Are john Lanier (Lanier-60) and his son John Lanier (Lanier-56) the same person?

+4 votes

The profiles for John Lanier (Lanier-60) and his son John Lanier (Lanier-56) were created based on the work of Louise Ingersoll, but there isn't any documentary evidence for the existence of a younger John Lanier, and the circumstantial evidence is weak, at best.  I am proposing that the two profiles be merged.

[  Lanier: A Genealogy of the family who came to Virginia . . . , by Louise Ingersoll, 1965.]

Starting with the known facts, John Lanier is mentioned in his father's will, dated Feb. 1658/9, with language indicating that he was not living in the area (London) at the time.  A John Lanier and Lucrece Lanier arrived in Charles City County, Virginia, sometime before the spring of 1659.  John Lanier appears in  a number of Charles City County records between 1665 and 1695, including his participation in Bacon's Rebellion in 1676.  John Lanier died sometime between when he signed his will on Jan. 1717/18 and when it was proved in 1719. None of the records refer to a senior or junior John Lanier, as you might expect if there were two people with the same name.

Ingersoll argued that the John Lanier who was named in his father's 1659 will and who immigrated to Virginia was the father of the John Lanier who participated in Bacon's Rebellion and died c. 1719.  She based her argument on an assumed birth of the elder Lanier in 1631, which would make him (according to Ingersoll) too old to have participated in Bacon's Rebellion and too old to have died in 1719.  But the birth date of 1631 is questionable.  She also said that there was a "tradition" that a young son named John came over from England with his parents, but she doesn't give any references to that tradition.  Ingersoll made a number of unstated assumptions that informed her thinking.

  1. Ingersoll wrote that "From the baptismal dates of the other children, it seems that John was born about October 1631," but she didn't elaborate on her reasoning. (Page 8)  The baptisms of eight of Clement's 11 or 12 children are to be found in the St. Alfege Parish Register in Greenwich, England.  Six of those children also appear in Clement's will, and in all but one case, the order they appear in the will matches the order of their baptisms.  It would seem reasonable to assume, barring any evidence to the contrary, that John was also listed in the will in order by age.  That would put his birth in about 1640 rather than 1631.
  2. Ingersoll claimed that John Lanier was in Virginia by 1656 (page 9), but the record of his arrival implies that he arrived sometime before the spring of 1659. (The record is undated, but it is among other records from 1659.)  A birth in 1640 would make him about 18 years old when he arrived in Virginia.
  3. Ingersoll states in her book that "John Lanier married in England before coming to Virginia," (page 9), but then admits that "no records have been found in London or East Greenwich of the marriage of John Lanier to Lucreece." (page 13)  John Lanier had a sister named Lucretia, and it's possible that the Lucrece who came to Virginia was John's sister, rather than his wife.  If so, she must have died soon after her arrival in America because she is not mentioned in her father's 1658/9 will.
  4. It is known that a John Lanier participated in Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, and Ingersoll states that he "is said to have encamped at Jordans Point," although she doesn't give a source for that statement. (page 13)  She then argues that the elder John Lanier, born in 1631, was too old to have camped out in 1676 and so there must have been a younger John Lanier.  But if John was born in 1640, he would have been about 36 at the time, plenty young enough to be camping out.  He also would have been old enough to be the John Lanier who met with Gov. Berkeley that same year. (page 13)
  5. The will of John Lanier was probated in 1719. Using a birth date of 1631, Ingersoll argues that the elder John Lanier would have been 88 years old at the time, unusually old for a person living in the rugged conditions of the early frontier days, and therefore the will must belong to his son. (page 13)  But if John was born in 1640, then he would have died at age 79 - still fairly old for that time and place, but quite possible.
  6. If there was no younger John Lanier, so that all of the children attributed to both Johns actually belonged to the elder John, then his children would be (1) Katherine, b. abt 1664, d. 1665, (2) Robert, b. abt 1678, (3) John, b. abt 1680, (4) Sampson, b. abt 1682, (5) Sarah b. abt  1686, and (6) Nicholas b. abt 1690.  The births of all but Katherine come from Ingersoll's book, and she doesn't explain how she came up with those dates, but if we assume they are correct, then they are reasonable for a man born in 1640.  The gap between the births of Katherine and Robert indicate that he may have had two wives.

Ingersoll's arguments for the existence of a younger John Lanier are all based on an assumed birth date for the elder John Lanier of 1631, but that date seems suspect.  If he was born in 1640, most of her arguments disappear.  Since there are no records that actually show the existence of two John Laniers, father and son, and since there isn't even much circumstantial evidence, I propose that the profiles for the father (Lanier-60) and the son (Lanier-56) be merged.  What do other people think?

WikiTree profile: John Lanier
in Genealogy Help by William Horder G2G1 (2.0k points)
retagged by Richard Devlin
Thank you Bill for a very fair analysis of the John Lanier evidence.
I agree that your analysis sounds very reasonable.

4 Answers

+2 votes
The Connection Finder has them as father and son.
by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (2.3m points)
Yes, but the question here is: is the Connection Finder wrong?
+4 votes

There was a John Lanier baptised in Kent (but near Canterbury, a long way from Lewisham) in 1631 but his father was Robert. He therefore cannot be the same John mentioned in Clement's will but he is probably the origin of the 1631 birthdate.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 March 2020), John Lanier, 1631

by Matthew Fletcher G2G6 Pilot (113k points)
+2 votes
I think your reasoning is quite sound.

The only reason I can think of for NOT merging them is the difficulty of undoing the merge, whereas if more evidence is found they can always be merged later.

But things that are supposed to happen later on WikiTree often don't.
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (147k points)
+3 votes
It has been 2 years. These are all excellent arguments. I am actually the person who reprinted the Lanier book by Ingersoll in 1996. It is a good book but I think she was wrong about 2 Johns.

Occam's Razor would suggest there was only 1 John.

I suggest the profiles be merged.
by Stephen Freeman G2G3 (3.4k points)
Stephen, Thank you for keeping Louise Ingersoll's book in print.  It is a great resource, even if I disagree with one small part.

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