history-genealogy site

This is a site where I will discuss my family genealogy research and related history. When a blog deals with a particular family group, I will try to include it in the title so uninterested people can skip it without skimming it. It is my hope to get feedback on research methods, family members and historical context from other historians, genealogists, and researchers. (c) Barbara L. de Mare 2006, 2007

Location: Englewood, New Jersey, United States

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Mystery of the Parentage of John Sanderson, Part III: The Issues Defined

I have spent the evening working on an essay for my National Genealogical Society Home Study Course, but it is not yet in publishable form, so will contine with the John Sanderson saga. The essay will have to wait until another day to appear on this blog. So far we have just quoted two secondary sources concerning the parentage of John Sanderson, and come up with different answers. More specifically, we have found different mothers. In the alternative, they are wives of different persons named William Sanderson, each of whom had a som John. The question remains, who is our John, and who is his mother? We should start this research journey by more specifically defining the issues raised by these two books.

Issue regarding wife of William Sanderson:

Carpenter states that William’s wife was Agnes McClelland, the daughter of a highly educated woman, and that she lived the end of her life in Alabama with her only daughter Matilda, who married a Dr. May. He also states that she had three sons, John, James, and Joseph, and that John with the help of James wrote The Signers.

Marriage records for Alabama show that a Matilda Sanderson married a Dr. James May on 24 July 1832 in Greene, Alabama[1]. John Sanderson is known to be the author of The Signers and to have had the assistance of his brother James.

McCormack states that William’s wife was Rebecca Randolph, and that he married her on December 26, 1786. He gives their children as John, Sarah, George (1792-1851), Elizabeth, Anne, Frances, Mary and William. Only George is further discussed in the text.

It would certainly appear that we are discussing two different families. Although each wife is said to have had a John, only Agnes McClelland had a James. Having established that we are most likely discussing two different families, we then must determine:

Which, if either, John is our ancestor?

Are the other children of each mother named correctly?

Could the two women be different wives of the same William Sanderson? If so:

Which was the first wife?

Did the first John die young, as generally a name is not reused in the same nuclear family when the first holder thereof is still alive? None of the other names are repeated.

Some of these questions can be answered, or at least partially so, by determining the birth date of each John Sanderson.

Issue regarding date of birth of John Sanderson:

According to McCormick, Family Record, p. 438, "on June 3, 1805, John and Sarah Sanderson, [children of William Sanderson and Rebecca Randolph,] minors above the age of fourteen" asked the court to appoint a guardian. Consequently John son of William was born before 1791. The other children of William and Rebecca were stated to be minors under the age of fourteen, with the oldest of these, George, born in 1792. It would appear, then, that Sarah was born c. 1790 and John c. 1788. As McCormick also states that William Sanderson and Rebecca Randolph were married December 26, 1786, additional credence is lent to the 1788 birth date for their son John Sanderson.

If John Sanderson had been born in 1783 as stated in Carpenter, he would have been 22 years old in 1805 and not in need of a guardian. If born in 1788 (a 3 and an 8 confused at some point) he would not only fit properly into the family of William and Rebecca, but would also have been a minor over the age of fourteen in 1805 when a guardianship proceeding was instituted.

If William was twice married, the second and last wife was obviously Rebecca Randolph, as he was married to her at his death by 1805.

The 1783 date also appears to be too early even if our John Sanderson’s mother were Agnes McClelland and his siblings were as set forth in Carpenter, as this John’s sister Matilda was married in 1832. Thus she was probably born after 1800, most likely closer to 1810. With only 5 children, a 25 year gap seems unlikely.

From this analysis, John Sanderson could have been born in 1788, the son of either William and Rebecca or William and Agnes. Getting copies of all the relevant wills would undoubtedly prove helpful, particularly that of Rebecca Randolph Sanderson dated February 7, 1824, proven July 1825.

Information obtained from Pension Application of William Sanderson

Carpenter states that both William and his father Robert served in the Revolutionary War. The service of William (the son) is stated to be “captain of the 3rd Company, 7th Battalion, Cumberland County Associators, commissioned July 31, 1777, again in May, 1778, and in April, 1779. (Penn. Archives, 2d series, vol. 14, pp. 412, 436, 438, 451, also vol. 15, pp. 578, 624). He was commissioned May 10, 1780, major of the 5th Battalion (vol. 14, p. 461).”

A pension application filed by the heirs of a William Sanderson matches these dates and modes of service. The wife of the serviceman, however, is stated to be Rebecca Reynolds. with children surviving on August 24, 1852, the date of a deposition of Anna Erb, being the said Anna, Fanny McMichael, and William. Anna stated that she was 60 years old at the time of the giving of the deposition, making her year of birth about 1792. However 1792 is the year in which George was born according to McCormick, who also sets forth the birth of Elizabeth between George and Anna. According to the guardianship proceeding as related by McCormick, Anna was born after 1791, as she was a minor under the age of 14 years in 1805. Thus she was probably younger than 60 when she gave her deposition, a backwards way for a woman to lie about her age. She signed the deposition with an X, so may not have really known her age.

