Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Zachariah Jerkins, 18 March 1757 - 5 October 1835

Finding Zachariah Jerkins, our earliest proven ancestor in this line, so early in my search happened more or less by accident and was totally due to several bits of serendipity:
  • My wife and I had moved to Tallahassee in 1997 following a new job after my Orlando based company had been bought out by a California firm that decided to bring in its own management team.

  • Living that close to my father's North Florida birth place combined with a Sunday newspaper article on genealogy finally got me off the stick and started researching his family.

  • When I showed my finds on Dad's family to my mother, she asked me to find the identity of the Granny Jerkins who, according to my grandmother, mama looked so much like.

  • The very first fellow Jerkins researcher that I met was Sam Strickland, descendant of Granny Jerkins' younger brother, and one of the founding fathers of Dothan, Alabama, William Jesse Jerkins. The family info and memorabilia passed to me by Sam led me to several newspaper articles about William J. Jerkins, one of which stated that his father, Robert Wilson Jerkns, had "come of age in Tallahassee, Florida" - where, as noted above, I was living.
Digging in the Leon County records - and those of the Florida State Archives - in Tallahassee revealed very little about Robert Wilson Jerkins, beyond his appearance on the 1840 census of that place. But it opened a door to a world of other- and obviously related - Jerkins.

The first, of course, was old Zachariah Jerkins who left 3 separate multi-page depositions about his life and his Revolutionary War service in his eventually successful attempts to obtain a government pension based on that service. But that find was quickly followed by the divorce files of his son, also named Zachariah Jerkins, the military records of son Richard S. Jerkins, and mentions of son James Jerkins. It would be another year before I knew how these folks were related to me, and more to prove that kinkship to my satisfaction, but from the very beginning, I absolutely knew in my heart that they were.

And in one final bit of serendipity I found that the land in the country south of Tallahassee, that we had bought and put our house upon, was just about a mile from the little town of Magnolia - now a totally vanished ghost town marked only by its tiny cemetery - where old Zachariah was living when counted by the 1830 U.S. Census.
Magnolia, Florida, Francis de la Porte, Comte de Castelnau, 1837. Image courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection. Castelnau was a French explorer and artist. Magnolia had already started its decline when this picture was painted.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Jerkins in Early America - Possible Origins of Our Line

    Our earliest proven ancestor is Zachariah Jerkins - 18 Mar 1757 to 5 Oct 1835. We cannot prove any connection earlier than that - but based on the records, we can make some interesting speculations.

    The earliest record that we found of a Jerkins in America is that of Osborne Jerkins[1], who in 1635 was granted land by the Virginia Colony in return for paying transport costs for bringing 3 new colonists - Thomas Baitman, Thomas Ashton, and William Brook from England to Virginia.  To put this into a little perspective, this was just 28 years after the founding of the Jamestowne Colony – the first permanent English settlement in America.  Osborne Jerkins received land in Charles City County, the first expansion outside the original colony.

    On 7 May 1671, Samuel Judkins made his will in Surry County, Virginia.   He left his property to his wife Lidia, and sons Robert, Samuel and Charles.  The reason that this is of interest to us is that two of his sons were identified as Robert and Samuel Jerkins in April of 1685, when they purchased 200 acres of land in Surry County, Virginia.  Over the next 150 years, a number of Samuel Judkins were alternatively identified as Judkins and Jerkins.  This same thing happened to our early Jerkins – they were often identified as Judkins.  (See the post The Jerkins/Judkins Conundrum for more details on this phenomenon.).

    Another early Jerkins record was that of Thomas Jerkins who left Bristol, England on August 12, 1678 and came on the ship Victory. He was contracted as an apprentice to a man named Robert Worgan in the Virginia Colony. [2].

    Although no proven link has yet been discovered, we believe it very likely that the early Jerkins of Surry County, Virginia are related to the Jerkins who appear in Chowan County, North Carolina in the late 1600s and who are later found in Tyrrell, Hyde, Beaufort and Edgecombe Counties, North Carolina.  Several of these counties border on Halifax County, NC, where the Zachariah Jerkins who is the focus of this study first appears in the records, and although we currently have no solid evidence, we are equally confident that our Zachariah also descends from these Jerkins.  We are especially intrigued by the three earlier generations of men named Zachariah Jerkins:

    Zachariah Jerkins #1 (numbers - #1, #2, etc. are added for convenience and were not used in the original records)
    The earliest Jerkins of this line is a Zachary Jerkins who was already dead when his name appeared in connection with a 1695 property grant.  That land grant involved John Walker and his wife Elizabeth, and the grant  mentioned Zachary Jerkins as the deceased third husband of  Elizabeth Walker (John Walker was husband number 4)[3].  Nothing more is known of this first Zachary Jerkins, except that he and his wife Elizabeth had at least one son.

