Revolutionary War Pensioner John Williams of Roane, Morgan and Anderson Counties, Tennessee

John Williams, son of Matthias Williams Senior of Cumberland County, Virginia, presents another set of mysteries. Without his pension file, even less would be known.

John was born 30 June 1761, Cumberland County, Virginia. He died after 1855, probably Anderson County, Tennessee. However, like brother Matthias and brother-in-law Henry DeShazer, John gave no family information in his record.  In looking at the 1830, 1840 and 1850 censuses, it appears that John married (1) Unknown, c1782, probably in Virginia.  His probably first wife was born 1760-1770, probably also in Virginia and died 1840-1850, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee where John was living at the time and (2) Elizabeth, born c1784, Tennessee (or elsewhere since that is a very early birth date for Tennessee). She died after 21 Oct 1851, probably Morgan County, Tennessee, when their son-in-law, John Russell, was bound to care for John and Elizabeth in their old age.

John’s family was a bit unconventional, I think, for the time period.


  1. Elizabeth, born c1784, Virginia; died after 1870, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee.  No marriage record has been found for her, but she was the mother of daughter Mary who married Ezra Russell, probably in Anderson County, Tennessee. Elizabeth has descendants.
  2. ?Nancy, born 1780-1790, probably in Virginia. No further record is found for Nancy after her marriage to Joseph McPherson, 4 Aug 1816, Roane County, Tennessee. John Williams was the bondsman and it could have been either her father, or more likely, her brother. Joseph McPherson was born c1776, Virginia; died after 1850, probably Roane County, Tennessee. Joseph’s wife in 1850 was (2) Jane, born 1780, Tennessee, according to the census, but in reality, not likely. She died after 1850, probably also in Roane County. Since Jane is about the same age as Nancy Williams, and there are no extant marriage records found, it is impossible to date when they married, but it was likely in Morgan or Anderson Counties since records are lost for that time period. The McPhersons had ties by marriage to the Rectors, who, in turn, had ties to the Williamses by marriage.  The families obviously knew each other. In 1830, Joseph McPherson’s household had one male, 50-59, one female, 40-49 and one female, 15-19. It is not known if Nancy has any descendants today.
  3. John, born c1791, Virginia; died after 1860, probably Morgan County, Tennessee. He married (1) Elizabeth Duncan, born c1790; died c1852 and (2) Amy Harbin Crenshaw, mother of his daughter-in-law, Eliza Jane Crenshaw. However, it also appears from early court records that John had at least two illegitimate children, one daughter by Joasy Farmer and a son by Aza Morgan.
  4. ?Judah, born c1796, Virginia; died after 1860, possibly in Anderson County, Tennessee. Judah married Humphrey Thacker, 2 Jan 1832, Roane County, Tennessee. Humphrey was born c1791, Virginia; died after 1860, possibly in Anderson County, Tennessee. Benjamin Thacker lived next door to John Williams in 1830, so it is possible that this Judah is a daughter of John.  John had a daughter in Judah’s age range still at home at that time. Humphrey and Judah are also an interesting couple in a nontraditional sense. I don’t have the notes at my fingertips, but there are mentions of the Thackers in an early court record where they are accused of allowing somewhat of a house of ill repute to operate on their property. Humphrey and Judah had two known daughters, Nancy who married Frederick Seiber in 1854 and Eunice (aka Nicey), who married Benjamin Parker in 1858, both in Anderson County, Tennessee. Fred and Nancy Seiber had several children and have descendants today. It appears that Nicey might have died giving birth to a daughter, Rebecca, in 1859. Benjamin died on 2 October 1863 and is buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery. No further record has been found pertaining to Rebecca after the 1860 Bradley County, Tennessee census.
  5. Susannah, born c1805, Tennessee; died after 1870, probably in Anderson County, Tennessee. She married John Russell, c1828, probably in Anderson or Morgan County, Tennessee.  In Volume 1:63 of Roane County, Tennessee deeds, John Williams bound himself to pay John Russell $1200. It further states “John Russell purchased of me for $600 the following payments: $200 in bond for maintenance of myself during life, $50 being his wife’s part as an heir of his landed estate, $350 for his note executed to John Williams for a tract of land in Dist. 1 (60 acres). On page 204, dated 21 Oct 1851, John Russell was bound for the penal sum of $400 to John Williams to care for and furnish a home for John and Elizabeth Williams. Susannah and John Russell had ten children and have many descendants today.

