Big changes have come to — all content is now read-only, and member subscriptions and the Shop have been discontinued.
Learn more

Chat | Daily Search | My GenForum | Community Standards | Terms of Service
Jump to Forum
Home: Regional: U.S. States: Kentucky: Fleming County

Post FollowupReturn to Message ListingsPrint Message

David and Alexander Ramsey, from PA, 1790s-1840s
Posted by: Duane Boggs (ID *****6286) Date: February 11, 2009 at 14:25:24
  of 784

If anyone can add to (or subtract from) the following theory, please contact me directly at

       David Wallace Ramsay, born in 1851 to William Burke and Sarah (Cunningham) Ramsay of Parke and/or Putnam County, Indiana, reported as family history that his paternal grandfather, Alexander Ramsey, had a brother David and was also the son of a David Ramsey. This Alexander Ramsey is the one born ca. 1754 and married twice, the second time in 1795 to Mary (“Polly”) Wills (daughter of Andrew and Martha). This Alexander lived in Fleming County, Kentucky, and died there in 1807, being buried at the New Hope Cemetery. The following information, much from primary sources (i.e., those other than oral family “tradition”) tend to corroborate his report. A preponderance of the evidence shows that the David Ramsey born between 1760 and 1770, and who married Rosannah Wills (daughter of Andrew and Martha) in Fleming County in 1801, and who died in Parke County in 1844, was the brother of this Alexander.

       For ease of review, the evidence can be grouped by type and then discussed. The types include the following: (1) land records from Fleming County, Kentucky; (2) litigation records from Fleming County; (3) migration patterns and causes; (4) social intercourse; (5) naming patterns; (6) census data; (7) elimination of alternative explanations; and (8) migration of descendants.

Land Records

       I have found certain land records from Fleming County, as published in a book titled Fleming County Deed Book, 1797-1818, consisting of two volumes of numbered items. There are three that demonstrate a relationship between Alexander Ramsey and David Ramsey. The three items, in chronological order, follow.

Item #453. February 25, 1797: John Jameson, David Ramsey and ___ Randall were witnesses to Deed from William Burke to James Long for 85 acres of land in Fleming County, KY.

Item #421. May 19, 1798: Alexander Ramsey, Byrum Rout and Basil Hunt, all of Mason County, KY, sold to John Burris of Mason County, KY 150 acres of land in Fleming County, KY for 60 pounds, with David Ramsey as one of two witnesses.

Item #277. January 2, 1800: Alexander Ramsey of Fleming County, KY, sold to Archebald Marshall of Bourbon County, KY 187.5 acres of land in Fleming and Montgomery Counties, KY for 40 pounds, with David Ramsey as one of four witnesses.

       In analyzing these three records, we can reasonably infer that there was some family relationship between Alexander and David, based on their shared surname. Alexander was born in 1754 (as computed from his age at death, taken from his tombstone) and David was born between 1760 and 1770 (computed from his age in the censuses of 1830 and 1840 in Parke County, IN). Therefore, we can reasonably infer that these two men were of the same generation, being born within 6 to 16 years of one another, and so would logically be either brothers, first cousins, or second cousins.

       I have NOT found any record showing that David Ramsey owned land in Fleming County.

Litigation Records

Various researchers, including Carolyn Williams, Ann Kane and Alice Ramsay, have been aware of certain litigation records in Fleming County, Kentucky concerning the Heirs of Alexander Ramsey.

On March 6, 1820, one James McCullough filed a lawsuit against the Heirs of Alexander Ramsey. The case is styled McCullough vs. Ramsays Heirs, in the Fleming County Circuit Court. The lawsuit involved title to land and continued for four years. There were numerous defendants; various witnesses were interviewed in the form of depositions, to be read in court to provide evidence of the asserted claims and defenses. For a transcription of these records by Alice Ramsay, see

A careful analysis of the litigation records demonstrates that there were actually two men, both named David Ramsey, who were involved. One was a defendant as one of the “heirs” and the other was a witness.

One of the two Davids was a party (a co-defendant) by virtue of his marriage to Margaret Ramsey, the daughter of the late Alexander Ramsey, and thus one of the “heirs”. Various other information indicates that this David Ramsey was born circa April 14, 1796, had married Margaret Ramsey on January 5, 1820, and would eventually move to Henderson County, Illinois (and his age in the 1850 census there corroborates a birth circa 1796). Clearly, the defendant David was NOT the same man who had been a witness to deeds in 1797, 1798 and 1800 because he was still a young child at that time (and likely still living in Pennsylvania with his parents, Alexander and Ann (Moore) Ramsay).

