Meghan is among Saturday’s first arrivals at the Library of Virginia. Rick has taken John to his karate lessons and has promised to clean out the garage before she gets home.
She heads straight to the microfilm drawers on the second floor and searches the wills’ index rolls for Abraham and Isaac Walker. Between 1700 and 1780, three Isaacs and four Abrahams left wills in the county. A smile rises to her lips. Without seeing the book written by Evelyn’s grandmother, Meghan has no way to determine how good a researcher she was. But Meghan’s projects require keen skills with historic records. She trusts her own abilities.
Before leaving the index rolls, she checks for Evelyn’s great-great-great grandfather, also named Isaac.
You’d think they were Dutch, not English, she muses. The research she’s done on Rick’s Dutch ancestors revealed standard naming patterns across the family. Brothers and sisters all gave their children the same names, making it hard to untangle siblings from cousins in later generations. Weekend hobbyists often jump to the wrong connections.
She starts with the most recent Isaac, who died in 1872. He was Evelyn’s great-great-great grandfather. There’s no mention of Wyndham Thicket in his will. That fits what Evelyn told her. This Isaac Walker, like so many others, had to sell the plantation after the Civil War because of economic hardship.
Meghan turns to the wills of the four Abraham Walkers. She narrows the list to two who could be this Isaac’s father. The dates for both men are similar. One, aged 70, wrote his will just days before his death in 1823. The other was 50 when he wrote his five years before his death in 1810. The two men had been born within two years of one another.
The clerk who transcribed 70-year-old Abraham Walker’s will had poor penmanship and was likely tight with money. The ink is heavily faded, probably watered down to make it last longer. Much of the document is unreadable. Meghan deciphers enough words to learn this Abraham was a widower who left his plantation, Wyndham Thicket, to “my ..ar …..n, Isaac Walker, whose dwelling lies next to mine.” A few personal items and one hundred dollars were left to his only grandchild, Anne, daughter of Abraham’s deceased daughter, Elizabeth.
Whose dwelling lies next to mine? What an odd way to phrase it, Meghan thinks. And Isaac should’ve had children by 1823. And what are the two words before his name?
Meghan bets Evelyn’s grandmother stopped her research here, translating the faded scrawl as “dear son.” But Meghan knows better. She reads the will of the “other” Abraham Walker. Different handwriting suggests a different clerk, and he didn’t thin his ink. The words are clear, and Meghan’s sore eyes have a chance to recover.
“To my beloved son, Isaac, I leave the plantation on which I now dwell, called Wyndham Manor.”
Meghan reads the will again. Wyndham Manor? Where was that?
She’ll check deeds after a quick lunch. First she finishes with the wills of the three Isaacs. One makes no mention of a son named Abraham, but the others do. One leaves Wyndham Thicket to his son. The other leaves Wyndham Manor to his. And Meghan catches a break. That last Isaac included some additional information, describing Wyndham Manor as land “which I purchased from my cousin Isaac Walker of Wyndham Thicket.”
Lunch forgotten, she heads back to the microfilm drawers.
The flowery prose and colonial handwriting in the wills would confuse most people. But they would be an easy read compared to the deeds that Meghan chases down that afternoon.
Using Isaac Walker of Wyndham Manor’s will of 1793 as a starting point, she searches the grantee index for his land purchases before that date. She finds the sale record in 1764. It takes a few hundred words, but the deed states that Wyndham Manor lay adjacent to the south line of Wyndham Thicket.
Three hours later, Meghan has untangled the property’s history. Wyndham Thicket and Wyndham Manor were two early land grants purchased by the grandfather of the two Isaacs. They remained separate plantations until Evelyn’s great-great-great grandfather inherited Wyndham Thicket. Meghan suspects Evelyn’s grandmother never saw, or ignored, the revised property boundaries he recorded with the county. A deed instrument dated March 15, 1824, shows Isaac combined Wyndham Thicket, Wyndham Manor, and two other properties into a single plantation called Wyndham Thicket.
Meghan packs up her photocopies and finally has lunch after three o’clock. Her head is splitting, but she feels better than she has in days. She’ll review her notes and call Evelyn tomorrow with the good news.
I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part 17 next Tuesday.