Whenever I feel stuck researching my family history, I try to think about patterns. What is the normal pattern for this family? If they did something that breaks the normal pattern, why? What is the normal pattern for that time and place? One pattern I have noticed is that people moved in groups. They joined military units or were in the local militia together as neighbors. Moves often happened for economic reasons. People moved with close family and friends to a new place, the people they knew they could depend on for a new start.
I know about several early Mecklenburg families, but cannot personally document any of my ancestors born before 1800, or know where they lived before Mecklenburg- except for one line, and that is my Newman line. James B. Jones (Great Creek area) married Martha Newman. They raised 15 children! Martha’s death record said she was born in Orange, VA. At first, I thought that was a mistake because Martha’s father, Abner Newman was in a Mecklenburg unit during the War of 1812 and married in Brunswick County, Virginia in 1792. I kept searching for a some kind of connection to Orange County Virginia. I discovered that when Martha’s father died she went to live with her grandfather in Orange. She, her mother, and siblings who had not yet married all moved to Orange.
Martha’s grandfather William Newman was born in Essex County, Virginia. He lived where the Occupacia Creek crosses Route 17, very close to the Rappahannock River. William Thomas lived between the Newmans and the Rappahannock River. The more I read the court books, the more I start to wonder about if several of my Mecklenburg ancestors lived in Essex first. William Newman’s next door neighbors were Walkers, Thomases, Joneses, Brookes, Moseleys, Kidds, and Grays. (Even though I know my Grays immigrated from County Armagh, Ireland in 1838). I see all those family names as neighbors to the Newmans for 100 years in Essex County. Because farms were failing in Essex county during the 1750’s and 1760’s, some people started to move to Caroline County and Orange County. William Newman worked for many years for John Baylor and his wife Frances Walker who had farms in both Caroline and Orange counties. Mrs. Baylor had a brother who settled in Brunswick County, Virginia. Three Walker brothers (whose father was born in Essex), married three of Martha’s sisters. (William Newman’s grandchildren.) I know that these are common British surnames, but I can’t help wondering when I see these families as next door neighbors in Essex for 100 years, and then see these same names as close neighbors in Eastern Mecklenburg. That’s a pattern I don’t plan to ignore or think of as just a coincidence. It is true that a lot of people migrated from Isle of Wight and Surry counties to Mecklenburg, but now I am studying the early Essex (Old Rappahannock County) migration route to Mecklenburg.
This map shows the path that my Newman family traveled from 17th century Essex county, to 1810 in Mecklenburg. When I find more connections to colonial families or where families were before they came to Mecklenburg, I will share them here. On the map below, I have marked landmarks closest to where William Newman, then where his granddaughter Martha Newman lived. The route displayed is the current highway/ travel route.
I was asked by a descendant of Missouri Jones to help her identify which Jones line in Mecklenburg, VA was her family’s line. I thought Jane Thomas who married Edward Carroll Jones died young, but I found out this was not true after all. My search to discover Missouri’s parents led to totally unexpected results. I uncovered a divorce and several children born out of wedlock, including an African American baby. My intention is to explain what I’ve learned about Jane and her children, showing records that give various pieces of evidence. Not to judge, but rather to try to account for some children, give my interpretation of the records, and explain some possible DNA matches. Although Jane and Edward divorced 156 years ago, DNA matches might be able to give us more answers.
(Download) This chart about Jane’s relatives will help while reading this post about the various relationships. It includes Jane’s siblings and parents. The chart is formatted to 11×17 inches.
Missouri’s descendants were stuck at a huge brick wall. The brick wall they were hitting was finding more information about both George Harper and Missouri Jones’s parents. (Both families are white.) Missouri’s mother was known as Jane B. Jones. Missouri’s father was unknown, as well as Jane’s parents. The more I looked at various records, the more Missouri looked like she should be part of my Jones family! On each record, Missouri and Jane lived near my family. The more I looked at Jane, the more she looked to me like the Jane Thomas who married to Edward C Jones. But I (and other family history researchers) thought this Jane died about 1862-1864, while Edward was in a Confederate hospital or Point Lookout during the Civil War. We thought their children lived with relatives until Edward returned from the war and married Caroline(“Pink”) who raised Jane’s 3 children.
