I trace my lineage through my great-grandmother, Emma Hethcot, to her father, Nathan Hethcot, to his father, Mark Heathcote, to his mother, Olive Heathcock. About this point in the family history, a thick fog sets in and we can only occasionally catch glimpses of vague outlines. Through some unsourced trees on Ancestry and DNA testing, I knew I was related to the Hathcock and Norton families of North Carolina but I had little idea how. I hadn't made a lot of progress past this point until my 4th cousin, Jim, who descends from Nathan's brother, Elias, contacted me last year and we exchanged ideas about how to fill in the gaps in our common tree.
This analysis is intended to prove the identity of both Olive's father and her husband, whom I claim to be William Norton and Elisha Hathcock respectively. This proof wouldn't meet the "beyond a reasonable doubt" requirement of a criminal trial but it should hopefully meet the preponderance of evidence requirement to convince us that it's the probable truth. It should probably be written as two documents but the cases intertwine to some small degree.
While I have access to many online resources, I lack the time or means to travel to Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina to do proper courthouse research. Fortunately, the tremendous research and analysis shared on the websites of Clayton Heathcock, William Alton Hathcock, and Myrtle Bridges help to bridge that gap. I also built on my collaboration my cousin, Jim, who generously shared his insights and documents with me.
In this analysis, I'll spell this surname as Hathcock, Heathcock, Heathcoat, Heathcote, Hathcote, Hethcote, and Hethcot. Why? Because literacy was rare in the family around 1800 and the spelling changed frequently. The root of all these names appears to be Hathcock, however. Happily, Norton is always Norton.
Olive was the head of a household in Randolph County, Indiana on both the 1830 and 1840 U.S. Censuses, which provided her age as 40 thru 49 and 50 thru 59 respectively, placing her year of birth between 1780 and 1789.
A summary of the will of Olla Hathcock of Randolph County, dated Aug 11 1844, lists her heirs as sons Mark, Silas, Elijah, & Camm Hathcock; daughters Drusilla Mires, Harriet Coulton, Sarah, Elizabeth & Celey Hathcock. Her executor was William Norton.
Two census records and the will transcript provide the only information that Olive may have directly contributed about herself, telling us where she lived, the decade of her birth, her approximate date of death, her children's names, and that she had some relationship to a William Norton, whom she had witness her will.
Since we know little about Olive from direct records, we need to learn more by examining the people around her. We start with her children.
The first records that directly name the children are their marriage records.
It appears that Elizabeth and Celia may not have married since they appear on later census records with their names unchanged. Also, we assume that James C. Hathcoat is the Camm from Olive's will because Olive's family is the only Hathcock family in Randolph and Wayne counties, no other children are mentioned in her will, and the C middle initial is consistent with Camm.
Determining the birth years and birth places of Olive's children can provide clues as to Olive's whereabouts during those times, which may be important to learning more about her.
Depending on when a birthday actually fell, the estimated birth year I took from these censuses could actually be a year earlier. So if someone said they were 40 years old in 1850, that might mean an implied birth year of 1810, unless they hadn't had their birthday yet that year, in which case it would be 1809.
NOTE: The age ranges for the 1820, 1830, and 1840 census records are based on my determination of the household in which each person lives in and the age range in which I believe they are counted. See my analysis of the 1830 and 1820 U.S. Census records below.
With the exception of a court record, the source of the ages of the children and their birthplaces come from census records. However, these censuses often provide inconsistent information, as we can see in the chart above. The Norton and Hathcock families were relatively poor, moved often, and were mostly illiterate, so might not be precisely aware of when and where they were born. Also, respondents to the census might be another member of the household, a neighbour, or even the census taker himself making his best guess if he couldn't contact the family.
The birth years of Olive's children are important to my analysis so I've attempted to be as precise as possible, where possible. I tend to weigh the NC court document, discussed below, more heavily because the children are still young and the court would be more likely to be accurate than a census taker. Also, some of the children provide their age relatively consistently, such as Mark, Silas, and Celia. Here is my best estimate of when and where each child was born:
The 1830 U.S. Census
Before 1850, the U.S. Census only provides the name of the head of household but provides a count and age ranges of all the household residents so we need to attempt to match those to known family members. If I can identify the people in the household and determine which age range likely applies to them, I can include that in my analysis. If the identity of the members of the household are too ambiguous, I exclude it.
