Dating and Ordering Zachariah Dutton’s Children

Zachariah Dutton speculation sheet by Darlene Cole
The page that started it all for me.

The list of Zachariah Dutton’s children that I’ve been posting and passing around — including their birth dates and birth order — has been pretty standard for the past twenty years. It’s based, mostly unchanged, on a speculation sheet Darlene Cole published in a 1986 query on the family in Alabama Family History and Genealogy News (the quarterly of the North Central Alabama Genealogical Society out of Cullman, Alabama). This was my first introduction to the family of Zachariah Dutton, so it’s almost with a degree of deference and veneration that I’ve kept it intact. It represents a very good piece of research, making sense of what till then for me had been an undefined and confusing set of names:

  1. Matilda, born ca. 1774
  2. William, born ca. 1776-77
  3. John, born ca. 1778
  4. Zachariah, born ca. 1781
  5. Alexander, born ca. 1784
  6. Jarrett, born ca. 1789-90
  7. Stephen, born ca. 1791
  8. Edmund, born 1793
  9. Elizabeth, born ca. 1796
  10. Samuel, born ca. 1797

Can we assume that these dates are correct, however? Several of the dates, notably for Zachariah Jr., Alexander, Gerrard (Jarrett), and Elizabeth, are at best guesses. Speculation is fine and the ground of research progress, but I am concerned as I move forward not to propagate data as fact without a firm basis. So what can we really say, from the primary sources, about the birth dates and order of Zachariah Dutton’s children? Is there a need to reexamine and revise this venerable list?

I have made one change already, I see as I return to the source. Darlene had the wrong Samuel Dutton, as I did for a number of years: there was a man named Samuel Dutton who settled in Lawrence County, Alabama, in the 1810s, and we simply assumed this was Zachariah’s son Samuel, since Zachariah’s other sons were in the area, and so we overlooked Zachariah’s true son, Samuel Sneed Dutton, who remained in Anson County, North Carolina. Samuel Sneed Dutton was a much younger man than the Lawrence County Samuel, who was apparently born in Pennsylvania about 1780 and died in 1822. When I discovered my error, years later when I made contact with James L. Dutton and Judy Norwood Knight, I moved Samuel to his rightful place as apparently the youngest child.

Outline: The Will

We know, from Zachariah’s will, the names of his children. The will gives the children in the order:

Will of Zachariah Dutton (front)
Will of Zachariah Dutton (front)
  1. Matilda
  2. Zachariah
  3. William
  4. Alexander
  5. Jarrett
  6. Samuel
  7. Elizabeth
  8. Edmund
  9. Stephen
  10. John

But we know from census records that this is not the birth order. We know, for example, that John was born ca. 1778, making him one of the oldest, but Samuel, listed before, was one of the youngest, born ca. 1797. So apparently this order is arbitrary. But it at least defines Zachariah’s children and shows us who we need to include; without the will, we would be pretty much unable to prove anything about what children belonged to Zachariah or how they are related to each other.

Basis: 1790 Census

Zachariah’s appearance in the 1790 Federal Census gives us a basic outline for the birth order of his children.

Zachariah Dutton
1 white male over 16
5 white males under 16
2 white females over 16
3 slaves
1790 Census, Charles County, Maryland: Zachariah Dutton
Zachariah Dutton on the 1790 U.S. Census, Charles County, Maryland, page 17. He listed as 1 white male over 16, 5 white males under 6, 2 white females over 16, and 3 slaves.

If we assume that the white adults are Zachariah and his wife, this accounts for six of his children, born before 1790: five sons born after 1774 and before 1790, and one daughter born before 1774. This would seem to indicate that a girl was the oldest child (though we have no guarantee that this other female over 16 was in fact a daughter). Since there were ten children named in the will, eight sons and one daughter, we can assume that three sons and one daughter were born after 1790.

Later censuses for Zachariah Dutton

Zachariah Dutton Sr. appeared in three later censuses in Granville County, North Carolina, in 1800, 1810, and 1820. These censuses are less clear than the 1790, since Zachariah Dutton remarried and adopted a merged family and it’s difficult to discern who is whom.

