Searcy Family of Early America is well underway in a detailed study of the Johnston and Cumberland Co, NC Searcy family. Well, its’ actually branched out to four or five more counties to cover this Searcy group and where they migrated to. This is the first article on the family, discussing the headmaster William Searcy Senior (b.ca.1715-20; d.1797) and his son William Searcy Junior.
The next article will focus on Acquilla Searcy and some exciting revelations about Searcy’s in other places. Without further ado:
At first blush, there seems to be no easy way to discern which records in Johnston Co, NC belong to which William. We are able to establish a father-son relationship, thanks to a deed of gift from the father for the “love and affection for my son William Searcy” in a deed in VA. There are 17 records easily located in abstract books of Johnson County from 1772 to 1797 with one record each identifying Senior, one Junior and one record of a wife named Rachel Searcy. How to untangle these?
It turns out to be easier than one might think. Let’s start with William Searcy Senior.
William Searcy Senior
William Searcy Senior first appeared in 1741 in VA in Amelia County; he purchased 400 acres of land in 1742. Assuming he was a young adult, we would place his birth circa 1715-20. William worked his land commercially, referring to it as a plantation and himself as planter. William’s lands became situated in Prince George Co, VA in 1754. He deeded land by gift to his two oldest sons, Daniel and William Junior in 1765. William Senior sold the balance of his land in 1770 to a neighbor as the family left for NC.
Once in NC, William Searcy Senior repeated the process; buying 400 acres of land in 1777, creating a working plantation, and selling it off in two tracts in 1787 and 1794. He repeated this once more, almost immediately buying 300 acres of land also in Johnston Co in 1794 and dispensed of it in his final years with one sale in 1796 and one more deed of gift to son John Searcy in 1797.
These land records help identify Rachael Searcy. The laws of both VA and NC protected a wife by providing a dower (part ownership in the land) and requiring any deed to acknowledge that she was giving up her dower interest by including a statement of the same. The last sale from the first tract (250 ac in 1794) mentioned William’s wife; Rachael (her R mark) Searcy acknowledged giving up her dower interest, making an assignment of Rachael Searcy easy – wife of William Searcy Senior.
Before we assign Rachael as mother of all this family’s children, let’s look for clues. Son Daniel was the oldest, followed closely by William Junior, Acquilla and George. Son John was born much later - some 8 to 10 years after George. A second clue is that Daniel was the only son that could not write his name. Perhaps the mother of John was Rachel, who could not write, yet she saw to it that all step children were given a basic education; exception being the oldest son Daniel. He was too busy by then as a young adult for such diversions. He would follow in his father’s footsteps using a mark for his signature.
This brings us to a Searcy “fingerprinting”. Father William and elder son Daniel could not write their names – they used marks. Son’s William, Acquilla, George and John could. In fact, William, George and John served as constables in their adult lives, a position surely requiring basic reading and writing skills.
Let’s look more closely at the fingerprints. William Searcy Senior is located in seven land transactions and other documents as witness. He developed his own unique mark from an early age in VA, using a backward “S” turned on its’ side. Keep in mind these records were not original documents, but a court clerk’s transcription of an original document. Daniel’s signature is found in a few documents; his early mark was a “+” or an “x”, later followed once each by an “S” and finally a “D”.
The last discovery for William Searcy Senior is the date of his death. William gifted his final tract of land to his son John Searcy for the “love and affection for my son John” with a stipulation that the father maintain peaceable possession during his natural life. Rachael must have died before this time as she is not mentioned. This deed was granted on 03-04-1797 - the land was liquidated by John on 08-30-1797. William Searcy Senior died therefore in the spring or early summer of 1797 – about 80 years of age.
William Searcy Junior
We can now turn our attention to the son William Searcy Junior, whose scant records speak volumes. William Junior was gifted a quarter of his father’s VA land in 1765. William Junior had already made a foray into NC, being located in two records in Cumberland Co, NC in 1764. One record was as a witness “William Searcey”, with no notation of a signature “mark”. William Searcy Junior sold his VA land in late 1769 for £22.10s and relocated to Johnston Co, NC with the other family members.
