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Re: William Darwin of Louisa: Jr. or Senior?
Posted by: Tim Darwin Grana Date: November 22, 2001 at 05:07:18
In Reply to: Re: William Darwin of Louisa: Jr. or Senior? by Leslie Hill of 337

Dear Leslie;
Thanks for your note. Maybe it looks a little clearer if I lay it all out a bit differently (I'm trying to get everything clear in my own mind as well!). Basically, I'm trying to get to a definitive family history that clearly marks out what is known from available documentation, and what is conjectural! So this is just a recap of my previous posting.

SOURCE 1 - "Darwin/Bland Bible": Although I have never established the full provenance of this document, it was probably written up in the mid-1830's in South Carolina by someone in the family of John Darwin (1755-1837) and his wife Jane Bland (1762-1827)--possibly by John himself. This document gives a number of dates, most notably "William Darwin born June 26th 1707," his marriage on "Sept 26th 1734" to "Jane Darwin born June 23thd 1734." Jane Darwin's maiden name is generally given by researchers as 'Wilkerson' (sometimes 'Wilkinson'), but I have never been able to discover a document which shows that (and would love to know the source!). The document also gives birthdates for a partial list of their children(the list is not complete because part of the document appears to be missing), as follows: Agnes (173?), Jane (1737), Keziah (1740), William (1742), James (17??), Bartlett (17??). Sons John and Jesse (named as sons in William Darwin's will of 1785--in fact, the only sons named in the will) are not on the surviving page, though John's birthdate is known from his revolutionary war pension (which he wrote in 1834).

SOURCE 2 - Louisa County VA Register of Court Proceedings: Louisa County was formed in 1742 out of what had previously been a portion of Hanover County. The early records for Hanover County have not survived, so we do not know how long William Darwin may have been living there prior to 1742 (when he was 36 years old). But all the records for Louisa Co. are extant, and William Darwin makes an early appearance therein in a law suit (over debt) in 1743, and appears as a witness to neighbour's land deed in 1744. It should be noted that in both these legal records, he appears simply as "William Darwin," there is no designation of 'Senior' or 'Junior', which (given the very low population at the time) I think is strong evidence that there is only one "William Darwin" of adult legal age at that time.

SOURCE 3 - The 1746 Hardy/Darwin Land Deed: as discussed in my previous posting, this document is a land purchase by a "William Darwin, Senior" on behalf of "William Darwin, Junior", with "William Darwin, Senior, and Jean his wife" to retain a life interest in the property, "Junior" to come into possession only after the decease of "William Darwin, Senior, and Jean his wife."

So much for the actual documents available--how they are to be correctly interpreted is a matter of some debate and, ultimately I suppose, is a matter of opinion. But it has long seemed to me that previous researchers have missed an obvious possible interpretation: the family in Louisa Co. in the 1740's consisted of William Darwin, Senior, born 1707, his wife Jane/Jean, and their children, including William Junior, born 1742. Some researchers reject this interpretation because we are no longer accustomed to 'life estate' deeds, whereby property is purchased on behalf of a minor, with the parents retaining the right to live on the property for the balance of their natural lives. But, as I said before, such deeds are not uncommon (I have found others in Louisa from the 1740's), and were a legal device for avoiding creditors and inheritance tax. And from what little we know of William Darwin (born 1707), it would have been reasonable thing for him to do in 1746. He had been involved in extended litigation over debt only a few years previously, and after a 'run' of three daughters, his first son, William, had been born in 1742.

The alternative interpretation, that "William Darwin, Junior" is the one born in 1707, creates two people to be accounted for, "William Darwin, Senior and Jean his wife." But again, as I said, there are no other documents, such as wills, in Louisa County -- although this other William Senior has entered a life estate deed in 1746. The several court references to "William Darwin" in Louisa from 1743 onnwards never make a "senior/jnuior" designation, as they would need to if there were 2 adult Williams at the time. This is why I think it far more likely that "William Darwin, Senior and Jean his wife" are William, born 1707, and Jane (?Wilkerson), and "William Darwin, Junior," is their son born 1742.

But the real implication is, where do we look for the origins of William Darwin, born 1707? At the moment, we have found no document to point us in the right direction -- and perhaps (given the destruction of early Hanover records) never will. But it could be a real mistake to be looking for a 'William Darwin, Senior' presumed to have been old enough in 1707 to have a son also named William!


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