B.1.a. William Berry {B.1.a.}


     William Berry was born at an unknown date and place although analysis of indirect evidence allows a reasonable interpretation of both the date and place of his birth. Due to a lack of primary source data on the subject, the best approach to defining the date of William’s birth is from an analysis of court records resulting from legal wrangling over the guardianship of William and his two brothers (John and James) who were “orphaned” after their father’s untimely death in 1749. A March 1758 guardianship record notes the age of the orphan John Berry as being 15 (so his birth date calculates to being 1743 or late in 1742). None of the other two orphaned Berry boys were identified as being under the age of 16 in this record, so, if they were still alive, they must not have been minors (i.e. under the age of 16), and, thus, no legal guardianship needed to be determined. The logical conclusion is that both boys must have been older than 16 if still living. It should be noted that Hugh Campbell Berry, a grandson of one of the orphan brothers, John Berry, noted in 1875 that his grandfather was an orphan and thought he was an only child. Obviously the grandson was not aware of the fact that his grandfather had any brothers, so they either moved away at an early age or they died fairly young. As far as William Berry, the older orphaned brother of the orphan John Berry is concerned, this obviously places his birth date, as well as that of his brother James at sometime before 1742/1743. A lower end on the date range can be roughly determined by ascertaining the marriage date of the parents. While the date and place of the marriage of William’s parents is not known with certainty, an undocumented marriage date of 1737 has been found in the Berry/MaGill literature. If the marriage date is correct, then William and his brother James were probably born sometime between 1737 and 1742. This is a five-year gap, giving plenty of time for two births to take place. It is not known which of these two “orphans” is the older one, so the birth order for the purposes of this report is arbitrarily selected. Since William was the given name of Elizabeth Eleanor MaGill’s father, his birth is considered to have occurred first. Consequently, William’s birth date has been interpreted as having occurred about 1738, about a year after the marriage of his parents, which was not an uncommon occurrence in this frontier Scotch-Irish community.1,21,29,93,94,98,99,100,110,169,204,206,208,321


     As far as William Berry’s place of birth is concerned, there is an equal amount of ambiguity resulting, ultimately, from the same problem - a lack of primary source records. At the time that their father passed away in 1749, the orphaned boys of this Berry family, as well as their maternal grandfather’s family, the MaGills, were living in Augusta County, Virginia. Seven years earlier, in 1742, no Berry or MaGill family members appear in the 1742 Augusta County militia list, and, since all able-bodied males were expected to participate in community defense through the militias, it is reasonable to conclude that neither the Berrys nor the MaGills had yet arrived in the area. Consequently, the only certain statement concerning the birth place of William Berry is that he was not born in Augusta County, Virginia. So where was the family living from 1738 through 1743? No primary source material has yet been uncovered definitively placing any members of this Berry family anywhere in time and space prior to their arrival in Augusta County, Virginia. However, their close association with the MaGill family, as documented by the marriage of two Berry brothers to two MaGill sisters, strongly suggests a fairly close geographic positioning between these two families. Consequently, knowing the location of the MaGill family in this time period most likely defines the location of the Berry family, but therein lies a thorny and complicated issue.21

     As noted in William Magill’s biographic essay, he was born in either Scotland or northern Ireland, and by the mid to late 1720s had emigrated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. At an unknown date he moved to Augusta County, Virginia, but he was definitely there by early 1746. Since he doesn’t appear to have left many tracks, William MaGill, Sr.’s journey from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia can be reconstructed only from a few scattered pieces of reliable data connected by a general understanding of the conditions that prevailed in this part of the American colonies during this particular time period. It seems quite probable that, when he left Bucks County, William MaGill, Sr. took the main road from there to the Lancaster and/or Carlisle area, where there were thriving Scotch-Irish communities (Figure 29). He most likely stayed in these areas, at least for awhile, and this could be where he encountered the Berry family, as well as the widow, Margaret Gass, who would become his second wife. Alternatively, the Berrys and MaGills might already have been together. Margaret Gass had been widowed in 1734 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and in 1738 can be documented as living in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County just west of the Susquehanna River (Figures 32 and 33). It seems quite likely that Margaret Gass and William MaGill must have encountered each other there, then sometime between 1738 and 1746. One of William MaGill’s son in laws, Hugh Campbell, was already in Augusta County by 1742, since he appeared in the 1742 Militia List, so it is quite possible that the rest of the extended family group was not far behind. Since two of William MaGill, Sr.’s daughters married two Berry brothers sometime in the late 1730s, it appears that the Berry family was also in close proximity to Margaret Gass and William MaGill, Sr. at this time, and that all of them were probably in the Carlisle area. Carlisle lay astride the Great Wagon Road, the main north/south emigrant route running the entire length of a great elongated valley between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Allegheny Mountains to the west (Figure 31). With the opening of the Beverley and Borden Grants in Augusta County, Virginia in the late 1730s and early 1740s (Figure 15), there seems to have been a general exodus of Scotch-Irish from the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania area to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and it is not difficult to imagine William MaGill, Sr. participating in this movement. The absence of any MaGill or Berry members from the 1742 Augusta County militia lists and William Magill’s first appearance in Augusta County records in 1746 seems to provide a time bracket within which the MaGill and Berry families may have completed their migration. An oral family history, recorded in the late 1800s by Baxter Bell Berry (1808 – 1891), a great great grandson of the elder James Berry, notes a northern Scotland origin for this Berry clan and generally notes that they migrated to Virginia in the 18th century. It also documents a birth place and birth date of 1718 in Ireland for Baxter Berry's great grandfather, Thomas Berry (son of the elder James Berry). Unfortunately, no details of the journey made it into the family history, but a very general pathway from Northern Scotland to Ireland to the English colony in Virginia was identified. Based on all of this indirect information, with a birth date of 1738, it appears logical to assume that William Berry was probably born in Lancaster County. Pennsylvania.21,100,107,108,110,111,112,115,116,126,169,204,265,314,321,335,336,337,339,340,342,343,344,345,



