Abraham Jernigan – Father of Stephen?

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to have a platform for people researching the Jernigan family to share information, both concerning their own branch of the family in America as well as the earlier family in England. Someone coming to the blog would hopefully find some useful information to use in their own research, but my hope was always that others would share their information, which otherwise I might not have found.

Several Jernigan researchers have done just that. A particular post that prompted others to share tidbits of information was Stephen Jernigan of Smith County, MS – Part 2. If you have not read that post, it discusses my attempts to connect my fourth-great-grandfather, Stephen Jernigan, to the larger group of Jernigans in Columbus County, North Carolina, where all evidence seems to point. Stephen was born in North Carolina, according to later census records of his children, before leaving that state and heading south to Mississippi, staying for a time in Georgia, where some of his children were born. Stephen died just prior to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census which, for the first time, listed not only all residents of the home by name, but also their places of birth.

The difficulty I have had with Stephen Jernigan is that no documentation has yet been found that would link him to a set of parents. In the blog post previously mentioned, I discuss the circumstantial evidence that points to Columbus County, North Carolina as Stephen’s place of origin. I also cite other circumstantial evidence that may tie him to a specific set of parents, Jesse Jernigan, Jr. and Lucy Holmes.

While Jesse and Lucy remain prime candidates for Stephen’s parents, information shared as a comment on my blog post by another researcher, Sharon Tingley, leads to the possibility of another of the Columbus County Jernigans being the father of Stephen – Abraham Jernigan.

Abraham does have one very strong piece of evidence that puts him in contention. He is documented with a son named Stephen. In 1811, Abraham is mentioned as the father of Stephen Jernigan, who was purchasing land from John Rawls in Columbus County (Columbus Co., NC Deeds, Vol. A p. 245, dated 11-5-1811). Abraham was a witness named on this deed, as was Jesse Jernigan. It isn’t clear whether this was Jesse Sr. or Jr., but either way, it shows a close connection with the family. Sharon also mentions Abraham selling land to Nicholas Worley. Nicholas was the father of Elias Worley, who married Susannah Jernigan, daughter of the previously-mentioned Jesse Jernigan, Jr. and Lucy Holmes.

Sharon suggests that Abraham may have been another son of Jesse Jernigan, Sr. and his wife Susannah. They are also the parents of Jesse Jernigan, Jr., who I have suspected as being the parents of Stephen. If this is correct, that would obviously make Abraham and Jesse, Jr. brothers. The deed mentioned above already shows a connection between Abraham and Jesse, so it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think that they could be siblings. Even if Abraham was the father of Stephen Jernigan instead of Jesse, Jr., the circumstantial evidence I have cited making Stephen the son of Jesse would still be relevant – just off by a bit.

It is certainly possible that Abraham Jernigan could be a son of Jesse, Sr. In the 1790 census for Robeson County, where Jesse Jernigan, Sr. was living at the time, he has two white males of age sixteen and up living in the home. Presumably one of them is Jesse, Sr. He also has six white males under age sixteen in the home. Certainly, he was the father of many boys whose descendants have not yet been traced.

We find Abraham listed for the first time in the 1800 census for Bladen County in Capt. Green’s District. In that year, we find Abraham listed under the very broad age grouping of 26 – 44. This doesn’t help us narrow down his age, but if we look at the only woman listed in the house, presumably his wife, she is listed in the 16 – 25 age grouping. In addition, there is one boy listed, in the under ten age group. We might be able to assume that given the other occupants of the house – a very young wife and one young child – Abraham would likely be closer to the younger end of his age grouping. Even if he was at the very beginning of that age group, twenty-six, he would be in the perfect age range for the other male listed in Jesse Jernigan, Sr.’s house in the sixteen-and-up age group in the 1790 census.

Abraham Jernigan is known to have two sons, Stephen and Abraham, Jr. As we have seen, Stephen was likely born in the mid- to late-1790s. Abraham, Jr. was born sometime around 1800. A second boy is not listed in Abraham Sr.’s household in 1800. Later census records list his birth year right around 1800, so we can probably assume he was born sometime between 1800 and 1805.

In 1810, we find A. Jernigan (presumably Abraham) listed in Columbus County. Here, as we would expect, we find two boys, fairly close in age. The older boy is in the 10 – 15 age group, and the younger boy is in the under 10 group. There are no other boys in the household, but there are three young girls. This would not be unusual under normal circumstances, but two of the girls are listed in the 10 to 15 age group. Since there were no girls listed in the house in 1800, who were they? Did they work for the family? Were they nieces or cousins living with Abraham for some reason? Is this the wrong “A. Jernigan?” Since we have Abraham living in the county in 1811, and there are no other A. Jernigans living in Columbus County at that time, we must have the right household.

Another peculiarity with this census entry is that Abraham does not appear to be listed in the house. There are no adult males listed in the entry for that household; no males listed in the 16 to 25, 26 to 44, or 45 and over. This does, however, appear to be the case in a number of households in the area where the male head of household was known to be living at the time. Perhaps the census taker simply forgot to add the head of household, since he was already listed by name. It is a mystery.

