One of My Toughest Genealogy Challenges – Sturgell Family

The Sturgell family is one of my most annoying, challenging brick walls remaining in my family history research. This is the family of Isaac Sturgell, my husband’s black sheep 2x great grandfather.

One of the problems is that the family name was spelled so many ways – Sturgell in my mother-in-law’s family, but also commonly found as Sturgill, Stodghill, Sturgeon and even Sturgills, a town likely named for the family in North Carolina.

Isaac Sturgell was born about 1823 in Virginia. He is probably the son of William Sturgeon who was living in Lawrence County, Ohio, having received a land grant there in 1837. Isaac Sturgell married Mary Bandy in Lawrence County in 1844 and his surname was recorded as “Sturgeon.” To close the circle of preponderance of evidence, the 1840 census not only shows a male of Isaac’s age in William’s household, but William is the only Sturgill/Sturgeon of any spelling in the county in 1840 and his neighbors are include Bandys, Yates, and Hobbles, all related to Mary Bandy’s family by marriage.

Here is the problem. Family lore says that William Sturgill was killed in a sawmill accident either in Arkansas or Missouri shortly before 1850. In any case, William’s wife, Catherine Elizabeth (Yingling) Brown, (not the mother of his children), was enumerated in 1850 in the houshold of Milton and Rosanna Brown, as Elizabeth Stergion, aged 71, born in Ohio (which I doubt!).

William “Sturgill” is named in a Lawrence County, OH court record with Joseph Yates on 24 June 1844. There is an 1839 land deed signed by their marks between William Sturgill and Alvin (reportedly his son) selling land to William James in 1837. There is also an 1840 land deed whereby William Stirgell and Catherine Stirgill sell land to Milton H. Brown in consideration of $100.00. William again signs with his mark, but Catherine apparently was able to sign her own name. The deed does not state how William and Catherine came to own the property so I don’t know whether it belonged to Catherine’s first husband, Aaron Brown. Catherine was already widowed by the 1830 census, though, so perhaps it was felt that there was no need to mention Aaron Brown.

From here, documented records are hard to come by. There is absolutely no further mention of William Sturgill, by any spelling, or his estate, in the wills, probate or court minutes of Lawrence County up to 1850.

There was a Sturgill descendant with whom I corresponded through the years who is now deceased. He insisted that William Sturgill fit into the family of Frances Sturgill and Rebecca Hash of Ashe County, North Carolina. It may well be that William was their son, but I have never been able to find any records in Ohio, North Carolina, or even Grayson County, Virginia, which is where the Sturgills reportedly lived before they migrated to North Carolina.

Here is the reputed, unsubstantiated family configuration:

Francis Sturgill married Rebecca Hash, about 1776. She was the daughter of John Hash, who named Francis Sturgill in his will, which was probated in 1784. I have seen a transcription of this will and “Francis Sturgen” received one cow or the price of one cow in a bequest. However, the Hash will was probated in Montgomery County, Virginia. That doesn’t help to establish the children of Francis and Rebecca.  This will is the documentation that Francis married John Hash’s daughter, Rebecca.


1. Lydia, 25 February 1778-15 June 1861
2. John, 1779-1865
3. James, 1781-9 July 1855
4. Francis, 22 September 1782-13 August 1846
5. William, 1784-1855
6. Joel, 20 March 1786-1878
7. David, 1788-1841
8. Rebecca, 1 March 1791-1 January 1829
9. Jane, 1793-?
10. Ann, 1795-1813
11. Elizabeth, 24 October 1799-11 July 1881
12. Nancy, 15 January 1803-30 November 1894

Looks good, doesn’t it? When I asked for proof of these children, I was told that eleven of the children were proven in land deeds filed after Francis’s death in 1809 in Ashe County, NC. The 12th child, David, was supposedly in Kentucky when his father died and returned to North Carolina after the death. I have searched high and low through Ashe County, North Carolina records and, not only can I not locate any deeds related to the estate of Francis Sturgill, I can find woefully few mentions of the name at all.

Francis Sturgill was a soldier of the American Revolution, serving in the militia of Montgomery County, Virginia and is listed in the DAR Patriot Index. Ladies have joined under Elizabeth Steddem Sturgill (I don’t know if Steddem is a middle name or if she was previously married to a Mr. Steddem) who married Daniel Jones, James who married Mary Herring, Joel who married Rachel Waters, Francis who married Phoebe Weaver, John who married Jemima Wells and Lydia, who married Solomon Parsons. There are a number of DAR members who joined under his line in recent times, meaning standards had to be high for documentation.

The now-deceased Sturgill descendant also told me that from about 1940, he had interviewed many old timers who supplied many of the names, dates and places associated with Francis and his children. However, this person didn’t even keep a set of notes. I spoke to a son a few years ago and he said his dad kept all the information in his head.

To further complicate matters, Francis Sturgill lived his life on what was then the colonial frontier – Montgomery, Scott and Grayson Counties in Virginia and Alleghany and Ashe Counties in North Carolina. There are also quite a few early Sturgills who often gave the same names to their children.

Trying to prove the children of Francis and Rebecca Hash Sturgill will require using the FAN principle – Friends, Associates and Neighbors – along with tracing records for each of their supposed dozen children. I also need to locate some kind of records for the Lawrence County William Sturgill as an adult that will help prove his children and/or a tie to his parents.

It’s a big project on my “to do” list for the next trip to Salt Lake City!


One thought on “One of My Toughest Genealogy Challenges – Sturgell Family”

  1. Isaac Sturgill was the name of my great grandfather. Sturgill was the maiden name of the mother. The sturgill family are actually Greer’s. Isaac Sturgill is buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Jackson. I don’t know if this will help you or not.

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