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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Open to Interpretation

In my previous post I made mention of the Will of John Wood Jr. One of the sticking points with trying to prove the correct son of this patriot is the Will. More specifically the fact that the DAR genealogists claim that Will is open to interpretation. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what they meant. It seemed clear-cut to me.

To get to the bottom of this, I asked an acquaintance who is unfamiliar with the family or the challenge to analyze the Will so I could get her unbiased thoughts on what it says. While I’m waiting for her to finish, I decided I wanted to try my hand at it myself, then see how our results compare. In part this is an exercise in critical thinking. Can I strip away as much of my bias as possible and see this Will as an uninterested by-stander?wood-john-jr-will-page-1

My first step is to deconstruct this Will by making a series of statements of fact about what I see. No assumptions allowed. I do get to correct for modern spelling to preserve my sanity.

  1. It appears to be a photocopy of the original Will (as opposed to a transcription from a Will Book)
  2. The handwriting on the signature differs from the body of the Will
  3. This is the Will for John Wood
  4. He states he is from Washington Township, Clermont County, Ohio
  5. He states he is infirm of body but of perfect memory and judgment
  6. This is his last Will and Testament
  7. He leaves his burial ‘in a Christian like manner’ up to the discretion of his Executors
  8. He does not name his Executors
  9. He does not name his wife
  10. He Wills and bequeaths the whole of his estate both real and personal property to his wife (Except what is hereinafter mentioned)
  11. 1st exception: “or until my youngest son becomes of age if she should live so long”. He does not indicate who this youngest son is.
  12. He allows for the provision that his wife is able to sell the land for the benefit of the family as she “may think most proper”.
  13. He wills that his wife is to retain this privilege for her lifetime with a reservation.
  14. 2nd exception: From that property he excludes the horses he had previously given to his sons named in this order: Joseph, Absalom, William and John. He means for them to have these horses as their own.
  15. He names a granddaughter, Marget, but does not indicate who are her parents.
  16. He bequeaths $25 to Marget when she reaches age 18.
  17. He specifies that the $25 can be paid from the sale of the land if that sale takes place.
  18. He makes a provision for the land and its proceeds if his wife dies. It is to be sold and equally divided between his sons and daughters.
  19. He mentions daughters, plural. There are more than one. They are not named.
  20. The Will was written on the 8th day of July, 1808.
  21. The Will is signed by John Wood with his ‘seal’
  22. The Will is witnessed by Joshua Manning and Lemuel Stephenson

Let’s leave the probate aside since it doesn’t speak to the issue of the Will being open to interpretation.

I wonder how many people would look at this Will and think item #11 was the sticking point? I certainly didn’t. Not until I did this exercise was I able to see what part of my argument the genealogists were refusing to accept.

William is the son who is in contention. I claimed that the son of the patriot they previously approved was a minor at the time this Will was written. We know from census records that ‘proven’ William was born in 1792. He was only 16 at the time of this Will was written. My William was born in July 1787 (from a Bible record). He either just turned 21 or was on the cusp of turning 21.

They are saying that this Will does not make it clear that the minor-aged son isn’t one of the four named sons: Joseph, Absalom, William and John. Here’s the thing: They’re right. Based solely on the Will, there is no proof that there is a 5th son.

This Will hints that John Wood Jr. considered the age of inheritance as 18. He does not indicate what age equals ‘of age’. I’ve found guardianship records in Clermont County, OH that show guardians remaining in place until heirs reached aged 21, so it is possible that anyone under the age of 21 could still be considered a minor. This Will wasn’t proven until October 1808. By then there would have been no question that my William was 21. It can be proven John (III) was 18. Joseph was already married for 3 years; it can only be surmised he was at least 21. It’s been speculated he was born in 1783, making him 27. There are specific dates for Absalom, but I don’t know their source. Taken at face value, he was 25 at the time of his father’s demise. If these ages are correct, then John Wood Jr. named his sons in birth order. Using the guardian until 21 argument, the minor-aged son would actually be John (III). Since one was never appointed, that issue is moot. The ‘of age’ qualifier relies on popular and accepted belief at the time. This Will is maddeningly non-specific; it relies on the people who witnessed, proved and administered it to already know the identities of the wife, son and daughters. In the rugged frontier, guardianship laws don’t appear to have been rigidly enforced.

