How We Connected James Dutton of Walker County, Alabama to the Family Tree

These days, it’s a commonplace assumption that James Dutton of Walker County, Alabama — the progenitor of a large family of descendants in central Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, and beyond — was the son of John Dutton, the son of Zachariah Dutton, and his wife Omah Parrish. But this was not always the case. When I began doing research some twenty years ago, published family trees ended with James Dutton, his parentage unknown. This article will explain how we came to connect James Dutton to John Dutton, and the evidence for doing so.

Let me be clear: There is no direct, primary source connecting James Dutton to John Dutton. There is no documentable proof that would meet the standards of the DAR or other ancestral organizations. The case for connecting the two is indirect and circumstantial — but it is, I believe, the only explanation of James Dutton’s connection that fits the facts we have.

Connecting Dots on the Census

Zachariah Dutton speculation sheet by Darlene Cole
Darlene Cole’s 1986 speculation sheet.

I started doing genealogy research in 1996 as a green, naïve sixteen-year-old. My first experiences of research were going to the Decatur Public Library, asking nervously to be escorted to the closed archive of the Alabama Room, and then poring for hours over census rolls on a dim microfilm reader, doing my best to read archaic handwriting, copying down entries by hand. Very early in my research, I went to the Morgan County Archives, where I discovered the will of Zachariah Dutton and Darlene Cole’s speculation sheet about the family and its connections, which formed the basis for much of what followed.

Initially I made the assumption — which I soon realized was flawed — that all Dutton families in North Alabama must be connected somehow. This led me, at least, to cast a wide net. I started with the 1850 census index (then a large green printed tome) and looked up every listed Dutton family. There were some families that I looked up and dismissed, realizing they weren’t connected — the families of Harden Dutton and Aaron Dutton, for example, in Blount and Jefferson counties (Aaron turned out to be from Pennsylvania). But when I looked up James Dutton in Walker County, Alabama, I believed I had struck gold.

1850 federal census of Walker County, Alabama (pp. 293A-B), showing the family of James Dutton and their neighbors.
1850 federal census of Walker County, Alabama (pp. 293A-B), showing the family of James Dutton and their neighbors. (This image has been edited to place all these names on one page.)

Here was a Dutton, born circa 1807 in North Carolina — whence my Duttons in Morgan and Lawrence counties had migrated — and what is more, he had a man living in his home named Zachariah Dutton, born circa 1820 in Alabama, placing the family in Alabama at least that early.

Between James Dutton’s early birth in North Carolina, Zachariah Dutton’s early birth in Alabama, and the name Zachariah Dutton itself, I was prepared to wager on a connection to the family of Zachariah Dutton of Charles County, Maryland, and Granville County, North Carolina.

The Zachariah Dutton living in the household as an “inmate” (boarder), born circa 1820 in Alabama, appeared to be the Zachariah Dutton referred to in Darlene Cole’s speculation sheet as a son of Jarrott Dutton. So if Jarrott Dutton’s son was living with this James Dutton in Walker County, who was James Dutton?

A Process of Elimination

If I presumed that James Dutton must be connected to the family of Zachariah Dutton Sr., then that gave a limited set of points at which to connect him. We had, from Zachariah’s will, eight sons and two daughters. From Alabama records, we had documentation that six of those sons came to Alabama.

  1. Zachariah Dutton, born between 1774 and 1784
  2. William Dutton, born ca. 1777
  3. John Dutton, born ca. 1778
  4. Alexander Dutton, born between 1759 and 1789
  5. Gerrard Dutton, born ca. 1789/90
  6. Stephen Dutton, born ca. 1792
  7. Edmond Dutton, born 1793
  8. Samuel Sneed Dutton, born ca. 1797
1830 AL Lawrence: Dutton, Penn, Hogan, McDaniel
1830 federal census of Lawrence County, Alabama, showing Jarratt Dutton and other neighboring families.

