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.
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. 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?
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.
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.
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.
Back to Henry Schoolfield. He was also a witness to the Bond that was put up by Grace, Francis Thorowgood and John Williams.
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.
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
Here is Benjamin Scholfield (aka Benjamin Schoolfield) verifying the inventory of Margaret Scholfield, shown as nearest of kin.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.