Amanuensis the Easy Way

Amanuensis Monday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.A few years ago, I wrote a post about my wife’s 4th great-grandfather, Lewis Bryan (1755-1830) and that he had purchased his land from Robert Bryan. That post received several comments. One included a clue from Gloria Knight who said, “I have found where a “Patent” was issued on 10 Dec 1760 to a Robert Bryan. Source: Halifax County N.C. Land Grants – Secretary of State – Land Grants Record Books 1693-1960. Grant # was 82; File # 14. 520 acres on Conotoe Creek.”

I had meant to find that reference and incorporate it into my information regarding Robert Bryan. I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Her comment/clue reminded me of three significant resources matters.


So many of us want to be self-sufficient we tend to forget many researchers have been there before and we can and should build upon their work. For example, Gloria’s clue provided enough information that I could easily, and quickly build upon her work. Not just accept what she said but use it as a hint as a beginning point. I know that professional genealogists want every source to be quoted in a fashion identified in Evidence Explained. Sure, that is THE standard for citing sources.  However, rather than getting all twisted around the citation standards, I am most interested in having enough information about the source that I can find it for myself. In this case, a Google search for Gloria’s clue, “Halifax County N.C. Land Grants ” brought me immediately to North Carolina Land Grant Images and Data. Seeing Search Query on the page, I searched for Name: “Bryan” and County: Halifax. Six entries were returned, one the 520 Acres of Robert Bryan.  The page also had a link to an image in Book 14, Pages 114-115. There it was, an image of the original patent book. The key to me is Gloria had provided enough information regarding her source that I was able to find the source in less than a minute myself. To me that is the ultimate reason for citations and building upon or confirming her research is the ultimate purpose of networking.


I knew from previous research with this family line that Martin County was previously Halifax County.  There are many sites to learn that kind of information. However, I have found that Wikipedia is possibly the best and easiest way to confirm such information. On Wikipedia, just search <NAME> County, <STATE> and you get the appropriate wiki page.  In this case. I entered “Martin County, North Carolina” In the History section of the page returned said,

The county was formed in 1774 from the southeastern part of Halifax County and the western part of Tyrrell County.

I could have just as easily gone to the Halifax County, North Carolina page and learned that,

In 1774 the southeastern part of Halifax County was combined with part of Tyrrell County to form Martin County.

I think every county page on Wikipedia has a “History” section. I find that the County entries in Wikipedia to be a great asset. Besides quick history, there is a Communities section which shows the cities, towns, unincorporated communities, and townships within the county. Great information to have handy when reviewing Census and other records. I can be a real help in understanding that an incorporated community in your genealogy is near town that may have been their post office which may have been in a township.  So, when you see the names change in different documents, you can understand that your ancestors may have been in the same place even though multiple names were used.


Finally, I wanted to transcribe the patent information from the document. I’ll admit, I don’t like transcribing 18th century handwriting very much. I mean, I can do it, I just don’t like doing it. In this case, I could easily read the document started out “Robert Bryan Five hundred and twenty acres.” A Google search of those exact words led to one result. A quick review of the result showed it was a transcript of the document I wanted to transcribe. Dated the 10th day of December 1760.  Then, rather than transcribe the original text, all I needed to do is to read the transcription and see if I agreed with the transcription.  Much faster – much easier. Then, I added the transcript to my source documents identifying it:

Transcription by <Unknown>  found on site, BMGEN.COM
“Genealogy data relating to the Brian and Mitchell families.”

So, I have my copy of the original image, and I have my source for that image documented. I also have a transcription of the information, confirmed and reviewed by me. I am good with that and can move on to the next project.


Transcription by <Unknown> found on site, BMGEN.COM

ROBERT BRYAN five hundred and twenty acres of land in Halifax County.

