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Myths Regarding the Genealogy of Jefferson Davis
Source:  Kirk Bentley Barb.  1971. "Extract from Genealogy of Jefferson Davis."  Appendix III, pp. 488-508 in Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 1, 1808-1840.  Haskell M. Monroe, Jr., and James T. McIntosh, eds.  Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge.
Paraphrased below are the examples given by Barb (pp. 488-490) of the "conflicting claims and traditions" of DAVIS families claiming relationship to Jefferson DAVIS.  As Barb indicates, there is not only no support for any of the following, the following have been proven untrue.

[I have condensed and paraphrased the examples out of copyright concerns, not out of any reticence to quote Barb fully or verbatim.]

1.  UNTRUE:  That Jefferson DAVIS was the son of Nathaniel DAVIS, who married a child of Niketti, the daughter of Opechananough, brother of Powhatan.
(Edgar Woods.  1901.  Albemarle County in Virginia:  giving some account of what it was by nature, of what it was made by man, and of some of the men who made it.  Michie Co., printers, Charlottesville, VA.  412 pp.)
2.  UNTRUE:  That Nathaniel DAVIS married "Hughes," a daughter of Niketti, and their son, Robert, married and moved to Georgia.  That, later, some of these DAVISes moved to Kentucky, "whence a weanling was carried to Mississippi who later became the President of the Confederate States."
(Nicholas J. Floyd.  1912.  Biographical Genealogies of the Virginia-Kentucky Floyd Families... Baltimore.)
3.  UNTRUE:  That the family of Jefferson DAVIS came directly from Wales to North Carolina, then to Georgia.
(G.C. Smith. MS. Macon, GA; Mrs. T.M. Green.  MS.  Washington, GA)
4.  UNTRUE:  That Jefferson DAVIS was descended from a New England family of DAVISes (with a branch in New York), some of whom had migrated southwards in the 1700s.
5.  UNTRUE:  That both Jefferson DAVIS,, President CSA, and Samuel DAVIES, President of Princeton University, were descended from two brothers, John DAVIS and David DAVIS of the Welsh Tract Settlement in New Castle Co., DE.
(William Heth Whitsitt.  1910.  Genealogy of Jefferson Davis and of Samuel Davies.  Neale Publ. Co., New York. 65 pp.)
6.  UNTRUE:  That Evan DAVIS, grandfather of Jefferson DAVIS, was a son of John DAVID and a grandson of Morgan DAVID of Merion Twp., Philadelphia Co., PA.  That Evan was born in Philadelphia, but moved to New Castle Co., DE, with his parents ca. June, 1716.
(Harry Alexander Davis.  1927.  The Davis Family (Davies and David) in Wales and America: Genealogy of Morgan David of Pennsylvania.  Lancaster Press, Lancaster, PA.)
7.  UNTRUE:  That four brothers, Samuel, William, Micajah, and Evan, sons of John DAVIS of Shropshire, came to Philadelphia in 1742.  That the older brothers went to Virginia (Alexandria Co., then Louisa Co., near Lynchburg) while Evan, the youngest, went to Oglethorpe's colony in Georgia, settling near Savannah.
(T.H. Davis.  1898.  The Davis Family of Bedford County, Virginia.)
8.  UNTRUE:  That Evan DAVIS came to America from Cardiff, Wales, with two brothers, Samuel DAVIS and Joseph DAVIS.   Joseph was lost at sea and Samuel settled in the one of the "middle" states while Evan settled in Philadelphia ca. 1760, then later moved to Richmond Co., GA and married Mrs. Emory WILLIAMS.
(George N. MacKenzie.  1907.  Colonial Families of the United States of America... Grafton Press, New York.)
9.  UNTRUE:  That three brothers, Evan, Samuel, and Joseph, emigrated from Cardiff, Wales, ca. 1730.  Joseph was lost at sea, while Samuel and Evan landed at Philadelphia.  Samuel went to the mid-west, while Evan, grandfather of Jefferson DAVIS, married Mrs. Mary (EMORY) WILLIAMS in Pennsylvania and moved to Georgia some time after 1761.
10.  UNTRUE:  That Capt. Dolan DAVIS, who settled in St. Mary's, MD, was the grandfather of Joseph DAVIS and Samuel DAVIS, the latter of whom was father of Jefferson DAVIS.
(Richmond, Virginia, Times-Dispatch, 25 Mar 1917.)
11.  UNTRUE:  That Col. T.G.C. DAVIS and his sister, Louisa (DAVIS) BARB, grandmother of Kirk Bentley BARB [the author of this article], were second cousins of Jefferson DAVIS.
 
