Category Archives: Bertie, North Hampton, Edgecombe NC

The Thomas family moved out of Virginia into the upper tier counties of North Carolina before spreading south and west.

One Violin, One Tomahawk, and a Side Saddle


1732After working the records in Wake, Chatham and Moore counties to near exhaustion, it’s time to move in earnest towards the task of proving the Thomas family lineage another generation back to Bertie County. We know of Joseph Thomas who came to Wake in 1772. It’s he who died ca. 1819 in Chatham County. But, where did Joseph come from prior to living in Wake? Research coalesces around the idea that Joseph Thomas who died in Chatham is the son of a Joseph Thomas who died per last will and testament drawn up in Bertie County on 12 Dec 1752 (probated on 5 Jan 1758). And looking back a generation further, all online histories indicate that the Joseph who died ca. 1752-58 is the son of yet another Joseph who drew up a last will and testament in 1732 Bertie Precinct.

In revisiting all the deeds, estates, court and any other legal records pertinent to the study of our Thomas ancestry, it quickly hit me that what I was seeing cannot support the storyline so often seen online and found in the writings of prominent researchers of the past. Is it me or is there a real problem? In this post I’ll express my concern through scrutiny of the 1732 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas as it relates to those of his believed sons Joseph and James. By way of comments (so we can all learn), I ask for your thoughts and rationale whether or not you believe I’m right or wrong on this matter.


At the top of this page is the 1732 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas . For closer scrutiny, Joseph’s will and those of others are transcribed at the bottom of this post. Much can be gleaned from the wills, but keep in mind, I’ll go no further into findings than what is necessary to raise my concern. Much more will be rolled out later.

From the above last will and testament, we see that in 1732 Joseph Thomas names his wife Eales (Alice) and children Michel, Joseph, Luke, James, Jacob, Jonas and Charity.
From the Thomas and Bridges Story 1540-1840 written in 1972, author Edison H. Thomas indicates that Joseph’s and Alice’s son James died ca. 1780 after writing his will in Bertie County. What’s important for my concern is the 1780 date of this James Thomas’s will. See James’ will at bottom for details and please keep this point in the back of your mind as we go forward.

Now, let’s look at James’ brother Joseph as identified in the 1732 last will and testament at the top of this post. This younger Joseph II is believed the same person who wrote a last will and testament on 26 April 1752 in which is named wife Ann along with children Michael, Josiah, Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth. In item “sixthly” of the will, Joseph bequeaths to daughter Elizabeth:

joseph 1757 2 - Copy

The important part of the item reads: “Whereon Judith Thomas now lives it being the land that passed to me by the death of my brother James Thomas.” So, if Joseph II and James are brothers [sons of Joseph and Eales (Alice) Thomas], and James died prior to the writing of Joseph’s will, then it’s simply impossible for James to have penned a will in the 1770’s. In case you’re having difficulty following the logic of my concern, take a look at the following:


Seeking further information on a James Thomas who died prior to Joseph II’s 1752 last will and testament, I found the following:

Estates (653) Bertie – James Thomas. Account of sale 1750 by John Sallis, Deputy Sheriff. Buyers were Judith Thomas, Joseph Thomas, John Jameson, Jethro Butler, William Holmes, Mr. Searson, and James Boyt. Also, among the loose estate papers of Bertie County is the following account of sale for James Thomas’ estate. The name of Judith Thomas appears on the backside indicating it was her who either made the sale or at least had it recorded.”

james thomas estate1

Implications: It appears that Joseph Thomas I who died in 1735 had a son named James who died ca. 1750. James may have married a person named Judith. James likely died intestate and left no last will and testament. James and Judith likely had no children as any land passed to James’ oldest living brother Joseph. Judith would have been given a widow’s allowance to live on the land for her lifetime or until her remarriage.

How much longer did Judith live and is there anything else we can glean from her life record? Dated 20 April 1762, Thomas Pennington drew his last will and testament naming Judith Thomas though not specifying that she is his daughter. I’m not sure at this time whether or not Thomas Pennigton’s last will and testament refers to James Thomas’ wife Judith. Requiring a little research, more information on this will be forthcoming.
It simply is not true that James Thomas (who married Sarah Barnes) is the son of Joseph Thomas I who left a will in 1735. James Thomas whose will appears in 1780 Bertie must be the son of another person other than Joseph I. So, who is James’ father and who are James’s siblings if any? How does he relate to Joseph Thomas who died ca. 1735? How will this change the story?

