Strong Women: Mary, wife of Isaac WISEMAN († 1779)

Two weeks ago I wrote The Ancestors: Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) and Elizabeth DAVIS (1738-1807), a piece that took a month to research and write. The Ancestors series is reserved for my 5th great-grandparents and/or my children’s 6th great-grandparents. There are no plans at this time to further research Isaac or Elizabeth’s parents. But questions can still be asked and already discovered records shared.

Isaac’s parents moved from Berks County, Pennsylvania, to Rowan County, North Carolina, around 1768. They both left wills in that county at the time of their deaths in 1779 and 1791.

As this is Women’s History Month, I would like to share the records left by Isaac’s mother Mary. She outlived her husband Isaac by twelve years. On 28 December 1790, she wrote her last will and testament.1

The Last Will and Testament of Mary Wiseman written 28 December 1790

1790 Last Will and Testament of Mary Wiseman, courtesy of

In The name of God Amen
I Mary Wiseman of the state of North Carolina and County of Rowan, being sickly and weake in body but through Goods of God of a Good and Sound memory and in my senses and Considering my own mortality Do make this my last will and testament
and first I will that my body be buried after a Deasent Christen manner after my Decese at the Discresin of my Executors hearafter named and my soul to God that give it in the faith and Certin hope of the Reserection at the Last day
and what worldly goods it hath pleased God to bless me with I bestow in the following manner I give and bequath to my beloved Daughter Mary Marrell my fether bed. I give and bequeth to my beloved son James Wiseman my Cow and my big bible and the new Coverled. I give and bequeth to Elizabeth Marrell my grand Daughter my pided hifer. I give and bequath to my son James above named my big pott. I give and bequath Ann Wiseman my Daughter in law one of my big shifts. I give and bequath to Elizabeth Wiseman other one of my big Shifts. I give and bequeth to Elizabeth Marrell above named one of my smaller Shifts. I give and bequath to Lyde Wiseman my Daughter in law the other one of my small Shifts. I give and bequath to Rachell Marrell my beloved Daughter two Sheets, one blancket and one Coverled and four pewter plates, one qurt, one tea pott and tea kettle and one grid iron, one fier Shovel and tongs. I give and bequeth to my son James above named one pewter Dish and one pair Stilliards. I give and bequath to my beloved son William Wiseman one iron trammil. I give and bequath to Jane Wiseman my grand Daughter one box iron and one (?)atters. I give and bequath to my son James above named one pine Chest and one bull and the big pillow and bolster to his wife Lyda and one striped patecot. I give and bequeth to my Daughter Rachal above named two patet coats, one Cloak and one silk bonnet. I give and bequath to my son James one short gown, one peir speckticles, and I hearby nominete and appoint my sone James Wiseman and Andrew Marrell my son in law, Executors of this my Last will and testament and I Do hearby Deney all other wills and testaments whatsever in witness hear I the Sd Mary Wiseman have set my hand and seal this twenty Eight day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninty.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Her
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Mary X Wiseman
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . Mark <Seal>
Signed, Sealed and
pronounced in presents of
Jacob Wiseman
Mary X (her mark) Paterson

Notes concerning the will transcription:

The transcription above includes spelling errors or spelling of the time found in the record. No corrections were made. The surname Marrell in the document is more commonly seen as MERRILL.

A more legible copy of the will was found on FamilySearch. Several of the spelling errors were corrected in the copy, for example, bequeath and petticoat.2 I feel the document I transcribed with all its misspellings is much more original than the copy found in Will Book B of Rowan County.

Mary Wiseman’s will is proven

Mary WISEMAN was getting on in age but was likely not so sickly and weak that her death was imminent. Her will was proven eleven months later on 10 November 1791.3

County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions minutes (Rowan County, North Carolina), 1753-1868, courtesy of FamilySearch

The last Will of Mary Wiseman deceased proved by Mary Patterson. Letters with a copy to issue to James Wiseman and Andrew Merrill Executors.

Inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman dated 9 February 1792

Nearly three months later, on 9 February 1792, a true inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman was made.4

1792 Inventory of the estate of Mary Wiseman, FamilySearch

February the 9th 1792
a true inventory of Mary Wiseman’s Estate.

