Issue A
February 2011
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And Its Consequences

Willard Gentry
Revised February 2015

There has never been complete agreement about the family of the Nicholas Gentry who came from England in the late 1600's to found a line of Gentrys that has spread throughout our country. We argue about how many wives he had and who they were. We have differing views as to the identity of his children, and by extension, the descendants of those children. This document revisits some of these questions and presents some proposals that over time have occurred to him but have not heretofore been published. There is no assurance that the proposals are correct for we will never know some of the details of Nicholas' life. This writer believes, however, that a discussion of these revised thoughts may bring out features that would be of value to Gentry genealogists. I will be discussing three propositions:

While working with early Gentry records over the years, this writer has tried to fit fragmentary references to isolated Gentry families into a plausible relationship with other Gentrys. While doing so, I have observed some interesting facts that might be coincidental, but might also be based upon underlying circumstances that are not immediately obvious. One of these is an apparent difference in the names of children and grandchildren of Nicholas that seems to depend upon the order of birth of his children. The following table shows the sons of Nicholas (in order of birth), and in turn their sons in the family relationships that have been commonly accepted by Gentry genealogists or have been proposed as a plausible possibility.

Sons of Nicholas Grandsons (and Great- Grandsons)
Joseph William, John? (D), Joseph (J)
Samuel Nicholas ("the Younger")(S), Joseph (J)(S), Allen, Simon, John (J), Richard, William, [Nathaniel? (S)], Samuel (S)
Nicholas ("Senior") David (D), Robert, Nicholas ("Junior") (D), Benajah, Moses (D), Nathan, Martin
James James, George, Aaron?, John, David, William
David Hezekiah, David (D), John, Simon (D), Cain (D), Elisha (D), Elijah, [Nicholas (S)]
John (Speculation): John (J), Nicholas, David (D)
The grandsons marked (D), (J), and (S) indicate individuals who had children named David, Joseph, or Samuel respectively. The names in italics are grandsons who may have been mis-identified.

When we look at the names of these descendants of Nicholas, each of his sons had a child with the same name as themselves which is no surprise. But when we look at the names of children the next generation down, or at children of one of the second generation siblings, these names divide into three groups:

A. Two wives for Nicholas-I ?

If this difference in names is not purely coincidence, the first thought that comes to mind is that Nicholas-I had two wives. It was a common practice in colonial times (as it frequently still is today), for children to be named for their maternal or paternal grandparents. We can speculate that Nicholas' sons had two different maternal grandfathers, the first wife's father being named Joseph, and a second wife whose father was named David. Following the usual practice, the name "Joseph" would have been used for Nicholas' first-born sons, and was carried on in succeeding generations. When Nicholas married again, the name "David" was given to that wife's sons and was perpetuated in the younger generations, beginning with Nicholas-II.

It is not at all critical to the development of this article as to whether or not indeed Nicholas had two wives but this writer has accepted this proposition as probably true. Moreover, I am convinced that the name or names of these wives were not either Lucy Cornelius or Mabel Wood, names which have occurred frequently in the genealogical literature. The reasons for this have been discussed a number of times in earlier issues of this journal, most recently in Issue A, May 2007<1>, and we will not elaborate on them here. Regardless of the question of number of wives, the fact remains that there appears to be some consistency in the pattern of names given by Nicholas and his sons to their respective offspring and we will attempt to use this apparent consistency to our advantage.

To summarize, I suggest that Nicholas married a first wife in about 1683, daughter of perhaps a Joseph [Unknown], who had children:

Joseph Gentry
Mary Gentry (speculation), married John Spradling
Elizabeth Gentry;
Samuel Gentry

There is then a small gap in birthdates and I suggest that it was at this point that Nicholas married a second wife, daughter of perhaps a David [Unknown] in about 1695-6 and had children:

Nicholas Gentry Jr.
Mabel/Mable Gentry;
James Gentry
David Gentry
John Gentry

B. Identification of Nicholas Gentry of Davidson County, Tennessee

We would be foolish to depend on this name difference as a hard and fast rule for identifying descendants of Nicholas, but if exceptions to the general rule occur, they can serve as a flag alerting researchers to possible mis-identification of relationships. A very good case in point here is the presence of a Nicholas Gentry frequently included among the children of David-II. This Nicholas has been described in some detail in an earlier article of this journal<2>. He lived for a short time in South Carolina, in the same area where all of David's sons lived, and because of this fact, he has been considered by many to be one of those sons. He moved from there to Tennessee and is best known for the fact that he was one of the first settlers in the Fort Nashboro area in Davidson County, in what was then North Carolina but later became a part of Tennessee. Nicholas was killed by Indians in about 1782, and was granted land in the new county by the North Carolina General Assembly in appreciation for his efforts to settle the area.

Nicholas had children named John, Randal, George, Samuel, and Nicholas. As we consider the names of these children in turn, John is ubiquitous, all of the Gentry siblings had sons by that name. Randal is unique and found nowhere else among the earliest Gentrys. The other three names are nowhere else found among the other children and grandchildren of David. The name discrepancy prompted a closer look at this Nicholas family.

As a result of this closer look, I believe that he was a son of the Nicholas-III who was a son of Samuel-II (labeled "Nicholas the Younger" in the table above), rather than a son of David-II. Several factors concerning the Nicholas under discussion, besides that of the names of his children, are compatible with this conclusion.