Beginning at a Pine, his corner on Conneto Swamp running thence up said swamp to a Maple at the mouth of Wild Cat Branch; then up said branch to a Poplar in said branch; then W 62 poles to a Red Oak; then S 160 poles to a Pine; then W 40 poles to two Sweet Gums in a branch; then S 280 poles to a Pine; then W 88 poles to a pine in MOSES HORN’s line; then along his line S 23 E 174 poles to a White Oak, his corner on Conneto Creek; then down said creek to a Pine, JOHN HORN’s corner on said creek; then along his line N 17 E 142 poles to a Pine, his corner in said BRYAN’s line; then along his line W 16 poles to a Pine, his corner; then along his line N 270 poles to a Pine, his corner on a branch; then down the branch, his line, to the first station.

Dated 10th day of December, 1760


  1. Pay attention to hints from anywhere – check them out for yourself.
  2. The North Carolina Land Grant site is an awesome resource. Be sure to include it in your resources.
  3. Don’t forget Wikipedia County searches can be helpful.
  4. Check Google (or Bing or Yahoo) to see if the words you want transcribed  have already been transcribed.









Vinson/Vincent line of Halifax, NN

Researching the Vinson/Vincent line of Halifax, North Carolina

Howell-Darling-2017 Research
Howell/Vinson/Vincent Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.

Getting to know ancestors that lived before 1850 is always difficult. The census records before 1880 do not include relationships and census records before 1850 only include the name of the head of the household. Because of that, it is really difficult to know all the names and to learn all the relationships. It isn’t a wall, but certainly researching families before 1850 can feel like a closed road.  For me, my wife’s third great-grandfather, Burkett Vinson is such a person.  He shows up once in the 1840 Census with a small household of five individuals. After a frustrating time trying to find more about him, I decided to do a name/location study regarding his surname in his location. Such a study can help associate people into relationships and can help reduce errors.

Using Family Search, I searched the 1850 Census for surname Vinson in Halifax, North Carolina. The system returned six results from two families. Both were new to my research:

  • Littleberry Vinson, Age 34, his apparent wife, an apparent daughter, Laura, and an apparent son Robert.[i]
  • Robert Vinson, Age 30, and his apparent wife, Martha.[ii]

Next, I enter the information into my software, (I currently use Family Tree Maker 3.1.) documenting my sources very carefully.

Besides the obvious family units I’ve discovered, it was also interesting to learn many of the little nuances of the individual’s lives. For example, Littleberry Vinson distinguished himself in testing at Brinkleyville Academy in 1831[iii]. He became a lawyer. Then, in 1840, he toasted vice presidential candidate John Tyler for devotion to Republican principals and support of the Constitution. That article’s use of “Esqr.” confirms that Littleberry was a lawyer. His toast suggests his political affiliation indicating that Littleberry Vinson was likely a Whig.[iv] (Harrison and Tyler ran on a Whig party ticket. Also, today’s Republican Party wasn’t established until 1854.)

Unfortunately, my experience researching this family is that Vincent and Vinson were used interchangeably depending upon the ear of the person hearing the name. Sadly, a search for “Vincent” yielded another 13 results and three new previously unknown households.

  • John Vincent, Age 32, with his apparent wife, Leonora, and three daughters, Virginia, Elizabeth, and Susan. Also in the household is a 30-year-ood Eliza Beasley. (These were my wife’s ancestor family. John is my wife’s 2nd great-grandfather and Susan is her great-grandmother.) [v]
  • Elizabeth Vincent, Age 64 with a 25-year-old Nancy Vincent in the household.  (This would be the wife and daughter of the deceased Burkett Vinson.)[vi]

New Households:

  • Michael Vincent, age 27, his apparent wife and an apparent son, Walter.[vii]
  • James Vincent, Age 19 & John Vincent, Age 16[viii]
  • Phil Vincent in the household of James Snow.[ix]

Of course, all the “apparent” relationships above are guesses. I’ll add that, because of the ages, I’ll guess that James and John (ages 19 & 16) were brothers.

Next, I need to expand upon these Vincent families and understand how they fit into the larger picture.


[i] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Littleberry Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina. See: 1850 Census – Lettleberry Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina.pdf.

[ii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Robert Vinson – Halifax, North Carolina.

[iii] Roanoke Advocate (Halifax, NC) · 1831-11-24 · Page 2 – Various Vinsons achieve honors (

[iv] Roanoke Advocate and States Rights Banner  ((Halifax, NC), ), Newspapers.Com, 1840-07-29 · Page 4 – Volunteer Toasts – Littleberry Vinson

[v] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – John Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina.

