Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Hannah

An autosomal DNA match with a distant cousin with the surname Landrum in their family tree had me looking into the parentage and ancestors of my 4th great-grandmother Margaret “Patsy” Landrum who married William Dempsey in Amherst County, Virginia, in 1799.

Patsy was the orphan daughter of James Landrum who was mentioned in the will of his mother Elizabeth Landrum in 1755.1

Elizabeth Landrum’s last will and testament was written on 22 October 1755 and presented to be recorded on 18 November 1755. The executors/administrators’ bond followed the will and was dated 18 November 1755. A condition of the bond was the inventory and appraisal of the estate. The inventory ordered on 18 November 1755 was recorded on 16 December 1755.

1755 Appraisal and Inventory of the Estate of Elizabeth Landrum of St. Anne’s Parish in Essex County, Virginia

Inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Landrum (part 1)

The inventory included one Negro woman called Hannah and valued at £20.2

Inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Landrum (part 2)

Hannah, the enslaved woman mentioned in this inventory, was not mentioned in the estate of Samuel Landrum who predeceased his wife Elizabeth in 1750. He did not leave a will and his wife was the administratrix of his estate.3 An appraisement and inventory of the estate was duly recorded and did not include any enslaved persons. One-third of the estate was allotted to the widow.4

Samuel Landrum predeceased his mother Mary Landrum who wrote a will after his death in which she mentioned his being deceased.5 Neither the will nor the inventory ordered to be made included slaves.6

Samuel’s father James Landrum died about 1739 leaving a last will and testament which included the names of two enslaved persons. Their names were shared in Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING Willobey and Plimoth.

Samuel did not receive a slave from his father which makes me believe Hannah may have been acquired by Elizabeth after the death of her husband  Samuel. Another possibility being that Elizabeth inherited Hannah from her parents. Unfortunately, at this time, the maiden name and parentage of Elizabeth Landrum are not known.

True's statementFollowing 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 post on a monthly basis 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.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

  1. “Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983,” (images),, citing original data of Virginia County, District, and Probate Courts, Essex Will Books, Vol 8-10, 1747-1757, page 77, image 473 of 519. Last will and testament of Elizabeth Landrum dated 22 October 1755, presented and recorded on 18 November 1755. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  2. Ibid., Essex Will Books, Vol 8-10, 1747-1757, pages 81 and 82, images 475 and 476 of 519. Appraisal and inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Landrum. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  3.  Ibid., Essex Will Books, Vol 8-10, 1747-1757, page 385, image 215 of 519. Administrators’ Bond for the estate of Samuel Landrum. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  4.  Ibid., Essex Will Books, Vol 8-10, 1747-1757, pages 397-399, images 221-222 of 519. Appraisal and inventory of the estate of Samuel Landrum. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  5.  Ibid., Essex Will Books, Vol 9-10, 1750-1756, 1760-1761, page 310, image 315 of 539. Last will and testament of Mary Landrum. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  6.  Ibid., Essex Will Books, Vol 9-10, 1750-1756, 1760-1761, pages 322-323, images 327-328 of 539. Appraisal and inventory of the estate of Mary Landrum. ( : accessed 25 March 2018). 

My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2018

De Vältesdag, deen den 14. Februar a ville Länner gefeiert gëtt, ass deen Dag vun den Verléiften.  Ouni déi Koppelen, déi virun eis gelieft hun géifen mir net existéieren.

Valentine’s Day reminds me of the couples who came before me – without whom I would not exist.

This is my fifth year doing the Ancestor Score on Valentine’s Day.  I first learned this way of keeping tabs on the progress in my genealogy research from Barbara Schmidt in 2014. She posted her latest Ancestor Score February 2018 last week.

My Ancestor Score

The names of 57 new ancestors were added to my family tree database during the year. Most of these are 6th and 7th great-grandparents who were found while writing about my Luxembourgish and German 5th great-grandparents last year.

Generation 6 is still hanging in there at 30 of 32 ancestors. I continue to search for the key to the door of my most frustrating DEMPSEY brick wall. Who were the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY 1820-1867 of Fayette County, West Virginia?

I wrote the above last year and it’s still the case and has been for at least a half-dozen years or longer.

My focus this year is on the American ancestors as I organize and set up the groundwork for more serious DNA research. I am now seeing descendants of William A. W. DEMPSEY in my matches. I have matches for descendants of his four sons (James Alexander, John Henry, William Henderson, and Elijah Lewis) and daughter Mary Virginia. I’m still looking for matches who descend from Lizzie and Eunice, the other two daughters. All I need is for all of the matches to upload their raw DNA to GEDmatch so I can compare the chromosomes, separate the chromosomes coming from his wife Sarah Ann WOOD, and compare all unknowns with what is left in hopes of finding matches who descend from William’s parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. Sounds easy?

