Here is a Challenge For You…

If you read my last post, Don’t Just Be a Taker, Be a Giver, I discussed the idea that all of us, as descendants and researchers of the family of Capt. John Blakeney, have a responsibility to share in the work of actively looking for any contemporary documents or information that may be sitting in some dusty old archive somewhere.  I have always thought that not everything that has survived is readily available.

One way we might be able to uncover something previously unknown is to utilize a website called archive.org.  While I have known about it for some time,  I admit I haven’t really put it to much use yet.

I have only begun looking at the website again after a couple of years, at least, and they have made some big improvements that may possibly help us dig up some previously unknown publication which had only been sitting on a shelf in an obscure library until being digitized.

Here’s my challenge to all of you – create an account at archive.org.  After you are logged in, search in the “Texts” section.  This will allow you to search in the collection of digitized books.

One of the very recent improvements allows you to search within the text of a book, not just the title or author.  This is very significant, since it allows you to find someone’s name, for example, buried on a page somewhere within the book.

The website also includes collections from around the world, so if (fingers crossed!) there is some mention in, let’s say, an old book published in the UK or Ireland, of the family of John Blakeney (and keep in mind, there were many, so don’t get too excited every time you see that name), you will actually be able to read it in the digitized book.

Yes, I have started searching for Capt. John Blakeney.  However, this is too big of a project for one person, so your help and active participation is needed.  Don’t just search for “Capt. John Blakeney.”  Try many different variations; “John Blakeney,” “John Blakney,” “Jno. Blakeney”… you get the picture.

If you find something, of course, please share it.

 

Don’t Just Be a Taker – Be a Giver

I’m glad you have found your way to this site, and I certainly hope you have found some new and interesting information that you may not have had before.  That is, after all, what the website is ultimately about.

However – and that is a very big HOWEVER – I hope that as a descendant of the John Blakeney family (assuming most of you who stumble onto this site are) you will also understand that it is the responsibility of everyone who is researching this family to also share what you have as well.  More specifically, if you have information, photographs, documents, etc. that others may not have, I certainly consider it your responsibility to contribute to extending the documented history that all of us can share in.

This also means that any of you who are in close proximity to any of the archives, libraries, or any other places where documentation may lay undiscovered should make it your goal to visit these institutions and see if there are any dusty, long-forgotten documents that can help fill in the gaps, and hopefully take us in new directions in our research.

The South Carolina Archives are certainly a good place to start.  For anyone living near the University of South Carolina, I have been told by another researcher several years back that his communication with someone high up in the chain of command at the South Caroliniana Library (http://library.sc.edu/p/Collections/SCL?) revealed that there are boxes of unindexed records pertaining to the areas where the Blakeneys lived – and from their time period – that have survived destruction, and which may possibly yield some treasures of information.  This person was able to get copies of documents showing that Captain John died long before 1832.  Who knows what else is buried there?

While I would love to visit the archives and library and do my own digging, living in the north eastern US does make that very difficult.

Another reason for contributing to our shared history is that without it, this blog – as happened with my “Blakeney Gazette” newsletter, published between 2009 and 2010 – will become just my point of view on Blakeney genealogy, and will become a very meager offering as time goes on.  Little advancement in our knowledge will ultimately be made.  Of course, I am focused more on my own branch, and there just isn’t the time for one person to delve into all branches of the Blakeney history.

What is in your own personal archives?  Do you have old photographs of your Blakeney line, which have never been shared online?  Do you have old newspaper articles relating to a Blakeney ancestor turning to dust in an old scrapbook (the article, not the ancestor)?  Please let us all see it and add it to our collective family history.

What we are NOT looking for here;  please do not copy an undocumented family tree from the internet that shows Capt. John’s “parents.”  Unless you have documentation, I won’t post it here.  Also, I have seen the information from Capt. John’s monument in South Carolina many times – no need to send it again.

I hope most of you will take this as a means of urging you on to actually go out there and find things that have not been found before, and share them.  Even with all of the records from Capt. John’s time that have been destroyed, along with records relating to many family lines of his descendants, it is still a fascinating family history.  Let’s see if we can see what else is out there and make it even more interesting.  Have it?  Send it!  I’ll share it.

The Face of John “Jack” Blakeney, III

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If you’re like me, seeing the faces of people from long ago brings an instant connection, even more so than reading about their lives, or the times in which they lived.  There’s just something about seeing someone “face to face” that transports them from their time directly into yours.

I’ve said this before, but much more of the past has survived than any of us is aware of, and this is especially true when talking about family history.  Photos, stories, documents and so much more can survive in the collection of one descendant, while other descendants remain unaware that these items have survived the passage of time.  One positive effect of the internet is that it is so much easier than it used to be to bring these items to the surface, and share them with others who would consider them to be priceless.

