William Henry Jennings

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William Henry Jennings

Birthplace: Leipfield, Yorkshire, England
Death: Died in Ordinary, Amelia County, Province of Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Humphrey Jennings and Mary Jennings
Husband of Agnes Jennings (Dickenson); Mary Jennings and Mary Jane Jennings
Father of Jesse Jennings; Agnes Dickerson; Robert Jennings; Mary Arnold; Mary Cary and 11 others
Brother of John Jennings; Ann Jennens; Charles Jennings; Robert Jennings; Mary Jennings and 6 others
Half brother of Elizabeth Hudson

Occupation: Retired British officer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Henry Jennings


Note: This William Jennings (1676-1775) was the first member of the Jennings family to make his home in North America. With his wife, Mary Pulliam, he established the Jennings Ordinary in Amelia County, VA, where they raised a large family. (It is possible Mary Pulliam was his second wife.) He was a taxpayer in Amelia County and in New Kent (Nottoway?) County, where he was on record as owning 10,000 acres and more than 50 buildings.

From Ellen Pulley:

I have a Jennings-Oliver family history done in 1943 by a Ruby Oliver who lived in Nottoway County. Apparently part of her work quoted a Mrs. Hardester's family work done at Hyco, a Jennings home in Nottoway County, Va., in 1873. You descend from Daniel and Elizabeth Jennings Meadows. I descend from Robert and Elizabeth Childs/Chiles Jennings. Robert was Elizabeth's brother.

According to my history, John lived from 1734 to 1783. His parents were Lord William Jennings I b. 1676, died 1775, and Mary J. Pulliam, b. 1704, died 1775. The history says they married in 1724.

According to the history:

Lord William came to America, settled in Hanover County, Va. The King of England had given him 10,000 acres of land here for aiding in bringing immigrants to the colonies. He married Mary J. Pulliam of Hanover County, died at Jennings Ordinary in Nottoway County, Va. and was buried in the old Jennings Cemetery. Tradition says he was a widower when he married Mary J. Pulliam. Perhaps the Ann Jennings, who married William Beasley, was a child by his first marriage? A record of Lord William Jennings' children with dates and marriages can be found in Volume 16, Page 207, State Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA. (Doesn't say of what book, but doubtless some Jennings family record).

Another line of approach -- family oral history has it that the original Wm. Jennings in VA was either a cousin or nephew of the Sarah Jennings who married the Duke of Marlborough. The history includes some of the story about the Jennings' inheritance in England. If you know about that story, you're almost certainly family.

William Jennings Sr. was born 5 July 1702 and lived in St. Paul’s Parish of Hanover County where the parish records mentioned him several times. He was serving sheriffs’ warrants on 1 April 1730 and he was several times processioning his land and that of his neighbors, the Garland famil

William Jennings is said to have married Mary Jane Pulliam on 24 January 1724/5. The Pulliam and Jennings families were neighbors. A deed of 6 February 1729/30 in Hanover shows this. In it William Jennings and William Pulliam witnessed a deed of Christopher Smith of Hanover to Patterson Pulliam to land in Spotsylvania. Mary Jane is considered the daughter of James Pulliam [822] and Mary, his wife. However, they may have contrived this information along with the other Jennings’ ancestral deceptions. William and Mary Jane were the parents of ten children.

The Jennings patronized the general store run by Thomas Partridge. Several account books from the store for 1734-1756 have survived and reveal details of life in Colonial Virginia.

During 1736 William bought a pair of women’s gloves, a pair of women’s shoes, 20 pounds of sugar, and 3,000 nails. He paid his account with tobacco and 23 beaver furs.

By 1737 the Jennings had eight children under the age of ten and that year he made several purchases from Partridge. The most practical were the dozen plates, some “Caess Coco” knives and forks, and 20 ells of “best brown linen.” For his wife was a pair of shoes and gloves. Home came a Bible and a testament to feed the soul and 20 gallons of rum for a little merriment.

Before Christmas of 1737, William bought a pair of women’s shoes, one spelling book, seven pounds of sugar, and five gallons of rum. The first two items were perhaps Christmas gifts. The sugar was for cooking and the rum undoubtedly added to the Jenning’s Christmas cheer. From Jennings’s account, Partridge paid an Ann Jennings in January 1738/39. We do not know who she was.

Cash was seldom a medium of exchange in Virginia. William paid his debt to Partridge not only with tobacco, but also with two beaver skins and three gallons of molasses. Virginians imported sugar and molasses from the West Indies. The British Parliament passed the Molasses Act in 1733 to tax molasses and sugar coming from parts of the West Indies not under British Control. Yet most Virginians ignored the Act and Parliament repealed it in 1764.

In 1738 Partridge sold a few other items to Jennings on credit. William bought a pair of mens worsted hose and a “No.4” hat for himself. The “No.4” identified the quality of the hat. For his wife he purchased a pair of red shoes and for a daughter, probably Agnes, also a pair of shoes. He brought home too some paper (one quire).