I found Jane’s death record, from the year 1915. She lived about 50 years longer than I had previously thought! Jane’s name was corrected on her death record and the mother listed looked to me like Tinsy Thomas. Which suggested to me that Jane was alive the same time Edward was married to Caroline Thomas, (Jane’s cousin). This hinted to me a divorce, rather than Jane dying young.
Virginia divorce records from this time period were kept in the circuit court records, now part of chancery records. I found this (below) on the Library of Virginia’s (LVA) website:
I could tell by the above index, that this was probably the divorce, so I went to LVA to get the case. (Hayes was only mentioned as witnessing that he served the court summons to Jane.) Edward Jones’ father, (James B. Jones), and his uncle Zachariah Jones gave the depositions. The court proceeding stated that Jane “had an affair with a Negro man”, and had a child born in Aug 1864 “born with dark skin”, to prove adultery. Jane stated she loved this baby as much as her white babies and was going to keep her baby. The man she had the affair with was not named. Neither the baby’s name nor gender was given. Only that the baby was born in August 1864. James said he had known Jane all her life and that he had seen the baby several times.
The baby would have been conceived about Nov 1863. I’m not sure legally how well the Emancipation Proclamation would have been in effect at this time and place. I have no idea if the man Jane had the affair with was a slave or free. But because the mother was white, this should mean that the baby was born free, regardless of the father’s legal status. Because the case refers to the man as “a Negro man”, rather than stating an owner’s name, my assumption is that the father of this baby was not a slave.
I cannot find any of these people involved on the 1870 Census. I don’t see Jane, or any of her children. I don’t see Edward, Caroline or their children. Caroline had previously been married to Robert Joyce who died in 1863. The children of Robert Joyce and Caroline “Pink” Thomas were wards of Robin Thomas, their grandfather. (Robin was father of Caroline Thomas). Nicholas and Flora Joyce, two of Caroline’s children were living with Robin Thomas on the 1870 Census. I have not yet found Caroline’s other two children Robert Joyce and Cornelia Joyce on the 1870 Census. I manually looked through the whole enumeration district where Jane and Edwards’s siblings lived, but could not find any of these people.
Missouri Jones was born about 1874, and she was white. Jane continued to use the surname Jones for the rest of her life. I have not yet found Missouri’s birth record, but I don’t expect to see the father listed.
This is the 1880 Census above. Jane is in Mecklenburg, next door to her sister Sarah Ellis. Missouri is the only child in the household, and Jane is listed as divorced. Jane’s baby born in Aug 1864 should be age 16. I do believe this baby lived, because I have seen a photograph with Jane, her daughter Missouri, Missouri’s husband and children, and a nicely dressed African American male teenager. The picture was not labeled, but he was in Jane’s family picture and is most likely Jane’s grandson. Does this mean Jane raised her child? Or did her grandson just visit and was in that family picture? Was Jane’s unknown child working for someone else in 1880? Or raised by someone else nearby? Was the child raised with the surname Jones? Or was the child given the surname of the family who raised him or her?
Missouri’s marriage is the second line on this marriage register for Mecklenburg. I thought this record was interesting because only mothers were listed in the parents’ space for both George Harper & Missouri Jones. Neither George nor Missouri’s father’s names were written on their marriage or death records. Below is the marriage license for Missouri. They were married at the home of Massenburg Thomas, Jane’s brother.
The 1900 Census listed Jane as widowed, instead of divorced. (Edward Jones had actually died by 1900.) Jane was living with her daughter Missouri’s family on the 1900 and 1910 Census. I believe that Jane always lived with Missouri. The 1900 Census says that Jane is the mother of 7 children, 5 living. That’s 2 more children than I can account for. Could she and Edward have had 2 babies that died young so they weren’t listed on a Census? Or were these children born after the divorce, with fathers unknown? It is possible the number was wrong on the Census, but I would have expected Jane to report less children, like only Missouri, rather than more children on the Census.
