2 thoughts on “Ask A Clay Ancestry Question #1

  1. Susan Bockman asked the following:

    Genealogy Question: I’m searching for the mother of William Mitchell Clay 1708-1774. Most family trees have him married to either Martha Runyon or Martha Ann Lewis (aunt of George Washington) b. 13 Feb 1713. Does anyone have proof of his wife? a death cert or marriage license?

    I answered with:

    Susan,

    Thanks for opening this question, which should be of interest to many of our 135 members.

    I’m going to pass this off to Pat Dunford, our VP, keeper of the Southern Clay trees (GENEALOGY WEBSITE tab) and our most knowledgeable person on Southern Clays.

    Best Regards
    John S Clay, webmaster
    from New England Clays

    1. Hi, Susan
      Thanks for the question. This has been a controversial issue for sometime.
      Presuming you are speaking of William Clay, son of Henry Clay and Mary Mitchell?
      The short answer is: “no one knows.”
      Yes, both Lewis and Runyon have been proposed, but I (at least) have never seen a legitimate proof for either.
      It would be of great service if someone would find some evidence. Might not have been either.
      Bob Page, a former member of the CFS, noted, “I can find proof of only two wives at this time, Martha ______, who was mentioned in a land transaction in 1764, and eloping Agnes ________, mentioned in the Virginia Gazette in 1768. . .
      I can find proof of only two wives at this time, Martha ______, who was mentioned in a land transaction in 1764, and eloping Agnes ________, mentioned in the Virginia Gazette in 1768. . .
      I am also certain that Martha Runyon was not the wife of this William Clay, as there exists a marriage record for a William Mitchell Clay to Martha Runyon around 1830.”
      Another open question is his name. To date, we have no contemporary use of “William Mitchell Clay” — only “William.”
      Even “Adventurers of Purse and Person” (Vol 1B, p 648) — Robert Young Clay — has this an open question.
      “”William Mitchell Clay” in many 19th and 20th century writings. However, there are no contemporary writings nor primary records (Deeds, Wills, Bible Records, Tax Records) that use anything other than “William Clay.””
      What we do know is that apparently some early researchers took to distinguishing one “William” from another “William” by attaching the mother’s maiden name. It’s important to note that middle names in the early 18th century in Virginia and neighboring states were extremely rare. We start seeing them around the 1740s or so.
      It would be great if someone could resolve this, so don’t stop looking!
      Pat