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MARTIN and HENDERSON of Albemarle County and Nelson County, Virginia, 1775-1825

Two of my ancestors, William H. MARTIN and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY, were children (or perhaps step-children) of Shadrack HENDERSON/MARTIN of Albemarle and Nelson County, Virginia, who died about 1811. This connection involves several complex elements of proof. The evidence is described below, followed by my observations and conclusions and one possible (though highly speculative) explanation.


1. The will of "Shadrack Henderson" was executed in 1810 and probated in 1811 (Nelson County, Virginia; Will Book A; page 135). The will identifies Shadrack's wife as Mary, and his children as Sally Martin, Barbary Martin, Joseph Henderson, John Henderson, Mary Tisdel, Nancy Kerby, Lucy Beaver, and William Henderson. My transcription of the original will is here.

2. The following marriages, which appear to be those of Shadrack's children, are listed in Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853, by John Vogt & T. William Kethley, Jr. (the volume and page numbers refer to this book):

I have been unable to find the marriage of a Lucy HENDERSON (or MARTIN) to a Mr. Beaver (or Baber) in Albemarle or Nelson County.

3. The Nelson County personal-property tax lists begin in 1809, the year after the county's creation. Shadrack appears in the lists for 1809, 1810, and 1811. In 1809, he is listed as "Shadrack Martin," and in 1810 and 1811 (the year of his death), he is listed as Shadrack Henderson. There is no Shadrack Henderson listed in 1809, and there is no Shadrack Martin listed in 1810 or 1811. The lists for 1810 and 1811 include a William Henderson identified as the son of Shadrack. My abstract of relevant entries from the Nelson County lists is here. (In the federal census of 1810, he is called Shadrach Henderson (Nelson Co., p. 74).)

4. The personal-property tax lists for Albemarle County, Virginia (contiguous to Nelson) include a Shadrack Martin or Shadrack Henderson from 1782 (the first such list) through 1807. He is listed as Shadrack Martin in 1782, 1783, and 1785, and as Shadrack Henderson in 1784 and in 1786 through 1807 (except for 1804, when neither name appears). In every year in which the list includes a Shadrack Martin, no Shadrack Henderson appears, and vice versa. The lists for 1800 through 1807 (except 1804) include a William Henderson and John Henderson identified as sons of Shadrack. (John Henderson's entry in the 1807 list says "John Henderson S Son est" -- apparently meaning "John Henderson, Shadrack's son, estate." See paragraph 25 below.) My abstract of relevant entries from the Albemarle County lists is here. (The personal-property tax lists for Amherst County, from which Nelson was created in 1808, do not include a Shadrack HENDERSON or MARTIN from at least 1786 through 1807 -- that is, the period during which Shadrack appears in the Albemarle County lists. He apparently moved from Albemarle to Nelson in the same year that Nelson was created. [I did not search 1782-1785 in the Amherst lists because the lists for those years are not alphabetized.])

5. Mary MARTIN first appears in the Nelson County personal-property tax lists in 1811 (the year of Shadrack's death). She is listed in every year from 1811 through 1818, always as Mary Martin. There is no Mary HENDERSON in any of the Nelson County personal-property tax lists, from 1809 through at least 1825. These later years are also included in my abstracts.

6. The following entry, dated February 3, 1801, appears in the Albemarle County (Virginia) Court Order Book for 1800-1801, at page 280 (as transcribed in Albemarle County Road Orders 1783-1816, by Nathaniel Mason Pawlett (Dec. 1975, revised Apr. 2004), page 107; available on-line courtesy of the Virginia Highway and Transportation Research Council):

Samuel Smithson is appointed Surveyor of the road from Charles McGehee's to where Hudsons Road enters Martin Kings road near the forge Church with the following Male Laboring Tytheables to wit Absalom McQuerry's, John Hendersons on Turkey Run Shadrack Martin's, Joseph Martin's, John Martin's Giles Allegrees, Martin Copeland's, William Copeland's, David Durham's and his own and It is ordered that the said Smithson keep the same in good repair

The Joseph Martin and John Martin mentioned in this road order are presumably Shadrack's sons Joseph and John.

