James Family Archives


•  Researching the Past

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Letter To Lee A. James of Olympia, Washington from
Larry P. James of Sacramento, California
Concerning Results of the “James Y-DNA SurnameProject”
Dated February 24, 2008

“Dear Lee,

     Thank you for your letter and Power Point DNA presentation.  I am always delighted to read your research concerning the James Surname Project and appreciate when you share your work with me.  For my part, I have been particularly busy these past 18 months having remarried and purchased a new home in Sacramento.  I was also blessed with the birth of my first daughter, Alexandra Renee James, born February 8, 2007.  My wife, Nicole and I just celebrated her first birthday on the weekend of the 16th.  Like you, I continue to work, ever so slowly, on my perpetually unfinished historical treatise on our James family.

     Your Power Point presentation looks excellent!  I confess there are many aspects of DNA research I have yet to fully understand.  However, your main points are very clear.  I would certainly like to attend your presentation at the First United Methodist Church on April 5, 2008.  I am sure I would find it fascinating.  I do not yet know whether I will be able to join you, however, and will alert you as soon as I can if I am able to attend.

     I am pleased that through DNA testing much of the confusion caused by the “Two Davids” theory has been resolved.  Of course I am speaking of the theory advanced by Miriam Bertelson as set forth in her letter to Swarthmore College in 1985 that the David James who arrived in 1682 was two generations apart from the David James who died in 1739.  Ms. Bertelson’s theory was based upon the work of the late Katharine Hewitt Cummin who spent a considerable amount of time in the early 1970’s researching the land records of Radnor Township, Pennsylvania.  Ms. Cummin’s work was remarkable in that she performed a title search on each of the properties located within Radnor Township and very clearly summarized the ownership histories of each parcel revealing many interesting historical aspects of the families who resided there.  Ms. Cummin’s work was published in 1974 in her book, “A Rare and Pleasing Thing: Radnor Demography (1798) and Development.”  Although Ms. Cummin’s work was extensive in the sense that she obtained historical title information concerning the various parcels in Radnor, it lacked depth in the sense that her research did not attempt to address issues such as how the various “original” owners came to hold title to lands in Radnor Township, how they located their properties prior to the first surveys conducted in the area in the late 17th Century, or how issues of conflicting title were resolved between 1682 and 1700.

     In her work, Ms. Cummin also relied upon unsubstantiated tax information to reconcile inconsistencies in historical title information.  Without attempting to research the matter further, Ms. Cummin made an “assumption” which formed the foundation of the “Two Davids” theory advanced by Miriam Bertelson in 1985.  Specifically, Ms. Cummin observed that one parcel “laid out” for the David James who arrived in 1682 lie slightly to the south of the parcel “purchased” by David James in 1718 from David Meredith.  Despite the fact that there was no evidence that David James had ever occupied the parcel to the south, which lie at a lower elevation crisscrossed with creeks and marshes, and, records indicated that another individual by the name of Stephen ab Evan actually occupied that land, Ms. Cummin made an “assumption” that because the parcel to the south had been “laid out” for David James, he must have occupied that land.  What Ms. Cummin regrettably overlooked was the fact that the parcel to the south was not identified as that “laid out” for David James until the first survey of the area was performed in 1697, approximately 15 years after his arrival.   

