Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Family's Colonial Era, Part XII

by Glenn N. Holliman

What Can We Learn from the Will of John Holyman?
I am indebted to Joe Parker, a serious Holliman genealogist, for the material below from the Northampton County, Virginia Record Book, Vol. III, 1645 - 1651, page 448. The work is edited by Dr. Howard Mackey and Marlene Alma Hinchley Groves. Opinions and any errors in this article are mine alone.

Below is the will of John Holyman dated May 8, 1650, two weeks before Christopher Holliman Sr. and Judith Holliman arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.

"Memorand That this day ye Last will & Testant' of John Holoman of Northampton County, planter, dec'd was pr'ved:
J'No Hollowman his will & desire is that hie giveth unto Christopher Kirke towe cowes & one heyffor with towe steers & one yearlinge, and towe calves & towe sowes & towe barrowes, and more. towe shutes of clothes & a gun w'th a chest & a cutlace, and my Bedd w'th covinge w'th three sheets. As witness my hand this 8 daye of May 1650./ JNo [ his mark ] Hollowman. Wit: Wm Mortt [Mott?]
JNo Hollowman his Acco'tt the 8th day of Maye 1650/ of what Debtes is oweinge him abroad w'thout any spec. as followeth, witnes' my hand.
Test: Wm Moulte/ JNo [ his mark ] Hollowman"
Translation? John leaves to one Christopher Kirk two cows, a heifer (a cow not yet giving milk), two steers, a yearling, two calves and two pigs (female). The barrows are neutered male pigs. And he leaves more, which we assume are farm tools. Judging from the above John is a small farmer with a modest amount of livestock, typical for a yeoman planter at that time in Virginia's history. Christopher Kirk fathered a line of successful children and grandchildren, and their story may be explored further in colonial records (just Google the name and time).
What else? Two suites of clothes, a gun, a cutlass, a chest and a bed with three sheets. Okay, John could defend himself from wild animals and Native Americans (was John present in 1644 when 500 plus colonists died, a very serious uprising?).
Above left a 17th century French cutlass, a curved short sword.

What's missing from this will? Well, number one, every thing is left to a friend and not to a spouse or children (or a brother and sister). If Christopher Sr. and Judith yet had not arrived from England, it is not too surprising that nothing is left to them, if one assumes John is either their father or more likely, their brother. No wife? Women were still scarce in Virginia in 1650, and perhaps this John never married or a spouse may have died.
No mention is made of land? Did John rent land? Possibly unless he had given it away before writing the will, which seems odd. So probably he rented some acres. He was not an indentured servant or he would not have had the livestock. However, he did not have any sheep, so wool or clothe would have been precious. A wife was important for spinning wool and making clothing. Cotton was not yet grown, so clothes, generally all imported, were expensive and highly prized. Hence clothes left to a friend in the will.
No furniture or kitchen items, silverware or other items described. Virginia was not yet a mature or abundant colony. Most English, approximately 15,000 by 1650, were yeoman farmers, struggling to plant Indian corn, some beans and tobacco (as much as possible).
I have searched databases of Northampton County, Virginia and have found no other listing of John Holyman (or similar name) during these times. Northampton is also on the Eastern Shore, the southern most county. Granted this is the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, but it is some distance by water from Jamestown or Isle of Wight County.
So is John Holyman a possible ancestral uncle? Or as is claimed by one Hollyman web site, the father of Christopher Holyman Sr.?
Let's refresh our memories. Remember these dates and names from my October 14, 2010 posting?

1610 - September 16, one John Holliman baptised. John married a Mary Parrell on July 25, 1641 at St. Mary's Parish, Bedford, England. If this be our John, did Mary make the trip to Virginia with him?

1616 - Thomas Holloman, brother of the above John, baptised at St. Mary's Parish, Bedford on March 20. Is this the Thomas of Martin's Hundred near Jamestown who took land in the 1635? Did this Thomas start the family moving to Virginia when he was only 18 or 19 years old?

1618 - Christopher Hollaman, brother of the above, baptized on September 2. Is this our Christopher Holyman Senior who immigrates to Jamestown in 1650, raises a large family, makes his earthly fortune and dies 1691?! Is this my generation's 8th or 9th great grandfather?

1621 - Judith Holliman, sister of the brothers above, baptised on February 11. Is this the Judith who arrives in Jamestown with a Christopher in 1650 and/or later in 1653?!

Genealogy is not an exact science, and it is so frustrating not to be able to tie these lines of kinship together. My opinion is that this John Holyman is a brother (and not their father) of Christopher and Judith Holyman who arrived in Virginia at the time of John's death. Evidence and logic - yes. Proof? I have none.

Next posting, we shall look at the Holliman migrations across the Southern English Colonies and United States.

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