[vi] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Elizabeth Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina.

[vii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Michael Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina.

[viii] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – James Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina.

[ix] 1850 Census (FS), 1850 Census – Phil Vincent – Halifax, North Carolina.

My Wife’s Closest Famous Relatives

 “We’re Related” – Part 4

Famous Friday
Howell-Darling 2017
by Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.So, my wife says to me, “I thought you were going to look at my family also in “We’re Related.” I had mentioned in my first article, “We’re Related – My Possible Relatives – First Look,” that I was looking forward to seeing how well the app did looking at her family.

Switching user trees in “We’re Related” is cumbersome. You need to add another tree, identify yourself in that tree, then remove your old tree from being used.  Also, the app uses your name from somewhere and not the tree and person you are saying you are. In any event, the app uses my photo instead of my wife’s even though it uses her name in some places and my name in other locations. It is frustrating, but nothing you can’t think your way around. It just tells me that the app was intended only for one person and one tree.

I researched my wife’s tree before and learned Patrick Swayze was my wife’s ninth cousin.  I also read that John Cameron Swayze (Timex – takes a licking and keeps on ticking) was related to Patrick, so must be related to my wife also but I didn’t trace the relationship. I figured one or both of them would show up in “We’re Related.” I was wrong. Neither of them are in the first potential cousins suggested. “We’re Related suggested the following relationships:

  • Michelle Obama       8th Cousin, 2x Removed      8 Generations to the common ancestor
  • Elon Musk                 8th Cousin, 2x Removed      8          “
  • Miley Cyrus               7th Cousin, 1x Removed       7          “
  • Britney Spears          8th Cousin, 2x Removed      8          “
  • Johnny Depp            7th Cousin, 3x Removed       7          “
  • Christina Aguilera   8th Cousin, 2x Removed      8          “

“We’re Related” extends family trees to a common ancestor, I figured the shorter the line, the more likely it would be that I could confirm a relationship. Miley Cyrus and Johnny Depp were the closest famous people suggested by the app with only seven generations before the common ancestor. Of individuals with eight individuals before the common ancestor, I thought she’s like the idea that Michelle Obama was related, so I selected her from the “eights.”

Miley Ray Cyrus

Photo of Miley Cyrus at Jimmy Fallon
Miley Cyrus – 7th Cousin 1x Removed?

Born Destiny Hope Cyrus in 1992, Miley Cyrus is a singer, songwriter, and actress. She is known for her role as Penny in the animated movie “Bolt,” where she not only starred but was nominated for a Golden Globe award for the original song, “I Thought I Lost You.”  She and my wife are supposedly 7th cousins, 1x removed. The relationship follows the Howell/Hobbs line:


I have looked carefully at Mary Hobbs, Annie Long, Martha Bryan, and Cherry Price’s lives and written about them (as noted above). I agree that Cherry Price’s mother appears to be Mary Brown. I suspect Hardy Brown is Mary Brown’s father, but I haven’t confirmed that yet. I have no knowledge of William Brown nor a clue regarding Hardy Brown’s parents. My wife’s relationship with Miley Cyrus is very possible.

Johnny Depp

Photo of Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp – 7th Cousin 3x Removed?

John Christopher Depp, II, is a famous actor, producer, and musician. He is best known for his roles in “Edward Scissorhands,” “Sweeney Todd,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He was born in 1963 in Kentucky. He and my wife are supposedly 7th cousins, 3x removed. The relationship follows the Howell/Pankey line:

I have looked carefully at Howell/Pankey line through Thomas A. Pankey, and I agree that Thomas’s father was likely Samuel Pankey. I have no knowledge of Stephen Pankey being Thomas Pankey’s father nor have I seen anything suggesting the Panetier surname. My wife’s relationship with Johnny Depp is possible.


