The 1716 will of JOHN NANCE

The 1716 Will, Inventory, and Accounting of the Estate, of JOHN NANCE

Introduction --

Thanks to Jerry Sullivan, I have finally laid hands on a copy of the June 9, 1716 Will of John Nance of Prince George Co, VA. This John Nance and his wife Sarah are the ancestors of many of the American Nances. Analysis of this will, as well as two associated records, the Inventory of John Nance's Estate and the Accounting of John Nance's Estate, makes it clear that many of us may have to make corrections in our theories about the early Nance family.

Most Nance genealogists, following the lead of M. L. "Pete" Nance in the "Nance Register", show the wife of this John Nance as having been "Sarah Gookings" (or Gookins/Gooking). This is based on the fact that the Will contains a reference thought by "Pete" Nance to have been to "Mother Gookings".

However, it is clear from inspection of the Will that:

(1) The name is not "Gookin(g)(s)", but "Soakings" or "Sookings", and

(2) The name is probably not the surname of John's wife Sarah.

As to the first point, there can be no doubt. The letter which begins the name bears no resemblance to an upper-case "G", such as is found in the same document in the word "Goods" in the prefatory sections of the Will and in the reference to John Nance's daughter Elizabeth Gregory. On the contrary, it is clearly an upper-case "S", looking (for example) exactly like the upper-case "S" which begins the words "Saviour" and "Sins" in the prefatory sections of the Will.

As to the second point, the clue is in the separate Accounting which was prepared by John Nance Junior during the probate of the Will and recorded by the Clerk on January 14, 1717. It lists, as the first debit charged to the estate, money "due to the orphan of John Sawkin, decd.". When this is read together with the provision in the Will:

"If my son John Nance Demands any Estate of Mother Soakings to return in kind everything that he has in hand of my Estate."

the probable meaning becomes clear.

What was the connection to Sooking/Sawkin? --

It appears that, somehow, John Nance Senior ended up as the guardian of the property of a child who was an orphan of a man whose last name was rendered phonetically in different ways and at different times as Sawkins and Soakin(g)(s). It is very possible that the child still lived with its mother -- a child whose father had died would be referred to at that time as an orphan even if his mother was still alive. The mother would very likely have had no legal right in the deceased father's estate: under the rules governing intestacy at the time, the wife took absolutely nothing. Still, she might have been in actual possession of the property; in that case, the reference to "Estate of Mother Soakings" would have had an understandable practical meaning even if not literally accurate in terms of legal ownership.

It appears probable that at the time he wrote his Will, John Nance Senior was concerned that his son John Nance Junior might attempt to claim property in the elder John Nance's estate which was actually property of the Soakin(g)(s)/Sawkins family. Thus, the elder John Nance included a very specific and pointed provision in his Will: if his son John Nance "demand[ed] any Estate of Mother Soakings" he would have to "return in kind everything that he has in hand of [John Nance Senior's] Estate." Considering that the Will left John Nance Junior all of his father's land (subjected to limited interests by his brother Richard and his Mother) this was a very effective way of inducing John Nance Junior not to attempt to claim as his own the part of his father's estate which was actually being held for this orphan Soakin(g)(s)or Sawkins.

And in fact, John Nance Junior (wisely!) did not attempt to do so. As his Accounting shows, he acknowleged the significant sum of more than 19 (out of an entire estate which, apart from land, was valued at only about 49) due to the orphan of John Sawkin.

Thus satisfying the terms of his father's Will, he would have come into the land which that Will allowed him.

A very interesting aspect of these documents is the extent to which they seem to show some degree of conflict in the family. The mere fact that John Nance Senior felt obliged to include the provision designed to persuade his son John not to attempt to claim the estate which was rightly that of the orphan Sawkin, suggests some lack of trust in the son's judgment. Coupled with this, is the fact that the Will left absolutely nothing of the personal estate to son John, left him his primogeniture right of the father's land significantly limited by a 4-year interest in John Jrs' younger brother Richard and a life interest in John Jrs. mother Sarah, and made younger brother Richard and mother Sarah the executors rather than John Junior. This too suggests that John Senior may have had some problem with trusting John Junior. But then, Richard and Sarah declined to accept the Executorship to which the Will had nominated them, and John Junior ended up with it! Did they feel that the father's lack of trust was unjustified? Or were they intimidated by John Junior and desirous of avoiding his disfavor? We cannot know, but we can see how something complex must have been going on.

