Friday, February 16, 2024

With a Name Like John . . .'s easy to get lost in the crowd.

My sixth great-grandfather's given name was John. Granted, with a surname like Chew, that might help differentiate him from all the other Johns who lived in Spotsylvania County during Virginia's colonial age. But I'd guarantee that quite a few of his neighbors in that era, despite the county's population likely being less than ten thousand British subjects, sported that same common given name.

Besides that, as we enter the realm of seeking relatives solely through court records—the Chew family's Saint George Parish being among those whose parish registers are lost to time—we may discover that even amongst members of his own family, that name John will appear again and again.

Still, thanks to a glance through an abstraction of court records for Spotsylvania County, we can see that our Hannah Chew's father John had his will presented in court in 1756. We are fortunate in seeing that record—or at least its facsimile—preserved for posterity. Very distant posterity.

From that record, we can see that John provided for his as-yet-unmarried daughter Hannah by naming her guardian, likely her older sister Mary Beverley's husband, Joseph Brock, who also served as John's executor. From John Chew's will, we can see that Hannah had a young brother, also named John, whose appointed guardian, Harry Beverley, may well have been a relative from their mother's family. In addition to those two younger children of the elder John Chew, his will also named an older son, Robert. Finally, we can assume from the absence of any mention of John Chew's wife, that the woman was already deceased. She remains, at least for this point, unnamed.

Having all these names documented helps isolate this John Chew from any others. This is necessary as we push our way back through the generations in the American colonies, moving on to our next step in the process.

Going back to the old Carter genealogy by Joseph Lyon Miller, we see there is a brief entry on the Chew family line. We'll take a look at that in the next few days, but remembering how easily we can be led astray by not double-checking the author's assertions, we'll need to seek records to verify any statements—or at least adjust our path and point our research in the correct direction.

According to Joseph Miller, John Chew was a man well known in his county. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1731, according to Miller, and had previously married, in 1729,  Margaret, the daughter of Harry Beverley of that same county. (Lest you jump to the conclusion that this Harry Beverley was the one appointed as guardian to John Chew's son John, other notes I've located state that John Chew's father-in-law Harry had died in 1730, making quite impossible his appointment as guardian for his young grandson John.)

While I'm thankful for the identification of John Chew's surviving family members in his will, that document only provides information for those living members of the subsequent generation. Our goal, however, is to press backwards in time to learn who John Chew's own parents might have been. To help serve as the trailblazer which it can be, we'll turn again next week to Joseph Lyon Miller's Carter book to see what other brief comments on the Chew family he provides. In the meantime, you know I'll be busy this weekend locating any court records to verify the statements in the Miller book for myself.

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