Women Ancestors and Sad Stories: Porter, Ewing and Lindsay

While researching ancestors, I find one of the biggest challenges is to find any information on the women who are related to me. I usually can uncover some clues on the men through tax records, land records, wills, etc. However, women had little rights and written records on many of them seem to be scarce. Mostly you have to depend on bits of information from researching the men they were associated with, like fathers, brothers and husbands. I was continuing my research on the Porter and Ewing lines for Capt. Robert S. Porter and his wife Margaret Lindsay with a focus on the women in the family.

Robert Porter was the only son and child of Andrew Porter and Eleanor Ewing who were my 7th Great-grandparents. His parents were Scot-Irish immigrants from the province of Ulster, Ireland in the1700’s. Eleanor Ewing was my first challenge but I found her parents who were Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah _____. (You can read more about them here: The Ewing Clan in History and Legend: Of Eagles Wings.) Eleanor Ewing was born about or before 1721 and we can assume she got married to Andrew Porter between the age of fifteen and eighteen before 1737. Their son, Robert Porter was born around 1737-1738. Her father, Alexander Ewing wrote his will in about the same year of 1738 when Eleanor gave birth to son Robert but Alexander had all his children named in his will EXCEPT Eleanor! It is believed that Eleanor died before her father wrote his will. It is believed that she died in childbirth or shortly thereafter from complications of childbirth. Further evidence of her death is that her husband Andrew remarried shortly afterward to Margaret Leiper. Robert was raised by his step-mother Margaret and with six half-siblings. Now I have a good idea what happened to Eleanor, wife of Andrew Porter and why her records were non-existent after 1738!

When this Robert Porter grew up, he married a Margaret Lindsay. Finding information on Margaret Lindsay led to another challenge! Their marriage record was a start of the paper trail. They were married 27 May 1764 in Pennsylvania.

Marriage Record of Robert Porter and Margaret Lindsay (Pennsylvania Compiled Marriage Records)

The AGBI (American Genealogical-Biographical Index) database listed Margaret Lindsay as being born in 1740 but another record places her birth as 1745. No where was there a listing of her parents. After searching through several Lindsays in that time period and in Pennsylvania, I found a will of James Lindsay who named a daughter “Margaret Porter” in his will and he lived in Middletown, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

Excerpt from will of James Lindsay naming daughter Margaret Porter (Delaware, Pennsylvania Will Book )
Gravestone of James Lindsay

This James Lindsay was born in South Leith, Midlothian, Scotland to William Lindsay and Agnes Broun according to his baptism records. He was born 03 Dec 1798 and baptized 05 Dec 1798. He immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1725 and settled there as tax records indicate. He married a woman named Elizabeth according to his will and some believe her surname may have been Ewing. James lived to 1792 and died at about 83-84 years old. He was buried in Middletown Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Elwyn, Delaware, PA. No record of his wife’s death has been found although she was still living when his will was probated in May of 1792. I assume she was buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

I believe it is quite possible that this James Lindsay and Elizabeth are parents of Margaret Lindsay who married Robert Porter. The time periods match and her birth in Pennsylvania matches. James naming a daughter as Margaret Porter in his will is also good evidence. The fact that James was a Scot and Presbyterian points to his association with the Scot-Irish community of which the Porters were a part of. The Scots-Irish tended to settled together in communities with friends, neighbors, and families they immigrated with or knew before. It was a close community with many intermarriages. One more piece of the puzzle is that Margaret and Robert named one of their sons James Lindsay Porter, presumably after her father!

Now that I believe I have identified Margaret’s parents, let’s see what happened to her. Her husband Robert Porter was first a Lieutenant and then a Captain in the Revolutionary War and is listed as a DAR ancestor (#A091290). In the DAR records, Robert was born circa 1740 in Pennsylvania and died in 1781 in Montgomery County, Virginia. This correlates with our Robert Porter and he fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant and had settled in Virginia. His ancestors listed include Andrew Porter, his son and our direst ancestor. (More on this Andrew Porter to come!) Note that Robert died in 1781 making him only about 41 or 42 years of age! It is possible that Robert may have been killed or died from injuries sustained in the War as he was so young at death.

Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783: Capt. Robert Porter’s Name on upper right.

So this left Margaret Lindsay Porter a young widow with eight children. The youngest child, James Lindsay Porter, was only one or two years old when his father died and the oldest child was probably about 17 or 18. At least three of the children married and moved to Blount County, Tennessee and Margaret moved there also – maybe with one of her children’s families. There were no records found that Margaret remarried after Robert’s death.

The only other record I found for Margaret indicated that she may have had a sad ending indeed. Margaret was appointed a guardian in 1803 according to Blount County TN court records. The reason for appointing a guardian was that Margaret was in “state of insanity!” Now “insanity” at that time was a label for multiple kinds of conditions including dementia. In the settlement records of her guardianship at her death in 1811, eight years later, reveals her guardian was a William Gillespie who was over 80 years old at the time like Margaret. This begs the question why an 80 plus year old man was her guardian when she had a number of married children living in the same area?

Some questions of the past can and will never be answered! However, I am grateful that I was able to find and tell part of the stories of my women ancestors!


  • Wills; Delaware, Pennsylvania; Will Book, Vol. A-B, 1789-1822; Case: 41; Date: 2 May 1791; James Lindsay
  • Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operatons Inc., 2014.
  • Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI.
  • Ancestry.com Pennsylvania, U. S. Compiled Marriage Records, 1700-1821 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2011.
  • Excerpts from Ewing Family Association: https://www.ewingfamilyassociation.org
  • U. S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

The Ewing Clan in History and Legend: Of Eagles Wings

#52 Ancestors: Family Legends

My research last week on James Robert Porter and Eleanor Gillespie inspired me to take another look at their son, Andrew Porter of 1720 who was my 7th Great-grandfather. He also was a Scot-Irish immigrant who made his way to America, namely Maryland, with his wife Eleanor Ewing. You can read more about them in this link to my older blog: Irish Ancestors and Immigrants! If you read last weeks blog, you know that I discovered that these ancestors were originally from Scotland and not Irish, and they only resettled in Ireland before immigrating.

