Thursday, December 12, 2013

John and Patience Turner

John Turner's mark
This is the story of my 5th great grandfather and grandmother, John and Patience Turner.  I first discovered them while researching my Hursey family.  There were smatterings here and there on the internet about it.  John was a slave and his freedom was purchased by his wife.  What?!  Surely, I would have heard about this from my grandmother, who was the family genealogist and our connection to the Hursey family.  But I hadn't.  So I assumed I must have made a mistake and I'd have to come back later to it to prove out my connection to this man - or disprove it.  I came back it early this year when a DNA test revealed Yoruban ancestry that would, in part, be explained by this connection.

Patience's father's name and date and place of birth are unknown.  Her mother was named Rachael Smith and was from Halifax Co., NC.  Rachael was of Irish descent and died while Patience was still a child.  [1][4]

By 1769, Patience's last name was Turner. [2]  Given the evidence I have regarding her maiden name, I believe that this is because she and John married before he was freed (see below) and she took his last name.

It's at this point that I should mention that although I did find some statements about Patience's racial identity being 'mulatto' while doing this research, I was not able to confirm that.  In fact, the evidence I've seen seems to indicate that she was not multiracial.  Although I can find one court record that said "Patience Turner passed and was received as a free white woman not having more than 1/4th negro blood" [6][13], and one could surmise that wouldn't need to be said if she was clearly white, 'less than 1/4th negro blood' could technically include no African heritage and the statement may have been made simply because she was married to a man of color so someone thought it needed to be on the record, so this statement is not evidence of African descent.

Further, Patience signature does not appear on the 'Petition of Free People of Color Asking that an Act to Impose a Poll [Tax] be Repealed' (more on that petition below) along with the signatures of her husband and children.  Had she been considered a 'free person of color', she most likely would have signed.  Millie, her daughter, did sign.

I found no other evidence that she was anything other than Caucasian and, in fact, many sources seem to indicate that that she was white, even of Irish descent. [1] [4]   That said, in the early 1600s, Irish women who were taken as slaves were paired with male African slaves to create slave offspring of a particular complexion.  So it is within reason that if her ancestors had been African and Irish slaves, she could have been of both Irish and African descent, in this instance.

My ethnic heritage, according to my DNA, leaves room for Patience to have been 100% African and she clearly wasn't.  My DNA shows no Irish heritage, specifically.  In short, my DNA didn't help me in narrowing down her heritage at all.  So, given all of this, I remain neutral on Patience's ethnic heritage at this time.

John's story picks up when he, a mulatto man known as 'John' was sold, on 23 July, 1769 by his owner, Thomas Weathersbee [2] for 60 pounds, to Patience Turner.
"Thomas Weathersbee Sr. of Halifax County, NC, planter, for 60 pounds proclamation money gave bill of sales to Patience Turner of same place for one mulatto man named John."  [3]  
Because his slave owner lived and died in the same place (Edgecomb turned to Halifax, turned to Martin County in the course of his life and after his death), it's likely that John is from the area.  In a later court case, after John's death, it was said that John was the son of a slave and a white plantation owner. [14] It is possible he was Thomas Weathersbee's son, or perhaps some other slave owner - or the statement could have been false altogether.  Where or how he took the surname of Turner is unknown.  We know only, from this deed record, that John is a 'mulatto'.

Patience and John were married.  Because the bill of sale uses her married name of Turner, it is assumed they must have married while he was a slave.  Patience and John had several known children, among them :
  • Reuben (b 1760-1765). [13] Because his brother John was born in North Carolina, Reuben was also likely born in North Carolina.  
  • John Jr [7], who said in his Revolutionary War Pension Application that he was born in Martin County North Carolina on the Roanoke River about 1765. [12]
  • Martha (aka Patty) Turner [13]
  • Millie (Mildred) [6] [23]
  • Sarah [12][14]
Sometime between 1769 and 1786, based upon the births of their children and Robert's petition [1], John and Patience moved to South Carolina. We know that the John and Patience in South Carolina are the same John and Patience because they later (below) refiled the bill of sale of John to Patience in South Carolina [5].  The area they moved to in South Carolina, Prince Frederick Parish, Winyah (aka Old Prince Frederick Winea), went through many name and boundary changes within their lifetimes [9] :
  • 29 Jul 1769, Georgetown was created
  • 12 Mar 1785, Liberty was created within Georgetown
  • 19 Feb 1791, Liberty was eliminated
  • 01 Jan 1800 Marion District was created with the same boundaries as Liberty previously had and was separated from Georgetown
  • 16 Apr 1868 Marion County created from Marion district when state constitution abolished districts 
In 1786, John is listed on the Prince Fredrick Parish 1786 Tax Returns as owning 100 acres of land. [20]

In the 1790 Georgetown District Census, there are 10 'other' listed in the John Turner household.  This would account for John Turner, Patience and 8 other individuals.  [8] [11]

As a side note, in the same census year (1790), Samuel Hussey, who later marries Millie (or Mildred), John and Patience's daughter, appears as a single white male in the Prince George Parish Census. [11]

20 April 1794, a petition was circulated and signed to ask the government to repeal the poll tax that was then levied against people of color.  For full text images and a list of signers of the petition, go here.  

