Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Adventures in Wonderland

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

A fellow researcher recently told me “The plot thickens, and the mystery grows. Maybe it’s time to find an easy one instead of what seems so extremely difficult.” It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. 

My Morris family just keeps giving me one riddle after another to solve. They are not making this easy for me.

In my previous blog on Mary ‘Polly’ Williams, I noted that Bartholomew Dunn and wife, Nancy Williams, had remained in Moore County, North Carolina and did not follow her parents and siblings to Montgomery County in or about 1860. I now need to make a semi-correction on this. Nancy, to my knowledge, did remain in Moore County. I thought old Bart, her husband, had too, and he did for most of his life, but during the research for this blog, I realized I was missing an 1840 Census record for him. I found him in 1840 in Montgomery County, North Carolina, East Pee Dee River, living a few doors down from Frances (Blalock) Dennis, wife of Jesse Dennis.

Jesse Dennis is the son of Andrew Dennis and the brother of my ancestor, James Francis Dennis. Jesse married Frances Blalock, daughter of William David Blalock Senior. The Blalock family migrated from Chatham and Randolph counties to Montgomery County in the late 1790s to early 1800s following on the heels of John Stewart and his wife Rachel Morgan, who were also from Chatham County, and settled in what is now the areas of Uwharrie and Eldorado on the Uwharrie River. Frances’s brother, William David Blalock Junior, married Jesse’s sister, Martha Dennis. Another case of siblings marrying siblings.

Even though Jesse did not live long, he died between the 1830 and 1840 Census years, I have been able to dig up some information on him. Jesse was born about 1785 in Montgomery County. As already noted, he is the son of Andrew Dennis who had been in the area when it was Anson county, pre-1779.
In 1817, Jesse indebted himself for $65 to William Brookshire for the rent of the Dutch John Plantation. Benjamin Bell was security. We learn from the document shown below that Jesse used his personal property to secure the debt; a bay gelding called Hercules, his stud horse called Bones, 30 barrels of corn, a cow and yearling, 19 head of hogs. James Gaines and James Mask were witnesses.

From this document we understand that William Brookshire owned the Dutch John Plantation, but the document does not inform us where exactly the plantation was located, although I am sure it must have been near Dutch John Creek in the Uwharrie area, or how many acres it contained. What we can figure out by using an inflation calculator is what cost $65.00 in 1817 would cost $1220.71 in 2022.

In 1818, Jesse was granted 640 acres of land in Montgomery County in the forks of the Yadkin and Uwharrie Rivers, near the ‘new road,’ joining Brookshire’s line. David Blalock Sr and Jr were chain carriers for the survey that was completed on 19 Nov 1819 by Britain Chappell.

Jesse married Frances Blalock about 1824. In 1830, he lived East of Pee Dee River and very near my ancestor John Jacky Morris. Merritt Williams is somehow related to my Morris family but that is a story for another day.

The 1830 Census shows Jesse with young children in his household, two sons and two daughters. Up until today, I had only been able to identify Jesse’s sons from later Census and other records. However, I now believe that Nancy Dennis Bridges can be identified as a daughter of Jesse and Frances. I’ll talk more about Nancy in a minute.

The 1840 Census shows Frances Dennis as head of household so we know Jesse must have died between the 1830 and 1840 Census years. We can narrow his death date down even further because there are two children listed as under 5 years of age in 1840, meaning they were born after 1835. The 1840 Census was completed 18 Oct 1840, so Jesse died between 1835 and 18 Oct 1840.

There are still 4 unidentified children of Jesse and Frances Blalock Dennis, and it may take DNA testing to find them.

1850 shows Frances Blalock Dennis living next door to her brother-in-law, James Dennis who is my 3rd great grandfather. Andrew J (1829), George Washington (1826), Henry Nelson (1836), and William Cabin (1838) are still in the home. All the females who were previously listed in 1830 and 1840 and one other male are no longer in the home.