7. Here are all of the known land records involving Shadrack Martin/Henderson. All of the land records use the surname Henderson, even in years when other records use Martin. (Some of the details in this paragraph may not help to solve the Martin/Henderson puzzle that is the focus of this Web page, but may contribute, in other respects, to my research regarding Shadrack.)

There is no other recorded, indexed deed in Albemarle County, during the period 1748 to 1819, in which Shadrack Henderson or Shadrack Martin is a grantor or grantee. (This was checked for me by Lineages, Inc.)

No Shadrack HENDERSON/MARTIN or Mary HENDERSON/MARTIN appears on the land tax lists for Nelson County, Virginia, from 1809 through at least 1825. (Library of Virginia, land tax records, reel #205.)

William H. MARTIN

8. My third great-grandfather, William H. MARTIN, was married to a Sarah DOLLINS, daughter of Richard DOLLINS (the evidence for this connection is in my gedcom). Their first known child, Mary Ann MARTIN (my second great-grandmother), was born in 1816 (Records of the Virginia Conference, Southern States Mission, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, FHL microfilm #0001995).

9. I have been unable to find a marriage record for William H. Martin and Sarah Dollins. There is, however, a marriage record for William HENDERSON and Sarah Dollins, daughter of Richard, in Albemarle County on July 30, 1811 -- five years before the birth of my William H. Martin's first known child (marriage bond and consent note, Albemarle County clerk's office).

10. There is only one Richard DOLLINS or DOLLENS in the 1785 and 1810 censuses for Albemarle County.

11. The bondsman for the marriage of William Henderson and Sarah Dollins was John Dollins. My William H. and Sarah MARTIN later conveyed certain land to John Dollins that they had inherited from Richard Dollins, Sarah's father (Albemarle County Deed Book 24, page 432).

12. My William H. Martin always signed with an X mark, and the William Henderson of the 1811 marriage signed the marriage bond with an X mark. My Sarah Dollins, wife of William H. Martin, always signed with an X mark, and the Sarah Dollins who married William Henderson signed with an X mark in consenting to the marriage.

13. My William H. Martin became security, in 1818, for the guardianship of Celia Martin, orphan of Elisha Martin (Guardians' Bonds of Albemarle County, Virginia, 1783-1852; by Mary Catharine Murphy; page 61). In 1795, Elisha Martin had married Shadrack Henderson's daughter, Barbara (called "Barbary Martin" in Shadrack's will) (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. I; page 207).

14. My ancestor William H. Martin was born and died in Albemarle County (Albemarle County, Virginia; Register of Deaths, 1853-1861 [1853, line 161]), but he lived in Nelson County in at least 1820, 1840, and 1850 (federal census, pages 196, 67, and 295, respectively).

15. The Nelson County personal-property tax list for 1818 includes a "Wm H. Martin," listed immediately before Joseph Martin (another son of Shadrack) and Mary Martin. Listed immediately before "Wm H. Martin" is "Shardrack H. Martin" (appearing for the first time; perhaps he is a grandson of the Shadrack who died about 1811?). In several deeds and other records referring to my William H. Martin, that middle initial is consistently used.

16. The 1811 tax list for Nelson County, which includes both Shadrack Henderson and his widow, Mary Martin (presumably taxed on her own after Shadrack's death earlier in the year), also includes both a "Wm Henderson (s. Sha)" and a "Wm Martin Son (s. Shad)". Similarly, in other Nelson County tax lists after Shadrack's death, William's surname shifts from Martin to Henderson: in 1812, there is a William Martin but no William Henderson (except one that says son of Robert); and in 1813, there is a William Henderson but no William Martin (except one designated as "Doctor" who had appeared as such in all prior years). See my abstracts here.

17. Shadrack Henderson's household in 1810 was composed of a male and a female, both age 45+ (i.e., Shadrack and Mary), and another male, age 26-44 (Nelson Co., page 74). My William H. Martin was about thirty years old in 1810, and his first known child was not born until 1816 (see William's notes in my gedcom).


