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A Narrative about the Discovery of his Parents
Researched and Compiled by
Jim Self and Virginia Goode Turnbull
Among the most eagerly sought information among his
descendant genealogists about our ancestor Thomas Self (b. 1758 and
husband of Oney Ham) has been the discovery of his parents. Up
until now the earliest appearance of Thomas Self has been in Amelia
County, Virginia at age 18 and then subsequently in Halifax County,
Va., Pittsylvania County, Va. and lastly in Russell County, Va.
An informal poll was done among a few of us, and the total number of
years spent looking for this material by us approached 90 years.
The search has been thorough, long-term, frustrating
and largely without results until very recently when some new
information was discovered which has enabled his descendants to trace
our lineage from Thomas back to the original Self emigrant in
Westmoreland County, Virginia.
Part of the difficulty of the search lay in the
sheer number of Thomas Selfs that lived in Eighteenth Century
Virginia. The other part lay in the apparent absence of paper
Several of our group are committed “paper hounds” who relish few things
more than treks into the court houses of Virginia counties to spend
hours, days and weeks reading and researching the original documents
that reside there in hopes of gleaning new information about our
foregone ancestors. In spite of expert, conscientious, and
dedicated research of this nature, the puzzle remained unsolved.
The court house records of Amelia County,
Virginia, from which our Thomas volunteered for service in the
Revolutionary War and to which he returned after each of his 3 stints
of service and also where he married Oney Ham, were searched several
times by a number of us. But his parents could not be
identified from those records although it seemed obvious to us that
Amelia was his home. Within the last year yet another search for
Thomas’s parents was undertaken by a group of cousins, and this time
some new information was discovered which we believe has solved the
puzzle of Thomas’s parents.
I confess to being a paper hound: my file
cabinets overflow. However, I no longer live in the Old
Dominion and as the result of distance and increasing age I am no
longer easily able to make court house runs for research. In lieu
of court house research, over the years I have built a library of books
that either transcribe original documents (court house records, parish
records and the like) or contain carefully referenced sources for the
information they contain. Residing on a bottom shelf of this
library was a book purchased for an unsuccessful search for another
ancestor and then largely forgotten. This book (Marrried Well and
Often. Marriages of the Northern Neck of Virginia 1649-1800 by Robert
K. Headley, Jr.) contains information that led at long last to the
answer we had been seeking. That information (on page 112-113)
states the following:
“DOUGLAS, John Jr. & SELF, Sarah
(wid.); bef. 10 Mar 1769; the groom was prob. a son of John DOUGLASS
The reference given by Headley for this
information is a deed transcription in the collection of the
Northumberland County, Virginia Historical Society.
bride was the wid. of Thos. SELF; by
1769, Jn. DOUGLAS Jr. was residing in Amelia Co., Va.”
Suffice it to say that when I read about
Sarah, widow of Thomas Self, who had remarried and was then living in
Amelia County, Va., it was then that I truly learned the definition of
Of additional interest was the fact that the
year of birth for Sarah and Thomas’s son Thomas (from the St. Stephen’s
Parish records) matched what we knew of our Thomas’s birth year from
his Revolutionary War pension application.
There is no mention of a son Thomas in the
will of Thomas Self (who married Sarah), but the will implies that
Sarah was pregnant when the will was written and the date of probate
indicates that Thomas, Sr. had died before his youngest son’s birth.
From this point the search began to seek further
information about Thomas Self who had married Sarah.
Further information about the marriage of Sarah to Thomas Self is not
included in Headley’s book, and Sarah’s maiden name as yet remains
In addition, contact was made with the
Northumberland County Historical Society for research assistance.
Their research was vital to our efforts as they were able to supply us
with a copy of the deed in question and they also did additional
research on our quest which was enormously helpful to us.
We are indeed grateful for their excellent efforts in our behalf.
At this point, I’m going to turn the telling of the
saga of the search for Thomas and his lineage and some of his
descendants over to Jim Self, the most capable of our group of Self
researchers and perhaps the best known.
To follow Virginia in this report, my Dad (Lee
Self) and I (Jim Self) began exploring Self family history in the late
1970's. And for over 35 years we sought the parents of Thomas Self (b.
1758 and married to Oney Ham). The search was not constant, but it was
consistent. Our own line from Thomas continues through his son James
Mastin Self, his son Silas N. Self, and his son James Ambrose Self.
Virginia's runs through Silas's son Thomas Henry Self and Virginia Self
Goode. Keep in mind that much of this time was pre-internet. We did
have the benefit of living within a few hours drive of the pertinent
Once it was determined through records that Thomas
had apparently grown up in Amelia Co., Va., the search was for a time
concentrated there. All mentions of Thomas and a few other Selfs were
examined. For example, in 1778 Thomas was a witness to a will of a Mr.
John Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson and the other witnesses and executors were
researched to see if there was any link to Thomas or any other Self.