Shortly after William Searcy Junior’s relocation he made a second sale, liquidating some of his personal property in 1772; he was about age 30. The sale included items from all aspects of family life, some cattle, household items, a set of bedroom furniture, a mare and woman’s bridle and saddle; all totaling £10. The extent of this list suggests that a family event may have prompted the sale - the possible loss of his young wife, perhaps in childbirth? The buyer was Elisha Thomas, the District Captain of their area; well known to the young Searcy’s in their new NC home as their captain at monthly musters.
William Searcy Junior provided his own unique “fingerprint” as he was able to write using “Junior” when around his father. William signed his name and notation on his land sale in VA and property sale in NC. Between the two sales, William generated £32.10s, less whatever debts he may have owed. He is never seen again in Johnston Co, NC. There is a tax roll in 1784, a state census in 1787 and US census in 1790 where there is only one William Searcy listed in Johnston Co, NC (the father).
William appeared in neighboring Cumberland Co, NC from 1778-1784; he was in a tax roll in 1778, a patroller in 1780 and a Constable in 1781 and 1784. His brother George Searcy briefly appeared and served as a Constable in 1780 before William replaced him. William is mentioned in a few more local records referring to payment of the earlier Constable service.
Thanks to the father and son’s signatures, we can now confidently attribute all ambiguous Johnston Co records of a William Searcy to the father, as they related to land transactions or mentions of his boundaries in other persons’ records. Only one outstanding record in early 1772 remains unassigned.
What happened to William Searcy Junior after 1784? We have a good candidate, a William Searcy in the 1790 census in Anson Co, NC. This family had two men over age 16; one possibly being a son born before 1774 and a father of undetermined age. This could be a good match, but more research needs to be undertaken and, unfortunately, most early records of Anson Co have not survived.
There are also Searcy men in early George and Alabama records who were born in NC in the late 1790’s and they have not been connected. While we have a good understanding of the father and son in VA and NC, the trail for William Searcy Junior stops here for now.
Note: This research is ongoing and represents the author’s best research and conclusions. The author is currently researching the early Searcy family of Johnston and Cumberland Cos, NC and migrations and will incorporate this family in a future publication. Please stay tuned for updates and new findings.
Aquila Searcy (b.ca.1749) – also spelled Equila, Acquilla
We begin with Aquila Searcy’s story. He was born circa 1749 to William Searcy of Amelia Co, VA. The name Aquila may sound unfamiliar to us, but was an occasionally used name of the era, origin meant “Eagle”. It has a feminine spelling (ending in “a”) but was a male name; first-name Aquila’s can be found in a number of VA counties in the early to mid-1700’s.
Aquila’s father William Searcy (b.ca.1715-20) lived in Amelia/Prince Edward Cos, VA from about 1740 to 1769. He had five sons and an unknown number of daughters. The sons were Daniel, William, Aquila, George and John – born in that order. Aquila was about age 21 when the family moved to NC; he was most likely a laborer or in a trade, such as a carpenter, mason or blacksmith. Aquila was not enamored with farming – or militia service for that matter. He was cited twice for being absent from a monthly militia roll call - but made a muster in 1782. Aquila married before 1780 and his first child was born about that year; he had at least 4 boys and 6 girls. Aquila may have remarried as four of his children were born much later than the others – 1804 to 1808.
Aquila obtained a land grant of 100 acres in Johnston Co, NC in 1782; he lost it in a Sheriff’s sale over a personal debt in 1787. Aquila’s brother John Searcy later held the land for a few years, but sold it for about the value of the debt (it was probably not improved land). Aquila was listed in the first state census of Feb-1787 in Johnston Co, but no information was included for any household members including himself.
Aquila appears to have moved shortly after the land sale, being in the 1790 Census of Nash Co, NC – adjacent, and to the NE, of Johnston Co. Aquila Searcy was married and claimed no sons and 2 girls in the 1790 US census of Nash Co, NC. No sons? His two boys now ages 17 and 20 were most likely living with family in Johnston Co, or working on a local farm for their keep. Aquila departed this area soon after; he witnessed a Nash Co will in Dec-1790 and was not present to prove the same in May-1791.
Aquila next moved to Wake Co, NC, also adjacent to Johnston Co but to the immediate west. He may have lived only a few miles from his father, as William’s initial land was in the NW corner of Johnston Co.
Wake County includes Raleigh, the county seat and the newly established state capital (1792) of NC. Raleigh was a bustling new city, with plenty of work; the state house was constructed in 1792-94.
