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 familysearch.org

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 familysearch.org

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. (Ancestry.com. 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 (Ancestry.com. 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.


Ancestry.com. 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.

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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.

Sloop
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).

Joseph

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 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.

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 familysearch.org. 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.”

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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com; it is challenging and easy to make mistakes.

Just today I discovered an error on a record on familysearch.org.

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 Ancestry.com 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
Ancestry.com. 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.

 

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) [EDIT: I now think this was Joseph Schoolfield the 2nd, that he was still alive, based on the ages of his daughter Sarah Ewell and her husband Charles] 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.

Except.

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

 

 

 

Plausible Theory

As a genealogy hobbyist, I have found myself drawn to a couple sub-specialties in the field of family research: helping people find Revolutionary War Patriots in their trees, and tracking down family lore. After spending some quality time helping others find more Patriots, I was suddenly without a project. I decided to apply what I’d learned about research to my own family and quickly discovered a new patriot! He is the father of one of my existing patriots, Levi Houston.

What about his wife, Dolly Schoolfield? Could I find some form of patriotic service for her father as well? To clarify, patriotic service does not have to be military in nature. It can take the form of paying a supply tax, swearing an oath of fidelity, serving on a jury, supplying food, clothing, transportation, medical relief, etc. This significantly raises the age of an individual who could be considered for recognition by the DAR. Someone far too old to bear arms could provide any number of allowed types of service with no limit to age. This is why I could contemplate looking for service for Dolly’s father.

Raise your hand if you’ve attached someone to your tree as a result of a shaky leaf hint without doing the research to support the relationship. *Raises hand*. I added Dolly’s parents and their parents years ago to my tree based solely on shaky leaves, then never gave them another thought.

The prevailing belief about Dolly Schoolfield’s parents is that they were John Schoolfield born 1730 in Worcester County, Maryland, and either Mary Richison or Richardson, no info. The vital stats on Dolly that have been accepted by the DAR are: born 25 Feb 1759 in Worcester Co MD, died 12 Feb 1836 in Bracken Co KY, married 1777 in Maryland. The closest I’ve come to a legit source for this data is the DAR. Earlier descendants of Dolly and Levi provided the information with no supporting documentation like a bible or baptism reference. The information had been handed down somehow to descendants of the first known child of Dolly and Levi: George Schoolfield Houston. One of these early applicants was the granddaughter of George Schoolfield Houston, making Dolly her great-grandmother. That’s good enough for me.

Using the year 1759 as a starting point, Dolly’s father needed to be at least 21, so he had to be born no later than 1738. The shaky leaf hint pointed to a John Schoolfield born 1730, son of Henry Schoolfield and Ann Bozman. I looked at the trees that had attached this person to see if I could track down the source. Nothing jumped out at me, so the search was expanded. Eventually I read a reference to a newspaper article that appeared on page 13 on 8 July 1906 in the Baltimore Sun. I highly recommend any Maryland Schoolfield researcher make the effort to find it on newspapers.com. Here is the part that matters to this topic:

Schoolfield, John b 1730 03

There he is, just like everyone said: John Schoolfield, son of Henry and Ann, b. 3 Feb 1730. Wait, what? Died 12 Feb 1720? Clearly he didn’t die 10 years before he was born; that is a typo. Still, he died when he was 9 days old. This article doesn’t mention the second John born to this couple, but records from Coventry Parish Church in Somerset, MD reveals this family had another son named John.

Schoolfield, John b 1747
Coventry P.E. Church, Somerset Co., MD Parish and Vestry Records, Vol 1 from familysearch.org

This John was born in 1747, making him too young to be Dolly’s (b. 1759) father.

Why are people so sure Dolly’s father is John Schoolfield and Mary Richardson (I have yet to find anyone in Worcester Co MD from that time period with the surname Richison.)? Time to look for any other John Schoolfield married to a Mary Richardson. There are two probable options.

