The Frederick County Warthens

The Frederick County Warthens

Last weekend, two of my sons and I took a trip to Emmitsburg, Maryland for an annual retreat that I’ve been taking teens to for nearly two decades: Mount 2000, run by the seminarians of Mount St. Mary’s University, brings together hundreds of teens from around Maryland, DC, Virginia, and well beyond to learn more about the Catholic faith and to grow in prayer. The event was a great source of inspiration, as always.

This year, however, my sons and I took some time on the way up to Emmitsburg to dig into the genealogy and history of the Frederick County Warthens, who are descendants of the Southern Maryland Wathens. We stopped by the Frederick County Archives & Research Center to see what new information we might be able to discover about our relationship with these northern cousins. Over the course of a couple of hours, we used my smartphone to digitally scan pages of relevant documents, which I hope to be able to sort through soon.

Although we didn’t have enough time to tour, I also made a point of looking at the exterior of nearby St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, the first Catholic parish in Frederick County. St. John's was originally founded as a mission of the Jesuits of Southern Maryland, who ran most of the parishes in Charles and St. Mary's Counties until the 1960s. You can see an old photo of St. John the Evangelist above.

A highlight of the trip, however, took place after the Mount 2000 retreat: My two sons and I met up with fellow genealogy-enthusiast Rob Warthen at Bollinger’s Restaurant in Thurmont. Rob Warthen, one of the Frederick County Warthens, has run the “Warthen/Worthen/Wathen Group Project” at Family Tree DNA for about fifteen years. The data in this group project was indispensable to my research for The Wathens of Southern Maryland: Their Genealogy & History, and I am truly grateful for Rob's managament of the project over the years. As a software engineer, Rob also runs DNAGedcom, LLC, which provides tools to help DNA test-takers to interpret their results. Rob and I enjoyed delicious burgers at Bollinger’s while sharing some stories from our families and our research.

In the coming months, I hope to learn more about our connection to the Frederick County Warthens. Here’s some of what we know so far: The forefather of the Warthens in Frederick County, John Francis Warthen (d. 1838), was a tavern owner who had several sons, including a son named James Henson Warthen. The ancestor of the majority of Wathens here in St. Mary’s County, James Hanson Wathen (d.1826), was a justice of the peace with several sons, including a son named John Francis Wathen. The Y-DNA test results that were included in The Wathens of Southern Maryland: Their Genealogy & History show that these two branches are closely related. It is almost certain, then, that John Francis Warthen (or Wathen) of Frederick County was the brother of James Hanson Wathen of St. Mary’s County. In a time when many Southern Marylanders were moving westward, John Francis Warthen seems to have left St. Mary’s County and settled in Frederick County, where many of his descendants today remain.

Despite extensive research, I have not yet been able to identify the parents of James Hanson Wathen and John Francis Warthen. As more Y-DNA test takers are added to the “Warthen/Worthen/Wathen Group Project” at Family Tree DNA, I hope that we will discover more clues to solve this and other mysteries in the Wathen family tree.

Two new individuals have already submitted DNA samples to Family Tree DNA for the “Warthen/Worthen/Wathen Group Project,” and I eagerly await the test results. One is a descendant of Barton Wathen of Charles County, who died in Washington County, Kentucky, in 1819. This Barton is the ancestor of genealogist Carol Collins author of Wathen Anthology. The other new test-taker is a descendant of Leonard Warthen, who died in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 1850. Leonard Warthen is the ancestor of the Montgomery County Warthens. We shall see what new breakthroughs await us in 2024!

If you’ve followed this research, you know that Y-DNA tests are expensive. If you’d like to offset cover the cost of future research, you can contribute to our Family Tree DNA group project at Your help is greatly appreciated!

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