Quick survey of assorted Clinch / Clench / Clynch information

Source: Virginia in 1740: A Reconstructed Census, TLC Genealogy, Inc., 1992

No Clench; 7 listings for Clinch, all in Surry County; No Clynch

Source: Virginia County Records — Spotsylvania County, Volume I by Crozier

No Clench, Clinch, or Clynch

The following are all too late to be of help in terms of ancestry of William Logan of Spotsylvania County, VA, but for reference:

Virginia Marriages Early to 1800, Jordan R. Dodd, 2001

No Clench; No Clynch; 5 Clinch listings, but all in the timeframe 1786-1787: Surry, Frederick, and Culpeper counties

Virginia Wills and Administrations –1632-1800 by Torrence

No Clench; No Clynch; 1 Clinch, Brunswick County, Christopher, 1768

Virginia Tax Records, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1983

No Clench, Clinch, or Clynch

Virginia in 1760: A Reconstructed Census, TLC Genealogy, Inc., 1996

No Clench; No Clynch; Clinch: one in Bedford and two in Surry County

Virginia Will Records, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982

No Clench; No Clynch; Clinch, Christopher, Brunswick County, 1768; Surry County Will and Deed Book, 1730-1739

Virginia Marriages 1700-1799, Cecil D. McDonald, Jr.

Clinch, William and Rebecca Thompson, 29 Dec. 1777, Surry County

Virginia Land Records, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1982

No Clench; No Clynch; Clinch, Mary; Clinch, Rebecca Edloe; Clinch, William

Some Clench and Clinch records

Essex County, Virginia, was one of the formation counties of Spotsylvania County. There are some CLENCH records from 1721 from Order Book Abstracts of Essex County, Virginia 1716-1723, Ruth and Sam Sparacio.

At a Court held for Essex County on Tuesday the 18th day of July 1721

Jacob CLENCH, a Servant boy belonging to ROBERT BEVERLEY is adjudged to be five years old.

Mary CLENCH, a Servant girl belonging to ROBERT BEVERLEY, is adjudged to be seven years old.

From Historic Roads of Virginia — Spotsylvania County Road Orders, 1722-1734, Nathaniel Mason Powlett, 1985

No Clench or Clinch; No Logan listed

St. Mark’s Parish Vestry Book, 1730-1785, Rosalie Edith Davis

Clinch, Jacob and Widdow [sic] Clinch; No LOGANs listed

Friday, October 11, 1745

Order that Alexdr. Parker, Gent. be paid four hundred and thirty six pds. of tobacco for tending the Weddow [sic] Clinch.

Order that Jacob Clinch be paid four hundred pds. of tobacco for Nursing and Burrying [sic] the Weddow Clinch.

Order that Francis Slaughter Gent. be paid two hundred pds. of tobacco for tending the Weddow Clinch.

There are numerous Clinch and Clench listings in the Library of Virginia Index to Wills and Administrations; however, most of them are far too recent to be of help to us. (Most are from Surry County, VA.)

Ditto for Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia Extracted from the Original Court Records of Augusta County. (These listings don’t begin until 1745.)

William Logan, “Clench / Clinch,” and Illegitimacy

Most William Logan (of Spotsylvania County, Virginia) researchers believe the court alias “Clench” or “Clinch” refers to illegitimacy. So do some impartial (non-Logan) Virginia researchers. Let me quote one, Ann Avery Hunter. This correspondence with Ann is from nearly 20 years ago (1999). Some excerpts:

“I have never seen an alias in a Court record that was assigned by the individual and I can’t think of any reason for it. I have seen records that say ‘William Garthright, known as Whisperer’ and ‘John Jones, called Frognose,’ but the only times I’ve seen ‘alias,” and I have seen a number of them, it has been in the case of an illegitimate birth. I have also heard that [so] stated in a talk by one of the experts on VA genealogy at a statewide conference.”

Ann Avery Hunter goes on to give some specific examples from her research. It’s a different county (Chesterfield), but the Virginia law/court system is the same, of course. “I spent a year reading the Chesterfield Co., VA Court Order books page by page and saw any number of ‘alias’ deeds and will beneficiaries. They were all illegitimate offspring who had to use their mother’s maiden name in legal documents. In many cases, the father was brought to court by the mother and ordered to pay support, so there was no question about why the ‘alias’ was used on later documents. Sometimes when these people left wills themselves, they had been using their father’s surname for so long that the will was recorded in that name. I guess by that time no one remembered or cared that this was not a legal name.” [Note: The Spotsylvania County, VA, court records referring to William Logan “alias Clench or Clinch” do not pertain to deeds and wills, so these specific examples don’t pertain except to bolster the case about aliases used in the colony of Virginia’s courts.]

Researcher Hunter goes on to offer this advice: “… look at the Spotsylvania Court Order books from the time your Logan ancestor was born until he was 14 or so and see if there is anything on a Clinch/Clench paying for his support. For the most part this happened just before the father was being legally married, probably because the mother was worried about not getting any help from him after his marriage.” [Note: The Spotsylvania Co. and Orange Co. records all appear to be after William Logan was older than 14; however, it’s still a good tip in terms of researching other counties where he may have been raised before coming to Spotsylvania.]

