craddock watkins documen

My Twisted Search for Absalom Craddock Watkins

Thank you to J. Lee Simons for sharing this story with us.

My mother’s maiden name is Watkins. One of her second-great-grandfathers is Absalom Craddock Watkins, who first shows up on public record in the 1820 Census of Bond Co., IL. With him is his wife Mary “Polly” Little, and enumerated just before him are his father-in-law James Little, Sr. and brother-in-law James Little, Jr. In the 1850 Census, A.C. and Polly are identified as being born in KY, which kept me running in circles for many years following many Littles and Watkins without a connection.

Eventually, I located James Lytle, Jr.’s marriage record for July 1819 to Rebeckah Cook in Sumner Co. TN, but I found no other Littles nor any sign of Absalom. And then I stumbled on a Military Warrant for 80 acres to Absalom Wadkins dated 1 May 1854, just two months before his death, showing he had served in Captain Cook’s Company of Tennessee Volunteers during the Seminole War. Two hits in Tennessee! Not having knowledge about that war, it took some time teasing the information off the Internet to narrow down that there were three distinct forays defined as the Seminole War, and it made no sense for him to have served in anything other than the first Seminole War, 1814–1819, prior to his move to IL.

From the Tennessee State Archives web site, I ordered an index that purported to list documents they had for the Seminole War. It was about this time that I was contacted by an “Internet” cousin who is also a descendant of Absalom. She shared that based on research done by another cousin on the Little line that James Little, Sr. was from Botetourt Co., VA, and his wife was Elizabeth Craddock—a big break if we could prove it.

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While waiting for that index, I was going over the Family Search Wiki for Tennessee and saw a link to Tennessee research on Facebook, which I followed out of curiosity. At the time, this was a brand new option pairing the public with researchers who voluntarily made themselves available on Facebook to answer questions. I tentatively asked if I could ask about anything, and a quick answer came back “yes.” So I quickly referenced my challenge with Absalom and how I had ordered this index that I was not sure would be any help. In the day or two that followed, other comments, questions, and suggestions came from others posting on Facebook. One in particular came from a man saying he lived in Nashville and had gone to the State Archives and had found the muster rolls for Captain Cook’s Company and Absalom was there. Not only that, but he had made digital images of the two rolls—muster in and muster out. The files were so large he could not e-mail them, so he posted them on his personal web site for me to download.

Not only was Absalom there, but so was his soon to be brother-in-law James Little, Jr., and best of all was the closing statement by Captain Cook on the roll releasing the men, which indicated they were all from Robertson Co., TN! Then as I began to go through land records for Robertson Co., I found James Little and his brother William, who had married Nancy Craddock in Botetourt Co, VA. And in case there was any lingering doubt, a witness on one of the documents for William was Jannet Craddock, his mother-in-law and mother to both Nancy and Elizabeth. However, although there were Watkins in Robertson Co., TN, none of them seemed to be connected to Absalom, and because he was not yet of legal age, he did not appear on any documents. Also, the marriage records in Robertson Co. had been lost, but here was Absalom in Robertson Co. in the company of these folks who were known to come from Botetourt Co, VA, and his middle name matched the last name of his mother-in-law. This was so exciting.

My search moved back in time and east to Botetourt Co, VA, where I gathered records by surname, first Little because there were more, and then Craddock. There were depositions in 1810 by the children of William Craddock testifying their mother Jannet/Jennet should have his land. And there were records when they sold that land, presumably to finance their travel to TN.

