was Thomas Dodson Buried?

We don’t know where Thomas Dodson was buried, but he may be buried at the North Farnham Parish church.

You can see that there is a cemetery behind the North Farnham Parish Church, built in 1737, just a few years before Thomas died. Thomas may have helped to build this church.

DNA

The Dodson DNA is quite interesting. While I have not been able to find males close to me genealogically to test, I’m quite fortunate that several Dodson males who descend from this line have already tested. And thankfully, their Y DNA matches each other, so we know that the Dodson Y DNA lineage looks like. I’m incredible grateful for projects at Family Tree DNA, because without projects, there would be no avenue to “find” our ancestor’s DNA lineage, at least not without being able to find someone to test. Projects allow us to leverage the combined tests of others for our own genealogy. Hopefully, we’re reciprocating in kind by joining appropriate projects with our own tests.

As it turns out, there is more than one line of Dodsons, genetically speaking. To begin with, there are haplogroup I Dodsons and two haplogroup R Dodson groups, plus additional Dodsons who don’t match anyone. Charles Dodson’s line is haplogroup R, or more specifically, R-M269.

Charles County, Maryland lies directly across the Potomac River from the Northern Neck, but the Dodson family descended from John Dodson who settled there is NOT the same Dodson family. This isn’t what I would have expected.

The Dodson Y DNA project has several members. The DNA project itself can be found at this link, and a description of some of the lineages can be found at this link.

These lineages as listed on the website include two individuals who descend from Charles Dodson (1645-1705) through son Thomas (1681-1740) and his son Thomas (1707-1783), in blue and yellow, above.

Both men descended through Charles’ son Thomas have marker value of 13 at DYS439, in red above, which could be a line marker mutation. What we don’t know is when this mutation occurred in this line. In fact, it could have been anyplace from Thomas Sr. through Isaac.

Kit 17119 – Charles – Thomas – Thomas – Joseph – Caleb – Isaac – William – (plus 3 more generations)

Kit 24573 – Charles – Thomas – Thomas – Joseph – Caleb – Isaac – John – (plus 5 more generations)

Kit 8571 – Charles – Thomas – George – Lazarus – Elisha – (plus several generations)

The one additional individual, kit 8571, who descends through Thomas has only tested to 12 markers. However, we’re in luck because marker 439 is contained within that panel and carries a value of 14.

Therefore, we know that the mutation to 13 occurred someplace below Thomas Sr. and between Thomas Jr. and Isaac. Thomas Sr. did not carry this mutation, because the descendant of his son George does not have the mutation. Therefore 439=13 is NOT a line marker mutation for Thomas Sr.

What Does the Dodson DNA Look Like?

The Dodson DNA project documents that many of Charles Dodson’s descendants have tested and together, form the genetic Y DNA STR signature of the Northern Neck, Richmond County, Virginia line in America.  STRs are short tandem repeat markers, meaning those shown in the results below.

As you can see, in many cases, there is no question about the original marker value, because there are no mutations and all of the descendants match. In other cases, for other markers, there are several mutations. Mutations from the “normal” value for the group of participants is shown by colorized cells.

We can reconstruct the original STR markers of Charles Dodson’s DNA by determining the most common values.

The Dodson project was one of the early projects established, so people have tested at all different levels. The lower levels, such as 12 markers, are less useful. Additionally, few have uploaded Gedcom files, which makes determining who is descended from which of Charles’ sons somewhat difficult.

I have utilized the information listed on the Dodson public project page, shown above, to create the chart below, listing the original Charles Dodson value for each marker, plus the percentage of the time this marker is found in haplogroup R-M343, which is R1b. This will inform us of any unusual or rare marker values for the Dodson lineage – forming in essence a Dodson rare marker genetic signature that should suffice to isolate Dodson men from others. Markers that appear in less than 10% of the people who carry this haplogroup are bolded.

Allele Location Dodson Value % in R-M343 (R1b)
393 13 91
390 24 60
19 15 9
391 11 67
385a 11 87
385b 13 11
426 12 98
388 12 98
439 14 2
389-1 13 71
392 13 86
389-2 29 63
458 16 18
459a 9 95
459b 10 81
455 11 97
454 11 98
447 25 69
437 15 85
448 19 78
449 28 11
464a 15 80
464b 15 71
464c 17 48
464d 17 69
460 10 probably, or 11 19 (10) or 74 (11)
GATA H4 11 71
YCA II a 19 95
YCA II b 23 81
456 16 40
607 15 70
576 18 42
570 17 57
CDY a 36 30
CDY b 39 22
442 11 12
438 12 94
531 11 92
578 9 97
395S1a 15 93
395S1b 16 96
590 8 99
537 10 90
641 10 98
472 8 100
406S1 10 85
511 10 85
425 12 100
413a 22 15
413b 23 89
557 16 73
594 10 96
436 12 99
490 12 97
534 17 8
450 8 97
444 12 73
481 22 60
520 20 85
446 13 76
617 12 91
568 11 95
487 13 92
572 11 88
640 11 95
492 12 73
565 12 88
710 33 16
485 15 84
632 9 98
495 16 87
540 12 85
714 25 31
716 26 93
717 19 88
505 12 80
556 11 94
549 12 33
589 12 92
522 10 52
494 9 98
533 13 22
636 12 91
575 10 100
638 11 97
462 11 95
452 31 9
445 13 6
GATA A10 14 8
463 23 5
441 13 83
GGAAT 1B07 10 92
525 10 85
712 20 31
593 15 98
650 18 33
532 14 23
715 24 62
504 17 56
513 12 72
561 15 87
552 24 77
726 12 99
635 23 80
587 18 92
643 10 83
497 14 92
510 17 71
434 9 96
461 12 80
435 11 98

Summary

Thomas Dodson’s life was probably very typically colonial. Thomas wasn’t aristocracy, wasn’t a Burgess or man representing the government in Virginia, but he wasn’t poor either. He inherited land and bought more, raising tobacco and amassing enough to leave each of his sons a plantation. He was an up-and-comer. He had indentured servants as well as slaves – unfortunately, the norm for a successful planter in Virginia of that time. He was a man making his way in a new land, in rather uncharted territory. Many of his children would continue the legacy and push on to new frontiers.

Thomas wasn’t just a planter. He took an active role in the community.  At various times he was a processioner, a surveyor, a bondsman and many times, a juror and estate appraiser.  Yes, once or twice, he was on the wrong end of the stick as well.  Perhaps he sewed a few wild oats, but apparently not nearly as many as his brother-in-law, young Thomas Durham Jr.

Thomas Dodson would have heard about England, the old country, and the King or Queen, but he was born in the new colony of “Virginny” and probably couldn’t relate to a place and aristocracy he didn’t know. He was part of the first generation of people thoroughly “American.” He was born a generation after the tenuous establishment of Jamestown and almost 40 years after the 1722 Indian raid that nearly destroyed the English settlement.

Thomas died less than a half century before the American Revolution and before the French and Indian War. Thomas and his generation began the foundation of what would, some 40 years after his death, become the United States of America. Thomas became the transition between the fledgling colony clinging to the coast by establishing a thriving tobacco-based economy that would expand and evolve into the foundation for an independent country, something for which his grandchildren stood firm and would fight.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, including Thomas Dodson, Mary Durham and their children, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more. His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later. Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.

Sources

  • Richmond County Virginia Marriage References and Family Relationships 1692-1800 by F. Edward Wright
  • Richmond Co., VA Miscellaneous Records, 1699-1724 TLC Genealogy
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1692-1695 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1695-1701 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1701-1704 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Deed Abstracts of Richmond County 1705-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Abstracts of Land Records of Richmond County, VA 1692-1704 by Mary Marshall Brewer
  • Richmond Co., VA 1714-1715 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Deed Abstracts Richmond Co., VA 1715-1718 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond Co., VA 1719-1721 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Richmond Co., VA 1721-1725 Deeds by Ruth and Sam Sparicio
  • Richmond County VA Deeds and Bonds 1721 and 1734 by TLC Genealogy
  • Richmond County VA Deeds and Bonds 1734 and 1741 by TLC Genealogy
  • The Registers of North Farnham Parish 1663-1814 and Lunenburg Parish 1783-1800 Richmond County, Virginia Compiled and Published by George Harrison Sanford King 1966
  • Marriages of Richmond County, VA 1668-1853 by George Harrison Sanford King
  • Wills of Richmond Co., Va 1699-1800 by Robert K. Keadley, Jr
  • Richmond Co Will Book 4 1717-1725 by TLC
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1692-1694 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1694-1697 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1698-1699 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1699-1701 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1702-1704 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1704-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1705-1706 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1707-1708 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1708-1709 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1711-1713 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book 1714-1715 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1716-1717 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1718-1719 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1722-1724 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1724-1725 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1726-1727 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1728-1729 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1729-1730 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1731-1732 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1732-1734 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1732-1739 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1735-1736 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County Order Book Abstracts 1737-1738 by Ruth and Sam Sparacio
  • Richmond County, Virginia Court Orders 1721-1752 An Every Name Index by TLC Genealogy

Note that at the Allen County Public Library multiple books were rebound together and sometimes the title did not accurately reflect the contents. I searched all of the Richmond County books available which their catalog reflects includes contiguous dates.

Henry Dagord or Dagod or Maybe Doggett (c 1660/1683 – after 1708), 52 Ancestors #150

Very little is known about Henry Dagod or Dagord except that he was the father of Margaret Dagod or Dagord born in North Farnham Parish in Richmond County, Virginia on April 30, 1708. The North Farnham Parish register record does not tell us who Henry’s wife is, and there are absolutely no other records in Richmond County that can be attributed to Henry Dagord. Not one. Nada.

In fact, we’re not even sure of his surname.

In the document, “The Registers of North Farnham Parish 1663-1814 and Lunenburg Parish 1673-1800, Richmond County, Virginia” compiled by George Harrison and Sanford King and published in 1866, they record Margaret’s surname as Dagod, not Dagord. This is the first and to my knowledge only publication of the North Farnham Parish registers, so we’re just going to have to trust their interpretation.

The publication “Married Well and Often: Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800,” available at Ancestry shows the Dodson/Dagod marriage as well.

dagord-marriage

These folks obviously thought that Dagod was a misspelling of Doggett, and there were Doggett families in the area. They may have been right – and they may have been wrong.

However, for some reason, within the Dodson family, Margaret’s surname has always been listed as Dagord, not Dagod or Doggett, either one. The great irony is that no place in these records or the Richmond County records does Dagord, spelled as such, ever appear.

Speaking of the North Farnham Church Register, the original parish register no longer exists and apparently hasn’t for about 200 years or so. We’re working with a disintegrating (but now preserved) leatherbound alphabetized transcription housed at the Virginia State Archives that includes records from 1663 to 1814. It’s these records, already alphabetized and transcribed once that were transcribed a second time by Harrison and King in 1866.

These records can very effectively be used in conjunction with the existing marriage records from the area which exist beginning in 1668. Neither set of documents appears to be complete. Pages are missing from the North Farnham Parish register. At least three sets of page numbers have been added at different times (pen, ink and crayon) and are not in sync with each other, not to mention that it’s obvious in an alphabetized list when sections or pages are missing.

In 1663, North Farnham Parish was still Farnham Parish which was split between north and south in 1684. North was north of the Rappahannock River, now Richmond County and South was south of the river, now Essex County.

Another challenge is the spelling of the Dagord surname. It may not be Dagord, and whatever it was, it could certainly have been spelled myriad ways. I found variations that included Dagod, Doggett, Doged, Doget, Dogged, Dogett, Doggett, Daggett…you get the idea. So I looked for every somewhat similar record beginning with Da and Do. The good and bad news both is that there really weren’t many records at all.

I thought sure that perhaps researchers hadn’t researched thoroughly, so I undertook that task, perusing not just Richmond County, but also the preceeding counties from which Richmond was formed. I checked Lancaster, York, Old Rappahannock and Richmond County land, probate and court records closely.

I did not check Essex County records since Essex was located across a mile-wide river, which would not have placed Margaret Dagod in close enough proximity to George Dodson to get to know each other well enough to marry, given that the Dodsons lived on or near Totuskey Creek in Richmond County.  A ferry ride would have been the most expedient way to cross the Rappahannock River, and ferries were not free.

Old Rappahannock County, Virginia

northern-neck

Settlement in the Northern Neck of Virginia, shown above as the neck of land that today includes the counties of Westmoreland, Northumberland, Richmond and Lancaster, began about 1635 when the area was part of York County, one of the original counties formed in 1634. St. Mary’s and St. Charles Counties in Maryland are just across the Potomac River, on the north side of the neck.

In 1619, the area which is now York County was included in two of the four incorporations (or “citties”) of the proprietary Virginia Company of London which were known as Elizabeth Cittie and James Cittie.

In 1634, what became York County was formed as Charles River Shire, one of the eight original shires of Virginia.

During the English Civil War, Charles River County and the Charles River (also named for the King) were changed to York County and York River, respectively. The river, county, and town of Yorktown are believed to have been named for York, a city in Northern England.

York County land records and probate began in 1633.

In 1648, Northumberland was formed from York and then in 1652 Lancaster was formed Northumberland and York. Land records in Northumberland began in 1650 and probate in 1652.

Old Rappahannock County (not to be confused with the current Rappahannock County) was formed in 1656 from Lancaster County, VA. Land records begin in 1656 and probate in 1665. In 1692, old Rappahannock was dissolved and divided into Essex and Richmond Counties.

Old Rappahannock County was named for the Native Americans who inhabited the area, Rappahannock reportedly meaning “people of the alternating (i.e., tidal) stream.” The county’s origins lay in the first efforts by English immigrants to “seat” the land along the Rappahannock River in the 1640s. The primitive travel capabilities of the day and the county’s relatively large area contributed to the settlers’ hardship in travel to the county seat to transact business, and became the primary reason for the county’s division by an Act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1691 to form the two smaller counties of Essex and Richmond.

According to the library of Virginia, old Rappahannock wills are with the Essex County wills, although they have been transcribed and published separately.

Richmond County was formed in 1692 from Old Rappahannock, with land records beginning in 1692 and probate in 1699, although many records are lost for unknown reasons.

You would think that at least some Dagord (or similar surname) records would be found in the following locations:

dagord-old-counties

If Margaret Dagod/Dagord was born in 1708, her father would have been living in the parish at that time, and again in 1726 when she married George Dodson. It’s very likely that Margaret’s parents lived nearby the Dodson family in Richmond County that entire time. Let’s see what the records tell us.

Northumberland County

The Northern Neck counties of Virginia are blessed by a series of books, by county, written by F. Edward Wright titled “Marriage References and Family Relationships.” Each county has one of these books, and they do intertwine somewhat. The author has assembled the various records from marriages, wills, deeds and other resources to piece these families together.

In the “Family” book for Northumberland County, we find the following:

  • Benjamin Doggett son of Rev. Benjamin and Jane Gerrard Doggett, married before 1712.
  • John Doggett died by 1740, widow Mary.
  • William Doggett/Dogged married Elizabeth, surname unknown, and had children beginning in 1770. If William didn’t move from someplace else, this family was in the vicinity since the early 1700s but had almost transactions at all in county records.

Interestingly, the Reverand Bejamin Doggett was the rector at the Saint Mary’s Whitechapel Church in present day Lancaster County from 1670-1682 when he died and is buried there, marked by the red pin below, not far from Farnham, where the North Farnham Parish Church is located.

dagord-doggett-white-chapel

The Dodson family lived on Totuskey Creek, between Kennard and 614 in the upper left of the map, probably on or near the main road, “3,” about 18 miles distant from Saint Mary’s.

There was nothing in early York or Lancaster County records, so apparently Reverend Doggett immigrated after that portion of Lancaster had become Old Rappahannock. I did not check later records in those counties.

There is no record of the Reverend Benjamin Doggett having a son Henry, and his sons were too young to have sons having children by 1708.

Richmond County

The North Farnham Parish Registers hold the following records:

  • Isaac Doggett and Elizabeth Churchwell, married in 1729.
  • Ann, daughter of John and Mary Doggitt born October 1725.
  • John Doged son of Isaac Doged born in 1730.
  • Samuel Doged son of Isaac and Elizabeth Doged born June 1733.

Absolutely nothing for Henry or any other births anyplace close to Margaret’s in 1708, nor are there records in the 1600s.

Richmond County is fortunate in that a book has been published that provides an every name index for court orders from 1721-1752. No, that’s not early, but it will help nonetheless and covers the time in 1726 when Margaret Dagord married Charles Dodson.

We find the surname spelled Doged, Doggett, Doggitt and Doghead. First names include Isaac, Ann, Richard and that’s it.

The Richmond County “Family” book provides the following:

  • Isaac Doggett married in December 1729 to Elizabeth Churchwell, children John and Samuel.
  • John Doggitt married Mary, surname unknown, daughter Ann born in 1725.
  • Richard Doggitt/Doged married before October 1727 to Ann, only daughter of Thomas Ascough.

As I checked the extant records for all of the early counties plus Richmond County records, including court order books, there were very few records for any spelling of this surname, and absolutely none for Henry, with one exception.

1649

Henry Dagord, by that spelling, is mentioned in one 1649 record.

I found this tantalizing record at Ancestry, which told me that there was a record, but exactly nothing about the content.

dagord-ancestry

As it turns out, Google is my friend. I found the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography online.

dagord-virginia-magazine

The following will of Walter Walton is the sole mention of Henry Dagord.

Walter Walton. Will 30 November 1649; proved 17 August 1650. Mr. Alexander Ewes and Mr. Richard Lawson to be my executors in the behalf of my mother, Johane Walton, living in Spoford in the parish of Spoford, Yorkshire, England. They to pay all my debts demanded in this my voyage in the adventure now in Verginney bound for Maryland, and I give power to John Underhill and Benjamin Cowell of the said ship to receive what is due me. One servant that I brought over sold for twelve C tobacco. Henry Dagord for one sute and cloke three C tobacco. John Smith, a passenger, 30 lbs tobacco. Simon Asbe 27 ft tobacco. Nathaniel Foord 9 lb tobacco. Mr. Walker 374 lb tobacco. Henry Dagord 9 lb tobacco. Witnesses: Thomas May, Peter Walker, John Addams, Miles Cooke, Richard ?. Proved by Richard Lawson, with power reserved.

Unfortunately, this record doesn’t tell us WHERE Walter Walton’s will was proved, but I found the will in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, in England.

Was Henry Dagord sailing on the same ship, the Adventure, as Walter Walton? Was Henry an indentured servant to Walter Walton?

Is the Henry Dagord in this record the same Henry Dagord who had daughter Margaret in 1708?

If Henry Dagord was age 15 in 1649, he would have been 84 in 1708 when Margaret was born. That’s not very likely.

A child or teen would not have ordered a suit and cloak, so it’s likely that the Henry Dagord in this record was an adult, making him older than 84 in 1708.

This Henry Dagord might have been the grandfather of Margaret Dagord, but it’s very unlikely that he was her father. Furthermore, based on this record, we really don’t know if the Henry Dagord referenced was even in the colonies. Walter may have been referencing a debt incurred by a man in England. We just don’t know.

One online tree shows a Henry Dagord born in 1749 in Cane, Scotland, but no source and I can find no records to suggest this. Furthermore, even if a Henry Dagord was born in Cane, Scotland, connecting the dots and proving that he was the same Henry that immigrated would be required as step one. A newborn would hot have been ordering a suit and cloak, so a Henry born in Scotland in 1749 cannot be the same man mentioned in Walter Walton’s will. Step two would be finding a way to prove Henry DaGord’s connection to Margaret some 59 years later. Unfortunately, there just aren’t any records that connect those dots. That’s why so many brick walls remain in these early colonial genealogies.

Mystery

One of the big mysteries is how a man in Virginia in this timeframe can remain almost entirely non-existent in records. I must admit, given the court order books, deeds, wills and the parish register, Richmond County and its preceding counties are quite record-rich – at least by comparison to other counties. It’s hard to believe that Henry Dagord or Henry by whatever Dag… or Dog… surname, was entirely transparent. The only circumstance I can think that would lend itself to this situation would be if he was an indentured servant. The problem with that, of course, is that indentured servants weren’t married, didn’t have children, and sold themselves into bondage for a few years to earn their passage – delaying the rest of their life until their stint in servitude was complete.

Henry clearly was married, did have children and lived in Farnham Parish from at least 1708 to 1726, assuming Henry was alive that entire time. Daughter Margaret had to live close enough to the Dodson family to court.

Henry clearly didn’t own land, never got subpoenaed to court for anything, went to church every Sunday (or he would have been subpoenaed to court) and never witnessed any document for anyone. In fact, were it not for the North Farnham Parish Church Register and Margaret’s birth and marriage, we wouldn’t even know Henry existed.

Most Virginia families that intermarried had various types of social interactions with one another.  They were neighbors, often, and witnessed deeds for each other, for example.  There is not one record of any Dagod or similar surname associated with any Dodson or closely affiliated family.

The Dodson and Dagod families may have been from different social strata.  It may be very relevant that Margaret married on her 18th birthday and her first child was born 8 months and one day after her marriage to Charles Dodson.  While the Dodson family, who did own land and appeared to be more successful than Henry Dagod would have been very unhappy about their son marrying into a poorer class, they probably would not have forbid it because of the pregnancy. Legally, if Charles was of age, the family couldn’t prevent the marriage. So perhaps this pregnancy was planned as a method for two young lovers to be allowed to marry.  Stranger things have happened! If that was the case, it certainly worked quite effectively.

The other possibility, of course, is that Henry was not entirely white – which would also explain his apparent poverty as well as his absence from court records. However, if Henry was not white, meaning not all white, it would be extremely unlikely that his daughter would be marrying a Dodson male – although the pregnancy might have been a contributing or deciding factor there too. Virginia criminalized marriage between whites and Indians in 1691, but omitted the word “Indian” in similar 1705 legislation, leaving the law to apply only to whites and blacks/mulattoes.

How I wish we could peek back into time and be a fly on the wall. Who was Henry Dagod?  Or Dagord?  Or Doggett?

The Best We Can Do

The very best we can do for Henry is to use his daughter’s birth year as an anchor point and figure his age ranges from that.

I’m going to use the assume word a lot, which I dislike doing, but it’s the only choice we have.

First, I’m going to assume Henry’s wife was about his age or maybe as much as 5 years younger than he was. This would have been typical for the time.

If Henry was newly married when Margaret was born, he would probably have been age 25, which is about the age young men married at that time.

But let’s say he was only 20, to get the fullest range. If that was the case, he would have been born absolutely no later than 1688.

If Henry’s wife was at the end of her childbearing years, age 43 or so, and Henry was the same age, he would have been born about 1665. If he was 5 years older than his wife, he would have been born about 1660.

The range we have for Henry’s birth is 1660-1688 and more likely 1660-1683.

Indentured servants were not allowed to marry. If Henry was an indentured servant in 1708 and had gotten a female pregnant, the child would not have carried his surname. This tells us that by the time Margaret was born, Henry was married to her mother.

This also suggests that Henry could have been an older parent, because if he served an indenture before marrying, he could well have not married until later than normal for unfettered males. Indentured servants after release were often poor, never owning land. There is no evidence that Henry ever owned land, which is somewhat unusual in and of itself in Virginia, the land of opportunity and available land.

We have absolutely no idea when Henry died. All we know positively is that he died sometime after Margaret was conceived, and probably after her birth, but I don’t know if the register would have said if the father was dead by the time the child was born. Many marriages don’t list any parents, but I didn’t see any that mentioned deceased parents.

DNA

Unfortunately, because of the difficulty identifying either Henry Dagod/Dagord himself, or even the surname exactly, DNA identification is quite difficult.

At Family Tree DNA, a feature exists to see if:

  • Anyone by the surname you are searching has tested and…
  • If a surname project exists.

Simply click here, then click on the projects tab in the upper left hand corner.

dagord-project-search

You will then see the above screen, where you can browse alphabetically for surname projects. I generally prefer entering the surname into the search box, at upper right. However, in this case, because I want to look for projects by several spellings, I’ll just look under the Ds for surname projects.

Unfortunately, there is no Dagord or Doggett project or anything similar. However, with so little information about Henry, it would be nearly impossible to confirm that any Dag… or Dog… surname originating from Richmond County, VA is this line.

Next step, I’ll look further to see if anyone by the surnames of Doggett or Daggett has individually tested.

I entered the surname Doggett in the Project Search box in the upper right, because I want to see if any individuals by that surname have tested. This is different than looking for surname projects. Good news, there are 14 people who have tested who currently carry the Doggett surname, although some maybe females.

dagord-surname-search

There are also 15 Daggetts who have tested.

dagord-daggett-search

This looks to be a really good opportunity to start a surname project that includes both surnames, plus Dagord, of course. Anyone interested?

Autosomal DNA

I’d love to see if I share autosomal DNA with anyone descended from any of these lines. If I do, it could indeed confirm that Margaret was really a Doggett or Daggett.

If a Doggett or Daggett surname project existed, I could join that project and search for any matches within that project. If I matched with someone in the Doggett/Daggett project, that would be significant, assuming we don’t share any other genealogy. You just never know what might break down that brick wall. Since there is no project to join, and not everyone joins projects anyway, there are other methodologies to utilize.