Michelle Obama

Official Photo of Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama – 8th Cousin 2x Removed

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born in Chicago, IL, in 1964 and married Barack Obama in 1992. She campaigned for her husband in 2008 and became First Lady of the United States with his inauguration on January 20, 2009. Michelle and my wife are supposedly 8th cousins, 2x removed. The relationship follows the Darling line exclusively on my wife’s side.

This is the first “We’re Related” suggested famous person relationship wherein their suggestion of a common ancestor is an ancestor known to me and one with I agree. I have confirmed that Dennis Darling (1640-1717) had at least ten children. One was my wife’s ancestor Benjamin; one was Michelle’s supposed ancestor, John. Although I don’t have their names, I am fairly sure that John had at least 13 children, one of whom could easily have been Martha Darling. I suspect that the genealogical research for the famous people, like Michelle Obama, is pretty solid, so I’m am fairly confident that the relationship of Michelle Obama being my wife’s 8th cousin twice removed, is very probable.


“We’re Related” has not suggested any of our friends are related to my wife yet.

Relationships to Famous People

I have expanded my chart, Relationships to Famous People and have moved it to a Google Spreadsheet.


“We’re Related” is a fun little app to look at possibilities.  It pleases me to think that Michelle Obama and my wife are related. But more importantly, “We’re Related” helps me think about key relationships in my tree and has the potential of providing clues into further research. Ancestry has clearly improved its algorithms and appears to use feedback from researchers so that matches aren’t presented that are unlikely or impossible.

William Freeman – Patriot

Sometimes I’m reminded that when I’m away from home, I need to be extra careful to document my work so as to be able to cite my sources properly.  Sadly I can’t do that with today’s treasure.

Back in March of 2013, I went to the Family History Center in Powder Springs, GA.  While there I found some fascinating things and I failed to document where I got them. One of the most interesting items was a letter to Mrs. E. B. Freeman, in response to a letter from her. I don’t know if the reply came from NARA, the War Department, or where but was signed by A. D. Hiller, Assistant to Administrator.  Anyway, it provides details about William Freeman, a Revolutionary War patriot, his service and his family. As such it is a treasure to have found.  I only wish I had properly documented my source for the document.

WASHINGTON               October 5, 1931

Mrs. E. B. Freeman
826 Bellevue Avenue
Dublin, Georgia

Dear Madam:

Reference is made to your letter of September 19th, relative to William Freeman, a soldier of the Revolution.

The data furnished herein are obtained from papers on file in the Revolutionary War pension claim, W. 10042, based on the military service of William Freeman.

He was born October 26, 1759, in Bertie County, North Carolina.

While a resident of Bertie or Martin Co., he enlisted and served as private with the North Carolina troops as follows: in 1776, three months in Captain Andrew Oliver’s Company in Colonel Hogun’s Regiment; from July 20, 1778, nine months in Captain Child’s Company in Colonel Hart’s Regiment; in 1781, three months in Captain Taylor’s Company in Colonel Eaton’s Regiment and was in the battles of Guilford and Camden.

He was allowed pension on his application executed July 23, 1832, at which time he was a resident of Burke County, North Carolina.

He died January 27 or 28, 1838, in Greene County, Missouri, where he had moved in 1835.

While a resident of Martin County, North Carolina, William Freeman married in that county about 1786 Mary Bryan, the daughter of Robert Bryan.

Said Mary died November 5, 1845.

————— Page 2 ———————

In 1850 reference was made to the following children of William and Mary Freeman:

Reddick Freeman, aged about fifty-six years and a resident of Caldwell County, North Carolina.

John Freeman, aged fifty-four years.

Larry, aged about fifty-two years and resident of Owen County, Indiana

Lemuel H. Freeman, Aged forty-nine years.

Elizabeth and James (Twins) aged about forty-seven years; she was wife of Isaac Smith and a resident of Caldwell County, North Carolina, and he, James Freeman, was resident of Owen County, Indiana.

Nancy, aged about forty-five years and the wife of Greene Austin.

Frances, aged about forty-one years and the wife of Jacob Painter.

Rachel, the daughter of William and Mary Freeman, married John Austin and they had a daughter, Asenath.

        Very truly yours,

A. D. Hiller

                             Assistant to Administrator

William Freeman was the son-in-law of my wife’s fifth-great-grandfather Robert Bryan. (Husband of my wife’s fourth-great-grand-aunt.)

