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The Swenys/Sweeneys/Swinneys

Part 3

Earliest Known Ancestors

The two family tree charts near the end of Sweny, Part 2, show (1) the known descendants of Edmund Sweny, Sr. up to the births of his great grandchildren in the early 1700s and (2) the earliest known ancestors of our Whites, Sweeneys/Swinneys and Pruitts. Our task is to fill in the missing individuals between the end of the first chart and the chronological beginning of the second chart. The Whites and Sweeneys/Swinneys share the terminal SNP FT55898/FT48931 which likely formed around 1600. Thus, they must each share a common ancestor at FT18699, along with each of the Pruitts, since that is the last SNP they all share. See the graphic at the end of Sweny, Part 1, for more on the relationship of these SNPs. We speculate that Edmund Sweny, Jr. had a terminal SNP of FT55898 and, thus, passed that SNP along to all of his male children. Since none of our six Sweeney/Swinney testers share a more recently formed SNP, we believe they must have split into discrete family lines within a couple of generations of the births of Edmund Sweny, Jr.'s children. Our Pruitts are not positive for the SNP FT55898, so we can assume they split with the Sweeneys/Swinneys around the time Edmund Sweny, Jr. was born (as a result of the birth of an unknown brother of Edmund Sweny, Jr.) or a generation or two earlier (at the birth, perhaps, of an unknown brother of Edmund Sweny, Sr.). So, with all of this in mind, below is a graphic showing the counties where Sweeneys/Swinneys lived in the mid-1700s to early 1800s and, below that, a discussion of the earliest known ancestors of the Whites and Sweeneys/Swinneys. Our job will be to work backward in time from these individuals to see if they are actually descended from Edmund Sweny, Sr.

Sweeney/Swinney Migrations
Sweeney/Swinney Migrations

The map above shows Edmund Sweny, Jr.'s and his children's base of operations, Elizabeth City Co., Va. and York Co., Va. For the most part the records of these families end there and other Sweeney/Swinney family records start appearing in counties further to the west and south. Abraham Swinney wrote his last will in December 1770 in Chesterfield Co., Va. He mentioned his wife Betty, and sons Edmund, John and Joel. It's clear that Abraham was a slave owner like the Swenys of the Tidewater region. Betty seems to appear ten years later in nearby Amelia Co. (as Elizabeth, the head of a household) and still later in Lunenburg Co., Va. (as both Betty and Elizabeth, the head of a household). We're not sure where her sons ended up, but they likely went on to other counties to the west. Both a John (1773 land sale) and a Joel (1790 tax record) show up in Amherst Co., Va. after the death of Abraham, but we can't be sure these are his sons. At this time, we can't place this family in any of our Sweeney/Swinney family lines although it's tempting to place them with Moses Sweny/Swinney of Amherst Co., Va.

Moses Swinney of Granville Co., N.C.

The evidence for Moses Swinney of Edgecombe Co. and Granville Co., N.C. being the progenitor of the Whites in our group is scant, but persuasive. We are told that he witnessed a court document in Edgecombe Co., N.C. in 1738 which is the basis for saying that he was born before 1717 since he would have been at least 21 years of age to perform that duty. We know he received a grant of 400 acres of land in Edgecombe Co., N.C. on March 15, 1742 and that he sold similar acreage in 1744. He may also have bought one or two other parcels of 400 acres around the same time. Did Moses Swinney move from Edgecombe Co. to Granville Co. around this time? Granville Co. was created out of Edgecombe Co. in 1746, so it may be that Moses Swinney did not actually move, just that the land he bought and sold was subsumed into a new county. The next record we have is a Sept. 3, 1754 Granville Co., N.C. court summons commanding the Sheriff to summon Isaac Mabrey to appear before the justices "to declare upon oath what is in his hands or possession belonging to the Estate of Moses Swiney at the suit of Joseph Walle." Clearly, Moses Swinney had died sometime before this summons was issued. Next, we have an Apprentice Agreement dated Sept. 9, 1756 in which the Granville Co., N.C. justices "do put and place unto the said Atkin[s] McLemore, Dulaney Swinny, son of Moses Swinny ... to live after the manner of an apprentice and servant ... until he shall accomplish the age of twenty-one years." Four years later, on Nov. 13, 1760, a similar Apprentice Agreement was filed with the Granville Co., N.C. court that "put in place and bind unto the said Young McLemore, Littleberry Swinney, alias White, son of Margaret White, aged nine years the fifteenth day of May 1759 ... to live after the manner of an Apprentice and servant until he the said Apprentice shall attain the age of twenty-one years." It's likely that both Dulaney Swinney and Littleberry Swinney White were the sons of Moses Swinney. One document even confirms that. It is obvious as well that Moses Swinney's widow Margaret married a White after her husband's death since the apprentice agreement indicates that Littleberry's mother was Margaret White. While Littleberry and Cajabeth Swinney took their stepfather's surname, Dulaney Swinney did not. Several Delaney Swinneys show up in future records (e.g., see Monroe Co., Va.), suggesting that some present day direct-male descendants of Moses Swinney of Granville, N.C. may not necessarily be Whites.

If Moses Swinney was born around 1717 or earlier, was he a descendant of the Edmund Sweny, Sr. line and, if so, who was his father? Several researchers have identified Lazarus Sweny as his father. In his 1732 will, Lazarus Sweny only mentions two sons, Daniel and James, to whom he gave his houses and specified lands. Later in that document he says that the remainder of his real and personal property was to be equitably divided between his wife and children, even calling them "other children" a couple of lines later in the document. It's possible that Moses Swinney of Granville was one of those "other children," but there is no clear evidence at this time. It's said that James Swinney, son of Lazarus, was in N.C., and that his daughter, Molly, married in Edgecombe Co. while his son Thomas lived in Granville Co. Unfortunately, we have not seen documents to confirm this, nor proof that these were the children of Lazarus.

