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.

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