February 21, 2012
Nancy (Justice) Wade:
Identifying Husbands with a Pension Application—But Not the Way You Think!
Concept: Hidden Gems Solve Problems!
Nancy Wade lived all her known adult life in the Pumpkin Town area of upper northwestern South Carolina. Before 1826, her home lay in Pendleton District. When Pendleton was divided into Anderson and Pickens, her home—and neighbors—fell into Pickens.
In my last posting I described how I used the FAN Club Principle to identify a broader range of family members, associates, and neighbors. Then I combed the records of her neighbors to find evidence relevant to Nancy. As often the case, all the information we hope to find did not appear in one tidy package. The one document in which she stated her year of marriage, and implied its place, did not name her husband.
Finding him invokes again a principle introduced in the last article—the first criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard—i.e., reasonably exhaustive research. Hidden gems that help us solve our problems often turn up when we do two things:
• probe more deeply the easily available records that most researchers rush through; and
• study our problem ancestors in the context of their neighborhoods.
Identifying Nancy’s husband
Some researchers have declared Nancy to be the wife of both David and Edward Wade of lower Pendleton (modern Anderson County). A marriage to David is easily disproved. His 1802 will and at least one deed identifies her as “Agnes.”1
Edward Wade, on the other hand, did have a wife named Nancy.2 Moreover, his 1790 census entry, which places him 13 houses from the older David, is compatible with that of a couple who would have, as Nancy asserted, married ten years earlier:3
1 male 16+
3 males -16
Two problems exist with an assumption that this Edward was Nancy’s husband.
• The deed that identifies Edward’s wife also proves that they lived in the “wrong” part of Pendleton. Their land (and those of their census neighbors) lay in the southeastern portion (modern Anderson County) in the Neil’s Creek community. This is a considerable distance from the extreme northeast corner where Nancy Wade settled before 1800.4
• Edward and Nancy of lower Pendleton moved to Elbert County, Georgia, before 1804 when they sold their Pendleton land.5
Clearly, the two Nancys are different women. Eliminating all the Pendleton Wades as Nancy’s husband cleared the way for another approach: taking research back to 1790 in the district where Nancy implied that she married. That year’s Spartanburg census carries a curious entry:6
1 male 16+
2 males -16
The surname is ambiguous. As written, the third letter could be an “r” or an “i.” Consequently, it was not picked up correctly by census indexers. It would also explain why it was overlooked by earlier researchers.
Pursuing both possibilities, I totally failed to find any local or state records that placed any Edmund Ward in upper Spartanburg at this time. I did, however, uncover an Edmund Wade—in a set of records published records:
12 September 1791, Spartanburg District
At an Intermediate Court held at the Courthouse on the second Monday of September . . . ordered that Edmund Wade oversee the road from Broad River to the upper Island Ford, to Packolate River near John Hightower’s.7
The overlooked 1790 census “gem” meshes with this road order. Together they show that an Edmund Wade did live in upper Spartanburg a decade after Nancy’s marriage. However, upper Spartanburg was a sizable region, and I found nothing in its copious legal records to tie Edmond Wade to any of Nancy’s known kin.
A “failure to find” people in a set of records does not mean they were not there. It simply means it is time to dig more deeply. Contrary to popular practice, “digging deeper” does not mean “search around more broadly for more records.” It means drilling deeper into the material already on hand.
The Barton pension application presented in the last post—the one in which Nancy (Justice) Wade testified in 1846 for the widow of Benjamin Barton—contained a dozen other documents that did not mention Nancy at all. But one of them cited a neighborhood for Nancy’s long-time friends:
7 August 1845, Pickens District.
Affidavit of Dorcas (x) Barton, age 82. She did not know her husband before his service as a private in the militia. He “then lived on Packolet River, what she believes is now in Spartanburg District, and … she lived on the same River higher up. ... [They were married] at her mother’s on Pacolet about one mile above the fork, by one Joseph Camp, a Baptist minister,” in September 1783.8
This place description puts both the Bartons in extreme southwestern Spartanburg. Because Nancy knew one or both of them in 1780, she logically lived nearby. The road that Edmund Wade was to oversee—typically a two-to-three-mile stretch that passed his own residence—placed him in roughly the same neighborhood in which Dorcas Anderson lived before her marriage. As shown below, that road ran from Cothe’s [aka Colter’s] Ford at the fork of Pacolate River and Bucks Creek, northeast through Cowpens up to Island Ford in Rutherford County, North Carolina.
A closer scrutiny of the 1790 census provides a final thread of evidence to tie Edmund Wade to Nancy Justice. Just fifteen households away from Edmund and his wife was Nancy’s brother, Simeon Justice (“Simuan” Justice):9
A study of land records created by their immediate census neighbors also places both men in the same small section of Spartanburg district, near and along the border with Rutherford County, North Carolina.
Edmund has not been found on record after the 1791 road minutes. Later censuses show that Nancy’s last child was born 1794–95.10 It may be reasoned that Edmund likely died about that time, probably in the roughly two-year window between the conception of Nancy’s last child and the time she would normally have conceived another. From that point forward, she continued to live as a widow in upper Pendleton.
Identifying the real problems
Nancy (Justice) Wade has confounded her descendants for decades. But the difficulty her researchers faced was not a paucity of records. Spartanburg and Pendleton Districts offer a vast range of resources, in comparison to most of South Carolina’s upcountry districts. Researchers had looked for solutions in a great many of them.
The real problems were these:
• a lack of desired records, specifically a marriage record;
• a focus on the surnames of interest, rather than identification of associates and neighbors;
• too much trust in census indexes, as opposed to reading the original returns for “gems” the indexers overlooked or misinterpreted;
• a failure to draw all possible clues from a “seemingly trivial” road minute—a record type often ignored because it rarely states a kinship;
• and uncertainty as to how obstacles can be overcome.
When standard methodologies failed to document Nancy’s marriage and identify her husband, “hidden” gems provided the clues. Each became a dot on the puzzle of Nancy’s life. Once connected, those dots sufficiently suggest the identity of Nancy’s husband: Edmund Wade of 1790 and 1791 Spartanburg. But those dots, those hidden gems, had to be found through reasonably exhaustive research before Nancy’s marriage year, place, and husband’s name could be placed on a family chart.
1. Anderson Co., S.C., Will Book A:19, will of David Wade Sr. (drafted 8 March 1802, proved 3 September 1802). She is identified in Anderson’s Deed Book F:225.
2. Pendleton Dist., S.C., Deeds, H:198.
3. 1790 U.S. Census, Pendleton Dist., S.C., p. 13, col. 3, line 25
4. 1800 U.S. Census, Pendleton Dist., S.C., p. 115, line 24; she is listed seven households from John Justice. This is her first documented appearance in the district.
5. Pendleton Dist., Deeds, H:198.
6. 1790 U.S. Census, Spartanburg Dist., S.C., p. 32, line 27.
7. Brent Holcomb, Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799 (Greenville, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1994), 285, citing original as Ordinary’s Office and Intermediate Court, 1790-1791:25.
8. Dorcas Barton, widow’s pension application W20683, for service of Benjamin Barton (Pvt., Benj. Roebuck’s Regt.), digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : last accessed 7 February 2012); imaged from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, National Archives microfilm publication M804, exact roll not stated.
9. 1790 U.S. Census, Spartanburg, Dist., S.C., p. 33, line 5.
10. 1790 U.S. Census, Pendleton Dist., p. 13, col. 3, line 25; 1800 U.S. Census, Pendleton Dist., p. 115, ln. 24; and 1810 U.S. Census, Pendleton Dist., p. 149A, line 27.