Autosomal DNA might, just might, provide the link I need, although the connection is several generations back in time. However, if you don’t look, you’ll never find, so here goes!

dagord-pedigree

In order to discover whether or not I share any DNA with anyone who has Doggett or Daggett lines, I searched for those surnames (and variant spellings) in my match list in Family Finder. The red arrow is the search bar where I entered Doggett.

dagord-match-list-search

Surprisingly, I did find two Doggetts, and glory be, one shows Ann Doggett who is indeed from Lancaster County, Virginia, born in 1700. My match’s tree shows that she married George Reeves.

dagord-ann-daggett

I checked the tree of my match, Jason, and we don’t seem to have any other ancestors in common, at least none that are evident – so maybe our common ancestral surname is Doggett.  But there are more things to check before we can reach that conclusion.

Master DNA Spreadsheet

Next, I checked my Master DNA Match Spreadsheet to see which segments over 5cM where Jason and I match and I also match to other people. There is one larger matching segment at just under 8cM on chromosome 16.

It’s possible that I’ve already triangulated some of the other people who match on that same segment in terms of our common ancestor.

Sure enough, there were 32 other people with whom I match on all or part of that same segment where I match Jason. You can see the example below from my Master DNA Spreadsheet where I match 5 individuals on the exact same segment, including Jason.

dagord-master-matches

Some matches turned out to be from my mother’s side, so I eliminated those. My mother tested, so that was easy to do.

Unfortunately, I have not triangulated this group, meaning worked on discovering and assigning a common ancestor, so now is a good time to work on this exercise.

The first thing I did was to see if any of the people who share any portion this segment with me are on my list of Dodson matches by typing Dodson in to the Family Finder search. They were not.

dagord-surname-list

Next, I checked every single individual that matches me in Family Finder (on the same segment where I match Jason) to view their matching surname list and view their tree, shown above. Surnames, at right, are taken only from surnames entered specifically by the tester, NOT from the direct ancestral line in their tree, so you need to check both their Ancestral Surnames and their tree. It’s a bit tedious, but can pay off big time.

dagord-jemima-dodson

Sure enough, look here. This person does not show up in a Dodson search, because the Dodson surname is not listed in the ancestral surnames list, but viewing their tree reveals….you guessed it, a Dodson.

Now, this doesn’t mean our match is necessarily attributed to Dodson DNA, which could include Doggett DNA of course. But it’s a great first step to build that case.

Of the 26 individuals, I found the following:

  • 10 had no trees and no ancestral surnames listed. Very frustrating.
  • 12 had trees and/or surnames, but I didn’t see any evident family lines.
  • One listed Derham, as opposed to Durham – but their Derham was directly from Ireland and did not immigrate into Virginia. This appears not to be related although the connection can’t be ruled out entirely.
  • Jason was the Doggett match
  • One had Jemima Dodson in their tree.
  • One had a Dobson, consistently spelled in that manner, that immigrated from London. This does not appear to be relevant.

Unfortunately, I could not find any other Dodson or Doggett/Daggett family lines in this match group.

Master Cousin Match List

As a secondary tactic, I turned to the big guns – my master cousin list. I haven’t written about this tool before.

I download the matches of each cousin whose test I’ve paid for (and who have granted permission) and combine them into one humongous spreadsheet file. This allows me to sort by matches to all of the cousins at one time. Therefore, I can see who, of my cousins, also matches Jason, as illustrated in the example below.

dagord-cousin-match-group

While this is just an example, you’ll note that all of these people match Jason on chromosome 2. Some people match Jason on the same segments. While this example shows only small segments, the premise is the same. The next step would be to see if the cousins who match Jason on the same segments also match each other on those segments too. That’s triangulation. However, if I’m not included in the triangulated match group, then it’s not triangulation for me on those segments. It would, however, shows that these families do descend from a common ancestor – especially with larger segments of 5cM or over.

Looking at who one individual (like Jason) matches consistently can be a powerful hint as to which family line they are associated with.

I looked through my master cousin list for all of the 26 people who I match on the same segment with Jason, which means I sorted by matchname and then looked to see which cousins, if any, the individual matches.

I found the following interesting information on the Master Cousin Match List spreadsheet for the 26 matches to Jason:

  • 11 people match me only and none of my cousins on the master cousin list
  • Two match different Crumley family members, which do not include a Dodson. line. However, I did spot Mercers in Richmond County, a name that married into the Crumley line although there is no evidence that it’s the same line. It’s also possible that we have a “buried” Dodson marriage in the Crumley line, as we don’t know the surnames of all the wives.
  • 4 match my Vannoy cousins which do not have a known Dodson or Doggett link. This might suggest that the link between Jason, me and our match group is NOT through Dodson or Doggett. However, the Vannoy line also includes the Crumley line, which is the same issue as discussed above.
  • 5 match cousins who descend from the Dodson line but who also descend through the Vannoy/Crumley line.  Elizabeth Vannoy is my great-grandmother.

Last Resort

As a last resort, I checked my “oldest” cousin, Buster, who is a generation closer to the ancestors than I am. In Family Finder, he too has a Doggett match, Daniel, who descends from Richard Doggett and Ann Ascough, son of Rev. Benjamin Doggett and Jane Garrard. However, Buster’s match, Daniel, also has a Smoot line, as do both Buster and I. The Smoots married into the Durham line which married into the Dodson line. Daniel’s Smoot line is not the same as my and Buster’s Smoot line, but it’s from just across the Potomac River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland in the same timeframe. Clearly, it could actually be the same Smoot line, given that both Smoot lines run into brick walls at the same time. Hey, maybe this is a clue that we weren’t actually looking for! No problem – I’ll take it!

Where Are We?

Buster’s match, Daniel, had not yet tested when I did the cousin match downloads, so I need to do those downloads again to be able to check for him. This takes quite a bit of time because there are several.

I should probably individually search the FTDNA accounts of all of my cousins descended from the Dodson line for Doggett and Daggett.

The master cousin matches to a common individual aren’t definitive proof. They point to common matches between groups of people suggesting family lines, meaning they point the way towards more meaningful research. They provide hints, albeit sometimes very compelling hints.

The matches on the same segments within a match group might be proof – if they also match each other AND have a common ancestor or ancestral line.  We’re not quite there yet.

The only definitive proof would be triangulation – hopefully with people whose lines are complete back to the common ancestor. Otherwise, there can be common DNA from other unknown lines. I have this problem in my own pedigree chart with Lazarus Dodson who married Jane, surname unknown, with Rawleigh Dodson who married Mary, surname unknown, and with Charles Dodson who married Ann, surname unknown. Right there are three opportunities for unknown families and their DNA to enter into my genetic line. It’s likely, of course, that these men married women from the neighborhood, so it’s very likely that Ann, Charles Dodson’s wife, is from the Northern Neck of Virginia, unless he married her before immigrating. It’s likely that anyone who I match from this same time period is also going to have a few brick walls, so it’s very difficult to definitively assign colonial DNA to a specific ancestor.

In cases like this, I don’t like to decide that triangulation has occurred with only 3 people. I think the further back in time, the less solid the pedigree charts, the more proof you need. Of course, the further back in time, the less likely you are to match with descendants and the smaller the matching DNA segments. So while you need more proof, proof is increasingly difficult to garner.

In terms of triangulation, we do have the Jemima Dodson line, me with a Dodson ancestor and Jason with a Doggett ancestor, all matching on the same segment, although the person with Jemima Dodson in their tree does not have a full overlap of the entire segment, making their matching portion smaller – about half the size of the match between me and Jason. Is it a legitmate match? I don’t know.

The bottom line is that we don’t know if Dagord/Doged was Doggett or Daggett or unrelated. The answer seems tantalizingly close. It feels within reach. Daggett or Doggett is not a common surname, so more than one random match seems unlikely. Yet, Buster and I both have a different Doggett match. However, I’ve seen the unlikely happen more than once. Genealogy seems to delight in leading me down the primrose path just to laugh and say, “just kidding” at the end when I’m standing in the brier patch instead, wondering how I got there. Now, I’m justifiably suspicious of anything and everything without proof.

Maybe if I download the cousin matches again the newer matches will provide the answer. Maybe if I check all my cousins for Doggett/Daggett matches. Maybe if someone else tests, the answer will be there tomorrow, or the next day, or next week. My fingers are crossed that Doggett and Daggett descendants from Richmond County that are not related to the Dodson, Durham or Smoot families will test – and that we’ll find some definitive triangulated matches. I’d love to know if Dagod is really Doggett or Daggett.

And while I’m at it, I’d think that those families would want to know if Doggett is Daggett too – or maybe Y DNA testing has already provided that answer. If so, the answer is not at Ysearch today.

If you descend from one of the Dagod, Doggett or Daggett families from close to Richmond County, or a similar surname, and have DNA tested, let me know. Let’s see if we match.

Sadowski WWII Scrapbooks Salvaged From Trash Heap, 52 Ancestors #149

In the 2015 Memorial Day article, Frank Sadowski, My Almost Father, I shared the story of the man my mother was engaged to before his untimely death in WWII, killed in action on April 19, 1945.

Frank Sadowski

I thought when I finished that article, and hit the publish button, Frank’s story was complete. After all, Frank was killed 70 years earlier, now almost 72 years ago.

But Frank’s story wasn’t yet over. In fact, in many ways, that was a new beginning.

Chapter 2

Exactly a month later, Frank’s nephew, Curtis, found me in a moment of spontaneous serendipity when on a whim he typed Frank’s name into Google and discovered my article.

A month after that, in July 2015, I met Curtis and his wife, Janet, half way between where we live and gave Curtis the original photos of Frank and Frank’s father, Curtis’s grandfather. The family photos had all disappeared, so Curtis was extremely grateful for those two, shown above and below.

Frank Sadowski and father

During the visit with Curtis, I also returned Frank’s class ring to the Sadowski family – the ring my mother had cherished her entire life. Certainly not a decision I reached without a lot of soul-searching.

Frank's ring in box

With mother gone, the ring would have faced a lonely dead end in my family, especially after I join mother on the other side. Frank’s ring belonged with the Sadowski’s…in particular…one special person – and I was on a journey to make that happen.

Now this sounds all matter-of-fact, dry and boring today, but let me assure you, it was anything but. In fact, I cried my way across Indiana that hot July day in 2015. Not only was I about to return Frank’s ring, 70 years later, but I was also “driving through my life,” places I hadn’t visited in years. Where Mom last lived, the farm where my brother, John, lived, past the restaurants where we all met and shared meals on Sunday after church. I passed near where Mom and John both died and are buried and drove through the Indiana of both my and Mom’s childhood – past tractors and corn fields, inhaling the smell of Indiana summertime – all of which brought intense memories rushing back. Every landmark brought fresh tears. All of those things, plus the errand I was on combined into a huge emotional swirley to become a bleary-eyed tornado. I certainly didn’t anticipate any of that. I turned on the radio to divert my mind…only to hear songs that reminded me of…yep…mother and life in Indiana.

Word to the wise – never listen to country music if you’re already crying. It doesn’t help a bit, but you can at least cry with the radio blaring and sing along with the sobbing songs.

Emotional avalanche or not, that trip was destined to be.

At Christmas 2015, when Bert, Curtis’s son was home on leave, Frank’s ring went to Bert who is today serving in Kuwait with a medical unit in the Army. That’s when I published the article, Frank’s Ring Goes Home.

When Bert put that ring on his finger, I felt closure. I knew the ring was where Mom and Frank would have both wanted it to be, protecting Bert, with a future in the Sadowski family.

I thought the Sadowski book was closed for sure then, but it wasn’t.

Chapter 3

A week ago, I received another one of those very unexpected messages on my blog. The kind that makes you blink to be sure you’ve seen what you thought you saw. You read it a second and then a third time, then sit in utter shock for a few minutes, trying to decide if it’s for real. The Sadowski’s seem to produce this kind of unexpected phenomenon.

Joan Mikol, who shall forevermore be referred to as “the angel,” was walking her dog a dozen years or so ago, in Chicago, when she spotted some scrapbooks in the trash. It looked like a home was being cleaned out and there were bags and bags of trash waiting for the trash truck, but one of the bags had popped open and scrapbooks were peeking out.

Curious, Joan stopped and took a look. She saw what appeared to be old letters, and then looking closer, noticed that they were from WWII.  Joan couldn’t leave them in the trash. Having lost a family member in that war, Joan gathered them up and took them home.

Then, Joan read the letters, one by one. She sobbed. Her husband couldn’t read them.

