How Jack and Jill Helped Solve the Holly Brick Wall

This post is dedicated to the memory of Paula Kelly Ward (1942-2022) who passed away on 28 July 2022. Her passion for genealogy research and the PETERS family is reflected in her work as well as that of the many she helped. She looked forward to seeing this DNA mystery solved.

Who was the father of Sanford H. HOLLY born in May 1847 in Franklin County, Virginia?

I didn’t set out to ask this research question or try to open the door in my cousin’s brick wall. The pieces of the puzzle came together with a bit of genealogy sleuthing, DNA tools, and curiosity on my part.

Sanford H. HOLLY (1847-1924)

Sanford H. HOLLY, born in Franklin County, Virginia, first married on 15 March 1864 at the age of 17.  The marriage register names Jack PETERS and Martha J. LOYD as his parents. In the remarks column, it is noted that the husband was illegitimate.1 This would explain why the groom’s surname was not PETERS.

Franklin County Register of Marriages entry for Sanford Holley and Elizabeth Ray

Why was his surname HOLLY? Martha Jane HOLLY, the daughter of James and Elizabeth HOLLY, married Thomas J. LOYD (LLOYD) in 1861.2 It was the only marriage found and indicates she was widowed. Was it assumed she was widowed as she had children?

Further research shows her parents, James HOLLY and Elizabeth RAFE married on 1 November 1809.3

Other researchers misread the marriage register entry and/or the marriage license of Sanford H. HOLLY and assumed his parents were Jack Peters HOLLY and Martha J. LOYD. I found the marriage register AFTER I suspected the PETERS connection. More about this later. Suspecting the connection helped me to look at the record differently than others had.

An image of the marriage license is attached to my cousin Laura’s tree. I was not able to locate this record online. The image has punched holes on the left side and appears to be the scan of a photocopy made of the original at the courthouse. The scanned record doesn’t include information on the husband being illegitimate. The parents’ names were written: Jack Peters & Martha J. Loyd. As with the entry in the register of marriages, the groom’s surname was HOLLY and it has been incorrectly assumed the father was a HOLLY. With this mistake, Jack PETERS became Jack Peters HOLLY.

On the 1900 census, Sanford’s birth month and year are listed as May 1847.4 It is more likely that he was born in May 1846 as he was not yet 18 in March 1864 when he married. For research purposes, I will assume he was born between May 1846 and May 1847.

Based on the information provided in his marriage record, Sanford was illegitimate and born about 1846-1847, his mother would have had a relationship with a man named Jack PETERS in 1845-1846. The father Jack would have been born about 1825 or earlier.

PETERS families of Franklin County, Virginia

Zachariah PETERS and his wife Kesiah LIVELY came to Franklin County around 1810 from Amherst County.5,6 There were other PETERS families in the Franklin County area. They were of German descent and not related to Zachariah PETERS of Amherst.

Paula Kelly Ward, a PETERS researcher, wrote in 2000:7

Franklin County VA had more than one Peters family. Two of these families were, without question, of German descent, and they and their descendants married other German families in the area.

What has been very interesting to me is that an analysis of these families reveals that Zachariah’s descendants did not marry any of the Peters of German descent nor any other German families in Franklin County VA. However, looking at a few cousin marriages, it appears that my Peters family definitely liked their own Peters family better than others!!! 😀

At any rate, Zachariah’s descendants did not marry into the German families in that area until the 20th century, and that is what caused the confusion in our Peters family research.

As will become clear later in this post, the German PETERS lines were not considered for this research question.

The candidates: PETERS-LIVELY grandsons

The male descendants of Zachariah PETERS and his wife Kesiah LIVELY were studied.

In 1846 Zachariah and Kesiah had four sons born between 1796 and 1810.

◉ Jordan, living in Fayette County, was 50 years old, father of 14 living children, and married 5 years to his 3rd wife.8

◉ William was about 48 years old, father of 4 children, and married 5 years to his second wife. He was in Franklin when he married in 1841.9 He was missed (or not yet found) in the 1840, 1850, and 1860 censuses. Further research is needed to prove he was living in 1846.

◉ Willis was 37 years old, married 17 years, and father of 8 children.

◉ Joseph was 36 years old, married 16 years, and father of 7 children.

These four men were all in marital relationships in 1846 with wives who were still bearing children. Although one of them could have strayed, it is more likely one of their sons could be Sanford’s father.

Jordan had sons who could have been the father of Sanford. William had sons born in 1826 (Owen) and 1828 (Henry) but they were not as likely to be the father of Sanford as Jordan’s sons. Willis and Joseph had sons but they were not old enough to be the father of Sanford born in 1846-1847.

Jordan had four sons who were 20 years or older in 1846: Henry, Zachariah, Stephen, and Jonathan. Henry and Stephen as well as two underage sons of Jordan were in Franklin County in 1845 on the personal property tax (PPT) lists.10 The two sons under 21 were Jonathan and James. Zachariah born in 1822 was not on the 1845 list.

Jordan moved his family to Fayette County around this time. He was on the PPT lists from 1846 to 1849. He lived in an area of Fayette that became Raleigh County in 1850.

◉  Henry b. 1821 was in Fayette County (now West Virginia) in February 1847 when he married.11

◉ Zachariah b. 1822 was in Franklin County on 27 November 1846 when he took out a bond with his future brother-in-law and on 3 December 1846 when he married Ally HALE.12

◉ Stephen b. 1824 was in Franklin County in January 1848 when he married.13

◉  Jonathan b. 1827 was likely with his father in Fayette County. He was not found on the 1850 census, i.e. he was not with his father. He didn’t marry until 1852 in Raleigh County (now West Virginia).14

It is unlikely that Henry, Stephen, or Jonathan went by Jack.


From Sanford’s marriage record we know that his father’s name was Jack PETERS.

Did Jordan’s son Zachariah PETERS (1822-1899) also go by the name Jack? Zachariah PETERS is the name seen on the census and in marriage records. No middle initial or nickname.

There are online trees with his name as Zachariah Jack PETERS or Zachariah Jackson PETERS. I searched for records that might include the nickname Jack or Zack or a middle name Jackson.

A civil war muster roll card was found for Zach PETERS. A private in the 21st
Virginia Cavalry, Capt. A. O. Dobyns’ Company, Peters’ Regiment, he
enlisted on 22 August 1863 at Floyd County Court House and was absent
with leave from January 1 to October 31, 1864. The reason for his absence was given as, “At home on wounded furlough, right leg amputated.” This matches the known information on Zachariah and shows that he also went by Zach.15

In 1870 Zachariah’s brother James wrote a letter in which he twice referred to him as Brother Zech.16

Zachariah was married three times and had at least 17 children between 1847 and 1895. Birth registers for Franklin begin in 1853. The early births were not registered. Most of the birth records have Zachariah as the father’s name. In three records, the father was seen as Zach or Zack: George born in 1854 (Zach), an unnamed daughter born in 1862 (Zack), and Martha Ella born in 1875 (Zack).17,18,19

Marriage records of Charles Robert PETERS and of Bessie Lee PETERS list Zach PETERS as the father.20,21

Death records of 13 children were found. The NC certificate of death of Charles Robert PETERS (1894-1961) gives W. J. PETERS as the father.22 This is an error as his birth record gives Z. Peters as the father. The certificate of death of James Jordan PETERS (1849-1927) names James Z. PETERS as the father. 23 This is the only record indicating the name James, likely an error on the part of the informant as no other records have been found with James as one of the names of Zachariah.

The certificates of death of Mary Jane PETERS (1852-1920) and Joseph Coleman PETERS (1865-1927) give the father’s name as Jackson PETERS.24,25 It is not unusual for the names of the parents on a certificate of death to be incorrect as the information is not being given by the decedent. However, it seems possible that Zachariah PETERS was also known as Jackson PETERS as two of his children’s death records have this name.

The memorial on Find A Grave lists his name as Zachariah Jackson PETERS.26 It doesn’t include a photo or documentation. Paula Kelly Ward shared a picture of the grave marker taken by Otis C. Scott on 20 November 2009. The name on the marker is Zachriah PETERS (sic, not Zachariah).

The research question has been asked and the known facts presented. The DNA evidence will now be revealed.


In mid-June, while reviewing and adding MRCAs to my DNA matches in the 50 cM range, a match with a peculiar username caught my attention. I’ll call her Jill. A tree is attached to the DNA with the names of her paternal grandparents but without dates and places. I’d looked at this match several times and wasn’t able to figure out how she fit into my tree.

While viewing Jill’s shared matches (also known as in common with or ICW), I noticed that my father’s paternal first cousin E.D. was on the list. My match with Jill is for 51 cM across 4 segments. As I have access to E.D.’s DNA, I know that Jill shares 61 cM across 3 segments with her. At the time, I thought this match might help solve the DEMPSEY brick wall I share with E.D. since she fell in the Extended Family range for E.D. and in the Distant Family range for me.

On Jill’s Ancestry profile, there is another tree (3 persons) with the names of her parents with dates of birth and death. I recognized her mother’s name, being a cousin to my father on his maternal line.

Jill is my 3C1R (third cousin once removed) through Moses, the son of my 3rd great-grandparents Jordan N. PETERS and Rachel PROFFITT and a 5C through Betsy, the daughter of my 4th great-grandparents Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah LIVELY. In the chart below, Jill’s maternal grandfather shares all of the pink ancestors with me:

Jill’s maternal grandfather’s tree

Chart #1 (pedigree chart generated with Ancestral Quest 16)

This match is on my father’s maternal grandfather’s side. As can be seen in the charts below, my Dad and E.D. are first cousins and share only their paternal lines (blue and green in the charts below).

Dad’s Tree

Chart #2 (pedigree chart generated with Ancestral Quest 16)

E.D’s Tree

Chart #3 (pedigree chart generated with Ancestral Quest 16)

E.D.’s tree has been well researched by her deceased sister Geraldine Dempsey Workman (1931-2007). Her research was sent to me in 1992 and awakened my interest in genealogy.

How are Jill and E.D. related?

I have access to 3 tests of descendants of Earl Stanley DEMPSEY (1910-1968) and Thelma Mae HOLLY (1914-1959) through 3 of their 4 children. E.D. is their daughter, Laura is E.D.’s niece through her sister Geraldine, and Sheila is E.D.’s niece through her brother James. The fourth child, a son, didn’t have any known children. E.D. is the only living child of the couple.

E.D.’s mother Thelma Mae HOLLY has an NPE (non-paternity event, i.e. father unknown) on her paternal side. The father of Thelma’s grandfather Sanford H. HOLLY is unknown hence my research question at the beginning of this post.

Jill and I share the PETERS-PROFFITT and the PETERS-LIVELY couples as MRCA. E.D. and I share the DEMPSEY-INGRAM couple as MRCA. But which couple or individual does E.D. and Jill share as MRCA?

E.D.’s and my ICW matches

The ICW matches for E.D. and myself on AncestryDNA are associated with our shared ancestors William Henderson DEMPSEY and Laura Belle INGRAM and their lines back. Matches attributed to my PETERS-PROFFITT and PETERS-LIVELY ancestors are also showing up in the list of shared matches. However, none are assigned to PROFFITT-COCKRAM (the parents of Rachel PROFFITT, 3rd wife of Jordan N. PETERS). Therefore I continued my analysis by concentrating on the PETERS branch and not the PROFFITT branch of my tree.

E.D.’s raw DNA file was uploaded to GEDmatch in 2018. Only 8 of my matches with MRCA being PETERS-PROFFITT or PETERS-LIVELY were found on GEDmatch to be in common with E.D. None of these matches share segments with E.D. and myself, i.e. there are no triangulations. All of the segments that E.D. shares with me (and/or my brother) are matches on our paternal side.

Does E.D. have matches with descendants of the  PETERS-LIVELY couple?

Over the years, I’ve worked on several generations of descendants of Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah LIVELY, mainly following their son Jordan N. PETERS’ descendants. There was intermarriage in the line which makes the research a bit of a challenge. This can be seen in the case of Jill being a descendant of the PETERS-LIVELY couple through both of her paternal grandfather’s parents (see chart #1). This is only one example.

I’ve been working with E.D.’s test results since 2018. I imported her AncestryDNA matches, their shared matches, and their trees to Genome Mate Pro, an earlier version of GDAT (Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool). Her profile in GDAT has since been updated with new matches. Until now, I concentrated only on her paternal matches and ignored her maternal line.

Looking over E.D.’s maternal matches

With this new development, I began analyzing 300+ trees of maternal matches for E.D.  Concentrating on her closest HOLLY matches and their shared matches, I found that the connection to Jill is likely coming through E.D.’s great-grandfather Sanford H. HOLLY’s unknown father.