Mark Heathcoat appears twice on the 1830 U.S. Census as the head of identical households in Randolph County and in adjoining Wayne County. Since Mark lived in Wayne County in 1840, this suggests his move went in that direction and that Wayne County was surveyed some period of time after Randolph County.
Harriet's husband, Peter Coulter, is listed next to Mark on the 1830 U.S. Census in Wayne County, with only one other person in the household, a female age 15 thru 19, which corresponds to Harriet's age. Since Harriet was married September 1st, 1830, which may have been before the Wayne County census, we must consider the possibility that she also may have been counted in both households.
An Alfred Myers lives in Wayne County, with a female age 20 thru 29 and a female under 5. In 1830, This is consistent for with later records for Drusilla, who would have been about 20 in 1830, and her daughter, Martha, who was born in 1828.
Elijah Heathcoat is also married to Anna Jones and later census records show that he had one child at the time, Eliza, born in 1829. However, I cannot find any record of him in his own household in 1830 so I will include him in Olive's household on the 1830 U.S. Census.
While some of the ages provided by other census records fall outside the age ranges on this census records, it's difficult to know which record is accurate or if any of them is accurate. However, this analysis provides some confirmation that we have the number of children and their ages broadly correct and we can apply this technique to other pre-1850 census records.
With so many children born in North Carolina, we can now place Olive in that state but was she born there? The 1880 U.S. Census provides the birthplace of both parents for each member of the household but only two of Olive's children appear on that census, the rest likely being deceased, and only Celia has the fields completed, where she provides the answer for both parents as North Carolina.
However, the 1900 U.S. Census has the same information and this time Celia's record provides the answer Indiana. It is very unlikely that Olive was born in Indiana in the decade of 1780. though, and perhaps this inconsistency can be explained by the identity of the respondents. Celia lived with her daughter in 1880 but lived with her granddaughter's family in 1900, and a granddaughter, grandson-in-law, or great-grandchild respondent were less likely to be familiar with Olive's history.
The final piece of evidence is Celia's 1904 death record. The informant on this record is Walter Napier, possibly a neighbor, but the information on the certificate precise and detailed, possibly since Celia was in the Wayne County poorhouse for the 60 days before her death, which were often used as care facilities for the elderly and infirm, and she had plenty of time to put her affairs in order. This record clearly states North Carolina as her mother's place of birth, along with other valuable information, which I will discuss later.
However, these two pieces of information provided later in life by Olive's youngest daughter is not overwhelming. To learn more, we must try to identify Olive's parents.
Celia's 1904 death record provides another clue; her mother's maiden name was Olive Norton.
A William Norton witnessed Olive's will in 1844 and both the 1830 U.S. Census and 1840 U.S. Census list a William Norton very close to Olive Heathcock in Randolph County, Indiana. The 1850 and 1860 U.S. Census provides William Norton's age as 54 and 64, respectively, putting his birth year about 1796 and his birth place as North Carolina.
Olive Norton and William Norton share a surname and state of birth and their birth years are close enough that they could be siblings or cousins. William Norton deserves closer examination.
The 1820 U.S. Census lists 2 men with the name William Norton in Randolph County, Indiana, close together.
William Norton, with a household:
William Norton, with a household
A record at the Bureau of Land Management has William Norton, assignee of James Norton, purchasing 80 acres in Randolph County, right on the border of Wayne County, on March 28th, 1828. This land appears may be the same location where both William Nortons lived during the 1820 U.S. Census, as Travis Adcock, who appeared next to the older William Norton on the census, had purchased land in the same section on June 26, 1821.
A James Norton does appear in Randolph County on the 1830 U.S. Census as a married man, age 30 thru 39, with 4 children under 10 years of age. In 1820, he would have been from 20 to 29 years old so may be the male 16 thru 25 in either of the two William Norton households.
An Elias Norton also purchased 80 acres in the same section on September 2, 1830, adding yet another Norton to the mix. This Elias appears on the 1830 U.S. Census in Randolph County, with the following household:
These records place Elias's birth year between 1781 and 1790, making it possible that he is a brother of the younger William Norton. Elias is also named on a land record across the border in Wayne County, having assigned land there to Daniel Palmer, out of in 1829.