One such item is a portrait of a Blakeney from long ago.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time researching the Blakeney family has likely heard of John “Jack” Blakeney, III.  Jack was the son of John Blakeney, Jr., and grandson of Captain John.  What he is even more notable for is the fact that he was the father of twenty children, among his three wives.  It was while poking around ancestry.com recently that I stumbled onto something fantastic – a portrait of John “Jack” Blakeney.

I always try to have a certain degree of skepticism for items found on the internet that purport to be a portrait of a long-deceased ancestor.  Many times I have seen what is supposed to be a photo or portrait of an individual, but it would be impossible for the photo to actually be the person in question – clothing styles don’t match the period, the photographer’s stamp is in a town that the supposed ancestor never lived in, or my favorite, the person photographed died before the invention of photography.

For this reason, I contacted the person who had attached not only the portrait of Jack Blakeney, but also one of his third wife, Rosa Vick Blakeney and their children Preston Brooks Blakeney and Rochel Edward Blakeney.  I was hoping she had more direct information about the portraits, and hadn’t just copied them from another online family tree.  Fortunately, she had received copies of the portraits directly from descendants who could give a full account of the ownership of both portraits, and the information is sound.

The portrait of Jack Blakeney comes from the late Rochel Blakeney, Jr., who had passed a copy directly to his cousin.  It is this cousin who then shared it with the descendant who had attached it to the profile of John “Jack” Blakeney, III on her ancestry.com family tree.  The actual image appears to be a drawing – contemporary from the time of the original portrait – done from the original photograph.  I have seen numerous examples of this of other ancestors from the nineteenth-century.

The portrait showing Rosa Vick Blakeney with her two sons can also be authenticated, having been passed down through the generations from Preston Blakeney.  It is his great granddaughter who shared it via ancestry.com.  This portrait has been transferred to canvas from the original photo by another descendant.

Long story short, both portraits can be authenticated, and so we can now see the face of John “Jack” Blakeney, his third wife, Rosa Vick, and their children Preston and Rochel.  And so without any further ado, here they are.

Will of John Blakeney, III – 1876

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Locating an original will can be a goldmine of information, even if much of the information was already known but not sufficiently documented.  Often you will see family connections posted to online family trees, or elsewhere on the internet, that are taken at face value with no documentation attached to them.  Seeing family members listed in the will of an ancestor provides absolute proof of the children, and sometimes the grandchildren, of the deceased.

John “Jack” Blakeney, III was the son of John Blakeney, Jr. and the grandson of Capt. John Blakeney.  It is widely known among researchers that he was the father of twenty children, born between his three wives.  He died in Chesterfield County in 1876, and fortunately for us, his will survives.  It was found among the probate records of Chesterfield County, SC on familysearch.org (South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964; Chesterfield > Probate Court, Estate records > 1865-1927).

Information found in wills can also help to prove extended family ties as well.  In a previous post, Thomas Blakeney of Smith County, Mississippi, I used as corroborating evidence of Thomas being part of the Chesterfield County, SC Blakeneys the fact that two of John Blakeney, III’s children, James Blakeney and Matilda Blakeney Shelby, had settled in neighboring Jasper County.  This was taken from the book The Genealogist’s Companion and Sourcebook by Emily Croom, although she didn’t say (at least in the sections available online) how she reached the conclusion that James and Matilda were the children of John Blakeney, III.  If accurate, this would show that not just one Blakeney, but several with ties to the Chesterfield clan, had migrated to neighboring Smith and Jasper Counties (the fact that Thomas’ son Robert was living with John and Matilda Shelby in 1850 provides more evidence).  Although he doesn’t give their locations, in the will of John Blakeney, III, we find named not only his son James Blakeney, but also his daughter, under her married name of Matilda Shelby.

As you read the will, keep in mind that he is referred to as John Blakeney, Sen., since his father and grandfather of the same name were no longer living, and he also had a son of that name.

The following is a transcript of the will of John Blakeney, III, written in 1875 and proved in 1876:

Page 1

The State of South Carolina

In the name of God, Amen.

I John Blakeney, Senr, of the County of Chesterfield and state aforesaid, being of sound mind, memory and understanding, do make, ordain, pubish and declare this my last will and testament, in manner and form following:

First.  It is my will and desire that all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid.

Secondly.  It is my will and desire that all my personal property, including all my household and kitchen furniture, plantation tools, cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, carts, wagons, and all other property of which I may die possessed, be given to my beloved wife Rosanna Blakeney; and I hereby give, bequeath, and devise the same to her to have and to hold during the term of her natural life, and after her death, then to be equally divided between my children, Rochel E. Blakeney, Preston B. Blakeney, Victoria Blakeney, Alice Blakeney, and Whiteford Smith Blakeney, share and share alike; and if either of my above mentioned children should die leaving issue before the death of my said wife,

 

Page 2

it is my will that the portion which would have fallen to such child or children, if living, shall descend to their lawful issue, or to his or her lawful issue.  And if any of the above-named children shall die before the death of my said wife, then it is my will that the part or portion which would have gone to such child or children, shall go to the surviving brothers and sisters of the whole blood, share and share alike.