Not all matches have trees attached to their AncestryDNA or their profiles on Ancestry. The same is true for GEDmatch. By comparing associated family groups, trees were built out for matches with small trees. Having a large tree with many descendants of the ancestors of interest makes the tree-building process easier. For many of the incomplete trees, one person with the PETERS surname was enough to take the match back to the common ancestors. I use One2Tree to convert my pedigree tree to an ahnentafel list that I import into GDAT.

Maternal matches on the HOLLY branch

As I marked maternal matches for E.D. with MRCA and added notes, a picture began to develop. Each MRCA was given a group name identifying the shared ancestral couple. These are the groups with the number of matches found in parenthesis (data from July 2022):

◉ Dempsey-Holly (11) – all descendants of Earl and Thelma (324 to 2139 cM)
◉ Holly-Parrish (1) – 1C1R, a descendant of Thelma’s sister (437 cM)
◉ Holly-Wray (17) – descendants of Sanford’s 1st marriage (12 to 249 cM)
◉ Holly-Ray (22) – descendants of Sanford’s 2nd marriage (14 to 246 cM)
◉ Holly-Rafe (6) – descendants of Sanford’s maternal grandparents (33 to 57 cM)
◉ Peters-Lively (215) – descendants of Zachariah and Kesiah (8 to 113 cM)

The closest matches were for Dempsey-Holly: E.D.’s children, grandchildren, nieces, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews. These were followed by matches back through the HOLLY line to Holly-Rafe.

After finding the known ancestors, I was left with 215 matches in common with the HOLLY matches who are descendants of Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah LIVELY.

The German PETERS line of Franklin County

As trees were added, built out, and analyzed, the absence of matches descending from the German PETERS line in Franklin County made itself clear and that line was not considered for this research question.

Matches with PETERS-LIVELY

The PETERS-LIVELY group ranges from 112.8 cM across 5 segments down to 8 cM across 1 segment with an average of 32 cM. There are likely many more but I concentrated on matches with trees and over 40 cM. The number of generations back to the PETERS-LIVELY couple indicates the 4th cousin range (sharing 3rd great-grandparents).

More matches below 40 cM with PETERS-LIVELY in their trees were found using GDAT features to sort matches, search their trees, etc.

The PETERS-LIVELY matches were split further. These are the children of Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah LIVELY (the number of matches found in parenthesis):

◉ Jordan N. thru his 1st marriage to Troup (166)*
◉ Jordan N. thru his 3rd marriage to Proffitt (25)
◉ Mary (0)
◉ William (5)
◉ Elizabeth (7)
◉ Lucy (0)
◉ Willis (42)*
◉ Joseph (1)
◉ Nancy (3)
◉ Susan (0)

*Note: Jordan’s granddaughter through his son Zachariah married Willis’ son and 29 matches come from this union. They are included in the total for both Jordan (166) and Willis (42).

Narrowing down to PETERS-TROUP

The largest amount of matches are descendants of Jordan N. PETERS and his first wife Mary TROUP. These matches were split further by the children of this marriage:

◉ Cynthia (5)
◉ Henry T. (23)
◉ Zachariah (73)
◉ Stephen (1) (+2 need to be proven)
◉ Mary (22)
◉ Jonathan (16)
◉ James (7)
◉ Jane (marriage and children have not been proven)
◉ Martha Ann (2)
◉ William (17)

Zachariah is represented by more matches than any of the other children of the PETERS-TROUP couple. The PETERS families were large. Zachariah married three times and was the father of 16 children. His father, also married three times and was the father of 21.

E.D.’s matches from highest to 50 cM were clustered

Before continuing I’d like to share the results of another tool I use. With Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool, I clustered E.D.’s top 333 matches (50 cM and greater).

After adding MRCA notes from GDAT to the Excel sheet of the clustered matches, I identified the four grandparents and used colors for visualization. PGF=blue, PGM=green, MGF=pink, and MGM=yellow. Color highlighting is not a feature of Shared Clustering.

E.D.’s 50 cM and greater matches clustered using Jonathan Brecher’s Shared Clustering tool.

◉ Matches coming from the DEMPSEY branch were marked blue and lighter blue for more distant matches (Wood, Honaker, Wiseman).
◉ Matches coming from the INGRAM branch were marked green
◉ Matches coming from the HOLLY-RAY branch were marked bright pink
◉ Matches coming from the PARRISH branch were marked yellow
◉ Bright green indicates overlap in the DEMPSEY and INGRAM branches as two Dempsey brothers, William and Elijah, married Ingram sisters, Laura and Octavia.
◉ Purple is another group of matches that overlap. Descendants of DEMPSEY and HOLLY through the marriage of Samuel San HOLLY (son of Sanford) and Louisa A. DEMPSEY (a granddaughter of William A. W. DEMPSEY and Sarah Ann WOOD).
◉ The large lighter pink cluster represents Sanford H. HOLLY’s unknown paternal branch. Matches here include Holly-Parrish(1), Holly-Ray(3), Peters-Troup(26), Peters-Lively(19), and matches without trees(17).

The DNA picture was becoming clearer. PETERS-TROUP and PETERS-LIVELY matches (50 cM and greater) point to the father of Sanford H. HOLLY being a PETERS.


Very few of the E.D.’s matches on AncestryDNA have their raw DNA files uploaded to GEDmatch. Below are 13 matches who have their tests on GEDmatch and have been identified as descendants of Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah LIVELY.

Imagine what this would look like if the over 300 matches I’ve identified as descendants of PETERS-LIVELY AncestryDNA had their tests on GEDmatch or if Ancestry had a chromosome browser on their website.


And that is how Jack and Jill helped solve the Holly brick wall.

Taking into account the number of maternal matches E.D. has with descendants of Jordan N. PETERS and Mary TROUP in their trees, the DNA evidence clearly points to this couple being the grandparents of Sanford H. HOLLY. The largest group of matches are the descendants of their son Zachariah. Further, Zachariah PETERS seen as Jackson PETERS on the death records of two of his children may have also been called Jack PETERS.

Considering all of the above, it is likely that Zachariah PETERS (1822-1899) was the father of Sanford H. HOLLY (1847-1924).

© 2022, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. “Virginia, U.S., Marriage Registers, 1853-1935,” (index and images), Ancestry (, citing Virginia, Marriage Registers, 1853–1935 at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., Franklin County Register of Marriages 1864, no page number, line 14, Sanford Holley and Elizabeth Ray (accessed 14 June 2022). 
  2. Ibid., Franklin County Register of Marriages 1861, no page number, line 1, Thomas J Loyd and Martha Jane Holly, married 21 Apr 1861 (accessed 27 July 2022). 
  3. Dodd, Jordan R., Et Al.; Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850, index-only database, Ancestry, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, 1 Nov 1809, James Holley and Elizabeth Rafe 
  4. 1900 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (, citing Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, Roll T623_1757, FHL microfilm 1241757; West Virginia, Fayette County, Fayetteville, enumeration district 12, sheet 32A, lines 15-28, household 533-539, John Stout household with his father-in-law Sanford Holly (accessed 27 July 2022). 
  5. Zachariah was first seen on the Franklin County PPT list in 1811. He was last in Amherst on the PPT list in 1804. From 1805 to 1810 he was not on Amherst or Franklin PPT lists. 
  6. 1810 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (, citing Third Census of the United States, 1810 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls, Roll 68, FHL Film 0181428, image 43, Virginia, Amherst County, page 492, line 1, Zachariah Peters (accessed 16 November 2014). 
  7. Paula Kelly Ward, RootsWeb PETERS Mailing List, “[PETERS] Re: Franklin Co VA Peters: German or English? (was: Zachariah Peters)” dated 19 April 2000 ( : accessed 25 July 2022) 
  8. Virginia. Commissioner of the Revenue (Fayette County), “Personal property tax lists, 1831-1850,” (browse-only images), FamilySearch Microfilm of original records at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia, Film 2024536, DGS 7849112, image 416 of 589, 1846 PPT, district of George Alderson, page 19, 3rd to last entry on page, Jordan Peters, 1 white male above 16 yrs (only column marked). ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  9. Franklin County (Virginia). County Clerk, “Marriage bond register, 1786-1853; loose marriage bonds and licenses, 1785-1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, citing microfilm of original records at the Franklin County Courthouse in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia., Film 1977991, DGS 7490230, Marriage bonds 1813-1818, image 758 to 761 of 880, 1841 marriage bond William Peters and Jesse Edwards for the 27 March 1841 marriage of William to Lydia Kemplin and bride’s permission for William Peters to obtain the license. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  10. Virginia. Commissioner of the Revenue (Franklin County), “Personal property tax lists, 1786-1850,” (browse-only images), FamilySearch Microfilm of original records at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia, Film 2024543, DGS 7849118, Personal property tax lists, 1842-1850, image 206 of 767, 1845 PPT, Robert Hairston dist., page 33, line 13, Apr 4, Jourden Peters 3 white males above 16, 1 horse, 1 clock. ( : accessed 21 July 2022). 
  11. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History citing county records in county courthouses, West Virginia (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at, West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, image 210, Fayette County, Marriage Record 1831-1866, page 41, 5th entry, Henry T Peters and Rebecca F Clay married 2 Feb 1847 by James J Dolliver. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  12. Franklin County (Virginia). County Clerk, “Marriage bond register, 1786-1853; loose marriage bonds and licenses, 1785-1900,” database with images, FamilySearch, citing microfilm of original records at the Franklin County Courthouse in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia., Film 31523 Item 1, DGS 7578970, Marriage bonds register 1786-1853, image 95 of 608, page 77, line 3274, Zachariah Peters and Ally Hale, bond dated 27 Nov 1846, surety David Hale, married by John Bowman 3 Dec 1846. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  13. Ibid., Film 31523 Item 1, DGS 7578970, Marriage bonds register 1786-1853, image 95 of 608, page 77, line 3270, Stephen Peters and Elizabeth Palmer, bond dated3 Jan 1848, surety Samuel T Palmer, married by Geo. W. Kelly on 13 Jan 1848. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  14., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 598403, image 53, Marriage Record – Raleigh County, page 5, entry 6, 7 Jun 1852 (license) for Jonathan Peters and Catharine Dickens married 10 Jun 1852 by Fetin Ellison. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  15. “Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Virginia,” database with images, Fold3 (, citing The National Archives, NARA microfilm publication M324,  Roll 168, Twenty-first Cavalry (Peters’ Regiment) > P > Peters, Zachariah > Page 4. ( : accessed 1 October 2022). 
  16. James Peters (Boone County, West Virginia) to “Dear Brother” [Zachariah Peters], letter, 5 November 1870; held by Franklin County Virginia Historical Society, Rocky Mount, Virginia (copy received 9 June 2014 per email from Paula Kelley Ward). The recipient, “Zechariah Peters” is identified at the end of the letter. 
  17. “Virginia, U.S., Birth Registers, 1853-1911,” (index and images), Ancestry (, citing Virginia, Birth Registers, 1853–1911at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., Franklin County Register of Births 1854, page 29, line 24, 4 Jul 1854, Geo. W. Peters, male, alive, father Zach Peters, mother Alen Hale, informant Z Peters (accessed 22 July 2022). 
  18. Ibid., Franklin County Register of Births 1862, page 145, line 35, 23 Aug 1862, no name, female, white, stillborn, father Zack Peters, farmer, mother Ann Peters, informant Zack Peters father (accessed 25 July 2022). 
  19. Ibid., Franklin County Register of Births 1875, page 318, line 97, 26 Feb 1875, Martha E Peters, female, white, father Zack Peters, mother Narcissus Peters, informant father (accessed 22 July 2022). 
  20. “Virginia, U.S., Marriage Registers, 1853-1935,” index and images, Ancestry (, citing Virginia, Marriage Registers, 1853–1935 at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., Franklin County Register of Marriages 1924, no page number, line 177, 24 Dec 1924, Chas.Robt.Peters 30 single & Willie Mae Hash 22 single, groom’s parents Zack & N V Peters, bride’s parents W P & Roxie Hash, married by J W Wimbish (accessed 22 July 2022). 
  21. “Registers of births, marriages, deaths, 1853-1915; index to births, marriages, deaths, 1853-1898,” browse-only, FamilySearch, citing microfilm of original records at the Franklin County Courthouse in Rocky Mount, Virginia., Film 31523 (Items 2-3) DGS 7578970, Register of marriages, nos. 1-2 1853-1915, image 590 of 608, line 7, 14 Aug 1912 Jehu Robt Booth and Bessie Lee Peters. ( : accessed 18 July 2022). 
  22. “North Carolina, U.S., Death Certificates, 1909-1976,” index and images, Ancestry (, Original data:North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina., Rockingham > 1961 > November > image 3 of 54 > Volume: 33, Page: 306, Charles R. Peters, died 2 No 1961, Rockingham, NC, age 67, born 1894, white (accessed 18 July 2022). 
  23. “Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014,” index and images, Ancestry (, citing Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia, Certificate Number: 1927024373, James Jordan Peters, male, white, age 79, born 3 Mar 1848, died 22 Nov 1927 in Franklin, Virginia, father James Z Peters, mother Alley Hale, spouse Mary Jane Peters (accessed 1 October 2022). 
  24. Ibid., Certificate Number: 1920010546, Mary J Peters, female, white, age 69, born 9 Jun 1850, died 21 Apr 1920 in Floyd, Virginia, father Jackson Peters, mother Allie Hale (accessed 19 July 2022). 
  25. Ibid., Certificate Number: 1927017432, Joseph Coleman Peters, male, white, age 61, born 13 Nov 1865, died 26 Aug 1927 in Botetourt, Virginia, father Jackson Peters, spouse Lillian Peters (accessed 19 July 2022). 
  26. Find a Grave, database and images ( accessed 01 October 2022), memorial page for Zachariah Jackson Peters (14 May 1822–15 Feb 1899), Find a Grave Memorial ID 92078774, citing Peters Cemetery, Ferrum, Franklin County, Virginia, USA; Maintained by gardengirl (contributor 47349735). No photo of the marker as of 1 October 2022. 