[left column]
one hackel
one wheell
one pillow
three plains Irons
two pales
one Earthan pot & pan
five pewter plates &
one bason four Spoons
three augers & two chisels
one hand Saw
one drawing nife
one foot adz
one grubing how
two Cleavises and Link
one table & bedsteds
one bottle & one jug
one Cag & one flower barrel
one meat tub & one hammer
one pittch fork one steal
for a Cuting —– cup
one broad ax & one Square
two trammels & two Shovel
one tea cup & Saucer
one pare of Sheaves
two small tubs
one feather bed

[right column]
two sheats & 1 blanket
two Coverlids
one tea pot
one fier tongs
one grid iron
and hur? Cloe?
one Cow
one heffer
one bull
one bible
two boks
one bolster
two pillows
two iron pots
one puter dish [pewter]
one box iron &
one tea kettle
one Chist
two knives
one pare of ___ [crossed out]
one iron wedg
one tray
one funnell

Is there any hope of finding the family Bible?

Mary left her big Bible to her son James. Did he pass it on to one of his children? Has anyone heard of its existence other than the mention in Mary’s last will and testament and in the inventory of her estate?

My wish is, if a direct descendant now owns the Bible of my 6th great-grandmother Mary WISEMAN, that he/she would be kind enough to let us know if there is any useful information recorded in the Bible. Is there proof written in her hand or the hand of another person that she was the daughter of a man surnamed MARSHALL?

Update (25 March 2020): Following a conversation today with another member of the Wiseman Family Association group on Facebook, I have removed “the immigrant” from the title of this blogpost. The person I conversed with helped compile the research records of the association prior to 2000. He questioned the use of the term as no proof has to date been found to substantiate the family lore that Isaac WISEMAN was born aboard a ship on the way to America.


In a few days, we’ll be entering our third week of self-imposed confinement. It’s been twelve days of ups and downs. We had to cancel our 42nd wedding anniversary dinner reservations last week. Mom’s AncestryDNA test results came in and she’s her parents’ daughter. I caught my husband’s cold but neither of us had a fever. It’s taking me longer than normal to get well. It must be the stress we’re all under. I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything for a long amount of time. The sun has been shining a lot and the birds are singing. Mom’s using the cell phone we got her last month to make and receive calls. I had to snooze several of my Facebook friends. Our son’s cat is going to have kittens. It’ll be at least another week before Luxembourg is expected to hit the peak of the crisis. Personally, I think we are in for at least six weeks of #bleiftdoheem (Luxembourgish for #stayathome). Stay at home and stay safe.

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

  1. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” (index and images), Ancestry, North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts, North Carolina, Rowan County, Original wills, Verble, Daniel – Zimmerman, Christian, file with the will of Mary Wiseman. ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  2. “North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970,” images, FamilySearch, citing county courthouses, North Carolina, Rowan > Wills, 1781-1791, Vol. B > image 94 of 230, Will of Mary Wiseman, pages 179-181. ( : accessed 15 March 2020). 
  3. North Carolina. County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (Rowan County) (Main Author), “County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions minutes (Rowan County, North Carolina), 1753-1868”, FamilySearch, Raleigh, North Carolina : Filmed by North Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1962, Film 313776, GGS 7640159, Minutes, Vol. 4-6 1773-1800, page 399, entries dated 10 November 1791.  ( : accessed 15 March 2020). 
  4. “North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,” database with images, FamilySearch, Microfilm of originals in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina., Wills and estate papers (Rowan County), 1663-1978 > Rowan County > W > Wiseman, Mary (1792) > image 2 of 3. ( : accessed 6 March 2020). 

The Ancestors: Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) and Elizabeth DAVIS (1738-1807)

This was a hard piece to write. A month ago, after spending weeks gathering and reviewing all the information I had on these ancestors, I began writing this post. While drafting the post I kept finding other things to do. I went back and forth considering how I should write it. I’m now at the point that I just want to get it out of the way by publishing it as is.

Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) and Elizabeth DAVIS (1738-1807) were my 5th great-grandparents and the parents of my 4th great-grandmother Rachel WISEMAN (1769-bet. 1821-1824) who married Frederick HONAKER (1757-1824).

When I was new to genealogy research, I trusted the information I found and did not challenge it. As I began to do my own research, I questioned work done by others. In some cases, I made an effort to prove or disprove their research. I’m especially fond of working on my female lines but the WISEMAN family has always been put on the back burner.

For the WISEMAN line, I  attempted to locate evidence of the parents, siblings, husband, and children of my 4th great-grandmother Rachel WISEMAN and wrote about my findings in my 2014 post 52 Ancestors: #33 Rachel WISEMAN 1769-bet. 1821-1824.

