As genealogists, it seems we're never satisfied. Often we complain about the lack of records for fleshing out our ancestors' lives, or even to provide the basic birth/marriage/death information. Yet sometimes it seems we have too many records-- records that don't seem to fit with the facts or our understanding of a family or individual, or that conflict with other records when you try to develop a timeline of a person's life.
Take Samuel Slaven as an example.
Samuel Slaven was a musician in the 6th North Carolina Regiment, McRee's Company. He enlisted for the term of the war but died 15 April 1778, according to the service record cards. In September 1820, a thousand acres of Tennessee land was awarded in Samuel's name to the University of North Carolina; the State was funding the university by awarding it bounty land in the name of Revolutionary War soldiers who died without heirs. UNC would then sell the land and keep the money. In February 1825, as heir at law, William Slaven of Iredell County makes a deed for the 1,000 acres awarded in Samuel Slaven's name to UNC to two men; William also grants one of the men power of attorney to represent him in efforts to get title of the thousand acres from UNC.
Natural assumption is that this is William II (the saddler), trying to get the bounty land awarded in the name of his brother Samuel. Unless the term had a different context in North Carolina 200 years ago, an heir-at-law is a person who is related by blood (or is the spouse) of someone who has died without a will. By 1820 William I (the planter) and wife Isabel had died, and if Samuel was unmarried and without children (or if the wife and any children have died), William II (the saddler) would be an heir-at-law by virtue of being Samuel's brother.
Well, no. We can't rule out that even if soldier Samuel was a son of William I (the planter), maybe he got married and had (or at least conceived) a child before marching off to war, and the William trying to claim the bounty land is that child. But this seems unlikely; while records 250 years ago are sketchy, there are no probate records associated with the soldier Samuel, or guardianship or indenture for such a child. There are no census records in Rowan or neighboring counties in 1820 for a William of appropriate age to have been a son of Samuel (so born ca. 1770-75), but there is a William in Iredell County old enough to be William II (the saddler). So the William chasing soldier Samuel' land grant is probably Samuel's brother William II (the saddler).
Or... maybe Samuel the dead soldier belongs to some other Slaven family. Because...
In 1781 a nuncupative will, made on 5 March 1781, by "Samuel Aslaven" of Roan (sic) County, a gentleman, was entered into probate. If the Revolutionary War service record saying soldier Samuel died 15 April 1778 is accurate, this has to be someone else... right? So who is he? I believe gentleman Samuel is the son of William I the planter and Isabel.
The beneficiaries of gentleman Samuel's will fit pretty well with what we know/believe about William I (the planter's) family. Gentleman Samuel leaves 400 acres of land and some oats to his brother John-- this should be John of Garrard. (Although he hadn't moved to Garrard County yet.) Samuel leaves clothes to his sister Sarah's daughter Jean. William I (the planter) had a daughter Sarah who married John Carson in 1775. Most Ancestry trees for Sarah and John (and her second husband, David Byers) list only the children mentioned in her will, which doesn't inclue a Jean. However, there are a few trees that mention three other children for Sarah and John-- Jane, George, and Richard, who apparently didn't survive to adulthood. Jane is likely the "Jean" in gentleman Samuel's will.
Gentleman Samuel leaves his hat to his sister Ann, and part of his estate to the son and daughter of Thomas Pennary (Penry), whose wife was the aforementioned sister Ann. (In other words, leaving them to a niece and nephew.) Sharing this portion of the estate with his sister Ann's two children are "my two brothers' eldest sons." But wait a second, you might be thinking, Samuel had THREE brothers-- Robert the blacksmith, William II the saddler, and John of Garrard. But John did not have any children in 1781-- we'll discuss this is a future essay, but Richard Harve Slaven/Slavey is NOT the son of John of Garrard. William II (the saddler) had sons by 1781, and, while family details for Robert the blacksmith are sparse, he was married by 1775 when he sold his inherited land, so he likely had one or more sons by the time of gentleman Samuel's will. Thus, "my two brothers' eldest sons."
(This is TOTALLY speculation, but since everyone else named in the will is family or married to family, what's the connection for Andrew Bell? The will was witnessed by "Ezabel Bell." Could this be Samuel's mother, Isabel Luckie Slaven, now remarried to Andrew Bell? TONS of family trees have Isabel dying in 1762, the same as huband William I (the planter), but that's obviously wrong as she was alive in 1764 when she sold land in Mecklenburg County. A codicil to William I (the saddler's) will dictated that Isabel was to have full possession of the family homeplace until Robert reached full age, and then to get her full third (the widow's share) of the estate. Robert and William II (the saddler) sold the homeplace in 1775. A list of debts paid by William I (the planter's) estate from 1776 shows that Isabel was paid over £60. The "Ezabel" who witnessed gentleman Samuel's will used a stylized mark rather than a simple "x". Isabel Luckie Slaven used a stylized mark on a deed,. It's not the same stylized mark, but perhaps she changed her mark when she married. Anyway, my gut feeling is that Isabel was still alive in 1776, and that she had married by the time of gentleman Samuel's will. I've not been able to find any marriage bond or other evidence that this is so.)
So if I believe gentleman Samuel was the son of William I (the planter), then what do I make of soldier Samuel and his heir-at-law William of Iredell County? This is speculation, but I think there's something a little fishy here. I'm guessing that the man from Henderson County, Tennessee, that William gave power of attorney to, was a land speculator, or working for one. Since these bounty lands given to the University of North Carolina were in the name of Revolutionary War soldiers who had died without heirs, it could be the speculators' scheme was to find heirs, help them wrest the grant away from the university, and then buy the land cheap-- a win for both the speculator and the previously unknown heir! If the William trying to win title to the bounty land was William II (the saddler), he should have known the dead soldier wasn't his brother. But William II (the saddler) would have been 70 years old when this attempt was made, so maybe he was coerced by a slick Tennessean. Or maybe he thought no one would remember his brother's death in 1781 and he could get away with it. Or maybe this wasn't William II (the saddler) but his son William III, who might not have remembered his Uncle Samuel.
This is quite far fetched, but I suppose there's a possibility that soldier Samuel and gentleman Samuel are the same person-- that soldier Samuel's recorded death in 1778 was in error, and that he went back home and died three years later. But even though this was pre-internet, pre-telephone, pre-Social Security, pre-all our modern communication and identification methods, it's hard to believe that word wouldn't have filtered back to Washington in the four decades between soldier Samuel's supposed death and the land grant to UNC.
I'd REALLY like to find records for that attempt to take the bounty land away from UNC, because they should contain some genealogical information-- the relationship that made William an heir-at-law, maybe information about other family members.
What a sec-- did I just I wish for MORE records?!?!?!?
Minor update:In May 1820, the State published a long list in various North Carolina newspapers of the Revolutionary War soldiers (or their heirs) who were eligible for bounty land. Samuel Slaven is in that list-- although depending on the paper, it's either the 6th or 7th regiment, and McRee's or McKee's. While it's possible that this publication escaped the notice of William Slaven, it does make one wonder if it was indeed land speculators that spurred him into the attempt to get the bounty warrant in 1825.
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