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Elizabeth (Vaughn) Preston (abt. 1755 - 1846)

Elizabeth Preston formerly Vaughn
Born about in Bedford County, Virginiamap
Ancestors ancestors
Daughter of [uncertain] and [uncertain]
Wife of — married 17 Aug 1780 in Bedford Virginia, USAmap
Descendants descendants
Died at about age 90 in Floyd, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Problems/Questions Profile manager: Kitty Carr private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 29 Nov 2011
This page has been accessed 929 times.


Elizabeth Vaughn was born 18 Sep 1755,[1][2] or 27 Mar 1759. Her parents may or may not be William Vaughn and Hannah Crew. Their daughter Elizabeth Vaughan was born 27 Mar 1759 and christened 6 May 1759 at St Peter's Parish, New Kent, Virginia.[3] But was William and Hannah's daughter the same Elizabeth Vaughn who married Nathaniel Preston at Bedford, Virginia in August 1780?[4]

"The Problem of Elizabeth Vaughan", written by Shari S. as an attached story to her tree at, duplicated in part here:

The following items can be said about Elizabeth Vaughan Preston in reasonable confidence:

1. Elizabeth was born around 1755 or 1760. Her full name and age are given in the 1840 census as 85; she is listed as a pensioner living in the household of Jeffrey Preston. However, in Nathaniel's Revolutionary War pension, she indicates she was born in 1859 or 1860.

2. Elizabeth married Nathaniel Preston in August 1780 in Bedford County, Virginia. See Nathaniel's Revolutionary War pension application - around pages 7,10, and 11 - for statements from Elizabeth, from Nathaniel's sister Elizabeth Burgess, and from Nathaniel's brother Moses.

Elizabeth declares that "she was lawfully married to the said Nathaniel Preston by publication three times at Church by the Rev Mr Ramsey" then gives the place, month, and year. She was not married to him before he left military service. She knows of no evidence for her marriage or children's ages, nor does she know of a living witness to her marriage.

Elizabeth Burgess recounts that she didn't see them married, but she remembered that they went to the parson and thereafter presented themselves as being married. She also names the month/year and place. Nathaniel's wife's name is spelled "Elizabeth Vaun" during this statement.

Moses Preston recollects that the couple married at the parson's, and so he didn't see the marriage, but he did see the wedding afterward. (This was probably at Nathaniel's father's house, as Elizabeth Burgess says that's where they married before seeming to contradict herself by saying they went to the parson.) The name is also written as "Elizabeth Vaun" here.

3. Elizabeth and Nathaniel's oldest child was named Nancy. This is from the statements by Elizabeth Burgess and Moses Preston. Elizabeth Burgess says they had several children. Moses says there were about two years between each child. Son Jeffrey (page 8) says he always understood that his parents had eight children, and the oldest was born after Cornwallis was taken (but in the same month).

4. Elizabeth and Nathaniel had a son named Jeffrey. Jeffrey calls himself their son around page 7.

5. Elizabeth and Nathaniel had a daughter named Edy who was the second-oldest. Jeffrey mentions this around page 8.

6. Elizabeth and Nathaniel's had a daughter, Polly, born after Edy but before Jeffrey. That's it; Jeffrey does not name the younger children.

7. Elizabeth started receiving a pension of 80 dollars each year in 1840. See about page 9 of the pension application. In 1845, she realized that the sum should have been $96. (See about page 28.) Alas...

8. Elizabeth probably died around 1846. We know she was still alive in early 1845. She isn't found in the 1850 census. A 1941 SAR application (William Carlos Kozee - great-great-grandson) said she was born in 1759 and died in 1846. Kozee's sources are listed as "Bible and other family records; tomb stone inscriptions, U.S. census, and official marriage records." Unfortunately, we don't know which sources he used for Elizabeth (as opposed to all the other people named in his application), nor do we know what "other family records" means (or how reliable it is).

Other Children We know from son Jeffrey that Nathaniel and Elizabeth had eight children. Who were they?

1. Nancy, mentioned in the pension application

2. Edy, mentioned in the pension application

3. Polly, mentioned in the pension application

4. Jeffrey, contributed to the pension application

That leaves five spots.

5. Eliphus has a death record naming his parents. That's solid.

Three spots remain.

I'd like to make a case for Matilda Preston, my ancestor. (A case that goes beyond the previous case of "right place, right time, fits best".) Her husband Bracken Lewis shows up a few times in Nathaniel's pension file. I have also triangulated DNA segments coming from Nathaniel's parents. Most of all, though, given that Matilda named a son "Nathaniel Preston Lewis", it just makes sense.

Two spots left.

Other children usually named are Elizabeth, Elijah, Coby, and Shadrack. I don't know what the evidence is for any of them, but we can only pick two. I lean toward E&E. "Coby" could be cousin Coby (son of uncle Moses Preston), and Shadrack? Well, a Shadrack Preston gives a statement in the pension file, but he doesn't identify himself as a son. I think Jeffrey would know how to count the number of children his parents had, especially when making an important statement.

Vaughn, Vaughan, or Vaun?

The only contemporary records we have (the testimony of her brother-in-law and sister-in-law) spell Elizabeth's name "Vaun."

"Oh," you say, "but that's just because they or the clerk didn't know how to spell it."

"Oh," I say back. "I doubt very much that there was any kind of consensus at the time. People weren't as fussed then." (There's a nice dissertation somewhere about changes in how a society views identity when spelling reform starts being applied to names.)

So, which spelling should we use?

Well, "Vaun" is technically the only way we know of it being spelled for certain. Me, I leave it at "Vaughan" to be more easily found by DNA matches searching for the name.

Where is Elizabeth Buried?

