How Did He Do That?

I have two documents that create a time conflict for my understanding of when Levi Houston and his family migrated from Maryland to Kentucky.

The first one is a deed of gift from Joseph Schoolfield II to his daughter Sarah Ewell, where he is giving to his daughter and son-in-law three young slaves. One of the witnesses is Levi Houston; the date is 7 Sep 1812.

Worcester County Deed Book AD pg 27

The second document is a deed dated 15 Sep 1812 in Bracken County, Kentucky where Levi Houston is purchasing land from Lawson Dobyns and his wife Mary.

Bracken County, Kentucky Deed Book D pg 319

In 1812 it was physically impossible to travel from Worcester County, Maryland to Bracken County, Kentucky in one week. So how did this happen?

Because I was puzzling over this conflict, the dates stuck with me. Then one day I noticed that Levi and Dolly’s son Joseph Houston got married on 27 Sep 1812 in Bracken County to Delilah Weldon. ( Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1802-1850). That strikes me as a short engagement. Then I realized that Levi and Dolly’s daughter Nancy married Thomas Dix on 6 Jul 1811 ( Kentucky, Compiled Marriages, 1802-1850). Their daughter Sarah Houston married John Secrist on or about 10 Jul 1812. Oh look, here’s Levi as a witness to the marriage license. Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965

Ah, see Joseph was already in Bracken County in July, so his marriage to Delilah Weldon in September is looking more realistic. Now I know that at least one member of the Houston family, Nancy, was in Bracken County as early as 6 July 1811. She was only 23 at the time; it is highly unlikely her parents would have allowed her to come alone. Unless this was a whirlwind romance, I think the Houston family was already in Bracken County before that marriage took place.

Looking again at the deed for the land in Bracken County, Levi paid $1400 for 430 acres on the Ohio River. From where did he get this money? Part of it might have come from two land sales on 28 Dec 1810 in Somerset County, Maryland. In Deed Book U, pg 4 is recorded a sale of land for $580 and in the same book on pg 15 is another sale for $256. I didn’t have these documents before because Somerset County, Maryland deeds can only be found by going to the Family History Center, not from home.

It would seem that some time between 28 Dec 1810 and 6 Jul 1811, the entire Houston family moved from Maryland to Kentucky. This still doesn’t solve the time conflict, but it suggests that one of Levi’s sons was entrusted with purchasing the land in their father’s name while Levi was in Worcester County, Maryland witnessing a deed of gift.

Migration is fluid; travel back and forth was common even across the Atlantic Ocean. It pays to be open-minded about family members staying in contact and conducting business over great distances. I’m glad to have more information to support at least a plausible reason why Levi was one place while business was being conducted in his name in another place.


Long Lost Daughter

Sometimes the only path to a solution is to wait for it to present itself. Many people with Irish ancestors learn fairly quickly that the first place to start learning more about the ancestor’s family is to find out in which County the ancestor was born, then narrow it down to a Parish. I had given up believing even the County would become known for my John Clark Smith born circa 1814 in Ireland. He was married three times that I know of. His first wife was Catherine. Nothing is known about her except that she is listed as the mother of John’s son Richard in his baptism on 10 Oct 1847 at St. Peter’s Church in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Smith, Richard original baptism

The second known child of John Clark Smith was his daughter Margaret. I’ve written about trying to learn more about her before (2015). I was frustrated by the lack of a baptism record for her and my inability to find a marriage record for her. She just disappeared.

No one in my family knew of the existence of Richard or Margaret. They both appeared in the 1860 census in Reading, Pennsylvania and then the 1870 census in Jackson Township, Nodaway County, Missouri. Both were named in the Will of John Clark Smith in 1875. As covered in the previous post, the 1860 census was confusing; at first glance it appeared John’s wife, my ancestress, Elizabeth McIntyre was the mother of Margaret, aged 5 in 1860. Then I discovered the marriage record for John and Elizabeth dated 27 Jan 1859 (the date appears in the transcription, not this cropped version of the original.)

