The Importance of Naming Patterns in Determining Early Alvis Families

It appears that all Alvis families in early Virginia descend from George Alvis and his only known son David, who was born ca 1714. Records from 1761 through 1790 reveal nine adult men: JOHN, GEORGE, FORESTER, DAVID, ASHLEY, SHADRACH, STANLEY, ELIJAH, ZACHARIAH. For clarity in this document, I will use capital letters to indicate these men. From 1786 another generation is documented, including three men who filed Revolutionary War pension applications: Jesse, Henry Harris (whose birth in 1769 is recorded in the Douglas Register), and John.

If Elizabeth Stanley was the mother of all of David Sr’s children, the couple followed this naming pattern: the first two sons, JOHN and GEORGE, were named for the couple’s fathers, John Stanley and George Alvis, FORESTER came from an unknown source, DAVID was for the husband, ASHLEY, SHADRACH and STANLEY were names in the Stanley family, and ELIJAH and ZACHARIAH were Old Testament names, perhaps reflecting a religious revival which reached this couple in the late 1750s.

It is also possible that the first three or even four sons had a different mother. No records we have found list the children of Elizabeth (Stanley) Alvis, although the three sons with Stanley-related names certainly seem unquestionable. If the oldest three sons had a different mother, then JOHN was not named for John Stanley, and FORESTER might be that first wife’s maiden name.

The first three sons were often in Hanover County, and the other six were usually in Goochland County. Even more suggestive that the nine men can be separated into two groups are the names they gave their sons.

The six sons whose names were repeated by the brothers are DAVID, also the father’s name of course, ASHLEY, SHADRACH, STANLEY, ELIJAH and ZACHARIAH; they  each used at least some of these names for their sons. Neither JOHN, GEORGE nor FORESTER had known sons or grandsons with any of these five names, except David. Only GEORGE had a son or grandson named George, excepting one George Washington Alvis.

Among the six sons mentioned, ASHLEY had Ashley Jr, Shadrach and Elijah. I believe his son Charles had sons named Zachariah and possibly Stanley. Even two generations later John S Alvis, son of Shadrach, the son of ASHLEY, had sons named Zachariah and Shadrach. The sons of Ashley Sr’s second marriage, Ashley and Elijah, each named a son for the other; that is, Ashley Jr had Elijah and Elijah had Ashley Nolan.

ELIJAH had David, Ashley, Shadrach, and Stanley. Elijah’s son William E Alvis had a Stanley and a Shadrach Ashley.

ZACHARIAH had Shadrach and Elijah.

DAVID had David Jr and probably Zachariah. David’s oldest son Henry Harris Alvis also had a Shadrach.

James M Alvis of Vigo Co IN had a son Zachariah. I am still puzzling over where to place this man and need to study him more closely. Although his second son was named Zachariah, he does not fit as a son in the census record of ZACHARIAH Sr. He was not named as a son of ELIJAH. It is possible he might be SHADRACH Sr’s son Major (Shadrach’s wife was Judith, the daughter of Major Hancocke), since other men of that ime with two given names used them interchangeably: Major is named once and not seen again after the 1814 tax list, and James M was in KY by ca 1818, when he married Lucy. In addition, SHADRACH Sr’s other sons were Robert and Henry Franklin, who named his first son Julian James. James M named one of his sons Robert.

Other names show up from the fourth generation, such as Meredith, Spencer and Woodson, which may come from neighbors or a source unknown to us. William, Charles, Henry and Robert were also popular names in all branches of the family and probably indicate popular boys’ names or neighbors.

There was never another FORESTER Alvis. No one named a son Forester. And none of FORESTER’s sons named a son Forester.

I have no clear proof of any of the sons of JOHN Alvis Sr, other than Matthew who was listed with him in the 1791 tax list. It is clear, however, from tax lists that a new generation appearing in the 1790s included men who were his sons. He probably had Jesse, John, Robert, Charles Dabney, and David. None of the sons I have placed in his family used the typical Alvis names discussed above. It also appears that when they used the name John, they were naming their sons for John Jr, or in the case of Charles Dabney’s son John M Alvis, for someone we can’t identify. I also believe Mary Ann Alvis named her “natural sons” by Joseph Woodson for her brothers and their father: Matthew Woodson Alvis, John Woodson Alvis, and Robert Woodson Alvis.

Many Alvis researchers are descended from Charles Dabney Alvis or from Jesse Alvis. It is significant to me that neither of these men named sons Shadrach, Ashley, Stanley, Elijah or Zachariah. Neither did any of their sons.

I also considered that the suggested sons of JOHN Alvis, Sr, all moved away from other Alvis families.