The post was written during my first year of blogging. I didn’t include source citations. Links to online documents were used throughout the post but I doubt many readers clicked on them to view the records.  When I revisited my post and research I added 28 citations to make it easier for the reader or researcher to review the sources. [Did I mention the other things I’ve been doing?] 

Rachel’s story includes the names of all of her siblings as well as their spouses’ names and their dates of marriage. I’ve pondered how to write about Rachel’s parents Isaac and Elizabeth. Should I start from scratch or should I build on what has already been published?

Taking the middle road

I’ve decided to take the middle road which led me to work done by dedicated historians and genealogists of the WISEMAN family.

The Wiseman Family Association was first organized in 1908 by Dr. B. W. S. WISEMAN, compiler and author of a WISEMAN genealogy.1 Benjamin Winfield Scott WISEMAN was a great-grandson of Isaac WISEMAN 1738 through his son Samuel (1771-1861). WISEMAN descendants and members of the association have continued to update the WISEMAN family tree originally created from information in B.W.S.’s book. Their website was initiated on 22 August 2003 and appears to have been last updated in 2017, likely before Ancestry took down the RootsWeb site. I don’t know if more recent additions to the family tree are available online.

B.W.S. WISEMAN, in his 1908 publication, acknowledged the work of his second cousin C.M.L. WISEMAN who published in 1902. B.W.S. gives a more detailed genealogy of most of the sons of Isaac WISEMAN 1738. Neither of the authors had any biographical information on the four daughters of Isaac other than their married names.

Charles Milton Lewis WISEMAN of the 1902 publication was a great-grandson of Isaac WISEMAN 1738 through his son Rev. John WISEMAN (1760-1842). He wrote the following:

Brief Sketch of the Wiseman Family

My grandfather, Rev. John Wiseman was born in Berks county, Pennsylvania, before the War of the Revolution; indeed, was old enough and served in that war, and was in the memorable winter quarters at Valley Forge with Washington. His father, Isaac Wiseman, moved from Berks county, Pennsylvania, with a large family of sons and daughters to Rockingham county, Virginia, soon after the war, and there my grandfather married Sarah Green, one of another large family. From that county they moved to Monroe county, Virginia, where my father, Philip S. Wiseman, was born. Of the descendants of Isaac Wiseman and James Green some few remained in Virginia, others moved to Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana. The greater number moved to Ohio and Kentucky. The descendants of Isaac Wiseman alone must exceed 1,000 persons in number. The names of father’s uncles were William, Joseph, Isaac, Abner, Jacob and Samuel. Samuel died near New Salem at 90 years of age; Jacob and Abner in Kentucky, William and Joseph in Virginia, and Isaac near Gallipolis, Ohio. One of his aunts married a Blanton, who moved to Kentucky, and one a Honiker, who died in Virginia. I have been in the graveyard in Virginia, near Union, Monroe county, where Isaac Wiseman and wife are buried, and where father’s sister and brother are buried, and I have also been in the church near by, where they all attended Methodist church, and where my grandfather often preached. It is a lovely spot, with a hight range of mountains in full view for more than twenty miles.2

A bit further into the sketch of his family, C.M.L. wrote:

Rev. John Wiseman was commissioned a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the year 1785, by the first American Bishop of that church, Francis Asbury. The commission, in the Bishop’s own writing, is in the possession of the late Judge Wiseman’s widow at New Salem.3

I used the document he mentioned as the background of the featured image of this post. Immediately following this statement, the author listed names and dates for his line down from Isaac beginning with this list of the children of Isaac WISEMAN 1738:


Joseph Wiseman, born March 29th 1759.
John Wiseman, born August 18th, 1760.
Sarah Wiseman, born July 17th, 1762.
Isaac Wiseman, born June 19th, 1764.
Jacob Wiseman, born January 12th, 1767.
Rachael Wiseman, born March 1st, 1769.
Samuel Wiseman, born February 15th, 1771.
Abner Wiseman, born 1772.
Betsey Wiseman, born 1774.
Peggy Wiseman, born 1777.
William Wiseman, born 1779.

Rachael is my 4th great-grandmother and all the rest are my 4th great-grand uncles and 4th great-grand aunts. Does a WISEMAN family Bible still exist today with the dates found in this derivative source?

