Thursday, January 18, 2018

52 Ancestors #3: Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Last Will and Testament

Continued from #52 Ancestors 2: Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Morgan's Riflemen.

Ancestor: Benjamin Jennings, four times great grandfather
DNA Haplogroup: I-M253

In 1793 Congress established probate and surrogate courts, and in 1795 an act requiring the recording of deeds, wills and other important instruments was enacted. These new laws were fashioned after British Common Law under which the colonies had been operating since their creation. The main differences were the laws regarding primogeniture and entail. Thomas Jefferson led way for these elements of British Law to be abolished. Otherwise the inheritance laws of the new United States differed little from it's former "mother country" in terms of the status of widows, widowers and lineal descendants.

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, Powhatan County, Wills,
Inventories and Accounts, Vol. 4-6, 1811-1824, pages 405; courtesy

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, Powhatan County, Wills,
Inventories and Accounts, Vol. 4-6, 1811-1824, page 406; courtesy of

On 27 March 1815 Benjamin Jennings wrote his last will and testament. He would have been at least 75 years old, perhaps older, and maybe he was ailing:
In the name of God, amen, I Benjamin Jennings, Senr., being in common health and perfect mind and memory, make this my last will and testament, in manner form as followeth:

First, I give to my Daughter Elizabeth Walrond, the other half of my land whereon I now live, being the remainder, after the one half already given to my Daughter Dorotha Pemberton by Deed recorded in Powhatan Court, to her and her heirs forever. --

And, as I have already given as above mentioned to Dorotha Pemberton, the one half of my tract of land, I do not give her any more of my Estate. --

Item, I give to my son Benjamin Jennings, Junr. one Dollar, to him and his heirs forever. --

Item, I give to my son Daniel Jennings, one Dollar, to him and his heirs forever. --

Item, I give to my sons, Edmund Jennings, John Jennings, James Jennings and my Daughter Patsey Jennings, all the rest of my Estate, consisting of Negroes, horses, cattle, hogs, and all my household and Kitchen furniture of every description, plantation utensils and all debts due me at my decease and all monies in hand, to be equally divided among, and their heirs forever. -- Lastly, I constitute my faithful friends John Depp and Edward B. Jennings Executors of this my last will and testament: in testimony whereof I have set my hand and seal hereunto this 27th day of March 1815. --

Benjamin [his mark] Jennings (Seal)

Signed, sealed, and published in the presence of:

James Atkinson
Benj. Burton
John Roper
Wm. Atkinson
I had known Benjamin owned land and slaves from an abstract of his will included in Beatrice Doughtie's book, Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families. But there is something satisfying to a genealogist when you have the source document and not just an abstract from someone else. Doughtie's book did not include any further information and there was more to learn. And, I've had questions about this will for a long time.

Was Benjamin trying to disinherit his sons, Benjamin, Jr., and Daniel, by giving them $1 dollar?
Why did he not mention his second wife, Elizabeth (McGruder) Jennings? She was still alive.
Why divide his land among his married daughters? Why not give it to his sons? Or to all of his children equally?

Benjamin died not long after writing his will. His executors and subscribing witnesses filed the will with the Powhatan County Court clerk on 19 July 1815. His "faithful friend," John Depp, relinquished his right to act as an executor and James Atkinson, Benjamin Burton and William Atkinson swore an oath that the will filed with the clerk was the last will and testament of Benjamin Jennings. On the same day, Benjamin's widow, Elizabeth, relinquished her rights under the will and instead claimed her dower rights:
To the Court of Powhatan County:--

My husband Benjamin Jennings Senr. decd. not mentioning me in his last Will and testament, I do hereby claim by Dowery which the law hath provided in that case, to wit, my thirds of land and all other property of which my husband held at his death:-- The one half of the land my husband gave to Dorotha Pemberton by deed, in his life time: one third of which I claim, as I did not relinquish my right in the Deed; also one third of the other half of his land, which he gave in his will to Elizabeth Walrond:-- Also, it is my wish and desire that the Court appoint commissioners today to have my thirds of said land laid off immediately, that I may provide thereon for a crop of small grain.

Elizabeth Jennings


Wm. Atkinson
John Depp
William C. Dance, deputy clerk, recorded her request for dower rights in the county will book on the same day.

