Meredith’s revealing some secrets

Yesterday turned out to be a good day in relation to finding some roots.

In teaching the family history class, I feel like I need to know what I am doing before hand. On top of that, family history is never completed, so I was searching out some new lines. I thought I would have another go at the Meredith line.

Up to this point I have been able to find several families of the Meredith line. Legend and family lore goes that my James Thomas Meredith’s father was James Meredith. That is all we know. He apparently was raised by his grandfather, but I still don’t know why he took the Ross name to become James Thomas Meredith Ross. He married as a Meredith, but gave all his children the Ross name.  (I have since written more about this with more information here.)

In the 1880 Census we find James Thomas Meredith Ross with James Ross who is 70, little James is 9. Now, little James was born in 1868, but where the census takes your age at time of the census, then he may have had his birthday soon, or who knows. Plus James the older was probably giving the information and may have just rambled off the latest number. Whatever the reason for the age issue, the real problem is he told the census taker that little James was his son. For what reason, I have no idea. (I could easily look up his age and the day of the census, but that would take getting off onto the other computer, which I don’t want to do.) If I remember right, Nancy is over in the next county working as a servant for her Aunt Lavincia, I think. I know that Nancy was poor, so that may have been why little James was with his father/grandfather.

I don’t have the actual marriage record yet, but somewhere I have been given a date for their marriage and a place. I am hoping that record will tell me James’ father’s information.

The interesting thing is that James the old man was born in 1805 or about there. His wife was Sarah J Bell. James and Sarah had a son named James who was only a few years older than Nancy. So it is very feasible that James, the son of James and Sarah was the real father.

The problem is multiplied. If old James was not the father, which I have my doubts, then I must ask who was the James Meredith’s in the area. Well, there turn out to be about 10 James Meredith’s within about 10 years of Nancy’s birth. So far I can account for most of them when Nancy had her son James. They were married, dead, or enough distance to probably be safely not the father of my James Thomas Meredith Ross.

However, there are three James Meredith’s which I cannot account for. I found old man James’ wife, Sarah J Bell Meredith in the 1870 census. Which means she was still alive, so in all likeliness old man James did not marry Nancy Adeline Sheperd (married before, Ross) in 1867. That casts a whole bunch more doubt on his father being the father. I guess he could have been, but I assume the actual James Meredith is the father.

As I said, there are three James Merediths that I cannot count for. This is where it gets hairy. One is the son of James and Sarah J Meredith. The other is the son of Hugh and Katherine Meredith and roughly the same age. Then there is the son of William and Octavia Meredith, also roughly the same age. All three of them just fall off the planet. I can find no records of anything of their lives. Death, nothing. I hope to find at least one of them died in the Civil War or something, but nothing as of yet. Just out of interest though, I thought I would pursue each of these three families. James, Hugh, and William were all born within about 5 years and roughly in the same area. So I started to wonder if they were related as well. I then found a history of Hugh Meredith saying his father was Hugh and Nancy Meredith. I then found Hugh Sr and Hugh Jr living side by side in the 1840 census. So following Hugh Sr back another 10 years, he had the right number of sons who were the right ages to be Hugh, James, and William. Going back into the census clear to 1820 he had about 8 children. Three boys were within about 5 years of each other, which is very likely to be these three boys. What is more, you get back into the 1830’s and 1840’s, these were the only Meredith’s in the area. When you get back to find these three men as boys, the numbers really shrink. So I am very sure these were brothers.

To top it off, Hugh and James Meredith both married women whose last names were Bell. Which narrows it down even more. Sadly, I doubt Katherine and Sarah were sisters, for if they were, their mother was 50 when she gave birth to Sarah, which is not likely. Plus all other family accounts have Katherine as the last child, not another one 8 years later. I have more hunting to do. Regardless, these are my ancestors, aunts and uncles. Old Man James is my relative, whether father or grandfather of James Meredith. Even if it is one of the other James’ in the mix, he is now an uncle. But why would the child go to live with James if he was not father or grandfather. Remember, we pretty much ruled him out as father. I am confident he is the grandfather.  (I have since been given information that Sarah was a sibling of Katherine born in 1806, not 1809.)