Then I got to a record in April 1805 labeled Craddock to Watkins:

Craddock to Watkins
Botetourt County Virginia Book 8:588-89
Know all men by these presents that I, William Craddock of Botetort County
and State of Virginia hath bargained and sold his plantation that he now lives on con
taining seventy acres be it more or less for the sum of forty one pounds
ten shillings to Elizabeth Watkins of the same county and state aforesaid for
which the said Craddock is justly indebted to the said Elizabeth Watkins
at settlement, also the whole of his personal estate which he
has in his possession. Also the said Elizabeth Watkins is to continue
on the before mentioned premises as she had usually done before;
and for the true performance of the same I bind myself my heirs
executors administrators in the penal sum of one pound
lawful money of Virginia. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my
hand and seal this first day of April One Thousand Eight Hundred and

William Craddock {seal}
Witness Present
John Tate
William Davis
Betsey (her mark) Davise

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I assign my rights and title of the written contracts to Peggy & Nancy
Craddock for value Recd of these as witness my hand & seal
this first day of May 1805.

Elizabeth (her mark) Watkins {seal}

Mark Evans

At Botetourt June Court 1805
The obligation from Craddock to Watkins was proven by the oath of
William Davis and Betsy Davis witnesses thereto subsccribed also an assign
ment thereon to Craddocks proven by the oath of Mark Evans a witness
thereto which obligation and assignment is ordered to be recorded.
A Copy teste Bowyer DC

It would make perfect sense for Elizabeth to be a Craddock who married a Watkins and they are the parents of my Absalom Craddock Watkins. However, I have no idea how to prove that. Which Watkins was she married to? What happened to him? And what happened to her?

In Botetourt Co., VA, there is an unaccounted-for Elizabeth Watkins connected to William Craddock. A boy named Absalom Craddock Watkins shows up in Robertson Co., TN, in the company of the Littles and Craddocks, and he marries a girl whose mother is a daughter of the same William Craddock with the Elizabeth Watkins connection. How is that for twisted?

My uncle had his DNA tested, and it matched to a descendant of this Watkins:

John Watkins Sr b. 1694 VA d. May 1763 Halifax Co, VA, m. Elizabeth [maybe Parker?]

So I know the line Absalom belongs to, but there are a hundred years/maybe four generations to fill in the gap. Some of John’s posterity is known, but it does not yet reach to Absalom.

I must express my gratitude for technology and to those who have provided help along the way, especially my Uncle John who pessimistically offered his DNA and got the surprise of his life when we had a match, and my Internet cousin Karen who understands all the Watkins in VA like no one else I know.


J. Lee Simons has been researching her family history and helping others with theirs for over thirty years. Spending time with her two children and nine grandchildren and researching her ancestors are her favorite activities.

Included image is of the original record referenced in this article. 

6 thoughts on “My Twisted Search for Absalom Craddock Watkins”

  1. In the 1810 Census of Botetourt County, Virginia there is an entry:

    Jno. Watlins. 2 males under 10, 1 male 10-15, 1 male 26-44; i female 16-25.

  2. Valerie Hartnett

    I have been searching for Absalom Watkins for many years. If this is the same one he had a son named William s Watkins who married a Baker and moved to Louisiana. Did Absalom marry Valentine Sturman. In Valentine’s will he had a daughter that married a Watkins?

  3. John Watkins of Halifax had a son Thomas who had sons Absalom, Samuel, and I think John. Absalom moved to Kentucky,married a Mcclanahan, and had Dr. Samual Watkins. Samuel Watkins (son of Thomas, was a early postmaster in Botetourt Co. Someoen said the other Watkins in Botetourt were a different DNA maker; does this include Samuel?

  4. In researching my family I have come back to this link on my great grandfathers mothers side of the family. If you go to family which is a LDS family history site you will find lots of info on this name. From my research I am thinking he possibly was a child of a slave and
    Elizabeth Craddock. Elizabeth Craddock and James little or lytle sr had mary little who then married Absolom craddock watkins. The name wadkins appears somewhere down the line in another place in my family tree with a servant named Lucy J Watkins. She is listed as mullato on the records. I dont know how accurate this is but it could be the case?

  5. Well, his surname matches the DNA results, so if he was adopted, it would appear that took place after he was named.

  6. I think there is a clue in the Biblical story of Absolom. This might explain the sudden appearance of
    the name.

    “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” Could he have been adopted? Just a thought.

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