It is signed by many people, among them,  William Turner, John Turner Jr., John Turner Sr., Mildred Turner, Grenelaper Turner and Catherine Turner.  And by signed, I mean mostly, applied their mark.
On December 5th, 1795, John Turner signed (placed his mark on) the Petition of the Inhabitants of Georgetown District to locate a courthouse within closer proximity of where they lived. [21]

On March 7, 1797, John Turner is the witness on a deed between Daniel Miers and James Meyers for "two negroes Protroe a boy and Mary a girl". [10] Dec 9th of the same year, John Turner is mentioned in a deed of land from John Sanders to Enos Tart as having land that borders the parcel being sold. [18]

In 1799, the deed of sale for John from Thomas Weathersbee to Patience was registered in Marion County. [5]  This was probably to legally re-prove, in South Carolina, that he was not an escaped slave. 

16 Jan 1799, John is mentioned as having land that bordered the land to be sold from John Sanders to Levi Solomon, along with Enos Tart, who was sold his land in the 1797 deed above. [18]

In the 1800 Marion District census, there is a John Turner Sr listed with a number '5' in the Other column and a John Turner Jr listed with a 4 in the other column.  Although I can't be sure who those numbers included, it is likely that Patience was still living at the time.  [7] [8]  

Sometime before 1807, John and Patience both died.  Patience's death is not mentioned in any documentation I could find.  In January 30th 1807 Barnabas Hathcock sold land he had inherited from John Turner, referenced in the deed as deceased. [17]

Researching this story illuminated so much about the culture of the times, the experience of people of color in this period in the United States and the lifestyles of my own ancestors.  John and Patience's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would find themselves in court over and over again over issues of race.  I'm percolating another post on the topic as I sort out my own thoughts.

Many thanks to Marty Grant, who's page on John and Patience Turner pointed me in the direction of many of the resources I found.  If, since writing that page, Marty has proven his connection to John and Patience, we would be 6th cousins.

Update : I have since isolated John Turner's ethnic makeup to, at least in part, Yoruban, via genetic testing [23].  This shows up in some admixture applications as Sub-Saharan African or West African.

Update again : Must read book, about, in part, the Turner family : A Stranger and a Sojourner: Peter Caulder, Free Black Frontiersman in Antebellum Arkansas by Billy D. Higgins

Research Errors Of Note : 
  • There was another John and Patience Turner in North Carolina that I've run across in my research.  John Turner and Patience Barfield.  Very often I have seen Millie who married Samuel Hussey listed as their child.  That connection is in error.  There is a mountain of proof (some of which is mentioned here) tying the Millie Turner that was the daughter of John and Patience who married Samuel Hussey to the South Carolina Patience SMITH Turner and John Turner in this post.  
  • The Millie Turner who was the daughter of John and Patience, in this article, was not born in Guatemala as many trees report.  
  • There is a John Turner that bought 100 acres of land in Bladen County, North Carolina, just over the state line from 'my' John Turner in 1772.  [22]  This area in Bladen County was also conveniently occupied by a group of people of color, who's ethnic identity is a mix of African and native American, who have been referred to as the Mob of 18 after a 1773 complaint was filed alleging "free Negros and Mullatos living upon the Kings land...Raitously Assembled together".  It is possible that my John Turner bought this land in 1772, 3 years after having his freedom purchased, before moving to South Carolina.  However, although it sounds like it might be a fit, I have not found a solid peace of evidence to tie that John Turner to my John Turner.  They could very well be different John Turners, despite sometimes being lumped together.  
  1. 21 Mar 1840 Marion Dist., SC Judgment Roll # 4344. Robert Hussey's race and whether he should have to pay a special tax or not
  2. Martin County Courthouse, Williamston, NC Will Book 1, pp. 447 and 448.
  3. Halifax County, North Carolina Deed Book 11, page 144.
  4. Lucille Utley, Glenda Watts, Three Rivers Historical Society; Selected Marion County Judgment Rolls: 1803-1859.  Henry Turner's race.
  5. Marion County Loose Records, published in Pee Dee Queue, Vol. XXVIII, No. 6, Nov-Dec 2004
  6. South Carolina Indian Traders and other Ethnic Connections Beginning in 1670, page 325 Affidavits, notices, and other Records for the State of South Carolina. Accessed 28 May 2013.  John Hussey's racial identification.
  7. Marion District 1800 Federal Census. : Accessed 10 Jun 2013.
  8. Heinegg, paul.  Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware. : Accessed 30 Jul 2013.
  9. The Newberry Library. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. :  Accessed 29 Sep 2013.
  10. Daniel Miers to James Myers, deed. Marion County Deeds Book A, p. 128. Roll MN2. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  11. Prince George Parish (Georgetown District) 1790 Federal Census, p 501. Roll CN 1. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.  Heads of Families.
  12. Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters.  Pension application of John Turner. R10756. fn21SC. : Accessed 29 Sep 2013.
  13. 9 Aug 1860 in the case of Martin W. Turner (c1820) vs N.C. McDuffie, Sheriff of Marion District. 
  14. Darlington Dist. Court of Equity, Bills and Petitions. Year 1877, Package YY#1. p # 607.
  15. Prince Fredrick Parish (Georgetown District) 1790 Federal Census.  pp 500-501. Roll CN1. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  16. Petition of Free People of Color Asking that an Act to Impose a Poll [Tax] be Repealed. General Assembly Petitions 1794 # 216, frames 369-374. Roll ST 1368. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013. (full text and images here)
  17. John Carmichael, et al. Marion County Deeds Book I, pp. 104-105. Roll MN 3. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  18. John Sanders to Levi Solomon, deed. Marion County Deeds Book G, pp. 33-35. Roll MN 3. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  19. John Sanders to Enos Tart, deed. Marion County Deeds Book D, pp 178-180. Roll MN 2. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  20. Prince Fredrick Parish 1786 Tax Returns, Frames : 116-125. Roll ST 68. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  21. Petition of the Inhabitants of Georgetown Distric. General Assembly Petitions 1796 #160, Frames 40-45. Roll ST 1454. South Carolina Department of Archives and History : Accessed 11 Dec 2013.
  22. Colonial Land Entries in North Carolina 1769-1774, A. B. Pruitt, Part 2, p1, entry #2375.
  23. Genetic testing on FTDNA.


