Issue D
September 2011
Home Page and Index

John Gentry of Botetourt County, Virginia

Proposed Family

Willard Gentry

The John Gentry who lived in Botetourt County, Virginia, and died there in 1779, has always been a mystery to Gentry genealogists. Denny Ellerman, in 1989, was the first to make a serious attempt to identify his relationship to the Gentry family as a whole<1>. Ellerman considered the question of whether John was a son of the original Nicholas Gentry, Immigrant, of Hanover County, Virginia, or was a grandson. With some hesitation Denny came to the conclusion that he was probably a son of Joseph Gentry, oldest son of Nicholas. This suggestion has been widely accepted since then and was so assumed when an earlier issue of the Journal of Gentry Genealogy<2> was written. There are some anomalies connected with what we know about John, however, that have prompted the current review of the facts we have available. We will be considering two questions and assessing whether or not they can be answered.

1. Do the references to John Gentry refer to a single individual, or are they to a two-generation combination -- both father and son being named John.

2. Was John (the elder if there were two) one of the youngest sons of Nicholas Gentry the Immigrant or was he one of Nicholas' grandsons?

References to John Gentry(s)
We will start by listing a time line of references to John Gentry that may or may not apply to our subject and to John's wife Mary.

1740   John Gentry was named as occupying land adjoining a land grant to John Cosby<3 >. The land was situated along a tributary of the Little River between that river and the North Anna River, not far from Dirty Swamp where Nicholas Gentry received a grant of land in a section of Hanover County that became Louisa County in 1736. (See Map 1).

Map 1. Louisa and Hanover Counties, 1750

1743   John Gentry ordered by Louisa County Court (Louisa County was created from the western half of Hanover County in 1742) to replace Nicholas Gentry as overseer of the road along which he lived<4a> . French Haggard (later a son-in-law of Samuel-II Gentry) was added to his gang.

1747   Road gang in Louisa County formerly overseen by John Gentry was divided and new overseers appointed<4b>.

1747   William Womack appointed by Amelia County Court as surveyor of road from Great Saylor ... John Gentry and Charles Spradling assigned to assist<5a>. (See Map 2 for relation of Amelia County to Louisa County.)

1751   John Gentry and John Spradling assigned by Amelia County Court to join William Womack crew in repairing Sailors Creek Bridge<5b>. [Note. John and Charles Spradling believed to be sons of John and Mary Spradling and possible grandchildren of Nicholas-I Gentry.]

1754   John Gentry and Charles Spradling defendants in Lunenburg County Court for a debt owed William Craddock. Case dismissed, reason not stated<6>.

1758   An unrelated court case in Augusta County in 1776 refers to some kind of a transaction in 1758 for which John Gentry was owed money<7>.

1768   John Gentry received payment in settlement of an estate in Augusta County.<8>.

Map 2.  Virginia Counties in 1750
Map 3.  Virginia Counties in 1770

[Note. Prior to 1769, Augusta County, Virginia, was a very large county that claimed all of the area from the western slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, extending through present-day Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In 1769, it was divided and Botetourt County was formed within the southern half of its territory, still with an indefinite limit to its western boundary. John Gentry lived along Carvins Creek in Roanoke Gap, a much-travelled Indian trail used by Virginians to reach the Great Western Road which stretched from Pennsylvania to Tennessee through the Shenandoah Valley. In 1775, Daniel Boone opened his wilderness trail through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, one branch of the trail going north to Boonesborough in what later became Madison County, Kentucky (where a large number of descendants of Nicholas-II settled). Another branch of the trail continued northwesterly to the Ohio River which is the path eventually followed by John's son, Hugh Gentry. All three of John's sons followed the first section of Boone's trail into Eastern Tennessee.]

1773   John Gentry listed for tax for 1 tithe in Botetourt County; also on delinquents list with notation "John Gentry not found"<9>.

1774   John Gentry charged twice for 1 tithe in Botetourt County; also on list of delinquents with notation "insolvent".

1775   John Gentry listed for 1 tithable in Botetourt County [last list before interruption due to onset of war].

1779   Will of John Gentry (written in 1778) recorded in Botetourt County Court<10> . Mary Gentry named as co-executor with her brother-in-law Cormack McCafferty. Will witnessed by Jean Gentry and two others. John bequeathed estate to wife, Mary, and then to children (not named).

