Saturday, May 4, 2024

Kanawha John – a case of mistaken identity

Where did the rumor begin that my 3rd great grandfather, John Jacky Morris, of Montgomery County, North Carolina was the son of Captain John Morris (1755-1818) and Margaret Droddy (1759-1818) of Kanawha County, Virginia (now West Virginia)? I am not sure, but the rumor is copied in a lot of family trees, more than 600 of them on Ancestry that I am aware of and noted on Geni as well.

None of the trees that I have viewed have any documented evidence of the relationship. Since there are so many trees with this information, I thought I would research John Morris and Margaret Droddy and their son, John Jr, and set the record straight that my John Jacky Morris is not the same John Morris who is the son of John and Margret Droddy Morris.

John Morris Sr of Kanawha County, (West) Virginia was born about 1755 in Culpepper County, Virginia, the son of William Morris Sr (1722-1792) and Elizabeth Stapp/Stepp (1729-1795) who married 1 Jan 1746 in Orange County, Virginia. Elizabeth's mother is believed to be Martha Coffey (Coffee) (1690-1772) who married Joshua Stapp/Stepp (1688-1783) about 1709 in Virginia. So, this family line has been in America for a very long time. 

I have the Coffee family in my family tree (shown above) as they have a connection to Samuel Morris, the religious dissenter from Hanover and Campbell, Virginia whom I have written so much about. Samuel's great niece, Martha Morris, daughter of Nathaniel Morris, married Joel Coffee (1765-1826), a cousin of John Morris Jr of Kanawha County, (West) Virginia. It is doubtful Kanawha John and Joel Coffee knew of each other; however, their parents and grandparents did know one another. Joel Coffee migrated to Kentucky before 1791 (as shown in a 1791 Chancery case in Charlotte, Virginia) and he died there in 1826. Kanawha John was probably still in diapers when Joel and Martha left for Kentucky. 

In contrast, my 3rd great grandfather, John Jacky Morris, was in Montgomery County, North Carolina in 1834 married to Amelia, whose maiden name is unknown. This tidbit of information alone should prove these are not the same men. This is a case of mistaken identity.  

Kanawha John Morris lived in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia until 1809, when Cabell County was formed from Kanawha which was formed from Greenbrier and Montgomery, Virginia in 1789. So, John would have been born in either Greenbrier or Montgomery, Virginia in 1784 and shortly after his birth, in 1789, due to boundary lines changing, he lived in Kanawha and then in 1809, again the boundary line changed, and John found himself living in Cabell County though he had never moved!

John of Kanawha married Jane Jordan on 20 Apr 1802, the same day that Andrew Jordan married Mary Chapman. The same minister, Thomas Ward, married both couples. It is likely that Jane and Andrew are siblings or very close relatives.

In 1817, James Jordan sold to John Morris for $1 a tract of land that adjoined James Jordan (himself) and where John Morris now lives, on Mud River in Cabell County, (West) Virginia. James is probably the father of Jane Jordan Morris and is the known father of Andrew Jordan who married Mary Chapman.

There are so many deeds for Kanawha John Morris, he owned thousands of acres of land, that I will not be able to list them all here in this blog. I will cover a few that are covered online at genealogy boards and will provide a screen capture of the actual deed. The few covered here are proof documents that show when and where Kanawha John lived and who he was associated with.

To view all the deeds, use the full-text search at Family Search (free). 

15 Feb 1806 – John Morris Sen and wife Peggy (Margaret Droddy Morris) convey to John Morris Jr 260 acres in Kanawha County, Virginia on Mud River where John Morris Jr now lives.

14 May 1816 – John Morris Jr and wife Jane sold to Laurence Briant 20 acres in Cabell (formed from Kanawha) County on Mud River for $20. This transaction was witnessed by John Jordan, Andrew Jordan (who married on the same day as John and Jane did by the same minister), and William Jordan.

18 Sep 1833 – Thos. C. Billups and wife Sally, Richard Billups and wife Margaret, Wm Billups and wife Jane sell to John Morris 100 acres in Cabell County, part of a 1400-acre survey for Thomas Lewis adjoining the land of Thomas McCallister.

20 Dec 1834 – William Billups and wife Jane sell to John Morris 75 acres in Cabell County.

I am not sure when Kanawha John died. Most definitely it was after 1834 as shown in one of his latest land transactions.

John Jacky Morris, my 3rd great grandfather, died about 1874 in Montgomery County, North Carolina and is not the same man as Kanawha John Morris. Could there be a connection between the two Morris families? Absolutely. While a paper trail has not shown itself, Y DNA testing could assist in determining if Kanawha John has the same Y DNA signature as John Jacky Morris. I am not aware that Kanawha John's male line has been tested.

Read more about settlement of the area that is now Cabell and Kanawha counties, West Virginia. It is fascinating.


  1. Hello! Awesome research! I have came across several of the John Morris’s you have studied in my own search of my 4th great grandfather John Morris of Carroll County Arkansas. (Possibly born between 1780-1790 in Virginia) What a wild goose chase it’s been finding information about him! With LOTS of inaccurate and mixed information!! His wife is named Rachel Morris according to 1850 and 1860 census records of Carroll County, Arkansas. I think they relocated there around 1840. Many people on Ancestry have him confused with John Morris of Robertson county, TN but I have found them both on separate census records with my John still alive in 1860 according to Carroll County census records. Do you have any information on John Morris of Overton county Tennessee, later moving to Carroll County, Arkansas? He is listed being born in Virginia in the late 1700s. Thank you in advance, Anna Morris Cullum

    1. Greetings! I have not had the opportunity to research Morris's in Overton County, Tennessee or Carroll County, Arkansas as my main focus has been only on YDNA matches for my Morris line. There are so many John Morris's it is hard to keep them straight and because so many counties have lost records, it is nearly impossible to determine where they originated from without YDNA testing. I did run across multiple John Morris's who lived in Robertson County, Tennessee when researching a YDNA match whose ancestor lived there before moving to Morgan County, Missouri. Has your Morris line been YDNA tested? If so, what Project Group is your family in at FTDNA?

    2. I do not know if any of my family members have done a YDNA test yet. Perhaps a distant cousin has that I don’t know about. I haven’t actually checked into the YDNA database yet. That is probably the only way to untangle the John Morris information spread across Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas…isn’t it? lol.
      I’m really impressed by your research ability and blog! I really enjoyed reading several of your posts and will use it for counter reference purposes! Thanks for replying back so quickly. Take care, Anna