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Research on FINLEY'S in Harford, Maryland, by Everett Smith

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Location: Harford, Maryland, United Statesmap
Surname/tag: Finley
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The information here is copied from a text written by Everett J Smith around 1998 and published on the web in April 2015. It was shared on Ancestry.com: https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/7318607/person/25792663635/media/3e0a7bbb-ca4a-411e-b501-575912188b01?_phsrc=Syk20&usePUBJs=true

It is not an academic work, but rather a personal investigation using genealogical research standards (he practiced genealogy for 37 years) and some tongue-in-cheek commentary. I have taken the liberty of editing out information that is not helpful and/or cannot be accessed, since his web address is no longer available. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

4/4/2015 FINLEY

I am not related to any FINLEY family member as far as I know so I have no bones to pick, no axe to grind, no Finley family honor to uphold and I'm not trying to be related to any historically­-important, religiously­-important, politically­-important, literarily-­important, inventionally-­important, educationally­-important, self-­important.... or any other kind of important Finley that ever lived.

A James Finley and his family owned my house, in Harford County, Maryland, from 1782 to 1819. I ran into the surname for the first time while doing research on the house and property. In the process I accumulated quite a bit of information on the Finley Clan or The Clan Finley whichever you prefer, and have disseminated it far and wide.

Below is the information that I have collected on my James Finley and his descendants. It's all documented. Nothing came from Family Histories or Finley books. I picked up every bit of evidence myself. I got the stuff from; Wills, Executor/Administrator Records, Estate Sales, Criminal, Civil and Equity Court Records, Land Records, and the Census. I didn't guess, I didn't make things up, and I didn't use Family Bibles or Family Histories ­except as a research tool to help me find, and document, the real stuff.There were several James Finleys' in the area at the time. The following contains information directly attributable to my James Finley only.

I have over­explained all this because there is so much inaccurate, stretched, falsified, slanted, and canted Finley info flying around that every time I opened my mouth about my James, and especially his son Alexander, I got blasted by folks who put all their faith and trust in what they believe to be true but haven't proven for themselves ­ they just took somebody else's word for it. Sometimes I shot back and to those of you who were in the line of fire at the time ­ I do apologize. This is supposed to be a genteel hobby.

A true story:

  • I've been doing genealogical research for 37 years. Several years into it I shared information with other researchers (information I believed to be true even though I had filled in a lot of blanks with conjecture).
  • Years later I ran across several family histories that proved that my earlier theories and guesses were correct. This made me feel good. I felt justified in my earlier guesses. I referenced these histories, and relied on their facts, in future research.
  • Much later, I found to my dismay, that the folks who wrote the histories got their 'facts' from the very same people I had sent my conjectures to years and years before.

The process of putting information into a book had turned my guesses into 'facts' and I, unwittingly, became one of the researchers using these 'facts' to prove my current research.

  • When I finally came top my senses I found myself believing and passing on the 'facts' that I, myself, had generated by guesswork years before. I mean, come on, after all, I just found them in a book ­ and since they're in a book they have to be correct, RIGHT?
  • Please, please, please, don't use other people's work (unless documented and/or certified) ­and this includes those wonderful Family Bibles ­ONLY as a tool to get to the real facts. CHECK YOUR SOURCES, it could be your own stuff coming back to bite ya!

The following is true, accurate, provable, documented and in some cases certified. Anything that is not I'll point out. For those of you who are interested and want the why's and wherefore's of my research, please write.


James Finley and family

I have no idea where James was born or where or when he arrived in America. I believe he was born overseas (scuttlebutt is Ireland). I know he married a woman named Jane but her last name has eluded me (the name Mary Jane Barclay crops up from time to time though), as well as, the date and place of their wedding. ­ I haven't given up looking.

James was a stonemason by trade, I know that because he said so in an Indenture between himself and a neighbor. He purchased the property I now live on at a sale of confiscated British property in 1782. He gave it the name "Honesty is the Best Policy". He applied for a "Patent" on his property on March 21, 1787 (Maryland State Archives ­ IC #K page 229 ­ the Certificate) and received his Patent on August 19, 1795 (Maryland State Archives ­ IC #G page 563).

