Capt William Brockett b 1748 d 1821 - The Broket Archive

Capt William Brockett
b 1748 d 1819-21

William Brockett's signature on the 1784 receipt

This was William’s signature in 1784,1 with its distinctive initial W with curling tails on either side. The same W is also on his birth record in his Family Bible (written by himself) and—in a shaky form in 1819—on his last Will & Testament:2

William Brockett 1819 Will TN microfilm Signature

Thousands of people alive today descend from William and his wife Martha / Patsey. Maybe you are one of them? William fought in the Revolutionary War, first as a Private then as a Lieutenant. According to his son Benjamin’s signed testimony in 1839 William had generally been called Captain, so we also often refer to him as such. Records suggest he spent most of his adult life in the Carolinas. We don’t know of a record of where he was born, but we do have one showing the end of his life was in Tennessee.

The focus here is on the available primary evidence about William and some of his sons in order to support the analysis of the Y-DNA of their descendants. We need more participants! With the exponential increase in recent years of readily-available primary documentation, and especially of DNA tests, there is a place for a more strictly evidence-driven and fully-referenced account, with some healthy challenges to assumptions many of us may have taken for granted.

Contents of this page:

Recent researchers
+++William Ebenezer?
Records found so far
William’s ancestry
Martha/Patsey—William’s wife
1819-21 William’s Will and burial
1839 Patsey’s application for a pension

Recent researchers

Many people have spent time and money investigating William’s life and family, and have carefully written down their thoughts and findings in privately issued family histories and papers. In addition there is no shortage of uncritically-thrown-together information on the internet about them. Three serious, recent researchers who have published can be mentioned, all descendants of William:    Read More

William Ebenezer?

The sign outside the Brockett Cemetery, Macon County TN, mentions the Revolutionary War Veteran William Ebenezer Brockett:11

Brockett cemetery sign Macon TN

and the inscription on the gravestone has William E Brockett.12 But the sign and the gravestone are recent. In none of the original records cited on this webpage was his name given as William E or William Ebenezer. So how do we know that he had E as a second initial or Ebenezer as a second name?

The earliest written occurrence so far found of William ‘E’ Brockett is in EJ Brockett’s 1905 The Descendants of John Brockett. EJB only gave him an ‘E’ here and there however, and not in the main text. In the main text EJB called him plain William,13 and it was only in some—though not all—of the chains of ancestors for later descendants that he added an ‘E’ to the William of the 5th generation.14 EJB provided no source, and as discussed below, gave an incorrect ancestry for William.

The two secondary publications, Poland 1996 and Fry 2001,15 both mentioned ‘William E Brockett’ in their titles, but neither apparently referred to him in-text as ‘William Ebenezer’. Poland didn’t give a source for the ‘E’ and similarly Fry simply stated in her Introduction, “The major focus of this Brockett history is on William E. Brockett and his many relatives. He will be known as William E. in this family history.”16 Both authors were clearly dependent on EJB in other respects. The other two secondary publications, Fogle 1950 and Nash 2000, always referred to him simply as William without ‘E’ or ‘Ebenezer’.17

So the ‘E’ and ‘Ebenezer’ are a mystery. But there must be an explanation. Perhaps Macon Co Historical Society or one of William’s descendants have evidence.

Records found so far

17-18th C North American genealogical records in general aren’t as plentiful as ones from England, and those for William Brocketts in particular in North America at that time are few and far between. Only 4 have so far been found from the 17th C and, surprisingly, the following are all the records of William Brocketts in N America currently known from the 18th C:18

