What Happened to John Flanagan?

My quest to resolve the mysteries surrounding my 3x great-grandfather.

John Flanagan was born in VA (probably Albemarle County) about 1795 (per DAR records), son of James Winwright Flanagan and his wife Phoebe Simpson.  He married Ann M Saunders on 22 Jun 1820 in Fluvanna County VA.  She was also born about 1795 according to DAR records.

Few details are known about John outside of his marriage to Ann, the 1840 census in St Francis County, Arkansas, and his known son William J who married Julia Seymour.  I have always wanted to find out what happened to him and have been searching out details for the past few years, and I’ve made some pretty amazing discoveries.  I’m certain he did not die in St Francis County, as most online family trees say (they having simply copied other people’s family trees), but that he instead died in Rankin County MS or Limestone County AL sometime after 1845 but before 1849.

The reason most family trees say he died in St Francis County AR is because that is his last appearance in records.

Until now.

For instance, Ann died and John remarried, to Mary Ann Yancey of Giles County TN.

And John and Mary had several children together — probably seven — and three of them survived to reach adulthood.

This article presents my theory regarding John, Ann and Mary and their fates.  It is presented as a series of events in chronological order, with my explanations of why I believe the information is about the John who is the son of James and Phoebe and the father of William J (and others).  The events outside of Fluvanna County VA and the 1840 census for St Francis County AR were previously unknown, but because of what we know about John and his son William, along with 1) the emergence of a letter written in 1844 by John’s brother Simpson B Flanagan which I discovered in a Fluvanna County chancery case and 2) the compiled research papers prepared by Dr. Edward Latane Flanagan (1882-1965) which are housed at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture (formerly Virginia Historical Society), I have been able to shed new light on John.

The theory pieces together many moving parts. Supporting Documents are presented in a separate pdf file so they can be viewed in a separate window while reviewing this theory.

Notes and Questions:

  1. In addition to the petition for dower land in which Polly is mentioned as “now Polly Flanagan,” I had found a Giles Co TN record that stated Mary Yancey is the wife of John Flanagan; I thought I downloaded it, but I can’t find it and need to look for it again online.
  2. Regarding Simpson’s 1844 letter in which he states John is living on the Yazoo River in MS, there are 7 counties through which the Yazoo flows:  Leflore, Holmes, Humphreys, Yazoo, Sharkey, Issaquena, Warren; these counties need to be searched.
  3. John and Mary’s daughter Mary and her husband Samuel Weeks named a son “Simpson Brooks Weeks.”  I suspect this somehow ties in with her uncle, Simpson B Flanagan; he seems to have been quite kind to John and his family.
  4. The 28 Oct 1850 probate record:  The heir mentioned — in the singular — must be the infant George Williams mentioned in the same court entry, whose guardian is Alexander McKinney, and who was probably not previously recorded in Mary’s estate records (why not?).  The suit brought by Robison implies multiple heirs (Mary A Williams admr vs. Heirs of Mary A Williams), so it is certain that the other children have been recorded elsewhere in the probate records – likely in loose papers which may or may not still exist.
  5. None of the deed records and almost none of the probate records for Limestone Co are indexed, so page-by-page review is required.  A probate book covering 1854-1856 that is key to this research is lost, per the Limestone Co AL Archives website.  I have not finished paging through the probate records that still exist and hope to find additional information about Mary’s estate.
  6. The inventory and sales records for Mary’s estate do not exist in the extant court records.  In fact, there are no record books at Limestone Co for inventories and sales of any kind, unless they are contained in an estate file – but estate files prior to 1865 do not exist, at least online.
  7. Limestone Co had a destructive courthouse fire in 1862, per familysearch.org wiki.
  8. What happened to Mary’s 7 slaves?  So far in the deed or probate books I have found no record of them outside of Ben.
  9. I think John died in Limestone Co AL, vs. Rankin Co MS, which is where we last see him mentioned in a record.  I think he truly did go to stay with his brother Simpson in Limestone Co as Simpson said in his 1844 letter.  My reasoning for this is, if he died in Rankin Co, there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Mary to go to Limestone Co because as far as I can tell, none of her siblings were there. But she is on the 1850 census with Flanagan children in Limestone, having entered land there in 1848 while a resident of Giles Co TN – so there was some sort of draw for her to go there.  Perhaps Simpson B Flanagan’s benevolence drew her.
  10. What happened to George Williams, infant of Mary and her unknown husband Williams?

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