I thought Jane and Edward had two sons, James, and Richard L. But when I looked through birth records, there was no Richard. Only James R. Jones. Probably James Richard Jones. I’m not sure where the middle initial L came from, or when the first name James was dropped.
Jane had the following children:
1) James Richard L Jones b. 1856, (still alive in 1900), father was Edward C Jones, race: white
2) Martha W. Jones b. 1858 (still alive in 1900), father was Edward C. Jones, race: white
3) Sarah E Jones b. 1860 (still alive in 1900), father was Edward C Jones, race: white
4) Baby with unknown name born Aug 1864, assumed to be alive in 1900, father unknown. Father’s race: African American, Mothers race: white
5) Missouri Jones (alive in 1900), father unknown, race: white
I have searched FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com for their available birth records. Births were recorded in the 1860’s and 1870’s. I searched for any Jones born in Mecklenburg or Brunswick in the year 1864 and found nothing. I’ve searched Virginia and North Carolina state indexes, as well as manually looking through microfilms in Mecklenburg for birth records, looking for any Jones baby with a mother named Jane. There are a lot of missing pages, several years are not yet available online. I will keep checking as more records are being digitized and indexed.
Edward and Jane’s oldest child is listed as James on the 1860 Census, no Richard listed. They are listed in the dwelling located next to Jane’s sister Rhoda Pearson. Tinsy Thomas, Jane’s mother is the previous house (previous pg.), dwelling #183. Edward’s parents were also on the previous census page, dwelling #177.
I’m curious about who actually paid the court costs and I think this is a big deal. Jane was summoned to court, with a listed penalty of $100 for not showing up. Another page in the case notates that she did not show up to court, with a witness saying he did give Jane the summons. The divorce decree was issued, with the marriage dissolved 4 Apr 1866, and Jane was responsible for court costs. A hundred dollars plus court costs was an enormous amount of money then! Especially after the Confederate dollar collapsed, so many men who used to work the farms were maimed or had died, and post war economic hardships lasted for decades. I have Virginia chancery cases involving people who moved to Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas writing letters to the court asking to be excused from needing to appear in court, so they didn’t have to pay those huge fines. I have chancery cases of people losing their homes, unable to pay debts. Edward’s father, James B. Jones borrowed $255.26 in Jan 1854. He could not pay that debt back to AG Boyd & Thornton. The debt brought to chancery court was not paid until Nov 1876, 2 months after James died, when his son Charles bought the 2 properties which were 100 acres each. This debt is about what I expect Jane would have been asked to pay, about the cost of 100 acres and a house. If James could not pay this debt for 22 years, how could a newly divorced woman with a baby be expected to pay the court fine and divorce court costs?! I can totally understand Jane not wanting to appear in court. But I can’t imagine Jane would have been excused from paying these court costs when everyone was out of money and calling in their debts. So, who paid it? Janes father had already died, and her mother only lived a few years after the divorce. Nothing about payments is noted. The divorce decree is the thing written in the case. Jane didn’t own any land. She appears to be poor, living with or next door to family the rest of her life. The Census shows her as the next household to her sisters, but maybe she was actually living on her sisters’ property?
Edward Jones married Caroline in Brunswick County about 4 months after the divorce was finalized. Did he move to Brunswick to “start over” and go somewhere he wouldn’t see Jane anymore? Or did he just have a good job and place to live that happened to be in Brunswick? Edward was described on his muster roll as 5’ 7”, light complexion, dark hair, dark eyes. Edward’s muster Roll:
So, what could all this mean for DNA matches? I drafted a number of pages trying to draw out various ways to show connections, with so many arrows it became too difficult to follow. There are several cousin marriages; Several Jones and Thomas marriages; Several Thomas and Lambert marriages. Julia Kidd married Robert Massenburg Thomas, who was the brother of Jane. There are many people closely related to Jane who can show African American DNA matches. People I’ve seen with African American matches to white Kidd and Jones families are often estimated at 4-6th cousin matches. The chance that the connections are to Jane’s baby referenced in the divorce case are very high. I’m hoping this chart attached about Jane’s family (at beginning of this post) will explain some possibilities for the African American DNA matches and where the connections could be, through this child born in Aug 1864, or the other 2 unknown children for Jane.