Aquila Searcy reported 3 boys and 3 girls in the 1800 US Census of Wake Co, NC. Two sons were between the ages 16 to 26, meaning they were born prior to 1784 (Richard and William). One son was age 1-10 (Thomas being born in 1790).
Aquila Searcy’s continued residence in Wake Co, NC was likely but cannot be confirmed by the 1810 US Census, as that county census is missing. Aquila is rarely seen in public records, the last being payment due to him from an estate for 2s.6p in 1803. The maximum age for males paying poll taxes in NC was lowered to age 50 in 1801; so Aquila would not be expected to appear in tax records after that year. Records indicate that his family continued living in Wake Co through at least 1813.
It is likely that Aquila Searcy lived past the 1820 US Census, as he and his children appear to be comingled with the young Thomas Searcy family in Mecklenburg Co, NC.Thomas is reported to be the head of house with only one male engaged in farming; yet there is an older male above age 45 in the household (Aquila would have been age 71). Several of the children in the 1820 Census married in Mecklenburg in the 1820’s and were born circa 1804 to 1808; well before Thomas would have started a family.
Aquila Searcy’s presumed children are:
Early children documented in Wake Co, NC Marriages or other records 1. Pricilla Searcy (b.ca.1780) marriage bond 07-05-1802 to Stephen Sing 2. Richard Searcy (b.ca.1781) marriage bond 12-07-1802 to Delilah Holding 3. William Searcy (b.ca.1783) marriage bond 12-31-1813 to Barbary D Reace 4. Unidentified daughter (b.1784-89) no records located (two daughters were born prior to 1790) 5. Thomas Searcy (b.1790) married Sally Xxx (b.ca.1794) circa 1813 (no record located) 6. Unidentified daughter (b.1791-1800) no records located Later children documented in early Mecklenburg Co, NC Marriages 7. Lucy Searcy (b.ca.1805) married 05-02-1827 to James Sadler 8. Elizabeth Searcy (b.ca.1806) married 03-24-1828 to John Flaniken (Flenniken) 9. John M Searcy (b.ca.1807) married 01-29-1828 to Elizabeth Wallis bondsman (John Flaniken) 10. Unidentified daughter (b.1804-1810) no records located (age 10-16 in 1820 US Census)
Aquila Searcy’s first son to appear in Wake Co, NC public records was Richard Searcy (b.ca.1781); he witnessed the will of Richard Mann in June 1799 and made several purchases at estate sales, the last in 1803. Richard married Delilah Holding in Wake Co, NC (bond date in late Dec of 1802). He was last mentioned in court minutes in an 1806 list of insolvent tax payers (he was absentee). Prior to that time, Richard relocated to Mecklenburg Co, NC and was present in the 1806 tax list. It is interesting to note the presence of Holding/Holden family members in Mecklenburg in the 1810-20’s; he may have followed his wife’s family. In fact, Richard’s nephew, Richard R Searcy married a Holten/Holden in 1838.
Richard Searcy (b.ca.1781; d.mid-1840’s) relocated to Mecklenburg, Co, NC
Richard Searcy lived in Mecklenburg from 1806 to the middle 1840’s. Richard purchased 250 acres on Richardson’s Creek from Reuben Yarborough on 09-10-1821; he reported 275 ac in 1823-24 tax rolls and sold 37 acres to John Small for $37 on 10-29-1828. Richard may have inherited his father’s business acumen as he lost his land in a Sheriff’s sale on 08-26-1829 for a debt of $10.24. Prior to the forced sale, Richard borrowed $30 from John M Searcy (his younger brother) on 12-13-1827 with collateral of one sorrel horse and two milk cows. Richard and Thomas Searcy also secured a loan together in 1839 which was witnessed by John (M) Searcy.
Richard and Delilah Searcy likely had one child as they listed a female age 10-16 in the 1820 US Census in Mecklenburg, NC (parents married in 1802). The girl is not listed in the 1830 US Census – she may have married early (not recorded in Mecklenburg, Co, NC) or have been deceased. A third generation “young adult” was likely born to their daughter, as Richard and Delilah Searcy took responsibility and Richard was appointed guardian in 1839 for Lea Searcy who was age 13.