My Children’s Ancestor Score

My children’s ancestor score looks a lot better mostly due to their paternal line being mainly from Luxembourg. Ninety-five percent of their ancestors to the 8th generation are known. Their numbers for the next two generations are quite high compared to mine – even when you consider the difference in generations.

Stats for previous years are included in both tables above. The posts from previous years can be found here:

Have you done your Ancestor Score recently? I’d love to have a look. Please post your link in a comment below. Thank you and Happy Valentine’s Day.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: William, Mary, and Orange

Earlier this month I discovered a wonderful batch of pre-Civil War records for the counties in the western Virginia which would become West Virginia in 1863. FamilySearch’s collections of digital images have been growing at an amazing speed in recent years. Every now and then I will do fairly simple searches for birth, marriage, and/or death records in Fayette County, West Virginia, for the surname DEMPSEY. This surname is in two branches of my family tree. I am always looking for new information to possibly connect the two lines or to fill in some blanks in either line.

I was not disappointed when something new showed up in a search for births in Fayette County, (West) Virginia. The hit indicated a son born to my 3rd great-grand uncle Wilson M. DEMPSEY. A son I did not have in my database. When I opened up the details of the search results, I found the birth record was not for a son but for a slave.

“West Virginia Births and Christenings, 1853-1928,” database, FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), William Dempsey, 11 Feb 1857; citing Meadow Fork, Fayette, Virginia, reference ; FHL microfilm 34,485.

From experience, I know when FamilySearch shows a record is not available (see camera icon with the notation in the above image) this actually means there is no image attached to the indexed material. However, the film may be available online and browse-only. I checked their catalog for the FHL microfilm number given and found Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia, microreproduction of original manuscripts at the Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, for West Virginia counties.

I spend hours working with the browse-only records at FamilySearch. Being experienced made it easy for me to find the image to the record indexed above. This post deals with the content of the record, not how I found it. If you are interested, please ask, and I will explain how in a comment to this post.

Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia; Film # 007499353; Calhoun – Hampshire counties; image 120 of 554. ( : accessed 10 June 2017)

The birth of William, a son of Mary, was recorded in the birth register of Fayette County. He was born at Meadow Fork on 11 February 1857. The column for the name of the father is titled: Father’s Name in full if Child be free and born in wedlock, or Name of Owner if Child born a Slave. Wilson M. Dempsey’s name is in this column as well as the column for the informant. In the column, Relationship of Informant, he is noted as Owner.

I took a bit of time to browse through the entire batch of registers for Fayette County and found another entry with Wilson M. Dempsey as the informant. This one did not turn up in my original search which made me wonder if the entire collection has been indexed. Different search criteria turned up this indexed record in the Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917.

“Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917,” database, FamilySearch ( : 5 December 2014), Orange Dempsy, Jun 1855; citing Loop, Fayette, VA, reference ; FHL microfilm 34,485.

This indexed record shows “Orange Dempsy” was a child of “Wilson Dempsy” and “Mary.” A closer look at the actual entry in the register shows Orange was a slave.

Vital statistics, 1853-1860 of West Virginia; Film # 007499353; Calhoun – Hampshire counties; image 112 of 554. ( : accessed 29 June 2017)

On this entry, the child Orange was born in June 1855 on the Loop in Fayette County. He was a slave owned by Wilson Dempsey. The mother’s name was Mary. The occupation of the father is blank and his residence is listed as Amherst. Another child born as a slave of another slaveholder on the same page has blanks for the occupation and residence of the father. It’s possible Amherst refers to the residence of the father of Orange, indicating the enslaved family was separated due to Wilson Dempsey’s recent move to Fayette County. Or, Wilson Dempsey had not yet moved his family and may have taken his slave(s) there to prepare for his move.

In 1840 Wilson Dempsey was recently married to Evalina Carolyn Rhodes, a daughter of Reuben Rhodes and Tabitha Rowsie of Amherst County, Virginia. In the 1840 census of the same county, Wilson was seen with his bride and two slaves, one male 10 thru 23 and one female under 10 years. In 1850 Wilson was listed as an overseer in the Eastern District of Amherst. His wife had died in the 1840s and he’d remarried. His second wife’s maiden name is not known. The 1850 slave schedule does not have a listing for him and it is unknown for whom he was working as an overseer.

Before finding the above records, we knew Wilson moved to Fayette County in western Virginia in the 1850s. The records place him in the county in 1855, either setting up his household or permanently settled.