In 1845, Nancy Dennis married William Bridges. John Morris and George Washington (called G. W.) Morris were bondsmen. These two men are my 2nd great uncles. I was a bit puzzled why John and G. W. would act as bondmen for Nancy and William, usually only family members did that. I also wondered who William Bridges was, as there are no other Bridges families in Montgomery County. So, where did Nancy meet William?

I was able to find a William Bridges in 1850 living in Moore County in the household of James and Catherine Bridges. However, there was no Nancy living in that household, but there is Ann who is the right age to be Nancy. Perhaps she is going by her middle name? I am not sure this is my William. Although, this did pique my interest because it looks like the Bridges family may be from Moore County, the same place my Williams family is from. I’ll talk more about this later.

The 1860 Census shows Nancy Dennis Bridges, widow, living next door to Nelson Dennis in the community of Zion, the same community where my Morris/Williams family lived. Nelson is the son of Jesse and Frances Blalock Dennis and must be the brother of Nancy.

William and Nancy had at least two children, John, b. 1853, married Rebecca Galloway, daughter of Redding Galloway and Rebecca Seagraves, and James, b. 1852, married Sarah F. Dunn, daughter of John Dunn and Mary maiden name unknown.

When I saw the last name Dunn, things started to come into focus. I immediately knew that Sarah F. Dunn, wife of James Bridges, was probably somehow related to the Dunn family of Moore County who married into my Williams family. This lent some (but not a lot) of credibility to the 1850 Census with William Bridges found in Moore County.

James W. Bridges, son of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges, married Sarah F. Dunn, daughter of John and Mary Dunn, on 22 Dec 1870 in Montgomery County.

John Dunn, Sarah's father, can be found on the 1850 Census for Montgomery County. He earned his living as a Blacksmith. In his household is his wife, Mary, and their 9 children, Sarah being a middle child, born about 1842.

1860 shows John living in Mount Gilead with his family. Sarah is now age 16. Frank Stafford, age 17, is probably a hired hand who is learning the Blacksmith trade from John. 

1870 paints the entire picture on how Sarah Dunn met James Bridges. The 1870 Census was enumerated on 10 Aug 1870. James Bridges is shown as hired labor and working for John. Sarah Dunn and James Bridges married 17 Dec 1870, just 4 months after the 1870 Census was enumerated.

Mary Dunn, wife of John, must have died between the 1860 and 1870 Census years, as she is not listed on the 1870 Census.

In 1874, John Dunn remarried to Martha Frances McLenden of Richmond County. His marriage license shows his father as Bartholomew Dunn. 

I’ve come full circle!

Bartholomew Dunn married, evidently, an unknown first wife and from that marriage was born John Dunn about 1810 who is the father of Sarah F. Dunn Bridges. 

Rechecking Census data, I found Bartholomew in 1810 with a young family living in Moore County. I am not sure who the first wife was, nor the female listed.

Bartholomew Dunn married second, Mary Williams (1800-1857), daughter of William Williams and Elizabeth Stutts of Moore County. Mary was the sister of my newfound third great grandfather, Joseph Williams (1803-1880).

Bartholomew Dunn married third, Nancy Williams (b. 1829), daughter of Joseph (1803-1880) and Nancy Williams of Moore County (my newfound third great grandparents).

Nancy Williams (b. 1829) is the niece of Mary, the second wife of Bartholomew.

Confused yet?

Let’s talk about the Bridges family.

There were no Bridges in Montgomery County, North Carolina prior to Nancy Dennis marrying William Bridges. The earliest record in Montgomery County of the surname Bridges I could find is the 1845 marriage license between Nancy Dennis and William Bridges. All other records are after 1845 and of the many that I reviewed, all led back to the two sons of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges, James, and John.

As already stated, William and Nancy are not found in Montgomery County in 1850. However, there is a male named William Bridges living in Moore County in the household of James and Catherine Bridges who meets what I think is the age requirement for William Bridges. Since I am not able to find a record showing his approximate age, I am assuming he was around the same age as Nancy who was born in 1825.