Since we are researching a branch of the Jernigan family, a monkey wrench is bound to get thrown into the works, just to make sure we don’t get too confident in our results. By 1820, this is exactly what happens. In that year, we see an Abram (Abraham) Jernigan listed in Columbus County, but no one in the household appears to be Stephen, at least when compared to the previous census of 1810. We see one male between the ages of 10 – 16 (Abraham, Jr.), but the only other male in the household is in the 26 – 45 age group. If we have the right house, this person must be Abraham, Sr., but he must be at the higher end of this age range. If this is correct, where is Stephen?

Despite his land purchase in 1811, we don’t find Stephen Jernigan listed in a separate household in Columbus County in 1820. Where is he? More importantly, was this Stephen Jernigan the same one that left on the eventual route to Mississippi in the following decade?

We do have a Stephen Jernigan listed as the head of household in 1830, and in 1840. As I had previously written about in my post Stephen Jernigan – Columbus County, NC, 1830 – 1840, the one listed in 1830 may be my fourth-great-grandfather, but maybe not. The Stephen listed in Columbus County in 1840 is certainly a different one, since my ancestor was in Mississippi by that time. There are similarities and differences between the two listings. Was either the son of Abraham Jernigan, Sr.?

Once again, we find some answers followed by more questions. That’s par for the course.

4 thoughts on “Abraham Jernigan – Father of Stephen?

  1. DJ Jernigan

    I find some references that has Captain jesse Jernigan’s spouse as Nancy Bishop. But there are others that has his spouse as Susannah. But I can find no proof that Nancy Bishop ever existed except for the existence of Bishop as a middle name in several generations of Jernigan. Now I have a DNA test result that implies I’m related to Jesse because the match on the otherside goes through his daughter Johannah. there is a possibility that I’m confusing him with another Jesse.


    1. Welcome to the tangled web of Jernigan names! The Jernigans tended to use the same names over and over, and there were several Jesse’s around at this time. I haven’t done much research into the one you mention, but from what I have found on the internet, that one appears to be from Bertie and Anson Counties in North Carolina. This branch was related to the Columbus County branch, as all of the NC Jernigans appear to descend from brothers Henry and John Jernigan, sons of immigrant Thomas. I found a little bit about the Jesse Jernigan you mention here: http://tinyurl.com/osfefn5


      1. DJ Jernigan

        Here is what took me down the wrong rabbit hole. From the Jernigan Connection newsletter
        According to Frank Jernigan

        The Jernigan families that I know of in Anson-Richmond Cos. 1780-1800 Are:

        1. Old David, the Regulator
        2. William Sr. who married Margaret (Peggy) Evans around 1810 moved to Tennessee.
        3. Samuel Sr. who Rachael Hand and was first in Richmond Co, then moved to Anson Co.
        4. Ezekiel, who gave “Bill” Worley the “slip” in Chesterfield Co., SC and hasn’t been heard from since.
        5. The possibility that either Jean Jarnigan who married James Terry, Jr. or Hannah Journigan who Champ Terry were widows with a son Lewis, when they married the Terrys.
        I believe Lewis was born ca. 1790 and Old David was getting quite old to have a new son by then (unless Old David was carrying around a young grandson by an unaccounted for son.)
        A Tennessee History says that William, Sr had 7 sons but Anson Co. Census shows only six and we think we can account for all of these.
        The family of Samuel, Sr. is well accounted for and no Lewis there. We can’t account for any family of Ezekiel. I just don’t believe Lewis was born in Scotland.
        I believe Lewis was born ca. 1790 as the Randolph Co Census for 1830 lists him between 30 and 40. This Census also shows Zilpha as between 40 and 50, which might be an error as she has 3 sons after this Census, up to April 1835. However I will assume that the ages are approximately correct as I have nothing else to go by.

        Old David Jernigan, the Regulator
        David was in Anson Co., NC prior to Sept 4, 1770 when he sold his property in Johnston Co., NC to David Lee. He was on the east side of the Pee Dee River near the “head of navigation” and I believe that he was a “turpentiner” or in the Naval Stores business.
        The 1790 census of Richmond Co., NC lists David with 2 males over 16 and 2 females. According to several researchers these are Old David, probably the oldest son of Capt Jesse Jernigan of Robeson Co., and his son Samuel (Later Samuel Sr. or Anson Co.) born 11/19/1771. These two females were Jean (Jane), born 1/12/1774 and Johannah (Joanna) born 7/19/1776. Both married Terrys on 8/24/1790.


  2. Patti

    While researching if Abraham and Stephen are connected I found that Abraham’s wife’s name was Delilah. This is my grandmother’s name. My Delilah Ann was born in NC in 1825 and married to Jefferson Windham in Smith County, Mississippi in 1845. However, it doesn’t appear that Abraham and his wife left Columbus North Carolina as they appear on all the census for that county until their deaths’. Wondering if my Delilah Ann is a child of Abraham and possibly Stephen’s sister?


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