18. My third great-grandmother, Nancy MARTIN, died in Albemarle County in October 1864. According to the Albemarle County death register, her parents were John and Mary MARTIN, and her husband was James KIRBY. The informant was Calvin Kirby, Nancy's son and my second great-grandfather.

19. The first known child of James Kirby and Nancy Martin was born about 1805, according to the 1850 census (see that child's page in my gedcom). I have been unable to find a marriage record for James Kirby and Nancy Martin. There is, however, a marriage record for James Kirby and Nancy Henderson in Albemarle County, on July 29, 1806 (marriage bond, Albemarle County clerk's office). The bondsman was Samuel McDaniel, who was also the bondsman for the marriage of Susannah Kirby and John Henderson, another child of Shadrack Henderson.

20. Shadrack Henderson's will listed one of his children as Nancy Kerby. In the recorded marriages of Albemarle County and Nelson County, the only Kirby/Kerby groom marrying a Nancy before 1810 was James Kirby. (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt and T. William Kethley; vol. I; pages 185-186, 189.)

21. There is only one James KIRBY in the 1810 and 1820 censuses for Albemarle County (1810, page 164; 1820, page 37).

22. Based on the road order at item 7 above, a neighbor of my Shadrack Martin was William Copeland, who married Charity Kirby, a sister of my James Kirby, in 1803 (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. II; page 530).


23. A sister of my third great-grandfather, James Kirby, was Susanna Kirby, daughter of John Kirby. Susanna's surname was MARTIN by 1810, when she joined with her siblings in relinquishing her right to certain land that John, by then deceased, had conveyed to a third party during his lifetime (Albemarle County Deed Book 17, page 396).

24. I have been unable to find a marriage record of Susanna Kirby and a Mr. Martin. There is, however, a marriage record for Susannah Kirby and John Henderson in Albemarle County on January 17, 1803 (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. II; page 534). The bondsman for this marriage was Samuel McDaniel, who was the husband of Nancy Kirby, another sister of my ancestor James Kirby (see Nancy's page in my gedcom); and one of the witnesses on the bond was John Carr, who was a witness on the marriage bond for Charity Kirby, sister of James (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. II; page 530). (Incidentally, there is also a record of a marriage of Susanna "Kerby" to an unnamed groom in Albemarle County on January 17, 1802 [Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. II; page 531]. However, given the fact that the month and day are the same and that handwritten 2's and 3's from the early nineteenth century can easily be confused, this is apparently another record of Susanna's marriage to John "Henderson," rather than a separate marriage to a Mr. MARTIN.)

25. Shadrack Henderson's will says that his son, John, had died before the will was executed on May 27, 1810 (the Albemarle County tax lists indicating that John died about 1807); and Susanna Kirby, daughter of my John Kirby, was apparently a widow when, on December 28, 1810, she signed her name as "Susanna Martin" in joining with her siblings in relinquishing their right to certain land of their father (Albemarle County Deed Book 17, page 396). Susanna's husband did not sign with her, whereas Susanna's sister, Charity, signed the document with her husband; and a living husband's signature would obviously be necessary to make such a relinquishment complete. In fact, one Susan Martin married John Jones in Albemarle County on December 4, 1821 (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853; by John Vogt & T. William Kethley; vol. II; page 552). The bondsman for this marriage was William Kerby, a brother of "my" Susannah KIRBY MARTIN -- further indicating that her first husband, Mr. Martin, had died.


26. There is no Joseph Henderson (or Mary Henderson) in the 1810 or 1820 census for Albemarle County or Nelson County. There is, however, a Joseph Martin in Nelson County in 1810 (page 82) who could be the Joseph "Henderson" who married Mary Durham in January 1799 (two males under 10, one male 10-15, one male 15-25 [possibly a nephew?], one male 45 and up, two females under 10, one female 26-44). Moreover, the published marriage records of Albemarle County and Amherst County (parent county of Nelson) do not include any Joseph MARTIN who married between 1786 and 1804, when the mother in this family would have been twenty years old or older (Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853, by John Vogt & T. William Kethley, Jr.; Marriage Bonds and Other Marriage Records of Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1800, by William Montgomery Sweeny). (The Amherst County book, though, does not cover the last four years of this period.) Also, as noted above, a Joseph Martin appears in the 1818 personal-property tax list for Nelson County, immediately before the Mary Martin who was apparently the widow of Shadrack Henderson.