Thirdly.  I give to my children, William W. Blakeney, Harriet Morris, Charlotte Jackson, Matilda Shelby, Elizabeth Brewer, Franklin Blakeney, Mary Blakeney, Albert Blakeney, James Blakeney, Peter M. Blakeney, John C. Blakeney and George W. Blakeney, my children by my former wives, each the sum of one dollar and no more, they having been advanced out of my estate heretofore, as much as I designed that they should have.

Fourthly. It is my will and purpose that the devises and bequests made in this my last will and testament to my wife shall be considered as held in place and lieu of her dower.

Fifthly.  This will shall not be construed,

 

Page 3

as in any way affecting the validity of any deeds of landed property held by my wife Rosanna Blakeney.

Sixthly.  I do hereby nominate and appoint my son Preston B. Blakeney, and Wm. E. Vick of the county of Chesterfield and state of South Carolina, to be the executors of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me heretofore at any time made.

In witness whereof I have unto set my hand and seal, this ninth day of December, in the year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy Five.

John Blakeney (sealed)

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said John Blakeney Sen., for and as his last will and testament, in the presence of us who in his presence at his request, and in the presence of each other, have subscribed our names as witnesses to the due execution thereof.

Thomas M. Wadsworth

J.W. Usher

John M. Lowry­

 

Page 4

Probate Court – Probate Will
Edward Perry, Printer, 140 Meeting Street, Charleston, S.C.

The State of South Carolina

Chesterfield County

Present: Honorable W.J. Hanna  Probate Judge
for the County of Chesterfield

Personally Appeared Thomas M. Wadsworth a subscribing witness to the annexed instrument of writing, purporting to be the last Will and Testament of John Blakeney late of said county deceased, who being duly sworn, deposeth and saith that he was present, and did see the said instrument of writing duly executed by the said John Blakeney

And deponent further saith that the said John Blakeney at the time of executing the said instrument of writing was, to the best of deponent’s knowledge and belief, of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding; and that Thomas M. Wadsworth (the deponent) and J.W. Usher and John M. Lowry in the presence of each other, and of the said John Blakeney and at his request, signed their names as witnesses, to the execution of the same.

Sworn and Subscribed to before me, this 8th
day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and Seventy Six

Thos. M. Wadsworth

W.J. Hanna
Judge of Probate

 

Page 5

I do solemnly swear that this writing contains the true last Will of the within named P B Blakeney *  John Blakeney deceased, so far as I know or believe, and that I will well and truly execute the same by paying first the debts and then the legacies contained in said Will as far as his goods and chattels with thereunto extend and and the law charge me, and that I will help make a true and perfect Inventory of all such goods and chattels.
SO HELP ME GOD.

P B Blakeney

SWORN and Subscribed to before me, this
first day of Dec. 1890
H. D. Tiller
Judge of Probate

*the name of P B Blakeney was written in and crossed off on the original document

 

Page 6

Last Will + Testament

of

John Blakeney Sr

Filed 8th Aug 1876
W.J. Hanna
Judge of Probate

Recorded in Will Book
Page 187-88-89

 

 

John Blakeney, Jr. Land Partition – 1870

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John Blakeney, Jr., the son of Capt. John Blakeney, died in 1848 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina.  At the time of his death, he had left land to numerous descendants.  It wasn’t until 1870, more than twenty years after his death, that the land was actually divided among his heirs.

The suit was brought by Aaron H. Blakeney, one of John Jr.’s descendants and heirs.  The reasons for the suit aren’t clear, but it seems likely that he was interested in selling his portion, and he was required to finalize any division of property before any sale could take place.

The papers for this suite were found among the probate papers for John “Jack” Blakeney, III, the son of John Jr.  Jack Blakeney, the father of twenty children, died in 1876.  I was able to locate the probate documents on familysearch.org, under South Carolina Probate Records, Files and Loose Papers, 1732-1964.

It is interesting to note that these papers refer to the loss of records in Chesterfield County during the “late war,” i.e. the Civil War.  Probate records from John Blakeney, Jr. were no doubt included in those records which were lost during the war.

Below is a transcription of the papers from the land division suit.  Also included in the papers was the last will and testament of John “Jack” Blakeney, III from 1876, which I will be posting separately.  One thing to keep in mind is that the “John Blaneney Sen” mentioned in these documents refers to the person we know as John Blakeney, Jr., the son of Captain John Blakeney.  This sometimes causes confusion for researchers, because the terms were relative – if the original “Senior” was no longer living, and the “Junior” also had a son of the same name, the former “Junior” was then promoted to the “Senior” designation.