The second of the two men named David was older, as can be reasonably inferred from various circumstances. This is the David we will examine.

On May 30, 1823, this older David Ramsey was deposed as a witness. He stated that he was “well acquainted with Alexander Ramsey” but did not state any specific family relationship to him. We can infer that, to be “well acquainted”, this deponent David was likely an adult by at least 1807, when Alexander had died, and so was more likely than not born before 1787 (and thus was NOT the same man as defendant David). Certainly the David Ramsey who had witnessed deeds for Alexander Ramsey in 1798 and 1800 would have been “well acquainted” with Alexander. Other deposition evidence adds more detail to this picture.

One such deposition was that of James Nealis on March 6, 1824, filed with the Court on March 9, 1824. This James Nealis was born ca. 1786 and in 1808 had married Sarah (“Sally”) Wills, daughter of Andrew and Martha Wills. Thus, he was the brother-in-law of defendant Mary (Wills) Ramsay, widow of Alexander. Nealis stated “that he is well acquainted with the plantation now in the possession of William Ramsay . . . Lying in Fleming County upon the waters of Locust Creek and is the same pease [sic--piece] of land recovered (as this deponent has been informed) some years ago in an action of egectment [sic—ejectment] braight [sic—brought] by the Craigs in the Fleming Circuit Court and the deponent says that at the time the suit was braught [sic—brought] David Ramsay was in possession of the same and Continued upon it for some time thereafter. The deponent is Shewed [sic—shown] in the Clerks [sic—Clerk’s] office of the Fleming Circuit Court the papers in the said egectment [sic—ejectment] Case in which david [sic—David] Ramsay is defendant . . . . .”

In June 1824, a copy of the earlier ejectment action was filed in the record for the McCullough case. This earlier lawsuit had been styled Craigs Exors vs. Nealis & al, and had been filed against numerous defendants on February 12, 1816. Among the defendants were David Ramsey and an Alexander Ramsey. Clearly the David who was a defendant in the 1816 litigation was NOT the young David who was 19 at the time, and still single, but was instead the David who had witnessed deeds in 1797, 1798 and 1800, and who would later be a deponent in the McCullough lawsuit.

Joining the evidence about this David Ramsey from the 1816 Craig lawsuit with the evidence from the 1820 McCullough lawsuit (from the Nealis deposition), we see that this David Ramsey was in “possession” of the land of the late Alexander Ramsey in 1816. He did not “own” this land, however, because Alexander’s son, William Burke Ramsey, settled out of the Craig lawsuit by a “compromise” in 1817, whereby he cleared the title to Alexander’s land. This is proven by the following.

As part of the McCullough case, there was also a deposition of one William P. Fleming, on March 8, 1824. This William Fleming stated “that he was the attorney who brought the suit in behalf of John Craigs Exors and managed the one brought by Whitfield Craig as his attorney . . . and on the 15th day of March in the year 1817 he . . . perfected said compremise by written agreement now in his possession and that the deft Wm Ramsey made the compremise for the lands claimed by his fathers Heirs . . . . “

Adding together these fragments of evidence, we see that David Ramsey was apparently living on the land of Alexander Ramsey in 1816. Why? As with the evidence from land records, this evidence from litigation records suggests that there was a family relationship between this David Ramsey and the Alexander Ramsey born in 1754. Given David Ramsey’s “possession” of the late Alexander’s land (his occupancy without title), the family relationship would seem to be quite close, lending support to the theory that they were not second cousins or even first cousins, but most likely, brothers.

Migration Patterns

       Another form of evidence of a family relationship between Alexander and David Ramsey is migration patterns.

       Alexander Ramsey was in the Fleming County area no later than August 04, 1791, when he witnessed a deed from John Hunt, Sr. to John Hunt, Jr. and Basil Hunt, of Sullivan County, Tennessee, as recorded in the Mason County, Kentucky Deed Book. In 1795 he would marry Mary (“Polly”) Wills, and in 1796, Alexander and his “partners”, Byram Rout and Basil Hunt would purchase a tract of 6212 acres from William Burke, part of the land which Burke had purchased from the 12,953 acres of the Thomas Perkins survey. It is fairly widely believed that Alexander Ramsey had migrated to Kentucky from Pennsylvania.

       David Ramsey was in Fleming County no later than February 25, 1797, when he witnessed a land sale by this same William Burke. Again, it is fairly widely believed that David Ramsey had migrated to Kentucky from Pennsylvania, possibly in 1796.

       Of all the land available in Kentucky at that time, why would David choose to locate near Alexander? At first blush, the answer would seem to be that there was a family relationship. The theory presented here is that David was following his older brother Alexander from Pennsylvania to Kentucky.