1. Lea Searcy (b. 1826) Probable child of the daughter of Richard and Delilah Searcy. No other records of this child
William Searcy (b.ca.1783; d.1855) migrates to Smith Co, TN
Aquila Searcy’s second son William Searcy (b.1783) married Barbary D Reace in Wake Co, NC in late 1813 (bond date). William was age 30 at this time, so this may have been a second marriage for him. William and Barbary relocated to Smith Co, TN by 1820. He is located in that county’s US censuses from 1820 to 1850. William Searcy remarried to Mary A Reece and had children by both Reace/Reece wives, but a family relationship between the two women, if any, has not been established. Smith County marriages weren’t recorded until 1838; presumably the Reece marriage was prior to that time.
More study is needed on the Reace/Reece connection. The Reace family had been in Wake Co, NC for quite some time - marriage records of John Reace in 1779 and Roger Reace in 1781. There was also a Richard Reace in 1781 and a Nancy Reace who married in the early 1820’s. The first Reece in Smith Co, TN was a John Reece in the 1820 Census. There were ten “Reece” households in Smith Co, TN in 1840. Of the 71 Reece’s family members (husbands, wives & children) in the 1850 Smith Co, TN census, all Reece men over the age of 34 were born in NC; meaning their family was in NC through 1816. The oldest Reece member in 1850 was the original John Reece born in NC, age 83.
Early records in Smith Co, NC used mixed surname spellings; mostly “Searcy”, but spellings seemed to change primarily to “Sircy” by mid-century. There are genealogical claims of military service for William Searcy – either service in the War of 1812 or a later Indian War, though no records have been located. William Searcy named one daughter after his own sister – Pricilla. William Searcy died on 05-30-1855 according to the Herman Haskel Woodard and Mary Lillie Sircy Family Bible (published in 1882); Bible owned by Carmelita Woodard Walker. More research to follow on this family.
Thomas Searcy (b.1790; d. prior to 1860) joins Richard Searcy in Mecklenburg Co, NC
Aquila Searcy’s third son Thomas Searcy (b.1790) is first located in the tax rolls of Johnston Co, NC in 1816 (age 26) with one free pole and 200 acres of land. At this same time, Acquila Searcy lived in neighboring Wake Co, NC. There is no clear understanding for Thomas paying taxes on this land – no deed records appear for the tract; the land may have belonged to his wife’s family. Thomas Searcy married Sally Xxx (b.ca.1794) - marriage date and maiden name not yet identified. If they married when she was 21, they would have wed about 1813.
Thomas Searcy (b.1790) soon followed his brother Richard Searcy to Mecklenburg (he was there by the 1820 US Census). This move also included the balance of their father’s family from Wake Co, NC. Thomas never recorded any land purchases, sales or attended juries, yet he was involved in a number of civil suits as the plaintiff over debts in the 1830’s. Thomas Searcy secured a loan in 1839 with his brother Richard, the deed of trust was witnessed by John (M) Searcy.
Thomas and Sally Searcy’s children are presumed to include the balance of known Searcy individuals in Mecklenburg marriages from 1835 to 1850. Their ages track with the Thomas Searcy household in the 1820-1840 Mecklenburg Co, NC Censuses. The 1840 census indicates that his older children were not at home (married in the late 1830’s) with Dorcus and Thomas Jnr still living at home. Thomas Searcy refers to himself in the 1850 US Census as Thomas Searcy Senior with Dorcus at home and his son Thomas Searcy Junior living nearby, being 23 years old.
Children of Thomas Searcy (b.1790) documented in Mecklenburg Co, NC Marriages and the 1850 US Census 1. John Searcy (b.ca.1814) married circa 1836 to Emily Xxx (not recorded in Mecklenburg) 2. Jemima Searcy (b.ca.1815) married 07-19-1837 to Hiram Sprinkle 3. Richard R Searcy (b.ca.1819) married 03-28-1838 to Sally Holten (Holden) bondsman John Searcy 4. Dorcus Searcy (b.1820) no marriage located; unmarried in 1840 and 1850 5. Thomas B Searcy (b.1827) married 07-23-1849 to Martha Ann Howell (Jnr in 1850 Census)
The Riddle of John Searcy
No early Searcy family worth its salt would be complete without a controversy over how many John Searcy’s there were and who belonged to whom. There will be a more detailed comparison between the two John Searcy’s with a little more time to research, but at this point the author assumes there are two distinct persons by this name. One John could write, the other could not; there is an age gap for the two Johns and their wife’s first names were different - all leading to the conclusion of two distinct men.