My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2022

It’s time for my Ancestor Score! 

This is my 9th year doing the Ancestor Score on Valentine’s Day. I first read about this way keeping tabs on the progress of genealogy research on Barbara Schmidt’s blog Connecting the Worlds in 2014.

Last year I cut off the ancestors after the 10th generation.  This year I’m bringing back the full scoreboard with comparisons to even years only since the chart was getting too large.

My Ancestor Score

In generation 6, I’m still missing the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY. I wonder if this generation will ever hit 100%. The increase in generation 7 was an ancestor I discovered last year.

While researching 5th great-grandparents in my maternal line, parents and grandparents of the persons of interest were discovered increasing the numbers in generations 9 and 10. At least one record confirming the names was found and reasonably exhaustive research still needs to be conducted.

In the early generations, the numbers fluctuate when I find a branch that needs a bit of pruning. More often than not, when I prune a branch it starts sprouting new shoots.

My Children’s Ancestor Score

My children’s ancestor score seems to have an error in generation 10. I think I may have miscounted back in 2020 and carried it over in 2021.

Their first eight generations are nearly 96% known. They have all been written up except for Henry TREADWAY and Sarah JOHNSON (5th greats) and the living persons in the first three generations.

How do you keep track of your ancestors?

And what does your Ancestor Score look like? Do you keep track of your ancestors differently?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The posts from previous years can be found here:

© 2022, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Focusing on William A. W. Dempsey’s DNA Using Chromosomes Analysis and Segment Maps

I took a break from blogging to give myself time to work on a DNA problem. It was only supposed to be for a few weeks, a month tops. Except for my article on the flooding in our part of Europe, I haven’t posted any new content to my blog in two and a half months.

As many of my readers know, I’ve been doing genealogy for nearly three decades and blogging in my eighth year. Writing for my blog has taught me to be a better researcher and writer.

DNA is complicated

This may be one of the reasons people who have their DNA tested are more interested in their ethnicity than in looking into who they got their DNA from. Many are not into genealogy or have the time to spend hours analyzing match lists or creating quick bare-bones trees (also known as Q&D or quick-and-dirty trees) for matches. In writing this post, I hope to reach some of my many distant cousins who could help me with my search.

Understanding where the DNA comes from

I’ve been working with my brother’s autosomal DNA results for over five years, my own for nearly two years, and my mother’s for a year and a half. All three were done with AncestryDNA.

Maternal Matches

Mom’s test has helped sort the maternal matches but wasn’t really necessary. My brother and I have few matches who are descended from our maternal lines as our mother is Luxembourgish – with all known ancestors coming from Luxembourg or parts of France, Germany, and Belgium that were once part of a greater Luxembourg. Close cousins (4th cousins or closer) on AncestryDNA total 375 compared to the circa 3,000 that my brother and I have. Many of the 275 are descendants of Luxembourg emigrants who settled in America. Our mother is their link back to Luxembourg and helps anchor their DNA.

Paternal Matches

My brother’s and my autosomal DNA results have confirmed the paper trail we have for our known paternal ancestors for at least six generations. For some branches in the tree, we have confirmation for nine generations or more.

Color groups on AncestryDNA

To better understand where the DNA comes from, I worked out a color/group system on AncestryDNA that goes back to the 6th generation ancestors (my paternal 4th great-grandparents). This helps to sort new matches.

Screenshot courtesy of AncestryDNA.

As the parents of my 2nd great-grandfather, William A. W. DEMPSEY are unknown, the first group is for the 4th generation ancestors. This allowed me to split the HONAKER-WISEMAN matches into two sub-groups: HONEGGER-GOETZ (as HONAKER was previously written) and WISEMAN-DAVIS of the 7th generation. As can be seen by the numbers in parenthesis, these are large clusters of matches.

PGF – paternal grandfather (blue)
PGM – paternal grandmother (green)
MGF – maternal grandfather (pink)
MGM -maternal grandmother (yellow)

Using colors in the family tree

The colors I use on AncestryDNA for the groups match the colors used in genealogy software charts.

The pedigree chart courtesy of Ancestral Quest 16

Mapping the DNA segments with GDAT

The same color system has been used to map our known DNA segments using the Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool or GDAT.

Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT)

Becky Mason Walker’s Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT) is the repository I use to manage my DNA tests.

The database is stored locally on my computer and has no connection to the internet. I can import DNA matches from the different testing companies, do triangulation and in common with (ICW) comparisons, map the chromosomes of common ancestors, mark the most recent common ancestors (MRCA), add Ahnentafels (tress) of the matches, and do analysis work that helps with the family tree research. The tool provides easier-to-see patterns and clues to solve the genetic genealogy questions with all information in one place.

Segment Maps

I’ve mentioned the color groups, Shared Clustering, and GDAT in previous posts.

Look Who’s Finally Taken the Autosomal DNA Test

Unraveling the Mystery of George W. Dempsey, son of Seaton Y. Dempsey and Clementine Gowing (Part 3)

Mapping DNA segments is something I haven’t written about.

GDAT automatically maps DNA segments when the MRCA (parental/maternal side and group name) is identified. GDAT chooses the color for the segment but allows the user to change it using a color picker.

Autosomal DNA Segment Map courtesy of the Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT). Group names on right for MRCAs for surnames B-J.
Autosomal DNA Segment Map courtesy of the Genealogical DNA Analysis Tool (GDAT). Group names on right for MRCAs for surnames K-W.

The DNA segment map shows the paternal (top) and maternal (bottom) sides of each chromosome. In the examples, the maternal side is mostly dark gray as we share WILDINGER-FOURNELLE (our grandparents/Mom’s parents) with our mother.

Although many of the maternal matches on AncestryDNA have been identified, very few segments can be added to the map as chromosome information is not available on Ancestry. Those seen are from FTDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDmatch.

This post is about my paternal matches and therefore only the top bar of each chromosome is of interest.

Comparing sibling DNA

The color groups on AncestryDNA as well as those in the family tree are used to map the DNA segments. For the example, below, the green, pink, and yellow groups have only two shades. I’ve kept these groups simple to show that siblings don’t share all of the same DNA. They share about 50% of the same DNA. Less color makes it easier to see the four groups of the grandparents.

My paternal grandfather’s paternal ancestry, the blue groups, include purple for first cousins who share all four color groups and red to highlight our DEMPSEY brick wall. A darker blue is used for second cousins and lighter blues for more distant cousins.

The maps show all segment matches that have been assigned a most recent common ancestor (MRCA).

Side by side comparison of siblings’ DNA segment maps for all generations.

On chromosome 1, my DNA segments are from my father’s paternal side: PGF (blue and red) and PGM (green). My brother received mostly DNA from our father’s maternal side: MGF (pink) and MGM (green). On chromosomes 5, 10, 17, and 19 we share more DNA from the same groups. Still, there are gaps – chromosomes segments that have not been identified (light gray, see chromosomes 6, 7, and 9). These are segments that could lead to several of the brick walls in our tree including the ancestry of William A. W. DEMPSEY.

The segment map in GDAT can be filtered by generation making it easy to see where segments are coming from.

Generation 2 (1st cousins)

Cathy’s segment map for 2 generations.

Purple segments are 1st cousins who share our paternal grandparents, Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY and Myrtle Hazel ROOP – the generation 2 ancestors. These include 1st cousins once removed (1C1R), matches from the younger generation. Seven of the 24 grandchildren of Fred and Myrtle are represented in this map. More would be ideal but I am happy to work with what I have.

Generation 3 (2nd cousins)

Cathy’s segment map for 3 generations.

The dark blue and pink segments cover the purple segments as they represent one generation further back.

Dark blue segments are 2nd cousins who share William Henderson DEMPSEY and Laura Belle INGRAM. Matches have been found for six of their eight children who had descendants.

Pink segments are 2nd cousins who share Walter Farmer ROOP and Rebecca Jane CLONCH. Three of their six children have tested descendants.

Generation 4 (3rd cousins)

Cathy’s segment map for 4 generations.

Red, more easily distinguishable from the rest of the blue groups, is for 3rd cousins who share MRCA William A. W. DEMPSEY (parents unknown) and Sarah Ann WOOD.

Green segments are the 3rd cousins who share Irvin Lewis INGRAM and Mary M. DEMPSEY (no known relationship to William A. W. DEMPSEY).

Pink segments are the 3rd cousins who share Gordon Washington ROOP and Milla Susan PETERS.

Yellow segments are the 3rd cousin matches back to Alexander CLONCH and Tabitha Ann COOLEY.

Chromosome Analysis

Adding another generation to the map further breaks down the larger segments shared with 1st and 2nd cousins and adds identification to some blank segments.

In the example for the 4th generation, the middle section of chromosome 1 now shows red where previously no color was seen. These are 3rd cousins who share the DEMPSEY-WOOD ancestors. This red section is not visible in the map showing all generations (see the first segment map earlier in this post) as it is a segment shared with matches who have more distant ancestors in common – ancestors of Sarah Ann WOOD, the wife of William A. W. DEMPSEY.

On this breakdown of the segments on Chr. 1, the red segment identified as generation 4 is also shared by matches who have HONAKER-GOETZ of generation 7 as MRCA. I received this DNA from Frederick HONAKER, father of Rachel HONAKER who married Elijah WOOD. This segment cannot be used to find more distant ancestors of my brick wall William A. W. DEMPSEY as the DNA is from his wife Sarah Ann WOOD, daughter of Rachel and Elijah.

Focusing on my father’s paternal grandfather’s side using the blue groups

What have I been doing these past two-plus months? I’ve been populating my DNA database with matches, trees, and notes. I’ve been focusing on my father’s paternal grandfather’s side using the blue groups. More specifically, I’ve been concentrating on the matches that, I hope, will lead to the parents of my 2nd great-grandfather William A. W. DEMPSEY (1820-1867) of Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Fayette County, West Virginia (then part of old Virginia).

The amount of DNA we receive from a particular ancestor decreases with each generation. There is a chance that very little or no DNA was inherited from a specific ancestor. An ancestor did not pass on the same DNA to each of his children. Those children, with their different combinations of their parent’s DNA, passed on different combinations to each of their children. The more descendants tested, the more DNA can be matched to the ancestor.

I need more RED! I need 3rd cousins who descend from William A. W. DEMPSEY to transfer their raw data from AncestryDNA to FTDNA, MyHeritage, or GEDmatch so that I can analyze the DNA using a chromosome browser.

By paying close attention to the MRCAs and the segments shared with cousins, I’ve been able to eliminate those who are related to me through Sarah Ann WOOD’s ancestors. Those are the lighter blue segments that overlap the red segments.

Sarah’s ancestors came from lines where many descendants have tested. The Wood, McGraw, Honaker, and Wiseman families were large and intermarried. All four lived in Monroe County, West Virginia (then still part of Virginia) at the time it was created from Greenbrier County in 1799.

While I have large clusters of matches for these four families, the mysterious clusters that are associated with William A. W. DEMPSEY are confusing. I hope that some of his descendants may share one or the other of the light gray segments (non-assigned DNA). This would help to identify the area that I need to research to open the door to this brick wall.

Light gray segments (non-assigned DNA)

  • The gaps on the chromosome map have plenty of matches but the common ancestors in my tree haven’t been identified.
  • Some of the matches have ancestors in common with each other but these aren’t names found in my tree.
  • Many matches have small or no trees to work with.
  • I need confirmed cousins on the segment to help figure out where the mystery ancestors may fit in my family tree.

I’ve identified 87 3rd cousin matches descended from William A. W. DEMPSEY through my great-grand aunts and great-grand uncles. Of these 87, only 17 have their tests on sites with a chromosome browser. Do any of the others share non-assigned DNA segments with my brother or me?