    Zachariah Jerkins #2
    This second Zachariah Jerkins (also found as Jurkins Jearkin, Jurken, and Gerkins in the records)was born prior to 1695, and may have been born much earlier. Aside from the fact that his father had died and his mother remarried by 1695, at that time in North Carolina a male had to be at least 14 to witness a document. Evidence that this second Zachariah Jerkins is connected to the first Zachary Jerkins and his wife Elizabeth can be found in the fact that on January 12, 1709, he witnessed the will of John Walker, who married Elizabeth Jerkins, widow of Zachary Jerkins #1.[4]

    Zachariah Jerkins #2 married Hannah Harrison Banks, a widow , and daughter of John and Mary Harrison, and step-daughter of Mary Harrison’s second husband, Nathaniell Everitt. No marriage record has been found, but we know that the marriage occurred prior to March 25, 1718 when Nathaniel Everitt referred to Zachariah as his son in law in a land sale:

    "Nathaniel Everitt of Morattock in Chowan Prect to Zack Gerkin of the same place, my son-in-law, planter. £5, 60 acres, part of Pyssimon Neck, lying in the fork of Haw branch."

    Zachariah Jerkins #2 apparently died before June in 1754, because that year his widow went before June Court of Tyrrell County, NC and petitioned for and was granted letters of administration “on the Estate of Zachariah Girken deceased”.
    Zachariah Jerkins#2 and Hannah Harrison Banks had at least three sons:

    Joshua Jerkins,

    Zachariah Jerkins #3,

    and Benjamin Jerkins.
    The sons are listed in suspected birth order, based on how they appear in the records. Joshua was almost certainly the oldest, since the sale of a portion of his father’s land fell to him. From the description, “part of a Larger Tract pisymon neck & was conveyed to Zachariah Girkin late of the said county deceased by Deed bearing date the 25 of March 1718” it is clear that this is the land that Zachariah #2 bought from his wife’s step-father.

    There are no birth dates for any of the three sons, but the listing of all three men as privates on the Jan 17, 1747, Muster Roll of Captain Evan Jones' Company of Soldiers from Tyrrel County, North Carolina , indicates that even the youngest was born prior to 1731 – the minimum age for Militia service in North Carolina in the 1740s was 16. Considering that Zachariah #2 and Hannah were married by early 1718, it is probable that the oldest son was probably born as much as 10 years earlier.
    All three sons were active in the community, and appear frequently in land and court records, but our primary interest is in:

    Zachariah Jerkins #3
    Between 1747 and 1765, Zachariah Jerkins #3 appears in several county records as a witness to various wills and land deeds[5].  In the June Court of 1765, Zachariah Jerkins #3 appears in a court case John Johnston vs Zachariah Girkin. He appears to have lost this case and, with it, most or all of his land in payment of a debt to Johnston.[6]   From that point on, Zachariah Jerkins#3 disappears from the records of the county. His brothers lived out their lives there and left estate records and children to follow them.
     Major speculation:
    I propose that instead of dying around 1765, Zachariah Jerkins #3 moved to a different county, possibly Halifax County, North Carolina – and that he may well have been the father of our Zachariah Jerkins.  Note that this conclusion is pure speculation and has no hard evidence of any kind to support it.  There are, however, some small points in its favor.

    First, both of Zachariah’s brothers,  Joshua and Benjamin, continued to appear in county records until their deaths.  And both left court records when they died – Benjamin left a will[7], and Joshua left an estate that was apparently administered by his widow[8].  It does not seem very likely that Zachariah #3 would have gone totally unmentioned in any estate record had he died in his home county shortly after the 1765 court appearance.

    Second, when our Zachariah Jerkins (born 1757) gave his 1828 deposition in Leon County, Florida, Court, he stated that he “was living in Halifax County at the time”[9] that he enlisted for his first service in the Revolutionary War.  That rather strongly suggests that Halifax County was not his home county and that he had moved there from somewhere else.