John Schoolfield #1 is the son of Joseph Schoolfield (brother of the aforementioned Henry). His Will, written 13 Jan 1772, can be found on familysearch.org in Worcester Co MD Will Book 4 image 74. In it he acknowledges his wife Mary (Martin) and is very specific to state that she is to inherit any property that was hers before their marriage, and that no part of his estate is to go to pay any of her debts from before their marriage. This suggests that they were married later in life. Indeed, that seems to be the case given that when she died, her 1777 nuncupative Will (Worcester Co MD book JW4 images 203-4) only mentions children from her first marriage to John Richardson.  Neither document mentions Dolly.

John Schoolfield #2 was the son of John Schoolfield #1. He died intestate; a bond was filed on 1 Nov 1796. His wife Mary was named administrator. The documents for this time period were never filmed by familysearch.org. Someone on Facebook recommended I contact the Nabb Research Center for help finding the resolution to this estate. A researcher there found the partition of land for this estate in 1806 that names the heirs-at-law: Nancy, Harrison A, Mary Ann, John, William and minor son Robert. That this Mary Schoolfield is a Richardson is a guess on my part. On 18 Jan 1788 a Will for Robert Richardson was proven in which he names a daughter Mary Schoolfield (Worcester Co MD Will Book 13 image 105). There was a Benjamin Schoolfield who was also married to a woman named Polly. He died in 1799. Either way, that John Schoolfield isn’t Dolly’s father either.

I’ll admit that at one point I began to doubt Dolly was a Schoolfield. Yet evidence began to mount that she belongs in this extended family. Near as I can tell, there were three sons born to the original Maryland Schoolfield immigrant who might have been Benjamin Schoolfield. One son, Benjamin Jr. daughtered out. The remaining sons, Henry and Joseph represent the two branches of the Worcester/Somerset Schoolfield family. Members of both lines chain-migrated to Bracken County, Kentucky from about 1797 to about 1816. Joseph’s grandson Robert Schoolfield was the first to appear in the tax records in Bracken County. Eventually most if not all of the offspring of Henry’s grandson George Thomas Schoolfield followed. The family established the Bracken Academy in Augusta, KY. More than one teacher in the area bore the surname Schoolfield. Dolly and Levi Houston moved to Bracken County as well in 1812. At least some of their known children accompanied them. The question remains: who are her parents?

Well, I have a working theory. Since I’ve accounted for all of Henry’s sons/grandsons who could be of the correct age, that leaves sons and grandsons of Joseph. Robert Schoolfield, the anchor for the chain migration to Bracken Co was the son of John Schoolfield #1 from above. John Schoolfield #1 had a brother Joseph. Joseph died intestate in 1767. His widow Rebecca (Ennis) remarried to William Anderson Parker. Together they settled his estate. That final account leaves behind a tantalizing clue. In Worcester County Accounts Book Liber 60 page 340-1 presented to the court an accounting of the assets of Joseph Schoolfield in 1769 amounting to 71 pounds 15 shillings. After all the debts were paid, what remained was 39 pounds 19 shillings and 11 pence.

Schoolfield, Joseph account

It helps to know that the term infants was what we call minors. People up to the age of 20 could be called infants. As it happens, Dolly would have been 9 years old at the time of this accounting. Was she one of the two children of Joseph and Rebecca Schoolfield? There is no mention of her in the Will of William Anderson Parker. He names children, but not her. Dolly would have been married 11 years by the time William A Parker died in 1788. I’m still looking to see what happened to Rebecca.

What could account for the persistent belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield? Part of my theory involves the possibility that when Rebecca remarried to William A. Parker, she farmed her first two children out to Joseph’s family to raise. Like, say, for instance John Schoolfield #2 who might have married Mary Richardson? There are other options, of course, but this one, given what I’ve learned so far, is at least plausible.

Like all theories, they stand or fall over time based on new evidence. I’ll happily abandon this theory if better information appears. For now I can find nothing to support the belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield.