The Gordy Family
The Gordy Family
The Stories

Peter and Moses - The Gordy Brothers
Eileen Gordy

The most distant ancestor from whom a Gordy can document descendancy is either Peter Gordy or Moses Gordy.

In the summer of 1775 the wills of Peter and Moses Gordy were filed at the Worcester County Courthouse in Snow Hill, Maryland. The Last Will and Testament of Peter Gordy dec’d.[1], written on 22 June 1772 and filed on 15 July 1775, listed his sons John, Peter, and Moses; and his daughters Mary Crouch Gordy, Sarah Parker, Eunice Methalain, and Leveneh Wooten. The Last Will and Testament of Moses Gordy dec’d.[2], written on 30 June 1774 and filed on 15 July 1775, listed his sons Eli, John, Peter, Thomas, Jacob, Moses, Aron (Aaron); and his daughters Nancy Gordy, Mary Ward, Suffiah Wilson, Betty Benston, and Nelley Callaway. With these two documents and the surviving records of Maryland and Delaware the lineages of Peter and Moses can be traced forward through the migrations south and west that followed the War for Independence.

The antecedents of Peter and Moses are more illusive than their descendants. Despite extensive research no explicit records of birth dates or parentage have been found. Their descendants are therefore left with only the records generated around the lives of Peter and Moses to infer their ages and origins. More explicit proof however exists that they were brothers. On 12 July 1773 a certain Thomas Pollitt gave a deposition to the Somerset County Court in which he swore to having received information from one Moses Gordy, to wit: “…the said Gordy when he was a Boy & his Brother Peter Gordy used to go to visit Owen Odaws Sons & the said Odaws Sons used to go with him and his Brother part of the way home to wit as far as a Valley near to the aforesaid Tree & that the said Odaws sons told him that the aforesaid tree was Second Bounder of one of the tracts of land that belonged to a Certain William Brereton….”[3]  In addition to this judicial record, Y-chromosome DNA testing of individuals clearly documented as straight-line male descendants of Peter and of Moses have returned results that prove a very close biological relationship between Peter and Moses[4]. These evidences plus the life patterns analyzed below establish their relationship as brothers.

The Birth Dates
The first reference to Peter or Moses in the records of Somerset County Maryland appears in 1723. “Peter Gordon” is recorded as a dependent living the household of Rose Moore[5] (H#129)[6,7] in “[List] of ye Taxables in ye year of our Lord 1723 [---] Wickacomico hundred Taken by me John Records [Constable]”.  (Thomas Taylor is head of household #128.[8]) Lists of taxables are available for Somerset County in most years 1723 – 1759. Organized by the Hundred (a jurisdictional division of the county) and enumerated by households these lists include as taxables all free males over 15 years of age and all slave males and females over 15. Single or widowed free women were included as ”Head of Household” only if necessary for household identification; they were not counted as taxables. The Constable of the Hundred made physical rounds of households to compile yearly lists much as census lists were later compiled. The lists were quite inclusive as fines to the head of household for failure to report a taxable person could be quite severe – 500 pounds of tobacco.  Early each summer the compiled lists were posted for all to check. In August the bills of the county were tallied to determine the budget. The budget divided by the number of taxables determined the individual head tax.  The obvious fact that persons omitted from the lists raised everyone else’s taxes probably made for active citizen policing[9]. Peter’s appearance on the Tax List of 1723 proves that he was born in 1707 or before. It cannot prove Peter was born in 1707 because 1723 is the earliest list existing for Somerset County, Wicomico Hundred. Moses did not appear on this tax list, or 1723 tax list for any other Hundred of the Old Somerset County area. This indicates that in 1723 he was younger than 16 or he did not reside in the area. In 1724 the Somerset/Wicomico Tax List[10] recorded Rose Taylor (head of household) and Petter Gordy living together (H#40). (Thomas Taylor is head of household in H#38.) Moses was not on any tax list in the area. In 1725[11] Rose was not listed. Peter Godie was listed as head of household and Josuay Godie was listed as a dependent for a total of two taxables (H#137). Is Josuay (Joshua) Godie a misunderstanding of Moses Godie or were there actually three brothers and this is the only glimpse that remains of Josuay? No additional information has been found to clarify this. If this represents Moses, just turned 16, he would have been born in 1709. The 1726 tax lists for Somerset County have not survived. The 1727 tax list[12] recorded Peter Gordy as head of household and Moses Gordy as a dependent (H#94). If this represents Moses’ 16-year-old appearance on the tax list, he would have been born in 1711. From 1727 until the division of Somerset County into Somerset and Worcester counties in 1741 both Peter and Moses consistently appeared on the Somerset tax lists and their locations on those lists correlate with the lands they purchased and with their locations relative to other members of their family. The tax lists indicate a birth year for Peter of 1707 or before, and for Moses of 1709-1711. For the sake of simplicity the following analyses will use circa 1707 for Peter and circa 1710 for Moses as the tax birthdates.

On March 7 - 8, 1699 Rose Taylor was indicted in Lewes, Delaware by a Sussex County Grand Jury “for Haveing two Bastard Children by John Carey by Her own Confession”. June 6 -7 1699, she was presented to the County Court and after her indictment was read, she requested a jury trial and pled not guilty. The Petty Jury found her not guilty due to lack of evidence after she testified “alleaging herselfe to bee a known Married Woman to One John Taylor and thatt hee had been publickly known to bee here in place within time And the Childs was his and no others”[13]. These two children would have been born late in 1698 if twins and if not twins, between 1696 and 1698. Rose Crouch Taylor and her husband John Taylor previously had two children whose births were recorded in the Somerset County Judicial Record, John Taylor born on 13 November 1685 and Jacob Taylor born on 20 June 1688. Subsequent records surrounding the Taylor family show two additional children of Rose and John Taylor with unrecorded births, Mary Taylor and Thomas Taylor. There are two more children who figure into Rose Crouch Taylor Gordy’s life, Peter and Moses Gordy. Who were the two bastard children involved in Rose Taylor’s 1699 trial? There are three possibilities: 1. Unknown - died in childhood and left no other records. 2. Peter and Moses Gordy. 3. Mary and Thomas Taylor.

  1. Unknown - died in childhood.
    If none of the surviving children fit the criterion, this becomes the viable option. In the Maryland Colony at this time the infant/childhood mortality rate was dismal, so this possibility is not remote.
  2. Peter and Moses Gordy.
    Lacking birth date or parentage documentation for Peter and Moses, and as Rose Taylor subsequently married Adrian Gordy; this is certainly a possibility. The first reservation to this conclusion is that if these children were Peter and Moses, why did Rose Taylor not name them Taylor? She was acquitted; as a married woman the court had no evidence these children were bastards. Why would she then refuse to give them her married name, and by that refusal clearly indicate to the court and the community that these children were bastards, and that she had perjured herself in court.  The second reservation is that the Y-DNA result from a straight-line male descendant of John Cary does not match the Gordy Y-DNA proving that Peter and Moses are not descended from John Cary.[14] Recognizing that Peter and Moses could have been these children but sired by a man other than John Cary, this birthdate remains an option. As the bastard children, Peter and Moses would have birthdates between 1696 and 1698 (if twins, 1698). The following analysis will refer to these birthdates as bastard birthdates, circa 1698.
  3. Mary and Thomas Taylor. 
    Mary and Thomas also lack recorded birth dates and parentage. Their current approximated birth dates fall into the mid-1690s placed mainly by two facts. First, in life experiences, they were definitely older than Peter and Moses (eg. Compare the birth years of their first and last children in Table 1 below).  Second, in June 1716 in the Court of Somerset County Mary Taylor was indicted for having a bastard child[15] and that indictment addressed her as “Mary Taylor, Spinster”. The birthdate of Mary Taylor in the Gordy records was determined by the general usage definition of spinster (a single woman older than common marriageable age and/or over 21) and accordingly a birth year of 1694 was assigned to Mary. That birthdate will be referred to in subsequent analyses as spinster21 birthdate, circa 1694. The birthdate for Thomas Taylor is assumed to be 2 years younger than Mary, so his spinster21 birthdate will be circa 1696.
