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 the 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 17 March 1817-7 August 1820 as the 1817 visit was on March 17 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). (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 December 2014). 
  2. “WV Kanawha Personal property tax lists, 1792-1850”, FamilySearch.org, 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. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-5992-L?i=70&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  3. Ibid., image 103 of 773, 1807 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-599N-2?i=102&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  4. Ibid., image 123 of 773, 1809 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-599V-8?i=122&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  5. Ibid., image 140 of 773, 1810 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-5996-6?i=139&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  6. Ibid., image 159 of 773, 1811 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-5998-S?i=158&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  7. Ibid., image 176 of 773, 1812 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-599Q-C?i=175&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  8. Ibid., image 191 of 773, 1813 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-599C-Z?i=190&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  9. Ibid., image 224 of 773, 1814 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-599H-B?i=223&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  10. Ibid., image 239 of 773, 1815 Dennis Claunch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-59M1-H?i=238&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  11. Ibid., image 278 of 773, 1816 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-59MR-3?i=277&cat=776502 : accessed 16 March 2021). 
  12. Ibid., image 310 of 773, 1817 Dennis Clonch. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSQK-59MG-1?i=309&cat=776502 : 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. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 13 December 2014). 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Benjamin F. Hopkins b. abt. 1851

My monthly posts for the Slave Name Roll Project have been absent from my blog since the end of March 2020. As many things slowed down or came to a stop during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding names of enslaved persons in records in the US was put on hold.

In February 2020 I released the names of five enslaved persons found in the 1834 Last Will and Testament of Thomas Hannan of Mason County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Thomas had several sons who left wills. One of these was Charles who wrote his will twenty-two years later. In March 2020 I released the names of six enslaved persons found in the 1856 Last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan. Planned for April 2020, but not written, was this post releasing the name of a former enslaved person mentioned in the 1879 will of Charles’ wife Ann W. Fox.1

1879 Last Will and Testament of Ann Hannan of Mason County, Virginia

This last will and testament of Ann W. Hannan of Mason County and State of West Virginia, –
First after the payment of my just debts, I give and bequeath to my three nieces Ann H. Steed, Lucy Butler, and Ida May Fox all my real estate in the State of West Virginia: – Second I give and bequeath to the said Ida May Fox all my personal property in this state – Third I give and bequeath to Benjamin Hopkins (who was formerly my salve, (sic, slave)) one hundred dollars provided he remains with me and is kind and serviceable to me as long as I live – Fourth I give and bequeath to my niece Caroline Goolsby all my estate in the State of Virginia and all debts due me or to which I may be entitled to in law or equity in said State, but out of this legacy she is to pay my sister Jinnie one hundred dollars if my said sister should be then alive. It is my desire that my executor shall sell at public sale all my real and personal estate in the State of West Virginia, and that he shall out of the proceeds of the sale of said realty pay to the said Hopkins the sum aforesaid, divide the remaining proceeds equally between my three nieces first mentioned and shall after the payments of my debts pay over to Ida May the amt. left of the proceeds of the personal estate. I hereby appoint William R. Gunn of Mason County and State of West Virginia sole executor of this my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 11th day of June 1873.
her
Ann W X Hannan
mark
Signed and sealed by the said Anne W. Hannan as and for her last will and testament in our presence and we at the same time in her presence and in the presence of each other witnessed the same at her request.
William R. Gunn
his
John M. X Chapman
mark

Codicil — I Ann W. Hannan whose name is signed to the foregoing will dated dated (sic) the 11th day of June

1873, do hereby make and add this codicil to my said foregoing will and do now hereby revoke and change so much thereof as devises or bequeaths or gives to the said Lucy Butler any part of my said estate and desire that she shall take nothing thereby. I also do hereby further desire and do so will that the said Ida May Fox shall not as provided in any said will take all my personal property in this State but desire that said property shall be equally divided between her and the said Ann H. Steed. As witness my hand and seal this 24th day of June, 1876.
his (sic, her)
Ann W. X Hannan
mark
Signed and sealed by the said Ann W. Hannan in our presence and we at the same time in her presence & the presence of each other witnessed the same at her request & she declared that the same was a codicil to her said foregoing will
Abner McCoy
William Hudson

At a County Court continued and held for the County of Mason at the Court House thereof on Tuesday May 20th 1879.
A writing purporting to be the last Will and testament of Ann W. Hannan deceased late of this County, was this day present in Court and fully proved according to law by the oaths of W. R. Gunn and John W. Chapman, the subscribing witnesses thereto, and the Codicil thereto attached was also fully proved according to law by the oaths of Abner McCoy and William Hudson the subscribing witnesses thereto. It is therefore ordered by the Court that the said writing be recorded as and for the last will and testament of the said Ann W. Hannan decd and on motion of W.R. Gunn the Executor therein named, who made oath and together with Joseph N. Daigh, his security, who justified on oath as to his sufficiency, entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of one thousand dollars conditioned according to law, certificate is granted the said W.R. Gunn for obtaining probate of the said Will in due form, and it is further ordered that Abner McCoy, William Hudson, & Jno. W. Chapman after being first duly sworn for that purpose do truly and justly appraise in current money the personal estate of the said Ann W. Hannan, decd,

and the appraisement so made return under their hands to this Court.
A Copy Teste: J.P.R.B.Smith Clerk
by Jas H. Holloway, Deputy

Benjamin Hopkins

In the 1870 census Anna W. Hannan had her own household with her young niece Ida M. Fox age 12, and six black persons, all named HOPKINS, in Hannan, Mason County, West Virginia.2 Three young boys appear to be children of Matilda HOPKINS but this is assumed as the 1870 census did not include relationships. They were not located in 1880.

Screenshot of the 1870 census index as the image is too light to be legible.

Benjamin HOPKINS, the formerly enslaved man of Anna W. Hannan, was living in her household in 1870. He was 19 years old, i.e. would have been about 10 years old in 1861. Bettie may be the young girl seen in the inventory of Anna’s husband in 1861. [Below, in brackets are the names given in the will.]

Excerpt from the 1861 inventory of Charles Hannan:
one Negro man named Nelson $800 [Nelson Cudyo]
one Negro woman named Milie $650 [Milley]
one Negro girl named Bettie $450
one Negro boy named Ben $500 [Ben Packson]
one Negro boy named Dick $500 [Peter Dicky]
one Negro girl named Hettie $300 [Hetty]

Is it possible that Mathilda, Bettie, and Benjamin were siblings and the children of Nelson and Milley? Or worded differently, were the man and woman and children mentioned in the inventory a family group?

In 1880, Benjamin HOPKINS was found in Huntington, Cabell County, West Virginia, as the head of a household.3 Also in his household were his sister Belle HOPKINS and his nephew Montague ALLEN. Montague was Belle’s son. She would marry his father John Henry ALLEN in 1886. She died in 1913 and the death register did not include the names of her parents.

Belle had at least three children with John Henry ALLEN.

  1. No descendants were found for their son Montague HOPKINS  (1876-1944) who was married twice. His 1944 death certificate names Belle HOPKINS  born in Nelson County, Virginia, and John Henry ALLEN born in Louisa County, Virginia, as his parents.
  2. In 1940 Montague was the head of a household that included his sister Anna Lois ALLEN. She is unaccounted for prior to this census listing other than a marriage record in 1900 to William CALLAWAY. In 1940 her husband was named William SALES. He died in 1949 and she was listed as the informant on the certificate of death. Anna Lois’s 1960 death certificate confirms she was the daughter of John Henry ALLEN and Belle HOPKINS.
  3. The third child was John Henry ALLEN Jr. (1885-1932). He and his wife Susie H. CHADWICK (1890-1978) had three sons. They were all married and had children. I have not taken their lines into the present time.

Belle HOPKINS was not found in 1870. The 1870 census for Anna W. Hannan with the HOPKINS in her household is faint and hard to decipher. Could Belle have been the same person as Bettie?

I was unable to locate Benjamin HOPKINS after the 1880 census. However, working on the assumption that Nelson may have been his father, I searched for a likely candidate.

Ramblings…

I found Nelson HOPKINS (1824-1907), a black man, born about 1824 in Virginia living in Mason County, West Virginia, from 1870 until 1907. He was on the 1870 census with a wife named Susan and two young sons, Alfred J. and Thomas. In 1880 he was widowed with two young boys, Alfred J. and Payton. In 1900 he was with a wife of 6 years named Bertha (b. 1872) and two sons, Harry (b. 1883) and Marion (b.  1888). He died 30 June 1907 in Mason County. He was living on the Poor Farm and was married at the time of death. No parents were listed on the record nor the name of a spouse.

The 1927 death certificate of Alfred J. HOPKINS (1867-1927), seen with Nelson in 1870 and 1880, named his parents Nelson HOPKINS and Susan SAUNDERS. He was single at the time of death.

