Puzzle of William I, Part II
By Jud Banks
In the earlier pages we discussed some discrepancies in published material concerning our immigrant ancestor, William Strother. For those coming in late, a William Strother came to America before 1673 and settled on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. He is known to his descendants as William I (the First) and it has been fairly easy to prove his progeny. Of course there are still branches who have disappeared from view, but with enough digging, one can usually turn up traces of them. Going back from William I hasn't been that uncomplicated, however.
Sir Richard Nevill, Second Baron of Latimer, married Anne, a daughter of Sir Humphrey de Stafford of Grafton. They had a daughter, Dorothy Nevill (sometimes called Latimer), and she married Sir John Dawney. Their daughter was Anne, and she married George Conyers in 1535. He died in 1568. Their son, John Conyers, who died in 1610, married a distant cousin, Agnes Bowes.
John and Agnes had a daughter, Elinor (or Eleanor) Conyers, who was born in 1570. In 1590 she married Lancelot Strother (76) of Newton and Fowberry Towers, Northampton, who died in 1611. They had a son who was called William III (74). He was born in 1597-98 and died in 1656 or 1667 (sources vary) and was known of Kirknewton (or Northumberland). The name of his wife is not presently known, but it is believed that it was their son, William IV (of Northampton), who emigrated to America, and is known to us today as William I (72).
Now the sticky part. Although many "authoritative" sources seem to agree on the lineage just recited, there does not seem to be proof extant that William IV of Northampton and William I of Rappahannock were one and the same person. The legend is that the Virginia home burned and the family annals were destroyed. Thus we're left with reconstructing the William I saga, at least in this country, from public records. It has been done quite well so far, so we'll concentrate on the European end of the story and see if there are any clues that may have been overlooked.
Let's return to the Conyers. We've established that Elinor, who married Lancelot Strother, was of the 18th generation removed from Roger de Coigniers, who came to England from France near the end of the reign of William the Conqueror. As with many noble families, there was much intermarriage. There are many instances of cousins marrying cousins. Eleanor and Lancelot were 14th cousins, two generations removed, their common ancestor being William The Lion, King of Scots. Her line of Conyers became extinct and she was difficult to find. However, a good bit of information about the Conyers was located at the Salt Lake City Family History Center in a book called Story of the Family of Wandesforde of Kirklington & Castlecomer, published in London in 1904.
The book, History and Pedigree of the Family of Lewen, published in London in 1919, shows that Margaret Radcliffe married Thomas Conyers. They were the great-great grandparents of our Elinor.
The English have been meticulous record keepers from the time that William the Conqueror ordered the first census, especially if there is money or land involved. It does not seem conceivable that our William (I), whose family's fortunes were tied closely with the nobility, could have "fallen through the cracks" and that there is no conclusive record of him in England. We believe it's there. It just hasn't yet been brought forth.
It appears that the sources most commonly quoted regarding the early Strothers lean heavily upon recollections of General David Hunter Strother, also known as Porte Crayon, a Civil War correspondent and illustrator. Some have said that the general may not have had all the facts and that his writings, lacking proof, are wishful thinking. I disagree with this assessment. I have found too many family "traditions" to be founded on truth, but sometimes they have become a little garbled in the re-telling.
This writer has in his possession a photocopy of typewritten material found at the Salt Lake City Family History Center entitled, Strother Family Is Of Royal Descent, by Mrs. Jessica Dysard and Miss Jean Strother. It is not dated. It provides this clue:
"In America the family was founded by William Strother IV, born at Glendale, Korknewton, Northunberland (sic) county, England. Admitted to Eastland Company of Merchant Adventurers, September 24, 1656, settling in Richmond County Virginia, where he died in 1702. He was married in 1651 to Dorothy, daughter of Capt. Anthony and Alice Savage, also of Korknewton, Northunberland County, England, and later of Gloucester County, Virginia. This William Strother who came to America in 1656, was the son of William Strother III, whose wife was Barbara Grey (Edward Grey, of Fallodon, Northunberland, Prime Minister of England during the world War, was of the same family.)
