Morton Family Research

This site has been established as a clearing house for the research of a team of Morton Family Researchers. The Morton Families from Amelia, Charlotte, Henrico and Prince Edward County, Virginia who migrated to Caswell and Person Counties NC and from there to many other states. We hope it will be useful information to all Morton Researchers

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Family Historian--A few words on Genealogy by Mark Phelps

The Family Historian

The phone rings right after dinner and we cringe thinking it's another telemarketer calling but it's that worrywart Mark Phelps wanting to know when did Aunt Bessie die, and who did she marry and not only that but when did it happen. Then he wants to know about all her children and even her grandchildren. We never cared for Aunt Bessie that much to begin with so why should we care about these silly little details of her life. We just want to be left alone and not have to get involved in this family business!

How many people at your workplace or the neighbors you bump into can tell you who their 4th Great-Grandfather was or much less what his life was like. Many people never knew their Grandparents much less anybody past that. Ask the average person what their Great-Grandmother's maiden name was and you probably get a blank stare. I myself have Presidents in my ancestry and much is known about these people because they were important and someone bothered to write down their history so that generations later their story could be told. It's just as important to the Family Historian how the modest farmer in Caswell County, North Carolina in the 1700's made his way through this mortal life.

The first time you gaze upon a document that was written over 200 years ago about someone that had the same blood coursing through his or her veins as you do today, it's an absolutely mesmerizing experience. Just try it some time and you'll see. Go to a county courthouse and read an old will, land deed or marriage certificate about someone that lived during the time of the Civil War or even better yet during the Revolutionary War. See their signatures there on the 200 year old paper, see how simple their possessions were, see where they lived, and the legacy they left to their family however humble it may be. Some were better off than others and could leave large tracts of land or dozens of slaves to their descendants but most left a small piece of what it had taken them a lifetime to achieve and just wanted to share it with his family in the hopes that it would always remain a secure place for generations to come.

How many people could even fathom a time when young girls married at 14, had 14 children and faced death at every birth or feared the child most likely wouldn't make it to it's first birthday. When a simple cold that we treat as a mere inconvenience today could send you to an early grave, unless you were just tough enough to survive. Many didn't! You exist today because someone made it through the diseases, the wars, the trials that man has faced throughout the annals of recorded history. They survived so you could have a chance to face the brave new world of tomorrow.

Being a Family Historian is most of the time a thankless job. Countless hours researching old documents that you need a degree sometimes just to translate it. Running down leads only to crash headlong into a brick wall because a careless census taker didn't do his job, or the British Army burned the courthouse and all the ancestral records that it held. Traipsing through snake and tick infested cemeteries that are sometimes scary even in broad daylight and after having risked your personal well being to find you have just completed another wild goose chase. Your spouse is angry because you're chasing the dead when you're among the living. Other's think you've flipped your wig because all you want to talk about is someone who turned to dust 100 years ago. So why do they do it? Because they think it's important to know where you came from, that some day when they're too old and feeble to continue, that someone in the family will pick up the family flag and march proudly forward into the future, while preserving the past, so 200 years from now when someone asks "What was you Great-Grandmothers maiden name?" They can say "Sit down and I'll tell you all about it"

WrittenBy: Latham Mark Phelps

August 15th 2003

The Making of Marks from Carol Olson

I have started to spend some time looking at microfilms of land deeds for Amelia and early Prince Edward County (through 1768) to try and solve the problem of all the Thomas Mortons in Amelia and Prince Edward County.

I've noticed that grantors had to sign the deeds, and that some people could sign their full name while others just made their mark. One Thomas Morton had a mark of + while another had a mark of I and a third could sign his full name. I have my suspicions that Thomas (mark I) and Thomas (mark +) are one in the same (see what follows), but more documents will have to be found to either confirm or deny this.

The Thomas that was patented for a land grant on 9 Feb 1737/8 of 126 acres in Amelia adjoining Joseph Watson’s, William Fuqua’s and William Mayo’s lines [ AND Virginia Genealogical Society Quarterly • volume XXV • volume XXV, number 1 (01-FEB-1987) • Virginia Land Patent Book 17, Pages 255-532 (1736-1738) p 509] that was subsequently sold to James Short of James City County on 21 Jun 1740 [Amelia County, VA Deeds, Volume 1 (1735-1741), page 46] made his mark +. (I think this is the correct mark but have to go back and check since I was being none too careful at this point in copying down the EXACT mark.)

The Thomas Morton that was conveyed 225 acres of Amelia Co land by Joseph Morton Sr of Brunswick Co on 15 Feb 1744/5 made his mark I [Amelia County Land Deeds Bk 2, p 110]. This same Thomas witnessed an 800-acre deed in Amelia Co by Joseph Morton Sr to Joseph Ligon of Henrico Co on the same date [Amelia County Land Deeds Bk 2, p 111]. Neighbors to this Thomas (mark I) were Joseph Morton Sr (mark was a backwards E with the center vertical line going all the way through the vertical line), Jakob MackGehee, and Daniel Ham(b)lin.

