Amy Roan of Halifax, North Carolina: A Mystery with Some Answers

Last Wills and Testaments are an essential part of my ‘go-to’ tool kit when researching ancestors. Amy Roan of Halifax, North Carolina is the perfect reason why.

Amy was born approximately in 1752 in Halifax County, North Carolina. She is a member of the Roan family group who lived in early-to-Mid 18th Century Halifax County, North Carolina as well as Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina. This is a particularly difficult family group to research.  18th Century records are patchy at best for them. This makes it difficult to understand how the different Roan family groups in this region of colonial America are related to one another. DNA cousin matches and the use of specific family names within this group show there is a blood connection between these family groups. The progenitor of this line remains something of a mystery. However, a Will that I discovered yesterday might hold a clue as to who the founding member of the North Carolina family was.

Amy Roan would go on to marry Isham Hawkins and raise a family in Halifax, North Carolina.

Amy is a person of interest. My father, my sister, and I match around a half dozen or so of her descendants on AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, and Gedmatch. So I know there is a connection between these North Carolina Roans, and my Lancaster, Pennsylvania Roan kin. The North Carolina Roans are also related to my Scots-Irish Virginia Roanes.

The trouble I’ve had, on AncestryDNA in particular, is the family trees of Amy’s descendants. Most of these trees cite Amy’s parents as Colonel William Roane and Sarah Upshaw (my 7th Great Grandparents). A handful cite Colonel William Upshaw Roane and Elizabeth “Betty” Judith Ball (my 6th great grandparents) as her parents. I understand the confusion. There is a proliferation of early 18th Century William Roan(e)s in colonial America.

However, the name Amy never appears in the two Wills associated with either of these Essex-Virginia-based William Roanes. Amy was alive and well when both of these men passed.  Her name should appear in either of their Wills if either man was her father. The fact that it didn’t appear in either Will was a big, old, red flag for me.

Another red flag was there are no existing records that show that either Essex County, Virginia-based William Roane ever owned land in North Carolina. True, such records could have been destroyed in either the American Revolutionary War or the Civil War. However, once again, had either man owned land in North Carolina, such tracts would have definitely been part of their probate records and would have been mentioned in their respective Wills. While both men had huge land holdings, neither had land in North Carolina. To date, no proof exists that they had any dealings or connections to North Carolina.

The last red flag was the implied wealth within the households of the Essex Country William Roanes and the very modest household of the William Roan from North Carolina. The Virginia Williams were very wealthy men. Amy’s father, judging by his Will, had a very modest estate when compared to the other two Williams.

In short, things just weren’t adding up.

The Will below is proof that neither of the above Williams were her father (click each image for a larger picture):

Source Citation: Halifax County, North Carolina, wills; Author: North Carolina. County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (Halifax County); Probate Place: Halifax, North Carolina
Source Information: North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: North Carolina County, District and Probate Courts.

This Will not only confirms the father of Amy, it also provides the names of her siblings. My father, sister, and I also match a number of their descendants.

Of course, when it comes to genealogy, when one question is answered…more questions arise. So who is this William Roan, who owned land in both Halifax and Caswell Counties, North Carolina? I’m still working on that one. However, in the meantime, I believe the way he spelled his surname is a vital clue.

I’m going to take a quick, wee step back in time. The oldest known and proven Roane ancestor that I have is Archibald Gilbert Roan(e) of Grahsa, Antrim, northern Ireland (1680-1751).  Archibald had 5 children, all of whom emigrated to America:

  1. Col William Roane, Sr of Essex County, Virginia;
  2. James Roane of Essex County, Virginia;
  3. Andrew Roan of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania;
  4. Margaret Roan (married Captain John Barrett II) of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; and
  5. Reverend John Roan of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

While James and William adopted the Roane (with an ‘e’) spelling, their Pennsylvania-based siblings used the Roan (without an ‘e’) spelling. Roan, thus far, seems to be the consistent spelling variation used by the Pennsylvania branches of the family.  This leads me to believe that Amy’s branch is linked to the Pennsylvania side of the family.

There is a William Roan within the Pennsylvania family who is the strongest, most likely candidate to be the same William Roan resident in North Carolina: one William Roan, born about 1736 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – the son of Andrew Roane (see #3 above) and Mary Margaret Walker (my 8x great uncle and aunt).

While the most likely answer, this remains speculative. As with many colonial-era American ancestors, I haven’t yet found records showing how William Roan went from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Nor have I found any records that cite this William’s parents.

As for William Roan who is known to be Andrew’s son? I haven’t found any records for him either other than a legacy left to him in Andrew Roan’s Will.

It’s my hope that now that I have identified who Amy’s father really was (and who he was not), my North Carolina-descended Roan cousins and I can focus on taking Amy’s father’s story further back in time.

I can’t stress enough how essential using Last Wills and Testaments are in genealogical research. The above example is the perfect example of why this is so.

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4 thoughts on “Amy Roan of Halifax, North Carolina: A Mystery with Some Answers

  1. I believe I am a descendant of Judge Spencer Ball Roane, however, I cannot jump/bridge the generations between my 3rd great grandfather John (La)Fayette born in 1830 or 32 and Judge Roane’s children/grandchildren or nieces/nephews and their children. I’m trying to find a paternal living descendant (son of sons of sons,…. to him or his father) to which I can compare my Y chromosome haplogroup DNA.

    Can you or anyone else who follows this site help me find such a person?


    Mike Roan
    801 830-3250

    1. Hi Mike. I’ll certainly ask. Frustratingly, all of the Roane cousins I know all descend from female lines. I’ll ask them if their male Roane relations have tested, or if they would like to. I vaguely remember there is an online Roane YDNA project. I’ll have a Google and look

  2. geanologyadventures, if the lengthy post about Amy’s family is yours (is from what I can tell) it is such a pleasure to see another truly dig into records to find answers to family history puzzles. I just started working on the Bagby family for a nephew’s girlfriend.
    Nancy Hawkins, Isham’s and Amy’s daughter, was the mother of Randall Warren Bagby. I haven’t found one entry on ancestry that cites this family in the 1850 census, probably because they use indexes only. Found them as Bandell W Badgely in Washington Co., IL. I was hoping to find Nancy still living and maybe in Randall’s household, but no. There is someone on ancestry who posted a photo labeled Nancy Hawkins Bagby 102 yrs old. I found an obit for a Nancy Hawkins Bagby Brill Wydick who was 100 when she died in southern IL but she isn’t the same Nancy. At least the person who posted the photo also wrote a comment that they had no proof Isham’s daughter lived to 102. The obit I found on 100 yr old Nancy states John Brill was her first husband, implying Bagby was likely her maiden name and perhaps Hawkins a middle name, not a typical middle name but still a possibility. 100 yr old Nancy married John Brill in White Co., IL and was living in Hamilton CO., IL in 1860. At least three of our Nancy’s grandchildren went to White Co., IL but 100 yr old Nancy was born about 1836, not 1777. If Christina decides to do a DNA test it will be interesting to see if you pop up as a cousin, you should. .

  3. Paul Johnson does extensive research on the hawkins family there are pics of houses graveyards wills I’m a decendecent of Hawkins and Roane .Facebook has a Hawkins family group .

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