Partridge made a peculiar reference in Jennings’s 1738 account. A charge was transferred from “yr sonn WM accot in Cash Book.” Yet William’s son, William would have been only about ten years of age.

Jennings’s account for 1756 shows he made a variety of purchases. He bought four broad and four narrow hoes. With five sons and five daughters, he was undoubtedly able to put them to all use. The one dozen plates were all needed, too. We know William could read and write and his purchase of a primer and some paper showed he wanted his children to do the same. A pair of pumps, a cloak, and two yards of ribbon completed the list.

Three of the Jennings sons, Robert, John, and William, moved to Amelia County where they appeared together in the 1745 tithable list.

Around 1763 William and Mary Jane moved to Nottoway Parish, Amelia (now Nottoway) County, to join their sons. On 25 September 1760, William Jennings (of Hanover County), bought 604 acres on both sides of the Little Nottoway River from Martha and Henry Yarborough [804.7] for £200. On 2 June 1762, William sold 300 acres land to his son-in-law John Fowlkes [408.2] for £150. On 25 November 1762, William Jennings, still “of Hanover County,” bought from James Atwood and Mary, his wife, 400 acres in two parcels for £180. A year later, on 29 April 1763, William Atwood sold “William Jennings Sr., of Amelia, Planter” 200 acres between Cabin Branch and Deep Creek for £95. On 20 August 1764, William Jennings, “of Nottoway Parish, Amelia County,” sold George Walton 177 acres on the north side of Deep Creek for £86. Mary, wife of William Jennings, relinquished her dower right.

The Jennings family established (Jennings Ordinary,” which eventually grew to be a village. Beginning in 1766, William began to dispose of his property to his younger sons. On 16 June 1766, William Jennings Sr. conveyed to James Jennings 225 acres on Deep Creek for £100. On 7 November 1772, William conveyed to “my loving son” James Jennings “one Negro boy named Daniel.” Consideration was “love, goodwill and affection I have for my son.” James was a “planter” living in Prince Edward County.

During 1773 William conveyed to his youngest son Joseph 200 acres between Cabin Branch and Deep Creek and “a Negro boy named Peter.” Consideration was “love, goodwill and affection for my son.” This was the land where William and Mary were living and Joseph would take possession only after both parents were dead. On 20 June 1774, William conveyed to his son Joseph four black slaves, Bristol, Jenny, Lucy, and Peter, all of his livestock, and all of his household furniture for £150. The household furniture included items “such as beds, tables, desk, cubbard, chairs, chests and trunks, pewter, pots, looking glass; also my still, working utensils and whatever goods and chattels I am now in possession of.” The same day Joseph Jennings and his wife, Anne, sold 200 acres of land on the north side of Deep Creek to Samuel Thompson [410.8/S] for £200. This was maybe the Jennings plantation and though obviously William was still alive that day. We presume William Jennings died later in 1774.

A very interesting controversy surrounds the so-called "Jennings Estate." The controversy is as follows:

Henry VIII appointed his friend Robert Jennens the game warden at Shottle, near Duffield in Derbyshire. Jennens married Ellen Beard and they had a son, William Jennens of Mobourne Hill. Robert Jennens lies buried in Derbyshire Churchyard. Son William moved to Birmingham and married Joanna Elliott. He died 6 December 1602 and she, on 10 December 1621. Both are buried in St. Martin’s Church in Birmingham.

William Jennens and Joanna Elliott were the parents of John Jennens of Warwickshire (1579-1653), a distinguished Birmingham iron master and owner of "Aston Hall." Sir Thomas Holte built “Aston Hall” in 1618-35 and it has been preserved as a museum since 1864. Washington Irving came to "Aston Hall" on his visit to England and we believe that it was the manor house he described in Bracebridge Hall; or, The Humorists, published in 1822.

Humphrey Jennens, the son of John Jennens, was born in Warwickshire, 23 August 1629. He was the owner of “Erdington Hall” and was an iron master of Birmingham. In 1659 he married Mary Milward (1637-1708) by whom he had ten children of whom four were: Robert Jennens, Hester Jennens, Ann Jennens, and William Jennens.

Son Robert Jennens (1671-1725) married in 1700, Ann Guidotte, daughter and heir of Carew Guidotte (-1761). They had one son, William Jennens (1701-1798) of Acton Place, Suffolk, whose godfather was King William. William was a miser who died unmarried and intestate, leaving an enormous estate that became a matter for the British court to settle. They declared that the inheritor of the real property was George Augustus William Curzon, a descendant of Robert Jennens’s eldest sister Hester. George’s mother, Sophia Charlotte Howe, took possession of the estate for him. After his early death she continued to hold the property for her second son, Richard William Penn Curzon (1796-1870). They later alleged, however, that the second son was the illegitimate son of a single woman named Ann Oake

The court divided the personal property of William Jennens between the living next of kin. They were Mary, Lady Andover, a granddaughter of Humphrey Jennens’s daughter Ann and William Lygon (1747-1816), the Earl of Beauchamp, a grandson of Hester Jennens, and a descendant of Thomas Lygon [14080].