There was a Thomas Morton that received a land patent on 25 Jun 1747 bordering Joseph Morton and MackGehee’s line of 400 acres in Amelia County on the lower side of Bryer [Briery] River. It would be reasonable to assume that we are talking about this same Thomas (mark I), however those who receive land do not sign the patent so we cannot do anything but try to trace this land to the point where it was sold.

The Thomas Morton that acquired land from his brother Richard and then in conjunction with his brother John sold land to Thomas Brackett was of Raleigh parish in Amelia County and could sign his own name (26 Sep 1751). The land conveyed adjoined Lax, Brackett (formerly Richard Morton’s land), William Archer (formerly Edward Goode’s land), Hudson, and Watson. This was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Morton as the deed mentions that the land was part of the land deeded in Thomas’ will of Feb 1730/31 and part patented to Elizabeth 25 May 1734. He was the Jr. of the early Amelia Co records. It APPEARS that this same Thomas bought land from Joseph Morton Jr, land purchased from Daniel Hamlin 23 Sep 1751, since witnesses were Richard and John Jr Morton. However, also notice that the name Daniel Hamlin is mentioned above with the Thomas (mark I). Oh what a tangled mess!

On 9 June 1757, Thomas Morton of Prince Edward County sold to James Shelton of Prince Edward County, for 35£, a certain tract of land on the east side of Briery River in Prince Edward County, about 200 acres bounded by Richard Woodson, McGehee, the flat ground of a branch, a stony point by the riverside. It was fully signed by Thomas Morton. With witnesses - John Fulton, Chas Venable, James Hervey (Harvey); recorded 9 Aug 1757. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 1, 1754- 1759, p 106] (This is most likely the Thomas son of Thomas & Elizabeth Morton. From the McGehee mentioned, I wonder if this is part of the 400-acre patent 25 Jun 1747 to Thomas Morton. If so, it would mean that my original guess above about which Thomas Morton we were talking about on this patent was wrong.)

Thomas (mark + [definitely this time]) was the one who had a son George that married a Henrietta (not Hannah Ritter as James Allen claimed). On 1 May 1761, Thomas (mark +) Morton of PE granted to son George Morton, for 5 shillings, 100 acres of land in the parish of St Patrick on Sandy River, bounded by the widow Ligon’s line, part of land Joseph Ligon bought from Joseph Morton. Signed Thomas (+) Morton. Witnesses: Thomas Turpin, John Penix, John Holloway. Recorded 11 Aug 1763. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 2, p 60]. (With the name Ligon involved, this sounds like land attributed to Thomas (mark I) above. Could the clerk who copied the deeds on 15 Feb 1744/5 have miscopied Thomas’ mark? Could Thomas (mark I) and Thomas (mark +) be one in the same? So far I have only seen the mark I on the 2 deeds copied by the same clerk on the same day 15 Feb 1744/5.)

Two more deeds that I find of interest are as follows. On 15 Jun 1767 George Morton of St Patrick Parish PE County, for 40 pounds, grants to John Holloway of same, 100 acres of land in Prince Edward County adjoining John Holloway and John Ligon. Signed George Morton (can sign his name) and Henrietta (her mark x) Morton his wife. Witnesses: Alexr Fraser, Joshua Davison, and Dudley McDarmon. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 3 p 65 & p 161]. On 15 Jun 1768 Royall Bowman of parish St Patrick and county PE, for 25 pounds, grants to George Morton of same 134 acres of land in Prince Edward County adjoining George Morton’s Spring Branch, William Davison’s line & Thomas Blankenship. Witnesses: G Davidson, Dudley McDermon, Bryant McDermon, James Blankenship, and John Rutledge. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 3, p 257]. (Since we know that Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Morton, married Royall Bowman with her father’s consent, this makes me think that the George that married Henrietta was the brother to the Elizabeth that married Royall Bowman.)

Well back to the Thomas that could sign his name. On 16 Nov 1767 Thomas Morton Jr of Prince Edward County, for 100 pounds, granted to Miles Gathright of New Kent County 600 acres of land in Prince Edward County on the Briery River adjoining James Cook and John Martin. Signed and sealed: Thomas Morton. (My guess is this is the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Woodson Morton.)

Question: Who was the Thomas Morton who on 19 April 1750 bought land from John Martin for 30 pounds, 200 acres on the lower side of Bryer River, adjoining Thomas Morton’s old line, the river, John Martin’s old line & a bold branch. Wits: Hugh Challes, Samuel Wallace & Samuel Ewing? (Since he was the grantee, he did not have to sign his name to the deed so marks vs. literacy will offer no help on this one. We do know this land was patented originally to John Martin 1 Oct 1747 in Amelia County. Does that help anyone?)