          Research into the judicial use of “spinster” found the most consistent legal definition to be a woman who has never married, as contrasted with the term “single woman” (from the French femme sole) meaning a woman who although presently is unmarried had been previously been married. The association of a specific age with the term “spinster” varied by context. An examination of all the 1716 Somerset County Court cases involving women charged with bastardy[16] and an investigation of the prevalent culture surrounding marriage provides context for the use of the term “spinster” in Mary Taylor’s case. There were a total of 14 free white women of Somerset County charged with bastardy in 1716. Five of them were described as a “single woman” and 8 were described as a “spinster”. There was one case with no descriptor of the defendant. If the general definition that a spinster is an unmarried woman over 21 were applied to the Somerset cases of 1716, only the one woman without a descriptor would have been under 21 and never married.  To evaluate the validity of only one charged individual under 21 and to determine whether a different age limit might have been associated with the term spinster in 1716 Somerset it is necessary to understand the context of sexual behavior and marriage in the Maryland colony. Females became sexually aware and active at an early age. The common marriage age for free women in the Maryland colony at that time was between 16 (the legal age of inheritance for woman) and 19 and some married as early as 14[17]. There was also a high rate of bridal pregnancy in Somerset County with as many as 20% of native-born brides pregnant prior to marriage[18]. In light of the frequency of use of the term “spinster” in the 1716 court record and the culture from which it arose, it appears likely that this court used the term “spinster” either to simply distinguish women who had never been married from those who had previously been married, or to distinguish never-married women over 16 (legal age of inheritance for women) from those younger. With legal and social contexts mediating against a definition of spinster that includes a 21 year age limitation it is reasonable to consider Mary and Thomas Taylor as the bastard children. In this case, Mary and Thomas would have had birthdates between 1696 and 1698 (if twins, 1698). The following analyses will refer to these birthdates as bastard birthdates, Mary circa 1696-1698 and Thomas circa 1698.

The 17th century on the Eastern Shore was a harsh time. The European population was entirely immigrant, bereft of kin and friends in a wilderness, exposed to numerous illnesses and dangers they had never previously encountered. There were far more men than women and a majority of the population were indentured servants whose terms of service extended at least until age 24. After becoming freedmen, as ex-servants were called, additional years of service for wages were often necessary to accumulate the resources to establish a household. Not only did the indentured majority marry late, they also died young, often in their forties, leaving minor children[19]. The Gordys will think of Adrian, who married Mary Disharoone (a free immigrant woman) around 1689 when he was 33 and she was about 15, and of Adrian’s brother Peter[20], possibly a statistic who died in his first two years as an indentured servant. Adrian lived until December 1715 – definitely longer than the average.

By the beginning of the 18th century the demographics in Maryland were changing as a substantial number of native-born children were coming of age, immigration slowed and the network of kin and friends begin to strengthen. “…the proportion of men and women was becoming more equal. More men were able to marry, and they could do so by the time they reached majority. The age of women at marriage remained low, and as a result the birthrate increased and native-born finally outnumbered immigrant in the population. Life expectancy also increased somewhat for those born after 1700….many more parents lived to raise their children to maturity and to see them married. In addition, when one or both parents did die before their children were of age, in a society in which the majority were native born, kin were much more often present.”[21]

There are common points of transition that occur in the individual lives of any human population – birth, recognition as an adult, moving away from parents, purchasing property, birth of first child, birth of last child and death. A mix of biology and the conditions within the community determines the common ages at which these transitions occur. In the analyses below, you will notice that the descriptions of transitions for Mary Taylor vary to reflect the different position of women in 18th century society.

 

Table 1. Effect of variation in birth year on individual ages at life transitions

Peter Gordy

Bastard-birth date 1698 (twin)

Tax-birth date
c.1707

First Tax List – 1723

25 years

16 years

Established household – 1725 (by taxlist)

27 years

18 years

First land purchase – Gordys Chance 1732

34 years

25 years

Birth first child – ~1730 (Moses)

32 years

23 years

Birth last child – ~1747 (Levinah)

49 years

40 years

Death – 1775

77 years

68 years

Moses Gordy

Bastard-birth date 1698 (twin)

Tax-birth date
c.1710

First Tax List – 1726 22

28 years

16 years

Established household – 1730 (by taxlist)

32 years

20 years

First land purchase – Winter Quarter 1730

32 years

20 years

Birth first child – ~1734 (Thomas)

36 years

24 years

Birth last child – ~1766 (Nancy)

68 years

56 years

Death – 1775

77 years

65 years

Mary Taylor

Spinster21-birth date c.1694

Bastard-birth date 1696-98*

Bastardy Court case – 1716

22 years

20-18 years

Married John Christopher – ~1719

25 years

23-21 years

John C. land purchase – Wht Chap Grn 1719

25 years

23-21 years

Birth first child – Dec 1715 (Rosanna)

21 years

19-17 years

Birth last child – ~1732 (Eve)

38 years

36-34 years

Death – after 1748

Over 54 years

Over 52-50 year

Thomas Taylor

Spinster21-birth date c.1696

Bastard-birth date c.1698

First Tax List – 1723

27 years

25 years

Established household – prior to 1723 tax

~21 years [8]

~19 years [8]

First land purchase – Taylors Adv. 1727

34 years

32 years

Birth first child – ~1717 (Sarah)

21 years

19 years

Birth last child – ~1719 (John)

23 years

21 years

Death – 1738

42 years

40 years

 * A 1698 birth date for Mary Taylor implies that she and Thomas were twins.

A few comments on Table 1 are appropriate:

 Peter Gordy was listed as head of household in 1725 and Rose no longer appeared. By the surrounding population it appears that Peter remained on White Chappell Green. This was for Peter a different transition than moving away on his own, but a transition nonetheless. It is not known what happened to Rose – she may have died, at a respectable age of 55; she may have married again and “disappeared”; she may have gotten ill and Peter took over as head of household. Peter remains here and begins a family on White Chappell Green before moving north in 1731.

In the second quarter of the eighteenth century in the Maryland Colony native-born males at marriage were frequently about 21 and women younger, children were born about a year after marriage (sometimes more quickly) and death was common between 50 and 60.

Moses Gordy, if born in 1698, was missing from the Somerset County tax rolls for several years. He does not appear in any of the Somerset Hundreds from 1723 – 1725. He was not in Somerset County. It is possible he moved to other counties in Maryland or to Delaware or Virginia. It is also possible he went to sea, survived against odds, and came home. No evidence has been found for any of those possibilities.

This table presents the obvious contrasts between the two birth date possibilities for Peter and Moses Gordy. Since it is unlikely that definitive proof of their birthdates will be found, it is probable there will continue to be differing opinions. The research will continue and perhaps additional circumstantial evidence of birth dates will accumulate over time.

The Parentage
The Gordy Family Y-DNA Surname Project[4] and the relatively small population pool of 17th and 18th century Delmarva provide one certainty; Peter and Moses had a common father.

If they were born in 1698 it is certain that Rose Crouch Taylor was their mother. We know John Cary was not their father but we do not know who was. Adrian Gordy was a possibility, as he, Rose, and John Cary all knew one another by that time. (There is no proof that Adrian was in Lewes, Delaware.) Joseph Ayliff and Wm White who were the sureties for Rose in the Lewes, Delaware trial would be other possibilites[13]. The best hope for connecting to a father in the 1698 timeframe is through our Y-DNA research. The Y-DNA matches for our project participants are regularly monitored for non-Gordy-name matches that may have origins in the Chesapeake. Other DNA databases are also scanned for possible matches to the Gordy haplotype. To date there have been no matches found.

