Dennis Linchey/Lindsey (abt. 1700-1762): Do DNA Work and Prepare for Surprises

Will of Dennis Lindsey, Granville County, North Carolina, August 1762 (in Granville County Loose-Papers Estate Files, North Carolina Archives, C.R. 044.801.25)

Or, Subtitled: How DNA Findings Can Upend All You Thought You Knew about Your Family

I want to return now to a topic I introduced in May 2018 (and here): the descent of my Lindsey family, classified as group 10 in the International Lindsay Surname Project, from an Irish indentured servant named Dennis Linchey, who arrived in Richmond County, Virginia, by 1 June 1718 aboard the ship The Expectation, and was indentured in August 1718 to Francis Suttle. This first posting in this new series will talk about how DNA findings can completely upend everything you think you know about your family history, and point you in fruitful new directions for researching your actual family history.

Dennis Linchey/Lindsey and the Link to Ireland

The port books of Bristol, England, show The Expectation sailing from there to Virginia in mid-January 1718 under ship master Francis Collett.[1] From Richmond County court records, we learn that, after having left Bristol (undoubtedly with young servants from the West Country of England aboard and bound for Virginia),[2] The Expectation stopped in Ireland.

We learn that, after having left Bristol in January 1718, The Expectation stopped along the southern coast of Ireland to pick up indentured servants to bring to Virginia, since, when Dennis Linchey and other Irish servants were indentured on 6 August 1718, Richmond County court minutes state that William Welch, Michael Whaley, Thomas Grady, and Dennis Linchey had appeared in court on 1 June to be indentured, stating that they had signed indenture papers at an office in Ireland. They further stated that the ship master of The Expectation, Francis Collett, had taken the papers from them, so that they had arrived in Virginia without papers stating their ages.[3] The court minutes state that Samuel Skinker, a merchant who had come to Virginia from Bristol, had handled the indenturing of the Irish servants in Virginia.

Previously, Richmond County court minutes show Francis Collett being summoned to court on 4 June to provide the Irish servants’ indenture papers, and he had not appeared.[4] Records in the British Public Records Office show ships trading with the colonies, many of sailing from Bristol, routinely stopping in Waterford, Cork, and Youghall during this period, as they picked up servants to bring to Virginia and then returned to Ireland with loads of tobacco for sale.[5]

The reason that the ages of the servants being indentured in June 1718 needed to be known with some accuracy and the conditions of their indentures recorded carefully was that Virginia had legislated in March 1654/5 that Irish servants brought to the colony without indenture were to serve six years, if they were above sixteen years at time of importation, and were not to serve an indenture beyond their 24th year.[6] The Irish servants of this 1718 court record are referred to as “servant boys.” As Carol McGinnis notes, most servants arriving in Virginia to be indentured during the colonial period were aged at least 18, though many were younger.[7] This would suggest a birthdate of about 1700 or slightly later for Dennis Linchey and the other Irish servants named in this court record.

According to Richard K. MacMaster, servants were usually indentured before the mayor of the town or city from which they embarked, the indenture being made at this point to a merchant or the ship’s captain.[8] When they arrived in the colonies, their indenture would then be sold in an American port and registered officially there. MacMaster also notes that most servants arrived in the colonies in spring and early summer, and that the market for Irish servants was brisk due to the limited labor pool in the colonies. Though MacMaster’s book Scotch-Irish Merchants in Colonial America focuses on Ulster Scots merchants, he also discusses the significant market in the American colonies for servants from the southern part of Ireland, especially Dublin and Cork, in the early  1700s.

As I’ve noted, Samuel Skinker, the merchant handling the indenture of the Irish servants in Richmond County, Virginia, in June 1718, had come to Virginia from Bristol, and had been preceded in Virginia by another Bristol merchant, Benjamin Deverell, who had close ties to a merchant remaining in Bristol, John Collier. The names of all three of these merchants appear frequently in colonial Virginia records in the early 1700s, revealing the extensive mercantile connections driving the trade in indentured servants from Bristol and Ireland to Virginia. In my previous May 2018 posting linked at the head of this posting, I discuss and document these ties.