     Other than a possibly that he may have passed away as a child, no information is available on the date or place of William’s death, or any other aspect of his life for that matter.


Timeline of William Berry


28 Feb. 1750/51204

Augusta County, Virginia Will Book No. 1, page 318
Know all Men by these Presents That We James Berry William Martin & George Berry of the County Augusta County are held firmly bound unto Jno. Lewis the first Justice in the commission of the Peace for the said County for, and in Behalf and to the sole Use and Behoos of the Justices of the said County, their Executors, Administrators or Assigns in the Sum of seventy pounds to be paid to the said Jno Lewis his Executors, Administrators and Assigns: To the which Payment well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves, and each of us, by himself, our and each of our Heirs, Executors, and Administrators, firmly by these Presents. Sealed with our Seals, and Dated this 28 Day of Feb. 1750
The Condition of this Obligation is such, that if the above bound James Berry his Executors and Administrators, shall well and truly pay and deliver, or cause to be paid and delivered, unto Jno. James & Wm. Berry Orphan of James Berry deceased, all such Estate or Estates as now is, or are, or hereafter shall appear to be due to the said Orphan, when and as soon as they shall attain to lawful Age, or when thereto required by the Justices of the said County Court, as also keep harmless the above-named and the rest of the said Justices, their and every of their Heirs, Executors, and Administrators, from all Trouble and damages that shall or may arise, about the said Estate: Then the above Obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force.
Sealed and Delivered
in the Presence of
James Berry
Willm Martin
George Berry

28 Feb. 1750204

Augusta County, Virginia Will Book No. 1, page 319
James Berry bein on his motion appointed guard to John, James & Wm Berry orphans of James Berry decd. with Wm. Martin & George Berry his securities in open court This their bond which is ordered to be recorded.

29 Aug. 1751205

Augusta County, Virginia Order Book 3
To the Honourable Bench of Augusta now Sitting November 28, 1751 the Humble petition of James Berry Whereas Your pettitioner being the Guardian of the Children of James Berry Deceased part of the Estate Which was Sold at Just (?) Vandue (?) Remaining as a Book-Debt and Notes not being taken for it, it was Drawn out of the Vandue - paper into another which paper John Johnes which married the Widow of the said Ja. Berry Dilivered to your petitioner notwithstanding that is to: John Johnes had before Collected that Money and Converted to his own use and the paper which said Jno Johnes Gave to your petitioner being of no force or Value Your petitioner Shall thereby be in damages to your petitioner therefore hoped that your worships will take case into your Consideration and be Plansed (?) to order Some Redress and your petitioner will as in Duty bound ever pray.

28 Nov. 175121

Augusta County, Virginia Order Book 24, page 439
James Berry, guardian of children of James Berry, deceased. John Jones married James Berry's widow.

Analysis of the Timeline


     William Berry emerges from the mists of history for a very short period of time in 1751, but before the sparse records for him are examined, it is necessary to review the related court records from that time period that dealt with the death of his father and the distribution of his late father’s estate. In November of 1749, apparently not long after the death of his father, William’s mother was appointed to administer the inventory and appraisal of her late husband’s estate. Several months later, in February 1750, she married John Jones and a month after that, in March 1750, the estate of her deceased first husband, James Berry, was inventoried and appraised at a value of just over 48. About a month and a half later, on the 26th of May 1750, the results were accepted by the court. Presumably, during this time, William’s mother and her second husband, John Jones, had custody of the three boys from her first marriage and were responsible for the wealth and value of her first husband’s estate, but about nine months later, in February 1751, for some reason, the elder James Berry, presumably the oldest member of the Berry clan in the area at the time and probably the brother of the orphan’s grandfather, was appointed as guardian of the orphaned boys and charged with the responsibility of ensuring that they receive any inheritance from the proceeds of their deceased father’s estate when they reached maturity. By late August 1751, it appears that there is some problem with in the household of Elizabeth and her second husband, since the elder James Berry petitioned the court for custody of one of the orphaned brothers due to misbehavior on the part of their step father, John Jones. Several months later, in November of 1751, James Berry, the orphan’s guardian, complained to the court that John Jones, the step father of the orphans, had taken all proceeds from the estate sale of his wife’s first husband and used them for his own purposes rather than reserving the money for the orphans. After this flush of information, the records are completely silent for William Berry, and it is not known whether he survived to maturity or died in childhood.


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