We all have them, don’t we? Brick walls. And sometimes, we may have even formed a theory about the mystery parents… but finding evidence (to support it or to disprove it) is the challenge. One of my tantalizing brick walls is my GRIFFITH family. Do we connect with published Griffith family genealogies? Many online trees say yes, but I don’t know.
The most distant Griffith ancestor I’ve confirmed with documentary evidence is WALTER GRIFFITH, who was probably born between 1775 and 1786, based on his age (26-44) in the 1820 Ohio census 1 and supposing he was at least 21 when he married in Ohio in 1807 2. Unfortunately, he died in 18273, before census enumerators began asking where you were born. In the 1880 census, his few surviving children indicated that their father was born in Virginia—but they were young when he died, and may have known only that he came to Ohio from Virginia, not where he was born 4.
Many online family trees suggest that Walter was the son of Hezekiah Griffith and Catherine Warfield, of Maryland. (*)
So far, I have only been able to discover two potential sources for this conclusion. First, there are several published genealogies of the family; the earliest I’ve found is the 1892 book The Genealogy of the Griffith Family: the descendants of William and Sarah Maccubbin Griffith by R.R. Griffith. 5 This book contained the following family group (showing only the paternal lines here, and omitting the four daughters). The parents and children were all allegedly born in Maryland. The book didn’t trace these sons any farther than their births. The authored works agree that Hezekiah Griffith Sr.’s wife Catherine died in 1796; there is no evidence that he remarried. Online family trees suggest that Roderick Griffith died in 1817; I have yet to find documents to support that.
The second piece of very indirect evidence that the WALTER GRIFFITH who died in Tuscarawas County Ohio in 1827 is the same Walter who belongs to this family is that the Tuscarawas County Walter named his oldest son Hezekiah.6
There is much colorful information in the authored genealogy (including Revolutionary War service) for the parents and ancestors of the family patriarch Hezekiah Griffith, Sr. (1752-1825) and his wife Catherine Warfield, but the details peter out with their children. The book indicates that Hezekiah Sr. died 28 July 1825 but doesn’t state where. No sources were provided for any of this information.
I’ve tracked Hezekiah and his family to Virginia (what is now West Virginia) at the end of the 1700’s.7 (Some of our Walter’s children believed their father came from Virginia.) After several years there, Hezekiah crossed the river to Jefferson County, Ohio, and operated a ferry with his son-in-law, Bezaleel Wells8.
In the 1820 census, Hezekiah Sr. was living in Warren Twp., Jefferson County, Ohio. He was over 45; his household included what as probably his son Hezekiah Jr., and his wife and young children. Hezekiah Sr.’s sons John Belford Griffith and Charles Griffith lived just a few households away9.
Walter, meanwhile, had bought land from the government in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 181010 and was settled with his wife and children there.
Tuscarawas County is west of Jefferson County. See this Map of Ohio, 182011
Enlarged map of section of Ohio, 182012.
In 1822, Hezekiah Griffith Sr. wrote his will13, leaving his land, which was all in Jefferson County, to his neighboring sons Belford and Hezekiah and Charles. The rest of his estate was left equally to “all my children,” whom he did not name.
These three heirs clearly match the names in the authored genealogies. Did Walter inherit no land because he already owned land in another county, 70 miles away? He may have inherited personal effects but there are no probate records identifying that. Or he may have inherited nothing because this Walter was not related. There is some incidental evidence to suggest that our Walter may have had familial ties in Jefferson County, but nothing explicit. 14
There is not enough evidence yet to draw any conclusions. Scrutinizing old manuscripts and searching in courthouse basements might yield new clues, but it’s possible no direct evidence may ever be found.
At this point, it’s useful to remember that DNA can be considered a genealogy record group too.
We have good evidence that John Belford Griffith, Hezekiah Griffith Jr., and Charles Greenberry Griffith were the sons of Hezekiah Griffith Sr. If a direct male-line descendent of any of them (preferably, of two or three of them) would take a Y-DNA test, and a direct male-line descendant of Walter Griffith were to take a Y-DNA test, that would introduce new evidence on whether or not they were close kin.