1781   Mary Gentry, as executor of estate of John Gentry, deceased, bought 136 acres of land on Carvins Creek [a tributary of the Roanoke River in Roanoke Gap which in recent years has been dammed to provide a city park and water supply on the outskirts of the present city of Roanoke, a city which was not founded until seventy years later]<11a>.

1781? Mary Gentry on specie tax listing for Botetourt County, tax due 5 pounds<9>.

1793   Mary Gentry, as executor of estate of John Gentry, sold 136 acres of land on Carvins Creek<11b>.

References to Other Gentrys
References to Gentrys that may have been related to John Gentry or were in roughly the same geographical area include:

1770   Nicholas Gentry served on jury of Botetourt County Court<12>.

1778   Jean Gentry witness for John Gentry will (see above).

1779   Nicholas Gentry, plaintiff in multiple continuations of two cases in Botetourt County Court starting in 1770, ending finally with dismissal of last case<13>.

1780   David Gentry enlisted in military service in Bedford County, Virginia, and assigned to North Carolina militia, as testified in testimony in 1834 before Jackson County Court, Tennessee, in application for Revolutionary War pension<14>.

1781   David Gentry witnessed deed for sale of land on Nodaway River [along the boundary between Lunenburg and Amelia Counties] recorded in Lunenburg County deed books<15> .

1789  "Daughter Mary Gentry and her sons" named as beneficiaries of will of Hugh Green. Will written in 1786 and recorded in Augusta County Court.<16>

1810   James Gentry listed in Augusta County census (born in 1765 or after, with a large family that included three sons and a daughter born between 1784 and 1794 plus three younger sons and three younger daughters).

Question One. Was John Gentry a Son or Grandson of Nicholas-I Gentry?
We have listed the known factual citations above. From this point forward, we can only speculate and try to merge the possible with the probable in adding flesh to the bones of fact. We will attempt to answer the two questions that we posed at the beginning of this article. We will begin with considering the parentage of the John Gentry mentioned in Louisa and Amelia County records. The references and time line above do little to answer this question other than placing a restriction on John's date of birth and his age when his name was first mentioned in Louisa County. We begin by setting a minimum age for John to occupy land. Whether he bought the land mentioned in the 1740 land grant, or was living on land owned by someone else, he must have been twenty-one or older. This means he must have been born before 1720.

Case 1. John Gentry was a Grandson of Nicholas-I.
Only two of Nicholas' sons were old enough to have fathered a John Gentry within the date limitations, namely his oldest son, Joseph, and his second son, Samuel. Samuel's family is sufficiently well known, and the family movement to Lunenburg County so distinctive, that there is no possibility within reason of this John Gentry being a son of Samuel. Moreover, there is evidence that Samuel had a son John who died at an early age in Lunenburg County. There is no difficulty in terms of ages, on the other hand, with a suggestion that John was a son of Joseph. The issue has to be tackled using more intangible considerations.

We start by considering the records of St. Paul's Parish vestry in Hanover County. From them we learn that the last record of Nicholas-I Gentry was in 1709 and that beginning in 1712, his place in the periodic review of property, and reports of service or monies due and payable for community responsibilities, was taken by Joseph Gentry. Samuel (beginning in 1716) and Nicholas-II Gentry (beginning in 1719) appeared frequently in the records, for the most part in connection with a quadrennial processioning (verification of land ownership and boundaries) in precincts other than that in which Joseph lived.

[To digress for a moment here, for those readers unfamiliar with the importance of these records, Hanover County records such as court records and deed records for the purchase and sale of land were destroyed as a result of multiple burnings of the county courthouse during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Virtually the only records remaining are for land grants (which were a function of the Virginia Colonial government) and records that survive from the Church of England parishes which were responsible for almost all public and private activities within the parish. St. Paul's Parish, covering the geographical area of Hanover County, is exceptional in the survival of its records and almost all of the evidence for the early Gentry families comes from these records.]

