Jumping to Conclusions

To begin, let me be perfectly clear, this article is pure speculation, but backed up by a few tidbits of evidence or lack thereof. I want to take an idea from the CSI television shows and do a little forensic brainstorming. I feel this theory needs to be presented, so others can comment and perhaps add their research efforts to help prove or disprove my hypothesis.

First the background: William Devin (b:c1724 d:1802 in Pittsylvania County VA) [aka William Senior) has been regarded by some published genealogies as the son of a William & Martha Devin supposedly married 07-Sep-1720 by the “Rector of Camden.” This William has also been said to have a sister named, Sarah, born 20-Mar-1727/28. The dates and names come from Page 1 of “The Devin Family,” a manuscript compiled by Dessa DEVIN Hofstetter circa 1962.

To quote:

From a letter to Alfred Harrison Devin written by Rev. Robert Ira Devin,
son of James, son of Wm. Jr., son of Wm. Sr., we are given the following
interesting records:

Records of the Parish of Camden:

“William and Martha Devin were joined in marriage the 7th day of Sept. 1720
by the Rector of Camden.”
“William Devin, born 1724.”
“Sarah Devin born March 20, 1728.”

End of quote

Notice, the names and dates are listed on Page 1 of Dessa’s manuscript. However, it is never stated that William & Martha (m:1720) are the parents of William (b:c1724). I believe people have assumed that the so-called “records” are trying to list the parents of William (b:c1724). Hasn’t anyone ever questioned any of the following facts as they are presented in the some of the published genealogies?
•William & Martha Devin (m:1720) just happen to have the same marriage date as William Devin, Jr. and Martha [p:Mitchell] m:07-Sep-1780?
•William Devin (b:c1724) just happened to have a wife [p:Sarah Smith] with the same given name as his “sister?”
•William (b:c1752) also married a Martha the same as his supposed Grandfather?

Okay, similar names between generations are common or else genealogy would not be so challenging. Hundreds and possibly thousands of hours have been spent trying prove a relationship that William and Martha (m:1720) are the parents of William (b:c1724) and finding the “Records of the Parish of Camden.” I hope they exist, because finding the original “interesting records” would probably solve the entire mystery.

Dessa probably did not write the original of this part of her manuscript, so she cannot be “blamed” for the ambiguity of these “records.” The tone and writing style is completely different from the parts that only she could have authored. I suspect she included an earlier history written by her great uncle, Alfred Harrison Devin, in her manuscript. The specific references to letters from Robert I. Devin to Alfred H. Devin for the first four pages of the manuscript are good clues that Alfred Devin is the author; but not conclusive.

My Hypothesis:

What if the supposed “interesting records” (if they exist at all) may be a record of the marriage for William Devin, Jr. (b:c1752 d:1810) and Martha {p:Mitchell} (b:c1762 d:c1832)? What if the ’2′ in 1720 is actually an ’8?’ Then, the other mentioned William Devin (b:c1724) and the Sarah Devin (b:20-Mar-1727/28) could be William’s (b:c1752 d:1810) parents.

