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I have tracked my Richards line back to William Richards, b. 28 Jan 1742 in King and Queen County, VA. That is a burned county and I can't find anything about William's parents or siblings. William was married twice, to Amy Mabry (before 1776) and Nancy Mercer (1799). William later moved to Georgia and then Alabama, where he died 07 Feb. 1836.

Thanks to Y-DNA testing at Family Tree DNA, I know William shares a common ancestor with two other Richards men.

One is Stephen Richards b. 1796 in NC. He resided in Jackson & Calhoun Counties FL and was in Alexandria, Rapides Parish, LA by 1860. He married Sarah Noles 10 Mar 1820.

The other is William Richards b. abt. 1786 in NC or MD and died in Pickens Co., GA 10 Sep 1866. His wife, Dysey Cobb, was born in 1788 and died 1855.

I have met several distant cousins online that are all stuck in the same place. Some say our William from Virginia is in the DAR records as a Captain. Another believes that was a different William Richards. All the books I have found on early families named Richards seem to be based in New England. I'm hopeful that someone in this group might have some creative suggestions on how to get around this brick wall.

Richard Hill

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Richard,

I remember reading about your search for your ancestry in the newspaper a couple months ago. Now, to look at your RICHARDS question. As this is a burned county question, I will list some general comments and approaches that can be used in such situations, that may be useful to others with the same problem but may not apply directly to your situation.

A first question I would have, is what is the source that he was born 28 Jan. 1742 in King and Queen County, Virginia? The first step in solving any problem is evaluating what information you do have, and how accurate that information may be. He would have been of age to have served in the Revolutionary War, and lived long enough to have had a pension. At a quick check, the only William RICHARDS who served from VA does not appear to be yours, so a pension file does not appear to be the source of his birth date and location. Family Search in the Ancestral File, IGI, and Pedigree Resource File lists the same information, but without knowing their source, we can't evaluate how accurate it may be. I have seen too many IGI and Ancestral File entries that "guessed" at a location that later proved to be incorrect. If that happened in your case, you may not be dealing with a burned county at all, and he may not have been from King and Queen County.

Next, let’s assume that the location and date are correct. Many counties while burned, did have records that survived, and not all records were lost. I would start by searching the Family History Library catalog (FHLC) for King and Queen County (which I already know has no county level created records from your time period available.) to get an overview of what records may be available. There is available a book by Beverly Fleet on 18th Century persons of King and Queen County taken from wills, deeds, letters, petitions, and other documents in private collections. Have you examined that? Next, since you are dealing with a Virginia County, check the Library of Virginia website to see what records they have available on microfilm (many on ILL) for the county. Again for King and Queen County, there are no records for your time period available.

Since the county created records are burned, the next step would be (in general) to check the local, state (colony), and federal created records. For local, from the FHLC, there are vestry minutes beginning for Stratton Major Parish in 1729 for King and Queen County. Have you examined those?

Back to the Library of Virginia website for state/colony. Have you examined the land patents? The images of the patents are on-site. At a very quick check I see a John RICHARDS with a land grant in 1714 in King and Queen County. There may be other mentions of K&Q County RICHARDS -- there are definitely RICHARDS mentioned in other counties. Also, check the entries listed on the search where names may have been an adjacent land owner, etc. I would also check the the printed Virginia Cavaliers and Pioneers version of the VA land grants, as I have found names listed as adjacent land owners or persons who were transported, that are not in the index on the above site.

Next, as a general principle when searching a burned county, check
1. the records of the county from which it was formed
2. the records of the county after it was burned
3. the records of counties created from the burned county, which may not always be an adjacent county.

K&Q County was created in 1691 from New Kent County (another burned county). Many times deeds, wills, etc. were brought in after a court house burned, and were rerecorded. The earliest surviving records for K&Q appear to be about 1840s, and if your family left K&Q County, then that might not be of help in your situation.

Next, expand your research and search the county records of neighboring or close counties. Particularly in early VA, if you have not done research there, you might be surprised by how many records may appear of your family in close counties. They may have owned land in more than one county, had relatives in them that mentioned them in wills, and sued persons with whom they did business in other counties. Keep in mind that the general migration to King and Queen County would have been from the coastal areas inward. I would recommend starting by examining every published land, deed and court record for Essex, Middlesex, Gloucester (also a burned county), Richmond, Lancaster, Westmoreland and Northumberland counties from the late 1600s to after you believe your RICHARDS family late K&Q County. Also check the parish church records and vestry minutes that survive for those counties. Don't overlook possible records in Caroline (another burned county, but there are published court minutes for your time period), and King William County (a burned county, but some records survive). After going through all the published records, then concentrate on the unpublished records for those counties that may be your RICHARDS that you found in the published records.

Again, check the FHLC to get an idea of what records have been published for each county, as well as what original records are available that have not, as well as the Library of Virginia to see what they have available. You may never be able to positively connect your William RICHARDS to an earlier generation, but when you finish, you will be an expert on and intimately know every RICHARDS that lived in that area of VA from the late 1600s to whenever your family left the area.

Without a doubt, your response was the most thorough I have ever received to a genealogy inquiry. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

As you know from reading my story, I was adopted and only found out a couple years ago that I was a Richards. That's what spurred my interest in genealogy. I cannot answer a lot of the questions you raised. Most of the research on this line was done over many years by several distant cousins that I have found through my research. I will forward this discussion to them.

You mentioned that you could not find my William Richards in the Revolutionary War pension files. That is one of the areas that puzzles us, because he has been in the DAR records for decades. Here's how he is listed.

RICHARDS, WILLIAM Ancestor #: A095325
Birth: 1-28-1742 KING & QUEEN CO VIRGINIA
Death: 2-7-1836 FAYETTE CO ALABAMA
Service Description: 1) KING & QUEEN CO, MINUTEMEN, 1776

15 DAR members have connected to William. Two of them descend from James Richards, a son William had with his first wife, Amy Mabry. All the others descend through George Washington Richards, a son William had with his second wife, Nancy Mercer. I have all of their ID numbers but only a name for one of them. I would love to see the original application files to see what information was submitted. But those are not online and I don't know how to access them. If anyone can help with that I would greatly appreciate it.

One cousin questions William's service record, because he purchased land in North Carolina in 1774 and should have served from that state. But the land was not far across the border and others say it was not unusual for men to return to their home states to serve.

Let me know if you have any other thoughts on this. Otherwise, I will pursue your excellent suggestions as time permits.
Hi Richard,

It appears the DAR applications may be the source of his birth and death dates, as well as his service in King and Queen County.

The first thing I would do is to obtain all the DAR applications for him. Are any of those modern? The DAR standards today are more stringent than they were in the past. Persons joining today may have to reprove lineages of persons accepted in the past, to show they are not just cases of "correct name-different identity," which is what happened with many applications in the past. Before proceeding with the VA research I suggested, you really need to make certain this is your William in K&Q County.

Your new information raised several "red flags" for me. In what county did he purchase land in NC in 1774? The closest part of NC is about 65 miles from the southern tip of K&Q County, so it is not exactly just a "trip across the border." His listing as being a minuteman would also imply that the person who served was a resident of K&Q County, not someone who traveled there (from NC) to "enlist." Being a resident of K&Q County over 16, he would have automatically been a member of the militia, which was not always on "active duty." The members of local militia were periodically called on to serve short terms, usually 30 days to several months, which doesn't fit with a resident of NC from 65+ miles away of serving in local VA militia.

Is it certain that the William who purchased land in 1774 NC is yours? How was he listed in the purchase? Was he listed as a resident of that NC county, implying he was living there? I would think service in K&Q County would require a move back to there, not just a "trip to enlist" for the reasons listed above. Are the NC locations of your DNA matches known, and/or match the county where he purchased the land? Have the records of that NC county been thoroughly researched? If records of that county (court records as a juror, witness, etc. may be your best bet) list him there in 1776, it would cast a lot of doubt on this being the same William as in 1776 K&Q County.