Joan didn’t quite know what to do with the scrapbooks, so her sister took them to California for 5 or 6 years and for awhile, considered writing a book. She didn’t, and once again, the scrapbooks came back to Illinois. Thankfully!

Joan contacted a museum in Washington DC who was hesitant to accept them and encouraged her to try to find the family. They suggested she type Frank’s name into a search engine – which is exactly what Joan did and found my article. Next, Joan contacted me.  You can click to enlarge Joan’s message, below.

scrapbook-e-mail

As you’ve probably guessed already, in a very kind and loving gesture, Joan returned the scrapbooks to the Sadowski family.

scrapbook-joan

This is both a beautiful and a heartwrenching story, and I’d like to share it with you.

But before this most recent chapter unfolds, let’s step back in time some 70 years and take a look at how the scrapbooks became lost in the first place.

The Aftermath

Frank’s death was devastating for the Sadowski family, a loss they collectively and individually never recovered from. According to Curtis, it was like someone extinguished a flame and the light never came back on.

When Curtis and I were discussing how Frank’s death dramatically affected so many lives, because in an unmistakable way, Frank’s death affected me too – Curtis quite succinctly said, “We’ve all grown up in the shadow of the same man.”

The three Sadowski children were very close in age, with Frank having been born in 1921, Margie in 1922 and Bobbie in 1924.

Frank’s mother, Harriett, dreamed that all 3 of her children would marry and all live in the Sadowski home together, raising their families under one roof. Not only was that not to be, but two of the Sadowski children never had children and the only one to remain at home was Margie who cared for her parents.

After Frank’s death, the Sadowski family tried to rebuild their lives, but their world was clearly divided into two halves, as was my mother’s. Before Frank’s death, and after. Harriett blamed Frank’s father for encouraging Frank to enlist. Harriett didn’t want either of her sons to serve. She had visited a fortune teller before the war who told her that two sons would serve, but only one would come home. Frank’s father probably blamed himself. At one point after Frank’s death, his parents nearly divorced.

Frank’s brother, Edmund Robert Sadowski, known affectionately as Bobbie, was also serving in the military at the time that Frank was killed and experienced what we today know as survivor guilt. Frank’s father, Dr. Frank Sadowski Sr., a general practice physician, begged Bobbie to come home, sending him letters filled with myriad reasons why he, medically, shouldn’t be serving and encouraging him to seek a medical discharge.

Bobbie finished his tour and eventually did come home, much to the relief of his parents and sister, Margaret Rita Sadowski, known as Margie.

Mother met Margie about 1942 or 1943 when they were both dancing with the Dorothy Hild Dancers at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, then a swanky upscale lakefront property where featured acts like Bing Crosby performed. The dancers opened for those acts, and when less famous names weren’t on the marquee, their dance programs were the entertainment.

Dorothy Hild Dancers

Bobbie came home the war, married in the early 1950s and started a family. Margie never had children, but that wasn’t the life she had planned.

On December 10, 1952, Margie obtained a marriage license and had a civil marriage ceremony, but never the Catholic wedding her husband promised. In fact, before the all-important church wedding could occur, he abandoned Margie and then, when she divorced the cad, the Catholic Church excommunicated her, so Margie lost both, plus her dreams. Margie did not do well with any of this and spent time “hospitalized” out of state as she tried to recover. At that time, this type of medical event was termed a “nervous breakdown” and both the breakdown and the “failed” secret marriage followed by divorce and excommunication were colored by shame and embarrassment, to be hidden away and never discussed, ever.

One of the ways that Margie dealt with the losses in her life was by volunteering at the St. Mary of Nazareth hospital where her father treated patients as a physician.

scrapbook-margie-1957

In 1956 Margie was a featured speaker for the annual luncheon and in 1957, she received a special award for more than 1000 hours of volunteer work through the women’s auxiliary. Looking at the photos above, with Margie at right, you can see that this was truly a dress up and wear gloves social event. Margie was truly a beautiful woman, inside and out.

Despite the fact that Margie, for the most part, never “worked” outside the home, she had a degree from Northwestern University in Chicago.  In the 1941 Steinmetz High School Yearbook, she is quoted as saying she wanted to dance professionally and obtain a music degree. Margie accomplished both goals. She played the piano and had a beautiful voice, in addition to dancing. Margie’s photo from the 1941 yearbook is shown below.

scrapbook-margaret-1941-yearbook

Margie lived in the family home, caring for her aging parents and with Frank’s ever present photo. Curtis tells that Frank’s mother placed his photograph dead center on top of the grand piano in the living room and that Frank’s eyes followed you everyplace you went in the room, the silent sentinel watching everything, always, never resting.

On June 18, 1971, Frank’s mother, Harriett died after a long illness.

scrapbook-harriett-1971

I’m sure that Margie and her father struggled after Harriett’s death. Harriet had been an invalid for years, and Margie had probably taken over household duties years before. By this time, Margie was just shy of 50 years old and Dr. Frank was 83 and still practicing medicine.

Margie’s life would change dramatically in the not too distant future.

Murder

Just when you think this story couldn’t possibly get any sadder, it does.

scrapbook-frank-murder

Published Dec. 6, 1971, Chicago Tribune

Dr. Sadowski practiced at a time when doctors dispensed their own prescriptions. Furthermore, doctors still made house calls with their infamous black bags – something doctor Sadowski continued to do, often not returning home until 9 or 10 at night after a full day seeing patients in his office.  He would then smoke a cigar and have a beer with a raw egg before turning in.

scrapbook-doctor-bag

By Sandrine Z – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Everyone knew the local doctors, and when the doctor arrived at your house carrying his black bag, the entire neighborhood knew someone was “too sick” to go to the doctor’s office. Often, doctors of that generation made house calls until they retired or died, but the next generation didn’t, of course.

I recall when I was growing up that you never went to a pharmacy – in fact – there weren’t pharmacies. No need. The doctor had everything you needed and you left the doctor’s office with a small while envelope, about 2 by 3 inches, if not smaller, with instructions for how to take the medication written on the outside with the medicine on the inside.

Apparently, others knew that too. According to the family, drug seekers broke into Dr. Sadowski’s office when he was alone completing paperwork, demanded drugs and beat the good doctor when he refused their demands. At 83, Dr. Sadowski, a former wrestler, was no slouch and could still take his sons arm-wrestling. He put up a good fight, but was outnumbered. Did they simply land a lucky punch?  We’ll never know, but that beating eventually proved fatal.

Dr. Sadowski didn’t die right away. He lingered for a couple months in the hospital, finally having a stroke that took him. By that point, it was probably a blessing. He was severely injured, more so than the articled indicated.  And in case you’re wondering, two men were tried for murder but not convicted. It’s difficult for the prosecution when the victim who is the only one who can positively identify the perpetrators dies. The defense argued, of course, that it wasn’t their clients who beat the doctor, and that the beating didn’t kill the doctor, the stroke did – and that the stroke was unrelated to the beating. That was before the days of DNA evidence, of course.  The trial might have an entirely different outcome today.

The family, who attended the trial daily, said that when the judge dismissed the charges he said, “Well, he was an old man anyway.”  They found that comment both incredibly inhumane as well as unbelievable.

scrapbook-frank-sr-obit

Published Feb. 7, 1972, Chicago Tribune

During the time that Margie’s father was in the hospital, she met a man named Ray Stehl whose family member was also in the hospital and also died. After Margie’s father died, she married Ray within months. She also inherited the Sadowski family home.

scrapbook-estate-sale

For some reason, the estate auction wasn’t held for another 6 years, in September of 1978.  While the property itself was apparently included in the sale, the home was not sold.

The Memory Keeper

It was Margie that lovingly assembled the scrap books.

scrapbook-franks-letter

Each letter was carefully centered and its envelope exactly centered on the facing page or above the letter, if there was space.

scrapbook-envelope

I’d wager she read those letters over and over again. Maybe they were her link to sanity, or comfort when she had none other. These scrapbooks were Margie’s way of memorializing Frank’s life.

Frank wrote letters home to his parents and to Margie as well. She kept all of those letters, mounting them in the scrapbook, plus included other family memorabilia like her grandfather’s naturalization papers.

Frank Sr. wrote letters to son Bobbie when he was in the service, and Bobbie brought those letters home. Margie included them in the scrapbooks too.

It’s easy to tell what Margie felt was important by what she included in the scrapbooks.

Frank’s personal effects were never returned after his death, including any letters he had in his possession. It took Frank’s father 4 years of constant fighting to have Frank’s body returned. I can’t help but wonder if the body shipped home was actually Frank’s, but it really doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then if it brought the family comfort.

Talk about an open wound. I hope the family had some semblance of closure when they finally buried Frank and had a funeral in 1949.

The family never forgot and never stopped grieving. I don’t believe they ever healed.

In 1973, Margie placed a memorial in the newspaper on Frank’s death date, April 19th – 28 years after he died.

scrapbook-1973-memorial

Later that same year, she memorialized her parents’ 54th wedding anniversary.

scrapbook-1973-anniversary

And Frank’s birthday in 1974.

scrapbook-1974-birthday

Her father in 1975.

scrapbook-1975-memorial

Her mother in 1981.

scrapbook-1981-memorial

Margie continued to place memorials for Frank and her parents. In a sense, this is the social equivalent of posting to your Facebook page, except newspaper memorials weren’t free and required advance planning and thought.

In 1996, Bobbie passed away, having blessed Frank and Harriett with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even if they didn’t all live under the same roof as Harriett had once hoped.

Haunting

After Dr. Frank’s 1971 death and their marriage later that year, Margie and Ray lived in the Sadowski home, referred to by the family as “the big house.”  By all reports, the house was extremely haunted.  The home, originally build in 1896, shown below as it appears today on Google Maps Streetview.

scrapbook-2350-north-oak-park-avenue

The Sadowski children and grandchildren report that they saw shadowey figures walking up to the attic, heard footsteps on the second floor when no one was there and continually heard voices in the house, just out of earshot. Neighbors reported repeatedly seeing a woman watching them from the sewing room in the tower. That house was anything but peaceful.

Eventually, Margie and Ray couldn’t stand the haunting anymore, purchased a motor home and lived in the back yard. Sometime later, they moved to the home that Ray inherited, about 10 blocks away, but still owned the Sadowski home although it sat fully furnished, just like it always had been, but abandoned in time. It was burglarized in 1972 while Margie and Ray were on an extended honeymoon, and ransacked, taking Margie and her brother Bobbie and his children years to straighten out entirely.

The ironic part of this equation is that Margie took the Sadowski scrapbooks with her to Ray’s house, because where Joan found them in the trash was on North Luna Street in the Jefferson Park area where Ray lived, not in the 2300 block of North Oak Park Avenue where the Sadowski home was located.

Even in her later years, those scrapbooks obviously meant a lot to Margie. I wonder what happened to Frank’s picture on the piano and the other family photos as well.

Margie’s Death

Margie died in April of 2004.

scrapbook-margie-death

Joan Mikol tells us that she found the scrapbooks in about 2005, so very near Margie’s death.

According to the Social Security Death Index, Ray died on March 31, 2008.

As her husband, Ray inherited all of Margie’s estate. The Sadowski family was not informed of Ray’s death and his family disposed of his possessions and estate however they saw fit. Ray had no children.

So, now you know the rest of the story…how Frank’s letters came to be found on a trash pile some 60 years after his death a few blocks from the family home. I’m betting Margie turned over in her grave. That’s not all that got thrown away. All of the family photos bit the dust too – all of them. All the family had left were memories of those eyes, watching them from the piano.

Frank’s Voice

These scrapbooks give Frank one last chance to speak. His letters give shape and a personality to the man who died 72 years ago. They also give a contemporary voice to other family members, allowing everyone memorialized in the scrapbook to speak from the other side of the grave.

I can’t help but wonder what was in the letters Frank had in his possession when he was killed in Okinawa. You know as a GI he coveted each letter from home, and especially from his girlfriend, my mother.

And since I’m wondering, I wonder what became of the letters that Frank wrote mother. I know she would never have thrown them away. Given that I never saw them, not as a child nor as an adult – nor at her death – I know beyond any doubt that they were either lost or thrown away by someone else – not mother. I’m sure they were extremely personal and probably quite intimate. Aside from professing their deep love for one another, the letters probably discussed their dreams for their future together, their wedding and their eventual family.

I suspect Frank’s letters to mother were disposed of in a fit of jealousy. Mother told me that my father was insanely jealous of Frank, even though Frank was dead and had been a decade before I was born. Maybe the jealousy was so intense because Frank was dead – and died a hero. You cannot compete with a ghost that someone still loves, and I’m sure in many ways no one could or ever did live up to Frank in mother’s eyes.