1703: Land deed Norfolk Co VA.
1767: Road petition Craven Co NC.
1771: Married Patsey in New Bern NC.
1773-4: Land deed Craven Co NC.
1780-2: Revolutionary War service in SC.
1783: Birth of William Junr recorded in the Family Bible.
1785 & 1802: Involved with land deals on Nelyes Creek on the Catawba River in Craven Co NC.
1790 & 1800: Head of a household further up the Catawba river in the censuses for York Co SC.19
1819-21: Will written and probated in Smith Co TN.
Note: As of 27 Oct 2018 included two grants of land to William Brockett in their North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960 Collection:
+++· 1790: 200 acres in Jones Co NC. This was actually to a William BARNETT.
+++· 1829: 50 acres in Burke Co NC. This was actually to a William BRACKETT.
See the separate page for a discussion of these transcription errors.
Proof statement: It’s obvious from the spread of these dates that the 1703 deed concerned a William from an earlier generation. The 1703 man, who must have been at least 21 by then, clearly wasn’t the one who 64 years later signed the road petition or was involved in making a new road in his mid to late 80s or more. For the purpose of gathering records of Capt William, we can therefore discount the 1703 deed.
The other records lie within a range of 54 years, 1767-1821, and if the first was of a man in his early 20s the last could easily have been of the same man in his late 70s. The correspondences of place are also reasonable for one man during that time period. They are all for NC or SC except the final one in neighboring TN. It’s also beyond reasonable doubt from the records themselves that some of the 1767-1821 ones must have been of the same man. The road petition of 1767 refers to land he owned on the south side of Trent River, as does the 1773 sale. None of the other records suggest that there were two landowning William Brocketts in that area of Craven Co between 1767-1774, nor indeed clearly refer to a second William at all. Furthermore, the 1780-82 War service records and the 1785-1802 Catawba River ones were also fairly obviously of one man. We can therefore safely assume—using the tool of negative proof—that apart from the early 1703 deed, all these 1767-1821 records relate to one and the same William Brockett. After 1821 the next records we have found of William Brocketts in the US as a whole were all in Illinois: one in 1830, 34 and 40, another in 1840 and two in 1850. The one in 1830 and 40 was born between 1780-1800, and can be shown to have been the William Junr born in 1783.
But what if the 1703-67 gap in records for William Brocketts indicates an absence of records rather than an absence of Williams? This is an argument from silence, which while in theory could be entertained, in practice in this context, is overly speculative. According to Luebking, “Prior to the Civil War, most free adult males owned land; so if the land records of an area have survived but do not mention your ancestor, you should reevaluate the assumption that he or she lived in the area. In the South, which has far fewer vital records than New England, the land records are even more crucial to genealogical success.”20 The land records for NC at least show but one William Brockett. But even if another landless William was around in that area between 1703-67 and passed unrecorded it wouldn’t alter our proof statement here that these 1767-1821 records were all of the William we know as Capt William. There would simply just have been another William to whom none of these records refer and who left neither trace nor descendants. Realistically speaking—and pending any evidence to the contrary—it doesn’t seem in the least likely that there were any other adult William Brocketts in the southeast US during the 2nd half of the 18th C.
Did you find this proof statement convincing?

1767: Road petition Craven Co NC

June 1767.21 “The petition of the habitants of Brice’s Creek humbly show your worships that an order for court was obtained by James Davis, Esq, some time past for laying off a new road, leading out of Trent Road, over his mill, across Neuse Rd, over a large swamp, and, whereas, your petitioners have lately been at a great expense and trouble in making a new road a small distance above his mill and over Brice’s Creek, we, your humble practitioners, humbly pray your worships that the order obtained as aforesaid be vacated or laid aside as your poor petitioners are by no means able to support both roads
[signed] … William Brockett …”

Comment: Brice’s Creek leads south off Trent River on the other side to New Bern, and Trent River leads off Neuse River.

1771: Married Patsey in New Bern NC

This record dates technically to 1839—a recollection by Patsey from her pension application.

1773-4: Craven County land deed

In 1773 William Brockett of Craven Co, NC, Gentleman, signed a land deed selling 200 acres on the south side of Trent River to William IVES.22    Read More

Comment: Craven County’s seat of government was then—as now—New Bern (or Newburn as it was sometimes spelt), and Trent River flows into New Bern and joins Neuse River at Union Point. The description he gave himself of ‘Gentleman’ showed, as in England at the time, that as a landowner William considered himself of a class above those who actually worked the land: labourers, indentured servants and slaves.

