A BIG Discovery at the Maryland State Archives

A BIG Discovery at the Maryland State Archives

As I get closer to the conclusion of research for The Wathens of Southern Maryland, I took some time off on Wednesday to make one more trip both to Georgetown University in Washington, DC and to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. I've been to both archives twice already, but suspected that there was still more to find. I'm sure glad that I did!

I began my morning by traveling to the historic campus of Georgetown University, where records of the Maryland Province of Jesuits are kept. The Jesuits used to serve most of the parishes here in Southern Maryland, so many of the oldest Catholic sacramental records from both St. Mary's County and Charles County can be found in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in the Lauringer Library at Jesuit-run Georgetown University. I've viewed most of these documents before, but there were a couple of boxes of records that I hadn't seen yet. I spent my morning combing through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century sacramental registers to make sure that I wasn't missing any important information. I'm glad that I made the visit, but can't say anything revolutionary was discovered in Georgetown this time.

My afternoon trip to the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, however, was very significant - My book wouldn't have been complete without it!

First, I wanted to see a document that the carpenter John Wathen himself wrote in 1704, a bill for work on King and Queen parish in Newport, Charles County. After a little bit of searching in the archives, I found the record and was able to take a high-resolution scan of it for my book. How surreal to handle a document over three hundred years old, written by our Wathen ancestor!

It was the next folder that I found, however, that held the greatest discovery...

As I've mentioned before, I've been able to find no record of the parents of George W. Wathen of Charles County. The Y-DNA research we've done shows that he descends from Hudson Wathen, son of John Wathen, but I couldn't figure anything else out.

My only other clue was a land deed from 1829, in which George W. Wathen and Elizabeth Bailey, presumably his sister, purchased land from Bennett Wathen, a grandson of Hudson Wathen. I suspected that this meant George W. Wathen and Bennett Wathen were closely related, but the land deed said nothing of their relationship. Was Bennett a cousin, an uncle, or perhaps even George and Elizabeth’s father?

Among the records at the Maryland State Archives, I found a file containing records of an 1836 legal dispute between George W. Wathen and Cornelius Bailey, Elizabeth's husband. As the handwritten pages in the folder detail, Cornelius was cutting down trees and selling timber from the land that they all owned together, and George wanted a portion of the sales.

Just two words in the many pages of hard-to-read legal documents (see the image above for the relevant excerpt) revealed what I was looking for:

“Humbly complaining sheweth unto your Honors your Orator George W Wathen that his father Bennett Wathen by a deed of conveyance bearing date the 29th of December eighteen hundred twenty nine and duly acknowledged and recorded in the office of Charles County...”[1]

His father. George W. Wathen and Elizabeth Bailey had bought the land from their father.

We now know exactly how the Charles County branch of George W. Wathen fits into the family tree of the colonial John Wathen - George W. Wathen was the son of Bennett Wathen Jr., grandson of Bennett Wathen Sr., great-grandson of Hudson Wathen, and great-great-great grandson of the carpenter John Wathen!

I'll be incorporating this newly discovered information into The Wathens of Southern Maryland right away! In the book you'll learn details about how Bennett Wathen Sr. supported America's efforts for independence during the Revolutionary War. You'll also see what this new discovery about George W. Wathen may mean for my branch of the Wathen family tree, the descendants of Benedict Aloysius Wathen.

There are just two days left to get 15% off of your pre-ordered copy of The Wathens of Southern Maryland! Use the code 10SEPT1670 at checkout to apply the discount!

[1] Maryland State Archives, “CHARLES COUNTY COURT (Equity Papers) 1829-1843 Wathen,” George W. vs Cornelius Bailey and Elizabeth Bailey, MSA C2234-5-11

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