Note: an autosomal test, such as the FamilyFinder test at FamilyTreeDNA or the DNA tests offered by 23andMe or AncestryDNA, may or may not yield helpful results. The descendants in 2016 would likely be 5th or 6th cousins to each other, and after so many generations, there is at best a 10-15% chance they will share enough matching DNA on the non-Y chromosomes to be recognized as related. 15
But I wouldn’t rule out the opportunity to compare autosomal DNA with any descendants of Hezekiah Griffith Sr. and Catherine Warfield. If you’ve taken a DNA test and are descended from any of the following, I’d love to hear from you! (You can email me at DNAsleuth@att.net.) The following information is taken from published genealogies; I have not verified the facts.
- Ann Griffith b. 1776 MD d. 1842 OH; married to James or Jonas Clark who died in MO in 1852.
- Sarah Griffith b. 1778 MD d. 1839 OH; married to Bazaleel Wells who died in OH in 1846.
- John Belford Griffith b. 1780 MD d. 1850 Athens Co. OH; married Elizabeth Linton.
- Walter Griffith b. 1783 MD d. 1827 Tusc. Co. OH; married Elizabeth Jennings.
- Lydia Griffith b. 1785 MD; married George Fetter(s).
- Roderick Griffith b. 1787 MD, d. 1817.
- Hezekiah Griffith b. 1790 MD, d. 1840 Jennings Co., IN; married Lydia Mobley.
- Charles Greenberry Griffith b. 1792 MD, d. 1864 Jennings Co., IN; married Jane Johnson.
- Jane Griffith b. 1794.
On the other hand, the Y chromosome passes down from father to son, unchanged for generation after generation, barring slight mutations, so that can be expected to show relationships much farther back in time, as long as it’s the direct paternal line. A perfect match on the Y-37 FamilyTreeDNA test would mean that there is a 95% chance that the common ancestor is within 7 generations16; just about the time frame we’re looking at.
It would be great to prove a connection. It would be equally helpful to prove Walter’s descendants are not related to Hezekiah Sr., so we can look elsewhere.
If you have a family member who is a direct male-line descendant of John Belford Griffith, Hezekiah Griffith Jr., or Charles Greenberry Griffith, and would be willing to do a simple cheek swab for the Y-DNA test (or if you have questions for me), please contact me at DNAsleuth@att.com.
Happy genealogy-and/or-genetic sleuthing! ~ Ann
(*) My online Ancestry tree also shows Hezekiah Griffith and Catherine Warfield as the parents of Walter. I do this to see if it will trigger any ‘shaky leaf’ hints if my DNA matches someone who has Hezekiah and/or Catherine in their trees. However, I use this ‘Not Proven’ icon as the default photo for these potential parents of Walter to alert anyone looking at my public tree that this relationship is unconfirmed. (At least, so far!)