More questions arise concerning dates when the pension application is perused. According to the information given by Anna in the pension application, her father William Sanderson died in October 1809, in Middleton Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. However the guardianship application of his children is stated to have been brought on June 3, 1805. The death should occur before the guardianship application. The guardianship records need to be obtained and studied. Death information for William Sanderson should also be sought. Upon further study of the date in the pension application, death date could be October 1804, which would correspond with a May 1805 guardianship proceeding. Acting Commissioner in 1924 read it as 1809.

The pension application further states that Rebecca Sanderson died on July 2, 1845, in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. There is no apparent reason to question this date.

[1] Alabama Marriages, 1807-1902, Hunting For Bears, comp. Alabama Marriages, 1807-1902 [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2004. Original data: Alabama marriage information taken from county courthouse records. Many of these records were extracted from copies of the original records in microfilm, microfiche, or book format, located at the Family History Library.

[2] Could be a 4 or a 9. Determine is a 4 from other evidence set forth above. Acting Commissioner 1924 who typed letter read it as a 9.

My Transcription of The Pension Application

Service: Number

Penn. Sanderson, William W3303


[new page]

The marriage of Mr. William Sanderson to Rebecca Randolph Dec. 26th 1786, is commemorated in a private record which has descended to the present ? of the First Presbyterian Church in Carlisle among other placements which have been preserved in the absence of the first record book of the Church which is now lost. There can be no reasonable doubt of its perfect genuineness.

Carlisle Aug 27, 1852

C.P. Wing, Pastor of the First

Pres. Church in Carlisle

State of Pennsylvania )

) ss:

Cumberland County )

Personally appeared before me a Justice of the Peace in and for said County, Rev. C.P. Wing now pastor of the 1st Pres. Church in Carlisle, Pa, who upon his solemn Affirmation says that the above statement is correct and true.

Affirmed & Subscribed }

before me the 27th day } Conway P. Wing

of August A.D. 1852 }

M. Hobrooke

Justice of the Peace

Carlisle County

[new page]


Pennsylvania, Phil

Rebecca Sanderson, dec’d

widow of Wm Sanderson

who was a Captain

in the Revolution—Penn Service

Inscribed on the Roll at the rate

of 480 Dollars ----------

Cents per annum; to commence

on the 4th day of March, 1843

& ending July 2, 1845

Certificate of Pension issued

the 29th day of Jany 1853

and sent to

Hon. J.C. McDonahue


Acts of March 3, 1843, & June

17, 1844

Recorded in Book A

Vol. 2 Page 116

[new page]

State of Pennsylvania )

) ss:

Cumberland County )

On this 26th day of January AD 1853 personally appeared before me a Justice of the Peace, within and for the state and county aforesaid, Peter Willey and Abm P. Erb, residents of the State of Pennsylvania and County of Cumberland, who being duly sworn according to law declare that Rebecca Sanderson is the widow of Capt. William Sanderson dec’d, and that she the said Rebecca Sanderson died in Carlisle on the 2nd day of July 1845, and that there are three surviving children, Viz—Anna intermarried with A. Erb, Fanny intermarried with William McMickel and William Sanderson, and that the above named Capt. William Sanderson is the same person whose name appears among the papers on file at the Secretary’s Office at Harrisburg.

Sworn and subscribed before } Peter Willey

me the 26th day of January 1859 } A.P. Erb

Stephen ? }

Justice of the Peace }

[new page]

State of Pennsylvania )

) ss:

County of Cumberland)

On the twenty fourth day of August A.D. 1852 personally appeared, in the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County before the Honorable James N. Graham, Presiding Judge, Mrs. Ann Erb a resident of Wormleysburg in the County of Cumberland aged sixty years who being first duly sworn according to law doth on her oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the provisions made by the Act of Congress dated July 7th 1838 entitled the act granting half pay and pension to certain widows. That she is the daughter of Rebecca Sanderson, who was the widow of William Sanderson, who was a Captain in the Battalion of Pennsylvania in Militia commanded by Colonel Frederick Watts—as appears by papers on file in the Secretary’s Office of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania—commissioned 15 January 1777 --- return made 14 May 1778. And also that he the said William Sanderson was Captain in the Third Company of Cumberland County Militia for Pennsylvania in the service of the United States commanded by Colonel William ?, commissioned 23 April A.D. 1779, that he served in said capacity until 10th May 1780—being a period of more than one year as appears by the Muster Rolls of said Company—The original being on file in the office of the Secretary of State Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

She further declares that her mother the said Rebecca Sanderson was married to the said William Sanderson as she is informed on the twenty sixth day of December A.D. 1786. That her father the aforesaid William Sanderson died on the day of October A.D. 1804[2]. That, she is informed, her father the said William Sanderson was not married to the said Rebecca Sanderson prior to his leaving the service. She further swears that her mother was not afterwards married but that she died his widow.