Mother must have grieved the loss of those letters too. She, like Margie, probably read them repeatedly, seeking any shred of solace. Another part of Frank taken from her, ripped from her very heart.

The Scrapbooks Go Home

On the morning of February 22, 2017, following a sleepless night due to adrenaline and excitement – Curtis drove from southern Illinois and I drove from Michigan on a grey but unseasonably warm winter day. We met Joan at a McDonalds in Portage, Indiana where she gave us the scrapbooks.

scrapbook-mcdonalds

Bless Joan for salvaging what little can be recovered of Frank’s all-too-brief life. My mother too, plays a part in those letters – albeit a bit role.

scrapbook-joan-with-books

Curtis’s wife, Janet, is going to scan all 4 scrapbooks and share the images. I started to read one letter, written near Christmastime just four months before Frank’s death, and teared up immediately. I stopped, because blubbering for hours in a McDonalds reading scrapbooks is unacceptable – especially times 3 people and 4 scrapbooks. They would have called the men with the white coats and the butterfly nets to come and get us.

Instead, Curtis, Janet and I had a lovely visit, for about 3 hours. I love e-mail, but visiting in person is just so much fun!

scrapbook-me-and-curtis

Were it not for that bullet, Curtis and I would have been first cousins. We’d be comparing our DNA results. I’d be part Polish and those scrapbooks that include a few early letters from 1917, written in Polish, would have made my heart quicken and skip a beat.

Curtis and I aren’t biologically related, but our families are certainly indelibly entwined, a kinship, for lack of a better word, formed by the same tragic death almost 72 years ago, before either of us was born.

I never knew before these scrapbooks surfaced that Frank was killed on only his 4th day on that particular medical unit assignment. Frank had previously been ill with malaria and injured his foot with an ax. Oh, that the malaria had been just a little worse or his foot injury had been severe enough to disqualify him from active duty. As a medic, Frank dove, under fire, to rescue an injured soldier, only to be killed himself. I wonder if the other soldier survived, and if so, if he or his family had any idea what Frank sacrificed. Or did those two soldiers die together on the battlefield that day?

The fourth day.

The. Fourth. Day.

And VE Day was just a month away. VJ Day was just 4 months after that. The war was ending. How horribly tragic, in every sense of the word.

Frank came so close to NOT dying.  Four days one way, a few seconds perhaps on the battlefield, a few weeks in the other direction and Frank wouldn’t have died. But he did and that bullet irreversibly changed the lives of so many people, snuffing out possibilities in an instant. Giving me a different father a decade later.  Making Curtis and I only partners on this bittersweet co-journey and not cousins.

Gratitude

Curtis, Janet and I parted so incredibly grateful for Joan’s generosity and that our reunion was for such a wonderful occasion. A homecoming of the best kind – beyond anything we could ever have imagined in our wildest dreams.

I hope Mom and Frank were watching. Maybe somehow they helped. I can see them smiling and applauding – the young Frank and mother, happy, back in 1944 before Frank left the last time.

After I have an opportunity to read and digest the letters, you’ll be hearing Frank’s voice. I promise you, there will be a Chapter 4 – thanks to Joan and the generosity of the Sadowski family.

Thank you Joan, from the bottom of our hearts.  You’ve assuredly earned your halo!

Curtis, Janet and Roberta

scrapbook-curtis-me-janet

Andreas Kirsch (1772-1819) of Fussgoenheim, Bayern, Germany, 52 Ancestors #148

Andreas.

Such a beautiful name. I’ve loved it since I first saw the name as part of our family history, although that first time was in such a sad context.

When researching the Kirsch family in Ripley County, Indiana, I ran across a cemetery listing for the child, Andreas Kirsch, by himself in a long-abandoned cemetery. I wondered to myself, was this child “ours,” and why was he all alone?

The child, Andreas Kirsch, was born right after the immigrants, Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert arrived in the US in 1848. Andreas was recorded in the 1850 census with his parents in Ripley County, Indiana, but died in 1851 or so, still a toddler. He is buried in the “Old Lutheran Cemetery” near Milan, the location of a Lutheran Church founded by German immigrants, probably a log cabin, long gone now and remembered by none.

Lutheran lost church cemetery

The only reminder is a few old gravestones, including Andreas’ now illegible marker. Andreas is buried alone, with no other family members close by. After the church was abandoned, the family attended church elsewhere, and eventually, the parents died and were buried near Aurora near where their son, Jacob Kirsch, lived.

Andreas Kirsch stone

Andreas was the youngest son of Philip Jacob Kirsch, whose father was an earlier Andreas Kirsch…a man who never left Germany. The younger Andreas was named after his grandfather nearly 30 years after the elder Andreas died.

fussgoenheim-sign

Philip Jacob Kirsch’s father, Andreas Kirsch was born on August 10, 1772 in the village of Fussgoenheim, in Bayern, Germany to Johann Valentine Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Kirsch. We don’t have his baptismal record, but he was probably baptized as Johann Andreas Kirsch.  At that time, German men had a first “saints” name, typically Johann, followed by a middle name that was the name by which they were called. It’s not unusual to see them referred to by only their middle name and last name.  I have only seen records that refer to Andreas as Andreas, so that’s what we’ll call him.

Kirsch was Andreas’ mother’s name before she married his father, so yes, both Andreas’ parents were Kirschs. And yes, they were related on the Kirsch line, second cousins once removed, both descendants of Jerg Kirsch, a man born about 130 years before Andreas and who founded the Kirsch line in Fussgoenheim.

kirsch-lineage

Andreas married Margaretha Elisabetha Kohler or Koehler sometime before December 1798 when their (probably first) child was born, also in Fussgoenheim. If this isn’t their first child, it’s the first child that we know survived. Unfortunately, the church records don’t appear to be complete.

Equally as unfortunately, there were multiple men named Andreas Kirsch living in Fussgoenheim at the same time, so figuring out who was who was challenging, to say the least. Family records failed me. It was church records that saved me. Fortunately, Germans recorded almost everything in the church records. If you missed a birth, you’d have another opportunity to glean information about the child’s parents when they married, or died, and perhaps at other times as well.

Philip Jacob Kirsch and his wife, Katharine Barbara Lemmert weren’t the only people from the Kirsch family to immigrate to Indiana. Philip Jacob Kirsch’s sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch married Johann Martin Koehler and the two families immigrated together and settled in Ripley County, Indiana.

Another family who immigrated with the Kirschs, on the same ship, and is found living beside them in Ripley County in the 1850 census is the Andrew (Andreas in German) Weynacht family. The Weynacht’s are also found functioning as Godparents for Kirsch baptisms in Fussgoenheim. I’m not sure how, but the Weynacht family is surely related in one or perhaps several ways. Often children were named for their Godparent, so I wonder if Andreas Weynacht was the Godfather to baby Andreas Kirsch when he was born and christened in the now-forgotten Lutheran church in Ripley County, just weeks after these families arrived from Germany. So perhaps Andreas Kirsch was named after his grandfather with his name given by his godfather as well. At that time, it was the Godparents’ responsibility to raise the child if something happened to the parents.  This would have been very important to immigrants to a land where they knew no one nor the language.  All they had was their circle of immigrants.

The marriage record from the Fussgoenheim Lutheran Church of Andreas Kirsch’s daughter, Anna Margaretha Kirsch to Johann Martin Koehler in 1821 states that Andreas Kirsch is deceased by this time.

kirsch-anna-margaretha-to-johann-martin-koehler

Translated by Elke, a German interpreter and my friend, back in the 1980s, the record says:

Johann Martin Koehler, farmer, single, 24 years 11 months born and residing in Ellerstadt son of Philipp Jacob Koehler son of Peter Koehler farmer in Ellerstadt, present and consenting and his wife who died in Ellerstadt, Maria Katharina Merck and Anna Margaretha Kirsch, single, no profession 17 years 7 months born and residing here daughter of the deceased Andreas Kirsch and his surviving wife Elisabeth Koehler, present and consenting.

Witnesses Ludwig Merck (brother of Maria Katharina, his mother), farmer in Ellerstadt 10 years 6 months old uncle of the groom, Peer Merck, farmer, from here, 43 years old, uncle of the groom (his mother’s other brother) and Johannes Koob, farmer, from here 70 years old, uncle of the bride and Mathias Koob, farmer from here, cousin of the bride.

You might be wondering if Johann Martin Koehler who married Anna Margaretha Kirsch was related to Anna Margaretha’s mother, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler. Why, as a matter of fact, yes. Johann Martin Koehler’s father was Philip Jacob Koehler, brother of Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, making Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler first cousins, shown in yellow below.

Are you getting the idea that these families in Mutterstadt were all heavily intermarried?

koehler-intermarriage-2

And because I wasn’t confused enough, the son of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler Sr., shown above in green as Johann Martin Koehler born in 1829, married his mother’s youngest sister, his aunt, Katharina Barbara Kirsch born in 1833. One of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler’s other children, Philip Jacob Koehler married Anna Elisabetha Kirsch, but she wasn’t as closely related. These families married and intermarried for generations, using the same names repeatedly, causing massive confusion trying to sort through the families and who belonged to whom.

Noting the relationships mentioned in the 1821 marriage record, if Johannes Koob was Anna Margaretha’s uncle, he had to be either a sibling of one of Anna Margaretha’s parents (Andreas Kirsch or Anna Margaretha Koehler) or the husband of a sibling of one of her parents.

We know that Anna Margaretha (Andreas’ wife) was a Koehler, not a Koob, so Johannes had to be the husband of one of Anna Margaretha’s aunts through either her mother or father. However, checking the church records, we only find that Andreas’s Kirsch’s siblings married Koobs, but no aunts married to Koobs. However, the records do show a Mathias Koob married to one Anna Elisabetha Koehler. I’m confused. Could the good Reverend have been a bit confused too by all of the intermarriage? Is something recorded incorrectly? If so, which information is incorrect?

A second record confirms that Andreas Kirsch married Margaretha Koehler. Philip Jacob Kirsch’s marriage record, shown from the original church record as follows:

Kirsch Lemmert 1829 marriage

It translates as:

Today the 22nd of December 1829 were married and blessed Philipp Jacob Kirsch from Fussgoenheim, the legitimate, unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemmerth the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.

This tells us that by 1829, both Andreas and his wife, Margaretha had passed away.

This marriage record and translation is further confirmed by this record at FamilySearch.

kirsch-lemmert-marriage

We know from Anna Margaretha Kirsch’s 1821 marriage record that her father, Andreas had already passed away by that time. We discover his death date through a record from Ancestry.

andreas-kirsch-death

Ancestry has select deaths and burials, 1582-1958 and Andreas Kirsch’s burial date is listed as May 22, 1819 in Fussgonheim with his wife listed as Margaretha Elisabetha Kohler. That’s now three independent confirmations that Andreas Kirsch’s wife was Margaretha Elisabeth Koehler.

Generally, burials are recorded in the church record, because that’s when the minister was involved. People died a day or two before they were buried.- never longer in the days before refrigeration, at least not unless it was winter.

Why Are These Three Records So Important?

There was a great amount of confusion surrounding who Andreas Kirsch married, and for good reason.

The church records show that the Andreas born in 1772 and married to Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler died before 1821.  Andreas’ wife’s name is again confirmed by the 1829 marriage record, followed by discovering Andreas’ own 1819 death record.

However, a now deceased cousin and long-time researcher, Irene, showed the coup[le as Johannes Andreas Kirsch married to Anna Margaretha Koob.

Walter, another cousin, showed Andreas’ wife as Anna Margaretha Koob, his occupation as schmiedemeister – master smithy. Andreas is noted as Johannes II “der Junge” in Walter’s records, so there may be some generational confusion.

As it turns out, Walter wasn’t entirely wrong – but he wasn’t entirely right either. That couple did exist – but the husband wasn’t our Andreas Kirsch.

There was an Anna Margaretha Koob married to a Johannes Kirsch. Their son, Johannes Kirsch married Maria Catharina Koob. Anna Elisabetha Kirsch, daughter of Johannes Kirsch and Maria Catharina Koob married Philip Jacob Koehler (shown in the Koehler pedigree chart above,) son of Anna Margaretha Kirsch and Johann Martin Koehler, and moved with the immigrating group to Ripley County, Indiana. It’s no wonder people living more than 100 years later were confused.

Two additional cousins, Joyce from Indiana and Marliese, who still resided in Germany, also showed that Andreas was married to Anna Margaretha Koob, born in 1771 and who died in 1833, instead of to Margaretha Elizabetha Koehler. Marliese indicated that this information was from family records.