This week, I want to reveal more about what I learned about Andrew Porter’s wife and my 7th Great-grandmother, Eleanor Ewing. She was the daughter of Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah ______. Andrew Porter’s parents were James Robert Porter and Margaret Ewing that I wrote about last week and you can find it here: A New Beginning: The Porters – Scots or Irish? That James Porter traveled to America with his uncle Alexander Ewing who was a brother to his mother Margaret Ewing Porter! His father was Josia Porter. Now that can be confusing but I saw a lot of Ewing names popping up in my research and I had to know more!

River Forth in Scotland showing location of Stirling Castle

Where did the Ewing’s come from? In reality the Ewings are of Scottish descent and originally from west of Scotland, near Glasgow and the clan was located on the River Forth. The River Forth was near the famous Stirling Castle in the vicinity of Loch Lomand. The Ewings were Presbyterian and in the mid 1600s, many protestants were being persecuted and a religious war ensued. Ultimately the Ewing clan chieftain was captured and executed and all of the clan were outlawed. The Ewing clan went from the River Forth area to the Isle of Bute, Scotland and later settled at or near Coleraine County, Londonderry, Ulster in northern Ireland. Of course this is a simplified version of the historical events.

Stirling Castle still stands today and is a tourist site. It was built on a high cliff.
Stirling Castle

I found a family legend written to explain where the Ewing name came from – it was handed down through countless Ewing generations! ” In pre-Christian times, a group of Celts settled along the eastern shores of Loch Lomond in Scotland and became shepherds. Their peaceful settlement was plagued by the depredations of a huge eagle that stole their sheep. Finally an infant child was taken by the eagle. The eagle’s nest was in a precarious position under the overhand of a steep cliff, and one of the shepherds was lowered by rope to attempt to kill this bird that had caused them such injury. Unable to hoist the whole of the eagle’s corpse back to the clifftop, the shepherd brought back with him one of eagle’s wings to prove that his mission had been accomplished successfully. The group of Celtic shepherds began to call themselves the Eagle Wing Clan. This Clan name was shortened to E-wing and finally to Ewing. “

Now whether you choose to believe the Eagle story or not, it is up to you. Lets go back to Eleanor Ewing, wife of Andrew Porter of 1720. Eleanor was born about 1721 in Ulster, Ireland and her parent were Alexander Ewing and Rebeckah – mother’s surname is unknown. Eleanor and Andrew married about 1738 in Cecil County, Maryland (then a British Colony). Eleanor has a tragic story. Unfortunately, Eleanor died two years later in 1740 in child birth or a short time after their son Robert Porter was born. This Robert Porter, her one and only child, became my 6th Great Grandfather and fought in the Revolutionary War. Andrew had to bury his young wife of about 20 years old but later remarried a Margaret Leiper and had six more children. More on Robert Porter will come.

1700s Sailing Ship

It is quite possible that Eleanor Ewing came to America around 1727, and based on a statement in “Clan Ewing of Scotland,” a group of Ewing, Porter, Gillespie, Caldwell and other families came to America in that year. Two of the ships that the immigrants used to traverse the ocean were named Eagle Wing (sound familiar?) and Rising Sun. Most of our ancestors did not come at the same time nor did all come in the same ship.

But what were some of the motivations behind the immigration? Surely a big one was to escape religious persecution and settle in Maryland, Pennsylvania and also Philadelphia who were founded on religious freedoms. In Ireland, between the years of 1720 and 1730, the harvests were very poor and crop failures surely contributed to the causes that inspired families to consider making the long voyage to America and start a new life. Landlords were also raising leases on land and calling in loans.

Some family tradition believe that after a tedious voyage, the ships may have landed at New Castle on the Delaware River which was near Cecil County, Maryland where so many Ewings and Porters settled. New Castle was only about fifteen miles from Cecil County border. More ships were built as a result to carry passengers and goods to America because of the large number of immigrants in the 1700’s up to the Revolutionary War in 1776. The Eagle Wing served to more than 35 years between Belfast, Ireland and American ports. It was a fast and modern sailing ship for its time and could make the trip across the ocean in seven to ten weeks if all went well!

Seven to ten weeks on the Ocean in a crowded ship does not seem like a pleasant journey so I have to commend our ancestors for taking that tedious voyage to America!


https://www.geni.com/surnames/ewing Also: http://www.sandcastles.net/ewing.htm

Irish Immigrant Families: Porter, Ewing, Gilliespies; Posted by William Gammon: Ancestry.com

Ewing, Elbert William R; Clan Ewing of Scotland. Ballston, Virginia: Cobden Publishing co, 1922; p. 176.

Ancestry.com. John Ewing, Immigrant from Ireland 1660-1974 [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry Operations Inc.

McMichael, James R; Alexander Ewing (1697/7-1738) & descendants: Ireland to America in 1727; Bountiful Utah: Family History Publishers; Spring, TX, 1999.

A New Beginning: The Porters – Scots or Irish?

#52 Ancestors Each week of the year Amy Johnson Crow publishes a theme or prompt to provide inspiration for working on our genealogy. We can choose to write, post or do something else related to our research such as organizing family photos. Although I am a bit late in starting writing this year as I was working on other research, I will consider her suggestions each week and write about the ones that inspire me! Her first theme was “Beginnings.”

At the beginning of the new year, it is a good time to think of how our ancestors came to America for so many different reasons. One thing in common is that when they set foot on our shores, they all began a new life – a new beginning. I have been researching the Porter family ancestors who sailed from Ireland. The reason I wanted to take another look at my research was that my DNA profile showed little Irish (about 5 %) and twice as much Scottish (10-13%) ancestry. So I thought it would be good to review the ancestors I believed were Irish.

Ulster County in 1700s, now part of Northern Ireland

Among the thousands of immigrants in the 1700s, there were three clans that immigrated from Ulster County, Ireland and settled in the Maryland area, particularly Cecil County. All three clans were close neighbors and great friends and intermarried often both in Ireland and America. The clans were the Porters, the Ewings and the Gillespies families. By tracing my ancestry, I found that I am related to all three clans in one way or another. Now I had thought that they were all of Irish descent coming from Ireland but in reality many were Scots-Irish!