Moses Sweny/Swinney of Amherst Co., Va.

In 1772 Moses Sweny received a land grant of 18 acres on a branch of Harris's Creek. One year later, John Swinney sold a 64 acre tract of land on Pedlar River along with household items, livestock and one slave. Today, Harris Creek and Pedlar River are around 8 miles apart at their closest juncture just north of Lynchburg, Va. In the 1780s Moses, Joseph and John Sweney/Swinney appeared on several Amherst Co., Va. tax lists. However, in 1790 Joel and a recently married Henry Swiney were the only Swinneys appearing on the tax lists; Moses, Joseph and John did not. Around that same time, Swinneys began appearing on tax lists in Lincoln Co., Ky. including Moses and Joseph. We can't be sure that these are the same family members who previously lived in Amherst Co., Va.; however, there is a transaction in Amherst Co., Va. that may shed light on this issue. On Aug. 27, 1788, "Moses Sweeny, Kentucky" sold a 184 acre "Pedlar tract" to Peter Waterfield. Was this piece of land near the 64 acre tract that John Sweney sold in 1773? Does this suggest that Moses Sweeny was the son of John Sweeney and perhaps inherited the tract when his father died? We do believe this is fairly compelling evidence that Moses Sweeney of Amherst Co., Va. is the same individual as Moses Sweeney of Lincoln Co., Ky. (later Casey Co., Ky.). This would make Moses Sweny/Swinney of Amherst Co., Va., and perhaps John Swinney of the same county, the earliest known ancestors of our Sweeney154 and Sweeney181.

Moses Sweney/Sweeney of Pittsylvania Co., Va.

Moses Sweney's last will was proved in a Pittsylvania Co., Va. court on June 20, 1785 suggesting he died a few weeks or months before that date. In his will he only specifically mentioned one of his children, James Semore Sweney, but later in the will said, "at the decease of my well-beloved wife, all my moveable property is to be evenly divided between my children and Josiah Mapples." Josiah Maples was the husband of Ruthea Sweeney, which suggests Ruthea was a daughter of Moses Sweney and, perhaps, had died (most reports indicate she died in 1830 in Tennessee, however). Josiah and, perhaps, Ruthea (Sweeney) Maples later moved to east Tennessee; however, James Swinney/Sweney moved to an area of Monroe Co., Va. that likely became Giles Co., Va., then Mercer Co., Va. and then Mercer Co., W.Va. during the Civil War. There are indications that a Moses Swinney married Ann Seymore in Lunenburg Co., Va. around 1744, but we have not seen that record. A Moses Sweney received a land grant in Lunenburg Co. in 1754. We believe this Moses Sweney later moved to Pittsylvania Co., Va., but until we see the record corroborating the Swinney/Seymore marriage in Lunenburg Co., we can't be certain.

William Swinney of Prince Edward Co., Va.

Moses, John, and William Swinney appear in tax records in the 1780s and Edmund Swiney joins them in 1792. Sweeney216 descends from William Swinney through his son, John William Swinney. This Swinney family moved first to Tennessee and then, around 1832, moved to Brazoria Co., Tex. which is just south of Houston. The town of Sweeny in Brazoria Co. is named after the family. In Texas records, the family's last name is Sweeny.

Benjamin Swinney of Franklin Co., Va.

Franklin Co., Va. was created out of Bedford Co. and Henry Co., Va. in 1786. Henry Co., Va. had been created out of Pittsylvania Co., Va. in 1777. At this time, we're not sure when the Swinneys came to the Franklin Co., Va. area nor where they came from. However, there were individuals with the names Benjamin Swinney and John P. Swinney in Halifax Co., Va. around the same time as Benjamin Swinney showed up in Franklin Co., Va. records. It's entirely possible that the two Benjamin Sweeneys/Swinneys were related, perhaps father and son. Benjamin and Edmund Sweeney started showing up in Franklin Co., Va. tax records around the time Franklin Co. was created. Before that, both Benjamin and Edmund appeared in Henry Co., Va. tax records in 1783 and Edmund appeared in those records in 1782. We can therefore presume that the Swinneys lived in the part of Franklin Co. that was previously a part of Henry Co., Va. On Nov. 17, 1823, Benjamin Sweeney wrote his last will in which he gave all his real and personal property to his wife Elizabeth for her benefit during her life and widowhood. Upon her remarriage or death, all property was to be equally divided between his sons, Joel and Jonathan Sweeney. The will was proved in court on Jan. 5, 1824. The line of Sweeney957 descends from Joel Sweeney.

Can We Link the Earliest Known Ancestors of our Testers to Edmund Sweny, Sr. and Jr.?

We have some circumstantial evidence linking our testers' ancestors to the Swenys of the Tidewater region of Virginia. The sheer number of Sweeneys/Swinneys in Virginia, their seeming movement to the west and south, and the use of similar names within the family groups (particularly Edmund and Moses) suggests a link between them. The Tidewater Swenys owned a few slaves and that continued for some of the Sweeneys/Swinneys as they moved away from that region. Unfortunately, there's a gap of 20 to 40 years in our records that keeps us from definitively linking any of our groups to the Tidewater Swenys. We are confident that if we can link one of our earliest known ancestors to them, then all must be linked, simply based on the Y-DNA evidence. The early to mid-1700s will remain the focus of our research efforts.

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