If Peter and Moses were born according to their appearances on the tax lists  (1707-1711) it is fairly certain that Adrian Gordy was their father. But in that case their biological mother is uncertain. There is no doubt that Rose was the mother who raised them as Rose and Adrian were definitely married before 1712 when they sold White Chappell Green to Jacob Crouch.[23]

Adrian Gordy acquired White Chappell Green in 1683 and married Mary Disharoone prior to 23 October 1690 when her father, Michael Disharoone, wrote his will[24]. They were childless at this time as the will conditions Mary’s retaining her inheritance on her having “lawful issue.” No records of their life together have been found and the only information on their children is found in undocumented trees on Ancestry.com. Mary Gordy, alleged daughter of Adrian Gordy and Mary Disharoone, is frequently listed and shown to have married John Holloway in Somerset County either on 2 November 1697 or “in 1707”. As Mary Disharoone was childless in 1690 she could not have had a daughter of marriageable age in 1697. A daughter born in 1691 would have been 16 in 1707, a possibility. Between 1707 and 1711 (the likely years of the boys’ births) Mary would have been 36-40 and had been married for over 17 years either childless or with only one child now 16-plus years old. In the early eighteenth century with this obstetrical history it seems unlikely that Mary would have successfully conceived and delivered two or three children in that period of four years.

Rose Crouch was born in Virginia circa 1670 prior to the Crouch family immigration into Maryland. She married John Taylor about 1685 and her first child, John, was born 13 November 1685. Her second child, Jacob, was born 20 January 1688[25]. Her third child, Mary, was born 1694-1698 and her fourth, Thomas, was born 1696-1698 (see Table 1). They all lived to adulthood. John Taylor Sr. died or disappeared by 1699 and left no probate records. If she had borne Peter and Moses between 1707 and 1711 she would have been between 37 and 41. From the physiological standpoint a woman who has sucessfully had previous children would be more likely to have additional successful births later in life.  A 1738 probate document connects Peter Gordy and Rose Crouch. The Inventory of Thomas Taylor[26] is approved by his Right of Kin (next-of-kin) Peter Gordie and Mary (Taylor) Christopher. “Right of Kin” in this period was considered to be “blood-kin” only, not to include step-children or step-siblings. The blood relation between Thomas Taylor and Peter Gordy would have to have been Rosamond Crouch Taylor Gordy. By the tax lists, Peter was the older son, so if Rose is Peter’s biological mother, she would have been Moses’s also.

 