Scots-Irish is really an Americanism and not used in Europe and Britain where they are sometimes called Ulster Scots. The Scots-Irish refers to people whose ancestors originated in Scotland but who lived in Ireland, sometimes for several generations, before emigrating to America. The Scots started to go to Ireland starting around 1600 as an expanding population in Scotland hungered for more and better land and escape from religious persecution. The northern part of Ireland was fertile and sparsely settled and, besides, it was a short journey of just a few miles across the sea from the lowlands of Scotland. Most Scots settled in the area of Ulster and Donegal counties which includes all the counties of Northern Ireland today. Eventually the British government required all crown officials be of Anglican faith which excluded the Scots-Irish from any sort of power as they were devoutly Presbyterian. Even their clergy couldn’t perform marriages! Then came raising of land rents, drought, sheep diseases and smallpox that took a toll on the population. Of course there is much more history to this situation and too much to detail here.

The emigration to the American Colonies began around 1718 and continued until the American Revolution. Most early immigrants went to Pennsylvania where the Quakers were tolerant of other religions or to Maryland or to Philadelphia. Eventually they followed the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania into Georgia with many stopping to settle in the Shenandoah area of Virginia like our ancestors. The first Scots-Irish ancestor of ours to come to America was James Robert Porter. He was born in Coleraine, Londonderry County, Ulster, Ireland in 1699.

James Robert Porter was born in Coleraine, Londonderry, Ulster, Ireland. It probably wasn’t this developed in 1699!

James Porter was the son of Josia Porter and Margaret Ewing, both of County Donegal, Ireland. James married Ellen (also called Eleanor) Gillespie in Ireland – recall that I said the Porter, Ewing and Gillespie families were all intertwined! The Ewings, as a clan, were banned in Scotland as they were Protestants. It is thought that James Porter emigrated to the British Colony of Maryland in 1727 and that he traveled with his uncle Alexander Ewing, his mother’s brother. (Alexander and Margaret Ewing were children of Robert Milford Ewing and Rebecca Ewing. ) Later, James Porter’s wife, Ellen, traveled to Maryland to join him along with their children and her parents. I haven’t found her parents names as yet. All together, James and Ellen had ten known children, Jane, Mary, Elianor (also called Nelly), Betsey, Stephen, George, Andrew, William, James and Samuel.

The location of Cecil County in present day Maryland

The Porter family, once reunited, settled in Cecil, Maryland Colony and there is a deed recorded for James. James bought 235 acres of land for 130 pounds from Thomas Love. On the deed, James Porter reserved the liberty of having a wagon road leading from his dwelling house through the granted land to where the school house now stands. This deed was recorded on 26 Mar of 1753.

I also found a 1740 petition from the inhabitants of Little Britain ( a township nearby in Cecil County) to establish a road that ran by “James Porters store” on the Octarara Hundred (land designation in Colonial times). This indicates that James likely owned and ran a store and was a merchant. He was indicated as a merchant in several documents and listed as the “brother of Rachel Porter Ewing wife of Nathaniel Ewing.” This reveals that his sister and brother-in-law also came to America. In 1784, their daughter Jane Porter, who was married to Patrick Ewing, died and therefore was not mentioned in James’ will. James also had a ferry service and a saw mill which his children inherited.

James Porter died around 1778 as his will was probated in 1778-1780. Because he owned land that was in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and in Cecil County, Maryland, his will was probated in both counties. The will is also evidence of his prosperity in life. His wife, named Elianor in the will, got the land they lived on of course and 100 pounds of Pennsylvania currency plus her choice of one cow, horse or mare out of James’ stock. However, I found an unusual stipulation in the will stating that she was prohibited from “committing any waste or cutting any wood save what may be necessary for Rails and firewood.” Sons William and Andrew gained land, houses and building in “Peach Bottom” and that land contained a saw mill dam, races, and a ferry service. Son William also got a silver watch and other sons Stephen, James, Samuel and George received lands while the daughters Elianor, Mary and Elizabeth got sums of money.

I have not found any documentation on where James or Ellen (Elianor) Porter were buried. Judging from their prosperity though after coming to America, they did have a very good new beginning! By researching this family, I found some answers for my own ancestry too!


  • Maryland, Cecil County, Deed Book VII, page 497. (James Porter of Cecil Co.)
  • Book I; Land Commissions of Cecil Co., MD 1724-1751, pp. 265-270.
  • Fife, Margaret Ewing, Ewing in Early America; Chapter XXIV, pp. 176 & 186.
  • Cecil County, Maryland; Will Book 3, 1777-1780; pages 63-68, 78-79.
  • Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; Will Book E, pages 299-301.
  • Garstka, Katharine, The Scots-Irish in the Southern United States: An Overview; Oct 16, 2009, (online).

Theft in the Graveyard: John James

#52ancestors    Week 21: Tombstone

“It was just a six-foot slab of marble engraved with a few dozen words.   Two hundred years of harsh weather had deteriorated its once polished appearance and centuries of undergrowth and weeds had captured nearby surroundings.  But it was the James family’s only connection to their Revolutionary War-era relative.  And now it’s gone –stolen–swiped from its eternal resting place.”

This is the beginning of a newspaper article written by Cathy Dyson for the Fauquier Democrat on February 16, 1984.  I found this clipping while researching my seventh great-grandfather, Capt. John James — it was his tombstone that was stolen!  I managed to find a picture of the tombstone that was taken before the tragic theft.

James, John, gravestone, 1778, Elk Run, Fauquier VA 001

As eerie as stealing tombstones sounds, I found out that thefts do happen and are surprisingly common.  There is actually a sort of “black market” for them and old stones are like antiquities.  I suppose a Revolutionary War stone of an officer like Capt. John James would be valued pretty high.

