James Flanagan’s 1752 will deserves a fresh look

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In light of the fact that we now know James Flanagan had two sons named James, I believe his will warrants closer examination. This is my work in progress (isn’t all genealogy permanently “work in progress”?), which I’ll update as I find new information.

Louisa County, VA Will Book 1, page 19 – This copy contains damage to the page wherein areas are illegible (the right portion of the page).

The complete will can be seen here:  Louisa Co VA Chancery Cause 1870-021, John Flanagan &c vs William Flanagan etc.  It must have been copied for the court case before the Will Book was damaged.

In the name of God Amen the first day of June 1752 I James Flanagan of the County of Louisa and Parrish of Fredericksville being very Sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given unto God, Do therefore, make my last will and testament, and as touching such worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life I give demise and dispose of the same in the following manner – First I give and bequeath to Sevena my well beloved wife all my household goods except One five gallon Iron pott which I lend to my son James & his heirs. I likewise lend to my beloved son James and his heirs two, two year old heifers. I likewise lend to my son James two Sows & pigs. Item I lend to my son Ambrose and his heirs one heifer. Item I lend to my daughter Mary & her heirs one heifer. Item I lend to my beloved son Whittle and his heirs one heifer to each of them when they come of age. I give to the Infant that my wife is now with child off, One heifer, the remainder part of my stock I give and bequeath to my wife to be disposed of as she shall think proper. Item I give and bequeath to my wife my Bay horse and Saddle Item I lend to my son James and his heirs my Gray horse and Pennsylvania saddle to be delivered when he comes of age. As for my land, that Two hundred & fifty acres which I took up I desire should be sold to pay my debts. Item I lend to my son James and his heirs Two hundred and fifty acres of land lying in the fork of the Creeks. Item I lend to my two sons Ambrose & whittle One hundred and fifty acres part of the four hundred tract to be divided between them. Item I lend to my daughter Mary two Cows & Calves and the Dutch Oven and what pewter I have after my wifes death. Item I lend to my son James & his heirs my gun. I leave Thos Walker and Dabney Pettus my sole Execrs of this my will and I do hereby ordain this my last will & testament – In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year above written.


                                                                                    James + Flanagan {seal}


Signed Sealed Published and declared by the sd James Flanagan as his last will & Testament in the Presence of us the Subscribers William Smith – Chas + Sprouse (his mark) – Dabney Pettus

At A Court held for Louisa County on Tuesday the XXiij day of June 1752, This will was this day in open Court proved by the Oaths of Charles Sprouse and Dabney Pettus two of the Witnesses thereto, and by the Court admitted to Record and is RecordedTeste   James Littlepage Cl Curt

                                                            A Copy, Teste John Hunter DC LC

The Legacies:

250 acres “which I took up” to be sold to pay his debts

Sevena (wife)              all household goods except a 5-gallon iron pot

                                    Bay horse and saddle

                                    All un-bequeathed stock to dispose of as she sees fit

James (son)                 5-gallon iron pot

                                    Two 2-year-old heifers

                                    Two sows and pigs

                                    Gray horse and Pennsylvania saddle when he comes of age

                                    250 acres lying in the fork of the Creeks


Ambrose (son)             1 heifer

                                    75 acres of the 400-acre tract**

Mary (daughter)         1 heifer

                                    2 cows and calves

                                    Dutch oven


Whittle (son)               1 heifer

                                    75 acres of the 400-acre tract

Unborn child               1 heifer

Analysis of Legacies:

Regarding the gray horse and saddle – This legacy must be to the son James who was born in 1730 (per his grandson Winston Dalton’s records). The younger James was just an infant, and the horse would not have lived long enough for the younger James to inherit it at age 21, which is what “of age” meant in colonial Virginia. If the elder son James was born in 1730, he would have been age 21 when James Sr made his will. It could be that the 1730 date was not exactly correct, that it could have been 1731 or 1732.

Why does James get 250 acres while Ambrose and Whittle have to split 150 acres between them? (As an aside, I think this is the land that caused a bit of controversy between the two sons names James some 60+ years later.)

Did James Sr acquire an additional 250 acres that he bequeaths to James? Or are the 250 acres he bequeaths to James and the 150 acres he splits between Ambrose and Whittle comprising the 400 acre tract?

While Ambrose and Whittle receive 75 acres each and 1 heifer each, James receives 2 heifers, 2 sows and pigs, and 250 acres of land. My opinion is that these particular bequests to son James are meant for the older son, who is somewhere around age 20 in 1752.

Because of the obviously unbalanced number of legacies between the male children – with James receiving so much more than Ambrose and Whittle – it poses two possibilities:

  1. James Sr was dividing property between his two sons, both named James, OR
  2. Could the younger James actually be the “unborn child” that James Sr bequeaths the heifer to? Talk about opening Pandora’s box!

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