Arguments for my hypothesis:
◾It was common practice to record information about the entire family at special church events such as weddings and baptisms. So…this “record” maybe listing the happy couple and the birth dates of the groom’s parents. The format is similar to other records that I have seen which record a special church event. I would expect to find the bride’s parents also if I was looking at the original record, which I am not.
◾Camden parish was formed at the same time and had the same borders as Pittsylvania County VA. However, neither existed until 1767 from a legal act passed in 1766. Do the math, the Camden Parish of Pittsylvania County Virginia did not exist until 46 years after this supposed marriage. However, if the year is actually 1780, then the Camden Parish reference could be for Pittsylvania County Virginia and William (b:c1752).
◾The “interesting records” were attributed to circa 1880 letters from Robert Ira Devin of Granville County, North Carolina to Alfred Harrison Devin in Polk County, Missouri. If you assume the “interesting records” actually existed, Robert most likely “found” them in Pittsylvania County (Camden Parish) as that is where his family was from and Granville County is close to Pittsylvania County. No other “Parish of Camden” is close to where Robert I. Devin lived.
◾The number eight being mis-read as the number two is not so farfetched. I have encountered it a number of times while transcribing deed and grant records for Pittsylvania County Virginia. The stylized hand-written 8 just needed a pen skip on the stroke going from the upper left to the bottom right and you have what looks like the number two. You have to compare several of the writer’s 2s and 8s to verify how he styled his numerals. In addition, assuming Robert Ira Devin got his information directly from the original record (whatever/wherever that was), there are several possibilities:
A.The record really does say 1720, but it leaves us with a question, “Which Parish of Camden?” It certainly wasn’t the one in Pittsylvania County Virginia if 1720 is accurate.
B.He mis-read the handwritten 8 in 1780 as a 2 and that is what he recorded. He is reading 100 year old records that may be faded.
C.He read the original correctly, but mis-read his notes.
D.He wrote 1780 in his letter to Alfred Devin, but it was mis-read by the reader of the letter.
◾I have to question any information attributed to Robert Ira Devin in Dessa’s manuscript. Other information attributed to his letters sent to Alfred Harrison Devin also have some issues. The most glaring issue is a statement on page 4 where Rev. Robert Ira Devin (b:1822) is quoted as saying, “I have heard my grandfather speak of Alexander Devin, his youngest brother, born in 1769. … My grandfather William Devin, Jr. was born in Pittsylvania County, Va. and was a soldier three years in the War of the revolution.” If William Devin, Jr. died in 1810, then Robert Ira Devin was born 12 years after his grandfather died, so he could not have heard anything his grandfather said. It could be that the date of death for William Jr. or the birth date of Robert I. is incorrect. It could be possible that the letters from Robert I. Devin were mis-read, mis-quoted, mis-interpreted, or taken out of context. Either way, you cannot take any information presented in the first few pages of the manuscript at face value.

Counter Arguments:
1.I am using the same citation (the Dessa manuscript) as everyone else. To date, no one has found the “Records of the Parish of Camden” that Robert I. Devin wrote to Alfred H. Devin about. I am taking the same leaps of conjecture that are just as bad as the assumption that William (b:c1724) had a sister named Sarah Devin (b:20-Mar-1727/28).
2.The “interesting records” do not state any relationship except for the marriage of a William and Martha.
3.There could be a Camden from which a Rector came that existed in 1720. I just have not found one, yet. Show me a primary record for a Rector of Camden in 1720 from anywhere in the world and we have evidence that Robert’s “records” are correct as stated in Dessa’s manuscript. Someone please tell me where or which Camden existed in 1720 that could be remotely connected to this Rector or family.
4.I don’t have any primary records for the marriage of William Devin, Jr. (b:c1752). All we have is that her first name was Martha. I also don’t have any primary record for the name of William Devin, Sr.’s spouse. All we have is Dessa’s manuscript and a possibility that Robert Devin (b:1759 d:1833) named his only daughter after his mother. Without those records to collaborate or refute any interpretation of the “interesting records,” my hypothesis is blowing as much smoke as the assumption that William (b:c1724 d:1802) had parents named, “William & Martha.”


We have two interpretations of the “interesting records” found on page 1 of Dessa’s manuscript. One or the other (or neither one) of the interpretations could be correct. We need to find the original “Records of the Parish of Camden” (if they exist) to be certain.

My whole point is: to use these particular statements in Dessa’s manuscript as the evidence of any relationship is pure speculation. A strict reading of the text does not specify how William, William, Sarah, and Martha are related except to show that a William married a Martha. The reference for any Rector of Camden in 1720 is not supported by any known primary document, which makes me suspect “Rector of Camden” or the date or both are incorrect.

My family came through Missouri, The Show Me State. Show me the primary records before you insist that I accept such a relationship.

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