So who was this John James?  According to my photo of the stone, he was born “March  the 16, 1709 and departed this life January the 2, 1778 age 68 years.”  The dates correlate perfectly with the information I had already uncovered, verifying for me that this was indeed my ancestor.  John was born in Elk Run, Stafford County, Virginia Colony, and was the son of Thomas James and Elizabeth Mason Barbee (widow of Andrew Barbee).   The grandfather of Capt. John James was also named John James (go figure!), and this John immigrated from Caenarvan, Wales around 1650 and married Elizabeth Underwood.

The title of Captain wasn’t just bestowed on him as he earned his rank in the Fauquier County Militia which fought in the Revolutionary War.  He also served in the French and Indian War.  He is on the DAR list of patriots.  But, of course, there is more than his military service to distinguish him.  Capt. John James was one of the first pioneers of Fauquier County, Virginia, and he owned many, many acres in the Elk Run area.  He was also a vestryman of Hamilton Parish in the County and appointed road surveyor in 1758.

Capt. John married twice with the first marriage in 1727 to Ann Sebastian in St. Paul’s Parish, Stafford County, Virginia Colony.  Ann died before 1738 and John then married Dinah Allen in 1738 in St. Paul’s Parish.  Dinah outlived John and died in 1800.   They do seem to have been wealthy judging by John’s will probated in 1778.  He bequeathed 500 acres of land to each of his four sons and there were still acres of land left for his wife to live on.  When she died, the remainder of the land and estate passed to the seven daughters.  His last will and testament revealed a number of possessions – horses, hogs, calves, wagons, sheep, feather beds and furniture, and 17 slaves.

Capt. John James’ tombstone is still missing as far as I know.  The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Department did investigate the theft but turned up little information in 1984.  The fourth great-grandson of John, Bill James, who is an area resident, made a public appeal for the missing marker.  He stated “I would hope that people would understand the significance of the tombstone and what it means to the James family.  Maybe the tombstone will reappear as mysteriously as it vanished.”  The stone was last seen in July of 1983.

I am thinking that John James’ tombstone is probably now being used as a unique coffee table or an ornamental patio decoration.  What else could you use a gravestone for?  It has such historical value for the James family, it is really sad that it was taken from them.  Another tidbit of information came from the article I read.  Because John James was the eighth great-grandson of Col. John Washington, Mr. Bill James is the first cousin, eight times removed, of George Washington.   Could that mean that I am also related to George Washington?  Hm-m-m, time for more research!


John “the Ranger” Taliaferro: Exemplary Service!

#52ancestors     Week 19: Service

This week’s writing prompt for 52 Ancestors is “Service.”  It made me think of John “the Ranger” Taliaferro as he was an excellent example of service – service in the military and in the community!   I recently have been researching John “the Ranger” Taliaferro and his wife, Sarah Susan Smith, as they are my seventh great-grandparents.  John and Sarah were the parents of John of Snow Creek who I recently posted a blog about.  You can see it here: John Taliaferro of Snow Creek

John ” the Ranger” Taliaferro was born 24 January 1655 in Powhatan, Essex County, Virginia Colony.  John was the son of Robert Taliaferro (1626-1671) and Katherine Grymes Dedman.  When John was about 27 years old in 1682, he married his cousin, Sarah Susan Smith, the daughter of Major Lawrence Smith and Mary Hitchon.   Sarah was born on the first of January 1659 in York, Essex, Virginia Colony.  Sarah was about 22 years old at the time of marriage and together they had eleven known children.

Essex County VA location in VA map 001

The first thing I wanted to find out about John is why he was dubbed “the Ranger.”   I found out that John served as a lieutenant in a company of the York Country Rangers raised to fight off the Native Americans in Essex County in 1692.  After his service, John earned the moniker “the Ranger” which did help to distinguish him from his son, John of Snow Creek!  Ten years earlier in the summer of 1682, he joined with Cadwallder Jones to range the great fork of the Rappahannock River.  They were early explorers of the first heads or springs of the two branches of the river and they also crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains to camp on the banks of the Shenandoah River.   This was a daring and dangerous feat to explore unknown territory at the time!

Essex County VA in 1700s 001

John continued his service to his community by taking the position of Sheriff in Essex County in 1692.  In 1699, John served as a burgess in the House of Burgesses for Essex County, and also served as a justice in Essex County between 1699 and 1700 and again in 1702, along with Francis Taliaferro (his uncle).

Taliaferro, John the ranger, Powhatan house 001
Powhatan House in James City County, Virginia, and former Taliaferro residence.

John and Sarah were large landholders in Essex County and had built a beautiful house on their Powhatan Plantation.  The bricks for the house were made in England.  At the time of their marriage, John’s brother, Francis Taliferro, who was the son and heir of their father Robert Taliaferro, gave 1,000 acres of land to the newlyweds.  As time went on, John was able to amass much more land.  Today Powhatan is in James City County not far from Jamestown and Williamsburg, VA.  It is a historic building.

**NOTE: I have since discovered that Pohattan was built in 1740-1750 by John’s first cousin, Richard Taliaferro, not by John the Ranger.  Richard Taliaferro was a famed architect in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia.  Thanks to several readers who alerted me to this error! (8 Oct 2021)

The will of John Taliaferro, Gentleman, of the Parish of St. Mary’s in Essex County was dated June 1, 1715, and John died on June 21, 1720.  His wife, Sarah, died around the same year.  All of their eleven children were named in his will.  One would think that by naming his children in the will, it would be easy to trace and research each of them.  However, that is not the case!  His brother, Francis, who married Elizabeth Catlett, also had a large family at the time and it seems that quite a few of his children had the same names as some of John and Sarah’s children.  Some of the duplicate names of John and Francis’ children that I found include Richard, Zachariah, John, Elizabeth, Robert, and William.  Since all the cousins were contemporaries, I must check all facts carefully to determine which family each belongs to!  It makes research on the Taliaferro families a bit more tedious, to say the least!


