Many years of effort, study, research, travels and discussions regarding the parents of our William Ratliff (1777 Anson Co., NC will) have not yielded any results. Well, at least any definitive results. So after another trip to Maryland and visits with the Upper Shore Genealogical Society and Prince George’s Genealogical Society along with additional time in the Hall of Records in Annapolis, it seemed appropriate to establish in writing at least a circumstantial case for the parentage of our William. Therefore, what you read following MUST NOT be accepted as fact. Additional documentation must be developed to provide a more definitive link with the individuals you will find below.
First, there are 3 Williams involved in this analysis. They are:
William Ratcliff (1696) – son of Quaker Richard Ratcliff and Mary Caterne of Talbot Co., MD.
William Ratcliffe (1741) – married to Hannah Cook(e) and a County Judge in Queen Anne’s Co., MD.
William Ratliff (1777) – our relative who wrote the Anson Co., NC will.
William (1777) – date of birth given is 19 Feb. 1727 in Talbot Co., MD. Others have listed his place of birth as Queen Anne’s Co., MD. For the purpose of our presentation, we will use a birth year of 1727 and a place of birth as Queen Anne’s Co. although there is no documentation of either listing.
Early in my efforts, I became acquainted with Clarence Earl Ratcliff who had done extensive research into his Ratcliff Family and had published several volumes of his work. As we developed our friendship by correspondence, I grew to love this man. He was a retired Methodist minister who loved his family and worked for over 30 years to put together what he claimed was a very exhaustive study of his Richard Ratcliff ancestor who came to Maryland in 1682 aboard the ship “Submission”. Richard landed in the Talbot Co. area of Maryland and married Mary Caterne. Their marriage produced several offspring.
One of the major characteristics of Richard and Mary Ratcliff was their Quaker faith (Society of Friends); the Quakers being very detailed record-keepers. Their records have been used to prove, or disprove many genealogical links.
I had the joy and privilege to personally visit with Clarence on two special occasions. He was in declining health and suffering from Parkinson’s disease which ultimately took his life during the 1990’s. During the course of my relationship with him, he asked if I would digitize his records. The Internet was becoming an active source for genealogical information and Clarence wanted to have his work available for all to see. Many months were spent putting most of his genealogical information in a digital format. Once that was done, the information was sent to Pauline Brandy in Florida who actually established Clarence’s information in the format you see today online:
Potential Genealogy Conflict: When Clarence published his 1988 version of his book (before the information was made available online) he included our William Ratliff (1777) information as a son of his William Ratcliff (1696) and Mary Fellows. There is no known relationship between our William (1777) Ratliff and Clarence’s William (1696) Ratcliff. We may be related but until we can find more definitive proof, we have been reluctant to make this claim. Any such listing found anywhere should be examined cautiously before accepting as fact.
In 1987, Howard Hazlewood and Betty Ratliff Carson published a well-researched work called:
The William Ratcliff/Ratliff Family
Anson County, North Carolina
A link to that work can be found at the following:
This work provided the framework and research path for others to follow in pursuing further Ratliff family research. In the course of their work, several “possibilities” of parentage for our William (1777) were put forth. But caution was made to secure definitive documentation regarding any claims before putting forth something as fact.
During the course of understanding genealogical research and the establishment of more definitive or conclusive proof, a research method called FAN (Family – Associates – Neighbors) has been developed. When all else fails, look to others in the family or neighborhood for information. What follows attempts to establish what can only be described as “circumstantial” possibilities of just who might be the parents of our William (1777) using this FAN approach.
One of the “possibilities” Howard and Betty put forth for parentage of William (1777) was outlined on pages 6 and 7 of their book. Records of a Richard Ratliff were located in Prince George’s Co. where Richard was releasing his administration of his parent’s estate in 1741 to his uncle, Richard Touchstone. Readers of Ratliff’s Ferry will recall our writing regarding this couple in our posting dated 14 Oct. 2014. Please refer to that posting for a discussion and documentation of this “possibility”.
Mention was made of the rather complete work done by George Ely Russell on the Touchstone Family. While Mr. Russell only mentions Robert in reference to Mary Touchstone marrying Robert Ratliff and living in Prince George’s County, it is the history of the Touchstone family that bears some additional consideration.
In his discussion, Mr. Russell states that daughter Mary Touchstone married Robert Ratliff. Nothing is mentioned regarding “where” Robert came from or how he might relate otherwise to the Touchstone family. Several Touchstone family members (Richard and Henry Touchstone) moved from Cecil Co., MD to Prince George’s Co, and are found in 1733 tax records. Why the move to Prince George’s Co. is unknown.
