In the summer of 2014 I undertook intensive research of well known Americans who were reputed to have Welsh ancestries. Well, according to Wikipedia that is. So, sifting through a list of impressive size, I began to satisfy my curiosity.
The first one that caught my eye was the respected American actor Robert Duvall. Now approaching his mid 80’s his ancestry was a combination of different nationalities, and claims to have illustrious ancestors, such as Robert E Lee on his mother’s side, and the French Hugenot Mareen Duvall on his father’s.
So, where did his Welsh roots come from?
On a genealogist’s hunch I decided to look on his mother’s side first. Her name was Mildred Virginia Hart, born about 1901 in St. Louis, Missouri. In the 1920 Census, she lived in Seattle with her parents, Felix Stanley Hart and Sarah Elizabeth Graham, and her older sister Artie Lee Hart. They had relocated sometime in the previous ten years because in the 1910 Census they were living in St. Louis with Sarah’s unmarried sister Blanch Graham.
Felix’ expertise was sales. In 1900 he was a ‘Dry Goods Salesman’ and in 1920 he was selling cars. When he enlisted with the United States army on 10 August 1893 he was a ‘clerk’. His army records reveal a little more about him.
His commanding officer at the time of his enlistment was none other than Mason Carter, a well decorated officer who earned a medal of honour from his heroics at the Battle of Bear Paw in 1877. 1
From his enlistment record, Felix hailed from Clairborne, Jackson County, Louisiana, had brown eyes, light brown hair and stood a shade over 5’8″ tall. He was in the 5th Infantry, Company B, and was discharged on 9 November, 1896, having initially signed up for five years. Unfortunately, his involvement with the army is uncertain, but he was based at Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Georgia. 2 At the time of his enlistment the Indian Wars were over and the Cuban War was not due until 1898.
It was around 1898 that he married Sarah and their first child Artie was born a year later. Felix died on 25 March, 1928 at Seattle aged 60. 3
Sarah passed away sometime after 1940.
Felix’s parents were Robert J Hart and Martha E Stanley who were married on 13 November, 1855 at Chambers County, Alabama. In the 1900 Census, Robert was employed as a ‘Fire Insurance Agent’. Born in Georgia, his parents, according to the document, both hailed from South Carolina. 4
Robert and Martha had seven children recorded on the 1880 Census but they also had a daughter named Artie Abigail, whose death was recorded on 3 September, 1921 at Ringgold, Bienville, Louisiana. 5
The discovery of ‘Artie’ as a name, used again in the family (Mildred Hart’s sister), bodes well in establishing the authenticity of the link between Mildred Hart (Robert Duvall’s mother) with the Stanleys.
I feel this is significant because as shown in the 1900 census her brother Felix named his first born Artie, and Abigail, as will be shown later, is a name I believe connects Robert Duvall to his Welsh ancestry.
Therefore, I have a strong assumption that Robert Duvall’s Welsh roots originate from the Stanley line. Martha’s parents were Felix Stanley and Abigail Evans. I know that Martha’s father name was stated on her marriage record. There is a Rootsweb tree that states that a Samantha Abigail Evans married Felix Stanley on 30 December 1833 in Troup County, Georgia. 6
This is confirmed by a document I found on http://www.familysearch.org which also reads that Felix married Abigail Evans on 30 December, 1833 in Troup County, Georgia. 7
On the Rootsweb tree, it has Thomas Evans as Abigail’s father. It also has listed some of Felix and Abigail’s children, including Margaret Elizabeth, Alfonso, Thomas, Samantha Tabitha and Mary Frances. Interestingly, it lists their ‘nicknames’ for two of them. Alfonso was ‘Founce’ and ‘Tony’, Margaret was ‘Ella’. Possibly an indication that the person who uploaded the tree has personal knowledge of the family. They were all born at Chambers, Alabama.
According to this source, Abigail was born on 20 Oct 1807 in North Carolina, and died 17 January, 1877. The christian name ‘Abigail’ is first recorded in this family nearly hundred years before she was born. 8
Both are buried at Antioch Cemetery, Clairborn Parish, Louisiana. On the Find a Grave site there are photos of their headstones. Inscribed on Felix’ are the words “Erected by his wife A Stanley”. On Abigail’s headstone the words “Erected by her children” written on it. 9
Her father Thomas Evans was born in Chatham Counry, North Carolina on 29 May 1770 and died on 15 January, 1854. His obituary appeared in The Southern Christian Advocate.
“Thomas Evans, a native of Chatham County, N.C., removed to Troup County, Ga, where he died 15 January last…Few men, of such quietness and virtue as he possessed are seen in the course of a lifetime. I have known him for twenty years, and of him I have never heard aught of evil. He left a number of children behind him, all of whom are orderly members of the M.E.Church…And now he rests in happiness with two infant children from whom he has been long separated, and his wife whose zeal of christian life was much shorter than his own.” 10
This Thomas Evans came from Welsh stock. 11
His wife was Martha Brooks was born 4 February, 1779 also in Chatham County, and died 10 October, 1841.