       Some researchers have proposed that this David Ramsey was actually the brother of the younger Alexander Ramsey, the one born in 1768. As shown above, this Alexander purchased land in 1807, and according to the 1880 census of Putnam County, IN for Alexander and Sarah (Ramsey) Farrow, Sarah’s father, William Ramsey, was born in Pennsylvania. Several researchers suggest that this William, son of Alexander and Ann (Moore) Ramsey, was born ca. 1804. This would place the migration of Alexander and Ann at sometime between 1804 and 1807, from Pennsylvania to Fleming County, Kentucky.

       There is nothing about the migrations of David Ramsey ca. 1796 and this younger Alexander ca. 1806 to suggest that they were closely related. Of course, this young Alexander chose to settle in Fleming County, which offers some evidence that he had some family relationship with the older Alexander (who was still alive in 1806) and/or with this David. The two Alexanders were clearly not brothers, but possibly cousins. David seems to have had a closer relationship with the older Alexander than he did with the younger Alexander.

Social Intercourse

       David Ramsey and the Alexander Ramsey born in 1754 also seem to be very closely linked by social intercourse.

       In 1795, Alexander Ramsey had married Mary (“Polly”) Wills. In 1797, it seems likely that David Ramsey was living with Alexander and Mary. In 1801, David Ramsey married Rosannah Wills, the younger sister of Mary (Wills) Ramsey. How did they meet? The obvious inference is that they were introduced by Alexander and Mary. This introduction would have been almost inevitable if David was living with Alexander and Mary.

David Ramsey appeared in the 1810 census for Fleming County and, according to the Craig and McCullough lawsuits, was living on the late Alexander’s land as of 1816. The evidence from the McCullough lawsuit also demonstrates that the widow Mary (Wills) Ramsey and her seven minor children also remained on the late Alexander’s land. The inference is that Mary and her children were sharing their land with David and Rosannah and their children. This suggests a very close family relationship. Of course, Rosannah was Mary’s sister, and so Mary might have simply invited her sister and brother-in-law to reside there (she would have needed the assistance of a grown man after Alexander’s death in 1807, when Mary’s oldest son, William Burke Ramsey, was only 12). It is at least as compelling (if not more so) that Mary invited her brother-in-law David (the younger brother of her late husband) to continue living there. The connection was especially tight if the two Ramsey brothers had married Wills sisters.

Naming Patterns

The names that a married couple choose for their children sometimes provides evidence of family relationships. I would suggest that the names chosen by Alexander and Mary and the names chosen by David and Rosannah offer clues to the relationship between Alexander and David.

Alexander and Mary named children (in chronological order) William Burke, Martha, Margaret, Elizabeth, John, Robert Morton and Sarah. I would suggest that William Burke Ramsey was named for the land owner William Burke of Kentucky, from whom Alexander and his partners had purchased the 6,212 acres. Martha was likely named for Mary’s mother. Mary had siblings named John and Sarah, which might have motivated her to choose those names. The other names still await explanation.

       David and Rosannah Wills had the following children, all born in Kentucky:
1.       Samuel W. Ramsey, b. June 08, 1802;
2.       Martha Ramsey, b. February 06, 1804;
3.       David Ramsey, b. November 30, 1806;
4.       Lucinda Ramsey, b. Abt. 1808.
5.       Alexander Ramsey, b. March 1811;
6.       Andrew Ramsey, b. April 18, 1813;
7.       Mary Ramsey, b. September 10, 1815; and
8.       Eliza(beth) Ramsey, b. Abt. 1817.

       Son Samuel might have been named for Rosannah’s brother, and Martha was likely named for Rosannah’s mother. Son David could have been named for his father, or possibly for a paternal grandfather. Andrew was named for Rosannah’s father, and Mary was likely named for Rosannah’s sister (with whom David and Rosannah were probably living in 1815). The interesting choice, however, is Alexander in 1811. This was the first male child born to David and Rosannah following the death of Alexander Ramsey in 1807. This would seem to be a “tribute” naming, to honor the late Alexander, and offers some evidence that David was Alexander’s younger brother.

Census Data

       The widow Mary (Wills) Ramsey was living on the late Alexander’s land as of 1810, but I have had no success finding her in the census. According to the theory presented here, David and Rosannah (Wills) Ramsey were also living on the land with Mary. David appears in the 1810 census.