I have seen some online listings that indicate your William went to GA in the late 1780s. What records tie him to being the William in either K&Q County, VA, or the William of the 1774 NC land purchase? If you have not done the research yourself, or verified any sources given, you really need to make certain that this is not a case of "same name, must be the same person" syndrome. I've seen too many cases of where a person (often 50-100 years ago) assumed that a person in one location was the same as a person of the same name in another location, and "published" [in this case to the DAR applications] their information. Other people have come along and "assumed" that this was correct, and the wrong lineage gets perpetuated.

If your William was in NC for a time, have you examined the North Carolina Colonial and State Records? There are numerous mentions of the name William RICHARDS in NC during the Revolutionary War time. Do any match the location of the 1774 purchase? Also, there was a William RICHARDS who received pay from NC in the Revolution listed on the NC MARS search site.

Another thing you might check, are both the King and Queen County land tax lists, and personal property tax lists, which both sets begin in 1782. If your William moved from there in the late 1780s to GA (as some of the sites I saw suggested) then he should appear in at least the personal property tax lists (which included a poll [head] tax). Does a William RICHARDS disappear from the K&Q tax lists shortly before your William appears in GA? Are there other names (neighbors in GA) that also disappear from the K&Q tax lists at the same time? If a William RICHARDS does not appear at all, then he may have died, moved to NC or to GA earlier than the sites suggest.

On the other hand, if a William RICHARDS appears, and continues to appear to say 1799 (after the time in which there are presumably records of your William in GA) it would cast doubt on whether the William who served in 1776 K&Q County was yours.

In any case, before going into the VA research I suggested, I would first make certain that the connection back to K&Q County is correct. That may involve a lot of redoing of past "research" if it is not documented. Start with the earliest proved locality of your William and thoroughly work the records of that county to see where they lead or suggest he was from, whether that be K&Q County, another VA county, or somewhere in NC.

Rick Saunders

I am a descendant of William Richards through his son James from his first marriage. Dick Hill is a descendant of William through his son Willis from William’s first marriage. These conclusions are borne out by both documented research and by DNA test matches. Dick and I have corresponded for a few years and have shared data on the Richards family. First let me thank you for your excellent advice as to research opportunities that may help break down our brick wall and then respond to a few of your questions.

Your post asked for a source for William’s birth date and birthplace. The best source for William’s birth as well as his death date and death place is likely a family Bible with entries by William’s oldest son from his second marriage, Martin. From the data in the Bible, it was started about the time of William’s death. The entry for William Richards in his son Martin’s writing says “William Richards was born (in King and Queen County Virginia) on the 28th day of January 1742 and died in Fayette County Alabama on the 7th day of February 1836.” The pages go on to list birth dates of William’s children by Nancy Mercer (2nd wife), also in Martin’s script. The pages also include birth and death dates for several other persons, but not all of the entries are in Martin’s handwriting. I have copies of both published transcripts and some of the original hand written Bible “Family Record” pages. I suspect that this Bible entry is the original source for most, if not all, of the other citations for William’s birth and death. Fayette County, Alabama is another burned county, so no will or probate have been found in the Court House or in the Alabama State Archives.

According to Georgia tax records, William paid tax on 400 acres and 1 poll in 1785, so he was in Wilkes County, Georgia by that time. Later, as the frontier moved west, William appears to stay close to the edge by acquiring land in counties west of Wilkes. By the early 1800’s, William was apparently in business with his sons James and Willis while they all were in Jasper County, Georgia. Their various trading enterprises are partially documented in numerous court actions over goods and land on file in the Georgia State Archives (I have copies of the original documents). William’s signature on his marriage bond and on the promissory notes in the court records appear to match. Sons James and Willis moved to Alabama in about 1819 based on Georgia court records (records state papers could not be served on them because they had left the jurisdiction of the court). Based on the 1820 Jasper County, Georgia census, William did not move with them; however I cannot prove the William Richards in the census is our William. I’m not sure when he came to Alabama, but it appears from census data he was there by 1830, living with one of his children (again, with no names other than the head of household, this is an implication rather than proof). This is not conclusive.

