Two Different Jordan Families

Over the past half century a number of genealogists have researched the Jordan family of Greenbrier County only to come up with different conclusions about where it originated. One recurring theme equated the Greenbrier family to a family of Jordans in Goochland County, Virginia, who had similar names and dates of birth.

The temptation to link these two families was understandable, for the Goochland Jordans’ descent from some of the earliest settlers in Virginia is well documented. Nevertheless, the evidence indicating that these two families might be the same was all circumstantial and didn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Records written at the time clearly showed that these were two different families whose paths probably never crossed.

The chart below sketches out both families, the Greenbrier Jordans on the left (in green) and the Goochland Jordans on the right (in red), with a connecting line between those family members who were sometimes confused with each other. Below the chart is a brief summation of the facts (with their sources) that refute these connections.

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James (father) of Greenbrier James Jordan (father)

James Jordan (father)

Greenbrier.  There are many references to James Jordan in Greenbrier, Kanawha and Cabell records (tax, land, court), with most documentation dated after 1785, when James was reimbursed for expenses related to his support to the Revolution. The last document he signed was dated April 1820, when he and his wife sold land they had obtained in Greenbrier County a quarter of a century earlier.

Goochland.  James Jordan of Goochland County died in 1781, years before most of Greenbrier records were made. His last will and testament was recorded by the Goochland County Clerk in October of 1781, after his death.

Conclusion.  The Goochland County will of 1781 proves that these were two different men. Sometime in the early 1970s claims that they were the same person began showing up in DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) applications of descendants of Andrew Jordan, a son of James Jordan of Greenbrier County, giving the error an air of legitimacy, perhaps causing others to accept it as proven fact.  The DAR has since acknowledged the error and no longer accepts these claims.

Sarah Jordan (mother)

Greenbrier.  Little is known about Sarah, the wife of James Jordan of Greenbrier County, whose name is only mentioned in a few land documents from 1805 to 1820. Family researchers assume that she was already married to James when he moved to Greenbrier County and that she was the mother of his children, but there is no evidence to support either assumption.

Sarah‘s surname has been the subject of some debate, with some believing it may have been Johnson or Johnston, and a host of others claiming that it was Stodghill. While we may never be able to determine her surname with any certainty, at least one irrefutable source shows she was not the Sarah Stodghill Jordan of Goochland County.

Goochland.  In his last will and testament recorded in 1781, James Jordan of Goochland County directed that his entire estate “both real and personal be sold at the death or marriage” of his beloved wife, Sarah. This condition set in motion a series of events that provides the proof that Sarah Stodghill Jordan of Goochland County was not the same lady as the Sarah Jordan of Greenbrier County.

In 1801, twenty years after James of Goochland died, his children filed a lawsuit in Goochland County chancery court seeking to divide his estate under the terms of the will. They claimed their mother, Sarah Stodghill Jordan, had remarried after their father’s death to a man named Robert Edwards.  Goochland County PPT tax records of 1789 and 1800 confirm that Robert Edwards was living with Sarah, who was paying for him on her personal property tax.

Conclusion.  The Goochland County PPT tax records and the lawsuit clearly show Sarah Stodghill Jordan of Goochland County to be a different person from the Sarah Jordan who was mentioned as James Jordan‘s wife in the sale of their Greenbrier lands.

James Jordan (son)

Greenbrier.  James Jordan, the son of James Jordan of Greenbrier County, was born on June 24, 1768, according to his tombstone in Cabell County. Although he probably made his first appearance in the documentary record in the 1787 Greenbrier tax list as a male over 16 in his father’s household, the earliest reference to him by name was in Greenbrier County Court records when on April 30, 1794, “James Jourdain Jr.” was appointed an ensign in the local militia. He was also in the 1795 Greenbrier County Personal Property Tax list. Thereafter, he was in the Greenbrier, Kanawha, or Cabell tax lists yearly until he died in 1846. He can also be found in land records and censuses of those jurisdictions during that time.

