Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Wives of Jordan Reeves
According to census records, Jordan Reeves Sr, born 1747 in North Carolina, had as many as ten sons and three daughters born over a period of 31 years (approximately between 1773 and 1804). Some have speculated that he also had a daughter Sarah, born 1767, who married Jesse Garland, which would bring the total to ten sons and four daughters over 37 years.
Some of the sons, none of the daughters, and none of the mothers of these children have ever been identified.
Though some of the young adults living with Jordan in the 1820 Humphreys County Tennessee census could turn out to be step-children, or less likely, grandchildren, this is still a lot of children to be borne by one woman over a long time period. Yet, no wife of Jordan’s has ever been found.
In the almost complete absence of clues, what does one do? Well, Jordan moved a good bit, leaving Johnston County, North Carolina about 1771 for the Watauga settlements in Washington County, Tennessee. Sometime in the mid to late 1780s he decamped with the rest of the family for South Carolina where we find him in both Pendleton District and Spartanburg records. Ever on the move, he turns up in middle Tennessee by 1797. Though he sold land starting in the 1790s in South Carolina and later in Tennessee, no wife ever relinquished her dower. No marriage records for Jordan have ever been found in any location. No wills that might yield clues appear to exist. If there ever were bible records, they have long since vanished. Not a single document with reference to a wife has materialized to help with the search.
Where to begin?
One path taken was investigating German families at the Watauga settlements. After all, in the 1779 Washington County, Tennessee tax list, Jordan is shown as a “dunkerd by profeshun,” a description not used for the other Reeves in this list – father George and brother William. The term “dunkerd” refers to members of a certain religious sect of German origin. Only two other families appeared on any tax lists with a similar designation, but investigation did not produce any marriageable daughters.
Next, I looked for neighbors and friends who were nearby in all or most of the places that Jordan lived, starting with Johnston County, North Carolina. The name that shows up more than any other is Jacob Chamberlain/Chamblee/Chambers, but no Chamblee sister or cousin has surfaced who might have married Jordan. Other families making the cut include Houghton, Robertson, Cunningham, Garland, Sevier, Russell, and Brown. I’ve just about ruled out a Robertson or Cunningham woman, but the jury is still out on the other families.
Out of all this effort, not a single candidate wife has emerged. Are there other options for furthering the quest? One possibility I’ve considered is the ftDNA Family Finder test. Unexpected cousins might be revealed by the results that would take me in more fruitful directions.
This situation points to the extreme difficulty of tracing female ancestors before 1850. Women (except for widows) were not named in census records, and only occasionally were named in other documents.
Yet, I keep working to identify my foremothers, who were every bit the trailblazers that their husbands were, so that they, too, can have their place in history.