John M Searcy (b.ca.1807)
Aquila Searcy’s last son was John M Searcy, born circa 1807. He did not use a middle initial until later in life, but his younger cousin would not have necessitated a distinction in Mecklenburg as one of the two families moved away in the 1840’s.
John M Searcy loaned his older brother Richard $30 in 1827 when John was only age 20. This suggests he may have had charge of the residual of the Aquila Searcy family estate to have resources to loan money at that young of an age.
John M Searcy married Elizabeth Wallis (b.1811, NC) in Mecklenburg Co, NC in 1828. His bondsman John Flaniken married his sister Elizabeth Searcy a few months later.
There is one John Searcy listed in the US Census of Mecklenburg in 1840 that is probably the son of Thomas Searcy (b.1790). John M Searcy’s family is missing in 1850 NC (and apparently in 1840 as well); they settled in Carroll Co, GA by 1860. Their son John Winslow Searcy is the only sibling appearing with his parents in GA records with a birth date/state of 1845, GA or NC, depending on which census you look at.
Searcy Family of Mecklenburg moves to Georgia
The Searcy’s in Mecklenburg began migrating away between 1850 and 1860; here are the known migrations:
John M Searcy (b.ca.1807) and Elizabeth Wallis Searcy relocated to Carroll Co, GA by 1860; their son John Winslow Searcy was born in GA in 1845.
John Searcy (b.ca.1814) and Emily Xxx were in Mecklenburg in 1850, but left no paper trail. Their son Thomas C Searcy relocated to Ga near his first cousin Thomas B Searcy.
Richard R Searcy remained in the Mecklenburg area, once living across the state line in York Co, SC in the 1860 US Census and back in Mecklenburg for the 1870 and 1880 US Census.
Thomas B Searcy (b.1827) and Martha Ann Howell moved to Bartow Co, GA prior to 1860. Thomas died during the civil war in 1862.
It seems that most descendants of the Bartow Co, GA (Thomas B Searcy) and Smith Co, TN (William Searcy) families have a good handle on their lineage from Georgia and Tennessee genealogies, so this article ends for now.
1 This paper suggest that Aquila was in a trade; Aquila did not improve his land grant, he moved to several nearby locations over a short period of time, and settled in Wake Co where the state Capital and business was carried out – a location that certainly offered on-going opportunity for a man with a trade or skill set. An example from the same period can be gleaned from Raleigh’s state house history. “Building Commissioners ordered that… ”brick, of Wake County clay, was made within a few blocks of the building site... cut Timber in any of the Streets for fire wood to burn Brick… there were “six brick-yards going on... Large numbers of workmen, black and white, were required to accomplish all the labor related to building the statehouse... skilled in certain trades such as brickmaking, masonry, plastering, carpentry and the like.” from “Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth, 1584 – 1925” by R.D.W. Connor.
2 The 1820 US Census - Mecklenburg Co, NC included the following household members for Thomas Searcy and his father’s family.
Males 1 Age 0-10 Richard R Searcy (b.ca.1819; age 1) 1 Age 10-16 John M Searcy (b.ca.1807; age 13) 2 Age 16-18 2 unidentified males * 2 Age 18-26 Thomas Searcy (b.1790; age 30) and 1 unidentified male * 0 Age 26-45 No one listed 1 Age 45-up Aquila Searcy (b.ca.1749; age 71) * These males could be family, or they were old enough to be non-family workers who lived with the family
Females 3 Age 0-10 Jemima Searcy (b.ca.1815; age 5), Dorcus Searcy (b.1820; new born), and 1 unidentified female 3 Age 10-16 Lucy Searcy (b.ca.1805; age 15), Elizabeth Searcy (b.ca.1806; age 14), and 1 unidentified female 0 Age 16-26 1 Age 26-45 Sally, wife of Thomas (b.1794; age 26)
Note: This research is ongoing and represents the author’s best research and conclusions. The author is currently researching the early Searcy family of Johnston and Cumberland Cos, NC and migrations and will incorporate the Mecklenburg and Smith county’ groups in a future publication. Please stay tuned for updates and new findings.