So linking these families together, and pulling together histories, I added another 4 generations to the family history. The Bell history, through Hugh’s wife added 4 generations. I am sure my Sarah is at least a neice to Katherine’s Bell family. So that line goes back to about 1705. Katherine’s mother, who was a Farmer, whose history takes me back into the late 1600’s. So I was thrilled to make these discoveries. I need to find some more information to tie it together more firmly. But the Bell and Farmer lines have wills and more for the lines I connected myself into.

It is the Meredith line now that is curious to me. Hugh Sr disappears mysteriously from the 1810, 1800, and 1790 census. Now it is possible that it was early enough to have missed Hugh in Southwest Virginia. However, I did find there are records from the area. What is more, Hugh was about 20 years older than his wife. So he just appears on the scene with Nancy Smallwood in Blacksburg, Virginia. But, in 1810, 1800, and 1790 there is a Hugh (1800 has David Hugh) Meredith living in Pennsylvania.  Which interestingly, is where all the other Meredith families live I keep contacting.  None of them can link to the Southwest Virginia Meredith’s.  However, if Hugh is a key, then perhaps…

One of the questions is Hugh has some older children in the 1820 census which means he could have brought some more with him.  The only problem with the American census before 1850 is they only listed the head of the household and then the other members of the house according to age group and sex.  So quite honestly, those could all be white servants (blacks or slaves were tallied under a separate area.  He didn’t have any).

My hypothesis thus far is that Hugh was married in Pennsylvania and raised a family there.  His wife died or something and he went to Virginia.  I don’t know where Nancy Smallwood comes into it as there is not any Smallwood families in the Southwest Virginia area.  So she could have come with him.  Perhaps they married in Pennsylvania and then moved to Virginia with his new wife and existing family.

I have to go back now and research all those old Meredith histories to see if I can find a Hugh in their histories.  I have always searched for James, Hugh Sr’s son.  If I can find a Hugh Meredith (Merideth in 1810, 1800, and 1790 census) born in 1767 up there, they may have something about his family.  Then he would disappear about the right time frame from their history.  Perhaps….  I will have to see what I can find.

Anyhow, I keep searching.  I am finding I am much more linked in revolutionary America than I ever thought.

6 thoughts on “Meredith’s revealing some secrets

  1. I commented on this a year or so ago, but was just rereading it again today and have another thought. I am descended from James and Sally (Bell) Meredith through their son James Anderson Meredith who married Mary Patten. I have an approximate birth date for Sally as 1806, which would make her older than her sister Katherine. There is a gap of almost 8 years between William in 1800 and Katherine in 1808, so it would not be inconceivable that Sally could have been born between them. This does not help your mystery, I know, but just a thought.


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  3. I contacted you several years ago regarding this post, but have recently uncovered some new information that may hold some answers to your questions about the father of your James Ross (Meredith.) I am descended from James and Sarah (Bell) Meredith through their son James, who died in 1864 at Lexington VA while serving with the 30th Bttn. VA Sharpshooters.
    He married Mary Patton before the war and left several children, including my Great Grandfather, James Thomas. Now that I’ve given you my background I will share with you that I found the following two Chancery Court cases on the Library of Virginia website that seem to confirm your theory that my 3xGreat grandfather, James, husband of Sarah (Sallie) Bell, is the father of your James Ross. Here are the links to the cases, I will let you peruse them yourself, rather than summarize them for you, and allow you to form your own conclusions. I will say it is not a pretty story, but then many human stories have a dark side. Hope you find this useful and enlightening, in any case.
    Judy MacKeigan
    Avon, OH


    • Judy, Thank you for this invaluable find! This does indeed provide much more proof that James Thomas Ross Meredith is the son of James Meredith (1803), not his son or another James Meredith. That also makes us cousins! I will e-mail you directly to connect with you some more. Thank you for sharing! The partition of property also provides the death date for James Meredith, which we had off by a couple of years. Paul


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