If heirs contested a will or any action taken by an executor, they filed a bill of complaint in the county Chancery Court. I looked for a case in which one or more of Benjamin's children expressed issues with his will. Several of Benjamin's children had moved to Chesterfield County before and after his death. Unfortunately, the chancery cases for that county have been indexed by the Library of Virginia but the digital images of the case files are not yet online. Son, John, had moved to Buckingham County and those files have not yet been indexed or digitized. I can find no evidence that any of the children who remained in Powhatan County tried to overturn their stepmother's claim. Dower rights protected Elizabeth's right to profit from some portion of her deceased husband's estate and typically were in effect until her death or remarriage.

On 24 July 1815 Edward B. Jennings, executor of Benjamin's will submitted an estate appraisal to the court:

Benjamin Jennings Estate Appraisal
Description Value
Betty 50.00
Billy 500.00
Mary 150.00
Sorrel horse 15.00
Bay mare 30.00
3 Head of cattle 30.00
2 Sows and 6 pigs 19.00
3 Bed steads and furniture 60.00
Parcel of barrels and old bed steads 3.00
3 Cotton wheels 3.50
2 Flax wheels 4.00
Grindstone 2.50
One wheat riddle 0.25
One chest 2.00
One chest 4.00
One cupboard 6.00
Table 2.50
One looking glass 1.25
3 Jugs and one butter pot 3.00
1 [illegible] hatchel [sp] and comb 1.50
1 Pair of flat irons 0.75
2 Pair of sheep shears 0.50
5 Pair of Cards [sp] and baskets 3.00
1 Piece of Leather 0.25
4 slays [sp] 2.50
10 chairs 3.50
1 Loom, warping box and [illegible] 7.00
2 Trays and meal sifter 0.75
1 Table 0.12
2 Tubs, piggins [sp] and nogan [sp], 1 can and water pail 3.00
1 Pot, hooks, skillet and oven 2.50
1 shovel, tongs, and fire iron 1.00
1 Gun 2.50
1 Lot of tin ware 1.50
Parcel of Pewter viz. 2 dishes , plates and 5 spoons 5.00
1 Casther [sp] dish, 3 plates, 1 pitcher and bowl 1.00
1 Decanter, 1 Bottle and one mug 0.70
1 Decanter, 5 Sauces, 4 Tea spoons, 3 cups, one pepper box and [illegible] 0.50
2 saddles and one bridle 2.50
1 Cutting knife 0.50
1 Scythe 1.00
3 hilling hoe and grub hoe 2.75
5 knives and forks 0.75
One half share plow, harrow, Trowel hoe, and N. G. Coulter 4.50
3 Pole axes, chopping ax and spade 3.00
3 augurs, 1 hand saw and drawing knife 1.50
1 Sock chain, 1 Pair wedges, and painboxes 1.75
2 par of hawes [sp], 1 collar and cart saddle and single tree 2.50
3 Basketts 0.75
One pot, one Kettle, steaming iron and lot of Hatter’s tools 2.50
1 Pot and Lubute [sp] 2.00
1 Hogshead 0.50
Parcel Book of Gin [sp] number 1.50
1 Table cloth and Towel 1.50
2500 [illegible] of Oats (supposed) @ C/p hundred 25.00
12 Barrels 4.50
1 Note Given by Edwd. B. Jennings to the decd. Benjamin Jennings dated the 4th day of Octr.1814 for the sum of $142.50  142.50
Cr. on the above note for the sum of $9.25
Due bill of Leroy Hall’s for Payable 25 December 1813 4.67

The deputy clerk recorded the appraisal on 16 August 1815 and with that record, the file was complete. Benjamin Jennings lived a long, eventful life -- and that just the portion of his life we've been able to uncover -- but the documents end.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. The theme for this week was "Longevity." Outliving the average life expectancy in the first half of the 17th century by at least 38 years qualifies!

Using the Ancestral Reference Numbering System, Benjamin Jennings is Ancestor No. 64 on my family.

64. Benjamin Jennings, born circa 1740[1] in Virginia; died in 1815; will written on 27 March 1815 in Powhatan County, Virginia and proved on 19 July 1815 in Powhatan County; married 1) to an unknown woman (many people believe Sally Dickerson, or Dickinson/Dickenson, before 1765 and 2) to Elizabeth McGruder, daughter of William McGruder, on 10 Feb 1796 in Powhatan County. Known issue are listed in order they appear in Benjamin's will:
      64.1 Elizabeth "Betsey" Jennings married Benjamin Waldron[2 and 5] on 11 January 1810 in Powhatan County. This Benjamin is not a known relative of Anna Maria Waldron[3], John W. Jennings' wife.    