1800 Federal Census, Granville County, North Carolina

Zachariah Dutton
7 free white males under 10
1 free white male aged 10-15
3 free while males aged 16-25
1 free white male 45 or over
1 free white female under 10
1 free while female aged 10-15
2 free white females aged 16-25
1 free while female aged 26-44
1 slave
1800 NC Granville, Zachariah Dutton
Zachariah Dutton on the 1800 federal census, Granville County, North Carolina.

Judith Parrish, Zachariah’s second wife, is believed to have had three sons by her first marriage to Claiborne Parrish, according to estate records: Humphrey Parrish, Joseph Parrish, and Woody Parrish. We can suppose that Judith was born between 1756 and 1774, probably toward the earlier end of that, if no more children were expected when she and Zachariah married in 1798. But our family of 10 children has grown to 16. We have grown three boys as expected, but who are these three extra girls?

Comparing this to 1790, we can reason that of the five male children then, three were born between 1775 and 1784, one was born between 1785 and 1790, and one was probably less than a year old in 1790. The older female child in 1790, born before 1774, was probably born right about 1774/75, if she is one of the two females identified in 1800 as aged 16 to 25. We know Zachariah had two daughters; the younger one could have been born any time between 1775 and 1800.

1810 Federal Census, Granville County, North Carolina

Zachariah Dutton
2 free white males aged 10-15
2 free white males aged 16-25
1 free white male 45 or over
1 free while female under 10
1 free white female aged 16-25
1 free white female 45 or over
1810 NC Granville, ZachariahDutton, JohnDutton
1810 Federal Census: Granville County, North Carolina

We know from censuses elsewhere that Zachariah Dutton Jr. and apparently William, the oldest sons, have left the home and were living in Brunswick County, North Carolina. John Dutton has married and is still living near his father in Granville County. Jarrett (Gerrard) has apparently left the home and is living unmarried in Granville County. Alexander Dutton was already in what would become Alabama, having been married there in January 1810. So the five oldest sons are gone. That means that the remaining three, Stephen, Edmond, and Samuel, probably fit into the categories in 1810 of aged 10-15 (born between ca. 1795 and ca. 1800) or aged 16-25 (born between ca. 1785 and ca. 1794). This is consistent with the other facts we know about them (see below).

The daughters are more difficult to discern from this. Where is the oldest girl, born before 1774 or ca. 1774/75? Either her age keeps shifting, or she is no longer in this household. Accepting this, we can suppose that the other girl was born either between 1800 and 1810 — not likely, if we presume, as appears from estate records, that Zachariah and Judith had no children together — or between ca. 1785 and 1794.

1820 Federal Census, Granville County, North Carolina

Zachariah Dutton
2 free while males under 10
1 free white male 45 or over
2 free white females under 10
1 free white female aged 16-25
1 free white female 45 or over
1 male slave under 14
1 female slave under 14
1820 NC Granville: Zachariah Dutton, Stephen Dutton
Zachariah Dutton and Stephen Dutton on the 1820 federal census, Granville County, North Carolina.

By 1820, Zachariah’s sons John and William were living in Anson County, North Carolina, where they appear on the census. Zachariah Jr. is nowhere to be found, and may already be dead. Alexander was dead in Alabama. Gerrard appears on the census in Alabama. Edmond, married in March 1821 in Alabama, was probably already there or on his way. Stephen married in 1817 in Granville County and is listed on the same census page as his father. Samuel is apparently living unmarried in Horry County, South Carolina. This accounts for the sons of Zachariah Dutton.

Is the female listed here, aged 16-25 (born ca. 1795-1804) a daughter of Zachariah? This date seems hardly consistent with the daughters in earlier censuses. We know that Elizabeth married William Bailey in 1817 in Granville County. What of the other daughter, Matilda? If she is the oldest child, as we have always presumed her to be, then she was no longer living in the household. But this would fit Matilda if she were a younger woman, born after their marriage in 1799.

Moving on from these ambiguous records, we can take up some precise data points to help flesh out the children.