The female living in the home is shown with the name Ann. So, it is unclear if this is Nancy possibly going by her middle name or if Ann is the daughter of James and Catherine. I found conflicting information for Ann. Some documents had her married to J. Jackson Stedman and others to John Wesley Stedman.

It will take time to straighten out this Bridges line.

I was not able to find any other information on William, age 27, who is listed in the home.

In the same home (on the next page) is found Mary, age 18 (born 1832), and Joseph, age 16 (born 1834), and a 4-year-old child named Catharine Gilmore.

Research shows that Joseph Bridges married Permelia Fentress Stedman, daughter of John Wesley Stedman, the man who Ann Bridges is shown to have married. So, Ann became the stepmother to her own brother, which seems a bit odd to me. But Bartholomew Dunn also married his wife’s niece.

Joseph died in 1894 and Permilia in 1888. The couple are buried at Cool Springs Baptist Cemetery in Moore County.

Mary Bridges looks to have confusing records as well and it is going to take some time to straighten them out too. There were probably two Mary Bridges in Moore County about the same age, and they have been confused with one another.

One Mary Bridges (1832-1902) married Daniel Morris, the son of Stephen and Jeanett Morris. Stephen descends from Frederick Morris (born 1730) and his wife Vaughan, the couple that I am trying to connect my Morris line with. Mary Bridges Morris and husband Daniel were in Moore County in 1850. Mary looks to be buried in Scotland County, North Carolina. I do not know where Daniel is buried or when he died.

Another Mary Bridges (1824-1913) married a man named Gideon Tyson Moore (1815-1880) and this couple are buried at Browns Chapel Christian Church Cemetery in Moore County. Some resources have Mary Bridges Moore listed as the daughter of Newsom Bridges and Elizabeth Drake while others had her listed as the daughter of James and Nelly Bridges. Both of Moore County.

Again, I will need to work on getting these records straightened out.

The 1860 Census shows Joseph, Catharine, and Catharine Gilmore.

I was not able to find any further record of Catharine Gilmore.

The result is one of disappointment. My Morris line remains elusive but does look promising. More questions added to the ever-growing pile. Why did John and G. W. Morris sign as bondmen for the marriage of William and Nancy Dennis Bridges? Where did William Bridges come from? There are still pieces to the puzzle that are missing.

More genealogy research is needed on the Bridges line to see how they may connect to the Williams or Morris lines found in Cumberland / Chatham / Moore / Montgomery counties.

More to come...

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

The story of Mary ‘Polly’ Williams Morris

Mary ‘Polly’ Williams Morris is my paternal 2nd great-grandmother and my maternal 3rd great-grandmother. I descend through her sons, James, and John. Mary has been a brick wall in my family for many years. I have been researching Williams families who lived in the Uwharrie area for some time now and have an extensive research and DNA tree built for them. Using traditional genealogy research and a method called cousin matching with DNA test results, I have broken through the brick wall that surrounded Mary's life.

Mary was born about 1828. I do not know how she met Thomas Morris, but they married about 1845. Since there is no marriage record that exist, I must use the birth of their first child, William, born in 1846, to estimate the marriage date. Her second child, Elizabeth, was born about 1849. Mary and her family were counted on the Montgomery County, North Carolina Census on 30 Sep 1850. She is living next door to her in-laws, John ‘Jacky’ and Amelia Morris. 

Mary’s maiden name is Williams. We know that because her children’s death certificates tell us as does family lore. Her son Elias’s death certificate list Moore County as his mother, Mary’s, place of birth as reported by J. T. Morris, the son of Elias

Berry Morris married Sarah ‘Sallie’ Williams of Moore County shortly after his brother, Thomas, married Mary ‘Polly’ Williams, in 1845. Berry was born about 1828 and is just a few years younger than Thomas who was born in 1824. According to Census data, Sarah and Mary are about two years apart in age, with Sarah born about 1826 and Mary born about 1828.