Observations and Conclusions

1. The Shadrack MARTIN and Shadrack HENDERSON in the above-described records are irrefutably the same person. For example, when one of these names appears in the tax list for a given year, the other name does not. Similarly, Shadrack's wife, Mary, appears in the tax lists as Mary MARTIN after his death, whereas no Mary HENDERSON appears in the lists after Shadrack's death. I do not yet know why this person used two different surnames, but one does not need to know why to conclude that he did.

2. At least four of Shadrack's children also appear in various records under the surname MARTIN: William in the tax records, clearly linked to Shadrack's widow; Nancy in her death record, having the same married name ("Nancy Kerby") as given in Shadrack's will; John in leaving the surname MARTIN to his widow, Susannah (the death of Susannah KIRBY MARTIN's husband coinciding with the death of Shadrack's son); and Joseph in the 1810 census record and the 1811 tax list, listed with Shadrack's widow.

3. In several additional respects, too, the records on my William H. MARTIN and my Nancy MARTIN KIRBY match the records on Shadrack's children William and Nancy. For example, both Williams were married to Sarah Dollins, daughter of Richard; and there was only one known Richard Dollins in the area at the time. Both Nancys were married to James Kirby, and there was only one known James Kirby in the area at the time. My Nancy MARTIN KIRBY's mother, according to her death record, had the same first name as Shadrack's wife.

4. Based on all of the evidence described above and on these observations, I conclude that Shadrack Henderson/Martin was the father (or possibly the step-father) of my ancestors William H. MARTIN and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY, and of Susannah KIRBY MARTIN's first husband (i.e., John). Rejecting this conclusion would require accepting one or the other of two highly unlikely scenarios: either that (1) William Henderson, Nancy Henderson, and John Henderson all died within a few years after their marriages in 1811, 1806, and 1803; all three of their spouses -- Sarah Dollins, James Kirby, and Susannah Kirby -- later married new spouses having the same surname (Martin) and (at least in the case of Sarah and James) the same first names as their earlier "Henderson" spouses; and no records survive for any of those three "later" marriages; or that (2) at the same time and in the same place, there were two people named Sarah Dollins (both of them daughters of Richard), two people named James Kirby, and two people named Susannah Kirby; all three pairs were of marrying age at about the same time; and both of the Sarah DOLLINSes married men named William, and both of the James KIRBYs married women named Nancy. Although it is somewhat remarkable to conclude that a man and his offspring used two different surnames, the alternative explanations would be far more remarkable.

5. One effect of this conclusion is to accept the Henderson-Dollins and Henderson-Kirby marriages abstracted above as the marriages of my William H. Martin to Sarah Dollins and of my Nancy Martin to James Kirby. If the names on those marriage records were William Martin and Nancy Martin rather than William Henderson and Nancy Henderson, they would be readily accepted as the marriages of my William H. Martin and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY. Concluding that my William H. Martin and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY were children (or stepchildren) of Shadrack HENDERSON/MARTIN necessarily leads to the conclusion that the 1811 and 1806 marriages are their marriages.

6. The only obstacle to concluding that Shadrack was the natural father of my William H. MARTIN and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY (rather than possibly their stepfather) is Nancy's death record, which gives her parents' names as John and Mary Martin. However, given that Shadrack used the surname Martin and that Nancy's death record gives her father's surname as Martin, it is possible (though entirely speculative at this point) that Shadrack Henderson/Martin also used the given name John: Perhaps John was his first name and Shadrack his middle name? Or, maybe the death record is simply incorrect as to the given name of Nancy's father; death records are notoriously unreliable in identifying the decedent's parents. This is an area for further study. Nevertheless, the pendency of this issue does not undermine the conclusion that Shadrack Henderson/Martin was the father or stepfather of my William H. Martin and Nancy MARTIN KIRBY.

7. The road order at item 7 above indicates that one John Henderson of "Turkey Run" was a close neighbor of my Shadrack Martin/Henderson, and thus possibly his relative.

