19 January 2018

Send him home

No. 3 — Jan. 19 2018

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley (c) 2018

High on the family legends list is the one about some ancestor who lived to be 100, give or take a few years. It is as though having a long-living ancestor gives you bragging rights.

One of the first of those characters I set out to find was a 5-great-grandpa. The claim was that he lived to be 105. Wow, I thought. Then, I said, “Really?” as my skeptical nature took over. That isn’t logical — not for someone born back about 1740.

Additionally, the rest of the family tale — that he was a doctor who served during the Revolutionary War, had met an Irish gal while on a ship to America who he would marry — raised some red flags for me. Especially, the latter, because his family was Dutch and had been in this country since about 1650. Of course, it isn’t polite to argue with your cousins who shared and believed the legends, so I quietly began researching.

First I learned he did not serve in the Revolutionary War, although he provided some cattle (beef) for the American forces, which makes him a patriot according to the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). I sighed in relief to find that information because with my family you never know which side of a war they might have fought on.

As for being a doctor — well, as a young man he grew up in the back country of old Augusta County, Virginia during the French and Indian War and his parents were not among the Virginia Cavaliers who could have afforded to provide him with much of an education. By the time he reached adulthood, the family was living in North Carolina, and no reference I’ve found mentions that he was anything other than a farmer. While the educational requirements to be a doctor in the 18th century were not extensive; most men who became doctors did so via an apprenticeship, and I found nothing to show that my ancestor did.

But, did he live to be 105? The story of his longevity was repeated in several different lines of his purported 12 children. However, the when and where he died details were in conflict, but I traced every clue I found. Until I would hit the proverbial brick wall.

In tracking all of his children who survived into the 1830s and 1840s, I checked pertinent censuses to see if an “old man” was living in any of their households who might fit the profile of Wynant Vanderpool, my 5-great-grandpa. If the legend is true, he would have been in his late 80s or early 90s in 1830. I also checked the 1840 censuses, where, if the tale was true, he should show up as about 90-100 years old.

He doesn’t.

The last record we have of him (or think we do) is the 1810 census of Ashe County, North Carolina, where he is cleverly listed as just W. Vanderpool, and is over 45. Nevertheless, I see a number of online trees have him listed as dying at age 105 and 115 in various locales. No proof, of course.

If you happened to run into him, please alert me. I’ve been hunting for him for decades.

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