In 1732 a William Gentry was assigned by the parish vestry ("if he be willing") to assist with road maintenance in Joseph's precinct. To be asked to participate in community service in this manner, William was probably under age 21 where he might be required to serve. This would place his birth year at 1713 or 1714. William was assigned road duty again in 1735, but this time with apparently no choice. After that he disappears from any Virginia records. There were no other Gentrys mentioned in the vestry records other than Joseph, Samuel and Nicholas until 1751 when James Gentry appeared and remained until his death. In 1743, however, Joseph is referred to as "Joseph Sr.", implying that there was a Joseph Jr. old enough to be recognized by the parish vestry. Whereas William's name never occurred again, Joseph Jr. appeared in many records in later years. The long and the short of this extensive discussion is that Joseph Gentry appears to have had a son, William born about 1713 and a son Joseph Jr. who was some six to ten years younger. To return to our original question, this means that it was quite within reason for Joseph to have had a son, John, born perhaps about 1715 to 1717.

Can we explain John Gentry's presence in Louisa County in 1740 and after, and his absence from any St. Paul's Parish records? To do so, relies on tying him to his hypothetical brother, William. The latter is assumed to have had no reason to be included in parish records until he reached his majority and is further assumed to have left home soon after 1735 to strike out on his own. He had only to move a short distance to move outside of St. Paul's Parish in which case he would not appear any longer in their records as records for the other parishs are non-existant. A handful of unconnected Gentrys lived in the Louisa County area during the latter half of the eighteenth century. This included a proposed son of William, John (who appeared in Louisa County records beginning in 1761). This second John was a contemporary of a third John Gentry (of Hanover County) who was believed to be a son of James-II. The lack of records for William in later years after Louisa County was established suggests that he had children who settled in the Louisa County area and that he himself died at a relatively young age. His relationship with our subject John Gentry, could have involved a younger brother John joining William in leaving home and settling in the Louisa County area.

Case 2. John Gentry was a son of Nicholas-I Gentry
For John Gentry to have been a son of Nicholas Gentry, his date of birth must have preceded 1712 at the latest. This writer is convinced that Nicholas had two wives, the second wife being the mother of Nicholas' children from Nicholas-II onwards. Nicholas-II was baptized (and presumably born) in 1697, and his sister, Mabel, was born in 1702. James-II and David-II were probably born about 1705 and 1707. This means that John could have been born about 1709, a couple years before Nicholas-I's death. Nicholas would have been about fifty-five years old at the time, a very ordinary age for fathering a son. This would have meant that a John who was a son of Nicholas had to have been about ten years older than a John who was a son of Joseph.

We can ask the same question as in Case 1, "Why was not John Gentry included in any St. Paul's Parish records?" John has plenty of company in considering this question. David-II never appeared in any Hanover County records, and the first known reference for him was not until 1743 when he was given 100 acres of land in Louisa County by his father-in-law, Richard Brooks. James-II did not appear in St. Paul's Parish records until 1751 when he returned to the area of his original home. Thereafter there are a series of records for him until his death in 1767. The answer to this situation may be that the younger members of Nicholas-I's family were crowded out of their father's home and had to move elsewhere as the oldest son, Joseph, took over the family plantation which was not large by Virginia standards.

The writer has speculated in other Gentry Journal articles that at least in the case of James-II and David-II, after the death of Nicholas-I, his widow (and their mother) joined her oldest son, Nicholas-II at the home he established in 1719 on Stone Horse Creek at the western edge of settlement in St. Paul's Parish. Nicholas-II left this land in 1736 when he obtained a grant of land farther west on Dirty Swamp in Hanover County, in an area that later became Louisa County (Samuel-II followed him to the same location in 1742). The land on Stone Horse Creek remained in Gentry hands, however, as it was registered in Nicholas' name time after time in the quadrennial processioning reports until 1763 when George Gentry (a son of James-II) was recognized as occupying the land.

In the case of John Gentry, we can hypothesize that he accompanied his mother as a child to Stone Horse Creek. When Nicholas left to move to his new home on Dirty Swamp, John would have been about twenty-seven years old and could very logically have accompanied him. Four years later, John was cited as living not more than about ten miles away from Nicholas' home.

Answer to Question One
With so little information available, there is little to choose between the two cases we posed. Either one may have been true. Two very tentative arguments in favor of John being a son of Joseph are:
(1)John fits very appropriately in an otherwise vacant date range for children of Joseph.
(2) The John who died in 1779 in Botetourt County was either our subject John or his son. This John named a son Joseph, a name which is not found among any of the more immediate descendants of the younger children of Nicholas.