Elias Norton married Sally Easterland in Wayne County on March 30, 1825, which means the female in his household, age 16 thru 25, may not be his wife but perhaps a daughter. In 1828, a Frances Norton, whom many claim was a daughter of Elias Norton, married Hugh Custis in Wayne County in 1828. Frances claimed on multiple census records that she was born about 1807 in South Carolina.
An Elias Norton appears in an 1810 U.S. Census record in Lexington County, South Carolina, head of the following household:
This household could certainly belong to the same Elias Norton who lived in Randolph County in 1820, with Elias then a widower. No household for an Elias Norton appears on a South Carolina census anywhere near this time, either before or after and it is within a few years of the time Frances would have been born.
Also in Wayne County, a David Norton filed a land patent in 1813. However, David appears to have been born in Kentucky and his family originates in Virginia, where they appear to bear no relation to the Nortons of Richmond County. There is also a John Norton near David in Wayne County but they are probably brothers and they both relocated to Henry County by 1830.
A Mary Norton married Jacob Jordon in Randolph County on July 29, 1823. The 1830 U.S. Census for Jacob Jordon in Randolph County puts her age at 20 to 29. There are only two possible females in Norton households of that age on the 1820 U.S. Census: William Norton Sr. has a female 16 thru 25 in his household and John Norton of Wayne County has a female 10 thru 15 in his household.
Given the close proximity of these men and their ages, we can speculate that we have a father, William Norton, his sons, Elias, William and James, his daughter, Mary, and that they migrated here from North Carolina in or before 1820.
I was unable to find a record for a William Norton on the 1810 U.S. Census in 1810 in North Carolina and there are no good candidates for William in South Carolina either. However, a William Norton showed up in Richmond County, North Carolina on the 1800 U.S. Census. If we were to compare the known Nortons in Randolph County that might have been born before 1800, we have the following:
The one potential problem here is James Norton, who was 16 to 25 in 1820, 30 to 39 in 1830, and 40 to 49 in 1850. If he were 20, 30, and 40 during these periods then it's possible he was not born at the time of this census. Otherwise, we may not be dealing with a single, nuclear family in Randolph County. it appears that William has a father and at least two brothers in Richmond County and it is possible that some of the younger men could be cousins, complicating how Olive may be related to the family.
In Richmond County, we have a record that ties Olive to this Norton family. A summary of court records in North Carolina, provided by William Alton Norton: "According to Apprentice & Orphan Records of Richmond County, NC, Silas Norton, 8 years and 6 months old and Zella Hathcock, 5 years old were bound to William Norton, June 1816 in Richmond County, NC. Mark Hathcock, 13 years old,'Orphan and Elijah Hathcock, 10 years old, 'Orphan were bound to Nazareth Norton, (no date, Nazareth died before 1850).”
Assuming Zella is short for Drusilla, these names correspond directly to the 1844 will of Olla Hathcock and marriage and census records in Randolph and Wayne counties in Indiana. Mark is consistent on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 U.S. Censuses as being 45, 55, and 65, putting his birth year in 1804 or 1805. This would mean that the court issued the undated order regarding him and his brother later in 1817 or 1818.
So Olive is almost certainly a member of the Norton family of Richmond County but is her father really William Norton, or possibly one of his two brothers: Isham or James? As we see above, Olive's young daughter was bound to a William Norton in 1816. This is unlikely to have been the younger William Norton, who would have only been 20 years old and not yet the age of majority. There was one other William Norton known in Richmond County, who was 30 thru 39 in 1830 but he is far too young. The only William Norton over 21 known in the County is the brother of Isham and James and since the court chose him over his brothers, It's likely that this was Olive's father.
Some Norton researchers have suggested that the younger William Norton (1796-1862), who migrated to Randolph County, Indiana is the son of Isham Norton. However, descendants of Isham have noted that their YDNA haplogroup is E-M2 , the same as descendants of Edward and Joseph Hathcock of Virginia, suggesting that Isham is an adopted son of James Norton Sr. However, a descendant of William Norton (1796-1862) tested as R-M269 and has STR results consistent with other Richmond County Norton descendants. Again, that this man who lived next to Olive for 20 years and witnessed her will in 1844 was her brother.
