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Finding Evidence Through County Clerk’s Books:18th-Century Style

Clerk books from the 18th-century can provide some very intriguing information about our ancestors. Such is the case in Virginia during the mid-1700s. Although official vital statistics do not become law in Virginia until 1853, the colonial county clerk records document similar data. Continuing our study into the Virginia frontier in 1748, we searched through sources containing clerk’s fee books and discovered several fascinating details. The Virginia colonial clerk was mainly responsible for a marriage book and a fee book. The marriage bonds were obtained from the clerk and noted in the book. Tithable individuals submit tax monies according to Virginia law, and these entries appear in the fee books. Women appear in many of these books listed as widows and spinsters. Women were also responsible for paying taxes on their male children if the husband was deceased or no longer residing in the home. So, what can we learn from these books in colonial Virginia?

Below are listings from various Virginia counties, such as Augusta, Orange, and Lunenburg. The boundaries of these early counties covered an immense massive territory. The names are interesting, but it’s the notations that are compelling. We will begin with 1748.

Alexander, William-not found
Beatty, Charles-gone to Carolina
Brown, Thomas-not found
Carlock, David-not found
Carter, James-gone to Carolina
Davis, Robert-not found
Forbush, George-not found
Gordon, James-no effects
Holston, Stephen-not found
Martin, Samuel-not found
Mitchell, James-not found
Moore, James-not found
Patton, Jacob-not found
Ramsey, Josiah-not found
Ramsey, Thomas-not found
Reeves, Priscilla-not found
Sayers, William-runaway
Taylor, James-not found
Taylor, William-not found
Welch, Walter-not found
Wright, William-not found

If you type in many of these names in the Piedmont Trails search box, you will quickly discover that a number of these same families applied for land grants in North Carolina. This data also provides a timeline of when they left their current homes. Let’s look at a few surnames from 1750.

Ackerlin, Gabriel-gone to Pennsylvania
Ackerlin, Samuel-gone to Pennsylvania
Carn, Michael-not found
Crisp, William-gone to Carolina
Edmundson, William-gone
English, William-not found
McCurry, John-not found
McFarland, John(constable)-not found
McNeal, Neal-twice charged
McReynolds, James-not found
Mills, John-dead, no effects
Stalnaker, Samuel-lives on Holston River
Walker, John-gone to Carolina
Welshire, Nathaniel-not found
Terry, William-not found

John Walker quickly stood out since he and Crisp classify as traveling to Carolina. However, many of these surnames may actually reveal early settlers in the Tennessee area.

Map of Virginia by Thomas Kitchin published in London 1761 (courtesy of Library of Congress)

Another interesting perspective in this area is the will of Daniel Monahan. Daniel owned 900 acres within the Beverly Manor tract in 1739. His neighbors were John Hart, James McClure, John Campbell, Joseph Teer, and Andrew McClure. Daniel’s wife died between 1742 and 1744, leaving his daughter, Mary, as the only heir to the estate. Daniel’s 1744 will reveals the care and thought given to his daughter’s well-being and his Virginia lands. The property was left to maintain Mary’s needs and fund her future education. If Mary should die before her 21st birthday, then half of the estate would go to the church and the remainder to his executives. Daniel goes into detail by submitting Mary’s birthdate for future legal purposes. Many sources list the date as December 28, 1742; others list it as December 8, 1742. Mary would have reached the age of 21 in 1763. Do you have more data on Mary Monahan? Or could this be another mini project for Piedmont Trails?

When tracing the colonial families through their travels, look for clues and hints that may guide the way. Parish records are vital to fascinating clues and don’t rule out letters and journals. You can find these writings in the most intriguing places.

Sources:

  • Beverly Manor Map 1739 by John Hildebrand 2009
  • Chalkey’s Abstracts Volume II by Judge Lyman Chalkey Commonwealth Printing Company 1912-1913 pp 412-422.
  • Kegley’s Virginia Frontier by Frederick Bittle Kegley Southwest Virginia Historical Society 1938 pp. 176-191

7 replies »

  1. Are these Virginia county fee books online? I am researching a Hugh Crawford. I have a land record app for 1779, saying “on the land her already resides”. However I am trying to trace back where he came from (possibly PA or VA) and when he arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I am sorry . The record, Orange Co 1779 tax list, is my earliest record. Most of the family lived and stayed near Orange co that became Alamance Co. However a grandson moved to Fayette co, Tn, near Memphis, around 1780. Fayette Co History book lists a family tree with Hugh Crawford, NC , as originally from PA, VA, or Ire. It states his father as Hugh also. However I think it could also have been a Samuel . So many Hughs and Samuels out there in the 1700s!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I show Hugh Crawford living along Back Creek on 77 acres of land in Orange County during 1778. Do you know Moses Crawford living along Mill Creek in the same area and the same time frame? They both applied for land grants during the same year and received them on the same day. September 3, 1779.

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