1780-82 Revolutionary War service

The Revolutionary War stretched from 1763 to 1787, and a surviving contemporary receipt signed “in full satisfaction” by William himself detailed the extent of William’s service as 181 days in 4 operations between June 1780 and July 1782 along with the amount he was awarded in annual pension for each:23

1. 58 days ending 22 Jun 1780 as a horseman in Captain John Walker’s company of volunteers under General [Thomas] Sumter, for which he was awarded £58 (SC currency).
2. 21 days ending 30 Jun 1781 as a horseman in Captain George Neely’s Company, for which he was awarded £21.
3. 60 days ending 18 Oct 1781 foot service as a Lieutenant in Captain George Neely’s Company, for which he was awarded £105.24
4. 42 days ending 1 Jul 1782 as a Lieutenant under General [William] Henderson, for which he was awarded £73 10s.
The total due annually came to £257.10.0 in South Carolina currency, equating then to £36.15.8½ Sterling, and in 1840 to $54.81.

This conflicts with the details in his widow and son’s application for a pension 55 years later—both in the length of William’s service and his rank.

Since the 1784 receipt was endorsed by William himself only a couple of years after his last engagement, it is safe to take it as the more accurate account. Its 181 days and ranks correspond with the service detailed in the Senate’s award of $493.29 to Patsey on 18 Feb 1840, comprising arrears to 4 Sep 1839 of $465.89 and six months allowance ending 4 Mar 1840 of $27.40, as:25

1. One month 28 days service as a private in the cavalry ($8.04)
2. 21 days as a private in the infantry ($2.33)
3. 3 1/2 months as Lieutenant in the infantry ($44.44).
Total: $54.81 per annum commencing March 4th, 1831

An account of William’s war service and migrations is reproduced here from Nash.26+Read More

1785-1802 Land Grants in South Carolina

William Brockett was mentioned in the following 4 documents listed in an index of S Carolina Plats For State Land Grants 1784-1868 on the Catawba River.27 In the first and last he appears to be the recipient of the grant, in the other two perhaps a witness. In any event they are evidence of his presence and involvement with land in S Carolina 1785-1802:    Read More

Sumter’s defeat in 1780 had been at Fishing Creek on the Catawba River, up W of Charlotte. Neelys Creek is a tributary of Fishing Creek, now a reservoir just north of Great Falls, some 50 m S of Charlotte. For the 1790 census William and family were recorded in York Co, SC, further up the river.

1790-1800 York Co SC censuses

The 1790 census records for Newbern contain no Brokets or variants.29

1790: William Brockett was recorded as head of a household in York Co, South Carolina, aged 16 or over [i.e. b by 1774], with 1 other male aged 16 or over, 6 males aged 0-16 and 3 females (one presumably his wife).30 This suggests:

The dates of birth of the children correspond closely with the list in the Family Bible register so we can be confident that this was Capt William and his family. The number of sons suggests that James was born 1790 rather than 1791.

1800: William Brockett was recorded as head of a household in York Co, South Carolina, aged 45 or over [i.e. b by 1755], with 6 males, two aged 0-10, two 10-16 and two 16-26 (presumably sons), and 4 females, one aged 45 or over (presumably his wife), two 0-10 and one 16-26 (presumably daughters).31 This corresponds closely to the 1790 one to be certain it is the same family:

1810: No relevant Brokets have been found in databases for the USA 1810 census. If that census covered the state of Illinois relatively well, it suggests that between 1810-20 was when Brocketts first settled there. The first Brockett record in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index (1763-1900) is from 1828, and in the Illinois Statewide Death Index (Pre-1916) is from 1878.

Thereafter, in the censuses of 1820, 30 and 40 Capt William’s widow and his sons and grandsons and their families were recorded in Illinois.

