The Pinchbeck Estate

Neighbors, friends and family gathered at the Pinchbeck home on November 13, 1829. They were there for the estate sale following Mary Pinchbeck’s death in July 1829.[1] This was a common practice of the period. Estates were inventoried, appraised and sold, with the proceeds divided as directed by the will or chancery court.

Was it hard for the Pinchbeck children to watch the furnishings of their childhood home sold? Mary’s son, Thomas, purchased her spinning wheels and H. Rudd (possibly a nephew) purchased her flax wheel. Thomas purchased the most expensive item of the sale, a yoke of oxen for $41.75. The sale brought in $265.00. View the complete sale list here.

The contents of the sale reveal much about John and Mary’s life. They were farmers, had horses and livestock and even a gig. A set of carpenter’s tools suggests John practiced some carpentry.  The furniture included a desk, tables and chairs. They didn’t have luxurious items like silver, china or goblets, but the furnishings indicate a comfortable lifestyle.

The estate appraisal identifies nine slaves. They were valued and assigned to the Pinchbeck children.[2] Since none were sold at the sale, it appears the children were satisfied with the division. The nine Pinchbeck slaves were valued at $2,104.00. [3]

  1. Jacob, a negro man, $383, assigned to William
  2. John, ditto, $350, assigned to Robert
  3. Hill, a likely lad, $300, assigned to George
  4. Luesy, a likely girl, $283, assigned to Nancy
  5. Winney, ditto $283, assigned to Thomas
  6. Lucy, an old woman, $100, assigned to Thomas
  7. Ellick, a boy, $225, assigned to Mary
  8. Gustus, ditto, $180, assigned to Mary
  9. Dick an old man not worth anything by consent of parties & from a wish of his former owners for him to remain in the family was by mutual consent put up to the lowest bidder and was taken by William Pinchbeck at fifteen dollars who is to keep and support him for life.

These nine enslaved individuals were the bulk of the wealth of the Pinchbeck family. As slaves they were a commodity, just like the cattle and horses. The only mention of their names is found in the estate papers and their division among family members is a reminder of the cruel and heartless nature of slavery.

John Pinchbeck placed a high value on education.[4] He made provisions in his will for the education of his younger children. The estate paid Thomas for the tuition of his younger brother Robert.[5] The letter (part of the 1830 chancery cause) from George Pinchbeck demonstrates a good handwriting and ability to communicate. All of the Pinchbeck heirs (except George) signed their own names to a receipt for the estate proceeds. The Pinchbeck sisters, Mary Ann and Nancy signed their own names, indicating they, too, were educated.[6] It is curious that the estate appraisal contained no books. Perhaps Mary Pinchbeck distributed any books before her death.


[1] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 11, p. 654.
[2] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Chancery Cause 1830-035, Pinchback vs Pinchbeck, Library of Virginia
[3] The records in chancery causes provide vital clues for slave descendants researching their ancestors.
[4] John Pinchbeck’s Will, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 10, p. 273 – 274.
[5] John Pinchbeck Accounts, Chesterfield County, Virginia, Will Book 12, p. 182 – 183
[6] Chesterfield County, Virginia, Chancery Cause 1830-035, Pinchback vs Pinchbeck, Library of Virginia

Pinchbeck with an “E” or an “A”?

No matter how you spell it, Pinchbeck is an unusual name.  Wikipedia reports the following:

“Pinchbeck is a village and civil parish in the South Holland district of Lincolnshire, England. The name Pinchbeck is derived from either the Old English pinc+bece(Minnow Stream) or pinca+bece (Finch Ridge). A family long associated with the area took its name from the village, one member of which was Christopher Pinchbeck, a watchmaker responsible for the invention of the Pinchbeck alloy, which was once used for imitating gold in cheap jewelry.”

The English have apparently settled on Pinchbeck with an e based on the spelling of several towns in England. A check of the BT directory in Great Britain did not indicate a single household of either spelling in any of five large metropolitan areas of England.  Americans remain divided in their spelling of the name. A global check for Pinchback or Pinchbeck in the US Anywho white pages indicates there are at least 100 and probably more individuals with the surname Pinchbeck or Pinchback, and the spelling is about evenly divided.

The original signatures found in the chancery case to settle the estate of John and Mary Pinchbeck in 1829 reveals the spelling differences in their surname practiced by the siblings. William, Thomas, and Mary signed their names Pinchbeck. Nancy and George signed Pinchback. Descendants of George continue to use the “a” and descendants of William use “e”. View the complete chancery cause here. (1)

William Pinchbeck signature

George Pinchback signature

Nancy Pinchback signature

Mary Ann Pinchbeck signature

Thomas Pinchbeck signature


(1) Pinchback vs Pinchbeck Chesterfield County Virginia Chancery 1830-035. Library of Virginia.

Find Your Pinchbeck on Find A Grave

Have you visited the website Find A Grave? Family researchers often turn to burial records in their quest for family history and Find A Grave is one of several sites that records burial information. It is free, easy to use and sometimes has photos and obituaries as well as tombstone locations and inscriptions. Parents and offspring are frequently linked on the site. It is ideal for the casual armchair researcher who doesn’t want to invest in subscription sites.

I want to share the results of my research broadly so I have begun linking Pinchbeck family members together on Find-A-Grave. Many of the descendants of John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck are now linked on Find-A-Grave. There are Pinchbeck descendant burials in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and around the US, all linked by their connection to John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck of Chesterfield County, Virginia.

