Nichols - Narramore Connections in Early Tennessee

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Tennessee, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Nichols Narramore
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This is a research project to gain a better understanding of where an early eastern Tennessee Nichols line branched off (on their direct paternal line) from the southern branch of the Narramore family. It will eventually be linked to the Nichols Name Study and the Narramore Name Study.

The project will focus on trying to determine which expected paternal-line descendants of Walter Nichols (abt.1794-abt.1857) are related to him biologically - and which of them appear to descend from a Narramore.


Paper Trail

We have strong contemporaneous evidence that Walter Nichols (abt.1794-abt.1857) had about four sons, and four daughters. However, we know nothing about his wife/wives or parents.

Thanks to new Y-DNA testing, we now understand that descendants of two of Walter's male children aren't paternally related to each other. There are several possible explanations for this:

  1. Walter married more than once and adopted the children of one of his wives who were fathered by another man.
  2. Walter adopted some/all of the children of a neighbor or family member after the death of their parent(s).
  3. At least one of his sons was born out of wedlock.

We'll explore these explanations below.

"Sons" of Walter Nichols. Y-DNA tested in orange; AncestryDNA-tested in green.

Our next step is to try to find additional Nichols men to take a Y-37 (or higher) test - and to examine the partial information available from Census records of Walter and the children he raised.

Y-DNA Evidence

NJN: Noman Jasper Nichols (1919-2014) is believed to be the second-great-grandson of Walter Nichols (abt.1794-abt.1857), via Walter's eldest known son, George Washington Nichols (abt.1821-abt.1900). Noman is one of 19 Nichols men grouped together in the "Haplogroup R-P312 - CTS1751 - Possible Clan MacNicol/Nicholson/Nichols Group" of FTDNA's Nichols surname project. This doesn't necessarily "prove" his line of descent from Walter, but it is believed to be true. It certainly proves that his Nichols paternal line goes back for many, many generations.

Visit Y-DNA matches from the Nichols surname project at FTDNA, set page size to 2000, then search for CTS1751.

In December 2020, a new Nichols, JN (son of son of HN: Harley Jack Nichols (1924-2017)), took a Big Y-700 test, FTDNA kit# 939199. JN was previously believed to be the Nichols third cousin once-removed of Noman. However, their Y-DNA tests didn't match. In fact, JN didn't match to any tested Nichols men. Instead, most of his matches were Narramore men (various spellings). It appears almost certain that he's a Narramore paternal-line descendant from the "Southern" Narramore line.

Visit Y-DNA matches from the Narramore surname project on FTDNA.

Children Raised by Walter

The current thought is that Walter Nichols raised the following children. We will then discuss which of them are most likely to be his biological children.

  1. George Washington Nichols (abt.1821-abt.1900)
  2. Sarah (Nichols) Vinyard (1823-1898)
  3. Thomas W Nichols (1826-1900)
  4. Elizabeth (Nichols) Stewart (1830-abt.1862)
  5. James Robert Nichols (1832-1912)
  6. Amanda (Nichols) Oakes (1834-1902)
  7. Cordelia Jane (Nichols) Thurman (1837-abt.1902)
  8. William B Nichols (1840-1908)

Census Records

Walter Nichols (c1794-c1857) appeared in only one Census where his household members were named, 1850.[1] Walter was listed as 56 and born (c1794) in NC. It's important to remember that Tennessee was formed in 1796 from areas that had been part of North Carolina. Because we don't know where in North Carolina Walter was born, it's possible (although perhaps not likely) that his birth in 1794 was in an area that became part of Tennessee.

Initial Hypothesis

It seems likely, but not yet proven, that Thomas W Nichols (1826-1900) was the biological grandson of John Narramore Sr (1762-1851). If this is true, we still haven't identified which of John's sons might be the father of Thomas. Our not-yet-proven guess is Joseph Naramore (abt.1795-aft.1837) was the father of Thomas (based on shared AncestryDNA amounts).

