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SAMUEL FLAKE of Orange/Anson County N. Carolina
Posted by: Jay Stein (ID *****4633) Date: January 13, 2010 at 16:10:15
  of 536

Dear FLAKE cousins and researchers of Samuel FLAKE on GenForum, RootsWeb and

As I imagine most researchers of Samuel FLAKE of Orange Co./Anson Co., NC, I have questioned the date of birth given for Samuel FLAKE on the monument which someone, whose identity unknown to me, erected at the Flake burial ground in Anson County which reads:

In Memory of
Samuel Flake
His wives
Agatha and Sallie
Their Children and
Their slaves

While I have searched for proof of 1701 as his date of birth, in more than 30 years of research, I have never seen any documentation for the date of 1701. I also tend to question the validity of the date based on the known ages of Samuel Flake’s children and also on the fact that most early accounts which gave the date of birth of 1701 also have Samuel Flake associated with a Henry Flake of New York and seem completely unaware that Samuel FLAKE actually appears to have settled for a period of several years in Orange County, North Carolina prior to his arrival in Anson County, NC.

However, I’m making this posting because while searching for information on another Anson County family, the Liles family, I recently came across information in a reference to a tract of land owned by Aaron Tallant and his wife Sarah Tallant which may have a bearing on the question of the date of Samuel Flake’s birth. What I found of interest in regards to the FLAKE family is that the reference not only stated the Tallant property was on Smith Creek, but that it was, “...just downstream to the old Samuel Flake Cemetery, on land adjoining Samuel Flake, Sr. ...” and further stated that in 1780 Aaron and Sarah owned and resided on Smith Creek but that the land was sold in 1797 to Jacob Morris. [This was on a web page which had a series of articles written by a Cindy Barnes for the Tallant/Tallent Association Newsletter which became defunct in 1997.]

I’ve not had the opportunity yet to check Anson County deeds, but this description SOUNDS LIKE it is from a deed, presumably [As I do well know, “assumptions” are set with “peril” in genealogy research!] either/and from a deed when the Tallants bought the land or when they sold the property in 1797. What I found of possible significance is the reference to both an “Old Samuel Flake Cemetery” and to “Samuel Flake, Sr.” which would infer that Samuel is alive at the time the description was written and which the date of his will and testament would further support. Upon reading this description, the thought came to me, “Is this a reference only to the fact that Samuel Flake had an old cemetery on his property, OR could this possible be a reference which infers that there are two men named Samuel Flake, one deceased, hence the name of the Cemetery, the “OLD Samuel Flake Cemetery,” and other still alive at that date, our “Samuel Flake, Sr.,” for whom there is an Anson County Will & Testament dated 5 April 1802???

In other words, is this possible evidence that the birth date so many of us Flake family researchers have wondered about, the “1701" date of birth given for Samuel Flake in some sources, is actually correctly a reference to the birth of an earlier and older Samuel FLAKE and the “Samuel Flake, Sr.” of whom we know much more is actually a “younger” Samuel Flake, perhaps born in a more reasonable time period considering the known dates of the birth of his children, such as the late 1720's or 1730's?

As most experience genealogist know, in the 18th Century, the terms “Senior” and “Junior,” especially the latter, were not necessarily “permanent” parts of a name as is often the case in today’s modern world where “Junior” may appear on a birth certificate. In the 18th Century (1700's) an individual could be a “junior” at one point in their life, a later be a “senior.” These terms and similar terms like “elder,” “younger,” etc., were primarily used to distinguish two individuals of the same name living in the same area, or whose names appear on the same document, rather than a reference to any specific relationships such as a father and a son.

For example, in the 1800 Census for Anson County, NC, there is a listing for a “Elijah Curtis, Sr.” and an “Elijah Curtis, Jr.” The “Senior” is an Elijah Curtis who was born in Maryland ca. 1755 and moved along with his older brothers, a sister, his mother, his step-father, and one step-brother and several half-brothers to Anson around 1770 where he, Elijah Curtis, Sr. later died in 1818. The “Junior” in the 1800 U.S. Census listing is his nephew Elijah Curtis, born in 1776. The “Junior” Elijah of the 1800 Census record moved from Anson County to Stewart Co., Tennessee around 1808 and after he moved to Tennessee he became “Senior” and his own son, was “Junior;” although in the case of the son, as the custom had started, his son was actually recorded at birth as being “Elijah Curtis, Jr.” Back in Anson County, confusing too many Curtis family researchers, in a couple of years the reference to an “Elijah Curtis, Jr.” continues, but these references are for yet another individual named “Elijah Curtis,” another nephew of “Elijah Curtis, Sr.,” an Elijah born in 1785, son of Elijah Curtis, Sr.’s eldest brother, Thomas Curtis, Sr. (d. ca. 1809). After the death of “Elijah Curtis, Sr.” in 1818, the 2nd nephew, like his cousin, the Elijah “Jr.” of the 1800 Census who had moved to Tenn., he too dropped the “Junior” from use with his name, because no longer was there a need to distinguish himself from the older, but now deceased uncle. (This second nephew also later moved away from Anson County too.) My point being, that the reference to a “Samuel Flake, Sr.” should not be assumed to mean that there cannot have been an earlier, older individual named “Samuel Flake,” as the suffixes “Senior” and “Junior” were in the time period in question, not necessarily permanently affixed to a name, but came and went depending on the need.

