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Whitaker and William Redd of Nansemond County, Virginia

20 February 2008

Prepared by Carolyn J. Nell, Accredited Genealogist

RESEARCH OBJECTIVE: The client engaged a professional genealogist to learn where William Redd was born and to identify his parents and to extend the Redd family back to its native country. In order to accomplish the research objective, the focus is primarily on the Redds in Nansemond County, Virginia, and, secondly, on learning more about the children of William Redd.


A jigsaw puzzle has many pieces, and it is necessary to spread the pieces out on a table for the purpose of grouping those that might interlock. Each piece has to be turned over, one-by-one. The Redd research can be likened unto a jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of little pieces that must be examined before relationships can be established. Throughout the years, much research has been accomplished and many conclusions reached as to relationships, but there is always the question concerning accuracy in connecting those relationships. If a researcher establishes an incorrect family relationship, that one incorrect relationship can establish a genealogy that cannot withstand the test of accuracy. Judging from all the differing conclusions cast about, the question remains as to the correctly identified lineage of Whitaker Redd.

The solid foundation of the Redd genealogical research begins with Whitaker Redd. All genealogists learn in Genealogy Class 101 that we always research from the known to the unknown; therefore, Whitaker is the pivotal piece wherein all the relationships flow. He is the one constant of the family picture. Most of us conclude Whitaker Redd is the son of William Redd of Nansemond County, Virginia, but there isn’t one document stating this relationship is correct. What we do know is Whitaker Redd was living in Nansemond County before moving to North Carolina. That is the foundation from which all our research is built.

HYPOTHESIS: Whitaker Redd is William Redd’s son based on the fact William was living in Nansemond County in 1759. William Redd is the only identified Redd living in the county. His land was processioned by the vestry which means two men were assigned by the vestry to walk the property lines with the owners, or their representatives, to make sure the boundary markers were still in place. These men were known as processioners, and they reported back to the vestry.

The vestry records of Nansemond County are the only surviving records of the county level records before 1866.1 Therefore, these records become a treasure trove of information. Holding true to the jigsaw puzzle concept, the information recorded in the vestry records, particularly the records involving William Redd, was examined for an insight into the community family relationships.

From these surviving records, it has been concluded Whitaker Redd is William’s son because when property boundaries were again processioned four years later, in 1763, Whitaker has property adjoining William. We do not know if he managed to purchase the land or if William gave him the land. All we know for a certainty is that the land is adjoining William’s land. These records suggest a son who is old enough to own property for his young family.

We know Whitaker Redd was old enough to marry and have children while living in Nansemond County before later moving to North Carolina. We know this because Whitaker’s son, William Redd, states in his Revolutionary War pension application that he was twenty-three years old when he was drafted as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. William (Whitaker’s son) was most likely born about 1763 in Nansemond County, Virginia.2

If William Redd was the first son of Whitaker Redd, perhaps he was named William because the couple followed the English and Scottish naming pattern by naming their first son after the father’s father, who in this instance is considered to be William Redd.

Therefore, all circumstantial evidence points to Whitaker as the son of William Redd. Accepting this indirect evidence, it was important to establish a birth year for Whitaker in order to determine when the Redd family was in Accomack County prior to moving to Nansemond County. If William Redd (Whitaker’s son) was born about 1763, let us assume Whitaker was at least sixteen years or older when he married, and that places his birth in Accomack County before or around 1747. If Whitaker was twenty years or older when he married, he was most likely born between 1740 and 1742.

Analyzing the vestry records and comparing the family and neighborhood relationships led the research to Accomack County where the name William Redd was identified in the land records. In 1746, his name was identified in the land records when he purchased 100 acres from John Taylor for 50 pounds current money. When he sold the land in 1757 he sold it for 100 pounds current money, and we learned his wife’s name was Rachel (Rachall).

