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The Swenys/Sweeneys/Swinneys

Part 4

Earliest Known Ancestors of Our Swinney/Sweeney/White Testers

The two family tree charts at Sweny, Part 3, 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 in a man born around 1640 CE. 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 in the Virginia counties of Elizabeth City, York, and Norfolk. 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. See the first few paragraphs at Sweny, Part 3 for the lone exception.

One intriquing individual we found in central Virginia is Abraham Sweny/Swinney. He first appeared in Spottsylvania County in 1753 as a witness for two indentures for John and Elizabeth Holladay. The first indenture covered the sale of 147 1/2 acres to Joseph Peterson, the father of Abraham's (future?) wife, Elizabeth Peterson. The second indenture covered the sale of 100 acres to the Holladay's son, Joseph Holladay. We note also that a John Swinney and a Mary Swinney appeared separately in court records in Spottsylvania County in 1738, 1739 and 1740. We suspect these could have been Abraham's parents, but have no proof at this time. By 1762 and 1763, we know that Abraham Swinney, and likely Elizabeth, were living in Amelia Co., Va., based on two tithables and one court document. The latter appointed Abraham as the surveyor of a highway, likely indicating he had been living in Amelia County for some time. In 1765 Joseph Peterson, still living in Spottsylvania County, wrote his last will naming Abram Swinney as the husband of his daughter Betty [Elizabeth]. While Abraham and Elizabeth continued living in Amelia County for a few years, by 1770 they must have moved to Chesterfield Co., Va. where Abraham Swinney wrote his last will on December 27, 1770. At the May Court of 1771, "[t]he last will & Testament of Abram Sweny decd was further proved [and] ordered that the same be recorded." Based on his last will and lists of tithables, it's clear that Abraham was a slave owner like the Swenys of the Tidewater region. In his will he mentioned his wife Betty and his children (in order of appearance) Edmund, Ann, John, Sally and Joel. At the time the will was written, none of the children appear to have been over the age of 21. His will stipulated that his wife Betty would have control over most of the estate during her widowhood, but if she were to marry, everything would be sold and she would get her thirds during her lifetime. Just a few years after the will was recorded, Betty returned to nearby Amelia County (as Elizabeth, the head of a household) and still later in Lunenburg Co., Va. (as both Betty and Elizabeth, the head of a household). Perhaps the provisions of her husband's last will encouraged her to stay single for all those years. We know that Joel Swinney, likely her youngest child, appeared in several records in Lunenburg County including individually in a 1795 court case and with his mother in three other court records between 1796 and 1802. We have not determined where her other children ended up and, at this time, we can't place this family in any of our Sweeney/Swinney family lines.

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 County to Granville County around this time? Granville County was created out of Edgecombe County 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, Jr. line and, if so, who was his father? Several researchers have identified Lazarus Sweny as his father. Given that we do not have any information about Lazarus's marriages or children before 1729 when he was around 45 years old, this speculation may have merit. 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. While we couldn't be certain that these were the same family members who previously lived in Amherst Co., Va., there are two documents that fairly conclusively confirm that they are the same family. First, on Aug. 27, 1788, "Moses Sweeney of Kentucky" signed an indenture for the sale of a 184 acre tract of land on the Pedler River 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 or brother of John Sweeney and perhaps obtained the tract when John died or moved on? Second, according to the Revolutionary War pension application of Joseph Sweeny of Washington Co., Ky., dated November 1833, he recalled entering service in October 1780 in New Glasgow, Amherst Co., Va. In a supporting document, Charles Sweeney of Casey Co., Ky. (Casey County was formed out of Lincoln County in 1807) called Joseph Sweeney his older brother and confirmed his account of Revolutionary War service. We do believe these two items are compelling evidence that Moses Sweeney of Amherst Co., Va. is the same individual as Moses Sweeney of Lincoln 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 Sweeny wrote his last will on May 27, 1813 and it was proved in court on July 13, 1813. It's clear from his will that he owned slaves, that his wife's name was Elizabeth and that he had at least four sons, John, Charles, Joseph and Edmund. After apportioning some of his estate and slaves, he said "I also leave all the rest of my negroes to be equally divided among all the rest of my children . . . and all the rest of my personal property to be sold and equally divided among all my children...." He named Charles Sweeny and John Thomas as executors of his estate.

Moses Sweney/Sweeney [I] of Pittsylvania Co., Va.

The first definitive mention of Moses Swinney is when he and John Swiney appeared in a 1764 List of Tithes for Cornwall Parish, Lunenburg Co., Va. [It's of interest to note that a Delaney Sweney also appeared in the 1764 List of Tithes, but for Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County.] At that time Lunenburg County included areas that would become Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties in 1765. Cornwall Parish encompassed the area that would become Charlotte County. In that same year of 1764, there is a record of a grant of 325 acres to Moses Sweney in Lunenburg Co., Va. Twitty's Creek, which is mentioned in the grant, is located in present day Charlotte Co., Va. Unfortunately, there are no surviving Lists of Tithes for Lunenburg County between 1752 and 1764, so we cannot be sure when Moses Swinney first showed up in those records. We do know that no Swinney/Sweney showed up in the lists between 1748 and 1752. On March 25, 1770, in an Indenture recorded in Charlotte Co., Va., "Moses Sweney of the County of Pittsylvania" sold a parcel of land containing 325 acres to Thomas Foster of Charlotte County. This would suggest that Moses Sweney moved to Pittsylvania County sometime before the date of this transaction. In fact, Moses and John Swinny and Josiah Maples (husband of Moses's daughter Ruthea Swinney) appear on the 1767 List of Tithables for Pittsylvania County. James Semore Sweney and Josiah Maples were witnesses to this 1770 Indenture, suggesting that both were at least 21 years of age at that time. 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 and 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.

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. There is also a gap in the marriages and births of children for the three youngest sons of Edmund Sweny, Jr. [II] which is discussed in Sweny, Part 2. We are confident that if we can link one of our testers' earliest known ancestors to a male Tidewater Sweny, 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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