Monday, November 14, 2011

Mystery Monday: William and Sarah Sampson

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that invites us to post about mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved. This is a great way to get fellow genealogy bloggers to lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

In the mid-1800s in Greene County, Virginia, every Tom, Dick, and Mary was named William and Sarah Sampson.   There were at least 5 sets of them, but only 1 of them included Sarah/Sallie Jollett.  But which?

Three of the William-Sarahs can be eliminated easily.  The oldest was William Sampson and his wife Sarah Coleman.  He was a Revolutionary War soldier who moved on to Indiana in 1805.  Coincidentally, their son William married a Sarah too – Sarah Ann Parker – but since they were out of state, they are not part of the problem.  The other William-Sarah were much older too, like the first set.  This William wrote a will in 1815 leaving his land to his wife Sarah and naming his son William as executor.  The will was witnessed by Sarah Jollet’s father James Jollett and his son-in-law Peter Marsh. 

This might also be the same William Sampson who granted permission for his daughter Sarah Sampson to marry guess who -- William Sampson.  This makes my head hurt.

Any attempt to apply logic or common sense in analyzing wills, deeds, and census records is fruitless.  I cannot connect the dots because the dots go everywhere.  I’ve tried looking at the neighbors to see what other Jolletts were living nearby.  In the 1850 Greene Co, Virginia census, Sarah and William Sampson, the miller, were living next door to James Madison Marsh, nephew of Sarah Jollett. Since families tended to live close to one another, we might conclude that our Sarah was married to the miller. However, in that same census, another of Sarah’s nephews, John Marsh, was living in the household of Sarah and William Sampson, the wheelwright. See what I mean?

Fasten your seatbelt, because now the story gets really bumpy.

In 1860, the wheelwright was in Albemarle, running a hotel; apparently his Sarah was dead. Right down the road was Sarah Jollett’s nephew Hiram Marsh who was married to the wheelwright’s daughter Peachy.  Meanwhile back in neighboring Greene County, the miller was dead, but Sarah was still there with 3 daughters and several grandchildren.  Two doors down was Tabatha Jollett, an unproven sister, but still a JOLLETT.  Soooo, was Sarah Jollett dead or a widow?

In 1870, William, the wheelwright/hotel keeper, was retired and living with his son Franklin while daughter Maria was living as a housekeeper to her sister Peachy’s husband Hiram Marsh, who was also her cousin IF her mother was Sarah JOLLETT Sampson.  In 1880, William, Maria, and Franklin were back together again in Albemarle.  In Greene County, Sarah Sampson was dead by 1870.  

In 1883, the wheelwright’s son Franklin married his cousin Clarissa Ann Sampson Rodenbarger, daughter of the wheelwright’s brother John Sampson and Sarah Jollett’s sister Clarissa.  Were they cousins ONLY on their fathers’ side, or on both their fathers’ AND mothers’ side?

Thus, it’s not just the sameness of the names that presents confusion; it’s the intertwining of these two families across the decades that makes sorting them rather complicated. 


  1. Boy, I would never get all of this straight! It's wonderful that you are researching your family so your descendants will have the information.

    How was the weekend? Hope you had fun at the lake and at the game.

  2. I think that bunch can safely sing that song "I'm my own Grandpa"

    I have a headache.

  3. Whew, it sounds incredibly complex. Several of male my ancestors had the same name across several generations (basically sr., jr., and the III, but they didn't use those terms). Sometimes I have difficulty sorting out the generations.