What further complicates my William A. W. DEMPSEY brick wall is the fact that his descendants have more than one connection to me due to marriages of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to spouses who descend from other common ancestors, i.e. Wood, McGraw, Honaker, Wiseman, Sims, Johnson, Kincaid, Ingram, and my other Dempsey line.

Why not try Y-DNA?

My connection to William A. W. DEMPSEY is through my father (Fred), his father (Fred), his father’s father (William H.), his father’s father’s father (William A.W.). This would make the males in our family good candidates for Y-DNA testing. I have a paternal uncle, three brothers, and nine male first cousins who are descendants of William A. W. DEMPSEY. My grandfather Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY had six brothers; his father William Henderson DEMPSEY had three brothers.

I don’t feel comfortable asking relatives to do DNA tests, either autosomal or Y-DNA. I don’t have the time or want to put the effort into a Y-DNA project. However, if a direct-male descendant of William A. W. DEMPSEY has done the Y-DNA test or is planning on taking it, I would be happy to work with them on the genealogy side. I have a feeling the Y-DNA surname is not going to be DEMPSEY. Maybe someone can prove me wrong!

Why I wrote this post

When I write my ancestors’ stories, weaving the facts into the story and checking off the sources used, I usually find unanswered questions. Writing actually helps me think through things. So this post was primarily for me, to see if I am on the right track with the system and procedure I use for analyzing the DNA. If I can explain it and it makes sense (to me), I hope it also makes sense to my readers.

I know this is beyond beginner DNA. This might give you an idea of how, maybe a bit further down the road, you can work with your results. You might also be more advanced and able to give me some feedback on how you would treat a similar brick wall. Comments are always appreciated.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the cousins who’ve given me guest access to their DNA. I hope this will help them see how very helpful their data has been to me.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

UPDATE to The Ancestors: Nicolas Frantz and Angélique Bartel of Semming, Rodemack, France

Last week I wrote about my 5th great-grandparents Nicolas FRANTZ and Angélique BARTEL of Semming, Rodemack, France.

While researching for the post, I was in touch with the compiler of Les Familles de Rodemack et ses annexes Semming, Faulbach, Esing de 1682 à 1904 (Cercle Généalogique du Pays des Trois Frontières, 2004) about some of the dates for the FRANTZ individuals in the book. Jean-Marie offered to go to the Archives Municipales de Rodemack to look up several records.

I was particularly interested in the entry I found on the Tables Décennales for Semming:

Tables Decénnales of Semming. Image courtesy of Archives départementales de la Moselle (57).

Angélique BARTHEL died on 30 Brumaire an XI or 21 November 1802 per the entry in this list of death records for the decade 1802-1812.1  If possible, I wanted the information verified as the death record is not available online. On the Archives Départementales de la Moselle site, Semming is listed – à numériser, voir RODEMACK- indicating not all records have been digitized and those available are under Rodemack.

This morning I received digital copies of three records courtesy of the municipal archives of Rodemack. Anyone can visit the office but copies are not normally made due to the fragile state of the old documents.

The Death Record of Angélique BARTEL

The death record of my 5th great-grandmother was not recorded on 30 Brumaire XI nor did her death take place on that date as indicated on the tables décennales seen above.

1803 Death Record of Angélique BARTEL. Courtesy of the Archives Municipales de Rodemack.

The death record is dated 28 Nivôse XI (in the 11th year of the Republic) or 18 January 1803. Angélique BARTEL died on 27 Nivôse XI or 17 January 1803 at 3 heures du soir. This translates to 3 o’clock in the evening which is not correct and doesn’t make sense. The term du soir is still used by the older generation of French speakers and is similar to our use of p.m. Therefore, Angélique died at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Her occupation was sage-femme or midwife. She was 65 years old at the time of death placing her birth at about 1738. Michel BARTEL her son-in-law was the informant and gave Elling as her place of birth. The second informant or witness to the record was Michel BAUER, a friend of the deceased. Angélique lived in Simming and both of the witnesses were residents of the commune of Simming and Faulbach. Michel BARTEL could not write and signed with an X. The mayor of the commune, François ERNST signed his name Frantz Ernst, mayor.

Elling was also the place of birth of Angélique’s son-in-law Michel who shared the surname BARTEL or BARTHEL with her. As canon law forbade the marriage of close relatives, it might be assumed that the two were distantly related as they came from the same town. Baptismal records for Ellange (Elling) are on FamilySearch under Elling, Ellange, and Dalheim. They are lacking for the years 1716-1739 when Angélique’s baptismal record would be expected.

It is possible that Michel confused his birthplace with his mother-in-law’s when reporting her death. Michel’s baptismal record was found in the Dalheim collection and notes his birth in Ellange. The research will have to be broadened to include all towns between Ellange and Rodemack. Sierck-les-Bains which is halfway between the two but more to the east has several BARTHEL couples having children at the time Angélique was born but she was not one of them.

The Baptismal Record of Paul FRANTZ

The records for Semming on the departmental archives site for the Moselle are labeled as being available for the years 1682-an X. I found that they are missing from mid-1745 to 1802 (an X). Therefore I requested Paul’s baptismal record and the death record of his sister Marie Marguerite or Maria Margareta as seen in the Latin entry.

1765 Baptismal Record of Paul FRANTZ. Courtesy of the Archives Municipales de Rodemack.

My 4th great-grandfather Paul FRANTZ was baptized on 11 August 1765. He was the son of Nicolai FRANTZ, bubulci or a farm laborer, and Ang… a married couple from Faulbach. His godfather was Paulus STROPPERS from Luxembourg and Margarita PIRMES of Faulbach. The godfather signed his surname: STROPERS. An unusual surname that hopefully will lead to a family connection. Note: The left side of the record including the date and the mother’s full name was not captured in the scan by the archivist. Jean-Marie only noticed this after he had arrived back home. 

1765 Death/Burial Record of Maria Margareta FRANTZ. Courtesy of the Archives Municipales de Rodemack.

Eight months later, on 9 April 1766 Maria Margareta FRANTZ, daughter of Nicolai FRANTZ, bubulci, and Angelica BARTEL, a married couple from Faulbach, died. The interment was in the Summingen or Simming cemetery. Maria Margareta’s age is not mentioned but as this was only eight months after Paul’s birth she was likely born before the end of 1765 and at least 17 months old. Her date of birth is not cited in the Rodemack family book. Either the records are missing or she wasn’t born in Faulbach or Simmingen where the FRANTZ family lived in 1765-1766.

Geographical area to be researched

The distance between Ellange and Simming (Semming on the Google map) is a short drive of fewer than 20 minutes. Nicolas and Angélique’s older daughter Marie, the wife of Michel BARTHEL, was born in Beyren-lès-Sierck, a village that lies between Ellange and Simming, according to information furnished at the time of their civil marriage ceremony in 1816.

Although the distance is small, all villages in the area will have to be researched to learn more about the FRANTZ and BARTHEL connections in the area. Research for another day…

Special thanks to Jean-Marie and the secretary at the Archives Municipales de Rodemack for looking up and scanning the records I was most interested in.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Archives départementales de la Moselle (57), browsable images of microfilm collection of parish and civil records (online, 9NUM/8E591/2 Semming – Tables décennales ( An XI-1812 ) Semming FRAD057_8E591_2_0002.jpg, image 2 of 6. 1802 Death Entry in Tables Décennales. ( : accessed 9 May 2021). Images from this site are free to use by the public per conditions viewed on 26 May 2019. 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Names Found in the Mecklenburg County, Virginia Tax Lists

Last month I wrote An Example of What You Can Do With the Personal Property Tax Lists. An example of how these lists can be used for researching enslaved persons and their enslavers was not included.

When I found the Personal Property Tax Lists for Virginia were online, I had several paternal ancestors I wanted to find in the lists. Jeremiah Claunch of Mecklenburg County, Virginia, was one of these. Jeremiah was not a slaveholder and this was confirmed in the year-to-year analysis of his PPT entries. While browsing the tax lists I found that Mecklenburg kept exceptional records. The gentlemen enumerating the districts not only noted the number of slaves over 16 and 16 and younger, but also the names of the enslaved persons. Their names were written after the tithable’s name.

I realized having the names of the enslaved persons listed in two age groups could be helpful to people searching for their enslaved ancestors. As a test, I chose a person on the list taken by Bennett Goode in 1782, the district my Claunch ancestor lived in. The page was missing the left edge where the surname of the person of interest was written and was hard to read. However, as I followed him through the years, I found the names of the enslaved persons were being repeated and this must be the first entry in the PPT lists for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia.1

1782 PPT list entry for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1782, John Ballard Senr. had 20 slaves over 16 years of age and 33 who were 16 or younger. Along with the names of these enslaved persons was the name Jno. Waller. In 1783 the same Jno. Waller was listed with John Ballard which helped to prove this was the same tithable and the surname missing on the 1782 record was Ballard.2

1783 PPT list entry for John Ballard of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

The names on the 1783 PPT list were much more legible in the 1782 entry and included Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Cate, Phebe, and Fanny who were over 16. Watt, Daniel, Bob, Biddy, Charlotte, Jacob, Stephen, Branch, Jesse, Judy, Jane, Starling, and Eliza were 16 or younger.

1784 PPT list entry for John Ballard Senr. of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1784 Ballard was named with Daniel Daby (overseer) and the enslaved persons over 16 were Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Watt, Kate, Phebe, and FannyDaniel, Bob, Jacob, Biddy, Jesse, Branch, Eliza, Starling, Sandy, Dick, and Jiminy were 16 and under.3

Watt had been on the 1783 list in the 16 and younger category and was now over 16 or 17 years old in 1783, i.e. born about 1766.

In 1785 no entry was found for John Ballard. I had not been able to find my ancestor Jeremiah Claunch the same year. After reviewing the images I found the district they both lived in was either not counted, lost, or missing.

1786 PPT list entry for John Ballard Junior of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In 1786 the list was taken by the gentleman William Hepburn. The name of the tithable John Ballard Sr. had disappeared. Instead, a John Ballard Jr. was seen with Poole?, Peter, Absalom, Will, Jim, Pat, Phillis, Betty, Phillis, Lucy, and Judy, all over 16. The 16 and younger names were Bob, Frank, Dick, Simon, Marry, Davy, Tom, Cyrus, Sally, Nancy, Lucy, Liddy, Lukey, Silvia, Lavina, Docina, Hannah, and Milly.4

General Index to Wills and Lists of Heirs – Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Courtesy of

As the names of the enslaved persons were no longer matching up with the names in the previous years for John Ballard Sr., I checked for a will that would confirm the death of the senior Ballard. In Will Book 2 beginning on page 213A, the will of John Ballard was found.5

The Last Will and Testament of John Ballard of Mecklenburg County, Virginia

In the name of God Amen. I John Ballard of the County of Mecklenburg being of sound and disposing mind and memory do make this my last will and testament in manner and form following.
First and principally I recommend my soul unto God my maker & my body I commit to the earth to be buried in a decent manner at the discretion of my Executor hereafter named and as to my estate I dispose [illegible] in the following manner.

