Children of Thomas Brooks (abt. 1747 – 1805) and Wife Margaret: James Brooks (1772 – 1835) and Wife Nancy Isbell (1)

Neither transcript has information about who recorded this information in the register of the bible of James Brooks or where or when the bible was published. A note by Memory Lester says that the bible appears to have belonged to James’s son James Irwin Brooks. The bible register records the three marriages of James Irwin Brooks and provides information about his children by his three wives, as well as dates of death for James Irwin Brooks and two of his wives.

Since the Grayson County, Kentucky, death record of James’s sister Sarah (who married John Lahue) indicates that Sarah was born in 1771, I think that James was the next child of Thomas and Margaret Brooks born following Sarah, their oldest child.[3] As we’ve seen, James’s father Thomas Brooks had a brother James. If I had to guess (and please note I have no proof to back up this guess), I’d guess that Thomas and Margaret Brooks named their first son James because this was the name of Thomas’s father, and that Thomas’s brother James was named for his father.

Virginia Years

In a previous posting, we also saw that James Brooks was of age by 1789, when he is one of the two white males aged 16+ taxed in that year in his father’s household in Frederick County, Virginia.[4] This is the first time in which a second male aged 16+ appears in Thomas’s household on the tax list; this male coming of age by 1789 is clearly James Brooks, and the tax list therefore confirms the bible’s 1772 date of birth for James.

We also saw previously that in 1794 James Brooks begins to appear on the tax list in Wythe County, Virginia, where his father moved from Frederick County in 1792.[5] As the posting I’ve just linked states, the fact that James was taxed separately from his father Thomas Brooks in Wythe County in 1794 indicates that James was now living on his own, and suggests to me that he had perhaps married a wife prior to Nancy Isbell whose name I have not found. I have found no record of a marriage for James prior to Nancy Isbell, however, and may be wrong in thinking he had married by 1794, when he’s taxed in his own right as a head of a household.

Wythe County, Virginia, Survey Bk. 1, p. 229

Also noted in a previous posting is that James had 45 acres surveyed on 7 June 1795 in Rich Valley on the waters of the north fork of the Holston River in Wythe County, another indicator that he was now living on his own.[6] The survey notes that part of the land (18.985 acres) was under treasury warrant #10,690. The land joined land of Thomas Dunn, deceased.

James Brooks continued on the tax list in Wythe County up to 1800. In a previous posting I stated that I think that James moved with his brother Thomas Brooks to Wayne County, Kentucky in 1798. I now think that James remained in Wythe County up to about 1803, with his brother Thomas heading to Kentucky in 1798. In 1795, James was taxed for one poll in Capt. James Davis’s district in Wythe County. He appears again on the tax list in 1797, 1799, and 1800, each time with one poll. In 1797 and 1799, he is in Capt. Samuel Crockett’s district. In 1800, he is taxed both in Capt. James Newell’s and Capt. Henry Stephens’ district.[7] The order books for Wythe County court show James serving as a juror on the county court in September and December 1795.[8]  

Kentucky Years

On 5 March 1804, James gave bond in Wayne County, Kentucky, with Thomas Isbell for his marriage to Thomas’s sister Nancy.[9] James and Thomas signed the bond before county clerk Micah Taul on the same day, and Nancy’s father Godfrey Isbell gave permission for her to marry, with his son Thomas and Samuel Forbes witnessing Godfrey’s note of permission. 

Photo of Thomas Isbell uploaded by Ray Isbell to Find a Grave memorial page of Thomas Isbell, Isbell cemetery, Wayne County, Kentucky, created by Ray Isbell

The bible register of James Brooks and Nancy Isbell says that Nancy was born in 1786.[10] That would have made her 18 years old at the time of her marriage to James. The bible register states that the couple married 8 March 1804. According to June Baldwin Bork, Nancy’s brother Thomas Isbell was born about 1784 in Montgomery County, Virginia, the parent county of Wythe County.[11] If this is correct information, then it seems likely that Nancy was born in Montgomery County, as well. However, the 1850 federal census states that Thomas was born in North Carolina, and the 1860 federal census has him born in South Carolina.[12] Biographical information for Thomas found at his Find a Grave memorial page for the Isbell cemetery in Wayne County, Kentucky, states that he was born in Washington County, North Carolina, on 25 November 1785.[13] If this information is correct, then Nancy Isbell may have been born in what was at the time of her birth Washington County, North Carolina, but is now Washington County, Tennessee.