The DNA Story

So this is the story of how my ancestor Dennis Linchey (whose surname shifted to Lindsey after he arrived in Virginia) got to America. I’d like to talk now about how I discovered this story. When I began researching my family roots in earnest in the latter half of the 1970s, I had a number of good pieces of information to point me back to at least my 4th-great-grandfather Mark Lindsey, who was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in 1773 and died in Morgan County, Alabama, on 10 April 1847. My father’s brother Henry Carlton Lindsey had done considerable research documenting our family’s descent from Mark and his oldest son Dennis Lindsey (1794-1836), whose name had passed down to my grandfather (and then to my father and to me) from an uncle of my grandfather named for his grandfathers Dennis Lindsey and Benjamin Harrison.

Relationship Chart Lindsey Line

Relationship Chart Lindsey Line (2)

This much we knew from my uncle’s research and other sources, including James Edmond Saunders’ Early Settlers of Alabama, which has biographies of Mark and his son Dennis.[9] More than that, however, we did not know, though my uncle had discovered that Mark and Dennis had come to Lawrence and Morgan Counties, Alabama, by way of Wayne County, Kentucky, from Spartanburg County, South Carolina. We knew that a biography of the uncle for whom my grandfather was named, Benjamin Dennis Lindsey (1856-1938), stated that his father Mark Jefferson Lindsey (1820-1878), my 2nd-great-grandfather, who moved in the late 1840s from Lawrence County, Alabama, to what became Red River Parish, Louisiana, was a planter in Alabama and Louisiana, and of English descent, from a family that had come early to the American South.[10]

We had no inkling of Irish ancestry — despite the given name Dennis, a typically Irish name that runs like a thread through generations of my Lindsey family, tying them together — and no information to point us back beyond Spartanburg County, South Carolina, to our earlier roots in the American colonies. When I began researching this family, seeking to track it back from South Carolina, it soon became apparent to me that the Spartanburg County Lindseys from whom I descend were descendants of a Dennis Lindsey who died in Granville County, North Carolina, in August 1762, and who had come there from Virginia.

In this pre-DNA era of genealogical research, it had long been asserted that two Lindsay/Lindsey families of colonial Virginia — one descending from Reverend David Lindsay of Cherry Point in Northumberland County, Virginia, and one thought to descend from a James Lindsey of Essex County, Virginia — were related to each other. Since it seemed that some branch of the second of those families had ended up in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, at the same time my Lindseys were there, and those other Lindseys interacted with my Lindseys in Spartanburg County records, I assumed that my Lindseys were likely related to the Essex County Lindseys — and therefore to Reverend David Lindsay, whose family roots can be traced far back in Scottish history. There was also the fact that I could determine that the Dennis Lindsey who died in 1762 in Granville County, North Carolina, had previously been in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, not far from the stomping grounds of those other Virginia Lindsays/Lindseys.

I spent more years than I’d like to admit trying to connect my Lindsey family to these other colonial Lindsay/Lindsey families of Virginia. I have several filing cabinet drawers stuffed full of folders with voluminous material regarding these other early colonial Virginia Lindsay/Lindsey families. I was so persuaded of the link to the family of Reverend David Lindsay of Northumberland County that, some years ago, I made a pilgrimage of sorts to the church in Edinburgh, the South Leith kirk, that had been pastored by David Lindsay’s grandfather.

Flash forward to the beginnings of the use of DNA as a genealogical tool: when an international Lindsay surname project was started under the auspices of Clan Lindsay, imagine my surprise when the Y-DNA of my Lindsey family matched that of no Lindsay/Lindsey families other than my own, and when it became clear from further DNA work that my Lindsey family isn’t a Scottish Lindsay family, as many descendants had long assumed, but a Lynch family from southwest Ireland.

My Lindsey line has a genetic signature that isn’t found in other groups tested thus far in the international Lindsay DNA project: we’re Irish type III.[11] That signature places our genetic origins back in southwest Ireland prior to at least 800 AD, and links us to what are called the Dalcassian clans of that region, families associated with Brian Boru.

Linchey is a variant spelling of the surname Lynch in that region and other areas of Ireland, and I think it’s very likely that the young Irish servant Dennis Linchey from whom it now seems very clear that my set of Lindseys descends was an Irish-born Lynch/Linchey man. I’ve found a number of cases in the records of tidewater Virginia counties in which the surnames Lynch and Lindsey were used interchangeably in Virginia records until the spelling of the name eventually got standardized — usually as Lindsey. That “confusion” really begins in Ireland itself, where the Irish name that got anglicized as Lynch — O’Loinsigh — also got anglicized as Lindsey in some areas of Ireland.