I direct that all my just debts and funeral expenses be first paid and satisfied. I lend to my beloved wife Faitha during her life all my estate both real and personal and at her death to be disposed of as follows.
I lend to my daughter Lucy Holmes during her life a boy named Watt, a Girl called Biddy, a man named Harry and a girl named Lizzy and at the death of my said daughter I direct that the said negroes and the increase of the females be equally divided amongst all my said daughters children to whom and their heirs I give them forever.
I lend to my daughter Becky Hollaway a negro woman named Peib (sic, Phebe) and her children Charlotte, Judy and Doll and a negro man named Charles during her life and at her death, I direct the said negroes and the increase of the females to be disposed of by my executor in such manner as he may think will best contribute to the support of my grandchildren by my said daughter Becky until her youngest surviving child shall arrive at lawful age and at that time, that the said negroes and the increase of the females be equally divided amongst my said daughters children to whom and their heirs I give them forever. I also give to my said daughter Becky a good feather bed and furniture.
I lend to my daughter Martha Hollaway four negroes named Fanny, Cawcy, Jenny, and Dick during her life, and at her death, I direct that the said negroes and the increase of the said females be disposed of by my executor in such manner as he may think will best contribute to the support of my grand children by my said daughter Martha until her youngest surviving child shall arrive at lawful age and at that time that the said negroes & the increase of the said females be equally divided amongst my said daughters children to whom and their heirs. I give them forever.
I lend to my daughter Betty Cook two negro boys named Jacob and Stephen during her life and at her death, I give the said negroes to such child or children as she may then have equally to be divided between them, to them and their heirs forever. But if my said daughter Betty shall die without leaving any child, then I give the said negroes to my son John Ballard and his heirs forever. I also give to my daughter Betty one hundred and twenty five pounds ____.
I give unto my son William Ballard two negro men named Jacob and Jiminy, a negro woman named Kate and a boy named Starling to him and his heirs forever. Further I lend to my said son William a negro boy named Sandy during his life and at his death, I give the said negro boy to my grandson Francis Ballard and his heirs forever. I give and bequeath to my son Robert Ballard two negroes, ____ Anthony and Bob the land and plantation whereon I now live and one new feather bed to him and his heirs forever.
I give to my son Roberts’s oldest son living at the time of my death a negro boy named Jesse to him and his heirs forever; but if my son Robert should have no son alive at my death then I give the said negro boy to my said son Robert and his heirs forever.
I give to my grand daughter Mary Garland Ballard a negroe boy named Branche to her and her heirs forever.
All the rest and residue of my estate I give to my son John Ballard and his heirs forever.
I do nominate and appoint my son John Ballard sole executor of this my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me heretofore made. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 26th day of August 1783.
John Ballard (seal)
Sealed published & declared by the testator as for his last will & testament in our presence
John Brawn
[illegible] Nicholas

At a Court held for Mecklenburg County the 9th day of July 18 This will was proved by the Oaths of John Brawn & Lewis Earham witness thereto and ordered to be recorded. And on the motion of John Ballard the executor therein named who made Oath thereto and together with William Hepborn, William Johnson & David Stokes his securities entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of five Thousand pounds Conditioned as the law directs Certificate was granted him for obtaining a probate of the said will in due form.
John Brawn

The names released from John Ballard Sr.’ tax lists and will

Jacob, Harry, Charles, George, Cate, Phebe, Fanny, Watt, Daniel, Bob, Biddy, Charlotte, Jacob, Stephen, Branch, Jesse, Judy, Jane, Starling, Eliza, Sandy, Dick, Jiminy, Lizzy, Doll, Cawcy, Jenny, and Anthony

The names put down on paper 235 years ago in the tax lists give more meaning to those found in the last will and testament of John Ballard Sr. Every record counts when so few were produced for enslaved persons.

Click here to go directly to the list of Virginia and West Virginia counties with PPT lists in the Family Search catalog!

Following my three-part series on the slaves of my 5th great grandfather James Sims during Black History Month in February 2015 I made a commitment to write a monthly post until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors or owned by persons I’ve researched who were relatives or neighbors of my ancestors. These posts are part of the Slave Name Roll Project (About the Project) administered by Schalene Jennings Dagutis who also blogs at Tangled Roots and Trees.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Virginia. Commissioner of the Revenue, “Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Personal property tax lists, 1782-1850,” (browse-only images), <i>FamilySearch</i>, citing Microfilm of original records at the Virginia State Library and Archives in Richmond, Virginia., Personal property tax lists 1782-1805, Film 1854098, DGS 7857023, image 29 of 1116, Taken by Bennett Goode Gent., line 10, ___ John Senr. (surname cutoff). 1782 John Ballard Senr. PPT list entry (2 20 33 6). ( : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  2. Ibid., image 50 of 1116, Taken by Bennett Goode Gent., line 12, Ballard John. 1783 John Ballard PPT list entry (2 7 13 36). ( : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  3. Ibid., image 86 of 1116, Taken by William Johnson Gentleman, line 8, Ballard John. 1784 John Ballard PPT list entry (2 8 11 38). ( : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  4. Ibid., image 158 of 1116, Taken by William Johnson Gentleman, line 8, Ballard John Junior. 1786 John Ballard Junior PPT list entry (1 11 18 22). ( : accessed 30 April 2021). 
  5. “Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983,” (images),, citing original data of Virginia County, District, and Probate Courts, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, Will Books, Vol 1-3, 1765-1798, Will Book 2, p 213A, 214, 214A, and 215, image 352-354 of 619. 1787 Last Will and Testament of John Ballard. ( : accessed 30 April 2021). Note: The state of Virginia (and its respective counties who originally created these records) did not provide the appropriate permissions for these records to be placed online. The collection was removed from Ancestry‘s Card Catalog before June 2016. The images were accessible up until February 2020 and are once again accessible. 

Reviewing Research and Records Opens the Door in Regina Huberty’s Brick Wall

When I wrote about my 4th great-grandmother Regina HUBERTY (1761-1840) in my January 2018 post 52 Ancestors: #45 Missing Parish Records in Mamer Leave Unanswered Questions, I was skating on very thin ice.

I’d found a family register for the parish of Mamer in Luxembourg on FamilySearch in 2016 when I worked on Regina’s daughter Elisabeta FRISCH’s family. A handwritten compilation of information from church records, it includes all Mamer family groups and links parents and children through several generations.

The following are examples of Regina’s family groups:1, 2

Family Register of Mamer with the entry for the Frisch-Huberty family group.
Family Register of Mamer with the entry for the Kalmes-Huberty family group.

The church records for the years 1790-1804 are missing at FamilySearch for the parish of Mamer and affiliated villages. The collection Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1790-1804 is only a handwritten index to church records for the given years. The Luxembourg diocese has since added church records to Matricula Online including this missing register for Mamer. With the records available for the time Regina lived, I set out to open the door in her brick wall.

Reviewing Records and Research

I still have many 5th great-grandparents who have not been written about on my blog. The parents of my 4th great-grandmother Regina HUBERTY are one of these couples. Only their names were known. In the case of her mother, there were conflicting names.

Regina was married twice. Both marriages and all of her children are noted in the Mamer register entries above. Few records were found in 2018 to confirm the information and I could only reference the register for the children. Regina’s children from both of her marriages were born between 1792 and 1808. Church records are available for 1779 to 1793 and civil records from 1796 to 1923 on FamilySearch. Therefore, baptismal records were not available for seven of her eight children.

Regina’s marriage records had been found and as much information as possible was gleaned from them.

On 3 March 1789, there being no impediment to the marriage, the priest of Mamer and two witnesses were present when Jacob FRISCH, son of the deceased Joannis FRISCH and Margaretha ZEIMET of Huncherange, was united with Regina HUBERTY, daughter of Petri HUBERTY and the deceased Anna BENNERT.3

1789 Marriage Record for Jacobus FRISCH and Regina HUBERTY

The names of the parents matched those in the family register except for Regina’s mother’s name. Her maiden name was recorded as LENNERT in the family register but after a closer perusal of the marriage record, I found the name was written BENNERT. The capital L and B are often confused in the old script as they are similar to the lower case l and b when written in cursive.

Regina HUBERTY married Peter KALMES on 21 December 1801 in Mamer.4

1801 Marriage Record of Peter KALMES and Regina HUBERTY.

Her parents were listed as Peter HUBERTY and Johannata BEREND. Which of the two marriage records for Regina give the correct name for her mother? Were Anna BENNERT and Johannata BEREND the same person? What other sources could I check to solve this question?

Family Relationships and Godparents

As I reviewed the information I had for Regina’s parents, husbands, and children, I made a list of the records to check on Matricula that might help to answer the question of her parentage. I began with the names Peter HUBERTY and Johannata BEREND aka Anna BENNERT. I had no information on them. No known siblings for Regina who might lead to the shared parents.

Normally when children are baptized the godparents are chosen from both sides of the family. Regina’s children’s godparents could lead to siblings of both parents. Although I knew the names of the godparents from the family register, there was no information on where they were from or if they were married. Both of these could be indicators of the relationship between the godparent and the child and his/her parents.

For Regina’s children, in the family register, it was noted that her daughter Susanna FRISCH’s godmother was Susanna HUBERTY and her son Franciscus FRISCH’s godmother was Catharina HUBERTY.

I hadn’t seen Franciscus’ baptismal record until I searched for it last week on Matricula. His godmother was listed as Catharina HUBERTY uxor Nicolai OLINGER figols Nospelt = Catharina wife of Nicolas, a potter from Nospelt.

A search for Catherine’s marriage in an index of the Luxembourg marriages before 1797 turned up this information:5

Nicolas OLINGER and Catherine HUBERTI
Married: 07 Jan 1790 in Schoenberg
Parents: Jean OLINGER (+) – Anne KREMER (+)
Parents: Pierre HUBERTI – Anne BERNARD (+)

Susanna’s baptismal record from 1792 had originally been found on FamilySearch as the years 1779-1793 are available. However, I had missed an important detail in the record. The godmother was listed as Susanna HUBERTI amita. She was an aunt (Latin: amita) of the child and therefore Regina’s sister. No husband is mentioned suggesting she may not have been married at the time. A search for a possible marriage for Susanna turned up this information:6

Nicolas  BREISDORF and Susanne HUBERTI
Married: 16 Nov 1795 in Luxembourg-St Jean
Parents: Nicolas BREISDORF (+) – Susanne VELTER (+)
Parents: Pierre HUBERTI (+) – Jeannette MALLES (+)

The (+) indicates the person was deceased at the time of the noted marriage. Regina’s father was living in 1789 when she married and her mother was deceased. This matches up with Pierre HUBERTI living in 1790 when Catherine married. Regina’s father died on 4 June 17947 and therefore deceased by 1795 when Susanna married. The date of death for Pierre HUBERTI was proven by elimination and will be discussed in another post.

It is possible that Regina, Catherine, and Susanna had the same father. The mother of Regina and Catherine appear to be the same person.

In the family register of Mamer, there are 10 pages of information on HUBERTY families beginning with the earliest two families recorded in the missing church records. In the second generation, there is a Peter (Joannes) HUBERTY and Johanna MALESS who had three children: Catharina in 1766, Susanna in 1767, and Petrus in 1771.8 Church records for these births/baptisms are not available on Matricula or FamilySearch.

A marriage record for the HUBERTY-MALESS couple was not found. MALESS and MALLES could be different spellings for the same name. As the baptismal records for the children are not available, I put this aside for later reference, keeping in mind that the daughters Catharina and Susanna might be the godmothers of Regina’s children.

More pieces to the puzzle

If Catherine HUBERTY, wife of Nicolas OLINGER, and Regina were sisters then the baptismal records of the children of the OLINGER-HUBERTY couple might include godparents proving the siblingship.

Records for the first two children of the couple were quickly accessed as an index was found for baptisms in Schoenberg up to 1797 that included the year, entry number, and page number of the register. Their first child was a daughter named Regina and her godmother was Regina HUBERTY of Capellen.9

As Regina was the godmother of Catherine’s first child, can it be assumed that Pierre HUBERTI and Anne BERNARD listed Catherine’s parents on her marriage record are the parents of both Catharine and Regina?

I search for and located a marriage for Pierre HUBERTI and Anne BERNARD in the Luxembourg marriage index:10

Married: 16 Jun 1761 in Schoenberg
Parents: N. HUBERTI – N. N.
Parents: N. BERNARD – N. N.
Note: N. indicates unknown

The marriage record is a short two lines without information on the parents of either the bride or groom. Petrus HUBERTI was from Mamer and Anne BERNARD was from Nospelt.11

1761 Marriage Record for Petrus HUBERTI and Anna BERNARD

As the marriage took place in 1761, I searched the Schoenberg register for children of this marriage baptized between 1760 and 1770.

To my surprise, the first record I found confirmed my theory that Peter HUBERTI and Anne BERNARD were Regina’s parents and my 5th great-grandparents.

1761 Baptismal Record No. 10 for Regina HUBERTI

Regina was baptized on 3 March 1761, the daughter of Joanna BERENT of Nospelt and Petri HUBERTI of Mamer. The word illegitimate is crossed out. She was legitimized with the subsequent marriage of her parents three months later. Her godparents were Joannes BETTENDORFF and Regina KRANTZ both of Nospelt.12 At least one of these godparents would lead to the grandparents.

A sister Catherine was born/baptized on 20 May 1762 in Nospelt. Her parents’ names on the record were Petri HUBERTI and Anna BERNARD, the names seen on the marriage record.13 Born a year after Regina, she might be the same Catherine who married Nicolas OLINGER a year after Regina married.

No further baptisms were found in Nospelt suggesting the family moved to Mamer after May of 1762.

In the Family Register of Mamer, Regina is listed as the wife of Jacob FRISCH and of Peter KALMES in the respectively family group listings as they were married in Mamer and children were born in Capellen, a part of Mamer. Regina’s parents were from Capellen per both of her marriage records but Regina isn’t listed in any of the HUBERTY family groups. This is an indication that her parents did not marry in the Mamer parish and Regina was not born in Capellen or Mamer as was confirmed by the records found in Nospelt. Regina was not born in Capellen as indicated in her 1801 marriage record.

Admitting to a mistake

While reviewing and doing new research, I failed to read over Regina’s marriage records until I began to write this post. I found I’d misread Regina’s year of birth given on her second marriage record. This was my only source for her birth/baptism in 2018. I’d transcribed tausend sieben hundert sechzig vier (1764) instead of tausend sieben hundert sechzig eins (1761).