Other Bogus Claims to a Jeff DAVIS Connection
(not covered by Barb)
Joseph B. Thoburn.  1916.  A Standard History of Oklahoma.  The American Historical Society, Chicago (online at the Oklahoma bios board at Ancestry.com), in v. 3, on p. 185: 
"John Davis was born in a plain rural Indiana community at Wolcott, March 7, 1867, a son of Joseph W. and Nancy M. [James] Davis.  His paternal grandfather was a first cousin of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, and was born in 1800..."
Problem is, Jefferson DAVIS is not known to have had any first cousins.  In order for someone to be your first cousin, they have to be a child of one of your parent's siblings, and Jefferson DAVIS's father, Samuel Emory DAVIS, was an only child.  Assuming Samuel's wife, Jane COOK had siblings, it would be possible to be a first cousin of Jefferson DAVIS through his mother, but this cousin could only be surnamed DAVIS if one of Jane's sisters also married a DAVIS.  Sisters marrying brothers is common, but remember that Samuel had no brothers and, in any case, nothing is known of Jane's siblings, assuming she had any.  Additionally, a northern location for any near DAVIS kin is highly unlikely because they were southerners to the bone they were wealthy slave-owners and would not have moved North where they'd have had to give them up.
Janet Sharp Hermann.  1990.  Joseph E. Davis, Pioneer Patriarch.  Univ. Press of Mississippi, Jackson, MS (out of print, but used copies can sometimes be found at Amazon.com).

Hermann asserts a liaison between Joseph Emory DAVIS, brother of Jefferson DAVIS, and Rachel SHELBY in Christian Co., KY, with a resulting son, William DAVIS, born in 1808.  Her sources are entirely secondary, yet despite the total lack of proof, she states,

"...family tradition has convinced me that William was indeed Joseph's son"

as if there weren't hundreds (thousands?) of fanciful family traditions of being connected to Jefferson DAVIS!  The fact that Joseph acknowledged three illegitimate daughters, but no son William, supports that William was not his son.  There is further discussion on William's family group sheet.

Family Group Sheet of William DAVIS

Family Group Sheet of Joseph Emory DAVIS

Bogus Connection in the Lineage Books of the DAR

This lineage connects Isaac DAVIS (1796-1881) as son of Samuel Emory DAVIS & Jane COOK, parents of Jefferson DAVIS.  But this Isaac DAVIS is the son of John DAVIS (1768-1850) & Hannah BILLS (1770-1806); he is not the Isaac William DAVIS (1792-1833/4) who was son of Samuel Emory DAVIS & Jane COOK.  This Isaac was born in Surry Co., NC, and was in Ohio by 1822 places Samuel Emory DAVIS never lived.  Samuel Emory DAVIS was born in Georgia in 1756, he moved to Kentucky by 1797, and he moved to Mississippi by 1809, where he died in 1824. 

Webmaster's Personal Comment

I might add that my own family's long-standing tradition of being cousins to Jefferson DAVIS has proven not to be true, though how such a tradition could have arisen is not hard to understand.  From 1797 until 1818, our DAVISes were living near Fairview in Christian (now Todd) Co., KY, birthplace of Jefferson DAVIS in 1807/8.  Yet despite the proximity in both time and place, there is no apparent relationship between the two DAVIS families.  My research so far has shown that there were minimally four different, unrelated DAVIS families living in Christian/Todd Co., KY, in the first decade of the 1800s.

As of the 1990 census, DAVIS is the sixth most common surname in the United States, so DAVIS researchers must be very diligent in proving connections in their family trees, especially connections to famous people.

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