Monday, March 6, 2017

Amanuensis Monday: Watts Chancery Records in Halifax County, Virginia

I mention in my Watts book that the search for the parents of my ancestor Lindsey Watts led to research on all the Watts families that lived in Halifax County and became the basis for that publication. Since around 1989 when I started researching, I have not been able to find any record that directly names Lindsey as the son of Thomas M. Watts and his wife Sarah “Sally” Overton but all evidence points to that conclusion. I believe I have done a reasonably exhaustive search over the years to develop this assertion.

So after all these years have I finally found such a record? Well... maybe.

Let me first provide here my bare-bones narrative on the family of Thomas M. Watts and Sarah “Sally” Overton his wife from the latest edition of my book. (You can contact me or check the book for the source citations.)

Thomas M. Watts, son of Samuel Watts Sr., was born around the year 1765 and died between May and September of 1819 in Halifax County, Virginia.

He was married to Sarah Overton on 15 November 1792 in Charlotte County, Virginia by the Reverend Thomas Dodson of Hunting Creek Baptist Church. Sarah, called Sally, died after 1860 and was the daughter of William Overton and Judith Brumfield, daughter of William Brumfield.

Circumstantial evidence has indicated a relationship to either Thomas, Sally or with one another in records of the following persons:
  1. Elizabeth Watts, born about 1797; married Billington Owen bond dated 14 September 1814 Halifax County, Virginia.
  2. Lindsey Watts, born about 1800; married Phebe Rickman bond dated 29 November 1819 Halifax County, Virginia; died 9 November 1852 Halifax County, Virginia.
  3. Charity G. Watts, born between 1793-1800; married Joseph Ashby Jr. bond dated 9 December 1824 Halifax County, Virginia; died after 1860.
  4. Sarah Watts; married Berry Nichols 3 August 1825 Halifax County, Virginia. No further information.
  5. James Watts; married Philadelphia --- before 1829; died before 1850?
  6. Samuel G. Watts, born about 1803 Halifax County, Virginia; married Katherine Ann Faulkner before 1834; died between November 1866 and May 1867 Halifax County, Virginia.
  7. Richard M. Watts, born around 1815-1818 Halifax County, Virginia; married first Christeann Chissum bond dated 27 June 1836 Halifax County, second Emeline Sneed 14 October 1867 Halifax County; died by April 1878 Halifax County.
In 1829, Sally Watts and Joseph Ashby Jr. mortgaged sixty-two acres that was laid out as her dower. Apparently Billington Owen purchased the property and let her continue to live there. He later sold it to Joseph Ashby, Jr. and they then mortgaged it. There was no record of the release of this mortgage. The mortgage described this property as sixty-two acres more or less bounded by the lands of Miss Martha M. Clark, James Hill and others along with personal property. [Halifax County, Virginia Deed Bk. 36, p. 579 "Sally Watts, etc. to Thos. G. Coleman, Tr." dated 2 January 1829, recorded 12 January 1829.]
 
This transaction suggests a connection between Sally, Joseph Ashby Jr and Billington Owen. The likely connection is that of mother-in-law and son-in-laws, coupling this deed with the fact that Joseph and Billington both married Watts women. Elsewhere in my book, I explain other connections and clues, such as the fact that Elizabeth, Thomas M. and Sally Watts all signed consent for Elizabeth's marriage to Billington Owen. From all the records researched I was able to compile this probable family group with some assurance of its accuracy.

Recently I learned from a post on the Facebook page of Halifax County VA Genealogy and History that the chancery court records from that county have been scanned and are available online at the Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory web page(http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/default.asp#res)

Never one to pass up an opportunity to research in original records, I looked up the surname Watts. I originally searched for Watts as a plaintiff as well as defendant and came up with 6 records altogether. At first, I was using the search engine wrong if I wanted all records that included the Watts surname. There were 14 records altogether when I searched for just the Watts name as plaintiff, 8 records when I searched Watts as defendant (of course these would both include the 6 from my original search). I found a whopping 73 records with Watts as surname one and two (and that worked whether or not I had the name Watts in one or both of those surname categories.) These show if the surname Watts is listed in the chancery record whether a witness or other relation and will be interesting to read through as time permits.

While I have gathered records on all Halifax County Wattses over the years, my primary interest has been my direct line of Lindsey Watts and Thomas M. Watts, so I focused on those names this first time around. I found a chancery record regarding the heirs of Lyndsay [sic] Watts, but it didn't tell me anything I didn't already know from previous research in a deed record of the heirs selling land and a court minute book record. The other Watts names I was not interested in as much. Thomas G. Watts, James H. Watts, Joseph W. Watts and Joseph H. Watts were all listed under defendants. Out of curiousity, I did go back to look at the entry for Thomas G. Watts. I was pleasantly surprised to find this was actually in regards to my ancestor Thomas M. Watts. Several times in this record he was listed as Thomas G. but with all the other evidence, there is no doubt in my mind that in reality it references Thomas M. instead.

Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1837-009, no original case number listed, Sarah Watts, etc. against Admr of Thos G. Watts, etc, p. 4 of 39, 3 August 1831, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1837-009]. 

The records show that in January of the year 1831 Richard R. High, admr of Thomas G. [sic] Watts, dec'd., Nathaniel Barksdale and William Abbott were summoned to answer a bill in chancery against them by the following:

Sarah Watts
Gilly Watts
Billington Owen and Eliz his wife
Lindsey Watts
Joseph Ashby and Charity his wife
Samuel Watts
Littleberry Nichols and Sally his wife
Nancy Watts
Delpha Watts
Jane Watts
Richard M. Watts
Narcissa T. Watts

The records also states that Jane, Richard M. and Narcissa T. sue by “their next friend” Samuel Watts. This wording indicates that these three Watts were underage at the time. The bulk of the records are summonses ordered at each term of court from 1831 through 1837. Finally, in December of 1837, a letter was sent to the court clerk by Billington Owen authorizing and requesting the suit be dismissed.

Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1837-009, no original case number listed, Sarah Watts, etc. against Admr of Thos G. Watts, etc, p. 2 of 39, 23 December 1837, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1837-009].
As you can see, this is the same family I have put forth for Thomas M. Watts:

The administrator of his estate was Richard R. High, his wife was Sarah and he had children
Elizabeth Watts who married Billington Owen;
Lindsey Watts;
Charity G. Watts who married Joseph Ashby Jr.;
Sarah Watts who married Berry (or Littleberry) Nichols;
Samuel Watts;
Richard M. Watts.

What is also interesting is that this record uncovers several more children previously unknown or not correctly identified:

Gilly Watts
Nancy Watts
Delpha Watts
Jane Watts
Narcissa T. Watts

Thus I now revise the family of Thomas M. Watts and his wife Sarah “Sally” Overton to the following:
  1. Gilly Watts, born ca. 1795; died by 1848 (when Elijah Hundley was appointed administrator of estate). I am going to say that this is likely a female. Gilly Watts (and other spelling variations) was listed as head of household for 1820, 1830 and 1840 federal census in Halifax County with only females old enough to be head.
  2. Elizabeth Watts, born about 1797; married Billington Owen bond dated 14 September 1814 Halifax County, Virginia.
  3. Lindsey Watts, born about 1800; married Phebe Rickman bond dated 29 November 1819 Halifax County, Virginia; died 9 November 1852 Halifax County, Virginia.
  4. Charity G. Watts, born between 1793-1800; married Joseph Ashby Jr. bond dated 9 December 1824 Halifax County, Virginia; died after 1860.
  5. Samuel G. Watts, born about 1803 Halifax County, Virginia; married Katherine Ann Faulkner before 1834; died between November 1866 and May 1867 Halifax County, Virginia.
  6. Sarah Watts; married Littleberry or Berry Nichols 3 August 1825 Halifax County, Virginia. No further information.
  7. Nancy Watts. She was probably the Nancy Watts born 1812 in the home of Martin Canada in Halifax County, Virginia during the 1850 Federal Census (see page 26 of my Watts book). Nancy gave a deposition in the chancery matter of William Stegall and wife Elizabeth [nee Shaw] against Williamson [and Martin] Canada, 6 August 1854 [Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1854-023, original case no. 021, William Stegall and wife against Williamson Canada, p. 20 of 32, taken at the office of John L. Pleasants, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1854-023].
  8. Delphia Watts, b. ca. 1813. Although her children identified their parents as James and Delphia, it appears that Delpha was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah. The chancery record does not list her as the widow of a Watts. A chancery record in 1854 named her as “Miss Delphia Watts.” [Halifax Co, VA Chancery Record Index No. 1854-009, original case no. 021, Thomas Johnson against Moses Shaw, p. 12 of 26, deposition of Miss Delphia Watts, et al. taken in the store house of Clement M. Adkisson at Mt. Laurel 27 April 1854, online from Library of Virginia's Virginia Memory online digital collection: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=083-1854-009].
  9. Jane Watts, born ca. 1814. This is the Jane Watts who married William Lax 19 September 1838 (see page 152 of my Watts book). The family was listed in Halifax County during the 1860 federal census. A death record at Familysearch.org lists Jane W. Lacks who died in Petersburg, VA 23 October 1889. She was listed as age 85, born in Halifax, parents Thos. (another entry says L) and S Watts. The age is off by about 10 years but everything else fits. She was buried in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg City according to Find-A-Grave. She has not been located on any other census after 1860.
  10. Richard M. Watts, born around 1815-1817 Halifax County, Virginia; married first Christeann Chissum bond dated 27 June 1836 Halifax County, second Emeline Sneed 14 October 1867 Halifax County; died by April 1878 Halifax County.
  11. Narcissa T. Watts, born between 1815-1818. Died young?
There is lots more to uncover from these chancery records. I will share more as time allows.


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