James Brooks first appears on the tax list in Wayne County, Kentucky, in 1804, with no land listed for him.[14] The microfilmed and digitized copies of the 1805 Wayne County tax list at the Family Search site are too faint for me to read; I can’t say whether James is on the Wayne County tax list in that year. In 1806 and 1807, he appears again on the county tax list with no land, while his brother Thomas has land on all of these tax listings.[15] In 1806, for a single year, Thomas and James’s brother Robert shows up on the Wayne County tax list, also with no land attributed to him.

Tennessee Years

After 1807, James Brooks disappears from the tax lists in Wayne County, Kentucky. His father-in-law Godfrey Isbell also dropped from the Wayne County tax list in 1806, though he continued owning land there up to 1810, when he sold Jesse L. Cocke 200 acres on Beaver Creek on 4 May, with the deed stating that Godfrey was living in Warren County, Tennessee.[16] Minutes of the Warren County court show Godfrey as a justice of the first court in that county on 4 December 1807. It appears to me that James Brooks and wife Nancy very likely moved their family to Tennessee at some point after or in 1807 to join Nancy’s father Godfrey Isbell, though I have found sparse documentation of James’s presence in Warren County, Tennessee. Federal census records indicate that children of James and Nancy born from 1807 to 1817 were born in Tennessee.[17] It might be noted here that the Warren County courthouse at McMinnville had a fire in 1852, with quite a few early county records destroyed.

There is no 1810 federal census for Tennessee, and I do not find James enumerated on that census in Kentucky. This is another indicator, I think, that James left Kentucky prior to 1810 and went to Tennessee. His brother-in-law Thomas Isbell definitely had land in Warren County, Tennessee, by 1810, though he remained in Wayne County, Kentucky, up to the end of his life. A 6 February 1810 deed in Warren County of Jeremiah Perry to James Cowan, both living in Warren County, states that the land Perry was deeding on Town Creek, a branch of Collins River, was bordered by Thomas Isbell’s conditional line.[18]

According to a number of researchers of the Isbell family, James’s father-in-law Godfrey Isbell sold land in Warren County, Tennessee, in 1811 as he moved to Madison County, Mississippi Territory (later Alabama), where he would die not long after removing there.[19]

James Brooks was definitely in Warren County, Tennessee, by 1812, since he appears on the county’s tax list in that year. Two men named James Brooks appear on the Warren County tax list in 1812, actually. Both are possibly James, son of Thomas and Margaret Brooks, being taxed for property in two locations. If these are two different men, one of them is, it seems to me, almost certainly James, son of Thomas and Margaret. One of these men is taxed in Richard Cantrell’s district and the other in John Hammons’ district.[20]

It’s the James Brooks taxed in John Hammons’ district who is, I think, “our” James. John Hammons was a brother-in-law of Thomas Brooks, James’s brother, who married Sarah Whitlock. John Hammons married a sister of Sarah whose given name has not been found; he’s named as a son-in-law of Thomas Whitlock, father of Sarah Whitlock Brooks, in Thomas Whitlock’s 24 June 1824 will in Cumberland County, Kentucky.[21] As a previous posting notes, a 9 January 1818 deed of Thomas Brooks and wife Sarah in Wayne County, Kentucky, states that John Hammons owned land next to Thomas and Sarah.[22] John Hammons had left Wayne County by 1807, the same period in which Godfrey Isbell moved from there, and like Godfrey, John moved to Warren County, Tennessee, leaving there in 1818 to move to Jackson County, Alabama. 

