The Letter of James Matlock Kitchens

Years ago, a transcription of the letter of James Matlock Kitchens came to my attention, to my great excitement and that of many Dutton cousins. This past week I made a genealogy research trip to Jasper, Walker County, Alabama, where at the library I found a photocopy of the original letter. I’d like to share the letter again with you.

James Matlock Kitchens (1796–1868) was a farmer and Baptist minister, a pioneer settler of Lawrence County, Alabama, about 1817, and then of Walker County, Alabama, about 1838. He joined a large migration of family and neighbors from the Basham’s Gap community to the vicinity of Jasper, shortly after the opening of a road between those places. The Kitchens family intermarried very closely with the Dutton family, as well as the Brown, Irwin, Hamilton, and Sparks families, with whom the Duttons were also intermarried. Together these families formed a tight-knit network of kinship, as his letter below will show.

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Dutton book available for pre-order

I am pleased to announce that my Dutton book, entitled Stories from the Old House: William Dutton (c.1777-c.1855) of Morgan County, Alabama, and His Descendants, is now available for pre-sale. It features an introduction to the family of Zachariah Dutton, his ancestors in Cheshire, England, and Charles County, Maryland, and then goes on to focus on the family of my ancestor William Dutton, Zachariah’s son. It includes highlights of a number of other North Alabama families, including Hogan, Sparks, Pell, Otwell, McDonald, Staples, Wilhite, Johnson, Minor and Wright. The pre-order price if $59.95. I hope to have the book in your hands by Christmas. At a later date, I will also release the book as an e-book. Order yours today!

book title page

Lorene Dutton Bryant celebrates 100th

This month, my dear great-aunt Lorene Dutton Bryant celebrates her one hundredth birthday. Over the years she’s been a cherished aunt and friend and a great help in the family history through stories and pictures and DNA. Let’s celebrate with her! This story is written by Lorene’s niece Dana Lamb.

Lorene Dutton Bryant.
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The Ancestry of Zachariah Dutton: How He Fits Into the Duttons of Charles County, Maryland

Our progenitor Zachariah Dutton (Ancestry Tree) first appears in records in Charles County, Maryland, in 1778. There had been a Dutton family living in Charles County since 1680, the descendants of Thomas Dutton and Elizabeth Hill, and we have always believed that Zachariah Dutton is connected to them somehow.

There has been a lot of speculation about Zachariah’s ancestral connections, some of which has become quite pervasive in public family trees on On Ancestry, it appears that if many people list something, it tends to be accepted as true — but often, misinformation is repeated by almost everybody as fact simply because it is repeated by almost everybody. In the case of Zachariah Dutton, we have documentation that disproves the apparent common consensus — that Zachariah was the son of Gerrard Dutton of Charles County, Maryland — and DNA that indicates he is not a patrilineal descendant of these Duttons at all.

In this article, I would like to do my best to clear up some of this confusion, first by summarizing what we know of Zachariah Dutton, then by examining the possible points where Zachariah could connect to the family of Thomas Dutton of Charles County, and finally by examining the DNA evidence.

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DNA Discovery: A Long-Lost Daughter of John Dutton and Omah Parrish


Even as I was writing my last post, on James Dutton and the family of John Dutton and Omah Parrish, it occurred to me that someday, DNA might help uncover the unidentified children of John and Omah, whom we knew only as unnamed children on the 1820 census. But scarcely before the digital ink had dried, only an hour or two after I posted it, it happened. I discovered what appears to be a long-lost daughter of John Dutton and Omah Parrish.

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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.

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Matilda Dutton Bass Revisited: A Case in Records and DNA for Her Connection to Zachariah Dutton Sr.

Elizabeth Bass Murphy, daughter of Matilda Dutton Bass.
Elizabeth Bass Murphy, daughter of Matilda Dutton Bass.

Recently I’ve done something that I intended to do for a very long time. I posted an outline of my Dutton research as a public family tree on Increasingly, this is where genealogists hang out and if I hope to get in touch and stay in touch with cousins, I thought I’d better make a presence here.

In the process of this, I worked through the first couple of generations of the Matilda Dutton Bass family: examining primary sources, making connections, and synthesizing the research of others. One persistent doubt remained, though: Did we know for sure how Matilda connects to Zachariah Sr.? Were we indeed confident that, as I’d presented it in the tree, she was the daughter of the long-lost Zachariah Jr.? Or could it be that Matilda Dutton who married Elijah Bass was in fact, somehow, the daughter of Zachariah Sr.? Was there any way to know for sure?

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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?

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A Breakthrough in Zachariah Dutton’s Paternal Ancestry

DNACousins, there’s been a breakthrough in DNA research toward identifying Zachariah Dutton’s paternal ancestry. Y-DNA research has uncovered evidence that Zachariah’s father may have been an O’Caine, of the same family as Judith O’Caine who married Matthew Dutton of Charles County, Maryland. This is still a speculation and not proof, but it is a significant advance over what we knew before. Here is an account of how we’ve come to this conclusion. Let me begin by giving a brief overview of the science involved in this discovery, and then the background of the research leading up to it. Finally, I will relate the recent developments that brought us to this discovery.

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Matilda Dutton Bass: Doubts and Questions

I’ve been working on a lengthy and detailed post about establishing firm dates and birth order for the children of Zachariah Dutton Sr., based on the available sources. The first time that post was derailed by Zachariah Dutton Jr. and the stunning revelation about his slaveholding. Now it’s been derailed again by the same family. Here is the problem.

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