A few months ago, I completed a DNA test that put me in a DNA circle with descendants of Thomas L. Holley (1803-1845).  Initially, I thought this was on my mother’s line.  Her first name is Holley, which is a family name from her maternal grandmother’s family of which I have done some limited research.  I didn’t really look at this DNA circle right away, as I have been working on some other lines. This weekend I took a closer look and discovered this Thomas L. Holley is on my father’s line! Curious as to whether there was a connection between the two Holley lines, I started my research!

My father’s 2nd maternal great grandmother was Dora Ann Holley who married William Henry Taylor.  Before now, I really hadn’t looked closely at Dora Ann, but had done a little research on the Taylors. An story online claims that, “Dora Holley Taylor taught school at Three Creeks, Arkansas.  She rode 10 miles by horseback every day to teach school.  In 1988, the recitation bench from the school was in the Three Creeks Baptist Church and the spring is still there where she drew water to drink.”  Another online search found: “While Doryann was the name on the will of her grandfather, Henry Bryan, and on her marriage record to Henry Taylor, it is clear her proper name was Dora Ann. She homesteaded two tracts of land in her own name after Henry died.  She farmed and raised turkeys.  She was a school teacher, and rode a mule 7 miles to the school every day, with her youngest child on the saddle in front of her. Dora Ann died at the home of her daughter, Bettie Amis, in Dallas County, Arkansas.”

Paternal lineage of Dora Ann Holley (b. 1825, Alabama- d. 1913, Fordyce, Arkansas)

  1. Thomas L. Holley (b.1803, Lowndes, AL- d.1845, Talledega, AL) m. Elizabeth Bryan
  2. James M. Holley, Jr.  (b.1774, Chesterfield, SC- d. 1852, Lowndes, AL) m. Mary Bryant
  3. James M. Holley Sr. (b.1750, Bertie, NC- c.1816, Richmond, GA) m. Winnifred Ward
  4. John Holley (b.1715, Bertie, NC- d.1765, East Tennessee) m. Rebecca Gilbert

AB Holley EstateFlipping over to my mother’s Holley line, her maternal grandmother was Mae Jean Holley Igou.  Her father, Archibald B. Holley, was born in 1857 and died in 1920.  He owned several hundred acres near Decaturville, Tennessee at his passing, as this auction notice for his estate shows.

Paternal lineage of Archibald B. Holley (b. 1857, North Carolina- d. 1920, Decatur, TN) m. Darcy Holley

  1. James W. Holley (b.1820, Anson, NC- d.1900, Henderson, TN) m. Frances Jane Austin
  2. William Holley (b. 1800, Sampson, NC- d. 1882, Union, NC) m. Sarah Ross
  3. William P. Holley (b.1763, Sampson, NC- d.1795, Warren, GA) m. Amey Bledsoe
  4. Edward Holley ( b.1741, Bertie, NC- d. 1800, Sampson, NC) m. Sarah ?
  5. John Holley (b.1715, Bertie, NC- d.1765, East Tennessee) m. Rebecca Gilbert

Bingo!  John Holley and Rebecca Gilbert are the common link! They had seven children total. Here they are in birth order:

  • John Holley (1739-1780)
  • Edward Holley (1741-1800) (Mom’s 5th great grandfather)
  • Johnathan Holley (1746-?)
  • Richard Holley (1749-1825)
  • Rachel Holley (1750-1830)
  • Jacob Holley (1755-?)
  • James Holley (1750-1816) (Dad’s 5th great grandfather)***Recognized DAR Patriot

After finding this incredible information, I decided that I would see if I could find additional generations past John and Rebecca Holley.  John Holley’s paternal lineage from various online sources is as follows:

  1. John Holley (b. 1690, Isle Wight, VA- d. 1728, Bertie, NC) m. Sarah Church
  2. Nathaniel Holley (b. 1664, Isle Wight, VA- d. 1728, Bertie, NC) m. Sarah (unknown)
  3. William Holley (b. 1640, Somerset, England- d. unknown) m. Sarah Chaseman
  4. Captain John Galen Holley (b. 1618, Shoreditch, England- d. 1681, Stamford, CT) m. Mary Agnes Waitsill
  5. Samuel Holley
Christ Church VA bw
Christ Church, Middlesex, Virgina

The lineage from John Holley (1690) to William Holley and then to John Galen Holley is not yet clarified for me. Specifically, the lineage from William to Samuel. The proposed relationship was gleaned from several places online, but when reversing the search to verify lineage and looking just at John, he and Mary Agnes have several children, but none named William. Additionally, the location noted for his birth is Somerset, England, but John and Mary Agnes seem to be established in Stamford, CT by that time. Some sources claim that John was a captain in his early career, so perhaps they had William in England and returned. Somerset is a coastal area, so this may be plausible. Another indication that there may be an issue is that William was married to Sarah Chaseman at Christ Church, Middlesex, Virginia and also died in Virginia. All of John and Mary Agnes’ children remained in Connecticut so it doesn’t fit the pattern for William to have left if he was indeed the son of John and Mary Agnes. I have sent messages to a few of those who have posted that William is the son of John and Mary Agnes to find out what their sources are, but have yet to hear back.

Salem Witch trials
Illustration of the Salem Witch Trials

Assuming that William is the son of John, then he is the grandson of Samuel Holly.  Samuel was an early founder of Cambridge, Massachusetts and was married to Elizabeth Cogan Holly. They were married in England and arrived in Massachusetts by 1635. They only had the one son, John Galen, before Samuel died around 1643.  An interesting story I uncovered in a few places online, including this blog, claims that Elizabeth Cogan Holly remarried John Kendall in 1644.  In 1645, Elizabeth was accused of witchcraft, after a “bewitching the child of Goodman Genings to death.” She was tried and executed for witchcraft. This was almost 50 years before the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

Hopefully, my continued research will confirm one way or another whether William was the son of John Galen. Their Puritan and New England roots fascinate me as most of my family history is deeply Southern. My gut says that William Holley’s origins, while still English, are from a different line altogether.

Regardless, I am amused and delighted to learn of my parents common Holley ancestry and look forward to learning more about our ancestors on each line that descends from John Holley and Rebecca Gilbert.

Update: 10/21/15

A sweet soul at Three Creeks Baptist Church in Junction City, Union County, sent me these photos of the spring where Dora Ann Holley Taylor drew water to drink and the recitation bench from the school house in which she taught.  Thank you so much for sending me these photos!

Spring at Three Creeks, ArkansasClose up sign at Three Creeks Spring Three Creeks Plaque Recitation Bench at Three Creeks

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