When I first began doing genealogy research years ago, I was excited to find book at my library that had the family trees for several of the families in my line. The Stephens family was one of those. The book had a list of children for Welcome Stephens and I entered them into my genealogy software.
In the recent months that I’ve been doing extensive research on this family, I’ve often questioned whether some of these children actually belong with Welcome Stephens. Some of the names from the original list I saw appear to be duplicates. I began with this list: Thomas, Andy, JB, John, Lettie, William, Dudley, Sherwood, Joshua, Polly and Andrew. I believe that Andy and Andrew were probably the same person and JB could be John or Joshua. I have never found a document that lists a J.B. Stephens. So my updated list became: John, Elizabeth, Andrew, Dudley, Joshua, Thomas, Polly, William, Sherwood and Lettie. I have been attempting to follow each of these children through time in order to positively connect them to Welcome Stephens, but I have several questions. Many of these questions come as a result of Welcome’s will and estate settlement. Here’s my transcription of the will:
I Welcome Stephens Russell County and State of Kentucky do hereby make my last Will and Testament in manner & form following that is to say
1st I desire that my blacksmith tools shall be sold immediately after my decease and out of the monies from all my just debts and funeral expenses be paid.
2nd after the payment of all my just debts and funeral expenses I give to my beloved wife Nancy Stephens one bed and furniture and for her to give the same to who she pleases at her death and shall have her support in manner hereafter mentioned only she shall have the use of my farm or so much of them she needs for her and John Baily and the kitchen furniture
3rd I give unto my son Dudley Stephens all the ridge tract of land including the Racoon Springs and the tract on which he now lives included in the deed to me from Thomas Wilson so high up the creek as to take square across the bottom at the lick at the upper end of the old field, to him and his heirs forever also my clock and my five dogs.
4th I give to my son Andrew Stephens the tract of land where he now lives containing one hundred acres more or less to him and his heirs forever.
5th I give to my son Joshua Stephens the home tract of land that is including where I now live and the place where he settled at the Lisha[?] place only he shall contribute to my wife before mentioned a reasonable support in the following manner, she shall have choice houses on the land for own self to live in and as much ground as she can tend herself during her life or her widowhood and my sons Dudley Stephens and Joshua Stephens shall contribute to her what she lacks of making in manner before mentioned.
6th I give to my son Sherwood Stephens the tract of land where he now lives to him his lifetime and to his heirs forever also my bureau
7th as far as John Ard and the children he had by Elizabeth his first wife my daughter I have given them all that I intend for them to have
8th, all the rest of my estate both real and personal of what nature or kind so-ever it may be not herein before mentioned and disposed of I desire that it may be equally divided all my children only I want John Baily to have my young mare when he is 21 years old or one that is as good as she makes when he is 21 years of age provided that he continues to conduct himself as well as he has done heretofore and lives at home as he has always done until he is free.
And lastly I hereby appoint Dudley Stephens and Joshua Stephens Executors to this my last will and testament in witness whereof I do hereby set my hand and affix my s—[?] the 14th day of July 1840.
The will was witnessed by George and Aaron Harris. The bond was signed by Simco Popplewell and was dated 12 October 1840.
The estate settlement was dated 12 November 1840 and includes a list of the children dividing the estate. Those who are listed as obtaining items are: Joshua, Sherwood, Dudley, Andrew and Polly. The will mentions that Welcome’s daughter, Elizabeth, was deceased. In the final paragraph of the settlement, it says, “We, the heirs and representatives of Welcome Stephens, deceased, do hereby jointly agree the the personal property of said decedent shall be sold to the highest bidder and the highest shall be the purchaser & that when a copy of the Will shall be obtained & shall be proportioned & we bind ourselves to pay William Stephens his part when called by the Administrators…” signed by Dudley, Andrew, Joshua, Sherod and Polly.
So based on this will and the settlement, I have accounted for 7 of the 10 children who are in my current list of children. I know that William was in Alabama at the time of his father’s death which explains the final paragraph in the settlement. The question then is – Where are John, Thomas and Lettie? Were they really children of Welcome Stephens? If so, why were they not mentioned in the will? William did not arrive in Russell County until after 1860, so distance does not seem to be an issue. When Welcome mentions that he has given his deceased daughter’s family all that he intended to give to them, would he not also list other family members who were to receive no more? I can follow John and Thomas Stephens of Russell County for many years. I do not have a single record that mentions Lettie. I also have no records that connect Joshua to this family other than the will. In the 1860 census, there is a 49 year old Joshua Stephens living with John Bailey in the house next to Andrew Stephens and his wife Elizabeth Perry. Is this proof that this Joshua is Welcome’s Joshua? I have found no other census records for Joshua Stephens that I feel confident in.
There are dozens of online trees that show all of these children connected to Welcome with dates and spouses for John and Thomas so has everyone else found records that I have not found or is this an example of information that gets passed on and on with no sources?
I would love to correspond with other researchers who are also part of Welcome Stephens’ line!