Alabama Years

As a previous posting states, by 1819, James Brooks had moved his family to Morgan County, Alabama, preceding his brother Thomas and wife Sarah to Alabama there by seventeen years. As the posting I just linked indicates, Thomas and Sarah moved to Alabama in November 1836, settling near the Lawrence County line in southwestern Morgan County. Both Thomas and Sarah died within a few years of their move to Alabama at the home of their daughter Jane Brooks Lindsey at Oakville in Lawrence County. On 14 September 1819, court minutes in Cotaco (later Morgan) County show James Brooks appointed to a view a road on the west fork of Flint River from McDonald’s ferry to Elam’s horse mill.[23]

Mark Lindsey, whose son Fielding Wesley Lindsey would marry James Brooks’s daughter Clarissa on 24 June 1836 in Lawrence County, settled on a branch of the Flint River, Crowdabout Creek, in southwestern Morgan County in the fall of 1819, having moved there from Wayne County, Kentucky. Mark’s sons Dennis and David Dinsmore Lindsey married nieces of James Brooks, Jane and Sarah Brooks, daughters of Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks.

By 1820, James Brooks was in Lawrence County, contiguous to Morgan on the west. He is enumerated on the 1820 state census of Lawrence County census with a household comprised of one male over 21 and four males under 21, as well as one female over 21 and three females under 21.[24] Four houses away from James is his brother-in-law Jabez Isbell (with his name spelled Jabes on this document), and next to James is Jonathan Burleson, whose niece Elizabeth would marry James’ son Charles Wesley Brooks on 8 May 1855 in Bastrop County, Texas.

Before I proceed to discuss the records I have for James Brooks in Lawrence County, Alabama, I want to include a prefatory note telling readers that I have not yet done an exhaustive study of Lawrence County records for James. I know from the helpful indexes to various Lawrence County records found at the Lawrence County Archives website that there are quite a few more records documenting James’s life in that county than I have — and many of these records are not available digitally via the Family Search site, so I cannot research them. Here are listings for James Brooks I’ve copied from the indexes at the county archives website: 

Entries for James Brooks, deed index of Lawrence County, Alabama, deed books 1818-1850, from Lawrence County, Alabama, Archives website
Entries for James Brooks, orphans court minute books of Lawrence County, Alabama, 1818-1850, from ditto
Entries for James Brooks, inventory and will books, Lawrence County, Alabama, 1818-1850, from ditto

On 2 September 1820, James Brooks was commissioned a justice of the peace for Lawrence County.[25] He received another commission as a j.p. on 3 March 1823 and again on 12 April 1828.[26] George O’Reilly, who is a descendant of James and has done extensive research on this family, indicates in his The History of the E. James Brooks Family of Lawrence County, Alabama that James Brooks appears a list of those renting land in Lawrence County in 1823 in section 16, township 7, range 6 near Oakville where James’s niece Jane and husband Dennis Lindsey lived.[27]

The loose-papers court files of Lawrence County provide interesting information about a number of legal actions in which James was involved in the 1820s, mostly in circuit court cases filed against him for debt. In March 1822, Bernard M. Patterson filed suit in Lawrence County circuit court against James Brooks for debt for $30.60. The court found in favor of Patterson on 20 March 1822.[28]

11 March 1823 bond of James Brooks and Dennis Lindsey in Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 192, file 36, circuit court case 1050, John Murphy vs. James Brooks

In January 1823, John Murphy sued James Brooks for debt in another case in Lawrence circuit court. The case file contains a promissory note that James Brooks had made on 5 January 1822 to James Forbes for $120. The note had then passed from Forbes to Murphy, who was suing James for that amount. In this case file is a bond James made on 11 March 1823 with Dennis Lindsey, husband of James’s niece Jane Brooks, which has the signatures of both James and Dennis.[29]

13 October 1821 promissory note of James Brooks and Theron Balch in Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 77, file 4, circuit court cases 26, 951, James Dury vs. James Brooks and Theron Balch 