The 1912 marriage record of Marion HOPKINS (1888-1967) named his parents as Nelson HOPKINS and Bertha EARLY. Further searches for Bertha indicate she was likely 10 years older than noted in 1900 and therefore old enough to be the mother of both boys. As her age may be incorrect, it is possible that the number of years married is also wrong.

Marriage records for Nelson HOPKINS were not found nor were death records for Susan or Bertha. The records left by these two children show that the households found in 1870, 1880, and 1900 were the same Nelson HOPKINS.

Although Benjamin HOPKINS, whose name was released in the last will and testament of Anna W. (Fox) Hannan, has not been traced after the 1880 census, his sister Belle has. She left descendants who are living today. My ramblings about the man named Nelson HOPKINS may be helpful to these descendants if they are interested in proving/disproving the parentage of Belle and her brother Benjamin.

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.

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


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch, citing Mason County Clerk, West Virginia. Mason > Will book, v. 002 1874-1896 > image 51 of 242 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN92-8P?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1Y5%3A179687901%2C179748201 : accessed 27 January 2021) and image 52 of 242 (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN92-37?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1Y5%3A179687901%2C179748201 : accessed 27 January 2021) 
  2. 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_1692, Family History Library Film: Film: 553191, West Virginia, Mason, Hannan, page 106A, lines 9-16, HH #17-17, Annie W Hannen. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 27 January 2021). Note: The official enumeration day of the 1870 census was 1 June 1870. 
  3. 1880 U.S. Federal Census; Census Place: Huntington, Cabell, West Virginia; Roll: 1401; Page: 159A; Enumeration District: 016 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Milley, Hetty, Nelson, Ben, Bettie, and Dick

Last month I released the names of five enslaved persons found in the 1834 Last Will and Testament of Thomas Hannan of Mason County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Thomas had several sons who left wills. One of these was his son Charles who wrote his will twenty-two years after his father on 4 October 1856.1

1856 Last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia

1856 Last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.

In the name God Amen I Charles Hannan of the County of Mason and State of Virginia Being of Sound Mind and disposing Memory Knowing the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death. In order to dispose of the worldly goods that I have been blessed with Do Make and publish this my last will and testament.
First I comit my Soul to God who gave it and my body to the earth in hopes of a blessed Imortality on the Reserrection.
I give and bequeath to my wife Ann W. Hannan all my lands in Mason County Virginia to her and her seperate use during her natural life then at her natural death to be disposed of hereafter named all the Negros belonging to wife if she wants them if not to go as hereafter mention. I give and bequeath unto my wife Ann W. Hannan a

1856 Last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.

Negro girl Slave named Milley and her posterity to her and to dispose of as she sees proper allso a Negro girl Slave named Hetty as she might think proper for her use and benefit and her posterity.
I give and beaquath all the balance of my Slaves in Mason County Va. and lands to the use of the Gospel in said County Va. namely my lands after the death of my wife Ann W. Hannan to go to the benefit of any [Baptist and Southern Methodist – these words are struck through] preacher or preachers Baptist and Southern Methodist rent free forever that might preach to the people in this sourrounding county in succession one after the other forever rent free after the death of my wife allso all my property of every description after the death of my wife to go to the same perpose the Gospel in said County Virginia for the benefit and support of the poor Preachers throughought the said County Except the two named Slaves Milley and Hetty I have bequeathed to my wife Ann W. Hannan to her and sole use and benefit forever.
I give and bequeath the named Slaves to the Baptist and Southern Methodist preachers after the natural death of my wife Ann W. Hannan: Nelson Cudyo and Ben Packson and Bity Bill and Peter Dicky Slaves to be hired out to good Masters and proceeds to go for the building of Meeting houses and for the benefit of the Gospel in the lower district Mason County Virginia.
In witness I hereunto set my hand and Seal Oct the 4. 1856
Attest . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Charles Hannan (Seal)
William C (his x mark) Wray
Andrew (his + mark) Meadows
John O. Butler
Timothy S. Butler
A. J. Waren

At a Court Continued and held for Mason County in the court house thereof on Tuesday February the 8th 1861.
A writing purporting to be the last will and Testament of Charles Hannan deceased was this day produced in Court by Ann W. Hannan principal devisee therein, and John O. Butler and of the subscribing witnesses thereto Stated on oath that he was acquainted with the hand writing of Charles Hannan deceased and that he believed said writing purporting to be the last will and testament of Charles Hannan decd was entirely written and signed by said Charles Hannan decd. and that he at the request of said Charles Hannan decd subscribed his name to said will as an attesting witness in the presence of said Charles Hannan deceased and in the presence of Timothy S. Butler another subscribing witness thereto, and that he believed that said Charles Hannan deceased was at that time of sound mind and disposing memory and the probate of this will is continued for further proof until the first day of the next term of this court and on motion of the propounder it is ordered that Timothy S. Butler and A. J. Warren be summoned to attend at the next term of

1856 Last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.

this Court to complete the proof of said Will.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Copy Teste James H. Holloway Clk.
At a Court held for Mason County, at the Courthouse thereof on Monday February the 4th 1861.
A writing purporting to be the last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan deceased bearing date on the 4th day of October 1856 was this day produced in Court by Ann W. Hannan, in order to be further proved, whereupon Timothy S. Butler one of the subscribing witnesses thereto stated on oath that he subscribed his name as an attesting witness to said writing at the request of said Charles Hannan decd in his presence and in the presence of John O. Butler another subscribing witness to said writing and that the said Charles Hannan decd acknowledged the same to be his last will & Testament in his presence and in the presence of John O. Butler who were present at the same time, and that he believed said Charles Hannan deceased was at that time of sound mind and disposing memory. It is therefore ordered that said writing of the 4th day of October 1856 be recorded as the last Will and Testament of Charles Hannan deceased.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Copy Teste James H. Holloway Clk.
At a Court continued and held for Mason County, at the Courthouse thereof on Thursday February the 7th 1861.
On the Motion of A. L. Knight who made oath, and together with A. M. Causland, J. V. Newman, W. O. Roseberry and George R. Knight his Securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in open Court in the penalty of $2000 conditioned as the law directs, certificate is granted the said A. L. Knight for obtaining letters of Administration of the Estate of Charles Hannan deceased with his Will annexed in due form. Whereupon on the further motion of the said A. L. Knight it is ordered that David George, John A. Hunter, Jesse Waugh, Augustus Cobb, and Robert M.Hereford or any three of whom, being first duly sworn before a Justice of the peace for that purpose do truly and justly appraise in current money the personal estate of the said Charles Hannan deceased and return the appraisement under their hands to the Court.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Copy Teste James H. Holloway Clk.

Charles Hannan was “killed by crews” on 24 November 1860 in Mason County.2 His will was proven and recorded as noted in the transcript above in February 1861. This is the first record I have found which identifies enslaved persons with what appear to be surnames: Nelson Cudyo and Ben Packson and Bity Bill and Peter Dicky. Only Milley and Hetty were named without surnames.

1861 Inventory of the Estate of Charles Hannan

The personal estate of Charles Hannan was appraised the 20th day of February 1861.3 The following list of the property was made and each item valued. At the top of the list are:

one Negro man named Nelson $800
one Negro woman named Milie $650
one Negro girl named Bettie $450
one Negro boy named Ben $500
one Negro boy named Dick $500
one Negro girl named Hettie $300

The appraisement and inventory of the personal estate of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.
The appraisement and inventory of the personal estate of Charles Hannan of Mason County, Virginia. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.

1867 Settlement of the Estate of Charles Hannan

The estate of Charles Hannan was not settled until 15 July 1867. The settlement was confirmed and ordered to be recorded on 9 September 1867.4 It included $3,200, the appraised value of six Negroes.

The settlement of the estate of Charles Hannan. Image courtesy of FamilySearch.

Charles Hannan and his wife Ann W. Fox were not located in the 1850 or 1860 census nor was Charles on the slave schedule of Mason County, Virginia. Charles’ wife Ann died in 1879 and left a will mentioning her former slave. His name will be featured in next month’s post.

I hope one or the other descendant will recognize his/her ancestor’s name and be able to open the door in their brick wall.

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.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9X-K6?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YL%3A179687901%2C179729801 : accessed 29 March 2020), Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 93+94 of 165; pages 146-148, citing Mason County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  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 http://www.wvculture.org/vrr), Virginia, Mason County, 24 November 1860, Charles Hannan, age 54 years 20 days, son of Thomas and Mary, consort Ann Hannan, informant George W. Grobe, nephew. 1860 Death Record. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=5269843&Type=Death : accessed 29 March 2020). 
  3. West Virginia County Court (Mason County), “Appraisement and settlement, 1854-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch, Film 567424 Item 2, DGS 7618497, pages 136-137 (bottom) 138-139 (top), images 328-329 of 423. The entry in this register is recorded across two pages. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99K9-3G5V?i=327&cat=66225 : accessed 29 March 2020) 
  4. Ibid., pages 294-295, image 407 of 423. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99K9-3G2K?i=406&cat=66225 : accessed 29 March 2020) 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Silah, Jane, Melacy, Daphney, Agness

While researching my families who lived in Mason County, West Virginia, I came across the last will and testament of Thomas Hannan (1757-1835).

