William Stephens – 1813 – 1885


Based on census records, William Stephens was born around 1813 in North Carolina.  His father is widely said to be Welcome Stephens but I have no source for that and I’m unclear on the identity of his mother.  Some researchers have his mother listed as Nancy Bailey, but I cannot confirm that.  The same researchers have a marriage date of 29 Apr, 1830 in Russell Co, Kentucky. 

I have found a marriage record for Welcome Stephens and Nancy Stephens in Russell Co, Kentucky for that date, so I believe that is the source for this information.  I have to wonder if some researchers aren’t jumping to conclusions because the Stephens family eventually appears in Russell Co, but perhaps someone has a source that says Nancy Stephens was previously married and her maiden name was Bailey. That is purely speculation since I have not seen a source. So maybe Nancy Bailey is the correct name, but the Russell County marriage cannot be for William’s parents. At least it cannot be for the mother of Welcome’s children because they were all born before this date. Welcome’s son, William, would have been about 15 years old in 1830 and it seems strange that Welcome would have been in Russell County at this time while William doesn’t show up in Russell County until the 1870 census.  This makes me wonder if this particular Welcome could be related to William, but not his father.  I need to search for available records at the time of Welcome’s death in Russell County to see if any of his children are mentioned.

Marriage – 1839

William was married to Dorothy “Wiggleton” (last name not confirmed) around 1835, most likely in Alabama or Mississippi.  In the 1850 census, the oldest child – George W – is listed as being born around 1836 in Alabama, which is why I have chosen 1835 as a likely marriage date.   There may have been an older daughter – based on a possible 1840 census from Tishomingo Co, Mississippi – but she does not appear with the family in the 1850 census.  If there is an older daughter, then my approximation for a marriage date could be off by a couple of years.

According to the FHL research guide for Alabama, before statewide registration of marriages began in 1936, the clerk of the probate court in each county issued licenses and recorded marriages, usually within 10 years of the creation of the county.  Marion County was established in 1818, so I should do a search for these records.  I should not limit my search to Marion County only.  I chose Marion County because I know this family resided there in 1850, but they also lived in Mississippi before 1850.  There are clues that he may have lived in Tishomingo Co, Mississippi, but Tishomingo County was not established until 1836, so I don’t believe they were married there. (Note:  I have since discovered that a fire at the Marion County courthouse in 1866 and again in 1883 may have destroyed all vital records.)

Following clues in the 1850 census, I know that William’s family was located in Alabama and Mississippi during the early years of their marriage.  The oldest child, George, was born in Alabama around 1836, but the 2nd child, Andrew J, was born in Mississippi by 1837.  Looking for likely census matches based on this information lead me to possible matches in Marion Co, Alabama; Franklin Co, Alabama; and Tishomingo Co, Mississippi between 1840 and 1860.  (As a side note, many public family trees have Andrew’s place of birth as Cooke Co, Mississippi.  There is no Cooke County in Mississippi and as far I can find there never was.)

If I can determine if George or Andrew served in the Civil War, I may be able to find a more exact date of birth or location.  I have lost track of George after the 1850 census, but I haven’t really spent time looking for him either.  At one time, I thought I had found the pension file for Andrew, but it turned out to be the wrong man (but ironically, still part of my family tree).  Since then I have discovered Andrew’s marriage record in Ripley County, Missouri in 1858 and I know Andrew, his wife and daughter lived with William’s family in Franklin Co, Alabama for the 1860 census.  I have found  that Andrew’s daughter died in Metcalfe Co, Kentucky in 1861.  A son and daughter were also born in Metcalfe Co in 1861 and 1864, so there are several options for locations where Andrew may have entered the military.  He could have fought for the North or the South but Andrew Stephens is a common name, so I have had no luck so far.

I have found three 1839 land grants for William Stephens in Marion County, Alabama.  All three grants were written on the same day, but 2 of them were written for “William Stephens of Marion County” and 1 was written for “William Stephens of Lawrence County”.  During my research, I have found that there was a 2nd William Stephens in Marion Co, Alabama around this same time.  He was approximately 6 years older than “my” William and was also born in North Carolina.  They both lived in District 14 of Marion County in the 1850 census, so I’m not sure how to distinguish if the land grants belong to the man I am researching or not.  I don’t know how to determine where District 14  is in Marion County and but that could be helpful.  There is also a William Stephens in Lawrence County in the 1840 census who is about 6 years younger than “my” William.   To help keep these men straight in my mind, I am going to number them.  “My” William will be William(1).  The older “Marion Co. William” will be William(2).  Lawrence County William will be William(3).

I decided to compare the land grants that I had found on http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch  with plat maps I had found in the book
Family Maps of Marion County, Alabama by Gregory A. Boyd.  I matched the land grants with the correct locations on the map and I suspect that the all of the land parcels belonged to the same man. The 3 land grants from 1839 (shown in blue) were all dated 1 Aug, 1839 and the certificates are numbered 98, 99 and 100.  Two of the grants are written to “William Stevens, of Marion County, Alabama” and 1 of them is written to “William Stevens, of Lawrence County, Alabama”.  It seems quite likely that because the certificates are sequential and are all on the same date, they would belong to the same man.  It also seems more likely that land being granted in Marion County would have accidentally been written to “William of Marion County” than to accidentally write “William of Lawrence Co.”  Two of the parcels of land are in the same section on the township.  Later, in 1858, another grant is given to “William Stephens of Marion County”.  This grant describes 3 parcels of land, (shown in orange) one of which is exactly between 2 of the parcels given in 1839.  To me, that makes it most likely that it belongs to the the same William who was granted land in 1839.  

William(2) can be found in the Marion County census records in 1850 and 1860 as well as a likely match in 1840, so based on that information, it seems all of the land could belong to William(2).  Because of the “Lawrence Co” wrinkle, I have to wonder if all of the land belongs to William(3)however William(3) is living in Itawamba County for the 1850 and 1860 census so I’m not sure if this makes sense.  Itawamba County is just west of Marion county, but would that be a significant distance in 1850?  “My” William(1) seems to be the least likely choice because he seems to be found in Tishomingo Co, Mississippi in 1840; Marion Co, Alabama in 1850 and Franklin Co, Alabama in 1860. However, these 3 counties are all in the same general area, so I cannot completely rule him out.

I need to do more research on what records are available (if any) when a man applied for a land grant.  Land records are new for me and while I’ve done quite a bit of research using deeds from Russell County, Kentucky, I know nothing about the process for receiving a land grant.

This part of William and Nancy’s life is full of questions and guessing based on information in the 1850 and 1860 census.  Part 2 will have a little more that is certain.

Questions to research:

  • When and where was William born?  Confirm parents.
  • When and where did William get married? What was his wife’s maiden name? What records might tell me this?
  • Was there a daughter that was older than George?
  • Do the Land Grants that I have belong to “my” William Stephens?