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John Harkins origins

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Location: Buncombe, North Carolina, United Statesmap
Surname/tag: Harkins
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This is a study to find the husband of Nancy Harkins, mother of Tilman, Asberry, and James of the 1850 census in Murray County, Georgia.



John Harkins (abt.1775-abt.1836) has been given the wrong name for years. It is time to give him the correct name and put his family together.

Early Research

"Decendants [sic] of James and Nancy Harkins" by Blanche Harkins McDonald,

"James Harkins was born, we believe, in South Carolina about 1795. He died before 1850 but the exact date and the place of death is unknown. An 1850 Census Record for Murray County Georgia shows that his family, wife Nancy Harkins, a widow, and three sons, James Marshal, Tilman R. and Asberry B. were living in the 63rd Division of that County on November 13, 1850. No record was found to identify our great-great grandfather as James Harkins. The name James and James Marshall run consistently through the family and we feel sure his name was James. We have so identified him in this chronicle."

I have used John Harkins as the husband of Nancy for the following reasons.

Census records

Nancy Harkins

1850 Census

Nancy Harkins is listed in the 1850 census [1] with two of her sons, Tilman and Asberry . Next door lives James Harkins, in 1870 Nancy is living with Lloyd and Millie (32) Henson. Millie is her daughter. Other children include Sarah Harkins Chastain who wrote a letter on Dovina Harkins' behalf concerning Dovina's claim to Indian Heritage. The other accepted daughter is Pearl Ina Harkins Henson. [2]

Using this information we have the following family outline - all birth years/ages appx ages in 1850

Nancy - born 1796 age 54
Pearl - born 1818 age 31
James - born 1819 age 30
Sarah - born 1825 age 25
Tilman - born 1826 age 24
Asberry - born 1828 age 21
Millie - born 1832 age 17

1840 Census

In the 1840 Census Nancy is the head of household in Henderson County, North Carolina. The presumption is her husband died before 1840.

Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14 2 Tilman (14), Asberry (11)
Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 29 1 James (20)
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 9 1 Millie (7)
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 19 2 Sarah (15), and unknown
Free White Persons - Females - 20 thru 29 1 Pearl (21)
Free White Persons - Females - 40 thru 49 1 Nancy

The family matches except for one additional female - age 15 thru 19. With Sarah at 15 and James at 20 the other female would probably be about 18 - born 1822. This matches with Malissa Harkins Chastain born 1822 in South Carolina.

John Harkins

1830 Census

Several years ago I conducted a search of all census records from 1830 in the Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina areas for Harkins including Hawkins and other variations. I searched for

2 males 0-5 Tilman (4) Asberry (1)
1 male 10-15 James (10)
1 female 0-5 Sarah (5)
1 female 5-10 Malissa (8)
1 female 10-15 Pearl (11)
1 female 30-40 Nancy (34)

In SC (2 reviewed) and GA (8 reviewed) there were no matches. In North Carolina there was one match - John Harkins of Buncombe county. Note that Henderson County was formed in 1838 from part of Buncombe county.

John harkins -

males 2/0-5
female 1/0-5

This exactly matches with the addition of a male 60-70 - John.

1820 Census

If the 1830 census is correct the in 1820 we would be looking for

1 male <10 James (0)
1 male > 45 John
1 female <10 Pearl (1)
1 female 16-26 Nancy (24)

Only one record in the three state are matched: John Harkins Greenville, SC 2 1 - - 1 - 3 1 1 - - - 1 - - - - -

2 males<10
males 10-16
males 26-45
3 females<10
females 10-16
female 16-26

matches: nancy age 24 - pearl age 2 james age under 1

John should be over 45 if he is 60-70 in 1830 census but either could be an error.

This leaves 5 people unaccounted for: 1 male <10, 1 male 10-16, 2 females <10, and 1 female 10-16

The male 10-16 could be John Jr, born about 1804-1809 who then bought land in 1824 so the 1804 birth year more likely.

The following birth years M/F/F 1811-2 M/F/F 1813-4, M/F/F 1815-6 F 1804-1810

Nancy at age 24 in 1820 could not be the mother of the male and female aged 10-16. With the age difference of John and Nancy it could be presumed she was a second wife.

