Thursday, March 28, 2024

More About Mary


Finding a maiden name for an umpteenth great-grandmother can be challenging, especially if her given name was Mary. All I really knew about that Mary was that she was wife of my eighth great-grandfather, Richard Watts—not that she was actually mother of his children. Worse, even though I've already discovered Mary lost her husband at a relatively young age and likely could have remarried, I didn't have a clue what that subsequent married name might have been.  Still, given FamilySearch Labs' new Full Text search capability, I decided to give it a try and look for more about this Mary in colonial Virginia documents.

Knowing that Mary at least lived longer than her husband Richard—who died in 1716—I had a lot of searching ahead of me. Gambling on a safe bet that she still lived in Virginia after his death, I used the FamilySearch Labs' Full Text search to look for someone named, simply, Mary, which I entered as my keyword. I left the location wide open for the entire colony, as well, having no idea whether the family remained in—or removed from—Westmoreland County, where Richard's will had been recorded.

I didn't leave that simple keyword standing alone, though. I took a risk and guessed that perhaps the oldest Watts daughter would have been married by then—whenever "then" might have been. Thus, for the name of ancestor being searched, I actually loaded in Richard Watts' daughter's married name, Margaret Strother.

Admittedly, with such a wide open search request, I was prepared to see a large number of hits, but 1,703 results still seemed unwieldy. However, looking at the first result, I recognized it as a document I had already reviewed—the 1737 guardianship record in King George County naming Anthony Strother—thus being a record involving Margaret Watts Strother's daughter Margaret, not our Margaret herself.

The very next document in the search results was a will, which was encouraging, but it included names which I didn't recognize as part of the family. It was the last testament of someone named Mary, alright, but her last name was Chilton. Reading further in the document, I spotted two familiar names: John Watts and Richard Watts. However, embedded in the record were other unfamiliar names, including mention of some granddaughters and someone this Mary called "my son James Bowcock."

Remembering, too, that Margaret Watts' father Richard, in his own will, had only identified his two sons—thankfully, also named John and Richard in that earlier document—but had left his three daughters unnamed. I had no way to affirm that the named women in Mary Chilton's will, Jane Monroe and Mary Blackburn, were children of Richard Watts. However, remember that "Margaret Strother" was one of my search terms, and that was indeed the name of the third unnamed Watts daughter.

With that discovery of the will of Mary Chilton, I received confirmation that she was not only Richard Watts' wife, but mother of at least his sons John and Richard. The will also showed me that Mary had been married again, since she named in her will another son named James Bowcock. And though she was married to someone named Chilton, the way in which she made provision in her will for "Captain Thomas Chilton and Jemima his wife" indicated that whoever her final husband might have been—as he was not named in her will—that son of his was not hers as well.

Mary appointed her sons John and Richard Watts, as well as someone named Andrew Monroe, as her executors. They presented her will in court in Westmoreland County on April 26, 1737.

While I still don't know what Mary's maiden name might have been, I can safely place her in my matriline as my eighth great-grandmother, and also begin to examine her other daughters' line of descent for any potential matches to my mtDNA test. While I don't know much yet about Mary, I now know her  mitochondrial DNA still speaks through mine.

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