Who was this John Sawkin(s)? --

I recently discovered some evidence as to the origin of this John Sawkin. On October 20, 1691, John Pleasants patented 1221 acres in Verina Parish, Henrico Co, on the north side of the James R., for the importation of 25 persons who included JOHN SAWKINS and JANE SAWKINS. (Patent Book 8 p. 173). I also found that on April 24, 1703, John Woodson patented 2700 acres in Henrico Co, on the north side of the James R., for importation of 54 persons including a JOHN SAWKINS [possibly the same man, re-entering the Colony?].

Was this the same John Sawkins? I expect so -- the name is rare. But who was Jane? Unless John Sawkin was travelling with an infant daughter when he came over prior to 1691, which seems an unlikely scenario, she was possibly his sister but more likely his wife. Thus, it is possible that she was his widow, and the "Mother Soakings" referred to in John Nance's 1716 will.

Recurrence of the Sawkin(s)/Solkin(s) name in the Nance family --

The "Solkin"/"Sookin"/"Sawkin" name the crops up in a later generation in the Nance family -- in the generation of the grandchildren of John and Jane.

FREDERICK Nance, one of the sons of John and Jane Nance, named one of his daughters Sarah SOLKINS Nance. (Comp. Indexed Marriage Records of VA, N. Murry, and Wuflecks VA Marriages 1607-1800, 2d Series, A. M. Coppage, 1990 , both report that Sarah SOLKINS Nance m. James Robertson 1/21/1774 in Charlotte Co VA. The Coppage work says that Sarah was a daughter of Frederick Nance, who was surety; this is consistent with the fact that the 1795 Will of Frederick Nance directed that after specific bequests, his estate be "equally divided among my children to wit. Tavener Nance, Frederick Nance Jr., John Nance, Jane Nance, Charlotte Blanton, Nancy Ayers Bacon, the children of Sarah Solkins Robertson")

RICHARD Nance, another son of John and Jane Nance, had a daughter Mary who married William Tanner. Their first born son was named Richard Nance Tanner (born about 1777), while their second born son was named SALKINS Tanner (born Feb 14, 1781). Thereafter, the name cropped up again in the Tanner family with various spellings, such as Salkins, Saulkins, Solkins, Sawkins, and Salkens. (Source: Kay Elzinga, who found the information in "The William Tanner Family" by E. Russell Tanner).

A very typical naming pattern involves using the surname of maternal ancestors on the father's side as a given name. The naming pattern here would be consistent with "Solkins" having been the surname of the mother or grandmother of the John Nance who married Jane.

Other interesting aspects of the Will, Inventory & Accounting

Other interesting things here are the details disclosed by the Inventory and the Accounting.

One tantalizing possibility, is that the Sword listed in the Inventory is one of the two Swords which were shown in the 1624 Muster of William Sharpe, which showed Sharpe's servant as Richard Vavse/Uause/Vause -- who was possibly in fact Richard Nanse, the (presumed) father of the John Nance who died in 1716.

The 4 years' interest in the "plantation" given to Richard is interesting. It tends to confirm that he was younger than John, who was given the ultimate, permanent right to the land, consistent with the old doctrine of primogeniture. But can we also speculate that Richard may have been 4 years younger, and that it was for this reason that John Senior picked that figure?

We can infer from the fact that there were only three feather beds mentioned in the estate, that at this time the household included only John and Sarah, their daughter Susan, and their daughter Dorothy. Daughters Elizabeth and Elin(or) were married, and sons Richard and John presumably had their own homes and personal property at this point.

Another little detail of interest to me as an amateur stringed- instrument plunker, is that John Nance's estate included an old violin. Whose was it? Who played it?

And -- imagine what information might have been recorded in the Bible found in the estate of this John Nance!

John Nance was far from a wealthy man. His estate in fact seems paltry. He was, it seems clear, a yeoman, a small farmer, probably just scraping by, and running up debts which he was never able to escape in his lifetime. These debts in fact exceeded his personal assets at the time of his death. How were they paid? Even auctioning off all of the livestock would not have sufficed. Was some land sold to satisfy the debts?

