Biography: Nancy Branch Pankey (1797-1865)

Howell-Darling-2017 Research

By Don Taylor

It is expedient to research direct line ancestors, so we often neglect siblings of our ancestors, particularly our distant ancestors’ siblings.  Often, to gain insight into some of our ancestors, it is helpful to research the friends, associates, and neighbors (FAN) of our ancestors. However, before we spend time with the FANs, we should research the other family members of our ancestors to uncover any potential clues there.  Also, such research can uncover FAN relationships we can use elsewhere in our research.

I had reached something of an impasse in my research of Martha (Cannon) Pankey. I knew that Martha had at least seven children, including 2nd great-grandmother Caroline M. A. Pankey, but very little about her life otherwise. To try to understand her life I decided to research one of her daughters, Nancy Branch Pankey. 

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: James Dallas Howell
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Peter Fletcher Howell
  • 2nd Great grandmother: Caroline M. A. Pankey
  •             Sister of Caroline M. A. Pankey: Nancy Birch Pankey

Nancy Branch Pankey (1796-1865)


Birth records are notoriously difficult to find that prove the birth date of an individual and Nancy is no different.  The 1860 Census indicates that she (Nana) is 63 years old, suggesting a birthdate between 2 June 1796 and 1 June 1797.[i] However, the 1850 Census indicates she (Nancy B) is 56 years old, suggesting a birthdate between 2 June 1793 and 1 June 1794.[ii] The Virginia Deaths and Burial Index indicates a birth year of 1796. FHL film 31989 should show the basis of the index entry and I should order it to confirm the date suggested. I prefer 1796 as her birthdate both because of the deaths index and because there are more days between June 2nd and December 31st than from January 1st to June 1st.  She was the second known daughter of Thomas Armstrong Pankey and Martha Cannon.


We know nothing of Nancy’s childhood. She was the second child of seven children. She grew up during the challenging period between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.


She married Edward Pankey on 13 Jan 1818 in Cumberland County, Virginia.[iii] That would have made her 22 years-old when she married the 31 years-old Edward. Whenever I see a marriage wherein two people have the same surname I always wonder about other possible relationships, particularly when the name is uncommon and the population pool is small  — Could Edward and Nancy have been cousins?  With a surname middle name (Branch), could she have married a Pankey previously and be on a second marriage? Maybe other records will shed light onto this family.


Edward and Nancy Branch Pankey had ten children. They were:

  1. Martha Ann (c. 1819 – 1896)
  2. Keziah Quinley (1822 – 1861)
  3. John Thomas (c. 1823 – 1851)
  4. James Edward (1826 – 1897)
  5. Elizabeth (c. 1829 – ?)
  6. Nancy Jane (c. 1831 – 1898)
  7. Sarah Francis (c. 1834 – 1861)
  8. Peter Perino (c. 1836 – 1915)
  9. Stephen Lafayette (1836 – 1886)
  10. William Calhoun (c. 1839 – c. 1892)

The 1850 Census finds the family in Henry County, Virginia. Although the 1850 census does not show relationships between individuals in a household, it does show who was living in the household. It shows seven of Edward and Nancy’s children, John, Elizabeth, Nancy, Sarah, Stephen, Peter, and William, living with them in 1850.

The 1860 Census finds the Pankey family remarkably intact. Still in Henry County, Virginia, with Edward and Nana (Nancy) are five of the children; Elizabeth, Jane, Stephen, Peter, and William. I think that Sarah is also with them. There is a Sarah Griffith in the household with two children.  That Sarah is the right age to be Edward and Nancy’s daughter, but I’d like to confirm the relationship.


Nancy Branch (Pankey) Pankey died between 19 Nov 1865 and 6 December 1865 in Irisburg, Henry County, Virginia.[iv]  She is buried in the Pankey Cemetery in Irisburg, VA.[v]

As I continue to investigate the Pankey family of the late 1700s to the mid-1800s Virginia, surely other interesting items will arise.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Continue investigating the Pankey family of the late-1700s thru the mid-1800s in Virginia.
  • Order FHL film #31989. Review/confirm data regarding Nancy Branch Pankey Pankey’s death.

————- Disclaimer ————-


[i] 1860 Census (A), Ancestry.Com, Edward Pankey – Henry County, Virginia – Page 3, Line 40.

[ii] 1850 Census (NARA), Ancestry.Com, Edward Pankey – Henry County, Virginia. Page 77 – Line 42 & Page 78 – Lines 1-8.

[iii] Dodd, Jordan, Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1660-1800, Ancestry.Com, Edward Pankey – Nancy B. Pankey. Cumberland, Virginia – 13 Jan 1818 – accessed 18 Jan 2017.

[iv] Virginia, Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, Ancestry.Com, Nancy Pankey.

[v] Find a Grave, Nancy Branch Pankey Pankey – Memorial 92073621.

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