Firmer Data Points

The firmest, unmovable data point we have is the birth of Edmond Dutton, the only child of Zachariah Dutton with a known tombstone. He was born September 7, 1793, and census records throughout his life affirm this date, and that he was born in Maryland. Beyond this, the 1850 and later censuses, which identify every member of households, establish firm dates for the children who lived after 1850:

  • William was born ca. 1777 in Maryland (1850 Federal Census, Morgan County, Alabama).
  • John was born ca. 1778 in Maryland (1850 Federal Census, Morgan County, Alabama).
  • Stephen was born ca. 1792 in Maryland (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 Federal Censuses, Lawrence County, Alabama).
  • Edmond was born in 1793 in Maryland (tombstone; 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 Federal Censuses, Lawrence County, Alabama).
  • Samuel was born ca. 1797 in North Carolina (1850, 1860, 1870 Federal Censuses, Anson County, North Carolina).

This confirms our earlier hypothesis: three sons were born after 1790, and we can account for them all right here. They also fit into the categories of 1810. Of the five sons born before 1790, we can account for and date two, William and John. That leaves three sons, Zachariah Jr., Alexander, and Jarrett, and the daughters, Matilda and Elizabeth.

Zachariah Dutton, Jr.

Zachariah Jr. only ever appeared in one census that I can identify: the 1810 Federal Census of Brunswick County, North Carolina:

Z. Dutton
1 white male under 10
2 white males aged 26-44
1 white female aged 26-44
38 slaves (!!!???)
1810 Federal Census, Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton
1810 Federal Census, Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton. (This image is manipulated to add the headers.)

Alarmingly, it appears Zachariah Jr. owned 38 slaves!† Are we sure this is the right guy? Yes, I’m pretty sure* — though I’m not sure this isn’t an error in the census. But it says what it says. I have never noticed this before, and it adds a layer of mystery to an already mysterious figure. I can only imagine, with that many slaves in Brunswick County, he was involved in rice production, a very lucrative but very messy business. Did he own the farm, or was he an overseer or some sort? How did he come by so much so quickly? He appears in almost no other records that I have found — but if his position was as significant than this, then surely he must have left some other trace. I’m beginning to see what may have happened, though, and why we have never heard from him: the courthouse of Brunswick County was burned in 1865 by federal troops, causing the loss of many court records.

† It was while working on this article that I made this discovery about Zachariah Jr.’s slaveholding. The discovery caused me to shelve this one and write the previously posted article about The Mystery of Zachariah Dutton Jr., thinking it worthy of more than just a footnote. I have left my earlier alarmed exclamation intact.

* We can be sure that a younger man named Zachariah Dutton did go to Brunswick County around this time, where he briefly served in the War of 1812, for a matter of months at the close of the war — along with a man named William Dutton, apparently my William Dutton. It does appear that this is the right man.

But back to the matter at hand. If Zachariah was one of the two males aged 26 to 44 (and I believe the other may have been his brother William, my ancestor, still unmarried at this time), then this would indicate he was born between 1766 and 1784. We already know, from 1790, that he was born between 1774 and 1790. So combining the two, we can say that he was born between 1774 and 1784. This is consistent with the 1800 census. It is possible, then, that Zachariah Jr. was older than either William or John. He was the head of household in 1810 when William was apparently living with him; but this could be due to the fact that he was married and had established a household.

Alexander Dutton

Alexander Dutton, as far as I have been able to find, never appeared in a census as an independent householder. He left North Carolina early to seek his fortune. He find him on 30 January 1810 in Madison County, Mississippi Territory (later Madison County, Alabama, of which Huntsville is the county seat) marrying Rachel Feazel. He appears on a list of intruders on Chickasaw land in Simms’ Settlement on the Elk River in Limestone County, Alabama in September 1810. We can presume from these facts only that he was probably of majority, at least 21 years of age, that is, born before 1789. If we conclude that the three oldest sons in 1800, born between 1775 and 1784, were Zachariah Jr., William, and John, then it seems reasonable to suppose that Alexander might be the next oldest, born ca. 1785-1790.