GeneaGem: Book Review – Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith

There are some fabulous genealogy books out there, although my modern collection is becoming more of the Kindle variety. The paper books that I purchase are the ones that draw me in in a special way – they are the books which I feel I will be using the most.

Drew Smith’s new book, organize your genealogy: STRATEGIES and SOLUTIONS for EVERY RESEARCHER, is one of those paper copies I will treasure. It is newly published – 1 July 2016 was the official date – and, although I wasn’t one of the customers on the pre-order list, I did purchase my copy before the Independence Day holiday.

By nature, I am a very organized person and my friends would likely be surprised that I bought a book on organizing myself. However, the preview pages online line looked intriguing and the chapters covered much more than just setting up files on the computer.

This book will be around for a long time because I think Drew said it best in the Conclusion at the end of his book – It’s All About the Method. Websites, products and online trees will come and go, but well thought out methods will last. That’s what this book is all about – choosing methods that work in all genealogical facets of one’s life.

The book has 11 chapters plus a Conclusion, which is sort of a closing statement to the book, and a short Appendix with a few sample forms.

Chapter 1 – Organizing Yourself
Chapter 2 – Organizing Your Space
Chapter 3 – Organizing Your Goals
Chapter 4 – Organizing Your Notes and Ideas
Chapter 5 – Organizing Your Files
Chapter 6 – Organizing Your Research Process
Chapter 7 – Organizing Your Communication
Chapter 8 – Organizing Your Online Research
Chapter 9 – Organizing Your Research Trips
Chapter 10 – Organizing Your Learning
Chapter 11 – Organizing Your Volunteering

While one might think that this book would be best suited to beginning genealogists, I have found some great tips in each chapter, particularly since the use of technology is integrated through the chapters and I have been a genealogy addict for 36 years.

I also especially like that the book begins with organizing one’s self, including the fact that everyone needs to maintain good health and mental sharpness and (oh, no) taking breaks to rejuvenate and regenerate AND ends both genealogical education and a reminder that we all need to give back to the genealogy community in what ever ways we can.

“Drew’s To-Dos” at the end of each chapter offer bulleted review tips, highlighting major points made in the chapter.

I also really like that this isn’t a “one size fits all” methodology. Instead, suggestions can be adapted to fit one’s own style. As a total package, organize your genealogy provides tools to make sure all the “stuff” doesn’t overtake your time and your life.

Many software products and websites are mentioned, which normally would quickly make a book outdated. However, this book is NOT a “how to” research book, it is more of a “how to keep yourself sane with all discoveries” book. Therefore, it is immaterial if one or more of the sites or products reaches the end of its life. The methods are what’s important.

Amazon includes many pages in the “Look Inside” preview. I highly recommend that you take a look at the book, particularly if you are either just starting out on the genealogy trail or if you’ve been doing traditional research for awhile, but are perhaps a bit older and not quite as tech-savvy as the digital natives (the kids born with technology in their hands). If you decide that it’s for you, Amazon Prime offers the book for $17.90. The Kindle version is $12.99. I don’t think you’ll regret it.



Matthias Williams, Revolutionary War Soldier

Matthias Williams, son of Matthias Williams (c1727-1782), of Cumberland County, Virginia, didn’t leave much of a paper trail, although some of the trail he likely might have left burned with the records of Morgan County, Tennessee in 1862.

Although Matthias was a Revolutionary War soldier, serving under Lafayette at the Siege of Yorktown, and he received a pension beginning in 1832, his pension file unfortunately gave no information whatsoever about his family.

Matthias Williams’ Declaration of Service

Matthias was born on 14 Nov 1755, Cumberland County, Virginia and died after the 1840 census, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee, where he had lived for a number of years. No probate or will exists for him, nor have any land deeds been found for descendants that mark his land. However, his final pension pay voucher was issued in the last quarter of 1846. He then died late that year at the advanced age of 91 years.

Matthias Williams’ Final Pension Pay Voucher

Matthias seems to have been an independent sort of man as he was living alone in the 1840 census. Williams family members believe that his wife was  probably  Sarah Butler, daughter of Aaron Butler, and that they married about 1776, possibly in Cumberland County, Virginia. Although marriage records exist for that time period, none is found for them. However, it was also the beginning of the War for Independence and it is possible their marriage bond and/or license return were never filed or even moved for safekeeping and then lost to time.