       By 1820, following the Craig lawsuit for ejectment and the compromise thereof by William Burke Ramsey, the widow Mary (Wills) Ramsey appears in the census (on page 70) as the head of her household. David Ramsey also appears (on page 68) as the head of his own, separate household. By this time, William Burke Ramsey was 25 and about to marry. Two of his sisters had already married and moved out. From the census statistics, it seems likely that his sister Margaret was still at home, along with her new husband, the younger David Ramsey. There were also other males (John and Robert Morton) who were teenagers. Thus the need for an adult male in the form of David Ramsey was diminished, and apparently the families maintained separate households.

       By 1830, widow Mary (Wills) Ramsey and her sons William Burke and Robert Morton, had moved from Fleming County to the area of Portland Mills, Indiana (on the Parke-Putnam County border). By 1830, David Ramsey had also moved to Parke County (although Rosannah had died before that census ). This joint migration again suggests a family relationship and supports the theory that David and Alexander were brothers.

Alternative Explanations

       Some researchers have submitted information to the Latter Day Saints ( that this David Ramsey was born April 10, 1770. This date would certainly be consistent with the 1760-1770 range for a date of birth as computed from the 1830 and 1840 census statistics. I do not know if this date was taken from a tombstone, family Bible, or other source, but for the time being, let’s adopt this date as close to accurate.

Some researchers have also suggested that this David Ramsey was the son of James and Mary (Cochran) Ramsey, and thus the brother of both the Alexander born in 1768 (and who married Ann Moore) and of Hannah Cochran Ramsey, who married James McHaffy Hamilton in Pennsylvania and eventually moved to the area of Parke/Putnam Counties.

Researchers have suggested that Hannah Cochran (Ramsey) Hamilton was born on March 14, 1770. I do not know the source for this date, but assuming it is close to accurate, then we see a conflict in the family structure these researchers have proposed. James and Mary (Cochran) Ramsey could not have had Hannah in March 1770 and then David in April 1770. The laws of nature (biology) prove this to be impossible.

Therefore, if these 1770 birth dates are both accurate, then David is eliminated as a possible son of James and Mary (Cochran) Ramsey. This process of elimination again supports the theory here that David was the brother of the Alexander born in 1754.

Migration of Descendants

       Some two decades after the joint migration of Alexander’s widow Mary Ramsey and of David Ramsey from Kentucky to Indiana, descendants of Alexander and of David continued to migrate to the same destinations.

       In 1851, Alexander’s daughter Sarah and her husband (and cousin) David Wills, migrated from Indiana to Monroe County, Iowa (the area of Albia). With them went her nephew and niece, John Ramsey and Margaret Ramsey, orphaned children of John Ramsey, another son of Alexander.

       In the following years, both Samuel W. Ramsey and Alexander Ramsey, two sons of David and Rosannah, also moved to Monroe County, Iowa. So did Alfred Allen Ramsey and Robert Bruce Ramsey, two sons of William Burke Ramsey. As far as I know, NONE of the descendants of Alexander and Ann (Moore) Ramsey migrated to Monroe County, Iowa.

       This migratory pattern among the descendants of Alexander and David suggests that these descendants were fully aware of their family relationship. Under the theory presented here, these would have been first cousins and first cousins once removed migrating from the same origination to the same destination, years after both Alexander and David had passed. I believe this is evidence that Alexander and David were brothers.


       I believe that the evidence assembled here supports a conclusion that the David Ramsey born between 1760 and 1770 (possibly April 10, 1770) was the brother of Alexander Ramsey (1754-1807).

       Returning to the oral “tradition” reported by David Wallace Ramsey, the father of Alexander and David was an older David. In the 1790 census for Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania was a David Ramsey with the following stats: 3-0-3. One of the three males over 16 would obviously be the David who was the head of the household. The other two males over 16 might have both been sons. One might have been the David Ramsey born circa April 10, 1770 (and so age 20 in 1790). The third male could have been another brother, whose name has not yet been discovered. The three females could be the wife of the David who was head of the household, and then possibly two daughters, still single (ages not specified). By 1800, there was no household headed by a David Ramsey in Huntingdon County, so he had either moved or died. If he was the father of Alexander (b. 1754) and David (b. 1770), then he was likely born in/before 1734 and would have been close to or even over 70 by 1800. Given life expectancies, it would not be unusual for this David to have died by 1796, and his son David to have then migrated to Kentucky to join his older brother Alexander. While there is much speculation in this explanation, this theory could guide further research to see if Alexander and David were indeed sons of this David of Huntingdon.

Notify Administrator about this message?
No followups yet

Post FollowupReturn to Message ListingsPrint Message
Search this forum:

Search all of GenForum:

Proximity matching
Add this forum to My GenForum Link to GenForum
Add Forum
Home |  Help |  About Us |  Site Index |  Jobs |  PRIVACY |  Affiliate
© 2007 The Generations Network