Charles Dabney Alvis used unique names for his sons. Not only is he among the oldest Alvises who himself had two given names, he gave all of his sons two names. He was named for a neighbor and Revolutionary War officer under whom some of the Alvises served. Two were named for famous men, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. A third had the middle name Jackson. Too bad no one knows the names behind the initials of his sons Joseph H and John M. None of his sons seem named for other members of the Alvis family, with the possible exception of William Anderson Alvis or Elias Henry Alvis, but I think his daughter Mary Ann Susan was named for his sister Mary Ann and his wife’s sister, later his second wife, Susan.

Migration Patterns

There are three patterns of residence or migration in the Alvis family, or any family. The family can all stay in one place, the sons can move together, or the sons can move to different places. We find that FORESTER’s sons stayed in Chesterfield Co VA, although one grandson went to Iowa.

Following the second pattern, ASHLEY Sr and probably his brother DAVID went west to Buckingham Co VA; one or two sons stayed in the area; most went on to Tennessee; some went on to Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.

ELIJAH Sr’s children are examples of the third pattern. One went to Georgia, one to Missouri, one to the part of Virginia that became West Virginia. Three sons stayed in Goochland County.

Placing Charles Dabney Alvis in a family needs a strategy that uses all of these clues—names, residence, migration. He was too old to be a son of STANLEY (see the 1782 tax list), ZACHARIAH or SHADRACH’s second marriage. He is not named in the list of ELIJAH’s children or among the children of SHADRACH’s first marriage. ASHLEY had a probable son Charles in 1798 in Buckingham Co and later in Smith Co TN; Charles Dabney was still in Hanover Co VA in 1810. All of FORESTER’s children seem to be in Chesterfield County by 1810. This leaves JOHN and GEORGE as possible fathers. Charles Dabney would be among the younger children of JOHN. GEORGE had five people in his household in 1782, which leaves room for Charles Dabney, who appears on the Hanover Co VA tax list for the first time in 1805. Also listed were JOHN Sr and GEORGE, as well as James (possibly a son of FORESTER), Robert and John Jr. After 1810, Charles Dabney went to Hawkins Co TN. GEORGE’s two likely sons, Henry and David, went to Louisa and Campbell Counties in VA. One of JOHN’s sons, Robert, stayed in Hanover County; others went to Kentucky and possibly Indiana. If Charles Dabney was the youngest son, he went in a different direction from his brothers.

War of 1812 payroll and muster roll lists show the following: MR #649 included Charles D Alvis, Lemuel, and Robert. Lemuel is otherwise unknown; Charles D and a Robert were in Hanover Co VA. PR #349 included Shadrach Jr and Shadrach Sr, Stanley, Cpl Thomas, and William. Thomas is unknown; all of the others were from Goochland County. Woodford and Zephaniah were on MR #360, and they were from Chesterfield County.

The fact that there were two Alvises in Kentucky by 1810, John and Jesse, lends a bit of weight to the theory that they were brothers, sons of John Sr.  Both had sons named William.

© Kathy Alvis Patterson  2008

Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 9:44 pm  Comments (11)  

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  1. I am researching the connection of Jesse Alvis to William Harris born 1762 and Keziah Sneed of Shelby County, Kentucky, formerly of Hanover County, Virginia. Jesse wrote an affidavit for Keziah’s Revolutionary War pension application.

    The names of the children of William and his brother Jonathan include Mary Tinsley, Giles, Sherod and Henry. The DNA of this Harris line matches the descendants of William and Edward Harris step sons of George Alves, David Alvis’ father.

    The father of William Harris b 1762 and Jonathan b 1776, is thought to be David Harris born circa 1730. I’m trying to fill in the gap from David to presumably William, George Alvis’ stepson.


  2. On the 1810 Hanover county, Virginia Census, Dabney Alvis and Robert Alvis are close neighbors of Jane Harris. I believe Jane Harris is Jane Priddy, possibly the second wife of David Harris Sr. Other neighbors include the Tinsley, Priddy and Glazebrook families who were intermarried with the children of John Snead and Jane Winn.

    This lends credence to your idea that Dabney Alvis and Jesse Alvis were brothers.

  3. Have you seen the pension data at I decided to check there and found the Bible record of the marriage of William and Keziah and the birth dates of all their children. I also found the 1838 statement by Jesse Alvis, who had moved to Indiana by then.

    I am in the middle of transferring data from my old to my new computer, and do not have access immediately to all my records. So, lacking a copy of the master index, I started going through old issues of a newsletter I published. In an issue from 1989, I found a deed, Hanover Co VA Deeds 1783-1792, page 53, published page 251: …. my third part of the tract of land sold by my late husband David Alvis of Hanover Co to Moses Harris. Elizabeth (X) Alvis. This is Elizabeth, the widow of David Alvis Sr, father of both David Jr and John. It demonstrates a connection between George Alves’s son and at least one member of the Harris family.