Virginia Memory Chancery Records Index

John P. Williams vs Admr of John P. Price – Case: 1836-011

Peter Howell Deposition

Amanuensis Monday

Finding records for ancestors in antebellum Virginia are always a treasure.  One of my favorite record sets is the Chancery Records Index available through Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia.  Although it says it is an index, it is much more.  Not only does it provide a search capability of an index, once you find a record you may also download the original document images. They even provide a batch download of all the images in a set as a ZIP file instead of needing to download all the files one at a time – A very handy feature when a record has 90 images.

I was recently looking for records regarding my wife’s 4th great-grandfather John Price and looked at the Virginia Chancery Records Index for possible information. Sure enough, a search for anyone with the surname Price being the plaintiff in a case between 1779 (when John was 21 years old) and 1840 (a few years after his death). There were 11 records returned and four of them related to a John Price as the plaintiff.

A similar search for Price being the defendant returned 12 records with three of the results relating to the administrator of John Price’s estate being the defendant. With these records, I thought I’d look at the details of the John Price cases to see what might be there.

Woo-hoo! One of the cases includes testimony from Peter Howell, whom I have been searching for information regarding for quite some time.  Would his affidavit show anything new? Here is my transcript of the document.

Image of the Peter Howell Deposition in the John P. Williams vs John P. Price 1839 Virginia Chancery case.
Peter Howell Deposition

Virginia Memory – Chancery Records – John Williams vs. John P Price – Page 0030 – Transcript

The Deposition of Peter Howel of lawful age. Taken agreeable to notice
on Thursday the 31st day of March 1836. At the house of William Newton in
The County of Buckingham, Virginia. to be read as evidence in a certain
Suit defending in the Circuit Superior Court of law and Chancery in
Cumberland County Va on the Chancery side of said Court. In which
John P Williams is Plaintiff and William D. Price as administrator
of John P. Price. deceased, is defendant. This deponent being
duly sworn deposits and saith that I recollect that
Mr. John P Price and Mr. John P William came to my
house sometime between the first and 15th of June
1830 on about that time at which time Mr. Williams
applied to me for [???d] dollars which I owe him
for the reason of an irmaue[?] in the spring of 1829
to his Hames and upon appreciation I present to Mr.
Williams a thirty dollar note it being the smallest
I had at that time Mr. William informed me that
he had no small money and could not change
the note I forwarded in in convergence of which
Mr. Williams turned to Mr. Price and told him
he would leave a receipt with him and get him to collect
the money and after the 16th of June 1830 Mr.
Price told me he was able to change the note I
offered to Mr. Williams I paid him the Money
on the same day and took a receipt
which I have now in my possession and further this
deponent saith not.

Peter Howell

Sworn to transcribed before me this 31st day of April 1836

Benj. D. c Induson[?]


  • John P Price and John P Williams came to Peter Howel’s home in June 1830.
  • Peter Howell testified (was living) on 31 March 1836.
  • William Newton lived in Buckingham County in March 1836.
  • William D. Price was the administrator of the estate of John P. Price.

Peter’s deposition doesn’t provide any important new information regarding him or his life. However, there are 90 pages within this Chancery case, and the Peter Howell deposition only provides two of those pages.  There is a lot more to look at and see what I can learn.  There is a deposition from a “William Holman.” I’ll bet this is the William Holman that married Peter Howell’s half-sister?  If so, maybe that will provide fresh new areas of inquiry. There are also several other documents in Virginia Memories Chancery Records that should be reviewed closely. Ninety pages of transcribing hard-to-read 19th-century handwriting is always a chore (for me), but it has the potential of opening new areas of research.

Future Research:

There are some 23 Chancery cases from Cumberland County, Virginia, that might apply to my wife’s Price ancestors; I need to review them and glean any new facts I can find.


Use Virginia Memory  Chancery Records Index to look for Virginia ancestors who lived in Virginia between 1750 and 1912.  Be sure to check by specific county and/or city to your research processes to avoid searching for information from counties not covered by the index.