- Our family has several men named John. But the John Tennison who died in Caswell County, NC in 1808 was the primary ancestor researched by me (Sue Dennis Green) since the 1978. We have documentation that he and his brother Ignatius (Ignatious) were the sons of Ignatius Tennison and wife Elizabeth Nevitt McPherson. Elizabeth Nevitt was married previously to a planter named Daniel McPherson who died in 1740. Elizabeth had 3 known children by Mr. McPherson. More information on this part of the family is provided under the elder Ignatius.
A birth record of their son Ignatious Nevitt Tennison can be found in Prince George County. MD [Later became Fredrick Co., MD]
MACATEE, MARY, Charles Co. 8 Nov. 1774; 21 Dec. 1774
To grandchildren, children of my son John Nevitt, Negro man John Cooke, beds, pots, blankets, stock, to be in possession of my son John Nevitt during life then to his children.
To grandson William Miles Nevitt, son of Richard Nevitt, furniture, stock.
To grandson John Tennison, son of my dau. Elizabeth Tennison, stock, 400 #. tobacco.
To dau. Ann Birch, Negro woman Lucy, 1000 #. tobacco, book.
To dau. Rosamond Macatee, stock, pewter.
To grandson John Nevitt, Jr., Negro man Ben, stock, wearing apparel.
To grandson Charles Nevitt, stock, iron pot.
To daus: Ann Birch and Rosamond Macatee, wearing apparel.
To son and grandson John Nevitt, Will'm. Miles Nevitt, residue.
To son John Nevitt, ex.; if he dies grandson Will'm. Miles Nevitt, ex.
Wit: Barbara McPherson; Catherine McPherson; Thos. McPherson. 40. 168.
Research Notes from Rick McPherson
John Tennison/Dennis is believed to have traveled from Maryland via Virginia to Caswell Co., NC as early as 1780. An Ignatius Tennison, a contemporary of John Tennison, moved to Caswell County in 1784. This author believes this to be his brother."
A "second document referring to the will [of John Tennison] provides us with a view of the name change Tennison for Dennis. The Sale of Estate of John Tennison (Caswell Will Book F, p. 41) ... lists Levi Dennis, John Dennis (John Tennison's sons) and Ignatius N Dennis (son of Ignatius Tennison).
John is called both Tennison and Dennis in records of Charles Co. MD and the Caswell Co., NC records. His brother Ignatius was in Prince George's Co. MD before moving to NC.
Jan. 1775, Charles Co. MD Land Records, bill of sale, Thomas Smith, blacksmith, for 70 Pounds, sells to John Tennison, 1 Negro woman called Shearer and 1 Negro boy called Henry. [Tennison, vol. 3, by Smith]
In 1777 John Tennison was a private in Capt. John Hanson's Charles Co., Company of Maryland Militia (12 Battalion) in the Revolutionary War. ["The Maryland Militia in the Revolutionary War", page 159, by Eugene Clements and Edward Wright.]
March 1778 John Dennis takes the Oath of Allegiance to Maryland in Charles Co., in March 1778. John Dennis of Charles Co is mentioned in another record dated May 1778. [Smith]
The last record found for John Tennison/Dennis in MD is in 1778 and the first record found for him in NC is 1780. The last record found for brother Ignatius in MD is in 1776 and the first record found for him in NC is in 1782. There are records for both in Pittsylvania Co. VA which adjoined Caswell Co. NC to the north. Land deeds indicate that both Tennison's land was in the northwest corner of Caswell Co. and very likely touching the border with Virgina. Local researchers have indicate that the border changed several times. A twisting river running through the area may have contributed to border differences.
John and his first wife had children in both MD and in NC. She died by 1798 when John married again. Levi, the oldest son of John, was listed in the TN census of 1850 as born in Maryland [b. 1778].