A lot of what we know about the family comes from documents filed with the Texas General Land Office and from Federal court records. William’s son (by his first wife) John joined the Texas Revolution and was killed at Goliad. Texas awarded his estate 2400+ acres of land. Family efforts to claim the land provided names and family linkages that we have cross-referenced to court records in Alabama and to other documentation. Thus, I feel fairly confident in our identification of William and his life once he was in Georgia.

We have started to look closely at North Carolina and back into Virginia over the last year and a half based on clues provided by one of the family researchers. Our data are not yet sufficient to integrate into a coherent story that is documented with good references, so your suggestions as to sources and approaches are sincerely appreciated.

Steve Richards
Harvest, Alabama


In the process of trying to find documentary proof of my descent from Henry Wyche I found this site and several others regarding William Richards.   I am descended from William Richards through his son James.  I do have the transcript of Frances Maybury's will where he mentions his daughter Amey Richards.  Have you found  or could point me in the direction of any other documentation that helps to support the connection between William and Amey?  This is the only "link" to Henry Wyche for which I do not have sufficient documentation.   I learned from the Warren County genweb site that many of the marriage bonds of that time never made it to the courthouses.  The clerks or justices of the peace kept the documents at their locations sometimes several miles from the courthouse.  So whether the county was burned or not is irrelevant is such cases.

I am in the DAR and do have a copy of an application that was verified in 1974 for William Richards.  It did not provide any new information than you already have.  I will order the data file to see what "proof" has been submitted over the years.  It did however list children for the first unknown wife, John, James, and a daughter named Harriet with "this name is traditional only and was supposed to have remained a spinster" added.  I think that she must really be the wife of Willis. 

After looking at the book Old Kent Count [Virginia] Some Accounts of the Planters, Plantations, and Places, Vol. 1, and the PDF file found on-line discussing Elizabeth (Wilson) Clark Richards (1700-1785),  I do not believe that the DAR applications are correct.   The William Richards who was the Captain of the King and Queen County militia/minutemen was the son of William Byrd Richards.  This William Richards was also a member of the Continental Congress (he is mentioned in several records regarding the Continental Congress) and was married to Martha Lowery/Loury.     We still could be related to this branch of Richards.  Robert Byrd was married to a Frances Williamson.  They were the parents of William Byrd who was the father of Ann Byrd who married John Richards.  John and Ann were the parents of William Byrd Richards.     Fast forward, in North Carolina, John Richards (George's brother) named a son Williamson.  He also had sons named Willis and William, family names?

I have looked at whatever I could find in Bute/Warren/Franklin/Granville Counties.  I also looked at a site ( a young man, (perfect candidate for the DNA project) put together about the Richards.  He is a direct descendent of George Richards of Granville/Bute/Franklin County.  After looking at what he wrote, and the wills of George, and his brother John, and who their children and their brother William's  were and who they married, It looks like our William may be the son of George. 

I also looked at a site about North Carolina in the Revolutionary War (  I looked at everyone named Richards and Mabry who would have participated.  I think our William is the Captain William Richards who was in the Franklin County Militia but fought with the Granville County Militia (George lived in Granville County) at the battle of Guilford Courthouse.  David Mabry, Amey's brother, was also in the Franklin County Militia, as were Stephen Richards, James Richards, etc.  The service of Captain William Richards is supported by the  Rev. War pension of John Hudgins W7835, another member of the Franklin County Militia.  I hope to get this DAR record straightened out. 

I am sorry that this is such a ramble.  Thanks for any information that you may have regarding Amey Mabry Richards.  I do plan to order your book(Mr. Hill's) . My daughter is adopted and I do keep all information that I can for her.  I have been working on her genealogy as time permits.  Do not have too much time - she is 2.   