  • The National Cyclopedia of American Biography:  Being the History of the United States. James T. White and Company, 1898. Vol. VIII, Page 161.
  • Western Explorations in Virginia Between Leederer and Spotswood.  citing John Taliaferro in An American Family History (on-line).
  • Mackenzie, George Norbury, and Nelson Osgood Rhoades, editors.  Colonial Families of the United States of America: in Which is Given the History, Genealogy, and Armorial Bearings of Colonial Families Who Settled in the American Colonies From the Time of the Settlement of Jamestown, 13th May 1607, to the Battle of Lexington, 19th April 1775. , 1607-1775.  7 Volumes, 1912.  Reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1966, 1995; Page: 138.
  • The Kinnear’s and their kin: a memorial volume of history, biography and genealogy, with Revolution.  Ancestry.com. North American Family Histories, 1500-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. (Page: 515)
  • Headley, Robert K. Married Well and Often:  Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia, 1649-1800.  Baltimore, MD, USA:  Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003; Page: 342.
  • 1717-1721 Essex County Virginia Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3; [John Frederick Dorman]: Pages 157-159.

Mount Airy, Mayberry, Siamese Twins and My Dudley Family

#52 Ancestors   Week 16    Air

Mt Airy North Carolina map

Mount Airy, North Carolina has a couple “claims to fame.”  For one, it was the birthplace and hometown of actor Andy Griffith.  In his television show, the town of Mayberry was inspired by this town of Mount Airy nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Another fact about the town is that it was the residence of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famed conjoined “Siamese Twins” who are buried just two miles from the main street.   Many of their descendants live in the area today.  In fact, the 200 acres of land acquired by Chang and Eng were previously owned by my ancestor and fifth great grandfather, Charles Dudley, in 1782!  (So very interesting!)

When I saw the prompt “Air,” I immediately thought of my ancestral Dudley Family who settled in Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina!  Charles Dudley and Robert Dudley, in particular, raised their families in that area.  Charles and Robert were originally from Caroline County, Virginia where Robert was born on 30 December 1772.   He was the son of Charles and Mary Dulyin.   Luckily, I can confirm Robert’s birth date as it was mentioned in his father’s Anglican Church Prayer Book and Psalms!   That was a great find, especially from the 1700s!


dudley, charles, bible record closeup 001
Charles Dudley’s Psalm Book noting births of himself, wife Mary, daughter Judith and son Robert Dudley. 


Before 1777, the Charles Dudley family moved to Surry County, North Carolina, just 3 miles south of the Virginia border, where Charles had received several land grants.  During the mid-to-late 1700s, the availability of land in North Carolina drew thousands of settlers from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.  The process of patenting land in North Carolina was not really hard.  Anyone wanting to patent land just submitted an application or land entry to the land office and the land officer then issued a warrant. Surveyors surveyed the land and sketched a plat or map of the land claim which was filed in the land office or, after 1777, recorded by the county register of deeds.  Then the land patent was issued and recorded!

Charles Dudley’s first land grant Warrant of Survey is dated Nov. 21, 1777 in Surry County.  Three other grants at various dates were issued to him totaling about 1000 acres. Some of this land was on the Ararat River in Surry County and this is the river that flows through Mount Airy.  I am really puzzled as to the parentage of Charles.  One source claims he was the son of a wealthy nobleman in England but he ran away to seek adventure and went with a neighbor to America.  He established himself as a sort of sporting English Squire on his land and was a hospitable man who loved fast horses. You can read more about Charles in my post The Challenge of Finding Charles Dudley

Charles’ son Robert married a cousin named Clarissa Ross in about 1791 in North Carolina.  Clarissa was the daughter of Captain William Ross of Amherst County, VA and Rachel Coxey or Rachel Fugate (conflicting sources – needs more research!)  Clarissa’s family had also taken advantage of the land warrants offers in North Carolina.  Robert and Clarissa were both 19 when they married and went on to have ten children.  Their firstborn child was James Ransom Dudley, my third great-grandfather.  Robert and Clarissa did have their farm on Stuart Creek (Stewart’s Creek).  I found Robert’s name on the 1812 tax list for Surry County and, according to census records, they remained in the Mount Airy region.

Robert died in 1834 and left a will (see below):




Dudley, Robert Will 001
Robert Dudley’s Will.


The important thing to note in the will is that he wished “his property to remain as it then was and wished no division take place in the same until after the death of his wife or widow and until his daughters or children are all married.”   However, four years later in 1828, there was a sale of his personal estate and his widow Clarissa was living with her daughter Betsy and son-in-law, Hardin Herring, so the wishes of Robert were not carried out as he stated in his will.   Perhaps there was an agreement by his children and widow to dispose of his estate in this manner.   Clarissa Dudley lived until 1860.  It is quite possible that they both were buried in the Herring-Dudley Cemetery in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

Mount Airy NC Twp Map 001
Map of Surry County Townships with Mount Airy at the top.  Highlighted rivers: Stewart’s Creek (left) where Robert Dudley owned land and the Ararat River where Charles Dudley owned land.




  • The Heritage of Surry County; Surry County Historical Society, Family #209, P. 166.
  • Connor, R. D. W. History of North Carolina-North Carolina Biographies. Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, New York, 1919, Vol. 5, p. 76.
  • Charles Dudley Family Bible Record, 1749-1830; State Archives of North Carolina; North Carolina Digital Collections.
  • Yates Publishing, U. S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.
  •  Wikipedia, citing Mount Airy, North Carolina.
  • Cerny, John & Mark, Gareth L: Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources; North Carolina Land Records (Ancestry.com Wiki)

John Taliaferro of Snow Creek

#52ancestors     Prompt:  Water  (Week 14)

I found that many of my ancestors settled near rivers and streams which makes perfect sense as a source of water is a vital need.  Water was also used for transportation of people and goods – a way to connect with the rest of the settlers and the world.  Since this theme is water, I thought of an ancestor named John Smith Taliaferro.  John was the father of Mildred Taliaferro whom I wrote about recently.  You can read part of her story here – Mildred Taliaferro: A Strong Woman!  Just about every source identified John Taliaferro as “John of Snow Creek”  as that is where he settled and established his homestead in 1707.   Snow Creek flows into the Rappahannock River a short distance from Fredericksburg, Virginia.   John settled above Snow Creek below the falls, and there were then but three settlements above his house on the south side of the Rapidan River.  Settlements above the falls had been burned out by Indians in 1707.


