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Sunday, March 4, 2018

#52ancestors Post Nine: Two Important Bryan Family Wills

This week's writing prompt for #52ancestors is will. Very few of my ancestors wrote wills. If more of my ancestors had written wills, I could spend less time searching and have more time to clean and cook!

Copies of these wills were given to me in 1999 by J. Dennis Bryant, an avid Bryan/Bryant researcher. Dennis was the researcher who found my great-great-grandfather, Reddick Bryan, in Martin County, North Carolina. My father and others in his generation knew Reddick was born in North Carolina, but Reddick was not located in the state until Dennis searched deeds in Martin County.

This first will is that of Needham Bryan. He died in 1797 in Martin County, North Carolina.  He was the son of Robert Bryan and father of James Bryan. James is thought to be the father of Reddick Bryan.

The following will was transcribed by Kelly Midura and can be found on her blog Bembry Roots. Her ancestor, Ann Bryan, was the daughter of Needham Bryan and the wife of Miles Bembry.

NEDAM BRYAN; Martin County will book page 343; 11 March 1797.

In the name of God Amen I Nedam Bryan of the County of Martin and State of North Carolina being of sound mind and Memory Calling to mind the uncertainty of this Transitory life Do make and Ordain this my last will and Testament in manner and form _____ ________ To wit bequeath my soul to God, who gave it measure and Certain hopes of a Joyfull  Resurrection at the last day and my body to the Earth to be Entered at the Discretion of my beloved wife and my executors who I shall hereafter name as to my Worldly Goods which is hath pleased God to bless me with in this life.  I dispose of in manner and form following after my Just Debts being paid:

Item: I lend my unto my beloved Wife Jerusha Bryan all my hole Estate Real and personal During her Natural lifetime and After her Death in the manner and form following to wit. Item: I give and____ unto my Son James Bryan my plantation wherein I now live and all the land thereto belonging and my Still to him and his heirs for Ever.

Item: I give unto my Daughter Ann Bembray one hundred acres of land where James Bellflower formerly lived now possession of So (?) Bembray also one Negro girl named Hannah which she now has in possession to her and her Heirs forever. And it is Further my Will and Desire that all my Savanna Land that I have not all ready disposed of be Equally Divided among my five Children also all the Negros that I have not already given away to be Equally Divided Among all my five children including all the Rest of my personall  Estate to be Equally Divided as Above mentioned.

Last I Also ____and apoint my Loving friends Hardy Bryan and John Hayman and Timothey Ward Excr. to this my Last Will and Testament Revoking and Annulling all Other form of wills heretofore made by my hand and seal this 11 Day of March 1797.

___________published and declared in presents of

Test. Williams C. King

Henry Cooper

 Nedom Bryan (seal)

Dennis Bryant wrote the following about Needham Bryan:

 "This was doubtless the Needham Bryan that is recorded as a Captain of Militia during the Revolution in Volume I of the MARTIN COUNTY HISTORY by Manning and Booker. Captain Needham Bryan patented several tracts of land in Martin Co. in the l750's. Some of that land is included in the will of "Nedam" Bryan in Martin Co, which is dated March ll, l797. Nedam specifically mentions his wife, Jerusa (this may be Jerusa Cain), and his son James in the will. I believe this is the James Bryan that was the father of Reddick Bryan. This James Bryan transferred 5O acres of his inherited land to Reddick Bryan on Sept. l0, l8l3 with no purchase price specified in the deed." 

This does not prove Reddick Bryan to be the son of James and grandson of Needham, but certainly gives some well-needed information to further an investigation.  

This will, found in Martin County's Will Book I, was the last will and testament of Robert Bryan. On December 16, 1773, Robert Bryan resided in Halifax County, North Carolina. His will was proved in July of 1774 in Martin County, North Carolina.  This change from Halifax to Martin probably occurred due to a change in county boundaries. In 1774, the southeastern part of Halifax County was combined with part of Tyrrell County to form Martin County. 

In the name of God Amen  I Robert Bryan of the County of Halifax in the Province of North Carolina being in perfect Health of Body and in cense of Mind and Memory thanks be to Almighty God but calling to mind the mortality of mankind and Knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make Ordain Constitute and appoint this my last will and Testament in manner and form to wit  First I give and bequeath to my well beloved son Elias Bryan all my land from a line of marked trees [blank space in document] at a place called Little Island the corner a Gum I [blank space in document] Elias Bryan to him & his heirs forever also one [blank space in document] Feather Bed and Furniture to my Elias Bryan and his heirs forever  Item, I Give to my well beloved son John Bryan all my land from my son Elias Bryan lower line to a line of marked Trees Begginning on the Mark at a Pine Between the place where he now living and the plantation whereon I now live also one Feather Bed and Furniture I say to my son John Bryan to him and his heirs forever.  Item, I also lend the use of all and Every Individual of the rest of my whole Estate to my well beloved wife Ann Bryan During her life or widiow and after her death to be Equally divided amongst all of my children that Remains a live at her death, Elias Bryan Excepted I also appoint my two sons Needham Bryan and Elias Bryan Executors to this my last will and Testament  Given under my hand this sixteenth day of December in the year 1773   
Test                                         Robt. (R) Bryan.                                               
Arthur Barden
Jesse Johnson
Sarah (x) Hull
William Hyman  

Martin County July Court 1774  
then the above instrument of writing was in open Court duly proved by the oath of William Hyman to be the last will and Testament of Robert Bryan according to Law and on motion orders to be recorded.  
                                              Test  T. Stuart Clerk.

This will shows Needham Bryan to be the son of Robert. Robert's land was passed down to James through Needham. Note that although only John, Elias, and Needham were named in the will, there were probably other children. Another avid Bryan researcher, Dr. Howard V. Jones, wrote "Needham, John, and Elias are mentioned in Robert's will as sons.  Robert III must be a son because of his possession of some of Robert's land.  William is proved because he mentions brother Needham in his will." Dr. Jones believed there could be others and named Hardy, Jesse, and Moses as possible sons or nephews. 


When I began my #52 Ancestors posts, I had planned to focus only on the Hairston family. I was excited to pick up where I left off in 2014 with 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. However, with #52 Ancestors, there are writing prompts. I like the challenge of the prompts and the Hairston family history, as I know it, won't always fit the prompts. Today, the Bryan family was chosen for the post as I have two Bryan family wills and no Hairston family wills.

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© 2018


Bryan, Robert. Last will and testament. 16 Dec. 1773. Martin County, NC, 1774. 

Family photographs, correspondence, and documents from the collection Diana Bryan Quinn.

 Halifax County, North Carolina Genealogy Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki. Web. 4 Mar. 2018. <,_North_Carolina_Genealogy>.

Needham Bryan’s Will | Bembry Roots., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2018. <>.

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