Set against this is an opposite argument that depends upon whether or not John had a son named David (and we will consider that below). If David Gentry, Revolutionary War veteran, (David-RWV) was a son of John, it would be a point in favor of John being a son of Nicholas' second wife. It is an observed fact that all of the sons of the second wife named sons, David, presumably for their hypothetical maternal grandfather, and it was a common name among their grandchildren. On the other hand, neither of the sons of the first wife of Nicholas-I, named a son, David, nor did any of their children or grandchildren do so.

This writer has waffled on the question over the years, sometimes favoring the son of Nicholas option and sometimes favoring the son of Joseph option and is reluctant to choose one option or other. However, as long as no satisfactory alternative has surfaced to date in proposing that David-RWV was a son of John, then that relationship pushes the balance in favor of John being a son of Nicholas.

Question Two. Was there a single John Gentry or were there two successive generations of John Gentrys?
In order to answer this question, we need to come to some decisions concerning John's children. It is interesting to compare the dates of birth of John's known and possible children with those of two of his contemporaries and possible siblings, James Gentry and David Gentry.

  James Gentry David Gentry John Gentry
Assumed approximate date of birth 1705 1707 1709 or 1715?
Children in order of birth

(some dates very approximate

James, 1731 Hezekiah, 1729 Sons/Grandsons of John
Hugh, 1769
John, 1772
Joseph, 1775
George, 1735 David, 1733
Aaron, 1737 John, 1737
Diana, 1739 Allen Cain, 1740 Other Possible Sons
Nicholas, 1745-1750
David, 1753
James, 1760-1765
John, 1740 Simon, 1744
David, 1742 Elisha, 1747
William, 1745 Elijah, 1750 Uncertain Relationship
Jean, 1755 - 1760?

One thing that strikes this writer looking at this table is that those children who are most commonly recognized as sons of John were born so much later than the children of James and David. Possible explanations are: (1) John had a first wife before he married Mary Green; (2) John got married very late in life; or (3) the John who lived in Botetourt Court was a different John than the one who lived in Louisa County (and could in fact have been his son).

"Confirmed" Children of John and Mary Green Gentry
There is no question that Hugh Gentry was a son of John and Mary Green Gentry (daughter of Hugh Green). He was the only Gentry born before 1800 for whom there are any records who was named Hugh. As an emphasis to this relationship, he had a son named Hugh Green Gentry. A family bible gives the names and dates of birth for his children and the date of birth for Hugh. He was still a minor when his father died, but he moved by 1787 to eastern Tennessee. Joseph Gentry had sons named Hugh and Joseph Green which together with his association with Hugh Gentry in Tennessee mark him as also being a son of John and Mary Green Gentry. Names of his children and dates of birth have been preserved in records of that family but there is no extant family bible. Joseph's own date of birth is not included in those records, so is only an estimate which is based upon the ages of his children. Census records for Joseph in 1830 and 1840 place him as about ten years younger than this estimate, for which we have no explanation. These two brothers, and a speculative third brother, John, have been described at length in an earlier Gentry Journal article (Issue E, May 2004).

The suggestion that a John Gentry who lived in Tennessee and then died in Ohio in 1807 was also a son of the Botetourt County John has been advanced by this writer. This John married a widow, Hannah Cox, in Tennessee shortly after 1790 and continued to live there until about 1805 (according to the reported birthplaces shown in census records for his children). The family moved to Marion County, Ohio, and John died there in 1807. It is probable that this was a John Gentry who had witnessed a deed in Greene County, Tennessee, in 1800, and who was included in the tax lists for that county in 1805. John's age, his presence in eastern Tennessee, and the absence of logical alternative John Gentrys all combine to suggest that this was a son of John Gentry of Botetourt County. His estimated date of birth is pure guess work. His placement in the table above between Hugh and Joseph is based upon the fact that references to Hugh in Tennessee start earlier than those for John.

Other Western Virginia Gentrys
There are some twenty-odd references to a Nicholas Gentry in the Order Books for Botetourt County Court. In 1770, among the list of jurors serving in the Botetourt County Court was a Nicholas Gentry. Then beginning in 1770 and continuing at intervals, two cases for which Nicholas Gentry was plaintiff were raised in court and each time continued to its next session. In 1779 a final entry was made that the last case was dismissed. These isolated mentions of a Nicholas have never been explained. The existence of multiple references to him rules out the possibility of some clerical error and the time between references indicate the presence of someone living there permanently not just passing through. The repeated raising of Nicholas' cases in court suggests that neither the plaintiff nor the defendant were appearing to contest the case until the court finally decided to take it off the books. Depending on how hard court officials made an attempt to contact plaintiffs before court sessions, this may have indicated that Nicholas was no longer present -- died or left the county -- within a year or two after the time that he first made his complaint. This is supported by the failure to find Nicholas among any of the lists of Botetourt residents that were tithable (at that time this meant age sixteen or more) beginning with the lists of 1772.