    My Hanover and Goochland Co VA data has been somewhat limited to Alvis families, although I have looked at Stanley and Houchens families, and I’ve not been looking for recent documents which concern Jesse Alvis. I missed his affidavit for Keziah Sneed’s pension.

    There were nine probable brothers in VA; the two who concern us here are John who was still in Hanover Co tax lists as late as 1805, and David who was in Goochland Co in 1796 and in Buckingham Co in 1800. John and David’s father David Sr would have been a stepbrother of the William and Edward Harris you mentioned (or whatever term one would use for a much younger son of a stepfather’s later marriage after your mother died).

    I mention David because his first child was a son named Henry Harris Alvis. David’s wife was Mary Cauthon, whose mother was Agnes Harris, daughter of William Harris, the son of George Alves’s stepson William. I have a record from The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 22, page 262f, showing the younger William Harris mentioning his granddaughter.

    David Jr was too young to be the father of Jesse Alvis, unless Jesse was some years younger than he claimed on his Revolutionary War pension application. And I think Jesse belongs with the Hanover Co Alvises, not the Goochland Co branches.

    Jesse was in Hanover Co tax lists in 1795 and 1797, along with John Sr, Forester, and Stanley. I believe that David and his grown sons had all left Hanover Co by that date. I believe the most likely father of Jesse Alvis was John. As of now, I have no clues to the family John’s wife.

    I appreciate your 1810 census data, since every researcher seems to spot familiar names that another one doesn’t know.

    We do not know the names of the wives of several of the children of David Sr and Elizabeth Alvis, but recurring names among their children (Anderson, Harris, Meredith, Spencer, Woodford and so on) lead me to think all these families are clues to the others.

  4. Since it is unlikely I will get a response due to the old dates showing on this webpage, I will ask anyway… I am interested in Jesse Alvis of Shelby County, Ky about the year 1836. Would this be Jr or Sr? Jesse Alvis is listed as the person of,whom Nicholas Rowe is indenturing his 8 year old daughter, Angeline to. Since Nicholas had come from the Hanover area of Va, it is probable they had known each other prior to Shelby. Nic’s wife had died, he remarried, and am assuming his new wife did not want to be bothered with a young girl. Nic is found in Indiana in 1840.

    • Yes, I am still here. You can read my notes about Jesse at I have not seen the indenture and would appreciate getting the details, such as date and place. Jesse was the only known Jesse Alvis from his birth date of 1757 until his likely son Jesse Woodson Alvis was born in 1805 and then a grandson Jesse in 1827.

      • Thank you very much. I am researching my Rowe ancestors, and they were originally from Hanover and Louisa Counties, Virginia. I suspect they most likely travelled with the Alvis family, but there were quite a few families who had left at the same time, as they left about 1807 for Shelby County, Kentucky. The indenture, as I had stated took place after the 2nd marriage of Nicholas Rowe. I found Woodson in Indiana 1850, with a daughter named Angeline, but her birthdate wouldve been to late to be Angeline Rowe, but I suspect she was his daughter’s namesake.

      • this is in addition to my comment below…

        Also, I believe the indenture to have been made with Jesse Woodson Alvis, as Jesse Sr. wouldve been quite elderly at the time., and it was to be until Angeline turned 18 years of age.

  5. I have hit a brick wall with an ancestor named Benjamin Alvis who had a daughter named Sarah. Sarah married John F Godwin. He and another daughter, Emma C are on the 1880 census living with the Godwin family (John Godwin and Sarah) Benjamin is listed as “father” so I am sure that makes him the father of Sarah. Have you ran across a Benjamin Alvis born in Missouri 1824, parents born in TN?

    • I searched my Alvis files and found no one likely to be this Benjamin, so I spent a bit of time on Ancestry. Sarah Godwin’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Godwin, said on her Social Security application that her mother was Sally Kates. So I looked for Benjamin Kates and think I found him. So he wasn’t an Alvis after all. I am sorry to lose you as a cousin, but a lone reference to Alvis made me wonder. Do you have My links are messing up today, but I think you will find him in Franklin Co AR in 1870.

      • Thank you for the response. It is my understanding that Sarah remarried after John Godwin passed away. I think this may be the Kates (or Cates) name that is on Mary’s SS application. I did check the Benjamin Kates on the 1870 census but it doesn’t appear to be him; the ages of the family do not match with Sarah’s birth. If you run across anything please let me know. If you get time, (I know you said your links are messed up), please see the 1880 census for Hale Township, County of Garland, State of Arkansas. There are two Alvis family members living with Godwins! :)

  6. […] See my blog, “The Importance of Naming Patterns in Determining Early Alvis Families,”…. George was clearly a family name, for David’s father, John and Stanley refer to David’s […]

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