My sister, Theresa, and I headed down to the Pittsylvania County Court House in Chatham, Virginia, the other day in search of dead relatives. More specifically, we were looking for the Jones family, who lived in Pittsylvania County in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
But first, here’s how the Joneses fit into my family tree.
In my guest bedroom is Great-Great-Grandma Elizabeth Holt’s bed. The big oak bed was likely made in the late 1800s. It was stored in a shed for many years, which is why one side is a little warped, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything because it’s the one “family piece” I have.
Having old, family furniture — even one slightly warped bed — makes me feel aristocratic and Southern, when in truth, I’m a middle-class, Ohio native.
Anyway, “Grandma Holt,” as she’s known in the family, was born in Tennessee. Her parents, Pascal Holt and Rachel Jones, were from Virginia. They married in Henry County in 1822.
Rachel Jones was born in Pittsylvania County and her parents were Buckner Jones and Nelly Wilson. Buckner is a great name, and if you search “Buckner Jones” you’ll find lots of them — black and white and from various parts of Virginia.
Buckner’s parents were Mosias Jones and Lyddia Clarke. Best I can tell, Mosias’s parents were William Mosias Jones and Lucy Foster.
What I was really aiming at was the Foster clan, because if Lucy is my sixth-great-grandmother, then I’m related to the folks who built Foster’s Castle, a 17th-century, Tudor-Stuart-style house in New Kent County, Virginia.
Finally, an “ancestral home” for me! If you’ve been following the blog, up until now only my husband, John, had ancestral homes. I had to go back 330-some years to find this one, but I’ll take it.
Foster’s Castle was built by Col. Joseph Foster in about 1685. According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form, it’s “one of Virginia’s four surviving Tudor-Stuart style structures with porch projections,” which was “a major seventeenth and very early-eighteenth century Virginia building form.”
Col. Foster, who would be my seventh great-grandfather, also supervised the construction of St. Peter’s Church, where George Washington and Martha Custis were married.
Foster’s Castle still stands. While I don’t think being able to prove I’m the seventh-great-granddaughter of the guy who built it will get me a private tour, it’s kind of neat to know. I wouldn’t turn down a tour, though, in case the current owner sees this.
But back to Buckner Jones and the Pittsylvania crew. Before I could start planning tours of my ancestral home, I had to prove that Buckner’s parents were Mosias and Lyddia and that Mosias’s parents were William and Lucy.
So, off Theresa and I went to the Pittsylvania County Court House, home of some really old records.
Pittsylvania County was formed in 1767, and while this is its third court house, they’ve never had a fire. That means the records are as old as the county.
A lot of times, when looking for old records, you find out that the court house burned down. The Yankees came through and torched it or someone knocked over an oil lamp or something. Regardless, the records went up in smoke.
Deeds, wills, court orders, etc., are kept at the county clerk’s office. Most of these books have alphabetical indexes. The indexes direct you to the book and page where your ancestor can be found. If your ancestor is mentioned in one of the books, they’re not too difficult to find.
The folks at the Pittsylvania County Clerk’s Office are also really nice and helpful, so don’t hesitate to ask for help when you’re doing this kind of research.
While I didn’t find anything about William Mosias and Lucy, who might have never lived in Pittsylvania County, I did find out some things about Buckner’s dad, Mosias. In his 1796 will, Mosias gives Buckner and his sisters one shilling sterling each.
And a 1797 inventory of Mosias’s estate included the following: “chest, old feathers, pewter dish, Dutch oven & hooks, barrel, poll ax, hoe, chair.” It’s interesting to see what kinds of things people owned centuries ago.
The find of the day, however, concerned Buckner. Late that afternoon, as I was starting to lose steam and interest, Theresa shouted two words from across the room: “Bastard child!”
According to a court order dated January 1793, “Ede Harris having charged Buckner Jones of begetting of a Bastard Child on her body it is ordered that he give security for the maintenance of the said Child in the sum of five pounds per annum payable to the overseers of the poor of this county for the term of five years. Where upon Mosiah [sic] Jones his security enters himself as such for the payment of the fine as aforementioned.”
I don’t know who Ede Harris was yet, although there was an Ede Harris who lived during that time period in neighboring Caswell County, N.C. I also don’t know if the child was a boy or a girl or what happened to them.
What I do know is Buckner Jones had a bastard child, and I couldn’t be happier.