When African Americans are looking for their white ancestor, the slave owner or the overseer might seem the assumed logical place to scrutinize first. Leonard M. Thomas and Tinsy Thomas (Jane’s parents) did have slaves. John J Drury Pearson was an overseer. But in this case, I believe the connection would be to Jane’s baby. Not because Leonard was a slave owner, but because Leonard would be the common ancestor of the match. Not through John Pearson as an overseer, but rather the connection of his wife being Jane’s sister, making the DNA match occur at Jane’s parents. Multiple cousin marriages (like Jane’s parents) can make DNA matches look closer than they actually are, because there’s more shared DNA. Here’s an example for a Pearson DNA match.
I’ve been wondering about the possibility of a family raising Jane’s baby. My impression of the boy in the family picture was that he was better off financially than Jane and Missouri. The Marks family was a free African American family who appear to have done well financially since at least the 1840’s. Elizabeth Ann Marks was a neighbor of these Jones. She was the daughter of Abel and Quintina Marks. Elizabeth married Henry Mayo who was a carpenter. Elizabeth and their children farmed the land. In 1870 Henry and Elizabeth were living on James B. Jones’s farm that was next to John Gray’s farm off Hall Rd. (James B. Jones lived on a different parcel of 100 acres off Blackridge Rd. ) Henry and Elizabeth bought the 100 acres near Hall Rd in Oct 1889 from Charles Jones (Edward’s brother), who had purchased the land to pay off his father’s debts in chancery. Tom Mayo (son of Henry and Elizabeth) inherited the land. I’m told this area is known as Mayo’s hill. Could Elizabeth and Henry have taken in Jane’s child to give the child a good name, a better life and be raised with their own children? Elizabeth would have lived near Jane and her family. Could James B. Jones have offered his farm as a place for the baby to be raised, as an offer of peace and support? If not Elizabeth, someone else with a similar situation?
The chancery case states the baby was born August 1864, but it is very possible the child was raised with a different birth date. If you are from this Marks or Mayo family and might know, please let me know. If you know anything that might help identify any of Janes’ children after her divorce, or have DNA matches to this group of people, please let me know. Jane may have used the surname Bennett for more than just the 1910 Census, even though this was actually her middle name. I assume that Jane was named after her uncle Bennett Thomas. If you have the surname Bennett and it looks like you could be part of Jane’s family please let me know. I personally have Jones DNA lines, but no Thomas DNA lines, which may help in sifting through DNA matches.
Many people today, assume that a cemetery in rural Virginia without tombstones must be a slave cemetery. But this is a misunderstanding. Most people could barely afford to feed their families and pay their mortgages. The cost of a tombstone could not even be a priority and was not considered a practical use of money, which was scarce. Can you learn anything about a cemetery without any tombstones? At first glance, the answer might seem to be “no”. But I have discovered there are actually some helpful things that can be learned, especially with some newer technology things I’ve been trying with mapping and GPS. The majority of my ancestors in Mecklenburg County, Virginia did not have tombstones. Burials at churches (or with tombstones) did not really start for my family before World War I; often not that common until after World War II when the economy started improving. Tombstones were often put up much later by descendants, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Daughters of the Revolution. I talked to Stephen Lambert Jr & Sr in August 2004 about the cemetery with Nellie Brooks and Frederick Jones. Lambert descendants knew which burial plot was Nellie’s and which was Frederick’s because of a drawing of the cemetery that used to be kept in the Family Bible. The tombstones were placed there about the early 1960’s, approximately 145 years after Frederick died.
