The Parentage of William Truman Sr. of Henrico, Buckingham, Franklin and Bedford Cos., Virginia

by R. Andrew Pierce

In 1994, I published "The Patrilineal Descent of President Harry S. Truman" [Nexus, Vol. XI, No. 2 (April-May, 1994), pp. 58-59]. This article begins with the lineage from the President back to William Truman Jr. (1783-1863) of Virginia and Kentucky. Further evidence established that William's parents were William and Mary/Nancy (____) Truman of Bedford and Franklin Cos., Virginia. After a review of the available evidence on the elder William, the article ended with a theory that he was the same William Truman named as a grandson in the will of Mary (Woodson) Truman (the widow of Richard Truman Jr.) of Henrico Co., VA, ca. 1782.

Since 1994, research by Dana Ann Mireles and others has cast doubt on the latter theory, while presenting more compelling evidence that William Truman Sr. was in fact the son of Richard Truman Jr.'s brother, Abraham Truman. I will review that evidence and combine it with new findings, for this article.

The definitive article on the early Trumans is "Richard Trueman, Jr., of Henrico County, Virginia: His Descendants and Associated Families" by Dana Ann Mireles [The Virginia Genealogist, Volume 39, No. 2, April-June, 1995]. Land records show that Richard Trueman Sr. lived in Henrico Co. as early as 1707; his will, written and recorded in 1754, named wife Elizabeth, son Abraham (who was to receive his 240 acre plantation), and two daughters.

Mireles' article continues with the progeny of Richard Trueman Jr., a probable son of Richard Sr. who, though not named in his will, is associated with him in other documents. My article established that Richard Jr. bought land in Henrico Co. in 1734 and received more land from his father in law Richard Woodson in 1739. His will, dated and recorded in 1772, mentioned sons John (who was to receive the home plantation) and Joseph. Mary's will, of unknown date but recorded in 1783, mentioned son John and grandson William (who were to receive slaves).

We can estimate that Richard Trueman Sr. was born say 1680, and his son Richard Trueman Jr. was born say 1710 (since a 1730 deed refers to "Richard Truman Sr.", Jr. may have been over 21 by 1730). Richard Jr.'s sons John and Joseph were born probably between 1735 and 1750. His grandson William Truman, who was presumably a son of John or Joseph, was born probably between 1760 and 1775. Since the President's ancestor William Truman was an adult by the early 1770s, it is unlikely he was identical with William Trueman, the grandson of Richard Trueman Jr.

We now return to Abraham Trueman, the second son of Richard Trueman Sr. Abraham Truman and Ann Truman witnessed the will of Richard Ferris of Henrico Co., dated Aug. 22, 1744 [The Edward Pleasants Valentine Papers. vol. 1, Allen-Gray, Edited by Clayton Torrence, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1979. p. 455]. Abraham received his father's plantation in 1754; Mireles' article notes that in 1784 he petitioned the Henrico County court that he was "too poor and too infirm to labor" and asked to be excused from paying taxes. He made his will 24 Dec. 1795, naming wife Ann and children William Trueman, Sally Woodcock (deceased; her heirs were to inherit), Ann Wade, Richard Trueman, Betsey Trueman, Judith Jolley, Molly Robertson and Ruth Sevenney.

Abraham Trueman was probably born between 1710 and 1720, and was married to Ann (____) by 1744. His eldest son William was probably born between 1735 and 1750.

Abraham willed all his land to his son Richard, whose own will in Henrico Co., 10 April 1797, named with Elizabeth and thirteen children including eldest son Mark Trueman. My article noted that the 1771 will of one Mark Farmer of Chesterfield Co., VA, witnessed by Henry Woodcock and Robert Woodcock (see further), named his daughter Elizabeth Trueman. It seems likely that Richard Trueman married Elizabeth Farmer by 1771, so was also born by 1750.

Abraham Trueman's other children received personal estate; his son William Trueman was to get "one feather bed that he now holds in possession." Mireles continues: "William Trueman died about Dec. 1796 when his estate was appraised by Littleberry Royster, Robert C. Farris, Richard Allan and his brother Richard Trueman." No particulars of this Henrico County estate appraisement are given.