NOTES

  1. Last Will and Testament of Peter Gordy. Worcester County Maryland Will Book Liber JW4, folio 291 – 193. This and several other original documents discussed in this article are available on the GordyFamily website www.gordyfamily.org/genealogy/origdocs-index.html .
  2. Last Will and Testament of Moses Gordy. Worcester County Maryland Will Book Liber JW4, folio 290 – 191.
  3. Thomas Pollitt deposition taken with regard to the bounds of a tract of land called “Breretons Chance” on behalf of William Brereton 12 July 1773 and recorded in the Somerset County Court Record, Liber March 1772 to March 1774, folio 205-206.
  4. All aspects of the GordyFamily Y-DNA project are discussed on the website www.gordyfamily.org/dna/index.html .
  5. “Rose Moore” may be a corruption/misunderstanding of the name “Rosamond” or it is possible Rose married a Moore after the death of Adrian (1716) and was widowed again before 1723. The search for evidence of such a union was unsuccessful, but if Mr. Moore were living with Rose and family on White Chappell Green, he likely did not have sufficient assets to leave a probate trail.
  6. The Maryland State Archive (MSA) provides the J. Elliot Russo transcriptions of the 1723-1759 Somerset County Tax Lists online at http://guide.mdsa.net/series.cfm?action=viewSeries&ID=C1812 . The original documents are available on microfilm at the Maryland State Archive, the MSA Citation Number is for the year 1723 is CM1271-1. The 1723 lists for Wicomico Hundred are not in good condition – the pages are torn and peppered with holes. Dr. Russo rates the information availability as a 3 on a scale of 5. All other tax lists for Wicomico Hundred are rated 5 of 5. The author has also read all of the relevant tax entries from the originals.
  7. The household numbers do not appear in the original documents, they have been added by Dr. Russo to facilitate use of the transcribed document. For additional comments, see www.msa.md.gov/msa/coagser/c1800/c1812/html/c1812_intro.html under “Technical Notes”.
  8. Thomas Taylor moved out of Rose’s household prior to 1723. From the land associations of the surrounding population, it appears that he built his house on White Chappell Green, probably when he started his own family c.1717. It is likely that surviving on White Chappell Green was a cooperative effort.
  9. For a more detailed discussion of the tax process see Somerset County Tax Lists: Introduction by J. Elliott Russo on the MSA website.  www.msa.md.gov/msa/coagser/c1800/c1812/html/c1812_intro.html
  10. The Maryland State Archive (MSA) provides the J. Elliott Russo transcriptions of the 1723-1759 Somerset County Tax Lists online at http://guide.mdsa.net/series.cfm?action=viewSeries&ID=C1812 . The original documents are available on microfilm at the Maryland State Archive; the MSA Citation Number is for the year 1724 is CM1271-2.
  11. Ibid. MSA Citation Number is for the year 1725 is CM1271-3.
  12. Ibid. MSA Citation Number is for the year 1727 is CM1271-4.
  13. Copies of these original documents and their transcription by Craig W. Horle are found on the GordyFamily website www.gordyfamily.org/genealogy/odocs/1660-1725/rose-bastardtrial.pdf . Craig W. Horle, ed. Records of the Court of Sussex County Delaware 1677 to 1710, Vol. II. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA, 1991. p 1097 & 1104-1105.
  14. The most recent DNA result from a direct descendant of John Cary is discussed under Project Status on the GordyFamily website. www.gordyfamily.org/dna/status.html
  15. Recorded in Somerset County Maryland Judicial Records 1715-1717 (Vol. I, p1-254), p. 71. The MSA citation number for the microfilm copy is MSA CM962-21.
  16. Examination of the court cases was done in Somerset County Maryland Judicial Records 1715-1717. Transcribed and Edited by Frank V. Walczyk. Published by Peters Row, Coram NY.
  17. Lorena S. Walsh, Essay 4, “’Till Death Us Do Part’ Marriage and Family in Seventeenth Century Maryland”, The Chesapeake in the Seventeenth Century, Thad W. Tate & David L. Ammerman, eds. (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1979), p 128.
  18. Russell R. Menard, Lorena S. Walsh, Paper 81-2, “The Demography of Somerset County, Maryland: A Progress Report”, The Newberry Papers in Family and Community History, (The Newberry Library, Chicago IL, 1981), Table 19, p 35.
  19. Walsh, “Marriage and Family” Essay 4, p 127-133.
  20. The Northumberland County Virginia Order Book 1666-78, folio 49 records the indentures of a group of 21 youngsters aged from 9 to 16. Among them are “Adn: Gardee servt to Mr Wm Brereton fourteen years of age” and “Pet: Gardee servt to John White thirteen years”. Research in Northumberland County has found no other reference to Peter Gardee. This document is on the Gordy Family website: www.gordyfamily.org/genealogy/odocs/1660-1725/adrian-indenture.pdf .
  21. Walsh, “Marriage and Family” Essay 4, p 151-152.
  22. The 1726 tax list is missing. The choice of 1710 for Moses’ birth year is an average of the possible years, 1709-1711. He could have been on the 1726 tax list, but that cannot be proven. He definitely appears on the 1717 tax list.
  23. Sale of White Chappell Green. Somerset County Maryland Deed Book EF, No. 0-13, folio 253-256. www.gordyfamily.org/genealogy/odocs/1660-1725/sale-wtchapgreen.pdf
  24. Last Will and Testament of Michael Disharoone. Maryland Prerogative Court Wills, Liber 7, folio 286-288.
  25. Somerset County Land Records, 1649-1720, Liber IKL (A large section of civil records were recorded in a portion of this book otherwise devoted to land records. John and Jacob's births are listed one below the other, indicating that they were recorded when their parents went to the courthouse, not when they were born.)
  26. Thomas Taylor Inventory. Maryland Prerogative Record. Inventories, Vol. 23, 1737-1738, folio 509-511. 16 December 1738.  http://mdhistory.net/msaref10/msa_te_1_019/html/msa_te_1_019-0032.html

 

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