Could Nazareth, the guardian of Mark and Elijah, also be son of William Norton? Nazareth appears on the 1830 U.S. Census in Richmond County as being 40 thru 49, placing his birth year between 1781 and 1790.
Clayton Hathcock: “According to Richmond County, NC Court Minutes, Term of Court December 1804, Isam Norton, Nazareth Norton, Elias Norton, Mill Norton and Elisha Hathcock were ordered to work on a road in this county, 11 Dec, 1804.” We've identified an Elias and a Nazareth Norton in proximity to William already. Could all four Norton men above be brothers and the sons of William?
William Norton appears on the 1790 U.S. Census in Richmond County, North Carolina with the following household:
William Norton also appears on the 1784 North Carolina State Census in Northampton County, which was enumerated from 1785 to 1787:
This is not overwhelming evidence, since there are Hathcock cousins in the county, but it is suggestive. The mention of an Elisha Hathcock in that order now leads us to another relationship.
Celia Hathcote’s death certificate lists Elisha Hathcote as her father, the only record which names a father of any of Olive’s children. As we saw on the the 1804 order to build a road, Elisha was named along with four Norton men, one of whom may have also moved to Randolph County and another of whom may have been the guardian of Olive's son in Richmond County, If Elisha was Olive's husband in 1804, and Mark was born around 1805, then the order might have encompassed four brother and a brother-in-law.
However, there is the matter of the 1816 and 1818 court orders binding out Mark, Elijah and Zella as orphans. Four of Olive's children were born after 1816 and also bore the surname of Heathcock. Was Olive married to two different Hathcock men? It would not be uncommon for a widow to marry the brother or other relative of her late husband. There is another possibility, though.
Elisha in Tennessee
On December 25, 1813, in Galatin, Tennessee, over 500 miles from Richmond County, North Carolina, an Elisha Hathcock enlisted in the 39th regiment of the U.S. Army. On his original enlistment, the record tells us that this Elisha was 25 years of age and born in Rutherford County, North Carolina. However, this place of birth was then updated to Richmond County. The notes on his enlistment record further tell us that he then deserted on April 30, 1816, while stationed at Fort Jackson, which was located in Alabama.
Was this the same Elisha Hathcock that was ordered to build the road in 1804?
Elisha Hathcock appears on the tax roll for Bedford County, Tennessee, submitted to the court clerk on August 30th, 1812. Bedford County is only 60 miles south of Gallatin, so it is likely that this is the same Elisha that enlisted in 1813. Further, John Hathcock, along with his grown sons, also appeared on the 1812 Bedford County tax list. John was likely the son of Thomas Hathcock of Richmond County, North Carolina so he was probably a close relation to Elisha, an uncle or even his father.
Elisha's presence in Tennessee might explain why the Hathcock children were called orphans; courts sometimes bound out children as orphans if their father was absent and their mother was unable to support them. However, how well do the known facts support this possibility?
The oldest child known to be born before 1816 was Harriet. As we saw in the charts above, she provides ages which suggest a birth year of either 1812 or 1814. The 1812 birth year may be slightly more reliable, since the 1850 census that provided the 1814 year was dramatically incorrect for her husband. However, an 1812 or 1813 birth year may indicate that Olive was pregnant with Elisha left for Tennessee. The youngest children born after 1816 were Camm and Sarah, each of whom may have been born between 1816 and 1820. So, the dates here are flexible enough to allow for an absence during these years.
Given that the Hathcock and Norton families were close, it appears unlikely that Elisha's family would have aided him in abandoning his family. John Hathcock's aunt was likely Martha Hathcock, Olive's grandmother, meaning Olive and Elisha may have been cousins. So perhaps Elisha intended to send for Olive and the children later, once he had established himself in Tennessee. If Elisha was Olive's husband, it appears likely that Olive was pregnant when he left and. since Harriet was born in North Carolina, that she returned home before her birth.
If Elisha then returned to the family sometime in 1816 or 1817 then why were Mark and Elijah still bound out and called orphans?
Elisha's service in the War of 1812 took him to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend to the Battle of Pensacola to Fort Jackson, located in the wilderness of what is today Alabama, almost 500 miles from Richmond County, where he was recorded as deserted on the inspection roll of April 30, 1816. The Army might have pursued him and would have placed a $10 bounty on him, advertising in newspapers where they think he might go. If someone were to turn him in for the reward, he would at the least face flogging or perhaps even a firing squad or hanging.
