Dennis Linchey/Lindsey (abt. 1700-1762): A Close Reading of His August 1762 Granville County, North Carolina, Will

Index to Granville Wills
Granville County, North Carolina, Will Index, vol. 1: 1749-1875 (unpaginated) — entry for Dennis Lindsey’s will

Or, Subtitled: When a Recorded Will Becomes an Unrecorded Will

I ended the previous posting offering you a transcription of the 3 August 1762 will of Dennis Lindsey, Granville County, North Carolina. As I completed the posting, I told you that in my next posting I’d provide information about the children Dennis names in this will. Before we do that, I think it’s important that we take a close look at the will itself, since it’s a primary source of information about Dennis Lindsey’s children. As we do a close reading of the will, I want to preface that close reading with this observation: We’re lucky to have this document.

Dennis Lindsey Granville Unrecorded Wills
Abstract of the August 1762 will of Dennis Lindsey, Granville County, North Carolina, preceding the original will in Granville County Wills, Unrecorded, 1746-1771

Though the will has a note written at the bottom stating that it was returned to county court sometime in August 1762 and recorded (the word “Recorded” is also written on the back of the will), the will book in which it was recorded is no longer extant.[1] The will is now part of a collection of Granville County wills entitled “Wills, Unrecorded, 1746-1771.”[2] Because Dennis Lindsey’s will is in this collection of “unrecorded” wills, it’s indexed in the index to Granville County wills as part of that collection (see the snapshot at the head of the posting).

For those of us trying to find more information about the children Dennis Lindsey names in his 1762 will, or about how his property was disposed of when he died, this loss of records creates an obstacle. The lost will book in which the will was recorded might well have had an estate inventory and account of an estate sale attached to the will. Though some court minutes for August 1762 have survived, they contain no information about wills returned to court in that month, and the primary court minute book for that period has disappeared along with the will book for the same period.[3]

We’re fortunate to have, at least, what seems to be a complete account of Dennis Lindsey’s children at the time of his death in August 1762. We’re hampered, however, by the loss of estate records that would potentially have made that list of children much more useful to us.

What Dennis Lindsey’s Will Tells Us about the Ages of His Children

As it is, the will does provide some useful information about the age ranges of Dennis’ children at the time of his death:

  • It tells us that his daughters Mary and Winney/Winifred were both not yet 16 years of age. This places the birth years of Mary and Winney after 1746.
  • It tells us that his son Benjamin was not yet 18 years of age. This places Benjamin’s birth year after 1744.
  • As I’ve told you previously, I’m inclined to think Dennis’ daughter Catherine was perhaps his oldest child, and was close in age to her husband Roger Thornton, who was baptized 14 July 1725, according to the register of North Farnham parish in Richmond County, Virginia (though it has to be noted that, if Catherine was born around 1725, she (and Roger) lived to a very ripe age, since she appears as executrix of her husband Roger’s will in Hancock County, Georgia, records in September 1797).[4]
  • We also know from Granville County tax records that Dennis’ son William was of age by 1749, and that places his birth by 1733. I suspect William was actually somewhat older than 16 in 1749 and may have been born closer to 1729.
  • The will tells us, too, that Dennis had three daughters who were married by August 1762: Catherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret. Rather, we can infer their marital status from the will, since we know that Dennis’ daughters Mary and Winney were not yet of age and had the surname Lindsey, and the will names three sons-in-law — Robert Phillips, Ephraim Clanton, and Roger Thornton. The will further tells us that the daughter married to Robert Phillips had a son Dennis Phillips to whom Dennis Lindsey makes a bequest. We cannot draw definite conclusions from the will about the ages of the three married daughters, though we can probably conclude with good reason that these three daughters were older than their sisters who were not yet 16 in 1762, and that they were likely born before 1742.

The will makes no mention at all of a wife of Dennis Lindsey, so I think we can assume that his wife (or wives?) had predeceased him. As I’ve noted previously, no document that I’ve found up to now provides a name of a wife or wives of Dennis Lindsey. I think it’s likely he married around the time he was freed from indenture in Virginia — about 1725. Look at the information that Dennis’ will provides about the ages of his children when he died, and one has to wonder if he had at least two wives and children by each of them. The will gives the impression of an older family of children — Catherine, William, possibly Elizabeth and Margaret — and a younger set of children — Benjamin, Mary, and Winifred — with a gap between the ages of the older set and those of the younger set.