    We freely admit that these are flimsy supports for our theory of our Zachariah Jerkins’ origin and that other suggestions might be just as feasible.  It is entirely possible, for example, that our Zachariah Jerkins descends from an undocumented brother of the Zachary Jerkins of the 1695 property deed.  But it stretches credulity to consider the origins of a man named Zachariah Jerkins who was born in north eastern North Carolina and to ignore a north eastern North Carolina Jerkins family that has three earlier generations of men named Zachariah Jerkins.

    Zachariah Jerkins #3 may or may not be our Zachariah Jerkins’ father, but there is no doubt in our minds that they were related in some way.Perhaps a future Jerkins researcher will discover a connection.

    [1] Early Virginia Immigrants, 1623-1666, Surnames, A-B, Page 25, George Cable Creer, 1912, Richmond, Virginia
    [2] The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607- 1776; Section III, Chapter 19, page 94.
    [3] J. R. B. Hathaway, “North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register”, volume 3, #1, page 153.
    [4]Dr. Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Early Records of North Carolina, Volume 1V:Wills 1663-1722, Keysville, Virginia, 1993, #530.
    [5] Bradley, Tyrrell Wills, #330; Burr, Tyrrell Court Minutes, Book 2, #128; and Hofmann, Granville Grants, Patent Book 12, #2347, page 74.
    [6] Tyrrell County Minutes of Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, 1761-1770, page 168.
    [7] Beaufort County Record of Wills, CR.D09.801.3,  page 185, North Carolina Archives, Raleigh, NC
    [8] Tyrrell County Minutes of Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, 1770-1778, page 22
    [9] Book D, page 210, Leon County Superior Court Records which are on file at the Florida State Archives.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Sentimental Sunday - Finding Granny Jerkins

    I started researching Jerkins at my mother's request. When she was a child, her mother had told her many times how much she favored Granny Jerkins. None of her sibs could ever remember even hearing the name. Could I, she asked, find out who Granny Jerkins was? I told her that I would try.

    It turned out to be a little easier than I suspected. Mama's mother, my grandmother, was Callie Vedora Campbell (1895-1974), daughter of Jackson LeGrand Campbell (1868-1937) and Alice Vedora Peacock (1873-1929). It seemed a reasonable approach to consider that if my grandmother was calling a woman Granny Jerkins, and stating that her daughter looked like that woman, then the Granny Jerkins in question might likely be my Granny's granny.  Job one, then, was to find out whether Jackson LeGrand Campbell's mother or Alice V. Peacock's mother was a Jerkins.

    That turned out to be pretty simple, too, although it took some patience.  The 1880 Census of Ozark, Dale County, Alabama reported 11 year old Jackson Campbell in the household of  Will and Mary Campbell. Looking back to the 1870 Census of Dale County, Alabama, I found J. L. Campbell in the household of W. E. and M. A. Campbell.  And, when it finally arrived, Jackson L. Campbell's death certificate named his parents as  William E. Campbell and Mary Jerkins.

    So Granny Jerkins was Mary A. Jerkins, mother of my mother's grandfather. But who was Mary A. Jerkins? According to the 1900 U.S. Census, she was born in October, 1843 in Alabama.  A search of the 1860 U.S. Census reports revealed a Mary Jerkins, age 15, in the household of R. W. and Elizabeth Jerkins. Further investigation proved that this was Robert Wilson and Elizabeth Jerkins.

    An online search of digital databases at the Alabama State Archives found that Susan Elizabeth Jerkins, widow of Robert Wilson Jerkins, filed for a Widow's Pension from the State of Alabama based on Robert Wilson Jerkins's service in the Civil War.  A newspaper article in the Dothan Eagle, on the 50th year anniversary of the founding of the City of Dothan, Alabama, named William Jesse Jerkins, as a son of this couple and stated that Susan Elizabeth Jerkins' maiden name was Daniel.

    A search of land records at the Bureau of Land Managment-General Land Office website found that Robert Wilson and S.E. Jerkins had filed for a homestead grant in Geneva County, Alabama. Unfortunately, Robert Wilson Jerkins died prior to the final granting of the title to the property, giving all of his children a possible share in the land. When Robert W.'s widow Susan E. Jerkins, decided to sell the property, it was determined that the best way to prevent any question of later legal entanglements over ownership of the property was to have all of Robert Wilson Jerkins' heirs sign a statement that they were relingquishing all rights to the property as his heirs, and agreeing to Susan Elizabeth Jerkins' sale of the property.  Mary A. M. Campbell signed as one of the heirs.