The death record of Anna Margaretha Koob shows her husband as Johannes Kirsch Senior, not Andreas Kirsch – but I didn’t have this record yet at that time.

koob-anna-margaretha-1833-death

I began to wonder if I was losing my mind and if the original record I had was wrong – or for the wrong person with all of the same name confusion. However, the marriage record for Philip Jacob Kirsch and Katharina Barbara Lemmert clearly said that Andreas Kirsch was his father and Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was his mother.  Philip Jacob and Katharina Barbara are my ancestors, and the Lemmert family was from Mutterstadt, so not heavily intermarried with the Kirsch line – meaning that mistaking this couple for any other couple was a remote possibility.  Furthermore, the church records indicate that they and their children all immigrated, and Katherina Barbara’s obituary in Indiana gives her birth location – so it’s unquestionably the same couple. Their 1829 marriage record is very clear, but still, I was doubting.

Mistakes do sometimes happen and at that point, it was 4 researchers who I respected with the same information, against one, me, with one church record. Was the church record somehow wrong?  Elke, my friend and interpreter said no, it wasn’t wrong, and dug harder and deeper and searched for more records, eventually finding the second  marriage record from 1821 that also indicated Andreas Kirsch’s wife was Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler.

Before additional records surfaced, given these conflicts, I struggled with knowing what to believe. Now, given three different church records that show Andreas as married to Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, it would take a lot to convince me otherwise. I am so grateful for those German church records.

Church records also tell us that Andreas Kirsch’s brothers married Koobs, but that Andreas did not.

  • Johann Adam Kirsch married Maria Katharina Koob.
  • Johann Wilheim Kirsch married Katharina Barbara Koob.

This could have been the source of the “family memory” in Germany in the early/mid 1900s that Andreas Kirsch was married to a Koob. The family history recanted that the Kirsch brothers were married to Koob twin sisters. These Koob/Kirsch marriages could also have been some portion of the source of the confusion in the 1821 marriage record as well, especially if the reverend was new to the area or didn’t know the family history.

And of course, it seems that all women were named either Maria, Katharina, Barbara or Elizabetha, sometimes with a Margaretha thrown in for good measure. Men almost always had the given name of Johann or Johannes and were generally called by their middle name, which was the same as many of their cousins of course. You could have shouted “Andreas” in the middle of the main street in Fussgoenheim, been heard to each end of town, and at least one person would probably have answered from each household.

DNA and Endogamy

To make this confusing situation even more difficult by rendering autosomal DNA useless, these families all resided in the small village of Fussgoenheim and the neighboring village of Ellerstadt, and were likely already very intermarried and had been for 200 years or so by the time our family immigrated. This is the very definition of endogamy.

Not to mention that Germans aren’t terribly enamored with DNA testing for genealogy. Most of the families in Germany feel they don’t need to DNA test because they have been there “forever.” No need to discover where you are “from” because you’re not “from” anyplace else.

The only difference between Fussgoenheim and other German villages is that the church records are complete enough in Fussgoenheim to document the amount of intermarriage. Limited numbers of families meant little choice in marriage partners. Young people had to live close enough to court, on foot – generally at church, school and at the girl’s parents home. You married your neighbors, who were also your relatives at some level. There was no other choice. Endogamy was the norm.

Y DNA

Autosomal DNA is probably too far removed generationally to be useful, not to mention the endogamy.  However, I’d love to find out for sure if a group of Kirsch/Koehler descendants would test.  Being an immigrant line, there are few descendants in the US, at least not as compared to lines descending from colonial immigrants in the 1600s.

On the other hand, Y DNA, were we able to obtain the Kirsch Y DNA, would be very useful. Y DNA provides us with a periscope to look back in time hundreds and thousands of years, since the Y chromosome is only inherited by men from their fathers. The Y chromosome is like looking backwards through time to see where your Kirsch ancestor came from, and when, meaning before Fussgoenheim. Yes, there was a “before Fussgoenheim,” believe it or not.

Andreas Kirsch didn’t have a lot of sons.  Only two are confirmed as his sons and had male children.

  • Johann Adam Kirsch was born on December 5, 1798, married Maria Katherina Koob and died in 1863 in Fussgoenheim, noted as a deceased farmer. Family documents suggest he was one of the wealthiest farmers in the valley. Johann Adam had sons Andreas born in 1817, Valentine born in 1819, Johannes born in 1822 and Carl born in 1826, all in Fussgoenheim. It’s certainly possible that some of these men lived long and prospered, having sons who have Kirsch male descendants who live today.
  • Johann Wilhelm Kirsch married Katharina Barbara Koob. This person may not be a son of Andreas. The relationship is assumed because this couple acted as the godparents of the child of Philip Jacob Kirsch. This may NOT be a valid assumption. It’s unknown if Johann Wilhelm Kirsch had male children.
  • Philip Jacob Kirsch, the immigrant to Indiana did have several sons, all of whom immigrated with their parents to Indiana. Philip Jacob Kirsch born in 1830 never married. Johann William Kirsch married Caroline Kuntz, had two sons, but neither had sons that lived to adulthood, ending that male Kirsch line. Johannes, or John, born in 1835 married Mary Blatz in Ripley County, Indiana and moved to Marion County where he died in February 1927. John had sons Frank and Andrew Kirsch. Frank died in August, 1927 and left sons Albert and John Kirsch. Philip Jacob’s son, Jacob, had son Martin who had a son Edgar who had no children. Jacob also had son Edward who had son Deveraux “Devero” who had son William Kirsch, who has living male descendants today.

I am very hopeful that eventually a Kirsch male will step forward to DNA test. DNA is the key to learning more about our Kirsch ancestors before written records. If you are a male Kirsch descending from any of these lines, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you.

Summary

Fortunately, we finally confirmed who Andreas married – Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler. Andreas, if he is watching, is probably greatly relieved that we have him married to the correct wife now…or maybe he’s just amused.

Looking back, Marliese’s family in Germany reestablished communications with the Kirsch/Koehler family in Indiana during the 1930s and shared her family genealogical information. By that time, the Kirsch/Koehler families here had no information on the historical family back in Germany.

These families maintained some level of interaction, writing letters, for the next two generations. I think that the family genealogy information from Germany, much of it from family memory, was inadvertently in error relative to Andreas Kirsch’s wife. The German family members graciously shared their information with various researchers in the US, who shared it with others. Therefore, the original “remembered” information was incorrect in exactly the same way when gathered some 50 years later from descendants. I don’t know how the US researchers would have obtained the identically incorrect information otherwise. That was before the days of online trees that could easily be copied and even before the days of the LDS church’s microfilmed records, which is where I found the records for Elke to translate in the 1980s. Of course, there are even more records available today through FamilySearch and Ancestry.

Sadly, my Kirsch cousins have all passed on now. I would love to share this with them. I’m sure they would be grateful to learn that we know unquestionably, confirmed by three individual church records, who Andreas married. That was a brick wall and sticking point for a very long time.

Andreas did not live a long life. He was born in 1772 and died in 1819, at the age of 46 years, just 3 months shy of his 47th birthday. Surely, at that age, he didn’t die of old age. Perhaps one day, we’ll obtain the actual death record from the church which may include his cause of death. Some churches were religious (pardon the pun) about recording as much information as possible, including causes of death and scriptures read at the funeral, and others recorded the bare minimum.

I’m grateful to know Andreas a little better. I like to think he was rooting for me as I searched for accurate records. I hope that someday, a record will be found to tell us a little more about his actual life – like his occupation, perhaps. Hope springs eternal!

Margaret Dagord (1708-?) of North Farnham Parish, 52 Ancestors #147

Margaret Dagord (Dagod, Doggett, Doged, Doget, Dogged, Dogett, Dogget and probably a few more) was born in North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, VA on April 30, 1708 to Henry Doggett (Dagod) and an unknown wife. She was married on April 30, 1726, her 18th birthday, in the same location to George Dodson, son of Thomas Dodson.

I can’t help but wonder if there is any significance to the fact that she married on her 18th birthday. Was that the age in Virginia in 1726 that a female could marry without her father’s permission? The records I could find say that the age of majority and also to marry without approval for males and females was 21, although I’m sure I’ve seen otherwise. Margaret’s father or a male in the family would have had to approve and post bond. Did Margaret’s father not approve of the marriage? Were there extenuating circumstances? On the other hand, maybe the fact that Margaret married on her 18th birthday is purely circumstantial or celebratory with no other inferences at all. We’ll never know. So many questions with no answers.

dagord-marriage

I’m not really sure how Margaret came to be called Margaret Dagord instead of Margaret Doggett or Dagod, given the marriage transcription above.  Nonetheless – that is how she is known within the Dodson family, so that is how I’m referring to her, even though it looks for all the world to me that she should be called Margaret Doggett.

Cheryl Sendtko, on her website reports that Margaret’s surname and that of her father are recorded numerous ways in the North Farnham Parish Registers, and that the surname is probably a variant of Doggett. She also states that Henry came from Scotland before 1649. I have not found this information elsewhere nor have I been able to verify, but I’m researching with the hope of doing so. I’m aware that the website contains unsourced and some incorrect information, but all information can serve as a clue for additional research.

Clearly, Margaret Dagord grew up near where she was born and married a local boy in the same location. George Dodson was about 6 years older than Margaret Dagord, so when she was in grade school, he would have been a bit older. They were not likely playmates as children, but had probably always known each other.

As George matured into a young man in his early or mid-20s, Margaret was probably a vivacious teen and the attraction blossomed. This was the typical age and time for young people to marry at that time in Virginia, and marry they did.

Clearly, Henry, Margaret’s father, assuming he did not pass away, also lived in the same region.

To discover more about Margaret Dagord’s family, Lancaster, York, Old Rappahannock and Richmond County land and court records need to be checked closely for any of the variant spellings of Dagord.

Richmond County was formed in 1692 from Old Rappahannok County which was formed in 1656 from Lancaster County. These early county records may hold clues before Richmond County.

The Early Church

North Farnham Parish was originally constituted as Farnham Parish in about 1656 in Old Rappahannock County. North Farnham Parish was created about 1683 when South Farnham was also created, splitting the parish in half.

The current North Farnham Parish Church was built about 1737, so clearly, there was an earlier church someplace, if not in the same location. What little we do know about the earlier church comes from the book, “Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia: In Two Volumes” written by William Meade in 1861 which discusses that there was indeed an earlier church and as a bonus, describes the typical burial vaults used by the Northern Neck families.

dagord-meade-article

dagord-meade-article-2

Margaret would have been baptized in that original church whose foundation was only left in 1861 when Meade was gathering historical information and writing.

I sure wish we knew where that original church was located today, and I can’t help but wonder if there was a cemetery adjacent or if all burials were in vaults on family land. What few references I could find, and none with pictures, indicated the vaults were in private family cemeteries or were the cemetery. I wonder if the water level was too high to bury people in the ground.  The old burial vaults all seem to have deteriorated and collapsed today.  Of course, they would have been more than 300 years old and their shape was an arch.

dagord-map

If the original church was half way between the present-day church, at the red balloon, and Warsaw, the county seat, the church would probably have been someplace near Emmerton and where the highway crosses Totuskey Creek, northwest of Emmerton.

Margaret and George in Richmond County

Margaret Dagord and George Dodson lived in Richmond County, much as their parents did, for the first 30 years of their married life. They settled down on land owned by George’s father, Thomas Dodson. They likely cleared this land, built a cabin and farmed the land until Thomas’s death in 1739 when he leaves them “150 acres of land whereon the said George Dodson is now living.”

If Thomas Dodson’s funeral was held in a church, it would have been held in the new North Farnham Parish Church, built two years earlier in 1737. Margaret and George would have stood in this very building for Thomas’s funeral services.

george-dodson-north-farnham-parish-church

The North Farnham Parish Church building, having been refurbished a few times, and used as a stable during and several decades prior to the Civil War, still stands today.

The births of the children of George and Margaret are also recorded in the North Farnham Parish Register, as follows:

  • Mary Dodson born December 21, 1726
  • Lazarus Dodson born October 7, 1728
  • Rawleigh Dodson born February 16, 1730
  • Thomas Dodson born May, 25, 1735
  • George Dodson born October 31, 1737

It was about the time of George’s birth that the new North Farnham Parish Church was built.

  • Fortunatus Dodson born March 31, 1740
  • Hannah Dodson born May 2, 1747

Children were born to colonial couples about every two years, and sure enough, true to form, Margaret had a baby every other year or so, until the gap between 1740 and 1747.

We don’t really know for sure if the birth date given in the North Farnham Parish Registers is actually a birth date, or if it is a baptism date. If a child was born and died, that birth is likely not registered. It’s very unlikely that Margaret had no children between 1740 and 1747 when at least 2 children would have been expected to have been born.