Before 1733, Richard Touchstone (possibly a son of Richard & Christian Touchstone) settled in Monacacy Hundred in Prince George’s Co., MD. Richard’s name appears on the 1733 List of Taxables for Prince George’s Co., along with that of Robert Ratcliffe who reported paying a tax for one taxable adult male. According to the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society, only those individuals who produced work were counted for this tax. The women and children were not considered as persons who worked. However as slaves did work they were counted in the levy of the tax. According to the 1733 tax roll, Robert Ratcliffe only reported tax for 1 unit. Therefore, he probably did not have any slaves and his wife and children were not considered for the payment of this tax.
So who was Robert? How did he get to Prince George’s Co., and from where did he come? Those questions still remain to be answered. Mr. Russell points out in his Touchstone history the first Touchstone, Richard came from Ireland in 1679 to Cecil Co., MD. Richard may have been an indentured servant of Thomas Taylor of Dorchester Co., MD. That had us consider whether Robert Ratliff may have been an indentured servant as well. A review of all of the published materials in the Prince George’s County Genealogical Society Research Library did not reveal any such listing of a Robert Ratliff as an indentured servant.
But looking at what has happened as a result of the death and administration of the estates of both Robert and Mary, some “considerations” can be made about the “possibilities” of just how Robert & Mary might relate to our William Ratliff (1777).
As related in our 14 Oct. 2014 posting, Robert died in 1739 in Prince George’s Co. Mary was assigned to be the administratrix of his estate. She did make one accounting to the court in 1740. Richard Touchstone (brother of Mary) and James Hyat were sureties on the £150 bond posted for Mary. Mary did not make further filings as she apparently had passed away by 1741. Richard Ratcliffe assumed the role of Administrator for both estates.
On 24 June 1741, Richard Ratcliffe, son of Robert and Mary “signed over” his rights in his parents estate to his Uncle Richard Touchstone and asked that Richard manage the estates and take care of Richard Ratcliffe’s brothers. The brothers were never named in the court filing. Richard Touchstone filed his £100 administrator bond, and it was signed by Humberstone Lyon and Henry Touchstone.
Why had Richard Ratcliffe renounced his administration responsibilities? Where did he go and what did he do? To this date, no record of what happened to Richard has been found. However, in examining the records of St. Luke’s Church, some “possibilities” arise.
St. Luke’s Parish records a marriage of Richard Ratcliffe to Mary Newton was performed 16 Feb. 1750. The next year on 14 Jun. 1751, St. Luke’s records the birth of a son Richard to Richard & Mary Newton Ratliff. No further births for this marriage are found in the records of St. Luke’s Parish.
According to Mr. Russell’s work, the Touchstone family left Maryland in 1752 for Anson Co., NC. No further mention of the Touchstone family is found in the records of St. Luke’s Parish. But the question bears asking, “Is this Richard Ratcliffe the same Richard Ratcliffe who renounced his administration responsibilities for his parents estate in 1741 in Prince George’s Co.? If so, “why” would he migrate to Queen Anne’s Co., which meant he would have moved east rather than south and west as was the migration pattern at the time? Also, he had a rather large body of water (Chesapeake Bay) to cross which had to be somewhat of a difficult barrier considering the transportation facilities available at the time. Questions still unanswered.
Consider these possibilities:
- Robert and Mary Touchstone Ratliff were deceased by 1741 when their son Richard released his administration of their estates to his Uncle Richard Touchstone. Now, why would he do that?
- William Ratcliffe (1741) of Queen Anne’s Co. was deceased at that time. His widow, Hannah had to care for five daughters. Is it “possible” that William (1741) had a brother Robert who lived in Prince George’s Co. and nephew Richard went to help his Aunt Hannah?
- If so, were Robert Ratliff of Prince George’s Co and William Ratcliffe (1741) of Queen Anne’s Co. brothers? They died within a couple of years of each other and could have been about that far apart in their ages.
Mr. Russell also discusses the 16 Feb. 1757 NC will of Richard Touchstone. Among other provisions, Richard leaves £15 Maryland money to be paid to William and [Anselus?] Wratliff. We have not discovered just who Anselus might be. But in examining other handwriting done during these colonial times, the W before the ratliff could be just a fancy way of beginning writing the name. However, further examination should be done to discover if there is actually anyone with the last name Wratliff. But because Richard Touchstone is leaving money to his “presumed” nephews could link back to the administration of the Robert and Mary Touchstone Ratliff estate relinquished to Richard from Richard Ratliff in 1741.
Many who have posted their family trees on Family Search and Ancestry have placed William (1777) as the child of Robert and Mary Touchstone Ratcliff in Prince George’s Co., MD. But as Howard and Betty point out, much research remains. But records are scarce or nonexistent.