The land division suit consists of twelve pages, which includes the envelope cover.  Spacing and formatting in the transcription were kept as close as possible to the original documents:

Page 1

(envelope cover) Blakeney, John #302

Page 2

The State of South Carolina

Chesterfield County

To Nancy Lowry, John Blakeney, the children of Eli Welch and Jane(?) his wife, whose names are not known, Nathan Funderburk and Nancy his wife, Calvin Lowry, Marshall Laney, Arch. Brown Laney, Alex. Lowry, Lewis Laney and other children of Sookey Laney, deceased, whose names are not known, Matthias Beaver and Elizabeth his wife, Frankey Shute, Aaron H. Blakeney, (blank) Moseley and wife Elizabeth Miranda, Michel Evans, Elizabeth Blakeney, Harry Vail and his wife Babara, M.L. Blakeney, Drusilla Rogers, Jacob Funderbuk and wife Amanda, and Lewis Columbus Blakeney, legal heirs and representatives of John Blakeney Sen., who in his lifetime made and executed his last will and testament, which has been lost or destroyed by the burning of the public records of said county during the late war – greetings.

You are hereby required to appear at the Court of Probate to be held at Chesterfield Court House for Chesterfield County, on the 22nd day of April A.D. 1870, to show cause, if any, you can, why the real estate of John Blakeney Sen., deceased, situated in said county on the waters of Hill Creek, bounded by land of Harry Funderburk, Willis Jenkins, and others containing One Hundred acres, more or less, should not be divided or sold for a division amongst the heirs above named according to their respective legal rights.

Given under my hand and seal this

11th day of March A.D. 1870

Hugh Craig

Judge of Probate

 

Page 3

(right flyleaf)

By my special Deputy C(?) served the within named John Blakeney, M.L. Blakeney, Drusilla Rogers, Elizabeth Blakeney, Aaron H. Blakeney, Michel Evans & Mathias Beaver personally with a copy of the within summons for partition

11th Apr 1870

P.F. Spofford S.C.C.

Service 7 copies 7.00

11.8 miles @ 5   8.40

Entry + Return   .50

$15.90

 

Page 4

Aaron H. Blakeney

Vs.

Nancy Lowry – Georgia

John Blakeney – Chesterfield

Children of Eli  – Georgia
& Jane Welch

Nancy Funderburk wife of
Nathaniel Funderburk

 

Calvin Laney – Lancaster

Marshall Laney – Lancaster

Arch. Brown Laney – Lancaster

Alex Laney – Lancaster

Lewis Laney – Lancaster

(the above Laneys are also listed as being children of Sookey Laney)

 

Elizabeth Beaver – Georgia

Matthias Beaver – Chesterfield

Frankey Shute – Lancaster

Aaron H. Blakeney – Chesterfied

Elizabeth Miranda Mosely – Kershaw
wife of  (blank) Mosely

Michel Evans – Chesterfield

M.L. Blakeney
Rogers(?) wife Drusilla

Jacob Funderburk – Alabama
wife Amanda

Lewis Columbus Blakeney­

 

Page 5

(Names are listed in three columns on original document.  Place names in parentheses are listed on original document.  Other items in parentheses are not – they were added.  An “x” next to a name probably designated that the person has been served with summons)

Aaron H. Blakeney

Vs.

(column 1)

Nancy Laney – Ga x

Children of Eli +
Jane Welch   – Ga x

(Ala)

Henry Vail (or Vaile) +
wife Barbara  x

Jacob Funderburk  x
+ wife Amanda

Lewis Col Blakeney x

 

(column 2)

(Chesterfield)

John Blakeney x

Mathias Beaver x

Aaron H. Blakeney x

Michel Evans x

Eliz. Blakeney x

M.L. Blakeney x
wife Drusilla x

(Kershaw)

(blank) Mosely +
wife Eliz. Miranda x

 

(column 3)

(Lancaster)

Nathan Funderburk
+ wife Nancy  x

Frankey Shute x

(No. Ca.)

Calvin Laney x

Marshall Laney x

Archd. Brown Laney x

Alex Laney x

Lewis Laney x

 

Page 6

Sheriff’s Office Lancaster C.H. S.C.

April 21st, 1870

Hugh Craig Esq Judge of Probate

Sir Your Enclosing(?) summons in Partition was received by Saturday nights mail, 16th , I served the copies on Monday which was the first possible chance.  The mails do not leave here daily and you will not get this as soon as you desired.  I enclose original with return endorsed thereon and proven together with my tax costs.  Yours respectfully

Jas. D. Caskey Sheriff

Lancaster County

 

Page 7

The State of South Carolina.  Chesterfield County.

