John Todd: Setting the Record Straight

Perhaps the most aggravating experience for an active genealogist is to come upon records that are just plain wrong. It may take a fair amount of work to straighten these things out, but it is very satisfying to do so.

In the process of doing some research on my Todd line, I came across a number of online genealogies linking John Todd, first husband of Dolley Payne who later married James Madison, to my line of Todds who originally settled in Montgomery County, Pa. Though there are lots of interesting people attached to that line, including Mary Todd, wife of Abraham Lincoln, John Todd, husband of Dolley, is not one of them. There are also some genealogies stating that John’s mother was Martha Wilson.

To set the record straight, we will start with John Todd himself, or more correctly, John Todd, Jr. From his will in 1793, after he died from the Yellow Fever that ravished Philadelphia, its clear that this is Dolley’s husband:

Name: John Todd

Residence: Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., PA

Description: Decedent

Date: 2 Jul 1793

Prove Date: 21 Nov 1793

Title: Jr.

BookPage: W:585

Remarks: Todd, John, Junior. City of Phila. Wife and Exec: Dolly Paine Todd. Child: Payne. Advisaries to Wife: Edward Burd, Edward Telghman.

Born in 1763, John’s parents were John, Sr. and Mary Durborow, both of whom also perished in 1793 from the Fever, as did John, Jr’s son, William Temple Todd. John, Sr. and Mary were married in the Arch Street Friends meeting on 12/9/1762, as documented in the records for Philadelphia Friends Meeting. John is shown in the record as being the son of John of New London twp., Chester Co. Among the witnesses were Rebecca and Samuel Durborow, Jane and William Todd, and John and Elizabeth Blair. Rebecca was Mary’s mother, her father John having passed away; Samuel is most likely a brother to Mary. William and Jane Todd were siblings of John, or Jane may have been William’s wife.

John’s will, also filed in 1793, shows the relationship clearly:

Name: John Todd

Residence: Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., PA

Description: Decedent

Date: 21 Sep 1793

Prove Date: 14 Nov 1793

BookPage: W:594

Remarks: Todd, John. City of Phila. Wife: Mary. Sons: James, John. Brother: James, of Chester Co.Grandchildren: John Payne Todd, William Temple Todd, Sons of Son John.Samuel Poultney Todd, Deborah and Mary Todd, Children of Son James. Nephew: William, Son of Brother James Todd. To Elizabeth Blair, Wife’s Sister’s Daughter. Friend: Margaret Taggert.Exec: Samuel Jones, John and James Todd.

John, Sr. and Mary had three children, listed in the Philadelphia meeting records: John born 11-17-1763, James born 4-3-1766, and Deborah born 4-7-1771. Deborah died the following year, and because of this, does not appear in her grandfather’s will, written in 1774.

Racing back one step further, we move to Chester County, to find John, Sr. Born about 1700, John the father married Margaret Cane (or Cain) at New Garden Friends meeting on 8/28/1720.

Name: John Todd

Description: Decedent

Date: 16 Jul 1774

Prove Date: 18 Aug 1775

Remarks: John Todd. New London. 7/16/1774. Aug. 18, 1775. To son William Todd now supposed to be in Carolina £100. To daughter Jane wife of Henry Hayes £35. To son James £15 and all wearing apparel having advanced him to the value of £115 in my lifetime. To daughter Margaret wife of James Willson £15. To grandsons John and James, sons of John Todd, £30 each. To 3 grandchildren Martha, Mary and Sarah Willson £20 to be divided. To daughter Sarah McKee £10 and to grandson John McKee £15. To daughter Elizabeth Hodgson £5. To grandson John Willson £5. To grandson Isaac McKee £5. To grandson Wm. son of Jas. Todd £5. To daughter Margaret wife of son James £10. Reversion of legacy to son Wm. to sons-in-law John Morton and Wm. Hutton of York Co. Executors: Son John of Phila. and son-in-law Henry Hayes.

As is often the case, there are other records that confuse the issue. In this particular case, the New Garden records show a marriage on 8/12/1749 between John Todd of New London and Martha Wilson of Londongrove. This gives us two basic possibilities – either this John Todd is no relation to ours, or Martha was John’s first wife. I consider this a distinct possibility as John’s sister Margaret married James Wilson of Londongrove and John didn’t marry Mary Durborow until 1762, after which his three children were born.

Even if Martha was his first wife, it does not change the fact that mother of his children was Mary Durborow, with the family having its roots firmly in Chester County and Philadelphia.