These men were older and of some substance and here was Thomas at age
20. Was he a family member, related in some fashion? He had joined the
army in Amelia Co at age 18. He had to be living in some household. No
other adult Selfs were in Amelia Co. in the records in that time
period. Had his mother perhaps remarried? Was one of these other
surnames her maiden name? All this was explored. A John Self, who
applied for his own army pension while living in Kentucky, said he
joined the army in Bedford Co., Va., but that he was born in
neighboring Amelia Co. We found no connection between this John and our
Nor did we find any connection to any of the other
Selfs living in neighboring counties. The Francis Self and Phillip Self
who were in Amelia Co. tax records in late 1750's were explored even to
the point of checking them out in North Carolina records after it was
discovered that they moved there. No evidence was found of either
moving back to Amelia Co by Thomas's teenage years. On the contrary,
they seemed to have remained in NC.
In later years Thomas in his actions and in naming
of children showed no connections to other contemporary Selfs. It was
almost as if he had been an orphan. But no records exist of
that. One could assume he was born in a county other than Amelia and
was brought there as a youth by one or both parents. Since there is no
record of a male Self death in Amelia Co. or a binding out during that
time period, the assumption is to look for the mother. Since females
are often not in the records the way a male was, she could be in Amelia
Co. still under a Self name or perhaps under a remarried name.
Since Thomas did marry Oney Ham and since Matthew
Seay married Oney's sister, naturally the Ham and Seay families were
researched for themselves and for leads to Thomas's origins. We looked
into migration of other Selfs from counties to the east and north, and
At a standstill!
Along comes Virginia with her wonderful discovery of
this reference to John Douglas, Jr. and his wife, the former Sarah
Self, widow of Thomas Self, deceased (in 1758) in the Headley marriage
book. I had received joint emails beginning in August, 2014
whereby Virginia had given notice of her discovery of the information
in the Headley marriage book and the follow up she intended. Her next
couple of emails noted that she had made contact with a researcher in
the Northumberland Co / Westmoreland Co area. It was not until an email
from her that I received on Sept 12, 2014, and that was one to her from
her researcher and forwarded by Virginia to include me, that I jumped
in to see what I could contribute.
Her researcher's emails included information that
expanded on the Douglas / Self record in the marriage book to indicate
that a Douglas researcher had done a booklet on the Douglas family that
included the same information and a little more. I made contact with
that individual and began to correspond with him and received some
helpful information including a transcription of a deed.
The critical and very key reference in that deed was not only that John
Douglas, Jr. was married to the widow Sarah Self, but that he was at
this time living in Amelia Co. That gets one focused. Who figured that
our vital information was not in a Self record but in a Douglas family
record? This was a family we had had no knowledge of. And
certainly the Douglas researcher had no way of knowing that we were
looking for such information. This information had been
there for years.
By the way, if one is wondering how the author
Robert Headley in gathering marriage information for his book came to
look at Douglas Family research material and there found the
information that by 1769 John Douglas, Jr. had married Sarah Self, the
widow of Thomas Self (d.1758), and that in 1769 they were at that time
residing in Amelia Co., Va., is the fact that Robert Headley is a
descendent of William Headley who had married Jean Douglas, daughter of
John Douglas, Sr. and sister to John Douglas, Jr.. Thus, he was
familiar with such material. We can be pleased that he had that
connection or we no doubt would be still in the dark in reference to
our Thomas's parents.
The records I then looked into shows that both in
Douglas transactions and Self transactions in Northumberland Co. that
each family mentions the other family multiple times as being a
bordering landowner, witness, etc. So the two families did have a
relationship and history and this indicates how John Douglas, Jr. and
Sarah Self could have known each other.
We know and have known that in the Northumberland
Co., Va. records of St. Stephens Parish that a Thomas Self was born on
Oct 9, 1758 to Thomas Self and wife Sarah. Likewise, a Thomas Self had
been born March 20, 1757 in the same parish to William Self and wife
Tabitha and also a Thomas Self born there June 2, 1759 to a James Self
and wife Margaret (Peggy). Both of these last two Thomas Self had been
checked out and followed and neither were the son of Thomas and
Note: some researchers had erroneously placed our
Thomas as son of James and Margaret.
We know that the Thomas Self married to Sarah had
died in September 1758 and at the time his will was written his son was
yet to be born. Now that we have the evidence in this Douglas deed of
1769 that John Douglas, Jr. and his wife the former Sarah Self were
living in Amelia Co, Va., the obvious need is to determine if our young
Thomas Self now living in Amelia Co. is the same person as the son born
to Sarah and her late husband Thomas.
It’s important to note that in our Thomas's army
pension application that the age he gives at the time takes his birth
year back to 1758.
One way to proceed was to follow John Douglas's activities in
Amelia Co. Sure enough he appears on the 1769, 1770, and 1771 personal
property tax lists of Amelia Co. He is listed under the name Isham
Clements. Douglas was either an employee or overseer. Interestingly
enough Clements has interactions with both the Ham and Seay families.