To Nancy Laney, John Blakeney, the children of Eli Welch and Jane his wife, whose names are not known, Nathan Funderburke and Nancy his wife, Calvin Laney, Marshall Laney, Arch. Brown Laney, Alexr. Laney, Lewis Laney, and other children of Sookey Laney deceased whose names are not known, Mathias Beaver and Elizabeth his wife, Franky Shute, Aaron H. Blakeney, Reddick Mosely and wife Elizabeth Miranda, Michel Evans, Elizabeth Blakeney, Henry Vails and his wife Barbara, M. L. Blakeney, Drusilla Rogers, Jacob Funderburk and wife Amanda, and Lewis Columbus Blakeney, legal heirs and representatives of John Blakeney Sen.  who in his life time made and executed his last will and testament which has been lost or destroyed by the burning of the public records of said county during the late war – Greeting –

You are hereby required to appear at the Court of Probate to be held at Chesterfield Court House for Chesterfield County on the 22nd day of April A.D. 1870, to show cause, if any you can, why the real estate of John Blakeney Sen, deceased, situated in said county, on the waters of Hills Creek, bounded by lands of Harry Funderburk, Willis Jenkins and others, containing One Hundred acres more or less – should not be divided or sold for a division amongst the heirs above named according to their respective legal rights.

Given under my hand and seal this

11th day of March A.D. 1870

Hugh Craig

Judge of Probate

 

Page 8

(back of previous letter)

(left flyleaf)

Lodged 14th April 1870

J.P. Barwell (seal)

(—?)  .50
Mileage 1.25
Service 1.00
$2.75

By my special deputy of B—(?) I have caused a copy of this summons to be served on Reddic Mosly + wife 14th April 1870

J.P. Barwel

Sheriffs return

P(—?) before me

  1. Shivers

Clerk

(center panel)

Court of Probate

Chesterfield County

Aaron H. Blakeney

vs.

Nancy Lowry
+ others

Summons for Partition

 

Page 9

(same text as previous letter)

Given under my hand and seal this 11th day of March A.D. 1870

Hugh Craig

Judge of Probate

 

Page 10

(back of previous letter)

(left flyleaf)

Lodged in my office

April 18th 1870. J.D. Caskey  S.L.C.

In my own person on the 18th April 1870 I personally served a copy of this summons on Nancy Funderburk wife of Nathan Funderburk also served a copy on Frankey Shute by leaving the same at her residence.  Jas. D. Caskey  Shff. L.C.

Services proven before me

T.H. Clyburn
Clk.

(center panel)

Court of Probate

Chesterfield County

Aaron H. Blakeney

vs.

Nancy Lowry
+ others

Summons for Partition

 

Page 11

The State of South Carolina
Chesterfield County
To Hugh Craig Esq Judge of Probate
The Petition of Aaron H. Blakeney
Shewith that John Blakeney Sen deceased, in his lifetime and at the time of his death was seized and possessed in his own right of a certain tract of land lying and being in said county on the wates of Hills Creek, bounded by lands of Henry Funderburk, Willis Jenkins and others and containing our hundred acres more or less ~

Your petitioner further shewith that said John Blakeney — in his life made, executed and published his last will and testament devising and bequeathing (as he has been informed) the aforesaid tract of land to his widow Nancy Blakeney for and during her natural life and after her death to go to the children of the said John Blakeney Sen.

Your petitioner further shewith that the said Nancy Blakeney has departed this life leaving her surviving the following children Nancy Laney the wife of David Laney residing in the state of Georgia, that the said David Laney died previous to the death of said Nancy Blakeney – John Blakeney, Jane Welsh the wife of Eli Welsh, both of whom it is said are dead leaving several children whose names are not known to your petitioner, all of whom reside in Georgia – Sookey Laney the wife of Archd. Laney, both of whom are dead, leaving their surviving Nancy Funderburk the wife of Nathan Funderburk, who resides in Lancaster County in said state of South Carolilna, Calvin Laney, Marshall Laney, Archd Brown Laney, Alexr Laney + Lewis Laney all residing in North Carolina and other children residing in other parts, beyond the limits of the state – whose names are unknown – Elizabeth Beaver (continued)

Page 12

(continued from previous page)

Who has removed to Georgia and who intermarried with Mathias Beaver, who your petitioner is informed still resides in this county – Franky Shute, residing in this county, who intermarried with Henry Shute, who has been dead for some time past – Hugh Blakeney who died several years ago leaving his surviving your petitioner Aaron H. Blakeney and a grand daughter the daughter of his deceased son John Blakeney named Elizabeth Miranda who has since married a man named Mosely both residing in Kerhaw District – Michel Evans now residing in this county who married Berry L. Evans who has since died – and Lewis Blakeney who died leaving him surviving his widow Elizabeth Blakeney and his children Barbary Vails who married Henry Vails both residing in Alabama, M.L. Blakeney, Drucilla Blakekey Rogers who married Young A. Rogers, and resides in this county – Amanda Funderburk who married Jacob Funderburk, residing in Alabama – and Lewis Columbus who is in Alabama.