      Moreover, the original survey of 1697 was not performed for the purpose of mapping out where the original settlers actually settled.  Rather its purpose was to divide up the territory identified as “Radnor Township” into portions or parcels bearing an approximate equivalent to the “rights” sold to the Welsh settlers in Wales before their arrival in 1682 and 1683.  You see the Welsh Quakers of Radnorshire Wales were sold “rights” to land in Radnor Township, or what was then known as the “Welsh Tract” by William Penn through his agent Richard Davies prior to their departure from Wales.  At the time of their departure and even after their arrival, these immigrants knew not where their properties actually lie.  Upon their arrival they were directed to an area west of Philadelphia they were told would make up “Radnor Township” and informed that they had rights to a certain amount of acreage within this territory.  Most of the original immigrants spent their first winter living in caves for shelter and then sought the most suitable land to begin clearing and building more permanent shelters.  In her book, “Memorial of Thomas Potts, Jr.”  Isabella Batcheldor James’ husband reported to her that he, Thomas Potts James, was the “great, great, grandson” of the David James who arrived in 1682.  To prove this fact, Isabella reported that she and her husband Thomas were in possession of the two indentures signed by David James in Welshpoole, County of Montgomery, Wales in June of 1682.  These indentures gave David James “rights” to the land he settled later that same year in Pennsylvania, then referred to as the “Welsh Tract.”  Isabella even quoted from the text of these indentures in her book.  

      Oral James family history as recorded in 1874 by Mrs. Thomas Potts James reports that the David James who arrived in 1682 actually settled in the vicinity of a “hill”, higher land, lying along a trail used by the Conestoga Indians to traverse the area.  Near this hill was located a cave where the family spent their first winter, 1682-83.  This location was also favored by the family because nearby was a fresh water spring from which clean water could be drawn.  Ms. Cummin, was aware of this James family history, but nevertheless made her own conclusion that this historical account was in error when she assumed that the David James who arrived in 1682 must have settled on the parcel “laid out” for David James as identified in the first survey of 1697, south of parcel described in the oral history of the family.

     In reaching this conclusion, Ms. Cummin relied upon a previously known report made to the taxing authorities, that is, the Philadelphia Land Commissioners on or about 1702 at the time of the disposal of the David James parcel to the south.  In 1702 a report was made to the land commissioners that David James had died, no date given, and that Mary James, the executrix of his estate, was responsible for the sale and transfer of this parcel to Stephan ab Evan.  The problem of the 1702 report of David’s death is that there are no corroborating records among the Quakers or the Baptists that verify the passing of David James in Radnor in 1702.  There are no cemetery records of a David James dying at that time either.  What is known, is that the report of David’s death to the Philadelphia Land Commissioners in 1702 was made for purposes of determining how much “quit-rent” should be charged to the account of Mary James at the time of the disposal of the this original parcel laid out for David James.  Although I am loath to speculate as to the motive of reporting David’s passing in 1702 to the Philadelphia Land Commissions, I am strongly of the opinion that by doing so, Mary James was spared from being charged quit-rent in arrears from the time of her father’s arrival in 1682.  That is to say, any unpaid and previously owed quit-rent was not charged to Mary James at the time she disposed of her allegedly “late” father’s property on or about 1702.

      Despite the somewhat suspicious circumstances of the report of David’s passing in 1702 to the Philadelphia Land Commissioners, and nearly two hundred years of James family history to the contrary, Ms. Cummin latched on to this unsubstantiated report of David’s passing to reconcile the inconsistencies she found in the Radnor Township title records.  The conclusion she drew from this assumption was that although possibly related, the David James who arrived in 1682 could not have been the same David James who purchased his Radnor parcel in 1718.” (See Rare and Pleasing Thing, Page 389).  This conclusion, based upon an assumption made in 1974 was the genesis of the Two Davids Theory or “legend” as described in your Power Point presentationl.

     I first learned of the Two Davids Theory shortly after Ms. Bertelson’s letter began circulating among James family genealogists in 1985.  Without knowing more I set about getting my hands on a copy of Ms. Cummin’s 1974 work as well as a copy of the work by Mrs. Thomas Potts James published circa 1874.  I became very interested in our family’s early history in Radnor Township prior to 1700 and began circulating my findings in a home grown newsletter I entitled The Radnor Quarterly.  The deeper I delved into this issue the more I shared my findings with the family.  I was amazed at the response I received.  Many members of the family began forwarding to me complete copies of their family history research.  I have amassed a great deal of information, which I affectionately refer to as the James Family Archives.  The more time I spent comparing accounts contained within the previously recorded historical texts the more evidence I found that the original family history as recorded by Mrs. Thomas Potts James in 1874 was generally accurate, if not perfect in detail.