The Reverend Elias Dodson, writing in 1859 indicates that a David Dodson, later found in Pittsylvania County, VA, alongside many of Margaret’s children, was born to Margaret Dagord and George Dodson as well. If that’s accurate, David was certainly born after 1740, because there were no available birth spaces before 1740.

Margaret would have been age 32 in 1740, and age 39 in 1747. We could expect her to have additional children in approximately 1749 and possibly 1751 and 1753. Most women stopped having children sometime in their early/mid 40s.

In other words, there are two children missing in 1743 and 1745 and at least 2 missing between 1749-1753, and possibly more.

I don’t know if the North Farnham Parish Register records are missing or incomplete during this timeframe. If so, then those births may have been recorded and subsequently went missing.

If the records are complete, but these births are missing, then the children probably died before the births were recorded, or before they were baptized.

The Chicken or the Egg

Margaret was born into the Anglican Church and her family as well as the Dodson’s were clearly active. However, that doesn’t mean by choice, necessarily.

Citizens at that time in Virginia were required to be church members and to attend church regularly, upon penalty of a fine for every missed Sunday service. Holding any public office required one to be a church member in good standing. Church vestries handled many government functions including moral breaches, such as adultery, and took care of the poor. The churches owned “glebe land” purchased with tax money for the support of the minister and the poor in the care of the church.

By the 1760s, dissenting religions of both Methodists and Baptists were taking hold as itinerant preachers rode and preached wherever they could. One could join a dissenting church, but one still had to pay taxes to the Anglican church until the 1780s. Dissenters were also barred from public office, and in many ways, treated as second class citizens. Often the dissenters formed an enclave unto themselves.

By 1786, after the revolution, Virginia passed a Religious Freedom Act crafted by Thomas Jefferson and the disadvantages inherent in attending a dissenting church disappeared.

We know that in Richmond County, the Dodson family was involved with the North Farnham Parish Church where their births and marriages are recorded. We don’t know if George and Margaret left that church before selling their land in 1756. Could they have sold their land with the intention of moving west where their children could find land too, and joining the dissenting Baptists? That’s certainly possible. It’s also possible that they moved west, but did not join the Baptists, even though their children did.

Was the move a reaction to the dissenting religion, or was founding the Broad Run Baptist Church in 1762 a result of missionaries on the frontier after the Dodson family sold their land and moved west?

It’s most likely that the Dodsons had already moved when the Baptist circuit riding preachers came through a few years later in the early 1760s and inspired the entire family, and many of their neighbors.  1756 was probably on the early side for the move to be inspired by religion, but we can’t say for sure.

Selling Land

In 1756, George and Margaret sell their land in Richmond County, with Margaret signing the deed, and go…someplace…but we don’t know where. At that time, their oldest children were probably already married and having children – or ready to marry. Land on the Northern Neck of Virginia was limited, and there was likely little room for expansion. Many people were moving further west where land was both plentiful and cheap.

George Sightings

After George and Margaret sold their land, most of their children moved to Faquier County, VA, but we lose George, Margaret and their son, Rawleigh, in the process. Our only hint is that there is one George Dodson on the Faquier County rent roll in 1770, but none before and none after. That George could be any one of the other three known Georges as well as the George married to Margaret Dagord. There are no Georges in Faquier County before or after in any records.

The next George sighting is in Pittsylvania County with a land transaction in 1771, although again, we don’t know which George. Rawleigh, George and Margaret’s son, appeared with his siblings in Halifax County in 1766. Rawleigh’s siblings, but not Rawleigh, were dismissed from the Broad Run Church in Fauquier County.

Margaret’s daughters, Mary and Hannah Dodson either died or married as we lose them entirely.

Margaret and George’s son, George Dodson born in 1737 could be the George in 1771, but who knows with a name like George Dodson. The good news is that George Dodson was obviously well thought of which is why there were several George Dodsons in the next generation. The bad news is that there were several George Dodsons and it’s impossible to tell them apart, or even exactly how many different George’s there actually were.

The Migration

There has been a lot of speculation and no conclusive facts about what happened to George and Margaret. In 1756, George was about 54 and Margaret was 48. They could have sold their land and one or both of them died during or after a move.

They could have moved elsewhere – meaning away from Richmond County but not to Faquier County with at least some of their children.

They could have moved to Faquier County, but not joined the Broad Run Baptist Church, a dissenting church at that time.

One hint may be the fact that in 1762, Thomas Dodson of Faquier County, George’s brother, released his right to his claim on his father’s estate to George’s brothers; Greenham Dodson of Amelia County, as well as Abraham, Joshua and Elisha of Farguier County. George Dodson isn’t mentioned.

George’s omission could have been due to any one of four things:

  • An oversight
  • A feud
  • George’s siblings together bought Thomas’s share, but George did not
  • George is dead and Thomas chose to relinquish his share only to his living male siblings and not to George’s heirs

Even if Thomas had relinquished part of his share to George’s heirs, that still wouldn’t tell us if Margaret was living, because at that time, a widow was due one third of her husband’s estate, but if George was already deceased when Thomas relinquished his share, George’s share of Thomas’s portion would not have fallen into George’s estate, which would have been assessed immediately after his death. Instead, the funds would have gone directly to George’s children. Colonial wives got left out…a lot.

George and Margaret Confusion

To make matters worse, there is a great deal of confusion surrounding multiple George Dodsons in Pittsylvania and Halifax County, Virginia where many of the Dodson families wound up in the 1760s and after. At least one George MAY have been married to a Margaret in 1777, but we’re really not sure. One George was for sure married to a Margaret in 1825 when he died, but that George and Margaret lived way too long to be the couple we are looking for. Margaret Dagord Dodson was born in 1708. However, the George and Margaret of 1825 may have been the George and Margaret of the 1777 land transaction who could have been the same George as the 1771 land transaction.

I just love the woulda, coulda, shouldas in the form of “may have been” and “could have been.”  Not.

I discussed the various George and Margaret possibilities ad nauseum in George Dodson’s article, so if you have a bad case of insomnia, read that article. Guaranteed, all those George’s will put you to sleep!

After 1756, the best we can do is to tell the story of Margaret through her children.

Margaret and George’s Children

Mary Dodson – born on December 21, 1726, just 8 months after Margaret married George on April 20th. While I’m not passing any judgement on George and Margaret in terms of pre-marital behavior, I am interested in Mary’s birth because it may have been premature. Based on a conception calculator, for Mary to have been born a full term 40-week baby, she would have been conceived between March 26 and April 3. Today, a baby that is a month early stands a wonderful chance of survival, that wasn’t necessarily true in 1726.

We don’t hear any more about Mary, so it’s certainly possible that she died.

However, since the next child isn’t born for 22 months, it’s unlikely that she died immediately, or the next child would have been born 9 or 10 months later, not 22. So, if Mary died, it probably wasn’t due to a premature birth. It would certainly have been tragic if Mary survived a premature birth but then died of something else anyway.

Death was a regular visitor to colonial couples who lost many children, often half of the children born to them.

Lazarus Dodson – born October 7, 1728, Lazarus Dodson was a Baptist minister at the Sandy Creek Church in Pittsylvania County, VA. He married Alice Dodson, his first cousin, the daughter of Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose. In 1763, Lazarus was a member of the Broad Run Baptist Church in Faquier County and was dismissed to Halifax County, the part that later became Pittsylvania County. He may also have been a minister in Faquier County. Lazarus died in 1799, leaving a will written on May 2, 1795 and proven on Sept. 16, 1799. His heirs were his widow Alice, 5 daughters, Elizabeth, Rachel, Rhoda, Margaret and Tabitha, and 2 sons George and Elisha. Another son, Rolly, is attributed to this couple by the Rev. Elias Dodson, but not mentioned in the will.

Rawleigh Dodson – born Feb. 16, 1730, Rawleigh Dodson married a wife named Mary whose surname is unknown. Raleigh was in Halifax County by 1766. Rawleigh purchased land in Caswell County, NC, across the border from Pittsylvania County, VA, which they subsequently sold in 1778 to move to the Holston River settlement that was then in western North Carolina, but would eventually become Hawkins County, TN. Raleigh, a Revolutionary War Veteran, died about 1794, leaving a will dated July 20, 1793. Raleigh and Mary had 4 sons, Rawleigh (Jr.), Lazarus, Tolliver and James, and 3 daughters Margaret, Eleanor (Nellie) and a daughter who was deceased by 1793 but who had married a Shelton and had 2 daughters.

George Dodson – born Oct. 31, 1737 in Richmond County, VA and recorded in the North Farnham Church Parish Register. Unfortunately, there are so many George Dodsons in Pittsylvania and Halifax County, Virginia, that it’s virtually impossible to tell them apart. I created a chart detailing what we do know in George Dodson’s article. There is a George Dodson who died and whose will is recorded in Pittsylvania County in 1825 who could possibly be the son of George Dodson and Margaret Dagord. Until we have some proof that the George who died in 1825 is George and Margaret’s son, I’m very hesitate to attribute any additional information to him, because I feel it will just make a confusing situation even moreso.

Fortunatis (Fortune) Dodson – born March 31, 1740 in Richmond County, married Margaret Dodson, his first cousin, the daughter of Elisha and Sarah Averitt Dodson. After his death, Margaret, his widow married one of the Raleigh Dodsons. Fortune is first recorded in Pittsylvania County with the other Dodson families. His will was dated Oct. 2, 1776 and was probated May 22, 1777, leaving his widow, one son, David and three daughters, Lydia, Sarah and Deborah.

David Dodson (possibly) – born after 1740, in Richmond County (if he is Margaret and George’s child) and is reported by the Rev. Elias Dodson to have married Betty, the daughter of Second Fork Thomas Dodson – although based on the ages and generations of the individuals involved, that is somewhat doubtful if Second Fork Thomas is who we think he is. David is in Pittsylvania County by 1773 and eventually migrated to Pulaski County, KY by about 1800, then on to Maury County, TN where he apparently died sometime before 1816. His wife may have been Elizabeth, enumerated on the 1820 census with children. He had at least 6 sons, Fortunatus, Asa, Abner, David, Joseph and Absalom and two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth.

Hannah Dodson – born May 2, 1747 in Richmond County, VA and recorded in the North Farnham County Parish Register. We have no further information about Hannah, so she may have died.

For two of Margaret and George’s sons, Lazarus and Fortunatis, to have married their first cousins, they would have to have been living nearby, close enough to court.  Lazarus married the daughter of Thomas Dodson and Elizabeth Rose and Fortunatis married the daughter of Elisha Dodson and Sarah Averett.  The 1762 deed from Thomas to his siblings tells us that both of these men were living in Fauquier County at that time, which also means that Fortunatis and Lazarus were probably living in Fauquier County at that time as well, before they married, which implies that would have been while they were living with their parents.  Single men generally didn’t live alone before marriage.  The only way Lazarus and Fortunatis would NOT have been living with their parents is if their parents were deceased and they were living with other family members instead. So, the logical conclusion is that either Margaret and George were deceased or they were living in Fauquier County or very close by.

Was Judith Kenner a Daughter of Margaret Dagord?

Virginia is full of mysteries – in part because so many records are missing that it leaves us with something that looks like historical swiss cheese.

We know that many of the early colonial Virginia families migrated across the country together, county by county and then state by state as the ever-moving frontier line inched further westward. Most often, if you find one family member, you’ll find more.

Raleigh Dodson, Margaret Dagord’s son moved to Hawkins County in 1778. Another Dodson, Elisha was there very early as well and owned land amid Raleigh and his sons. The identity of this Elisha still escapes Dodson researchers.

Across the Holston river from Raleigh lived one Thomas Dodson who had purchased land by 1792. This Thomas could well have been Raleigh’s brother, but we just don’t know.

Another player on the Hawkins County frontier was Rodham Kenner. Rodham is clearly involved with Raleigh Dodson, witnessing his will. Raleigh made Rodham co-executor with his son, Lazarus, a position of trust likely given only to a family member or exceptionally close friend.

It’s certainly reasonable that one could and would make their brother-in-law their executor. The brother-in-law would have nothing to gain personally, so there would be no conflict of interest, and being of the same generation, they probably had a long history together – especially if the families had bonded journeying and establishing homes on the frontier.

Family on the frontier often made the difference between life and death.

In addition to Rodham witnessing Raleigh’s will, he also witnessed the sale of Raleigh’s land in November 1808, by Raleigh Jr.

There is some evidence to suggest that Judith Kenner, wife of Rodham Kenner is the daughter of Margaret Duguard. Is Duguard yet another spelling for Dagord? It certainly could be. The deeper I dug, the more seemingly conflicting information I found.

Margaret Dugourd, by whatever spelling, is a very unusual name. How many of these women could there be in Virginia? And what are the chances of two children of two different Margaret Dagord/Duguard’s winding up being near neighbors on the Holston River in Hawkins County in the late 1700s?