Your petitioner prays that a summons in partition do —(?) citing all the parties to appear in a day fixed in this court to show cause if any they can why the real estate above described should not be divided or sold –

Jany 5th 1870

Aaron H. Blakeney

(on flyleaf after above text)

In Probate Court

Chesterfield County

Aaron H. Blakeney – Petition for division or sale of real estate of Jno Blakeney Sen

vs

Nancy Laney

David Laney

John Blakeney

Children of
Eli Welsh + wife Jane
+ wife Nancy

Calvin Laney

Marshall Laney

Archd Brown Laney

Alex. Laney

Lewis Laney
— children

Mathias Beaver
+ wife Elizabeth

Franky Shute

Aaron H. Blakeney
(blank) Mosely + wife

Eliz Miranda

Michel Evans

Eliz. Blaneney

Henry Vails +
wife Barbara

M.L. Blaneney

Young A. Rogers
+ wife Drusilla

Jacob Funderburk
+ wife Amanda

Lewis Columbus Blakeney

— Jany 5th 1870
Hugh Craig

Notice 4 Mar 1870

To appear 22 April 1870

Thomas Blakeney of Smith County, Mississippi

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My connnection to the Blakeney family of Chesterfield County, SC is based on the notion that a man named Thomas Blakeney, one of the early settlers of Smith County, MS, as well as several other counties in the area, was the son of Hugh Blakeney (son of Capt. John Blakeney).  Although there seemed to be agreement among researchers that this was the case, for some time I was only able to find information that was circumstantial, or was based on tradition.

Although I had accepted this premise on faith (that the other researchers knew what they were talking about), I admit to being a little nervous that I was basing my connection to Capt. John Blakeney’s family on nothing substantial.  Again, everything I had seen pointed in that direction, but there was still the nagging thought at the back of my mind that I would eventually come across something of substance – a will, or some other document – that would disprove the connection.

Recently, however, I was able to find some additional evidence that – while not proving the connection definitively in the form of a document stating “I am Hugh Blakeney, and my son Thomas went to Mississippi”, or something similar – has helped to greatly strenthgen the case, and making it (in my mind, at least) as airtight as we can possibly make it.

The website www.familysearch.org, created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has in their collections of Mississippi tax rolls for individual counties.  Since many of the county tax records go back to the 1820’s, and have records listed for most years, if not all, we are now able to glean much more information, including pinpointing the arrival of Thomas Blakeney, and others, to the area.

What We Already Knew…

As I had previously mentioned, it had been accepted as fact that the Thomas Blakeney who lived in the areas of Smith County and Jasper County, Mississippi by the early 1840’s, was the son of Hugh Blakeney of Chesterfield County, South Carolina.  Aside from tradition, some documentation existed that could at least give some credence that idea.

First, we must go back to Chesterfield County, South Carolina.  We know from documented evidence that Hugh Blakeney had a son named Thomas.  This can be found in contemporary documents from 1817 – 1819, when court papers were filed as part of a lawsuit to divide up the extensive real estate holdings of William Welsh, the late father-in-law of Hugh Blakeney.  The suit was filed in neighboring Lancaster County, where William and his family lived.  The suit is “Thomas Welsh vs. Samuel Jones, et al.”  Thomas was the only son of William, and Samuel Jones, as well as Hugh Blakeney, were the sons-in-law of William.  The papers state very clearly the relationship between the parties:  William Welsh’s daughter, Nancy, had married Hugh Blakeney.  All of their children are named as well.  They include Thomas, the only son, and daughters Jane, Mary, Nancy, and Eleanor.

We next find Thomas still living in Chesterfield County in 1820.  Although Thomas was a common name among the Blakeneys, we find only one living there by this time.  An older Thomas, the son of Capt. John Blakeney, and uncle of this Thomas, is believed to be the same Thomas Blakeney now living in Montgomery County, Tennessee.  Hugh, brother of the elder Thomas and father of our Thomas, is believed to be the same Hugh living in Montgomery County as well.

The Thomas Blakeney found in Chesterfield County appears to be a young man with a young family.  Although impossible to determine his exact age, since he is listed in the 26-45 year age range, as does his wife, we only find two children, a boy and a girl, both listed under the age of 10.

First, this would correspond with our Thomas and his wife.  Both are believed to have been born in or around the year 1794, which would make them about 26 at the time of the census.  In addition, by 1820, the Thomas Blakeney who later settled in Mississippi had children that would have corresponded in age and number with the children found in this census.  His oldest daughter, Matilda Arabella, is believed to have been born about 1817, and his oldest son, aptly named Hugh, is believed to have been born in or about 1820.  Later census records in Mississippi confirm this, as well as the ages of Thomas and his wife, Martha Matilda.