Though to me this is all a cool find, I can’t help but think more about the timeframe and where this all happened. James Thomas’ estate sale included icons of two worlds …both a violin and tomahawk. I can envision James sitting peacefully by the fire admiring the sounds of melodies wafting through the forests pine. And this was a time when the Tuscarora Wars were only thirty years in the past (actually fifteen at the time of Joseph Thomas I’s last will and testament). Was the tomahawk a useful tool used by James or was it a trophy or keepsake from the Tuscarora Wars? James was born just prior to the wars and the Thomas family lived near present day Windsor NC. He lived amongst “friendly Indians” who remained and had been allowed to live on a reservation known as Indian Woods. I know you can tell a story through music but I bet the tomahawk also spoke proudly in its own way. And, then I wonder of Judith’s side saddle and where it carried her and who she traveled to see. I have to wonder about my Thomas family, and of any blood connections to the Indian culture they lived amongst.

james thomas 2

Last Will and Testament of Joseph Tomas
10 Dec 1733, pro. Feb 1735 in Bertie County NC

I the name of god Amen I Joseph Tomas of North Carolina of Bertie Precinct being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind & memory thanks be to god for it knowing it is appointed for all men once to die do make this my last will and testament first I command my body to the earth to be buried in a Christian like manner and my sole in the hands of almighty God that gave it I give and bequeath as ______________

Item I give and bequeath to my well beloved wife Eales Thomas my plantation that I now live upon at her own disposal during her life and likewise all my stock and ___________
Item I give and bequeath to my son Joseph Tomas the above mentioned plantation after my wife’s decease and the privileges of ____ part of it in her lifetime provided he does not __________ her upon any_____________

Item I give and bequeath to my son Michel Tomas and my son Luke Tomas and my son James Tomas one tract of land six hundred and forty acres lying upon to be equally divided among the three and my son Michel to have the first choice and likewise if my wife doth buy a negro woman with the estate and she breeds for them to be and to Jacob Thomas and Jonas Tomas and if the sd negro woman has any more children their two to the next children ________ and likewise after my wifes decease of the two negros I giving son Michel his choice of the follow that I have at this time and the negro wench _______ one of the two him and his heirs and if Joseph Tomas, Luke Tomas or James Tomas should die either one of them or without.

Item I do that the land that I left them shall be to Jacob & Jonas and Luke and likewise after my wife’s decease al the estate to be equally divided amongst my children one shilling I leave to my daughter Charity Tomas and likewise appoint my son Michel Tomas and John Spivey to be my whole executors of this my last will and testament as written hand.
December the 10th 1733
Francis Hobson
William (x) Simmons                                                                  Joseph (I) Tomas

Bertie Precinct
Febry Court 1735 The written will of Joseph Thomas was proved by the oaths of Francis Hobson & William Simmons the two subscribing witnesses thereto and the Michael Thomas one of the exe’r therein named took the oath of an Ex’tr by law required.
Test: Jno Wynn


Last Will and Testament of Joseph Thomas
26 April 1752, pro. April 1758 in Bertie County NC

North Carolina
In the name of God amen. I Joseph Thomas of Bertie County Planter being sick of body but of perfect manner & judgement first recommending my soul to God that gave it and my body to be buried at the discretion of my Executors hereafter mentioned do make this my Last Will and Testament this 26 day of April anno Dem 1752;

Imprimus I bequeath to my loving wife Ann Thomas the use or the plantation whereon I now live during her natural life and all the land thereunto belonging except what land lies on the south & southeast side of the plantation called the Spring Branch & also give to my sd. wife six cows and calves six sows & their pigs two breeding mares and as to my household furniture I lend the use of all to my sd. Wife during her natural life and after her decease my will is that all of my sd. household goods be equally divided among my children share & share alike. I also lend to my sd. wife the use & labor of my negroes she using them as they might to be used Viz; Rose, Jack, Boson until my children who I shall in this will give them to arrive to the age of twenty one years or the day of marriage or are capable to choose their guardians towards the raising my sd. children to her heirs or assignees.