To be eligible for jury duty Nicholas must have been at least twenty-one years of age in 1770 which means he was born before 1749. His age places him as roughly a contemporary of one other known Nicholas, namely the Nicholas who was a son of Nicholas Gentry the Younger (son of Samuel-II Gentry), who settled in Davidson County, in what became Tennessee, where he was killed by Indians. In 1770, that Nicholas and his father were in Surry County, North Carolina, so there is no possibility of the Botetourt County Nicholas being that individual. He was midway between the ages of two other Nicholas Gentrys both of whom were living in Louisa County, namely Nicholas-III, the son of Nicholas-II, and Nicholas-III's son. There is no scenario by which any of these Nicholases could have been in southwestern Virginia. The age of the Botetourt County Nicholas, however, matches very well the possibility that Nicholas was a son of an older John Gentry, or a John Gentry who had a first marriage before marrying in Botetourt County. Nicholas' age was such that he was born either just before John left Louisa County or while he was in Amelia County.

This is an appropriate time to discuss the case of Jean Gentry who witnessed John's will in 1779. Jean would be expected to be of mature age in order to serve as a competent witness so she would have been born before 1758. In common practice, particularly in modern times, a witness to a will must be a disinterested party, that is, she will not benefit from any of the provisions of the will. We must assume that unless there were some unusual circumstance, Jean was not a beneficiary of John Gentry's will. John's will leaves a bequest to "his children" and does not specifically enumerate specific children to inherit or not to inherit. This implies that Jean was not a child of his. What could be her connection? Two possibilities come to mind: (1) she was a sister of a second generation John who wrote the will; or (2) she was the wife of Nicholas Gentry. We are speculating that Nicholas perhaps was no longer living at the time John wrote his will. If he was one of John's sons, he obviously would not have been included among the will beneficiaries. Since there was no mention in the will concerning daughters-in-law, Jean would not have benefitted through marriage from the will. If Nicholas was not one of John's children, but rather a brother of John, the will did not provide for any bequests to siblings and so Nicholas would not have been a beneficiary even if he had been there.. There would then be no conflict in Jean serving as a witness. We conclude that Jean was not a part of the immediate family of wife and children named in the will and was a sibling or more likely was a relative of the immediate family by marriage.

We have another individual to suggest as a possible son of John Gentry. David Gentry, the Revolutionary War Veteran, was born in about 1753 at an unidentified location in Virginia. He enlisted in the militia in 1780 at a call-to-arms held in Bedford County, Virginia. His enlistment at New London, Bedford County, by no means indicates that he was a resident of that county. But on the other hand, if not a resident of Bedford County, he was probably living in one of the neighboring counties which could have included Amelia County or Botetourt County (see Map 3 for Virginia counties in 1770). It is unlikely that he was a member of the Samuel-II and the David-II Gentry families which had lived in Lunenburg County. These had all left that county some ten years or more earlier. Even if this David had been a part of one of those families, we know of no reason why he should remain behind when the other Gentrys left, nor are there records of Gentrys being there in the years between 1770 and 1780. If David was a son of the John Gentry who lived in Amelia County, he would have accompanied the family to Augusta County, at least initially. Being a minor for much of the time he was there, he would never have been in such a circumstance as to generate a record of his presence in either Augusta or Botetourt Counties.

Another possible son of John Gentry was a James Gentry whose name occurs only in the 1810 census for Augusta County. At that time he was listed as being between 26 and 45 years of age (born in 1765 or after), and had a large family that included three sons and a daughter born between 1784 and 1794 plus three younger sons and three younger daughters. There was no other Gentry listed in that year's census on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains nor at the time of the next census in 1820. James could have been born between 1765 and about 1770 to have married and had four children before 1794, matching the 1810 census. His location in Augusta County and his age make him a possible candidate for being a son of John Gentry, or he could have been a son of Nicholas Gentry. If James was a member of the Botetourt County family he had moved in a direction opposite to the other family members. The Great Western Road that carried much traffic north and south through the Shenandoah Valley on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains passed through Augusta County. Hugh, John Jr, Joseph, and perhaps David had all gone south on that road, following the route Daniel Boone established to Tennessee and Kentucky. One can argue the possibility of James turning north along the road rather than south into Tennessee like the other family members. On the other hand, by 1810, Augusta County had been reduced to its final size and bordered directly on Albemarle and Orange Counties. In both places there had been Gentrys living for quite some time who could have passed through the gaps to the other side of the mountains. It has not been possible so far to identify this James, but on balance the probability is that he was not a part of the Botetourt Gentrys.