Not in Alabama. Honestly. Do you know how many people have attributed a grave in Alabama to our Elizabeth because the person was born at around the same time and the headstone says... wait for it... "Elizabeth Vaughan"? (As in not "Elizabeth Preston.")

"Elizabeth Vaughan" of any spelling is a dead-common name, folks. Watch where you click!

One researcher (Lillian Bartlett Jackson) says Elizabeth and husband Nathaniel are buried at Millers Creek, Van Lear, Johnson County, Kentucky. Another (Joan Saario) says she is in the Preston Family Cemetery, Paints Creek, Paintsville, Johnson County, Kentucky.Someone made an entry for the latter at FindaGrave, but there is no stone there to be photographed. These two locations are about six miles apart.

Unfortunately, Lillian has passed away, so we don't know what she was basing her assertion on: special knowledge now lost, or a miscommunication somewhere? The cemetery she was referring to is probably the Preston Farm Cemetery, located on FindaGrave here: Googling around will show burials beyond the two mentioned there (the WPA transcriptions are helpful).

Who were Elizabeth Vaughan's parents?

Yes, I know everybody and their clicker-happy finger "has" William Shields Vaughan and Hannah Crew as Elizabeth's parents. I put "has" in quotation marks because that's what you hear: "I have so-and-so as the father as..." As if "having" someone's name in a file should mean anything to us in 2014. What's the actual source?

The only sources I have found are as follows:

In the Parish Register of Saint Peter's, New Kent County, Virginia, 1680-1787, there is an Elizabeth Vaughan born in March and baptised 6 (or 8) May 1759 to William and Elizabeth Vaughan.

In volume 6 of the Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, page 215, the Elizabeth Vaughan who is the daughter of William Shields Vaughan and Hannah Crew was reported as being born in September 1755, perhaps in Charles City County.

On the next page, we see that this Elizabeth married out of unity in May 1780 and was disowned the following month. However, we know our Elizabeth married in August 1780. This was well after 1752, so it's not a case of "5" meaning July instead of May.

Did Elizabeth's in-laws get her marriage date wrong in their depositions? Elizabeth said her marriage was read three times in Church - was this beforehand (as in banns), and if so, might the first reading have taken place 8-12 weeks before the event? If Elizabeth had been a Quaker up until she was disowned for marrying out of unity, would she have later referred to "church" and not phrased it along the lines of "my husband's church"? Did Nathaniel and Elizabeth marry at the parson's (and not in front of his siblings) because they were being sneaky or downplaying the event, or was this just convenient at the time?

Two things to point out:

1. Charles City County and Bedford County are over 150 miles apart.

2. Elizabeth really needed documentation of her marriage in order to receive the pension. If she had been a Quaker who was disowned for marrying Nathaniel, mightn't she have said, "Look, I don't have a marriage record, but the meticulous and peaceful record keepers for the Quaker meeting would have recorded when I married and was disowned"?

With the (wonderful) rise of autosomal DNA testing, it might be tempting for people to point to matches of fellow Quaker descendants and say, hey, there has to be a connection here!

As it happens, I descend from Hannah Crew's family through the opposite side of my family tree. Quaker DNA can really stick around, thanks to all of the intermarriage. See my post at about how nine descendants of the Crew, Ladd, Gattley, Hutchins, Cox, etc. families have triangulated a DNA segment on chromosome 2 that appears to have remained significant in size for at least 10 generations.

So, don't be too quick to assume that your DNA match who is related to Hannah Crew is proof of Elizabeth Vaughan's parents. Many people with colonial ancestry eventually discover a pocket of Quakers somewhere. Even if you triangulate the segment to show that it came from the Crew family et al, can you be sure that it came down to you via Elizabeth? (Have a think about all of the gaps in your family tree. At ten generations out,at least 60% of your tree is probably missing. Can you rule out those missing blanks for Quaker-related DNA?)

Speaking of DNA...

I've been lucky enough to triangulate several segments as coming from Nathaniel Preston's parents, and I have some DNA matches to descendants of Nathaniel and Elizabeth where our shared segments may come from the Vaughan side, which is exciting. Hopefully we'll triangulate something before too long.

As for non-triangulated matches, my grandmother (great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth - GEDmatch ID A616565) has a few to Vaughns of Bedford County, Virginia. THIS CANNOT BE TAKEN AS EVIDENCE OF ANYTHING. Not only are the segments not triangulated to an ancestor yet, but for all I know, Nathaniel (or one of my many other VA-KY families) has these Vaughans in a part of the tree I've not discovered yet. Still, it's worth noting that my grandmother has DNA matches at to these Bedford Co Vaugh(a)ns:
  • Sally Vaughn/Baughn m. Aaron Dewitt in Bedford Co in 1793.
  • Benjamin Vaughan m. Susanna Burnett in Bedford Co in 1795.
In the latter case, the person cites no sources but lists Benjamin's parents as William Vaughan and Mary Jane Napier, and MJN as the child of Rene Napier and Winifried Champion. Rene and Winifried link back to Henrico Co, aka where Hannah Crew's people are from. Small world or our world?

At this point, barring the sudden appearance of a family Bible that has escaped notice for the past 150 years, DNA is our only chance of ever sorting out Elizabeth's ancestry.


  1. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. VI, covering Virginia Meeting Houses of the faith, by William Wade Hinshaw.
  2. : accessed 17 May 2018.
  3. Virginia Births and Christenings, 1584-1917," database, FamilySearch ( : 10 February 2018), Elizabeth Vaughan, 27 Mar 1759; citing , reference ; FHL microfilm 6,048,679.
  4. Pension application of Nathan (Nathaniel) Preston W8532 Elizabeth f57VA. Transcribed by Will Graves 11/19/12. : accessed 17 May 2018.

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