When I run a list of matches for my Y-DNA results at FTDNA, the more I approach the 111 marker matches (that is, the more numerous the markers I use to find matches), the more obvious it is that my line is Irish: we end up matching people exclusively from Ireland, and never any other Lindsays/Lindseys at all.

It was quite a surprise to me when, not too very long after the Lindsay surname project had been set up and the results of the various DNA tests put online, Dennis Wright of the Irish Type III project contacted me to tell me that my results and those of other Group 10 Lindseys put us into the Irish Type III group, indicating that the roots of our family lie in southwest Ireland back to 800 or so.

It took a while for me to process that discovery, since it ran so counter to everything I had ever believed about my Lindsey family. It was only after my set of Lindseys had gotten these DNA results and I processed them that I realized I had collected information about an Irish indentured servant, Dennis Linchey, who came to Virginia in 1718, and I then began to put together the pieces of what we knew about Dennis Lindsey, our earliest proven ancestor (sort of proven, with gaps that have to be filled in by best evidence if not conclusive evidence), and realized that the Dennis Linchey who came to Richmond County, Virginia, in 1718 and the Dennis Lindsey who died in Granville County, North Carolina, in August 1718 were the same person.

And more on all of that in subsequent postings…. For now, the point I’d like to leave readers with: DNA is a powerful (and increasingly so) tool for doing genealogical research, particularly when it’s coupled with sound historical-genealogical research of the conventional, old-fashioned sort citing documents and tracking a family from present to past.

But prepare to be surprised and dispelled of notions to which you may have clung for a very long time when you use the tool of DNA in your genealogical research. You may find all that you have thought about a particular family line resoundingly turned upside down by DNA information.

[1] Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants 1700-1750 (Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 1992), p. 209, abstracting Bristol port books, E/190/1454/8 in the Public Records Office.

[2] On Bristol as the point from which a significant percentage of English servants — drawn largely from the West Country — shipped to Virginia, see David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed (NY and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1989), pp. 236-240. Coldham’s abstract of the Bristol port book record in the PRO showing The Expectation sailing from Bristol to Virginia in January 1718 states that the voyage was financed by Richyate Coole & Co. of Bristol. Coldham’s Complete Book of Emigrants 1700-1750 shows Coole’s company (his name also appears as Richyeat Coole) financing voyages from Bristol to Virginia from October 1707 to December 1720. Coldham’s abstracted records in this book show Samuel Skinker, who handled the indenturing of the servants brought to Richmond County, Virginia, by 1 June 1718, mentioned as a merchant handling voyages from Bristol to Virginia on 7-10 December 1714; 9-18 September 1718; 13-27 August 1720; 22-23 December 1737; and 23 December 1767. The book also shows The Expectation sailing from Bristol to Barbados and Virginia on a year prior to its voyage in January 1718: it set sail from Bristol to those destinations on 29 January 1717 under Francis Collett, the same ship master who brought servants to Richmond County, Virginia, in 1718 aboard The Expectation.

[3] Richmond County, Virginia, Court Order Bk. 8 (1718-1721), 6 August 1718.

[4] Ibid., 4 June 1718.

[5] See Virginia Colonial Records Project, survey report 11138, listing records from the British PRO documenting these points.

[6] William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, vol. 1 (NY: Bartow, 1819), p. 411, act 6.

[7] Carol McGinnis, Virginia Genealogy, Sources and Resources (Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 1993), p. 12.

[8] Richard K. MacMaster, Scotch-Irish Merchants in Colonial America (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2009), pp. 29-30.

[9] James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899; repr. Baltimore: Geneal. Publ. Co., 1982), pp. 122-3.

[10] Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas Under Many Flags, vol. 4 (Chicago: American Hist. Soc., 1930), pp. 221-2.

[11] See Dennis Wright’s excellent website on Irish Type III DNA.

One thought on “Dennis Linchey/Lindsey (abt. 1700-1762): Do DNA Work and Prepare for Surprises

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