Confusion caused by individuals with the same name is certainly nothing new or usual for most of involved in Genealogy research. In research I’ve done on a Coursey family in Maryland, there has been considerable confusion concerning two men there named William Coursey. One is referred to in the records first as “Capt. William Coursey, Gent.,” and then later as “Major William Coursey, Gent.” He is prominent in the affairs of his local area and was a Justice of Talbot County. He dies intestate (no will & testament) in 1684 and apparently seamlessly his son, also named William Coursey, assumes many of the fathers positions including that of Justice of Talbot County, but he is referred to as “Colonel William Coursey, Sr.” Because the father died intestate, many researchers were unaware that there actually were two men, a father and a son, and had assumed that the “Major” in the records had simply gotten promoted to a “Colonel.” This was significant for Coursey-Thomas family research because the “Major William Coursey” gave a deed of gift to one Trustram Thomas to whom he refers as his “brother-in-law.” Since, it could easily be documented that “Colonel William Coursey” married Elizabeth Foster, daughter of Seth Foster and widow of Col. Vincent Lowe, most researchers assumed that this meant Trustram Thomas must have married a sister of William Coursey [Most of the researchers were also apparently unaware that in the 17th Century the term “Brother-in-law” could have one of several meanings - not only the modern meaning, the brother of one’s spouse, or the husband of one’s sister, but also was used to describe a what in modern terms is a “step-brother,” a brother created when the surviving parent remarries and the new spouse also has children from a previous marriage(s), hence “a brother created by law” - a brother-in-law.] Further confusion was caused because both “Major William Coursey,” the father and the son, “Colonel William Coursey,” left widows named “Elizabeth.” What was not as obvious but buried in early land deeds of Talbot County, was the fact that the father, “Major William Coursey,” had a previous wife, a twice widowed Juliana Beedle Russell. Additional records show that Juliana’s maiden name was THOMAS and thus the reference to “brother-in-law” was to the fact that William Coursey had married a sister of Trustram Thomas! (Also spelled Trystram Thomas and Tristram Thomas). Adding to the confusion was the fact that there was considerable mixup as to just whom Trustram Thomas was the son. Starting with researchers in the 19th Century, it was believed that Trustram Thomas was the only child of a Christopher Thomas who died in Talbot County, Maryland in 1670. This erroneous assumption was compounded by an early researcher writing that a land deed showing Trustram Thomas purchasing land known to have belonged to the Christopher Thomas who died in 1670 from that Christopher’s widow stated that Trustram was Christopher’s son. The deed, however, did not make any such statement. The fact of the matter was that the Christopher Thomas who died in 1670 was not the father of Trustram Thomas, but his eldest brother and that Trustram was far from being an only child, having six siblings including a Juliana Thomas who married first a John Beedle, second a John Russell, and third and finally, a William Coursey by whom she apparently had a son named William Coursey. My point for recounting the Coursey-Thomas history is to emphasize that in the era before street addresses, birth and death certificates, census records which name every individual in a household and gives their ages, etc., and especially in a county such as Anson which has lost many of it records to fire, confusion by researchers is easily understandable and what started as an assumption by an earlier researcher, in time, becomes a “stated fact,” such as the example above where an early researcher claimed a land record referred to a relationship between a father and son, when the actual record made no so reference.

I am NOT stating that there is an earlier Samuel Flake, but merely raising the question that if the cemetery was already referred to as the “Old Samuel Flake Cemetery” prior to Samuel Flake of Anson’s death in 1802, that possibly the naming of the cemetery is a clue that there was an earlier, older Samuel Flake who could have been the one born in 1701.

There is often a basis of truth in family lore, but at times the facts get twisted and at times altered in the retelling from generation to generation.

OF COURSE, IF my assumption that the reference to the “old Samuel Flake Cemetery” is NOT from a deed dated 1797 or older, or at least prior to the date of death for Samuel Flake, Sr. of Anson County, then the above possible scenario and exercise may well just be a moot point!

In closing I wish to again emphasize that I am NOT claiming there is any proof of an earlier “Samuel Flake.”

Any thoughts would be welcomed, pro or con.

Regards, Jay

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