One of my ancestors who would get the "most challenging to research" award if there was such a thing was THOMAS SAUNDERS/SANDERS b abt 1727-1728 who married MARY MITCHELL and died Nov 28, 1812 in Davidson Co TN as per his will. THOMAS had three brothers:
--Capt WILLIAM SAUNDERS b 1735 who married 1st) HANNAH MITCHELL and 2nd) NANCY CUNNINGHAM and died 1803 in Smith Co TN.
--Maj RICHARD SAUNDERS b abt 1730 who married unknown, died aft 1832 Sumner or Davidson Co TN.
--Col JAMES SAUNDERS b 1733 died 1825 Caswell Co NC, who never married, but who adopted his nephew ROMULUS MITCHELL SAUNDERS, son of Capt WILLIAM SAUNDERS & HANNAH MITCHELL.
All four of these brothers fought in the Revolutionary War in NC. Two of them, THOMAS & Capt WILLIAM, are listed in the DAR Patriot Index.
For nearly a decade I labored under the assumption that these four brothers were the sons of WILLIAM SAUNDERS & AGNES ADAMS. I obtained this information from a published source, "Early Settlers of Alabama, Vol II" by Col James Edmond Saunders published 1899.
The problem is, that couple doesn't seem to exist. There is no record of them in Orange/Caswell Co NC, where the four brothers lived just before the Revolutionary War. No will, historical reference, nothing. Just the citation in the book listed above.
It took me years, and probably the most intensive genealogical sleuthing to date, but I was finally able to unravel the mystery of this family--at least a little bit!
The first piece of truly meaningful documentation that I obtained on this family was the 1825 Caswell Co NC will of Col JAMES SAUNDERS (Jr) who never married, and who adopted his nephew ROMULUS MITCHELL SAUNDERS (who later went on to become a judge, NC state senator, and foreign diplomat--US minister to Spain). I don't have a copy of the original but here is the transcription:
--ABSTRACT OF WILL OF COL JAMES SAUNDERS/SANDERS Jr July 6, 1825 Caswell Co NC;
Nephew JAMES SANDERS, son of THOMAS SANDERS, decd (land on Dan River including Mansion house, 820 acres, at mouth of Little Creek). Nephew ROMULUS MITCHELL SANDERS (land on Dan River called lower tract of 875 acres). Faithful old slaves to live on the land. Nephew ALANSON TRIGG, son of WILLIAM TRIGG decd; niece MARTHA TRIGG, wife of ABSOLEM (should read ABRAHAM) TRIGG; BETSEY P. ATKINSON, wife of THOMAS ATKINSON and her children; brother RICHARD SANDERS and his daughter ANN P SAMUEL; JAMES SANDERS, son of RICHARD SANDERS; HARRIOT SANDERS, daughter of JAMES SANDERS (son of THOMAS) and wife of DOCTOR NATHANIEL SANDERS; Children of LETITIA ALLEN mentioned. Nephew FRANCIS SANDERS, son of THOMAS. Niece SALLY MOSELEY and her son LUCIEN BROWN and her daughter by her former husband BEDFORD BROWN; LOCKETT SANDERS some negroes for her life; Niece ELIZABETH JONES and her son THOMAS JONES and daughter POLLY; Nephew WILLIAM TRIGG of Alabama; KEZZIAH JEFFREYS, wife of THOMAS JEFFREYS (land on Little Creek adj to ARCHIMEDES DONOHO, said land to go to her children, but if no children, land to MILLY WATLINGTON); Nephew JOSEPH SANDERS, son of RICHARD; Nephew JAMES SANDERS, son of THOMAS; Nephew SANDERS DONOHO. Wit: B Yancey (Bartlett Yancey, NC state senator who died 1828), William Harris, Da vid M Sanders. Romulus M Sanders qualified.
Although somewhat daunting, this will is a wonderful piece of documentation in that it connects all four brothers and also the family of SARAH SAUNDERS who married Col WILLIAM TRIGG Jr. She was really key to finding the father of the four Rev War brothers.