2nd I give and demise unto my son Michael Thomas six hundred & forty acres of land now the occupation of Griffin Summerell it being the land I purchased of Thomas Kearney I also give to my son all my stocks cattle hoggs that is in possession of the sd. Summerell on his land one negro woman named Rose and all her increase thereafter except the first two children the sd negro woman shall bare thereafter that shall live to the age of three years old which children I reserve for my daughters hereafter mentioned. I also give to my sd. son two breeding mares and one young horse by the name of Blaze and my servant melato boy named Jacob till he shall be lawfully free to him his heirs & assignees forever.

3dly I give and devise unto my son Josiah Thomas my land and plantation whereon Nathaniel Keel now lives, it being bounded and joining the land I gave to my son Michael and Thomas Blounts land and all my stock of cattle on the sd land that is in possession of Nathaniel Keel six sows & piggs two breeding mares one young horse by the name of Ball & one negro boy named Jack to him his heirs & assignees forever

4th I give to my son Joseph Thomas my land & plantation whereon I now live and all my stock of mare cattle that belongs to the sd. plantation except what cattle I have given to my wife and two three year old horses two breeding mares one young horse six sows and piggs one negro boy named Bason and Liberty if he sees proper to make a plantation on the south east side of the spring branch in case his mother is living when he is at age to him and assignees forever.

5th I give and demise unto my daughter Mary Thomas my land that now belongs John Spivey a minor my said land I now give to my said daughter Mary is now in the occupation of Hardy Keel I give also to my said daughter the first child that shall be born of my negro woman named Rose that shall also live to the age of three years old viz; the first child that is born after this date and two breeding mares & one young horse to her and her assignees forever
6thly I give and demise to my daughter Elizabeth Thomas my land and plantation whereon Judeth Thomas now lives it being the land that fell to me by the death of my brother James Thomas. I also give to my daughter Elizabeth the second child that shall hereafter be born of my negro woman (named Rose) that shall live to the age of three years old two breeding mares one young horse to hers and her heirs and assignees forever

7thly My will and desire is that all the remaining part of my estate after my just debts funeral charges & legacies are paid/ be equally divided amongst my five children before mentioned share & share alike to them their heirs & assignees forever

Lastly I constitute ordain & appoint my loving wife Ann Thomas my Executrix and my loving friends Thomas Whitmell & Arthur Williams my executors of this my last will and testament hereby declaring this to be my only will in being. In witness whereof I have unto set my hand & seal the date above written.
Signed sealed declared & published
in the presence of }
Jos. Collins jurat
Nathaniel (x) Keel                                                                                   Jos. Thomas
Joseph (III) Keel
Richard (R) Sparkman


Last Will and Testament of James Thomas
22 Oct 1780, pro. November 1780 in Bertie County NC

In the name of God amen I James Thomas of Bertie County of the state of North Carolina, being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind & memory Thanks be given unto God, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hand of almighty God that gave it and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in descent Christian like manner at the discretion of my Executors nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same again, by the almighty power of God and as touching the worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life, I give, demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form (to wit)

Item first of all I leand unto my beloved wife Sarah Thomas during her life or widowhood once third part of my land and plantation whereon I live one feather bed and furniture that belong to it one mare bridle and saddle one lining wheale, one iron pot & hooks & two puter plats, one puter dish one puter bason one cow & one calf.
Item I give and bequeath unto my beloving son Ezekiel Thomas one feather bed and what belongs to it one puter dish & two puter plats one Noohothed Heffer to him and his heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath unto my loving son Luke Thomas five shillings sterling to him and his heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath unto my loving son James Thomas all my land and plantation after his mothers death ad two parts of my land from the time that the will is proved one feather bed & what belongs to it one horse bridle & saddle to him and his heirs forever except my son James Thomas should die without heirs the land to be equally divided between my two eldest sons Ezekiel Thomas & Luke Thomas.

Item I give and bequeath unto my beloved daughter Selah Dement wife of Charles Dement one small chist one eow and lamb to her and her heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath unto my loving daughter Luridill Thomas one feather bed and what belongings to it one linning wheel one puter dish and two puter plates one cow & calf one eows & lamb one chis to her & her heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath unto my loving daughter Sarah Thomas one heffer yearling about three years old to her and her heirs forever.

Item I give and bequeath unto my loving daughter Lidda Thomas the feather bed lent to my loving wife to her and her heirs forever.

