James Robbins: Progenitor of the Jennings County, Robbins Family

Of the children of Jacob and Mary Robbins, some appear frequently in records and those records are such that you can sort out who’s who, and some of the records provide us with at least minimal substance about that person  Two of the sons, however, Jacob and James, suffer from a lack of documentation, and are often confused with others of the same name.  This post will focus on James.

James Robbins was born about 1771 in North Carolina.  His year of birth is estimated from his age in the census.  The state of birth is derived from what we know about earlier and later siblings, as well as his children reporting the state of their father’s birth in much later censuses.

Family stories and records indicate this part of the Robbins family left North Carolina after the Revolution and settled in Franklin and Montgomery counties in southwest Virginia.  The first record James appears in is the marriage bond that was filed when he married Hannah Jarrett in 1790 in Montgomery County, Virginia.  Hannah’s parents were either deceased or not in the county, as her grandparents gave permission for her marry.

James Robbins & Hannah Jarrett marriage bond (1790)

The next record James Robbins appears in is another marriage bond, this time as a bondsman for his sister Margaret’s marriage to a cousin Thomas Robbins in Shelby County, Kentucky.  To add to the confusion of similar names, just a few years before another James Robbins, a probable cousin, was married in that same county to Mary Lastly.  At least this family appears to have moved to Bath County, Kentucky, while James and his family moved north into Indiana.  So, it is probable, though not a given, that the James Robbins who appears in the 1792 through 1805 Shelby County tax records and later in the 1814 and 1816 Henry County tax records, is the James Robbins who married Hannah.

After that we only find James in two U.S. census enumerations: 1830 and 1840.  In 1830 Jennings County, Indiana, we have head of household James Robbins aged 50 to 60, with a woman of the same age, and two boys 15 to 20 years of age, likely their two youngest sons.  And in 1840 James is head of a two-person household, both a man and woman of 60 to 69 years of age.  No land records have been found in Jennings County for James and no probate or other court records have been found.  He and Hannah do not appear in the 1850 census and both appear to have died in the 1840s.  Where they are buried is unknown.

Jennings County, Indiana, and its neighboring counties in 1836 map

We have a list of children that is thought to be complete:  Ransom, Jacob, Mary (“Polly”), John, Matilda, James Jr., and Andrew Martin Robbins.  The connection of them to James and Hannah Robbins is a matter of family tradition.

With that we have all the known formal documentation of James Robbins.  But we do have one further source.  His oldest son Ransom Robbins told stories about the family to his grandson David Ransom Robbins and David wrote these stories down.  Like all oral-history based recollections there are problems with the reminiscences, with places and dates that don’t quite jibe, but over all it’s the single source for some of the colorful activities of this pioneer family.  Following posts will quote from this record.

Meanwhile, research is ongoing and there are records still to explore, in particular land records of the counties between the Ohio River and Jennings County.  In attempting to write up an individual’s or a family’s story, you come to realize that maybe, just maybe, not all the records have been checked and there is still something else out there.  At least that’s the hope.

(Jacob Robbins-James Robbins)

 

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