The many men named Isaac WISEMAN

According to Robert N. WISEMAN, a historian of the Wiseman Family Association, the Isaac WISEMAN situation gets a bit confusing when it comes to how Isaac WISEMAN’s name is seen in family genealogies. Shortly after B.W.S. published his book in 1908 he discovered that Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) who he considered “Isaac I” had a father whose name was also Isaac. [I believe I’ve found how he made the discovery and will discuss this in a moment.] The Wiseman Family Association decided to dub the father “Isaac Sr.”4 One of Robert’s lines goes through Isaac Sr., Isaac I, Isaac II, Isaac III.

Personally, I believe it would be more helpful to consider the men by the year they were born as no records are to be found with the suffixes I, II, or III. I’ve opted to refer to my 5th great-grandfather as Isaac WISEMAN 1738 instead of Isaac I. His father will be considered Isaac the elder or Isaac Sr. as no year of birth is known.

As noted previously, historians of the Wiseman Family Association have been researching the family and sharing their information. The research notes and part of The Story of a Wiseman by Robert Dean WISEMAN (1933-2015) can be found here: Bob Wiseman Research. He included different steps taken to gather information and prove events as well as marking unproven or questionable information as such. Mr. Wiseman and the researchers he worked with spent years putting the information together. It would take a lifetime to check and follow-up on the research.

Many entries on tax lists for Berks County for Isaac Wiseman are listed by year and township in Bob’s research. I recently found the Tax Lists, 1752-1856 for Berks County, Pennsylvania are available online at FamilySearch. They are not indexed and browse-only. With the years and townships given in Robert D. Wiseman’s research notes, I may be able to locate some of these. A to-do item for a later date as it should be thorough and not restricted to locating the records already found. What if something important to the timeline has been missed?

Isaac WISEMAN (1738-1818) and Elizabeth DAVIS (1738-1807)

Isaac’s oldest son Joseph (1759-1836) applied for a pension in 1832 for his service during the Revolutionary War.5 He stated he “was born in the year 1759 in the County of Berks and State of Pennsylvania, as he has read the record of it in his Father’s bible, from which he recorded it in his own bible which is now in his possession.” After his death in 1836 and his widow’s death in 1842, his son Samuel applied for pension money on behalf of himself and his surviving siblings in 1847. He submitted his father’s family record with the dates of birth and date for my 5th great-grandparents Elizabeth DAVIS and Isaac WISEMAN.

In Joseph’s hand, as copied from his father Isaac’s Bible, “Elisabeth Wiseman daughter to Samuel Davis was born August 26th 1738 and Decst (deceased) July 19th 1807.

Pages of Joseph Wiseman’s family Bible found in his Revolutionary War Pension Application file.

Also, “Isaac Wiseman son to Isaac and Marey Wiseman was born August 18, 1738 and Decest (deceased) May the 3 in 1818.

Pages of Joseph Wiseman’s family Bible found in his Revolutionary War Pension Application file.

The above images are only two of the five images from the family Bible included in the file. The pension file also includes correspondence dated 1911 from B.W.S. WISEMAN requesting copies of the entire file. As Joseph’s family record gives the names of the parents of Elizabeth and Isaac, I believe this is the source that led to B.W.S.’s discovery that Isaac WISEMAN 1738’s father was also an Isaac.

Samuel DAVIS, father-in-law of Isaac 1738

Only the name of Elizabeth’s father is known from the family record submitted by his grandson Samuel (son of Joseph). Even with the maiden name, a marriage record of Isaac WISEMAN and Elizabeth DAVIS has not been found. It is assumed they married before the birth of their oldest child in 1759.

Isaac and Mary WISEMAN, parents of Isaac 1738

The maiden name of Isaac 1738’s mother Mary is unproven although some genealogists report it to be MARSHALL. While writing this, I have pruned the tree, removing John MARSHALL as the father of Mary and now showing her name as Mary _____.

Isaac 1738’s father Isaac, according to an old family traditional story, was born aboard a ship en route to America. Two dates are often noted: 1699 and about 1706. The first – 1699 – is from the theory that the father of Isaac the elder came over with William Penn on the Canterbury Merchant in 1699. No known passenger list exists for the ship. The second – about 1706 – is from the theory that Isaac the elder was the son of Thomas WISEMAN first seen in Germantown, Philadelphia County in 1706 when he purchased land from Matthias Van Bebber. Professional genealogists were hired by the Wiseman Family Association to obtain records but neither theory has been proven.

Isaac WISEMAN, the father of Isaac 1738, left Berks County around 1768 and was first seen on a tax list in Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1772.6 He bought land in Rowan County in 1778 and left it to his heirs in his will in 1779.7,8 His widow Mary left a will written 28 December 1790 and proven 10 November 17919,10 as well as an inventory dated February 1792.11 Although Isaac and Mary named some of their children in their wills, they did not mention Isaac.

