History for James Milam and Nancy Hatcher, Chesterfield County, Virginia (1760 - 1785)

The Mystery Father of Nancy Hatcher's Sons

If you are up for a real "who done it", then you may be fascinated by which of John Milam 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. However, if you can't accept the Y-DNA 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.

Some of us have known about this mystery for ten years or more since the first male descendants of Nancy Hatcher undertook Y-DNA testing with Family Tree DNA. I am sure that when you have checked your Y-DNA "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 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.”

James Milam vs Ann Hatcher 18 AUG 63
James Milam vs Ann Hatcher 18 AUG 63

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 in life 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. I have read through the court orders for Halifax County from 1780 through 1787 and, unfortunately, found no entries for a James Milam.

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.

Halifax County Deed Book 16, page 306, does have a purchase Deed for a James Milam dated 30 OCT 1793 when he bought one hundred and twenty-five acres from Obediah Gent for 70 Pounds of current money of Virginia. The Deed was proven in Court on 24 FEB 1794 by three witnesses, none a Milam. You may read this Deed here (link) .

Then three years later on 28 DEC 1797, James Milam sold the same land to Alexander Douglas for 85 Pounds current money of Virginia (Deed Book 16, page 426). The Deed was proven in court on 26 JAN 1798. There is no mention of a wife for James Milam in either Deed nor does a wife relinguish her Right of Dower upon the sale. James acknowledged this sale with "his mark" as you may see below. You may read this deed here (link) .

James Milam signed with "his mark" on his Sales Deed, 28 DEC 1797
James Milam Signature

The Right of Dower was definitely still the law and was evident in Barlett Milam's sales Deed dated 26 APR 1796 when his wife, Betty, relinguised her Right of Dower. The absence of a wife for James in 1797 confirms that his marital status had not changed since the 1785 Halifax Census.

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.

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) . Please note how closely the community was monitored: several men were presented for "swearing profane oaths", two men for "getting drunk", three other couples for "fornication" and one person presented for "concealing a tithable" from tax.

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 on 24 OCT 1794 a Nancy (x) Hatcher witnessed a deed in Laurens County (Deed Book E, page 299) - 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 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 in Halifax County without a wife or children by 1785.

James also seems to have been alienated from his Milam family in Halifax County. He did not receive a gift of land from his father, John Milam Sr, as his brothers had; he lived a distance from his brothers who lived near each other as you can determined from the 1785 Census; and no Milam acted as a witness for his land purchase or sale.

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.

Images of many of these court documents are here (link) and here (link) .

I invite you to read my narrative summary of the early lives of the MILAMS in Brunswick and Chesterfield Counties here (link). A Chronology of all their court records is here (link).

Possible Issue of John Milam Sr

The birth dates below are Robert Wilbanks IV's estimates adjusted for the above facts.

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. That would make Edward most likely a brother or cousin of John Sr. In 2019 - three hundred years later - it's really a guessing game.

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] We do not know if he stayed in Virginia or was a merchant and returned to England.

At the Library of Virginia, I have searched the abstracts of county court records for the all the counties in eastern Virginia and have found no records for this early John Mylam which suggests he didn't settle in Virginia.

My best guess for the origin of John and Thomas Milam is near the bottom of my article on Milam Mariners and Merchants from Great Britain which you may read here (link) .


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