In 1860 the slave schedule of Fayette County includes the following enslaved black persons for Wilson M. Dempsey:

  • one male age 35 (possibly the male seen in 1840?)
  • one female age 30 (possibly Mary)
  • one female age 22 (or, possibly Mary)
  • one female age 12
  • one female age 8
  • two females age 7
  • one male age 3 (possibly William)
  • one male age 1

I have known since I first began researching my 3rd great-grandfather Seaton Y. Dempsey that his brother Wilson had slaves as well as their father William Dempsey of Amherst. However, the only indication of their keeping enslaved persons had been the 1810 census for William (3 slaves), the 1840 census for Wilson (2 slaves), and the 1860 census for Wilson (9 slaves). The birth records found this month help to name at least three of the enslaved people: Orange, William, and their mother Mary.


True's statementFollowing 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 post on a monthly basis 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 which can be found on Schalene Jennings Dagutis’ blog Tangled Roots and Trees

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2017

De Vältesdag, deen den 14. Februar a ville Länner gefeiert gëtt, ass deen Dag vun den Verléiften.  Ouni déi Koppelen, déi virun eis gelieft hun géifen mir net existéieren.

Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated in many countries on the 14th of February, is the time for people to show feelings of love and affection. Without the couples who came before us, we would not exist. Most were married, some cut it close, and at least one lady gave us a non-paternity event.

This is my fourth year doing the Ancestor Score on Valentine’s Day after reading Barbara Schmidt’s “My Ancestor Score – February 4, 2014” post in 2014. [Update: The link to the 2014 post no longer works. She’s moved her blog but not all the content is up. Here’s her My Ancestor Score February 2017.]

My Ancestor Score

The names of 43 new ancestors were added to my family tree database during the year. This is nearly five times more than those added in 2016. Many of these are due to my now having access* to the Family Books of German towns where my ancestors lived and the recent work I’ve been doing with the church records of Luxembourg. The new additions are in the 5th to 8th great-grandparents’ generations. The new ancestors who lived in areas which are now Germany have names and dates. Records are being found in the church records of Luxembourg for those who lived in these German towns which belonged to parishes in Luxembourg at the time.

* Thanks to our newly opened Luxracines library in Walferdange, Luxembourg.

ancestorscore2017Generation 6 is still hanging in there at 30 of 32 ancestors. I continue to search for the key to the door of my most frustrating DEMPSEY brick wall. Who were the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY 1820-1867 of Fayette County, West Virginia? As the administrator of my youngest brother’s DNA, I’m beginning to see several cousins, with shared matches, who descend from his daughter Mary Virginia DEMPSEY and son-in-law John A. SNELL who married in 1872.

My Children’s Ancestor Score

My children have 355 more known ancestors than I do. Their paternal ancestry, being mostly Luxembourgish, helps to bring in a whopping 95% score for the first 8 generations – up to their 5th great-grandparents. Even at 10 generations they have 61% compared to my 39%.ancestorscore2017children

I’ve included the stats for previous years in both tables above but here is a list of my posts from the previous years if you are interested in reading them.

Have you done your Ancestor Score recently? Please post your link in a comment below so that I can visit and have a look.


© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Look Who’s Using DNA for Genealogy Research

In mid-March I received this message from one of my siblings:

Just wanted to let you know that I ordered a DNA kit from I will send you the results when I get them. Hopefully it will be useful in your research.

When his results came in late May he sent me this message and screenshot:

Hope this doesn’t mess up your research too much.

ethnicityI thought he was holding out on me, waiting to let me know only after he came to visit for Mom’s 80th birthday. But the results truly did not come in until early morning of the day he was to arrive in Luxembourg.

He turned administration over to me as he thought I would know better what to do with the test results as he does not do genealogy.

I haven’t done DNA testing but my second cousin Laura [daughter of Geraldine Dempsey Workman (1931-2007) – the first person I know of who worked on our family tree] shared her DNA page with me earlier this year. Since Laura and I share great-grandparents (William Henderson DEMPSEY and Laura Belle INGRAM) 3/4 of her matches did not have anything to do with our common line. It however helped me to get a feel for Ancestry’s DNA page before my brother’s results came in.

The ethnicity results (above) of 100% European were to be expected although it blew the theory of a Native American connection right out of the water. Or so I thought. Where do the 10% Italy/Greece fit into our family tree?

After a week or so of trying to figure out some kind of system to work through the matches on Ancestry I decided to download the raw DNA data and upload to GEDmatch. After the kit (A131214) was tokenized and while I was waiting for the batch processing to complete I did a heritage test.

Admix Results (sorted):

# Population Percent
1 Early Neolithic Farmer 43.00
2 Western European/Unknown Hunter-Gatherer 25.49
3 Ancestral South Eurasian 18.91
4 Caucas-Gedrosia 7.59
5 NearEast 1.65
6 Amerindian 1.43
7 Ancestral South Indian 1.20

1.43% Native American DNA for my brother. I understand he got about 50% of his DNA from our father and 50% from our mother (European). Family tradition is the NA connection is through our paternal grandmother Myrtle Hazel ROOP‘s mother Rebecca Jane CLONCH. If I keep doubling the percentage (which may not be scientifically correct) I get 91.52% at the 4th great-grandparent level. Dennis CLAUNCH and Nancy BEASLEY are the only known set. Another ancestor at this level was Levina DOSS who had her children with an unknown man. The unknowns are COOLEYs and TREADWAYs.

