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.

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┬áSynapn“. 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).


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?