In the will he mentions: a Negro Girl Slave named Silah, one Negro Girl Slave Jane, one Negro girl Slave Melacy, and three Negro children, one girl the child of Daphney, two boys Sons of Agness. The names of the three children are not given.1

1834 Last Will and Testament of Thomas Hannan

Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 27 of 165 courtesy of FamilySearch

In the name of God Amen, I Thomas Hannan of the County of Mason & State of Virginia, being weak in body from advanced age, but of sound mind disposing memory Knowing the uncertainty of life & the certainty of death, in order to dispose of the worldly goods that I have been blessed with, do make and publish this my last will and testament – first I commit my soul to God who gave it, and my body to the earth, in hopes of a blessed immortality in the resurrection – and desire that after my death, my body may be directly interred by my Executors, & the funeral expenses and all my Just debts be fully paid & satisfied. I give and bequeath to my Sons John Hannan, Esom Hannan & Henry Hannan, or the Survivors of them the home tract of land situate on the Ohio river at and above the mouth of little Guyandotte Creek containing five hundred acres, with all and singular its appertenences (sic) but upon this trust & use nevertheless that they or the Survivors of them Shall annually account & pay over the rents & profits of Said land unto my Son Charles Hannan, or in their discretion to permit him to use occupy and enjoy the Same during his life – and at the death of the Said Charles, I then give the Said land to his children if he should have any, if not to be disposed of in the manner hereinafter provided for the distribution of my property generally:
I give and bequeath unto my daughter Sarah Whitten a Negro Girl Slave named Silah
I give and bequeath unto my daughter Susannah Shelton the wife of James Shelton one Negro Girl Slave Jane
I give and bequeath unto my Grand daughter Mahala Maxwell one Negro girl Slave Melacy
I desire that the three Negro children, one girl the child of Daphney, two boys Sons of Agness, which I have Sent over the River for their liberty, I desire Shall remain free forever.
My Son Henry owes me Seventy five Dollars & Jesse thirty Dollars, which is to be taken as part of my Estate
I then desire that all my estate not hereby specially bequeathed whether real or personal Shall be equally divided among my children, or the heirs of them that may not be living
Lastly I appoint my two sons John Hannan & Esom Hannan or the Survivor of them the Executors of this my last will & testament. Hereby revoking all other wills heretofore made.
In Testimony whereof I have hereunto Set my hand & Seal this 24th day of September 1834.
. . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Hannan (x his mark)
Attest
John Lendley
Geo W. Shelton
Thomas M. Shelton

Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 27 of 165 courtesy of FamilySearch

At a court held for Mason County April 27th 1835
a writing purporting to be the last will and testament of Thomas Hannan decd. was this day presented in open court and was proven in part, by the oath of Thomas M. Shelton one of the Subscribing witnesses thereto and continued for further proof teste
. . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Lewis clerk

At a court held for Mason County May 4th 1835
The last will and testament of Thomas Hanna decd which was in part proved by the oath of Thomas M. Shelton a Subscribing witness thereto at April term last past, now this day further proved by the oath of George W. Shelton also a Subscribing witness thereto and the same is ordered to be Recorded And on the Motion of John Hannan & Esom Hannan Executors named in the Said will who made oath thereto and together with Charles Clendinen William A. McMullin & Robt. A. Hereford their Securities entered into and acknowledged their bond in the penalty of $8,000 conditioned as the law directs certificate is granted them for obtaining a probate of the Said will in due form of Law.
. . . . . . . . . . . . Teste
. . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Lewis clerk

At a Court held for Mason County, November 2nd 1835
The last will and testament of Thomas Hannan decd which was proved at former terms of this court, by two subscribing witnesses thereto and ordered to record was this day further proved by the oath of John Lendley who is also a Subscribing witness thereto.
. . . . . . . . . . . . Teste
. . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Lewis clerk

Thomas Hannan in the U.S. Federal Census

In 1820 Thomas Hannan was enumerated in Mason County, Virginia.2 In his household there were 7 enslaved persons:

Slaves – Males – Under 14 : 2
Slaves- Females – Under 14: 4
Slaves – Females – 26 thru 44: 1

In 1830 the number had gone up to 9 and were in the following age groups:3

Slaves – Males – Under 10: 2
Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23: 3
Slaves – Females – Under 10: 1
Slaves – Females – 10 thru 23: 2
Slaves – Females – 24 thru 35: 1

Several of the sons of Thomas Hannan left wills: Charles in 1860, John in 1861, and Esom in 1867. The wills of the first two included names of enslaved persons and will be shared next time.

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.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9X-P7?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YL%3A179687901%2C179729801 : accessed 26 January 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 27 of 165; citing Mason County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  2. 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, Virginia, Mason, image 137, Thomas Hannan entry. The official enumeration day of the 1820 census was the 1st Monday in August. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 28 February 2020). 
  3. 1830 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fifth Census of the United States, 1830 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M19, 201 rolls, NARA microfilm publication M19, Roll 198, Family History Library Film 0029677, Virginia, Mason County, Page: 146, Thomas Hannan entry. The official enumeration day of the 1830 census was 1 June 1830. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 28 February 2020). 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E : Sarah Jane Foster vs John W. Clonch

It’s a complicated story

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio. A judge of the Probate Court of Gallia County issued the marriage license. They were joined in marriage by Robert WORH, a justice of the peace. The marriage record does not include the names of parents.1

Their first child, a son William Alexander was born on 2 October 1862.2 A year and a half later, about April 1864, a daughter was born. By this time the marriage was already in trouble and divorce was the next step for Sarah.

This post includes the chancery records found by Ralph L. Hayes in Mason County’s courthouse over two decades ago.3 He was kind enough to share them with me and gave me permission to use them.

Dramatis personae

These are the persons who played a part in the chancery case Sarah Jane FOSTER vs John W. CLONCH in 1864:

  • Sarah Jane FOSTER , age of 21, married John W. CLONCH also 21 on 20 February 1862. She was the plaintiff (oratrix) in this case.
  • John W. CLONCH , the oldest son of William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS, and husband of Sarah Jane FOSTER . They married in Gallia County, Ohio. He was the defendant in this cause.
  • John W. FOSTER assumed to be the father (or brother) of Sarah Jane and seen as the next friend in this cause.
  • Sarah DEWITT, a young lady of about 24 years who was questioned as a witness.
  • Peter DEWITT, a man of 36 years who was questioned as a witness.
  • William Alexander CLONCH, the two-year-old son of John W. and Sarah J.
  • Lavinia PATTERSON, also known as Lavinia DOSS (her mother’s surname) and Lavinia CLONCH (her father’s surname). She was a sister of John W. and Alexander and wife of James William PATTERSON. She was a witness.
  • Rebecca LEMASTER, sister of Mary Ellen CLONCH. She was one of the persons implicated in the questioning of the witnesses.
  • Mary Ellen CLONCH née LEMASTER, the wife of Alexander CLONCH. She was no longer living with him and having an affair with John W. CLONCH.
  • Alexander CLONCH, the second son of William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS. He married Mary Ellen LEMASTER on 10 November 1863. He is not named in the proceedings but referred to as the husband of Mary Ellen.
  • William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS, parents of John, Alexander, and Lavinia. They were never married and their children were known by both surnames.
  • James DEWITT and Rebecca ATKINSON, parents of Sarah and Peter who were witnesses. It was at their house in the Clendenin township that some incidents took place.

Iudex, advocatus, et notarius publicus 

The judge, lawyer, and public notary who were mentioned in the proceedings.

Daniel Haymond POSLEY (1803-1877) was a judge of the seventh judicial circuit of West Virginia. Before this chancery case, he was the Lieutenant Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia (the Unionist government of Virginia during the Civil War) until two weeks before West Virginia became a state. After this chancery case, he would go on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1866, serving from 1867 to 1869. Mr. Polsley was the judge for this case.4

Benjamin J. REDMOND was a Notary Public born in 1840. During the war between the States, Mr. REDMOND served the government as provost marshal of Mason County. After this chancery case, from 1868-1870, he served as a justice in the Robinson district followed by four years as president of the Mason County court.5

William H. TOMLINSON, an attorney at law who questioned the witnesses for the plaintiff.6

 

 

Joseph S. MACHIN, a Notary Public for the county and state and a Master Commissioner for Chancery for the County of Mason.

Vinculo matrimonii

The Chancery Records concerning the divorce of Sarah Jane CLONCH from John W CLONCH.