Ann Avery Hunter adds this: “Sometimes you need to read through ‘all’ of the Court documents in the time period in which your ancestor lived. About 1/3 of relevant information is found in documents not indexed under the surname you are searching for [!, exclamation mine].” She gives an example of three generations of one of her family lines that was indexed in the name of an unknown sister’s husband. None of her family left wills and had no other deeds, “so it was a dream come true.”

Most of us genies don’t get exercised about illegitimacy; nonetheless, since not everyone in one’s family is a genealogist (I repeat: alas), it’s always good to add some context:

  • In colonial Virginia, for the most part, the “crime” of bearing an illegitimate child fell on the mother. [Aside: Women couldn’t vote or serve in the House of Burgesses. All laws were written by men and adjudicated by men.]
  • For colonial Virginia, there are three major factors to keep in mind regarding extramarital activity: gender (see first bullet point), class, and race. [Aside: Come to think of it, we’re not that far removed from colonial times after all.]
  • In terms of social class, many colonists were indentured servants, that is, people who got their ocean passage paid and were then “bound” in service for several years’ work. (Far more people came over by indenture than paid their own passage.) By definition and circumstance, these people were not the wealthy upper class, of course.
  • Indentured servants weren’t allowed to marry. A term of indenture could be seven years. This presented some challenges when a young couple fell in love, but had to wait several years to marry.
  • At the same time, women who were indentured as servants often worked in their master’s home, isolated. Sexual predation by men to whom they were indentured was common. Those men held most of the power in the equation. In addition, masters sometimes deliberately tried to impregnate indentured females to extend their time of indenture.
  • Several writers point to both the gender imbalance in colonial Virginia and the comparative “weakness of community institutions and standards,” especially in the frontier communities, which is what Spotsylvania County was at the time, to explain why the illegitimacy rate in the colony was 2-3 times higher than in England.

William Logan and “Clench/Clinch” confusion

When it comes to William Logan of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, I’m reminded of the famous Mark Twain line: “The researches of many commentators have thrown much darkness upon this subject, and it is probable that if they continue we shall soon know nothing at all about it.” Certainly a broad overstatement in this case, and besides, I’ve been one of those well-meaning “commentators.” That said, however….

Here’s my concern. Many Logan researchers, in their attempt to IDENTIFY William Logan, sometimes “alias Clench / Clinch” in Virginia court records, from among all the other potential William Logans “out there,” refer to him as William “Clench” Logan. This is very helpful as an identifier for us genie researchers and also as a clue to possible ancestry (more on that in a subsequent post); however, it neither accurately reflects how William Logan referred to himself nor how other people referred to him and knew him.

This is an important distinction. Think about yourself. Take off your “genie” hat for a moment. What if, years from now, people referred to you in a way you never were referred to in life? Family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, yourself: Nobody used your name this way or called you by this court alias when you were alive. It would be exceedingly odd for people to “begin” to use a name never used in your lifetime (except in court). Alas, not everybody is, or will be, a genie. Unintentionally, we may have confused the issue for future readers of our research and for those new to researching William Logan of Spotsylvania County.

This rendering of his name has led some people to think William Logan had an alias in the popular, not legal, sense; that is, that “Clench” or “Clinch” was an alias like Billy “The Kid”, Alan “The Horse” Ameche, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, or Vito “Babe” Parilli. That is most certainly not the case with William Logan at that time and place (1720s, 30s, and 40s in colonial Virginia). Nobody called him “Clench” or “Clinch” on the street.

Then there’s the fact that William Logan, “alias Clinch or Clench” (certainly the two spellings are simply a matter of interpreting the writing: Is it an “i” or an “e”), has somehow become only “Clench.” Why not “Clinch”? Why is one picked over the other? I have never heard an explanation for that choice.

It’s also important to point out that, in all the Spotsylvania and Orange County, Virginia, court records that reference William Logan (once or twice, Login), there are approximately four times as many which refer to him as “William Logan” than as “alias Clench or Clinch.”

My view is that we should look at Clench or Clinch as valuable clues to possible ancestry (more in another post) and that among ourselves as genealogical researchers, it may be helpful to use “Clench or Clinch” as an identifier. But we may want to do a bit of explaining, too; provide some context; and not merely call him William “Clench” Logan. With the best of intentions, in the process of identifying this William Logan, we are simultaneously misleading people about his name. We are unintentionally “throwing darkness on this subject.”

The next post will look at the possibilities that “alias Clench or Clinch” give us for furthering our knowledge of his ancestry — and ours.





William Logan, 1st North Carolina Battalion, Revolutionary War, 1777-1778

William Logan, one of the four Logan brothers at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, served earlier as a private with the First North Carolina Battalion, commanded by Colonel Thomas Clark.

Source: “Roll of Lt. Colonel Mebane’s Company of the First North Carolina Battalion, commanded by Colonel Thomas Clark, September 8th, 1778,” Army Returns, Book 27, page 22, North Carolina State Archives