Friday, March 22, 2024

About Jane


While it is a snap to realize not much can be learned about a woman of colonial Virginia by Googling her surname, we have a lot we can infer from the resources which discussed the men in her life. Such is the case of learning about Jane Strother, my sixth great-grandmother.

Turning to the memories of one of her grandsons, collected and published in 1855 as Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, we learn that Jane was said to be the oldest of thirteen children—all daughters—of William Strother "of Stafford" and his wife, Margaret Watts. What George Rockingham Gilmer, the book's author, learned about his grandparents' ancestry was likely gleaned by listening to family stories. Those stories held that the Strothers had emigrated from England to Virginia in the earliest days of the colony.

However long the Strother family had to make a new life for themselves in North America, by the time of Jane's marriage to Thomas Lewis in 1749, it was said that she came from an "established family." When she and Thomas married, likely in Stafford County, they moved north of Thomas' father's home in Augusta County to an area close to current-day Port Republic, Virginia. There, they settled near the Shenandoah River, calling their new home "Lynnwood."

Barring the discovery of any church records about her life, the only other token of Jane's existence was in her name etched into an imposing monument in the Lewis Family Cemetery. While the Find A Grave memorial indicates Jane's dates as 1732 through 1820, the stone's etching itself gives only her name.

Those dates, however, call into question some details from the Gilmer book. If Jane was born in 1732, once we look to the Find A Grave memorial for her father, William Strother, and see his year of death—that same 1732 as the year of her birth—it becomes a problem when we realize that Jane was said to be the oldest of his thirteen daughters.

While granted, there are no supporting documents provided for the dates added to Find A Grave memorials for these two ancestors, the discrepancy may be a case of far more than over-zealous volunteers. In a volume of genealogies gleaned from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, one author noted his doubt of the oft-repeated "thirteen blooming daughters." Turning to court records following the death of William Strother to support his contention, the author observed details which seem to indicate there were six daughters, not thirteen. Yes, it is possible that some may have predeceased their father, but the more likely story—if, that is, there were more daughters—is that Jane's mother remarried and had children by her second husband.

If Jane's mother did indeed have children from that subsequent marriage, they would have been half-siblings to Jane. Still, I'd be interested to discover their identity as well, for one reason. While Jane's mother Margaret Watts, as my seventh great-grandmother, would be an ancestor beyond the likely detection of autosomal DNA testing, because she is on my matriline, all her female descendants could be on the matriline of my mtDNA matches. Besides Jane Strother and her known Strother sisters—if only five others rather than the fabled thirteen—any of her possible half-sisters from her mother's subsequent marriage will need to be on my radar, too.

With that, as we move on to Jane's mother, we'll need to learn more about this second husband. 

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