On 22 September 1823, James Dury filed suit in Lawrence County circuit court against James Brooks and Theron Balch regarding a promissory note the two had made to him on 13 October 1821. The case file for this lawsuit shows that Brooks and Balch satisfied the debt on or before 12 March 1824. The file contains the note Brooks and Balch made to Dury, as well as a bond the two signed with John Balch on 7 March 1823.[30]

Lawrence County orphans court minutes in 1824 have information about another circuit court debt case filed against James Brooks. They state that in circuit court, on 4 March 1824, judgment was rendered against James for a debt of $120 (plus interest) that he owed to Samuel Forbes. In response to the judgment, James made a deed of trust to Forbes on 4 March mortgaging various pieces of property including livestock, farm tools, and kitchen items, with the debt to be satisfied by 1 March 1825.[31] This is the Samuel Forbes who witnessed Godfrey Isbell’s letter of permission for Godfrey’s daughter Nancy to marry James Brooks in 1804.

George O’Reilly reports on an orphans court judgment rendered in favor of James on 11 September 1826 in a debt case against the estate of Samuel Prust.[32] Prust’s estate was ordered to pay James $371 on account of a note dated 12 September 1822.

9 December 1824 promissory note of James Brooks and Archibald Sheats/Sheets to Mitchell & Greer, Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 98, file 17, circuit court cases 117, 928, Marmaduke Mitchell and James Greer vs. James Brooks and Archibald Sheats/Sheets

In February 1826, Marmaduke Mitchell and James Greer sued James Brooks and Archibald Sheats (the name is spelled Sheets in this document) for debt based on a promissory note Brooks and Sheats made to Mitchell & Greer’s firm for $50.18¾ on 9 December 1824.[33] As a previous posting has noted, Archibald’s son William Wiley Sheats married Mary Elizabeth Garner in Lawrence County on 17 April 1830; Mary Elizabeth was the daughter of Jacob Garner and Mary Hunter, Jacob being a son of James’s Brooks’s niece Sarah Hollingsworth, wife of James Garner. 

The family of James Brooks is enumerated on the 1830 federal census in Lawrence County, showing a household comprised of two males 5-10, one male 10-15, one male 15-20, and one male 50-60, with one female 5-10, two females 10-15, and one female 40-50.[34] Enumerated next to James on this census is the family of Naomi Woodruff. As a previous posting tells us, Naomi was the widow of James Woodruff, who had married a daughter of David and Margaret Dinsmore of Spartanburg County, South Carolina, whose given name is not known. Mark Lindsey, whose son Fielding Wesley Lindsey married James Brooks’s daughter Clarissa, married David and Margaret Dinsmore’s daughter Mary Jane Dinsmore, and another daughter of David and Margaret, Mary, married Nathaniel Woodruff, an uncle of the James Woodruff who married the Dinsmore daughter whose name has not been found.

Also found on the same page as James Brooks on the 1830 census are Dennis Lindsey (with his name spelled Lindsay here), a son of Mark Lindsey and Mary Jane Dinsmore, who married James’s niece Jane Brooks, and Richard Puckett. As we’ve seen previously, in his Early Settlers of Alabama, James Edmond Saunders characterizes Puckett as the “leading man”[35] of Oakville in Lawrence County when the town was founded in 1833 with Dennis Lindsey one of the three local citizens appointed by the state legislature as commissioners of the new town responsible for laying it out and seeing officers elected. The 1830 federal census suggests to us, then, that James Brooks was living at or near Oakville where Dennis Lindsey and Richard Puckett lived.

On 15 March 1830, James Brooks patented 40 acres of federal land in Lawrence County, the north ½ of section 9, township 8 south, range 6 west. This land was river improvement land.[36]

In May 1834, James Brooks appraised the estate of John Southern in Lawrence County, along with George Kitchens, William Armstrong, Eli Thompson, and Samuel Wallace.[37] On the Kitchens family and its intermarriages with the Lindsey and Brooks families in Lawrence County, see this previous posting. As it notes, James Dennis Lindsey, son of Fielding Wesley Lindsey and Clarissa Brooks (James’s daughter), married Martha W. Kitchens, a daughter of John Kitchens and Sarah L. Mowry.