The first of these sons to consider — based on the presence of this Zachariah Dutton, born ca. 1820, in James’s household, is Jarrott (Gerrard) Dutton. We know from court and military records that Gerrard Dutton was in Alabama by 1813. Based on his other census appearances, we can reason that he was born in Charles County, Maryland, circa 1789/90. So conceivably he could have had a son born circa 1807. But Darlene Cole did not list a James among Gerrard’s four known children. (I did not know the source of this information at the time, but these four children are named in a 1975 letter by Freema Dutton, a great-granddaughter of Gerrard.) Gerrard was married to Charity McDaniel (or McDonald) on 14 Feb 1820 in Lawrence County, Alabama, and there is no evidence of a prior marriage. On the 1830 census of Lawrence County, Gerrard’s household does not list a male of 17 years. (This 1830 record does support the testimony of Freema Dutton of there being four children, three boys and a girl.) So it appeared that we could eliminate Gerrard Dutton.

Alexander Dutton, apparently the first Dutton brother to arrive in Alabama, was married on 30 Jan 1810 in Madison County, Mississippi Territory (later Alabama) to Rachel Feazel, with no evidence of a prior marriage. His children are documented in estate records, and there is no older son James.

Stephen Dutton, Edmond Dutton, and Samuel Sneed Dutton would have been too young to have a son born ca. 1807. They were not married until 1818, 1821, and 1822, respectively, and early census records did not indicate the presence of an older child in their households.

William Dutton was born ca. 1777. According to the evidence of the 1820 census (on which he is listed as the sole member of his household) and to family tradition, he remained a bachelor until he came to Alabama and did not marry until he married Mary Hogan in about 1832. He named another son, born 1836, James Zachariah Dutton. James Dutton of Walker County does not seem to fit here.

Zachariah Dutton Jr. is a mystery. He appears to have been one of the oldest sons of Zachariah Dutton Sr., was married to some unknown lady prior to 1810, and had at least one son born between 1800 and 1810. He has not been found in any record after about 1814, and presumably died. What became of his young son is unknown. Presumably, James Dutton could be the son of Zachariah Dutton Jr. We will consider this more fully below.

1820 federal census of Anson County, North Carolina, showing John Dutton and William Dutton.
1820 federal census of Anson County, North Carolina, showing John Dutton and William Dutton.

The last remaining son of Zachariah Dutton is John Dutton. He was born ca. 1778 and is the only child of Zachariah Dutton documented to have been married by 1807: He married Omah Parrish on 14 Jan 1806 in Granville County, North Carolina. According the 1810 census, he had three sons born by 1810; by 1820, there were two sons born between 1805 and 1810 living, as well as another son and a daughter born between 1810 and 1820. The only other of these children who has been identified is Thomas Dutton, born 4 Dec 1809 in Granville County, North Carolina, in whose household John and Omah were living in 1850.

Of these two possibilities, it appears more likely that John Dutton is the father of James Dutton. It is the simpler explanation, better supported by the evidence:

Pro Zachariah Jr.:

  • Zachariah Jr. was married by 1810 and apparently had a son born before 1810.

Con Zachariah Jr.:

  • Zachariah Jr. disappeared, probably deceased, by 1820. There is no documentation by which to identify his unknown son, if he survived, in any later record. To conclude that James is this unknown son would require explaining where and with whom this child was living between 1815 and 1830 and how he came to be in Alabama by 1832 — facts not offered by any record.
  • Zachariah Jr. moved to Brunswick County, North Carolina, by 1810, and most likely married his wife there — based on the lack of a surviving marriage record (since marriage records from Granville County survive, but Brunswick County records were lost in courthouse fires). The unknown son of Zachariah Jr. would have been born in Brunswick County, North Carolina, rather than Granville County, where Zachariah Sr. and his family had lived.