1810 Census

The 1810 Census offers more possibilities of a family line. Based on the 1820 census we would expect the following minimum: m <10, m 26-45, f<10 and another older female probably 26-45. By now I am looking for John Harkins.

john hawkins, union sc m>10, m26-45, 2f<10, f26-45
another John hawkins 2m<10, 1m 10-15, m26-44 3f<10, 1f10-15, f26-44
maybe under Harkness in Pendleton, SC 1 - 1 1 - 1 1 1 1 - - 3
john harkins 1800 pendleton dist sc 1 - - 1 - 1 - 1 - - - - m <10, 26-44, f<10, f 16-25

This matches most of the information from 1820 but indicates a first wife with 3 children under 10. An estimate is that she died between1815 and 1817 and John then married Nancy and started a new family. Noting that Pearl and James claim to be born in South Carolina, the Union SC option seems viable but this is getting too distant from known data to be much use without other sources.

John Jr

As noted above, John Harkins/Hawkins Jr. bought property on the Davidson River in 1824. This could be John's son . I suspect I have him in census records: 1830

1 m > 5 BOY B
1 m 5-10 BOY A
1 m 20-29 John Jr
1 f 20-29 WIFE

John Jr in 1830 is in Buncombe County, NC, age ~28 (m20-29) and there is a male under 5 and a male 5-9 and a female 20-29. In 1840 in Henderson county is a John Harkins with -

males 2 under 5, 2 at 5-9, 1 at 10-14, one at 15-19 and John at 30-39 with a female 20-29 and 1 at 30-39

If his father died about 1836 then the additional female could be John Jr's sister.

Paper Trail

There is no known paper trail on John so far other than the census records and the land records. There are also no sources on Nancy other than the census and land record. Unfortunately between the time John died and Nancy left North Carolina the land became part of Henderson county and I have not been able to locate the land records for that county. The same for John Jr (1802-?)

The sources on the remaining people just need to be reviewed. Several people have worked on this family line since the 1950's. If you find any of this work please share. I have a tree and notes created by Juanita (Gamble) Harkins.

The paper trail has provided us with the children of John and Nancy Harkins.

Pearl Ina Harkins Henson (1818), James Marshall Harkins (1819), Malissa Harkins Chastain (1822), Sarah Melissa Harkins Chastain (1825), Tilman R Harkins (1826), Asberry B Harkins (1828), and Millie Harkins Henson (1832)

We also have a good guess and some of John's first family although not his wife. John Jr (1802) and a son (1811-16) along with three daughter (1804-09, and two 1811-1816.)

Buncombe Land Records

In 2015 I located an index book to Buncombe county, North Carolina deeds, [3] There were four significant entries:

  1. page 211 : 7-5-1836 Book 20 Pg 398 to Nancy Harkins from Zachariah Candler 50 acres, Davidson River
  2. page 210: 2-12-1824 book 13 pg 433 to Harkins, John Jr from Young, John 100 Acres Davidson River
  3. page 215: 10-12-1795 book 3 pg 36 to Hawkins, James et al from Springfield, James; 755 acres, Davidson Creek.
  4. page 216: 10-12-1795 book 3 pg 36 to Hawkins, John et al from Stringfield, James; 755 acres, Davidson Creek.

So John Jr (in 1824) and Nancy (1836) both acquired land in the Davidson River area and James and John Hawkins acquired land together in 1795 in Davidson Creek. This area was part of Buncombe county but was included in the newly formed Henderson County in 1838.

UPDATE 26Sep18 Transcription of the record of Deed listed above for Nancy Harkins