Smith, John married McIntyre, Elizabeth original
St. Peter’s Church Reading, Berks, Pennsylvania

Margaret’s mother was most likely someone else then. Poor Margaret became the victim of my neglect. Then one day came a miracle in the form of a DNA cousin match on  At first I paid no attention to the common surname Smith in this individual’s tree that she had attached to her results. I see the Smith name in the list of common surnames frequently, as would most people of British/Irish extraction. Then I scrolled down her tree and saw this:

Smith, John on cousin match

So I clicked on Margaret and found this:

Smith, Margaret on cousin match

My first thought was: She survived!!! I am pretty darn happy about that. I have enough experience researching people in Missouri that the next thing I did was go looking for Margaret Blakeley’s death certificate. Missouri has an awesome database of original death certificate images from 1910-1967. [Insert Hallelujah Chorus here:]

Smith, Margaret dc cropped

Now I know who John’s second known wife was and…the County where he was born!!!!!!!

I still can’t find Margaret’s marriage record. I did find her future husband Robert Blakeley in the 1880 Census living a few miles from the Smith family; he was a saloon keeper and 23 years older than Margaret. The family seems to have done well; four of their eight children survived to adulthood. Apparently they moved to Cass County, Missouri then on to Lafayette County, Missouri.

It is very nice to know what happened to her; the added bonus of finding what County John Clark Smith came from is pretty great, too.



A Sloop Named the Two Brothers

Collecting records is more fun than understanding them. There, I said it. The part of genealogy that is addictive is the hunt for treasures. Snagging an elusive census record, obituary, Will, vital record or deed gives more pleasure than slogging through the legalese trying to ‘get’ what we’re seeing. Sometimes a deed isn’t all that complex, like a bill of sale. Still, something as straight forward as a bill of sale can activate the imagination and spawn more questions than it answers.

Worcester County, MD Deed Book M folio 174-5

The above bill of sale shows Robert Schoolfield selling the sloop the Two Brothers to Hampton and John Rownd for three hundred and sixty pounds on 19 Apr 1787.

My first question was: What is a Sloop? Googling it wasn’t all that helpful except to learn that a sloop is a shipping vessel with one mast. The size can vary. The document states that the vessel was “…riding at ankor (sic) in Synapn“. Um, where’s that? Took me some doing, but I figured it out.

Sinepuxent Bay

Sinepuxent Bay. Cool.

Next: What was Robert doing with a sloop? I have seen nothing to suggest any of the Schoolfield family in Worcester or Somerset counties were in any way seafaring people. No fishermen, sailors, traders…only planters, gentlemen, carpenters and such. They owned land and slaves, and probably grew tobacco, but nothing to do with the sea. To date the only ancestor I’ve found with any relationship to the sea was James Houston, the grandfather of my Levi Houston. He was a shipwright and trader. The Schoolfields? Not so much. Why has nothing like this ever shown up in an inventory?

I would be remiss if I didn’t hunt around for two Schoolfield brothers. Robert was one of four brothers. Robert’s father John was one of three brothers. One of those brothers lived in Delaware and died 9 years prior to the sale, so John and Joseph were sort of ‘two brothers’. Going back to the original immigrants, there were five brothers, but only two had known offspring: Joseph I and Henry I. All the white Schoolfields in Worcester and Somerset counties were descendants of those two men. I looked at Robert’s sons: John and Joseph. Joseph wasn’t born yet. Nothing seemed to fit.

When in doubt, make a chart or a spreadsheet or some other correlation tool. In this case I made a table of the males (looking for brothers, after all).


Funny thing about tables, spreadsheets, charts, etc. They have a tendency to show patterns we weren’t looking for. Besides the fondness for the name William in both lines, does anything else jump out? It did to me: No one in the left column is named Joseph.

Colonial naming conventions aren’t proof, I get that. They’re a mishmash of cultures. The biggest weakness they have is that we rarely know about the children who died in infancy. Sometimes the names get recycled like with the sons of Henry III: Isaac and John were used twice. I once attempted to use a naming scheme as evidence in a proof to a lineage society and got swatted down for it, so I’m leery of lending them even a little weight. They’re like unsourced genealogies in that they’re finding tools–ways to look for patterns or something that’s missing. Also, the women introduce names from their own families. For instance the name Robert was introduced to the Schoolfield line by his mother Katherine Givans, whose father was Robert Givans.