“Sister Martha Evans, consort of Thomas Evans, died of palsy on the 10th ult. in the 63rd year of her age in Troup Co. Sister Evans was born in 1779 in Chatham Co., was married in 1797, embraced religion and joined the Methodist E. Church in 1809. Her piety was deep, and all her life consistent. She lived to raise ten children, and to see them all members of the same Church, one of whom is an acceptable minister of the Gospel. She was affected six years previous to her death, and for a few days deprived of her speech; yet, as long as [sic] able to talk she gave evidence of her preparation to meet death. she has left her companion, children and friends to mourn their loss; yet their loss is her […] gain. She rests from her labors and her works do follow her.” 12
The son who became ‘an acceptable minister of the Gospel’ was probably W. C (or C.W.) Evans. 13
They are both buried at Evans Cemetery, Mountville, Troup County, Georgia.
Thomas and Martha were one of the earliest settlers of Troup County. It was formed in 1826 and they arrived about a year later, where they quickly founded what would become the Mountville Methodist Church. 14
Courtesy of the Georgia Archives
When they arrived in Troup County around 1828, the Methodist Church was called Mount Pleasant church, and the congregation met at the Evans’ log cabin. Thomas and Martha’s children were: Thomas, Martha, Elizabeth, Abigail, Nancy, C.W, Aaron, William and J.F. 15
I believe I have found Thomas Evans in the 1850 Troup Census. Head of the family was a John Evans, 32, a planter, born in North Carolina and living in a property valued at $3500. 16
There is a Thomas Evans living with John and his family who is also described as a planter and aged 79 years old. so, if I have the correct Thomas Evans then this one is spot on because he would be 80 years old in June 1850, born exactly 1770. I am assuming that John was his son, born circa. 1818. Martha would be nearly forty years old at the time of his birth, and is possibly the J.F Evans, Thomas and Martha’s last child, mentioned in the last paragraph.
Another intriguing name that appears in the same household is a Seaborn A Evans, a four year old son of John and his wife Mary. This provided me with a possible clue to finding the family’s original immigrants from Wales, which I will cover later. I also discovered that the Seaborn christian name appears again in a later generation in this particular family. A grandson of Thomas and Martha’s son Aaron, born 1812 in North Carolina, Seaborn Williford Evans was born in 1894 at Mountville, and died 1969 at LaGrange city hospital. 17
It seems incredibly likely that Thomas’ father was Aaron Evans (1 May, 1739 – 11 Jan, 1786). He married Ruth McPherson on 20 August, 1760. 18
Ruth was of Scottish descent on her father’s side.
Thomas was named on his mother’s will and he also named one of his son’s Aaron. The continuous use of certain christian names in families is a great indicator to identifying the right family. There is a clear repetition of many names, such as Aaron, Abigail and Thomas that suggest that this is the correct family. Ruth Evans gave ten shillings to each of her four sons: Owen, John, Thomas and Aaron. Her daughters were Sarah, Abigail, Ruth and Rebecca. 19
Aaron senior’s parents were Owen Evans and Mary Harlan, who were married in 1734, allegedly at The Old Swede’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware. I have a copy of the marriage records of this church and I can see no entry for them. However, they were married and Owen is buried at the Kennett Meeting Place in Chester County. 20
Mary’s ancestry leads to Northern Ireland.
The mystery of this research is Owen Evans and who exactly were his parents. He and Mary had three children: Aaron, Owen and Sarah, all born in Kennet Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. 21
When Owen died in 1747, Mary remarried the following year to a Hugh Laughlin, and moved to Chatham County, North Carolina. Sarah married a Thomas Lindley. 22
I found a Letter of Authority dated 28 July 1761 which reads:
“Thomas Lindley and Sarah his wife, late of Orange County, N.C. but now reside at Kennett, County Chester, have appointed Aaron Evans, millwright, our brother, our lawful attorney, to sell our plantation and tract of land in Kennett, 65 acres bounded by land belonging to William Harvey and Isaac Mendenhall. Delivered in the presence of George Heald and Thomas Harlan”. 23
Clearly the witnesses to this document were relatives of Sarah and Aaron. The parents of Mary Harlan, Owen’s wife, were Aaron Harlan and Sarah Heald, whose father, Samuel hailed from Mobberley, Cheshire. 24
Aaron’s parents were George Harlan and Elizabeth Duck.