I admit this was just a game I was playing before I begin to get serious about using the DNA results for research purposes. But who knows, maybe I’m on the right track.

Oh yes, Laura and my brother are “predicted 2nd cousins” and share 381 centimorgans across 15 DNA segments.


© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.








Mom’s 80th Birthday Party

A little over two weeks ago the Dempsey family got together at our house to celebrate Mom’s 80th birthday. Normally I don’t blog about living persons but this is a milestone in Mom’s and our lives which deserves to be written about while she is still with us.

We had two family photographers and several others with their cell phones taking pictures but the only way to get a great family group photo is to have someone else do the job. Many thanks to Anne-Ly Mertens-Prott for the wonderful photos and for working over the Luxembourgish translation with her husband Nic for the local online newspaper at

Photo courtesy of Anne-Ly Mertens
Photo courtesy of Anne-Ly Mertens-Prott

80ten Gebuertsdaag vum Josette Sassel-Wildinger

Freides, de 29. Mee 1936 kruten d’Marie Marcelle Fournelle an den Nicolas Wildinger vun Iechternach Nowuess. D’Josette, hirt eenzegt Kand, huet deen Daag zu Iechternach d’Liicht vun der Welt erbléckst. Seng Mamm huet dacks vum spéide Schnéi, deen et um Päischtweekend no senger Gebuert gouf, geschwat. E puer Woche virun sengem véierte Gebuertsdaag huet d’Josette materlieft wéi déi Däitsch Lëtzebuerg besat hunn. D’Joer duerno ass säi Papp un der Tuberkulos gestuerwen. Den 10. Oktober 1944, war hatt eent vu villen déi aus Iechternach evakuéiert goufen. Zu Fouss ass hatt mat senger Mamm an dem 73 Joer ale Grousspapp iwwer Uesweller, Bech, Hielem an d’Luerenzweiler Géigend gaangen, wou si bis an de Mee 1945, bei Frënn ënnerkomm sinn.

Den 2. Mäerz 1957 huet d’Josette en amerikanesche G.I., de Fred Roosevelt Dempsey vu Victor, West Virginia, deen zu Bitburg stationéiert war, bestuet. Si goufen Eltere vu fënnef Kanner, déi si am Laaf vun de Joren am Georgia, Frankräich, Idaho, West Virginia, Spuenien, South Carolina an Texas, opgezunn hunn. 1974 ass säi Mann Freddy gestuerwen, an d’Joer drop koum d’Josette mat de Kanner Cathy, Debby, Marc, Mike an André zréck op Iechternach. Nodeems hatt d’Kanner während méi wéi enger Dose Joer eleng grouss gezunn hat, huet hatt sech den 28. August 1987 mam Francis Sassel bestuet.

Fir dem Josette säin 80. Gebuertsdaag, si seng Kanner fir déi éischte Kéier zanter 1979 nees all zu Iechternach zesummekomm. Et gouf gefeiert mat sengem Mann, de Kanner, den Eedemen a Schnaueren, a véier vun de néng Enkelkanner: Sheila, Brian, Jenny, Duane. Gefehlt hunn fënnef Enkelkanner: Cindy, Erin, Mike, André an Ian, souwéi zwee Urenkel Savannah an Taylor, déi mat engem schéine Video der Bomi gewënscht hunn.

MomBDay180th Birthday for Josette Sassel-Wildinger

On Friday 29 May 1936 Catherine Josette Wildinger was born in Echternach to Marie Marcelle Fournelle and Nicolas Wildinger. She would remain their only child. Her mother often told of the late snow which fell on Pentecost weekend following her birth. A few weeks before her fourth birthday Josette saw the Germans occupy Luxembourg. The following year her father died of tuberculosis. On 10 October 1944 she was one of many who were evacuated from Echternach, going on foot to Osweiler, Bech, Helmdange, and the Lorentzweiler area with her mother and 73 years old Grandpapa, only returning in May 1945.

On 2 March 1957 Josette married an America G.I., Fred Roosevelt Dempsey from Victor, West Virginia, while he was stationed in Bitburg, Germany. They became the parents of five children and raising them in Georgia, France, Idaho, West Virginia, Spain, South Carolina, and Texas. In 1975 Josette returned to Echternach with her children Cathy, Debby, Marc, Mike, and André following the death of her husband Freddy the previous year. After raising her children on her own for more than a dozen years she married François Sassel on 28 August 1987.

