Saturday, October 19, 2019

Following Thomas Kirk's FAN Club Across 18th Century Virginia

I’ve located new evidence that suggests Thomas Kirk, my fifth great-grandfather, was not alone when he moved from Berkeley to Brooke County, (West) Virginia in about 1799.

Brooke County, (West) Virginia

In April 2018, I discovered Thomas Kirk on five years of tax lists in Brooke County, (West) Virginia: 1799 - 1803. This was an exciting discovery because it was the first time he had been found outside Licking County, Ohio (where he settled and died in 1846), and verified his children's claims in census enumerations that their father was born in Virginia.

Thomas’ appearance on the Brooke County tax lists put him in the home county of his future wife in the years just before family lore says that they married (about 1804).

1799 Brooke County, (West) Virginia Personal Property Tax List
Thomas Kirk made his first appearance in the home county of his
soon-to-be bride

Perhaps equally important to being in the right place at the right time was that Thomas disappeared from Brooke County’s tax lists (1804) when he and his bride likely married and moved across the Ohio River to Captina, Belmont County, Ohio (per published family histories).

But where was Thomas before his 1799 appearance in Brooke County?

Berkeley County, (West) Virginia

In the ensuing months, my research turned up a handful of DNA matches that indicated Thomas Kirk might have a sister, Mary Kirk. The investigation moved to Berkeley County, (West) Virginia when I learned that Mary married Anthony Geiger there in 1797.

A grandson of the Geigers gave me names to focus on when he wrote that Mary’s parents were Joseph and Sarah Kirk of Berkeley County.

In November 2018, research found Sarah Kirk widowed by the late 1780's but continuing to live on the 100-acre Berkeley County farm that Joseph leased in 1773. She was a good citizen and paid her taxes, leaving me a paper trail.

Berkeley County tax lists enumerated the number of white men over age 16 in the taxpayer’s household (because they were subject to a poll tax). From 1792-1795, there were no white men 16+ in Sarah’s household.

1795 Berkeley County, (West) Virginia Personal Property Tax List
Sarah Kirke was enumerated with no white men above the age of 16

In 1796, that changed.

In that year, a male above the age of 16 appeared. Depending on the exact date of birth, this male would have been born in about 1779. Pretty darn close to Thomas Kirk’s purported 1778 birth year.

1796 Berkeley County, (West) Virginia Personal Property Tax List
Sarah Kirke was enumerated with 1 one man above the age of 16

The unnamed male over 16 appeared with Sarah Kirk in the personal property tax lists for 1797, 1798, and 1799. They were both missing in 1800 and onward.

How convenient that a man, who was the approximate age of Thomas Kirk, appeared in Sarah Kirk’s household – the purported mother of Mary (Kirk) Geiger, who DNA suggests may have been Thomas’ sister. Perhaps Sarah was also his mother.

Did Thomas move in 1799 – appearing on both the Berkeley and Brooke counties tax lists? The paper trail supports that theory.

But would a young unwed Thomas move alone?

John Beard Appears Again

Fast on the heels of my research into John Beard, who played a reoccurring supporting role in the lives of my Kirk family (see The Linchpin Who Links an 18th Century Family Together), I found evidence that further substantiates the theory that Thomas was in Berkeley County prior to moving to Brooke County in 1799.

He had familiar company!

I just found an 1803 deed between “…John Beard late of Berkeley County and state of Virginia and Margaret his wife…” and George Harris. The Beards sold Harris 200 acres in Berkeley County for “…nine hundred pounds current money of Virginia…” The deed states that John inherited the land from his father Andrew Beard of Frederick County, Virginia.

1803 Berkeley County, (West) Virginia land indenture - John and Margaret Beard
sold 200 acres to George Harris

For descendants of John and Margaret Beard, this document is a treasure because it confirms the identity of John’s father.

For descendants of the Kirks, it’s important because of the curious notation that John was “late of Berkeley” – an indication that he had moved elsewhere. Where were the Beards now living?

The land deed concluded with a note from the clerk of [drum roll, please...] Brooke County, (West) Virginia.

The Beards were living in Brooke County, where they finalized the sale of their Berkeley County property.

1803 Berkeley County, (West) Virginia land indenture - John and Margaret Beard
sold 200 acres to George Harris, finalizing the sale from Brooke County, (West) Virginia

There is now proof that the Beards were in the same place at the same time as the Thomas Kirk I speculated was my fifth great-grandfather!

It seems more plausible that Thomas would travel from Berkeley to Brooke if he was accompanied by family rather than alone. How fitting that it was the Beard family – whom records have shown were an ever-present support to the Kirks.

It’s also curious that the Beards sold their land in November 1803. Did the Beards want the cash in hand because they planned to move across the Ohio River into the newly formed state of Ohio (where they also settled in Licking County and eventually sold Thomas his farm)?

While the research continues, I have sifted from the sparse 18th century paper trail complementary evidence that reinforces my growing confidence that Thomas Kirk was born in Berkeley County, (West) Virginia in 1778 to Joseph and Sarah Kirk, moved to Brooke County in 1799 where he married, and then crossed the river to settle in Licking County, Ohio.


  1. I really enjoy following your very thorough research work. Too many other commitments right now for me to get this involved with anything, but reading your posts keeps the idea in my head. You're so inspiring!

    1. Thank you, Laura! I understand the challenge of squeezing research projects in between the many demands of life. While work is awfully busy, I do find it's easier in the fall/winter to turn to my family history.

  2. This is so exciting. I can just imagine your delight on finding John Beard's name and finding the young male over 16 in Sarah Kirk's household. You really are the Family Sleuther! Bravo!

    1. At least this week I am! :) Sometimes the pieces come together and sometimes, well, you know...