The transcriptions that follow are as complete as I was able to make them. In most cases in which words were unclear I have attempted to render them as they appeared; in a few cases, though, I have just substituted a "[?]". I have also added a few notes to explain the meaning of certain terms or phrases.

In the Name of God Amen 
I John Nance being weak in Body but of perfect mind and memory 
do make and Ordain this my last Will and Testament in manner 
and form following. I give and bequeath my soul to almighty God trusting in 
the Meritts and Passion of my Beloved Saviour and redeemer 
Jesus Christ for pardon and remission of all my Sins in Genrale 
my Body to the Earth to be Decently Interred my worldly Goods 
my Debts being first paid in manner & form following. 
Item. I give to my son John Nance my Land excepting four years 
in the plantation I now live on to my son Richard and my wives 
[sic] Life in the said plantation, then the said Land to my son 
John and his heirs forever. 
If my son John Nance Demands any Estate of Mother Soakings to 
return in kind everything that he has in hand of my Estate. 
Item. I give my Loving wife Sarah Nance my best feather Bed, a 
pair of Sheets and Rugg, Lether Trunk and wearing Cloaths. 
Item. I give to my Daughter Susan my second best feather bed, 
sheet, blanket. 
Item. I give to my Daughter Elizabeth Gregory One Shilling. 
Item. I give to my Daughter Elin Warpole One Shilling. 
Item. I give to my son John Nance One Shilling. 
Item. I give all the rest of my Estate within Doors and without 
to my son Richard and my Daughter Dorothy to be Equally 
I constitute and appoint my son Richard and my Wife Executor 
and Executrix of this my Last Will and testament. 
June the 9th 1716 Jno Nance 
Signed sealed in presence of 
Wm Stainback 
Wm Epes 
Francis Epes 
Att a Court held for the County of Pr. George on the second 
Tuesday in November anno 1716 being the thirteenth day of the 
said month - 
The above written last Will of John Nance was Exhibitted into 
Court by John Nance junr. and the Executor and Ex.ix. named in 
the said Will having personally appeared in Court and refused 
to accept of Executorship the said John Nance made Oath 
thereto and it being proved by the (oaths of the) Several 
Witnesses thereto is Admitted to record and upon the said John 
Nance's giving Security according to Law it's Ordered that a 
Certificate be granted him for Obtaining a Commission of 
Administration with the said Will annexed. 
Test. Wm. Hamelin. 
Notes:" : "Imprimis", Latin for in the first place, firstly 
An Inventory and Appraisment of the Estate of John Nance Decd.   
Feby the 8th 1716/17  
To 7 head of Cattle                          6.4.0  
To 4 Barrows                                 1.4.0  
To 3 Sows, 4 Shoats and 5 piggs              1.6.0  
To two horses                                6.0.0  
To one feather bed and furniture             6.5.0  
To one Do.                                   4.3.0  
To one Do.                                   4.7.0  
To Six [?] Lea. Chairs                       0.12.0  
To two [?] and a Small Barrell of a [?]      2.3.0  
To one Loom, warping Box, two Setts of Slay  
 & harness, two [?]                          1.2.0  
To one Box Iron & two [?] old                0.3.0  
To a parcel of woodenware                    0.5.6  
To a parcel of old Barrels                   0.4.6  
To two old Spinning wheels                   0.4.0  
To three Chests two trunks and a Box         1.6.0  
To 1 Ivory Comb, 1 Horn Do., 1 Brush         0.1.6  
To 1 Spice Mortar and old Iron pestle        0.1.0  
To 1 old crosscutt Saw old file and [?]      0.1.6  
To two old knives and an old Skimmer         0.0.6  
To Spitts Iron & old wedges                  0.9.6  
To 30 l. pewter [?]                          1.5.0  
To 13 l. old pewter                          0.9.0  
To 1/2 a Doz. plates  One tankerd            0.8.0  
To one brass kettle                          0.17.0  
To one Iron pott                             0.4.8  
To Iron pott                                 0.18.2  
To One pair of wooll cards, old Iron   
     Candlestick                             0.2.0  
To 1 [?], 3 hooks, 1 old frying pan          0.7.0  
To 4 hoes 1 Ax old                           0.5.0  
To 3 Sifters 1 bagg                          0.3.0  