    So there we have it, Mama, Granny Jerkins was Mary A. M. Jerkins, wife of your great grandfather, William E. Campbell, mother of your grandfather, Jackson L. Campbell, and daughter of Robert Wilson Jerkins and Susan Elizabeth Daniel. She was born in October of 1843 and died in October of 1928, just three months shy of your 2nd birthday. You never had a chance to meet her, but she almost certainly met you, and maybe that is enough.

    That is Granny Jerkins in the photo of your mother's family just below. She is the white haired woman sitting on the right in the dark blouse and light skirt. You will recognize your grandfather and grandmother to her left - and the girl standing behind her on the right is your mama. I got the picture from your cousin, Don Waite, who I met online and via email. He apologized for the quality and said that the original was just the same. Shucks, I thought that for bringing to life someone who before was just a name, it does a pretty good job.

    Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    The Jerkins/Judkins Conundrum

    There is no question that, in at least some records, our Jerkins were listed as Judkins. For example, in a 1784 property deed recorded in Halifax County, North Carolina, Zachariah Jerkins is identified as Zachariah Jurkins at one place in the document and as Zachariah Judkins in another place in the same document.  When we first came across this, we dismissed it as the simple kind of spelling error that is frequently encountered in old records. Some clerk, we thought, simply made a spelling mistake.

    As we continued to research, however, we also found Zachariah and several of his sons referred to as Judkins in additional records and in other locations.  Zachariah appears as a Judkins in some tax and court records in Hancock County, Georgia, for example, and is shown as a Judkins on the 1820 Federal Census of Hancock County.  And when old Zack's son, Zachariah Jerkins, Jr., married Martha Faision in 1822, he was recorded in the Hancock County marriage books as Zachariah Judkins. Nine years later, in 1831, when he filed for divorce from Martha in Leon County, Florida, he did it as Zachariah Jerkins (Wouldn't a modern lawyer love that case?). Likewise, old Zack's son Richard was named as a Jerkins in his uncle Richard Sassnet's 1810 will, but was called Richard Judkins in several newspaper legal notices stemming from that will. 

    Furthermore, as we expanded our research across North Carolina and Virginia, we began to find that from the late 1600's until about 1850, many men thought of as Judkins by their modern descendants were frequently listed in the early records as Jerkins.  William Judkins, originally of Surry County, Virginia, was frequently listed as William Jerkins in the property and militia records of Granville County, NC.  Edmund and Gray Judkins of Beaufort County, NC were identified as Jerkins in the 1800 Census, Judkins in the 1810 Census, and as Jerkins again in 1820.  Charles Judkins of Edgecombe County, NC had the same thing happen to him in the census, and he was named as a Jerkins in his father-in-law's will.  A truly interesting note is that all of the Judkins listed as Jerkins in North Carolina appear to stem from the offspring of Robert Judkins and Samuel Judkins, the sons of Samuel Judkins of VA (considered by modern Judkins researchers to be the founder of the southern Judkins branch). Robert and Samuel Judkins are the same men who were named as Robert Jerkins and Samuel Jerkins who received a 200 acre head bounty land grant in Surry County, Virginia on 20 April 1685 for transporting 4 people into the County and were identified as Robert and Samuel Judkins when they sold it less than a year later.

    Why did this happen? The most likely answer appears to be the same old phonetic spelling that  turned old country names like Creapeaux into Crappo - the spelling of the name just as it sounds. This obviously was a result of how the names were pronounced. When the clerks wrote a Judkins' name down as Jerkins, he was clearly hearing an "R" sound being pronounced. Likewise, when a Jerkins was recorded as a Judkins, a "D" sound was being heard in the pronunciation of the name.

    Further evidence of this phenomenon was recorded in a small article in the October, 1999 issue of the Judkins Family Journal, the official quarterly magazine of the Judkins Family Association. The story related how a New England woman named Susan Judkins who died in 1844 insisted that her name be spelled JURDKINS on her tombstone, despite the fact that the town records listed her, her parents, and all of her siblings as Judkins. In the introduction to the article, the editor of the Judkins Journal asked "What was wrong with these people? Did they sometimes forget who they were?" The answer is no, they never forgot who they were. I suspect, however, that we often do forget who they were.