We next find Thomas and family in the 1830 census not in South Carolina, but in Mississippi.   He was not, however, in either Smith County, which would become his home in later years.  Instead, he is living in neighboring Covington County.  Since the census records at this time only give the name of the head of household, we can compare Thomas’ known children with the children listed by age groups in 1830.  Again, we find an exact match.  We find one boy under the age of 5 (Robert, born about 1826) and two boys between the ages of 5 and 10 (Hugh, born about 1820, and Jacob, born about 1823).  There are also several girls listed: two under the age of 5 (Elizabeth, born about 1827, and Martha Matilda, born about 1829), and one girl between 10 and 15 (Matilda Arabella, mentioned earlier).  The two adults are both between the ages of 30 and 40, again, corresponding with the approximate ages of Thomas and wife Martha Matilda.

Listed right next door to Thomas and his family is a younger man by the name of Alfred Shelby.  The Shelbys will be discussed more later.

In 1840, we find Thomas Blakeney and his family living in Smith County, MS, which is one of the counties that border Covington, where he was living in 1830.  Thomas and his wife are now both between the ages of 40 and 50, and they seven children living with them.  Their oldest daughter Arabella is living next door with her husband, Arlow Ainsworth, and their two children.

By 1850, census records list all inhabitants of the house, so we can begin to get much more information.  Thomas and his family are still living in Smith County, and we are now able to see for the first time, that he gives the place of his birth as South Carolina.  There is a small monkey wrench in this, however.  He is listed under the name James and not Thomas.  Is this a different Blakeney family, or is he going by a different name?  Many list him in online family trees as James Thomas Blakeney, but this is the only instance in which we find him listed under James.  We do find his oldest son Hugh living just a couple of houses away, but it does seem odd to find him listed as James.

Fortunately, the names of his wife and youngest son help to confirm that this is, in fact, the same Blakeney family.  Wife Matilda is listed under the same name in 1860, and their youngest son Alvin is still living with them, although Alvin’s wife and child are living in the household as well.  In 1860, we also see sons Robert and Jacob, along with their families, living alongside Thomas and Matilda.

One possibility is that there was a transcription error which confused Thomas with the James Blakeney who lived in neighboring Jasper County.  The presence of this James Blakeney does, however, help to prove the case that the Blakeneys of Smith County, MS were part of the Blakeney family of Chesterfield County, SC.

Who is this James Blakeney?  It appears that he is also a transplant from the Chesterfield County, SC Blakeneys.  He was the son of John “Jack” Blakeney III, who himself was the son of John Blakeney, Jr., Capt. John’s son.  This would mean that James’ father Jack was a first cousin of Thomas Blakeney of Smith County.  Besides the fact that his birthplace is listed as South Carolina in the census records, the identity of this John Blakeney is further confirmed by his wife and her family.

The Shelbys were another of the Chesterfield families that migrated to Smith and Jasper Counties in Mississippi, which means we find yet another Chesterfield family taking the same route and settling in the same location as Thomas Blakeney and his family.  While I will need to research this further, it looks as if the Shelbys of Smith and Jasper Counties consisted of Evan Shelby and his family.  Evan can be found in the census records of Chesterfield County, SC as late as 1820 before heading west to Mississippi.  Emily Croom in her book The Genealogist’s Companion and Sourcebook uses these Blakeneys and Shelbys as an example of connecting the dots in genealogical research.

According to the book, Evan’s son John married Matilda Blakeney, the daughter of John Blakeney III, and sister of the James Blakeney listed in Jasper County.  John, Matilda and their young children are living Smith County in 1850.  What makes this even more interesting is that living in the household with them is Robert Blakeney, the son of Thomas.

The Shelby/Blakeney connection is made again by the marriage of James Blakeney, brother of Matilda, to Harriet Shelby, sister of James Shelby, and daughter of Evan.

Again, a bit more digging will be necessary in order to confirm these connections as much as possible, without just relying on Emily Croom’s book, but one can assume that she has already been diligent in her research considering the topic of her book.

One more item I spotted in Ms. Croom’s book is something that floored me, in part because I’m completely surprised I had never heard this in my decade of researching the Blakeney family.  John O. Blakeney, author of The Blakeneys in America, the book which set the standard for Blakeney research in the United States, was born in Jasper County, Mississippi.  While it has been a bit difficult to find too many personal details on John O. Blakeney online, what I have found seems to confirm this.

I have always found it interesting that Thomas Blakeney of Smith County, MS, and his family, were listed in John O. Blakeney’s book as “Uncertain Blakeneys.”  I had always wondered how he had known about them in the first place, since he appears to have spent much of his life in Arkansas.  As it turns out, he probably knew them personally.

