Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Aunt Fanny's Stories

...And I have heard said we are kin to old Robert Carter who is buried at old Christ Church in this County but have never found out how. He was very rich—some say the richest man in Virginia.

It was while telling one of those typical immigrant stories—in this case, it was about two brothers—that Aunt Fanny Carter recounted the family's stories to a John Carter who preserved them in a manuscript dating back to 1858. This John Carter, however, was not my John Carter, but another man dubbed John Carter of "The Nest," most likely his residence in Lancaster County, Virginia.

As he recalled this Aunt Fanny recounting, my fifth great-grandfather John Carter was a descendant of someone named Thomas Carter. Yet, she like so many others couldn't stop the tale just there; she went on to suppose there were "two brothers" who made their way to colonial Virginia, one of whom settled on the other side of a river, "but further I can't say."

It was Fanny Carter's words above which were supposedly quoted, first in the 1858 Carter manuscript, then by Joseph Lyon Miller in his 1912 genealogy book, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford." Perhaps from this slight introduction, you might be wondering, who was Robert Carter?

When I run across little enigmas like that in pursuing my family's story, I first take the simple route of checking online for a quick answer. My go-to website? Wikipedia, which let me know that this particular Robert Carter was a merchant and politician from Lancaster County whose skills in those areas prompted his peers to dub him "King" Carter.

It was this same Robert Carter whose fame prompted my banker sister to inquire whether our family was actually related to him. After all, this is the kind of minutiae which family historians are supposed to keep at their fingertips, right?

It did not help that Robert Carter was son of a man named John Carter. Born about 1664, his father John could not have been of the same generation as my John Carter. But he could indeed have been a relative, based on both men's birth in the same colony, despite being years apart.

Frustratingly, my John Carter was also said to have had a father named John. That father was himself born in 1674. Adding to that detail was another curiosity: our John Carter's father, at least according to Joseph Lyon Miller, had as his godfather a man also named John Carter—of "Corotoman." To complicate the narrative—though the Miller book doesn't come out and say so—Corotoman was the name of the family residence purchased and settled by the John Carter who was father of Robert "King" Carter.

To be asked to stand in as godparent implies some sort of family connection between the one Carter line and the other. If it can be found at all to be documented—barring ravages of time, weather, war, and courthouse fires—we'll be pursuing that possibility in the next couple days before the close of this month. 


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