     64.2 Dorothea Jennings born circa 1777-1779; died after 1860; married John Pemberton on 18 February 1796 in Powhatan County.

     64.3 Benjamin Jennings, Jr. born before 1762[3]; married 1) Kisiah Roper, daughter of Shadrach Roper, on 4 December 1792 in Powhatan County and 2) Sally Boles, daughter of Henry Boles, on 9 January 1804 in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

     64.4 Daniel Jennings born between 1771-1780; married Martha Watkins, daughter of Joseph Watkins, on 17 December 1800 in Chesterfield County.

     64.5 Edmund (or Edward) Jennings born between 1771 and 1780[4]; married Jemima Chappell, daughter of Ann Chappell, on 23 May 1798 in Chesterfield County.

     32.0 John W. Jennings, Sr. born circa 1776-1777; died 19 December 1858 in Amherst County, Virginia; married Anna Mariah (or Anna Maria) Waldron[3 and 5], daughter of Benjamin Waldron, Sr., on 19 January 1805 in Bedford County, Virginia.

     64.6 James Jennings married Rebecca Waldron[*] on 8 April 1811 or 1816 in Bedford County, Virginia. Rebecca is likely a sibling or cousin of John W. Jennings, Sr.'s wife, Anna Mariah or Anna Maria Waldron.[3 and 5]
     64.7 Martha "Patsy" Jennings born circa 1795 to Benjamin Jennings' second wife; died in 1854 in Amelia County, Virginia; married Benjamin Burton, son of Benjamin Burton, on 11 November 1816 in Powhatan County.

The information about the three slaves owned by Benjamin Jennings, Sr., at the time of his death has been included in the Slave Name Roll Project.

[1] The birth date for Benjamin Jennings, Sr., is from another researcher and I do not know the reasoning behind it. The only document that notes his age is the 1810 census, which categorizes him as 45 and older.
[2] There were three men in Virginia, who were alive at this time named Benjamin Walrond. All three used the Sr. and Jr. suffixes on different occasions. Anna Maria Waldron's father, Benjamin, Sr.,  lived in Pittsylvania and Campbell counties and her brother, Benjamin, Jr., lived in Bedford County. Elizabeth Jennings' husband was neither of these men. He lived in Powhatan and Chesterfield counties. His possible relationship to Anna Maria is not known. (See Did John W. Jennings, c1777-1858, Marry His Niece? for more details.)
[3] Benjamin Jennings, Jr., appeared on the 1783 Powhatan County Tax List as a head of family. Assuming he was at least 21 years of age, then the latest he could have been born was 1762.
[4] Based on Edmund Jennings being 50-59 years of age in 1830 and 60-69 in 1840.
[5] Waldron was most commonly spelled Walrond before the Civil War.

Doughtie, Beatrice, Documented Notes on Jennings and Allied Families, (Decatur, GA: Bowen Press, 1961), pages 637-641).
Haertle, Eugene A. The History of the Probate Court, 45 Marquette Law Review 546, 1962 (accessed 19 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815), Beginnings and Endings (accessed 11 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815), Morgan's Riflemen (accessed 16 January 2018)
Tangled Roots and Trees, Revolutionary War Soldier (accessed 16 January 2018)
Virginia Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983, database,, Benjamin Jennings 27 Mar, 19 Jul, 24 Jul 1815, Powhatan County Virginia, images 11, 236-238, 241-242 (accessed 1 January 2018)

Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Morgan's Riflemen
Benjamin Jennings (c1740-1815): Beginnings and Endings
Who Was the Original Jennings Immigrant?
Did John W. Jennings, Sr. (c1777-1858) Marry His Niece?


  1. My Name is Mark Darnell Jennings.. I would like to know more about this Man's Family..

    1. Mark, I've written about the Jennings family frequently in this blog. Click on Jennings in the Label section of any page (right column). Also, I maintain a public tree on You can access it it you are a member or register as a guest (free). Benjamin Jennings may be found on my tree here:

      If none of that information is what you are looking for please email me specific questions at psd 11719 @ gmail . com (no spaces)