Not only might it had taken him several weeks or months to make his way home but he would have had to lay low once he returned and would not be able to easily provide for his family. If Elisha and Olive had to vacate the county, where authorities knew he lived, they may have decided to leave their oldest children with her family.
Before analyzing the 1820 U.S. Census record, we need to examine Elisha’s possible race. Although Olive’s children almost always appear on census records as “white”, Celia’s death certificate provides her color as black. All other records for both describe the children as white, however, suggesting that, if they did have some African-American ancestry, they may have been very light skinned. Certainly, my 2x-great-grandfather, Nathan Hethcot, appears white, as far as I can tell from a sepia-colored photograph.
On his enlistment records, Elisha was described as having black hair, black eyes, and a dark complexion, which would be consistent of mixed race, although certainly not definitive. Also, even if Elisha had some African-American ancestry, that could be true of other Hathcock men. The Hathcock Y-DNA haplogroup of E-M2 is African in origin and many other branches of the Hathcocks have occasionally been recorded as free colored.
As far as autosomal DNA, all 4 DNA testing companies give my father 1% to 1.5% African ethnicity. My uncle has a similar percentage at Ancestry and I have about half that amount at all 4 testing companies as well, certainly corroborating some African-American ancestry. Certainly not all my Dad's Hathcock DNA matches show African ethnicity but over half have some in their trace regions, which is a much higher proportion than another other branch of my family tree.
The 1820 U.S. Census
An 1820 U.S. Census record in Barnwell District, South Carolina lists Elisha Hathcock as head of household. While I'm not certain, this may be the family of Elisha and Olive, since there is no record of another Elisha Hathcocks at the same time and the family sizes are roughly the same sizes and same ages as we would expect given the records above.
Barnwell District was located on the southern border of South Carolina, meaning the family would have moved a long way, but that would be consistent with the other Hathcock families, some of whom moved several times across three or four states.
However, I raise the possibility that Elisha and Olive were in or near Barnwell just after 1810. As we discussed above, it appears that Olive's brother, Elias lived in Lexington, South Carolina, which bordered Barnwell District to the north. However, also in 1810, John Hathcock and his sons may have lived in Burke County, Georgia, which bordered Barnwell District to the south.
Thomas Hathcock of Richmond County, North Carolina, had several sons who moved to South Carolina before 1800: John to Kershaw and Thomas and Mark to Fairfield. Elisha could have been the son of any of these men, although I lean toward Mark since that's the name Elisha gave to his oldest son, but he was very likely close kin to all of them.
According to research again by Clayton Hathcock, John sold lands in Kershaw and Sumter in 1802 and relocated to Burke County, Georgia, where he is last recorded in 1807. Then sometime before 1812, he and his sons relocate to Bedford County, Tennessee, where we find them living in the same militia district as Elisha. So how did Elisha come to join them there? If they lived in relatively close proximity, Elisha may have elected to join in moving to Bedford. Otherwise, John may have written them a letter or perhaps their path to Tennessee took them through wherever Elisha lived.
Regardless of where Elisha lived before he left for Bedford, after deserting, Elisha might not have been able to stay in Richmond County so the may have then relocated to Barnwell District, leaving their oldest children with the Nortons.
So in 1820, we find Elisha Hathcock in Barnwell County, South Carolina with the following household:
As I noted above, Elisha as a free colored man is consistent with the other records discussed above, suggesting an African American ancestry.
if this is the family of Elisha and Olive then we have children missing. Harriet was born about 1812 to 1814 but Elizabeth and Sarah may have been born prior to 1820 as well. If the 1830 census is wrong and the girls are older, born in 1820 or later, then we don't have a problem. Elizabeth being born after 1820 is not consistent with the 1830 census but is consistent with the 1850 and 1860 census.
However, the 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870 census records for Sarah is consistent with her being born on or before 1820. However, if she were born in 1820, after the census of that year then that could fit. Alternatively, Sarah was born before 1820 but Harriet was left with family in North Carolina. Finally, this could simply not be the family of Elisha and Olive.