HYPOTHESIS: The William Redd of Accomack County is the same person as the one residing in Nansemond County. Why? There isn’t one single document stating that this is the case. The conclusions are purely circumstantial based on events and the relationships of people living in both counties. We know, or at least it appears, that the land owned by a Mr. Scarburgh in Nansemond County was the land later owned by William Redd. The land boundaries seem to be shared by the same neighbors of both William Redd and Mr. Scarburgh. The fact that William interacts with the Accomack County Scarburghs and that Mr. Scarburgh of Nansemond County never appears again in the vestry records leads us to conclude that William Redd is the same person in both counties. The pieces fit nicely; however, no direct evidence has been identified to support this conclusion, but, nevertheless, we move forward with the circumstantial evidence because that is all there is.

Once again, the research stalls, and a direction is sought. How do we get William Redd of Accomack County out of that county and establish him with his biological family? Where did he come from before moving to Accomack? Perhaps he was not the eldest son in the family and entitled to the father’s property by rights of primogeniture. Where did he obtain his money? Was his son, Whitaker, named after a grandparent on the maternal or paternal side of the parents? Therefore, is the name Whitaker important to the research? All of these questions with no apparent answers leave us with the conclusion that it was necessary to once again examine all the pieces of the puzzle. Examining all the pieces of data was where the research began this time, especially with the surname Whitaker, but, somehow, this approach didn’t quite seem the right one.

Previously researched information was evaluated and analyzed while searching for something that had been overlooked. The research needed a new focus of where to research next. During this time, considering where to research next, a secondhand book came into the possession of this researcher while attending the National Genealogical Society Conference held in Richmond, Virginia, in May 2007, and once again the research took on a new vitality.

The book, Brief Abstracts of Norfolk County Wills, 1710-1753, by Charles Fleming McIntosh and published by The Colonial Dames of American in the State of Virginia in 1922, abstracted James Jordan’s will dated 7 November 1742 and proven in a Norfolk County court on 17 December 1742. James’ will names his mother, Martha Hodges, as his executrix, and leaves his sister, Rachall Reade, his possessions. Apparently, James has not attained age of twenty-one years; therefore, Rachall cannot inherit until that age is realized posthumously. From this will we learn the following:

  • James is not quite of age, i.e., twenty-one years old.
  • His mother was Martha Hodges.
  • Martha Hodges was previously married to a Mr. Jordan.
  • Rachall’s maiden name is Jordan.
  • Rachall married a Mr. Reade.
  • Rachall is to receive her brother’s possessions as the surviving heir.

Since Norfolk County, a neighboring county to Nansemond County, has fairly good records, and based on the knowledge that people of one county frequently interact through business and family relationships with people in other counties, the opportunity to search them was welcomed. A two-day trip was made to the Virginia State Library & Archives in Richmond, Virginia.

The first record to research was the actual will written by, or for, James Jordan and later probated by his executrix. The will was recorded in the Norfolk County Will Book H on page 13, and it provided additional details about the inheritance. He wanted his sister, Rachall to have all his personal estate which included a mulatto woman named Vines and thirty-five pounds current money. This inheritance would not be received by Rachall until her brother posthumously became twenty-one years old.

With thirty-five pounds Rachall was to receive from her mother when she marriaged and the thirty-five pounds to be received from her brother’s will, she would have received a total of seventy pounds current Virginia money. Of course, she did not receive it all at once, but it was still valuable to the couple when it was received.

As the research continued, deeds of gifts were identified in the Norfolk County records stating that Martha Jordan was gifting her three children with their inheritance. Martha wanted to protect the inheritance of her children because by Virginia law any property owned by a woman when she married became the property of the husband. Martha Jordan was preparing her business affairs because she was going to remarry. The deeds of gifts, dated 19 July 1734, provided the following information:

  • Martha Jordan was going to marry a Francis Hodges.
  • Her deceased husband was Thomas Jordan.
  • She lived in Suffolk in the Lower Parish of Nansemond County, Virginia.
  • Martha Jordan had three children: (1) Samuel Cohoon, (2) James Jordan, and (3) Rachall Jordan.
  • Apparently, Martha had been married at least two times prior to her pending marriage to Francis Hodges.
  • Martha wanted her daughter to have a mulatto girl named Nann and her increase, one feather bed and furniture, four cows and calves, and one young horse of two years old, but she did not want her to have her inheritance until Rachall married.
  • Martha gave an inheritance to James Jordan, but Samuel Cohoon was not directly gifted in this particular deed of gift. He was to receive his inheritance in another deed of gift. The document is difficult to read; therefore, there is the possibility of not accurately interpreting the handwriting.
  • Martha stated that if one child dies before the others, the inheritance was to go to the surviving heir.