For Josette’s 80th birthday her children came together for the first time since 1979. She celebrated with her husband, her children and their spouses, and four of her nine grandchildren: Sheila, Brian, Jenny, and Duane. Missing were five grandchildren Cindy, Erin, Mike, André, and Ian, and her two great-grandchildren Savannah and Taylor, who sent a wonderful video with birthday wishes for their grandmother/great-grandmother.

The Day in Retrospect

Following a huge round of applause and a presentation of a large bouquet, a gift from two of her grandchildren, Mom and the rest of us enjoyed watching the video sent by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who could not be here. It was very moving and there was not a dry eye in the room afterwards.

We were able to sit out on the back porch and in the back yard where a tent had been set up to enjoy our plates filled from the cold buffet. After everyone had had their fill and before the cake was brought out, Anne-Ly came by to take the group photos. Mom did not know what was going on when she and her five children were being set up on the steps of the back porch.

Photo on right courtesy of Anne-Ly Mertens-Prott

We reproduced a photo of Mom with the kids taken Easter Sunday in 1969 when Dad was on duty in Thailand. The photo was also used on her cake, a gift from the other two grandchildren who were present.


MomBDay2Mom getting ready to cut the cake with her grown up children.

MomBDayCollagetinyEveryone had a great time, memories were shared and new ones were made. Hopefully it will not be 37 years before we can all get together again.


© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.
















My Ancestor Score as of Valentine’s Day 2016

This is my third year doing the Ancestor Score on Valentine’s Day. I’d like to thank Barbara Schmidt who got me started with her post My Ancestor Score – February 4, 2014.

We would not be here without all the Valentine couples who came before us. Most were married, some cut it close, and at least two Doss ladies gave us non-paternity events.

Valentine2My Ancestor Score

Nine new ancestors were added since last year – thanks to the church records in Luxembourg. This is not much compared to the 26 from 2015 but as you can see (in the second spreadsheet) I have also been working on my children’s bloodline.

ancestorscore2016Generation 6 is still hanging in there at 30 of 32 ancestors. I continue to search for the key to the door of my frustrating DEMPSEY brick wall. Who were the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY 1820-1867 of Fayette County, West Virginia?

My Children’s Ancestor Score

My children’s Ancestor Score is looking a lot better than mine due to their paternal ancestry being mostly Luxembourgish. Generations 12 to 22 of their paternal ancestry remains to be researched – the numbers seen reflect the ancestors they share with me on my side of the family tree.ancestorscore2016kidsHave you done your Ancestor Score recently? Post your link in a comment and I’ll have a look.

© 2016 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Sitting like a Statue on Your Sources

This morning “Your Memories on Facebook” reminded me of a FB post I wrote the day before my first blogpost was published here. I’ve had a Facebook page for Opening Doors in Brick Walls since December 2, 2012, over a year before I began blogging. When this memory popped up I realized I haven’t moved all of the things I’ve written over to my blog. This was written January 22, 2014.

statueDon’t just sit there like a statue with your sources lying about.

As many of you know, I accepted the challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow in her blog No Story Too Small. I’m now working on 52 Ancestors: #4 William Henderson DEMPSEY 1860-1941.

Using the timeline feature of my genealogy program while I write, I find myself asking questions that I never thought of before. I’m taking a second (actually 3rd, 4th, 5th) look at documents and seeing new things. Who was in the household at this or that time? Where is this place? Is he moving around or are the names of the places changing? Why is this information on his death record wrong? Is it wrong? This is turning out to be a really good exercise.

Have you come up against a brick wall? I can recommend writing down everything you know about the person. You can do this for yourself or to share with a relative who might see things from a different angle.

A little warning: you may find yourself taking more time than you planned to do this.
You may also find yourself opening doors in your brick walls!

© 2016 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Tuesday’s Child’s Family Heirlooms: Laura’s Relish Dish (2)

Earlier in December I shared my great-grandmother Laura Belle DEMPSEY née INGRAM’s glass relish dish shaped like a leaf and a bunch of grapes.

grapedish2Several readers said they would like to see a photo of it with my homemade Santa Fe Cranberry Sauce.

cranberry1tinySince we are taking it easy after all the feasting I thought this would be a great filler, pun intended, until next week.

cranberry2tinyWishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.

 © 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead.

52 Ancestors: #50 My Naughty Mr. and Mrs. DEMPSEY

Week 50 (December 10-16) – Naughty. We all have an ancestor who probably received coal in their stocking.

I’ve made a list, checked it twice and found who’s been naughty and nice.

If you’ve been following along these past two years you’ll know who’s locked the door to my most frustrating brick wall. Mr. and Mrs. DEMPSEY, my 3rd great-grandparents!

