William Stephens 1813 – 1885

1870 – 1880

William and Dorothy show up in Russell County, Kentucky for the 1870 census.  I will be searching land records for Russell County to see if I can determine more closely when they arrived.  Looking at the index for Russell County deeds between 1860 and 1870, I see one deed for a William Stephens and W.H. Harris in 1870.  The index is organized alphabetically for grantor and grantee, so there is no way of knowing if this William is MY William or if he is buying land or selling it, so I will order this film and see what I can find.  I also looked for marriage records of William’s children in Russell County and the earliest marriage I can find is from 1875, so that doesn’t help me to zero in on a date of arrival for William and family.

1880 – 1885

In 1880, William and his wife Dorothy are still living in Russell County and I believe, are living next door to their son, James and his wife.  I have found an 1876 marriage record for a James Stephens and Louisa Criswell, so while the fact that they are living next door to each other seems to indicate that the marriage record would be a match, I have no direct evidence that James is William’s son.  The census indicates that Joel H. Stephens is living with William and Dorothy and it says he is a grandson, but I cannot find a connection for Joel.  I have been told that this may be Joel Hopper, but again, I don’t know how he could be a grandson.  Another mystery to solve!  I will look at guardianship records to see if there’s an answer there.

 My notes say that William Stephens died in 1885 in Adair County, Kentucky.  I do not know where this information came from as I have no source cited and I cannot confirm at this time.

I have begun to focus my research on William’s father Welcome Stephens and his siblings and have found tax records for Welcome in Adair County for every year back to 1812. It does not appear that he owned any land until 1814, so I will search Adair County deeds around this time period to see what I can discover. 

As I’ve researched further back in Adair County, I have found that William was a very common name in this family line.  Some tax records have nicknames to help tell the men apart.  There’s William (Red Eye – I’d love to know the story there!), William (Preacher) and William (Big Bill) as well as a William whose nickname I cannot decipher (care to make a guess?) all listed in the Adair County tax records for 1819 all living in the same general area. Some of these nicknames show up again in later tax lists as well. None of these William’s can be “my” William as he would have been approximately 9 years old, but I do believe they are all related.

I plan to begin researching the deeds for Adair County to search for clues to how the men are related.  I have confirmed that the Welcome Stephens listed is the correct man by following the land information contained in the tax records.  Which makes me wonder, which is incorrect, William’s date of birth or location of birth?  The date of birth is based on age from census records, so I have to believe that William was born shortly before 1812 and then came to Kentucky with his family.  William’s younger brother, Sherwood, was born around 1815 and census records indicate that he was born in Kentucky, so that agrees with the timeline.  Where exactly was this family in North Carolina and what records can I find for that area? Is it possible that William purchased land in Adair County before moving to the Mississippi/Alabama area?

There are many questions waiting to be answers in my search for William and Dorothy Stephens information, but I do feel like the tax records and deeds will contain hints to help me zero in on appropriate records to search.  SOMEDAY, I will be able to visit Russell County and Adair County to search the original records myself.  THAT would be my genealogy heaven!

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