Of course you knew I was going to somehow make this about Dolly Schoolfield; she is the whole reason I research this family. Her children were named: George S, Joseph, Nancy, Sarah, John, Elizabeth and James. George and James are names from her husband Levi Houston’s family. Using the table above, where would it make the most sense to place Dolly?

It’s not evidence, but it is one more data point that lands Dolly in the Joseph branch of the family.

In the end I decided that the Two Brothers were the two brother who purchased the sloop: Hampton and John Rownds. Who knew a bill of sale could be so fun?

Grace and Margaret

I’m guilty of being neglectful of my female ancestors. It is hard to pull away from all the records men left behind to study the scant records women left behind. They tend to capture my attention when what I see on people’s trees and online genealogies doesn’t line up with what I’m seeing in the records.

I haven’t paid much attention to my Houston line because so much of it has been so thoroughly documented by researchers far better than me. When I come across something as scholarly as The Houstons of the Eastern Shore: Some Descendants of Robert Houston c. 1633-1694 by William Robert Montgomery Houston, MD (1996). (PDF file available at I am content to let it stand. While I won’t take the time to cover the same ground, I don’t blindly accept all the author’s conclusions when he strays into speculation.

One such case is his treatment of the widow of Robert Houston c. 1633-1694, the original Houston immigrant to the colonies. Her first name was Grace. No record has yet been found that identifies her maiden name. (Some undocumented trees say it was Benson; I’m not convinced.)

When Robert Houston authored his Will on 25 Apr 1693, he names his ‘eldest son John Houston’. Maryland, Births and Christenings Index, 1662-1911 at has a record of John Houston’s birth recorded as 2 Feb 1668. It lists the parents as Robert Houston and Grace. Since Grace is the mother of his oldest child and she was his widow, it can be inferred that Grace was the mother of all Robert’s surviving children. Everything else known about Grace happened after Robert died.

Apparently the original Will was in pretty rough shape, with bits of it missing. There is a transcription of it on Maryland, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1777, Vol 2, pgs. 307-312. On 20 Jan 1694 Grace Houston was made administrator of the estate.

20 Nov 1696 Grace Schofield, administrator gave an accounting of Robert Houston’s estate.

Houston, Robert final account
Maryland Prerogative Court Inventories and Accounts 1697-1698 Liber 15, folio 66 Courtesy: Nabb Research Center

Grace was very briefly married to a Schoolfield. It was widely believed that her husband was Henry Schoolfield because he was a witness to Robert Houston’s Will.

Houston, Robert Will witnesses Maryland, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1777, Vol 2, pgs. 307-312

Side Note: the ‘R’ in Robert Houston’s transcribed ‘signature’ says ‘his mark’ below it. Doubtful it was his middle initial as some have claimed, especially since Grace used a ‘G’ as her mark at the end of the above accounting.Houston, Robert final account G mark

Back to Henry Schoolfield. He was also a witness to the Bond that was put up by Grace, Francis Thorowgood and John Williams.

Houston, Robert bond
Worcester County MD bonds JW 14 pg 22

New evidence has come to light courtesy of the wonderful researchers at the Nabb Research Center. While helping me with a Schoolfield matter, the researcher gave me a document that solved this thorny Houston thing. You see Henry Schoolfield was already married to Margaret Powell as early as 20 Nov 1695 (Will of Walter Powell). So who was Grace’s second husband?

In the June term of 1696 the Orphan(t) Jury made John Schoolfield the guardian of Robert Houston orphan(t) of Robert Houston. Robert Houston (Jr.) was born 6 Jan 1674 (the above cited Maryland Birth Records) and was six months shy of turning 21 and able to come into his inheritance on his own.

Houston, Robert orphan Schoolfield guardian
Somerset County Court, Judicial Records, 1693-1694, folio 98 courtesy of Nabb Research Center

If John Schoolfield had still been alive, his name would have appeared with Grace’s when she gave the final accounting of Robert Houston’s estate. Additionally, the Houston book the author references a court case in “September 1697 She was termed “Grace Scowfield (sic), widow”.”

Who was John Schoolfield? There is no direct evidence, but it seems most likely he was the brother of Henry Schoolfield…that both were the sons of Margaret Schoolfield.