Genealogy Sketch

Parents: Unknown
Spouse: Mrs. DEMPSEY
Children: Willliam A. W. DEMPSEY (1820-1867)
Whereabouts: Unknown (some say outer space)
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 3rd great-grandparents

1. Mr. and Mrs. DEMPSEY
2. William A. W. DEMPSEY
3. William Henderson DEMPSEY
4. Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY
5. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
6. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

What do I know about Mr. and Mrs. DEMPSEY? They were the parents of my great-great-grandfather William A. W. DEMPSEY born about 1820 in Virginia per the Fayette County, (West) Virginia census. He was seen as 28 years old in 1850 and 40 years old in 1860. He was also on the 1841 tax list of Rockbridge County which means he had to have been at least 21 yrs old at the time.

The door in this brick all is firmly shut and no one left the key under the mat!

The most likely documents in which I might find the names of the parents of William A. W. DEMPSEY would be his birth, marriage and/or death record.

Death Record

Unfortunately no death record has been found. This means no death record with names of parents or any kind of information to corroborate the family tradition of William’s dying in a logging accident in the late 1860s. This would have been after October 1866 when he was listed as having an account due, owing Joel B. Wills $8.50. By 1870 his children and wife were living (farmed out) in several different households.

Marriage Record

To date, no marriage record has been found for William A. W. DEMPSEY and Sarah Ann WOOD. Their first known child was born about 1846 placing their marriage in the early to mid-1840s. Sarah was from Fayette County and most of her siblings married in Fayette, one in Greenbrier and one in Kanawha.

Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940 at FamilySearch was consulted and the site has been checked repeatedly as they continue to add records.

I put a query to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook requesting information on the likelihood of loose marriage papers being in the West Virginia archives and/or at county level.

I also asked the group about the possibility of there being a marriage ledger for Hopewell Baptist Church. This church being a likely place for the couple to marry as Sarah’s great-grandfather Baily WOOD was a founding member. The church burned down in the 1960s and all records in the church were destroyed. There were some records kept at members’ homes and several people offered to ask around.

I’m sure my father’s first cousin Geraldine Dempsey Workman (1931-2007) searched high and low in the 1970s and 1980s for more information on William’s parents and possible siblings. In 1995 she wrote “We still do not know his parents or family members” in a short summary of her research.

Birth Record

For the time period William was born, ca. 1820-1822 there were no birth records as we know today. A Bible would be a likely alternative but none is known to exist. It is very unlikely one survived, if there was any, as the family did not live together after his death.

Keeping with the Naughty theme, could it be Mrs. DEMPSEY was not a Missus? Should I be looking for a woman with the surname/maiden name DEMPSEY who had a son out of wedlock? This possibility has not been taken into consideration.

Pre-1850 Census Analysis

The lack of birth, marriage and death records with the names of his parents means I need to use a different tactic to find the parents. Regrettably William A. W. DEMPSEY was born and spent his childhood during the pre-1850 census era and cannot be found in a census which included the names of all household members.

I’ve followed the golden rule of genealogy and worked backward from myself to my great-great-grandfather. I’ve also traced his descendants forward to living relatives who may have the key I need to open the door in his brick wall.

After doing traditional and reverse genealogy I analyzed the pre-1850 Virginia census of DEMPSEY families in which William A. W. DEMPSEY may have been born.

1840 Census

There were no DEMPSEYs in Rockbridge in 1840. These are the DEMPSEY households found in what was then Virginia and includes counties which later became part of West Virginia:

  • John DEMPSEY in Fayette
  • Daniel DEMPSEY and sons Thomas, Lewis, and James in Orange
  • Daniel DEMPSEY in Spotsylvania County (son of Daniel of Orange)
  • Seaton and Wilson DEMPSEY in Amherst
  • Absalom DEMPSEY in Botetourt
  • William, John, Joseph, James, and Andrew DEMPSEY in Logan (sons of John Sr.)
  • Willis of DEMPSEY in Nansemond (free colored person)
  • Polley DEMCEY or DEMGEY of King William (free colored person)

1830 Census

  • Tandy DEMPSEY of Logan (father of John of Fayette)
  • Daniel DEMPSEY of Orange
  • Martha DEMPSEY of Amherst (mother of Seaton and Wilson)
  • Absalom DEMPSEY of Botetourt
  • Hugh DEMPSEY of Montgomery
  • John DEMPSEY Sr. and sons William, Thomas (dec’d, his widow Dicy), John Jr., and Joseph in Logan (formed from Cabell, Giles, and Kanawha in 1824)

1820 Census

  • Tandy DEMPSEY in Rockbridge
  • Daniel DEMPSEY in Orange
  • Will DEMPSEY in Amherst (husband of Martha)
  • John DEMPSEY and sons William, Thomas, and Joseph in Cabell
  • Absalom and Hugh DEMPSEY in Botetourt
  • James DEMPSEY in Caroline

1810 Census

Although 1810 is too early for William A. W. DEMPSEY it is interesting to see if the individuals found in 1820 were also in the same area in 1810. The 1810 census was lost for Orange County and tax lists have been used to reconstruct it.