To the Honorable Daniel Polsley Judge of the Circuit Court for Mason County Humbly complaining thereto unto your Honor your oratrix Sarah J. Clonch wife of John W. Clonch, who sues by John W. Foster her next friend that she is now twenty four years old at the age of twenty one she left her fathers house, and was married to the said John W. Clonch and since that time has been to him a constant, faithful and dutiful wife and has borne him two children to wit: William A. now two years old and an infant daughter three month old. Her husband on the other hand has been negligent and insufferable abusive and violent to her within the last two years frequently beating and choking her for no cause whatever on her part. he has left his house and home taking with him her oldest child and living in adultry with another woman, your oratrix further alledges that he has been seen in the bed with his own brothers wife and has failed to furnish support to your oratrix and her child that she is obliged to labor for their entire support, or they would come to starvation. The only property owned by your oratrix and her husband is the household and kitchen furnature and one horse, the most of which your 


oratrix brought from Her Father’s and helped him to same. To the end therefore oratrix prays that the said John W. Clonch may be made a defendant to this bill and acquired to render a full true and perfect answer to the same upon his corporal oath; that he may be enjoined and restrained from interfering with or in any maner (sic) molesting her and her child that is with her; that your Oratrix my (sic) be entirely divorced from him and the marriage be dissolved (two lines marked out) that he may be compelled to deliver up her child to her and to surrender to her and them for the maintenance of herself and her children The property aforesaid mentioned; and for such other and further relief as her case requires, and to equity may seem meet; May it pleas (sic) your honor to grant & @ And your oratrix will ever pray & @

West Virginia Mason County to wit This day Sarah J. Clonch, personally appeared before me B. J. Redmond N.P. and made oath that the allegations in the above bill are true to the best of her remembrance information and belief.

Given under my hand this 18 day of July 1864
B. J. Redmond N.P.


Sarah J. Clonch
vs In Chancery
John W. Clonch

This cause came on this day to be heard upon the bill, the exhibits filed and examination of witnesses and was argued by council for the plaintiff. On consideration whereof the Court being of opinion that the plaintiff is ? ? ? ? ? ? ? (marked out: all the allegations in the bill mentioned against the defendant and fully ?) doth adjudge order and decreed that the marriage heretofor solemnized between Sarah J. Clonch and John W. Clonch be and the same is hereby dissolved and the said Sarah J. Clonch is forever divorced from her husband. The said John W. Clonch X (in the right margin: X and it is further a? ? that the complainant is entitled to the care and custody infant children in the bill mentioned and that) (text marked out: and all the right title and interest of the said John W. Clonch in or to the household and  kitchen furniture shall belong to the said Sarah J. Clonch and the two children in the bill mentioned shall remain in the care and custody of the said Sarah J. Clonch) the said John W. Clonch do surrender up the said William A. Clonch (marked out: infant son) to the care and custody of the  said Sarah J. Clonch and that the plaintiff recover from the defendant her costs by her expended in the prosecution of this Suit


Cover sheet for the depositions in the chancery record

Sarah J. Clonch
vs …….De?ed
John W. Clonch
Sept Term 1864

 

 

 

 

 



The depositions of Sarah Dewit and others taken before me Joseph S. Machin, a Master Commissioner for Chancery for the County of Mason and State of West Virginia pursuant to notice hereto annexed at the office of Wm. H. Tomlinson in the town of Point Pleasant on the 15th day of August (fold in document may have a missing line) and 6 o’clock p.m. to be read as evidence on behalf of Sarah J. Claunch in a certain suit in equity depending in the circuit court for the County of Mason wherein Sarah J. Claunch is plaintiff and John W. Claunch is defendant.
Present Wm. H. Tomlinson attorney for plaintiff, Sarah Dewit, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question by Wm. H. Tomlinson for defendant. What is your age?
Answer – I do not knew exactly, but think I am about twenty four years of age.
2nd Question – By same. Do you know the parties to this suit?
Answer – Yes Sir, I do.
3rd Question – By same – Did you ever see the defendant, at your mother’s house in company with Rebecca Lemaster on or about the first day of July 1864, and if so, state how long they were together at that place and under what circumstances?
Answer – I saw them there together, they set up all night together.
4th Question – By same – While they were setting up together state whether he was laying


in her lap or her in his, and whether he was hugging her or what they even doing?
Answer – She was laying in his arms.
5th Question – By same – Was there a light in the house or was there note?
Answer – Sometimes there was a light and sometimes none.
6th Question – By same – Was it a light given by the fire or candle?
Answer – It was given by fire.
7th Question – By same – Who put out the light?
Answer – I do not know.
8th Question – By same – How often have they been there together at your mother’s house?
Answer – They were there together occasionally but do not remember how often.
9th Question – By same – Did you ever see them hugging and playing together at other times than the one answered?
Answer – Yes, I have seen them playing and romping together.
10th Question – by same – Was Mrs. Claunch his wife present at either of these times?
Answer – No Sir, she was not.
11th Question – By same – Did you ever see John W. Claunch and Mary Ellen Claunch, his sister-in-law passing by your mother’s house with his arms around her, and hers around him?
Answer – They were going along after dark, as well as I could see hugged up together, and this I think occurred during the Spring of 1864.
And further this deponent saith not.
………..her
Sarah + Dewit
……….mark


Peter Dewit, being duly sworn, on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question – By Wm. H. Tomlinson attorney for the Plaintiff. What is your age?
Answer – I am about thirty six years of age.
2nd Question – By same – Are you acquainted with the parties to this suit?
Answer – Yes Sir, I know them.
3rd Question – By same : Were you at your mother’s house at anytime when John W. Claunch and his brother’s wife were there together, and if so, state under what circumstances you saw them?
Answer – I think I never saw them there together.
4th Question – By same – Did you ever see John W. Claunch the defendant to this suit within the last year hugging and kissing any other other (sic) woman other than his wife?
Answer – I saw Rebecca Lemaster setting on his lap mighty close together and he was hugging her, and this happened after night.
And further this deponent saith not.
……..his
Peter x Dewit
…….mark

Lavinia Patterson, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question – By Plaintiff’s Counsel. What is your age?

Answer – I am eighteen years of age.
2nd Question – Was you at home one night


within the last year while your brother John W. Claunch defendant to this suit was complaining of being unwell, and if so did you see Mary Ellen Claunch his sister-in-law go to bed to him?
Answer – I seen her lay down on the same bed with him, and they were then together about one hour.
And further this deponent saith not.
…………her
Lavinia x Patterson
………..mark

State of West Virginia
Mason County, to wit:
I, Joseph S. Machin, a Notary Public for the county and state aforesaid, so hereby certify that the foregoing depositions were duly taken, sown to and subscribed before me at the times and place mentioned therein.
Given under my hand, this 15th day of August 1864
Joseph S. Machin Master Commission
in Chancery

Costs:
Sarah Dewit witness 1 day 0.50
Peter Dewit witness 1 day 0.50
Lavinia Patterson witness 1 day 0.50
Ferriages each 10 cents 0.30
Jos. S. Machin Comm. charges 2.25
Total $4.05

This is a true statement of costs
Jos. S. Machin, Master Comm.
August 15/64


The Chancery case was recorded in the orders book of Mason County for the September Term of 1864.7

In Chancery
Sarah J. Clonch
vs
JohnW.Clonch

This cause came on this day to be heard upon the bill, the exhibits filed and examination of Witnesses and was argued by counsel for the Plaintiff on consideration whereof the court being of opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief prayed for: doth adjudge order and decree that the marriage heretofore Solemnized between Sarah J. Clonch and John W. Clonch be and the same is hereby dissolved and the said Sarah J. Clonch is forever divorced from her husband the said John W. Clonch: and it is further ordered and decreed that the complainant is entitled to the care and custody of the infant children in the bill mentioned and that the said John W. Clonch do Surrender up the said William A. Clonch to the care and custody of the said Sarah J. Clonch, and that the plaintiff recover from the defendant her costs by her expended in the prosecution of the suit.


At the March term of 1865, Sarah J. CLONCH returned to court to have her son William A. CLONCH surrendered to her by his father John W. CLONCH.8

On Motion of Sarah J. Clonch and for reasons appearing to the Court it is ordered that John W. Clonch be summoned to appear here on the first day of the next term to shew cause if any he can [illegible] he shall not be find (sic, fined) and attached for refusing to surrender William A. Clonch his infant child to the custody of its mother in pursuance of a decree of this court rendered at the September term then of 1864.


Sarah J. FOSTER and her son William A. CLONCH

Following the divorce from John W. CLONCH, Sarah disappeared without a trace – at least in the census and records available. Her daughter remains unnamed. Her son William Alexander CLONCH was missing in the 1870 and 1880 census. He did not live with his father. Was he living with his mother who may have remarried?

In any event, the son William A. CLONCH married twice. First to Ellen FOWLER9 and second to his first cousin Emma Sidosa LEMASTER (also known as CLONCH).10 The marriage records do not include the names of parents. Emma was the daughter of Rebecca LEMASTER and Alexander CLONCH. He died in 1925 and left a will naming his wife Emma as his only heir.11 On the death record, his parents were listed as John Wm CLONCH and Sarah FORRESTER (sic).12

John William CLONCH

Following the divorce of Sarah and John, Alexander CLONCH and Mary Ellen LEMASTER separated. They had been married less than a year and did not have children. They were not divorced until March 1880.13

Mary Ellen (still married to Alex) went to live with the newly divorced John W. CLONCH. They had thirteen children between 1865 and 1892. Finally on 7 May 1895 John, 54, and Mary Ellen, 47, married in Gallia County, Ohio.14

In the name of all CLONCH descendants, I would like to thank Ralph L. Hayes for ferreting out the records to back up this CLONCH family story. It sounded fantastic and a bit unbelievable but the records he found in the old dusty unindexed boxes in the courthouse backed it up. How many more stories are hidden away, waiting for someone to tell them?

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (Digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio.), Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 14 of 276. John W. Clonch and Jane Foster, 20 Feb 1862. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SKRT?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 18 Dec 2013). 
  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 http://www.wvculture.org/vrr), Mason County, West Virginia, Birth Register, page 69, line 27. William Alexander Clonch birth record. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=2955142&Type=Birth : accessed 15 March 2019). 
  3. Sarah J. Clonch vs John W. Clonch, September Term 1864, Chancery Records of Mason County, West Virginia. Digital images of photocopies of the original records found in the court house by Ralph L. Hayes. Received per email 22 February 2019 from Ralph L. Hayes with permission to share on Opening Doors in Brick Walls blog. 
  4. Daily intelligencer. (Wheeling, Va. [W. Va.]), 15 June 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026845/1863-06-15/ed-1/seq-1/
  5. The weekly register. (Point Pleasant, Va. [W. Va.]), 26 May 1864. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026817/1864-05-26/ed-1/seq-6/
  6. The weekly register. (Point Pleasant, Va. [W. Va.]), 20 Aug. 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026817/1863-08-20/ed-1/seq-1/
  7. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861961, DGS 7615568, Chancery orders, Vols. 1-2 1843-1877 (1 from 469 & 4 to 401 – Back of v. 1 has separate pages of land records), Image 286 of 949, Folio 386, September Term 1864. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Ann Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  8. Ibid., Image 303 of 949, Folio 421, March Term 1865. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Ann Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  9. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SV7T?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-6T5%3A121350101%2C121651001 : accessed 23 March 2019), Gallia > Marriage records 1884-1890 vol 6 > image 132 of 338; county courthouses, Ohio. 
  10. Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RMD-3J1F?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-6BY%3A121350101%2C121580101 : 15 July 2014), Gallia > Marriage records 1890-1895 vol 7 > image 159 of 339; county courthouses, Ohio. 
  11. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-C99Q-BS?cc=1909099&wc=Q816-MLC%3A179687901%2C179798901 : accessed 23 February 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 005 1916-1930 > image 153 of 240; citing Mason County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  12. WVCulture.org, William A. Clonch death record details (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcdetail.aspx?Id=2126490 : accessed 29 March 2019) and Death Certificate No. 8914 for William A. Clonch (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=2126490&Type=Death : accessed 29 March 2019) 
  13. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861962 Item 1, DGS 7615569, Chancery orders, Vols. 4 1877-1880, image 321 of 899, Folio 274 and 275, March Term 1880. 1880 Divorce of Alexander Clonch from Mary Ellen Lemaster. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99VP-2SNQ?i=320&cat=659762 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  14. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (Digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio.), Gallia > Marriage records and index 1895-1899 vol 8. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-22447-41148-85?cc=1614804&wc=M94Q-VH7:315901437 : accessed 13 Nov 2013). 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Harvey and Hariett

Last week Edmond‘s name was released from the last will and testament of Elizabeth Clark written in 1841 and recorded in 1844. Elizabeth mentioned Frances C. Harrison and her husband John in the will.1

As I tried to follow Edmond either forward in time or back, I found John Harrison was listed in the 1840 census of Mason County. In his household were one male 10 thru 14, one male 50 thru 59, one female 50 thru 59, one female 70 thru 79, and 4 slaves. The enslaved persons in the household were 2 males under 10, a male 24 thru 35, and a female 10 thru 23.2

Was the older woman in the household Elizabeth Clark? If this was the household Elizabeth was living in, would Edmond be the young man age 24 thru 35? Or was John Harrison the holder of all four slaves?

There is a reason I looked into the Elizabeth Clark will. In 1850 my 4th great-grandmother Nancy Beasley, widow of Dennis Clonch (also seen as Claunch), was enumerated as Nancy Clonch age 75 in the household of John W. Clark age 56. Also in the household was her 12 years old grandson Dennis Clonch.3 Nancy died in the 1850s. John W. Clark was seen in the household of her son William Clonch in 1860.4 Who was this John W. Clark and was there a family connection between him and the Clonch family? Could there be other records which would clear up the matter? Those were the questions I asked as I searched for other Clark persons in the county.

At this point, I found the will of Elizabeth Clark and the census record in which she may have been enumerated. Who were John Harrison and his wife Frances C. and why were they mentioned in the Clark will?

A marriage record was found in Mason County for John Harrison and Frances Oldakers. They were married by B. K. Craig in 1834.5 As both persons were in their 50s in the 1840 household, there was the possibility one or the other was widowed prior to 1834.

Off to the Will Book for another will

John Oldaker wrote his last will and testament in June 1833 and it was recorded in November 1833.6 Did he leave a widow?

The Last Will & Testament of John Oldaker of Mason County, Virginia – 1833

I John Oldaker of the county of Mason & State of Virginia do hereby make my last will & testament in manner & form following that is to Say.
I give and bequeath all my estate that shall remain after my Just debts are paid to be disposed of as hereinafter mentioned. I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Frances C. Oldaker all my estate real & personal (except Items hereinafter disposed of) for & during her natural life & after her deceas (sic) I give and bequeath the same to my grandaughter (sic) Frances J. McMullin (except Items hereinafter disposed of). I give & bequeath to my beloved wife Frances C. Oldaker in fee Simple to make any disposition of (during her natural life or at her Decease) she may think proper my negro man named Harvey & my Negro Girl named Hariett with her future of spring together with the sum of one Hundred Dollars.
I give and bequeath to my friend & brother in law Benjamin K. Craig my Rifle gun with the aparatus thereto belonging. In case my Grandaugher Frances J. McMullin should die under the age of twenty one years old & without a Servicing heir of her body, I give & bequeath all that otherwise would be her right & title in and to my estate to my friends Benjamin K. Craig & Polly A. Craig, his wife & their heirs. It is my will & I do hereby give & bequeath to my beloved wife Frances C. Oldaker the wright & power to convey by warrantee Deeds certain tracts of land sold by me viz. one tract to Carter Newcomb lying on Eighteen mile creek for which the said Newcomb holds my Title Bond with conditions, one other Tract to Robert Summers lying also on Eighteen mile creek for which the Said Summers holds my Title bond with conditions on their the Said Newcomb & Summers complying with the conditions in Said title bonds their Deeds are to be made. And Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my friends Benjamin K. Craig & Matthew D. Brower executors of this my last will & testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my Seal this 15th day of June 1833.
. . . . . his
John X Oldaker Seal
 . . . .mark
Signed Sealed published & declared by John
Oldaker, as & for his last will & testament
in the presence & hearing of us at his request and in his
presence here subscribed our names as witnesses.
Henry Harriss
R. Summers
Wiliam Wallace
At a court held for Mason county Nov. 4th 1833
The last will and Testament of John Oldaker decd was proved by the oaths of Henry Harriss and William Wallace subscribing witnesses thereto. And is ordered to be Recorded. Upon the motion of Benjamin K. Craig an executor named in the will of Jno. Oldaker decd who made oath thereto & together with James Craik his Securety who entered into & acknowledged their Bond in the penalty of Two thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs certificate is granted him for obtaining a probat of the Said will in due form of Law.
Teste
Thos. Lewis clerk

New Relationships

Frances C. Oldaker was the widow of John Oldaker. What was her maiden name? John Oldaker mentions his brother-in-law Benjamin K. Craig and his wife Polly A. Craig. Was this the same B. K. Craig who married Frances C. Oldaker and John Harrison in 1834?

Benjamin K. Craig married Mary A. Clark in 1826.7 If Benjamin was John’s brother-in-law, could his wife Polly A. (Mary A.) have been Frances’ sister?

This would explain Frances C. Harrison aka Frances C. Oldaker being mentioned in the will of Elizabeth Clark. There was no mention of children in the 1841 will nor did Elizabeth include a relationship descriptor for Frances other than her being the wife of John Harrison. Was Elizabeth an unmarried sister of Frances and Polly? Or an aunt or even their mother?

John Oldaker left Harvey and Hariett to his wife Frances C. in his will in 1833. Frances married John Harrison the following year. In 1840 enslaved persons were found in the household of John Harrison – a man and a woman along with two young boys. Could this couple be Harvey and Hariett whose fate was left in Frances’ hands per her first husband’s will? Or could the man be Edmond mentioned in Elizabeth’s will and the other three enslaved persons of Harrison?

The Census and Slave Schedules

No entry was found in the index of the will books of Mason County for John Harrison or Benjamin K. Craig. Neither were found in Mason the 1850 census.

Polly A. Craig died in Putnam County, West Virginia, on 10 November 1865. Her death was reported by her son Lewis Craig. He gave her deceased husband’s name as Benj. K. Craig and her parents as William & E. Clark. Polly, per her son’s information, was born in Culpepper County, Virginia.8

With this information I located the widowed Polly A. Craig in Putnam in 1850 with three children.9 She was also on the Slave Schedule with two children, an 8 yo male mulatto and a 6 yo female mulatto.10

While browsing the schedule I noticed the name John Harrison with a 32 yo black female, 11 yo black male, and a 3 yo black female. 11 Checking the census, I found John and Frances C. were living in Putnam County in 1850.12

There is a known anomality on the 1860 census of Putnam County. The enumerator recorded all persons with an initial instead of first name and middle initals. This makes it difficult to find persons when searching for first names. However by limiting the search to the surname only, I found Polly A. Craig with her children13 as well as John and Frances C. Harrison. 14 Polly and John were also on the slave schedule. Polly with a 15 yo female mulatto (possibly the 6 yo from 1850)15 and John Harrison with a 12 yo female black (possibly the 3 yo from 1850).16

The will of John Harrison was written 11 April 1867 and recorded 10 May 1867 in Putnam County.17 He mentioned his wife Frances C. Due to the lateness of this will he did not mention enslaved persons.

Edmond, who was supposed to be freed per the 1841 will of Elizabeth Clark, was not with either the Craig or Harrison families as a free person. There is no male old enough to be Edmond on the slave schedule for either Polly A. Craig or John Harrison.

From the numbers found on the slave schedules in 1850 and 1860 for John Harrison it is possible Harriet named in the Oldaker will was with John and Frances C. in 1850 with two children. She is not with them in 1860. As with Edmond, there were no males old enough to be Harvey.

Frances was found in the 1870 census in the household of her step-son Josiah Harrison.18 Frances’ first husband had given her in fee Simple to make any disposition of (during her natural life or at her Decease) she may think proper my negro man named Harvey & my Negro Girl named Hariett with her future of spring. It would seem that Harvey and Hariett were no longer with Frances C. at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

One final note for anyone searching for Edmond, Harvey, and Hariett. The Craig and Harrison families likely did not move from the time of the above mentioned will until 1850 as Putnam County was created on 11 March 1848 from Kanawha, Mason and Cabell Counties.

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.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9N-LP?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YB%3A179687901%2C179707301 : accessed 19 March 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 001 1834-1880 > image 36 of 206; citing Jackson County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  2. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Sixth Census of the United States, 1840 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, FHL Film 0029689; NARA Roll M704_571, Virginia, Mason; image 44+41 of 69, Sheet 232A+B, Line 9, John Harrison. ‎(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 March 2019). 
  3. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration,Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Roll: M432_959; Image 297; Virginia, Mason, District 38, image 47 of 165, Sheet No. 385A, Lines 28-30, HH #333-334, John W. Clark household. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 January 2019). 
  4. 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_1361; FHL Film: 805361; Virginia, Mason County, District 2, image 25 of 68; Page No. 46, Lines 21-30, HH #345-316, Wm Claunch household. “.” (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 January 2019). 
  5. 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 http://www.wvculture.org/vrr), West Virginia Marriages 1853-1970. Marriage of John Harrison and Frances C. Aldakers (sic, spelling per index) (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=12175291&Type=Marriage : accessed 20 March 2019) 
  6. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9F-9Z?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YL%3A179687901%2C179729801 : 22 June 2016), Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 26 of 165; citing Jackson County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  7. WVCulture.org, (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_mcdetail.aspx?Id=12175454 : accessed 24 March 2019) and http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=12175454&Type=Marriage : accessed 24 March 2019) 
  8. WVCulture.org, 1865 Death Record of Polly A. Craig (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcdetail.aspx?Id=4787281 : accessed 26 March 2019) and (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=4787281&Type=Death : accessed 26 March 2019) 
  9. Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 46, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M432_971; Page: 272A; Image: 213 
  10. Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, Virginia, Putnam, District 46, page 8 of 8 
  11. Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, Virginia, Putnam, District 46, page 3 of 8 
  12. Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 46, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M432_971; Page: 280B; Image: 230 
  13. Ancestry.com. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1860; Census Place: District 4, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M653_1373; Page: 893; Family History Library Film: 805373 
  14. Ancestry.com. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1860; Census Place: Buffalo, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M653_1373; Page: 794; Family History Library Film: 805373 
  15. Ancestry.com. 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, Virginia, Putnam, District 4, page 3 of 4, right line 32 
  16. Ancestry.com. 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules, Virginia, Putnam, District 4, page 2 of 4, left, line 14 
  17. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-H19H-5?cc=1909099&wc=Q816-MNG%3A179687101%2C179700701 : 21 June 2016), Putnam > Will book, v. 001 1847-1937 > image 45 of 204; citing Putnam County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  18. Ancestry.com. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Buffalo, Putnam, West Virginia; Roll: M593_1698; Page: 248A; Family History Library Film: 553197 

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Edmond

The Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Clark of Mason County, Virginia – 1841

1841 Will of Elizabeth Clark of Mason County, Virginia

I Elizabeth Clark of the county of Mason & state of Virginia do hereby make my last will & testament.
I give and bequeath all my estate except Edmond who shall be free at my decease & a bond against Zachariah Garten of twenty five dollars with interest for three years to Frances C. Harrison.
The above named bond I bequeath to John Harrison husband of the said Frances C. Harrison of the county of Mason & state of Virginia. In witness whereof I hereby set my hand and seal this 30th day of Sept. 1841.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . her

. . . . . . . . . . .Elizabeth + Clark Seal
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . mark
Signed Sealed & publicly declared by Elizabeth Clark as & for her last will and testament in the presence & hearing of us, at her request & in her presence have subscribed our names as witnesses.
James Koontz
William Harrison
William Oldakers

At a Circuit Superior Court of Law & Chancery for Mason county held at the Courthouse thereof April 16, 1844.
The last will and testament of Elizabeth Clark deceased was proved by the oaths of James Koontz and William Harrison two of the subscribing

1841 Will of Elizabeth Clark of Mason County, Virginia

witnesses thereto and is ordered to be recorded.
And there being no executors named in said last will & testament, and the said testatrix having died more than three months ago, and no person applying for administration it is ordered that administration of the estate of said decedent with her will annexed in due form be committed to Peter H. Steenbergen sheriff of this county.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .A Copy Teste
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Georg W. Stribling clk

The Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Clark was written in 1841 in Mason County1 during the time when the county was part of Virginia. Mason County borders on Ohio, a state which abolished slavery in its original constitution when it was formed in 1803.

Edmond who shall be free at my decease

I found it heartwarming that Elizabeth Clark did not give any further description of Edmond as was usual in records of the time. She wrote simply that he should be free after her demise.

No trace of Elizabeth Clark was found in the 1840 census. John Harrison was found in Mason County in 1840.2 Both he and his wife were 50 thru 59 years old. There was a young boy aged 10 thru 14 as well as four enslaved persons in the household: 2 males under 10, 1 male 24 thru 35, and 1 female 10 thru 23. There was also an older woman, age 70 thru 79 years. Could this have been Elizabeth Clark?

Also on the same census sheet are Thomas Garton mentioned in the will, as well as two of the three witnesses, William Harrison and William Oldakers.

Mrs. Clark died about the end of 1843 or the beginning of the year 1844. Was Edmond mentioned in her will still living? Did he have family living with a slaveholder in the area? What became of him when she died?

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.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9N-LP?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YB%3A179687901%2C179707301 : accessed 19 March 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 001 1834-1880 > image 36 of 206; citing Jackson County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  2. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Sixth Census of the United States, 1840 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, FHL Film 0029689; NARA Roll M704_571, Virginia, Mason; image 44+41 of 69, Sheet 232A+B, Line 9, John Harrison. ‎(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 19 March 2019). 

Gathering Records to Tell the Story – An Update

Less than two hours after I posted Gathering Records to Tell the Story in late February my fourth cousin Ralph L. Hayes sent emails with images of the Chancery records for the 1864 divorce of John William CLONCH and Sarah Jane FOSTER – records which are not online.