Pro John:

  • John Dutton married Omah Parrish on 14 Jan 1806 in Granville County, North Carolina, and could easily have been the father of a son born ca. 1807 in North Carolina.
  • James Dutton was born 4 Jan 1807 in Granville County, North Carolina, according to his 1867 loyalty oath in Walker County, Alabama. John Dutton was married in Granville County and remained in Granville County until after 1810 — as opposed to Zachariah Dutton Jr., who moved to Brunswick County, North Carolina, where his son would have been born.
  • John Dutton is documented in the 1810 and 1820 censuses to have had two sons born between 1806 and 1810 who survived until 1820. On the other hand, there is no documentation that the son of Zachariah Dutton Jr. born before 1810 survived until 1820.
  • John Dutton moved to Alabama by the early 1830s. His known son Thomas Dutton married Elizabeth Kitchens on 7 Apr 1836 in Lawrence County, Alabama. James Dutton was in the same area at the same time, and married Mary Irwin on 18 Jul 1832 in Lawrence County.

Con John:

  • No known facts cast doubt on the identification of John Dutton as the father of James Dutton.

So, the propensity of evidence supports John Dutton being the father of James Dutton. Since John Dutton did not have a will and James Dutton is not listed in any record with John Dutton, there is no direct, documentable proof for this connection; but if we accept the premise that James Dutton belongs to this family somehow, John Dutton being his father appears the most likely conclusion.

Beyond this factual conclusion, there is an a wide array of family intermarriages and interconnections that further support the identification of the John Dutton family.

A Web of Family Connections

Soon after I discovered the James Dutton family in Walker County, Alabama, I began to uncover what became a sometimes dizzying web of family connections that firmly placed James Dutton in the area of southwestern Morgan County and southeastern Lawrence County, Alabama, prior to settling in Walker County, and closer to the known John Dutton branch of the family than to any other.

Burr's 1839 map of Alabama and Georgia, detail on Lawrence, Morgan, and Walker counties, showing possible migration route from Danville (Houston's Store) to Jasper (Walker C.H.).
Burr’s 1839 map of Alabama and Georgia, detail on Lawrence, Morgan, and Walker counties, showing possible migration route from Danville (Houston’s Store) to Jasper (Walker C.H.). Star marks location of Dutton Hill, settlement of James Dutton. This map also suggests why some settlers stopped and settled in the Eldridge area. (Source: Library of Congress)

During the late 1830s and early 1840s, there was a large migration of families from this area of southwestern Morgan and southeastern Lawrence counties to Walker County to the south. It included James Dutton and Mary Irwin, who appear to have moved in about 1839/40. Also migrating were members of the Kitchens, Sparks, Hamilton, Brown, Irwin, Hogan, and McDonald families.

Thomas Dutton, son of John Dutton, married Elizabeth Kitchens in 1836, shortly before this migration took place. Elizabeth was the daughter of James Matlock Kitchens and Sarah Brown. James Matlock Kitchens and most of the rest of his family moved to Walker County.

James Kitchens had a daughter Mary Kitchens who married Harvey William Hamilton on 17 Jan 1832 in Lawrence County, Alabama. Harvey W. Hamilton is listed as the next household to James Dutton on the 1850 census of Walker County (see the record above). Three of Harvey W. Hamilton and Mary Kitchens’ children became connected with the James Dutton family:

  • Sarah Hamilton (born ca. 1832) married Francis Marion Carmichael, and had a daughter Louisa Eliza Carmichael (1852-1888), who married Thomas F. Dutton (1849-1917), son of James Dutton and Mary Irwin.
  • Rebecca Hamilton (1840-1908) first married Simeon B. Dutton (born ca. 1840), son of James Dutton and Mary Irwin.
  • Christopher Columbus Hamilton (1853-1928) married Elizabeth Ann Dutton (1850-1925), daughter of James Dutton and Mary Irwin.