Also, some older children are missing as well: Drusilla and possibly either Mark or Elijah. However, it might be all three who were missing, having been bound out in 1816 and 1818 to Olive's family members. So who is the white male 10 thru 15 on the census record? And where are Mark, Elijah, and Drusilla?
The 1830 U.S. Census in Barnwell County, South Carolina shows an Elisha Hathcock, living alone in his household, a free colored male, age 10 thru 23. This man is clearly too young to be the Elisha Hathcock who was the head of household in 1820. However, he is the right age to be the white male 10 thru 15 on that record. He disappears from the record after that, unfortunately.
If this is the son of Olive and Elisha then he would need to have been born back in North Carolina between 1807 and 1810. If so, why was he not bound out as well and why did he remain behind in Barnwell District? Could this be the older Elisha Hathcock and he was mistakenly marked in the wrong age range?
Mark and Elijah were bound out to Nazareth Norton but there is no record of Nazareth again until 1830, where he appears on the census for Richmond County. However, the 1820 U.S. Census for Isham Norton, possibly Nazareth's uncle or father, does have males of the right age living in the household that cannot be traced from Isham's 1810 U.S. Census record.
A females of Drusilla's age also lives with the elder William Norton and Elias Norton in Randolph County but those females appear accounted for by Mary and Frances. Wherever Drusilla lived in 1820, it appears it was not with the Nortons in Randolph County.
There is also the possibility that Mary and James were not living with William Norton in 1820 in Randolph County. Perhaps James was living with William Jr. and Mary was the daughter of another Norton, meaning that Mark, Elijah and Drusilla all live with William Sr. We have no way to determine exactly which household contains these three children.
The DNA proves that the descendants of Mark and Elijah are definitely Hathcocks, related to dozens of other descendants. The chart below shows the direct relationship of many to my Dad but several are also related to each other in a broad DNA network. Of course, that does not prove Elisha is Mark's father, merely that some Hathcock is the father.
My genetic family tree is overflowing with cousins who share known and likely Hathcock ancestors. This might be partially explained by Olive and her husband both having a Hathcock grandparent.
The one issue here is that while I can find genetic relatives who descend from Mark, Elijah, and Silas, I can't find matches with the descendents of any of the children. In some of those cases, it's because they had few or no descendants. With the daughters, it could simply be that it's hard for my cousins to trace back to this line. I have well over a hundred DNA matches who are share my Hathcock matches but I simply can't place them in the family tree.
One other possible scenario is that Olive was married to a Hathcock in North Carolina but then he died before 1816. Elisha, likely a close relation of the first Hathcock man, lived in the area, left for Tennessee, and then returned and married Olive.
This possibility has it's own issue. Once he deserted, why would Elisha have returned to Richmond County from Tennessee, where the army was undoubtedly looking for him. Then, why would a widow with a struggling family marry a deserter who undoubtedly had a bounty on his head. Ultimately, though, while we have some evidence that Elisha was married to Olive, we have no evidence that there was a previous marriage to a different Hathcock man.
Another possibility is that Celia’s death certificate is simply wrong and another Hathcock man is the father of all Olive's children. However, that the certificate named a man that was associated with the Norton family in Richmond County 1804 is simply a coincidence is unlikely, especially since Elisha is not the most common name.
There is only one Hathcock household in Richmond County on the 1800 census, that of Thomas Hathcock, who has 2 young men in his household age 10-15. If Elisha is one of those men then that leaves at least one other alternative. Also, since Thomas had several sons not too far away in South Carolina, some grandsons may have come to visit. Still, it's a small pool of potential candidates and no other is mentioned in relation to the Nortons, while Elisha is mentioned twice.
The evidence for William Norton as Olive's father rests several interconnected pieces of evidence:
The only alternative here is that the Nortons of Randolph County are not a nuclear family and that Olive is related in some other way to the older William Norton there. That would also mean that the court ordered her daughter to the care of an uncle and her sons possibly to a cousin, instead of to her father and brother. This is all certainly possible but far less likely.
Regarding Elisha as Olive's husband: given the inconsistency of the ages of Olive's children on the census records, many scenarios are possible. However, there is a strong case that Elisha is the father of all the Hathcock children:
While I can create a scenario that fits the available facts, within the inconsistency that plagues those facts, other scenarios are possible but, in my opinion less probable. Elisha is most likely to be the father of all of Olive's children.