William Ratcliff (1741): In the course of doing Ratliff family research, many found a William Ratcliffe (1741) of Queen Anne’s Co., MD. who owned a pew at St. Luke Parish Church. Who is this William and how, if any connection, is he related to our William?
This William Ratcliff (1741) was married to Hannah Cook(e) and was of some prominence in Queen Anne’s Co. He was also active in the church community having been a member of St. Paul’s Church and then one of the original vestrymen of St. Luke’s Parish Church when it was established from St. Paul’s in 1728.
In 1739, he was listed as one of the Justices of the County Court of Queen Anne’s Co.
Many have suggested this William Ratcliffe (1741) might be the father or grandfather of our William (1777). An examination of the will of William Ratcliffe (1741) reveals he and wife Hannah Cook(e) had five daughters. No sons were listed in the will. The established legal inheritance law in Maryland at this time was called “Primogeniture” – the right, by law or custom, of the legitimate, firstborn son to inherit his parent’s entire or main estate, in preference to daughters, elder illegitimate sons, younger sons and collateral relatives implied that the eldest son did not have to be named in the will. Therefore, did William (1741) have a son and, if so, did he obtain any of the property of William (1741) upon his death?
The land acquisitions of William Ratcliffe (1741) were examined and all of his known land acquisitions were listed in William’s (1741) will and given to his wife, Hannah and daughters named in the will. No known land acquired by William (1741) was omitted from his will. So there does not appear to be any male heirs from this marriage of William Ratcliffe (1741) & Hannah Cook(e).
An outline of William’s (1741) will and his land acquisitions are listed in the addendum at the end of this summary.
Hamer Family Possibility: Upon examining the genealogy of William (1741) Ratcliffe and Hannah Cook(e), you will find a marriage of a Hannah Ratcliffe to John Hamer. Family researchers have had conflicting positions regarding whether this Hannah is the daughter or the widow of William (1741). Noted researchers Catherine Stein and her son, Jay, have stated that Hannah is the widow of William (1741), not the daughter. This marriage occurred in 1742, after the death of William (1741). William (1741) and John Hamer also appear to have known each other, and it was usual for widows to marry within two years of becoming a widow.
The Stein’s also put forth another marriage for a Hannah Ratcliffe and a James Benson dated 9 Aug 1748. A couple of observations regarding that “possibility”. From what we have seen regarding William Ratcliffe (1741), he was very loyal and faithful to both St. Paul’s and St. Luke’s Church. All of the other girls in this family were married in St. Luke’s Parish. But this Hannah Ratcliffe was married to James Benson in Talbot Co., MD. It seems a little unusual for all of the girls to be married in their father’s church except for one.
However, if you consider that Hannah who married John Hamer was the “daughter” of William (1741) and Hannah Cook(e), then the children of James Ratliff and Frances Hicks Hamer have a direct blood relationship to this William (1741). If the Hannah was the “widow” of William (1741) then, obviously this relationship cannot be claimed. In either example, a “relationship” to the William (1741) would seem to be in order.
Some Hamer genealogists have also mentioned that another daughter of William Ratcliff (1741) and Hannah Cook(e), Elizabeth Ratcliff, married Thomas Hamer, possibly a brother to John Hamer who married Hannah. This connection needs further proof but needs to be listed as a “possibility”.
Vanderford Family Possibility: Because of references to the Vanderford family found in some of our Anson Co., NC Ratliff land records, additional research was given to how this Vanderford family may relate to our Ratliff family.
In our posting to this blog of 12 Jul. 2013, the Vandiford name was found in the sale of some land. Anson Co., NC land owned by Richard Ratliff was sold 14 Oct. 1811 and the many heirs of Richard’s land were listed. Included are James and Rachel Vandiford. So we have a Richard Ratliff dying and leaving his land to his heirs, one of which is named Rachel who was married to a Vanderford. That sent us looking for Vanderford Family history and we found a rather lengthy and detailed history at the following link:
In the course of that history, we came across a James Vanderford marrying Rachel Ratliff. Rachel was listed as the daughter of Richard and Mary Newton Ratliff with a date of birth estimated between 1755-1774. Rachel died in Hickman Co., TN in 1848. No documentation is provided for this marriage or the connection with Richard and Mary Newton.
Was this Richard Ratliff the same Richard Ratcliffe that renounced his administration of his parent’s estate in Prince George’s Co., MD in 1741?
Was this Richard Ratliff the same Richard that married Mary Newton in Queen Anne’s Co., MD in 1750?
Was this the same Richard Ratliff whose wife Mary had a son Richard in 1751?
Is it possible that this Richard maintained a relationship with his Uncle Richard Touchstone who migrated to Anson Co., NC in 1752?