The only document thus far found created during the lifetime of Margaret Schofield (aka Margaret Schoolfield) is a deed on 11 Nov 1687 in Somerset County, Maryland between William and Elizabeth Stevens and Margaret Schofield widow. (Somerset Deed Book MA, pg 859-60). It is possible that a misunderstanding of the contents of this deed led to the prevailing belief that Margaret’s maiden name is Anderson.

I still haven’t earned my merit badge in paleography, so my ability to transcribe the deed is limited. What I have to offer at this point is my interpretation of what I can make out, based in part on working with other deeds from the same area that are legible. This deed lays out the early history of the parcel of land called Desart. Lord Baltimore granted the land to John Anderson in 1678. It gives the metes and bounds of the property. John Anderson having clear ownership of the land sold it to William Stevens in 1684. Basically, the deed given to William Stevens when he bought the property from John Anderson was recorded here as a premise for the subsequent deed. The key language is NOW This Indenture before the deed conveying the land to Margaret Schofield. This is essentially two deeds in one document. The document goes on to record that for one hundred pieces of eight, Margaret purchased the land from William Stevens and his wife Elizabeth. So, there you have it. There is no relationship between John Anderson and Margaret Schofield other than they each, at one point, owned the same tract of land.

Henry Scholfield (aka Henry Schoolfield) put up an administration bond for Margaret Scholfield on 4 Jun 1713

Schoolfield, Margaret admin
 Maryland Prerogative Court Testamentary Proceedings 1711-1715 Liber 22, folio 244

Here is Benjamin Scholfield (aka Benjamin Schoolfield) verifying the inventory of Margaret Scholfield, shown as nearest of kin.

Schoolfield, Margaret inventory
Maryland Prerogative Court Inventories and Accounts 1714-1715 Liber 36B, folio 222

In Benjamin’s Will, he mentions his brother Henry who was deceased by then, and his brother Joseph. It is to Joseph that the land tract called Desart falls. Given that Henry Schoolfield’s name appeared in the estate records of Grace Houston, and the proven relationship between Benjamin, Joseph and Henry, the speculation that John Schoolfield is their brother and the husband of the widow Grace Houston isn’t difficult to accept.

What all this illustrates is that the very likely relationship between the Houston family and the Schoolfield family predates the marriage of Levi Houston and Dolly Schoolfield by several decades.

Ding, Ding, Ding (an update)

One of the perks of writing a blog is that it forces you to think through things, recheck your records, reevaluate you assumptions. Every once in awhile a new idea comes from it. In this case my last post Other People’s Research made me think of something more to try to find. Worcester County, Maryland has some awesome records on I found a record that proves conclusively that Mary (Martin) Richardson is NOT the mother of Dolly Schoolfield.

I realized that while I had the Will for John Richardson, that lists Mary as his wife and all his children, I had not bothered to look for the inventory for his estate.

I just found it. It is in Worcester County, Maryland Inventory Book J.W. 9 pages 2-3. I feel like this image should come with a big neon arrow like they have in the cartoons pointing to it.

NOT Dolly's Mother

Dolly was born 25 Feb 1759. This record shows that as of 3 Jun 1762, Mary Richardson was still a widow, and had not yet married John Schoolfield!

The little kid in me wants to say, “So There.”

Other People’s Research

One constant about doing research is that someone else should be able to replicate our findings. When a scientist conducts a study, other scientists will attempt to replicate the results of the study as a means of proving or disproving the first scientist’s work. Seems to me that this standard applies to genealogy. As researchers we ought to be able to find a path to, if not reach the same conclusions, at the very least see why previous researchers reached the conclusions they made.

I am still trying to understand why those who went before claim that Dolly Schoolfield’s parents were John Schoolfield and Mary Richardson. I found an earlier source for this information: A History of the Houston-Sherwin Family, compiled by Houston Mulloy Houston, 1950, revised 1963. This is not an easy ‘book’ to find. Worldcat shows only 4 libraries have it. I was lucky enough to get some of the pages sent to me by the librarian in Fort Myers, Florida. It is small and self-published, as are most such genealogies.  From it we learn the original compilation was begun in 1945.

