Signature of Edward B. Walker Genealogy of Edward B. Walker
1756-1838, Duplin County, North Carolina - Sullivan, Claiborne, Hancock Counties, Tennessee


Who are Edward's Parents?

More information: Walker Surname DNA Project
Felix Walker's Autobiography
Dr. Thomas Walker's Journal
Google Maps: Blairs Gap Road
Blairs Gap to Bulls Gap
Bulls Gap
Dunkard/Dunker Church
Jared Drive
Long Island
Wikipedia: Felix Walker
Dr. Thomas Walker
Societies: DAR
Daughters of 1812

There are numerous claims on the Internet and in print regarding Edward B. Walker's parents, with most of them being variations on the same theme: the connection to a John Walker of Hawkins County.

A few people might note in their data a "dispute" over his parents. There is no dispute among the people who have looked seriously at the original records; the connection to John Walker of Hawkins County can be proven – to be absolutely false. Any claim of Edward's parentage which involves John Walker of Hawkins County is absolutely wrong.

While the Internet has made some aspects of genealogical research easier by making more source records available, it has also made the repetition of false information quite common. This particular repetition is understandable as the theory has existed for over 70 years and was first promoted by none other than Annie Walker Burns, but it's still wrong and has even been disproved through DNA testing.

To put this false information finally to rest, this page focuses on the origin of the claim and why it cannot be correct. While every claim may not be covered here, every single theory found to date depends on Edward's father being named John and being the/a John Walker in Hawkins County. Any theory relying on that connection is false.

How It Began

In 1929, Annie Walker Burns set out to write a book that a number of families still have and many researchers have seen. Called Record of descendants of Edward Walker, Revolutionary soldier of North Carolina and Tennessee and occasionally some variation of that name, it contains transcriptions of pension applications and a series of letters that Annie received from various family members that document a few parts of the family.

Annie had not yet become serious in her genealogy research; as far as is known, this was probably her first of what would become more than 300 books, every one of which is a transcription of records, not a narrative or analysis of known information. At the time, she wanted to join the Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Society United States Daughters of 1812. To do that, she only needed information back to her own great great grandfather, Edward B. Walker.

At the time she was researching the book, she was corresponding with people who may have known more about the family, but she never seemed to asked the right questions. Although few in number, there were still a few grandchildren of Edward B. alive in 1929, and she is not known to have, successfully at least, contacted them, but other people with whom she did correspond, including Lizzie (Walker) Click and her own aunt Minerva (Walker) Walker, most likely knew more than Annie ever asked.

Annie did not make the claim of Hawkins County John Walker in her 1929 book, at least not in the copy that I have studied the most; she apparently had not yet learned of the will. However, every branch found so far through which her book has been passed down seems to know about the alleged John Walker connection; she probably found it shortly after publishing the book and wrote about it to numerous family members.

The Infamous 1818 Will

There certainly was a John Walker in Hawkins County who did leave a will there in 1818 that mentioned a son Edward; he just wasn't our Edward B. Annie probably found the will shortly after her 1929 book. She certainly knew by 1933, when she published Tennessee vital statistics: record of wills Hawkins County Rogersville, Tennessee, [DAR Library], which would have included the will.

She did not write again about the family, at least in depth, until 1957, when she wrote her second Walker book, which is not nearly as well-known as the first. And, in the same year, she wrote her Nancy Ward book, which included the explicit claim involving the will. Given how widely known the claim was, even though no direct evidence has been found, she seems very likely to have notified the family long before. She may well have mentioned the connection earlier in other books, too; she tended to insert material about her family irrelevant to the book she was transcribing at any given time.

Why It's Wrong

Annie focused too much on the fact that Edward Walker, Jr., was living in Hawkins County, Tennessee, in 1814 when he was drafted into the War of 1812. The connection of our Walker family to Hawkins County is quite tangential – almost literally.

The exact movements of Edward B. Walker are hard to trace, and he cannot be pinned down at all times. However, at some point in or before 1813, he moved his family to the middle ridge of Bays Mountain in the far north of Hawkins County on its eastern border with Sullivan County. The location was probably along Blair's Gap Road near the old Dunkard Church, although the exact location has not been ascertained.

They likely lived just inside the border of Hawkins County, but, in terms of the community in which they lived and from which some children and relatives took their spouses, they were practically in Sullivan County. The homestead on Bays Mountain was no more than about 10-15 miles from the Horse Creek/Jared's Branch/Long Island area where they seemed to have known a number of families and seem to have lived most of the time before moving to Claiborne County.

According to Randy Walker, a major researcher of Hawkins County John Walker, John and his descendants lived in the area of Bull's Gap, Whitesburg, Saint Clair, and Persia, more than 30 miles to the southeast of Edward B. Walker's location.

