Tuesday, February 13, 2024

It All Began With a Man Named Abraham


The listing of grandchildren in wills may be what leads us to the truth about the wives of John Carter.

Stumped by the one item in my fifth great-grandfather's 1783 will—John Carter mentioned his granddaughter, Sarah Kenyon Thomas—I had been puzzled that the child's own father, Owen Thomas, had identified her with a different middle name, Kenner. Searching last week for any indication of the origin of the Kenner name in that will, I found leads, but not any convincing arguments. Moving on to see what can be discovered about the alternate middle name Kenyon, we may be approaching more fertile ground.

Tracing back through the generations, John Carter's daughter Elizabeth apparently married Owen Thomas, who then died in 1772, leaving his wife and one sole descendant the only ones named in his will. That descendant was Owen's daughter Sarah.

Setting aside the question of which middle name the child actually possessed for the record, we need to consider where the family use of the name Kenyon may have originated. Could Sarah have been named for an older relative, such as a grandmother or aunt? If we look to Owen's side of the family, there are no leads. Owen Thomas was named after his father, who, based on the dates regarding his will, died in Spotsylvania County sometime in either 1759 or 1760. According to that will, we can possibly surmise that Owen's mother's name was probably Mildred (though that could have been the name of his step-mother, a detail which is too recently discovered for us to determine yet). Owen's only sister named in his father's will was Agatha. No Sarah mentioned there, and definitely neither a Kenner nor a Kenyon.

However, when we move to the question of where the name "Sarah Kenyon" came from, while it doesn't agree with the published genealogies I've found online from the previous century, there are some researchers who contend that our John Carter had another wife. Any guesses what her name might have been?

Earlier this month, when I complained about the difficulty in finding an ancestor in an as-yet-unknown parent's will, this is exactly the application I had in mind. If there was an additional wife for John Carter, what was her name? And, once learning that name, could I find her in her unnamed father's will?

Thankfully, one of the descendants of that "unnamed" wife of John Carter sent me a message detailing the missing links in my question. That descendant is fellow blogger Patrick Jones of Frequent Traveler Ancestry. When he fingered Abraham Kenyon as the unnamed father of John Carter's unnamed wife, looking at the man's 1749 will in neighboring King George County revealed much useful information. (In fact, his post yesterday included much clearer copies of the same will from the Library of Virginia if you, like I do, grow tearful over bleary microfilmed copies.)

Right away, the will of Abraham Kenyon shows a compelling connection. The very first item listed named Abraham's oldest daughter as Sarah Carter. After that entry, Abraham provided for each of his five additional daughters named. Besides Sarah, there was one other married daughter, Margaret Pollard, plus younger children Elizabeth, Ann, Frances, and Million.

Following several additional stipulations, Abraham named as his sole executor his son-in-law, John Carter, reiterating the link with the Carter family. Whether that Carter line is the same as mine, I can't yet be positive, but I'm drawing closer to being convinced.

There was one other detail in Abraham Kenyon's will which caught my eye. Much like a foreshadowing of John Carter's desire to care for a particular grandchild through his own will, Abraham made such a mention in his 1749 will. The grandson named in the Kenyon will was John's own son William, likely the eldest Kenyon grandson—perhaps the only one at the time.

With that additional bit of information, let's take some time tomorrow to look to grandson William Carter's own history to see if there are any indications that our John Carter's son William was the same person as Abraham's grandson.

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