Let’s take a look at what we have.

The Quandry About Judith Kenner

Judith Kenner wrote her will November 16, 1819 and died March 3, 1833 in Hawkins County, TN, stating that she is the daughter of Margaret Duguard.

Her husband was Rodham Kenner, although there were multiple Rodham Kenners.

Rodham Kenner witnessed the will of Raleigh Dodson in Hawkins County in 1793. Raleigh Dodson appointed “my son Lazarus and my neighbor Rodham Kenner my executors.”

The Rodham Kenner Ford is located just above the Dodson Ford, where Raleigh Dodson had a ferry business, on the Holston River.

According to FindAGrave:

The Rodham Kenner Cemetery is located on the north bank of the Holston River near a site formerly known as the “Rodham Kenner Ford”. The location is on the site of the original Rodham Kenner Plantation, which was established before Tennessee Statehood [1796]. Publications of the DAR verify that this is the last resting place of Rodham Kenner, and possibly many other family members. Unfortunately, extended usage for pasture has caused most of the headstones to be overturned by cattle.

Unfortunately, the location is not marked on a map on FindAGrave and instead it says:

Plot: Private Cemetery in disrepair; North side of Holston River, on bluff not far from power plant. Cattle have overturned some headstones, but a few remain upright.

The FindAGrave memorial shows Rodham Kenner married to Malinda Payne.

Judith Kenner’s will was written on November 16, 1819, with the following extracted section:

Gave to my mother Margaret Duguard the use or profits of all my estate real & personal during her life, provided nevertheless that the same shall be under the care and management of my executor from the time of my death and during the lifetime of my mother. Gave to daughter Lucy Beverly Winston the use of my negro girl Mary during her life, and after the death of my daughter Lucy, I give my said negro Mary and Mary’s increase to my granddaughter Margaret Winston. Gave to son Lawrence Sterns Kenner one horse, one bed and furniture, and one Beaufat. Gave to daughter Judith Cardin one bed and furniture. Gave to daughters Lucy Beverly Winston and Judith Cardin all my wearing apparel to be equally divided. Gave to grandson William Winston Kenner the tract of land whereon I now live containing 110 acres by estimation. Gave to grandson Roaham Beverly Kenner my negro girl Eliza and her increase. Gave the residue of estate real and personal to grand children, equally divided. Names “my worthey friend” William Simpson of Rogersville executor. Signed Judith Kenner. Wits. Hezekiah Hamblen, George McCollough

Summary:

  • Margaret Duguard – mother
  • Lucy Beverly Winston – daughter
  • Margaret Winston – daughter of Lucy above
  • Lawrence Sterns Kenner – son
  • Judity Cardin – daughter
  • William Winston Kenner – grandson
  • Roaham Beverly Kenner – grandson

Clearly, if our Margaret Dagord Dodson is Judith Kenner’s mother, she is not still living in 1819 at age 111, or at least it’s very doubtful – but was this will transcribed into the will book from the original, and then from the will book correctly?

Think you’re confused? Wait till you read this next item.

1821, 12 Oct: Judith Kenner of the state of TN of the 1st part, and Mackenzie Beverly of Caroline Co., VA of the 2nd part, and Wm. Gray of the town of Port Royal of the 3rd part. M. Beverley instituted a suit against the representatives of Rodham Kenner in the county court of Westmoreland for the purpose of recovering damages for a fraud supposed to have been practiced upon the said Beverley by said Rodham Kenner in his lifetime. That suit is pending and undetermined and the said Judith Kenner is entitled to the estate and effects of the said Rodham by virtue of his will, duly recorded in Westmoreland, and is about to remove part of the same out of the state. Said Beverly obtained a ne exent against Judith KENNER & who has a balance in the hands of one Leroy Boulware of 200 pounds VA currency, which she devised from the will of her brother, Rodham KENNER. Judith Kenner wishes that, in case the said M. Beverley shall recover damages against her said brother’s representative, that the same shall be secured to the said Beverley, she does grant to Gray, in consideration of $1 paid by William Gray, her right in the claim and tenement which she has in her hands of Peter Boulware, that is to say 100 pounds VA currency due 1 Jan next, and the 100 pounds due 1 Jan 1823, and does also sell her interest in the hands of one Thomas Dillard for the years 1822 and 1823, which annolment amounts to 42 pounds VA currency, which said sums she is entitled to by her brother Rodham’s will. The said Wm. Gray is to collect the rents as soon as they are due & to lend them out to some responsible person will pay the interest. The aforesaid conveyance is upon the express condition that in case McKenzie Beverly shall recover against the said Rodham Kenner’s representatives, that William Gray shall pay over and satisfy the said judgments and all costs thereon out of the monies to be recovered of the said Leroy Boulware and Thomas Dillard. But in case Beverly loses the suit, that then these presents shall cease and be void. And it is expressly understood by Judith Kenner and McKenzie Beverley that this conveyance is not to affect the merits of the suit. Signed by Judith Kenner, McKenzie Beverly, Wm. Gray. Wits. James Gray, Richard C. Corbin, Corn’s Tuomey, Daniel Turner. Should there be a balance left in the hands of the trustee after satisfying the said McKenzie Beverly, should he recover the suit, the balance is to be paid over in full to us Judith Kenner on her order, and if the said Beverly should lose, the full amount is to be paid over to Judith Kenner on her order. Signed William Gray. Wits. James Gray, Corns. Twomey, Dn’l Turner.

It looks for all the world like Judith Kenner was a Kenner by birth, given that her brother was Rodham Kenner, and she married a Kenner. However, if she was born a Kenner, then how is her mother Margaret Duguard? Or did her mother remarry perhaps after Judith’s father died? In which case, Judith Kenner is NOT the daughter of Margaret Dagord who married George Dodson. I’m still scratching my head. I feel like I need a roadmap and a score card.

And then:

1829, 13 Feb: Judith Kenner of Hawkins Co., TN made her wilI. Gave to two grandsons Rodham Kenner and William W. Kenner all my land containing about 300 acres, their heirs and assigns in fee simple, to be equally divided when William W. Kenner comes of age. Gave to said grandsons William W. Kenner and Rodham Kenner one negro woman called Eliza together with her offspring, equally divided, when William W. Kenner cones of age. Gave to said grandson Rodham Kenner my walking cane, marked on the head with Rodham Kenner, also my silver table spoons. Gave to said grandson William W. Kenner my silver watch, also I give and bequeath unto the said William W. Kenner my silver teaspoons. It is my desire that my negro man called Martin shall be sold and one half of the money to be put in the hands of my grandson William 0. Winston for the special benefit of his mother, my daughter Lucy, and the other half to be equally divided between my two grandsons Columbus Carden and Joseph Carden, children of my daughter Judith Carden, to be put out on interest till Joseph comes of age. In case one of them should die, the whole of said half to go to the survivor. Gave to all my grand children all my claims and interests in the State of Virginia, to be equally divided between them, share and share alike whenever settled. Gave to granddaughter Beverly J. Carden the bed and bed furniture on which I lay. It is my desire that my negroes called John, Nann & Caroline shall remain on the place whereon I now live, that all my stock and household furniture and farming utensils shall be kept together and nothing sold till the time herein after mentioned, and it is my desire that Lucy Winston my daughter shall take possession & live on the place & the house whereon & wherein I now reside till William W. Kenner comes of age or so long as my said daughter Lucy sees fit to reside on said place till the coming of age of said William W. Kenner, it is also my desire that my negro woman Eliza with her children shall remain on the said place, together with John, Nann & Caroline and assist in making provisions for my two grandsons Rodham Kenner and William W. Kenner and my daughter Lucy Winston till William W. Kenner comes of age, and it is my desire that all things be kept together on said place by my daughter Lucy just in the situation as I leave them till William W. Kenner comes of age, and then my old negroes John, Nann & Caroline are to always find a home on the place whereon I now live or live with whomsoever of my daughters or grand children they see fit, that when said William comes of age it is my desire that all my stock and household furniture be sold and out of the proceeds of said sale, I give and bequeath unto my grand daughter Margaret Findley $60.00, unto my grandson John G. Winston $60.00 & unto my grandson Columbus Carden $60.00, and after paying over the said sums, I give and bequeath unto my daughters Lucy Winston & Judith Carden the residue of said proceeds. Appoints William Simpson executor, revoking all former wills. Signed Judith Kenner. (1a) Will proved by oaths of witnesses 0. Rice, G. W. Huntsman

Summary:

  • Rodham Kenner – grandson
  • William W. Kenner – grandson underage
  • William O. Winston – grandson
  • Lucy Winston – daughter
  • Columbus Carden – grandson
  • Joseph Carden – grandson underage
  • Judith Carden – daughter
  • Beverly J. Carden – granddaughter
  • Margaret Findley – granddaughter
  • John G. Winston – grandson

The Judith Kenner with the 1829 will is clearly the same woman who wrote the 1819 will. Obviously, she thought she was going to die, and didn’t.

The will book in Hawkins County burned during the Civil War, and the wills were recopied from originals into a will book sometime later. Of course, the probate dates and estate information were burned, but at least the individual wills were preserved.

I have compiled information about the Kenner family from the Hawkins County Tennessee wills, from FindAGrave and from WikiTree, one of the few genealogy websites that allows and encourages the copying of free form text like wills, and citing sources.

If this is accurate, the following tree shows the interrelationships of Judith Kenner. Judith is married to the Rodham Kenner noted in green. Just like George Dodsons, there seem to be a plethora of Rodham Kenners too.

kenner-tree

This does indeed show Judith’s mother as Margaret who was apparently living in 1819, but not in 1829 and had apparently remarried to a Duguard by 1819, because if Judith’s father was living and her mother had not remarried, she would have been called Mrs. Rodham Kenner or Margaret Kenner if a widow – never by her maiden name.

If George Kenner (see tree) was born about the time of Rodham Kenner’s death, then his eventual wife, Margaret, would have been born about the same time, meaning about 1733. This means that she would not have had daughter Judith Kenner before 1750 or 51, at the earliest.   Therefore, Judith Kenner’s mother, Margaret, referenced as Margaret Duguard, born about 1733 is not our Margaret Dagord born in 1708. These two Margarets are an entire generation offset. I’d actually much rather for this relationship to be impossible than ambiguous.

Whew, what a time unraveling that knotted up ball of twine.

Margaret’s Mitochondrial DNA

Now for the bad news. Because Judith Kenner is NOT the daughter of our Margaret Dagord, the mitochondrial DNA of our Margaret Dagord appears to be deader than a doornail.

Mothers contribute their mitochondrial DNA to each child, but only the females pass it on. So to find Margaret’s mitochondrial DNA today, we would need to track it through all females from Margaret to the current generation, where the DNA recipients can be male.

We know that Margaret had daughters Mary and Hannah, but either they both died or married and are lost to us in time.

Now that we know that Judith Kenner wasn’t Margaret’s daughter, either, that pretty much ends our possibilities.

I mentioned in the beginning of this article that Cheryl Sendtko indicated that Dagord was spelled numerous ways in the North Farnham Parish Registers, but in searching those records at both Ancestry and MyHeritage, I didn’t find any surnames that began with Dag or Dog, so I’m not sure quite what Cheryl was seeing or perhaps she was referencing what others had said previously.

I do know that the North Farnham Parish Church registers have been indexed, but there are comments that the quality of the original records was poor, and that they were apparently transcribed from a copy of a copy.  Sometimes you just have to be happy that anything survived!

I was searching for any other births to Henry Dagord, by any surname variant. I even looked up all Henry’s by first name with nothing resembling Dagord beginning with either Dag or Dog. I was hopeful of discovering that Margaret Dagord had a sister, but I was unable to find any record of another Dagord birth. One thing is for sure, if Henry Dagord’s daughter, Margaret, was born in North Farnham Parish in 1708 and married there in 1726, there is little question that they lived there between 1708 and 1726. Someplace, Margaret likely had siblings.

Focused research needs to be done in Virginia.

Acknowledgements

Much of the information about the early Dodson lines, specifically prior to Raleigh, comes from the wonderful two volume set written by the Reverend Silas Lucas, published originally in 1988, titled The Dodson (Dotson) Family of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, Virginia – A History and Genealogy of Their Descendants.

I am extremely grateful to Reverend Lucas for the thousands of hours and years he spent compiling not just genealogical information, but searching through county records in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and more. His work from his first publication in 1958 to his two-volume set 30 years later in 1988 stands as a model of what can and should be done for each colonial family – especially given that they were known to move from state to state without leaving any type of “forwarding address” for genealogists seeking them a few hundred years later. Without his books, Dodson researchers would be greatly hindered, if not entirely lost, today.