The family of Sarah Brown Kitchens was also connected to the family of Mary Irwin Dutton. Ellen Brown, a sister to Sarah Brown, married Alexander Hart Irwin, a brother to Mary Irwin. Thomas Brown, Sarah Brown’s brother, married Lovey Irwin, Mary Irwin’s sister. Thomas and Lovey Brown’s daughter Mary Brown married George W. Dutton, son of James Dutton and Mary Irwin (making them first cousins).

This is just a subset of the many family connections between Walker County and Morgan County families, those through the Kitchens and Brown families, which seem to place the families of James Dutton and Thomas Dutton close together. They are by no means a case in themselves — the families could have intermarried simply by virtue of being close in proximity, and this surely had a lot to do with it; but their being close in proximity could indicate a preexisting connection.

DNA Considerations


Years ago, as part of our initial Y-DNA research into the Zachariah Dutton line, we tested a descendant of James Dutton, George Washington Dutton Jr. (1934-2011) (James Dutton > William Dutton > Samuel B. Dutton > George Washington Dutton Sr.). George’s Y-DNA proved a match for every other branch of the family we tested — proving conclusively that James Dutton of Walker County does belong to the family of Zachariah Dutton, and was a direct male descendant, i.e. the son of one of Zachariah Dutton’s sons.

At the time we did George’s test, autosomal DNA tests were not available, and as of this writing, I do not have access to any autosomal DNA data from James Dutton’s descendants. I’ve ordered one test on a cousin and am planning to order more soon, so hopefully I’ll be able to report more in the very near future. With James Dutton autosomal DNA, we should be able to confirm our above conclusions: If James Dutton was a son of John Dutton and Omah Parrish, his descendants should have Parrish DNA, and they should appear at least a generation closer to descendants of Thomas Dutton than to other Dutton cousins.

If you are a James Dutton descendant and have already done a genealogy DNA test, or are willing to do one, I could use your help. Please contact me for details.

Mistaken Traditions

Another couple of points: It is a common family tradition among descendants of James Dutton that his full name was James Tommy Dutton. I do not know where this originated, but it is certainly untrue. James Dutton never appears in any record as even having a middle initial. The addition of the name “Tommy” to James Dutton’s name is, I would suggest, a confusion and conflation based on James’s close relationship to his brother Thomas, or possibly from J. M. Dombhart’s references to Tommy Dutton in his History of Walker County. If anything, this tradition bolsters James Dutton’s connection to Thomas Dutton and to John Dutton.

Another common tradition among James Dutton’s descendants identifies James’s wife as Mary Polly Redfern, not Irwin. Some family trees I have found on Ancestry even create a family tree for Miss Redfern, connecting her to a real family of that name and apparently providing documentation. Closer examination proves this documentation to be misleading and not indicating what it appears to indicate. Evidently this is based on an older oral tradition, from a time when researchers could not easily discover primary source documents on the Internet — or could not even be bothered to check up the road, in Lawrence County, where so many Walker County families had originated. Now, it is clear beyond a doubt that James Dutton’s wife was Mary Irwin. This is indicated not only by the primary source, 18 Jul 1832 marriage record in Lawrence County, but by the Morgan County estate records of Mary Irwin Dutton’s brother Simeon Bramlett Irwin (who died in 1859), which list Mary Dutton as an heir, and by the extensive Dutton-Irwin-Brown family connections.


I’ve had this article on the brain for a while, wishing to explain and document assumptions and speculations that I’ve made over the years that researchers today mostly accept as fact. I was pretty bold as a young person in making brash, unproven assertions, more than a few of which have come back to haunt me. This one, fortunately, still appears to be well founded.

There is no direct, documented, unquestionable proof that James Dutton of Walker County, Alabama, was the son of John Dutton and Omah Parrish. But DNA proves that James Dutton was a direct male descendant of Zachariah Dutton Sr., and based on the propensity of evidence, it appears most likely, if not nearly certain, that James Dutton was John Dutton’s son.