The daughters of Isaac WISEMAN 1738 and Elizabeth DAVIS

Isaac and Elizabeth were the parents of eleven children born between 1759 and 1779. Much is known of their seven sons’ lines as they were looked into by the great-grandsons. Neither of the authors of the early genealogies of the WISEMAN family knew much of the four daughters.

From the brief sketch of the WISEMAN family it is knows that the family was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Rockbridge County, Virginia. Sarah, the oldest, married in Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1782 where she and her husband James BARLEY raised their children.12

The next oldest daughter, Rachel also married in Rockbridge County. She married Frederick HONAKER in 1795.13 It was a second marriage for Frederick and Rachel brought a 10-year-old daughter into the marriage. Rachel and Frederick went with her parents and siblings to Greenbrier County around 1797-1798. They settled in the area that would become Monroe County in 1799. Rachel and Frederick raised their family in Monroe and are buried in the Rehoboth Church Cemetery where her parents are also said to be buried.

Elizabeth married John BLANTON in 1798 in Greenbrier County.14 They went to Kentucky where her brothers Abner and Jacob had also gone.

The youngest daughter Margaret, also known as Peggy, married Bartholomew RAMSEY in 1799 in Monroe County.15,16 They raised their family in Nicholas County and Fayette County when it was formed in 1831.

Now that I know where the information found in so many family trees is coming from, I have a better feel of what I can work on to leave a documented history of my 5th great-grandparents Isaac WISEMAN 1738 and Elizabeth DAVIS.

It would be awesome if someone reading this post would reach out to me with more information, especially on Elizabeth DAVIS during Women’s History Month.

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

  1. Dr. Benjamin Winfield Scott Wiseman, Wiseman genealogy and biography, digital images of original, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 February 2020), FL52150_TN-1474326, digitized by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2008 [originally published: Culver, Indiana, 1910] 
  2. C. M. L. Wiseman, The Wiseman Family and the Old Church at New Salem : a brief sketch, FamilySearch ( : accessed 12 February 2020), FL1103481_TN-76231, digitized by FamilySearch International, 2013, [originally published: Columbus, Ohio : Fred J. Heer, 1902], p. 7-8. 
  3. Ibid., p. 23-24. 
  4. Robert N. Wiseman, Senior Historian of the Wiseman Family Association, comment posted 3 February 2020 in the Nicholas County WV Genealogy group on Facebook and personal message conversation between Robert and Cathy on 24-25 February 2020. 
  5. “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900,” database and images,, citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls. Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Images of the papers in the Revolutionary War file of Joseph Wiseman including images of family bible pages with the names and dates of birth and death of his parents. 
  6. Bob Wiseman Research
  7. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” index and images, Ancestry, North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts, Wills and estate papers (Rowan County), 1663-1978, North Carolina, Rowan County, Original wills, Verble, Daniel – Zimmerman, Christian, file of Isaac Wiseman. ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  8. Ibid., North Carolina, Rowan County, Wills, Vol A-F, 1757-1807, Isaac Wiseman, page 184. ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  9. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” North Carolina, Rowan County, Original wills, Verble, Daniel – Zimmerman, Christian, file of Mary Wiseman. ( : accessed 25 June 2019). 
  10. “North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970,” Rowan > Wills, 1781-1791, Vol. B > image 94+95 of 230, Will of Mary Wiseman, pages 179-181. ( : accessed 6 March 2020). 
  11. “North Carolina Estate Files, 1663-1979,” database with images, FamilySearch, citing State Archives, Raleigh., Rowan County > W > Wiseman, Mary (1792) > image 2 of 3. ( : accessed 6 March 2020). 
  12. Dodd,Jordan,  Virginia, Marriages, 1660-1800, [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1997. Original data: Electronic transcription of marriage records held by the individual counties in Virginia. 
  13. Ibid. 
  14. 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, West Virginia, Greenbrier, Jno. Blanton and Eliza. 1797/9 (1798), left page, last entry. ( : accessed 12 August 2014). 
  15. Ibid., Monroe County, 1799, Margaret Wiseman and Bartholomey Ramsey. 1799 Marriage Bond. ( : accessed 12 August 2014). 
  16. Ibid., Monroe County, 22 October 1799, Margaret Wiseman and Bartholomey Ramsey. 1799 Marriage Record. ( : accessed 12 August 2014).