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 familysearch.org) 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com: 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
Ancestry.com: 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.

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