Sallie’s great grandson, Clyde, tells us she was born in Moore County, the same place Mary was born and that her maiden name was Williams.

At this point, I began to wonder if it is possible that Mary and Sarah are sisters who married brothers, Thomas, and Berry.

With this new line of thought going through my mind, I began going through my tree and building out family lines, looking for other Morris relatives who lived in the same time frame, and who married anyone with a Williams surname.

I found that Elizabeth Morris, the niece of Thomas and Berry Morris, married William Williams in 1870. He was born about 1830 and is the son of Joseph and Nancy Williams of Moore County, the same place Mary ‘Polly’ and Sarah ‘Sallie’ were born.

Curiosity kept me going.

I then found that John Thomas Morris, the brother of Elizabeth Morris who married William Williams, married Louisa Williams from Moore County in 1873. Louisa is … drum roll please … the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Williams from Moore County. 

John and Louisa were married by Littleton Dennis, a Justice of the Peace and near neighbor to my Morris family. I found that Littleton’s daughter, Lundy Dennis, married Upshur Williams, the brother of Louisa.

At this point, this Williams’ family from Moore County had my full attention.

I started checking Census data and found that in 1860, Berry and Sarah ‘Sallie’ are living next door to Joseph Williams, but not in Moore County, in Montgomery County. This was just too much of a coincidence and I had to keep going! 

Circling back to Mary ‘Polly’ Williams Morris, I found that on 19 Aug 1860, Mary was enumerated by D. R. Cochran, on the Montgomery County Census, as living in the Zion District, Swift Island Post Office, in the household of Thomas Morris, her husband, and six of her children, William, who is now 12, Elizabeth, now age 11, Joseph, age 9, Lunda, age 6, Elias, age 4, and James, age 2. Thomas works as a miner to provide for his family.

So, Mary and Thomas lived close to Joseph Williams, but not next door.

Mary and her family are missed on the 1870 Census but are found in the next Census record. On the 8th and 9th of June 1880, James G. Cotton, a near neighbor and Census taker for that year, enumerated Mary and her family as living in Uwharrie Township. Mary and Thomas are still living among Morris family members. Their direct neighbor is their son, Joseph, who married Rosina Merritt in 1877. Two doors down lives Temperance Morris Sanders, wife of Jacob Sanders, and the sister of Thomas Morris.

On the other side of Thomas and Mary in household 3232, lives Upshur F. Williams, age 42, who married Lundy Dennis, in 1870. Remember, Lundy is the daughter of Littleton Dennis (who performed the marriage ceremony of Louisa Williams and John Thomas Morris in 1873). Upshur’s first wife, Margaret Williamson, daughter of Edmund and Mary Brown Williamson, died before 1870.

Joseph Williams was born about 1803. Census records insist his birthplace is Virginia, but I am not so sure about that. He is documented as the son of William Williams and Elizabeth Stutts from Moore County. His grandfather is George Williams who died in Moore County in 1797 and is believed to be the progenitor of that Williams family who settled in the area prior to Moore becoming a county in 1785. William Williams is found on the 1810 and 1820 Census for Moore County and does have a male child in his home that would meet Joseph’s age requirement.

Joseph is found in Moore County on the 1830, 1840, and 1850 Census records. 

1830 Census records for Moore County show Joseph, his wife, and four children. Comparing 1830 with 1850 Census record, I know the children are Nancy, born in 1829, and William, born in 1830, but there are two daughters unaccounted for and have either died or married by 1850.

1840 Census records for Moore County show Joseph, his wife, and eight children. Again, comparing 1840 with 1850 Census record, I know the children are, Nancy, born in 1829, William, born in 1830, Matthew, born in 1835, probably Upshur, born in 1837 but being counted older than he really is, and Ann, born in 1838. There are three unknown children counted in 1840, one male that was not shown in 1830, and two females who are not showing in 1850.
1850 Census records for Moore County show Joseph, his wife, Nancy, and children, Nancy (1829), William (1830), Matthew (1835), Upshur (1837), Ann (1838), Lewis (1842), and Louisa (1842), who look to be twins as they were both born in 1842. We are still missing the three unknown children from the earlier Census records so, it looks like by 1850, some of these children have left home, married, or died.