Goochland.  James Jordan, the son of the Goochland Jordans, was born on May 8, 1763 in Goochland County, according to the Douglas Register. He was mentioned in his father’s last will and testament of October 1781 and appeared in Goochland County PPT tax records on March 31, 1789. By 1800, he had disappeared from Goochland records; and he was not mentioned in the lawsuit the children filed against their mother in 1801.

We don’t really know what happened to James, the son of the Goochland Jordans, after his appearance on the 1789 Goochland tax list. Some researchers say he died in Goochland County in October of 1800. Others maintain that he married a Goochland lass named Sarah Johnson and moved to Greenbrier County. This latter group of researchers identifies this James and Sarah as the parents of Andrew Jordan of Greenbrier County.

Conclusion.  James Jordan of Goochland County (born in 1763) could not have belonged to the Greenbrier Jordan family given that his father was James of Goochland (who has been shown to have no connection to the Greenbrier family, see above). The question as to whether he moved from Goochland to Greenbrier County after 1789 is open. There is, for instance, a third James Jordan (besides Senior and Junior) mentioned in Greenbrier tax records from 1795 to 1797, but by 1798 he had disappeared from Greenbrier tax lists. Regardless of whether he moved to Greenbrier or not, James, the son of the Goochland Jordans, could not have fathered Andrew Jordan for reasons outlined in the paragraphs on Andrew Jordan below.

John Jordan

Greenbrier.  John Jordan of Greenbrier County was born around the year 1775, according to the census of 1850, and died sometime before the 1860 census was taken. Proof that he was the son of James Jordan of Greenbrier comes from the permission slip James signed and attached to John’s 1798 marriage bond. Other evidence is found in Kanawha and Cabell tax records and Cabell County land records of 1813 (see the page on John Jordan).

Goochland.  John Jordan of Goochland County was also born in the year 1775. He was listed as a plaintiff on the 1801 lawsuit against his mother and was still living in Goochland County in 1802, according to the Goochland County PPT tax records.

Conclusion.  The coincidence of the two John Jordan’s birth dates and the assumption that the Greenbrier and Goochland families were the same are probably the only reasons the two John Jordans were thought to be one. Even a cursory look at the evidence shows two different people living in two different places at the same time.

Elizabeth Jordan

As demonstrated on this website’s page for Elizabeth Jordan, it’s not clear whether James and Sarah of Greenbrier had a daughter named Elizabeth. Researchers who claim that they did give her birthdate as May 13, 1770, the day Elizabeth Jordan of Goochland County was born; then use that date as evidence that the Greenbrier and Goochland families were one and the same. We know from the Goochland lawsuit against Sarah Stodghill Jordan that by 1801 Elizabeth Jordan of Goochland County was married to James Fore of the same location, and was clearly not living in Greenbrier County.

Sarah Jordan (daughter)

Greenbrier.  Greenbrier County Marriage Records show that Sarah Jordan of Greenbrier married Leroy Newman, Jr. on December 22, 1797. Leroy (and presumably his wife Sarah) can be found in Cabell County censuses of 1820, 1830, and 1840. Sarah Jordan Newman died on February 2, 1845, according to her tombstone, and is buried with her husband in the old Jordan Cemetery in Cabell County.

Goochland.  Sarah Jordan, the daughter of James Jordan and Sarah Stodghill of Goochland County, was born on February 7, 1772. She married John Miller on April 3, 1792 in Goochland County. By July of 1801, according to the lawsuit against her mother, Sarah was still the wife of John Miller and still living in Goochland County.

Conclusion.  This is another case where the assumption was made about the two families being the same, then based on that assumption the conclusion was drawn that the two Sarahs were the same. The Goochland lawsuit clearly shows the two Sarahs to be different people.

