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Nicotiana tabacum Ely Nicotiana tabacum
Compiled and copyright by MJP Grundy, 2004
Nicotiana tabacum, from Chambers's Encyclopædia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for the People
(Phila.: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1885), 9:462.

This web page is posted to cut through misinformation and raise questions in the hopes that a reader out there might have some data that will shed light on the family of Pleasance Ely (ca. 1661-1734). If you have corrections or additions with solid documentation, I would be delighted to hear from you via e mail at .

Pleasance Ely1, was born in about 1661, but where, and the names of her parents, remain unknown to me. What we do know is that in 1684 she married John DORSEY. He was born ca. 1645 in Lower Norfolk County, Virginia, the son of Edward and his wife Ann, and died in 1715 in Maryland. He emigrated with his family in 1649 to Anne Arundel County, Maryland, and may have married Pleasance there. Although raised as a Friend, he was later identified as Protestant, meaning neither Anglican or Quaker.[1]

An LDS website ( said Pleasance Ely was born in 1661 “of Anne Arundel County, Maryland”. Translated, this means that at some point in her life a legal document listed her as living in Anne Arundel County. This same source boldly offers, as her parents, Richard Ely (the emmigrant) and Joanne Phipps. But research by Duncan Cairnes Ely shows, he writes, that all of the children of Richard and Joanne “are listed in a Plymouth, England parish register, all obviously born in England and baptized in 1647, 1652, 1657 and 1659, respectively, and there’s no mention of Pleasance. Since Richard emmigrated to Boston in 1659/60, she couldn’t have been born in England. Since Joanne Phipps died before Richard came to America, Pleasance couldn't be her daughter. And since Richard married his second wife in 1664, Pleasance couldn’t be a child of the second marriage either. Also, Boston and Maryland aren’t exactly similar colonies either geographically or culturally. So it is an odd and blatantly bogus attempt to tie an unknown Ely into the Richard line. The name Pleasance is odd, too, at least for that family.” In addition Duncan Ely checked the major genealogies for Richard Ely and for Nathaniel Ely, and neither Pleasance nor her husband are listed there.[2]

A perhaps more promising prospect might be Robert1 Eley, immigrant, of Nansemond or Isle of Wight County, Virginia, who had a son Robert2 Eley who married in 1678 Jane (Braswell) Stokes (born ca. 1645 Isle of Wight County, VA., widow of Robert Stokes). Did Robert1 Eley have other children?[2a]

The more authoritative Biographical Dictionary of Mary Legislators says, in the entry for Thomas WAINWRIGHT, that Pleasance was his step-daughter. However, in the entry for John Dorsey, this possibility is not mentioned. Thomas is identified as her second husband, which is confirmed by her estate inventory.[3] So even in this source there is confusion. Was there no legal or ecclesiastical barrier to a man marrying his own step-daughter? Even if she was wealthy?

John Dorsey signed his will in Baltimore County on 26 November 1714. It was probated 22 March 1714/5. He left one third of his real and personal estate, after the payment of his debts, to his wife Pleasance as full payment of her dower. She was to be given her choice of either the plantation on South River or “my own dwelling plantation” on Elk Ridge. Her share of the estate included four human beings: Jacob and his wife Jenny, and two other Negro men, Lyman and Sambo. John’s extensive real estate holdings and the remaining slaves were carefully apportioned to his grandchildren, with instructions for their further disposal if a given grandchild died with no heirs. His daughter Deborah (our ancestor) was to be given 50, doled out at the rate of 8 per year “for her support”, but no real estate. Her children were the third back-up to inherit if other grandchildren died without heirs. The residue went to his son Caleb, who was named executor.[5]

Pleasance apparently used her wealth to invest in land. A warrant was made out for her 17 December 1717, when she was a widow and could own land in her own right, for 200 acres called “Isle of Ely” adjacent to “Troy”. That year she also bought “Oldman’s Folly” which was 100 acres. In 1720 she bought 200 acre “Roper’s Increase” (perhaps part of the original of which her husband had bought 79 acres in 1705), 50 acre “Howard’s Addition”, and 120 acre “Poplar Spring Garden” in Baltimore County at the head of the Patapsco River, adjacent to “Howard’s Ridge”.[6]

