The Mystery of Joseph Jernigan

After all of the research that has been done concerning the Jernigans of Smith County, Mississippi, I have never heard anyone mention the name Joseph Jernigan.  Stephen, yes.  Harris, yes.  Francis M., yes.  Never Joseph.

It isn’t surprising that no one has heard of him.  He does not appear on either the 1840 census, nor does he appear there in 1850 or any year after.  Until now, it seems that no one knew of his existence.

I never would have known about him either if I hadn’t gone digging through the records for Smith County, MS available on  It was there, while looking through the tax records for 1849, that I first came across Joseph.  He is listed among the property owners, right above Harris Jernigan (Journagin).  Harris is a name I recognized.  He was the oldest son of my 4th great grandparents, Stephen and Keziah Jernigan.

It is assumed that Stephen died sometime between 1848 – 49.  I have found a land record for Stephen dating 1848, yet he is not listed in the 1850 census with his wife and family.  Harris, the oldest son and probably the oldest child (ages were a bit flexible back then, and his sister, Eliza, was right around the same age), likely inherited some land from his father, which is why he would be listed as a landowner.  Did Joseph inherit some of Stephen’s land as well?

Where did Joseph Jernigan come from?  In what part of the Jernigan family does he originate?  Since he is not listed in the census, we don’t have a place of birth or an approximate birth year.  He seems to have come quickly, then left.  He did stay long enough to purchase – or inherit – land, yet only a year later, he is not listed in the census.  Where did he go?

Yes, it is a big mystery.  If anyone has any idea who this Joseph Jernigan may be, I would love to know.

Tax record for Smith County, MS for 1849, listing Harris Jernigan (Journagin) and an unknown Joseph Jernigan (Journagin).
Tax record for Smith County, MS for 1849, listing Harris Jernigan (Journagin) and an unknown Joseph Jernigan (Journagin).

8 thoughts on “The Mystery of Joseph Jernigan

  1. I am researching Delilah Ann Jernigan. The only info I have for her is that she was born about 1825 in North Carolina and she married Jefferson W. Windham Jan. 2, 1845 in Smith County, Mississippi. She is my 3rd great grandmother. Wondering if her father could possibly be Stephen?


    1. Hi Patti – thank you for your comment, and for the information about your ancestor, Delilah. First, in all of the information I have seen about Stephen Jernigan, I have never seen a daughter mentioned with that name. However, the fact that she was a Jernigan, born in NC and residing in Smith County, MS, is very interesting! I would be amazed if she is not somehow related to Stephen, since there were so few Jernigans in Smith County at that time – only Stephen, his wife and children, and the one mention of Joseph Jernigan. If she is not his daughter (it is possible, but I have never seen that claim before), perhaps finding out more about her may help connect Stephen and Delilah to the Jernigans of North Carolina. I will see what other information I can find out about her, and I would be very interested in seeing what information you may have about her children.


      1. Thanks for your quick reply. My grandparents Jefferson and Delilah Jernigan Windham settled in Shelby County, Texas and this is where my Windham line resides now. The 1850 census shows them in Shelby County, Texas : Jefferson W. Windham 31, Delilah A. 25, Martha 4, Wyatt 2, Mary 0, Asberry 26, James 12, Daniel. I believe Asberry, James and Daniel are brothers and possibly nephews to Jefferson Windham, so the first 3 names listed are the children of Jefferson and Delilah. The other children where Matilda 1851, Thomas J. 1858, George and Lum 1860 and Pink 1862. The last 3 children died in infancy and are buried in the Windham family cemetery. I believe Delilah died before 1870 and is possibly buried on another property that they owned at the time of her death. I have been trying for some time to find out more information about her and kept hitting a brick wall until I did a search for Jernigan’s in Smith County, MS and found the info regarding Stephen and Joseph. Also, regarding the Windham relatives in Smith County. Jefferson was the son of Daniel born about 1794 and died abt 1850. I believe a couple of Jefferson’s brothers stayed in Smith County. One of the brothers was Albert Columbus Polk Windham. Please feel free to share the info.



  2. Thank you very much for the information, Patti. Since I saw your original post, I have been searching the web to find out more about Delilah, but as you have probably found, there doesn’t seem to be much out there. I’ll keep searching around and see what I might be able to find. I have sent your original information to a distant cousin who is descended from both the Jeringans and Windhams. She passed along some information about her ancestors, which I will send to you. Again, finding another Jernigan in Smith County is very exciting, and may hopefully lead us somewhere.


  3. Doris Mayo

    I am related to Joseph Jernigan who came to SC from GA and lived and died in AL Married to Vashti Vann. He was a butcher for Andrew Jackson when he came to FL. Great family stories here in the south.


    1. Hi Doris – it would be interesting to see if this was the same Joseph. He seems to have just popped into Smith County, then popped back out again. No further record of his presence in Smith County has been found, and I have wondered if it could have possibly been the Joseph Jernigan you are referring to. The fact that he died in Alabama is interesting – not all that far from Mississippi. Do you know where in Alabama he lived?


  4. Barbara J. Brookins

    I have thought that perhaps Joseph was the same person as Stephen. I have never found anything else about Joseph Jernigan.


    1. Honestly, I would have serious doubts about that. I’ve seen Stephen always listed by that name in any surviving contemporary documents, but never as Joseph Stephen, Stephen Joseph, etc. Anything could be possible as long as we don’t have any official documentation, but I would think that’s probably a pretty big stretch. Something else that might be possible is that Stephen may have had more children than he has been given credit for. I’m going from memory, but I think there were more sons on the 1840 Smith County, MS census than just his oldest known son, Harris.


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