Saturday, February 26, 2011

Francis (Frances) (France) (French) Surname

Well, I suppose we should just start at the beginning. The only trouble with that thought is that in genealogy, determining just where be the beginning is the "johnny part" as my Appalachian grandmother would have said. Because every time you uncover one grandparent, you are blessed with the names of two more, and so it grows exponentially.

But begin we must if we are ever to tell the tale of my Appalachian genealogy. Let me first state, however, that there may NEVER be a complete tale of one's Appalachian history. As evidence for my statement, let me enlighten you to the fact that I have FIFTY-ONE first cousins on my mother's side alone. FIFTY-ONE! And that doesn't count my paternal side. Sheesh. What a brood! But that's another trait of our Appalachian families... they were large families. One of my greaty-great grandmothers several generations back had seventeen (yes, 17) children. And it wasn't uncommon for a man to be married three or four times, having been widowed several times, and have children by all four wives.

But we'll try to begin here on this post. And we'll begin with my maiden name. Even that, however, is complicated. (Isn't everything?) You see, I was born under the surname "France", however, my father was born under the surname "Francis" as was my oldest brother. There was some sort of mixup with the spelling of the name and it became so confusing that finally my mom and dad had to deed their own land to themselves to effectuate a name correction. From that point on we went by the name of France, not Francis. But I have a nephew, Dr. Bryan Francis of Williamson, WV who still uses his father's surname (my late brother) that being Francis. So I identify my maiden name as France, and/or Francis. Other spellings of the same last name include Frances and the derivative "French". So if you are any one of those and if you have ancestors who crossed paths in the Appalachians before spreading on westward and northward or southward, then you and I might be distantly related.

Which brings me to another point... Sometimes it seems that at least in this neck of the woods, I may be distantly related to everyone. Not actually, of course, but there is such a sense of community and past and such that we feel related because we are connected in a social sense. We even call our elder people "Aunt" and "Uncle" when they are no blood relation simply out of respect. Most of us have been taught that from a young age.

Now about my France or Francis family:


It seems that there was a William Francis, Sr. who started all this here in Pike County a long, long time ago. Grandpa Francis was born around 1795 in Virginia. He never used his full name but it is thought that his middle name was Howard. Evidently Grandpa Francis was not much of a he traded 1,600 acres of his land for a hounddog. It is also said he traded some more land for a milk cow. It would appear that they saw him coming. Either that or land was plentiful back then, which it would have been.

When Grandpa William Francis, Sr. moved from what is now Russell County, Virginia to Pike County, Kentucky, the trip took five weeks by wagon and he brought with him a Cherokee Indian wife and that's how he became known as "squaw man" ... a name I also affectionately call my husband because he calls me "squaw".

Grandpa William is shown to have been married to a Delilah Francis (we believe this to be the Cherokee Indian wife he brought with him) and they had at least seven children including William Francis, Jr., my grandfather.


William Francis Jr. was born in 1817 and died in 1863 in Pike County, Peter Creek, Kentucky.
He was married to Margaret Bouney (daughter of Sarah Mullins Bouney and Joseph Bouney --my Revolutionary War grandfather).


William, Jr. had William (the third or "Bud" as he was called). Grandpa "Bud" Francis was born in 1853 and he died in 1917. He married Tylithy Hylton., daughter of Susannah Griffith Hylton and James Hylton. Tylithy died and Grandpa Bud remarried Octavia McCoy. (Yes, of the infamous "McCoys".


Grandpa Bud Francis and Grandma Tylithy Hylton Francis had several children including my great grandfather, Joseph Francis, Sr., who was born in 1889 and died in 1975. Joseph was married to Vesta Sanders but she is not my grantmother. Grandpa Joseph had an affair with Mary Hurley (daughter of John Rile Hurley and Jane Allen (and no they wern't married either). The result of Grandpa Joseph and Mary Hurley's union was my father, Joseph Francis, Jr.


My daddy was born in 1921. We are not exactly sure of the date because he has no recorded birth record on file. He married Georganne Blackburn when he was about sixteen years old and they had a son, Otil Francis. They divorced and my dad later married my mother, Opal Virginia Lee who is a daughter of Charles Compton Lee and Ethel Smith Lee. My mother still lives in our homeplace in Kentucky

So there you have it.. the short and the skinny of my Francis Ancestory. As far back as I currently know for sure. I know my mother's side of the family much better as Daddy was raised by neither his mother nor his father but by two spinster school teachers. He even went by the name of Joe Allen for a while as was the case for children who were born out of the confines of marriage in that day. All we have is his school record to guage his age, as I previously mentioned there is no official record of his birth. But one thing is for sure... he was born...and that's how I got here..the third of four children born to Joseph Francis (France), Jr. and Opal Virginia Lee France.

Right now, these are but names on a screen ...nothing more. Names and dates of lives lived and died. But in the future I hope to regale you with some actual stories of these people that will make them come alive for you as you meet my Appalachian ancestors. But for now, we'll leave you to digest the names and dates. My best to you this Saturday evening.

NOTE: We believe that Grandpa William Francis, Sr.'s father and mother were Thomas Francis and Susanna Bottom Francis but this has not been substantiated yet.


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  2. Susannah, widow of Thomas Francis, married Thomas Epperson and had another child, Mary Ann Epperson. Thomas Epperson died in 1825 in Madison County, KY, and left a will naming his wife's children. William Francis is not listed. In fairness, he did leave out Jane who married Alexander Lackey, so it is possible he left out William, but it seems much more likely that Thomas and Susannah are not the parents of William of Pike County.

  3. 8 Dec 1952..U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 Record for William Francis, indicates the parents of William Francis, b: abt 1790, are William Francis b: abt 1738, and Elizabeth Stiles.

  4. National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 Record for William Francis...
    Father William Francis (b: abt 1738), Mother Elizabeth Stiles.

  5. Thank you for your information. I appreciate it. I will look into it and will correct our info is this is substantiated that William and Elizabeth are William Francis' parents. Again, thank you very much.

  6. Does anyone know where General Willaim Yankee Bill Francis from Peter Creek Phelps Kentucky is buried?