"This Indenture made the 5th day of July 1836 between Zachariah Candler of the one part & Nancy Harkins a widow of the other part both of the State of North Carolina& county of Buncombe (witnessed??) that for __ sum of twenty five dollars to me in hand paid the receipt is hereby acknowledged and that I Zachariah Candler have this day bargained & sold & conveyed unto the aforesaid Nancy Harkins her heirs and assigns one certain tract of land lying in the aforesaid State and County on the south fork of Davidsons River including the Mill place where the aforesaid Nancy Harkins now lives Begining on a small Whiteoak marked thus IH about twenty five poles from D creek or fork then runs South seventy three degrees East sixty poles crossing the creek to a Servis Bush then South fifteen degrees one hundred and sixty poles to a stake then North seventy five degrees west forty poles to a stake, then North fifteen degrees west one hundred poles to a stake, then North sixty four degrees west eighty three poles to a stake, then North fifty five degrees East fifty poles to the Beginning crossing the creek con- taining fifty acres more or less the same being part of a large tract of land granted to David Allison first secondly to John Harkins so for fifty acres with all its rights and the aforesaid Zachariah Candler do by these presents warrant and forever defend the aforesaid piece of land with all its rights & privileges & every of its (appro- rtenances ) whatsoever thereunto belonging clear & free from himself his heirs and assigns executors & administrators or the lawful right or claim of all & every person or persons whatsoever unto the aforesaid Nancy Harkins her heirs & assigns forever In witness whereof the aforesaid Zachariah Candler _?_ hereunto set his hand & Seal this day & date first above written Attested by Jas Hamblin (Junat) Zachariah Candler SEAL John Hawkins

North Carolina } County (borest??) Feb Term 1837 Buncombe County } The within deed was duly proven in open court by the oath of Jas Hamblin a subscribing witness thereto recorded and ordered to be registered

Register March 29th 1837"

Note that Nancy, widow, was living at the Mill place on the property. The original owner was David Allison then John Harkins. John Hawkins was an attestor - possibly John Jr? The property was included in Henderson county when it formed in 1838.

In reviewing the deed of the sale (2) from John Young to John Harkins Jr, 15 July 1824 the land also was originally owned by David Allison. Sold by James Hughey High Sherriff for the tax due. Also includes the improvements (said) Harkins has made...

in another property transfer to John Hawkins '... west bank of French Broad River below the mouth of Davidson Creek formerly, now Millers river ....'

in 1838 John sells 50 acres of land he previously lived on (part of 100 acres granted to George W Jones on 5 dec 1818) to George Candler. Land is adjacent to 100 acres of land he buys in 1838 from George W Jones. these two and the land of Nancy all 'begining at the Whiteoak on the point of the ridge' but one goes south and east and one goes north and west. This needs further investigation to compare descriptions.

Remember all of these properties were transferred to Henderson county about 1838.

Research Notes

There is still a lot of work on this location that needs to be covered. As I am a west coaster I appreciate any help anyone can offer.

Probate Records

Are there probate records for Buncombe county for 1795-6 and 1835-36?

Land Records

Need to look at Transylvania county land records for a sale. Need to look at Henderson county land records for sale by Nancy and or John Harkins Jr.

Vital Records

Any for Buncombe or Transylvania county? Need early source for Ina Pearl for verification of relationship.


  1. 1850 Census, Census Place: , Murray, Georgia; Roll: M432_78; Page: 262; Image: 529.
  2. This comes from research done in the 1950's, there are later sources but none of the early life that indicates parent.
  3. Buncombe county, North Carolina Index to deeds, 1783-1850,
  • Buncombe county, North Carolina Index to deeds, 1783-1850,
  1. page 211 : 7-5-1836 Book 20 Pg 398 to Nancy Harkins from Zachariah Candler 50 acres, Davidson River
  2. page 210: 2-12-1824 book 13 pg 433 to Harkins, John Jr from Young, John 100 Acres Davidson River
  • 1810 United States Federal Census", Online publication, Ancestry.com; Original data - Third Census of the United States, 1810. (NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls). Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; Roll: 61; Page: 591; Family History Number: 0181420; Image: 00442.
  • 1820 United States Federal Census", Online publication, Ancestry.com; Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourth Census of the United States, 1820. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1820. M33, 14; Roll: M33_120; Page: 83; Image: 143.
  • 1830 United States Federal Census", Online publication, Ancestry.com; Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifth Census of the United States, 1830. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1830. M19, 201; Roll: 118; Page: 209.
  • 1840 United States Federal Census", Online publication, Ancestry.com; Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixth Census of the United States, 1840. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1840. M704, 58; Detail Year: 1840; Census Place: , Henderson, North Carolina; Roll: 362; Page: 131.
  • "1850 United States Federal Census", Online publication, Ancestry.com; Original data - United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. M432, 1,009 rolls

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Categories: Family Mysteries