When I first started visiting Mecklenburg, in January 2003, I printed every tombstone picture I took and put it in a photo album. Of course I was teased about that. But I wanted the few stones I found to be in a book, so that each time I visited, I could show my book to people and ask questions; about the person, where they lived, who were they related to etc. Some pictures, relatives didn’t know a headstone had been put up until they saw my book. When they saw the cemetery as a young child, it was just field stones. Each visit to Mecklenburg, I’ve asked everyone if they knew about family cemeteries. I also visited whatever I could find marked on USGS topographical maps. I have discovered many long forgotten cemeteries with a lot of help from people who live there.
The maroon colored upside down letter “T” is the symbol I use on my map for cemeteries. I thought the symbol looked closest to a tombstone. The churches are a marked by a cross, same color if there’s a cemetery there. Each cemetery symbol on this screen shot above, I have personally visited and taken GPS coordinates; except for one, which we are still trying to find. That cemetery is marked based on an old phone interview I did, and notated on the map as an “estimate pin”. The cemetery next to the red letter “J” is where Frederick Jones & Nellie Brooks are buried. A “Jones cemetery”, and the person Nellie Jones Road is named after. None of these cemeteries are visible from the road. Many cemeteries are in areas that haven’t been farmed for at least 20 years, so there are often many briars, small trees and brush to get through. I visit Mecklenburg more frequently in the winter to look for cemeteries.
This is John B. Kidd’s lower plat, south of Nellie Jones Rd. I drew this plat onto my map, (see screen shot above) so that when I get GPS pins, I can see which property the cemetery used to belong to. This summer (2019), I went to a cemetery relatively close to old Robert Joyce, Kidd and Cannon lands. I took a picture with GPS coordinates (an app on my phone), typed those coordinates into the map, and saw that this cemetery is on land which John B. Kidd gave to his daughter Julia Kidd, who was married to Robert Massenburg Thomas. Does this cemetery date back earlier than when John B. Kidd owned it? Are John or Julia buried there? I have no idea, and I don’t know anyone who can tell me any old family stories about this land. There were fence posts and a fence still visible in some places. This cemetery was marked on the map above with a red “T” on it, for Thomas.
These are 2 GPS pictures I took of this cemetery with what we estimate to be about 45 graves. Some places we could see head and foot markers for 6 burials in a row. I only found this cemetery because someone knew about it, knew I was asking about cemeteries and took me to see it. There were rocks (field stones) marking head and foot areas. Some land depressions. No names or carved information anywhere.
What can a cemetery without tombstones tell us? If there was a family of 12 children, but only 3 burials, I know I haven’t found the whole family yet. If John B. Kidd had 7 parcels in this plat south of Nellie Jones Rd which he gave to his children, but I have only found cemeteries on 3 parcels then I expect to find cemeteries on 4 other parcels. Cemeteries found at 1-Julia, 2-Arimenta & 3-Bartlette’s parcels (Frederick Jones was buried on what later became Bartlette Kidd’s parcel) If I get a GPS coordinate and don’t know who used to live there pre-1900, then I start looking through deeds. If I go look up the deed of John and Julia, I might find mention of a cemetery. If I hear about a cemetery of field stones, I want to see if possibly any descendants added tombstones or heard anything. I have found mentions of cemeteries, in both deeds and chancery cases. Twice I’ve seen someone buried in the cemetery mentioned by name in the land record. One cemetery I’m trying to find mentions an acre lot for the cemetery in a deed, which is larger than any of the cemeteries I’ve visited so far. I have only heard reference to one slave cemetery, because the man’s mother showed him where it was, to protect it. That’s another cemetery I hope to visit soon. If you know of any cemeteries, whether marked or unmarked, please let me know.
**Site info: I have put a link to this post under the cemetery section near the top of the website. I will write posts to tell what I know about each cemetery I have visited, and include any charts I made to try to trace land history, family relationships or anything else relevant to each cemetery lot.