The Mystery Father of Nancy Hatcher's Sons

If you can't accept the YDNA proven fact that one of John Milam Sr's sons was the father of Nancy Hatcher's sons, you should stop reading. If you can't accept less than admirable behavior of a Milam found in 18th century court records, you should stop reading now. But if you are up for a real "who done it", then you may be fascinated by which of John Sr's sons married Nancy Hatcher and fathered her three sons between 1775 and 1784. Although we are dealing with a 240 year old mystery, there are sufficient facts to allow a process of elemination to reveal the father.

Some of us have known about this mystery for ten years or more since the first male descendants of Nancy Hatcher undertook YDNA testing with Family Tree DNA. I am sure that when you have checked your YDNA "matches" at FTDNA, you were curious about your close matches named Enyart, Hatcher and Mauldin. I was also and as early as 2007 I exchanged emails with Nell Hatcher of the Hatcher Family Association, as did Oliver Milam. The Association's website may be found here (link) .

Nancy Hatcher is thought to be the daughter of Jameston Hatcher Sr and Ann (Knibb) Hatcher of Chesterfield County, Virginia. They estimate that she was born about 1750 and had three sons: Flemming Hatcher (born 1775 - 1780), Felt Hatcher (born 1775 - 1780) and Thomas Hatcher (born 1775 - 1784). Descendants of these three men trace their oldest known Hatcher ancestors to South Carolina.

In 2018 a Hatcher member of our Milam Surname Project ordered the BIG Y chromosome sequencing analysis which showed his results were the same as a descendant of John Milam Sr but not the same as descendants of Thomas Milam. I discussed these recent BIG Y results here (link) . Thus the essential question is which of John Milam Sr's sons was the father. By searching the Chesterfield and Halifax county court order books, sale deed records and marriage registries, I - and others - have found written proof of the names of the wives for Samuel (Sarah), Bartlett (Betty), John Jr (Nancy), Benjamin (Judith) and Thomas (Elizabeth Tolbert) but not for James Milam.

{ NOTE: this is NOT the James Milam of Tazewell County, VA, in the 1800s. }

Interestingly, the court orders of Chesterfield County contain these James Milam records among others during a time frame when his father, John Milam Sr, owned 100 acres of land there:


18 AUG 1763, page 446: “James Milam, plaintiff, vs Ann Hatcher. Petition. Judgment for plaintiff of three pounds current money & costs.”

16 FEB 1764, page 477: “Ann Hatcher vs James Milam. Petition. Dismissed.”

4 APR 1764, page 519: “Ordered that the Attachment brought by James Milam against Ann Hatcher be dismissed as to Gerald Walthall, one of the garnishees.”

6 JUN 1766, page 738: "James Milam against Ann Hatcher. Attachment. Dismissed."

These records indicate that James Milam was well acquainted with the Hatchers. However, there were no deed or other court records which might confirm the name of a spouce in Chesterfield. You may read the details of the Chesterfield County records and my discussion of the early lives of John Milam Sr and his sons, James and Samuel, here (link) and here (link) .

Later there are precious few records for a James Milam in Halifax County where all of his brothers lived and owned land, the sales deeds of which provided the names of their wives because of the Right of Dower. James Milam does appear on the 1785 Halifax County Census when he is recorded as living alone in his dwelling without a wife or children. This 1785 census also recorded his brothers: Bartlett, Benjamin and Thomas as you may read here (link) . {Use "Control+F" to search for "Milam".} John Milam Sr and John Milam Jr were not recorded in 1785 because they had removed to South Carolina by then.

Now comes the risque part: in August of 1786 a Halifax County Grand Jury of Inquest presented James Milam to the Justices "for fornication with Mary Chumly" and presented Mary Chumly "for fornication with James Milam". You may read this court record here (link) .

I have read through the court orders for Halifax County from 1780 through 1787. Unfortunately, there were no other entries for a James Milam. And there was no deed for him either. This James is clearly not the James Milam of Tazewell County in the early 1800s who was married to a "Martha" and had nine children including a Mary born circa 1782 and sons James and Edward born as late as 1789.

 

Why do I think James Milam and Nancy Hatcher were ever married? Reading the 1786 Grand Jury presentation here (link) demonstrates how closely the Church of England vestrymen and the court Justices observed the behavior of the county residents. If Nancy Hatcher and a Milam man had had an illicit relationship, Nancy would have been presented for "living in adultry" or for "having a bastard child" or for "fornication" - as James and Mary Chumly were. In reading both the Chesterfield County and Halifax County Grand Jury presentations from 1773 through 1786 (the years Nancy's Milam sons were born), there never was such an accusation made against Nancy Hatcher. Thus Nancy's many year relationship with the Milam father was not an illicit one. It is thought by the Hatcher Family Association that Nancy eventually removed to South Carolina where a Nancy (x) Hatcher was a witness on 24 OCT 1794 in Deed Book E, page 299, in Laurens County - long after her sons were born.

 

Why is this James Milam of Chesterfield / Halifax Counties living alone? Something must have gone terribly wrong for James perhaps related to the long Revolutionary War (1776 - 1781) which caused many dislocations. I believe that James either left Nancy and their children; or Nancy Hatcher found good cause to leave James. In either case, Nancy Hatcher took their children and gave them her maiden name. She chose the Hatcher name apparently no longer wanting them to be associated with James Milam. This is why this James was living alone without a wife or children by 1785.

If one takes issue with this analysis then one must think through which of John Sr's other sons it could have been. Up until now, Milam genealogists / historians have ignored the evidence that John Milam Sr and his family lived in Brunswick and Chesterfield counties of Virginia for more than 15 years. And they have ignored the Hatcher Milams like the plague.

 

Possible Issue of John Milam Sr

These estimated birth dates are modified from Robert Wilbanks IV's estimates.

I. Edward, Born by 1733 - ??

II. Grace Milam, Born "circa 1740" - ?

III. Samuel Milam, Born by 1740 - ?

IV. James Milam, Born by 1741 - ?

V. Adam Milam, Born by 1744 - ?

VI. Bartlett {Ferrill} Milam, Born "circa 1748" - ?

VII. Edmund Milam, Born by 1749 - Brunswick County

VIII. Benjamin Milam, Born "circa 1750" - Brunswick County

IX. John Milam, Jr., Born 12 JUN 1753 - Brunswick County

X. Thomas Milam, Born "circa 1757" - Brunswick County

XI. Nancy Milam, Born - ?

 

SPECULATION: If one assumes that the definite descendants of John Milam Sr are the persons mentioned in John Sr's Will plus those eventually found in Halifax County where John Sr spent much of his adult life, the remainder are: Edward (born by 1733), Adam (by 1744) and Edmund (by 1749) - all found in Brunswick County but not in Chesterfield County or Halifax County - who might not be John Sr's children.

In theory, Edward could be much older, say born by 1724 - old enough to be the father of Adam and Edmund. In 2019 - three hundred years later - it's really a guessing game.............Or is it?

The fact is this conjecture puts us back close to 1711 when a passenger, John Mylam, sailed from Bristol, England, to Virginia on board the galley Cranfield referenced in The Complete Book of Emigrants 1700 – 1750! [5]

This John Mylam theoretically could have been the father of John Sr, Thomas and Edward Milam. Or perhaps John Sr, Thomas and Edward Milam were orphan brothers who simply arrived in Virginia as indentured servants as I have written here (link) after the genetic testing of 26 MILAM British men showed none matched our Virginia MILAMs YDNA.

 

To Top