James Brooks appears in a 16 September 1834 mortgage document in Lawrence County showing that his son James Irwin Brooks (this record calls the two Jameses Sr. and Jr.) and Richard Puckett entered into a mortgage to James Brooks Sr. with both Jameses signing and also Richard Puckett signing on behalf of the firm of Hodges and Puckett, with Darius Lynch as witness.[38] On 13 October 1834, Lynch proved the deed before Dennis Lindsey and Samuel Irwin, justices of the county. This is the same Richard Puckett who, as noted above, was considered by James Edmond Saunders “the leading man” of Oakville, Alabama.

September-October 1835 account of Dr. J.W. Michaux for attendance on Nancy Isbell Brooks in her final illness, from Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66, estate of James Brooks

On 23 September 1835, James Brooks was appointed by Lawrence County court to appraise the estate of Deborah Southern. Other appraisers appointed on this date were Miles Howell, Ephraim Hampton, Tolison Hampton, and George Kitchens.[39] As the next posting, which will discuss James’s death and his estate documents, will show, soon after he received this court document, James’s wife Nancy became seriously ill, dying on 9 October with James dying soon after this. James Brooks’s estate documents contain an account with Dr. J.W. Michaux showing Michaux visiting the Brooks family almost daily from 28 September up to 9 October to provide medicine for Nancy Isbell Brooks and to sit with her.[40]


[1] Memory A. Lester, “Bible Record of James Brooks,” Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine 86,11 (November 1952), p. 1177.

[2] Memory Aldridge Lester, Old Southern Bible Records: Transcriptions of Births, Deaths, and Marriages from Family Bibles, Chiefly of the 18th and 19th Centuries (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1974), pp. 38-9.

[3] Kentucky State Historical Society and State Archives, Grayson County, Kentucky, Registry of Deaths 1857, in Kentucky Birth, Marriage, and Death Records, 1852-1910digitized at the Family Search site.

[4] Frederick County, Virginia, Personal Property Tax List, 1789, p. 3; original is in Library of Virginia, digitized copies are available at the Family Search site. Thomas Brooks was taxed on 15 June in William Eskridge’s district.

[5] Wythe County, Virginia, Personal Property Tax List, 1794, 1794 Wythe County, Virginia, personal property tax list, unpaginated; digitized copies are available at the Family Search site. James is listed next to his father Thomas, with both being taxed on 20 May 1794.

[6] Wythe County, Virginia, Survey Bk. 1, p. 229.

[7] Wythe County, Virginia, Personal Property Tax List, 1795, 1797, 1799, 1800, unpaginated; digitized copies are available at the Family Search site.

[8] Wythe County, Virginia, Court Order Bk. 1795-6, pp. 3 and 6; digitized at the Family Search site

[9] Wayne County, Kentucky, Marriage Bonds 1801-1813, p. 66.

[10] See supra, n. 1, 2.

[11] See June Baldwin Bork, Wayne County, Kentucky, Pioneers: Biographical Sketches and Civil Court Records (Huntington Beach, California, 1974), p. 140.

[12] 1850 federal census, Wayne County, Kentucky, division 1, p. 221 (dwelling/family 407; 24 August); 1860 federal census, Wayne County, Kentucky, Monticello, p. 249 (dwelling 136/family 135; 12 June).

[13] See Find a Grave memorial page of Thomas Isbell, Isbell cemetery, Wayne County, Kentucky, created by Ray Isbell.

[14] Wayne County, Kentucky, Personal Property Tax List, 1804, unpaginated.

[15] Ibid., 1806-1807, unpaginated.

[16] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. B, p. 33.