Pleasance was described in family records as “of austere memory”. I gather she did not have a sweet and docile personality. The description continues, “between her name and her disposition there was no similarity.”[4] Such a description invites further research and more details. What were the circumstances under which it was written? How widespread was this opinion? She can’t have been so terrible that as a wealthy widow nobody was willing to marry her. In fact she was married a second time at the age of 61, on 30 November 1722, to Thomas WAINWRIGHT. With this marriage, “Troy” passed to her grandson Basil DORSEY, son of Caleb. Thomas died in 1729, leaving Pleasance the greater part of his estate.[6a] If anyone can give me additional information about Thomas Wainwright I would be very appreciative.

Pleasance died in 1734. Her estate was appraised on 14 August 1734 by Benjamin HOWARD and John HAMMOND, son of Charles, and valued at 104.9.9.[7]

Pleasance Wainright signed her will 26 February 1733/4 and it was probated 14 August 1734. Her next of kin were listed as Caleb and Edward DORSEY, while John DORSEY was administrator. Creditors were William Fill, Basil Dorsey. Payments were owed to: Basil Dorsey, Edward Dorsey, John Howard, John Moale, Mary Bennett, Katherine Keath, Mary Robertson, Thomas Reynolds, Sr., Zachariah Maccubbin, John Welsh, Nicholas Maccubbin, John Beale, Esq., Benjamin Tasker & Daniel Dulany, Esq., Mrs. Rebecca Calvert (administratrix of Charles Calvert, Esq.), and Daniel Dulany, Esq.[7a] Many were relatives.

Children of John and Pleasance (Ely) Dorsey as named in John’s will (perhaps incomplete):[8]
i. Edward Dorsey2, b. ca. 1677; d. 1700/1; m. Ruth ___. Ruth m (2) John GRENLIFFE; she m (3) John HOWARD (not related to our line). Edward predeceased his father so did not inherit. However, his son John was given “Patuxent Plantation" and “Dorsey’s Search”, a Negro named Solomon, and 4 cows and calves when he turned 21. This son John and his wife Elizabeth lived and died at “Dorsey’s Search”, and the manor house still stands, as “Dorsey Hall”.[9]

ii. Deborah Dorsey, b. 168_; d. before 1752 in Prince George’s County, Md.; m (1) Charles RIDGELY; m (2) Richard CLAGETT.

iii. Caleb Dorsey, b. 11 Nov. 1683; d. 1742; m. 24 Aug. 1704 Elinor WARFIELD, daughter of Richard Warfield. Elinor’s sister Mary Warfield m. John HOWARD, from whom we are descended. Caleb was named executor of his father’s estate. Caleb’s sons Samuel and Richard inherited "Southriver Quarter” in Anne Arundel County, part of which had already been given to Caleb. His son Bazill, or Basil, inherited “Troy” on Elkridge in Balt. Co. Capt. Basil d. 20 Aug. 1763 at Elk Ridge of a “long and tedious indispositon"; his son, Basil Jr., d. 17 Feb. 1761 at his father’s house on Elk Ridge, of consumption at the age of 22.[10]

This family's story continues with the Dorsey and Ridgely families.

Nicotiana tabacum

Pleasance Ely and her colonial Maryland relatives are described in The Southern Connection: Ancestors of Eleanor Addison Smith Holliday Price. It explores the social system, economics, religion, and politics that developed in colonial Maryland. The white elite considered themselves the pinnacle of civilization, while their wealth and power were dependent upon a horrifically brutal racist enslavement system. This hardback print-on-demand book provides the context for the Ely colonial Maryland situation, it also looks into Pleasance's brothers and posits some suggestions as to her family. However, because I only follow a single generation of the Ely family, it does not figure prominently in the book. However, if you are interested in learning about the larger picture, this might interest you. The book is available at Click on the title, then on "preview" to see the table of contents and a few sample pages. The price is the cost of printing and binding, plus shipping. I make nothing on it.