Thomas Harlan was probably a relative of Sarah Lindley. Her mother Mary had a cousin named Thomas Harlan who died at Kennet in 1766, a grandson of Michael Harlan, brother to the aforementioned George. 25
Owen’s birth is also uncertain though it is believed to be between 1714 and 1718. If closer to the latter date he would have been a mere sixteen when he married Mary. Not an unusual age to get married even at this time.
So, I began looking for Welsh families who settled in the late 17th and early 18th centuries on the east coast of America. As mentioned before I had come across an Evans family with a child named Seaborn in the 1850 census. Eventually I found a family, originating from the old county of Radnorshire, Wales, who were documented as having a child born within sight of land. They named this child, a daughter, Seaborn. Unfortunately she died very soon after. The family was that of Evan Oliver who emigrated with his wife Jean and children David, Elizabeth, John, Hannah, Mary, Evan and of course Seaborn in August 1682. Taking into account the Welsh tendency to use the patronymic system in providing surnames is very much a possibility here. 26
Although they came from Glascwm, Radnorshire, they sailed from Bristol. 27
There is a dispute as to which ship they sailed on. Some believe they were passengers on ‘The Welcome’ which sailed from Deal in Kent and carried none other than William Penn himself to Pennsylvania. However, it is more likely that they travelled on ‘The Bristol Factor’ because there is evidence that Evan Oliver loaded his essentials on this ship on 14 August. William Penn had noted that ‘The Welcome’ lost sight of the coast of England on 13 September, but the ‘Factor’ would have gone beyond this point before this date.
It is also quite difficult to comprehend the idea that he would choose a ship that set sail as far away as Kent to get his family, which included a heavily pregnant wife, to the New World. 28
I have no absolute proof that Evan Oliver is connected to Owen Evans, a direct ancestor to Robert Duvall. Somewhere out there exists a document that proves or disproves my theory. The one piece of ‘evidence’ I have is the hope that the John Evans I found in the 1850 Troup census, with an exact aged Thomas Evans in the same residence, named a child of his in honour of the child that died tragically young after arriving with her parents in Upland, Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1682.
Clearly research on the sons of Evan Oliver has to be undertaken in order to get to the bottom of this mystery. According to Tepper, Evan himself died in Philadelphia in 1694/95, his wife Jean a year later and their son David in 1690. 29
That leaves John and Evan as possible fathers to Owen who married Mary Harlan in 1734.
The purpose of this research was to find out the Welsh roots of Robert Duvall. Although I have not managed to find concrete evidence of his descent from Evan Oliver of Radnorshire, there is no doubt that he is a descendant of Thomas Evans who definitely had a Welsh connection.
2. United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QJDR-4ZHK : accessed 19 April 2015), Felix S Hart, 10 Aug 1893; citing p. 167, volume 090, Jackson Barracks, , Louisiana, United States, NARA microfilm publication M233 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 47; FHL microfilm 1,319,380.
3. “Washington, Death Certificates, 1907-1960,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3PL-23K : accessed 19 April 2015), Felix Stanley Hart, 25 Mar 1928; citing Seattle, King, Washington, reference 975, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia; FHL microfilm 2,022,479.
4. “United States Census, 1900,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M381-YGS : accessed 19 April 2015), Felix S Hart, Precinct 12 St. Louis city Ward 13, St. Louis, Missouri, United States; citing sheet 6A, family 127, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,240,894.
5. Louisiana, Deaths Index, 1850-1875, 1894-1956,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:F338-K6X : accessed 6 April 2015), Artie Abigail Corry Or Carrie, 03 Sep 1921; citing Ringgold, Bienville, Louisiana, certificate number 8537, State Archives, Baton Rouge; FHL microfilm 2,366,158.
7. “Georgia, Marriages, 1808-1967,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FWCP-JT5 : accessed 19 April 2015), Felix Stanley and Abigail Evans, 30 Dec 1833; citing , Troup, Georgia; FHL microfilm 310,914.
8. Abigail Harlan was born after 1702 to Thomas Harlan and Alice Foster of Armagh. Thomas was a brother to Michael and George Harlan and remained in Ireland; History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p. 1
10. The Southern Christian Advocate, Vol.47, No.44, 3 March 1854, p. 176
12. The Southern Christian Advocate, Vol.5, No.23, 18 November 1841, p. 92
16. United States Census, 1850,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZY8-69P : accessed 19 April 2015), Seborn A Evans in household of John Evans, Troup county, part of, Troup, Georgia, United States; citing family 187, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
18. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.35
20. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.35
21. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.35-36
22. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.36
24. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.16
25. History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, p.52
27. New World Immigrants A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature, Vol. 1 – (Ed.) Michael Tepper  p. 306
28. New World Immigrants A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature – Michael Tepper [Ed.]  p. 263
29. New World Immigrants A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature, Vol. 1 – Michael Tepper [Ed.]  p. 306