[17] The 1850 and 1860 federal census listings for James and Nancy’s son James Irwin Brooks, who was born 29 November 1813, both state that James was born in Tennessee. The 1870 federal census gives Kentucky as James’s birthplace. James Irwin Brooks was living in Lawrence County, Alabama, when these three censuses were compiled. I think the information about a Tennessee birthplace is likely correct. James’s older brother Thomas R. Brooks was born 25 February 1807. The 1850 federal census places his birth in Kentucky, but the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses all report Thomas born in Tennessee. Again, all these censuses were taken in Lawrence County, Alabama. I suspect that Tennessee is the correct birthplace for Thomas R. Brooks, and that his parents had moved to Warren County, Tennessee, by the time he was born.

[18] Warren County, Tennessee, Deed Bk. A, pp. 107-8.

[19] See the biographical information at the Find a Grave memorial page for Godfrey Isbell, Maple Hill cemetery, Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, evidently compiled by Ray Isbell, who created the page. In a July 1997 letter to me, Robert Hugh Isbell of Dexter, Missouri, shared research notes about Godfrey Isbell compiled in June 1981 by researcher Sherman Isbell, which state that on 9 December 1811, Godfrey Isbell sold John Tilly 62 acres in Warren County, Tennessee, both men being of Warren County when the sale occurred.

[20] Tennessee State Library and Archives, Early Tax Lists of TennesseeWarren County, 1812, pp. 11, 76. 

[21] Cumberland County, Kentucky, Will Bk. B, pp. 423-4.

[22] Wayne County, Kentucky, Deed Bk. C, pp. 4-5.

[23] Morgan (Cotaco) County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. 1, p. 28, as cited in George O’Reilly, The History of the E. James Brooks Family of Lawrence County, Alabama (Huntsville, Alabama; 2019), p. 26. See also John Knox, A History of Morgan County, Alabama(Decatur, Alabama: Decatur Printing Co., 1967) p. 45.

[24] See 1820 State Census of Lawrence County, Alabama in Tennessee Valley Genealogical Society’s Valley Leaves (September 1977), which reproduces the original document discovered in 1971 at the Alabama Archives. James Brooks is enumerated on the first page of the original census; digitized at Family Search site.

[25] See Civil Register of County Officials [Alabama], vol. 1, p. 153.

[26] Ibid., pp. 154, 156.

[27] O’Reilly, History of the E. James Brooks Family, p. 27, citing Old Lawrence Reminiscences 17,1 (March 2003), p. 14.

[28] Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers box 152, file 39, circuit court case 21.

[29] Ibid., box 192, file 36, circuit court case 1050.

[30] Ibid., box 77, file 4, circuit court cases 26, 951.

[31] Lawrence County, Alabama, Deed Bk. B, pp. 298-9; as the Lawrence County Archives website explains, the county’s earlier deed books also contain minutes of actions of orphans court. On this document, see also O’Reilly, History of the E. James Brooks Family, p. 27.

[32] O’Reilly, History of the E. James Brooks Family, p. 28, summarizing Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Minute Bk. C, pp. 98-9.

[33] Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 98, file 17, circuit court cases 117, 928.

[34] 1830 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, p. 275.

[35] James Edmond Saunders, Early Settlers of Alabama (New Orleans, 1899), p. 123.

[36] See Margaret Matthews Cowart, Old Land Records of Lawrence County, Alabama: A Comparison of 3 Copies of the Government Tractbook for Lawrence County Alabama (Huntsville, Alabama, 1991).

[37] Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. E p. 40; see Molly B. Barrett, “A Glimpse of the Past,” Old Lawrence Reminiscences 14,3 (September 2000), p. 103.

[38] Lawrence County, Alabama, Deed Bk. F, pp. 339-340.

[39] Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Bk. E, p. 288.

[40] Lawrence County, Alabama, Loose Court Papers, box 165, folder 66.

5 thoughts on “Children of Thomas Brooks (abt. 1747 – 1805) and Wife Margaret: James Brooks (1772 – 1835) and Wife Nancy Isbell (1)

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