I should have realized the error as the marriage took place in 1801 and Regina was forty years old, i.e. born in 1761. However, I had allowed myself to be influenced by a date (13 March 1764) seen in a family tree. I’d noticed the date was the 3rd and not the 13th but I failed to see the word for the last digit in the year of birth was eins and not vier. Corrections have been made to the FamilySearch Family Tree and my online GEDCOM files on Luxracines, Ancestry (private/searchable), and Geneanet (ancestors-only for DNA).

Connecting the loose ends

While browsing the death records in the parish register of Mamer on Matricula, I found Joannetha MALES, wife of Peter HUBERTY, who died on 23 May 1793 in Capellen.14 Peter died the following year on 4 June 1794. Both were deceased in 1795 and the names match the names of the parents found on Susanna HUBERTY’s marriage record. Susanna was listed as the aunt of Susanna FRISCH, the oldest daughter of Regina HUBERTY, indicating Susanna and Regina were siblings. Regina’s mother was deceased in 1789 therefore they shared only a father, Peter HUBERTY, and were half-sisters.

The names found for Regina’s mother were: Joanna BERENT on the 1761 baptismal record, Anna BENNERT on the 1789 marriage record, and Johannata BEREND on the 1801 marriage records. In records for Regina’s sister Catherine, her mother was Anna BERNARD. Regina and Catherine were full sisters.

Regina’s godfather Joannes BETTENDORFF was the husband of Elisabeth BERNARD, daughter of Mathias BERNARD and Margaretha BIREN of Nospelt. It is my belief that Regina’s mother Anna/Joanna was a younger sister of Elisabeth.

Going through all baptismal records of the Kehlen parish to which Nospelt belonged, I found only one couple named BERENS with the first names Mathias and Margaretha. They had children from 1728 to 1745 including a daughter baptized on 24 May 1742 named Joanna BERENS.15 A baptismal record for Elisabeth who was born about 1720-1723 (married in December 1741) has not been found. The family name evolved from BERENS to BERENT to BERNARD.

It’s often hard to see the big picture. Hopefully, I have not confused my readers and you will agree with me that Regina HUBERTY’s mother was a lady named Anna (Joanna) BERNARD of Nospelt. Regina’s mother is no longer just a name but a person who has records that lead to her parents, siblings, and perhaps even grandparents.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. “Luxembourg registres paroissiaux, 1601-1948,” images, FamilySearch, Mamer > Baptêmes 1718-1940, familles alphabétique > image 59 of 375. ( : accessed 25 November 2015) 
  2. Ibid., Mamer > Baptêmes 1718-1940, familles alphabétique > image 155 of 375. ( : accessed 28 November 2015) 
  3. Ibid., Mamer > Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1779-1793 > image 106 of 168. 1789 Marriage Record. ( : accessed 29 November 2015). 
  4. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Mamer > Naissances 1834-1890 Mariages 1796-1837 > image 1176 of 1504. 1801 Marriage Record. ( : accessed 26 March 2010). 
  5.   “Marriages before 1797”, searchable database, Luxracines ( 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Luxembourg Church Records, Mamer > Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1790-1804 > image 27 of 30. 1794 Death Entry (75 years old). ( : accessed 5 January 2018). 
  8. Ibid., Mamer > Baptêmes 1718-1940, familles alphabétique > images 89-93 of 375. Entries for Huberty families. ( : 9 January 2015). 
  9. Ibid., Schoenberg > Baptêmes 1760-1797 > image 120 of 169 > page 232. 1791 Baptismal Record No. 6. ( : 9 January 2015). 
  10. “Marriages before 1797.” 
  11. Luxembourg Church Records, Schoenberg > Tables des mariages, mariages 1756-1793 > image 8 of 88 > page 9, entry 1761 No. 2. 1761 Marriage Record No. 2. ( : accessed 4 April 2021),. 
  12. Matricula Online, Luxembourg, Microfilm GV.MF 172-285, Kehlen, KB-06, Taufen – 1760 – 1796, image 3 of 167, page 3, baptismal record 10. 1761 Baptismal Record No. 10. ( : accessed 3 April 2021). 
  13. Ibid., image 6 of 167, page 8, entry number 16. 1762 Baptismal Record No. 16. ( : accessed 3 April 2021). 
  14. Ibid., Mamer, KB-18, Taufen – Heiraten – Sterbefälle – 1779 – 1793, image 170 of 172, page 347, 4th entry. “.” 1793 Death/Burial Record. ( : accessed 6 April 2021). 
  15. Ibid., Microfilm GV.MF 172-285, Kehlen, KB-02, TTaufen – 1708 – 1760, image 98 of 158, page 193. 1742 Baptismal Record (right page, 3rd entry). ( : accessed 6 April 2021). 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Kate, Rueben, Margett, and Sam

While searching for court records for one of my ancestors who lived in Kanawha County in 1811-1812, I found a Bill of Sale for four enslaved persons.

At that time, Kanawha was part of Virginia and had the same court jurisdictions as Virginia counties. The primary responsibility of the county court was to serve as the administrative body of the county.

The county court record book and county court records go hand in hand. The record book is similar to a calendar or diary of causes brought before the county court. Entries are mostly short and with little further information. The county court records include records produced during the court case.

The loose papers filed in envelopes have been digitized and include labels describing the cause, a list of the records included in the batch, and, in some cases, further information.

Court Records (Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811) ( : accessed 3 January 2020)

The names of the enslaved persons on the Bill of Sale were included on the typewritten index cards: Kate, Rueben, Margett, and Sam.1

1809 Bill of Sale

Bill of Sale. Court Records (Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811) ( : accessed 3 January 2020)

This Indenture made this 4th day of April 1809 Between Thomas Joplan of the One part and Ralph Joplan of the other part. Witnesseth that the said Thomas Joplan for and in Consideration of Six Hundred Dollars to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby Acknowledged hath Bargained & sold and by these presents Doth Bargain sell and deliver unto the said Ralph Joplan the following personal property to wit) One negro woman named Kate, One negro Boy named Rueben, One negro girl named Margett, & One negro child named Sam, One Grey Mare & year old Stone colt, One three year old sorrel Mare, five Milch cows and Two calves; three feather Beds and furniture thereto ____, One Sow and Seven shoats, One large Kittle, one

Bill of Sale. Court Records (Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811) ( : accessed 3 January 2020)

pot & one Dutch oven, One pewter Bason, One pewter dish and Nine pewter plates, One Man’s saddle, one plough and Geers & four Broad Hoes & One Sprouting hoes all which property as before recited respectively the said Thomas Joplan hereby covenants to Warrant & defend unto the said Ralph Joplan or his assigns against the claims of all and every person or persons whatsoever. In Witness whereof he hath hereunto set his hand and affixed his seal the day and date aforesaid.
Thos. Joplan Seal
Signed sealed and acknowledged In presence of
G. Christian
R. Christian

Bill of Sale. Court Records (Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811) ( : accessed 3 January 2020)

At a Court held and continued for Kanawha County the 14th day of June 1809.
This deed of trust (or bill of sale) from Thomas Jopling to Ralph Jopling was presented in Court and duly acknowledged by the said Thomas & the same is ordered to record.
A Copy Teste
A. Donnally C.K.C.

A bit of background information

Various spellings of the surname were found in the records, including Joplan, Joplin, and Jopling. Thomas Joplin and Ralph Joplin were either father and son or brothers. I suspect the first and that Ralph was preparing to set up his own household when he bought the enslaved persons, stock, and household goods in 1809.

In 1810 Ralph Joplin married Susanna Casdorph. The exact marriage date is not known as John Lee, the minister of the gospel, kept only a list of the marriages by year without dates of marriage.2

The marriage took place before 27 October 1810 when Ralph was hit over the head with a rifle and killed by William C. Wilson, a Kanawha schoolmaster.3 Wilson was acquitted on 30 April 1811.4

The widow Susanna appears to have married while the case was in court as her name was first seen as Susanna Joplin and later as Susanna Wilson. No marriage record has been found.

This post was written to help the descendants of Kate, Rueben, Margett, and Sam connect and fill in their family tree.

Following my three-part series on the slaves of my 5th great grandfather James Sims during Black History Month in February 2015 I made a commitment to write a monthly post until I’ve RELEASED all of the names of slaves owned by my ancestors or owned by persons I’ve researched who were relatives or neighbors of my ancestors. These posts are part of the Slave Name Roll Project (About the Project) administered by Schalene Jennings Dagutis who also blogs at Tangled Roots and Trees.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Kanawha County Court Records, 1773-1875 (browse-only images), FamilySearch, citing microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse. Film 189907, DGS 8291458, Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811, images 513-520, Ralph Joplin, dec’d vs Thomas Joplin, Bill of Sale (images 515-516) ( : accessed 3 January 2020) 
  2. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History, (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at 1810, Kanawha County, (West) Virginia, Ralph Jopling and Susannah Casdorph. ( : accessed 2 February 2021). 
  3. Kanawha County Court Records, 1773-1875, Film 189907, DGS 8291458, Court records, v. 10-11 1809-1811, images 524-525, Commonwealth vs William C. Wilson, Murderer of Ralph Jopling. ( : accessed 25 March 2021) 
  4. Kanawha County County Court record book, 1803-1880 (browse-only images), FamilySearch, citing microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse. Film 521644, DGS 8613718, Record book, v. 3 1803-1819, image 292 of 857, right page.  ( : accessed 25 March 2021) 

Cousin Bait, a Brick Wall, and a Quick Tip

Earlier this month I received an email from Tina CORNELY. She’d stumbled upon my blog AND loves the name! That was enough to get my attention. She also wrote:

My family tree has been pretty successful on both my maternal and paternal sides, and I have gotten as far back as the early medieval times. The odd thing is I can’t find any information about my great-great-grandfather John Feis CORNELY. John was born in 1857 Germany. That’s all I can dig up. I was just about to give up when I came across your blog. 

That said, I still was unable to find his parents. However, I do know that he lived in Wyandot, Ohio which is where some of your relatives lived.

Any tips you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

John Feis CORNELY born in 1857 in Germany

Tina’s query didn’t include much information for me to go on. I suspected the birthplace and year of birth likely came from a census record. My search for a John CORNELY born in 1857 in Germany turned up this census record:

Ancestry search results for John F. Cornely born 1857 in Germany

John F. COONLEY (surname on index corrected by a user to CORNELY) was enumerated in the 1900 census. The index shows he was born in Germany in May 1857. But wait, John’s age on the census index is 49 which would mean he was born about 1851.1

Let’s take a look at the census image.

1900 U.S. Federal Census image courtesy of Ancestry

The month and year of birth on the census image are May 1851 which fits with the age of 49. John and his wife Mary had been married for 17 years. Mary was the mother of six with only one living child in 1900. A son Edward F. age 15, born in Ohio, is listed in the household. The columns for citizenship (year of emigration to the US, the number of years in the US, and naturalization) are filled out with “Un” or unknown.

Very few online trees for Edward F. CORNELY were found. Only one had the names of his parents. The attached source for the parents was this 1900 census with the incorrect date and place of birth for John CORNELY. There are no parents listed for John in any of the trees found. No further information on John F. CORNELY. This was where Tina was stuck. But had I found the right person?

Three of the four suggested records (see on the right of the 1900 census result image above) were for Edward and mentioned his father John F. CORNELY.

I followed the son and found, in later census records, he gave his father’s birthplace as Luxembourg.2

Edward’s death certificate listed Feis CORNELY and Mary KEANY as his parents.3

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index listed John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY as the parents of Edward.4

Searching for records before 1900, I found Felix Edward CORNELY was born in Salem Township, Wyandot County, Ohio to J. F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY on 11 February 1885.5 This matches the date listed on his death certificate and social security application.

John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANY were married in Wyandot County, Ohio on 10 November 1883.6 [Note: The bride’s maiden name was seen as KEANY and KEANEY and listed here as seen in each record.]

More information was found for John’s son and his descendants which led to Tina’s generation. With the line down from John to Tina confirmed, I turned to my relatives in Wyandot County who shared the CORNELY surname with this family.

The CORNELY family of Wyandot County, Ohio, and their connection to my line

The CORNELY surname has been featured in several posts on this blog. First when I wrote about my 4th great-grandparents, Jean Baptiste MAJERUS and Catharina CORNELY of Strassen, Luxembourg. This was followed up by a post on Catharina’s parents, my 5th greats, Hubert CORNELY and Margaretha EVEN of Wickrange, Luxembourg.

My favorite was the post about a CORNELY family who emigrated from Luxembourg in 1854.

Click the image to view the post.

Jacques CORNELY (1800-1855) and his wife Magdalena KUNNERT (1807-1887) with their seven children arrived in America on 18 May 1854.7 Jacques died a little over a year later in October 1855.8 The widow was in Seneca County, Ohio in 18609 and in Wyandot County, Ohio in 187010 and 1880.11

Jacques and my 4th great-grandmother Catharina were first cousins. I learned about Jacques’ branch in my family tree when I found a DNA match for a descendant of Jacques and Magdalena’s only daughter Catherine.12

Could Tina’s John Feis CORNELY be related to my CORNELY family?