All the remainder part of estate of what nature or kinds soever I leave to be equally divided between my son James & Liddy Thomas at my son James coming two age of twenty one years and the said Liddy part to be continued in the hands of sd James Thomas during the discretion of the Executors hereafter nominated or arrives at the age of eighteen years of marriage but in case that either of the sd James Thomas or Liddy Thomas should die without lawful heir then my will & desire is that his or her part of the dividend be and remain to the said James or Liddy Thomas to them and their heirs forever.

Lastly I nominate constitute and ordain David Outlaw & my son Ezekiel Thomas my whole and sole Executors of this my Last Will & Testament to see the same compiled with and I do hereby utterly dislow and revoke all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last Will Testament in witness whereof I the sd James Thomas I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 22nd day of October in the year of our lord Christ one thousand seven hundred and eighty.
Signed Sealed Published Pronounced & declared by the sd James Thomas as his last will and testament in the presence of us:
Abner Eason Snr
Joseph Eason Jur                                                                               James (J) Thomas
Mary Pritchard

Bertie County November Court 1780: proved by Abner Eason Esqr & Joseph Eason
Test : Stevens Gray CC.




Filled with a curious hunger to fully understand our Thomas family, once again we come together to review and build upon prior efforts of telling our story. Some of us have seemingly clear paths through northern tier counties of North Carolina back to Virginia where records become fewer and therefore more difficult to link. There are others, like myself, whose only connection lies in DNA and the educated guess that somehow, we will someday clear a more perfect path into this family.

For us all, there is John Thomas who appears in 1620’s ship lists, a census/muster list, and a later land record near Jamestown VA. And, then there’s the story of Sea Venture, a storm, and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Of all the possibilities, the connection to this place and time is nothing less than magical. It’s a great challenge! We’re talking John Rolfe and Pocahontas, the formative years prior to Colonial Williamsburg, the opening chapter of our American story.

Much has been written about this earliest of American Thomas families. Published 1984, there’s Edison H. Thomas and his “Thomas and Bridges Story 1540 –1840.” And in 1977, Robert E Thomas wrote “The Thomas family in 300 years of American history.” There’s the writings of notable researchers like historian Hugh Buckner Johnston whose mother was Ruth Thomas born in Wilson County NC. And, there’s also indispensable research materials such as “Cavaliers and Pioneers. Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants” dealing specifically with records sourced in early Virginia.

As we move forward, we’ll need to work with others in the family who have differing viewpoints. There will be differences with what was believed and written in the past. There will be disagreements both with the traditionally accepted story as well as among ourselves in deciphering the meaning of new finds. Yes, there will be new finds and new stories to tell. Some will merely add to the story while others may figuratively shake the ground from where we believed our beloved ancestors once lived.

For many years I’ve looked towards Virginia with fear and an anxious internalized kicking and screaming of Noooooo….. don’t drag me there!!! It’s a big leap going back through records I have little knowledge. It expands the tree exponentially and with that is a much larger circle of information that’ll need to be verified. There’s much written on this stuff and until now (ha-ha), I was not part of the history. But things have changed, like myself, there is a growing crop of cousins who’ll be paying us a visit in the years to come. We’ll learn of each other through DNA and by improved understanding of the records. We’ll know each other and the story of each other’s family. So, if any THOMAS finds a kinship and is interested in learning more, please don’t be shy. Join us, share, and most importantly, participate in the painless Y DNA testing. We need more participants across the far-reaching spectrum of our Thomas family.


1004671_390242614431172_777391602_nWithout supporting documentation, both online and traditional family histories portray Joseph Thomas of Wake/Chatham Counties NC to be the son of Joseph and possibly Ann Spivey Thomas of Bertie County NC. This may be true, it’s just there’s nothing written from which to base it! And, none of the histories I’ve seen address Joseph’s neighbors in Wake County who he interacted with and who were also named Thomas. And to muddle the situation, just to the east in neighboring Johnston County, there lived Elisha Thomas who had earlier removed from Bertie County. This Elisha may be the son of Barnaby Thomas, the brother of Joseph Thomas who possibly married Ann Spivey. So, Joseph Thomas of Wake County and Elisha Thomas of Johnston County should be first cousins and it seems the two should have known of each other. And, this Elisha Thomas in Johnston County was listed in that county as executor in the 1763 last will and testament of a person named Joseph Thomas. There’s nothing online or in hard copy connecting Joseph and Elisha to each other or to Joseph Thomas in Wake.  And further yet, in Wake County, it appears the descendants of Joseph Thomas’ neighboring Thomas family included at least one with first name Elisha.

