Analysis. The many Michael Woods of Old Augusta

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There appear to be at least three Michael Woods present at an early date in Old Augusta/Albemarle Counties.

IN addition, a number of men of the Woods Lineage in Old Augusta also had sons named Michael, though they may not have been present in Old Augusta at an early date. Among them are:

The presence of numerous "Michael Woods" in the Old Augusta area (including Albemarle County), led to the frequent use of the "Sr" and "Jr" epithets. Many have assumed that this meant a father and son relationship, but this is not necessarily the case. Rather, these epithets often serve the function of distinguishing people by the same name, whether or not they are father and son. One of the consequences of this is that in some cases a particular "Michael Woods" will be described as the son of another "Michael Woods", simply because a record for the former Michael Woods used the "Jr. Epithet. As an example, Michael Woods (1) of Albermarle County left a will identifying his children, none of whom were named Michael. Yet there are early records in Old Augusta referring to a "Michael Woods Jr." Some of the early historians of the Woods family believed that Michael Jr. was in fact a son of Michael Woods (1), despite his absence from the will of Michael Woods (1).

As another example, Richard Woods has also been considered by many to be a son of Michael Woods of Albemarle County, despite his absence from Michael's will. In part, this probably derives from a court action in which Samuel Smith, a merchant of Pennsylvania, sought to recover debts from a number of early settlers in Augusta County. The following statement is of particular interest:

1735--June 26, credit by 36/ discounted with his son, Richard, by Michael Woods. Michael Woods, formerly of Pextunk, ditto, [1]

Clearly from this passage there Richard is the son of Michael Woods, and this is probably the basis for the persistent view that Richard was the son of Michael woods of Albemarle. Notice, however, that there are two references to Michael Woods---first as father of Richard, and second, a separate entry for Michael Woods formerly of Pextunk. These entries are probably NOT for the same Michael Woods, but two separate men. In a world where the use of middle names was rare, by-names were commonly used to distinguish persons of the same name, living in the same area. In this case, identifying Michael as the father of Richard Woods, made it clear which Michael Woods was being referred to, as Richard himself was prominent in Augusta County governance, and well known. The other Michael was probably clearly distinguished from the former Michael by simply saying that he was formerly of Pextunk. While this is mysterious to us to day, in a small community such as Old Augusta, the distinctions were undoubtedly clear. They, after all, knew these people, and would have understood the distinctions being made.

One thing that comes of the above is that its clear that the earliests court records show two separate Michael Woods in the area. One is the father of Richard. Since Richard is not mention in the will of Person:Michael Woods (1) of Albemarle, we might guess that Michael Woods (1) is the one who was described as "formerly of Pextunk.

A problem that needs to be worked, in the above interpretation, is finding more out about Michael father of Richard. If he's not Michael Woods (1), who is he? A point for consideration is that three's a persistent division in lineages for Michael Woods (1). Most folks identify his wife as "Mary Campbell", some identify here as "Margaret Campbell", and some split the difference identifying her as "Mary Margaret Campbell". The later possiblity has the flavor of a "splice" where data from two separate people are combined. That sometimes happens for various reasons. One common reason for it to occur is that the person in question married twice. That results in records identifying the persons wife by two different names. If its not realized that the two names mean a remarriage, they are sometimes spliced together to make a single person. Thus "Mary Campbell" first wife, and "Margaret Campbell" second wife, become simply wife "Mary Margaret".

Another possiblity, which is more likely in this case, is that there may be two different couples involved. Michael Woods=Mary Campbell being one, and Michael Woods=Margaret Campbell being the other. If its not recognized that these are two separate "Michael Woods", the conflict in the records might be resolved by combining the two couples as a single "Mary Margaret Campbell".

Going forward, the idea currently being entertained is that "Mary Campbell" is the wife of Michael Woods (1), and "Margaret Campbell" is the wife of RIchard Woods father. The problem will be to find direct evidence for this, and if correct, to distinguish which "Michael Woods Records" in early Old Augusta, reflect Michael 1, and which reflect Richard Woods father. And, finally, if there are indeed two early Michael Woods, we'd like to know what their relationship is to each other.

Footnotes

  1. See Data. Various parties in debt to Samuel Smith formerly of Lancaster.