Gerrard Dutton

We know that Alexander’s brother Jarrett (or Jarrard, or Gerrard) joined Alexander in Alabama by later in 1810, as Gerrard appears on a list of Mississippi Militia in 1810 and served in the 7th Regiment (Perkins’ Battalion), Mississippi Militia during the War of 1812 in Alabama (the Creek War). In a May 1813 court document in Madison County, Mississippi Territory, charges were dismissed against one Daniel Mitchell for assault and battery on the person of Jarrott Dutton; in the very next record, the same charges were dismissed against Alexander Dutton for assault and battery on the person of Daniel Mitchell. It is not a solid piece of evidence, but in reading this record, and in the fact that it was Alexander Dutton listed in the land records, and in the fact that Gerrard Dutton did not marry until 1820, I’ve always had the impression that Alexander was the older brother.

Gerrard appeared in three censuses as a householder: before coming to Alabama, the 1810 Federal Census of Granville County, North Carolina, where he was listed as a male aged 16 to 25, giving a birthdate of between 1785 and 1794; the 1820 State Census of Limestone County, Alabama, stating only that he was born before 1799; and the 1830 Federal Census of Lawrence County, Alabama, where he was listed as a male aged 40 to 50, giving a birthdate of between 1780 and 1790. Combined, this gives us a birthdate of between 1785 and 1790. The 1800 “bucket” of males born between 1785 and 1790 is already filled with Alexander; but we hypothesized, comparing 1790 and 1800, that the fifth son in 1790 may have been less than a year old then, leading to some ambiguity in categorizing him later. It seems reasonable to conclude that Gerrard was that son, born ca. 1789/90.

Elizabeth Dutton Bailey

We know that Elizabeth Dutton married William Bailey on 27 April 1817. Based on this, I think — supposing that she was a young bride just starting a family — Darlene Cole believed she was one of the younger children, possibly even a child of Zachariah’s second wife Judith Parrish, born ca. 1798. My research of estate records in Granville County, however, leads me to believe that William Bailey was an older man and a widower and that Elizabeth bore him no children, so there is no necessity that she be a young bride.

I find two possibilities in the census for Elizabeth. In 1820, there is a William Bailey listed, he an older man with an apparently younger wife:

William Bailey
1 white male 45+
1 white female under 10
1 white female 10-16
1 white female 26-45
1 male slave 26-45
1 male slave 45+

If this wife were Elizabeth — and its appears it might be, since her William Bailey did have two daughters — then it indicates a birthdate for her of between 1775 and 1794.

Estate records indicate that William Bailey died in Granville County about 1828. Looking again to the census, then, we find an Elizabeth Bailey listed in 1830:

Elizabeth Bailey
1 male 10-15
1 female 40-50

If the right Elizabeth, it appears she was born between 1780 and 1790. This seems consistent with the hypothesis from 1810, that Zachariah’s younger daughter was born between 1785 and 1794. Since it appears from Zachariah’s 1790 census that a second daughter was not yet born, ca. 1790 might be a good guess for Elizabeth.

Matilda Dutton

The place of Matilda Dutton has proved to be unexpectedly problematic. Traditionally, we have believed that Matilda Dutton never married, and that she was the oldest daughter, the second female over 16 in the 1790 census, giving her, based on our reasoning in 1800, a birth date of circa 1774/75. Problematically, we cannot identify her in Zachariah Dutton’s household in 1810 or 1820, which we probably should be able to do if she were a lifelong spinster. Attempting to place Matilda Dutton Bass, born circa 1807, has posed a challenge to our standing speculation about Matilda. Is it possible that Zachariah Sr.’s daughter Matilda was much younger than we thought, and the same woman as the Matilda who married Elijah Bass?‡

‡ For more details, see “Matilda Dutton Bass: Doubts and Questions.”