On page 6 of the revised edition is the following statement:

Houston book pg 5

I believe this is what he is referencing:

Houston, Levi birth or baptism
Coventry Parish, Somerset, Maryland PE church, parish and vestry records, Vol I, pg 136,

This is an 1899 transcription of the original records. The author of the Houston genealogy appears to be claiming that his family records show Levi was born 20 Aug 1750, and that this is a baptism record rather than a birth record. Without seeing the original documents, there’s no way to know for certain. (I have to wonder if the ‘family records’ were indeed the DAR lineage books published in 1923?)

I’m trying to determine how much credibility to assign to this author. He was three generations closer to Levi and Dolly than me; that is a factor that needs some weight.

On the previous page (5) he made this statement:

Levi and Dolly marriage spec

On page 5 he said they were married in 1777; on page 6 he said they were married about 1778. I weigh that as speculation, and conclude he was as unsuccessful as every other researcher in finding a marriage record for this couple. Unfortunately this book is the source for that date with the DAR. Kind of puts the first known child George Schoolfield Houston in a bind given that he was born (coincidentally) on his father’s 27th birthday: 20 Aug 1777.

On page 6, the author reveals that he had considered two different men as the John Houston (father of Levi). The first was an Irish immigrant to Philadelphia in 1735. He rejected that man in favor of someone from an earlier family in Delaware. Why he cast his net outside of Maryland diminishes my view of his research. If this were being graded on a point system, he would get points for being closer to the ancestral couple, and points for finding the church records. I’d dock him on the marriage speculation for lack of evidence, and he’d run into negative points for not finding John in Maryland. (Especially since he advised his readers to cast about for further evidence in Worcester and Somerset Counties.)

Levi grandson of James
Will for James Houston, Worcester County, Maryland Will Book 4, pg 112,

The author of the book in question is a descendant of the last known child of Levi and Dolly: James Houston. He was probably named for Levi’s grandfather, whose Will excerpt is shown above that gives the lineage of Levi as the beneficiary of the inheritance to be left to him from John Houston. Had the author been serious about finding John’s identity, he would have had to look no further than this 1772 Will.

Moving on to the Schoolfield reference: Page 4 contains a list of the surnames the author credits for the existence of the family he is tracing:

Houston book pg 4

The Mary Richardson who married John Schoolfield was born Mary Martin. She is still single when her father Robert Martin mentions her in his Will in Liber W.D. 1, pg 383, probated 16 Jun 1725. In Maryland Will Books Liber B.T. 1, pg 538, John Richardson lists Mary as his wife and his children as: John, Samuel, William, Comfort, Polly, and Robert Martin Richardson.  Mary’s mother Mary Richardson mentions a daughter, Mary Schoolfield in her 1774 Will. In Mary Schoolfield’s Will (Worcester Co JW4, pg 393, probate 13 Mar 1778), the children mentioned are William, Polly and Robert Martin Richardson. Don’t know what happened to John, but Samuel died in 1770; Comfort died in 1774. John Schoolfield’s Will (Worcester Co MD Will Book 4, pg 132) makes no mention of any of the Richardson children. He lists his seven children: Thomas Givens, John, Robert, Mary, Betty, Merin and Cate. He also states that no part of his estate is to go to pay for any of his wife’s debts from prior to their marriage. (As discussed in a previous post, these children might be those from John’s first marriage to Katherine Given.)

If the author of this book had particular knowledge of Dolly Schoolfield’s parents, then why didn’t he know Mary Richardson was a Martin? Why doesn’t the above read: Milborns, Martins, Schoolfields and Houstons?

And…the question remains: If Dolly is the daughter of John Schoolfield and Mary (Martin) Richardson, then why is she not mentioned in either of their Wills? For the reasons stated, I am still dismissing this couple as the parents of Dolly.

The good news is that I can place the date the supposed names of her parents were put forth as early as 1950. That bad news is that I am no closer to understanding what led this researcher to make the claim.




Beware the Derivative

My mind naturally compiles things–sorting like things into some kind of order. I see the attraction and admire the dedication of people who take records from a location and compile them into a collection that is easily researched. Most of what is searchable on is some form of compilation of records. We need them to do our research. I’m all for benefiting from the work of others. I’m learning to avoid becoming dependent on either the work of others or compilations.

Recently I have encountered examples of why it is not a good idea to take compiled data at face value, even when it is sourced. The first kind of error that creeps into compiled data is the transcription error: missing tick marks in the census, gender and race marked incorrectly, etc. To their credit allows users to add corrections on most fields (although not those). Nothing replaces looking at the image to verify the information for ourselves. I’ve done transcription for; it is challenging and easy to make mistakes.