     Unfortunately, my work debunking the Two Davids Theory from 1985 through 2000 drew criticism from one of our fellow James family researchers, Susan Clark, who had taken a very strong interest in perpetuating and expanding upon the faulty conclusions reached by Ms. Cummin in 1974 and Ms. Bertelson in 1985.  Ms. Clark became so devoted to the Two Davids Theory that she began to attack me personally, rather than offer objective evidence in furtherance of the Two Davids Theory.  Ms. Clark expanded upon the Two Davids Theory by postulating that an individual by the name of James James was the biological father of our ancestor David James and the son of the David James who arrived in 1682.  Her only evidence in support of this premise was her observation that within Radnor Township there resided an individual by the name of James James who had sons including a Howell James and a David James.  Without more, Ms. Clark concluded that this James James was the missing link between the two David James advanced by Ms. Cummin and Ms. Bertelson.  Susan presented absolutely no records, birth, marriage, death, land, tax or otherwise to support this premise.  Assumptions continued to be pile atop assumptions driving the faulty research of the Two Davids Theory.

     In 2002 David A. James of Columbia, Missouri reported that his research supported the Two Davids Theory as well.  He submitted his work, “James Family History – Volume 1” to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City asserting that the David James who arrived in 1682 was the father of James James of Radnor Township who died in 1708, who in turn was the father of David James who purchased land in Radnor Township from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739.  His source, of course, was Miriam Bertelson’s letter to Swarthmore College written in 1985.  David A. James’ contribution to the “Two Davids” theory was the assertion that James James’ Quaker wife of 1692, Jane Edwards, is the biological mother of the “second” David James who died in 1739.  This, however, proved to be an unlikely scenario unless it could be demonstrated that James James’ Quaker bride gave birth to David James (the second) at least 13 years prior to her marriage to James James.  The 2002 work of David A. James brought to light an inescapable enigma contained within the Two Davids Theory.  That is, if Jane Edwards was indeed the biological mother of the David James mentioned in the will of James James who died in 1708, as reported in the 2002 work of David A. James, how could the David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739 be the same individual when the David James who purchased land from David Meredith in 1718 and died in 1739 was born at least 13 years prior to the marriage of James James and Jane Edwards in 1692?  For his part, David A. James’ work pointed out one of the major flaws in the Two Davids Theory whether he recognized it or not.

     Of course, Susan Clark was very encouraged by the publishing of David A. James, work because of its overall support of the Two Davids Theory.  I can recall having a discourse with Susan in which I called into question the truthfulness and veracity of the 1702 report of David James death to the Philadelphia Land Commissioners.  Her response revealed much about her motive for maintaining and advancing the Two Davids Theory.  According to Susan Clark, Mary James, the Quaker daughter of David James the Quaker immigrant could not have lied or misrepresented her father’s passing because, “Quakers don’t lie!” And as a member of Society of Friends herself, she was certain that it is impossible for Quakers to misrepresent the truth – hence, the report must be genuine.  For Ms. Clark, the Two Davids Theory had become more than a question of historical fact, rather a defense of her particular denomination’s integrity.  After that, I gave up trying to use my historical research to convince her that our family’s originally recorded history was sound.  I heard no more from Ms. Clark, until she became aware of your work on the James Surname Project.

     It appears Lee, that it is up to members of the James family such as you and I, to preserve and defend the heritage that has been handed down to us by family historians such as Mrs. Thomas Potts James.  I do hope that we continue to press the bounds of our knowledge and understanding of our particular James family history further.  Let us not collapse and cave in to faulty research that is the inescapable consequence of so many family members, not properly trained in research methodology.  Yet at the same time not seek to discourage anyone from their desire to explore and understand their heritage.  With all due respect, I remain…

Very sincerely yours.
Larry P. James”