John and Mary Pinchbeck were probably buried in the Pinchbeck Family Cemetery in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Their oldest son, William, built a beautiful farmhouse (known as Adventure Hill) and the cemetery is in the woods behind the home. Notes at the Chesterfield County Historical Society Library  indicate Doris Jeter visited in 1982 and said the cemetery appeared to be on the property of Mrs. Carmen P. Jolly, and that the land was once part of Adventure Hill, “there appear to be many sunk-in graves and this may have been a large cemetery at one time.” The cemetery may have vanished by now, but remains visible in a virtual world.

Please take a moment to visit the site and find your Pinchbeck family members. Post a photo or suggest an edit to the site; I’ll respond quickly. Visit the virtual grave of John Pinchbeck or search for your own ancestor here.


A Pinchbeck Will

“In the name of God Amen. I John Pinchbeck of the county of Chesterfield, being in common health and in perfect mind and memory, and considering the uncertainty of the mortal life and the certainty of death, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form as follows,..” (1)

My fourth great-grandfather, John Pinchbeck, of Chesterfield County, Virginia, wrote his will on July 23, 1822. He goes on to make following bequests:

“Item the first: My will and desire is that all my just debts and funeral expenses may be first paid out of my estate.

Item the second: I Give and bequeath unto all my children except William Pinchback, one Bed and furniture such my wife may think proper also one cow and calf, to them and their heirs and assigns forever.

Item the third: I Give and bequeath unto my wife Mary Pinchback for and during her natural life all the residue of my estate both real and personal for her to have hold and enjoy the same together with all money due me, and all estate that may hereafter come to my possession, during her life, recommending to her at the same time the support and education of my younger children.

Item the fourth: After the death of my wife my will and desire is that all my estate left to her may be equally divided among my children, share and share alike, my whole desire being to make them all equal.

Item the Fifth: I lastly appoint my wife Mary Pinchback my whole and sole executive and wish for her not to give any security as such; And also give her full power to sell or buy property as she may think will be most beneficial to my estate, My wish is that my property may not appraised.” (2)

John lived another two years, dying in 1824. (3) His will reveals a man who respected his wife and trusted her to manage his estate. John also tried to be fair with all of his children, immediately giving each a bed and livestock. William, as the oldest child, had probably already received his gift of a bed and livestock. Beds and livestock were valuable gifts in 1822.

John only names one child, William, but implies that there are other children, some still in need of education. These other children are identified in probate records following the death of Mary Rudd Pinchbeck, John’s wife, in July, 1829. (4)  William, George and Nancy Pinchbeck told the court that their father, John Pinchbeck, died in 1824 and that John’s wife, Mary, had just died in July 1829. William, George and Nancy, together with Thomas Pinchbeck, Robert Pinchbeck and Mary Pinchbeck “are the only children and legatees of the said John Pinchbeck.” 

This chancery case is the only known record identifying all of the children of John and Mary Rudd Pinchbeck of Chesterfield County, Virginia. The complete case can be read here.   It is especially noteworthy because it contains an original letter from George Pinchback to his siblings, directing them to handle the estate. George was living in Fayette County, Tennessee and could not make the trip to Virginia.

George’s letter is full of affection and tenderness for his brothers and sisters. He expresses great regret that he can’t make the journey to Virginia, saying,

“I am a poor wanderer in a wilderness from all my relations but I thank god I am perfectly satisfied & expect to end my days in this country…” George urges his family to come to Tennessee, writing, “Dear brother I would advise you to come out here as I know you could do a great deal better than you can there tho you would not make as much from your trade but you are a good carpenter and provider you was not to work at all at your trade you could make double from farming. if you or brother William or both will come out I will do all I can for you and take a pride in as I have no body to take care of but myself- “ (6)

Next week: more about the family of John Pinchbeck


(1) Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274.

(2) Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274.

(3) This will was proved in court on June 14, 1824.  Chesterfield County, Virginia; Will Book 10 page 274

(4) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.

(5) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.

(6) Pinchbeck vs Pinchback,  Chesterfield VA Chancery 1830-035, Library of Virginia.

Elusive Family Photos

arlinetaylor-1939October 6 marks the 88th birthday of my mother, Arline Mae Taylor Sykes. I pulled out a book I made of our old family photos to reminisce about Mom, and I realize that I only have three photos of my mother as a child. Just like my father, there is not much material to document her childhood. I would only have two photos, but when Marilyn Sanderson Farmer learned of Mom’s death in 2010, she found an old photo of our mothers as girls. They went to the old Broad Rock Elementary School together and and were playmates.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-39-03-pmMarilyn’s shared photo is more than a treasured early photo of Mom, it is a lesson for all of us on preserving memories. If you have a box of old family photos now is the time to bring the box down from the attic and spend time with a family elder identifying the photos. Then please share them! Scan them and send them to the cousins. Use Facebook to reach out to friends like Marilyn did. You could have someone else’s elusive family photo. Mom is bottom left in this picture.

The photo below is among my favorite family photos. It’s held by Mom’s youngest sister, Florence Ann. Her daughter, Debbie, put all of the old family pictures in a book years ago and when I began my genealogy quest in 2005, they kindly allowed me to borrow the album and photograph all of the pictures. Mom and Aunt Florence Ann helped me identify everyone and then I posted the photos to my account.

Aunt Florence Ann is the baby in her grandmother, Martha Blanche Pinchbeck Taylor’s lap. Mom is first on the left in the middle row. This is the only known photo of all the Taylor siblings together as children, along with some cousins too. It was probably taken at the family home in Chesterfield County in July 1938.