  1. Hello! I am a direct descendent of Millie Turner, and have done the ancestry DNA analysis, if you would like to compare notes. :) Email me at jdawn2002 @ (remove spaces). :)

  2. dawn i am a direct line from the john turner and patience smith all the way to sandy turner. would love to compare dna with you.

    1. Hi, Do you have a gedmatch kit? My email is carrie northwood at gmail (without spaces).

    2. Carrie, Your research is great and confirms my own but your;s is much better. Do you know that a branch of the Hussey Family (Turner descendants) changed their name to Hursey?
      I have recently sent a DNA sample to

  3. HI, first seeing if the comments below will be accepted.

  4. It worked! I am a great-great-great grandson of John and Patience Turner. John Jr. had a son in Marion SC, Henry Turner. His wife was Eliza Wallace Turner. One of Henry's daughters was Henrietta Turner, my grandmother on my mother's side. My mother, Margaret Long married my dad, Fred Spivey. I'm Michael Spivey. I recently had my DNA tested through I show up to 2% Native American Ancestry and 2% African. The bulk of my DNA is Western Europe, Britian, and Irish. I would love to talk with you if we can! My email is Cheers, Mike.

  5. Nice! I have multiple ancestors with African heritage so here are the steps I took to identify the Turners in my own genetic makeup : .

  6. I am also a descendant of John and Patience Turner. My email is

  7. My mothers maiden name is Hussey... My research has lead me to samuel Hussey which also makes me a descendant. My email is I am limited on research ability. I was wondering if anyone could share any information with me? It would oh so greatly be appreciated. Ive been researching for my mother because since her father is no longer here she couldnt find out from him about her heritage.

  8. Genelogy tends to get a bit confusing with what little record keeping was done and what records that were recorded show many a families sharing a few, sometimes even a handfull, of the same common names. I am going to make a safe assumption and say, given the few distinctions to tell who's actually who in all these common name families, they were not very good thinkers, and as "the want-to-be government of the future" they obviously strived to just get the job done rather than striving for a job well-done. Sorry, I had to vent and get that off my chest, sometimes going over the exact same stuff time and time again in hopes for different results can be irritating. You can follow my research here I'm a Hussey trying to find the starting line as well and it's so confusing sourcing families before 1850 Any help would be so GRATEFULLY APPRECIATED, YOU WOULD BE #1 IN MY BOOK THAT'S FOR SURE! Feel free to comment or send a message to the Profile Manager

  9. I recently found out that both my mother and father have ancestors from the John Turner line! I will give the specifics later. I have a "double dose" of the Turners! My email is:

  10. Well... we're just having a family reunion here, aren't we. I am also a descendant of John Turner and Patience Smith.

    Facebook:Glenda Moore Sherrill / / DNA: Glenda Jean Moore