Why, then, wasn’t he sure of their connection to the Chesterfield Blakeneys?  Thomas Blakeney would have been a first cousin to John O. Blakeney’s grandfather, John Goodloe Blakeney (1795 – 1870).  It is certainly understandable that a young boy wouldn’t be quite certain how everyone of his grandfather’s generation fit together within such an extended family.  That is something most of us can relate to.

It is also interesting to note that family lore has it that Thomas Blakeney and his wife Martha Matilda eventually left Mississippi after the Civil War and moved to Arkansas.  Their son Alvin and his wife Lucy Ann (who would die there before Alvin returned to Mississippi) also accompanied them.  With no death certificate or other documents to confirm this, we can’t be sure how many of the details are correct, but it is thought that Thomas died in Des Arc, Arkansas on (or about) December 25, 1870.  Interestingly, John Goodloe Blakeney, the son of Capt. John Blakeney’s son James, and the grandfather of John O. Blakeney, died in Des Arc, Arkansas on December 14, 1870 (his gravestone does survive).  John O. Blakeney’s father, Benjamin Blakeney, also died in Des Arc in 1873.

While we don’t know if John Goodloe Blakeney, cousin of Thomas, lived in Jasper County,  he wasn’t far away before his eventual move to Arkansas. Earlier census and land records show him in neighboring Clarke County, which sits directly to the east of Jasper.

In the early history of the United States, it was a common thing for people of families who came from the same area to travel together when settling to another location.  Rarely did one family go it alone.  By not only looking at your own branch of the family, but taking a good look at the people who settled around them in their new location, the pieces can start to fall into place.   Even without taking undocumented family lore into account, by piecing together surviving records and families, I think we can conclude that Thomas Blakeney of Smith County, Mississippi and Thomas Blakeney, son of Hugh Blakeney of Chesterfield County, South Carolina, are one and the same.

On one final note – as I mentioned in a previous post, DNA testing can help to solve some family mysteries.  I have taken the Ancestry DNA test, and I find numerous Blakeney-related matches in my results.  One interesting match I have found is with a person with whom I am estimated to be somewhere between 4th to 6th cousins, and with whom I share a pretty large number of centimorgans (let’s just describe them as markers used to determine genetic matches).  This person is a direct descendant of John Shelby and Matilda Blakeney.  Looking at their family tree, I don’t appear to have any other family connections with them.  Case closed?  It pretty much looks that way.

 

Some of the information in this post comes from the book The Genealogist’s Companion and Sourcebook by Emily Croom

 

It’s in the DNA

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Perhaps one place we can all start looking into is DNA testing.  While it might not necessarily help us find out just who Capt. John Blakeney’s parents were back in Ireland (or England), it can possibly help many of us prove our direct link back to Capt. John in cases where the paper trail has gaps.

I’m sort of in that situation, although my connection seems pretty certain.  Thomas Blakeney (often referred to as James Thomas Blakeney in online family trees) was the son of Capt. John’s son Hugh.  Is he listed in Hugh’s will?  Well, no, since the ultimate fate of Hugh is also a bit sketchy.

Long story short, Hugh left for Tennessee/Kentucky, while his son Thomas eventually left for Smith County, MS.  The fact that Hugh had a son named Thomas is proven by contemporary court records for William Welsh, father-in-law of Hugh Blakeney.  The records list, by name, not only Hugh as the husband of his daughter Nancy, but also their son Thomas.

Census records and other circumstantial evidence pretty much prove that the same Thomas in the 1820 census for Chesterfield County, SC is the same Thomas who shows up a decade later in Mississippi.

Having taken the Ancestry DNA test a couple of years ago, however, bolsters the case pretty much without question.  I have matched descendants of other of Capt. John’s children, including many with no ties to Mississippi.

If anyone who stumbles across this site or post has also taken a DNA test, either Ancestry or another one, please let us know if your results helped prove your connection to the Chesterfield County Blakeneys.

Anything New?

I’m always hesitant about jumping back into Blakeney genealogy research.  While it’s always fun to visit old “friends,” in terms of looking back over the list of familiar names and places, for the last several years at least, it leads to more dead ends and just a little frustration.

As far as I’m aware, nothing new has been found when it comes to researching Capt. John Blakeney’s family, either his ancestors or immediate descendants (children, grandchildren, etc.), but there is always that chance that something real has found its way to the internet since the last time I checked.  Should I dive back into it, or maybe just dip a toe in the water and see what happens?

It’s so tempting…

Welcome!

Are you a descendant of Capt. John Blakeney, Irish immigrant to South Carolina and Revolutionary War captain?  This blog is intended to be a place for descentants, or plain old researchers, to share research, theories, and information.  The idea began a couple of years ago, in PDF form, but hopefully this format will be a little more informal and interactive.

I hope you will not only decide to follow the posts here, but contribute as well.  I hope to encourage everyone out there who is researching Capt. John and his family, to put aside all of those incorrect, undocumented online family trees, and visit the archives in South Carolina to see if we can uncover something new.