There are seven pages to this treatise, at the end of which is the notation: Taken from the Sandy Valley Enquirer, Grayson, Kentucky; Vol 1, No. 49, January 28, 1937; Vol. 1, No. 50, February 4, 1937 and Vol. 1, No. 51, February 11, 1937. Whoever wrote the piece must surely have had something on which to base the information as it goes on to describe descendants of William II, son of William I, in some detail. Curiously, in Genealogies of Kentucky Families, by William E. Railey (published in 1981), in the section devoted to the Strothers, parts of the 1937 treatise are repeated verbatim. Railey wrote articles as early as 1917 and 1918, so we don't know which of the authors wrote the original. The 1981 publication may be a reprint of something published earlier.
In the book, Simpson and Allied Families, page 716, it shows that William Strother, of Northumberland, was born in 1597 and left a will which was proved in 1667. It then proceeds to show that.... "William Strother, son of William Strother, of Northumberland, was born about 1627 and died about 1702. He founded the Strother family of our interest in America, and was in Virginia as early as 1669, and may have been identical with the William Strowder' who was granted five hundred acres of land in Westmoreland County in 1658. In 1664, William Struder' was granted five hundred acres of land in Westmoreland County. It is not known, however, if these were the same persons, and the same as our William Strother."....
To this writer, the foregoing implies that our William (I) was the son of William of Northumberland, period. The only question is, was he the same person as Strowder and/or Struder? And since we haven't seen any Strowders or Struders claiming descent from either of their two Williams, we conclude that all three were the same person, William Strother.
Other publications give information about early Strothers. While it doesn't always agree, neither does it totally conflict and it makes one wonder how the reports became to be published as fact. John Bennett Boddie, for example, in his 1961 publication, cites The Buckners of Virginia as "an excellent source" and says that the William Strother, founder of the family in Virginia, "MIGHT have been the son of William Strother of Kirknewton, Northumberland, England, Gentleman,(and?) who was apprenticed to Robert Corneforthe, boothman, August 18, 1656, enrollment Dec. 3, 1656, admission to the Eastland Co., of Merchant Adventurers Sept. 24, 1664." (The conjunction, "and," which is not in the quotation, could make all the difference in what is understood.)
After lamenting that no one has ever attempted to obtain the wills and parish records of the family in Northumberland to establish the identity of the William in question (something that has now been done by the William Strother Society with inconclusive results), Boddie goes on to publish a chart of the Visitation of Northumberland 1615 showing that William Strother of Newton, Esq., married the daughter of Edm. Horsley of Milborne, Esq. A 1930 edition of Tyler's Quarterly has this William as marrying Agnes Grey, daughter of Sir Thomas Grey, and his father, William Strother (664), who died in 1549, as marrying Barbara Grey, daughter of Sir Roger Grey. Boddie shows the son of William (666) and ??? Horsley as William Strother (619) of Newton Esq., who married Jane, daughter of John Selby of Twysell, Esq. Their son, Lancelot Strother (76) of Langton and Newton, Esq. married. Elinor, dau. of John Coigniers of Sockburne, Esq. Their children were Wm. (74) [a.k.a. William III, Lancelot, John of Langton and Newton, Anne, Elizabeth, Jane, Elinor, Catherine and Mary. John was the oldest boy and Agnes (or Anne) was the oldest girl. All are mentioned in Lancelot's will, which was proved at Durham in 1612. In the will, Lancelot referred to an unborn child, about whom we have discovered nothing. Absolute proof that the child Wm. (74) was the father of William I (72) is lacking, but the field narrows. No one has come forward with proof that he was not and there are many reasons to believe that he was.
Another publication that might provide a clue to documenting our William is Mother Earth - Land Grants in Virginia 1607-1699, by Walter Stitt Robinson. This publication tells of the acquisition of proprietary rights in the Northern Neck of Virginia by Thomas Culpeper. When Lord Culpeper died, his lands passed by marriage to the Fairfax family and, beginning in 1690, land patents were entered separately. Surviving grant books give a good account of land policy of the time. Perhaps there's something there that has been overlooked. Our William was in the area and was a land owner in this period. I have only photocopies of a couple of pages of the publication that came from someone else and I haven't found it in my local library.
The Strother Family Notebook, compiled by Arthur Pryor Strother, Jr., and on file at the Salt Lake City Family History Center, Microfilm No. 1025695, contains a chart that begins with Pharamond, King of West Franks and ends with Lancelot Strother and Elinor Conyers, so it's not a lot of help regarding our William, but it does help substantiate the up-line lineage.
