The Mystery of Julianna Wathen

The Mystery of Julianna Wathen

In genealogical research, it’s often more difficult to find information about women than about men: Women have historically been less likely to be involved in legal transactions like land deeds or wills, and their last names traditionally change when they are married. It’s not at all uncommon, then, to be unable to figure out the parents or history of a distant female ancestor.

This week, though, I made an interesting discovery about Julianna, wife of George W. Wathen and matriarch of all the Charles County Wathens. I’ve mentioned before that the Wathens of Charles County descend from George W. Wathen (c. 1803-1852), and I’ve outlined how George (Bennett4, Bennett3, Hudson2, John1descended from the colonial settler John Wathen. As is not at all uncommon, though, I had been unable to figure out the maiden name of George’s wife, Julianna. Over the past few evenings, though, I followed a trail of clues in Charles County legal records to discover that Julianna’s maiden name was – drum roll, please – Wathen.

If you’ll give me a few minutes to unpack this discovery – which I’m apparently not the first to make – you’ll see a good example of how genealogical records often contain subtle clues that need to be connected to see the big picture.

The first clue came when I saw another family tree online claiming that Julianna had previously been married to a William Stonestreet. Because mistakes are easily made in genealogical research, it’s important not to take such claims online without finding proof. I therefore turned to a large source of scanned original records with which I’ve become very familiar: Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999, available on This online database contains nearly 2 million scanned images of wills and other estate records from throughout the state. It’s not keyword searchable, which means you need to painstakingly flip through the digitized books in the collection to find information.

After checking several volumes in the vast collection, I came across an important entry in the scanned pages of “Orphans' Court proceedings 1833-1837,” which isn’t just about orphans, but about estate settlements. The August Term 1836 court record says:

Upon application of Julianna Wathen (formerly Stonestreet) adm[inistratri]x of William Stonestreet dec[ease]d it is ordered by the court that she be indulged for six months in the settlement of the Estate of said deceased.[1]

Julianna Wathen, who had been married to the deceased William Stonestreet, asked the court for a six-month extension in settling her late husband’s estate and was granted that extension. This is certainly strong evidence for the claim that Julianna Wathen, wife of George W. Wathen, had been married to William Stonestreet.

Before considering the case closed, however, I wanted to make sure that this was the same Julianna Wathen, since it’s quite common for two people to share the same name, even in the same county. In the volume “Administration accounts 1834-1839,” I found the conclusive evidence I was looking for. The entry is described as, “The Second & final account of George W. Wathen and Juliana his wife Adm[inistratri]x D.B.N. of William Stonestreet deceased.”[2] Clearly, then, Julianna, wife of George W. Wathen, was the widow of William Stonestreet.

What was Julianna’s last name before marrying William Stonestreet? At this point I recalled that I had come across William Stonestreet in my research before. Carol Collins in Wathen Anthology states that a William Stonestreet was married to Julianna Wathen, daughter of John Baptist Wathen and Rebecca Simms.[3] This marriage is implied in the 1826 will of Rebecca Simms Wathen, where she leaves her real estate to her “daughter Julianna Stonestreet.”[4] The relationship between Julianna is even more clearly spelled out in an 1833 legal file that I found this year at the Maryland State Archives, in which the children of John Baptist Wathen are listed with their spouses:

…John B has since died leaving now living in Charles County & State aforesaid three children, Julia[?] widow of a certain William Stonestreet late of [?] County & State aforesaid deceased, Lambert of Said County & State, & Cecilia intermarried with a certain John Budd of the County & State aforesaid…[5]

The bracketed question marks in the quotation represent a damaged, unreadable portion of the document. The context leaves no significant doubt about the meaning.

Fitting together all the clues, we see clearly that Julianna Wathen, daughter of John Baptist Wathen and Rebecca Simms, was married first to William Stonestreet, then to George W. Wathen.

Julianna Wathen and George W. Wathen were, as it turns out, third cousins. The idea of marrying a relative may sound surprising or even scandalous but was somewhat common in the past. You’ll find first and second cousins who entered holy matrimony within the pages of The Wathens of Southern Maryland: Their Genealogy & History.

The Charles County Wathens, then, are “doubly Wathen”: Their patriarch George W. Wathen (Bennett4, Bennett3, Hudson2, John1) descends from John through Hudson, and their matriarch Julianna Wathen (John Baptist4, Bennett3, John2, John1) descends from John through John Jr.

[1] “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999,” images, FamilySearch ( : 7 December 2022), Charles > Orphans' Court proceedings 1833-1837 > image 215 of 268; Hall of Records, Annapolis.

[2] “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999,” images, FamilySearch ( : 7 December 2022), Charles > Administration accounts 1834-1839 > image 162 of 271; Hall of Records, Annapolis.

[3] Carolyn Huebner Collins, Wathen Anthology (South Bend, Indiana: self pub., 2002), 71.

[4] “Maryland Register of Wills Records, 1629-1999,” images,    ( : 7 December 2022), Charles > Wills 1825-1833 vol WDM15 > image 181 of 564; Hall of Records, Annapolis.

[5] “Wathen, Helen et al vs. John Budd and Cecelia Budd his wife et al concerning the estate of Bennet Wathen”, MSA C2234-5-12, 1835; CHARLES COUNTY COURT (Equity Papers) 1829-1843; C2234-5; Maryland State Archives, Annapolis.

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