Tuesday, February 6, 2024

One Specific Granddaughter


There may be problems in trying to piece together a family constellation based on information published in old genealogy books, but there may be even more trouble when we consider newer versions of family trees found posted online. One particular discovery I had noticed in the trees of some of my Carter DNA matches was the assertion that yet another woman had been named as John Carter's wife.

While I could not find any verification in John Carter's Spotsylvania County, Virginia, for that particular woman—her name was Sarah Kenyon—what I did find was somewhat surprising. My fifth great-grandfather John Carter had actually mentioned someone by a similar name in his own will. That specific person was his granddaughter, Sarah Kenyon Thomas.

Now, keep in mind that John Carter did not mention the names of all his children in his will. In comparing the references to his children there with a report in Joseph Lyon Miller's 1912 book, The Descendants of Capt. Thomas Carter of "Barford," we can determine those whose name was missing from the will. According to Miller, John Carter's children by his first wife—named in that book as Elizabeth Armistead—were William, Elizabeth, Frances, Martha, Anne, Margaret, Sarah, and John. From his second wife, my ancestor, whom Miller identified as Hannah Chew, were Mary, Margaret, Judith, Lucy, Robert, and Elizabeth.

From John Carter's will—I also use the abstraction for ease of eyesight—we can see mention of William, Frances (with her husband Rice Curtis), Martha, John, Robert, and in the codicil, his youngest daughter Elizabeth. Otherwise, the rest were included under the labels "all my children" or, in the case of second wife Hannah's descendants, "my five younger children"—except for one other specific mention.

That additional family member named in John Carter's will was identified specifically as "my granddaughter." Her name was listed—clearly in the handwritten will, and twice, in fact—as Sarah Kenyon Thomas. The Miller book identifies this granddaughter as child of John Carter's daughter Elizabeth.

The puzzling issue is that those other online Carter trees I've found—with no supporting documentation that I can see—insist that that same name, Sarah Kenyon, was the actual name of John Carter's own wife. The implication, of course, could easily be that granddaughter Sarah was named after her maternal grandmother, the Sarah Kenyon who supposedly became wife of John Carter.

But was that so? Can we find any actual documentation to verify that assumption? It certainly could be considered a logical assumption, but before we accept that on face value, let's take some time to search for Sarah Kenyon's name in other records from the family's residence in Spotsylvania County in colonial Virginia. 

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