The next transaction was when Martha Jordan was selling some or all of her land in Nansemond County. The document conceived is most difficult to read. Apparently, she was selling the land and wanted the money paid to Samuel Cahoon, and possibly to another person named Christopher Jackson. A transcription was made of the information that could be readily read. Additional time should be provided to deciphering the messages of those documents.

There wasn’t time to thoroughly search all the land and probate records of Norfolk County to identify if Martha Jordan married Francis Hodges and lived in that county. The records researched are difficult-to-impossible to read because of deterioration, no pagination, and missing indexes. Fortunately, we do know the following:

  • Martha Jordan was not married to Francis Hodges on 19 July 1734.
  • Martha Jordan was married by or before November 1742.
  • She probably married in 1734 to Francis Hodges.
  • Rachall Jordan was not married on 19 July 1734.
  • Rachall Jordan was married before November 1742.
  • When Rachall Jordan married a Mr. Reade, he was given her inheritance at the time of her marriage. The thirty-five pounds probably was used for good purposes.
  • Rachall had inherited slaves and home furnishings.
  • We have not identified the name of Rachall Reade’s husband, but think it might be William Redd.
  • We do not know where Rachall was living between 1734 and 1742.
  • We know that during the eight years between the deeds of gifts and James Jordan’s death, the mother and daughter married.
  • We do not know how old Rachall was when she married. Girls could marry whenever the parents gave their consent, and it was not uncommon for girls to marry as early as fourteen years old; sometimes, thirteen has been recorded.

Tithables are another name for taxes. The tithable lists can provide some valuable information; therefore, the reference librarian at the Virginia State Library & Archives was queried about any surviving tithables for Norfolk and Accomack Counties. The librarian graciously printed the lists of existing tithable records for both counties. It was learned that the earlier tithables for Norfolk County had been abstracted by Elizabeth B. Wingo. These books were to be found on the Virginia Library side of the building. The Accomack County tithables could be accessed in the manuscript records in the restricted area where original records were available for searching. The two county reference lists prepared by the Virginia State Library &
Archives are most enlightening as to when a tithable was taken and who was assigned a precinct. The surviving precincts are listed on the reference list.

The following was learned from the Accomack County tithables:

  • In 1743, Henry Scarburgh was assigned a precinct for the purpose of collecting tithables.
  • William Red was identified living in the precinct assigned to Henry Scarburgh.
  • Richard Reade was also identified living in the same precinct as William Red.
  • This William Red was identified in Accomack County as early as 1743 which is even earlier than the 1746 date when William purchased the 100 acres from John Taylor.
  • Another Accomack County tithable records a William Read with one tithable.
  • It was possible to observe some of the same surnames of people with whom William Red was associated with during the years 1746 to 1757.

HYPOTHESIS: The following conclusions all seem plausible, but remain to be proven or disproven:

  • Perhaps William Red was the husband of Rachall Jordan, and they were married by or before 1742?
  • The money inherited by Rachall could have made it possible for William Red to purchase the land from John Taylor, or he may have already had the money for the purchase; however, we don’t have any document showing he had property before 1746.
  • If William and Rachall Jordan married, they married after 1734 and before November 1742.
  • If Whitaker Redd’s birth took place between 1740 and 1746, Rachall married before those dates.
  • Rachall Jordan had a surviving half-brother named Samuel Cohoon.
  • There was a Samuel Cohoon identified in the Upper and Lower Parishes of Nansemond County who was a doctor. His name is frequently listed in the vestry records of both parishes when he is reimbursed for medical services to the poor.
  • He was a processioner in the Upper Parish precinct located in Suffolk.
  • Martha Jordan, his mother, had lived in Suffolk in the Lower Parish of Nansemond County.
  • When William and Rachel Red sold their property in Accomack County, they were moving back to where their family lived, and perhaps had lived for many years.
  • Norfolk County records show there were people named Reade/Red/Redd living in the Norfolk area.
  • The Nansemond County vestry records show that there was a Ruth Reade living in Nansemond County in 1774 when she was reimbursed for taking care of Sarah Scarbord for her “lying in.” (The Vestry Book of the Upper Parish, Nansemond County [Virginia], pages 223 and 226.) Where does she fit?

SUMMARY: The clue showing James Jordan had a sister named Rachall Reade was an incredible find, and it opens the opportunity for learning more about the Redd family of Nansemond County. The major drawback is the lack of county records for Nansemond; however, if the surrounding counties are researched, such as Norfolk County, perhaps family relationships can be established. I do believe that the Redd family of Accomack County is the same one as the one living in Nansemond County. Also, if this Rachall Jordan is William’s wife, her parents and family have been identified. The research should pursue this line of research until positive or negative conclusions are reached based upon documentation.

I recommend that the research continue with the Jordan family of Nansemond and Norfolk Counties. Do not hesitate to go back over the research achieved to date and review it critically. Conclusions reached can be changed by the identification of another document, and that is the nature of research. Also, please be alert to the fact that if something is said long enough, it is eventually considered to be fact. We have been stating for some time that Whittaker Redd is the son of William Redd, that the William Redd of Accomack and Nansemond Counties are the same person, and that Rachall (Rachel) Redd is the wife of both the William Redd of Accomack and Nansemond Counties. Everything has been based upon circumstantial evidence and analysis, and caution should be applied before the information is broadcast.

There is a delightful story beginning to emerge about a family lost to us because the most important records of Nansemond County are not available to researchers; however, the story, even though purely hypothetical, begins to have form and a life.

As the genealogist researching the Redd family of Nansemond County, I firmly believe we have learned much about this family, and that the research is on the appropriate path. Carolyn J. Nell, Accredited Genealogist.


  • Search the Norfolk County, Virginia, records until they have been exhausted.
  • Search for clues identifying when Martha or Francis Hodges died. Perhaps there will be a probate or a deed record leaving additional personal and real property to Rachall (Rachel) Redd. Perhaps her husband’s name will be mentioned in one of the documents.
  • Learn more about the unidentified husband of Martha Jordan Hodges who is the father of Samuel Cohoon (check for other spellings of this name).
  • Expand the research into surrounding counties in addition to Norfolk and Nansemond Counties, i.e., Isle of Wight, Princess Anne, and Elizabeth City. As the research changes, include and additional counties in the research process.
  • Continue to examine all of the pieces of data of all families with the surname Redd/Red/Reade/Read.
  • There was evidence of Redd/Reade/Red families living in Norfolk County. Perhaps William Redd has a relationship to them.
  • When the new version of FamilySearch is published on the Internet, perhaps there will be others who have additional clues to supplement those which we have identified.
  • Consider that Whitaker might be more than a first name given a son. It might have significance in a naming pattern attributed to the English or Scottish naming patterns.
  1. The real and personal property taxes were instituted by the General Assembly of Virginia as early as 1782, but the Nansemond County personal property tax records have not survived. The real property tax records are available, but these records do not have direct evidence to assist with establishing a father and son relationship between William and Whitaker. Also, we must keep in mind the Revolutionary War has taken its toll on the citizens of the region, and the taxing system was instituted when the war was winding down. The year 1783 brought an end to the Revolutionary War.
  2. Lura Redd, The Utah Redds and Their Progenitors (Salt Lake City, Utah: Privately Published, 1973), 7-15. I consider the research achieved by Lura Redd to be excellent. Her research is thorough and seemingly accurate. Carolyn J. Nell.