Sunday, November 9, 2014

52 Ancestors: #45 - Richard BRUCE

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 5X great-grandfather Richard BRUCE is a bit of a puzzle.  (But aren’t they all?)  He was the baby of the family born to George Bruce and Elizabeth Quinn in 1754.  He was surely old enough to have served in the militia during the Revolutionary War, but I have found no evidence of that on Fold3.  However, his brothers served and received pensions. 

Richard must have been a smart man who earned the respect of his family and neighbors.  He might have been a lawyer, in fact.  He was asked to seek the aid of Thomas Jefferson in settling a military claim: 

Richard Bruce 1791 letter to Thomas Jefferson
used by permission from mrtsix3

Albemarle 12th Dec 1791
Having repeatedly experienced favors of this kind from you it emboldens me still to intrude further on your goodness.  David Owings & David Wood have got some military claim sent on by the Assembly to Congress to have them settled.  And they have wrote to Mr. Madison to lay them separately before Congress.  And as I was in some measure the instigation of their not being paid as you will see by the papers therefore beg you to be so good as to try to get them settled when they come to hand [not sure that’s what it says] and write me word their fate.

I am Sir your most obt [obedient] servant
Richd Bruce

In 1794, Richard’s brother William and his wife Ann Nancy, who were residing in North Carolina, appointed him to be their attorney to sell 300 acres of land in Albemarle [Deed Book 1, p. 34].

There are many deeds and other documents witnessed by Richard Bruce; however, quite often the date is many years after the 1813 death date that seems to be accepted by Bruce researchers.  His absence in the 1820 census makes that date seem probable.  Still, the deeds between Richard Bruce and Joshua Shiflett, the husband of Richard’s daughter Malinda, make me wonder whether he was still living beyond 1813 or if there is another Richard Bruce, a son perhaps, or a nephew. 

The rest of Richard’s life can be summed up with statistics from the early census records for Albemarle County in Virginia:
  • 1782 – one free male above 21; owned 8 cattle and 5 horses; had no carriages, billiard tables, or license to operate an ordinary
  • 1790 – one white male over 16; 2 blacks over 16; owned 2 horses but no carriages
  • 1800 – 2 white males over 16; 2 blacks over 16; 2 blacks between 12 and 16; owned 3 horses but no carriages
  • 1810 – 3 males under 10, 1 male 16-25, 2 males over 45, 2 females under 10, 2 females 26-44, and 7 slaves


Richard BRUCE ( 1754 Albemarle Co, VA – 1813 Loudoun, VA ) & & Catherine “Caty” WHITE (1744 Virginia – 1784 Virginia)  1773 Albemarle Co, VA
1.  Elizabeth “Betsy” BRUCE ( 1774 Albemarle Co, VA – 24 Nov 1854 Albemarle Co, VA )
2.  Sarah “Sallie” BRUCE ( 1776 Albemarle Co, VA – ) & Zachariah GARRISON (1772 Albemarle Co, VA – )  26 Dec 1797 Albemarle Co, VA
3.  Malinda BRUCE ( 1783 Albemarle Co, VA –  Sep 1872 Greene Co, VA ) & Joshua SHIFLETT (1775 Albemarle Co, VA – 1838 Virginia )  22 Aug 1797  Albemarle Co, VA
  • Minerva SHIFLETT ( 1798 Albemarle Co, VA – 1863 Virginia )
  • Melissa SHIFLETT ( 1802 Albemarle Co, VA - After 1870 Harrison, WV ) & Joseph “Joel” SHIFLETT (1791 Albemarle Co, VA – 19 Apr 1856 West Virginia)  20 Oct 1824 Albemarle Co, VA
  • Isaac SHIPLETT ( May 1807 Albemarle Co, VA – Jan 1862 Albemarle Co, VA ) & Susan JORDAN (1814 – 28 Feb 1882 Rockingham Co, VA )  24 Oct 1836 Albemarle, VA

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Do you know what document or resource it is that makes other researchers agree on a death date of 1813? That could shed light on whether you're dealing with a son or altogether different person.

    1. I have not found a document to confirm 1813, but I have not found any Richard Bruce as head of household after that year either. So the search continues. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Great information and letter!

  3. Wow! Isn't it awesome to see your 5x great-grandfather's signature on this very old document? Very, very cool!

    1. Agreed! Every time I see a signature instead of an X, it takes my breath. Then I think maybe they could actually read too.

  4. Wendy, weren't there some people whose value was such that they did not fight? Now don't quote me on this, but in one of the wars I thought that if people's value to the community was such that they were needed more there, they didn't fight. Like I said, don't quote me on that.

    What a cool thing to have that letter. There are so many advantages when you have a literate, educated ancestor.

    1. That certainly sounds like it could be true. And I'm really tempted to quote you! ;-)

  5. What a treasure! Interesting letter. Wendy, I wonder if there would be any more information if you went back to the original source of that letter. Do you know which archives holds it? There may be more in the files there to provide you with clues about him.

    1. I found the letter on Ancestry. Unfortunately, the person who posted it gave no information on the source. But you've given me a thought -- I wonder if the two men mentioned in the letter have a pension file. Hmm ~