It’s mind boggling. How to make sense of this genealogical mess and where do we go from here? I have yet to figure out the full story of Joseph Thomas who appears ca. 1772 in the newly formed Wake County NC.

It’s maybe time to take a breather and let folks know where we’re at and to ponder the future and of where the records may carry us all. Please take in the following status report in hopes we’ll be able move forward with the same understanding. And, if you disagree, please stand up and be heard! Feel free to add to the discussion if you have differing opinions.

About Joseph Thomas of Wake County NC – Joseph L Thomas is believed to be born in Bertie County NC on 24 Feb 1747. What is the source of Joseph’s birth date? Some say his middle name begins with the letter L and some say his middle name is Luther …what is the source? Joseph appears ca. 1772 in newly formed Wake County and is believed to have married Martha Godwin. A neighbor of others with surname Thomas, this Joseph and family lived in Wake County until ca. 1800 when his family spread through Chatham and Moore Counties in a region that became present day Lee County.   The children of Joseph and Martha Thomas are believed to be:

  • John Thomas – born ca. 1770-1775, married Mary Oaks in Wake County and died ca 1850 in Moore County NC.
  • Joseph Thomas, Jr-born ca. 1771, married Dora Paschel and may have died in Moore County NC.
  • Frederick Thomas-born ca. 1770-1780, married Nancy Cox and died 1835 in Moore County NC.
  • Micajah Thomas-born ca. 1770-1780, appeared in records of Wake, Chatham and Moore Counties and disappears.
  • Martin Thomas-born ca. 1770-1790, married to Penelope Gunter and died 1830’s in Moore County NC.
  • Catherine Ann Thomas-born 1770-1800
  • Benjamin Thomas-born ca. 1775, married Priscilla Gunter and died ca 1819 in Chatham County NC.
  • William Thomas-possibly a son, born ca. 1790-1800, enumerated in 1830 Moore County NC.
  • Allen Thomas-born ca. 1798, married Ann Weldon, died 5 Mar 1881 in Moore County NC.

About Jacob Thomas. DNA and a single road order in early Wake County just may connect to a land grant in Anson County NC, leaving open an unproven possibility that the Thomas family of Anson descend through a Jacob Thomas who once lived near Joseph Thomas in early Wake County NC.

Jonathan and Nathan Thomas and others. Jonathan Thomas married in Wake County on 16 Apr 1781 to Sarah, the daughter of James and Sarah Holland. In 1794, Nathan Thomas was listed as administrator to settle Jonathan’s estate. Entered in 1792, surveyed in 1794, and issued in 1797, Nathan Thomas received a land grant in which Jonathan Thomas served as chain bearer. Asa Thomas also served as chain bearer on other grants issued to Nathan Thomas. Nathan Thomas disappears from Wake by 1800 and may be the Nathan listed later in Moore County NC census records.

Asa Thomas. Served in the Revolutionary War in the stead of Etheldred Jones to whom the said Asa lived in the household while learning the trade of blacksmithing. Asa never received a land grant or deeded land. He was listed as chain bearer for grants issued to Nathan Thomas. He married Pleasant Matthews, daughter of Joseph and Ann Matthews. Joseph Thomas’ son Micajah is named in the last will and testament of Redmond Matthews who may be Asa Thomas’ brother-in-law. Asa was listed as insolvent ca. 1797 and removed to Anson County NC where he’s listed in the 1800 census. In 1854 Wake County, and on behalf of Asa’s war record, Asa’s son David applied for a Revolutionary War pension.

Wanting to push the story of our Thomas family beyond the records of Wake County NC, it’s painfully frustrating knowing I must settle in a bit longer to the task of fully exercising this special time in our history. At a point where most have broken off the search to jump an unclear trail of records to another place and time, I’m still amazed and consumed by what’s not being said about our Thomas family. It’s the untold stories of Thomas who lived near and interacted with our own.

Soon, I’ll post possible connections through possible children of Asa’s son David. Note my use of the word possible J   Also, I’ll begin to look across the county line into Chatham to hopefully uncover some interesting connections leading to Indiana and Georgia. Stay tuned!