Aside from speculation, documentable facts about Matilda are meager. A Matilda Dutton appears as a buyer at her father Zachariah’s estate in 1829, and is listed on the census as a head of household in 1830 — this may be the remains of Zachariah’s household. The oldest female member of this household is said to be between 60 and 70 years old (born between 1760 and 1770); the next oldest is only 20-30 years old (born between 1800 and 1810), and we have assumed that Zachariah had no children by Judith Parrish. Though the dates for the older woman are somewhat inconsistent with the earlier hypothesis that Zachariah’s oldest daughter was born ca. 1774/75, they are not far off; by 1830, the answer to the census enumerator’s question may have been that she was an older lady, “about 60 years old.” Traditionally, based on this, it has seemed reasonable to conclude that Matilda was the oldest child of Zachariah and the older daughter in earlier censuses. Whether this is true or not, though now in question, I will let the former speculation stand for want of stronger evidence to the contrary.

Upon further reflection, I have concluded that the very fact that we can find few documentable facts about an older Matilda Dutton, indicates that we are probably looking for something that isn’t there. All the available facts indicate that Matilda Dutton was a younger woman, born about 1807, and that the Matilda who married Elijah Bass was the same Matilda named in Zachariah Dutton Sr.’s will. See “Matilda Dutton Bass Revisited” for more about my reasoning. (JTR, 2023/12/19)


Based on these data, we can fix these dates and order:

  • Matilda Dutton, born ca. 1774/75.
  • Zachariah Dutton, Jr. born been 1774 and 1784
  • William Dutton, born ca. 1777
  • John Dutton, born ca. 1778
  • Alexander Dutton, born between 1785 and 1789
  • Gerrard Dutton, born ca. 1789/90
  • Elizabeth Dutton, born ca. 1790
  • Stephen Dutton, born ca. 1792
  • Edmond Dutton, born 1793
  • Samuel Dutton, born ca. 1797
  • Matilda Dutton, born ca. 1807 (See update below)

Of these, Elizabeth is uncertain, since we are not even sure we have the right person in the above census records. The place of Matilda is rooted in assumptions which may or may not be valid. The other movable entries are Zachariah Jr. (a ten-year window), Alexander (a narrower window), and Gerrard (for whom we have a solid assumption).

The beauty of Darlene Cole’s list is that it arranges all the children without long, unexplained gaps — as we now have between John and Alexander and Gerrard, nearly 12 years with only one child born. I wonder with some dismay, what have I done? Unfortunately, there is just not enough evidence to fix on the firm dates she gave for several of the children, notably Alexander, Gerrard, Zachariah Jr., and Elizabeth.

Based on the considerations in this article, I am inclined to revise the dating and order. Probably the hardest pill to swallow in this is admitting, based on my own logic — for example, concluding that Alexander was older than Gerrard because he was listed as householder over the other — that it is likely that my own William was not Zachariah’s oldest son, as I’ve always claimed with a small bit of pride, but Zachariah Jr. If we assume Zachariah Jr. is the oldest son, then a birthdate of ca. 1776 seems a reasonable conclusion.

As I reach the close of the post and read back over what I’ve written, I’m surprised at how closely my revised list follows the order in Zachariah’s will: Matilda, Zachariah, William, Alexander, Gerrard… John is clearly not in the right place; but the stipulations of the will, denying John himself any inheritance but passing it on to his children, gives the impression that Zachariah and John had had a falling out, and could explain why he is listed last. The shifted order of four youngest children — listed in the will as Samuel, Elizabeth, Edmond, Stephen — is more difficult to explain, but it’s probable that it was not meant to be in birth order. It does give me somewhat more confidence, though, in the revised order of the oldest children.

Ultimately, this list of children is still speculative. The precise birth dates and birth order of Zachariah Dutton’s children may never be resolved with certainty. But this is my best attempt at a framework based on the available facts. I wanted to be able to say that I’d made that, to the best of my ability, before I spread this information any further than I have.

Update (2021)

I have now changed my mind, and come to the conclusion that Matilda Dutton was almost certainly the child of Zachariah Dutton and his second wife Judith Parrish, and the youngest child of all, born as late as circa 1807. See the article “Matilda Dutton Bass Revisited” for my reasoning.

Author: Joseph T. Richardson

Joseph has been researching the Dutton family for over 20 years, and has had this website almost as long. He applies his background in history and computer science to unraveling genealogical mysteries. He lives in Danville, Morgan County, Alabama, not far from where his Dutton ancestors first settled in the 1830s.

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