My argument was based on my belief that there is a 5th son. And indeed there is a 5th son. His name is David and he was born in the year 1799; making him about 9 years old at the time of the Will. We know his birth year from the mortality schedule, where he is listed as having died of rabies in 1849.1 It remains incumbent upon me to prove this. I think I can, even in the absence of direct evidence (no guardian was appointed to him). Doing so requires its own proof.

While frustrating, they are right to question my assumptions about this Will without proof that my argument is valid. I’m learning a lot from this process. Wills don’t always say what we think they say, or want them to say. Documents in general don’t always say what we think they say. I like this exercise. It forced me to look at this document and all its components with a more critical eye.

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1 Non-population Census Schedules for Illinois, 1850-1880; Census Year: 1849; Census Place: District 19, Edgar, Illinois; Page: 213

Can I Get A Witness?

If the opportunity to get old court records ever presents itself, and the circuit clerk asks if you want everything in the file, SAY YES! I am loving these court records. The witness lists have been pure genealogical gold for me.

I overcame being overwhelmed by the handwriting in the indictment of Jacob Myers for Felonious Assault to get to the point where I am starting to make some sense of it. We think of court recorders as being the person with the little machine that they tap as they hear testimony like we see on television. That capability didn’t exist in the mid-1850s; testimony was written in longhand, which might account for the rough handwriting.

Here is an example of some of that testimony. The person being questioned was Susan Myers, oldest known daughter of Jacob Myers. (The name at the top, Emily Branscomb, is another daughter’s mark from the previous page of testimony.)

Susan Myers testimony
Susan Myers testimony1

I finally spotted the q for question and A for Answer in this. That helped me understand what I was seeing.

The discovery that excites me in this court case comes from one of the references to witnesses who were called for the defense.

Witness List case #227
Witness List case #2272

I didn’t notice it at first. It wasn’t until a couple days passed, and I had time to digest all this that my memory of the name Susan Breedlove was activated during one of those golden thought moments that we get before or after sleep or in the shower. Uh, is Susan Breedlove also Susan Myers?

Well, let us see.

Susan Myers marriage record.
Susan Myers marriage record.3

Not enough to confirm, but a start. The date falls within the range of the known dates of the court case.

1860 Census Susan Breedlove
1860 Census Susan Breedlove4

George Minick is a known cousin. This is in Linn County, Missouri, one county is situated between Linn and Putnam. The infant male named Jacob is promising. A look at the 1900 US Census in Putnam County Missouri in Elm Township shows us a Jacob M Myers living with his wife Amanda and their 8 children. Next I found this in the Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1909-1982 on Ancestry.com:

Jacob Myers Breedlove
Jacob Myers Breedlove5

Susan named her first born after her ‘pap’. So, yes, Susan Myers is Susan Breedlove.

The other part of the page that includes the above witness list indicates that both Susan Breedlove and David Myers weren’t found the second time they were summoned. This is for part of the proceeding that took place on a later date. Now we know that Susan Breedlove was in Linn County. Turns out David was also in the same township and range in Linn county as his sister, living with the Minick family in household #99. Bless George Minick’s heart; he was enumerated twice that year, he’s also listed as living with the Minick family. David Myers is also shown as not being found to testify at the trial.

I haven’t found Susan or James Breedlove in subsequent census records yet. It might be that their only child together was Jacob Myers Breedlove. In my next post, I’ll reveal what I learned about the other Breedlove children listed in that 1860 Census. Hint: a pleasant surprise.

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1 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #227: Testimony

2 Putnam County Courthouse,1601 Main St. Room 204, Unionville, MO 63565, Circuit Court Case #227: Witnesses for Defense

3 Missouri Marriages, 1750-1920, Family Search.

4 1860 US Census, Missouri, Linn, Township 59, Range 18, pg 625, HH# 169

5 Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1909-1982 on Ancestry.com