Sunday, August 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #35 - The JARRELLS

Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge:  write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor.  It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 3X great grandmother Mary P. JARRELL managed to accomplish something few of my oldest ancestors couldn’t:  she had family who provided a tombstone that could survive the trampling of cattle and loss of cemeteries. 

Mary P. RUCKER 1791 - 1871 Rockingham County, VA
Mary P. Jarrell 1791-1871
photo courtesy Jan Hensley

She was the wife of John Frank RUCKER and mother to five children.  Other than some dates, I know little about Mary since my research has thus far been limited to online sources.  At, many Rucker researchers claim Mary was the daughter of Daniel and Mary Terry Jarrell.  However, there is no supporting evidence.

In fact, there is significant supporting evidence that those researchers are just wrong.  A website dedicated to the Jarrells and related families provides thorough research as well as documentation.  

Here is where that research differs from the common view on Ancestry:
  • Daniel Jarrell was not married to Mary Terry.  He was married to Mary DAVIS, as proved by the wills of James Davis and Benjamin Davis II as well as a number of records that support this close Jarrell and Davis connection.
  • MY Mary Jarrell was not the daughter of Daniel and Mary.  Their daughter Mary married William Humphreys.

Searching through the siblings of Daniel Jarrell leads to the conclusion that MY Mary wasn’t a niece either.  All the Mary Jarrells and their husbands were present and accounted for.

The fact that Mary and John Frank were married in Madison County puts them in the neighborhood of this family of Jarrells.  After all, the Jarrells and Ruckers shared property lines, served together in the Revolutionary War, intermarried, bought land from one another, and supplied witnesses for countless records.

So who was Mary’s family if not Daniel’s or his brothers'?

One possibility is that she was part of the Fitzgerald family who also lived in Madison County.  They were a totally separate family unrelated to the Jarrells.  However, a number of proven Fitzgeralds used the name Jarrell or Garrell interchangeably with or instead of Fitzgerald.  The often-used spelling “Fitzjarrell” and “Fitzgarrell” makes it easy to see how that could happen. 

This quirky name game was evident in my 4X great grandmother’s experience.  Mary “Polly” SELF was married to Eason Fitzgerald in January 1802 in Orange County.  What became of Fitzgerald is unknown – he might have died or Polly might have left him (or him her).  Being legally unavailable might explain why during her time with Jacob Shiflett she was a common-law wife known as Polly Garrell/Jarrell. 

Fitzgerald names that need investigating include James, Thomas, William, Stephen and Lewis.   

Horsley, Joan. The Jarrell Family of Early Virginia with focus on Daniel Jarrell and his wife Mary Davis: Their Family, Relatives, & Neighbors. Raleigh, NC: J. Horsley, 2009. Available online at

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. It is so interesting how a surname can change over time and with usage.

    1. I have a couple different surnames in my family where spelling changes over time. In one instance, you can see it splitting within a single family unit with one brother using one spelling and the other brother using a different one.

  2. Putting your detective skills to work again. I am sure you will have it solved.
    Amazing that bit of headstone! There are two old cemeteries where my husband's families grew up. It is so sad to see all the children that never made it. Entire families of children wiped out by a flu or other illness.
    Happy 3 day weekend!

    1. Children's tombstones are always so sad and yet so sweet.

  3. You are amazing with your research! Correcting one website at a time...

  4. Wendy, as you know we must all be careful with information posted on Ancestry, especially if it has no source. I have been away for a few days. I love the look of your blog; wonderful changes!

    1. You're right -- Ancestry is a good source for hints, but you have to do the due diligence yourself.

  5. My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, when my mother's death certificate was printed her mother's name shows as Clara Fitgerald (no Z). I'm sure 100 years from now someone will look at that and wonder was was going on.

    1. Yep, some poor soul is going to think she's from a different family.