Did this Richard’s wife Mary have a daughter Rachel who married James Vanderford?
All of those and more are questions that still remain to be answered. But for the sake of discussing “possibilities”, let’s consider that this Richard IS the same Richard mentioned in all of those possibilities mentioned above. He did go to Queen Anne’s Co, to “possibly” help with Aunt Hannah and her 5 daughters. He met and married Mary Newton and they had Richard and Rachel as children. Rachel then married into the Vanderford family.
Was the Vanderford family in Queen Anne’s Co.? Yes! Michael Powell Vanderford and Charles Vanderford were listed as early land owners in Queen Anne’s Co. in 1707. Charles was also very active on the vestry of St. Paul’s church. Among others who also purchased land around 1707 were John Pratt, John Hamer, Jr., Thomas Everett, Trustram [Tristram]? Thomas, just to mention a few last names found in our Ratliff heritage. These are family names associated with the Ratliff’s in Maryland and North Carolina. All of these individuals were either residents or owners of property in what was then Queen Anne’s County (which included the present county of Caroline) prior to and including 1726.
St. Paul’s Church, Queen Anne’s Co., MD: Several references to Charles Vanderford are found in the early records of this church. This is also the church in which William Ratcliffe (1741) was an active member as mentioned earlier.
While the above information does not answer the original question of just “who” are the parents of our William (1777), it does outline what additional work has been done these past few years and where possible additional work needs to be done. Howard and Betty said it best: “Much research needs to be done”.
Sincere thanks to Tom & May MacCallum for their help in editing the above and for providing much of the leg work in putting together our Anson Co., NC Ratliff family picture. Such precious family connections have been created and are cherished.
WILLIAM RATCLIFFE WILL
Executed 10 Jan 1740
Queen Anne’s Co., MD
Item 1 My soul to Almighty God & body to be buried in a Christian like manner.
Item 2 To wife Hannah – my now dwelling plantation with all the lands there unto during her natural lifetime. After her death, daughter Hannah to have possession & enjoy the same plantation & lands & premises forever.
Item 3 Daughter Mary wife of Thomas Hackett 150 acres of land lying on Jones Creek being part of Shepherds Fortune which William purchased from William Shepherd, forever.
Item 4 Daughters Jane & Frances – all land called Lloyd Freshes which lies main county road and the ____to be divided equally in quantity & quality.
Item 5. Daughter Elizabeth – all my land which runs from the Church Landing being part of Spread Eagle & part of Lloyd’s Freshes and is that part which runs and is bounded on one side with White Hall & on the other side with the Spread Eagle aforesaid and running up with said lands by the church to the main road as above said and also with the main road to the Spread Eagle & White Hall as aforesaid, forever.
Item 6 Daughter Elizabeth – my lot of land and dwelling thereon lying & being in Angle Town in Queen Anne’s County, forever.
As for my personal estate I leave to be divided between my wife & 5 children. Negro Ann & Negro Peter, I give to Jane which she is not to have before her day of marriage. And two other Negroes named Sam & Chester I give to daughter Frances on her day of marriage.
The residue of my personal estate to be divided between daughters Hannah & Elizabeth.
WILLIAM RATTCLIFFE LAND
Queen Anne’s Co., MD
Shepherd’s Fortune – purchased from William Shepherd 12 Sep 1728. Willed to daughter Mary (wife of Thomas Hackett) Jan 1740 will.
Collins Mill – purchased 8 May 1727 for 400 lbs. of tobacco. Land on Smith Creek branch of Chester River being part of tract of land called Spread Eagle.
Lloyd’s Freshes – purchased originally 16 Mar 1679 by Phillemon Loyd. William Ratcliffe purchased part of Lloyd’s Freshes 27 Sep 1730
 Maryland Genealogical Society Bulletin, Vol. 37, #3, Summer 1996, pp 289-298
 Queen Anne’s County Maryland, Its Early History, Frederic Emory originally published in the Centreville Observer 1886-1887, PP 162-209.
 Queen Anne’s County Maryland, Its Early History, Frederic Emory originally published in the Centreville Observer 1886-1887, p 128.
 Maryland Marriages, 1634-1777, Robert Barnes.
 Spelling found in document. Later spelled as Vanderford.
 Queen Anne’s County Maryland, Its Early History, Frederic Emory originally published in the Centreville Observer 1886-1887, pp 48, 49
Queen Anne’s County Maryland, Its Early History, Frederic Emory originally published in the Centreville Observer 1886-1887, pp 157-159, 164, 165, 200.
 Maryland Land Records, Annapolis, MD RT B 207-208
 Maryland Land Records, Annapolis, MD IK C 119-120