Cousin Bait!

I was surprised and happy to finally see the records he had discovered years ago when he searched through old dusty unindexed boxes at the courthouse in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

In Gathering Records to Tell the Story, I shared the entry in the court records concerning the divorce of my 2nd great-grandfather Alexander CLONCH from his first wife Mary Ellen LEMASTER. I’d only recently found this record and could not wait to share with my cousins who descend from the CLONCH line.

By sharing what I’d found I may have been subconsciously baiting cousins. Don’t we do this all the time? Sharing bits and pieces in hopes of a relative coming forward with new information. I wasn’t expecting Ralph to message me via Facebook so soon after I’d published the post. We hadn’t done email in 15 years but have been keeping up with each other via Facebook for 10 years.

It’s a complicated story

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio. Many residents of Mason County crossed the Ohio River and state line to marry in Gallia. If Sarah Jane carried her first child to full term, she may have been with child when they married. Their son William Alexander was born on 2 October 1862. A year and a half later, about April 1864, a daughter was born to John and Sarah. By this time the marriage was already in trouble and divorce was the next step for Sarah.

I found a couple of entries in the Chancery orders and in a fee book concerning the divorce in 1864 when I located my ancestor Alex’s 1880 divorce records. My mentioning the 1864 documents in Ralph’s possession were not yet online pushed him to get in touch and email them to me.

In the meantime…

I’ve been a bit slow working on the documents as other things have kept me busy during the past few weeks.

I watched several of the 2019 RootsTech live sessions and got caught up in the DNA whirlwind caused by Ancestry and MyHeritage’s new tools. I’ve used up all 24 of the colors offered for grouping matches in the New & Improved DNA Matches (Beta). I’ve played with MyTreeTags on the small tree linked to the test I manage on Ancestry and found they are an excellent new tool for tree management. ThruLines™ is still aggravating me. They have a known problem with step-parents being considered as the ancestor. MyHeritage’s Theory of Family Relativity did not take long to look at as only 29 matches were offered. Several were spot-on. Several were not. Their AutoClustering was a bit disappointing as I was already spoiled by Jonathan Brecher and his Shared Clustering tool.

Ralph said, “Go for it!” In the days to come, I’ll share the transcriptions of the records he sent from the chancery case Sarah Jane Clonch vs John W. Clonch.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Slave Name Roll Project: RELEASING: Peter, Willis, Milly, Sukkey, and Hannah

As with so many of my families in West Virginia, the Clonch family of Mason County did not hold slaves. I’m always on the lookout for records with slave names in the location I’m researching and like to skim through the Wills Book to find other inhabitants of the county who may have been slaveholders. Although Mason County was formed in 1804 the will books begin only in 1833. The first record in Will Book 1 with names of enslaved persons is the will of Elizabeth Bryan.

Elizabeth Bryan wrote her last will and testament on 10 December 1829 and likely lived another four years as it was only proved on 6 March 1833 and 2 April 1833 and ordered to be recorded 2 April 1833.1 She mentions two sons, Robert and Charles, a grandson Robert, and a great-granddaughter Nancy Mason. More importantly, the names of five enslaved persons, Peter, Willis, Milly, Sukkey, and Hannah were given.

1829 Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Bryan of Mason County, West Virginia

I Elizabeth Bryan of the county of Mason and State of Virginia do hereby make and declare this my last will and Testament hereby revoking and annulling all other wills by me made at any time heretofore.
First I give and bequeath to my son Robert Bryan my Negro Boy Peter and to my Grandson Robert Bryan (son of my said son Robert) my other Negro Boy Willis.
Second I give & bequeath to my Great Grand Daughter Nancy Mason my Negro woman Milly & my negro Girl Sukkey together with my wearing my wearing (sic) apparel of every Kind & It is my futher will that my friend & neighbour John Cantrell & his wife take my said Grand daughter & her negroes hereby bequeathed her and raise and educate her in such decent & industrous manner as may be fitting her circumstances & theirs and have the use of Said negroes for their trouble & expense until my said Great Granddaughter shall arrive at Lawfull age or marry at which time she is to receive said Milly & Suky & the increase of said Sukkey if any to do with them as she may think proper but should my said great Granddaughter die before arriving at Lawfull age or having issue then it is my will that Milly be free & that Sukky & her increase if any Revert to my son Robert Bryan or his proper heirs but should Milly before that time have issue it is my will that all such issue or increase belong to Mrs. Mary Cantrell or her proper heirs it is also my further will that should I die before two years from this time that the negro Milly hereby bequeathed to said Nancy Mason shall remain with my Son Robert for that period counting from this date & then go to John Cantrell as heretofore directed for the purposes aforesaid.
My Negro woman Hannah I leave to my son Charles.
In witness whereof I hereby set my hand and seal this tenth day of December 1829.
Signed Sealed & acknowledged…………….Elizabeth Bryan Searl
in presence of us
William (his mark) Rottenberry
Silas (his mark) Harris
John Cantrell

At A Court continued and held for Mason County March 6th 1833 A writing purporting to be the last will & testament of Elizabeth Bryan decd was this day presented in open Court and was proven in part by the oath of William Rottenberry one of the subscribing witnesses thereto and said over for further proof.
…………………A copy
……………………Teste
………………………Thos. Lewis Clk

And at another day To wit At a Court Continued and held for Mason County April 2nd 1833. A writing purporting to be the last will and testament of Elizabeth Bryan decd which was in part proved at the last March term of this court, was this day further proved by Silas Harris another subscribing witness thereto, which is ordered to be Recorded.
……………..A Copy
………………..Teste
…………………..Thos. Lewis Clk

Discrepancies and Questions

Sukkey was seen as Suky and Sukky in the will but in all cases, Elizabeth appears to refer to the same woman.

I question whether Nancy Mason was a great-granddaughter or more likely a granddaughter. No marriage was found for a Bryan bride to a Mason groom. Without more information on the Bryan family, it is difficult to determine the relationship between Nancy Mason and Elizabeth Bryan. Since Milly and Sukkey were to go with her to the neighbors after Elizabeth’s death, her relationship might be of importance to people seeking Milly and Sukkey.

Bryan in the Mason County Census

Preliminary research on the Bryan family in Mason County around 1830 did not turn up any helpful information. I located possible 1830 and 1820 census listings in which Elizabeth appears to be living in the household of Robert Bryan. In 1830 and 1820 there was a Charles Bryan in Mason County as well as a John Bryan and Andrew Bryan.

1830 U.S. Federal Census
Mason County, Virginia
Name: Robert Bryan
Free White Persons – Males – Under 5: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 5 thru 9: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 14: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 40 thru 49: 1 (Robert)
Free White Persons – Females – 5 thru 9: 2
Free White Persons – Females – 30 thru 39: 1 (poss. wife of older male)
Free White Persons – Females – 70 thru 79: 1 (poss. Elizabeth)
Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23: 1 
Slaves – Females – Under 10: 1
Slaves – Females – 10 thru 23: 1 
Slaves – Females – 36 thru 54: 1
Slaves – Females – 55 thru 99: 1
Free White Persons – Under 20: 6
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 2
Total Free White Persons: 9
Total Slaves: 5
Total – All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored): 14

1820 United States Federal Census
Mason County, Virginia
Name: Robert Bryan
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44: 1 (Robert)
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 1 (poss. wife)
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over: 1 (poss. Elizabeth)
Slaves – Males – Under 14: 3
Slaves – Males – 14 thru 25: 1
Slaves – Females – Under 14: 1
Slaves – Females – 26 thru 44: 1
Slaves – Females – 45 and over: 1
Number of Persons – Engaged in Agriculture: 4
Free White Persons – Under 16: 2
Free White Persons – Over 25: 2
Total Free White Persons: 5
Total Slaves: 7
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 12

In 1810 in Mason County, a James Bryan appears to be a likely match for the husband of Elizabeth Bryan. Two young men and a young woman are also in the household. The two young men are possible matches for Robert and Charles mentioned in the will.

1810 United States Federal Census
Mason County, Virginia
Name: James Bryan
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 2 (Robert and Charles)
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1 (James)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over: 1 (Elizabeth)
Numbers of Slaves: 5
Number of Household Members Under 16: 1
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 10

Other Bryan Families in Mason

Another Bryan found in Mason in 1810 was Andrew, a name also seen in the census of 1820 and 1830. An 1809 record for the marriage of Andrew Bryan and Parthenea Meigs in Mason seems to fit. Later he was the only Bryan on the census of Mason County in 1840 (obviously widowed with children) and alone in the 1850 census.

Quick searches at Find A Grave picked up information stating Maj. Andrew Bryan was the brother of John Bryan.2 Andrew’s wife’s maiden name was Clendenin and she was apparently previously married to a Meigs.3

John Bryan died in Mason County before 1 September 1834; a will was found which mentions property including Negroes but does not include names.4

With these names as a reference, I located a family tree on Ancestry which shows James Bryan and Elizabeth Singletary were the parents of sons Robert, Charles, John, and Andrew as well as three daughters who do not have marriages listed. I did not do further research to prove the family relationships.