From material compiled by Louise Haygood Trotti (Mrs. Hugh Hubbard Trotti) and contributed April 6, 1955 to the Georgia Department of Archives and History; Elinor Conyers ancestry included twelve lines of descent from Henry III, Edward I and Edward III of England, and Barbara Grey's ancestry several lines of descent from the same monarchs, while each of them was descended from more than one hundred of the principal noble English families of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Mrs. Trotti's work was found in the Family History Center at Salt Lake City on Microfilm No. 0288190, 3rd family. It is this work that contains the purported Strother lineage in an unbroken line back to Adam! Her work also contains certified copies of the complete will of William Strother, dated December 30, 1700, the will of Jeremiah Strother, dated June 7, 1740, an inventory of the estate of Christopher Strother, dated September, 1795, the will of James Strother, dated January 5, 1710 and the will of Sarah (Bailey, Pannill) Strother, dated August 2, 1774. Her son, William Dabney Strother, was one of the 1,100 American casualties in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, in North Carolina, March 15, 1781. Apparently he died without issue.
In 1990, Molly Leachman Green sent me an extensive report done in 1978 by professional genealogist, Elizabeth Pearson White. The first eleven pages deal with Strothers and then it branches off into Leachmans and other lines. Mrs. White's report asserts that our William was the son of William of Northumberland (1597-1667) and says that he may have been the William of Kirknewton who was a member of the Company of Merchant Adventurers in 1664. It also reports much of what is repeated today as being factual. Unfortunately, all research that has been done is not absolutely accurate and it is these known inaccuracies that drive us all crazy by casting doubt on the rest of the work. A case in point is in J.B.C. Nicklin's account that Margaret Strother, daughter of Enoch, married George Gallagher, when George was her son and Bernard Gallagher was her husband. In the same family, Delia Strother is listed as having married James Carr, but her husband's name was Joseph, who was the founder of the town of Upperville, in Loudoun County, Virginia.
I, for one, truly believe that our William (I) was who we think he was. If I were a judge, charged with determining his identity, I believe I'd rule in favor of the assumption, based not only upon the evidence supporting it, but upon the lack of evidence refuting it. Maybe one of these days one of us will find that one little piece of information that will nail it down once and for all.
Besides the mystery of our William's ancestry, there is something else rather curious about the birth years of his children. In his will, William I (72) names William II (373) as being his eldest son and it appears that James was his second. All reporters seem to agree that Dorothy (presumed nee Savage) was his wife. She was living at the time of his death in 1702. They claim that they were married c. 1651 and that William, Jr. (373) was born in 1653. Jeremiah came along in 1655. O.K. so far. But, according to the Strother books just published from the collections of Lloyd Oliver, we see the birth year for BOTH Benjamin and Robert as being 1680, but there's no mention of them having been twins. Joseph's birth year is reported as 1684. According to his father's will we deduce that he was about 15 years old in 1700 so this seems fairly accurate.
What raises a question in the mind of anyone who does some elementary arithmetic is this: Assume Dorothy was 15 in 1651 when she and William were married. Since William, Jr. was born in 1653 and given, that married people in those days had a child every year or two, it's conceivable that James, the second son, was born in 1654. Jeremiah was born in 1655. The NEXT child doesn't appear until 1680 TWENTY-FIVE years later! Were William and Dorothy not on speaking terms for that time? Or is the marriage date wrong and the first three boys sons of another mother? If Dorothy was the mother of all, and if she was 15 when she was married in 1651, then she was 48 at the time of Joseph's birth, pretty nearly at the end of her reproductive years. Some earlier information I had showed Robert as being the youngest son, born in 1694. For his mother to be aged 58 when he was born would have been truly remarkable.
No one has turned up evidence of any other children of William I (72) except the six sons named in his will. But it does not seem plausible that he and Dorothy had none for 25 years then suddenly had three more. Nor does it seem plausible that in that 25 year period there would not have been some daughters. Were there no daughters at all, were there daughters who died or were there daughters who married, about whom we know nothing today, or was Dorothy a second wife as earlier suggested?
It seems obvious that there is yet much more to learn about William the immigrant and his immediate family.
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