Sworn to and subscribed } her

in open Court on the day } Ann X Erb

and year above written, about } mark

before me 24 August 1852 }

George ? ? }

State of Pennsylvania )

) ss:

Cumberland County )

I James H. Graham Presiding Judge of the 9th Judicial District, composed of the counties of Cumberland, Percy & Juaniatta, do certify that George ?, Esq., before whom the foregoing affidavit was made, was at the time and now is Perthonotary of the Courts of Common Pleas of Cumberland County, duly commissioned and qualified and that the above signature purporting to be his is genuine, to all those acts as such in that capacity due faith and credit are and of right ought to be given throughout the Untied States and elsewhere.

Witness my hand and seal at Carlisle this 28th August A.D. 1852.

JHGraham (seal)

[new page]

State of Pennsylvania

Cumberland County, ss:

Personally appeared before me the subscriber one of the Justices of the Peace in and for said County Ann Erb who after being duly sworn doth depose and say that she is sixty years of age, and resides in Cumberland County, and that she is a daughter of William Sanderson who served in the Revolutionary War, and that her father was legally married about the year 1786, further says that her father William Sanderson died in the year 1804 and further says that her mother Rebecca Sanderson died in the year 1845.

Sworn to and subscribed before } her

me this 24th day of March 1852 } Ann X Erb

G.W. ? } mark

State of Pennsylvania )

) ss:

Cumberland County )

Personally appeared before me the subscriber one of the Justices of the Peace in and for the said County, Peter T. Vibley, who upon his solemn oath says that he is well acquainted with Ann Erb, as mentioned in the foregoing stated deposition, and that she is a woman of truth and do know that she is the daughter of William Sanderson, and understand that he was an officer in the Revolutionary War, and do believe her statement to be correct. I am in my seventy second year of age.

Peter T. Vibley


[new page--typed] August 14, 1924

Mrs. Carl Musser

Cynthiana, Ky.


I have to advise you that from the papers in the Revolutionary War pension claim W3303 it appears that William Sanderson was commissioned January 15, 1777 Captain in the Third Company of Colonel Frederick Watts’ Seventh Battalion of the Cumberland County Militia, and served in the Militia until May 10, 1780 when commissioned Major of the Fifth Battalion of said Militia and served until the close of the War.

Soldier married December 26, 1786 in Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Rebecca Randolph. He died in October 1809 in North Middleton Township, and his widow Rebecca died July 2, 1845 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

On account of soldier’s services in the Revolution, pension was allowed their three surviving children Ann or Anna who married A. Erb, Fanny who married William McMickel, and William Sanderson, on the application of said Ann or Anna Erb, which application was executed August 24, 1852 while she was a resident of Wormleysburg, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania aged sixty years. The ages of soldier and widow are not given.


Acting Commissioner

The time has come when I must consult more original sources. The pension application of itself gave us no answers, I have searched census results for both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and similarly found no useful information. There are too many Sandersons name John, William, and Robert to easily sort out this family. I even carefully stufied all the John Sandersons listed in the McCormick book to see of ours could be a different one. None matched the known facts about our ancestor. It is my intention to spend some time tomorrow in the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Hopefully I will be able to find some original sources. Vital statistics, church records, death records, wills, and deeds are at the top of my list of documents to seek. That's only a weeks worth of work to try to cram into my few hours. Obviously I won't solve the mystery in one library trip! I am still waiting for you readers to come up with a brilliant solution. One of my cousins sent two different biographies, each touting a different wife for our John. Consequently I haven't quoted them in this blog.--they are just one more point for each side!

[1] Alabama Marriages, 1807-1902, Hunting For Bears, comp. Alabama Marriages, 1807-1902 [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2004. Original data: Alabama marriage information taken from county courthouse records. Many of these records were extracted from copies of the original records in microfilm, microfiche, or book format, located at the Family History Library.

[2] Could be a 4 or a 9. Determine is a 4 from other evidence set forth above. Acting Commissioner 1924 who typed letter read it as a 9.


Blogger Ted Hontz said...


Here's the only clue I have on our John Sanderson--in his book, The American in Paris, in vol. 2, p. 227 he states: "My grandmother, who brought me up, besides being a Presbyterian, was a Scothwoman; she believed she was compelled to garter up her stockings, and snuff out the candle, by predestination; and it is not so easy a matter as you think, to get rid of one's grandmother".

So, the clues are, Scottish grandmother, and, not raised by his own parents.

Another potential clue is the fact the relationship of the Authors of The Carpenter Genealogy--Louis Henry Carpenter and his father Edward Carpenter, 2nd to James Stratton Carpenter. Edward Carpenter, 2nd and James Stratton Carpenter were brothers. I would be surprised if the Sanderson information could be that far wrong since the authors probably heard that information first hand.

Ted Hontz

2:24 PM  
Blogger his gene, esq. said...


Thank you for this. It reinforces the Agnes McClelland for the mother, which I had pretty much determined to be true. Issue remaining: who was the father? U think have tried to determine if the alleged father could have had another wife, and it didn't seem to fit. I'll check again, as that could make everything fit in place if the dates work out.


12:22 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home