Speculation as to the Nichols-Narramore Connection

Because we don't know the identity of Walter's wife (or possibly wives), it's very difficult to evaluate possible theories of relationship. Our work is further hampered by intermarriages between multiple early Tennessee families, making AncestryDNA measurements of shared DNA much less conclusive.

Possible Out-of-Wedlock Birth

In the case of an out-of-wedlock birth, we end up with descendants who are half-siblings and half-cousins. Descendants will still match to each other on tests like AncestryDNA, but at lower levels. Unfortunately, once we get beyond three generations, even full cousins can inherit widely varying segments of DNA.

Possible Multiple Marriages

Because we know nothing about Walter's early life, his parents, or his wife (or wives), this section is pure speculation. Part of the goal of the research project is to turn some of this speculation into data-supported theories.

One possible explanation for the current Y-DNA evidence is that Walter was married twice. Perhaps his first wife died young, after they had several children (including George Washington Nichols (abt.1821-abt.1900)). With several young children, Walter would have needed a new wife.

That unknown (if true) second wife might have been a widow herself. Perhaps she had been previously married to a Narramore and had several children with him (including perhaps Thomas W Nichols (1826-1900)). Walter might have adopted Thomas and given him his Nichols surname.

Speculative possible relationships.

If Walter took a second wife, some of his youngest children might have been born by her. But since we don't know if he actually had two wives, much less when he married the second one, it's difficult to prove any of this.

AncestryDNA Evidence

Autosomal DNA tests like AncestryDNA can do a great job of identifying if two matches are closely related. However, they don't identify HOW the matches are related. The problem is compounded if matches are related on more than one line - which is often the case in this particular Nichols family. As a result, AncestryDNA tests can only be considered as supporting evidence; certainly not proof.

However, results from a Dec 2020 study of the AncestryDNA matches of JN's father, HN, are compelling. HN matches to 210 people who identify that they descend from a Narramore. Almost all of the reviewed matches state that they descend from either John Narramore Sr (1762-1851) or John's father, Edward Narramore Sr (abt.1735-1794).


Southeast Tennessee county borders - 1807.

We have many questions about the exact dates and places of our ancestors' residences, in part because TN counties were being created and redrawn constantly during the early 1800s. Ancestry, for example, all but forces users to describe locations using current boundaries rather than the historical county names. Here's a brief summary of some of the county changes that affected our ancestors:

  • Knox Co created 15 Jun 1792 from Greene Co, Hawkins Co, and non-county area 1 (Cherokee Territory).
    • Blount Co - created 2 Aug 1795 from parts of Knox Co and non-county area 1 (Cherokee Territory).
      • Roane Co created 20 Dec 1801 from Knox Co and all of non-county area 2.
  • Bledsoe Co created 30 Nov 1807 from part of Roane Co and non-county area 6.
    • McMinn Co created 13 Nov 1819 from part of Rhea Co and part of Roane Co.
      • Polk Co created 28 Nov 1839 from parts of McMinn Co and Bradley Co.

John Narramore was born in the Kershaw District of SC. After the war, he was given a land grant of 640 acres in northeast Bledsoe Co TN; he's said to have relocated there in 1798. Most of his children were born in what is now Cumberland Co TN - not far from what is now McMinn Co TN. From a strictly geographical perspective, one of his sons could have been the father of Thomas Nichols (and possibly some of Thomas's siblings).

Southeast Tennessee county borders - 1855.

Walter Nichols is believed to have been born in NC, sired and raised his children in the McMinn Co TN area, and then moved in a multi-wagon train to Benton Co AR in the late 1850s (where he died in 1857).

Next Steps

The next steps in this research project are to:

1) Identify and encourage additional Narramore and Nichols men to take a Y-DNA test. On the Nichols side, a Y-37 test is probably sufficient. On the Narramore side, at least one (if not two) Big Y-700 tests (from distantly related southern Narramores) would be very helpful - as well as one or more northern Narramores and two from England Narramores.
2) Review lists of AncestryDNA matches from additional Nichols and Narramore descendants. Determine which Nichols lines appear to be closely related to which Narramore lines.

How to Participate

Please contact Kevin Ireland for more information.

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Categories: Narramore Name Study