Question: Who was the Thomas Morton that witnessed the will of Joseph Morton Sr on 7 Dec 1749 and subsequently attended court in Halifax County when the will was proved 22 Mar 1753? I would love to see the microfilm for that will to see if the Thomas signed his own name or made a mark.

Question: Who was the Thomas Morton on the following deed that Mark Phelps has so kindly given us the complete version? Sure seems like it might be Thomas (mark +) from above 1767 deeds, but we won’t know for sure until this land is sold. On 19 Oct 1776, George Morton of Amelia County sold to Thomas Morton of Prince Edward County, for 20 pounds current Virginia money, 20 acres of land lying in the County of Prince Edward on the lower side of Sandy River, bounded by Thomas Morton line where his conversion on the lower fork of Sandy River below George Morton Plantation, thence up the said fork to a new line on a______bush thence along a new line to John Holloway line thence along Holloway line to head oak corner on the said Thomas Morton ‘s land thence along the said Morton line as it meanders to the beginning on the fork of the river below George Morton Plantation. Signed & sealed: George Morton (full signature I assume). Wit: John Clark, John (x) Penix, Josiah Morton. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 6, page 166]. (I’m beginning to think more and more that this is THE Josiah of Caswell County and that he was the son of Thomas (mark +).)

Future plans: I need to recheck some of the documents on microfilm that I'd already looked at previously to see what different marks the Thomases were making, as well as check subsequent PE land deeds after 1768 (films that the LA family history center does not have). I would really like to see the microfilm for the Thomas that died 1802 to see if he was the one who signed his name or made his mark and what that mark might be, since I know that both Agnes (my husband’s direct ancestor) and Maryann were his daughters from the will extract.

Deeds of interest to check into:
On 13 Aug 1771, Thomas Morton Sr. granted to George Morton and wife Hannah? 100 acres on Sandy River in Prince Edward County. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 5, page 123]

On 13 Aug 1771, George Morton granted to Thomas Morton Jr. 134 acres of land in Prince Edward County. Signed George & Hannah? Morton. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 5, page 213]. (Possibly a son of Thomas (mark +)?)

22 Nov 1771 deed John Richards from Thomas Morton Sr (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Bk 4 p 182)

19 Jul 1773 deed Thomas Morton from John Pettus (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Bk 5 p 168)

21 Aug 1775 deed Thomas Morton from John Brown (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Bk 5 p 414)

14 Aug 1784 deed Thomas Morton Sr from John Holloway (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 7 p 111)

1 Mar 1786 deed Thomas Morton from Humphrey Nelson (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 7 p 222)

In a deed recorded February 19, 1787, Thomas Morton conveyed 300 a of land on Briery River in Prince Edward County to Samuel F. Spencer. (Samuel was Agnes Morton's husband so I suppose this to be the Thomas that died in 1802 who was the father Agnes, but which Thomas this is bears checking out.) [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 7, page 269].

20 Apr 1789 deed Thomas Morton Jr from John Clarke Jr (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 8 p 148) (It is interesting to note that a John Clark was a witness to an Oct 1776 of George Morton - see above. Could this Thomas Jr be the son of the Thomas with mark + and the brother to George?)

8 Dec 1790 deed Joseph S Morton 35 a on Sandy River from Thomas Morton (Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 9 p 13) (Could the S be a mark?)

18 Jan 1792, Thomas Morton Sr. and Samuel Morton granted to John Clark, 190 acres of land in Prince Edward County on the Sandy River on the lines of Josiah Morton and Nathan Penn. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 9, page 131]. (With John Clark involved, this sounds like the Thomas with mark + and perhaps Samuel his son? But this is a deed that CAN be checked since Thomas & Samuel Morton are the grantors.)

On 9 Oct 1792, Thomas Morton and wife Cate granted 78 a land on Little Branch in Prince Edward County to Thomas Brackett. Witnesses: Samuel Morton, William Elliott, and William King. [Prince Edward County, VA Deed Book 9, page 233]. (With the name Thomas Brackett involved this reminds me of the Thomas that can sign his name - see above. Again we can check this out since Thomas and Cate are the grantors.)

After relooking at the above deed extracts, I will make the following hypothesis: Thomas Morton is the one who can sign his name; Thomas Morton Sr is the one with mark +; Thomas Morton Jr is the son of Thomas Sr. It will be interesting when I am able to access the microfilms of these deeds, court records, and wills to see what proves true or if we are still left with several mystery Thomases.

Carol Olson---Morton Research Team Member

6:55 PM