In this period, it was not impossible, of course, for young women to marry around age 17 — that was the usual age of marriage for females in Virginia in this period[5] — and to have children up to their middle or even late 40s. I have the impression that, in the case of Dennis Lindsey’s children, however, there was a gap in the middle of the list of the children, which may indicate that Dennis had at least two wives, one whom he married in the 1720s in Virginia, and another whom he married in North Carolina in the 1740s. It also has to be admitted that we simply do not have a great deal of concrete evidence for the actual ages of Dennis Lindsey’s children, and I could be quite wrong in reaching this conclusion about two wives.

Other Points to Note in Dennis Lindsey’s Will, as We Seek Information about His Children

Several other points to note regarding Dennis Lindsey’s will, as we try to figure out more about the children he names in it:

  • Though the will names sons-in-law Robert Phillips, Ephraim Clanton, and Roger Thornton, it creates a conundrum for us in that it does not attach married surnames to the three married daughters, and does not tell us which daughter married which son-in-law! We know from various records[6] that it was Dennis’ daughter Catherine who married Roger Thornton, and that leaves us with the problem of determining which daughter of Dennis married Robert Phillips and which married Ephraim Clanton: Which man did Elizabeth marry and which did Margaret marry? I have found no records anywhere providing the given name of either Ephraim Clanton’s or Robert Phillips’ wives.
  • There is a world of disinformation online and elsewhere about the wives of Roger Thornton and Ephraim Clanton. Because Roger Thornton’s brother Henry married a Catherine as well — Catherine Bledsoe — the wives of Roger and Henry have gotten mixed up in accounts of the Thornton family. One source after another has Ephraim Clanton married to a “Sarah Elizabeth” Lindsey. Some of these erroneous family trees place “Sarah Elizabeth’s” birth in Surry County, Virginia, a place Dennis Lindsey never lived. Other sources try to link “Sarah Elizabeth” to a James Lindsey of Caroline County, Virginia, who is entirely unrelated to Dennis Lindsey. Why anyone would want to invent these fanciful genealogies when the will of Dennis Lindsey explicitly tells us that 1) he had a son-in-law Ephraim Clanton in August 1762, and 2) he had daughters Mary, Winney, Catherine, Elizabeth, and Margaret — no Sarah anywhere — is beyond me to understand.
  • The will stipulates that Mary Lindsey is to live with Robert Phillips and his wife and to have free use of her property after she reaches age 16. It states that Ephraim Clanton is to have the care of Benjamin and Winney until Benjamin reaches 18 and Winney reaches 16, and Ephraim is to teach Benjamin the carpenter’s trade, unless Benjamin’s brother William takes Benjamin to live with him. These stipulations suggest that wherever Robert Phillips and Ephraim Clanton (and William Lindsey) are to be found after August 1762, there we may find Mary, Winney, and Benjamin, if they continued living after early August 1762 (and we know that Benjamin was alive up to 4 March 1771, when he sold the 200 acres bequeathed to him by the will to Adam Pardue).[7]
  • It should also be noted that nothing about the will suggests that Dennis Lindsey names his children in their birth order in the will.
  • Though a 1756 Granville tax list tells us that Dennis’ son William was delinquent with his tax payment and had “run away,” Dennis Lindsey’s will doesn’t seem to indicate that a breach had occurred between father and son, since it bequeaths items to William and also makes him guardian of his brother Benjamin in lieu of Ephraim Clanton. I do not find William in Granville (or Bute or Franklin) records after this time, and that seems to me to strengthen the conclusion that this is the William Lindsey whom we’ll find claiming land in 1768 in what became Spartanburg County, South Carolina, with records in that county showing William had a son Dennis. Even if William had left Granville County under shady circumstances, this doesn’t preclude his remaining in contact with his father and being named in his father’s will after he left the area.
  • The will also states that Robert Phillips is to have use of Dennis’ plantation up to the time Benjamin Lindsey comes of age, and it leaves all of the plantation’s working tools to Dennis’ daughter Margaret, which is one among several reasons that, as I’ll tell you subsequently, I’ve decided it’s likely Dennis’ daughter Margaret married Robert Phillips and his daughter Elizabeth married Ephraim Clanton. I think Dennis willed the working tools of his plantation to daughter Margaret because he had also bequeathed the use of the plantation to her husband Robert Phillips until Benjamin came of age.