Nevertheless, controversy arose. William Jennens, born 15 November 1676, the youngest son of Humphrey Jennens and Mary Milford, was a British officer who had came to America to fight in the Indian wars. If it were he who was the William Jennings who wed Mary Jane Pulliam, then many Americans were coheirs. Litigation on behalf of the American descendants commenced around 1850. Every descendant of anybody who had an ancestor named “Jennings” was solicited. The accumulation of funds for litigation was initiated in England. Virginia descendants helped collect large sums of money. Many individuals named “Jennings,” even ones with no relation to William Jennings, sent money in hopes that they might share in the inheritance.

Yet the claim was a fraud perpetrated on the Jennings of America. We believe the American descendants who helped in the solicitation were misled, as well. A mail fraud of similar nature deceived individuals who believed they were the descendants of the brother of Sir Francis Drake. The great Drake mail fraud was tried in New York and resulted in conviction

The controversy continued in 1931 when some Jennings heirs produced the following marriage certificate that purported to prove William Jennings was the son of Humphrey Jennens, and thus an heir to the Jennens fortune:

Sussex County Circuit Court

Below is a copy of record from Sussex County, Virginia, relative to the marriage of William Jennings (1676-1775) and Mary Jane Pulliam:

United States of America

State of Virginia

County of Sussex


I, Jesse Hargrave, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Sussex County, in the State of Virginia, aforesaid, do certify that said Court is a Court of Record, do hereby certify that the following is a true and correct copy of the marriage record of William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam as of record in my said office.

Married January 24, 1724, William Jennings and Mary J. Pulliam, wife’s parents Joseph and Mary Pulliam, husband’s parents Humphrey and Mary Milwood Jennens. Copy from Albemarle Parish Record.

In testimony whereof I have hereto set my hand and affixed the Seal of said Court, this Fourteenth day of January, A.D. 1931, in the 155 year of the Commonwealth.

Jesse Hargrave, Clerk

State of Virginia

County of Sussex


I, M.R. Peterson, sole Judge of the Circuit Court of the County of Sussex, in the State of Virginia, do certify that Jesse Hargrave, who hath given the proceeding certificate is now and was at the time of giving the same, Clerk of the said Court, duly elected and qualified; that his signature to said certificate is genuine, and his attestation in due form. Given under my hand, this 14th day of January, 1931.

M.R. Peterson, Judge of the Court aforesaid.

A lawsuit was filed in London on 5 November 1931 based on the above marriage certificate. This claim had been presented often before in the British courts and each time it failed for the same reason: William Jennens, the son of Humphrey Jennens, died in London in 1744 leaving a will in which he mentioned no wife or children. Further, the marriage certificate above has several problems.

1) The marriage could not have occurred in Sussex County in 1724 for that county was formed from Surry County in 1748.

2) It purports to be the record of a man of forty-eight years of age who had ten children in thirteen years and then lived to be ninety-nine, an extreme age for those days.

3) No record of such a marriage is in the Albemarle Parish Register.

4) It gives the names of the grooms deceased parents. This probably makes it the only marriage certificate of its kind in Virginia.

5) It is probably inadmissable as court evidence as it was not recorded at the time of the wedding.

Someone probably inserted the record in the Sussex record book without the knowledge of the court’s officers Hargrave and Peterson.

Perpetrators of the fraud even went as far as to erect a gravestone at the ancient site of (Sunnyside), the one-time home of the family.


1704 - 1774

Of Hanover County




1676 - 1775

Born in England

Retired British Officer

The Chancery Court of England in 1933 threw out the Jennings inheritance claim again. As reported in the New York Times on 5 February 1933 the Court characterized the claim as (frivolous, vexatious, and an abuse of the court.)

Ironically, several Jennings family genealogists still describe Mary Jane Pulliam’s husband as William Jennings, the son of Humphrey Jennens of Warwickshire. The grave stone even deceived A.B. Cummins, the author of Nottoway County, Virginia. He rediscovered it and reported in his book as a legitimate part of Nottoway County history.



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William Henry Jennings's Timeline

November 10, 1676
Aston Parish, Yorkshire, England
November 10, 1676
Leipfield, Yorkshire, England
Age 44
Hanover County, Province of Virginia
January 4, 1725
Age 49
Hanover County, Virginia, United States
March 10, 1726
Age 50
Hanover County, Province of Virginia
Age 52
Age 53
Virginia, United States
Age 55