C. Identification of Samuel Gentry of Spartanburg District, South Carolina

Let us now continue the examination of Samuel Gentry as a probable addition to the family of Nicholas the Younger. The parentage of this Samuel has never had the wide acceptance that has been true for his proposed brother Nicholas. This writer has suggested in the past the possibility that Nathaniel Gentry, also of Spartanburg District, may have been his father, but with no firm reason for doing so other than they lived in the same area at the same time. In turn the parentage of Nathaniel has been equally uncertain. Establishing Samuel as a son of Nicholas the Younger will go far towards improving the plausibility of the respective family relationships of Samuel and Nathaniel. A brief summary of the pertinent facts follows:

To summarize the case for Nicholas and Samuel, there are plausible reasons for suggesting that Nicholas Gentry the Younger had two sons that have not previously been proposed for him, namely Nicholas Gentry of Davidson County, Tennessee, and the Samuel Gentry who settled in Spartanburg District, South Carolina in the latter part of the 1700's. We specifically suggest that Nicholas and Samuel were the two oldest sons of Nicholas the Younger.

D. Identification of Nathaniel Gentry of Spartanburg District, South Carolina

The Nathaniel Gentry who lived in Spartanburg District, South Carolina, before the turn of the eighteenth century, has always been very much of an enigma to Gentry genealogists. There are fragmentary references dating from 1785 to 1793 relating to his holding of state land grants; and his family is listed in the 1790 federal census. A final reference to a Nathaniel Gentry who is presumed to be this same family, was in the 1810 federal census record for Pulaski County, Kentucky. That is the extent of hard facts concerning him. Even the identification of any of his children has been a matter of guesswork with the exception that Tyre/Tyree Gentry was almost certainly one of his sons. Because of his association with South Carolina, it has seemed probable that he was a part of either the Samuel-II Gentry family, or the David-II family, the only early Gentrys known to have moved out of Virginia into South Carolina. The fact that his son Tyre had a son Samuel and two other sons of Tyre had children in turn named Samuel lends support to the thought that Nathaniel was part of the Samuel-II family.

We will not venture further into a discussion of Nathaniel and his family which will be covered in more detail in a soon-to-be-published revision of a previous article in this journal<9>. This includes a discussion of previously suggested children of Nathaniel that now seem to be unreasonable given the proposed change in parentage of Nathaniel. This includes, besides the Samuel Gentry above, another Gentry that has been very difficult to identify, namely the Revolutionary War veteran, Richard Gentry (who settled in Rockcastle County, Kentucky).

These plausible proposals for the parentage of Nicholas, Samuel and Nathaniel are a consequence of re-examining the genealogical data pertaining to them as prompted by our opening statements in this article. The use of differing patterns of naming children has not been a determining factor in reaching new conclusions. Rather it has triggered a closer look at these three individuals. This second look has resulted in a review of previous assumptions and the adoption of new, and at least in this writer's mind, superior conclusions concerning family relationships.


1. "Nicholas Gentry, the Immigrant, A Case Study of Erroneous Data Entry"
Journal of Gentry Genealogy, Issue 2007(A), May 2007.
2 "Nicholas Gentry of Davidson County"
Journal of Gentry Genealogy, Issue 2004(F), July 2004.
3. Edythe Rucker Whitley, "Tennessee Genealogical Records, Davidson County Pioneers", p.12
  John Gentry, listed for 1 poll in rolls of 1787 "being the first year in which the tax on land and polls was taken" [thus age twenty-one at a minimum in that year].
4. Louisa County Deed Books
  1743 Jun 13 Book(A-77)
  Richard Brooks of Fredericksville Par., Louisa Co., Planter, for paternal affection to my son-in-law, Nicholas Gentry, the younger, and his wife, Mary Gentry, my daughter ... 100 acres on Dirty Swamp. Signed. Richard (R) Brooks. Wit: John Venable, John Clark. Ack. 13 Jun 1743 by Richard Brooks.
5. South Carolina General Assembly Ordinance, MS Act No. 1123, 20 Feb 1779,
  p.80, 101 Hezekiah Gentry – Spartan District liable for grand/petit jury
p.88, 104 John Gentry – Spartan District liable for grand/petit jury
p.89 Nicholas Gentry – Cuffey Town &Turkey Creek liable for court service
6. Shelby Ireson Edwards, "Sullivan County, Tennessee Deed Books 1 & 2", 1985
 1791 Dec 26 Book(2-532)     [p.115]
  Land Grant No. 558, State of North Carolina, Alexander Martin, Gov. to Nicholas Gentry, 50 shillings for every 100 ac; 200 ac in Sullivan Co., NC, including Egan Troy's plantation ... along William Kee's line formerly Robert King's ...
     /s/Alexander Martin, Esq by J. Glasgow, Sec.
[Note, this is a grant to Nicholas Sr. in consequence of an entry claim dated 6 Oct 1779, and surveyed 18 Oct 1780 in Washington County, NC. It was a part of Sullivan County by the time the grant was issued.]
7. "TENNESSEE GENTRY FAMILIES, Nicholas Gentry of Davidson County"
Journal of Gentry Genealogy, Issue F, July 2004
8. Brent H. Holcomb, "Spartanburgh County, South Carolina, Minutes of the County Court, 1785-1799", Southern Historical Press, Easley, SC, 1980.
  1789 Mar 19[p.96]
  Samuel Jentry against John Chesney; case dismissed at plaintiff's costs.
9. "Speculations on the Family of Nathaniel Gentry of South Carolina and Kentucky"
Journal of Gentry Genealogy, Issue B, Feb 2011 (Revised)

15 Feb 2011, Revisions, February 2015

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