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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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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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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The State of the Dutton 2017

(Or, “Make Zachariah Dutton Great Again!”)

Part I: A Personal Appeal

My dear cousins,

I’m writing this update as an overview of the state of research into Zachariah Dutton, his ancestors, and his descendants. As you may know, I’ve been in school for a long, long time. I finished two degrees in history, and then faced with a poor job market, decided to do another degree in computer science. School has been dominating my attention for the past several years, so I’m sad to say, I’ve fallen out of touch with a lot of you and let my Dutton research fall by the wayside. Speaking for myself, the State of the Dutton has been kind of meager.

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A Lost Son Comes Home: Callis Dutton

Hand-crank microfilm reader

I count myself blessed in many ways for having gotten into genealogy at such an early age. One thing I consider a blessing that others might not expect is my exposure to research methods now less common in this age of online records: the thrill of road trips to investigate cemeteries, not knowing what I would find; days spent in dusty courthouse vaults hunting records; and perhaps the most nostalgic and most antiquated, hours spent hand-cranking microfilm readers in libraries to experience the census. In this day and age, every name in the census is indexed online, and a genealogist can go straight “to” the person they’re looking for — though many names are misread or mistranscribed, leading to people who are “lost” in the census. (I am pleased to see and other services re-create the “filmstrip” to nearly approximate this experience.) In those early days, especially for later censuses like 1900, I had no access to an index, and instead started at the beginning of a county and scrolled through every page reading the names until I found someone of interest — often not even knowing who I was looking for, but in the case of the Duttons, seeing who I might find. It gave the experience of walking down roads and through neighborhoods, “meeting” these people and their communities as I went.

That was my experience the day at the Decatur library I investigated the 1900 census of neighboring Lawrence County, Alabama. By that time I’d been researching the Dutton family for probably a year or more. I felt, with a little pride, that I “knew” the Duttons and could identify families as I found them. I remember well the confusion I felt, and the intrigue, when I encountered Callis Dutton. I think I had first seen his name in a printed listing of Moulton City Cemetery, and didn’t readily know who he was or who he connected to. That day in June 1900, I met him as a child, and met his mother.

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The Mystery of Zachariah Dutton Jr.

In the course of writing another post about the children of children of Zachariah Dutton Sr., I happened upon some stunning facts I had not noticed before.

Zachariah Dutton Jr. is one of the most elusive figures in the genealogy of this family. We perhaps would not know about him at all if not for his naming in Zachariah Sr.’s will*. For years, the only other record I could find of who appeared to be Zachariah Jr. was an enumeration in the 1810 census of Brunswick County, North Carolina: Z. Dutton. In that census, he appeared to have a young wife and one son. There was apparently no other trace of him after that: no more censuses, no indications that he had any surviving descendants.

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Who Is Zachariah Dutton?

Generally the first questions anybody asks about Zachariah Dutton are, who is he? Where does he come from? Who does he connect to? What we know is limited and fragmentary, but with the extant sources, we can construct a fair picture of Zachariah’s life.

Charles County, Maryland

We believe he was born in Charles County, Maryland. There had been a Dutton family living in Charles County since 1680, the descendants of Thomas Dutton and Elizabeth Hill, that we have presumed from the start Zachariah was connected to. Based on the 1800 census on Granville County, North Carolina, in which Zachariah states he is 45 years of age or older, we believe he was born before 1755. Because he died in 1829, and began having children ca. 1775-77, we believe he was born not long before 1750. An earlier date is possible, but ca. 1750-55 seems reasonable. We have very little idea who Zachariah’s first wife, our ancestor, was.

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.

Zachariah appears on a 1778 census and a 1783 tax assessment of Charles County, Maryland, living in the East Newport Hundred, apart from the rest of the Duttons, who were living in the Upper William and Mary Hundred. His name appears on a roster of the Maryland Militia during the Revolution, serving in Captain John Parnham’s Company of Militia, 12th Battalion, out of Charles County. He appears on the first census of the United States in 1790 in Charles County, at that time apparently having five sons, a wife, and a daughter.

Granville County, North Carolina

Will of Zachariah Dutton (front)
Will of Zachariah Dutton

We believe Zachariah moved to North Carolina probably around 1795. His son Edmond was born in 1793 in Maryland; his son Samuel was born ca. 1797 in North Carolina. Zachariah’s first wife probably died shortly after Samuel’s birth in ca. 1797, if not in childbirth. On 23 November 1798 in Granville County, North Carolina, he married Judith Parrish, the widow of Claiborne Parrish. Zachariah had no children by this union.

He appears on the 1800, 1810, and 1820 censuses in Granville County. His will was signed 10 November 1828 and proven in court in August 1829. We presume that he died in 1829.

Zachariah’s Ancestry

From the beginning of our research, Zachariah Dutton’s ancestry has been enigmatic. As far as anyone has found, he appears in no court records in Charles County, Maryland, neither witnessing or named in any will by any Dutton or anyone else. This is in contrast to the family of Thomas Dutton of Charles County, Maryland, and his son Matthew Dutton, who appear to have been landed and well-to-do and who appear in will records. Why are we insistent, then, that Zachariah is connected to these people? The one firm thread that has held Zachariah to this family, in my mind, has been his naming of a son Gerrard: Matthew Dutton’s father-in-law was Gerrard O’Caine.

When we began our DNA research, we were at first disheartened to learn that Zachariah Dutton does not match the patrilineal line of Thomas Dutton: it appears that his father was not a Dutton. This was not, however, a huge surprise. His lack of presence in the records and apparent disconnection from the other Dutton families already suggested the possibility that he was illegitimate.

Autosomal DNA research, however, has uncovered matches between Zachariah Dutton descendants and confirmed descendants of Thomas Dutton in Charles County, Maryland. So it appears that Zachariah Dutton is connected to this family after all. I believe his mother was likely a Dutton, possibly a daughter of Matthew Dutton. (Matthew’s will names only sons.)

In other posts, I will discuss at greater length the family of Thomas Dutton of Charles County, Maryland, where Zachariah Dutton might fit in, and possibilities for who his father might have been, as the DNA reveals.