A Proposed Family for John and Mary Gentry
Regardless of whether or not the John Gentry who died in 1779 was a first-generation or a second-generation John it is highly probable this John married Mary Green in the 1760's and had a family of children whose births were clustered in the 1760's and 1770's. We propose the following:

John Gentry of Botetourt County
  - married Mary Green about 1766 in Augusta (later Botetourt) County, Virginia
John died 1779, Botetourt County.
  Children of John and Mary:
i. Hugh Gentry born 15 May 1769 in Augusta (later Botetourt) County
ii. John Gentry born about 1772 in Botetourt County
iii. Joseph Gentry born about 1775 in Botetourt County

Case One of Question Two, There Were Two Generations of John Gentry
We now return to an examination of Question Two which we posed earlier. Is it probable ("Yes") or possible ("Maybe") that the John Gentry who lived in Louisa and Amelia Counties was a first generation John Gentry who had a son, a second generation John, who lived in Botetourt County. We say it is possible based on the estimated ages that would be required for two Johns. We can disregard the question at the beginning as to whether the older John was a son of Nicholas-I, which would mean his date of birth must have been in the vicinity of 1709, or was a son of Joseph-II, in which case his date of birth may have been as late as approximately 1717. In either case, in 1740, when he was first mentioned in Louisa County, he could easily have been married, although probably only recently so. If a second generation John was his first child, we can speculate that his birth could easily have been in about 1741 or 1742. If the second generation John married in about 1764 to 1766, his age would have been very typical for that to happen. We have seen above that the three most probable children of his marriage with Mary Green were his three sons, starting with Hugh's birth in 1769. This fits perfectly into the possible time-line.

So it was quite possible for there to be two generations of John Gentrys without stretching normal time expectancies at all. But is it probable? If this were so we could put together a potential family consisting of :

  John Gentry Jr born about 1741, (or as early as perhaps 1735 depending on when John Sr. was born), probably in Hanover County (later Louisa County) with family as above.
Nicholas Gentry born about 1746, Louisa County.
David Gentry born about 1753, Amelia County.
Jean Gentry (??) born before 1756, (more likely the wife of Nicholas).

If this scenario was true, probably the John Gentry who was living in Augusta County in 1758 was John Sr. He may have still been living at the time of the 1768 court case as well. Probably the principal factor in favor of there being two generations of Johns lies in the existence of a Nicholas Gentry so much older than the youngest children and the fact that Jean Gentry was an acceptable witness for the John Gentry will of 1779. The notation in the 1779 will about Mary being John's only wife very much detracts from the possibility of there being one John Gentry with children from two wives. There is no hint in the will as to how old John was at the time he wrote it, but at least he was not suffering from any old age dementia or mental problems. The poor health he mentions could as well have applied to a forty-year-old man as one who was seventy. Considering the ages of her children, Mary could not have been elderly when John died, and the fact that she was still living some fourteen years later supports this.

This leaves open the question of what happened to John Sr. If he existed, he certainly seemed to be out of the picture by the time John Jr. died. Moreover, the small number of apparent children suggests that his wife had died not long into their marriage, leaving him a widower for all of his time in Augusta and Botetourt County. He may have been the John Gentry who was included on a separate page in the Botetourt County tax lists in 1773 as "not found" and in 1774 as being insolvent. John Jr.'s estate after his death must have been appreciable because his widow had enough funds two years after his death to buy 136 acres of land, so he probably was not the John that was listed as being insolvent. There was no entry on separate sheets in 1775 which suggests that John Sr. may have died in 1774. Depending on which date we accept for his date of birth, in either case he would have been about sixty to sixty-five years of age which would certainly be a normal life expectancy.

