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Thomas Self 
A Narrative about the Discovery of his Parents

Researched and Compiled by
Jim Self and Virginia Goode Turnbull

Part I

    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 documentation.
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 Sr.;
bride was the wid. of Thos. SELF; by 1769, Jn. DOUGLAS Jr. was residing in Amelia Co., Va.”

    The reference given by Headley for this information is a deed transcription in the collection of the Northumberland County, Virginia Historical Society.

     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 “gobsmacked”! 

     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 unknown.   

    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. 

            --Virginia Goode Turnbull
            --February, 2015 

Part II

    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 courthouses.  

    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 Thomas. 

    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 NC.  

    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 Sarah.  

    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 Ham.  

    The 1772-1777 Amelia Co tax lists are not in existence.  

    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 trips. 

    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 father's.  

    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.  

    Rightly so. 

    All I would ask now, and Virginia agrees, is that these new findings be used for strictly genealogy purposes and not for other agendas. 

    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 encouragement. 

            --Jim Self
            --February, 2015 

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