Finally, some notes about the three witnesses to Dennis Lindsey’s will, John Robuck, James Robuck, and Aaron Fussell:

  • We’ve noted throughout our examination of Dennis Lindsey’s life in North Carolina that Aaron Fussell appears repeatedly in documents in which Dennis is mentioned. In my previous posting,[8] I shared the information I have on Aaron Fussell.
  • The fact that Aaron Fussell appears frequently as a witness to land sales by Dennis Lindsey and then as a witness to Dennis’ will makes me wonder if there was a connection between the two men that goes beyond the connection of neighbors.
  • About the two Robuck men who witnessed Dennis’ will, I have limited information, and more research about them is warranted. If I am understanding Sylvia Owen Garner’s account of the Robuck/Roebuck family of Virginia correctly, the John Robuck who witnessed Dennis Lindsey’s will was born about 1720 in Northumberland County, Virginia, and died in June 1801 in Edgefield County, South Carolina. James was his son. Sylvia Owen Garner thinks that John was a son of Robert Robuck/Roebuck of Northumberland County, Virginia.[9]
  • This is another of the families connected to Dennis Lindsey in Granville County, North Carolina, who appear to have been in Orange County, Virginia, before they came to North Carolina — though it’s not clear to me that John Robuck was in Orange County, while it is clear that his brother George, about whom I’ll say something more in a moment, was in Orange County before moving to North Carolina and then South Carolina.
  • A number of records indicate that John Robuck was in Granville County by 1758, and was living from that point forward for some years as a neighbor of Dennis Lindsey and his son-in-law Roger Thornton. In her book on the Regulator movement in pre-Revolutionary North Carolina, Marjoleine Kars cites testimony from court documents in Granville County showing that John Roebuck and Catherine Lindsey Thornton testified in a case in the fall of 1760 in which William and Susanna Rains of Granville County were accused of burning down the barn of Thomas Lowe. John Roebuck’s testimony states that he had heard Susanna state in December 1758 that she would burn down Lowe’s barn if he confiscated the crop she and her husband had worked hard to make.[10]
  • Keep in mind as you read the preceding notes about the 1760 trial in which John Roebuck and Catherine Thornton testified that on 24 July 1760, Catherine’s husband Roger Thornton sold his father-in-law Dennis Lindsey 200 acres at Waters Branch on the south side of Sandy Creek on which Dennis was living when he died two years later. It seems to me likely that the point of this land sale was to place Catherine’s elderly and perhaps infirm father next to the Thorntons in the final period of his life (and there are indicators that Ephraim Clanton also lived next to this piece of land at this time).
  • The Rains trial document suggests that John Robuck/Roebuck was a neighbor of Roger and Catherine Thornton — and therefore of Dennis Lindsey — by 1758.
  • On 19 March 1761, Aaron Fussell’s brother Thomas Fussell sold John Roebuck 200 acres in Granville County on Roger Thornton’s line. On the same day, he sold to William Waters 270 acres on Henry Thornton’s line with wife Sarah relinquishing dower and witnesses Aaron Fussell and William Williamson.[11] Note the reference to the Waters family, for whom the branch on which Dennis Lindsey was living next to Roger Thornton in the final part of his life takes its name. And also note the name William Williamson, which we’ll meet down the road in a record involving Dennis Lindsey’s son William.
  • On 29 October 1765, John Robuck deeded to West Harris 223 acres in Bute County on the south side of Sandy Creek at Waters’ branch.[12] (The portion of Granville in which Dennis Lindsey lived has now become Bute.) This deed shows John selling the land with wife Mary, who relinquished her dower rights in the land. Note the reference to Waters’ branch which also appears in the July 1760 deed in which Roger Thornton sold Dennis Lindsey the 200 acres on which Dennis was living at his death.
  • A 7 May 1778 land entry by John Hawkins, Jr., for 640 acres in Bute County on Sandy Creek (at Bechams Branch and Thornton’s Mill Creek) notes that the land adjoined Edward Jones and land formerly belonging to Lindsey, Duke, and Robuck, as well as the widow Pendergrass and the Widow Garriott.[13]
  • This land entry further demonstrates that Dennis Lindsey and (John) Robuck were neighbors or had pieces of land near each other prior to Dennis’ death in 1762. I suspect the Dennis Lindsey tract to which this land entry refers was the Granville grant Dennis received on 7 March 1761, which he sold in two deeds on 13 and 19 April 1762, the first of these two made to Robert Phillips with Roger Thornton, John Pendergrass, and Aaron Fussell witnessing.
  • John Robuck seems to have been in Granville County as late as 11 June 1775 when he witnessed Lawrence Rambo’s will.
  • If Sylvia Owen Garner has identified the John Robuck of Granville-Bute County correctly, then John was the uncle of a Benjamin Robuck/Roebuck who was captain of a militia unit in 96 District (later Spartanburg County) in which Dennis Lindsey’s son William and William’s son Dennis served during the American Revolution. The George Robuck mentioned previously was Benjamin’s brother, and moved during the Revolution from Orange County, North Carolina, to what would later become Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

So these are some notes generated by a close reading of the August 1762 will of Dennis Lindsey, which will prove useful as we turn our attention to the children named in that will and what can be discovered about them — the goal of my next posting(s).