In 1860, for reasons unknown, Joseph packed up his family and moved to Montgomery County and was enumerated twice on the 1860 Census there. Once on 21 Jul 1860, in Beans District, Montgomery County, Joseph shows up on page 72. Listed in his household are his wife, Nancy, and children, Matthew, Upshur, Ann, and Louisa. Neighbors were Berry and Sallie Morris.

On the 27th of July, a week later, John Jacky Morris was enumerated and shows up on the next page, 73.

Joseph was enumerated again on 6 Aug 1860, just a few weeks later, but in Fork District, Montgomery County, with wife, Nancy, and two daughters, Ann, and Louisa. He is on page 85. He is surrounded by the family members of John Jacky Morris. His direct neighbors are Jacob Sanders and wife Tempy, the daughter of John Jacky Morris. Several Dennis family members live in proximity. On the other side of Joseph is Silas Kearns who is the uncle-in-law of Rhoda Morris Kearns, daughter of John Jacky Morris. Just a few doors away lives Susan Morris Morgan, daughter of John Jacky Morris. 

I am still trying to find out the exact location of Beans, so far, with little luck. I think it may be what is now Ophir or could be Uwharrie based on some of the other people listed on the 1860 Census in Beans. If anyone has an old map with Beans on it, please reach out to me through the blog. 

Fork was what today is known as the area of Eldorado. The area was called Fork because it was in the fork of the Uwharrie and Pee Dee Rivers.

Since D. R. Cochran performed both Census’s, all within a matter of just a few weeks, I think he may have crossed over the line from one community to the other without realizing it and therefore, several people show up as living in both Beans and Fork in 1860. That makes the most sense, but I would like to confirm that Beans and Fork were communities located next to one another. 

Joseph and his family are missed on the 1870 Census. It seems that an entire community was missed on that Census as my Morris family is also missed as are many others.

In 1874, Joseph remarries to Mary Warburton at the residence of Laurence Williams. This marriage license is a wealth of information! First, it tells us that Nancy Williams died before 1874, the date of the license. Second, it provides us a new name, Laurence Williams, whose home the marriage was performed in, and he may be the missing son on the earlier Census’s for Moore County. Third, it proves Joseph’s parents lived in Moore County. Fourth, it shows a witness as J. Williams? Who is that?

The 1880 Census shows Laurence Williams living in Ophir Township in dwelling 70 with wife, Julia, and children, Samuel, Franklin, Nathan, Guilford, and Mary. In dwelling 75 lives Washington Morris, son of John Jacky Morris, with wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Francis. Directly next door in dwelling 76 is William Williams, son of Joseph and Nancy Williams, and wife Elizabeth, daughter of Washington Morris who lives in dwelling 75, and children John, Christian, James, Lillie, Claudy. In dwelling 77 lives Gaston Dennis, first cousin of Lundy Dennis who married Upshur Williams, and wife Julia Morris Dennis, daughter of Washington Morris who lives in dwelling 75.

Following Laurence back to 1870, I found some surprises. First, that Mary Warburton is living with Laurence and Julia and second, that a near neighbor is Jones L. Williams, the son of Archibald Williams. He is probably the J. Williams who was a witness to the 1874 marriage of Joseph and Mary.
That brings a lot of questions to my mind - oh my brain! This requires a lot more research. Jones Williams is the son of Archibald Williams, who is the son of Isham Williams and part of the Williams family I started researching in Jan 2022 because I believe that the early Williams family in Montgomery County who lived in the Eldorado area were somehow related to Amelia, wife of John Jacky Morris, and Mary "Polly' Williams.

Digging into more records, I found that Julia is the sister of Mary. Their mother is Martha ‘Patsy’ Warburton or Warbritton. Julia’s Find-A-Grave details tell the sad story of her later years.