Best guess is that James arrived in the area in the late 1760's and rented the land from Jacob Sauer, a British subject, the current lessor from Lord Baltimore. He and his family occupied the house. At this juncture I am having trouble believing that he built the house because it is made of logs and James was a stonemason. I therefore believe that the house was already built when he arrived. Plus he had children. He wouldn't have come to a strange place with a family, hunted for a piece of available ground, lived in a tent and built a house, too involved, too messy.

When the British were defeated in the War of Independence and the State of Maryland confiscated all property owned by British subjects (1780), and just about all the land in Maryland that was owned by Henry Harford, the last of the Lord Baltimores, ­ James put in a bid and purchased the land he was then living on and farming. (If you are interested in such things there is a very good account of the 'reign' of the Lord Baltimores in a book called "Henry Harford the Last Proprietor of Maryland" by Dr. Vera F. Rollo, Maryland Historic Press or my little articles in "Time after Time".) _______________

JAMES AND JANE had the following 7 kids:

These 7 children were mentioned together, time after time in equity papers, land transfers and Orphans Court records along with the names of their father and mother: James and Jane. If the Finley family went to church they attended the Bethel Presbyterian Church approximately 2 miles West of the Finley (now my) residence. I have no documentation on the death dates of James or Jane nor do I know where they are buried. If I had to guess I'd say they were buried at Bethel Presbyterian Church, Madonna, Harford County, Maryland, but Bethel's records on early burials are non­existent. As for death dates, I can get real close to James since the inventory which is usually taken within five days of death notification was performed on May 20, 1804, ­ so it's a good guess that he died in May, 1804.

Jane's recorded 'will' was proved by David Bell on August 27, 1808, ­ so my guess is that she died in August of 1808. Only Margaret exists on the 1810 census for Harford County, Maryland. ­ James and Jane were dead and all the other kids had moved away by then.

Jane's 'will' left everything, including "Honesty is the Best Policy" to her daughter Margaret. Margaret was a resident of Richland County, Ohio in 1819 when the property was sold to Frances Gruppy, the deed being signed by all 6 children. Who was living on "Honesty" in those years between 1810 and 1819? Maybe Frances Gruppy rented it and was living there,­ but that's just another guess.

The Harford County, Maryland census for 1790 shows James Finley having:

  • 2 males over 16 years, 1 male under 16, and 4 females (Jane, Mary, Margaret and Hannah), no other people and no slaves.

The Harford County, Maryland census for 1800 shows James Finley as having:

  • 1 male over 45 (James Finley), 1 female over 45 (Jane Finley), 1 female 26 to 45 (Margaret Finley?), 2 females under 10, possibly daughters of Margaret, no other people and 2 slaves.

The Harford County, Maryland census for 1810 shows Peggy (Margaret) Finley, which makes sense since both James and Jane had died, as head of a household containing 1 free, white male 16 to 26, 2 free, white females under 10 years old, and 2 free, white females 26 to 45, one of which had to be Margaret.

The Harford County, Maryland census for 1820 shows none of our Finley's, but a Frances Gruppy appears for the first time,­ which makes sense since the family sold him "Honesty is the Best Policy" in 1819. _________________________


Alexander b. Dec. 27, 1765 (from gravestone) d. Dec. 1, 1825. He married Mary SMITH, b. Dec. 14, 1776 (from gravestone) d. March 23, 1856. Both buried in Jeromesville Cemetery, Mohican, Ohio. There are a lot of references for the Alexander Finley family and his descendants in Ohio. All of my research on Alexander and family in Ohio was by third party, nothing certified. I offer it here as guidance and hopefully a short cut for you.

I don't know exactly when Alexander left Harford County but I know he was still there in June, 1788 because he and his father (James) signed as trustees on behalf of the Creditors of John Finley (his brother?) in John's Insolvency Hearing.