The will of William Truman of Bedford County VA (the President's ancestor), dated 17 Aug. 1796, proved 23 Jan. 1797, specified that his home plantation, furniture and stock should be sold at the discretion of his executors. After lawful demands, the balance of the estate was to be equally divided among all children, paid at the executors' discretion, as soon as they come of age. Executors were Henry Woodcock, William Hail, Salley Moody, & John Radford.

It seems quite likely that the William Truman who died between 17 Aug. 1796 and 23 Jan. 1797 in Bedford Co. VA was identical with the one whose estate was appraised in Henrico Co. VA in December 1796. All documents concerned with both estates might be examined. I will now show what is known about William Truman from evidence presented in my article, Mireles' article, and new findings, including some by Dana Ann Mireles in a letter to me of 23 August 1995.

William Truman paid tithes in Buckingham Co., Va. in 1773 and 1774 [R.F. and I.B. Woodson, Virginia Tithables from Burned Record Counties (1970), p. 109]. The will of Joshua Leak of Pittsylvania Co. VA, made 12 Oct. 1776, proved 28 November 1776, disposes of estate "after William Truman is paid for his trouble in taking me from Williamsburg." [Abstracts of Pittsylvania County, Virginia Wills, 1767-1820 by Lela C. Adams, Bassett VA, pp. 14-15]. Pittsylvania borders both Bedford and Franklin Cos.

In Roger G. Ward's Buckingham County, Virginia Land Tax Summaries and Implied Deeds, Vol. 1, 1782-1814 (p. 301), there is a notation for "William Truman, 1782, from Henrico County." About December 1782, the Sheriff of Buckingham County gave notice of lands to be sold in December, the persons holding the tracts not having paid their tax. William Trueman of Henrico, for 200 acres, is listed [The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 26, No. 4, Oct-Dec. 1982, p. 264).

Buckingham County is, unfortunately, a "burned record" county, its probate, land and court records before 1869 no longer survive.

William Trueman witnessed a deed from Richard Trueman and Abraham Trueman to Littleberry Royster on 3 Nov. 1783 (Henrico Court Order Bk. 1, 1781-1784, p. 446, and Deed Bk 1, 1781-1785, p. 166). William Trueman was in a court suit as the plaintiff vs. Littleberry Royster as the defendant on 1 Oct. 1785, when Royster relinquished and paid 91 pounds. We do not know if this was Abraham's son, the elder William Truman, or Richard Truman Jr.'s grandson, the younger William Truman.

Bedford Co., VA. deeds show that on 18 April 1786, William Trueman was granted by patent, 242 acres in the southermost part of the county, near the Franklin Co. line. Netti Schreiner-Yantis and F.S. Love, The 1787 Census of Virginia (1987), p. 628, shows William Truman in Franklin Co., Va. William Trueman and Richard Trueman witnessed Mary Truman's marriage to William Austin on 2 Nov. 1787, in Henrico Co. (the latter may have been the younger William, the grandson of Richard Trueman Jr. mentioned earlier).

Wingfield, Marriages of Franklin County, Virginia, shows that Eliza Truman married Joseph Hale in 1789; George Radford married Catherine Woodcock, daughter of Henry, in 1789; Robert Woodcock married Anne Hail in 1793; and John Radford married Gartry Truman, daughter of Mary & William, in 1794. In 1793, William Truman of Bedford Co. was named an executor in the will of Josiah Maxey of Franklin co. (Franklin Co. Will Book 1, pp. 29-30). Maxey's daughter Susannah married William Hale in Bedford Co. 27 Oct. 1796; William Hail was an executor of William Truman's will in 1797.

On 19 Dec. 1796, William Trueman and Mary Trueman his wife, of same, sold 100 acres of a 142 acre tract in Bedford Co. granted him by patent 18 April 1786 on the waters of Cradock's Creek. Two of the witnesses were Stephen Hail and Sarah Moody. On 8 March 1797 Henry Woodcock and John Radford, Truman's executors, sold a 150 acre tract, and a 125 acre tract, both parcels on Cradock's Creek. On 30 March 1799 they sold John Carter the other 142 acres (confirmed again on 30 March 1806).

