Sunday, July 26, 2015

52 Ancestors #30: Proving James Harvey Beard's Father

Ancestor: James Harvey Beard (1780-1869) and a host of other Beard men!

I always knew my four times great grandfather Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815) served during the American Revolutionary War because my grandmother and father mentioned it often whenever our family history was talked about around the dinner table. I had no idea when I took over Dad's genealogy research that I had another patriot ancestor. At that time I didn't even know his name.

When Dad was unable to continue researching due to health reason, he had recently learned the name of his paternal grandmother, Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings. Her name was where I started my Beard research.  I didn't have much luck with Effie -- a 1900 census when she was already married to my great grandfather, and two Find A Grave memorials. I found nothing that revealed who her parents may be.

So I looked at public family tree matches for clues. Using those trees, I was able to find a possibility for Effie's father, a David Fleming Beard, Sr., and her grandfather, James Harvey Beard. I was able to confirm who these men married and that they were son and father but couldn't get any further back than James Harvey Beard or definitively connect Effie as the daughter of David Fleming Beard, Sr.

One of my fellow genealogy bloggers wrote a post about Virginia Chancery Court records. There, I found pay dirt -- a case where Effie's half-sister sued she and her siblings over land owned by her father. There were fifty pages of documents related to the case, which drug on for ten years. I now had the proof Effie was David Fleming Beard, Sr.'s daughter.

Case No. 3555, which proves David F. Beard was the father of Effie
Beard; image from the Library of Virginia.

Now, I had to get to work on the parents of James Harvey Beard. He was born in 1780 so I surmised his father might have been the right age to serve in the Revolutionary War. I went to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Genealogical Research System (GRS) and searched for any Beard patriots from Bedford County, Virginia. There were eleven but only one from Bedford County and one with no county listed. With the information about those two patriots listed on the search results page, I started learning about those two men.

The one from Bedford County, Virginia, was John Beard (1705-1780). I found his last will and testament, which listed his wife, a couple of his children, and several grandchildren. Once I had sorted out who they all were, their relationship to each other, and entered them in my tree, I got more hints. All that led me to suspect, Samuel Beard (1750-1814) was James Harvey Beard's father.

I went back to DAR GRS and purchased the application for Samuel Beard. After downloading it, I saw why it had a "Future applicants must complete" message.

DAR GRS search results for Samuel Beard

The application included a lineage but no dates or supporting documentation! Applying to DAR was a heck of a lot easier in the 1960s than it is today!

DAR application for May Julia Jopling, who used Samuel Beard as her
patriot ancestor.

It wasn't particularly helpful other than giving me a clue about the unit in which Samuel Beard served. I had taken a class by Craig R. Scott about researching ancestors in the Revolutionary War period. I contacted him and he recommended two books that were very helpful in adding additional details about Samuel Beard's military service all of which was later confirmed by 30 pages of muster rolls and pay stubs as well as his wife's war pension application.

I learned by searching for all the Beard last will and testament documents listed in Rowland D. Buford's book entitled Bedford County, Virginia: Index of Wills, from 1754 to 1830 that Adam Beard was the son of John Beard and father of Samuel Beard. Adam (1725-1777) predeceased his father, which was why he was not mentioned in John Beard's will. In Adam Beard's will he stated:

"Item. I give and bequeath to my son Samuel Beard all of my lands of [illegible] and south of Lurray I now live upon together with my Negro GEORGE and his mother [illegible] to him and his heirs and assigns forever."

And there is where the connections between generations ends. I have no documentation that proves James Harvey Beard is the son of Samuel Beard and Mary Mitchell.

Simplified family tree showing where I have an issue in
my research trying to prove my lineage to Samuel Beard

I have proof that I descend from my father, Charles Theodore Jennings, Sr., who descends from Marvin Edward Jennings, Sr., who descends from Effie Davis (Beard) Jennings. She descends from David Fleming Beard, Sr. and he descends from James Harvey Beard. All this I have proven.

I also have this index record of James Beard's death, which lists his parents as Samuel and Mary Beard. The wife listed is James' second wife, which is not Effie Beard's mother. However, James' middle initial is incorrect. I have ordered a copy of this microfilm record from the Family History Library. If it is for the correct James Beard, I believe I have enough to prove Samuel Beard is my direct ancestor and that he served in the Revolutionary War.

Death index record for a James S. Beard, which may be my James Harvey
Beard; record courtesy of

If not, I will plan a road trip to Bedford County to visit the genealogical and historical societies as well as the county courthouse. If that fails, I will go to Richmond to visit the Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Challenging.

Slave Name Roll Project
Slaves of John Beard
The Court Doth Adjudge, Order and Decree
Newly Discovered Photos
The Mother Nobody Knew
George Washington Spoke to Him


  1. So close! Hopefully the FHL film will help you prove the final details you need. It's definitely more of a challenge these days to prove lineages for DAR. Good luck from a Canadian - we search on the other side, looking for UELs (United Empire Loyalists)! Well, I do have a couple of Revolutionary War patriots as well. Best of luck.

    1. I have loyalists in my Riggin of Somerset County, Maryland, line! I believe I found another chancery court case which links James Harvey Beard to Samuel Beard as his son. I am already a DAR member, but wanted the recognition for Samuel Beard if nothing else for the wonderful affidavit she widow submitted in order to get a pension. It was loaded with rich Revolutionary War history.