Mary, according to records, was the daughter of Hon. Resolve Smith head of the first bank in Philadelphia. They were married in Greene County, Pennsylvania (the story goes) about 1800, and had 9 children (according to the census, wills, and gravestones);

  • James ­ b. August 9, 1801, Pennsylvania, d. April 27, 1876, Missouri
  • Benjamin ­ b. 1803, Pennsylvania, d. before 1876, Ohio
  • John ­ b. about 1806, Ohio, d. about 1865, Ohio
  • Hannah ­ b. before 1809, d. after 1876
  • Elizabeth ­ b. after 1809, d. after 1876
  • Abner ­ b. about 1813, d. after 1876
  • Sarah ­ b. about 1815, d. after 1876
  • Rachael ­ b. about 1816, d. after 1876
  • Mary ­ b. February 28, 1821, Ohio d. September 12, 1868, Ohio

JAMES was married on July 3, 1828 to Jane ROEN (b. June 11, 1806, d. July 31, 1851) they had 14 children;

  • Hanna A. ­b. June 28, 1834, Ohio
  • Julia A. ­ b. January 2, 1842, d. December 28, 1883 Frank ­ no information
  • Charles ­ no information
  • H. L. ­ no information
  • Richard ­ no information
  • H. W., Capt. ­no information

and 7 more that are 'unknown'.

BENJAMIN was married on August 20, 1830 to Mary MARKS (b. October 7, 1810 ­ d.11 September, 1851, Ohio) they had 6 children;

  • James ­ 1835 Hannah ­ 1838 William ­ 1841
  • Cyrus S. ­ b. May 29, 1844, Ohio, d. 1905, Indiana m. Susan R. SLAGLE, they had one son: Benjamin Kurtz
  • Barkley ­ 1847
  • Robert ­ 1848

JOHN was married on September 13, 1827 to Sarah BEARD they had 6 children;

  • Elizabeth ­ no information
  • Lusette ­ m. Wesley CHESROUN, May 28, 1857, 8 children
  • Luther C. ­ no information
  • Mary ­ no information
  • Sarah E. ­ m. Newton RICHEY, August 11, 1868, 1 child:
  • Abner ­ b. 1830, m. Elizabeth B. SMITH, February 28, 1856, 8 children

HANNAH ­ no information

ELIZABETH ­ no information (Actually, Elizabeth Finley m. James POCOCK (my ancestor) - they are part of the trio of brothers who marrried sisters)

ABNER ­ was married on May 20, 1840 to Sarah Ann WILSON they had 5 children;

  • Sophronia ­ 1841, m. Cyrus S. SEIBERT, January 30, 1862, 3 children
  • Martha ­ 1843
  • James W. ­1846
  • Mary ­ 1848
  • Emiline ­ 1851

SARAH­ was married on July 6, 1837 to Daniel POCOCK (b. before 1814, harford Co., Maryland) they had 1 child ­ (They actually had 7)

  • Daniel Finley, b. September 26, 1842, Ohio

RACHAEL­ no information

MARY ­ was married on September 19, 1844 to Elijah POCOCK, Jr. (February 22, 1817 ­ August 17, 1864, Ohio) they had 7 children; Edgar ­ no information

  • M. Helen ­ no information
  • James M. ­ 1850
  • D. E. ­ 1852
  • Abner F. ­ 1856
  • Thomas ­ 1862
  • Elizabeth ­ no information


MARY (FINLEY) and BARNETT WILLIAMS ­ After years of searching I finally found Mary and Barnett this week (February 18, 1998) in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, thanks to Marylin Foster and Karen Souhrada who gathered information on the cemeteries of Fayette County and made that information available on the web. Many, many thanks to these two and others who have gone out of their way to make genealogical information available to all! Mary and Barnett had at least one daughter:

  • Mary, b. April 5, 1799, d. July 7, 1852 in Luzerne Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania and buried in the Dearth Family Cemetery next to her husband Larkins Simmons DEARTH, b. October 5, 1797, d. June 14, 1851, son of George and Elizabeth DEARTH.