John is found on the 1780 and 1781 Caswell Co. NC tax list, the 1782 Pittsylvania Co. VA tax list and the 1783 and 1784 Caswell co. tax list. Brother Ignatius is also on the 1782 Pittsylvania Co. VA tax list and the 1784 Caswell Co. tax list. [Smith]
In Caswell Co. NC records, John and his brother Ignatius N. are sometimes called Tennison and sometimes called Dennis, and in some documents both names are used. Each is found in records of the other. As time progressed, John and family gravitated to the surname Dennis and Ignatius and family tended to use Tennison. [Smith]
The 1784 state census of Caswell County NC lists one John Dennis in St. David's District. This census indicated one male age 21 to 60 [John born about 1760], two males under 20 or over 60 [Levi born 1778 and possibly John about 1785]. He also had four females [daughters Elizabeth, Anne, Catherine and Celia]. These children were by his first wife name unknown. [Green]
The first land purchased by John Dennis of 100 acres in 1784 was on both sides of County Line Creek in St. David's Tax district. In 1792 John Tennesson bought 332 acres on the waters of Hogane Creek. Subsequent land purchases and sales by John Tennison or John Dennis were in the northwestern portion of Caswell county along Hogan's Creek south of Pittsylvania Co. VA. In 1799 John Tennison and wife Elizabeth sells 330 acres. [Green, vol. 1, pg 46-47]
1786 census, Caswell co. NC, John Dennis in St. David's District. [Caswell County North Carolina, Land Grants, Tax Lists, Sstate Census, Apprentice Bonds, Estate Records, by Katharine Kerr Kendall, 1977]
John Tennison was married at least twice. His first wife was not with the family in the 1784 census.
A marriage bond dated 3 March, 1798 between John Tennison and Elizabeth Cheatwood can be found in the Caswell County N.C. records. [Green]
The 1800 Caswell co. NC census Hillsboro district has Jno Teneson with two males under 10, one male of 10 & under 16, one male of 16 & under 26, one male of 45 & up, one female of 10 & under 16, one female of 26 & under 45 and 5 slaves.[ancestry.com]
In 1803 John had 1069 acres of land Caswell Co. NC. [Smith]
1803, Caswell co. NC tax list, John & Levi Tennison. [Caswell County North Carolina, Land Grants, Tax Lists, Sstate Census, Apprentice Bonds, Estate Records, by Katharine Kerr Kendall, 1977]
1807, Caswell co. NC, apprentice bonds, a Townsey or Towns Elam age 11 was bound to John Tennison, Oct. 30, 1807. [Caswell County North Carolina, Land Grants, Tax Lists, Sstate Census, Apprentice Bonds, Estate Records, by Katharine Kerr Kendall, 1977]
Caswell County N.C. Will Book E page 422 contains John Tennison's will written December 18, 1807. (Green) contains her typed copy of the will. He names his wife Elizabeth and "her five children, that is to say Asariah, Reubin, Polley, Harriott Gregory and Nancy." ..."I give also to the same five children which is my last five children...". John also names "...my three sons, Levi, John and James..." and "...my four daughters. Elizabeth wife of Henry Cobb, Anna, wife of William Cobb, Catherine, wife of Asa Cox and Ceacy."
"Settlement of Estate of Jonn Tennisson" October 1811 Caswell Co. N C. Will book F, page 241 original document in NC Archives, son Levi signs his name both Dennis and Tennison.
From 1810 to 1815 John Tennison's sons Levi, John and James each sold their parcels of land in NC and moved to TN. In an 1812 deed, Levi sells land "on Hogans Creek it being a tract of land left Levi Dennis by his father..." (Caswell co. Deed Bk. Q page 509, Green)
John's widow Elizabeth married Edmund Lyons before 1811. They moved to Overton Co. TN along with most of John's family. John's children go strickly by the name Dennis once they get to TN.
Want some confusion?
4/8/2018: John Tennison had a brother named Ignatious Tennison, who can be found on the will of Peter Smith in Caswell, NC; who was connected to many families who lived on Hogan's Creek (Round Hill) in Caswell, NC. Ignatious Tennison did not change his last name and married Lucretia Dennis (Dennis was her maiden name).
It is likely that John Tennison (Dennis) did not marry Rachel L. Grant until a year before her death in 1797. Rachel L. Grant's previous husband, likely Sameral Samuel Dennis (b. abt 1750 and d. 1786 in Caswell Co., NC), had died a short time after the birth of her last child (?Elisha Hudson Dennis).