The will of John Warriner Jr. of Henrico Co. VA, dated 9 Feb. 1799, left to his son David Warriner, 120 acres in Buckingham Co., "being a part of the tract I bought of William Trueman." (Dana Ann Mireles, "Jacob Warriner, Sr., of Buckingham County, Virginia: His Children and His Parents"; The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 38, No. 2, April-June, 1994. p. 88, citing Henrico Co., Va., Will Bk. 2 With Inventories and Account, 1787-1802, p. 570, microfilm roll 0031782, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Census records give us some idea of when William and Mary (____) Trumans' children were born. If Eliza, wife of Joseph Hail, was the oldest child, she was probably not younger than 15 at her marriage in 1789, so was born by 1774. Gartry (probably Gertrude), who married John Radford in 1794, was likewise born by 1779. Robert Truman, who married Mary Kennett in Franklin Co. in 1798, was called "Robert W. Truman", age 26-45, on the 1820 census of Bedford Co. and was age 60-70 on the 1840 census of Shelby Co., Kentucky, so was born between 1775 and 1780.

The 1850 census shows that William Truman, the President's ancestor, was born ca. 1783 (his tombstone corroborates this). William Truman Sr.'s 1796 will mentions his "youngest children Jessey and Moses"; Jesse Truman married in 1815 and Moses Truman married in 1822, both in Shelby County, Kentucky. The 1820 census of Shelby Co. shows Jesse as age 26-45, so born by 1794; the 1830 census of Shelby Co. indicates that both Jesse and Moses were born between 1790 and 1800. The 1850 census of Shelby Co. shows Jesse as age 58, so born ca. 1792. Moses, perhaps two years younger, was born say 1794.

It appears, then, that William Truman, the eldest son of Abraham and Ann (___) Truman of Henrico Co. VA, was born say 1740-50, married Mary ____ say 1770 (she was b. say 1745-50), lived in Buckingham Co. VA from at least 1773 to 1782, and in Bedford and Franklin Cos., VA from at least 1786 until his death in 1796.

Even if the man whose administration was taken in Henrico Co. in 1796 was the younger William, grandson of Richard Jr. (and it would be quite a coincidence for both Williams to have died at virtually the same time), this still leaves the elder William (of Bedford Co.) most likely to be the son of Abraham and Ann(_____)Truman.

William Truman's associations with the Woodcock family in all of the above counties indicates a possible family relationship; his eldest son's name, "Robert W. Truman", perhaps infers that the latter was named for Robert Woodcock. Henry Woodcock and Robert Woodcock witnessed Mark Farmer's will in Chesterfield Co. VA in 1771 (see above). Abraham Truman's daughter Sarah, perhaps the eldest, married a Woodcock and was dead by 1795.

The following website summarized much about Henry Woodcock and his family:

Henry Woodcock, his wife Eleanor and their six children moved from Chesterfield Co. to Bedford Co. about 1783. He was in Franklin Co. by 1791, and later moved to Smith County, Tennessee, where he made his will in 1819. He and his probable brother, Robert Woodcock, both appear on the 1782 tax list in Chesterfield County. Perhaps William Trueman's sister, Sarah, was married to Robert Woodcock.

A "Return of Provisions collected 1781 by Christopher Irvine" in Bedford Co. VA includes "Henry Truman, 4 diets" (Virginia Revolutionary Publick Claims, Vol. 1, p. 111. Compiled and transcribed by Janice L. Abercrombie and Richard Slatten). His identity is unknown.

In 1965, James R. Fuchs interviewed Mary Ethel Noland, a second cousin of former President Truman, for the Harry S. Truman Library (a transcript of this can be found on the internet). An amateur genealogist, she stated of her Truman ancestors, "The first one we find is in Richmond, Virginia, in Henrico County. His name was Richard; and then we find them again in Caroline County, but the courthouse has burned during the Civil War in Caroline County and those records were lost." She may have meant Buckingham County; Caroline County, north of Henrico, did not sustain records damage during the Civil War, whereas Buckingham did.

R. Andrew Pierce is a professional genealogist based in Boston, Massachusetts. He can be contacted at

April 3, 2008