Spotsylvania Co Map, taliaferro, John 001
Snow Creek runs into the Rapidan River in the upper left corner of Spotsylvania County VA.  John Taliaferro was in the Fredericksburg area. 


John Taliaferro was born in 1687 in Golden Vale Swamp, Essex County, Virginia.  I am thinking that this was a community, not an actual “swamp!”  He was the son of John “The Ranger” Taliaferro (He may have an interesting story!) and Sarah Smith.  His father deeded additional land to him in 1717 as shown by this deed extract below.  The land was in Spotsylvania County on the Rapidan River, “amongst ye Little Mountains.”

John Taliaferro of St. Mary’s Parish, Essex County, to John Taliaferro, junr son to the aforesaid John of same For natural love and affection Two plantations with 1000 acres on the upper side of Snow Creek in the forke thereof which was formerly given to me by my brother Fran Taliaferro late of said parish by deed of gift” (signed by Jno. Taliaferro)

spotsylvania County sign, taliaferro, John 001When John Taliaferro and Francis Thornton settled there on Snow Creek, that section belonged to Essex County, Virginia and was later incorporated into Spotsylvania County. They were not only near neighbors but also brothers-in-law.  John married Mary Catlett on 22 December 1718, daughter of John Catlett, Jr. and Elizabeth Gaines, his wife, and Francis Thornton had married John’s sister, Mary Taliaferro.   The Catlett’s owned a large estate at the mouth of Golden Vale Creek in present Caroline County.

Evidently, John of Snow Creek was a man of some note in the community.   He was a Justice of Spotsylvania in 1720.  The county seat of newly formed Spotsylvania was Germana and on 1 Aug 1722, six justices or magistrates were sworn in, one being John Taliaferro.  John was also known as a vestryman of St. George’s Parish in 1725.   A vestryman is not a cleric but one who would probably be like a church board member or a deacon today.   In some sources, he is identified as Major John, who was requested “to bring up the Surplice” in 1730 to the established church at Germana, a community of German settlers.  This puzzled me so I looked up what a “surplice” was and found it was an outer garment worn by clergy.  So was John was delivering church garments?  – still not sure on this but I did find a military record so it may have to do with something military.

Spotsylvania Courthouse, 1700s Taliaferro, John 001John Taliaferro was an officer in the Spotsylvania County Militia.  In order to receive their commissions, the officers had to take the requisite oath of office to the crown.  John was listed in 1736 as Lt. Col. John Taliferro.

John and Mary Taliaferro had six known children including two sons, Lawrence and William Taliaferro and four daughters named Martha, Lucy, Mary and Mildred.  Mildred was called “Molly” in John’s will.   Mary, their daughter, may have died before John as she was not named in his will.  Eventually, John had amassed huge land holdings – thousands of acres as witnessed by the land records I have just begun to study.


Hickory Neck church pic, Taliaferro, John 001
Hickory Neck Church and Cemetery

John died 7 August 1744 at Snow Creek at about age 57 and son Lawrence passed in 1748 at age 27 years old.  They were both buried at Old Hickory Neck Church in James City County which is near the present village of Toana.  Although their tombs were once well preserved, no trace of them remains today.  A few fragments of the stone of Lawrence was found and then embedded in the cement floor of the small entry porch of the old church.

Hickory Neck Church sign - taliaferro, John 001Mary Catlett Taliaferro lived to age 79 and passed in 1771 in Essex County, Virginia.  Daughter Martha married William Hunter in 1744 and died in 1750 in Fredericksburg. Her sister Lucy Taliaferro married Col. Charles Lewis and died after 1768 in Port Roayl, Caroline County, VA.   Daughter Mary, as mentioned before, died before her father and had married Joseph Jones.  Lawrence was married to Susannah Power and his brother William of “Snow Creek” had married twice:  firstly to Mary Battaile and secondly to Elizabeth Taliaferro of “Epsom”.  William died in 1798 at age 71 at his plantation, Newington, on Mountain Run in Orange County, VA.  Mildred Taliaferro married Samuel James and her story is linked above.  She was my fifth great-grandmother which makes John Taliaferro and Mary Catlett my sixth great-grandparents.  There will be more to come on the interesting Taliaferro family!

Virginia map and Spotsylvania Co., Taliaferro, John 001Sources:


  • Genealogical and Historical Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia;  Ancestry.com: Ancestry Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA, 2002, Repository: Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
  • Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. John Taliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro; Chapter IV, p. 101 (citing the first John Taliaferro)
  • West, Edmund, comp., Family Data Collection – Individual Records [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2000.
  • Some Prominent Virginia Families, Vol. 1-4, p. 14, Ancestry.com, 2005.; Also, Vol. II, p. 736-737.
  • Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt, Comp.; Virginia’s Colonial Soldiers: A Supplement.  Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly and Magazine of Virginia Genealogy.
  • 1717-1721 Essex County, Virginia Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3; An American Family History, [John Frederick Dorman], Pages 157-59.
  • Chalkley, Lyman. Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800.  Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965. Originally published in 1912.

How Lucky Can One Be?

#52ancestors   Week 11  Theme: Luck


Lyons, LaFon, Army, 1942, Fort Sheridan Ilinois 001
LaFon C. Lyons, 1941

Maybe you had a parent or grandparent like my Dad – one who served in World War II but didn’t like to talk about it.  You wonder what kind of experiences they had that made them want to forget all about it or at least never tell anyone.   My dad, LaFon Lyons, was drafted into the army on 23 April 1941 in Detroit, Michigan where he lived at the time.  He was 23 years old and single.


Just a couple weeks earlier on March 31, 1941, he had been honorably discharged from the Civilian Conservation Corps or  “CCC’s” as they were dubbed.  He left Camp Paradise near Trout Lake, Michigan and was transported home to Mt. Clemens, Michigan just outside of Detroit.  His two-year term of enrollment in the CCC’s was up and he had served a year each as a truck driver and a Crew Leader in the Forestry Dept. at Camp Paradise.  Before this, he served a year (1935-36) in the CCC’s at Camp Mackinac at Rexton MI in the Reforestation Dept.  During this term in 1936, he was sent to the Fort Brady MI hospital when he accidentally cut off two of his toes with an ax.  Luckily they were able to reattach his big toe!