Robert5 and Charles6, who were not found in Mason in 1840, went west to Washington County, Missouri, in the 1830s according to the tree, i.e. after the death of Elizabeth. In 1850 a Robert Bryan is on the Slave Schedule in the county however there were two men of this name in the county at that time. I have not been able to determine if this person who had a female mulatto age 33, a male mulatto age 10, a male mulatto age 5, a female black age 2, and a male black age 4 is the Robert Bryan who was the son of Elizabeth Bryan seen in the featured will.

I hope my finding the sons of Elizabeth moving to Missouri may help anyone seeking Peter, Willis, Milly, Sukkey, and Hannah.

Slave Name Roll Project is 4 Years Old

It’s been four years since I wrote the original three posts in which I shared the names of enslaved persons of my SIMS family. I have not counted every single name but I estimate about 220 names have been released in the 49 posts I’ve written since 2015.

The purpose of these posts is to share the documents and release the names in hopes of helping a descendant’s search. Personally, I try to do a bit more research when time allows and include it in the post but this is not a criteria.

If your ancestors or their neighbors or anyone you encounter in your research had enslaved persons, please join me by contributing their names to the Slave Name Roll Project.

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.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9F-D8?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YL%3A179687901%2C179729801 : accessed 26 January 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 25 of 165; citing Mason County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  2. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 23 February 2019), memorial page for Maj Andrew Bryan (1790–25 Jul 1851), Find A Grave Memorial no. 140252499, citing McCulloch Cemetery, Southside, Mason County, West Virginia, USA; Maintained by Katie Litchfield (contributor 47758703). 
  3. FAG, memorial page for Parthenia Clendenin Bryan (1779–9 Aug 1839), Find A Grave Memorial no. 140252263, citing McCulloch Cemetery, Southside, Mason County, West Virginia, USA; Maintained by Katie Litchfield (contributor 47758703). 
  4. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-HN9F-9Z?cc=1909099&wc=Q8B7-1YL%3A179687901%2C179729801 : 22 June 2016), Mason > Will book, v. 001A 1833-1875 > image 26 of 165; citing Mason County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  5. FAG, memorial page for Robert Bryan, Sr (unknown–7 Dec 1871), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5262866, citing Bennett Bryan Cemetery, Cadet, Washington County, Missouri, USA; Maintained by Larry G. Flesher (contributor 43207742). 
  6. FAG, memorial page for Charles Bryan (16 Jul 1809–17 Oct 1897), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5262850, citing Bennett Bryan Cemetery, Cadet, Washington County, Missouri, USA; Maintained by Larry G. Flesher (contributor 43207742). 

Gathering Records to Tell the Story

The stories passed down by descendants who have researched the CLONCH family history are fantastic and a bit unbelievable. Ralph L. Hayes heard of the scandals which went on in the family and shared the stories in mailing lists and genealogy forums on the internet nearly two decades ago. Being a good researcher, Ralph went to the courthouse in Point Pleasant in Mason County, West Virginia, to ferret out the records to back up the family history. He found the divorce of his 3rd great-grandfather “only by going through some OLD dusty unindexed boxes in the courthouse.”

Seeking Documentation

I’ve wanted to find the documents Ralph discovered as the story of the CLONCH brothers is so difficult to believe. Since FamilySearch has added more collections from Mason County to their online records, I’ve been looking for this and that record to better tell the story.

Ralph L. Hayes is my fourth cousin. He descends from John William CLONCH (1840-1919) and Mary Ellen LEMASTER (1847-1921) while I descend from Alexander CLONCH (1842-1910) and Tabitha Ann COOLEY (1861-1913). John and Alex were the sons of our 3rd great-grandparents William CLONCH (1807-1863) and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS (c. 1816-c. 1892).

If you’ve been following recent posts about William CLONCH’s estate, you’ll have learned William and Mary were not married but had eight children, seven grew to adulthood and married, six had children. William kept the family together beyond the grave by leaving a will in which he stipulated the land the family lived on was to remain in the family. Did he know at the time of his death in 1863 that his two oldest sons would become part of an incredible story equal to a primetime soap opera?

I wrote A Little “Peyton Place” (Part I) and A Little “Peyton Place” (Part II) in December 2013 but the posts only recount what Ralph learned while researching and don’t include documentation.

Living overseas and nowhere near the American courthouses of the counties my ancestors lived in, I must rely on record collections found online. FamilySearch’s catalog is my go-to place whenever researching and gathering records to tell their stories.

Two Marriages

1862 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Mason County.1

1863 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

Alexander CLONCH married Mary Ellen LEMASTER on 10 November 1863, also in Gallia County.2

Two Divorces

Neither of the marriages lasted. In the September Court of 1864 John and Sarah were divorced.3 The records of the circuit court in which Ralph found more details are not yet online but I found another mention a few pages further in the Chancery orders4 and in a fee book.5 [Click on over to the links in the citations below to learn why this divorce produced more records.]

Alexander and Mary Ellen never had children even though by 1880 they were legally married a little over seventeen years. To be more precise, they never had children with each other. Alex’s brother John and Mary Ellen had eight children between 1865-1880 and Alex had 3 children with Mary Ellen’s sister Rebecca from 1868-1876. Many online trees list Rebecca LEMASTER as Alex’s second wife. A marriage record was not found in West Virginia or Ohio. Is it possible they were married and the record has yet to be found?

I think not. Alexander was still married to Mary Ellen LEMASTER when her sister Rebecca gave him three children. Alex and Mary Ellen’s marriage was not dissolved until the March term on 1880, when the divorce was mentioned in the Chancery orders.6

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

March term 1880

Alexander Clonch
     vs                                          In Chancery
Mary E. Clonch

This cause come on this day to be heard upon the bill, exhibits and depositions filed therewith and the process having been duly served upon the defendant and she still failing to appear answer or demur to plaintiffs bill and the cause set-for hearing and was argued by counsel on consideration of all which the court is of the opinion that the

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

plaintiff is entitled to the relief prayed for in his said bill, it is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the marriage heretofore solemnized between the plaintiff and defendant be dissolved and annulled and the plaintiff forever divorced from his said wife from the bonds of matrimony and that she be forever barred of dower in any lands the plaintiff had or now has or hereafter has and the plaintiff recover from the defendant his costs including a fee of ten dollars as prescribed by law in and about his suit in this behalf expended and that execution issue therefor & c.

Importance of the Records

Why was finding this record so important to me? Five months after the above divorce, on 19 August 1880, Alexander CLONCH married Tabitha Ann COOLEY, my great-great-grandmother. They were the parents of nine children, six of whom married and had children, including my great-grandmother Rebecca Jane CLONCH (1888-1950). Also with the above record I have proof for the part of the story which goes:

The marriage was dissolved, Mary did not appear and she does not get her dower and must pay costs.

One document at a time, the complete story may one day be told.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Alexander CLONCH
Parents: William CLONCH and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS
Spouse: Tabitha Ann “Tobitha” COOLEY
Parents of Spouse: John COOLEY and Sarah Ann TREADWAY
Whereabouts: Mason and Fayette, West Virginia
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 2nd great-grandfather

1. Alexander CLONCH
2. Rebecca Jane CLONCH
3. Myrtle Hazel ROOP
4. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
5. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio), Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 14 of 276. John W. Clonch and Jane Foster, 20 Feb 1862. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SKRT?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 18 Dec 2013). 
  2. Ibid., Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 19 of 276. Alexander Clonch and Mary Ellen Lemaster, 10 November 1863. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RMD-SVR3?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 19 February 2019). 
  3. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), <i>FamilySearch</i> (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861961, DGS 7615568, Chancery orders, Vols. 1-2 1843-1877 (1 from 469 & 4 to 401 – Back of v. 1 has separate pages of land records), image 286 of 949, Folio 386, September Term 1864. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Jane Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  4. Ibid., image 303 of 949, folio 421, March Term 1865. 1865 John W. Clonch ordered to surrender his child William A. Clonch to the mother Sarah A. Clonch.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7K6Z?i=302&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  5. “Fee books, 1804-1881” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the West Virginia University Library, Morgantown.), Film 174649, DGS 7616441, Fee Book 1859-1867, 1859-1869 1860-1866 1862-1868, image 76 of 425, page 62, bottom of page. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9VR-Z4TY?i=75&cat=248082 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  6. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929”, Film 1861962 Item 1, DGS 7615569, Chancery orders, Vols. 4 1877-1880, image 321 of 899, Folio 274 and 275, March Term 1880. 1880 Divorce of Alexander Clonch from Mary Ellen Lemaster. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99VP-2SNQ?i=320&cat=659762 : accessed 6 January 2019).