We know that on James Grants' will of 1805 (father to Rachel L. Grant) that he mentions that his daughter Rachel was already dead with only one child, thus she would receive nothing. Rachel L. Grant Dennis had children (specifically Samuel Dennis; who had a daughter named Rachel L. Grant and Elisha Dennis who was b. abt 1784 a short time before Sameral Samuel Dennis died in Caswell).
Rachel was married to Samuel Dennis prior to marrying John Tennison as was Elizabeth Betsy Cheatwood married to a Dennis prior to marrying John Tennison. UPDATE: Looking closer at the will for John Tennison Dennis, it becomes clearer that his third wife Elizabeth Cheatwood Dennis likely had children from a previous marriage.
Here is an excerpt of the will: John Tennison - Will - 18 Dec 1807 - Wife Elizabeth Cheatwood. ***HER 5 children Asariah, Reubin, Polly Hariott, Nancy, Gregory - 5 last children are ***MY 5 last children: my 3 sons Levi, John, James, daughter Coos? - 4 daughters: Elizabeth, wife of Henry Cobb, Anna wife of William Cobb, Catherine wife of Asa Cox, and Ceasy. Exec: son Levi: Wit: David Powell, Turner Patterson (husband to Celia), and Wm. Tapacott.
Also: We do find a John Dennis and a wife Mary Slater Dennis in Orange Co., NC where records of land grants can be found for 1759 and 1761. This John Dennis (not a Tennison) moves later to Georgia. This John Dennis (not Tennison) appears to be the father of Lucretia Dennis who married Ignatious Tennison; brother to John Tennison.
To complicate matters for researchers, both Tennison brothers appeared to have used the last name of Dennis interchangeably with Tennison; but Ignatious Tennison in the end does not change his last name as does his brother John. The John Dennis b. abt 1720 to 1726 in NJ was a son to Samuel Dennis and Ruth Tindall Dennis; immigrating to New Jersey from Ireland before marriage in 1711 in NJ or Pennsylvania.
We know, therefore, that it is likely that John Tennisons' 2nd wife Rachel L. Grant and 3rd wife Elizabeth Betsey Cheatwood were married into the Dennis family before marrying John Tennison. We do know now that it was highly likely that both Rachel L. Grant Dennis Tennison and Elizabeth Betsey Chitwood/Cheatwood Dennis Tennison (Lyons) both knew each other and quite possibly met in Virginia before emigrating to North Carolina.
Both Rachel Grant and Elizabeth Betsey Cheatwood have ties to the Irby families in Henrico and Chesterfield, VA areas, as well as Orange and then Caswell Co., NC. Specifically, Rachel L. Grant's brother John Grant married Rebecca Ann Irby who was a daughter of Peter Irby and Elizabeth Cooke Irby and Elizabeth Betsey Cheatwood's Uncle Mathias Chitwood/Cheatwood can be found on court records of 1759 for Penelope Irby Parrott, who was contesting the will of her father Dr. Joshua Irby in Chesterfield, VA.
The following information from Diane Clark Smith:
Notes by Diane Clark Smith:
The name of his first wife is lost to history. She died about 1791 leaving 7 children:
Catherine m. Asa Cox
Levi m. Susan White
Celia m. Turner Patterson
Mary Anna m. William Cobb
John "Jack", Jr m. Mary Arnett
Elizabeth m. Henry Cobb
James P. m. Betsy Chadwick and #2 Parnina Gunnels
John's third wife was Elizabeth "Betsey" Cheatwood, daughter of William Cheatwood and Jean Flourney of Powhattan County, Virginia. It is possible that Elizabeth Cheatwood was married to another Dennis, resulting in the children below as described by researcher Diane Clark Smith:
Asariah Dennis m. Elizabeth Taylor
Reuben Cartwright Dennis m. Susannah Arnett moved to Illinois
Mary "Polly" Dennis m. unknown Gunnels
Harriet Gregory Dennis m. Joseph J. Knox in Tennessee
Nancy Dennis m. William Grant White in Tennessee