I also descend from William by way of his son James.  The connection to Amey Mabry is a bit tenuous, but what I have is documented in the following paragraphs, but first a bit of history.  William Richards had three sons by a marriage that occurred before he married Nancy Mercer in 1799.  William’s marriage to Nancy is well documented in the Georgia records by a marriage bond signed by William and Jacob Mercer as well as deeds and other legal documents.  William’s sons by his marriage prior to Nancy Mercer were James, John, and Willis Richards.  John joined the Texas fight to gain independence from Mexico and was killed with Fannin in the massacre at Goliad in 1836.  The country/state of Texas gave the heirs of John Richards 2400+ acres of land for his service in the revolution.  Our Richards family tried to claim this bounty starting in about 1860 and a case was in Federal Court in 1898.  Much of what we know about the early Richards family is contained in documents filed to support the family’s claim to the Texas land.


Testimony was provided by James Patterson, husband of Eliza Richards, in August 1893 and recorded by J. H. Finks, clerk of the circuit court of the United States for the Northern District of Texas, in 1898. The testimony was used in the case of James O. Richards et al vs C. J. Sanders et al.  Eliza Richards Patterson was the daughter of James and Love Mercer Richards and granddaughter of William Richards.  Paterson said he was 84 years old when he gave his testimony.  Letters authored by Patterson in this same time period indicate he was lucid and extremely interested in this case. 


In his testimony, James Patterson says the following:  “…I have seen the reputed father of John Richards, his name was William.  I don’t know where he was born.  Said to be about 90 years old when he died.

Ans. 3 – I don’t know. I don’t know how old he was when his father died, he was the youngest of the full blood so said to be by his father and brother.  Married twice had 3 children by first marriage & 7 by second marriage, his first wife was Miss Mabry, his second wife was Miss Mercer; his first wife as the mother of James, 2. Willis, 3. John.  Second wife was mother 1st Martin, 2nd Amey, 3 Geo. W, 4 Sallie, 5 Elizabeth, 6th Annis, 7th Nancy, all of the whole blood survived John & all of the ½ blood except perhaps Amey (?).  I cannot say as to her.  All survived the father with the same exception and it may be that she did I am unable to say…”  Thus, the record identifies William’s first wife as “Miss Mabry”. 


Now to the North Carolina records.  One reference shows that an Amey Mabry married a William Richards.  You noted that you have a copy of Francis Mabry’s will in which he directs that “Francis Mabry Jr., Angelica Mabry, Amey Richards, Jesse Mabry, Elisabeth Mabry, David Mabry and wife are left to the devil.” I could not find my reference, but I think I remember that Francis Mabry was upset that these family members had chosen to join the Baptist Church.  Association with the Baptist Church fits the Mercer/Richards connection since many members of the Mercer family in early Georgia were missionaries and ministers of the Baptist Church.  Note that our Love Mercer Richards (James’ wife) was discussed in the Texas court papers.  Matilda M. (Richards) Crump, daughter of Willis Richards, noted “…I do not know where James Richards was married or who she was before the marriage.  She was a kind of missionary.  We called her Aunt Lovey.” 


Based on William’s Georgia head rights grant, it is possible that “Miss Mabry” died after William made the claim in 1785.  William claim for 400 acres based on his family indicates that he had four other persons in his household. Head rights grants allowed 200 acres for a man plus 50 acres for his wife, each child and each slave to a maximum of 1000 acres.  William’s three sons are documented, but the fourth person has not been conclusively identified and could be “Miss Mabry”.  Taking this thought a step further, if “Miss Mabry” was living at the time of the head rights grant, it is likely Jacob Mercer’s family would have known her since they were neighbors and likely worshipped together.  Note that the first girl born to William and Nancy Mercer Richards was named “Amey”.   This is an interesting bit of history.  Amey, could have been named for William’s first wife, but this is only speculation. 


After all this discussion you can see that one can make a circumstantial case that Amey Richards, daughter of Francis Mabry, was the wife of our William.  However, I cannot say with total certainty that this is the case.  I hope that this is of some help to you.  I also ask that if anyone finds errors of fact in this discussion, that these errors be noted so they can be corrected.