Mary and Larkins had 2 children: ­

  • Mary Jane DEARTH, b. February 12, 1838, d. December 8, 1854. Buried next to her parents.
  • John W. Dearth


MARGARET and HANNAH ­ Margaret was the Executrix of her mother's will (it was more of a deed than a will) of November, 1804, proved in August, 1808, she was also the sole beneficiary. A confusing thing to me is that even though, through her mother, she got "Honest is the Best Policy", all the other children of James and Jane signed the deed which conveyed it to Frances Gruppy in 1819, ­11 years later.

Margaret was also the Administratrix of her father's estate from May, 1804, shortly after the death of her father James, to December, 1806 when it was finally settled.

Margaret and Hannah were the last two to leave "Honesty is the Best Policy" as alluded to in a book by Rev. Andrew B. Cross one of the ministers of Bethel Presbyterian Church from ?? to ?? ­ "had two daughters who recently went west ...."

  • In the 1810 census for Harford County, Maryland. Margaret (Peggy) Finley is the head of the household over 1 free, white male aged 16 to 26 (?), 2 free, white females under 10 (??), and 2 free, white females 26 to 45 (Margaret and ?).
  • In the deed:­ Heirs of James Finley to Frances Gruppy in June, 1819 Margaret and Hannah (aged 47), are listed together as being residents of Richland County, Ohio.
  • 1820 census Mohican Township, Wayne County, Ohio: ­ 1 female 16 to 26, and 1 female over 45 (Hannah, aged 48).
  • 1830 census Mohican Township, Wayne County, Ohio: ­ 1 female 20 to 30, and 1 female 50 to 60 (Hannah, aged 58).
  • 1840 census, Hannah is not listed as head of household. She was 68 years old.
  • 1850 census, Hannah is listed as living with Mary Finley (aged 73), widow of Alexander. She is 78 years old.


ROBERT ­ Although I haven't personally seen proof that the following Robert Finley of is the son of my James and the brother of Alexander, there seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence. Such as, to date, there has only been found one Robert Finley with a wife named Mary in Richland County, Ohio in the required time period. Robert appears on a deed in Harford County with a wife named Mary ­ in the right time period. The rest of his brothers and sisters are in the same area at the same time (except Mary who married Barnett Williams and stayed in Fayette County, PA.) and the names of his children and grandchildren are Jame's and Jane's family names. It could all be coincidence, but ..... Leslie McLaughlin, R.G. wrote "Our Book of Finleys and Their Kinfolk Families", Heritage Books, Inc., 1990. In it she provides information on Robert and Mary (Craig) Finley and their descendants. It would not be prudent to reproduce her book here and besides my Internet Provider would have a hissy with the size of the files. So find it or buy it for yourself. Remember, so far this Robert has only been tied to James and Alexander by coincidence but, here goes .... from the book; Robert died july 4, 1825 in Vermillion Township, Ashland County, Ohio at the age of 65 (b. 1760). He married Mary Craig about 1780. She was born about April 1764 and died about April 1847 in Vermillion Township. They had the following children; Hugh ­ b. ca. 1790, ch. James, Isaac, Drucilla Hannah ­ b. ca. 1792, m. William Irwin, ch. Smith, Milton, Finley, and 3 or 4 daughters Eli ­ b. April 25, 1794, Fayette Co., PA, m. Catherine Palmer and Naoma, ch. Martha, Catherine, Jane, Loren, Louisa Jane ­ b. 1795, d. 1865, m. John King, they had 13 children Barkley ­ Sarah ­ John ­ Alexander ­ Mary Elizabeth ______________________________

JOHN ­ I believe that if my James Finley family had a black sheep, John would have been it. John was thrown in jail for bad debts ­ "Debtor's Prison" I believe it was called. His father James and his brother Alexander stood surety for him and became the salesmen of his property to pay his debts and get him out of jail. _______________________________

Finally... If you've waded through all this stuff, made it here to the bottom without pulling your hair out and still can't find your Finley don't give up just yet. The research and databases of Carmen J. Finley, C.G., Ph.D. puts my paltry attempts to shame.

Prepared by: Everette C. Smith, R.L.S. Email:11007@iname.com

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