In the spring of 1776, Matthias (probably Matthias’s father) sold a tract of land with Aaron Butler in Cumberland County. During the fall of 1776, Aaron’s will was written and then probated in Cumberland County in 1777, with Matthias Williams as a witness and Aaron’s daughter, Sarah Williams, named as an heir.  

It is possible that Aaron Butler’s wife was Susannah Williams.  This Susannah may have been a sister of Thomas (born 1712) and Matthias Sr.  If true, then Matthias Jr. married his first cousin.

After the war, Matthias and his brother, John, left Cumberland County. Matthias next lived in Campbell County, based on marriage records of his children. By 1805, Matthias, John, youngest brother William and several Williams cousins (children of Samuel Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia) all made the westward trek to eastern Tennessee.


  1. Susannah, born c1778; died after 1850, probably Cole County, Missouri; married John Landrum, 9 January 1796, Campbell County, Virginia. The marriage record identifies Susannah as the daughter of Matthias.  In April 1801, “Thias” Williams and John Landrum appear in Cumberland County, Virginia court orders as plaintiffs in a case against one Henry Skipwith.  Nothing further was found on this suit.  A John Landrum appears in Anderson County, Tennessee court records from 1805-1814. From circumstantial evidence, it appears that this John is the same man who married Susannah Williams and that the Landrums were part of the larger Williams family who left for Tennessee together. There are many Landrum descendants today.
  2. ?Child, born c1780. The 1782 and 1784 tax lists of white souls include enough people to account for two parents and 3 and 4 children, respectively.  However, this child is speculation – there may have been another family member living with them at the time and even if this was a child of Matthias Jr., no further records have been found for him/her.
  3. Polly, born c1782; died before 13 March 1844, Pittsylvania County, where there is an estate administration for Pleasant and Polly from 1842-1845; married Pleasant Mahone, 20 Feb 1802, Campbell County, Virginia. He was born c1780; died before 20 March 1842, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Polly survived him, but not by much. This first Mahone generation remained in Virginia, but many of their children moved on to Missouri. Pleasant and Polly left many descendants.
  4. Thomas, born c1784; died before 18 July 1814, Roane County, Tennessee where he left a will that was probated on that date; married Charlotte Rector, daughter of Martin Rector, c1809, possibly in Anderson County, Tennessee, where Martin Rector was living at the time. Thomas and Charlotte had two daughters – Fanny who married Alfred Morgan and had eleven children and Elizabeth, who was at home in the 1830 census with her mother, but then lost to time.
  5. Matthias, born c1789, Virginia; died after 1860, probably in Morgan County, Tennessee; married Sally Rector, daughter of Martin Rector. Matthias and Sally had nine children and have many living descendants today. They lived first in Roane County and then Morgan County, Tennessee.
  6. John, born c1791; died by October1815, Roane County, Tennessee when the administration of his estate was noted in court records. When Thomas Williams, (4, above) named his executors, he named Matthias Sr. and John. It is assumed that he named his father and brother.  Chancery Court records for 18 October 1815 name Matthias Williams administrator of the estate of John Williams, deceased.  If John was married, there is no record to indicate the identity of his spouse or any children.
  7. Martha, born October 1797, Campbell County, Virginia; died 8 December 1884, Clark County, Mississippi; married Moses Shoemaker, 28 December 1814, Roane County, Tennessee. He was born 27 April 1795, Pulaski, Giles County, Tennessee; died 22 September 1876, Silas, Choctaw County, Alabama. Moses and Martha Shoemaker also have many descendants today.
  8. William H., born 10 March 1803, Virginia; died 1 May 1883, probably Morgan County, Tennessee; married (1) Unknown, born 1801-1810 (2) Unknown, possibly Sarah Row, 25 Sept 1843, Roane County, Tennessee (3) Sarah Elizabeth Patterson, c1848, probably Morgan County, Tennessee. She was born c1826, Tennessee; died 1900-1910, probably Roane County, Tennessee.

There is not much other documentation to fill in further details on the life of Matthias, the Revolutionary War soldier who witnessed the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Matthias’s wife, Sarah, predeceased him by many years. The early censuses of eastern Tennessee are lost, but Matthias was living alone as early as 1830.

I have much information on the descendants of Matthias up to the end of the Civil War. If you are related to this family, please leave a comment and I will contact you.