If the information in the indexation of the 1900 census had been correct, then John F. CORNELY couldn’t have been the son of Jacques and Magdalena as the father of the family died in 1855.

However, by taking a closer look at the census record, I found John F. “Feis” CORNELY was born in May 1851 and, per later census records of his son, his birthplace was likely Luxembourg.

The youngest son of Jacques CORNELY was named Johann when he was born on 4 May 1851 in Obercorn, Luxembourg.13 This son was seen in 1860 as Jacob age 8, in 1870 as John age 18, and in 1880 as J.F. age 29 in the household of his mother Magdalena. Not uncommon in Luxembourg families, there were two sons named Johann. In 1860 the elder was listed as John and the younger as Jacob, most likely to keep them apart.

In 1870 and 1880 they were living in Salem Township, Wyandot County, Ohio. The same county that the 1883 marriage for John F. CORNELY and Mary KEANEY was found, the same township that their son Edward was born in.

A newspaper article written in 1899 further supports the theory that J.F. CORNELY of Wyandot County is the same person as John F. CORNELY seen in the 1900 census listing in Putnam County, Florida.14

We received a pleasant call Tuesday afternoon from an old Wyandot County friend, Mr. J. F. Cornely, now a resident of West Mansfield where he operates a saw mill. He has arranged to go to Florida next fall as a member of the Northern Colony that has secured 24000 acres of land near Palatka and therefore is going to dispose of his mill at West Mansfield at Public Sale, Saturday, June 17. This colony was organized by the Chicago Farm, Field and Fireside and consists of some 200 families among its patrons in the different states who expect to locate on their new possessions in the Peninsular state this coming fall. Each head of a family buys as much of the land at $10 per acre as he can pay for and makes his own selection. The colony proposes to devote its energies to farming. We wish our esteemed friend success both in the sale of his saw mill at West Mansfield and in his proposed home in Florida.

Lastly, a broad search for CORNELY in Florida on turned up a notice for the funeral services of John F. CORNELY. His son Edward arrived on 4 November 1908 in Tampa, attended the funeral on the 6th, and then returned to Jacksonville the following day. No widow was listed.15 A record of his death, other than the clipping, was not found.

Quick Tip: View the Image Before Attaching it to Your Family Tree

When the 1900 census hint was accepted and attached to the trees on Ancestry, the incorrectly indexed birth date and birthplace for John F. CORNELY was added to his biographical information throwing up a brick wall that hid his parentage. The wrong birth date was also found on FamilySearch‘s Family Tree citing the 1900 census as the source!

Before accepting the information generated (indexed) by Ancestry and adding the record to your family tree, take the time to view the image and read the lines referenced in the index. Then, when saving the record to the person of interest in your tree, be sure to pay close attention to the extracted information and correct the incorrectly indexed information. It may take a few moments but will save you time later correcting errors in your family tree.

Proof that blogging is cousin bait

My posts on my CORNELY family were found by Tina who wrote to me and shared her brick wall. Solving it, I gained a new cousin. We are 6th cousins once removed, sharing Pierre CORNELY (1720-1793) and Marie SCHINTGEN (1725-bef. 1793), my 6th great-grandparents.

Tina thanked me by kindly sharing this picture of her great-great-grandparents, John Feis CORNELY and Mary KEANY.

Johann Feis Cornely and Mary Keaney courtesy of Tina Cornely. Used with permission.

From evidence found, Tina’s John F. CORNELY was the youngest of Jacques and Magdalena’s children. A young boy who survived the wreck of the ship Black Hawk, marked his 3rd birthday on the Currituck, and stepped onto American soil in New York – all within a month. A young man who supported his mother in her years of widowhood in Ohio. A husband and father who sold his sawmill in Ohio to acquire land in Florida.

Many thanks to Tina for sharing and allowing me to write about her brick wall.

One door opened only to find another closed door

Another mystery in the CORNELY family was discovered while I was searching for records to connect Tina’s family to mine. Two CORNELY men were already living in Seneca County, Ohio when Jacques CORNELY’s family came to America and first settled in Seneca County in 1854. They were not children of Jacques and Magdalena who might have paved the way for the family’s move to America. They may have been close or distant cousins and their place in the family tree will have to be found.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. 1900 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T623, 1854 rolls, FHL microfilm: 1240176, Florida, Putnam County, Precinct 19, Enumeration District 150, Page 7A, line 17-19, John F. Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1900 census was 1 June 1900. ( : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  2. 1920 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., NARA microfilm publication T625, 2076 rolls, Roll: T625_219, Florida, Duval, Mandarin, Enumeration District: 83, Page: 9A, lines 3-6, Edward F. Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1920 census was 1 January 1920. ( : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  3. “South Carolina, U.S., Death Records, 1821-1968,” (index and images), Ancestry, citing South Carolina Death Records, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina. Edward Felix Cornely, born 11 Feb 1885, died 2 Aug 1958 in Abbeville SC, parents Feis Cornely and Mary Cornely. ( : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  4. “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” (index only), Ancestry, citing original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, Edward Felix Cornely, SSN 719072511. Male, white, born 11 Feb 1885 in Salem Twp, WY (sic, Wyandot), Ohio, father John F Cornely, mother Mary Keaney, Apr 1937: Name listed as Edward Felix Cornely. ( : accessed 14 March 2021). 
  5. “Ohio, County Births, 1841-2003,” (database with images), FamilySearch citing county courthouses, Ohio, Wyandot > Birth registers 1880-1891 > image 26 of 148 > line 64. ( : accessed 14 March 2021) 
  6. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016,” (database with images), FamilySearch citing county courthouses, Ohio, Wyandot > Marriage records 1877-1886 vol 5 > image 290 of 390, page 446-447, John F Cornely and Mary Keany married 10 November 1883. ( : accessed 14 March 2021) 
  7. “New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” index and images, Ancestry, citing Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897, Roll 139, Arrival: 1854 New York, New York, List number 496, Line 304-312, Cornely family. ( : accessed 26 February 2020) 
  8. Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 26 February 2020), memorial page for Jacob Cornely (19 May 1810–15 Oct 1855), Find A Grave Memorial no. 47794946, citing Saint Mary Catholic Cemetery, Kirby, Wyandot County, Ohio, USA; Maintained by Gathering Roots (contributor 47213048). 
  9. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Eighth Census of the United States, 1860 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls, Roll: M653_1034, Family History Library Film: 805034, Ohio, Seneca County, Big Spring, sheet 42 (stamped) back (42B), page 84, lines 11-18, HH #594-574, Magdalena Cornelia. The official enumeration day of the 1860 census was 1 June 1860. ( : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  10. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Ninth Census of the United States, 1870 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls, Roll: M593_1284, Family History Library Film: 552783, Ohio, Wyandot County, Salem, page 810B, lines 9-11, HH #27-27, Magdaline Cornelius. The official enumeration day of the 1870 census was 1 June 1870.  ( : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  11. 1880 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls, Roll: 1079, Ohio, Wyandot County, Salem, Enumeration District 163, page 467B, lines 10-12, HH #193, Magdalena Cornely. The official enumeration day of the 1880 census was 1 June 1880. ( : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  12. Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1662-1941 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Differdange > Naissances 1807-1880 > image 548 of 1492. 1838 Birth Record No. 52. ( : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  13. Ibid.,  Differdange > Naissances 1807-1880 > image 817 of 1492. 1851 Birth Record No. 37. ( : accessed 26 February 2020). 
  14. “Local Department” item concerning J.F. Cornely, The Union County Journal (Marysville, Ohio), Thursday, 8 June 1899, p. 5, col. 2; image copy,, ( : accessed 23 March 2021). 
  15. “Funeral Services” of John F. Cornely, Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Florida), Saturday, 7 Nov 1908, p. 1, col. 6; image copy,, ( : accessed 26 March 2021). 

An Example of What You Can Do With the Personal Property Tax Lists

I shared last week’s post, Personal Property Tax Lists for Rockbridge County, Virginia, to several genealogy groups on Facebook for counties in Virginia and West Virginia. I added a comment to each with the link to the appropriate county’s PPT list. It was a tedious procedure as I searched for the county in the catalog, opened up the category for taxation, clicked the PPT collection to check if it was restricted or not, and finally copied the link to the catalog entry as a comment to my post in each group. I found at least one county had a camera with a key, normally meaning it is restricted, but I was able to access the images.

While preparing to write this post, I found a way to generate a complete list of all of the Personal Property Tax List collections for Virginia counties (including West Virginia counties once part of Virginia). Go to the FamilySearch Catalog and search for the author of the PPT collections: Virginia. Commissioner of the Revenue.

Or click on the door below to go directly to the list of Virginia and West Virginia counties with PPT lists in the Family Search catalog! FamilySearch is free but you need to create an account if you are a first-time user to be able to view the records. If you have already created an account, be sure to log in to view collections.

Use the PPT to fill in the pre-1850 census years

The personal property lists now available on FamilySearch cover the period 1782-1851 on average. Some counties have a larger range and some a smaller range. Although there are variations from county to county, for the most part, they cover a period in which the census includes only the head of household’s name and tick marks for the other persons in the household.

Comparative analysis of early personal property tax records from year to year is useful in drawing conclusions about the residence, property, and status of our ancestors.

I’ve been wanting to work with the PPT lists for two decades. I have ancestors who disappeared after a census and didn’t leave a death record or any of the other records that would help determine an approximate date of death.

Dennis CLONCH of Kanawha formerly of Mecklenburg

Dennis CLONCH lived in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia when the 1810 census was enumerated.1 He moved there from Mecklenburg County about 1806 after marrying Nancy BEASLEY in Mecklenburg in 1803. By 1820 his wife Nancy was the head of household in Mason County, (West) Virginia. Dennis died without a will or probate records. His death, up until now, has been estimated between 1811-1820. No known children were born to Dennis and Nancy after about 1811 when their daughter Sarah was born. This is a large gap in his and his family’s lives.

Using the Personal Property Tax List to Calculate a Year of Death

The PPT lists for Kanawha and Mason counties were checked and helped make a better calculation of when Dennis CLONCH died.

From 1806 to 1809, except for 1808 when no tax list was prepared for Virginia, Dennis was in Kanawha with one male older than 16, 0 blacks 12 & not 16, 0 blacks over 16, and 0 horses & cattle.2, 3, 4

By 1810 Dennis had acquired a horse or a head of cattle.5 From 1811 until 1814, he was the over 16 years old male listed on the tax list with one horse or cattle and no enslaved persons.6, 7, 8, 9

In 1815 the column for horses & cattle was split into two categories on the tax list. Dennis, still the only male, had no blacks, one horse, and seven heads of cattle.10 His surname was spelled CLAUNCH in 1815, the spelling used by his father and siblings when they lived in Mecklenburg County.

In 1816 horses & cattle were once again counted in one column. Dennis, the only male over 16, had no blacks and two horses &/or heads of cattle.11 In 1817 the number of horses &/or cattle went up to three.12

In 1818 and 1819 Dennis CLONCH did not appear on the Kanawha personal property tax list nor did he appear in the same tax list for Mason County where his wife Nancy was enumerated on the 1820 census.13 Since he is missing on the 1818 and 1819 tax lists and his wife was on the 1820 census, this could mean that Dennis died about 1817-1818 or at least during the time period between 1817 and 1820. I can now list his death as between 1817-1820 instead of between 1811-1820. More precisely between 7 March 1817-7 August 1820 as the 1817 visit was on March 7 and the 1820 census was officially enumerated on the first Monday in August.

How affluent were your ancestors?

What else was learned by analyzing the personal property tax lists? Most of the early years did not include much information but in 1815 the Kanawha County PPT list included many categories helpful in establishing the wealth of an ancestor.

1815 Personal Property Tax List column headings.

In 1815 Dennis CLONCH didn’t own any of the following:

  • Any kind of carriage (two-wheeled, stage wagon, public stage, phaeton, or other four-wheeled riding wagons)
  • A mill, tool barge, ferry, or tanyard
  • A silver or gold watch
  • A stable to accommodate even one horse
  • A house exceeding in value of $500
  • An icehouse
  • A clock with wooden or metal works, with or without a case
  • A coal pit
  • A printer or have revenue from an annual subscription to the paper
  • Bureau, secretary or bookcase, chest of drawers, wardrobe or clothespress, dining table, bedstead, sideboard without drawers or doors, tea table, card table in whole or in part of mahogany, sideboard with drawers or doors, settee or sofa, chairs, carpets, window curtains or Venetian blinds within the window of any house
  • Portraits, picture, print or engraving, mirror or looking glass, pianoforte, harpsichord, organ, or harp
  • Bureau, secretary or bookcase, chest of drawers, wardrobe or clothespress of any other wood other than mahogany
  • Urn, coffee or teapot, candlestick, lamp, chandelier, decanter, pitcher, bowl, goblet, washbasin stand or salver, tankard, cup, or waiter

The only thing my ancestor Dennis owned in 1815 was seven head of cattle.