Lyons, LaFon, Army, 1943, Alaska 001I don’t know a lot about his military experiences but I know he was stationed at one time in Fort Sheridan, Illinois as that is where he met my mother.  After training, LaFon was sent to serve in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, mainly Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to ward off the Japanese invasion of the islands.  I know he achieved a Tec 3 or Staff-Sargeant rank and served in the motor pool as a mechanic trying to keep vehicles running in the unbearable cold.  He was in the 701st AAA Gun Battalion.

Lyons, LaFon, Aleutian Is campaign 001

But my story is about how he earned his nickname of “Lucky LaFon!”  My dad was a “talker” and very sociable but he didn’t talk about the war except for one story I remember.  During the battle of Attu in May of 1943, he was shouting orders to the men under his charge when he was shot by the enemy!  This is one time when he was lucky to have his mouth open as the bullet entered his mouth at an angle and nicked a couple teeth and exited his cheek!  If he would have had his mouth closed, he most likely would have been killed.  Lucky for him and lucky for me!  So he earned the nickname “Lucky LaFon” and I heard he was pretty darn lucky at playing poker too on the ship taking them back to Seattle in April of 1944.

All in all, LaFon served four years, one month and 26 days in the Army and was honorably discharged on 18 June of 1945.  By this time, he had married Elma Knihtila while on leave in May of 1944.  He had been stationed at Camp Maxey, Texas after returning to stateside.  Their first child, a son, was born after Elma returned to Bessemer, Michigan to care for her mother in May 1945.  LaFon didn’t get to see his son until the baby was about six weeks old and LaFon was finally discharged from the Army and could begin his new life.

Yes, they called him “Lucky LaFon” but us kids were the lucky ones!  He was a wonderful, loving father and husband and doting grandfather.  He passed away on March 12, 2000 at age 82 but still lives in our hearts.

Lyons, LaFon, grave, 2000, Bessemer, Gogebic MI 001

Mildred Taliaferro: A Strong Woman!

#52ancestors      Week 10:  Strong Woman

In the few years that I have been actively researching our ancestry, I have come across so many strong women.  As I read there stories, I sometimes wondered how did they survive in olden times especially with diseases, wars, bearing children and building a homestead and a life on a piece of land?  It was really had to choose who to write about for this prompt!  After researching the history of Mildred Taliaferro, I knew she was my choice for this week’s prompt!  Although I have no photo of her, I can almost picture the face of a strong, determined woman!

I came across Mildred Taliaferro while researching the James family line as she married Samuel James and they were my fifth great-grandparents.  They were the parents of Spencer James whom I wrote about in the last blog. Spencer James – Prosperity Meant Land!  Now Mildred was especially interesting as she brings me into another whole line to explore – the Taliaferro family of Virginia!  Mildred was born about 1726 and there is strong evidence that she is the daughter of John Taliaferro of Snow Creek (1687-1744) and Mary Catlett (1692-1771).  She was born on the Snow Creek Plantation.  Mildred’s mother, Mary Catlett, also opens up another whole new lineage to explore!  It seems the James’, Taliaferro’s and Catlett families were intertwined in many ways and generations!

Mildred’s husband, Samuel James, was the son of Capt. John James Sr. (1707-1778) and Anne Sebastain (1710-1778).  Samuel and Mildred married about 1740 in Orange County, Virginia.  Early records from 1753 have Mildred and Samuel living in the St. Thomas Parish of Orange County, Virginia.  Samuel was actually the overseer of the Snow Creek Plantation in Orange County owned by Mildred’s father, John Taliaferro.  As an overseer, Samuel was hired to serve as a general manager of routine farming operations.  We can assume that Samuel was generally knowledgeable in the fields of agriculture, planting, harvesting, and husbandry and in the care and management of servants, slaves, and other laborers.   He worked long hours preparing daily tasks, seeing to the security of all property, tending to the needs of the workers, making nightly rounds and maintaining the directives of the owner.

While Samuel was busy with his job taking all day and some of the night, Mildred was left to take care of their seven children, their farm, and household duties by herself.  This could not have been easy!   Then things got even harder for Mildred.  At age 32, Samuel must have been ill as he proceeded to make out his will on 14 Dec of 1754!  Two months later he died on 27 Feb 1755 leaving Mildred Taliaferro James and seven children.  The cause of death is unknown.  Their children ranged in age with James “Jimmy” James the oldest at 13 years old, Betty James at 10 years, Catlett James at 8 years, Thomas Stephen James at age 7, Spencer James (my 4th great grandfather) at age 6, John James at age 3, and little Mildred James at age 1.

In his will, Samuel left his property to his wife Mildred, but, his brother Thomas was designated as the guardian of his children if Mildred died or remarried.  This did not seem to be unusual as I have found other wills that appointed guardians of young children even if the wife was surviving the husband.  Thomas James, as guardian, was entrusted to protect the interest of the children and divide Samuel’s estate among them when they came of age.  If Mildred did remarry, her new husband could not lay claim to the children’s portion of her estate.

However, Mildred did not remarry.  She devoted herself to providing for herself and her children.  Not an easy task in the 1700s when women were thought of “second class” citizens and many of them could not even own property or participate in political or business affairs.  It wasn’t like she could just go out and get a career and hire someone to take care of the children!  She did the best she could for the children as evidenced by what she did for her son John.  On 28 Mar 1765, she apprenticed her son John James to Hezekiah Brown for five years to learn the carpenter and joiner trade.  These were uncertain times for Mildred and for the colonies as the fight for independence was imminent.

In 1782, her son, Cpl. Thomas Stephen James died in Smyth County, Virginia at about age 34.  He had married Mary Ann “Polly” Pickett in 1769 and served in the Revolutionary War in 1778 in Hazen’s Regiment of Continental Troops.  Perhaps he died from injuries sustained during his service but the true cause of death is unknown.  So sad for Mildred to lose her son at an early age like she lost her husband.  Although times were not easy for Mildred, by 1783 she owned three houses, six cattle and one slave with her slave being exempt according to Orange County personal Property returns for 1783.  Two years later, in 1785, the State Enumerations listed her as head of the family with three white souls, one dwelling and two other buildings.