(c) Ann Raymont, 2016
1. 1820 U.S. Census, population schedule, Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Wayne, p. 209A? line 16, Walter Griffith, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Jan 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M33, roll 95. ↩
2. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1997,” digital images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18858-9472-17?cc=1614804 : accessed 13 Feb 2015), Walter Griffith – Elizabeth Jennings; unnumbered entry; p. 12, Muskingum County. Note that Tuscarawas County was created in 1808 from part of Muskingum County. ↩
3. “Ohio, Probate Records, 1789-1996,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-31213-26028-72?cc=1992421&wc=S2CN-ZNR:266417001,266437201 : accessed 13 February 2015), Tuscarawas > Administration dockets 1817-1857 vol 1-3 > image 46 of 486; county courthouses, Ohio. Letters of administration were granted 13 Oct 1827; no death date was documented. ↩
4. For example, Wilson W. Griffith was born to Walter Griffith and Elizabeth Jennings in 1823, according to Clark Waggoner, ed., History of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio (New York and Toledo: Munsell & Company, 1888), (https://archive.org/details/historyofcityoft00wagg : accessed 2 Jan 2016), p. 502-503, biography of Wilson W. Griffith, a representative to the Ohio legislature and a Centennial Commissioner for Ohio (1871-1876). He was at most 4 years of age when his father died. In the 1880 census, it was recorded that his father was born in Virginia and his mother in Maryland. See 1880 U.S. Census, population schedule, Lucas County, Ohio, Toledo, Enumeraton District 003, p. 185C [stamped], dwelling 145, family 174, Wm W. Griffith, digital image, Ancestry.com
(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 Jan 2016); citing FHL film 1255043. ↩
5. R.R. Griffith, The Genealogy of the Griffith Family: the descendants of William and Sarah Maccubbin Griffith (Baltimore: W.K. Boyle & Son, 1892), p. 134-135. ↩
6. Hezekiah and his siblings deeded their rights as heirs of Walter Griffith to their brother John when they left the county and moved west (which John later did as well.) Hezekiah and Arvilla deeded to John Griffith 1/9 undivided part of 263a on December 7, 1840 in Tuscarawas County, New Philadelphia, Ohio. [more citation details needed.] Family papers in the possession of the author indicate that Hezekiah was the first son born to Walter and Elizabeth, born in 1811. ↩
7. Abstracts of Deed Book 1 1777-1789 Ohio County VA, (place of publication not given: Wheeling Area Genealogical Society, n.d.), p. 224, 265, 268, 334; (https://ia600301.us.archive.org/0/items/abstractsofdeedb00whee/abstractsofdeedb00whee.pdf : accessed 2 Jan 2016). ↩
8. For information on the ferry, see The Statutes at Large of Virginia: From October Session 1792, to December .., p. 246. (https://books.google.com/books?id=1F83AQAAMAAJ : accessed 3 Jan 2016). For the marriage of Susan Griffith and Bazaleel Wells, see History of the Pan-Handle, edited by J.H. Newton, Wheeling, WVA , 1870, p. 311 (https://books.google.com/books?id=cuA4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA311 : accessed 29 Jan 2016); also http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11694956&Type=Marriage (Bezaleel Wells of Washington Co PA and Sarah Griffith of Charlestown, Brooke Co., Virginia, 1797). ↩
9. 1820 U.S. Census, Jefferson County, Ohio, Warren Twp, p. 236 line 20, Hezekiah Griffith, digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 Jan 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M33, roll 91. ↩
10. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, “General Land Office Records,” (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=0008-343&docClass=CV&sid=rxvsocpp.uia : accessed 29 Jan 2016), accession no. CV-0008-343, Walter Griffith, Tuscarawas County, 7 Apr 1810, section 13, township 10N, range 3W. ↩
12. Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus and Ohio Map Collection, “1820 Map of the State of Ohio,” (http://digital-collections.columbuslibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/maps/id/1980/rec/8 : accessed 28 Jan 2016). ↩
13. Jefferson County, Ohio, 1-3: entry no. 190, “Hezekiah Griffith,” will dated 18 Aug 1822; images, FamilySearch, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-27615-15699-23?cc=1992421, Jefferson > Wills 1798-1844 vol 1-3 > image 224 of 693, Hezekiah Griffith; county courthouses, Ohio : accessed 18 Dec 2015). ↩
14. Indirect evidence of ties between Walter Griffith and the children of Hezekiah Griffith Jr. is a work-in-progress. ↩
15. CeCe Rogers, Your Genetic Genealogist [blog dated 26 Sep 2010], “Known Relative Studies with 23andMe: Expected Percentages,” (http://www.yourgeneticgenealogist.com/2010/09/known-relative-studies-with-23andme.html : accessed 29 Jan 2016); citing 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA FAQ’s. ↩
16. FamilyTreeDNA, “Understanding Your Y-DNA37 Results,” (https://www.familytreedna.com/pdf-docs/tr_Y37M.pdf : accessed 29 Jan 2016). ↩