He lives in the same neighborhood. So, we have the circumstances
whereby our young Thomas can easily meet and later marry young Oney
The 1772-1777 Amelia Co tax lists are not in
Thomas and Oney moved westward to Halifax and
Pittsylvania Counties, Va. We find John Douglas on several tax lists in
the same counties. In other words as Thomas and Oney moved (along with
her now-widowed mother, brother, and married sisters), John Douglas and
Sarah moved also. John is last seen on an 1818 Camden Parish of
Pittsylvania Co. Overseers of the Poor list. Sarah appears alone on
that list in 1820. John Douglas had perhaps died. Virginia verified
this with a courthouse visit, finding Sarah also in 1822. She found no
record of an estate settlement or probate. It was about this same time
that Thomas and Oney, along with their married children Burwell Self
and Seany Self Hay began moving to Russell Co., Va. There is no
evidence that Sarah followed.
By the way, there is another John Douglas in
Pittsylvania Co. records. He was followed in order to avoid a mix up.
He died in 1816 and was of some means. To be sure, I always not only
look for the information that tracks the person I am researching, being
sure of it, but also explore and eliminate any other persons and
explanations of what I am finding and coming to conclusions on.
So putting all this together we can state that our Thomas Self that we
had first found in Amelia Co. at age 18 is indeed the Thomas Self born
in Northumberland Co. on Oct 9, 1758 to Thomas Self and wife Sarah.
. Since we now have our Thomas as a son to Thomas Self
(d.1758) and it is proven by records that this Thomas Self, Sr. was the
son of John Self and wife Susannah Blinco; and that this John was the
son of Robert Self, who first appears in Northumberland Co. records in
1658, we now have our personal line intact back to that date and within
the first known Self family in this country.
By the way, land in Westmoreland Co., Va. that
Thomas Self (d.1758) mentions in his Northumberland Co., Va. will of
that year comes right out of a combination of properties. Of the 300
acres Robert had received by grant, Robert had given 120 acres of that
300 to sons William and John. Another part of the Westmoreland Co. land
mentioned in Thomas's 1758 will is part of the 90 acres joint land
grant that Robert's sons William and John had received. This land
grant adjoins the 120 acres gift from Robert to his sons. John went on
to leave his portion to his wife and to his sons John and Thomas and
Thomas ended up with all of it.
As an additional note, I would like to share the
following: Thomas and Oney had moved in the 1820's to Russell Co., Va.
where they remained the rest of their lives. Their son Burwell and
daughter Seany moved there also. Many researchers of those two lines
have gathered research accordingly.
For those of us that came down through Thomas and
Oney's line under their son James Mastin Self some interesting research
was done. My Dad, Lee Self, had been researching my mother's
maiden name of Hailey in Henry Co., Va. Records led him back to
Charlotte Co., Va. He went there solely to search out all Hailey/Haley
names. In the marriage index, he saw a a notation of the marriage of a
Nancy Hailey. Her groom was an unknown person to my Dad, but the surety
listed was James Mastin Self. When my father pulled the actual marriage
license, it turned out that James Mastin Self was actually the groom in
this 1827 marriage and the name in the index listed as groom was
actually the surety. Names had been reversed. (Dad had the court house
to straighten out the index). This got interesting. Before long it was
discovered that James Mastin and Nancy had moved from Pittsylvania and
Halifax Counties (they lived along the county line) to Henry Co.,
Va. Also, research found that Burwell and Seany's respective
spouses were also brother and sister (Elizabeth Hay and John Hay, also
originally of Charlotte Co.) and that the Hays were cousins to Nancy
Hailey. One can see the possible introduction of James Mastin Self of
Pittsylvania Co. to Nancy Hailey of Charlotte Co.
As far as I have ever seen, Daddy was the first to
show through the above and then through tax lists that James Mastin
Self was a son of Thomas and Oney. A couple of tax lists are the only
court house records, the rest is as described and that was done through
putting all the names together, over time, and many courthouse
Another item that helps in this is that of Matthew
Seay. Matthew had married Oney's sister, followed from Amelia Co., to
Halifax Co., to Pittsylvania Co., and was living there when testifying
on Thomas's behalf for Thomas's army pension. We later found Matthew in
Henry Co. Also, when Silas Self (b. 1833 and Thomas and Oney's
grandson) began putting together his 106 acres farm in the Mt. Olivet
community of Henry Co. a good portion of it was bought from Matthew
Seay and family.
I know of no other way that firmly proves
James Mastin Self's lineage or that such a discovery preceded my
Daddy went on, more than 30 years ago, to share this
with a few others and with a Self family newsletter. From there the
news spread. It appears in records now as a matter of fact.
All I would ask now, and Virginia agrees, is that
these new findings be used for strictly genealogy purposes and not for
One last thing I would like to add and emphasize is
that Virginia deserves much credit for finding the vital lead,
initiating the research, and energizing the rest of us. It did for me
and allowed me to do what I do. To be sure, I was not working in
isolation. During this search Virginia and I, along with a couple of
other researchers, were in joint email communication (sometimes by
telephone) sharing information, comments, suggestions, and
Copyright 2015 Jim Self and Virginia Goode Turnbull
Research Group Members: Jim Self; Virginia Goode
Turnbull; David Joyce; Edith Blackwell; Sherry
Bell; Barbara Ann Peck
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This page was last updated on February 16, 2015