More importantly, though, Annie seems to have made the identification based on the will alone. A quick check of Hawkins County Census records would have shown that the other children named in Hawkins County John's will were decades younger than our Edward B. She may not have had easy access to Hawkins County deeds, but one deed alone, in book 10, page 315, registered 25 July 1822, shows clearly that the Edward mentioned in the will had died. Witnesses to the deed included some of the other children named in the will and the land is described as being next to John's widow.

In fact, those who seriously study the Hawkins County family have never even considered our Edward B. Walker to be related; they have long known about the real Edward named in the will. Still, although Hawkins County John could be ruled out as Edward's father, the possibility that he was in some way related, perhaps as a brother or other distant relative, remained until recently – and along came DNA testing.

DNA has proven beyond any doubt that John Walker of Hawkins County was not in any way whatsoever related to Edward B. Walker, not even distantly. Several descendants of Hawkins County John Walker have been tested and fall into testing group 18 – including a proven descendant of the man that Hawkins County researchers had already identified as John's son Edward. Our Walker family, with several tests as well, falls into group 10.

DNA group numbers in the Walker Surname Project are arbitrary, by the way. People in group 9, for instance, are no more closely related to our group 10 than people in group 18. People falling into group 10 are related to each other on a direct male line; people falling outside of group 10 are not related, with the probability being quite high of no connection since surnames were first adopted, much less in a time frame that could ever be proven through existing documents.

Felix Walker, John Walker, and Elizabeth Watson

Annie Walker Burns included information in her 1929 book about both Felix Walker and Dr. Thomas Walker, two Walkers somewhat famous in early Tennessee history. She did not claim to make a connection to these men, although they are mentioned in the letters of others in her book. In fact, in her later Dr. Thomas Walker book, she states again that she found no connection. Unfortunately, probably because of the rather disorganized nature of her 1929 book, many people since have decided otherwise.

Felix, from North Carolina, was a companion of Daniel Boone and an early member of Congress who also was at Watauga early in Tennessee, well before our Edward was there. The claim is usually made that Felix was Edward's brother, so Edward's parents must have been John Walker and Elizabeth Watson – and further that Felix's father was the John Walker in Hawkins County with the 1818 will. He wasn't; Felix's father lived his entire life in North Carolina. Felix himself wrote an autobiography which completely excludes Edward as a brother. At the moment, more DNA testing would probably be useful in establishing certainty on the DNA signature of Felix's family, but the family seems to fall into group 1, a group completely unrelated to our Walkers.

In rare cases, some people do cite a source for this claim which does not include Annie Walker Burns, specifically the book John Walker from Ireland, 1720, and Some of His Descendants, written by Robert Walton Walker of Fort Worth, Texas, about 1934. The book is not widely available at this time but a copy is at the Library of Congress. Robert Walton Walker did extensive downline research on his Walker family primarily in the Anderson County, Tennessee, area, and claimed to be descended from the same family as Felix. However, despite the citations to the book, there is no claim in the book that Edward was connected to his family or to Felix. In fact, he mentions our Edward specifically on page 59 as a branch of Walkers which he could not connect to his family.

Even more significantly, Robert Walton Walker's genealogy, at least as it applies to ancestors starting with his own great grandfather, is not quite but almost a complete hoax and should be ignored. Robert was so convinced that his own great grandfather, Reuben, was a brother to Felix that, when he couldn't find a brother of Felix actually named Reuben, he chose Felix's brother James, closest to Reuben in age, and renamed him to the mythical "James Reuben Walker". He essentially admits as much on page 15. He continued to ignore obvious evidence, such as the fact that Reuben was an enlisted man in the Revolution while all of Felix's brothers were officers and that his grandfather Reuben outlived Felix's brother James by many years.

In other words, any history in his book preceding Reuben Walker, his great grandfather, should be ignored. More recently, DNA evidence seems to suggest that Robert's own family belongs in group 9 of the Walker Surname Project, connected neither to our Walkers nor to Felix Walker.

Dr. Thomas Walker

Although Annie Walker Burns mentioned Dr. Thomas as well and tried to find a connection, how exactly he ended up in some claims, invariably as another brother to Felix, is a mystery – and completely false. To my knowledge, DNA evidence does not yet exist in the line of Dr. Thomas Walker, but no particular reason exists to believe that he is in any way connected to Edward B. Walker any more than any other random Walker family might be.

Certainly, he did pass through Cumberland Gap and, in fact, his diary suggests quite strongly that he may well have walked on or near the land where the Walkers lived on Mulberry Creek – almost 70 years before our Walkers first moved there. In fact, Dr. Thomas Walker lived and died in Albemarle County, Virginia, and never lived in Tennessee, much less Claiborne County. Without DNA evidence, one cannot completely disprove some sort of ancient connection between the two Walker families, but there is no evidence in the slightest that suggests that such an avenue should be pursued.


More is available on the search for Edward's parents.

All original material © 2007-9 by Phillip A. Walker or by cited authors. Submissions are welcome. Reuse allowed under limited conditions. Page last modified Sunday, 09-Sep-2018 13:19:36 MDT .