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.

8 thoughts on “How We Connected James Dutton of Walker County, Alabama to the Family Tree”

  1. I’ve always felt that my great grandmothers family was also related to my other Dutton family.

    My great grandfather William Floyd Duncan married Suda Dutton (Thomas C Dutton jr. Mary Brooke earliest I have) from Lawrence and Morgan counties. Their daughter Juanita Duncan married Norman Dutton(Thomas Dutton 1633 1692 Anne Aston 1633 1688 earliest I have) supposedly a non related Dutton Family in Walker County.

    1. I’ve wondered about that too. Henry G. Dutton, Suda Dutton’s grandfather, moved to Alabama and remained pretty close to Zachariah Dutton’s family wherever he went — in Morgan County and Marion County especially — but never quite in the same communities. Thomas Dutton Jr. was born in ca. 1797 in Georgia, which seems to exclude him from being immediately kin to Zachariah Dutton, who was just moving to Granville County, North Carolina, from Maryland around that time. I would love to see some Y-DNA results from a direct male line descendant of Thomas Dutton Jr., but I’ve never been in touch with anybody. I noticed you on my aunt Lorene Dutton’s AncestryDNA results. Do you have any matches with other descendants of the Thomas Dutton Jr. line?

  2. Billp1948 and I share DNA etc and he has these listed. Are they the Thomas you speak of?
    Thomas DUTTON (1796 – 1860)
    Thomas DUTTON (1771 – 1840)

  3. May not mean anything at all. But in a book called heritage of walker county and also family legend. A Dutton from my Luther Dutton side stood near where Dutton Hill church is with his cousins…also Duttons and watched Jasper area burning during the civil war. I remember a great aunt explaining to me some 25 or more years ago that the duttons on Dutton hill were from my great great great grandpa zacharias brothers family. Being many Zachariahs this Zachariah is the one buried in Covington Ha where he died during the civil war. For some reason growing up I dont recall us ever interacting with the Dutton Hill Duttons. Just the ones on the Walker Cullman line.

    1. That’s interesting, but as I said above, it doesn’t seem to fit for James Dutton of Dutton Hill to be the son of Gerrard Dutton (and brother of Zachariah). Gerrard wasn’t married until 1820, the 1820 and 1830 censuses of his household don’t show a child old enough to be James, and Freema Dutton’s letter doesn’t name James as a child (it names Zachariah, William, Levi, and Mary). It appears, though, that Zachariah and James were close like brothers. Zachariah Dutton was apparently orphaned either before the move to Walker County or shortly after. All four of Gerrard Dutton’s children were in Walker County during the 1840s. They either traveled with, or later stayed with, James Dutton, who would have been their older cousin.

      There’s a similar tradition with my family in Morgan County, explaining how the different Duttons are kin to each other. Some reports say it was three brothers, some that it was three cousins, when it fact it’s two brothers and a cousin. The ones they’re referring to were William Dutton, Edmond Dutton, and Thomas Dutton (son of John), the three older Duttons who are buried at Friendship Cemetery in Danville. There was never any mention of the other brothers who came. The old people always denied any kinship with the “Moulton Duttons,” mostly descendants of Stephen Dutton and of Alexander Dutton son of Edmond.

  4. As far as I know, I am not related to the Dutton family. Yet as I have researched my Anson County/Union County, North Carolina family, I see where some of relatives migrated to Alabama. In the post and even pre-Ciivil War years, people did not simply pick up and relocate that distance for many reasons. I have wondered what the draw was to Alabama. Can you enlighten me as to what might have enticed a long journey move to Alabama?

    1. Cheap land was usually the motivating factor, especially in the pre-Civil War years. What families do you have that migrated? In what part of Alabama did they settle? Most of the Duttons who were in Anson County who came to Alabama came in around 1830. One cousin came around the time of the Civil War and moved close to family who was already there.

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