Case Two, There was a Single John Gentry
In all the references relating to John Gentry, there are no instances where there was a second John present. So when the same name occurs over a period of time, the expected situation is for this to be the same individual. As we have just said above, the John who was born in Hanover County, could easily have lived to 1779.

On the other hand, if the John that died in 1779 was a second generation John, his age at death would have been in the vicinity of forty years old. This was not unusual in those times and places, but it is still younger than one would normally expect. Placed against that is the evidence in his will of being in ill health. Of more importance is the comment in John's will, bequeathing his estate to his "only wife Mary". Taken at face value, this meant John did not have an earlier marriage and any of the potential earlier children of a John Gentry were all children of John and Mary. This poses difficulty in understanding and reasonable explanation. The conclusion is that the John who married Mary Green was a second-generation John.

Summary and Conclusion
After considering all of the evidence and proposals given above, the writer advances the following as a hypothesis for describing the family and ancestry of John Gentry of Botetourt County, Virginia.

We have considered a series of facts represented by the records cited in the references below. There are enormous gaps in these records. We have tried to put flesh on those bones, to fill in the gaps with not only credible but just as important, probable, circumstances that would give rise to these facts. They lack proof, but they are reasonable assumptions to use as a working hypothesis for this early Gentry family.


1, Gentry Family Gazette and Genealogy Exchange, vol 7, p.126-133 (Oct 1989)
Denny Ellerman, "A Preliminary Hypothesis about John Gentry of Botetourt County, Virginia"
2. Journal of Gentry Genealogy, vol 1, issue 10 (2001),
Willard Gentry, "Sons of Nicholas Gentry, Immigrant, Part 3, Joseph-II Gentry (and others?)"
URL: <>
3. "Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants", "Vol IV (1732-1741)", edited. by Denis Hudgins, Virginia Genealogical Society, Richmond, 1994.
 1740 Jun 10 p.222    (Patent Book 18, p.693)
 John Cosby [granted] 3000 ac, Hanover Co. on both sides of Tanfat/Tanfatt fork of the Little Riv.; crossing brs. of the South fork of Elk Cr.; adj. ... John Gentry.
4. "Louisa County, Virginia Orders 1742-1744", edited and compiled by Ruth and Sam Sparacio, The Antietam Press, McLean, VA, 1999
   (a)1743 Apr 11 p.17 [27]
 John Gentry apptd Overseer of the Road ... and French Haggard and John Saxon are added to his Company to assist ... in the stead of John Estes and Nicholas Gentry who are discharged from that road.
 Sparacio, "Louisa County, Virginia Orders 1744-1747"
   (b)1747 Jun 23 p.100 [232]
 Ordered that the Road whereof John Gentry was formerly Surveyor be divided ...
5. "Amelia County Road Orders 1735-1753", by Nathaniel Mason Pawlett, Ann Brush Miller and Kenneth Madison Clark , Virginia Transportation Research Council, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2002
   (a)1747 Nov 21 O. S. Page 61
 "Ordered that William Womack be Appointed Surveyor of the Road from Great Saylor into the Road a Little below Crawfords House And that ... John Gentry ... & Charles Spradling ... Work under the Said Surveyor on the Aforesaid Road ---".
   (b)1751 Aug 22 O. S. Page 351
 "Thomas Haskins is Appointed Surveyor of the Road that leads from Sailors Creek Bridge to the fork of the Road a little above Sandy River Bridge and that ... John Gentry ... John Spradling ... this Gang and William Wawmock's Gang are to meet and repair Sailors Creek Bridge.
6. "Lunenburg County Virginia, Order Books",   Book 3 (1754-1755)
 1754 Jun Court p.93
 William Craddock Plt vs John Gentry & Charles Spradlin - in Debt.   For reasons appearing to the court, this suit is ordered dismissed.
7. Lyman Chalkey,"Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia", extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County, 1745-1800, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1965, (accessible online).
      Vol  I, p.492, August 1766
 A County Court judgment, "Christian vs. King,": defendant's property attached to pay debts dating back to 1757 (including a debt to John Gentry , 6 May 1758).
8. Chalkey, Op. cit.    Vol  III, p.104, 1768
 Will Book (4-124)   John Gentry paid in settlement of John Cockran estate in 1768.
9. Tithables of Botetourt County, 1772 - 1786 (binder containing original slips of paper returned by tithable enumerators, held in Botetourt County Courthouse)
 John Gentry (and John "Gentery") included in lists for 1773 to 1775. A special listing for "specie tax" (date not given) includes Mary Gentry.
10. Botetourt County, Virginia Will Books, Book A, p.106
 "John Gentry of Botetourt County ... very weak in body but of sound mind and memory do ...bequeath ... to my only beloved wife, Mary, land, horses cows and sheep, during her widowhood, and if she alters her way of living I allow it to be sold by way of public vendue, and equally divided among all my children ... I appoint my Wife Mary Gentry and Comick McCaffrey [sic] [brother-in-law of Mary] Executors to this my last will & testament ... this 20th day Oct 1778." Witness: Comick McCaffrey, Jean Gentry, Jonathan McNeil. Signed John (X) Gentry.
At May Botetourt Court 1779 ... proved by Cormick McCaffrey and Jonathan McNeil, two of the witnesses. Ordered to be recorded, 13 May 1779.
11. Botetourt County Deed Books
   (a) 1781 Apr 6 Book (5-54)
  Thomas Franton and wife Elizabeth of Botetourt Co VA, to Cormack Mc Cafferty and Mary Gentry widow of John Gentry decd and sole excrs of John Gentry decd ; sold for 50 pounds, l36 acres on Carvins creek branch of Roanoke river adj Thomas Price;
Witness: William Mc Clenchan, Joseph Robinson and Thomas Harmon."
   (b) 1793 Oct 9 Book (5-48)
  Mary Gentry excr of John Gentry decd of Botetourt Co Va to Nicholas Runton Chenwith sold for 50 pounds, on Carvins creek l36 acres granted to James Laughlan by patent l77l who sold to Thomas Franton and wife Elizabeth who sold to Cormack McCafferty and Mary Gentry excrs of John Gentry decd.
Signed Mary (X) Gentry;     Witness: T. Bowyer, James Masson, and J. Shepherd
12. "Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800", by Lewis Preston Summers, Abingdon, Virginia, 1929: p.93-94:
 Court held for Botetourt County, 10 Sep 1770:      Nicholas Gentry serving on jury.
13. Botetourt County Court Order Books
 Book 1 (1770-1771) p.38, 71, 95, 136, 143, 165, 166, 168, 169, 218, 228, 429
  Nicholas Gentry, plaintiff, case continued
 Book 2 (1771-1772) p.4, 5, 52, 204, 369     Ditto
 Books 3A, 3B (1772-1776) p.33, 141, 142, 391, 444, 566     Ditto
 Book 4 (1776-1780) p.182     Nicholas Gentry, plaintiff, case dismissed, 12 Mar 1779.