My 4th great-grandfather Dennis CLONCH came to Kanawha County after several of his brothers went to Kentucky. He probably expected to make a good living. In the end, he died before he was forty leaving a widow with five children, three between 10 and 15 and two just under 10 years of age.

The personal property tax list didn’t include much information but enough to learn when my ancestor died and how difficult life must have been in the early 1800s in almost Heaven, West Virginia.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. 1810 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Third Census of the United States, 1810 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls, Roll: 69, Family History Library Film: 0181429, Virginia, Kanawha, image 411, page 135, line 10, Denis Clounch household. The official enumeration day of the 1810 census was the 1st Monday in August (6th). ( : accessed 9 December 2014). 
  2. “WV Kanawha Personal property tax lists, 1792-1850”,, Virginia Commissioner of the Revenue (Kanawha County) (citing microfilm of original records at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, Virginia), Personal property tax lists, 1792-1832, Film 2024596, DGS 7849142, image 71 of 773, right page, 1806 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  3. Ibid., image 103 of 773, 1807 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  4. Ibid., image 123 of 773, 1809 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  5. Ibid., image 140 of 773, 1810 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  6. Ibid., image 159 of 773, 1811 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  7. Ibid., image 176 of 773, 1812 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  8. Ibid., image 191 of 773, 1813 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  9. Ibid., image 224 of 773, 1814 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  10. Ibid., image 239 of 773, 1815 Dennis Claunch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  11. Ibid., image 278 of 773, 1816 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  12. Ibid., image 310 of 773, 1817 Dennis Clonch. ( : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  13. 1820 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fourth Census of the United States, 1820 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M33, 142 rolls, NARA Roll: M33_138, Image: 135, Virginia, Mason, page 121, first line, Nancy Claunch household. The official enumeration day of the 1820 census was the 1st Monday in August. ( : accessed 13 December 2014). 

Personal Property Tax Lists for Rockbridge County, Virginia

When I began doing family research on the internet, I connected with Robert N. Grant, author of Sorting some of the Wrights of Southern Virginia. I found him on a mailing list (pre-Facebook days) where he mentioned a couple of my surnames. This was back in May 2000 when he was working on the draft of his work on 1825 Achilles WRIGHT of Oldham County, Kentucky (the year before his name indicates the year of death in the said county). Bob sent me a paper version of this draft via snail mail (yes, it was that long ago) that included information on my LANDRUM and CRISP lines of Amherst County, Virginia as Achilles had lived in Amherst and Nelson counties in Virginia before moving to Kentucky.

Repaying an Act of Genealogical Kindness

The book is part of a series of books that are available on FamilySearch. Years later I was able to return the favor. In October 2014 I found chancery records involving a James WRIGHT and sent the link to Bob. I received a reply the same day thanking me. I’d caught him pre-retirement and in July 2015 he wrote:

I wanted to thank you again for the very helpful reference to the Nelson County Chancery Court cases involving James Wright.  They clearly identified James, the son of 1825 Achilles Wright of Oldham County, KY, as the James who married Lucy Crisp.  Thank you! 

In addition, the case clarified that Elizabeth Wright who married Elijah Skidmore was a daughter of James and not, as had been reported previously, a daughter of his brother 1845 George Wright of Trimble County, KY.  That rewrote a portion of my materials as well.

I have an updated version of my material on 1825 Achilles Wright and his descendants and would be happy to send that to you, if that would be of interest to you.  It includes a transcription of the chancery court case that lays out the family of James and the family of Lucy’s parents.

A Lesson Learned from Bob’s Research

When I found those chancery records I knew I had to send the information to Bob to repay him for sharing his work with me. I never forgot this act of kindness on his part as he also taught me the importance of personal property tax and land tax lists without knowing it.

By reading through his draft, I learned how the PPT and land tax lists can be used in our research. Although the annual PPT lists may appear to include very little information compared to census records, when they are viewed as a whole, the information can be used to fill in the missing years between the census. For persons of the same surname, relationships may have been expressly or implicitly stated. They can also help with determining when a person lived in a certain place and when he may have moved or died. Most importantly, the names found on the lists can help identify the male members of households in pre-1850 census listings.

The Library of Virginia’s “Using Personal Property Tax Records in the Archives at the Library of Virginia” (Research Notes Number 3) includes the following:

The early laws required the tax commissioner in each district to record in “a fair alphabetical list” the names of the person chargeable with the tax as well as all “tithables,” or taxable individuals and goods in the household. Included were the names of white male tithables over the age of twenty-one, the number of white male tithables between ages sixteen and twenty-one, the number of enslaved people both above and below age sixteen, various types of animals such as horses and cattle, carriage wheels, ordinary licenses, and even billiard tables. 

During the past five years or so, I’ve been checking the catalog at FamilySearch for collections that are available to all users on the site and not only at the Family History Library or associated libraries. Land tax records for several counties in West Virginia were found to be accessible in 2019.

Earlier this week in the Facebook group Rockbridge County Virginia Genealogy, I replied to a query. Someone asked if the tax lists were available online. Not knowing the answer, I checked the catalog and I discovered the Personal Property Tax lists for Rockbridge County, Virginia, are online on FamilySearch.

Rockbridge Couty, Virginia, Personal Property Tax Lists

I’d been waiting to be able to work with tax lists for many of my lines since I first read Bob’s draft. Discovering their availability for Rockbridge pushed me to do some browsing in these records.

One of my DEMPSEY brick walls began to crumble in 2007 when I found Wm. A. W. DEMPSEY listed on the 1841 tax list of Rockbridge County, Virginia. The initials are the same as those he used on the 1850 census in Fayette County, (West) Virginia, and in 1862 on the Provost Marshals’ List (a Civil War document). I am convinced these initials were very important to him.

In Section VII of A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia1 the taxpayers of the county for 1841 were listed. The numbers after their names refer to the road precincts in which the persons lived.

Image courtesy of ( : accessed 13 March 2021)

Appendix D in the book gives a description of the precincts.

Image courtesy of ( : accessed 13 March 2021)By searching through the taxpayer’s list for others who were in precinct 43,  I was able to put together this list of persons who were likely his neighbors.

1841 Taxpayers
Rockbridge County, Virginia
43 – Nathaniel Gaylor’s to Cumings and Carter’s, intersecting Gilmore’s Road
Dempsey, William A. W.
Others who lived in the same road precinct:
George Agnor, Jacob Agnor, Sr., Jacob Agnor, Little Jake Agnor, John Agnor, John H. Agnor, David Entsminger, Albert Gilliat, and William T. Ruley. (Note to self: Agnor was later seen as Agnew)

The problem was that the source was not a primary source. Finding the mention in the book was not the same as accessing a digital copy of the tax list collection: Personal property tax lists, 1782-1850, main author: Commissioner of the Revenue (Rockbridge County, Virginia).

I searched first for the image of the 1841 tax list naming William A. W. Dempsey.

Wm. A. W. DEMPSEY was enumerated on 29 March 1841. In the column for white males of 16, there is a 1 indicating one person 16 or older was tithable. It is my understanding that the person named had to be of age therefore 21 years old or older. William was therefore born about 1820 or earlier.

Headers of the 1841 Personal Property Tax List for the South West District (Samuel Walkup) of Rockbridge County, Virginia. ( : accessed 5 March 2021)
1841 Personal Property Tax List for the South West District (Samuel Walkup) of Rockbridge County, Virginia. ( : accessed 5 March 2021)

In 1842, William was not found. In 1843 he was visited by Samuel Walkup in the southwest district on 5 April 1843. The entire list was viewed. I found William was the only person who was visited on that day. Is this an indication that he lived in a sparsely populated area?

1843 Personal Property Tax List for the South West District (Samuel Walkup) of Rockbridge County, Virginia. ( : accessed March 2021)

No Dempsey was found in Rockbridge County on the PPT for the years 1844 to 1851.

William A. W. DEMPSEY was in Fayette County at the time of the 1850 census. The PPT for Fayette County, available for the years 1831 to 1850, showed a William DEMPSEY in 1846, 1849, and 1850. No initials are noted.

Working backward, I checked in Rockbridge before 1841.

1839 tax list: John W. Dempsey (March 4) and William Dempsey (April 3), both in Samuel Walkup district.

William A. W. DEMPSEY was listed as 28 in 1850 and as 40 in 1860 on the census of Fayette County. If this William DEMPSEY was William A. W. DEMPSEY and only men 21 or older were named then he was born 1818 or earlier. He was visited a month after John W. DEMPSEY. If they had been closely related or living near each other, wouldn’t they have been visited within a day or two?

John W. DEMPSEY (1802-1873) married in Rockbridge in 1824. He was on the Fayette County census in 1840 and the PPT lists from 1840 to 1850. He has been proven to be the son of Tandy DEMPSEY who was in Rockbridge in 1820 (per census) and earlier (per tax list), in Logan (now WV) in 1830 (per census), and in Jay County, Indiana, by early fall 1835 until 8 August 1836 when his death was the first recorded in the township of Bear Creek.

1838 John Demsey (W.C. Lewis district) with 0ne horse, male, mule, or cattle. The W. C. Lewis district appears to be the same district seen as Samuel Walkup district in later years.

1837 John W. Demsey (W.C. Lewis district) with 0ne horse, male, mule, or cattle

1836 John Demsey (W.C. Lewis district) with one slave

If John W. DEMPSEY was the father of William A. W. DEMPSEY, the 1836 to 1838 tax lists (above) do not help to show this as male white tithables 16 and older were not noted. If this category had been included then John and all males 16 and older (possible sons in the household) would have been included in the count. Further, if John was the father, he would have had to have been married before his 1824 marriage.

From 1835 back to 1822 (W.C. Lewis district) no Demsey or Dempsey was found on the PTT.

Personal property tax books, 1824-1850 for Logan County are restricted at this time on FamilySearch. When they are available, I need to check if Tandy, John W., and other siblings were in Logan before 1835. Tandy was in Indiana by 1835, is known to have been in Logan for the 1830 census and the 1827 tax list (from a transcript).

Other Virginia Counties Need to be Checked

Rockbridge County is surrounded by the counties of Augusta, Nelson, Amherst, Bedford, Botetourt, Alleghany, and Bath. I’ve searched Botetourt and will be working through each of the other counties to find Dempsey individuals who may have crossed over the county lines. Formation of the counties will also be considered.

Botetourt had the expected Rev. Absalom C. DEMPSEY (1787-1872) on the tax list from 1809 to 1851. The Reverend was the son of another William DEMPSEY who died before June 1806 and grandson of a William DEMPSEY who died about 1806. The estimated deaths of Absolom’s father and grandfather were found in chancery records that also name children of the younger William, including William the 3rd who died intestate, unmarried, and without issue before 1822 (see images 4 and 5).

Montgomery has also been added to the list of counties to check as there is a connection between men found on the Botetourt tax lists and at least one known to have been in Montgomery. Hugh DEMPSEY (born 1785 or earlier) was not named as a son of the senior William mentioned in the chancery records. He was seen in Botetourt from 1808 to 1828, was on the 1830 census in Montgomery before going to Missouri before 1840.

Orange County will also be carefully checked as I have researched the DEMPSEY family coming out of this county in my process of elimination.

Recap for William A. W. Dempsey

My review of the Rockbridge County PPT brought to light two tax listings for my great-great-grandfather William A. W. DEMPSEY. Listed with the middle initials he used during his lifetime, he was found in the county in 1841 and 1843. The 1839 listings may or may not be for my William.

As other counties in Virginia (including present-day West Virginia) are checked, I hope to be able to sort all of the DEMPSEY individuals into their appropriate family groups.

As my William A. W. DEMPSEY went to Fayette County after 1843 and by 1846, it has been speculated that he may have been a son of John W. DEMPSEY who married Margaret FITZPATRICK in 1824. This John moved to Fayette County by July 1839 when he married his second wife, Amelia RIDDLE. I also once considered this possibility. As genealogy research has not so far turned up any supporting evidence for this assumption, I’ve turned to genetic genealogy and evaluating DNA matches. If my William A. W. DEMPSEY were the son of John W. DEMPSEY and the half-sibling of John’s children from both marriages, I should be seeing matches with some of their descendants. So far, none have been found.

And the search continues, for the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. Oren F. Morton, B. Lit.; A History of Rockbridge County, Virginia; published by The McClure Co., Inc., Staunton, Virginia 1920; pgs. 380, 552. Images of the pages in the book courtesy of