See some other colonial Maryland families that link one way or another to Pleasance Ely Dorsey: AddisonBaleBrookeBrowneDentDorseyHallHattonHollidayHowardIsaacMoltonNorwoodOwingsRandallRidgelySimSmithStoneTaskerWarfield.  and Wilkinson. They are all included in The Southern Connection.

See the index of Collateral Lines to see other families included in this website.

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This page was first posted on 2/3/2004, and most recently updated 8m/23/2014.

Citations and Notes

1. Robert Henry McIntire, Annapolis Maryland Families (Baltimore: Gateway Press, Inc., 1980), 198. McIntyre also gives the dates of Pleasance’s marriages; Maxwell J. and Jean Muir Dorsey and Nannie Ball Nimmo, The Dorsey Family: Descendants of Edward Darcy-Dorsey of Virginia and Maryland For Five Generations and Allied Families (Baltimore: authors, 1947), 133. An alternative scenario, which seems quite confused to me, says that Pleasance was the widow of Charles Ridgely when she married John Dorsey. Effie Gwynn Bowie, Across the Years in Prince George’s County (Richmond VA: Garrett & Massie, Inc., 1947), 643. The families are inter-related. This Charles Ridgely (1680-1705), son of Robert, married Deborah DORSEY, daughter of John and Pleasance. See Bowie, Ibid., 130, where the grammar can be interpreted correctly that Deborah (not Pleasance) was the widow of Charles Ridgely.

2. E mail from Duncan Cairnes Ely, Feb. 1, 2004.

2a. Their son Robert3 ELEY is listed as an ancestor of Lyndon Baines Johnson. E mail June 17, 2006 from "James Weirman, presumed descendant of Pleasance ELY through Deborah DORSEY, wife of Charles RIDGELY."

3. Edward C. Papenfuse, Alan F. Day, David W. Jordan, and Gregory A. Stiverson, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635-1789 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), says Wainwright was her step father 2:681, while making no mention of this on 1:275.

4. Hester Dorsey Richardson, Side-Lights on Maryland History with Sketches of Early Maryland Families (Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins Company, 1913) 2 vols., 2:89, 212.

5. Jane Baldwin, comp. and ed., The Maryland Calendar of Wills, 23 vols. (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, Publishers, 1904), 4:25-26; Dorsey, Dorsey, & Nimmo, Dorsey Family, 134-35, citing Balt. Co. Hall of Rec., Annapolis, Wills 14, f. 26; Skinner, Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1:18.

6. Richardson, Side-Lights on Maryland History, 2:89, 212; Celia M. Holland, Old Homes and Families of Howard County, Maryland, with Consideration of Various Additional Points of Interest (Privately Printed, 1987), 10; Dorsey, Dorsey, & Nimmo, Dorsey Family, 7, citing Md. Wills 20, f. 90.

6a. McIntire, Annapolis Maryland Families, 198; Papenfuse, et al, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1:275.

7. Dorsey, Dorsey, & Nimmo, Dorsey Family, 139, citing Md. Invts. 20, f. 126.

7a. The list of receipts and payments is from, accessed 1/17/2013.

8. Dorsey, Dorsey, & Nimmo, Dorsey Family, 139.

9. There is a photo of it in Holland, Old Homes and Families of Howard County, 125.

10. Biog. Dic. of Md. Legis., 1:275; Robert Barnes, comp., Maryland Marriages, 1634-1777 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1976), 53, citing St. Ann’s Parish records 1:389. Robert Barnes, comp., Marriages and Deaths from the Maryland Gazette, 1727-1839 (Balt.: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1973), 50.

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See the Paxson family.

If you have corrections or additions, I would be delighted to hear from you via e mail at .

Nicotiana tabacum