Just today I discovered an error on a record on

Schoolfield, Henry incorrect year

Below is the image used to produce the above transcription.

Schoolfield, Henry missing year

There is no year. Other dates on this same page range from 1745 to 1768, but most are in the 1760’s. The document itself is a transcription done about 1899 from the original church records that were not filmed by the LDS church.

Another type of compilation is a book. Spotting errors in books is more of a challenge, and close to impossible to correct. All too often the publisher is defunct and/or the author is deceased, leaving no one to update any later editions.

One book I rely on a lot in my current research project is Land Records of Worcester County, Maryland 1666-1810 by Ruth T Dryden. This book represents a staggering amount of work drawing information from various sources into a readable format that is unique in its focus on individual tracts of land in the county. I was lucky enough to find a library willing to lend it long enough for me to photograph all the pages relating to my Schoolfields and Houstons. It is impossible for a book this size to be error-free. It’s a human thing.

Land record error

The above is from page 575 of the book that begins to track the history of this tract of land through 1810. The wording of the 1720 entry alerted me to double-check the Will since this entry indicates both recipients received the ‘upper’ part of the property.

Land record correct
Somerset County, Maryland Liber 16 page 96

Checking the Will that was recorded in the Will book, we see that the lower part was given to his brother Joseph. The next page does indeed show that the upper part of Smith’s First Choice was given to Armwell Robert Vigerous. Bear in mind the Will book is itself a transcription of the original Will. Sometimes Will books are transcriptions of transcriptions of earlier versions that have deteriorated, or were kept separately by the county. Some archives possess the original Wills, and will, for a fee, provide a photocopy or photo of it. If there is any doubt about the transcription, it can be worthwhile to attempt to get a digital image of the original to see if it is legible. The above transcription has handwriting from the time period, so it is likely to be the first derivative of the original. In this instance, the error was easily resolved by viewing this image.

Example 3:

Somerset County Maryland Marriage References and Family Relationships, 1666-1800 by Lyndeth Esgar (2013) is another compilation I take with a dose of caution.

marriage record mess

I was looking for clarification about Katherine Givan as the mother of John Schoolfield’s children. I’ve written about this family before because this John Schoolfield was a possible parent to my Dolly Schoolfield. The names John Schoolfield and Mary Richeson/Richardson are in the water supply as Dolly’s parents. I have a post devoted to debunking this.

I wanted to know why Katherine Givan was named as the mother of John’s children. If the above image from that book were to be believed, then George and Day Givens were her parents. I looked for and found a Will for George Givan on in Volume 25 Wills, Liber DD #4, pg 472 written 15 Oct 1748. The image is poor quality, but it reveals that George and Day Givan are brothers to Cathren Scoffel. George mentions his ‘cousin’ Thomas Givan Scoffel. Thomas Givens Schoolfield is mentioned in the Will of the above-mentioned John Schoolfield as his son. The Will was written 13 Jan 1772 and appears in Worcester Co Maryland Will Book 4 pg 132. I looked at the other Givan Wills from the correct time period and found that Katherine is the daughter of Robert Givan. His Will appears in Volume 21, Liber T & D, pg. 451 and is dated 24 May 1735. Katherine is not married at that point.

Also in that entry is the last name Gatchel for daughter Mary. It’s Satchel. The one that bugs me, though, is the name Miriam as one of the daughters. The Will Book shows the following:

Schoolfield, John list of children

One other time in this Will, her name is shown as Merin. Below is part of a marriage bond for Robert Schoolfield’s daughter Merin in Bracken County, Kentucky.

Schoolfield, Merin marriage bond Kentucky, County Marriage Records, 1783-1965

She appears to have been named for Robert’s sister. (It is likely that the witness John Schoolfield is Robert’s son.) Yet the name Miriam persists in records and trees.

That makes at least three errors in one entry from a compilation. One problem comes from at least one of the sources the author cites also being a compilation, making it a few generations from the original.

The lesson here is to view compilations as finding aids, not established facts. Go to the sources that are cited, then review them for accuracy. Get as close to the original as possible. Then cite the earliest version rather than the compilation.