To 1 Bible, 1 Psalter old                    0.3.0                             
To Looking Glasses 1 Rasor                   0.7.0  
To a parcel of Earthenware 1 Bottel          0.7.6  
To 1 Iron Kettle                             0.3.0  
To a Small parcel of Taned Leather           0.4.0  
To 1 old Violin, one Sickle                  0.5.6  
To 12 l. Shott                               0.3.0  
To 1 pr. of old Stillyards and Sword         0.3.0  
To 1 old Table 1 Ozenbrigy Tablecloth   
     1 Napkin 1 Cotten Towel 1 [?]           0.3.0  
To 1 old Duffel Coat 1 pr. of old Lea.   
     Breeches 1 pr. of Ozen do. 1 pair  
     of worsted stockings 1 Waistcoat cloth  
     1 pr. of shoes                          0.16.0  
To 10 Barrels of Corn                        4.0.0  
To 4 Barrows 1 Sow 5 piggs                   1.10.0  
                                Brot. ov.   37.8.0  
          his        }  
Nathaniel  N  Tatum  }  
          marke      }  
Edward Epes          }  
John Lewis           }  being the Appraisers Sworn before me  
                                             Lewis Greens.  
Att a Court held for Prince George County on the Second Tuesday  
in February being the twelfth Day of the Month Anno Dom 1716    
John Nance Adm. with the Will Annexed of John Nance Decd.  
returned into Court the above written inventory and appraisal of  
the said Decd. Estate upon Oath and by order of the Court the  
same is truly recorded.  
                     Test.  Wm. Hamelin  
"Do." : Ditto, i.e., same as above  
"Barrow" - a Boar, usually castrated  
"Shoats" - Young hogs  
"Psalter" - The Book of Psalms  
"Stillyard" - prob. "Steelyard", also "Stilliard", "Styliarde":   
     a type of balance (scale) with arms of unequal length  
"Ozenbrigy", "Ozen" - Possibly "osnaburg", a kind of coarse   
     linen, made of flax and tow.   
The Estate of John Nance Decd. is  D.  -- Contra........C.  
To money Due to the Orphan of John Sawkin decd.       19.2.11  
To funeral Expenses                                    2. .  
To money due to me from the said Decd.                 5.3.6  
To my Labour and trouble as [Hand and ?]     
      Corn and Tobacco                                 3.16.2  
To paid the three appraisers of the sd. Est.            .11.3  
To paid John Hardyman by Judgement                     1.1.1 1/2  
To pd. Ebr. Epes by Judgement                          2.4.10  
To pd. two Cty. and Parrish Leavys                     1. .9  
To pd. two years Quitrents 48 l. Toba.                  .6.   
To Secretarys fees on the Adm.on. 40                    .5.0  
To pd. Wm Hamlin for Clerks fees on the Adm.on  
      300 l. Tobacco                                   2.1.9  
To pd. the Sherr. for three [?] 30 l. Tob.o.            .3.9  
To paid John Bolling by Judgement                      5.10.3  
To paid John Hatch by Judgement                        4.2.3  
To paid Do. by Judgemt                                13.12.0              
To 5 Pct. for paying the Debts on 31.18.9             1.11.10  
                                                      62.13.2 1/2  
By the Inventory of appraisment of sd. Decd. Est.     49.12.10  
By the Decd.ts. crop of Tobacco being 1188 al 12/6     7. 8.6  
By a debt recd.: owing the decd.                       2. 4.4  
                                                     59. 5.8  
At a Court held at Merchantshope for the County of Prince George  
on the Second Tuesday in Janry. being the fourteenth Day of the  
sd. month Anno Do. 1717.  
Th above written and D. v. C. of the Estate of John Nance Decd.  
was Exhibitted into the Court by John Nance Administrator who  
made oath thereto and it being Examined by the Court and allowed  
is by Order of the Court truly recorded.  
                                    Test.  W. Hamlin.  
"D. Contra C.";  "D. v. C."  : Debits against Credits; i.e.,   
     an Account  
"To my Labour and trouble", etc. : Apparently, John Jr. is   
     showing the estate of his father as indebted to him for   
     work he did in harvesting the crop (Corn and Tobacco)   
     of John Sr.  
"To {--} by Judgement" : Paid to a person who filed a claim   
     against the estate arising from a debt by the decedent;   
     presumably, the "by Judgement" is included to show that   
     a Judgement had been rendered in favor of that person  

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