  • Tandy DEMPSEY in Rockbridge
  • William DEMPSEY in Amherst
  • Mildred DEMPSEY in Botetourt (sister-in-law of John of Giles)
  • John DEMPSEY in Giles
  • James DEMPSEY in Caroline

1810 Census reconstructed from tax lists

  • Daniel DEMPSEY in Orange
  • Lewis DEMPSEY in Orange (son of Daniel)

1800 Census reconstructed from tax lists

  • 1800 James DEMPSEY in Orange
  • 1799 James DEMPSEY in Caroline
  • 1799 Nathan DEMPSEY in Franklin

1790 Census reconstructed from tax lists

  • 1791 James DEMPSEY in Greenbrier
  • 1789 William DEMPSEY in Botetourt
  • 1789 Michael DEMPSEY in Shenandoah

mapEven before doing more serious research on the DEMPSEY lines found in Virginia I gave them names to identify and differentiate between them.

The Rockbridge DEMPSEYs

Tandy did not have a young male in his household in 1820 or 1830. He was the father of John W., William S., Andrew S., Jane, Elizabeth, Mary B., and Margaret. These children are proven as they were mention as the children of Nancy Thompson, wife of Tandy, in chancery and land records in Nelson County.

Tandy married Nancy Thompson in Amherst County on 19 January 1801. He lived in Rockbridge in 1810 and 1820 and moved to Logan County by 1827 where he was on the 1827 tax list and 1830 census. His son William S. was in Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia in 1830 and 1840. His son Andrew S. was in Logan in 1830 and in Lawrence County, Ohio, in 1840. William S. and Andrew S. both named sons William but have not been included in the census analysis as their sons were seen with them on the 1850 census.

The known children of John W. do not include a son named William. John W. does not appear to be with his father Tandy in 1820. He married(1) in 1824 in Rockbridge, was not found in the 1830 census, and lived in Fayette County in 1840 through 1870. There are no known children for John W. and his first wife for the time period from their marriage in 1824 and until the birth of son John A. born abt. 1830 in Rockbridge. The 1840 census listing includes 1 male 10 & under 15 yo – this person is unaccounted for.

Was William A. W. DEMPSEY the unaccounted for male and was he

  • actually younger than seen on the 1850 and 1860 census?
  • the son of John W. and his first wife born before or soon after the 1824 marriage?
  • the son of John W. and a relationship prior to his 1824 marriage?
  • the son of John W.’s first wife from a previous relationship?

The Amherst DEMPSEYs

This group has also been well researched as William DEMPSEY of Amherst was my 4th great-grandfather. His children are proven to be Wilson M., Seaton Y., Isham Coleman, Wesley G., Louisa J. and Eliza through land and court records produced after his death. In 1830, his wife Martha was listed in Amherst County with their two young daughters. There were no young males in the household.

William at some time went to Ohio and did not return as newspapers in the state of Ohio were requested to publish information on his wife’s death in 1834. On 20 June 1836, a year after the last notice was published, William and Martha’s son Wilson signed an administrator bond for the deceased William.

After the 1850 census Wilson and Seaton moved to Fayette County. Their brother Wesley, who was not found in 1830 and 1840 censuses, was in Botetourt in 1850 and lived in Rockbridge from 1860 until his death in 1890. The children of William of Amherst were too young to be parent candidates for William A. W. DEMPSEY.

I believe Tandy DEMPSEY and William DEMPSEY may have been brothers. Tandy married in Amherst less than a year and a half after William. There was also a Jane DEMPSEY who married Allen CAMERON in 1795 in Amherst. Allen CAMERON went bond with William DEMPSEY when William married which may suggest a close relationship. The CAMERON couple raised their family in Rockbridge. William’s mother Susannah DEMPSEY gave her consent for his marriage. No such record was found for Tandy and Jane.

The Orange DEMPSEYs

Daniel and his wife were past the childbearing years in 1820. His oldest son Thomas Allen was already married and had a son John L. The census numbers in 1820 show in Daniel’s household eight known children as well as his oldest son’s wife, their son and possibly a daughter. Daniel was seen in Orange County as early as 1810 (tax list) but may have come from Caroline County where his first son was born abt. 1778 per death record. Could there be a connection between James DEMPSEY of Caroline and Daniel DEMPSEY of Orange?

Daniel’s second son Lewis had a son named William A. born abt. 1825. This William A. DEMPSEY’s Civil War service was used to obtain a marker for my William A. W. DEMPSEY’s grave. The daughters of Geraldine, who did the paperwork for the marker, are aware of and have thought of rectifying the error.