[1] See the “Record Loss” section of the Granville County research wiki at the FamilySearch site, which states, “Many early Marriage Bonds missing. Will Books from 1746-1772 missing, although 71 unrecorded wills for that time period are on microfilm. Court Minutes 1746-1780 missing.”

[2] See the guide to Granville County records published by the North Carolina Archives, online as a downloadable Word document. This set of unrecorded wills is in the Granville County holdings of the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, US/Canada film 18996, available in digitized form at the FamilySearch site.

[3] See supra, n. 1.

[4] Hancock County, Georgia, Will Bk. A, pp. 225-249.

[5] See David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (NY: Oxford UP, 1989), p. 284.

[6] E.g., Bute County, North Carolina, Deed Bk. A, p. 130, showing Roger and Catherine Thornton selling land 30 January 1765; Granville County, North Carolina, Deed Bk. O, p. 342, showing Roger and Catherine selling land 24 March 1784; Hancock County, Georgia, Will Bk. A, pp. 225-249, showing Catherine as executrix of Roger’s will along with son Henry Thornton and Zorabel Williamson.

[7] Warren County, North Carolina, Deed Bk. 3, p. 334 (recording Bute County deeds).

[8] See n. 2 in the posting I’ve just linked.

[9] Sylvia Owen Garner, The Roebucks of Virginia (Baltimore: Gateway Publ. Co., 1979), p. 130.

[10] Marjoleine Kars, Breaking Loose Together: The Regulator Rebellion in Pre-Revolutionary North Carolina (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2003), p. 56. I have read this book online at Google Books, which has a limited selection of pages. They do not include the endnote pages that tell us what documents Kars is citing here. I will obtain a copy of Kars’ book to find that information, and will post a note on this blog after I have done so, to update readers about the source of Kars’ citation. Note, added later: Kars is citing King vs. Susanna Rains, depositions taken before Robert Hicks, 5 Nov. 1760, Granville County, Criminal Action Paper, North Carolina Archives.

[11] Granville County, North Carolina, Deed Bk. E, pp. 60-1.

[12] Warren County, North Carolina, Deed Bk. A, pp. 330-1 (for Bute County).

[13] Bute County, North Carolina, Land Entries Bk. E, p. 35.

6 thoughts on “Dennis Linchey/Lindsey (abt. 1700-1762): A Close Reading of His August 1762 Granville County, North Carolina, Will

  1. Hi, Bill.  Just a quick note for now.  Hope all is well with you and Steve. I have nothing substantive to add, but was reminded of a legal point someone pointed out to me a few years back.  I’m sure you are aware of it, but wonder if it has relevance in this situation.  During the period when primogeniture was law, a testator did not need to mention the eldest son in his will — it was understood without saying that his inheritance was fixed by law.  The testator would need only to mention heirs who would not otherwise be entitled.  The eldest son could indeed be living, even if he was not mentioned in the will.  What I don’t know is if that same principle held true for the widow.  In other words, if the testator wanted her too have what the law provided, was it necessary for him to name her in the will?  Is absence of evidence of her in the will actually evidence of her absence?  I don’t know. I’m enjoying these posts, even if I don’t “know” the people.  Take care, and happy holidays.  —  John

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    1. John, thank you for the greetings. I hope all is going well with you, too. I don’t think I did know that eldest sons were sometimes not named in wills, having already been assured their inheritance as fixed by law. I’ve seen quite a few wills in which a parent willed a minimal amount of money to the eldest son — a shilling or a dollar, e.g. — and have been told that was to assure that there would be no legal complications as the will was probated. Nor had I heard that wives could be overlooked in wills according to that same principle. It would be interesting to learn more about this.

      I have, of course, also run into wills in which the wife is named only as “my beloved wife,” or wills in which it’s clear to me that some children are not named in the will. That seems to be the case with another of my Granville County ancestors, Henry Green, who did not name a daughter Hannah Braselton in his will — but I am sure Hannah was Henry’s daughter.

      I do think Dennis’ wife (or wives) had predeceased him, perhaps above all, because I never find mention of a wife in any other document about him.

      When I reach my discussion of Dennis’ daughter Elizabeth and her husband Ephraim Clanton, you may spot names you know, since Ephraim was from Surry County, Virginia, and if I am not mistaken, you have roots there and have done quite a bit of research in that county’s records.

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