NB: Many family trees show the birthdate of Sarah Jordan Newman of Greenbrier County to be February 7, 1772, but this error was made based on an assumption that the Greenbrier and Goochland Sarahs were the same person. The only independent evidence as to the birth year of Sarah Jordan Newman of Greenbrier comes from three Cabell County censuses (1820 puts her birth from 1775-1794; and the 1830 and 1840 censuses shows her to have been born between 1780-1790). While pre-1850 censuses only give ranges of ages, the three censuses consistently show her to be at least eight to ten years younger than Sarah Jordan Miller of Goochland County.

Andrew Jordan

Greenbrier.  Andrew Jordan was born in Greenbrier County in January of 1784 (or 1785 according to some sources). He was married in Kanawha County in 1802 and first appeared in Kanawha tax records in 1806 (tax lists for 1803-1805 are not available). In March 1813 James Jordan Senior gave Andrew the land (100 acres) that he, Andrew, had been living on. That same month James gave 100-150 acres to three of his other sons as well. Andrew died in Mason County, West Virginia, in 1872 at the ripe old age of 87 or 88.

Goochland.  Two theories have been proposed linking Andrew with the Goochland County family. The first–and the one most commonly found–identifies Andrew Jordan as the son of James Jordan and Sarah Stodghill of Goochland County. Despite the fact that Andrew was born three or four years after his supposed father had died, this version has been used and accepted in several applications for DAR membership by Andrew’s descendants. The genesis of this mistake seems to be an assumption made in Jordan Genealogy, a paper written by Mr. and Mrs. K. Moody in 1974.

The second theory asserts that Andrew was the grandson of James Jordan and Sarah Stodghill of Goochland County through their son, James, who supposedly moved to Greenbrier County after his father had died. No evidence has been presented to support this assertion; and it contradicts another popular, but also unproven, theory that James Jordan (the son) died in Goochland County in October of 1800, never having left the county of his birth.

Conclusion.  The first theory, that Andrew was the son of James Jordan and Sarah Stodghill of Goochland County, is obviously wrong: Andrew was born three or four years after James died.

The second theory is more complex, but requires one to ignore or at least discount the transfers of land in March of 1813 that indicate a familial connection between James Senior of Greenbrier (then Cabell County) and James Jr., John, Andrew and Jonathan. It also begs the question of what happened to Andrew’s supposed father. He cannot be either of the two James Jordans listed in the tax records of Kanawha and Cabell counties for reasons stated on this page and elsewhere on this web site; and there was no third James Jordan on the rolls after 1801.

The “smoking gun” that rules theory number two out, however, comes from a relatively recent, but useful, tool for helping determine relationships and family ties, Y-DNA testing, in which males send samples of their DNA–usually scrapings from the inside of the cheek–to testing laboratories. The results of these Y-DNA tests can show lines of descent and, just as importantly in this case, can rule out the possibility of descent from a particular individual or family.

  • Y-DNA testing of a descendant of Andrew Jordan through his eldest son Jonathan shows a close relationship (matching in 24 out of 25 markers) with a descendant of William Jordan. William’s relationship as the son of James Jordan Senr. of Greenbrier County is proven in Kanawha tax records.
  • Just as telling is that the testing of Andrew Jordan‘s descendant provided an exact match with descendants of Jordans who emigrated from County Down, Ireland in the 1760s (see Family Origins for more information). On the other hand, the Jordans of Goochland County are well documented to have been living in Virginia since the 1600s and were of English descent. Y-DNA testing of the Goochland line shows test results differing almost entirely from those of Andrew’s descendant (out of 25 markers, 22 were different).
  • Finally, Y-DNA testing reveals that the descendants of both Andrew and William Jordan belong to haplogroup J1, showing a Semitic descent, possibly from Ashkenazi Jews who migrated from the middle east through southern Europe. On the other hand, Y-DNA testing of several descendants of the Goochland line of Jordans assigns them to Haplogroup R1b1, a completely different and unrelated line of Jordans who originated in northern Europe.

In short, there hasn’t been a genetic connection between Andrew and the Goochland Jordans (through the male line) for thousands of years.