A Plausible Theory Part II

In my earlier post A Plausible Theory I began the search for the parents of my Dolly Schoolfield who was born 25 Feb 1759 in Worcester Co MD. I poked gaping holes in the prevailing belief that her parents were John Schoolfield and Mary Richardson, then went on to posit the theory she might be one of the two unidentified children of Joseph Schoolfield who died intestate in 1767. I also stated that if I found records that called that theory into question, I would move off it and develop a new one. Here is an entry in the 1790 US Census for Worcester County, Maryland:

1790 Census Schoolfield, Joseph Sr and Jr
1790; Census Place: Worcester, Maryland; Series: M637; Roll: 3; Page: 140; Image: 452

Um. Hmmm. Okay. That second Joseph Schoolfield has an abbreviation for Junior after it. For my theory to work, there needed to be only one Joseph Schoolfield in the 1790 census. There are two. Granted the identifier of Jun. doesn’t necessarily mean these two men are related. This is an alphabetical list. Census and tax takers commonly referred to two men with the same name in the same area as Senior and Junior, but family relationships weren’t noted. As often as not it only meant that one was older than the other.

If what happened next were a movie, the music score for it would have a beat that sounded like a head banging on a desk, and the melody would sound like a vacuum cleaner as I hoovered up all the early Worcester Co MD Wills and Deeds  for the surname Schoolfield, then struggled to make sense of them. I am a big fan of timelines. Putting things in the order in which they happened shows us things we wouldn’t normally see. So I deployed the Lazy Genealogist’s version of abstracting documents, and put them in order by date.

Lo and behold, right after the 1790 Census list of names were these two deeds:

5 Jun 1791 Joseph Schoolfield Senior sells to his son William Schoolfield part of SCHOOLFIELD’S PLEASURE AND RECOVERY Book O pg 146

25 Jun 1791 Joseph Schoolfield and his son Joseph Mitchelly Schoolfield part of SCHOOLFIELD’S PLEASURE Book O pg 149

There are various ways to convey property to one’s heirs: by writing a Will with specific instructions; dying intestate and allowing all the land to be entailed on the oldest son; give or sell the property directly to the intended heirs.

The person I’m calling Joseph Schoolfield the 1st died in 1744 and willed to his son John land called SMITH’S FIRST CHOICE. He willed to his son Joseph the 2nd part of a piece of land called DESART and all of an adjoining piece of land called RECOVERY. No mention was made of any of his sons being minors, so I’m assigning a birth year of 1722 to Joseph the 2nd to make him easily old enough to inherit the land without a guardian. It appears to me that the land RECOVERY passes from Joseph Schoolfield the 1st to his son Joseph Schoolfield the 2nd, to his son Joseph Schoolfield the 3rd. Joseph Schoolfield the 2nd, then, would be the Joseph Schoolfield in the above 1790 census, and Joseph the 3rd would be Joseph Schoolfield Junior in that census. (Did I forget to mention that the music score has a refrain that sounds very much like under-the-breath invectives?) If Joseph the 2nd was born about 1722, he would have been about 69 years-old  when he sold that property to his sons for fifteen shillings per son. That’s an age when someone would be getting affairs in order.

Taken alone the 1800 Census can be interpreted in more than one way. Combined with other records, the possible stories it can tell narrow significantly. Here is a Joseph Schoolfield living next door to Levi and Dolly Houston:

1800 Census Schoolfield and Houston
1800; Census Place: Pitts Creek Hundred, Worcester, Maryland; Series: M32; Roll: 12; Page: 181

Joseph and Levi are both shown as males 45+. Levi was born 9 Sep 17551.  He is 45. Looking at later census records, Joseph the 3rd was born sometime from 1755 to 1761, making him Levi Houston’s peer.

On the page before the one above is a different Joseph Schoolfield.

1800 Census Schoolfield, Joseph the younger
1800; Census Place: Pitts Creek Hundred, Worcester, Maryland; Series: M32; Roll: 12; Page: 180

See the correction made by the enumerator? That column is for males from age 16 to 25. My interpretation of this correction is that this Joseph Schoolfield is 26, giving him a birth year of 1774. That lines up with the 1820 census. I know it seems like I’m going pretty far into the weeds here, but it is important to establish that this is probably Joseph Schoolfield the 4th, aka the new Joseph Schoolfield Junior. He is now a grown up man able to start purchasing land in his own name:

7 Jun 1802 Joseph Schoolfield Junior purchased part of GREAT CONVENIENCY (sic) in Pitts Creek Hundred (located next to Levi Houston’s swamp) Book V pg 163

This next (abridged) document is the very first one I’ve found where there is anything like a connection between the Schoolfield family and the Houston family. It is also the earliest document I’ve found with Dolly’s name on it.

Houston to Schoolfield deed
Worcester County Maryland Deed book X pages 511-2

CHESTNUT RIDGE came to Levi Houston from the Will of his grandfather, James Houston (Worcester Co MD Will Book 4 pages 111-2) in 1772. Levi paid the supply tax on it in 1783. So here he is selling it and HOUSTON’S LOTT to Joseph Schoolfield Junior for 100 dollars in 1805. The next document I found is where George Schoolfield (son of Levi and Dolly named George Schoolfield Houston) sold land to Nehemiah Schoolfield in 1811 (Book AB pg 425).

Fair warning: trigger alert. This next document is not a happy one. It is revolting and sad and reality for the time period.

Houston, Levi witness sale of slaves
Worcester County Maryland Deed Book AD page 27

Joseph Schoolfield Senior (the 3rd) is giving children ages 11, 7 and 4 years of age to his daughter Sarah Ewell in Accomack, Virginia as slaves. I’m not going to go on a tear about how awful this is; nobody needs a lesson in morality from me. I’m going to point to the significance of this document: One of the witnesses is Levi Houston for one, and this is the last known document that shows Levi Houston living in Maryland for two. After this his family and their slaves migrate to Bracken County, Kentucky, thus ending all opportunities for contact between the two families.


I discovered an even more remarkable document dated 12 December 1830 in Worcester County Maryland Deed Book AW pages 139-142. Levi Houston died 11 Feb 1824 in Bracken County, Kentucky. The executors of his Will were two sons James and Joseph Houston. In that capacity they granted their power of attorney to recover and sell a runaway slave named Peter, who ran away before the family moved to Kentucky if he could be found. The document also reveals that on the way to Kentucky, the family lost another runaway slave named Grace while they were in Pittsburgh, PA (a busy gathering point for people headed to Kentucky via the Ohio River). And to whom do they give this power of attorney? Joseph Schoolfield (the 3rd) in Worcester County, Maryland, who was still alive in 1830 (he died in 1834). If I’m understanding this document correctly, Peter was located and was allowed to purchase his freedom for 100 dollars.

So what am I saying in all this? I’m looking very seriously at Joseph Schoolfield the 3rd as Dolly’s brother, and therefore, Joseph Schoolfield the 2nd as her father. It’s just a theory, like the one before it, but one with a better road map for making the case.



1 Coventry P.E. Church, Somerset Co., MD Parish and Vestry Records, Vol 1 from familysearch.org





One thought on “A Plausible Theory Part II

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s