Several of us seriously question our William being the Captain Richards from the DAR records.  As to our William being the son of George Richards of Franklin County, N.C., I don’t think this connection can be proven without additional documentation.  We know from DNA, our William was kin to Stephen Richards who worked as Andrew Jackson’s interpreter in Northern Florida.  However, I have not seen evidence that this Stephen Richards is the Stephen who was a son of George.  More DNA evidence and more research are required to prove the link.


Steve Richards

Harvest, Alabama

Thank you for your reply.  I will go about obtaining a copy of the Texas court proceedings.


I did contact the DAR Library.  The William Richards' file had 100 or so papers in it, so instead of acquiring copies of all of these, I sent a second request  for a Library Search.  This entails someone who will read the documents  and will look for those that applicants sent in to support the rev. war service.  They will then let me know what they find.  I also asked them to look for any reference to Amey.  I doubt there will be one.   I have not heard from the Library as of yet.  It may be awhile.  I will let you know what I find out. 


Unfortuately I did not get in touch with the gentleman who had the Richards Data Net site before it went down.  Hopefully, he will renew his domain name. 


You mentioned a source in North Carolina stating/indicating that an Amey Richards married a William Richards.  Do you have the name of this source?  I will work to acquire a copy of this also.


Thank you very much for all your help,




Hello again:


I received in the mail today the DAR information.   What I was given was very little and if I were to present this as proof today I am not sure that my application would be accepted.    Copies of the bible records mentioned in the comments above were submitted as documentation of the genealogy.  Also a hand typed copy of a document written by and E.Q. Richards from Macon, Mississippi dated December 1965 entitled "Observations Regarding the Richards Families of Mississippi and Alabama" was submitted.  In this document it discusses that the earliest known Richards in the family was William ... and that the rev. war service for William had not been established....  There was only a couple of pages of this document provided to me so I do not know what E. Q. Richards used as source material.


Also provided to me was a copy of a letter dated 19 Jan 1970 from the DAR to one of our "Mississippi Cousins" accepting her supplemental application.  I found the information in the second paragraph interesting.  It states "Since we have no proof that your William Richards is the same man that had service in the War from North Carolina we are entering this man as a "new ancestor" for the Patriot Index.  And since his Bible record states that he was "of King and Queen County, Virginia." we have assigned to him the service record of Captain of King and Queen County, Virginia as shown in Gwathmey's Virginians in the Revolutionary War."


To me it does not look like there was any real work done to prove his service.   Presently the training DAR genealogists undergo is far superior than it was in the 1970's and earlier.  Information accepted in the past as proof is no longer acceptable.  I think that this may be the case for our William Richards.

I recently submitted a supplemental application to the DAR for another of my ancestors,  His name is William Marshall.  Along with providing proof of genealogy and William Marshall's service, I had to provide an analysis to prove he was that William who lived in Charlotte Cty. Va at that time and was the same individual who performed that service.  I had to gather not only information from the Marshall family but from his friends he served with who mentioned him in their pensions, had him serve as witnesses to their children's weddings, etc.  to help establish this

I plan to work on gathering similar information regarding our William Richards, using information about the Mabry family and others our William would have served and lived with in North Carolina.


If you would please share the North Carolina source that states an Amey Mabry married a William Richards it would be greatly appreciated. 


Thank you,




Hi Steve!  We are under the impression that John George Richards, Jr. (1726-1818) had a son named Stephen Richards (1765-1841) and Stephen also had a son named Stephen Richards (1796-1871), my ancestor.  Here is the strange part.  I have connected via DNA with a lady that is a descendant of William Richards (1722-1792), William Henry Richards (1742-1836), and George William Richards 1804-1887).  On Family Tree DNA, is suggests that we are 2nd-4th cousins.  So perhaps William and Stephen were brothers???

Shirley Williams Crow

Dallas, TX

Hi Richard,

I have a Stephen Richards/Sarah Noles in my line and they were in Jackson County, Florida but he was born in 1776 not 1796.  They were married 10 Mar 1820.  Here is a link to what I have:

My Williams line also is from Jackson County. The Richards line is from my Great Grandmother's side.

I too have tested with FTDNA kit # 587532 if you want to compare. 




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