Please let me know if you have any evidence to support or challenge these conclusions.

One Possible Explanation

The following advertisement appeared in the Virginia Gazette of Williamsburg, Virginia, on November 7, 1754:

October 27, 1754. RAN away from the Subscriber, on Sunday Night last, a Servant Man, named John Martin, about 5 Feet 3 Inches high; had on when he went away, a Camblet Coat, with a Collar lined with Plush or Velvet, and Leather Breeches; he had different sorts of other Cloaths, such as Trousers, Stockings, and In Particular a ruffled Shirt; he is a thick-made Welchman, speaks very broken English; he also had on a coarse Felt hat, and a coarse Wastecoat. Whoever apprehends and conveys him to me, in Augusta County, near the Court-house, shall have Two Pistoles Reward, besides what the Law allows. James Armstrong.

(An image of this advertisement, with the transcription, are in the Virginia Runaways Project.)

Although exceedingly speculative at this point, the possibility exists that this runaway from Augusta County, John Martin, settled in Albemarle County and changed his name to Shadrack Henderson to avoid capture. If this John Martin were eighteen years old when he ran away (the advertisement calls him a "man"), he would have been seventy-five years old in 1811, when my Shadrack Henderson/Martin died.

However, the fact that my Shadrack's oldest child was probably born no earlier than about 1773 -- based on marriage dates and tax records -- makes this scenario unlikely.

Here are some of the unfruitful research avenues that I've exhausted while pursuing this puzzle:

  • Looked for the "children" of Shadrack Henderson/Martin in the death registers of Albemarle County and Nelson County: couldn't find any of them, except for my William H. Martin and Nancy (Martin) Kirby. The Albemarle death register covers 1853-1861, and the Nelson register covers 1853-1872.
  • Looked for Shadrack Henderson/Martin in the deed index of Albemarle County; the only instrument found was the 1807 deed described in paragraph 7 of the "Evidence." (This was checked for me by Lineages, Inc.)
  • Looked for Shadrack Henderson/Martin in the deed indices of Nelson County and Amherst County (Nelson's parent county): he's not in those indices. (The Amherst index was searched for me by Lineages, Inc.)
  • Searched for Shadrack's "children" in the 1850 census of Virginia. Also searched the 1850 census in other states as well, to one degree or another depending on the commonness of each name and the locations involved. (For example, I have not looked into any of the sixty-nine George Martins who lived in New York in 1850.)
  • Checked the will index of Nelson County for other probate documents on Shadrack Henderson/Martin's estate (such as a settlement or executor's bond): there are none. (This was done for me by Lineages, Inc.).
  • Asked the Nelson County clerk's office whether they have executor's bonds that are not recorded in the will books: they don't.
  • Looked for a marriage of Shadrack HENDERSON or Shadrack MARTIN in Marriage Bonds and Other Marriage Records of Amherst County, Virginia, 1763-1800, by William Montgomery Sweeney, and in Albemarle County Marriages, 1780-1853, by John Vogt & T. William Kethley, Jr.: he's not there.
  • Looked for any probate record, in Albemarle County and Amherst County, for a John Martin who could be the biological father of my Nancy MARTIN KIRBY. My inability to find such a record contributes to the speculation that Shadrack Henderson/Martin may have used two given names as well as two surnames.
  • Checked the Early Virginia Religious Petitions, 1774-1802, on the Library of Congress's "American Memory" site, for any Shadrack MARTIN or Shadrack HENDERSON in Amherst County or Albemarle County: no such name is on the petitions for those counties.
  • Looked for any reference to Shadrack as a child in Albemarle County Order Book 1744-1748 (Library of Virginia reel 46): there's no such reference. (Unfortunately, Albemarle County order books do not exist for the period 1749-1782.)
  • Looked for any reference to Shadrack as a child in Goochland County order books for 1728-1749 (Family History Library microfilms 31671 and 31672): there's no such reference in the indices, although the indices for 1728-1741 are partially missing. (Albemarle County was created from Goochland in 1744.)

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This page was last updated on September 6, 2011.

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