14.          "Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications", National Genealogical Society, Washington, DC, 1976
File W7511, (BLWt 31908-160-55): David GENTRY, widow Sarah, of Jackson Co. TN
"On the 11th day of February in the year 1834 personally appeared ... David Gentry a resident citizen of the County of Jackson in the State of Tennessee aged eighty years ...[to] make the following statement of facts according to the best of his recollection ... He enlisted in the County of Bedford ... for during the war ... [description of service in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia]... Then marched to the Shallowford of the [Y]adkin River in North Carolina. And while at that place he learned that peace was made ... here his service as a soldier of the revolution was closed making in all more than two years". Credited with 6 months service as private in VA militia.

15. "Lunenburg County, Virginia, Deed Book 13, 1777-1784", abstracted by June Bank Evans, Bryn Efyliaid Publications, New Orleans, LA, 1991
 1781   May 17 Book(13-389)   (p.77)
 David Gentry witnessed a deed from William Puckett to Richard Crews Jr. for 50 acres on Rocky Branch, Nottaway River.
[Note. The Nottaway River forms the northeastern boundary between Lunenburg Co. and Amelia County and was at some distance from earlier Lunenburg Co. locations involving Gentrys.]
16. Chalkey, Op. cit.   Vol III, p.181,   1789
 Will Book (7-108)   Hugh Green's will of Augusta Co., written 14 Jun 1786
Bequeaths to wife, Agnus [sic] ... Daughter, Mary Gentry and to each of her sons ...[and others, including two grandsons and one great-grandson].
Executors: Rev. Wm Wilson and Robt Reid Jr.     Witness: Wm and Eliz Wilson

September 2011, Modest revisions July 2015

© 2011, W.M. Gentry - All rights reserved. This issue may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial purposes provided that proper attribution (including authors and journal names) is included.

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