The second piece of truly meaningful documentation that I obtained on this family was the 1776 will Orange Co NC (which later became Caswell Co) of JAMES SAUNDERS/SANDERS Sr who was likely married twice, the second time to CASSANDRA HAIDEN/HADEN. Once again I don't have an original copy; this is a transcription:
--WILL of JAMES SAUNDERS/SANDERS, Sr., Record No. A-197, Orange Co NC, dated 28 Feb 1776, proved May 1776. Wife mentioned, name not given. Sons: JAMES, RICHARD,WILLIAM. Daughters: SARAH, wife of WILLIAM TRIGG; CASSANDRA; SUSANNAH, wife of ROBERT TERRY; FANNY, wife of WILLIAM SANDERS the Elder. Grandson: JEREMIAH TERRY, son of daughter SUSANNAH. Granddaughter: CASSANDRA's oldest daughter. Executors: sons JAMES SANDERS, RICHARD SANDERS, Wm. TRIGG. Witnesses: Andrew Haddock, James Sanders, Robin Terry.
This 1776 will obviously is referring to the same family as the 1825 will of Col JAMES SAUNDERS Jr. As I said, the key is SARAH SAUNDERS who married Col WILLIAM TRIGG Jr, who is listed in both wills, as are three of the four Rev War brothers. She was their sister.
The big mystery is why THOMAS SAUNDERS/SANDERS is not included in the 1776 will. Clearly he was a son of JAMES SAUNDER/SANDERS Sr, as Col JAMES SAUNDERS Jr referenced THOMAS' children as nephews and nieces in his 1825 will. Also not included in JAMES SAUNDERS/SANDERS Sr's 1776 will are KEZIAH SAUNDERS who married ARCHIMEDES DONOHO, and ELIZABETH P. "BETSEY" SAUNDERS who married THOMAS ATKINSON. But they and their children, listed as nephews & nieces, are in the 1825 will of Col JAMES SAUNDERS Jr.
Perhaps finding an original copy of the will would provide more clues. Transcriptions & abstracts often leave out pertinent information that might help a researcher.
The last piece of truly meaningful documentation that I found on this family was from a biography of ROMULUS MITCHELL SAUNDERS in the book "Biographical History of NC from Colonial Times to the Present" edited by Ashe, Weeks & Van Noppen pub 1906, page 386 :
" ...his (Romulus Mitchell Saunder's) grandfather was JAMES SAUNDERS of Orange County,who had four sons, among them Col JAMES SAUNDERS , a patriot in Revolutionary times, who represented Orange County in the Provinical Congress of 1776.... and (Capt) WILLI AM SAUNDERS (p386, parentheses are mine)" The bio goes on to say:
"WILLIAM SAUNDERS, a son of JAMES SAUNDERS....shortly after peace was won.... was married to HANNAH MITCHELL, by whom he had two sons, FRANKLIN and ROMULUS MITCHELL SAUNDERS, the subject of this sketch. Mrs Saunders dying, her husband and two sons moved to Sumner County TN, where he married Miss CUNNINGHAM, a sister of Major Cunningham, who was a member of General Washington's staff, and who moved from the Dan River to Sumner County, Tennessee. By this lady WILLIAM SAUNDERS had three sons and two daughters. One of these sons was Judge LAFAYETTE SAUNDERS of Baton Rouge, Louisiana....." ( p 386-387)
This whole process took me several years, and a lot of sleuthing, but I think this final bit plus the wills pretty much proves that the father of THOMAS SAUNDERS and his three brothers was JAMES SAUNDERS Sr who died 1776 Orange Co NC and an unknown first wife-- not WILLIAM SAUNDERS & AGNES ADAMS, as had been erroneously cited in the book "Early Settlers of Alabama Vol II" by Saunders.
For more information & documentation, here is a link to the family of JAMES SAUNDERS Sr of who died 1776 Orange Co NC on my Rootsweb tree
Moseley, Miller & Related Families of Colonial Virginia
As always, your comments appreciated. Have a great day!