Her son Catlett James also served his country in the Revolutionary War and never married.  Sadly, he also died rather young at about age 41 on 22 May 1788.  The year before his death, he had drawn a pension from the State of Virginia for his services and in 1787, he had bought land in Orange County.  Mildred inherited that land and in 1791, she petitioned the Virginia General Assembly for the delinquent payments on the Revolutionary pension of her son Catlett and eventually her request was granted.  She received the pension for caring for Catlett during the last days of his illness.  “The petition of Mildred James humbly showeth that her son Catlett James was a pensioner residing in the County of Orange.  That the said Catlett was entirely supported by your Petitioner from the 29th day of December 1786 till 22nd day of May 1788 when the said Catlett James departed this life…”  (Virginia Revolutionary War State Pension).

Because Mildren had to raise her children by herself after losing her husband at a young age and she did manage to do fairly well for herself and her children despite many obstacles, I consider her a very strong, determined woman!  She had her share of sorrow in losing two sons during her lifetime but didn’t ever give up.  Mildred made her own will on 28 Oct 1802, leaving her property to some of her children and grandchildren and she died 25 April 1803 in Orange County at about age 76.  In her will, she mentions daughter, Betty Smith, son James, granddaughter Milly James and leaves her land to daughter Milly Atkins in equal part with her brothers.   Even in the end, all she did was for her children.


  • Trimble, David B, Montgomery and James of southwest Virginia, Austin, Texas: D. B. Trimble, c1992; Pages 10-16.
  • Bassett, John Spencer, ed., The Southern Plantation Overseer as Revealed in His Letters, 1925.
  • Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com); memorial page for Samuel James, Memorial No.: 190225311
  • Marshall, Wigfield, Pioneer Families of Franklin County, Virginia, Berryville, VA. Chesapeake Book Co., 1964: Orange County, Virginia, Tithables.
  • Heads of Family, Virginia, 1790.
  • Hening, William Waller. The Statutes at Large…of Virginia (Philadelphia: Thomas Desiler, 1823). Vol. 13, p. 322; Petition #2532, Virginia State Archives.
  • Virginia Revolutionary War State Pension, published by Virginia Genealogical Society: James, Catlett; File 213: Orange Co., 23 Apr 1792, Court Order to pay Mildred James pension due her on account of Catlett James, dec’d, signed by James Taylor.
  • Virginia Revolutionary War Muster Rolls, Petition #2532; Virginia State Archives; Orange County, Virginia, Deed Bk. 19, p. 162.
  • Orange County, Virginia, Deed Bk. 13, p. 497: Deed Bk. 24, P. 109; Will Bk. 4, p. 74.


Spencer James – Prosperity Meant Land!

#52ancestors:  Week 8     Prosperity

In my research of ancestors in the 1700s and 1800s, it seems prosperity meant owning land – and the more land, the better!   Land for production of wealth and providing a living was of immense importance.   Everything we use and our ancestors used can be ultimately traced to land.  Land, for many of my ancestors, could be called the original source of material wealth.   They may have forgotten to register the births of some of their children but always recorded their land transactions!  Some ancestors were able to amass large tracts of land and some didn’t.  This week, I am particularly thinking about my fifth great-grandparents, Spencer James and Frances Davis James.  They started out with little and bought a land here and there until they accumulated a legacy to pass on to their heirs.

Map, Orange County VA Map 1740

Spencer James was really named “James Spencer James” but used the name “Spencer James” in most records.  He was born about 1750 in Orange County, Virginia and lived in St. Thomas Parish.  He was the son of Samuel James and Mildred Taliaferro.  He married Frances Davis on 22 August 1780 in Orange County.  Frances was the daughter of James Davis, an English Immigrant, and Catherine Samuel, the widow of Henry Samuel.  James Davis and Catherine married in 1752 and Frances was born about 1753.

Franklin Co VA road sign 001Two years after their marriage, Spencer was listed on the Orange Co. VA tax lists in 1782  where he paid taxes on 7 horses, and 4 cattle.  The next year, they moved to Henry County, Virginia and paid taxes on one horse and two slaves in 1783.  That part of Henry County later became Franklin County.  Now this didn’t seem like they had much to start off with but on 3 October 1796, Spencer received a grant of 120 acres on Runnett Bag Creek and Smith River in Franklin County.  The Creek and Smith River are outlined on the map below.

James, Spencer, map of land 001
According to land records,  Spencer James had his land on Runnett Bag Creek and Smith River which are in red above. Part of his land was in neighboring Patrick County as well as the southwest part of Franklin County. 

Then in December of 1797, he bought 200 more acres on Smith River for just 100 pounds and 20 more acres on Nicholas Creek.  This was just the beginning of his land deals as he bought another 300 acres in 1809 from a future son-in-law, Waddy Thompson.

He sold 100 acres and 30 acres on Nicholas creek at a profit in 1801 and 1803 and continued buying more land.   By 1811, Spencer and Frances had amassed more than 1400 acres!   They had created a prosperous legacy to leave for their children.  They had eight known children with the last child being born in about 1799.  One son, Catlett James served in the Revolutionary War in the 1st and 10th Virginia Regiments.   The daughter, Mildred James, married Jerman Baker who was later a member of the Virginia Legislature in 1813.   Another daughter, Frances Baker James, married Ezekiel James and they were my fifth great-grandparents.  A younger daughter, Phoebe Byrd James who I wrote about before, married Chesley Ashlin and they were my fourth great-grandparents!  The youngest daughter, Elizabeth Booker James married William James who was known for making some of the best corn liquor in Smyth County!

Frances Davis James died in 1814 at about age61 or 62 but Spencer  lived until age 84 and died 22 February 1834 in Franklin County, Virginia.  Their burial places are unknown.  You can find stories of their children that I have written on the following links:

James James

Getting to Know Phoebe Byrd James Ashlin

Franklin Co, VA Map 001