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.

Ancestor Biography – Martha Cannon (1764-?)

Howell-Darling-2017 Research

Cannon/Pankey/Howell Line

By Don Taylor

Getting to know female ancestors who lived before 1840 is always a challenge. Researching Martha Cannon, the wife of Thomas Armstrong Pankey, is no exception.

Certainly, her family relationships are somewhat confusing. In Pollock vs Pollock[1], it states several times that Martha is the ½ sister of Sarah Pollock. That clearly indicates that Martha’s family is complex. On page 36 of the suit, Adam Calhoon says he married “Henrietta Pankey, Daughter of Thomas Pankey and Martha Cannon sister of William Liggon.”  There is also a reference in the Enquirer regarding Roderick Payne and Thomas Ligon who appear to also have a familial relationship with Martha.

Clearly, I need to research Sarah Pollock and her ancestry.  Likewise, I need to learn the relationship with William Liggon, is he a full brother or a half-brother.  If he is a full brother, how did Martha acquire the surname of Cannon? Was there a first marriage for Martha or was Cannon a name adopted because of the surname of a stepfather?  There are many possibilities and I need to zero in on a likely scenario.

Howell/Darling – Ancestor #35

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: James Dallas Howell
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Peter Fletcher Howell
  • 2nd Great-grandmother: Caroline M. A. Pankey
  • 3rd Great-grandmother: Martha Cannon

Martha Cannon (1764-?)


Martha was probably born in Virginia about 1764.[2]  Some researchers indicate that her mother was Caroline Rolfe, although I have not been able to confirm that.


Certainly, Martha grew up during interesting times. The Declaration of Independence was signed when she was 12-years-old. The Revolutionary war ended in 1783, when she was 19 years old. Certainly, she would have known many young men who served in the war.


Martha Cannon married Thomas Armstrong Pankey in Goochland County Virginia on 1 November 1785.

Martha Cannon married Thomas Armstrong Pankey in Goochland County Virginia on 1 November 1785.[3], [4] Both Thomas and Martha were probably about 21 years old.


Book Cover - Marriages of Goochland County Virginia 1733-1815

1792 – It is very odd, but it appears that Thomas and Martha may have gone seven years before the birth of their first child, Mary Pankey, who was born between 1792 and 1796. This seems to be just way too long, so I’m sure I need to further research the family.

1796 – Their second child Nancy Branch Pankey was born.

1799 – Their first son, Thomas Armstrong Pankey [Junior] was born.

1805 – Daughter Elizabeth K. Pankey was born.

1807 – Son Francis Pankey was born.

1811 – Daughter Caroline M. A. Pankey was born.

Thomas and Martha had another child, Henrietta, whose birthdate I do not know.

We know that Thomas Pankey died in January 1829, however, we do not know if Martha preceded or succeeded him in death nor do we know where either is buried.

There is so much more research that needs to be done with this family line.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Research Sarah Pollock and her ancestry.
  • Research William Liggon and his relationship with Martha Cannon.
  • Research Martha’s potential mother, Caroline Rolfe.
  • Research Martha’s life period between marriage (1785) and 1st child (1792).
  • Further research Thomas Pankey’s death and burial.
  • Further research Martha Cannon’s death and burial.

————- Disclaimer ————-
Family Tree DNA - Family Finder & Population Finder


[1] Virginia, Powhatan, Chancery Causes, 1782-1938. No. 1831-015; Page 02 of 109.

[2] My Heritage Names, My Heritage, Nancy Branch Pankey, 1797-1865.

[3] Bentley, Elizabeth Petty, indexer., Virginia, Marriage Records, 1700-1850 (Baltimore, Tyler’s Quarterly, MD), Ancestry.Com, Page 202 – Thomas Pankey – Martha Cannon -. Accessed 14 Dec 2015.

[4] Dodd, Jordan, Virginia, Compiled Marriages, 1660-1800, Ancestry.Com, Thomas Pankey – Martha Cannon. Goochland County, Virginia – 1 Nov 1785. Accessed 14 December 2016.