Continuing to follow Laurence back in time, I was not able to find him in 1860 but 1870 shows him living in Moore County with a Kennedy family. While I am not sure how the Kennedy family is connected yet, I did find that a member of that household, Marjorie Kennedy, daughter of Angus and Margaret McDonald Kennedy, married Alexander Williams, the nephew of Joseph Williams. Marjorie is living in the home of John Kennedy, her grandfather, in 1850. Nearby is William Williams, who is the brother of Laurence. William married first, Christian McKenzie in Moore County and he did not move to Montgomery until after her death which occurred between 1859 and 1869 when he remarried to Elizabeth Morris, daughter of George ‘Watty’ Morris.

On the same page are other members of the Williams family and closely related to Joseph Williams.

Joseph was enumerated in 1880 with his second wife, Mary Warburton. They lived close to James Roper, whom I wrote a blog on in March. Read that here: Oddball Out.

It was a DNA match and a Moore County deed (courtesy of Moore County Wallaces) that brought this whole thing together for me. Thus far, I have found hundreds of DNA matches from descendants of Jeremiah, William (Joseph’s line), and Thomas, all children of George Williams. Hundreds and hundreds of matches more are still waiting for me to research and add to my tree! It truly is overwhelming!

Since my Morris line intermarried so much with Joseph Williams line, I expected I would DNA match to that line heavily, and I do. I needed to find lines that did not leave Moore County and had not intermarried with my Morris or Dennis families. I found a match with whom I share 75 cM of DNA but this amount of shared DNA would put this match and me around the third or fourth cousin relationship and after researching them and adding their line to my tree, I found we are around fifth cousins once removed. The average for that relationship is about 21 cM. 

After researching many more matches and finding I was sharing a higher amount of DNA with them than I should, it dawned on me, that I have a double Williams line! Both of my parents descend from Mary ‘Polly’ Williams! So, I would share more DNA with matches. 

I checked to see if my uncle was a match to this same person and he was at 49 cM of shared DNA with the match while I share 75 cM! With that worked out, I moved forward.

Thankfully this match has a very well documented tree on both FTDNA and so I was able to quickly identify and prove his line. The match has also Y-DNA tested and is part of the Moore County Wallace project and is very well documented there. The DNA match descends through Jeremiah Williams, the uncle of Joseph Williams.

I then checked my cousin DNA kits I manage to see if they also match this same person, and, as you can see below, we are overwhelmingly related to this match! But I still wanted more documented evidence that Joseph Williams was somehow, in some way, connected back to Moore County.  

I had Census data, as well as Joseph’s marriage license that showed his parents were from Moore County. Was there anything more I could find that connected him back to Moore County?

Nancy Williams, daughter of Joseph and Nancy Williams, married in Moore County in 1857 to Bartholomew Dunn and remained in Moore County. She never moved to Montgomery with the rest of her Williams family.

In 1836, Joseph Williams, witnessed a deed in Moore County for his brother and along-side his future son-in-law, Bartholomew Dunn, for a tract of land sold to George Davis. 

It was enough! Mary ‘Polly’ Williams Morris must be the daughter of Joseph and Nancy Williams of Moore County. She is one of the unnamed daughters showing on the 1830 and 1840 Census in the home of Joseph Williams. She is also, I believe, the sister of Sarah ‘Sallie’ Williams Morris, who is the other unnamed daughter on those two Census records. These sisters married brothers, Thomas Morris, and Berry Morris.

Even though I do not (as of now) have a piece of paper that says Mary is this unnamed daughter found in early Census records in Moore County, the documentation I have found, the family connections, and the hundreds of DNA matches tells me she is.
Mary ‘Polly’ Williams Morris died in Montgomery County, North Carolina on 28 Feb 1910. She was the mother of my great-grandfather, John Coon Morris, and the wife of Tommy Morris, my great-great grandfather. She is buried at Prospect Baptist Church Cemetery in the Uwharrie area of Montgomery County. 

And she is a brick wall no more!