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William DeSpain a Family Mystery

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Location: Green, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Surname/tag: DeSpain
Profile manager: Laura DeSpain private message [send private message]
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To return to William's Profile William DeSpain

I have moved the discussion about William Perry DeSpain/John William DeSpain from his profile to this page. Please add, discuss, comment and ask on this page concerning his real name, who his parents were or, were not and all the mysteries that surround his beginnings. If possible please source your information.

NOTE: There seems to be something wrong with this page. Twice I have added a lot of information and saved it. However, for some reason, it disappears and does not even show that the action occurred in my contributions list. I will try again soon. I hope that this saves.

DNA has proven that William was a DeSpain. I will add that information "again" soon. I will also add again why it is highly improbable that Peter was his father. It is more likely that he was a grandson or, the child of one of Peter's, DeSpain nephews.

Here are open questions about William. Please add to this text, upload unidentified pictures, add your questions to the bulletin board, post fuzzy memories you want to clear up, etc.

  • Who was the real William Perry DeSpain?
  • Was Peter really his father?

After having researched this for several years I will be adding things to consider when it comes to answering these questions and others. Please add your own information and comments or questions to this page.

From his profile:

Info from Carol Coady (1999): There have been many confusions regarding this probable illegitimate son of Peter DeSpain. On my William's death certificate (this is my great grandfather) the name of his father, Peter DeSpain, is written therein but a line marked through the place for mother's name. I think the likely candidate for the mother is the daughter Peter said had been ill and living with him for 10 years at the time of his pension request in 1831-1832. Nancy was probably already dead by then, although I have no written proof of her date of death.

William dropped the "Perry" after his application for bounty land in 1856 on Peter's pension. I have a copy of an affidavit signed by his father-in-law, Hezekiah Warren, and a Richard Corum who served with him in which they were establishing that William suffered a back injury during his service. In those 4 pages, there is a list of all his children and that his date of birth was Aug 4, 1832, his wife's name, Elizabeth, and that they were married by Charlie Blevens, Sqr. in 1858. I know the 1837 date has been used by researchers because of Peter's pension request but I think there was a bit of skullduggery going on. Peter's request for a pension was more valid if he still had a minor child to support. I have found 3 different dates for William's birth as well as an age for his marriage record in which he states he was 22 in 1858. So now I have 4. Since he gave the 4 Aug 1832 date on his own pension papers, I've decided to use that date. His death certificate says 6 Aug 1832 and Peter's pension request said 1837 as did William's subsequent request for bounty land.


William's death certificate has his father's name as Peter DeSpain but no mother's name is given as not known. The informant for the death certificate was William (Nick) Ward, WPD's son-in-law. It is assumed that William was illegitimate and it is rumored that his birth was the result of incest. It is fairly certain that Nancy Skaggs, wife of Peter DeSpain, was NOT the mother. Even if she had still been alive when William was born (it is assumed by some researchers that Nancy died before 1840), Nancy would have been in her 70s.

Note contributed by Laura DeSpain - March 2020:

William's oldest son was John William "Willie DeSpain he married Malissa "Lissie" Skaggs. They were my gg-grandparents.

1. On the death certificate of his oldest son, the informant is John Willie DeSpain's wife, Lissie (Skaggs) DeSpain. They had long been married and, she knew her father-in-laws' real name.

2. There is no record that has him recorded as William Perry DeSpain with the exception of his request for Peter's bounty land. However, all his records are found under William DeSpain and no middle name with the exception of the bounty land record (William Perry) and, his son's death certificate (J. W. DeSpain for John William, like his oldest son). [1]


  1. "Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1965," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N9L1-VYL : 9 January 2019), J.w. Despain in the entry for John Willie Despain, 14 Sep 1954; citing Death, Green, Kentucky, United States, certificate, Office of Vital Statistics, Frankfort; FHL microfilm 2,251,620.

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Categories: Family Mysteries