The Gene Pool: JTR's Colorful Family History


Which Mary did James McGrew Marry?
by Phyllis McGrew Walklet

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In Evelyn Gibson's work on the Blackburn family, the wife of James McGrew (1707-1793) is listed as Mary FINLEY. I would like to submit that this listing is the perpetuation of errors made by previous generations and provide the reader with a hypothesis to the contrary. If you have been fortunate enough to trace your roots to a Blackburn ancestor who married a descendant of this James McGrew, you have probably become as frustrated as I. In various records, James McGrew is listed as having married Mary Finley, Mary Dick (Dicks/Dix), or both. While I still have no proof positive one way or the other after twenty years of wrestling with this problem, I feel this James McGrew never married a Mary Finley, but married first to Mary Dick (Dicks) and second to the widow Mary Ridgeway. After diligent research into the Finley records, Thomas Graham (deceased) also was unable to identify a Mary Finley who might have married James McGrew. James McGrew, son of emigrants Robert and Isabella (?) McGrew, was born about 1707 in Ireland. About 1726/27 he came to America together with his parents, four brothers, a niece and a nephew. They probably landed at New Castle, Delaware. In 1729 and again in 1734 James and his brother, Finley, were on the tax lists of London Grove Twp., Chester Co., PA.

The records of Holy Trinity (Old Swede's) Church, Wilmington, Delaware show the marriage of James MacGrau and Mary Dick on 25 Apr 1735. James' brother, Finley, married Elizabeth Lauris at the same church on 3 Nov 1736. In the absence of any other marriage records, I have accepted this as proof of the marriage of James McGrew and Mary Dicks......


Finley, the first child of James and Mary, was born 13 3 mo. 1736. We now have a possibility to consider. If Mary (Dicks) McGrew had died in childbirth, or shortly thereafter, James could have married Mary Finley on their supposed date of marriage, 20 6 mo 1736 in Chester Co., PA. At that time, Quakers required a couple to present to meeting their intent to marry well in advance of the anticipated marriage. A committee was then appointed to investigate and counsel the man and woman and recommend approval to the meeting. This was a time consuming process and I doubt it could have been completed in the short time frame available for it to have occurred.

In addition, purported records of a Mary (Finley) McGrew indicate that she died on 10 Nov 1766. We know, however, that James McGrew, widower, was granted a certificate to Fairfax (Virginia) Monthly Meeting in order to marry the widow Mary Ridgeway on 11 Feb 1760. The first wife of James McGrew must have died between 1750 and 1760.

The parentage of Mary Dicks has not yet been proven, but Quaker records for Chester Co., PA may still contain the answer to this mystery. It is interesting to note that James and Mary named two of their children Nathan and Deborah. It is suspected that Mary Dicks was the daughter of Nathan and Deborah (Clark) Dicks. A generation later, James' daughter Deborah McGrew, wife of Joseph Blackburn-2 (son of John Blackburn Sr-1) named a son Zachariah, a name which appears frequently in the Dicks family and had not previously appeared in the Blackburn family. Nathan

Dicks had a brother Zacharias/h who was a well-known Quaker minister in North and South Carolina. Nathan Jr., Zacharias and Peter Dicks appear in the minutes of Hopewell Meeting, a further indication of the McGrew/Dicks theory.

At this point, I rest my case. James McGrew married first to Mary DICKS and second to the widow Mary RIDGEWAY, never marrying Mary Finley.

Please prove me wrong!! -- Phyllis McGrew Walklet

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