William’s ancestry

Two different earliest ancestors have been proposed: John of New Haven by EJ Brockett,32 and William and Mary of Norfolk by Richard Nash:

William’s statement in line 12 of the North Carolina 1773-4 deed that his father was Benjamin Brockit obviously disproves EJB’s Elisha,33 and makes it no surprise that William wasn’t recorded by Jacobus. However, recent DNA evidence shows that William’s descendants are related to other Brocketts who trace their descent from John Brockett of New Haven. So EJB’s end points—William and John of New Haven—appear to be correct, but not the line joining them. On the other hand, Nash’s link from William to Benjamin is correct, but the DNA evidence disproves the line above.

More research is needed.

This page is
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Page Last Updated: December 6, 2018


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] Reproduced---with the background slightly cleaned up---from Microfilm file No. 767 of the South Carolina Audited Accounts at the South Carolina Department of Archives & History in Columbia, SC, and also reproduced by Will Graves at (accessed 4 Apr 2018). Many thanks to Will Graves for bringing this to our attention, and for his sterling and scholarly work transcribing thousands of similar documents and making them available for researchers on the excellent website at

[2] Reproduced---and with the background slightly cleaned up---by kind permission of the Tennessee State Library and Archives 19 Oct 2018, scanned by Archivist Darla Brock from Smith County Microfilm, Roll no. B-2064; Wills, Loose Records, 1803-1870.

[3] At (accessed 18 Mar 2018).

[4] The maps between pp 4-5; the 3 accounts on pp 5-6; the Will on pp 14-15; the pension application on pp 16-17.

[5] Ch 6 pp 18ff.

[6] Ch 7 pp 22f.

[7] 2001 p vii

[8] pp 6-7, but without citing the source.

[9] p 7.

[10] Fry 2001 pp 32-4.

[11] Image kindly supplied by Harold Brockett Dec 2015.

[12] Find A Grave Memorial# 5497106: (accessed 4 Jan 2018).

[13] p 52 and in his vignette on p 76.

[14] E.g. with the 4 descendants on p 205, with 3 out of the 5 on pp 164-5 and with 3 out of the 4 on pp 117-8.

[15] Under 'Recent researchers' above.

[16] p 5.

[17] Fogle pp 1, 6 1/2 A; Nash pp 30-4.

[18] More are expected to surface as more collections become digitized or catalogs become more readily available, at which point if any record contradicts the conclusions reached here they will have to be reassessed.

[19] Map at (accessed 26 Mar 2018)

[20] 1997, cited from 'About North Carolina, Land Grant Files, 1693-1960'.

[21] Craven Co Records, vol 1. From a transcript in Nash's papers. It would be very good to see the original to check if anything else can be gleaned from it.

[22] Craven Co Deed Book vol 21, pp 14-15, uncovered by Nash in 1995.

[23] Many thanks to Will Graves, for bringing forward the transcription along with an image of William's signature, in the Southern Campaigns Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters at no W24665, updated 2 Apr 2018. The transcription and image are from the South Carolina Audited Accounts, available on microfilm at the South Carolina Department of Archives & History in Columbia, SC. They will eventually be available online at (accessed 3 Apr 2018).

[24] See also (accessed 4 Apr 2018).

[25] NARA M804; Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files; Roll 347; Pension Number W. 24,665: William Brocket pension application papers p 2, retrieved from Fold3 database 2 Apr 2018. Details transcribed by Will Graves at no W24665.

[26] 2000, pp 32-7, with kind permission from the author.

[27] Obtained from an index on the South Carolina Department of Archives and History website: (accessed 4 Jan 2018). For the Catawba River see (accessed 3 Apr 2018).

[28] S Carolina Plats For State Land Grants 1784-1868, Series S213190, vol 10, p 330

[29] (accessed 24 Mar 2018)

[30] 1790 US Federal Census for York Co SC, p 619 (or 948), about three quarters of the way down the page

[31] 1800 US Federal Census for York Co SC, p 619, 19 lines up from the bottom of the page

[32] 1905 p 52.

[33] 1905 pp 52, 76.