The Botetourt DEMPSEYs

The next two groups have not been as thoroughly researched as the previous three. There are errors in online databases –  a meshing of two generations and many Dempsey individuals found in Virginia in the early 1800s. I recently found chancery records on the Library of Virginia site which may help correct the errors in this line.

William DEMPSEY Senr. died intestate before 12 February 1798 and his wife Jane died before 1826 (year of chancery case). He left heirs William Jr., John, Mark, and Mary wife of Joseph Miller. John and Mark were not in the Commonwealth and Mary and Joseph Miller resided in Blackwater in Franklin County in 1826.

William Senr.’s line splits into what I refer to as the Botetourt DEMPSEYs and Logan DEMPSEYs.

William Jr. died before 1806 and left widow Mildred “Milly” who resided in Fincastle; children: Elizabeth Dempsey resided in Fincastle, John and Samuel Dempsey outside of Commonwealth, Joel Dempsey and William Dempsey 3rd both decd/no issue, Absalom Dempsey in Fincastle, Dubartis Dempsey in NC, Judith the wife of Thomas Wilmore residing Giles court house, Susan wife of John Snyder residing in Christianburg, and Milly wife of David Campbell in NC.

For William Jr.’s line there was only one son (mentioned in the chancery records) who remained in Virginia. Absalom was a Baptist preacher; he and his wife did not have any children of their own.

Hugh DEMPSEY seen in Botetourt in 1820 may have been a son of William Jr. and omitted in the chancery records. He was in Montgomery County, Virginia, in 1830 and went to Cooper County, Missouri, abt. 1838 and was seen there in the 1840 and 1850 census. He had a son named William R. b. abt. 1810 and, therefore, was not the father of William A. W. DEMPSEY.

The Logan DEMPSEYs

John was in Giles County in 1810, Cabell County in 1820, and Logan County in 1830 – all due to the changing country lines during the time period. The Logan DEMPSEYs are a complete puzzle to me even though John’s second youngest son Mark left a genealogical note written in 1889 which gives the names and approximate years of birth of eleven children of John DEMPSEY and Rachel SOLOMON. I am not sure how reliable the transcription of the note is as he wrote his mother died about 1849. I found Rachel DEMPSEY age 85 in the household of James DEMPSEY, possibly a 12th child of John and Rachel.

I’ve added pre-1850 census records for the Logan DEMPSEYs in my database but have not done extensive census analysis.

Birth, marriage and death records need to be checked at Note: Many Logan County records were  destroyed during the Civil War, and records were not kept for several years following the war.

James DEMPSEY of Greenbrier

James DEMPSEY in Greenbrier (1791) was in the county as early as 1782. James Dymsey was seen as a resident of Greenbrier County in 1782 in Mr. Jas. Henderson’s District with 1 tithable, 3 horses and 4 cattle. In Oren F. Morten’s A History of Monroe County, West Virginia James Dempsey and wife Rosey/Rosanna are mentioned as having 375 acres of patented land on Second Creek in Greenbrier County, 180 acres patented by Dempsey and Ralph Gates in 1783 and 195 acres patented by Dempsey in 1787. Ralph Gates bought the 375 acres from James Dempsey and his wife Rosey Dempsey on 28 July 1795. A year later, on 6 January 1796 James and Rosanna Dempsey sold 100 acres to Mathew Lynn on Second Creek / Greenbrier River adj. Thomas Lewis and Ralph Gates, who was a witness. In 1808 David Henderson bought land from John and Agatha Stuart that adjoined land of James Dempsey. The 1810 census for Greenbrier is lost and James DEMPSEY was not found on the 1810 tax lists.

He would have been 21 or older at the time he was first seen on the 1782 tax list. This would put his age in 1820 to over 59 years. No trace of him has been found in Virginia after he and his wife sold land in 1796. It is unknown if they had children.

Speculation: Could he be the same person as James DEMPSEY convicted in 1772 in London and transported to Virginia in January 1773 on the ship Justitia?


These have not been traced:

  • Nathan DEMPSEY in Franklin (1799)
  • Michael DEMPSEY in Shenandoah (1789) – Michael Dimsey md. Eliz. Barnhart in Shenandoah County on 17 Dec 1788. Another marriage seen in the county was Jane Dempsey to Jacob Savage on 1 Dec 1808. Was she a daughter of Michael?

What do you think of my analysis of the census of the DEMPSEY families found in Virginia at the time of my great-great-grandfather William A. W. DEMPSEYs birth and childhood? Have I missed something that caught your eye? What else would you try?

Mr. and Mrs. DEMPSEY don’t be naughty, please be nice and send some comments my way on how I can find out your names and what happened to you.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.