    These ancestors were English, and when they came to this country they brought their accents with them. It seems clear to me that when Susan Judkins insisted that her name be put on her stone as Jurdkins, she was just asking that her name be written the way that she had heard it said her entire life. Our early American ancestors - both Judkins and Jerkins - obviously pronounced the name pretty much as she spelled it. I am reminded of an Englishman that I knew many years ago when I was in the Army. One of the oddities of his accent was that he intruded the letter "r" into words that didn't actually contain an "r". After all of these years, the most memorable example is that he pronounced the word yes as "yurse". I wish that I could remember what part of England he was from.

    It is our belief that the Judkins and Jerkins may very well come from a common source and may have once been the same family.  A quick search of the early English records, shows more early Judkins records than Jerkins with the early Judkins showing up in Warwick County, England in the 1540's. The first Jerkins show up in about 1570, and are common by 1615.  By that time, the Judkins and Jerkins appear in the same counties:Northampton, London, Lincoln.

    The Jerkins/Judkins riddle raises some fascinating questions, and is certainly worthy of more study.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Surname Saturday: The 11,360th most Common Name in America

    On a national or even worldwide basis, Jerkins is quite a rare name.  According to statistics from the 2000 U.S. census, Jerkins is the 11,360th most common surname in the United States.  That means that the Smiths, Joneses, Browns, and, 11,357 other surnames in the U.S. have more family members using the names than there are people using the name Jerkins.  All of the Jerkins in America add up to less than 0.001% of the U.S. population.  And in November of 2000, a check of the white pages in England, where the name is said to have originated, showed a listing of fewer than 50 families.  That makes the Jerkins name sufficiently rare that when any two Jerkins from the southeastern U.S. meet, there is a very high likelihood that they are at least distantly related.  This is true even if the two are complete strangers and have never seen or heard of one another before.

    The New Dictionary of American Family Names by E. C. Smith,  (Harper and Row, 1973), claims that Jerkins is a surname of English origin.  It also says that Jerkins is a patronymic from the name Jeremiah.  Patronymics are last names based on or created from the first name of the father.  They are very common in English-speaking countries, and were frequently achieved by adding  an "s" to the father’s first name, creating  names like John Williams (John.  He is the son of William) or Tom Richards (Tom.  He is the son of Richard).  In other cases, the ending "son" was added so that you get Davidson, Richardson, or Anderson (son of Andrew).

    Sometimes, as in our case,  the suffix "kin" was used in these surnames as a diminutive - so Tompkin meant "Little Thomas", Wilkin was "Little William" and Perkin was "Little Peter".  Adding the letter “s”  to the kin suffix was a double diminutive that usually meant “son of”.   Jerkins, therefore, was a British name that probably meant “the son of Jeremiah”, or perhaps Jeremy – which itself was already a name derived from Jeremiah.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    The Beginning

    I think that this whole adventure began because I grew up with only one set of grandparents - my mother's parents. And on that side, I not only had grandparents, I had a very fondly remembered great grandfather  - born in 1868. That is him, sitting in the chair talking to me - I was about 3.

    My father's parents, on the other hand had both died before I was born. I grew up knowing his brothers and sisters, but hearing virtually nothing about the earlier generations. I once asked my father what his grandmother's name was, and his answer was "Granny."  His father had moved the family south in a search for work during the Great Depression, when my father was only 10 years old - even he had few memories of the older folks.

    So when I launched my first sortie into the genealogy woods, I was looking for my dad's folks.  I was lucky - I have often been lucky in genealogy - and I started finding interesting stuff right away. Unfortunately, my father had died by that time, so I started showing off the cool old documents and information that I was finding on my father's family.

    Mama listened and oohed and aahed appropriately over my little treasures - until one day she said, "You are getting pretty good at this."  I said that I was certainly learning. And then she asked the question that put me on the road that led me to this place. "Can you find something for me?", she said.

    Who can say no to their mother? Not me - not about anything like that, anyway. So I asked her what she wanted me to find.

    "When I was a little girl," she said, "my mother would look at me and say "Girl, she sure do favor Granny Jerkins."  I didn't think much of it back then, but since you have been doing all of this digging into families, I have been thinking about it. I called my brothers and sisters and none of them ever remember hearing anything about any Granny Jerkins. Could you find out for me who Granny Jerkins was?"

    I assured her that I would try, and on my next trip to the local Family History Center I took the first steps on this 15 year long journey.  In the coming days, months, or years, I will tell about the journey - about what I learned about Granny Jerkins and her ancestors, about the people that I met along the way, and about some of the stories that go with both.